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Disney Parks Blog Weekly Recap

posted on January 24th, 2016 by Thomas Smith, Editorial Content Director, Disney Parks

This week, our blog coverage of Disney Parks included an update on an unforgettable act of kindness that led to a dream come true and a special visit to the Walt Disney World Resort.

You may remember the story of two college students who started an effort to raise money and surprise Kathryn Thompson, a beloved cafeteria worker at Acorn University in Elon, NC, with a trip to Walt Disney World. This past week, Kathryn traveled to Florida for her dream vacation and a surprise reunion with the two students who made it happen. Check out Bob’s original story for more details

We also let you know that in Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you’ll soon be able to explore a new exhibit that delves into some of the behind-the-scenes research that went into the production of Disney’s upcoming comedic adventure “Zootopia.”

The ‘Zootopia’ exhibit opens January 29 inside Conservation Station at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Shawn has all of the details in his original story.

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

#DisneyGrandAdventure: Magical Memories for Multi-Generation Families at Walt Disney World Resort – Keep checking the blog for #DisneyGrandAdventure posts in the months to come and learn more about the Grand Adventure for Grandparents & Grandkids here.

When I See an Elephant Fly … from the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland Park – Disneyland Resort fans know that our attractions need a bit of scrubbing and polishing every now and then. But when the attraction in question is the world famous Jungle Cruise, and the scrubbing and polishing involves one rather hefty bull elephant … well then, you just call in a helicopter.

Retired U.S. Coast Guard Engineer Andy Fitzgerald to be Saluted at Disneyland Resort Flag Retreat Ceremony January 24 – Today we will extend a special thank you during the daily flag retreat ceremony at Disneyland park to Andy Fitzgerald, one of four U.S. Coast Guardsmen who went out to sea to rescue the crew of the SS Pendleton in 1952.

Disneyland Diamond Days Winner Enjoys Private Breakfast in Mickey’s Toontown at Disneyland Park – Recently, Disneyland Diamond Days winner Simon Dawson from Thousand Oaks, Calif., and his family enjoyed a private breakfast in Mickey’s Toontown at Disneyland park, along with a ride on Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin. The morning got even more magical when Roger Rabbit himself joined them for a visit!

Space Mountain-Themed Products Are Clear for Launch at Disney Parks – One of my favorite attractions at Walt Disney World Resort is Space Mountain because I’ve dreamed of being an astronaut. This classic Disney attraction in Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom Park opened on January 15, 1975.

Kids Remember Their Disney Cruise – What are the things you remember most from your first Disney cruise? In this video, we talked with some of our youngest cruisers to hear what they had to say. Check it out!

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Alfonso Ribeiro has a ‘Goofy’ time at Magic Kingdom Park

posted on January 22nd, 2016 by Anne Macklin, Talent Relations Manager, Disney Destinations

Actor, director, dancer and host of ABC’s “AFV” Alfonso Ribeiro had a Goofy time posing for photos at Magic Kingdom Park this past weekend!

Alfonso Ribeiro Visits Goofy at Magic Kingdom Park Alfonso Ribeiro and His Family Visit Goofy at Magic Kingdom Park

Ribeiro took a break from projects to vacation with his wife Angela and sons Alfonso Jr. and Anders at Walt Disney World Resort.

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Unforgettable Kindness Leads To A Dream Come True At Walt Disney World Resort

posted on January 21st, 2016 by Robert Hitchcock, Content Director

“They will never know how much this means to me.” Those words from Kathryn Thomson following an unforgettable trip and surprise reunion at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

For more than 10-years Thomson has worked at the Acorn coffee shop at Elon University in Elon, NC. Not only does she serve up warm beverages but also provides warm kindness to thousands of students passing through her life each day. Warm conversation, southern charm and genuine interest in the students, Thomson is loved by all she touches.

On most nights Thomson listens to young people share their hopes and dreams, but late one evening in the coffee shop she shared her dream with two complete strangers, Taylor Zisholtz, a junior from Philadelphia, PA, and Lucy Smith-Williams, a freshman from Gainesville, FL. Someday she hoped to take her son, his wife and two grandchildren to Walt Disney World. A tough task for someone working two jobs to make ends meet. In an act of unforgettable kindness, the two students hearing her wish turned to social media and the Elon University community to raise money for Thomson’s dream to come true. Quickly the story became viral on social media channels. Reaching beyond North Carolina borders, the story was picked up by national media. Soon people from around the world were donating to make Thomson’s dream a reality. Within weeks Zisholtz and Smith-Williams were able to deliver the great news that Thomson would be able to take her family to Disney.

Unforgettable Kindness Leads To A Dream Come True At Walt Disney World Resort Unforgettable Kindness Leads To A Dream Come True At Walt Disney World Resort

This past weekend Thomson and her family traveled to Florida for an unforgettable family vacation. They experienced all four theme parks, a special meet and greet with Mickey Mouse and with a little Disney magic, a surprise reunion with the two college students who worked to make this happen.

