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Disney Parks Blog Weekly Recap

posted on May 31st, 2015 by Thomas Smith, Social Media Director, Disney Parks


This week, we shared details of an all-new show coming to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom Park – the “Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular.”

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During this Castle Forecourt Stage show, the mischievous Sanderson Sisters from Disney’s “Hocus Pocus” return to the mortal world for one night during the Halloween season. With only a few hours to run amuck, the three sisters decide to use their magic to throw the best, evil Halloween party this side of the graveyard.

“Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular” will be presented exclusively during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, held select nights at Magic Kingdom Park from September 15 – November 1, 2015. Check Shawn’s original story for more details.

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And we shared the lineup for 2015’s “Eat to the Beat” concert series during this year’s Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. We’re kicking things off with David Cook on September 25 and will feature new acts like Tiffany and Chaka Khan. Charles has the complete list in his original story.

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

Memorial Day Flag Retreat Ceremony at Disneyland Park Honors Fallen Soldiers – On Memorial Day, Disneyland park guests lined Main Street, U.S.A. during the daily flag retreat ceremony to pay respect to the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

Additional ‘Decades’ Details and Art Revealed for Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration – Learn where you can find Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration “Decades” collection merchandise!

Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration Truffles Debut at Signature Restaurants – Looking for a dazzling way to complete your meal? Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration Truffles will be offered at select signature restaurants throughout Disneyland Resort — Blue Bayou Restaurant, Carthay Circle Restaurant and Steakhouse 55.

New Made With Magic Items Debut for Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration – Nighttime at Disneyland Resort is now a little brighter with the release of new Made with Magic items. Created especially for the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration, we have introduced a celebratory ear hat and a magical paintbrush!

Disney Parks Blog Readers Enjoy #Disney24, ‘Tomorrowland’ Screening – The Disney Parks Blog team held a special event for 500 of our readers, which included breakfast at Magic Kingdom Park and a special opening-day screening of the new film, “Tomorrowland.”

The Ultimate Land and Sea Family Vacation with Disney Cruise Line – Disney Parks Blog author Jonathan Frontado shares five reasons why sailing with Disney Cruise Line to a tropical destination before or after a stay at Walt Disney World Resort is the ultimate family vacation.

Learn to Draw Fred From ‘Big Hero 6’ at Disney’s Hollywood Studios – This week our Learn to Draw animation series continues with a lesson on how to draw another member of the “Big Hero 6” team – it’s Fred, the fun-loving, comic-book aficionado of the group!

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Let’s Celebrate World Oceans Day at Epcot!

posted on May 29th, 2015 by Sara Green, Education Manager, Walt Disney World Resort


While World Oceans Day is recognized globally on June 8, you can join us at the perfect venue — The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot — on June 3 to get a head start on the festivities! After you enjoy the attraction with Nemo, Marlin, Dory and all your fishy friends, stick around to explore our huge 5.7 million-gallon aquarium to see and learn all about tropical fish, stingrays, sea turtles and even sharks!

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You may already know it’s tough to be a bug, but do you know how tough it is to be a sea turtle? You can catch a glimpse into the lives of sea turtles from their very first day of life. Our replica sea turtle nest will be on display for you to get an up-close view into a sea turtle’s journey. You can also experience an interactive model of a turtle excluder device (TED) which is used on fishing boats to prevent sea turtles from getting caught in trawl nets. Sea turtles face seemingly insurmountable odds, but people all over the world are doing their part to protect these magnificent animals. Come visit The Seas with Nemo & Friends to learn what you can do to help, too.

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Coral conservation activities will be another highlight of our celebration. Did you know coral reefs are known as the rainforests of the ocean? That’s because while they only make up about 0.2 percent of the area on the planet, coral reefs are home to nearly 25 percent of the world’s marine life! These reefs are in danger because of the many threats to coral including ocean pollution, climate change, poor fishing practices and more, but teams at The Seas with Nemo & Friends are committed to saving them. We have been working on coral restoration, community involvement and education in The Bahamas to restore local reefs through coral transplantation and sea urchin translocation. You will be able to speak with members of the team directly involved in these projects and more!

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Even though not all of us may live by the ocean, everyone can play a part in protecting this essential ecosystem. Oceans play a major role in our everyday lives, and they are worth celebrating each and every day!

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Rick Springfield, Tiffany, Chaka Khan Rock ‘Eat to the Beat’ Concert Series at 2015 Epcot Food & Wine Festival

posted on May 29th, 2015 by Charles Stovall, Public Relations Manager


In January, we let you in on the dates for this year’s Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.

One of my favorite times of the year! And this year is the 20th anniversary of the festival!

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Now, I have the enviable task of giving you more info on this year’s festival – the lineup for 2015’s “Eat to the Beat” concert series.

