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Behind the Scenes of ‘The Lion King – Concert in the Wild’ for Harambe Nights at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on June 4th, 2014 by Shawn Slater, Communications Manager, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Creative Entertainment


Back in 1998, I had the good fortune to be part of the opening team in Africa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Thanks to the impressive work of the Imagineers who created it, the park’s fictional village of Harambe became a very real place to us, with a rich history and vibrant population. The village took its name from the Swahili word “harambee,” which is roughly defined as “pulling together to create something greater than its parts.” For Harambe Nights, the new special event debuting at Disney’s Animal Kingdom this week, the citizens of Harambe village are doing just that to create an epic theatrical celebration of Disney’s “The Lion King.”

“On this grand occasion of the film’s 20th anniversary, the people of Harambe have pulled together to present the beloved ‘Lion King’ story to visiting guests in a new way,” said Show Director Marsha Jackson-Randolph. “The village storyteller hosts, the Harambe choir sings, the best dancers dance, and the Sangoma shaman works his mystical powers as iconic scenes of the film appear to come to life in the authentic African tradition of a ‘Story Circle.’ And there’s more excitement! Harambe’s Town Council has invited a 25-piece guest orchestra and a celebrity guest narrator to join them each night.”

During a recent rehearsal, Marsha gave us a behind-the-scenes look at some of the tremendous work going into the staging of this all-new show, “The Lion King – Concert in the Wild,” and her close collaboration with noted South African Choreographer Warren Adams, whose impressive credits include Broadway’s “Motown the Musical,” the Hong Kong production of “The Lion King,” “Of Mice and Men” with James Franco, and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” starring Neil Patrick Harris.

I got goose bumps just watching the cast rehearse and can’t wait to see all the elements of the show come together in the Harambe Theatre. Of course, the only way to experience “The Lion King – Concert in the Wild” for yourself is to get a ticket to Harambe Nights, and they’re going fast!

Harambe Nights takes place from 7 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. every Saturday, June 7 – August 9, 2014. The celebrity narrators scheduled to appear each night as part of “The Lion King – Concert in the Wild” include*:

  • June 7 – Viola Davis: “The Help,” “Doubt,” “How to Get Away with Murder” – SOLD OUT
  • June 14 – Avery Brooks: “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” “American History X”
  • June 21 – Montego Glover: “The Following,” “Memphis”
  • June 28 – David Alan Grier: “Porgy & Bess,” “In Living Color”
  • July 5 – Michael Beach: “ER,” “Third Watch,” “Sons of Anarchy”
  • July 12 – Harry Lennix: “The Blacklist,” “The Five Heartbeats”
  • July 19 – Joe Morton: “Scandal,” “American Gangster,” “The Good Wife”
  • July 26 – Alfre Woodard: “Desperate Housewives,” “Miss Evers Boys”
  • August 2 – Brian Stokes Mitchell: “Ragtime,” “Trapper John, M.D.,” “Glee”
  • August 9 – Patina Miller: “Pippin,” “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1”

Tickets are $119 for adults, $79 for ages 3-9, plus tax, and include parking, a Welcome Reception, the 55-minute theatrical experience, two hours of additional live entertainment during the Harambe Nights Street Party, and amazing food and drinks throughout the evening. For tickets, visit Disneyworld.com/HarambeNights or call 407-939-1319.

(*Entertainment subject to change)

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The Magic Behind the Frosting: The ‘Making Of’ the Star Wars Weekends Cupcake Video at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

posted on May 15th, 2014 by Gary Buchanan, Social Media Managing Editor


“Cupcake or cupcake not. There is no pie.”

Master Yoda might not have said that, but it seems to fit the theme of the Darth Vader cupcake video we debuted earlier this week to celebrate the launch of Star Wars Weekends 2014.

A talented, confection-loving crew gathered overnight in a Disney’s Hollywood Studios bakery to shoot the video that shows what happens when the dark side meets the “sweet side.”

