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Behind the Scenes: Creating Anna & Elsa Topiaries for the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

posted on May 4th, 2015 by Victoria Lim, Managing Editor, Walt Disney World Public Relations


Have you taken your photo yet with the Anna and Elsa topiaries at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival? It’s this year’s must-have selfie or photo spot. And we have two former Horticulture interns to thank. Let me explain …

When our creative experts in Horticulture decided to design Anna and Elsa in plant and flower form, they needed models to help create the frames that serve as the foundation for the topiaries.


Sarah Lanners, a senior at the University of Minnesota Crookston, and Jordan McGee, a senior at Stephen F. Austin State University, worked with our Horticulture team during the summer. They were asked to be the pose models for the royal sisters.

“I was absolutely thrilled to represent the ‘Frozen’ princess,” Sarah said.

“I was thrilled! I love ‘Frozen’!” Jordan told me. “I have always been partial to Anna. She may not have super powers, but … she has a beautiful amount of faith in herself and her sister.”

You can see from the photo how Sarah and Jordan had to pose in a Horticulture workroom. You can imagine, a lot of technology and steps go into concept, to creation of a model, to the creation of a topiary – and both Sarah and Jordan told me they found the whole process fascinating.

“In my own geeky horticulture way I instantly thought about how I would inadvertently be a Disney Princess in the most coolest way possible and that as long as this topiary is a part of Disney then so am I,” Sarah said. “This is something that most would consider a dream come true.”

“I was thrilled to do my small part in supporting ‘Frozen,’” Jordan said. “Being sculpted in plants is the coolest thing ever!”

Head to the entrance to World Showcase and check out the royal sisters from Arrendelle … and thanks Sarah and Jordan, and the Horticulture team!

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Behind the Scenes: Inside the Bakery at Epcot’s France Pavilion

posted on April 28th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer

You smell it before you see it – that unmistakable aroma of freshly baked bread hot from the oven. As you enter Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie in the France Pavilion at Epcot, all five senses are awakened when you smell the bread, see the beautiful pastries, hear the lilting sound of French, touch, then taste your favorite. Maybe a crisp baguette or buttery croissant. Or a Napoleon or macaron or éclair … maybe a jambon beurre sandwich or quiche Lorraine. So many choices, so little time.

Every single item in the bakery case is made by hand – in the on-stage bread ovens or in the bustling upstairs bakery where the crew arrives before daybreak to make buttery croissants, dense quiche Florentine and parfaits almost too pretty to eat. You’ll be hungry just looking at these delicious photos by Disney photographer Matt Stroshane.

We got a special behind-the-scenes peek at the expansive upstairs bakery that’s as big as Les Halles below, with cooks busy making crème brûlèe, slicing fresh Napoleon, piping éclairs and putting the finishing touches on chocolate mousse and strawberry tarts. A tray of freshly baguettes with ham and cheese with Dijon mustard butter, a classic Parisian sandwich, was readied for the first guests of the day. Freshly made macarons in jewel tones, light as a feather, were gently placed in little boxes.


Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie opens at 9 a.m., ahead of World Showcase, and is a wonderful little hideaway for breakfast. The pastry team of 30, under the direction of Pastry Chef Olivier Saintemarie, starts their day at 5 a.m. and rotates throughout the day until 11 p.m. to make sure guests have the freshest taste of France.

We headed back downstairs to chat with Chef Baker Matthieu Cabon from Brittany, France, who, with his team of six, turns out 700 to 800 baguettes every single day, along with specialty breads such as brioche and croissants. He started baking at age 15, and studied only bread making for four years – “I mastered bread the old-school way … no shortcuts,” he says. It was the aroma that determined his career, he says, as well as the quiet of early-morning hours when bakers do their best work.

“Bread is limitless, it just takes imagination,” says Matthieu.

And, really, it’s just four ingredients: flour, yeast, salt and water, but you must add “know how,” says the chef. Everything at Les Halles is made from scratch, and it takes two days, start to finish, to produce a perfect baguette. His bakers make all the breads for Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie, Chefs de France, Monsieur Paul and brioche for the pavilion’s ice-cream shop.

“For baguettes, day one is slow fermentation, then the dough sits overnight in a cooler to coax out the flavor,” says Matthieu. “Day two we divide it, shape it and bake. That’s it.”

But it’s the artisan touch that makes a perfect baguette. “Bread is all about feeling, but the real boss is the dough, which can be temperamental with temperature, weather and humidity,” he says. “Dough follows nature, and a good baker knows just by touching whether it’s right.”

For a perfectly flaky croissant, the chef explains that the folding process is a science. “It takes six hours to shape, then it’s baked the next day,” he explains.

And for tartines, which Americans call “open-faced sandwiches,” the bakery makes a rustic loaf with blistered, rugged crust and tangy soft inside – Chef Matthieu knocks on the crust and knows by the sound if it’s perfect.

