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VIDEO: Disney Dream Portraits by Annie Leibovitz – Behind the Scenes with Jennifer Hudson as Tiana

posted on August 23rd, 2013 by George Savvas, Public Relations Director, Disneyland Resort


Yesterday we revealed the newest Disney Dream Portrait by Annie Leibovitz for Disney Parks featuring the amazing Jennifer Hudson as Tiana. Today we’re going behind the scenes to the town of Patterson, NY, where last May, Annie Leibovitz and her skilled team of artists and technical wizards created a photo set in the middle of an actual swamp. This beautiful location, known as the Great Swamp, was just perfect for a shoot featuring characters from “The Princess and the Frog.”

This video really captures the fun atmosphere on the set and Jennifer’s deep connection to Disney Parks. You’ll hear her discuss what this “full circle moment” means to her as a mother and as a former cast member aboard the Disney Wonder. Pay particular attention to her skill at giving directions. Once a Disney girl, always a Disney girl!

Having her son, David, on the set for this special shoot was very meaningful to Jennifer and I don’t think either of them will soon forget it.

Disney Dream Portraits by Annie Leibovitz with Jennifer Hudson as Tiana Disney Dream Portraits by Annie Leibovitz with Jennifer Hudson as Tiana Disney Dream Portraits by Annie Leibovitz with Jennifer Hudson as Tiana

Jennifer, who is also the Godmother of the Disney Dream, loves to visit our parks with her family and she told me that her favorite place to visit at any Disney park is the Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. She also mentioned that her favorite song happens to be a Disney song. Can you guess which one?

Go behind the scenes of other recent Disney Dream Portraits in the stories below:

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Behind the Scenes: Stunt Driving at Lights, Motors, Action! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

posted on July 23rd, 2013 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


The stunt driving in Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show is simply amazing, with drivers executing a show full of choreographed 180- and 360-degree spins, two wheels and jumps – often in the midst of controlled explosions that guests can feel in their seats.

We love taking you behind-the-scenes at our attractions and this video was an absolute blast to create. In it, stunt drivers Eduardo Marques, Jr., Mike Sawyer and Kial Butler tell us what they love about performing in the show and even take us for a spin inside the car. Check it out!

Is the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show a must-see for you? Tell us what you love about the show in the “Comments” section below.

*Note: There is no ride-along experience offered at Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show.

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Behind the Scenes: Designing a Disney Fireworks Show

posted on July 1st, 2013 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


Designing a fireworks show for a Disney Park involves selecting music, playing with color, and choosing individual fireworks as carefully as if you’re choosing actors for a play – all to create one amazing story in the sky.

A Disney Parks Fireworks Show

Many of those “stories” will play out at Disney Parks this week, with Fourth of July fireworks spectaculars happening at both the Walt Disney World Resort and the Disneyland Resort.

Check out this video, in which Steven Davison, vice president of Parades & Spectaculars, gives us a behind-the-scenes look.

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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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By the Numbers: ‘Mickey and the Magical Map’ at Disneyland Park

posted on June 18th, 2013 by Erin Glover, Social Media Director, Disneyland Resort


By the Numbers: ‘Mickey and the Magical Map’ at Disneyland Park

Mickey and the Magical Map” is now open in the Fantasyland Theatre at Disneyland park, and thousands of guests have already fallen under its spell. The new show features live performers, beloved Disney characters and a huge magical map – all interacting with each other to bring to life the story of Mickey Mouse’s journey to become one of Yen Sid’s mapmakers. Almost as magical are the stories of what has happened behind the scenes to create this amazing show. Here are some of my favorite highlights:

  • More than 900 hopefuls auditioned for the show, and the final company includes more than 50 dancers and singers.
  • The magical map is created by nearly 1 million pixels and more than 35,000 square inches of LED screen surface.
  • The six sections of the map are moved on wagons that weigh more than 9,000 pounds each.
  • The total weight of the scenery for the show is approximately 71,000 pounds.
  • Tiana’s showboat in the finale scene reaches 18 feet tall, stretches 11 feet wide and weighs nearly 1,200 pounds.
  • More than six miles of cable run between the lighting, show control, audio and video systems.
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Composing the Theme Song for ‘Mickey and the Magical Map’ at Disneyland Park

posted on June 11th, 2013 by Shawn Slater, Communications Manager, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Creative Entertainment


“Mickey and the Magical Map” features several great songs from classic Disney animated films, along with a completely original song, “Journey to Imagination,” written just for this show. We recently caught up with composers Adam Watts and Andy Dodd, who shared a little of what it was like to create a new song for Disneyland park.



