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The Orbitron in Tomorrowland at Hong Kong Disneyland

#DisneyKids: Meeting Characters at Disney Parks

posted on April 24th, 2015 by Jamie Langdon, Social Media Manager


One of the most fun things to do with little ones at Walt Disney World Resort is take them to meet the characters that they enjoy from beloved stories and films. It is one of those magical moments that you never forget as a parent, and it creates a memory that kids can relive at home by looking at photos and autograph books from your trip. From Disney Junior characters and Pixar friends, to fairytale princesses and the Fab 5, there is no shortage of opportunities for kids to interact with their favorites.

Parent tips: Utilize FastPass+ to bypass lines at select locations, and have Disney Photo Pass photographers capture shots of the entire family that can be added to your My Disney Experience account via your MagicBand.

Here’s a roundup of some of our guests’ top meet and greet locations in all four theme parks.

Magic Kingdom Park

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For Disney’s Hollywood Studios, click here. For Epcot, click here. For Disney’s Animal Kingdom, click here.

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Show your #DisneySide at the Final Expedition Everest Challenge at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on April 22nd, 2015 by Aubrey Hang, Sports Marketing Community Manager, runDisney


On Saturday, May 2 runDisney will host its final Expedition Everest Challenge. This exciting nighttime 5K through Disney’s Animal Kingdom includes obstacles throughout the course and is followed by a scavenger hunt making it the ultimate adventure.

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Get prepared for this final run on the wild side by showing your best Everest #DisneySide. Check out this gallery of some of my favorite outfits spotted during previous races.

To get you ready for the journey, Leslie Kay of DisneyBound put together this male look with pieces from Champion and New Balance.

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Yeti or not, I can’t wait to see your wild outfit choices and share with you highlights from this year’s race in my next post. Good luck to all participants!

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Join the ‘Party for the Planet’ Starting on Earth Day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on April 20th, 2015 by Allyson Atkins, Education Manager, Disney's Animals, Science and Environment


Over the next few weeks, a visit to Conservation Station at Rafiki’s Planet Watch should be a must-do on your itinerary.

After arriving in the land of Africa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, hop aboard the Wildlife Express Train to make your way to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Moments after disembarking from the train, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about exciting conservation efforts taking place around the world – some led by nonprofit organizations supported by the Disney Conservation Fund, and others supported by our own Disney’s Animal Programs researchers and educators.

Disney Parks Blog Exclusive: The fund recently opened a new gallery to showcase conservation programs implementing unique conservation solutions to address urgent threats facing today’s wildlife. If you’ve contributed to the Disney Conservation Fund, this is a great place to learn more about projects you have helped support, as well as ways our Disney cast members are leading conservation efforts around the world. On behalf of wildlife and wild places worldwide – thank you!

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On Wednesday, April 22, exclusive Earth Day activities will be offered during our “Party for the Planet” Earth Day celebration. You can participate in interactive activities, explore limited time merchandise offerings, and interact with animal and education experts from Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment and the Disney Conservation Fund team about conservation projects currently in progress.

This year’s “Party for the Planet” celebration includes two exclusive “research stations” at Rafiki’s Planet Watch and the Main Entrance of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. These research stations allow you to see behind-the-scenes footage from the newest Disneynature film, “Monkey Kingdom,” while exploring how technology is used to enhance conservation efforts. You will have the opportunity to get an up-close, hands-on look at the technology scientists use to learn about animals, as well as the valuable data that comes from special equipment called camera traps. Many of the tools showcased at these research stations were used throughout production of the newest Disneynature film, “Monkey Kingdom.” This limited time offering is in partnership with Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Conservation International.

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Thankfully, the “party” doesn’t stop after Earth Day. One of the best things about “Monkey Kingdom” is that for every ticket sold opening week (April 17-23, 2015), Disneynature will make a donation to Conservation International to help protect monkeys and other endangered species in their natural habitats! The Disneynature “Monkey Kingdom” research station at Rafiki’s Planet Watch will be open April 22 – May 20.

Rafiki’s Planet Watch has been one the best kept secrets at Disney’s Animal Kingdom … but hopefully not for long – we hope to see you soon!

Want to bring the fun of Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disneynature “Monkey Kingdom” home? Download this free family activity packet for more information and fun activities for all ages.

