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Walt Disney World Resort Donates $866,000 Worth of School Supplies to Central Florida Students

posted on August 20th, 2015 by Andrea Finger, Director of Communications


Being married to a high school algebra teacher, I completely understand how much work it takes to get ready for school. I also know that unfortunately, some of my husband’s students don’t have all the supplies they need. But some of my fellow cast members are doing what they can to help.

Over the past few weeks, thousands of Disney VoluntEARS have been picking up extra folders, pencils, pens, composition notebooks and more to help more than 100,000 Central Florida students begin the school year successfully.

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Through this Back-to-School Supply Drive, students will receive over $866,000 worth of school supplies, including more than 60,000 backpacks. All of the supplies will be distributed locally by A Gift For Teaching (AGFT), which is a nonprofit organization that provides free school supplies to local students to help their students in need.

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In addition to donating school supplies, hundreds of cast members spent countless hours sorting pens, crayons, notebooks and other school items at AGFT’s warehouse in South Orlando. They also answered phones during a telethon hosted by WKMG Local 6 to raise funds for the nonprofit’s supply efforts.

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All supplies donated will ensure students, families and teachers can focus on the same goal: a successful start to the 2015-2016 school year!

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Disney Days of Past: One More Summer Trip!

posted on August 20th, 2015 by Rose Monahan, Librarian, Walt Disney World Resort


In this flashback photo from 2000, Donald is not ready for Summer to end. Looks like he was able to squeeze in one more trip to the beach! Let’s hope he did not forget the sunscreen.

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Enter ‘The Chew’s’ Sweepstakes for a Chance to Win a Trip to 20th Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

posted on August 19th, 2015 by Victoria Lim, Managing Editor, Walt Disney World Public Relations


Want a chance to win a trip to Walt Disney World Resort during our most delicious time of year?

We’re thrilled the Emmy award-winning ABC hit show “The Chew” is joining us for the 20th Epcot International Food & Wine Festival – and they are giving you (and three of your guests) a chance to win a visit too.

The Chew’s Magical Culinary Adventure Sweepstakes includes a visit to Walt Disney World Resort during the week of October 8-12, 2015, the opportunity to attend a live taping of The Chew, a stay at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort (within walking distance of Epcot), and a chance to dine at one of our newest restaurants in Downtown DisneyThe BOATHOUSE. You’ll even get to ride an amphicar.

More than 30 marketplace experiences will be served up for this year’s Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, including new tasting areas in Future World. That’s where you’ll sip, savor and sample in the Sustainable Chew Marketplace, which will offer dishes inspired by the show. At Chew Lab, food and science meet to create hot culinary tech trend treats like the Liquid Nitro Chocolate Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey Caramel.

Also on the menu for the Festival’s 53 days (September 25-November 16), we’re bringing back some guest favorites from the two decades of the event, the Dominican Republic Marketplace returns, and you can rock out to live music during the Eat to the Beat concerts.

You have until September 18th to enter.

What better combination than food, foodies, and fans of food and foodies to celebrate 20 delicious years?

Good luck!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends at 11:59 p.m. ET on 9/18/15. Open to legal residents of the 50 U.S. & D.C., 18 years of age or older. Grand Prize winner must travel between October 8 – 12, 2015. See Official Rules for full details including entry requirements, eligibility restrictions, prize description & limitations. Void where prohibited.

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#DisneyFamilia: Traveling Around the World and to The Future at Epcot

posted on August 19th, 2015 by Sarah Domenech, International Public Relations Manager


When people ask me which is my favorite theme park at Walt Disney World Resort, I can never give a definite answer. But I always say that Epcot is the park that I go to most often. Por qué (why)?

Because it’s the only place on Earth that you can walk around the ‘world’ and glimpse into the future at the same time.

In this week’s “Sonia’s Best of Walt Disney World” video, blogger Sonia Gil explores this unique theme park and shows you her favorite spots in World Showcase, where 11 countries celebrate their cultural heritage, arts and entretenimiento. She also talks about her favorite attractions, and things to do at Future World, a land filled with technology and innovation.