Enjoy this behind-the-scenes look, then enjoy a Darth Vader cupcake (and maybe a Yoda cupcake) during Star Wars Weekends. The event begins tomorrow and will be held every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through June 15 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

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Time-Lapse Video: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Refurbishment at Disneyland Park

posted on April 18th, 2014 by Erin Glover, Social Media Director, Disneyland Resort


It’s been one month since the “wildest ride in the wilderness” reopened after an extended refurbishment here at Disneyland park. Since then, our guests have been telling us how impressed they are with the improved track and new effects at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Today we’ve got a special look at these improvements as they took shape over the last year.

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Head Inside Creative Costuming To See How ‘it’s a small world’ Doll Costumes Are Created for Disney Parks

posted on April 5th, 2014 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


Did you ever wonder how those charming little outfits are created for the dolls in our “it’s a small world” attraction? Here at Walt Disney World Resort, costumes are produced in our Creative Costuming department at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Would you believe that the costumes that appear in the attraction today are careful recreations of the designs worn nearly 50 years ago in the original attraction?

Check out the video below for more behind-the-scenes facts.

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Behind the Sounds: Inside Audio Central at Disney California Adventure Park

posted on March 18th, 2014 by Shannon Swanson, Public Relations Manager, Disneyland Resort


At Disney California Adventure park, behind The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, lies Audio Central, one of the most important areas in all of Disneyland Resort. I recently spoke with Stage Technician Brian White, who explained how audio engineers make the magic of music come to life each day.

Audio Central Fun Facts:

  • Engineers control 209 full-range parade speakers and 114 subwoofers along the parade route, while controlling more than 250 background music zones in restrooms, restaurants, stores, attraction queues and more.
  • Engineers monitor 43 different cameras: 21 along the parade route, 17 for “World of Color” and 5 at additional entertainment locations.
  • During the 2013 holiday season, Audio Central was responsible for 31 shows each day: one Pixar Play Parade, five performances of “Phineas and Ferb’s Rockin’ Rollin’ Dance Party: Holiday Edition,” six Disney ¡Viva Navidad! street parties, ten Five & Dime performances, six Red Car Trolley News Boys shows, one tree lighting ceremony and two performances of “World of Color.” These are shows that actively require a technician as an operator. The system simultaneously runs a number of smaller events on its own throughout the day.
  • Disneyland park has its own Audio Central, located on Main Street, U.S.A., just above the Main Street Opera House.
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Video: Making Of The 140-Disney-Character ‘Ultimate Tweet’

posted on February 28th, 2014 by Thomas Smith, Social Media Director, Disney Parks


You’ve probably seen our “Ultimate Tweet” of 140 Disney characters that officially announced an All-Night Disney Side Party in the parks to kick off summer. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto and 135 of their friends gathered at Magic Kingdom Park and formed the familiar shape of a hashtag. How’d we do it? Here’s a behind-the-scenes look.

During the “Rock Your Disney Side Party,” you’re also being invited to show your Disney Side by dressing as a favorite Disney hero or villain. The Magic Kingdom Park in Florida and Disneyland park and Disney California Adventure park in California will be filled with Disney heroes and villains from 6 a.m., May 23 to 6 a.m., May 24, 2014, local time.

140 Characters Formed a Hashtag at Magic Kingdom Park and Invite You and Your Family to “Rock Your Disney Side” During a 24-hour Party to Kick Off Summer.

Be sure to check our original Disney Parks Blog story and rockyourdisneyside.com for details on today’s Disney Side announcement.

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Style Snapshots: ‘Disney Festival of Fantasy’ Parade Costumes

posted on February 10th, 2014 by Michelle Stepney, PR Content Director


Fashion insiders from around the globe have been flocking to the Big Apple since last Thursday for New York Fashion Week. It’s a bi-annual tradition where America’s top designers unveil their new collections for the upcoming season and set trends for months and years to come.

At least one Disney designer is taking her turn in the fashion spotlight this week as Disney Parks unveils a new collection of costume creations for “Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade,” which debuts at Magic Kingdom this March. And we all get a seat on the coveted “front row.”

Costume designer Mirena Rada is expanding her portfolio of design projects for Disney Parks with this latest endeavor for a Walt Disney World Resort theme park. Previous creations include work for Disneyland Resort, Tokyo Disney Resort and Hong Kong Disneyland Resort. These costumes, some of the most extravagant and elaborate in Disney Parks history, took almost a year to complete. The creations transpired in 10 different costume houses across eight cities and two countries, with the Creative Costuming facilities in both Florida and California among the mix.

