Mad Tea Party at Disney Parks

Walt Disney World Resort Merchandise Event Snapshot – February 2014

posted on February 3rd, 2014 by Michelle Harker, Manager, Merchandise Marketing & Communications, Disneyland Resort


February is here! Whether you are heading to Walt Disney World Resort for vacation or for the day, here are some great merchandise events you won’t want to miss.

February 7 – 9: Looking for the perfect gift to pamper your Valentine? Heather Swanepoel from Rinse Bath and Body Co. can help you find just what you’re looking for. Heather will be at Port of Entry in Epcot each day throughout the weekend as she showcases the latest skin moisturizers, facial masks and scented soaps, among other items. My personal favorite: The flavored lip balm. Learn more here.

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February 8: Join us for the launch of the Pop of Minnie collection from Beautifully Disney and take part in Mini-Makeovers, or should I say “Minnie”-Makeovers from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. at Tren-D in Downtown Disney Marketplace. Learn more here.

February 8: Take a walk on the “wild side” with Rosemary Begley who will be on hand to showcase some of her latest pieces of art inspired by Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. Meet Rosemary from 1 – 3 p.m. at Disney Outfitters located on Discovery Island. Learn more here.

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February 12 – 16: Artist Greg McCullough will be on hand for a special artist showcase at Art of Disney in Epcot. Greg will also be available February 26 – March 2 at Art of Disney in Downtown Disney Marketplace. Learn more here.

February 13 – 14: Precious Moments Doll Maker Linda Rick is back! Be sure to stop in and say hello at Once Upon A Toy in Downtown Disney Marketplace as we celebrate the release of her Valentine’s inspired collection. Look for Linda to make an additional appearance later in the month from February 21 – 23. Learn more here.

February 13 – 17: Internationally known artist Larry Dotson will be appearing daily at the Main Street Cinema in Magic Kingdom Park. Be sure to stop by and say hello as you check out some of Larry’s newest releases. Learn more here.

February 14 – 15: Join us as we welcome Designer, Petra Azar to Tren-D in Downtown Disney Marketplace for a special Valentine’s Weekend trunk show! Find necklaces, earrings and more, for yourself or for the one you love. Meet Petra from 1 – 9 p.m. each day. Learn more here.

February 14 – 21: Are you a fan of David E. Doss? Mark your calendars, David will be appearing daily at Art of Disney in Downtown Disney Marketplace. Stop in and find a new piece of art to add to your collection. Learn more here.

February 22: Make sure to mark your calendar for a special Steampunk artist signing at Art of Disney in Downtown Disney Marketplace as we celebrate the release of artwork and collectibles inspired by turn of the century inventors and writers, as well as artwork inspired by Disney attractions, icons and innovations that have been cultivated from this view of the future from the past. Disney Design Group artists Costa Alavezos, Alex Maher and Mike Sullivan will be on hand from 2 – 5 p.m. to sign their masterpieces.

More things are coming your way, so stay tuned!

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Finish that Disney Parks Sign: Cheetah Ahead at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on January 30th, 2014 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


This week’s “Finish that Disney Parks Sign” photo was snapped in the queue for Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, giving guests facts on the animals they’ll see ahead.

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Can you tell what the blurred word is? What do cheetahs use to call their cubs? Tell us in the “Comments” section below. We’ll update the post later today with the answer.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Wildlife Wednesdays: Lions, Tigers, Bears and More Celebrated at 2014 Families and Nature Events at the Walt Disney World Resort

posted on January 15th, 2014 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


You asked and we listened! We’ve heard from Disney Parks Blog fans that you’d like to know as early as possible what special events the Disney’s Animal Programs team has planned for the year, so you can include them in your visit to the Walt Disney World Resort. Some of our Florida resident guests, for example, make it a point to come to every one of these events — a great compliment to our dedicated cast who are thrilled to welcome them.

The events take place at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot. The goal of each is to provide kids and families with a special opportunity to connect with nature, talk to our animal experts, and learn more about some of the fantastic creatures with whom we share our planet. Here’s the list of our 2014 events. Watch the Disney Parks Blog for more detailed posts shortly before each one. We hope to see you at one or more of them!

