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#DisneySide Sports Style: Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland Resort

posted on May 12th, 2015 by Aubrey Hang, Sports Marketing Community Manager, runDisney


In my last Disney Sports Style post, I shared some fairy-inspired looks for Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend presented by PANDORA Jewelry at the Disneyland Resort.

Fellow Disney Parks Blog author, Erin Glover, myself and our friend and cast member Katie had a blast testing these looks in front of Pixie Hollow!

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Erin showed her #DisneySide with the new Fresh Foam Boracay Tinker Bell shoes from New Balance.

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All of the outfits perfectly captured the personalities of the fun-loving fairies thanks to Leslie Kay of DisneyBound.

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I ran the Tinker Bell Half Marathon in my Fawn DisneyBound look from Champion and New Balance. The clothes were great for the run and I especially loved the design on the Champion Women’s Sport Short 4. Katie agreed that the shorts were not only stylish but comfortable as well.

Disney Parks Blog Author Aubrey Hang Showing her Disney Side as Fawn for the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland Resort Katie Showing her Disney Side as Rosetta for the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland Resort

Guests showed their fairy-inspired #DisneySide all weekend. Here are a few of my favorite looks from Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend!

For more information on how you can join in on the runDisney fun, visit runDisney.com!

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Stars Shine Bright at the Disneyland Resort for World Premiere of ‘Tomorrowland’

posted on May 11th, 2015 by George Savvas, Public Relations Director, Disneyland Resort


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Last weekend, the Disneyland Resort hosted the world premiere of “Tomorrowland” at Downtown Disney District with a special after party at Disneyland park in (where else?) Tomorrowland!

Here you’ll hear from the stars on the red carpet, including the film’s star, George Clooney, about the excitement of being at the Disneyland Resort for the premiere. They also shared some of their favorite Disneyland memories in honor of our upcoming Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration.

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Following the premiere of the film, Walt Disney Company Chairman and CEO Bob Iger and journalist Willow Bay joined George and Amal Clooney and their niece Mia aboard the Disneyland Monorail for a trip to the after party in Tomorrowland at Disneyland park.

“Tomorrowland” opens in U.S. theaters on May 22, 2015.

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A Bright Future for Whooping Cranes at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on May 9th, 2015 by Scott Tidmus, Zoological Manager, Walt Disney World Resort


Today is International Migratory Bird Day, and we are celebrating at Disney’s Animal Kingdom by honoring the hundreds of species of migratory birds that need our help. One of the greatest conservation efforts of our time made a significant impact at the event—the whooping crane. This majestic, larger-than-life crane has been successfully brought back from the brink of extinction.

As Erin Gallagher wrote earlier this week, whooping cranes migrate all the way from Canada to the southernmost parts of the United States and back every year.

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In 1860, there were about 1,400 cranes—an already troubling number. In 1941, however, numbers had dwindled to merely 15 birds. Hunting, the popularity of the feather trade and negative human impacts on their habitat hit the bird population hard.

In an effort to save this bird species, the Whooping Crane Recovery Team was established. However, with all the birds concentrated in one flock and inhabiting the same areas, the population was more susceptible to being wiped out entirely by disease, bad weather or negative human impacts. The future of the whooping crane depended on establishing additional, separated populations and thus the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership was developed to raise another population of whooping cranes, centralized in the eastern United States.

Raising whooping cranes isn’t as simple as it may sound. The chicks rescued from the wild need to be taught to eat, forage, fly and even migrate. Scientists raise the birds from hatchlings and don white suits that cover their faces so the birds do not recognize them as humans and learn to rely on them for food once they are in the wild. The suits have a whooping crane puppet head on one arm that scientists peck at the ground to show young birds how to eat.

In 1994, Bill Lishman and Joe Duff pioneered the migratory initiative, “Operation Migration” in which they lead a group of Canada geese from Ontario to Virginia to prove that it was possible to train birds to follow a small plane called an ultra-light. This story may seem familiar because just one year later, both Lishman and Duff helped with production of the Columbia Pictures film, “Fly Away Home” that followed a similar plot line.

