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Meet Dave Filoni at Darth’s Mall During Star Wars Weekend on June 9-10

posted on June 8th, 2012 by Steven Miller, Merchandise Communications Manager

Dave Filoni and the new Star Wars: The Clone Wars inspired Disney Racers

On select Fridays, my son and I watch the animated series, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.” Considering I grew up with Star Wars, it’s a fun father and son experience we share. I was excited to learn that four new Disney Racers inspired by this animated series were recently released at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts. This is the fifth series of Disney Racers to feature Star Wars content. I spoke with Dave Filoni, the supervising director of the animated series, who designed our first ever “Signature Series” of Racers (yes, I was geeked out!). I asked Dave if this was the first time he ever designed toys.

“I think many people would argue that when I design new Star Wars characters or vehicles that I’m always making toys,” laughed Dave. “It is fun to see our designs come to life as action figures. The Disney Racers were my first attempt at designing something as a toy specifically.”

Concept sketches and final design of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars inspired Disney Racers

The four cars were inspired by the characters featured in the animated series including Bossk, Cad Bane, Ahsoka Tano and Aurra Sing. I was happy to see Bossk since he was one of my favorite childhood action figures from the 1980s. Dave explained why he selected these characters.

“When I was thinking of what characters to do, the Bounty Hunters really jumped out at me as different,” continued Dave. “A friend, Mary Franklin, who works at Lucasfilm is a huge Bossk fan. So I designed the car with her in mind, something to add to her growing collection.”

See the new Star Wars: The Clone Wars inspired Disney Racers

After doing research about cars from different eras, Dave created the initial sketches for the cars in about two hours. We featured images of his concepts on the back of the car packaging, and Dave’s signature is engraved on the bottom of each chasse.

I asked Dave which car he wished to drive.

“I like the Ahsoka car best.” said Dave. “I think it has the best lines, and its sleek shape would make it fast. It was a lot of fun to design them all! I enjoyed working with the Disney Artists who made some helpful suggestions. I’m not a car expert but I gave it my best shot [laughs]. As always with Disney, it was a great experience.”

You can meet Dave at Darth’s Mall during Star Wars Weekends on June 9-10. He will be meeting with fans from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. each day.

Look below for more information on Star Wars-themed merchandise:

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The Cold Facts: ‘Carbon-Freeze Me’ Brings a Special Chill to the Air at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for a Limited Time

posted on June 1st, 2012 by Gary Buchanan, Social Media Managing Editor

Ever since the limited-time “Carbon-Freeze Me” Experience debuted on May 18, guests have been entering the freezing chamber at Disney’s Hollywood Studios to have their faces digitally captured from multiple angles and then magically transformed into carbonite figurines.

Fellow Disney Parks Blog author Steven Miller previewed this homage to Han Solo in this post and gave an idea of what you could expect when the eight inch, three-dimensional piece arrives at your home.

Wanting to show the process to you, I asked special guest Ashley Eckstein to join me for some freezing fun before she began her day at Star Wars Weekends as the Celebrity Host of the “Behind the Force” presentation. After all, Ashley’s character on Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Ahsoka Tano, has a little experience around carbonite. So I was definitely in good company.

Ashley and I met up with Disney Parks Merchandise Product Developer Brad Schoeneberg for a tour of the Carbon-Freezing Chamber. In fact, I think Brad is the only person I have ever thanked for helping me catch a little cold. The level of detail in the figurine’s face is simply amazing. (Now I just have to decide where in my house it will go.)

This limited-time Carbon-Freeze Me Experience is currently open every day — not just on Star Wars Weekends event days — and will continue to operate through June 16, 2012. Star Wars Weekends ends this year on June 10, so you even have some additional days after the event to get frozen.

If you head out to Star Wars Weekends before the 2012 event ends, be sure to ask Ashley to recreate the “Han Solo Face” she made during her own Carbon-Freeze Me experience. She had a wonderful time and was a really great sport to get frozen with me.

