Halloween at the Walt Disney World Resort

Sights and Sounds of Disney Parks: Celebrating One of Walt’s Major Magic Makers

posted on September 17th, 2014 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Marc Davis’ Disney career goes all the way back to “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” He animated Alice, Tinker Bell, Cinderella, Maleficent and Cruella DeVil. He designed characters for Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise and the fondly remembered America Sings attractions. He was an accomplished painter and a caring, unforgettable teacher.

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Marc dreamed up enough major works to fill several lifetimes. Yet he was definitely not one of those “look at me, I’m so great, blah, blah, blah” kind of people. He was devoted to his wife, Alice (also a Disney Legend who was also a major contributor to Disney history as costume designer for many attractions), dedicated to Disney art and imagination, and, across the board, remembered as a genial, unassuming fellow.

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His admirers include some of the most accomplished individuals in the art and entertainment industry, who along with many of us, were waiting a long time for such a magnificent book as “Marc Davis: Walt Disney’s Renaissance Man” to come along. This book is their opportunity to reminisce about Marc for us, and our opportunity to look for hours at each and every vivid image in this new book—many of which seem to jump off the page.

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Imagineering and Disney Legend Marty Sklar expresses his awe at Marc’s work for Disney Parks. Peter Docter, Oscar-winning director of Disney•Pixar’s “Up” and “Monsters, Inc.” presents an extensive portfolio of Marc’s concept art and pencil drawings. “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King” producer Don Hahn elaborates on Marc’s fine art. Veteran Disney animator and historian Andreas Deja takes us on a tour of Marc’s animal studies. Glen Keane, acclaimed animator of Ariel, the Beast, Tarzan, Rapunzel, Aladdin and others, guides us through Marc’s vast collection of sketchbooks.

And there’s so much more. Walt Disney Family Museum Creative Consultant and historian Paula Sigman-Lowery explains Marc’s fascination with the art and people of New Guinea. Author/filmmaker Mindy Johnson helps us get acquainted with the wondrous Alice Davis. Renowned animation historian and critic Charles Solomon presents a look at the unproduced animated feature, Chanticleer. Award-winning animation director Bob Kurtz recalls Marc’s skill as a teacher. There are even selections from Marc’s unpublished book on how humans and animals move (Parents’ alert: some tasteful nudes in this section.)

You can find “Marc Davis: Walt Disney’s Renaissance Man” at select Disney Parks shops now (even though it will not be available to the general public until October 7). Call Merchandise Guest Services at 1-877-560-6477) to locate it at either Walt Disney World Resort or Disneyland Resort.

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‘Lakeside Casual’ Attire for Servers at New Trattoria al Forno at Disney’s BoardWalk

posted on September 9th, 2014 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


As the new Trattoria al Forno at Disney’s BoardWalk gets ready for a December opening, here’s a look at the classic server attire, designed by Walt Disney Imagineer Celina Lung, who’s been a Disney costume designer for nearly 20 years.

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“My inspiration comes from the trattoria’s interior and lakeside setting,” says Celina. “Like the restaurant, the server attire is charming, casual, a little upscale.” The warm décor matches the restaurant color palette, she explains. Celina’s research also took her to a seaside bistro in Southern California to come up with a look that’s “not overdesigned, but simple and elegant.”

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The burgundy shirts and blouses with gold contrast echo the décor, with khaki-colored pants for a more casual look. “We’re in America, not Italy, and I wanted the servers to look casual but polished,” says Celina. One detail, for instance, is the bladed leather belt with an antique brass buckle to lend a more refined finish.

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For colder months, she designed a jacket with a relaxed fit in classic tweed. Servers will also wear long bistro aprons, weaving the elegance of traditional European restaurant with the experience of a neighborhood restaurant.

Her expertise is in many costumes throughout Disney Parks, from the server attire at Coral Reef Restaurant at Epcot to various lands and restaurants at Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, Tokyo Disney Resort, Shanghai Disney Resort (her current project) and Disneyland park. And she’s always got something in the works.

