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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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American Music Machine Arrives at Epcot at Walt Disney World Resort

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


There’s new music in the air this week at the American Adventure pavilion at Epcot! A five-member, contemporary a cappella group has made its debut at the America Gardens Theatre.

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American Music Machine brings a vibrant musical energy to the stage, with performances that convey the global influence of American popular music. The group’s repertoire includes a diverse range of contemporary and classic American pop hits, all presented in a unique style created by ground-breaking vocal arranger Tim Davis, whose previous credits include the hit TV series “Glee.”

Look for American Music Machine at the America Gardens Theatre, Wednesday through Sunday each week, beginning April 29.

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Disney Parks After Dark: Sunset at Spaceship Earth at Epcot

posted on April 30th, 2015 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


Isn’t it amazing how our Florida sky makes our parks even more beautiful at night? This great shot, snapped near the park’s iconic Spaceship Earth, shows how well a fiery orange sunset illuminates the attraction.

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Which Disney Park do you enjoy most during this time of day? Tell us in the comments section below.

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Wildlife Wednesday: Celebrating World Veterinary Day at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts

posted on April 29th, 2015 by Scott Terrell, DVM, DACVP, Animal Operations Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


World Veterinary Day promotes animal health, animal welfare and public health globally. Since its initiation in 2000, this day has been recognized on the last Saturday of April and provides a great opportunity to raise awareness about the amazing work veterinarians around the world do to protect and care for animals and people. At Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, we share these same goals, as our veterinary teams care for our diverse animal population.

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This year, World Veterinary Day fell on April 25.

If you ask me, I believe we have the most amazing animal-care team on the planet, but I may be biased. The most incredible thing about our vets and the team as a whole is that we make the extraordinary seem routine every day. We take care of every animal – from turtles and tigers to red river hogs and birds.

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You can see our world-class vets in action at Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. You can watch live animal medical procedures and talk to the vets and animal keepers after the live procedures as well. Most procedures are scheduled before noon, so be sure to take the Wildlife Express Train to Conservation Station for this unique experience.

Did you know…?

  • Our veterinary staff cares for animals in many locations including: Disney’s Animal Kingdom, The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot, Tri-Circle D Ranch at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, and Castaway Cay.
  • The state-of-the-art veterinary facilities at Disney’s Animal Kingdom include an X-ray room, ultrasound equipment, surgical suites and full-service laboratories. Veterinarians and veterinary technicians use these tools to focus on preventative health and creating new methods to diagnose and treat animals, ranging in size from a two-gram poison dart frog to a 13,000-pound African elephant.

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Walt Disney World Resort Event Snapshot: May 2015

posted on April 29th, 2015 by Michelle Harker, Manager, Merchandise Marketing & Communications, Disneyland Resort


See what’s happening in the world of Merchandise Special Events this May at Walt Disney World Resort!

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April 29 – May 3: Artist Greg McCullough returns this month with special appearances and signings April 29 – May 3 from 1 – 9 p.m. at Art of Disney in Epcot and May 18 – 23 and 27 – 31, from 1 – 9 p.m. at Art of Disney in Downtown Disney Marketplace. Learn more.

April 30 – May 3: Meet artist Larry Dotson, April 30 – May 3 (throughout the day) at Art of Disney in Downtown Disney Marketplace. Not able to make it? Look for additional appearances by Larry, May 14 – 17 at Art of Disney, Epcot. Learn more.

May 1-2: Need a gift for Mother’s Day? Stop by Marketplace Co-Op in Downtown Disney Marketplace where you can find some of the latest releases from PANDORA and just the gift you’ve been looking for. Learn more.

May 1 – 11: Representatives from Precious Moments dolls will be on hand for the debut of the Precious Moments Mother’s Day Collection. Meet the representatives and see the dolls throughout the day, each day, at Once Upon A Toy in Downtown Disney Marketplace. Artist Appearance Tip: Look for a special appearance by designer and artist Linda Rick, May 8 – 10. Learn more.

May 8 – 9: Disney Fine Art artist, Michelle St. Laurent, will be on hand for a special appearance from 3 – 9 p.m., each day at Art of Disney in Epcot. Be sure to stop in and say hello! Learn more.

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May 8 – 9: Join us as we welcome artist Liana Hee to WonderGround Gallery at Marketplace Co-Op in Downtown Disney Marketplace. Take part in a special artist showcase and signing from 4 -7 p.m. each day. Learn more.