Standing in front of Cinderella Castle, with a beautiful North Carolina accent, Thomson said, “It’s a dream come true.”

Following the principals of Cinderella herself, three strangers united by courage and kindness.

Three lifelong friends sharing an unforgettable experience at Walt Disney World Resort.

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runDisney Princess Half Marathon Weekend Medals

posted on January 20th, 2016 by Aubrey Hang, Sports Marketing Community Manager, runDisney

The runDisney Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend presented by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals is less than a month away. The event takes place at Walt Disney World from February 18 – 21. This year’s finisher medals are inspired by “The Little Mermaid” and are fit for a princess!

The Disney Princess 5K kicks off the race weekend with a magical morning run through Epcot. Ariel, Sebastian and Flounder are featured on the finisher medallion ready to congratulate you on your accomplishment!

The Disney Princess Enchanted 10K is a run for royalty. The shell-inspired medal is better than a crown.

Disney Princess Half Marathon is the most magical race on earth! The course runs right through Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom Park before having a storybook ending at Epcot with this magnificent medal.

If you complete the Glass Slipper Challenge, which is a 19.3-mile adventure held over two days. It starts by running the 10K on Saturday followed by the half marathon on Sunday. Once completed, you are awarded the beautiful Glass Slipper Challenge medal in addition to your half marathon and 10K finisher medals.

Here is a look at all of the medals, including the runDisney Kids Races.

Are you participating in any of the weekend’s events? Which medal are you looking forward to? Follow @runDisney on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to join the royal fun using the hashtag #PrincessHalf.

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Space Mountain-Themed Products Are Clear for Launch at Disney Parks

posted on January 19th, 2016 by Steven Miller, Merchandise Communications Manager


One of my favorite attractions at Walt Disney World Resort is Space Mountain because I’ve dreamed of being an astronaut. This classic Disney attraction in Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom Park opened on January 15, 1975. During many family trips, you would typically find me hanging out in the attraction queue listening to the out-of-this-world music loop. To commemorate this year’s anniversary, I visited the Tomorrowland Light & Power Co. shop to survey some Space Mountain themed merchandise we offer at Disney Parks.


In the first image, I’m wearing a new shirt coming to the Disney Parks online store from January 25-31, 2016. Disney Design Group artist Richard Terpstra created the artwork for this retro-looking, ringer tee based on Space Mountain promotional artwork from the 1970s. To order this shirt starting January 25, please visit Please allow 3-5 weeks for delivery.

While at the shop, I discovered a variety of other shirts for adults and kids along with space-themed hats.


One of my favorite shirts features two astronauts riding Space Mountain. It reminded me of the astronauts once found outside the Florida attraction’s entrance.


Other items at the location include a frame, a space-themed Attractionista doll named Celeste, and artwork by Dave Perillo titled “Trip of Tomorrow Today.” The latter is being offered as a framed print, matted print and postcard.


At the shop, guests can create and personalize a D-Tech on Demand phone case or a retail MagicBand with Space Mountain artwork.


Finally, there is a new Vinylmation mystery set called “Mickey and Friends in Space” coming to Disney Parks on January 29. This limited release set was designed by Disney Design Group artist Costa Alavezos. Once released, look for it in select merchandise locations at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts.

You may find and order select Space Mountain items using the free Shop Disney Parks mobile app. To download this app, please visit

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QUIZ: How Well Do You Know Seven Dwarfs Mine Train?

posted on January 19th, 2016 by Rose Monahan, Librarian, Walt Disney World Resort

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train has been delighting families visiting New Fantasyland since it opened in 2014. The attraction tells the story of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” from the perspective of the dwarfs themselves and riders get to follow them along to their mine where a million diamonds shine and beyond.

How well do you know this speedy attraction? Test your knowledge below.


Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom Park

When did the Seven Dwarf Mine Train officially open at Magic Kingdom Park?
How many original figures from Snow White's Scary Adventure now reside at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train?
Which is not a color of jewel you'll find in throughout the mine?
A springtime opening is planned for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, a rollicking family-style coaster and the crown jewel of New Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom Park. Walt Disney World Resort guests will be treated to an exciting, musical ride into the mine "where a million diamonds shine" as the lovable world of Sleepy, Doc, Grumpy, Bashful, Sneezy, Happy and Dopey comes to life. One feature will be first-of-its-kind ride vehicles mounted in cradle-like pivots that allow the vehicles to swing back and forth during the ride. Adding to the fun, the journey will be accompanied by beloved music from the Disney film classic. On their adventure, riders pass by animated figures of Snow White, the Seven Dwarfs and playful forest critters. The attraction will complete New Fantasyland, the largest expansion in Magic Kingdom history. Walt Disney World Resort is in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Matt Stroshane, photographer)
How long is the wooden sluice where guests can sort jewels in the inside the interactive queue?