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See below for 2014 events for connecting families with nature (as always, dates subject to change):

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom:

  • March 4: Spring Forward for Amphibians Day — Just a few days before we adjust our clocks forward for Daylight Savings Time, we’re “springing forward” to celebrate frogs, toads and other amphibians.
  • April 22: Party for the Planet in celebration of Earth Day — Every day is a Party for the Planet at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, as guests and cast members join together to celebrate the wonders of nature, but, on Earth Day, there will be even more natural magic. Included is a celebration of the release of Disneynature’s new True Life Adventure “Bears,” in theaters April 18, which showcases a year in the life of a bear family as two impressionable young cubs are taught life’s most important lessons.
  • May 6: International Migratory Bird Day — Time to celebrate of one the wonders of nature – bird migration – and the ways we can help protect birds on their journeys.
  • May 20: World Turtle Day — Turtles are fascinating creatures, and really cool dudes, too – just ask Crush! Both Disney’s Animal Kingdom and The Seas with Nemo & Friends celebrate turtles with special activities.
  • June 10: Pollinator Day — butterflies, bees and other pollinators are the stars of this celebration.
  • July 29: Big Cat Day — It’s all about the largest cats, like lions and tigers – cats to whom you wouldn’t want to say, “here, kitty, kitty.”
  • August 5: Primate Day — The perfect place to find out what a 400-pound gorilla and a one-pound cotton-top tamarin have in common.
  • September 23: Elephant and Rhino Day — Learn fun facts and important conservation information about magnificent and endangered elephants and rhinos.

At The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot:

  • April 22: Earth Day Celebration — It’s an ocean of fun at The Seas on Earth Day as this Earth Day celebration focuses on marine animals.
  • May 20: World Turtle Day — See the magnificent sea turtles swim by in the main aquarium and find out what each of us can do to keep turtles safe in the wild.
  • June 4: World Oceans Day — Join Nemo, Dory, Crush and the rest of the gang in celebrating the wonders of the oceans.
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This Week in Disney Parks Photos: Sneak Peeks At Fun Things To Come

posted on January 11th, 2014 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


This week was a busy one on the Disney Parks Blog, with news on AVATAR construction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, plus sneak peeks at a new mystery float for Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade at Magic Kingdom Park and a Captain America character greeting at Disneyland park.

Using Na'vi-inspired shovels (left to right) Joe Rohde, creative executive, Walt Disney Imagineering; Bruce Vaughn, chief creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering; Jon Landau, AVATAR producer and Tom Staggs, chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts celebrated the ceremonial groundbreaking for the largest expansion in Disney’s Animal Kingdom history.

Here at the Walt Disney World Resort, ground was officially broken at Disney’s Animal Kingdom for the new AVATAR-inspired land. Check out Tom Smith’s original post for all the details and a video.

Work is continuing on Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade, the new daytime parade that’s planned to debut at Magic Kingdom Park this year. We shared the first look at a mysterious float we haven’t mentioned previously. Be sure to keep your eye on the Disney Parks Blog and our @WaltDisneyWorld Twitter account over the next few days for more clues as to what it could be.

Meet Captain America from ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ This Spring at Disneyland Park in Anaheim

Shawn Slater shared the news that guests at Disneyland park will soon be able to meet the world’s first Avenger, Captain America, at the park in honor of the upcoming “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” film release. Read more in Shawn’s original post here.

And speaking of fun, 100 Disney Parks Blog readers had a blast at our latest meet-up this week, which celebrated the arrival of Disney themed Food Trucks as a new dining option at Downtown Disney at the Walt Disney World Resort. Be sure to check out the gallery above for a look inside the event.

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Construction Begins For AVATAR-Inspired Land At Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on January 10th, 2014 by Thomas Smith, Social Media Director, Disney Parks


Earlier this week, leaders from Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and Lightstorm Entertainment kicked off the largest expansion in Disney’s Animal Kingdom history with a ceremonial groundbreaking for the park’s new AVATAR-inspired land with blue, Na’vi-inspired shovels.

In this photo illustration, they were joined by Jake Sully, showing the scale of characters from the “AVATAR” film.
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The area, which is being designed by Walt Disney Imagineering in partnership with “AVATAR” creator James Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment, will be unlike anything ever experienced at a Disney park. Guests will experience the wonders of Pandora when they fly with banshees and explore a rich natural environment with mountains that float and interactive plants that glow at night.

Using Na'vi-inspired shovels (left to right) Joe Rohde, creative executive,   Walt Disney Imagineering; Bruce Vaughn, chief creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering;   Jon Landau, AVATAR producer and Tom Staggs, chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts   celebrated the ceremonial groundbreaking for the largest expansion in Disney’s Animal   Kingdom history.