With the precedent set, in 1999, Operation Migration led the first group of whooping cranes on their migration route. The route of the secondary flock established in the eastern United States spans the country from Wisconsin to here in Florida. Once they fly their migration route first led by an ultra-light, they will remember the way for life. The Disney Conservation Fund was one of the first to support the organization and has continued to support this organization ever since.

Since 2006, Disney’s animal care team has performed health exams on all the young migratory birds to ensure they are in good condition following their migration. Our Animal, Science and Environment team has also assisted in monitoring and training of the new chicks in efforts to prepare them for their release into the wild.

While progress has been made with these cranes, they are still the most endangered crane in the world; fewer than 500 cranes exist today.

Every spring, for International Migratory Bird Day, Disney welcomes the crew from Operation Migration to share their experiences with our guests. Just three years ago, Disney was pleased to welcome a new addition to the exhibit at Conservation Station. Operation Migration donated one of their original ultra-lights and it has remained on display at Rafiki’s Planet Watch, allowing us to share this inspiring story year round! For more information on whooping cranes and how you can help, check out the International Crane Foundation.

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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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Disney Parks After Dark: The Universe of Energy

posted on May 7th, 2015 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


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I have a confession to make about tonight’s Disney Parks After Dark image, which was shot by photographer Mark Willard. Every time I pass The Universe of Energy attraction at Epcot, the attraction’s original theme song always pops in (and then gets stuck in) my head. The tune “Energy (You Make The World Go ‘Round)” was addictive if you were there in the 1980s, and lucky enough to get a cassette tape of the park’s soundtrack.

“Energy…you are profound. You make the world go round and round. You make the world go round. You make the world go round. You make the world go round.”

You’re welcome.

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Rebel Hangar: A Star Wars Lounge Experience Coming to Star Wars Weekends

posted on May 5th, 2015 by Rachel Brent, Food & Beverage Marketing Communications Coordinator


Guests attending Star Wars Weekends will be able to find shelter and sustenance in the Rebel Hangar: A Star Wars Lounge Experience. Reports have been made that this location was once a known hangout of Rebel pilots, aliens and smugglers; with the immersive environment and stellar bites—I understand why!

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Look for a menu full of Star Wars-themed food and beverage offerings that are out of this world:

  • Pilot’s Pomme Frites – these are tossed with parmesan cheese, garlic and parsley with a garlic aioli for dipping
  • Ensalada Naboo – seared chicken breast, bibb lettuce, grape tomatoes, watermelon radish, almond frica, and a parmesan-peppercorn ranch dressing
  • Lightsaber Bites – hand-dipped corn-battered knockwurst sausages with house-made chips and mustard dipping sauce
  • The Dark Fried – Chicken and Darth Vader waffles served with maple syrup and sweet barbecue sauce
  • Trio of Thermal Detonators – spicy pork wings topped with spicy piquillo-pepper sauce and slaw
  • Slider Sampler featuring “The Sith” barbecue-braised brisket with cole slaw and “The Jedi” with barbecued pulled chicken with arugula
  • Fruit and Cheese “Sabers” featuring Tillamook cheddar, Brie, goat cheese, pickled vegetables, crostini, cheddar crackers, blueberries, raspberries, honeydew melon, strawberry, olives and gherkins
  • Chips & Sith – hummus with red pepper coulis, black sesame dust, and corn tortilla chips
  • Yoda Key Lime Cake
  • Trio of Star Wars mini cupcakes, including Mini Darth Vader (chocolate-peanut butter), Mini Yoda (chocolate-hazelnut), and Mini Jabba the Hutt (salted caramel latte) served in the Han Solo Carbonite Souvenir Box

A new drink menu will also be available:

  • Imperial Blue – Maker’s Mark Whisky, Cointreau, Blue Curacao, sweet and sour, topped with Sprite
  • Tatooine Sunset – Stoli vanilla, Parrot Bay Coconut Rum, pineapple juice with grenadine
  • Rebel Red – Grey Goose vodka, Chambord, sour mix and a splash of grenadine
  • Dagobah Swamp Juice – Midori, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, sweet and sour, topped with lemon-lime foam
  • The Dark Side – Stoli vanilla vodka, Bailey’s liqueur, crème de cocoa and brownie garnish
  • Alderaan Ale

The Jabba the Hutt and Yoda cupcakes will also be available at Tusken Fridge Raiders, Trolley Car Café, Starring Rolls Cafe, and Backlot Express. The Darth Vader cupcake will be available at all quick-service locations, including Starring Rolls Cafe, and Trolley Car Cafe and Tusken Fridge Raiders at Darth’s Mall.

