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Celebrating National Zoo Keeper Appreciation Week at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on July 23rd, 2015 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


This week is National Zoo Keeper Appreciation Week, and we are celebrating our keepers and aquarists with special activities to recognize their hard work and dedication. If you are visiting this week, be sure to tell them hello and thank you!

I could not be prouder of our tremendously talented team of cast members, who continue to impress with their expertise and compassion. They have dedicated their lives to caring for animals, and everything they do and learn here helps contribute to saving animals in the wild. The difference they are making is immeasurable.

Below are just a few of our dedicated cast members. We asked them to tell us about their favorite moments and why they enjoy their roles.

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‘In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.’ (by Baba Dioum) This quote is the definition of why I’m an animal keeper. My job is awesome because of the animals I get to work with, but my job also makes it possible for guests to learn about these animals and love them as much as I do.”
– Katie Lusnia

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“I am very lucky that my favorite moment as an animal keeper happens every day. I love when my animals are excited to see me, even though they are more likely excited to see the food in my hands. I also love their quiet munching once they have all been fed and are happily in the barn.”
– Chelsea Lynn

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“My favorite moments usually involve us being able to help out an animal that, in the wild, would not have survived. Most recently, we had a sand gazelle calf born with multiple issues. After a pretty rough few days and 24-hour care, this calf started to gain strength. After a couple weeks, she was basically fully recovered. Seeing your hard work result in the survival of animal, especially a young animal, is pretty awesome.“
– Matthew McHarness

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“We are involved in daily training, enrichment programs, assisting the veterinarians during procedures, sharing our knowledge with the guests as well as making memories for them during their visit.”
– Kelly Savage

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“I enjoy the interaction and observation of the many different species … I also find it very interesting working with the veterinary staff performing health assessments on many different species of animals.”
– Chad Spicer

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“I feel like we make a difference in the lives of the animals that we take care of. We form a relationship with every single animal that we take care of and that is very rewarding. Also, baby animals are super cute.”
– Danielle Boggs

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“After having helped with the endocrine research and care of the mother for more than two years, witnessing the birth of a giraffe calf was incredibly rewarding to me.”
– Gretchen Mueller

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“[I have] access to the best and most-advanced facilities for the care and development of the animals who roam our savannas. The animals … are truly the driving inspiration in what makes Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge a premiere resort… Being able to work with the Disney Conservation Fund is also a reward that may go unnoticed by some, but the keepers at Disney know that we are both igniting a passion in future generations and doing our best to preserve the natural wonders and animals better than anyone else.”
– Ashley Roth

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I enjoy being an aquarist because I have always been captivated by the ocean and everything that can be found in it … I also strive to provide educational moments for our guests so that they can learn about and respect our oceans, and hopefully help make changes that can benefit all of our planet’s ecosystems.
– Eric Grunthaner

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“When I first started, it was so cool to see the amazing relationships keepers have with their animals … The animals recognize me now and come over to say ‘Hi.’ That’s a favorite moment every day.”
– Erin O’Neill

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Top 5 Hot Dogs to Celebrate National Hot Dog Day at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts

posted on July 22nd, 2015 by Rachel Brent, Food & Beverage Marketing Communications Coordinator


Tomorrow is National Hot Dog Day, but at Disney Parks we celebrate year-round! Did you know Walt Disney Parks and Resorts guests enjoy more than 6.4 million hot dogs annually? In honor of National Hot Dog Day, I’m sharing my Top 5 hot dogs from coast to coast:

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  1. Macaroni & Cheese Hot Dog (Restaurantosaurus, Disney’s Animal Kingdom): This dog is topped with creamy macaroni and cheese and bacon bits, sure to satisfy your prehistoric hunger.

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  1. Vegetarian Portobello-Mushroom Philly (Award Wieners, Disney California Adventure park): Even carnivores will love this dish with grilled Portobello, onions and bell peppers sautéed in Karl Strauss Red Trolley Ale and topped with pepper jack cheese.
  1. Frankfurter in a Pretzel Roll (Min and Bill’s Dockside Diner, Disney’s Hollywood Studios): This dog is perfect when you’re on the go, the Dijon mustard inside the roll will help keep you mess-free for your silver screen debut.

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  1. Chili-Cheese Dog (Refreshment Corner, Disneyland park): Combining Walt Disney’s love for chili with an all-American hot dog, this classic might be the perfect Disneyland tribute.

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  1. Barbecued Pork and Coleslaw Gourmet Hot Dog (Casey’s Corner, Magic Kingdom Park): Topped with barbecued pulled pork and refreshing coleslaw, this hearty dog begs to be enjoyed picnic-style in the new Hub grass area.

How will you celebrate National Hot Dog Day?

