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Disney Parks Blog Celebrates Disney's 'Tomorrowland'

Wildlife Wednesday: Celebrate and Learn More About Turtles at Rafiki’s Planet Watch and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on May 20th, 2015 by Blair Witherington, Senior Sea Turtle Biologist


Tomorrow is World Turtle Day®! To celebrate, we’ll have activities to satisfy your curiosity and inspire conservation of these magnificent animals.

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At Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you can try on a turtle shell, see how biologists find gopher tortoises in their underground burrows, learn how to best keep turtles as pets, attempt to untangle a plush sea turtle from fishing line using only your “flippers” and much more! At the Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot, you’ll be able to step through a turtle-excluder device. TEDs are special devices fishermen use in a trawl net to allow turtles an escape route if they are accidentally caught. You can also play interactive games to learn about the threats turtles face, while our sea turtles swim behind you in our 5.7 million-gallon tank. At both locations, you will have opportunities to ask specialists about our turtles and what they need to survive.

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In honor of the holiday, we have an exclusive Disney Parks Blog update from our Conservation Team. Many of you may remember last year’s Tour de Turtles at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort during which we attached satellite transmitters to two female loggerhead sea turtles that came ashore at the resort to lay their eggs. Affectionately named Anna and Elsa after our favorite “Frozen” Arendelle royals, the two ladies have been travelling hundreds of miles since we watched them return to the sea last summer.

Anna, the smaller of the two, had healed scars on her shell from an old boat-propeller injury. Ever resilient, Anna was able to swim in the Tour de Turtles. Because each turtle in Tour de Turtles is connected to an issue that threatens sea turtles, Anna swam to raise awareness about the threat of light pollution. Bright beachfront lighting from buildings and streetlights can deter nesting females and draw hatchling turtles away from the ocean, which is very dangerous for them.

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With a crowd of well-wishers cheering her on, Anna crawled down the beach at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort and back into the Atlantic Ocean. For about a week, Anna swam and drifted within Florida’s coastal waters and then headed south along the coast of eastern Florida. This means that the nest she made in late July was her last of the season. If Anna was like most loggerheads, this would have been her fifth nest!

Anna’s travels south took her to Key West, where she looped around the island and settled into a beautiful shallow seagrass pasture just north of the popular tourist destination. (Perhaps it reminded her of Arendelle?) Anna’s journey has totaled 661 miles!

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Elsa, the larger of the two female loggerheads, has a 40-inch long shell—that’s the height of an average 4-year old human! Elsa is swimming to raise awareness about the troubling amount of plastic debris in our oceans that many turtles mistake for food.

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After Elsa left Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, she drifted for a few weeks within Florida’s offshore waters and eventually headed south. Like Anna, Elsa also swam toward Key West, but soon found her own path. She turned south to cross the Florida current toward Cuba. The strong, Gulf Stream current must have diverted her to the east, which put her on course for the Cay Sal Bank, a rich area of shallow seagrass between the United States and Cuba. This is where Elsa stayed for several months, until just recently when she looped closer to Cuba and back toward Cay Sal. Elsa’s journey has totaled 1,929 miles! That’s the distance from Orlando to Nova Scotia!

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Want to learn more about turtles and our work to help conserve them? If you’re staying at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort this summer during nesting season, you can participate in a turtle night walk, during which you may see a female sea turtle lay her eggs on the beach! You can also check out our next Tour de Turtles event August 1 at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, and don’t forget to celebrate turtles for World Turtle Day and every day at Rafiki’s Planet Watch and The Seas with Nemo & Friends!

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Build Your Own Butterfly Garden with Tips from Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

posted on May 16th, 2015 by Eric Darden, Area Manager, Horticulture, Walt Disney World Resort


One of my favorite things at Epcot during the International Flower & Garden Festival is the Butterflies on the Go garden in Future World, where you can see up to 10 colorful species of butterflies. Some mornings, when the butterflies emerge and their wings are drying out, I like to show kids how to hold them on their fingers so parents can get pictures – it’s a really special moment.