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#DisneyKids: Enjoying Earth Day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on April 17th, 2015 by Jamie Langdon, Social Media Manager


In honor of Earth Day next week and the fact that many children have an endless fascination with animals, we wanted to focus this week’s #DisneyKids story on our furry, feathered and scaled friends at the Walt Disney World Resort. There are quite a few areas both in the theme parks and at the resorts where guests of all ages can interact with their favorite animals.

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As the name suggests, Disney’s Animal Kingdom park is home to magnificent creatures across 250 species, and is an incredible place for little ones to learn about wildlife. Even better, there are several self-guided areas where families can go at their own pace without lines – perfect for toddlers who aren’t interested in sitting still for long. Pangani Forest Exploration Trail is a favorite of my own little girls because they can decide how long we spend checking out each animal like gorillas and hippos.

For a day outside of the theme parks, another place that is a huge hit with horse lovers is the Tri-Circle-D Ranch at the laid-back Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. Little ones over the age of two can enjoy pony rides, and the entire family can take a carriage or wagon ride through the beautiful resort grounds.

Check out more ideas for your little animal lovers here.

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Caption This: Meeting Dinos at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on April 14th, 2015 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


This brave young guest is cozying up to one of the colorful dinos in Dinoland, U.S.A., at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

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Sure looks like they’re pretty good buddies. What are they up to? Tell us in the “Comments” section below.

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Helping Hands Helping Nature with The Walt Disney Company

posted on April 11th, 2015 by Russ J. Stacey, Writer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Earth Month is a special time for all of us at Disney—and even around the world—as we are reminded of how we can join together and care for the world we share. At the Company, one of the ways we protect wildlife and wild places is through the Disney Conservation Fund (DCF).

Established in 1995 on Earth Day, the Disney Conservation Fund’s mission is to protect the planet and connect kids with nature. It supports nonprofits that conserve wildlife, engage communities in conservation and connect kids with nature. The fund has provided $27 million in guest dollars and corporate support for conservation projects in 114 countries and connected more than 12 million kids with nature.

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Helping families connect with nature through sponsoring NatureRocks.org, saving the Central American river turtle and working to reduce human-wildlife conflicts are just a few of the projects the fund supports.

Every dollar you donate to the fund is matched by The Walt Disney Company and goes directly to nonprofit organizations. A portion of the Wild Africa Trek tour admission fee in Disney’s Animal Kingdom also supports the fund.

A Priceless Encounter in a Theme Park

You can witness wildlife conservation here at Walt Disney World Resort. Dr. Anne Savage, Conservation Director, Disney’s Animals, Science & Environment (ASE), and James Mejeur, Zoological Manager, spearhead a special project. Though ASE funds their own projects, they’re partnering with the Purple Martin Conservation Association (which has received grants from the Disney Conservation Fund) and scientists from York University as they help save the purple martin, the largest member of the swallow family. Starting with only six pairs of breeding birds at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, there are now 120 pairs of birds and 240 total purple martins that return across property annually.

“One of the things I ask people,” Dr. Savage said, “is, ‘Have you ever been to the Amazon Rainforest?’ No? Well, these birds have.” The birds migrate from Brazil by early January to nest and raise their chicks here on property. Once the chicks are ready, they all make the 3,000-mile journey back to South America in June and July.

It’s a great way to involve guests, as I recently observed at the Purple Martin Garden in Epcot. Every Tuesday and Thursday at 11 a.m. during the breeding season, Lauren Moscar, Conservation Programs Technician, checks on 50 nest compartments.

The impact on the guests is obvious as they gather around to watch Lauren. She even shows them the nests and any eggs. On this day, there were quite a few youngsters obviously transfixed by what Lauren was sharing with them.

“I love talking to the guests and answering their questions,” Lauren told me. “It’s what it’s all about.”

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Why Guests Can’t Get Enough of ‘Festival of the Lion King’ at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on April 10th, 2015 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


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There’s something about “Festival of the Lion King“—the music, the performers, the staging and the overall celebratory feeling—that excites guests with every performance.