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Moms Panel Monday: Celebrations at Disney Parks

posted on January 18th, 2016 by Leanne O'Regan, Director, Social Media, Disney Parks

Growing up in Orlando, my family celebrated many milestones at Walt Disney World Resort including birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, and new jobs. Today’s Moms Panel Monday comes from Jenn in Delaware who wants to know how to celebrate multiple special occasions with her family of 10.

The Disney Parks Moms Panel offers her some great ideas ranging from a private fireworks cruise to dessert parties, signature dining, knee-slapping entertainment and beautiful gifts from Disney Floral and Gifts.

Two of our newest Panelists, Jen from Missouri and Jackie from Ontario, recommend making a big night of it with a Wishes Fireworks Dessert Party. They truly love the special viewing of Wishes Nighttime Spectacular along with your own table for dining.

Wes, our dad Panelist from Texas strikes a big idea with a bowling party at Disney Springs. He says Splitsville Luxury Lanes is the perfect place to celebrate with their extensive menu and fun atmosphere.

Panelists Emma from the UK, Susan from New York, and Jason from Georgia all recommend a booming idea – a fireworks cruise. Emma likes the Pirates & Pals Fireworks Voyage while Susan likes the Ferrytale Wishes: A Fireworks Dessert Cruise. Both experiences offer once-in-a-lifetime memories for the entire family.

Camila, our Panelist from Brazil, and Heather from New York both suggest one of their favorite restaurants – ‘Ohana. They love the amazing food you’ll find there like coconut-pineapple bread and delicious shrimp.

And Heather also points out something sweet – she’s found that in her many times of traveling to Walt Disney World Resort, it isn’t about where she ate or what special tour they booked, it’s about just being together as one big happy family. She says, “So as you enter the Magic Kingdom Park, let go of all your inhibitions and become a kid again.” Such great advice!

This was a very fun question for our Moms Panel to answer. See more great answers to this question and other Disney Parks vacation planning questions by visiting the Disney Parks Moms Panel. Tell us your favorite ways to celebrate special occasions at Disney Parks in the comments below.

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Disney Doodle: Dalmatians visit The Main Street Fire Station

posted on January 18th, 2016 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Editorial Content Manager

In this week’s Disney Doodle, artist Ashley Taylor imagines what Pongo and Perdita, the two lovable parents from “101 Dalmatians” would do if they visited Disney Parks. Their first stop? The fire station on Main Street, U.S.A., at Magic Kingdom Park.


See the posts below for more Disney Doodles:

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Disney Doodle: Pocahontas Visits Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom Park

posted on January 11th, 2016 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Editorial Content Manager

When it comes to boat rides, perhaps none is wilder at Magic Kingdom Park than Splash Mountain. In this week’s Disney Doodle, artist Ashley Taylor imagines what would happen if Pochontas and pal Meeko took a canoe ride through the Frontierland attraction.


See the posts below for more Disney Doodles:

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Costa Does It Again at the Walt Disney World Marathon

posted on January 10th, 2016 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World Resort

Fredison Costa is only about 140 pounds soaking wet, but he said he felt very heavy on Sunday. Maybe it was from the weight of five – count them, five – Walt Disney World Marathon medals he now has in his possession.


Costa, the Brazilian runner who trains at Walt Disney World Resort, continued to pile on the victories Sunday morning, winning his third straight Walt Disney World Marathon and his fifth in the last six years.

Costa’s win, along with Natasha Yaremczuk’s victory in the women’s division (2:52:23), capped the 23rd Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend presented by Cigna. The signature runDisney event drew more than 100,000 runners and fans for races of all levels, a Health & Fitness Expo and the first-ever runDisney Race Director Series for race executives from around the world.


Costa, 38, provided the perfect punctuation to the weekend and is quickly gaining on Adriano Bastos for the title of winningest runner in Walt Disney World Marathon history. With his fifth victory, Costa is only three behind Bastos, who is an eight-time winner.

It’s been anything but easy, especially Sunday. His win – he crossed the finish line in 2:33:24 – was the slowest of his five victories, roughly 15 minutes slower, in fact, than his winning time last year (2:18:06). That’s because he was coming off a recent calf injury that forced him to suspend his training for 10 days. And it didn’t help that it was a warm and wet morning, which also zapped some of his speed as he navigated the 26.2-mile course through all four Disney theme parks.

Nevertheless, Costa said he achieved the one thing he wanted more than anything. He won.


“I was not happy with my time,’’ said Costa, who trains with former Olympic track & field coach Brooks Johnson at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort. “But I’m the happiest man on earth.’’

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Filed: Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Special Events, Walt Disney World Resort