To make advance reservations for Carbon-Freeze Me, call 407-WDW-TECH (407-939-8324). Walk-ins can be accommodated based on availability.

You can read more of the latest news from Star Wars Weekends in the posts below:

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Happy 35th Anniversary, Star Wars, from Disney’s Hollywood Studios!

posted on May 25th, 2012 by Gary Buchanan, Social Media Managing Editor

Thirty-five years ago today, film history was made when Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope was released in theaters. Little did we know when we were introduced to a cast of galactic stars with names like Skywalker, Vader, Kenobi, R2-D2 and Chewbacca that they would become some of the most famous characters ever created for the silver screen.

Three and a half decades later, Star Wars is woven into culture like few other film sagas. At Disney Parks, we’re fortunate to be able to celebrate the Star Wars legacy with our Star Tours – The Adventures Continue 3-D attraction and events like Star Wars Weekends.

Just like Disney and Disney●Pixar animated films, Star Wars is built on a great story. To me, that’s one reason the saga stands the test of time. Thousands of films have come and gone since 1977, but just as Walt Disney introduced us to a kingdom-full of magical stories and fairy tales, George Lucas has provided a space station-full of Force-filled fun in a galaxy far, far away.

So if you’re heading out to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for Star Wars Weekends 2012, be sure to wish our galactic pals a Happy Anniversary. And maybe even enjoy a special Darth Vader “dark side” cupcake to mark the occasion.

Today, our favorite Star Wars Weekends correspondent, John, gives us a video peek at the pageantry of Weekend I and a glimpse of things to come in Weekend II. We’ve also posted a few photo highlights from Weekend I.

May the Force be with you!

Boba Fett Signs an Autograph for a Young (and Familiar-looking) Bounty Hunter The 501st Legion and Rebel Legion are Special Guests Each Day During the Pre-Parade Festivities Disney Parks Vinylmation Artist Maria Clapsis Signs One of Her ‘Star Wars’ Creations (As Seen in the Inset) in Darth's Mall Ray Park, Known to the Film Galaxy as Darth Maul, Rides in the ‘Legends of the Force’ Motorcade
Goofy's Darth Vader Outfit Can't Fool this Youngling. She Knows He's Lovable at Heart A Favorite Costume From the 501st Legion & Rebel Legion Pre-Parade: ‘Ree-Yees,’ As Seen in the Famed ‘Star Tours Boarding Party’ Action Figure Set ’Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ Voice Artists Dee Bradley Baker, James Arnold Taylor and Ashley Eckstein in ‘Behind the Force’ A Stormtrooper Patrols the Turnstile Rooftops at the Park Entrance

Read more about Star Wars Weekends in the posts below:

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Recent ‘American Idol’ TV Show Singers Performed at The American Idol Experience at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on May 24th, 2012 by Gary Buchanan, Social Media Managing Editor

Since opening in February 2009, “The American Idol Experience” attraction at Walt Disney World Resort has provided thousands of performers the opportunity to audition before Disney producers and directors and perform on-stage inside a 1000+-seat theater at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park. This experience has no doubt been valuable to many performers who audition for the “American Idol” television show during one of its regional auditions.

In fact, in just this season (season 11) alone of the TV show, five of the show’s final 13 contestants had previously performed on-stage at “The American Idol Experience” attraction. One of those performers, Hollie Cavanagh, was one of the final four contestants remaining on the show before she was eliminated May 10.


Cavanagh, the 18-year-old songstress from McKinney, Texas, came in second place in the theme park audience voting when she performed Miley Cyrus’ hit tune “The Climb” at “The American Idol Experience” on July 15, 2010. In fact, “The Climb” is the same song she performed on the “American Idol” TV show this season that drew rave reviews from both judges and fans alike.

*AMERICAN IDOL® is a registered trademark of 19 TV Ltd. and FremantleMedia North America, Inc.