All told, they turn out eight different kinds of bread: baguettes, croissants, tartines, whole-grain loaves, pain de mie (a type of sliced bread), brioche, focaccia and walnut-raisin bread.

He and his team also make exquisite, smaller breads for Monsieur Paul: whole-grain loaves, rustic baguettes, poppy seed “epis” (a type of artisan French bread) and a mushroom, bacon and cheese bread that’s a guest favorite.

Matthieu deftly inserts a shovel-like peel into the hot oven and slides out a dozen or so crackly loaves. From the hint of a smile on his face, you know it’s a good morning.

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Filed: Behind the Scenes, Disney Dining, Epcot, Walt Disney World Resort

‘Show Your Disney Side Week’ on ‘Wheel of Fortune’

posted on April 27th, 2015 by Tony Shepherd, Producer, Broadcast Marketing


A few weeks ago, I dropped a not-so-subtle hint here on the Disney Parks Blog that there might be more Disney fun coming on “Wheel of Fortune” this season. Well, the wait is over: “Show Your Disney Side” Week starts tonight on “Wheel of Fortune!”

For this special week of shows, we wanted to bring our Disney Side to their Studio. So, we brought them a truckload of pixie dust – and, I literally mean a truckload – to help deliver the magic!

'Show Your Disney Side Week' on 'Wheel of Fortune' 'Show Your Disney Side Week' on 'Wheel of Fortune'

Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy are there to share in all the excitement, as well. They had a terrific time with Pat Sajak and Vanna White, as well as meeting the Studio audience. (But … here’s the honest truth. It was part of my job to keep an eye on those guys, and when I wasn’t looking, a few “unplanned events” MAY have occurred. Which MAY have been captured on camera. And you MAY see in the shows. Ooops.)

Here’s another first for Disney and “Wheel”: an entire episode dedicated to our Happily Ever After Side. More about that from my friend Michelle Smits at Disney’s Fairytale Weddings and Honeymoons on the Ever After Blog later in the week – but make sure you don’t miss Thursday night’s show!


Because I know you love it when we can “lift the curtain” and give you a behind-the-scenes look at productions, we’re thrilled to offer up an all access pass! Check out this fantastic video for a look at how we moved attraction vehicles from Disneyland Resort, up the Santa Ana Freeway, to Culver City – I wish you could have seen the look on motorist’s faces as Dumbo went “flying” by! You’ll see the Characters “working” here, too. And … you’ll even get to discover what Pat and Vanna’s Disney Side is!

The shows feature fantastic vacation prizes to both the Walt Disney World Resort and the Disneyland Resort – a pretty good reminder that it’s time for you to be thinking about planning your next vacation to show your Disney Side, right?

And there’s even a chance for you to win a magical Grand Adventure to enjoy with your entire family at the Walt Disney World Resort, just for watching. (Details on that are here.)


Tune in all week starting tonight! Check your local listings for details. And … buy a vowel!

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Behind the Scenes of Disney Cruise Line’s ‘Tangled: The Musical’

posted on April 14th, 2015 by Ray Smale, Cruise Director, Disney Cruise Line

Many of you joined us last week at Disney Cruise Line’s first-ever meet-up as our Creative Entertainment team gave a sneak peek at some of the new fun coming soon to our ships. What a great show! I was honored to be a part of it and have the chance to talk with our talented show directors about our new entertainment experiences inspired by “Frozen,” Star Wars and “Tangled.”

One of the highlights was getting a behind-the-scenes look at “Tangled: The Musical” in production. For those of you who weren’t able to join us in person, we don’t want you to miss the exciting video we shared. You’ll see scenes from rehearsal and hear from part of the team adapting this beloved Disney tale to the stage for the very first time. Check it out!

Which “Tangled” star are you most excited to see on stage?

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Behind the Scenes of ‘Paint the Night’ Parade, Coming for the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration

posted on April 13th, 2015 by Shawn Slater, Communications Manager, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Creative Entertainment

Opening May 22 as part of the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration, the spectacular new “Paint the Night” parade will feature some of the most innovative floats, vibrant costumes, dazzling special effects, unforgettable music and energetic performances ever presented at Disneyland Resort.

The Entertainment team has been working around the clock to get the “Paint the Night” parade ready for its big debut. Today, we’re pleased to offer you a glimpse at one of our performer rehearsals with the Fiber Fairies from the opening unit and the Cars Crew, who join Mack Truck and Lightning McQueen. Once everything comes together, these talented performers will become an integral part of the show.

The music for the “Paint the Night” parade, a bit of which can be heard in the video, features the wonderful tune, “When Will I See You Again,” by the band Owl City. The song gives a great, contemporary sound to this new, state-of-the-art nighttime parade. And when you see “Paint the Night” in person, be sure to listen closely. You may just hear some musical surprises woven into the soundtrack!