One of the things that I love most about Epcot is that it was inspired by what Walt Disney envisioned for it: a showcase for innovation, and a place for guests to celebrate human achievement and experience cutting edge technology. That is the heart of the theme park.

By the way, do you know what Epcot originally stood for?

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A Peek Inside the AVATAR Exhibit at D23 Expo

posted on August 19th, 2015 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


Over the weekend, Disney fans visiting the D23 Expo had the chance to learn more about Pandora – the World of AVATAR in a special walk-through exhibit. Here, guests could examine the model up-close and look at posters for the A.C.E. (Alpha Centauri Expeditions) travel company that will soon usher guests from Disney’s Animal Kingdom to Pandora.

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Be sure to check out the gallery of images above for a look inside.

For more on AVATAR at Disney Parks, check out these posts:

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Wildlife Wednesday: Celebrate Primate Day, Baby Gorillas at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

posted on August 19th, 2015 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


Tomorrow, Disney’s Animal Kingdom will celebrate Primate Day with a variety of activities at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Guests can experience what a day is like for a cotton-top tamarin and learn how chimpanzees use tools they find in the wild to make their lives easier. Guests can even interact with the keepers who care for our primates at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

If you are in need of a coffee break, you can continue the celebration at Discovery Island. Purchasing the Starbucks Flat White Latte at Creature Comforts helps support conservation programs for the cotton-top tamarin with every cup (and not just on Primate Day!).

Don’t forget to swing by our other primate friends throughout the park. There are siamangs and white-cheeked gibbons in Asia, mandrills on Kilimanjaro Safaris, cotton-top tamarins on Discovery Island and more.

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Celebrating Primate Day gives us a terrific opportunity to say happy birthday to our baby gorillas on Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. The two youngsters are celebrating their first birthday, and to honor them, we thought we would look back at their first year of life.

Meet Cory. Cory is a master climber, and while he likes to stay close to his mother, Azizi, he spends lots of his free time exploring the tree tops and climbing in low-lying bamboo and vegetation. Before Cory was born, keepers used positive reinforcement training to help Azizi prepare for the responsibilities of motherhood. The team continued to work with Azizi on her parenting skills as Cory grew, and she blossomed into the gorilla mom we know today. Cory is now perfectly on track socially and intellectually, and he is thriving in his home.

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This is Flint. Flint is independent and tends to venture far away from his mother, Kashata. He seems to enjoy following his dad, alpha male Gino. Flint also likes to play “airplane” with his older sister, Lilly. Lilly will prop Flint on her feet and “fly” him up and down. You will often see him display a “play face” when she does this. He opens his mouth slightly, showing his teeth and displaying what looks like a large, toothy smile.

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Flint was born just a few weeks after Cory, and they love to wrestle and chase each other. They like to swing from bamboo and flip and climb on their toys and enrichment. They are both skilled foragers and like to taste all sorts of different foods—if the adults feel like sharing!

What does the future look like for these rambunctious little guys? They will continue to become more independent, exploring their habitat without their mothers and climbing even higher in the trees and bamboo around them. They will both begin to interact more with their dad Gino, and learn their social roles in the hierarchy of the group.

Visit Cory, Flint and their family on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail on your next visit and learn more about how Disney helps orphaned gorillas in Africa at the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (GRACE) at the Disney Conservation Fund website.

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Top 10 Things I Discovered at the D23 EXPO 2015

posted on August 18th, 2015 by Steven Miller, Merchandise Communications Manager


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The D23 EXPO 2015 was a blast! There were incredible announcements of upcoming projects throughout the Walt Disney Company (the seven year old me can’t believe that Star Wars Land will be a real place). Besides those major announcements, I wanted to share the top 10 things I discovered during my visit this year.

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I Need to Step Up My Aloha Shirt Collection
Being a long time fan of Aloha shirts, I loved seeing John Lasseter’s Studio Collection on display. In 1999, designer Reyn Spooner created a custom shirt for John featuring art and characters from Disney-Pixar’sToy Story 2.” The tradition continues today with shirts for the newest animated features including “Inside Out.”

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Incredible Displays
Located nearby the shirt display, I found this wall of Pixar balls (above). The décor found throughout the Expo was over-the-top. I’d love to recreate something like this wall in a future home.