Meanwhile, interior work and recipe development continues on Trattoria al Forno, more details to come!

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Exclusive Merchandise Revealed for Destination D: Attraction Rewind

posted on September 4th, 2014 by Jeffrey Epstein, Manager, Marketing


A few months ago, D23, Disney’s Official Fan Club, unveiled some of the exclusive merchandise that will be available at Destination D: Attraction Rewind this fall at Walt Disney World Resort. The event, which takes place November 22 and 23, celebrates beloved attractions and entertainment of yesteryear while also looking at what’s to come with Disney Legends, luminaries and Imagineers.

Just for the occasion, Mickey’s of Glendale — the famous Walt Disney Imagineering store — is setting up a pop-up shop with exclusive merchandise just for event attendees. Earlier this summer, D23 previewed a few of the items that will be available, and now we are happy to share even more of the collection here on the Disney Parks Blog.

Exclusive Merchandise for Destination D: Attraction Rewind

In addition to all this, there will be a Mystery Box pin set featuring the Pleasure Island club marquee logos including Mannequins Dance Palace, Comedy Warehouse, 8TRAX, Pleasure Island Jazz Co., Rock ‘n’ Roll Beach Club, and Adventurer’s Club.

And just wait … there’s even more to come! So pick up your tickets today.

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Interview with Imagineer Lisa Girolami Aboard Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland Park

posted on September 2nd, 2014 by Erin Glover, Social Media Director, Disneyland Resort


Disneyland park guests have been wowed by the updates to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ever since it re-opened this spring. I recently took a ride on the attraction with Imagineer Lisa Girolami, who oversaw its extensive refurbishment. The wildest ride in the wilderness might not be the best place for an in-depth interview, but it sure is the most fun!

What do you like best about Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland park? Tell us in the comments!


See the posts below for more on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad:

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All in the Details: Imagineers Unveil the Storyline of Disney Springs

posted on August 19th, 2014 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


How does Walt Disney Imagineering re-imagine an area of Walt Disney World Resort that guests have enjoyed for more than 40 years?

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That’s the creative challenge our Imagineering team, including Executive Creative Director Theron Skees, has been tasked with – to transform the area currently known as Downtown Disney into Disney Springs, a destination that’s being expanded to include more than 150 shopping, dining and entertainment experiences. From an Imagineering perspective, this means developing a storyline and creating a sense of time and place that influences everything from the architecture to the costumes.

We were also excited to share that our Imagineers will continue to share updates here in our “All in the Details” series in the coming months as their work progresses. Here’s the first piece, in which Theron introduces the Disney Springs project and Imagineering’s role in it.

The first “neighborhood” in Disney Springs – the opening of The Landing – is set for 2015. Construction on Disney Springs will continue into 2016, so be sure to stay tuned to the Disney Parks Blog for more behind-the-scenes looks at the progress happening as Downtown Disney transforms into Disney Springs.


For more about Disney Springs, visit the stories below:

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The Magic of Disney Parks Storytelling: Haunted Mansion at Disneyland Park

posted on August 8th, 2014 by Tyler Slater, Social Media Content Coordinator


Haunted Mansion at Disneyland park is one of the most treasured theme park attractions at Disney Parks around the world. It’s almost hard to believe, but this week those 999 happy haunts celebrate 45 years of welcoming foolish mortals to their beloved estate in New Orleans Square. To mark the anniversary of these grim, grinning ghosts, I’ll be your host as “The Magic of Disney Parks Storytelling” series shares the story of how Walt Disney’s masterpiece materialized.

The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland Park

As my fellow Disney Parks Blog author, George Savvas, explained in his excellent post this morning, the Haunted Mansion was years in development. Then, when Walt Disney passed away in December 1966, the team was at a loss for inspiration. Without their captain, conflict arose in the development team. One camp believed that the attraction should be atmospheric and scary, and the other felt that the experience should be fun and lighthearted.