This magnificent musical tribute to a young lion’s journey of discovery is created in such a way as to keep you engaged in every aspect of the story. As Tara Anderson, show director for “Festival of the Lion King,” stated: “With our production, we don’t tell the story of “‘The Lion King’.” We celebrate the music and the characters of the story. We hit all the beats of the story, but we do it in a very artistic way.”

While some audience members are welcomed to participate, guests can feel like longtime friends in this lush, exotic world. And once Timon takes the stage to lead everyone in “Hakuna Matata”, it’s impossible not to feel drawn into all the magic.

Among the show’s highlights are the very agile and sprightly Tumble Monkeys, a troupe put together by their pal, Timon. The highly-trained acrobats perform Olympic-style feats in sync to a lively jazz medley.

Of course, that cunning, two-faced Scar is also at hand, spreading villainy with his snarky hyena henchmen in “Be Prepared” which features an electrifying fire dance. But love literally soars above it all when the Flying Bird performers, clad in radiant color and plumage, bring “Can You Feel The Love Tonight’ to the highest heights in sheer balletic splendor.

“The show has wonderful individual elements,” Tara said. “What makes it work is all those elements coming together and being that circle of life.” And that is the feeling that is evoked when you hear the “Circle of Life” being sung and see all the entertainers dressed as the animals take the stage for the finale. Timon then leads everyone in singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” with the Tumble Monkeys performing for all.

There are performances throughout the day, so check your Time Guide. You can use your Fastpass+ to pre-arrange times for viewing.

What is your favorite part of the show? Tell us in the comments section below!

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Wildlife Wednesday: New Birds Join the Beautiful Flock at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on April 8th, 2015 by Scott Tidmus, Zoological Manager, Walt Disney World Resort


On your last visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, did you have a chance to visit any of the animal walking trails? Not far down the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, adventurous guests can step into the Africa Aviary in which 221 birds of 29 different bird species live and thrive!

I’m part of a team of four Zoological Managers who have the pleasure of working with our keeper team to care for the different bird species in the aviary and also help delight our guests by introducing them to the amazing world of birds.

Earlier this year, the Africa Aviary was renovated and over the past few months, all the birds have been moved back to their newly landscaped home where we can now exhibit much smaller birds.

Five new species of birds have joined our Pangani flock — bronze mannikins, cut-throat finches, lavender waxbills, pintail whydah and paradise whydah. All bring a variety of colors, behaviors and songs to the already-thriving avian chorus. They may be small in size, but they can generally be seen in large groups flying through the aviary.

The bronze mannikin boasts flecks of shimmery bronze embedded in its feathers. These birds are commonly found in most parts of Africa south of the Sahara Desert.

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Don’t be frightened by their name — cut-throat finches are actually named due to the males’ red marking or “slash” on their necks! Males are easily distinguishable by this red slash, while females lack the markings. Flocks of these finches stretch across northern Africa from Senegal and Gambia all the way to Sudan. They have even been found as far south as Mozambique.

Male Cut-Throat Finches have a Red Marking on Their Throat, While Females Do Not Male Cut-Throat Finches have a Red Marking on Their Throat, While Females Do Not

Lavender waxbills are aptly named for the touch of light pearl grey, almost lavender coloring of their feathers. These birds have a unique song that consists of one short, high-pitched burst followed by one long, deeper hum. (Think of a slide whistle.) They are found in central and western Africa—from Senegal, to Cameroon and Chad.

Keep Your Eyes Open for Lavender Waxbills in the Africa Aviary Down Pangani Forest Exploration Trail Keep Your Eyes Open for Lavender Waxbills in the Africa Aviary Down Pangani Forest Exploration Trail

Finally, the pintail and paradise whydahs are speckled, tawny colored birds with interesting patterns covering their heads and backs. Males of both species have extremely long black tails in the breeding season which they use in their courtship displays. In the non-breeding season males resemble the browner striped females. These birds reside in southern and east Africa and “parasitize” the nests of other finches—that is, they lay their eggs in the nests of other finches instead of building their own, and they let the host birds raise their young.

Pintail Whydah + Juvenile Paradise Whydah in Non-Breeding Season Once Males Reach Maturity, During Breeding Season Their Plumage Includes a Beautiful, Long Black Tail and Many of the Tawny Colored Feathers Turn a Much Darker Shade

Look for these birds and the other 24 species in the Africa aviary on your next visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. They move quickly, so keep your eyes open! We hope to see you soon!