May 8 – 16: Stop in and find some of the latest releases by artist David E. Doss from 1 – 9 p.m., each day, at Art of Disney in the Downtown Disney Marketplace. Learn more.

May 14: We are summoning the most loyal in the galaxy to gather at the Galactic Gathering Event on May 14, 2015 between 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. A limited number of tickets to this special merchandise event are still available. Learn more.

May 15 – June 14: Visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Fridays – Sundays for Star Wars Weekends. Darth’s Mall is expanding to a three-location complex and is your one-stop galactic destination for commemorative merchandise. Tip: Take part in special artist appearances and signings each weekend. Learn more.

Are you curious what else we have up our sleeve? Here are a few other events to keep in mind.

June 20: A new hand-painted limited edition Ink & Paint cel, titled Ariel and Friends, will make a splash at the Animation Gallery at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Look for appearances by the artists from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 2 – 5 p.m. on the day of release. Not able to make it? A special pre-purchase opportunity will be available May 4 through June 18, 2015. Learn more.

September 11 – 12: Wanna trade? Tickets to this year’s GenEARation D event are available now and are in limited supply. Don’t miss out! Find out all the details and get a sneak peek inside the merchandise catalog for the event. Learn more.

Which event are you most excited for?

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Filed: Art of Disney, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Downtown Disney, Epcot, Special Events, Walt Disney World Resort

Behind the Scenes: Inside the Bakery at Epcot’s France Pavilion

posted on April 28th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


You smell it before you see it – that unmistakable aroma of freshly baked bread hot from the oven. As you enter Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie in the France Pavilion at Epcot, all five senses are awakened when you smell the bread, see the beautiful pastries, hear the lilting sound of French, touch, then taste your favorite. Maybe a crisp baguette or buttery croissant. Or a Napoleon or macaron or éclair … maybe a jambon beurre sandwich or quiche Lorraine. So many choices, so little time.

Every single item in the bakery case is made by hand – in the on-stage bread ovens or in the bustling upstairs bakery where the crew arrives before daybreak to make buttery croissants, dense quiche Florentine and parfaits almost too pretty to eat. You’ll be hungry just looking at these delicious photos by Disney photographer Matt Stroshane.

We got a special behind-the-scenes peek at the expansive upstairs bakery that’s as big as Les Halles below, with cooks busy making crème brûlèe, slicing fresh Napoleon, piping éclairs and putting the finishing touches on chocolate mousse and strawberry tarts. A tray of freshly baguettes with ham and cheese with Dijon mustard butter, a classic Parisian sandwich, was readied for the first guests of the day. Freshly made macarons in jewel tones, light as a feather, were gently placed in little boxes.

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Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie opens at 9 a.m., ahead of World Showcase, and is a wonderful little hideaway for breakfast. The pastry team of 30, under the direction of Pastry Chef Olivier Saintemarie, starts their day at 5 a.m. and rotates throughout the day until 11 p.m. to make sure guests have the freshest taste of France.

We headed back downstairs to chat with Chef Baker Matthieu Cabon from Brittany, France, who, with his team of six, turns out 700 to 800 baguettes every single day, along with specialty breads such as brioche and croissants. He started baking at age 15, and studied only bread making for four years – “I mastered bread the old-school way … no shortcuts,” he says. It was the aroma that determined his career, he says, as well as the quiet of early-morning hours when bakers do their best work.

“Bread is limitless, it just takes imagination,” says Matthieu.

And, really, it’s just four ingredients: flour, yeast, salt and water, but you must add “know how,” says the chef. Everything at Les Halles is made from scratch, and it takes two days, start to finish, to produce a perfect baguette. His bakers make all the breads for Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie, Chefs de France, Monsieur Paul and brioche for the pavilion’s ice-cream shop.

“For baguettes, day one is slow fermentation, then the dough sits overnight in a cooler to coax out the flavor,” says Matthieu. “Day two we divide it, shape it and bake. That’s it.”

But it’s the artisan touch that makes a perfect baguette. “Bread is all about feeling, but the real boss is the dough, which can be temperamental with temperature, weather and humidity,” he says. “Dough follows nature, and a good baker knows just by touching whether it’s right.”

For a perfectly flaky croissant, the chef explains that the folding process is a science. “It takes six hours to shape, then it’s baked the next day,” he explains.