A compromise was reached by the show’s writer, Disney Legend X Atencio. He structured the attraction into three acts:

  • Act 1 focuses on the creepy environments, without actually showing any ghosts. When guests are asked “Is this haunted room actually stretching?” they are given a hint at the frights that wait for them around each corner.
  • Act 2 begins as Madame Leota summons up the ghostly spirits, who would soon be visible. “Rap on a table,” she says, “it’s time to respond.” And soon, they do.
  • The tour of the Haunted Mansion culminates in Act 3, where the happy haunts gather in the graveyard for a swinging wake and “grim, grinning ghosts come out to socialize!”

With this storytelling design, the entire team of Imagineers felt their visions were fulfilled. Within one week of the attraction opening, Disneyland park celebrated what was then the highest single day of attendance. Even after 45 years, the Haunted Mansion continues to blend horror with humor – filled with exquisitely detailed environments and memorable characters.


For more from “The Magic of Disney Parks Storytelling” series, visit the links below:

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Celebrating 45 Years of Ghoulish Delight at the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland Park

posted on August 8th, 2014 by George Savvas, Public Relations Director, Disneyland Resort


“When hinges creak in doorless chambers, and strange and frightening sounds echo through the halls … Whenever candlelights flicker where the air is deathly still, that is the time when ghosts are present, practicing their terror with ghoulish delight. Welcome, foolish mortals, to the Haunted Mansion.”

As a six-year-old boy, hearing those words spoken by Disney Legend Paul Frees as the “ghost host” became an indelible Disney memory for me – and don’t get me started on the stretching room, Madame Leota or the ghost that was sitting next to me on the way home! For me, there was no turning back then – or now – from one of the most uniquely entertaining Disney Parks attractions ever created.

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The 999 happy haunts of the Haunted Mansion have been throwing a swinging wake for 45 delightfully frightful years, and they’ve received the sympathetic vibrations of millions of Disneyland park guests who have come out to socialize.

The disquieting tale of the Haunted Mansion actually began more than 50 years ago when Walt Disney approved the creation of a riverfront mansion even while he hadn’t yet decided exactly what would go inside. Walt insisted, however, that the house appear well kept on the outside and not look dilapidated.

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This rare concept drawing from Ken Anderson, courtesy of our friends at the Walt Disney Imagineering Art Library, was made in 1957.

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The library also provided this color artwork created by Sam McKim in 1958.

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In 1962, construction began on the beautiful southern plantation-inspired home, and in the years that followed, as Imagineers developed (sometimes competing) themes and stories of a Haunted Mansion attraction, a sign was placed in front of its closed gates to tease what was (possibly) to come.

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The idea for the sign was reportedly sparked by a comment Walt made upon returning from a trip to London when he remarked that he had been searching castles and old English countryside estates for ghosts looking for a new place to haunt. The sign would remain in place until the Haunted Mansion opened its gates more than six years later, in August of 1969.

During those years, with their combined talents, Imagineers, including Marc Davis, Claude Coats, X Atencio, Rolly Crump, Bill Justice, and Yale Gracey, Disney Legends all, developed the attraction we know today.

Near the time of its completion, some publicity photos were taken to help illustrate the attraction’s unique blend of macabre humor and to celebrate the artistry of those responsible for bringing it to … life.

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Here, special effects designer Yale Gracey tries to keep the lid on one of his latest creations.

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In this photo, Bill Justice tries to celebrate some of his technological accomplishments with a grim grinning ghost.

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Finally, cameras captured a sighting of the elusive Hatbox Ghost with Yale Gracey.

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“There’s a little matter I forgot to mention. Beware of hitchhiking ghosts!”

Whether your first “doom buggy” ride was today, or 45 years ago, the Haunted Mansion is what it has always been: a true original that’s pure Disney magic.