Want to try creating a butterfly habitat that you can enjoy at home? It’s easier than you might think.

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  • At your local garden center, find native plants with nectar-producing flowers like butterfly bush and canna lily. Make sure that you have several different species to insure something is always blooming. These plants vary depending on where you live.
  • Plant blooms of different colors, as different butterfly species are attracted to different colors.
  • Though many butterflies love the sun, some species do like shade, so it’s a plus if you can create a mix of sun and shade in your garden.
  • For best results, you’ll also want to provide plants where butterflies can lay their eggs. Most butterflies are species specific when it comes to laying their eggs. Monarch butterflies must have milkweed, Zebra Longwings (the Florida state butterfly) need passion flower, the Cloudless Sulphur lays eggs on Cassia plants, and Pipevine Swallowtails choose, what else? Pipevine!
  • Of course, once the eggs hatch, you’ll have caterpillars, which feed on plants. So if you want to have a fully functioning butterfly garden, you’ll need to tolerate some insect damage on your plants. It’s worth it!
  • Don’t forget that butterflies also need water. There are several different ways to provide water — even a birdbath can work. They often prefer a puddle on the ground, so consider creating a bare, low spot in the garden to keep wet.
  • Most important – never use insecticide, which will harm butterflies!

It’s not too late to visit our Butterflies on the Go garden as we celebrate our final week of the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival through May 17. Pick up more ideas, then start creating your own butterfly wonderland. Bambi would approve!

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POLL: Eat What You Want Day With Disney Parks Blog Authors

posted on May 11th, 2015 by Rachel Brent, Food & Beverage Marketing Communications Coordinator


What would you eat if you could eat anything you want from Disney Parks and Resorts? This is a question I asked a few Disney Parks Blog authors for Eat What You Want Day (which is my new favorite food holiday). Keep reading to find out the authors’ picks:

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Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort
I chose the 32-ounce Dry Aged Tomahawk Rib Chop from The BOATHOUSE, the newest restaurant at Downtown Disney. The $115 cut is meant for two guests but I actually shared mine with two friends and Executive Chef Bob Getchell. On “Eat What You Want” Day (and any other special occasion!), this is the perfect splurge.

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Erin Glover, Social Media Director, Disneyland Resort
I’m so excited that Critter Country at Disneyland park is open again following its recent refurbishment, because it means I can enjoy my favorite lunch again … the Fried Green Tomato Sandwich at Hungry Bear Restaurant!

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Michelle Harker, Manager, Merchandise Marketing & Communications, Disneyland Resort
I chose a Mickey Pretzel – it’s something I remember since my first theme park visit. It’s a perfect treat to enjoy while walking through the park and even better dipped in cheese!

Disney Parks Blog Author Nate Rasmussen Meeting Olaf at Disney California Adventure Park Disney Parks Blog Author Nate Rasmussen Enjoying an Olaf Marshmallow Pop from Disney California Adventure Park

Nate Rasmussen, Archivist, Marketing Resource Center
I love food is ‘character’ themed in our parks – so fun. When I went to “Frozen Fun” at Disney California Adventure park a couple of weekends ago, I tried something new. I had an Olaf marshmallow pop and then got to meet Olaf.

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Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer
A beautiful plate of pristine sushi at California Grill – probably a crispy crab roll.

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Shawn Slater, Communications Manager, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Creative Entertainment
One of our favorite treats when visiting any Disney Park is the popcorn. The regular popcorn tastes great, but the unique flavors available in certain places make for a special treat. The Buffalo Blue Cheese Flavored Popcorn in Future World at Epcot is definitely one of my favorites, while my boys each have a preference for the cheddar and the sour cream and chive flavors available there. Whether it’s these at Epcot, honey-flavored popcorn at Tokyo Disneyland or dill pickle flavor from the Cozy Cone Motel at Disney California Adventure park, flavored popcorn is an indulgence we can’t resist!