And for tartines, which Americans call “open-faced sandwiches,” the bakery makes a rustic loaf with blistered, rugged crust and tangy soft inside – Chef Matthieu knocks on the crust and knows by the sound if it’s perfect.

All told, they turn out eight different kinds of bread: baguettes, croissants, tartines, whole-grain loaves, pain de mie (a type of sliced bread), brioche, focaccia and walnut-raisin bread.

He and his team also make exquisite, smaller breads for Monsieur Paul: whole-grain loaves, rustic baguettes, poppy seed “epis” (a type of artisan French bread) and a mushroom, bacon and cheese bread that’s a guest favorite.

Matthieu deftly inserts a shovel-like peel into the hot oven and slides out a dozen or so crackly loaves. From the hint of a smile on his face, you know it’s a good morning.

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It’s a Peaceful Morning at the China Pavilion at Epcot

posted on April 27th, 2015 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


Of all the photos we’ve featured in our “morning” series, I have to say that this is my favorite shot so far. The morning sunshine hits the pond, lilypads and temple at the China Pavilion just perfectly. Such a peaceful sight! Now who is ready to explore World Showcase for the day?

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

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#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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Freshly Picked Music at the Garden Rocks Concert Series at Walt Disney World Resort: Taylor Dayne

posted on April 21st, 2015 by Russ J. Stacey, Writer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group


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Now that the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is in full bloom, it reminds us of all there is to love about it. From the whimsical Disney character topiaries and spring-inspired delicious dishes to the expert demonstrations and Garden Rocks Concert Series, where some of the biggest names in music grace the stage.

We caught up with Taylor Dayne, who will soon play Garden Rocks for the first time (you may have seen her perform at the Eat to the Beat Concert Series at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival). Starting with her smash 1987 single “Tell It to My Heart,” it’s hard to top this New York native for infectious dance pop.

RUSS: Growing up on Long Island, did you ever imagine all the success you’ve achieved?

TAYLOR: As a little kid, I had the vision of “I’m gonna be a rock and roll star,” singing to the radio or every commercial that came on. I was very passionate about working hard. To make music was always my goal and my dream as a very, very young girl. I’m just so blessed.

RUSS: We’ve heard you’re a pretty big Disney fan. True?

TAYLOR: Ya know, the beautiful thing about Disney is I grew up on the incredible animation. And, of course, on Sunday nights we got to watch Disney on TV. The shows, the movies, the parks—it’s pretty special and amazing. Just a big part of my life.

RUSS: Any favorite Disney memories?

TAYLOR: For me growing up, it was “it’s a small world.” I made my children (12-year-old twins Levi and Astaria) go on it because the music is just so incredible.

RUSS: As for the theme parks, adrenaline rush or milder thrills?

TAYLOR: I’m not a drop-from-the-sky kind of girl. No. My son will do that. I stand there and watch while he falls from the sky and does the roller coasters with all the drops. Though I was in to it when I was younger.

RUSS: Have a favorite attraction?

TAYLOR: I love Soarin’ at Epcot! You’re in the chair and floating. It’s incredible. You’re in that entire experience. You’re moving in it. It’s brilliant.

RUSS: Describe your music.

TAYLOR: When people ask me that, I say dance, pop, some R&B to a degree. But classic. So if you’re listening to the radio, you might hear “I’ll Always Love You,” “Send Me A Lover” or “Love Will Lead You Back.” I’ve always been incredibly passionate and people feel what I’m singing. Big voice, big passion.

RUSS: People are anxious to experience your show at the Flower & Garden Festival for the very first time. What do you have in store?

TAYLOR: I hope the fans get an experience so they feel like they’ve been to a show. There’s a beginning, a middle and end. There’s a story. I want them to feel like they got a piece of me. Music is just such a universal language. Why are people so inspired by music? Because it touches them in such a sensorial way. At this point, to a lot of them these songs are the soundtrack of people’s lives. You feel like, “Wow, I remember that.” So yeah, I always look forward to performing at Epcot. It’ll be awesome.

RUSS: Thanks so much for your time. One last question. What’s something your fans may not know about you?

TAYLOR: I’m a nature freak [laughs]. That’s what I do. I go out there and find my peace. My quiet time.

The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival continues through May 17. Taylor Dayne performs May 1 through 3. All performances take place at the America Gardens Theatre at 5:30, 6:45 and 8 p.m. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and are included with Epcot admission.

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