Hurry baaaaaack…

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The Magic of Disney Parks Storytelling: Splash Mountain at Disneyland Park

posted on July 18th, 2014 by Tyler Slater, Social Media Content Coordinator


In my opinion, Splash Mountain at Disneyland park is the quintessential E-ticket attraction. There is something about plunging down Chick-A-Pin Hill that has made it my “laughing place” for as long as I can remember. Yesterday was not only the 59th anniversary of Disneyland park, it also marked the 25th anniversary of this beloved attraction. Today, I’m positively thrilled to continue “The Magic of Disney Parks Storytelling” series with an article from Critter Tales, a newspaper created by the animals of Critter Country, about the story of Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox and Brer Bear. In honor of the anniversary, enjoy this excerpt by Jasper P. Woodchuck about the story behind my favorite attraction, Splash Mountain.

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Towering up and above everything hereabouts is Splash Mountain. Used to be that once upon a time, Splash Mountain was called Chick-A-Pin Hill …

Nowadays, Brer Rabbit’s been living in a briar patch, deep in the heart of Splash Mountain. And not so long ago, old Brer Rabbit took it into his head that if he’d just up and leave his prickly home in the briar patch, then he’d be able to leave all his troubles behind, as well.

As soon as Brer Fox and Brer Bear got wind that Brer Rabbit was leaving his briar patch and setting out for an adventure, they decided to trap and catch him. Luckily for Brer Rabbit, he was able to trick Brer Bear into springing Brer Fox’s hastily devised rabbit trap. This made Brer Fox so furious that Brer Rabbit decided to play another trick on the two, and he began to tell them about a secret “laughing place” that only he knew about.

Sure enough, Brer Bear and Brer Fox followed that rabbit right to the foot of a twin oak tree … But instead of finding a laughing place, all Brer Bear found was honeybees. Suddenly, the rotted old tree gave way with a snap and pitched Brer Fox and Brer Bear into a darkened, water-filled cavern, buzzing with hundreds of angry bees.

Brer Rabbit laughed and laughed at the prank he’d played on the two scoundrels. Unfortunately for Brer Rabbit, however, he tended to laugh just a little too long at his own joke and before he knew what was happening, Brer Fox captured that hapless hare.

Brer Rabbit was dragged by the ears up to the top of Chick-A-Pin Hill, where Brer Fox’s lair was hidden in a hollowed log that jutted out over the mighty Splash Mountain waterfall. Brer Fox threatened to skin Brer Rabbit, and then to roast and eat him. But thinking quickly, Brer Rabbit told Brer Fox to go ahead and do anything with him he wanted, so long as he didn’t throw him over the waterfall into the Briar Patch.

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Slow-wittted Brer Bear liked the idea and decided that flinging Brer Rabbit into the briar patch was the best thing to be done. Brer Fox tried to prevent him, and in the struggle, all three went over the falls and into the briar patch.

The briar patch is, of course, Brer Rabbit’s home sweet home. All the critters hereabout turned out to congratulate clever Brer Rabbit on having gotten away once again. And while Brer Fox and Brer Bear tried unsuccessfully to untangle themselves from the sharp, prickly briars, Brer Rabbit promised his friends that once and for all he had learned his lesson about leaving home, and that he is going to stay here forever and ever – at least until the urge to go adventuring strikes him once again.

Your obedient reporter,

Jasper P. Woodchuck

What is your favorite memory on Splash Mountain? Leave your response in the comments below!

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Unforgettable Details of Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa: Imagineer Joe Rohde on Design and Inspiration

posted on June 27th, 2014 by Tyler Slater, Social Media Content Coordinator


I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Joe Rohde, creative executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, about his inspirations for the design of Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa. Joe’s career has included such iconic projects as Disney’s Animal Kingdom; Expedition Everest; Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa; and the upcoming AVATAR-inspired land at Walt Disney World Resort. Today, Joe shares some of the magic and tradition behind what makes Aulani unlike anywhere else in the world.

What is the significance behind the arch logo for Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa?

The curved arch is based on a traditional Hawaiian canoe house as echoed in the framing of the Maka‘ala lobby as well as in the resort’s physical layout.

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What was the inspiration for the Maka‘ala lobby?