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Tyler Slater, Public Relations Manager, Disney Destinations
I chose the Chinese Chicken Salad in a Sourdough Bread Bowl from Pacific Wharf Café. There is nothing like walking through Pacific Wharf at Disney California Adventure park and smelling freshly baked bread. Then, you add a healthy and delicious salad INSIDE it? Truly, a match made in heaven. (I always ask for extra dressing on the side for some “dipping” sauce for my bread.)

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And me? I chose a Dole Whip Float from Aloha Isle Refreshments in Magic Kingdom Park. Dole Whip has been my go-to for years, it makes me feel like a pineapple princess, and there’s something about enjoying it in Adventureland that makes it even more magical!

Let us know what you would choose to eat on Eat What You Want Day; vote for your pick in our poll below!

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Filed: Disney California Adventure Park, Disney Dining, Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort, Epcot, Hotels & Resorts, Magic Kingdom, Tokyo Disneyland, Walt Disney World Resort

How to Grow Amazing Container Gardens Seen at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on May 8th, 2015 by Eric Darden, Area Manager, Horticulture, Walt Disney World Resort


During the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, guests often ask our gardeners and cast members how Disney creates the spectacular, multi-hued container gardens displayed across the park.

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If you’ve been wishing upon a star for a green thumb this spring, here’s how you can decorate at home with colorful pots of blooms that look like they were grown at Walt Disney World Resort. We don’t mind sharing our secrets!

  • Be creative with containers – even a galvanized bucket, wheelbarrow or dry fountain will work, but be sure it has good drainage. Plants will drown without a drain hole, so drill one if needed.
  • Use high-quality potting soil. Avoid products like top soil or garden soil, and skip the compost when planting a container.
  • Choose healthy plants at the garden center. If plants are turning yellow or spindly, don’t use them. Pull a plant from its container to check the roots – if you don’t see white roots, choose another one.
  • Have some fun with your plant choices. Don’t be afraid to mix bright colors like orange and purple for a hot spot of color. Try cool, blue blooms to build a soothing container of calm. Or combine herbs and vegetables with flowering plants – a pot of petunias mixed with fennel can be striking and useful in the kitchen when your recipe calls for an herb.
  • Remember this rhyme popular with savvy gardeners to create a striking pot of color: Thriller, filler and spiller. Your “thriller” is the plant that really pops as the star of the container; “filler” adds color surrounding the star blooms; and “spiller” is planted around the container’s edges to spill over the sides, adding additional drama.
  • Add a good, slow-release fertilizer. And, after you complete the planting, fertilize it with a water-soluble fertilizer every couple of weeks. This tip may be the most important if you want your plants to have that pixie-dusted quality.
  • Don’t water too often. Use your finger to test the soil. If it’s damp, there’s no reason to add water.
  • Know your plants and whether the plants you choose like full, partial or no sun, then place the container where it will live happily ever after.

Visit the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival through May 17 to get container-garden design ideas for your home. Maybe I’ll see you in Italy!

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Disney Parks After Dark: The Universe of Energy

posted on May 7th, 2015 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


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I have a confession to make about tonight’s Disney Parks After Dark image, which was shot by photographer Mark Willard. Every time I pass The Universe of Energy attraction at Epcot, the attraction’s original theme song always pops in (and then gets stuck in) my head. The tune “Energy (You Make The World Go ‘Round)” was addictive if you were there in the 1980s, and lucky enough to get a cassette tape of the park’s soundtrack.

“Energy…you are profound. You make the world go round and round. You make the world go round. You make the world go round. You make the world go round.”

You’re welcome.

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Top 10 Disney Salads, Coast to Coast

posted on May 6th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


May is National Salad Month (who knew?). One of our favorite ways to eat is with a big bowl of deliciousness that doesn’t always involve romaine.