Being a child of the ‘80s, I’m SUPER pumped for some of our new acts like Tiffany and Chaka Khan. Also new to this year’s festival are the S.O.S. Band, Everclear and Maxi Priest.

Here’s the full list. Hope your favorite is on there!

  • David Cook – September 25-27, 2015
  • Wilson Phillips – September 28-29, 2015
  • Christopher Cross – September 30-October 1, 2015
  • Starship – October 2-4, 2015
  • Smash Mouth – October 5-7, 2015
  • The Pointer Sisters – October 8-9, 2015
  • 38 Special – October 10-11, 2015
  • Rick Springfield – October 12-13, 2015
  • Sugar Ray – October 14-16, 2015
  • The S.O.S. Band – October 17-18, 2015
  • Air Supply – October 19-21, 2015
  • Fuel – October 22-23, 2015
  • Tiffany (NEW!) – October 24-25, 2015
  • Dennis DeYoung – October 26-28, 2015
  • Jo Dee Messina – October 29-30, 2015
  • Everclear (NEW!) – October 31-November 1, 2015
  • Boyz II Men – November 2-4, 2015
  • Sister Hazel – November 5-6, 2015
  • Big Bad Voodoo Daddy – November 7-9, 2015
  • Hanson – November 10-12, 2015
  • Maxi Priest (NEW!) – November 13-14, 2015
  • Chaka Khan (NEW!) – November 15-16, 2015

Please note: Daily show times take place at 5:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m. and 8 p.m. Entertainment and appearances are subject to change without notice.

Be sure to check back to the Disney Parks Blog for updated info on this year’s festival.

Bonne ẻcoute!” (Happy Listening!)

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Walt Disney World Resort Hosts Special Olympics Flame of Hope

posted on May 29th, 2015 by Andrea Finger, Director of Communications


Guests visiting Epcot yesterday got a special treat as several volunteer torchbearers carried the Special Olympics Flame of Hope through the theme park for the first-ever Unified Relay Across America. Hundreds of Disney cast members and guests cheered as the volunteers made their way from Epcot to Disney’s BoardWalk Inn where where there was a ceremonial lighting of the cauldron.

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While waiting for the torch to arrive, I met several athletes, including a Central Florida athlete who trains everyday preparing for gymnastic events. He beamed as he told me about his daily push ups and the medals that he’s earned. I was both inspired and humbled by his commitment.

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Yesterday’s stop at Walt Disney World Resort was one of several happening over the course of 46 days as the torch passes in a hand-to-hand exchange through all 50 states. The torch’s cross-country journey will end in Los Angeles with the opening ceremonies of the 2015 Special Olympics World Games.

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The Walt Disney Company is one of the sponsors of the Special Olympics World Games, with ESPN covering highlights of the nine-day event starting with the Opening Ceremony July 25.

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Wildlife Wednesday: Reports from the Field: GRACE

posted on May 27th, 2015 by Rachel Daneault, Primate-Carnivore Zoological Manager


Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment team takes outstanding care of the animals at Walt Disney World Resort. You may have seen some of them in action at the Vet Hospital at Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom or explaining some of the studies they are conducting at The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot. But did you know that these same cast members often travel the world to help animals and support conservation projects in the wild?

Dr. Natalie Mylniczenko and vet tech Matt Runnells recently traveled to Africa to complete health exams on some of the gorillas at the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) Center, located in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa.

At GRACE, Grauer’s gorillas who are orphaned (typically because poachers killed their parents for the exotic animal trade or bushmeat) receive the care they need and learn the skills needed for reintroduction back into the wild. Our cast members have played many roles with GRACE including designing the facility, engaging in hands-on construction, helping move gorillas and training Congolese staff to care for gorillas. In addition to gorilla care, Disney staff also help promote conservation education among the local residents.

During the most recent trip, Dr. Natalie and Matt worked with the GRACE staff to immobilize two gorillas by hand-injecting the gorillas to anesthetize them. This is a huge accomplishment for the staff, as it is a very complex behavior to train and shows their dedication to the work they do.

Both gorillas were given complete physicals, and both needed tooth extractions. The exams went very well, and GRACE staff members learned a great deal from Dr. Natalie and Matt. Sharing resources, knowledge and expertise is one way our team supports animals in the wild. Click through the gallery below for images from their latest trip.

Wildlife Wednesday: Reports from the Field: GRACE

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Sun Rises Over The Land Pavilion at Epcot

posted on May 25th, 2015 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


Have you ever noticed the ceiling inside The Land pavilion at Epcot? Next time you’re rushing to Soarin’, waiting to take a trip through Living With The Land, or grabbing a bite to eat at Garden Grill or Sunshine Seasons, be sure to check it out. The ceiling is festooned with four balloons that each represent one of the earth’s seasons.

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Each balloon, winter, spring, summer and fall are decorated differently – and the real morning sun shining through makes a lovely accent!


Check out the posts below for more unique perspectives of Walt Disney World Resort:

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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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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