“Disney’s Animal Kingdom is already home to some of our guests’ favorite attractions,” said Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “With AVATAR, we are adding a spectacular new world and an exciting set of attractions unlike any our guests have experienced. The expansion now under way will make the park a true full-day, must-see experience.”

This week’s milestone is just the first step in a larger expansion for the park that will also include the debut of a new evening spectacular, as well as a nighttime version of Kilimanjaro Safaris.

Check out the video below for a look inside the ceremony, and be sure to follow the Disney Parks Blog for future updates on this exciting expansion.

For previous AVATAR coverage, see these blog posts:

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Wildlife Wednesdays: Animals Enjoy Holiday Fun Too at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on January 8th, 2014 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


Our guests and cast members are not the only ones who experienced special delights during the holidays at Walt Disney World Resort. Our animals did too! This holiday season, the Disney’s Animal Programs Science Operations Team hosted a competition for the animal care teams at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. The goal: craft creative holiday experiences for the animals in their care.

The competition encouraged teams to design holiday “gifts” for their animals to highlight the animals’ natural behaviors, introduce the holiday spirit and provide unique viewing opportunities for our guests. We thought it would be fun to share a few of the many great ideas the animal care staff came up with — so here it goes!

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Bat holiday wreath — One of our Malayan flying foxes enjoys a holiday wreath made of natural grasses and nutritious vegetables on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.

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Springbok holiday tree — A pair of springbok investigate a tree ornamented with fresh produce on the savanna of the Kilimanjaro Safaris.

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Holiday-themed snack for giraffe — One of our Masai giraffe explores this festive feeding device filled with nutritious treats in view of guests.

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Tiger meets snowman — A tiger makes “friends” with a holiday snowman crafted by the animal care team of holiday-scented paper mache.

Did you know?

A progressive and integrated enrichment program plays a key role in delivering uncompromising excellence in animal care and welfare. Enrichment encourages animals to exhibit their natural behaviors, which is mentally and physically healthy for them, and also enables guests to see the cool adaptations that help the animals survive. You can enrich the lives of wildlife and encourage natural behaviors in your own backyard by adding a bird bath, native plants, log piles and bird houses. Then, sit back and enjoy the fun of watching the wildlife up close! To learn more about Disney conservation efforts, please visit www.disney.com/conservation.

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My Parting Shot At Disney Parks

posted on January 2nd, 2014 by Gene Duncan, Photographer, Walt Disney World Resort


As I draw toward the end of a truly amazing career with The Walt Disney Company which has spanned nearly 40 years, it becomes obvious to me that I have been truly blessed by the many friends I have made along the way, both in front of, and behind the camera. Having been long surrounded and supported by dedicated and talented team members and partners, I take away a lifetime of fond memories that will surely never fade.

It seems like yesterday when I took my first non-newspaper job – an experiment that I expected might last six months or so. Now, having lived “the dream,” I thank my friends and family for a lifetime of happiness and adventure.

I have truly enjoyed my occasional participation in the Disney Parks Blog, and have been amazed at the incredible growth and success it has enjoyed since its inception.

Photography will always be in my blood, and I am carefully exploring future projects. I will still be reachable via Facebook, and hope to create a blog of my own in the near future. In the meantime, I offer one of my favorite portraits as a parting shot. Disney’s Animal Kingdom superstar Gino, the magnificent silverback gorilla, pondering his world. Thanks Gino, and thanks to you, Mickey.

Gene Duncan

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A Year in Dining: The Top Five Milestones at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on December 30th, 2013 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


With culinary triumphs big (another AAA Five-Diamond award for Victoria & Albert’s) and small (the recent croissant-donut debut at Epcot), there’s been plenty to blog about the wonderful world of food at Walt Disney World Resort. Here are five standouts:

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  1. California Grill: Nothing quite surpasses the re-imagination of the sleek California Grill high atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort. New menu, expanded sushi bar, 80 wines by the glass – and the spectacular view is still part of the show.