Here are 10 of our favorite salads from the Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort. Salad bars don’t count – we love the ways the chefs create a taste sensation with a little bit of this and that.

The Caesar Salad at Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante at Disneyland Park 'Smiling Tiger Salad' at Napa Rose at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa

At Disneyland Resort:

  1. “Smiling Tiger Salad” at Napa Rose at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. What’s not to love about Chef Andrew Sutton’s tempura fried lobster, spicy beef, Asian greens and a drizzle of coconut-lime vinaigrette?
  2. Relax over lunch with the Roasted Chicken and Strawberry Salad at Carthay Circle Restaurant in Disney California Adventure park, a mélange of warm asparagus, avocado, arugula, toasted ancient grains and roasted chicken breast filled with strawberry butter.
  3. Also at Disney California Adventure park, we discovered the Greek Salad at Paradise Garden Grill – grab a seat in the shade and dig in to this generous bowl of greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, pepperoncinis, marinated olive and feta flavored with a lemon-oregano dressing and pita bread for scooping. You might want to share.
  4. Over at Disneyland park, a longtime favorite is the Caesar at Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante. This is the real deal, as the Caesar was invented in Mexico City – though a staple in Italian restaurants, the Caesar generally is attributed to Caesar Cardini, an Italian who created the salad at his restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico, where it became a hit with Hollywood stars. Rancho serves the Hacienda Caesar, romaine tossed, sweet peppers and cotija cheese in housemade dressing with pepitas seeds, radishes and crisp tortilla chips. Top it with grilled chicken or carne asada.
The Power Salad at Sunshine Seasons at Epcot The Cobb Salad at The Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney's Hollywood Studios

At Walt Disney World Resort:

  1. Heading to the East Coast, The Plaza Restaurant in Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort has an entrée salad that’s never left the menu – the chicken strawberry salad with greens, grilled chicken breast, cucumbers, fresh strawberries and gorgonzola tossed in a lightly sweet white zinfandel vinaigrette. A classic.
  2. Over at Sunshine Seasons at Epcot, try the trendy Power Salad – a bowlful of protein with quinoa, oak-fired chicken, almonds and honey vinaigrette. You’ll have plenty of energy to power walk World Showcase Promenade.
  3. Quinoa is the star of another favorite at ABC Commissary at Disney’s Hollywood Studios – the Couscous Quinoa & Arugula Salad, tossed to order. We top it with grilled salmon for extra protein and Omega 3s.
  4. Also at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, who doesn’t love the Cobb Salad at The Hollywood Brown Derby? Chopped delightfully small and tossed tableside, it’s a classic with ham, bacon, turkey breast, egg, tomatoes, blue cheese, avocado and chives, all mixed with dressing still made from the original recipe when the salad was invented in Hollywood in the 1930s.
  5. Delightfully different is the Jiko Salad at Jiko—The Cooking Place at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. A lovely plate of poached pears, heirloom spinach, kabocha squash in a pear vinaigrette topped with a brittle of pumpkin seeds and black lentils. Instagram worthy.
  6. And finally, another longtime favorite we always have to order: the Crispy Rock Shrimp Salad at California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. This one stays on the menu, though Chef Brian Piasecki may mix up the ingredients. Right now it’s crispy rock shrimp (a Florida delicacy) with spicy baby greens, Subarashii pear, red onions, soy reduction and addictive wasabi cream. You won’t want to share this one.
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Wildlife Wednesday: Celebrate International Migratory Bird Day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on May 6th, 2015 by Erin Gallagher, Education Manager, Walt Disney World Resort


Celebrate International Migratory Bird Day with some feathered friends this Saturday at Disney’s Animal Kingdom! Become an “honorary bird” and “migrate” around Rafiki’s Planet Watch as you discover how your wing span and feather color (that’s bird talk for arm length and clothes) matches up among nearly 350 species of wild birds. Learn about the great lengths we go to at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, with help from the Disney Conservation Fund, to care for not only the birds we have here, but for birds all over the world!