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You Asked, the Galactic Senate Listened: Larger Star Wars Weekends Images Now Available

posted on May 23rd, 2012 by Gary Buchanan, Social Media Managing Editor

As featured in earlier Star Wars Weekends posts here on the Disney Parks Blog, the Yellow Shoes Creative Group works with Lucasfilm Ltd. each year to bring the very best in creative promotional images for the annual galactic celebration at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. (And, as you’ve seen, the team branched out this year and produced some wonderful behind-the-scenes promotional video peeks at the 2012 event.)

This promotional campaign blends the worlds of Disney Parks with the galaxies of Star Wars for a “mash-up” that features famous icons and characters in single images.

When the four still images for 2012 debuted, we had requests for larger versions that could be used as desktop wallpapers. Today, we’re happy to offer those to to you.

Star Wars Weekends Wallpapers Star Wars Weekends Wallpapers Star Wars Weekends Wallpapers Star Wars Weekends Wallpapers

Note: These images, in their entirety, might not fit your screen(s) perfectly, but we want to provide them in their full frame to show every part of the artwork that the artists wanted to feature when they created them.

Be sure to check out the terms of service about using the wallpaper before you download it.

*Lucasfilm, STAR WARS™, and related properties are trademarks and/or copyrights, in the United States and other countries of Lucasfilm Ltd. and/or its affiliates. TM & © Lucasfilm Ltd. All rights reserved. All other trademarks and trade names are properties of their respective owners.

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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: What Does Tom Sawyer Island Have to do With Star Tours – The Adventures Continue?

posted on May 23rd, 2012 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group

One hundred and thirty-five years ago, Mark Twain dreamed up the world of Tom Sawyer, inspired by his fabled life on the Mississippi. Eighty years later, Walt Disney designed Tom Sawyer Island as an outdoor playground based on Twain’s characters and adventures—and his own playful imaginings as a child in Missouri.


This week marks the 40th birthday of the Magic Kingdom version of the only Disney Parks attraction that was single-handedly created by Walt himself. In a sense, when exploring Injun Joe’s Cave, journeying through the Magnetic Mystery Mine or finding the secret escape tunnel (my favorite) at Fort Langhorn, anyone can be a kid again, living heroic imaginings as Walt intended.

“The general shape of the island, the way it curves and so forth, was Walt’s idea,” Disney Imagineer Marvin Davis told historian Jim Korkis. Although Marvin and several other legendary Imagineers had offered island designs, their efforts didn’t match what Walt had in his mind’s eye (and childhood memories), so he took the project home for a one-man, all-night session.

“Walt worked for hours in his red barn workshop at his house in Holmby Hills,” Jim chronicles in his book, The Vault of Walt. “The next morning, he laid tracing paper on Marvin’s desk and said, ‘Now, that’s the way it should be.’ The island was built according to Walt’s design.”


The Walt Disney World Resort version of Tom Sawyer Island which has delighted us for four decades opened in May, 1973. In March of the same year, a highly-acclaimed musical version of Tom Sawyer opened in theaters. It was the first film in which Disney Legends Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman provided a masterful screenplay as well as the memorable songs. Appearing in the film were Disney’s Napoleon and Samantha co-stars, Johnny Whittaker and Jodie Foster.

Might seem like a Disney movie, right? Like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang before it, there were people who thought Tom Sawyer was a Disney film, though both were produced through United Artists. Imagine how puzzled some folks might have been only a couple of months later, when the Tom Sawyer Island attraction opened at Magic Kingdom Park! Incidentally, the Disney Studios finally did release a Tom and Huck movie in 1995.


Okay, so what about Star Wars? Well, the Sherman music in 1973’s Tom Sawyer was supervised, arranged and conducted by the out-of-this-world John Williams. This was just four years before he conquered the musical galaxy with his Star Wars score—which of course, contains the stirring theme of Star Tours – The Adventures Continue at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You also hear his music at the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular and the Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye at Disneyland park.