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Filed: Disney California Adventure Park, Disney Dining, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort

Wildlife Wednesday: Meet Wheels at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

posted on July 22nd, 2015 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


In the past, I have shared with you many examples of the excellent care our team of professionals gives the animals you see at Walt Disney World Resort. We also help rehabilitate native wildlife, which includes birds, snakes, armadillos, manatees and more.

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Recently, we began caring for a native gopher tortoise. While we don’t know how he was injured, we believe he might have been hit by an automobile. Our veterinarians, veterinary technicians, hospital keepers, and wildlife interns have been working closely with this gopher tortoise during the past month.

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The tortoise sustained an injury to the back of his shell that also affected his back legs. After brainstorming different ideas to help him maneuver better, a suggestion was made about giving him wheels. But how?

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One of our veterinarians attached LEGO blocks with an animal-friendly epoxy resin reinforced with tape to the bottom of his shell. Within minutes, the tortoise we are now calling Wheels began walking across the hospital floor. It was a success!

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Hospital keepers Jennifer Holmes and Jen Hershey act as mentors to our Wildlife Hospital professional interns, Tori D’Amico and Brandon Waldron. They all continue to monitor Wheels to make sure he is comfortable and able to move around. The team expects Wheels to stay with them for a while as his health improves. Wheels’ wheels will be modified throughout his healing process to ensure the best fit. When the team feels confident that he is fully healed and able to be released into the wild, they will remove his wheels.

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The gopher tortoise is a protected species, native to the southeastern United States. These tortoises dig deep burrows that are sometimes filled in by land developments and construction. The gopher tortoise is also a keystone species because other animals, such as snakes and eastern indigos, also live in their burrows.

The next time you visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you might be able to catch a glimpse of Wheels at Rafiki’s Planet Watch in the on-stage procedure room!

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Snack Time at Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on July 20th, 2015 by Rachel Brent, Food & Beverage Marketing Communications Coordinator


Exploring Disney’s Animal Kingdom can really work up an appetite, especially after conquering Expedition Everest and traveling on Kilimanjaro Safaris. Luckily, there are some new snacks and a few favorites to tide you over until dinner.

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The newly revamped Gardens Kiosk, located on Discovery Island, features a Trek Power Salad with quinoa, beets, edamame and citrus as well as a Farmer’s Salad with blueberries, goat cheese and candied pecans. Both salads are eligible as a snack entitlement on the Disney Dining Plan. Also new to the menu is a chilled green tea infused with orange blossom honey, cucumber-mint-pomegranate lemonade, and raspberry lemonade sweetened with stevia.

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For a hearty snack, check out the baked lobster mac and cheese and baked pasta marinara with mozzarella at Beastly Kiosk. Both pasta dishes are packed with cheesy goodness and count as snack entitlements on the Disney Dining Plan.

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You’ll find Mr. Kamal’s while trekking between Africa and Asia, the vegan menu reflecting both cultures. Here, you’ll find samosas served with mango salsa, hummus served with vegetables and pita, and delicious falafel. Across the path at Bradley Falls, look for a new Asian beef slider, edamame, and Asian noodles.

What is your favorite snack at Disney’s Animal Kingdom?

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Happy National Ice Cream Day! Top 5 Ice Cream Treats to Try at Walt Disney World Resort this Summer

posted on July 19th, 2015 by Rachel Brent, Food & Beverage Marketing Communications Coordinator


At Disney Parks, we all scream for Ice Cream! Today is National Ice Cream Day and we’re celebrating by sharing our Top Five Favorite Ice Cream Treats to try at Walt Disney World Resort this summer.

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  1. The Warm Glazed Doughnut from Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is stacked with cinnamon apples and topped with vanilla bean ice cream and caramel sauce. This treat is really out-of-this-world!

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  1. L’Artisans des Glace in the France Pavilion at Epcot has 16 delicious flavors of hand-crafted frozen treats including ice cream and sorbet that change seasonally—like Caramel fleur de sel and Coconut White Chocolate. If you’re looking to try something new, the chocolate macaron ice cream sandwich is magnifique!

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  1. The new Double Chocolate-Chip Ice Cream Sandwich from Tamu Tamu Refreshments at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is perfectly portable, so you can snack on your way to your next Disney’s Animal Kingdom adventure.

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  1. Dad’s Brownie Sundae from 50’s Prime Time Café at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is my current favorite sundae. A chocolate brownie is piled high with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, caramel sauce, whipped cream, and is topped with chocolate candies, caramel corn and a cherry. What’s not to love?

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  1. No list is complete without the Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar, available throughout Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. (Though in my opinion this treat is best enjoyed in front of Cinderella Castle, while waiting for “Wishes!” Nighttime Spectacular to begin!)

How are you celebrating National Ice Cream Day?