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DisneyNature “Born in China”
Ever since I was an attraction manager at China Pavilion in World Showcase at Epcot, I’ve dreamed of visiting China. I look forward to seeing DisneyNature “Born in China” coming soon to theatres. You can see the trailer here

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Caring at the Disney Citizenship Pavilion
I loved watching Disney fans make care kits at the Disney Citizenship Pavilion. This pavilion showed what Disney is doing to inspire kids and families to think creatively, live healthier, conserve nature, and strengthen our communities.

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Disney Infinity 3.0
I’m beyond excited for Disney Infinity 3.0 which debuts on August 30 this year. I loved seeing a full size image of Sam Flynn from Disney’s “TRON: Legacy” that will be a new figure released later this month. Stay tuned for additional details about an early launch party at Once Upon a Toy in Downtown Disney Marketplace on August 28.

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Gravity Falls Mystery Shack
There was a full scale recreation of the Mystery Shack from Gravity Falls. I wanted to take everything home with me. A brand new episode debuts on Monday, August 24 at 8:30 p.m. on Disney XD. I can’t wait!

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Quest for Trading Cards
Since I spent 7 ½ years as Project Manager for Disney Trading, I was delighted to see trading cards at the D23 Expo. They were part of a Trading Card Quest presented by Disney Visa Card. Fans received a starter pack of cards, and could search for opportunities to collect different cards from locations all over the show floor. I even watched Disney Fans trading cards in my hotel lobby.

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Disney Dream Store
I visited the Disney Dream Store a few times. The 3-foot Vinylmation Haunted Mansion-inspired figure by artist Javier Soto was impressive.

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D23 EXPO Design Challenge
I was also impressed with the D23 EXPO Design Challenge that my fellow author Jeffrey Epstein first discussed in March 2015. In honor of the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration, artists were invited to craft their own interpretation of Sleeping Beauty Castle. The image above contains just a few pieces I enjoyed seeing.

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The People Who Make the Dream a Reality
My favorite thing I learned attending the D23 EXPO 2015 is Disney fans are incredible people! While I enjoyed seeing a Nav’i from the upcoming Pandora – The World of AVATAR coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I loved meeting people who love Disney as much as me. The costumes some fans wore, such as the one my friend Mary Jo made to honor newly inducted Disney Legend Julie Reihm Casaletto, were outstanding. Stay tuned for a closer look at some of those costumes in a future Disney Parks Blog article.

What was your favorite part of the D23 EXPO this year? Please share in the comments below.

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New Frozen Ever After, Royal Sommerhus Details & Renderings Released

posted on August 18th, 2015 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


New details were released at the D23 Expo on the Frozen Ever After attraction and neighboring Royal Sommerhus that are currently being constructed at Epcot.

The Frozen Ever After attraction will transport guests to Arendelle just in time for the “Winter in Summer” celebration. According to Portfolio Creative Executive Kathy Mangum, the attraction’s project team is currently partnering with many of the talented individuals at Walt Disney Animation who helped bring the original “Frozen” film to life, as well as award-winning composers Bobby and Kristen-Anderson Lopez.

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“We’re also expanding the Norway pavilion with the addition of the Royal Sommerhus – a charming cabin where guests will be able to meet Anna and Elsa,” Kathy said. “This cabin is based on an actual historic log cabin in Norway. In fact, in order to make sure we get the character and detailing right, we just sent our project team to Norway on a research trip to study the country and its cultural arts and crafts in person, just as the film team did.

“We’re confident that this attraction will bring more guests to the Norway pavilion and increase their interest and knowledge of Norwegian culture, just as the World Showcase was intended to do.”

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The ‘Great Irish Hooley’ Returns to Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant This Labor Day Weekend

posted on August 18th, 2015 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort


The “Great Irish Hooley” signifies that we’re half-way to St. Patrick’s Day, and this year we celebrate the fourth installment of this authentically Irish weekend that only Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant could deliver!

If you’ve missed the last three years, let me bring you up to speed: it’s a lively mix of top Irish bands, step-dancing, craft beers, stellar Irish cuisine, and Celtic face-painting, all rolled into one fantastically fun festival.