For Reservations, visit DisneyWorld.com/dine or call 407-WDW-DINE.

May the food be with you!

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Filed: Disney Dining, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Special Events, Walt Disney World Resort

This Week in Disney Parks Photos: Experience Harambe Market at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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


This week on the Disney Parks Blog we shared the first photos of the new Harambe Market, which will debut to guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in late May.

New Harambe Market at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

This area, which was themed around a Colonial-era train depot design recreates a bustling marketplace where guests visit from around the world. Here, guests can choose to taste food from a variety of different “vendors,” including Kitamu Grill for skewered chicken and a kabob flatbread sandwiches, Famous Sausages for corn dogs inspired by a South African sausage, and Chef Mwanga’s, which serves a spice-rubbed karubi rib with green papaya-carrot slaw. Check out Pam’s post for more information on the other menu items you’ll be able to find at Harambe Market.

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Today in Disney History: Disney’s Hollywood Studios Opens Its Doors at Walt Disney World Resort

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


On this very day back in 1989, Disney’s Hollywood Studios opened its doors to give guests a taste of the fascinating world of entertainment. I remember visiting the park that summer and was captivated by its attractions that offered a peek inside television production and the making of animated films, as well as the history of the silver screen inside The Great Movie Ride.

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Many attractions have been added to the park over the years, including The Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror in 1994, Rockin’ Rollercoaster – Starring Aerosmith in 1999, the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show in 2005, and Toy Story Mania! in 2008, among others. Entertainment, of course, has played a huge part at the park, with “Beauty and The Beast – Live on Stage” being the first theme park show to debut the same day the film was released in theaters in 1991. “Fantasmic!”, the park’s nighttime spectacular that combines Disney characters and songs with amazing special effects opened at the park in 1998.

Click through the gallery below for a look at how the park has changed over the years.

Which attraction or show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is your favorite? Tell us in the comments section below.

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Fun New Tastes at Harambe Market at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on April 30th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


The much-anticipated Harambe Market opens late May at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, where food plays a starring role with African-inspired street food at four walk-up windows and plenty of shaded seating – 200+ seats.

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Built around a Colonial-era train depot design complete with a 1960s water tower, the marketplace re-creates a bustling center of commerce where guests are welcomed from around the world who have come to visit the little seaside town and venture out to the reserve to observe Africa’s animals.

Chef Lenny DeGeorge led the Food and Beverage concept development team, and tells us it’s the sort of food you’d find in a street market in Africa. “The menus reflect the unique personalities of the establishments’ owners,” says Chef Lenny.

New Harambe Market at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

“Kitamu Grill” offers skewered chicken and a kabob flatbread sandwich. “Famous Sausages” features a corn dog, inspired by a South African sausage called a boerewors, dipped in curry-infused corn batter. “Chef Mwanga’s” serves a spice-rubbed karubi rib with green papaya-carrot slaw.

“With three meaty ribs, the karubi rib is our version of the giant turkey legs served in the Disney theme parks,” says DeGeorge. We give two thumbs up to the curry corn dog, made with a special spiced sausage inspired by the traditional boerewors.

A fourth window, called Wanjohi Refreshments (“wanjohi” means “brewer” in Swahili) offers beverages including six South African wines by the glass; Safari Amber Lager and Orlando Brewing I-4 IPA on draft; red sangria with Van der Hum tangerine liqueur from South Africa; The Starr of Harambe, a frozen drink with Starr African rum with mango puree in a souvenir mug; non-alcoholic tangerine lemonade, and fountain beverages including Sparberry from Zimbabwe and Bibo from South Africa.

With shaded tables and merchandise shops, the new market, together with the recently opened Harambe Theatre (home to “Festival of the Lion King”) doubles the size of the original Harambe Village.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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