*Disney Parks Blog Exclusive: In the next few months even more species will be added to the aviary. Stay tuned for updates!

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QUIZ: Are You a DINOSAUR Expert?

posted on April 7th, 2015 by Nate Rasmussen, Archivist, Marketing Resource Center


DINOSAUR is a fan-favorite ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Have you taken an adventurous trip back to the age of the dinosaurs at this attraction? Test your knowledge below!


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DINOSAUR at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

What dinosaur do you travel back in time to rescue from extinction?
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What is the name of the vehicle you board for your time travel journey?
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Approximately how far back in time do you travel in DINOSAUR?
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Who is narrating as you enter into the Dino Institute?
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What is the first dinosaur you encounter when you travel back in time?
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Disney Parks Blog Weekly Recap

posted on April 5th, 2015 by Thomas Smith, Social Media Director, Disney Parks


This week, we continued our series of exciting updates from Disney Cruise Line with the announcement that a new stage show, “Tangled: The Musical,” will be premiering onboard the Disney Magic in November.

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Jonathan told us that “Tangled: The Musical” will stay true to the storyline from the hit feature film—with a few special twists to create a live staged production—featuring favorite characters like Rapunzel, Flynn Rider, the villainous Mother Gothel and Maximus the police horse. Check out his original story for more details and information on when you’ll be able to see exclusive behind the scenes videos of the stage show.

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We also shared a story many of you have been waiting for – a look at this year’s Star Wars Weekends. Details are still coming together for the event, but Shawn shared some highlights of what’s new for Star Wars Weekends 2015:

  • Star Wars: Rebels” – Relive the adventurous twists and turns of the first exciting season of the Disney XD series “Star Wars: Rebels,” in an all-new show with Star Wars Weekends host James Arnold Taylor and a special guest from the show’s voice cast … along with a few surprises!
  • Autograph Opportunities – For the first time, autograph sessions with Star Wars celebrities will be held in an indoor location, just off Commissary Lane near Star Tours – The Adventure Continues. For complete details about autograph opportunities, be sure to visit StarWarsWeekends.com prior to your visit.
  • Darth’s Mall – Can’t find the droids you’re looking for? Head over to this new complex of shops near Streets of America for the best selection of Star Wars merchandise in this galaxy or any other!

The event is shaping up to be among the best, with a new show, new locations for merchandise and autograph opportunities and a galaxy of stars. Go check out our original story for a list of the celebrities scheduled to appear for Star Wars Weekends 2015.

Here are some of the other stories we worked on this week.

First Look: New Olaf Premium Sipper Coming to Disneyland Resort – What’s better than warm hugs from a snowman? A cool drink in an Olaf Premium Sipper! For the first time in forever, guests will be able to purchase the new Olaf Premium Sipper from Food & Beverage locations throughout Disneyland Resort.

Building the Dream: The Making of Disneyland Park – Main Street, U.S.A. – See historic pictures from the construction of Main Street, U.S.A. in this special series from Disney Parks Blog author George Savvas.

Live Music Expanding at Disneyland Park Beginning July 17 – During the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration, music will become an even bigger part of the storytelling within Disneyland park. Click through to learn more!

Learn to Draw Dopey from ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ at Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Artist Mike Chovanec of the Animation Academy at Disney’s Hollywood Studios offers step-by-step instructions on how to draw one of the most lovable characters from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

From Stem to Stern Wine Tasting on a Disney Cruise – Learn about Disney Cruise Line’s “From Stem to Stern” wine event, where a knowledgeable sommelier teaches you to sip like a pro.

New ‘Frozen Fever’ Treats Coming to Disney Parks and Resorts – It’s official: we’ve caught Frozen Fever! The Disney Parks Food and Beverage team has created new treats inspired by the “Frozen Fever” short.

And this week, the name of the newest female baby rhino at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – determined by Disney Parks Blog readers – was revealed. You voted the Kiama as the winning name. It was the overwhelming majority with more than half of the votes.

Kiama will continue to bond and grow with her mom backstage for a few more months, but stay tuned to the Disney Parks Blog for updates and more information as we near her on-stage debut. Check out Karen’s story for more.

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