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Purple Martin Come to Walt Disney World Resort Every Year to Raise Their Young Whooping Cranes Migrate to Florida Every Year

For example, as you walk through the park, keep your eyes to the skies because you might just spot a purple martin. These tiny birds (weighing in at approximately two ounces) with purple, glossy feathers come to Walt Disney World Resort every year to enjoy some vacation time and raise their young. They enjoy world-class “resorts” (the birdhouses we provide) and indulge in the best food around. Purple martins are aerial insectivores, which means they eat flying insects they catch right out of the air!

In the eastern United States, purple martins rely exclusively on humans to build their birdhouses and prepare their sheltered nests, tucked away in what’s referred to as a “cavity.” Without birdhouses like those at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Epcot and other locations around Walt Disney World Resort, the purple martins would simply have nowhere to nest. This is a unique phenomenon among all bird species and represents an incredible opportunity for people to engage in a direct conservation experience with these charismatic little songbirds!

When all their chicks have fledged, or grown the feathers necessary for flight, purple martins embark on an incredible migration down to the Brazilian Amazon. What’s truly amazing about this journey is that one purple martin can make the nearly 3,000-mile trek in fewer than three weeks! We want to understand where these birds spend their time, how they are affected by climate change and the factors that influence their choices along their migratory routes so we can better protect all the wild places they call home We also have many questions about purple martin nesting behavior, including how these birds raise their young and if pairs stay together both while they are here at Walt Disney World and also once they depart for Brazil.

How do we begin to answer these questions? The first step lies in a lightweight accessory called a geolocator. While the adult purple martins are here, we outfit each of them with a little backpack that they will wear for the next year. The geolocator backpack will gather location data for the bird during its migration to Brazil and during its return to Disney the following spring. The geolocators aren’t cumbersome for the birds, and the tracking data give us important information about their migration, including all the important migratory stop-overs (i.e. rest stops) the martins utilize during their journey.

Check out this quick video to see how our cast attaches the geolocators to the birds and release them into the wild!

We cannot wait to download the data from the birds that have returned to Disney’s Animal Kingdom this year!

Whooping cranes, a majestic, large bird have been through quite the roller coaster in their population numbers and are another species we will honor as part of our celebration of migratory birds.

Whooping cranes can grow up to 5 feet tall with a wing span of nearly 7 feet, making it the tallest bird in North America. They get their name from the resounding “whooping” sound they make that can be heard over several miles. In 1860, there were about 1,400 cranes—a pretty troubling number. In 1941 however, numbers dwindled to merely 15 birds! Hunting, feather trade and negative human impacts on their habitat hit the birds hard. The whooping crane was listed as an endangered species in 1967 and has held that status ever since.

Since then, several organizations, including the Disney Conservation Fund and Disney’s Animal Kingdom, have banded together to help increase the population size. One such program used is to raise these birds and teach them to migrate with the help of a special plane called an ultra-light. Operation Migration is the organization who coordinates this program and they work with the chicks from the day they hatch to their release into the wild. The birds travel from Wisconsin to Florida every year following this plane, which you can see for yourself at International Migratory Bird Day. You may even catch a glimpse or carry on a conversation with one of the original and current crane pilot Joe Duff, who first led the whooping cranes along their migratory path and have helped boost whooping crane numbers to just over 400 cranes!

Join us this Saturday, May 9, to learn more about purple martins, whooping cranes and more migratory birds that you may recognize from your own backyard! We hope to see you there! And stay tuned for more information about our conservation efforts with migratory birds!

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Festival Flowers Inspires a Unique ‘Alice in Wonderland’ Photo at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on May 5th, 2015 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


It’s hard not to walk through a Disney Park and feel inspired or to have fond childhood memories come to mind – or in the case of Photographer Mariah Wild, both.

