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Celebrate Earth Day at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

posted on April 8th, 2015 by Victoria Lim, Managing Editor, Walt Disney World Public Relations


The natural beauty of Mother Nature + Disney magic = a perfect place to celebrate Earth Day. Of course, you can find it at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.

Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival: Gardener's Palette

We think Earth deserves a whole (extended) weekend! We’ve got lots of ways to appreciate and celebrate with activities, discoveries and more.

Here’s are some fresh ways to get your green on, from April 17-22:

Three of our new specialty gardens connect families and kids with nature: Nature Rocks, presented by The Nature Conservancy, the Backyard Habitat presented by the National Wildlife Federation and the Purple Martins presented by Audubon Florida. These lush spots will inspire you and your family to spend more time outdoors, and maybe even how to bring a little Disney magic to your home.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Specialists will visit the Festival Center (April 17-19).

At the Seas with Nemo & Friends, learn about conservation efforts to protect coral reefs, sea turtles, sharks and the many other amazing creatures that inhabit our oceans (April 22).

Check out the sand sculpture that showcases Disneynature’s “Monkey Kingdom” movie at the World Showcase Outpost. Make sure to pick up a kids activity booklet while you’re taking a sand-selfie!

For more information about this and other Fun Fresh Weekends, check out EpcotInSpring.com.

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Wildlife Wednesday: New Birds Join the Beautiful Flock at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on April 8th, 2015 by Scott Tidmus, Zoological Manager, Walt Disney World Resort


On your last visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, did you have a chance to visit any of the animal walking trails? Not far down the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, adventurous guests can step into the Africa Aviary in which 221 birds of 29 different bird species live and thrive!

I’m part of a team of four Zoological Managers who have the pleasure of working with our keeper team to care for the different bird species in the aviary and also help delight our guests by introducing them to the amazing world of birds.

Earlier this year, the Africa Aviary was renovated and over the past few months, all the birds have been moved back to their newly landscaped home where we can now exhibit much smaller birds.

Five new species of birds have joined our Pangani flock — bronze mannikins, cut-throat finches, lavender waxbills, pintail whydah and paradise whydah. All bring a variety of colors, behaviors and songs to the already-thriving avian chorus. They may be small in size, but they can generally be seen in large groups flying through the aviary.

The bronze mannikin boasts flecks of shimmery bronze embedded in its feathers. These birds are commonly found in most parts of Africa south of the Sahara Desert.

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Don’t be frightened by their name — cut-throat finches are actually named due to the males’ red marking or “slash” on their necks! Males are easily distinguishable by this red slash, while females lack the markings. Flocks of these finches stretch across northern Africa from Senegal and Gambia all the way to Sudan. They have even been found as far south as Mozambique.

Male Cut-Throat Finches have a Red Marking on Their Throat, While Females Do Not Male Cut-Throat Finches have a Red Marking on Their Throat, While Females Do Not

Lavender waxbills are aptly named for the touch of light pearl grey, almost lavender coloring of their feathers. These birds have a unique song that consists of one short, high-pitched burst followed by one long, deeper hum. (Think of a slide whistle.) They are found in central and western Africa—from Senegal, to Cameroon and Chad.

Keep Your Eyes Open for Lavender Waxbills in the Africa Aviary Down Pangani Forest Exploration Trail Keep Your Eyes Open for Lavender Waxbills in the Africa Aviary Down Pangani Forest Exploration Trail

Finally, the pintail and paradise whydahs are speckled, tawny colored birds with interesting patterns covering their heads and backs. Males of both species have extremely long black tails in the breeding season which they use in their courtship displays. In the non-breeding season males resemble the browner striped females. These birds reside in southern and east Africa and “parasitize” the nests of other finches—that is, they lay their eggs in the nests of other finches instead of building their own, and they let the host birds raise their young.

Pintail Whydah + Juvenile Paradise Whydah in Non-Breeding Season Once Males Reach Maturity, During Breeding Season Their Plumage Includes a Beautiful, Long Black Tail and Many of the Tawny Colored Feathers Turn a Much Darker Shade

Look for these birds and the other 24 species in the Africa aviary on your next visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. They move quickly, so keep your eyes open! We hope to see you soon!

*Disney Parks Blog Exclusive: In the next few months even more species will be added to the aviary. Stay tuned for updates!

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QUIZ: Are You a DINOSAUR Expert?

posted on April 7th, 2015 by Nate Rasmussen, Archivist, Marketing Resource Center


DINOSAUR is a fan-favorite ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Have you taken an adventurous trip back to the age of the dinosaurs at this attraction? Test your knowledge below!