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For the music lovers in your group, the line-up will not disappoint. Screaming Orphans, a quartet of talented Irish sisters with a passion for original pop/rock, is headlining. A new Raglan Road house band, The Raglan Roots Coalition, will keep the crowd moving. Other bands including JigJam, The West Coast Trio, The Blaggards and Cooney & Ryan, are set to provide a mix of bluegrass, folk, and traditional Irish tunes. And keep an eye out for The Blarney Stones; if lead singer Hannah Carr looks familiar, don’t be surprised – she’s a former Raglan Road Irish Dancer.

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Think you might need a few libations before you try authentic step dancing? Four limited-edition craft beers brewed especially for the Hooley by Ireland’s Rye River Brewing company will be available: a Raglan Road Saison, a citrusy Raglan Road Fruit Salad Weiss Beer, a refreshing McGargles Jims CO2 Stout and a McGargles Francis Tropical American IPA. Of course, they’re in addition to the beer, wine, spirits, and cocktails that will be featured throughout the weekend. (So yes, you can still have your Guinness.)

To polish off the party, save room for Irish fare from celebrity chef Kevin Dundon. The beer-battered fish and chips is a standout, as is the Shepherd’s pie with a contemporary twist. The seafood and gluten-free entrees also gain high marks from guests, but I can honestly tell you that I’ve never had a bad meal here … no matter what you order, you’re in for a treat.

Of course, the above is best enjoyed when you look the part, so consider getting your face painted; artists will be on hand Saturday though Monday to paint kids and kids-at-heart.

The rockin’ long weekend will also commemorate the pub’s 10-year anniversary – a decade of Raglan Road is definitely worthy of celebrating, so make plans to take part!

Click here for full event details.

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Add Some Fa La La to Your Holidays with a Sleigh Ride at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on August 18th, 2015 by Russ J. Stacey, Writer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group


It may still be on the warm side here in Central Florida, but it’s never too early to be thinking about the holidays! So when you make your seasonal to-do list, check it twice. And make sure a horse-drawn holiday sleigh ride at Disney’s Fort Wilderness & Campground is on it.

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The sleighs—festively festooned with lights, garland and bows, and brimming with cheerful holiday music—take you on a 25-minute trek that glides you through the woodsy landscape and past the campsites of Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground all decked out in their holiday finery. Well, you don’t exactly “glide,” as Jay Sanderson, Assistant Animal Operations Manager, Tri-Circle-D Ranch, explains. But that doesn’t make it any less magical.

“Our sleighs are different from our horse-drawn carriages. They are specifically designed to cut through the thick layers of ice and snow that hit Central Florida in December. Okay, scratch the ice and snow part. But they are indeed sleighs that are retrofitted with wheels for our guests’ and horses’ comfort and convenience.”

Brought to you by the same folks who provide the horse-drawn carriage rides the rest of the year, these memorable outings are perfect for a snuggle-up-close romantic rendezvous or an adventure for the whole family. Each sleigh fits four adults or two adults and three children. Larger parties can book more than one sleigh. This fun, distinctive experience replaces carriage rides at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground for the month of December.

According to Jay, it’s not at all unusual to hear, “Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh … Hey! Jingle bells! Jingle bells!” coming from the sleighs as they wind their way through Mother Nature’s own holiday green. These rides have become a popular annual tradition for couples and families alike.

And you’ll be presented with a special limited-edition pin created specifically for this event at the conclusion of your ride. Then you can stroll through the barn to check out where the horses live and get up close and personal with these gentle giants that can weigh up to 2,000 pounds. Discover what they eat, how they travel from place to place throughout Walt Disney World Resort and other fun facts. Just keep in mind that the sleighs do go out in a light rain, but your ride may be canceled during inclement weather.

So why not make it a season of joy and memories with a horse-drawn holiday sleigh ride? These magical encounters tend to sell out quickly, so an early reservation is highly recommended.

Holiday sleigh rides run from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and are open to all (in other words, you don’t have to be a registered guest of a Disney Resort hotel), with no minimum age requirement. Call 407-WDW-PLAY (939-7529) to book today.

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