Mariah, a photography intern in our Yellow Shoes Department, recently visited the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, and during a walk through the United Kingdom Pavilion, was struck with an old memory.

“When I was walking through the beautiful flowers in the gardens … it was like I could hear all the flowers singing ‘The Garden/All in the Golden Afternoon’ from “Alice in Wonderland,” she said. Mariah wondered if it was possible to recreate that moment from the film – in which a shrunken Alice wanders through a garden of oversized, musical flowers – in real life.

Mariah worked with the Horticulture team to arrange the flowers just the way they appeared in the film. Alice even agreed to stop in to participate. Here’s the result:

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Can’t get enough “Alice In Wonderland”? A brand-new film, “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” will be released in theaters on May 27, 2016.

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Behind the Scenes: Creating Anna & Elsa Topiaries for the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

posted on May 4th, 2015 by Victoria Lim, Managing Editor, Walt Disney World Public Relations


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Have you taken your photo yet with the Anna and Elsa topiaries at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival? It’s this year’s must-have selfie or photo spot. And we have two former Horticulture interns to thank. Let me explain …

When our creative experts in Horticulture decided to design Anna and Elsa in plant and flower form, they needed models to help create the frames that serve as the foundation for the topiaries.

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Sarah Lanners, a senior at the University of Minnesota Crookston, and Jordan McGee, a senior at Stephen F. Austin State University, worked with our Horticulture team during the summer. They were asked to be the pose models for the royal sisters.

“I was absolutely thrilled to represent the ‘Frozen’ princess,” Sarah said.

“I was thrilled! I love ‘Frozen’!” Jordan told me. “I have always been partial to Anna. She may not have super powers, but … she has a beautiful amount of faith in herself and her sister.”

You can see from the photo how Sarah and Jordan had to pose in a Horticulture workroom. You can imagine, a lot of technology and steps go into concept, to creation of a model, to the creation of a topiary – and both Sarah and Jordan told me they found the whole process fascinating.

“In my own geeky horticulture way I instantly thought about how I would inadvertently be a Disney Princess in the most coolest way possible and that as long as this topiary is a part of Disney then so am I,” Sarah said. “This is something that most would consider a dream come true.”

“I was thrilled to do my small part in supporting ‘Frozen,’” Jordan said. “Being sculpted in plants is the coolest thing ever!”

Head to the entrance to World Showcase and check out the royal sisters from Arrendelle … and thanks Sarah and Jordan, and the Horticulture team!

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Exclusive Sneak Peek of Disney•Pixar’s ‘Inside Out’ Coming to Epcot This Summer

posted on May 1st, 2015 by Shawn Slater, Communications Manager, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Creative Entertainment


Have you ever looked at someone and wondered what’s going on inside their head? Disney•Pixar’s original new film “Inside Out” takes us inside the mind to find out, and this summer at Epcot, you can go inside “Inside Out” for a special preview of the movie. This sneak peek will offer guests an advance look at a sequence from the film, complete with special in-theater effects and an exclusive introduction from the filmmakers.

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“Inside Out” ventures inside the mind of 11-year-old Riley and introduces us to the Emotions that guide her: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust. Based in Headquarters, the five Emotions are hard at work, led by lighthearted optimist Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), whose mission is to make sure Riley stays happy. “Inside Out” is directed by Academy Award® winner Pete Docter (“Monsters, Inc.”, “Up”) and produced by Jonas Rivera (“Up”) with an original score by Michael Giacchino (“The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille,” “Up”).

This sneak peek opportunity begins May 30, following our special preview of Disney’s “Tomorrowland,” playing at the Imagination Pavilion theater at Epcot now through May 24. When visiting Epcot, you can also enjoy the “Inside Out” Emotion Garden as part of the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival.

Disney•Pixar’s “Inside Out” opens in theaters on June 19, 2015.

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