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Disney Parks Backyard Barbecue on Pinterest

posted on July 16th, 2015 by Rachel Brent, Food & Beverage Marketing Communications Coordinator


The peak of summer is upon us, and we invite you to celebrate with a backyard barbecue inspired by Disney Parks and Resorts.

Recipe for Sweet Potato-Rosemary Biscuits from Blue Bayou Restaurant in Disneyland Park Recipe for Flame Tree Barbecue Sauce from Flame Tree Barbecue at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Printable Menu and Place Cards

Visit the Walt Disney World Pinterest page to find everything you need to host the perfect summer barbecue. We made it easy, providing recipes for some Disney Parks food favorites (Flame Tree Barbecue Sauce anyone?), drinks, and even printable napkin rings and a menu and place cards to tie it all together. Click through to download and print the recipes, or pin them to your recipe board to make later.

Featured recipes include:

Which recipe are you going to try at your next summer party?

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Good Morning From Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on July 13th, 2015 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


Good morning from Disney’s Animal Kingdom! Looks like one resident is taking a quiet stroll through Kilimanjaro Safaris before the park opens.

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The grounds at this time of day sure looks peaceful. Is this attraction a must-do for you?

For more from the “Good Morning” series, visit the posts below:

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#CoolestSummer Ever: Liquid Cool at Walt Disney World Resort

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


When temperatures creep up, there’s nothing like a bit of H2O. Here are some watery ways folks ward off summer’s generous warmth:

Spritzes of circumstance. For a quick refresh, you need only catch a Magic Kingdom Park camel at the right time at The Magic Carpets of Aladdin. And even though you can get plenty of moisture at Kali River Rapids, you can also get a sprinkle or two from other Disney’s Animal Kingdom guests aiming squirt guns from the bridge over the attraction. Think of it a kind of public service for this time of year.

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Kid’s mini-water frolic areas. Some parks have mini-water fun areas, where festive sprays pop up at random and kids let off steam. Similar fun is flowing at Downtown Disney Marketplace.

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Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station. The newest wonderful world of wet was suggested by reader Thomas in an earlier post, and it’s a big hit for the little ones, as well as a Magic Kingdom Park joy for fans of the Disney animated classic, “Dumbo.”

Club Cool. Beware of the Beverly! If you’ve been to this ethereal Epcot oasis before, you’ll probably get the reference. At Club Cool, you can sample international Coca-Cola products to your heart’s content. Everybody has a favorite, and more than one have stood poker-faced as newbies take sips of a brew called “Beverly” and watched them make the same face as Lucy did when she joined the thousands of happy peppy people who spooned their way to health with her first taste of Vitameatavegamin (“It’s so tasty, too. Tastes just like candy!”).

Disney Water Parks, of course. You can pretend you’re splashing around “snow-capped peaks” at Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park–where little ones can step across ice blocks and giggle on Lilliputan miniatures of the park attractions. This summer, we’ve even introduced a fantastic selection of delicious foods at both Water Parks. And whether you’re Disney Channel fans or those of us whose hearts belong to Annette (or both), you can groove to music, entertainment and games during the Teen Beach 2: Beach Party at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park. Twistin’ rockin’ eatin’ and laughin’ at beach parties is the height of summer coolness.

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Filed: Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Blizzard Beach, Disney's Typhoon Lagoon, Downtown Disney, Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort

Wildlife Wednesday: Happy 21st Anniversary to ‘The Lion King’

posted on June 24th, 2015 by Scott Terrell, DVM, DACVP, Animal Operations Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


Happy 21st Anniversary to “The Lion King”!

You loved the film, now see the real-life animal inspirations behind “The Lion King” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

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You can check out our lions on the Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

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Visit our meerkats on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and warthogs on the Kilimanjaro Safaris both at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

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See if you can spot the mandrills on the savanna on the Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

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Try to catch a peek at these majestic birds during the opening sequence of the film and at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

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Next time you watch “The Lion King,” look out for all these animals in the “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” song sequence. You can see them here on the Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

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Today in Disney History: ‘The Lion King’ Steps Into Theaters

posted on June 24th, 2015 by Nate Rasmussen, Archivist, Marketing Resource Center


Today in 1994, “The Lion King” was released in theaters. This coming-of-age story of Simba, the future king of the Pridelands, is still a hugely popular film with Disney fans both young and old. I don’t know about you, but I’m still trying to get over Mufasa’s death 21 years later.

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The memorable music from “The Lion King” is highlighted in the Disney’s Animal Kingdom show Festival of the Lion King preformed daily at Harambe Theater. This energizing show features classic characters from the movie with live action performers – most notably the tumble monkeys.

Simba can also be spotted in Mickey’s Soundsational Parade atop a drum while Zazu flies near by at Disneyland park in California.

“The Lion King” won two Academy Awards for best song, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and best score. The musical version is still on Broadway in New York City where it will celebrate it’s 18th year this November.

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