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Behind the Scenes: Learning Fireknife at ‘Festival of the Lion King’ at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on April 2nd, 2015 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Editorial Content Manager

Earlier this year, we took a backstage look at the Tumble Monkeys from the popular stage show “Festival of the Lion King” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. In it, we showed you the level of talent and skill that this team of gymnasts uses to add comedic fun into the show.


This week, we’re back with a behind-the-scenes look at a different act in the show – the fireknife dancer. This performer adds an element of danger during villain Scar’s song, “Be Prepared.” In reality, the show’s fireknife dancers, including VJ Tiumalu, have studied the art of this traditional Samoan warrior dance for years. For VJ, fireknife is a family tradition. He decided to become a fireknife performer when he was just 5 years old after seeing his father perform in a show. VJ’s uncle even once performed the very part VJ now plays in “Festival of the Lion King.”

To learn more, check out the video below. (Spoiler alert: As you’ll see, I’m apparently the most uncoordinated person on the planet and therefore will not be changing my career to fireknife anytime soon).

You can see “Festival of the Lion King” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom several times each day. Check your My Disney Experience app for showtimes during your visit.

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Behind the Scenes: ‘Monkeying Out’ with the Tumble Monkeys at ‘Festival of the Lion King’

posted on February 9th, 2015 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Editorial Content Manager

One of my favorite parts of my job with the Disney Parks Blog is that I occasionally get to go behind the scenes and try out something that is really amazing, like stunt car driving at “Lights! Motors! Action! Extreme Stunt Show,” or learning stage combat at the “Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular.”


My most recent adventure took me to “Festival of the Lion King” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, where I was lucky enough to spend some time with a few stars from the show – the fan-favorite Tumble Monkeys.

Behind the Scenes: 'Monkeying Out' With The Tumble Monkeys at ‘Festival of the Lion King’ Behind the Scenes: 'Monkeying Out' With The Tumble Monkeys at ‘Festival of the Lion King’

In case you haven’t seen “Festival of the Lion King,” the show celebrates the story of Simba the lion cub through live music, dance, puppetry, fireknife, and more. The Tumble Monkey scene adds humor into the story when a group of monkeys bounce, climb, flip, jump and swing in a hilarious gymnastics routine.

In reality, the Tumble Monkeys are a group of highly trained gymnasts who studied the sport up through their college years. In reality, I have not done a cartwheel since about age 7. This made it a pretty interesting challenge to go backstage and learn some of their (beginner) stunts. They also shared with me a team secret, which they call “Monkeying Out.” Check it all out below.

You can see “Festival of the Lion King” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom several times each day. Check your My Disney Experience app for showtimes during your visit.

For more behind-the-scenes looks, check out the videos below:

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Video Rewind: Caring for Classic Disneyland Park Attractions

posted on January 19th, 2015 by Erin Glover, Editorial Content Director, Disneyland Resort

Here at Disney Parks, we’re always looking for new, innovative ways to immerse our guests in Disney stories. That’s something we’ve been doing from the very beginning, which is why it is just as important to care for our classic attractions, each of which were innovations in their own time – and continue to inspire us today. Let’s take a look back at some behind-the-scenes videos we showed you in years past here on the Disney Parks Blog to see how we care for our classic Disneyland park attractions.

In 2009, Heather Hust Rivera showed us how the (at that time) soon-to-reopen “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” was using new advancements in Audio-Animatronics technology.

Then in 2010, Heather took us behind the scenes to see how the antique horses on King Arthur Carrousel are meticulously maintained.

And in 2011, I shared one of my favorite videos ever – showing how elephants are transported from the Jungle Cruise to be given a seven-week “check-up” approximately every ten years.

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Training the Horses of the Circle D Ranch at Disneyland Park: Building Strength and Coordination

posted on January 6th, 2015 by Donna Fisk, Public Relations Manager, Disneyland Resort

In the latest in our series of Disneyland Resort horse training videos, we’ll see Duke working on his ground driving skills with Circle D Equine Trainer Cindy Moser. To a casual observer, ground driving looks like the trainer is simply driving a horse without a cart, but these exercises are an ideal way to develop a horse’s strength, fitness and coordination. And for a new Disneyland Resort horse, these skills are another achievement on the path to pulling the trolley on Main Street, U.S.A.

See the posts below for more on training the horses of the Circle D Ranch at Disneyland park:

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Walt Disney World Cast Members Transform Main Street, U.S.A., For The Holidays

posted on November 10th, 2014 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Editorial Content Manager

Have you started decorating your home for the holidays yet? Our Holiday Services department works year round to make sure that everything is ready to be installed at each park and resort here at Walt Disney World Resort.

Last week, they completed an overnight installation of holiday decor at Magic Kingdom Park – just in time for the park’s first Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party of the season.

With the park’s new daily procession, Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade, and its sizeable floats that make their way down Main Street, U.S.A., some of the holiday decor had to be reimagined for this year. Check out this video for a behind-the-scenes look!

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