The production process mirrors current fashion trends, utilizing new technology to design and print custom fabrics in house. Rada partnered with Walt Disney World costumers to select fabrics that would work well in the Central Florida climate while also accommodating the needs of each performer.

Our style squad got a sneak peek of some early sketches and behind-the-scenes video of some completed works.

We can’t wait to see these whimsical designs come to life when “Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade” finally steps onto the streets of the Magic Kingdom Park. Let us know what you think.

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A modern interpretation of classic elements is a hallmark of Rada’s designs as seen in the sculpted conch shell headpiece and shimmering pastel dress that comprise “The Little Mermaid” unit’s “Seashell Girl.”

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After gathering the materials, Rada and a Creative Costuming graphic artist worked together to create almost 40 custom fabrics including the furry plaids and tweed stripes worn by the “Newsies-inspired” Lost Boys of the “Peter Pan” unit.

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An innovative 3D printing technology was used to create the elegant beaks of the “Ravens” in the “Sleeping Beauty” unit. Each piece was base coated, bronzed, lacquered and gilded with fiery Swarovski stones to complete the finished look.

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The Finale unit’s “Cha Cha Girl” is the queen of head-to-toe ensemble with her big top inspired fit and flare dress, bolero jacket embellished with sequins, star spangled tights and hair reminiscent of pulled taffy exuding the essence of Storybook Circus in New Fantasyland.

Which costume is your favorite? Tell us in the “Comments” section below!

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Building the ‘Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade’ for Magic Kingdom Park

posted on January 21st, 2014 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


Among the most spectacular aspects of the upcoming “Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade” are the incredibly detailed floats, each bringing a classic Fantasyland story to the streets of Magic Kingdom Park.

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Today, Managing Producer Kris Bunnell brings us a special behind-the-scenes look at the development of those floats with Parade Designer Richard Improta and Creative Director Steven Davison.

Which “Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade” float are you most excited to see when the parade debuts this spring? Let us know in the “Comments” section.

For more on the “Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade,” click the links below:

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VIDEO: Disney Dream Portraits by Annie Leibovitz – Behind the Scenes with Jessica Chastain as Merida

posted on January 13th, 2014 by George Savvas, Public Relations Director, Disneyland Resort


Last week, you got the first look at the latest Disney Dream Portrait by Annie Leibovitz for Disney Parks starring Oscar-nominated actress Jessica Chastain as Merida. Today, I’m taking you behind the scenes, to the village of Cold Spring, New York, nestled inside the Hudson Valley, near a region known as the Hudson Highlands. It was the perfect setting for this stunning “Brave“-inspired portrait.

The moment Jessica walked on to the set with that red hair blowing in the wind, everyone knew that we were in for something special. From the gorgeous setting Annie selected, to the details of the dress her team had created, along with Jessica’s natural ease with the horse, being at this shoot was like stepping into Merida’s world, if only for a few hours.

Here’s a look at that memorable morning last September.

One more thing … Jessica told me her family (especially her dad) is “obsessed” with Disneyland park, and she was planning a special Christmas gift for them (we had to promise not to spill the beans before the holidays) – a surprise trip to Walt Disney World! So, here’s a little more of our conversation, where she talks about her family’s favorite thing to do while visiting Disney Parks — pin trading!

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Behind the Scenes: Designing & Painting Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Cars at Magic Kingdom Park

posted on January 6th, 2014 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


We’re thrilled to start off the New Year with an exciting behind-the-scenes look at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

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Walt Disney Imagineering just shared this new video with us, in which Walt Disney Imagineers Ben VanBeusekon and Mary Mac Eachin explain the creative process behind designing and producing themed cars for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. As they explain, in addition to being a part of the attraction’s innovative new ride system that causes cars to swing back and forth while they travel down the track, the train cars are painted and aged in a way that contributes to the storyline of the attraction. Learn more below.

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will debut at Magic Kingdom Park in 2014. Stay tuned to the Disney Parks Blog for more updates.

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