For his film scores and adaptations, John Williams won five Academy Awards and over 40 nominations, including one for last year’s War Horse—and his work with the Sherman Brothers on Tom Sawyer. In the Walt Disney Pictures feature documentary, The Boys: The Story of the Sherman Brothers, John describes the latter film as “One of the beacons of American 19th century literature translated by the Shermans into something wonderfully viable musically.”

“Their music is known and remembered and loved and appreciated by millions of people,” he says of the Sherman Brothers. “That is a tremendous achievement.”

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Take 5: Star Wars Weekends Returns to Walt Disney World Resort

posted on May 19th, 2012 by Thomas Smith, Social Media Director, Disney Parks

R2-D2 at Star Wars Weekends at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars Weekends is officially underway at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. And if you’ve been following our coverage here on the Disney Parks Blog, you know there’s a lot to see and do over the next few weekends. Today, we’re sharing five stories you need to check out before heading to the park.

Take 5: Star Wars Weekends Returns to Walt Disney World Resort

  1. More Visiting Celebrities, Details & Tips Announced for Star Wars Weekends 2012 at Walt Disney World Resort – Check out more details, tips and the scheduled celebrity lineup for Star Wars Weekends 2012 in this post!

  2. D Street in Downtown Disney District at the Disneyland Resort Unveils a Galaxy of New Star Wars Art – ACME Archives released a new collection of Star Wars-themed art. Check it out on D Street in the Downtown Disney District at the Disneyland Resort!

  3. Shopping in ‘Darth’s Mall’ for Star Wars Weekends 2012 at Walt Disney World Resort – Disney Parks Blog author Steven Miller shared a few of his favorite items coming soon to “Darth’s Mall,” a massive shopping location created just for Star Wars Weekends.

  4. Cast Yourself in Carbonite with the Carbon-Freeze Me Experience During Star Wars Weekends 2012 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios – See how you can cast your likeness as a three-dimensional, eight-inch figurine at the Carbon-Freezing Chamber at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

  5. Build Your Droid at the Droid Factory Coming to Tatooine Traders at Disney’s Hollywood StudiosStar Wars fans can now build and name their own R-series Astromech droid action figures at the Droid Factory at Tatooine Traders.

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Galactic Food Fun at Star Wars Weekends: This is the Droid You’ve Been Looking For!

posted on May 18th, 2012 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer

There are some tasty treats at Star Wars Weekends 2012 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, with R2-D2 being “the droid you are looking for” each weekend.

Darth Vader is featured on a special cupcake, which goes to the “dark side.” This chocolate confection is $4.99 and is available at Darth’s Mall (the special merchandise location set up just for Star Wars Weekends 2012), ABC Commissary, Backlot Express, Studio Catering Co., Pizza Planet and Starring Rolls Cafe.

Known for carrying secret plans in Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope, R2-D2 carries some yummy treats for Star Wars Weekends. The loveable droid is featured with his own bucket that holds churros with chocolate dipping sauce available at the Herbie’s Cart, Fantasmic! and the churro cart in front of The Great Movie Ride.

“Corn “R2-D2

In the mood for something savory? Try a corn dog and chips served in an R2-D2 Bucket from Herbie’s Cart, or treat your little Padawan or Jedi to an R2-D2 Kids’ Power Pack from Pizza Planet, Backlot Express, Studio Catering Co, ABC Commissary, Catalina Eddie’s, Fairfax Fare or Rosie’s All-American Café.

“Frozen “Frozen “Chocolate

R2-D2 also can be spotted holding frozen lemonade in a special souvenir cup from Anaheim Produce, filled with a tasty shake at Min & Bill’s Dockside Diner and 50’s Prime Time Café, or stuffed with a hot fudge sundae at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant.