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  1. Major makeover at France Pavilion at Epcot: On the heels of the opening of Monsieur Paul restaurant in December 2012, the makeover continued with the opening of Boulangerie Patisserie les Halles, a bakery 10 times the size of the old one at the pavilion. Best of all, the bakery opens at 9 a.m., so you can sip a latte with a warm croissant before the rest of World Showcase opens. Next door to the bakery, the new L’Artisan des Glaces Artisan Ice Cream & Sorbet is making ice cream all day long in the true French tradition (simply milk, sugar, cream, eggs and fruit).
  2. Food marketplaces at Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival: The farm-to-table trend made its way to the festival with “festival farms” around each of the dozen Garden Marketplaces to show how the plants grow that are part of the food and beverages served at the festival. And they’ll be back in 2014.
  3. Disney Food Trucks: Four fun new trucks are now parked at Downtown Disney West Side serving everything from pierogies and kielbasa and tandoori spiced shrimp. Superstar Catering (“favorite of the stars at Disney’s Hollywood Studios), Namaste Café (“tasty exploration from Disney’s Animal Kingdom”), Fantasy Fare Truck (“delightful dishes from Disney’s Magic Kingdoms around the world”), and World Showcase of Flavors (“the best of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival”) offer something for every taste Wednesday through Sunday.

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  1. Starbucks: The iconic American coffee company debuted in the Main Street Bakery in the Magic Kingdom and at Fountain View at Epcot.

There were plenty of little gems, too: more “better for you” goodies in all four theme parks, the al fresco lounge at Hollywood Brown Derby Restaurant, all those designer cupcakes, wine in kegs at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival . . . the list goes on.

And 2014 promises lots of big stories that we can’t wait to share.

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Wildlife Wednesdays: A Look Back at a Few Baby Animals Welcomed in 2013

posted on December 18th, 2013 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


As the year comes to a close, let’s take a look back at a few of the baby animals we welcomed in 2013.

In March, we shared the news about a saddle-billed stork chick hatched at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Not only was this chick a first for its parents, but also a first for the park. In the same post, we reported on the birth of a white-cheeked gibbon. This baby joined a family consisting of mom, dad, big sister and big brother.

Saddle-billed stork chick Infant white-cheeked gibbon and its mother

The summer brought word from Proyecto Titi, a conservation organization that receives support from Disney, about an amazing birth. Tamara, a cotton-top tamarin who lives in the forest of Colombia, South America, had just given birth to her 12th litter and 22nd infant.

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In October, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, we welcomed a baby Hartmann’s mountain zebra. The population of this rare species of zebra is teetering at just under 50 animals in the U.S.

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At Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, we had a record number of sea turtle nests in 2013 — 1,654 to be exact — which resulted in thousands of baby sea turtles. What fantastic news for conservation!

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I also couldn’t go without mentioning our baby siamang twins at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Although they weren’t born in 2013, they began spending lots of time this year in their habitat in the Asia area of the park, always under the watchful eye of their dad Kenny and, of course, our animal care team.

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These new additions represent conservation successes for both species in human care and in the wild. They are a source of inspiration for me, and a reminder to do all I can to protect wildlife and nature. I am proud and thankful that our guests tell us again and again that they are inspired too. Happy holidays!

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Wildlife Wednesdays: Endangered Cotton-Top Tamarins Receive Gift of Protected Forest

posted on December 11th, 2013 by Anne Savage, Ph.D., Conservation Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


I am thrilled to report that critically endangered cotton-top tamarins in Colombia, South America, received an amazing gift just in time for the holidays — the gift of an additional area of protected forest. This tiny monkey with the wild hairdo, which guests can see when they visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom, is native only in Colombia, and there are fewer than 7,500 remaining.

Ctop Holiday Border

An area of forest in Santa Catalina, Colombia, has been officially declared a protected area for the cotton-top by Cardique, a regional environmental protection agency in that country.

Proyecto Titi, a conservation organization in Colombia whose mission is to save the cotton-top tamarin, has been working to call attention to some of the last remaining forested areas for cotton-tops. The newly-protected area has been a long-term field site for the study of cotton-tops by Proyecto Titi.

Last year 900 hectares (over 2,200 acres) in the Atlántico region of Colombia was declared a protected area for cotton-tops, and now another 421 protected hectares (over 1,000 acres) has been added.

The next time you visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom, be sure to stop by to see the cotton-top tamarins. You can see them in a habitat in front of the Tree of Life and also at Rafiki’s Planet Watch.

You can find out even more about cotton-top tamarins at www.proyectotiti.com and how the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund is helping cotton-tops, other tamarins and wildlife around the world at www.disney.com/conservation.

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