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DINOSAUR at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

What dinosaur do you travel back in time to rescue from extinction?
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What is the name of the vehicle you board for your time travel journey?
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Approximately how far back in time do you travel in DINOSAUR?
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Who is narrating as you enter into the Dino Institute?
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What is the first dinosaur you encounter when you travel back in time?
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Disney Parks Blog Weekly Recap

posted on April 5th, 2015 by Thomas Smith, Social Media Director, Disney Parks


This week, we continued our series of exciting updates from Disney Cruise Line with the announcement that a new stage show, “Tangled: The Musical,” will be premiering onboard the Disney Magic in November.

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Jonathan told us that “Tangled: The Musical” will stay true to the storyline from the hit feature film—with a few special twists to create a live staged production—featuring favorite characters like Rapunzel, Flynn Rider, the villainous Mother Gothel and Maximus the police horse. Check out his original story for more details and information on when you’ll be able to see exclusive behind the scenes videos of the stage show.

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We also shared a story many of you have been waiting for – a look at this year’s Star Wars Weekends. Details are still coming together for the event, but Shawn shared some highlights of what’s new for Star Wars Weekends 2015:

  • Star Wars: Rebels” – Relive the adventurous twists and turns of the first exciting season of the Disney XD series “Star Wars: Rebels,” in an all-new show with Star Wars Weekends host James Arnold Taylor and a special guest from the show’s voice cast … along with a few surprises!
  • Autograph Opportunities – For the first time, autograph sessions with Star Wars celebrities will be held in an indoor location, just off Commissary Lane near Star Tours – The Adventure Continues. For complete details about autograph opportunities, be sure to visit StarWarsWeekends.com prior to your visit.
  • Darth’s Mall – Can’t find the droids you’re looking for? Head over to this new complex of shops near Streets of America for the best selection of Star Wars merchandise in this galaxy or any other!

The event is shaping up to be among the best, with a new show, new locations for merchandise and autograph opportunities and a galaxy of stars. Go check out our original story for a list of the celebrities scheduled to appear for Star Wars Weekends 2015.

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

First Look: New Olaf Premium Sipper Coming to Disneyland Resort – What’s better than warm hugs from a snowman? A cool drink in an Olaf Premium Sipper! For the first time in forever, guests will be able to purchase the new Olaf Premium Sipper from Food & Beverage locations throughout Disneyland Resort.

Building the Dream: The Making of Disneyland Park – Main Street, U.S.A. – See historic pictures from the construction of Main Street, U.S.A. in this special series from Disney Parks Blog author George Savvas.

Live Music Expanding at Disneyland Park Beginning July 17 – During the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration, music will become an even bigger part of the storytelling within Disneyland park. Click through to learn more!

Learn to Draw Dopey from ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ at Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Artist Mike Chovanec of the Animation Academy at Disney’s Hollywood Studios offers step-by-step instructions on how to draw one of the most lovable characters from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

From Stem to Stern Wine Tasting on a Disney Cruise – Learn about Disney Cruise Line’s “From Stem to Stern” wine event, where a knowledgeable sommelier teaches you to sip like a pro.

New ‘Frozen Fever’ Treats Coming to Disney Parks and Resorts – It’s official: we’ve caught Frozen Fever! The Disney Parks Food and Beverage team has created new treats inspired by the “Frozen Fever” short.

And this week, the name of the newest female baby rhino at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – determined by Disney Parks Blog readers – was revealed. You voted the Kiama as the winning name. It was the overwhelming majority with more than half of the votes.

Kiama will continue to bond and grow with her mom backstage for a few more months, but stay tuned to the Disney Parks Blog for updates and more information as we near her on-stage debut. Check out Karen’s story for more.

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Behind the Scenes: Learning Fireknife at ‘Festival of the Lion King’ at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on April 2nd, 2015 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


Earlier this year, we took a backstage look at the Tumble Monkeys from the popular stage show “Festival of the Lion King” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. In it, we showed you the level of talent and skill that this team of gymnasts uses to add comedic fun into the show.

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This week, we’re back with a behind-the-scenes look at a different act in the show – the fireknife dancer. This performer adds an element of danger during villain Scar’s song, “Be Prepared.” In reality, the show’s fireknife dancers, including VJ Tiumalu, have studied the art of this traditional Samoan warrior dance for years. For VJ, fireknife is a family tradition. He decided to become a fireknife performer when he was just 5 years old after seeing his father perform in a show. VJ’s uncle even once performed the very part VJ now plays in “Festival of the Lion King.”