Check out these posts for more of the latest on Star Wars Weekends 2012:

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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: A Frog, a Pig and a Dream

posted on May 16th, 2012 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group

Do something completely madcap today to celebrate. Why? Two decades ago, Muppet*Vision 3D opened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and a new dimension in deliciously demented daffiness was born — in an attraction that blended Fozzie’s “cheap 3-D tricks” with Audio-Animatronics characters, a live-in-person loony, little tiny bubbles and great big explosions. In other words, the perfect Muppet storm!
Muppet*Vision 3-D at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Muppet*Vision 3D was also the grand finale project to benefit from the creative touch of Jim Henson himself. “Jim was involved in every aspect,” Emmy-winning writer Jim Lewis says. “He worked with all of us and directed the film. After Jim’s passing, Frank Oz came in to help put the finishing touches on it.”

The West Coast version of Muppet*Vision 3D opened almost a decade later at Disney California Adventure park. The two attractions differ mostly by the almost endless little gags that abound inside and outside. “In California, there’s a Swintrek spaceship crashed outside the show building,” said Jim. “But Florida’s the only place where you can find the net full of jello!”

Muppet*Vision 3-D at Disney's Hollywood Studios

“That’s my favorite gag of all,” says acclaimed writer Craig Shemin, who is today Vice President of The Jim Henson Legacy. Craig was a key member of the creative team, along with Jim H., Jim L., scriptwriter Bill Prady (co-creator of TV’s “The Big Bang Theory”) and Jim Henson Productions Creative Director Michael Frith. “A few feet from the theater doors, if you look up, you’ll literally see a net full of jello. If you say it fast, it can make you giggle.” (Hint: It’s the name of our own Queen of Walt Disney World Resort.)

Muppet*Vision 3-D at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Muppet*Vision 3D also ushered in one of the pioneering advances in computer-generated animation, the spirit of 3-D himself, Waldo C. Graphic. Fun facts: Waldo made his debut on The Jim Henson Hour in 1989.One of his Muppet*Vision 3D co-stars, Bean Bunny, first appeared in the 1986 TV special, The Tale of the Bunny Picnic (thanks to Fred from CA for helping me get my Muppetology right!).

Muppet*Vision 3D is also a treasure in that it combines talent and artistry from both Jim Henson Productions and Walt Disney Imagineering. “What an incredible, brilliant, creative individual Jim Henson was!” recalls Kathy Rogers, Senior Show Producer-Director, Walt Disney Imagineering. “He always acknowledged everybody’s value and talent around him, while he always kept the focus going forward. I was in awe of that.”

For more Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks, see below:

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A Mouseketeer Homecoming Lets ‘New Mickey Mouse Club’ Member Share New Memories with Her Family at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on May 16th, 2012 by Gary Buchanan, Social Media Managing Editor

Many generations have grown up with “The Mickey Mouse Club.” From its debut on black-and-white television in the 1950s through the pop-driven cast of the late-80s and early-90s (when the cast also called Disney’s Hollywood Studios “home”), the show has long been a part of our world’s rich culture.

In the late-1970s, “The New Mickey Mouse Club” hit the TV airwaves and featured segments shot at both Disneyland Resort in California and Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

Recently, Julie Piekarski, one of the Mouseketeers from the show’s 1970s revival, vacationed at Walt Disney World Resort — a visit that was loaded with fond memories of her days in the club that’s made for you and me.

And while the series was short-lived (Julie would go on to star on the premiere season of “The Facts of Life”), her memories are ones she re-lives each and every time she visits a Disney theme park. And she still even remembers the lyrics to a song she and her fellow Mouseketeers sang about “River Country.”

We caught up with Julie and asked her about her memories of the show. Be sure to keep a lookout for some classic Mickey Mouse Club memorabilia, as well as a few special guests who pop in to be a part of the homecoming.

One special guest even misses a cue and I give him some good-natured ribbing about it. But don’t worry, while he’s been known at times to lose his cool, he knew I meant it all in good fun.

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