Check out these past posts about “Mickey and the Magical Map”:

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The Technology Behind ‘Mickey and the Magical Map’ at Disneyland Park

posted on June 5th, 2013 by Shawn Slater, Communications Manager, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Creative Entertainment


Yen Sid isn’t the only sorcerer at work during “Mickey and the Magical Map”! Our Creative Entertainment team has employed plenty of technical wizardry to help bring the new, musical spectacular to life on stage.

Front and center, of course, is the map itself, created with an enormous, multi-tiered LED screen. It’s an incredible example of technology used as a tool to help tell our story, and there’s even more tech employed backstage.

Today, Technical Director Mike Layman gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the role technology plays in staging a production on the scale of “Mickey and the Magical Map.”



Check out these past posts about “Mickey and the Magical Map”:

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‘The Little Mermaid’ Actress Jodi Benson Leaves Her Mark on Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

posted on May 31st, 2013 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, which marks its first anniversary today, celebrates the making of some favorite Disney and Pixar films, including “Cars,” “Finding Nemo,” “The Lion King” and “The Little Mermaid.”
Ariel, from 'The Little Mermaid' outside of Disney's Art of Animation Resort
As a part of the resort’s design, the lobby features a fun chandelier that’s made up of sketches from each of these films. Recently, actress Jodi Benson – who voiced Ariel in “The Little Mermaid” – stopped by to autograph one of the panels that makes up the chandelier.

Check out this behind-the-scenes video of this moment. And to view more of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, check out the gallery below.

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Behind The Scenes: Exploring the New Mystic Manor at Hong Kong Disneyland

posted on May 23rd, 2013 by Thomas Smith, Social Media Director, Disney Parks


When we shared a first peek at Mystic Manor in Hong Kong Disneyland, I know many Disney Parks Blog readers immediately added it to their “must do” list – me too. Today, there’s even more to share. Walt Disney Imagineering’s creative executive Joe Lanzisero is taking us on a behind-the-scenes tour of Lord Henry’s stately Victorian mansion.

One of the critical elements for making Mystic Manor a great attraction was the music and the addition of legendary composer Danny Elfman, according to Joe. “Danny has the ability to create tension and excitement but there is always a grin underlying it,” he said. “He has a sense of scary fun, so Danny was perfect.”

Along with an amazing soundtrack, the attraction features a trackless ride system and combines innovative special effects, state-of-the-art technology and Disney storytelling to create an immersive experience.

Mystic Manor opened on May 17 so you can now tour Lord Henry’s home yourself by boarding his latest invention – the “Mystic Magneto-Electric Carriage.” But be sure to keep an eye open for Albert, Lord Henry’s pet monkey, because when he opens a peculiar music box in the museum, all of Mystic Manor’s contents magically come to life.

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Behind the Scenes: Recording the Soundtrack for Test Track Presented by Chevrolet at Epcot

posted on May 22nd, 2013 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


What are some of the sounds that make Epcot, well, Epcot for you? The laughter of Figment? The uplifting music of Soarin’? The narrator’s dim of the torches before IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth?
“Test

In this video, which we just received from our friends at Walt Disney Imagineering, our Imagineers offer a look at how they designed a new soundtrack for one of the park’s attractions: Test Track Presented by Chevrolet. Check it out – there are definitely some things you’ll want to listen for next time you stop by.

Which Epcot attraction has your favorite soundtrack? Let us know in the “Comments” section below.

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