To learn more, check out the video below. (Spoiler alert: As you’ll see, I’m apparently the most uncoordinated person on the planet and therefore will not be changing my career to fireknife anytime soon).

You can see “Festival of the Lion King” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom several times each day. Check your My Disney Experience app for showtimes during your visit.

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom Celebrates Upcoming ‘Monkey Kingdom’ Film with Giant Sand Sculpture

posted on April 1st, 2015 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


Have you been to Disney’s Animal Kingdom this week? If so, you may have noticed a special new addition at the front of the park – a giant sand sculpture that celebrates the upcoming opening of the Disneynature’sMonkey Kingdom.”

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Celebrates Upcoming ‘Monkey Kingdom’ Film with Giant Sand Sculpture

The film, which opens April 17, follows the adventurous life of Maya, a blonde-bobbed monkey, and her son Kip, through their journeys in the jungles of South Asia. When their home at Castle Rock is taken over by neighboring monkeys, Maya’s entire family retreats. She uses her street smarts to uncover untapped resources amidst her strange new surroundings. Ultimately, they will all have to work together to reclaim their home.

Our cameras were on-hand to capture the creation of this amazing sand tribute. Check it out below.

For every “Monkey Kingdom” movie ticket sold opening week (April 17-23, 2015), Disneynature will make a donation to Conservation International to help protect monkeys and other endangered species in their natural habitats.

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Walt Disney World Event Snapshot: April 2015

posted on March 31st, 2015 by Michelle Harker, Manager, Merchandise Marketing & Communications, Disneyland Resort


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

April 1 – 5: Artist Greg McCullough returns this month with special appearances and signings at Art of Disney in Downtown Disney Marketplace, April 1 – 5 and 15 – 19 from 1 – 9 p.m. Not able to make it? It’s okay! Greg will return April 29 – May 3 with special appearances each day from Noon – 8 p.m. at Art of Disney in Epcot. Learn more.

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April 6 – 14: Be sure to stop in and check out 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.

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April 10 – April 12: Precious Moments doll designer and artist Linda Rick will be on hand for special appearances and signings of her new Easter collection throughout the day, each day, at Heritage Manor at the American Adventure Pavilion in Epcot. Not able to make it? No problem! Representatives from Precious Moments Dolls will be on hand now – April 12 at Heritage Manor at the American Adventure Pavilion in Epcot, and now – April 27 at Once Upon A Toy in Downtown Disney Marketplace. Learn more.

April 16 – 18: Renowned international artist Larry Dotson is scheduled to appear April 16 – 18 and 23 – 26 at Art of Disney in Epcot. If you are unable to make it, find him, April 30 – May 3 at Art of Disney in the Downtown Disney Marketplace. Learn more.

April 17: New creations take form as Disney Pins! Be among the first to ‘assemble’ at Disney’s Pin Traders in Downtown Disney Marketplace for these new releases and meet artists Tim Loucks and Erica Virgin who will be on hand for a special appearance and signing from 11 a.m. – Noon.

April 17: Take part in Trading Night from 6 -9 p.m. p.m. in Veracruz A at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. Register online here. Learn more.

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April 18 – 22: Celebrate Earth Day with us! Take part in special artist showcases with Bushman (April 18-19), Just Plumerias (April 18 – 22), Elemental Nursery (April 18 – 22) and William Silvers (April 20 -22), at select locations throughout at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Learn more.

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April 24 – 25: Join us as we welcome artist Matt Hawkins to WonderGround Gallery at Marketplace Co-Op in Downtown Disney Marketplace. Take part in a special artist showcase and signing April 24 from 4 – 7 p.m. and April 25 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Learn more.

April 25: There’s something special happening at Cherry Tree Lane at Marketplace Co-Op in Downtown Disney Marketplace. Keep watching for details from fellow author Steven Miller.

April 25: Meet artist Jasmine Becket-Griffith at WonderGround Gallery at Marketplace Co-Op in Downtown Disney Marketplace from 4 – 7 p.m. Learn more.

Which event are you most excited for?

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Name Revealed for Baby Rhino at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

posted on March 30th, 2015 by Karen Jasmin, Zoological Manager, Disney's Animal Kingdom


Just a few weeks ago, we asked you, the Disney Parks Blog readers, to help us name the newest female baby rhino at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. You spread the message far and wide and over the past week thousands of votes poured in.