Maka‘ala does several things all at once. It is a warm and welcoming place that expresses the spirit of aloha, acceptance and inclusion. But it also announces that this place – where you have arrived, Hawai‘i – is a special, unique and important place, and that there are stories to be learned here that you may not know … and LOTS of them. Lastly, it also suggests a feeling of elegance and artistry, which is consistent with true Hawaiian culture.

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What was the inspiration for the overall shape and design of Aulani and the Waikolohe Valley?

The resort was designed to reflect the sense of a Hawaiian valley opening out toward the ocean from highlands to lowlands. This organization has many connotations. One is the ahupua’a, the traditional organization of land that followed a watershed from the mountains to the sea and knitted all members of the community together in a working relationship and a functional sustainable relationship to the land.

Another is a Hawaiian concept of time itself as flowing – like fresh water – from the past, which is in the mountains, to the future, which is in the sea. The architectural statements of Aulani tend to follow this organizational layout.

You know, of course, that Waikolohe means “mischievous water.” That name is simply meant to connote the playful aspect of the springs, which spray you from unexpected directions, and the presence of the Menehune. It is true that, along this part of the O’ahu coast, fresh water comes from springs, and we wanted to reflect that but in a fun, mischievous way.

Hawaiian canoes are seen throughout Aulani. Why are canoes such a key aspect of the design?

We wanted to use little clues here and there to celebrate the great canoe tradition of Hawai`i, because these canoes are at the very heart of what makes Hawaiian culture Hawaiian. Without these canoes there would be no Hawaiians at all. They express the highest form of artistry, engineering, symbolic meaning, purposefulness and social cooperation that Hawaiian culture stands for. In particular, we wanted to celebrate the Hokulea, the canoe that awakened the Hawaiian cultural revival in the 1970s and continues today on its worldwide voyage.

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The Magic of Disney Parks Storytelling: Radiator Springs Racers at Disney California Adventure Park

posted on June 18th, 2014 by Tyler Slater, Social Media Content Coordinator


Since Cars Land opened on June 15, 2012, no trip to Disney California Adventure park has been complete without experiencing Radiator Springs Racers. From the state-of-the-art Audio-Animatronics technology to the thrilling race through Ornament Valley, this attraction truly is the definition of an “E-ticket” experience. In honor of the attraction’s second anniversary earlier this week, I’m thrilled to continue the “Magic of Disney Parks Storytelling” series with Radiator Springs Racers. With so much detail behind one of the largest attractions ever built for Disney Parks, today’s post will focus on the story of Stanley’s Oasis, which serves as the queue area for the attraction.

Stanley, the founder of Radiator Springs, sold radiator caps along Route 66. It wasn’t until he found the spring of water now known as Stanley’s Oasis that Radiator Springs became an iconic destination in the middle of the desert. To reach Stanley’s Oasis, turn right at the courthouse and follow the pathway under two bridges. The first bridge you pass under is a steel structure built in the 1940s and the second bridge was built out of wood in the 1920s.
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After passing under the bridges, you have arrived at the entrance of the historic Stanley’s Oasis! You’ll immediately recognize the original Radiator Spring that continues to bubble after all these years. Directly behind the spring, notice the water tower where Stanley once invited customers to relax and enjoy a nice, cold drink. The pathway then heads into a covered structure – the first building Stanley established at the oasis. This is called the Cap ‘n’ Tap shop because of the various types of caps for sale. Next, the neighboring structure, called Stanley’s Service Garage, tells the story of Stanley’s once-booming auto-care business (remember the radiator caps he sold on Route 66?). Saving the best for last, you’ll continue on to the world-famous Oil Bottle House – the area’s most popular roadside attraction!

As you enter the wheel-well-shaped cavern, you’ll see Stanley’s Comfy Caverns Motor Court – a lodge nestled deep inside the expansive cave. Because the oasis became so popular, Stanley and his wife, Lizzie, built the lodge to accommodate the high demand from visitors who wanted to stay overnight. From here, you hop in your car and head back to town for the big race! Ka-chow racer!

What is your favorite Cars Land memory? Leave your answer in the comments below!

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