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While my vote was for ‘Alora’, I’m excited to announce that the winning name is Kiama! It was the overwhelming majority with more than half of the votes.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts in the comments section. Some of you shared that you were excited to hear about our conservation work with rhinos and other species around the world. We also learned that many from the city of Kiama in New South Wales, Australia, were excited to see the name of their town as an option. (While I’ve never been to this city in person, after looking at a few photos online, I’d love to visit).

This precious girl will continue to bond and grow with her mom backstage for a few more months, but stay tuned to the Disney Parks Blog for updates and more information as we near her on-stage debut.

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Wildlife Wednesday: Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Set ‘Gold Standard’ for Animal Care

posted on March 25th, 2015 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


I am honored to announce that Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge were granted official accreditation once again by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

The AZA accredits only those zoos and aquariums that meet the highest standards in animal management and care. Late last year, we hosted an AZA inspection team who assessed everything from the enrichment our animals receive (that stimulates their natural behaviors and provides them variety in their daily routines), to our veterinary program, our conservation and research and education programs, as well as our safety policies and procedures, security, physical facilities, guest services and the experience and quality of our staff. They look at everything from each part of the operation not only in animal care but from food and beverage to merchandise. It’s quite the process!

Wildlife Wednesday: Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Set ‘Gold Standard’ for Animal Care Wildlife Wednesday: Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Set ‘Gold Standard’ for Animal Care

After this review, the AZA Accreditation Commission deliberated and shared their decision to accredit Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge this past Sunday.

Being accredited allows us to create and continue to nurture our relationships with other accredited organizations to work toward a common goal of conservation and saving species.

Here are some of the wonderful and humbling comments AZA left with us:

  • “The level and commitment to animal care sets the gold standard for our community. Veterinary, nutrition, training, browse program and enrichment programs are state of the art.”
Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge are Committed 'Gold Standard' Care Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge are Committed 'Gold Standard' Care
  • “The keeper staff is professional, passionate and engaged.”
  • “Overall safety culture is extraordinarily strong across the organization, and staff training exceeds all expectations.”
  • “Disney’s Animal Kingdom staff has been successful in making conservation a key value of The Walt Disney Company. The current positive impact and future potential of this change cannot be overstated.”
  • “New interpretive programs, including Wilderness [Explorers] and Wild Africa Trek, add both breadth and depth to program offerings.”
Wilderness Explorers at Disney's Animal Kingdom Wilderness Explorers at Disney's Animal Kingdom

They also recognized the amazing amount of work going on with our upcoming expansion and praised our efforts to maintain a strong focus on animals, nature and conservation at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Renewing our accreditation also speaks to the importance we place on connecting kids and nature. Both the park and resort provide a quality experience to learn about animal and conservation in a fun, engaging environment.

Congratulations to the Cast of Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge once again.

Wildlife Wednesday: Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Set ‘Gold Standard’ for Animal Care Wildlife Wednesday: Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Set ‘Gold Standard’ for Animal Care
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Special Edition Wildlife Friday: Vote to Name a New Baby Rhino Girl at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

posted on March 20th, 2015 by Karen Jasmin, Zoological Manager, Disney's Animal Kingdom


Just a few weeks ago, as the sun started to rise on a cool day in late February, Disney’s Animal Kingdom welcomed its second white rhino calf of 2015 into the herd! This one’s a girl and it’s the tenth white rhino baby to be born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

Special Edition Wildlife Friday: Vote to Name a New Baby Rhino Girl at Disney’s Animal Kingdom! Special Edition Wildlife Friday: Vote to Name a New Baby Rhino Girl at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

As we welcome this newest baby and work to deliver uncompromising excellence in animal care for the animals here at the park and across The Walt Disney Company, we haven’t forgotten about their relatives in the wild. Last year, rhinos faced the worst poaching in history, so we continue to support conservation efforts for this and many other vulnerable species around the world. Much long term work to save this species is needed in the wild, but it’s important to celebrate small victories and our animal care team definitely has much to celebrate with seemingly back-to-back white rhino calves born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom this year.

While our newest mom and calf won’t make their debut out on the savannas of the Harambe Wildlife Reserve for a couple of months, our newest calf needs a name and this time the choice is yours! The animal care team narrowed it down to four options, so please help us choose which name you like best for her.

Take a look at the heart-warming pictures in the photo gallery and choose your favorite name below. Be sure to rally your friends to make sure your favorite name wins!


Voting will remain open until 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, March 26. We’ll reveal the winning name soon after that!

Tell us which name you voted for and why in the comments below.

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