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Special Edition Wildlife Wednesday: What Do Rhinos, Art Auctions and Imagineers Have in Common?

posted on October 29th, 2014 by Scott Terrell, DVM, DACVP, Animal Health Director, Disney’s Animal Programs


World Rhino Day is officially recognized each year on September 22, and provides a great opportunity to share information and raise awareness about the exponential rise in rhinoceros poaching in the wild. While some are aware of the declining numbers of rhinos in the wild, many don’t have the opportunity to take the next step to help reverse the decline. Chad Harmon, a member of the team who works with animals in the Ituri Forest on Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, took matters into his own hands. He and his wife started a non-profit organization called The Horns and Heroes Project – an organization that combines the conservation of rhinos around the world with the passion and creativity of the art community.

The organization’s first event, in 2012, invited 50 artists from around the Orlando, Fla. area to decorate cast moldings of rhino horns. These decorated horns were then displayed at an auction event and 100 percent of the $6,000 proceeds were sent to the International Rhino Foundation. The ‘Heroes’ portion of the organization’s title comes in as the money donated supports the front line park rangers patrolling on the ground, risking their lives against armed poachers to keep rhinos safe in the wild.

So, that covers rhinos and art auctions, but where does Disney Imagineer, Joe Rohde, fit in?

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This year over 70 artists decorated rhino busts that were auctioned off. Joe Rohde learned about the event and showed support by creating his own piece of artwork that was showcased along with members of the Orlando community and Disney’s Animal Programs. A Zoological Manager on the elephant team, Steve Lefave, created the piece of art that produced the highest bid – over $900! The piece, titled “Abbey Normal,” was created using several recycled pieces and depicts a “Frankenstein”-like rhino. When asked about his inspiration for the piece, Lefave said, “If we don’t protect the rhino, we will have to recreate it by some other means.” Lefave also spoke very highly of the organization with admiration that is “through the roof” because he knows all the work to save this species comes from the heart.

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Inspired by the guiding principles of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Harmon strives to inspire calls to action by exposing audiences to the subject matter and then provide a way to get involved. Harmon’s intention is to invite art lovers to come in the door, but then leave an art lover who is also a conservationist. The most recent event raised over $23,000 with over 400 people in attendance!

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Organizations like this are just one way that Disney cast members are making a difference around the world. Keep an eye out for upcoming events in your area and opportunities to get involved in other conservation programs, organizations and initiatives!

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999 Happy Haunts: Here Comes The Bride

posted on October 24th, 2014 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


This week our Happy Haunts series is taking a look at the true lady of the house – The Bride. (This character’s storyline varies a bit at Haunted Mansion attractions around the world, so we’ll focus mainly on her appearance at Magic Kingdom Park).

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(Art by Morgan Davidson)

Imagineer Ken Anderson developed one of the first storylines for the Bride, who was a young woman named Priscilla set to be wed to a sea captain named Captain Gore. Throughout this version of the attraction – which at first was being developed as a walk-through experience – guests would follow Priscilla as she found evidence that her love was actually a wicked pirate. Priscilla then vanished and was never seen again, although her spirit presence in the mansion was said to have driven the Captain mad. In another version of the Bride’s storyline, Walt Disney himself was set to narrate the attraction (think of Walt as the “Ghost Host”), and was to reference a bride character who had “lost her head” before the big day.

The Bride’s storyline was finally solidified when Imagineers Marc Davis, Claude Coats and X. Atencio were handed the project in the mid-1960s. Set in a creepy, cluttered attic full of shadows and surprises, the Bride waited for guests at the end of the room with a red pulsing heart and a flowing dress. Over the years, her storyline became more prominent, with wedding mementos placed throughout the attic, a louder thumping heartbeat, and the tune of the Wedding March plunked on a harpischord in the background. Later changes indicate that it was the groom that really lost his head inside the mansion: the Bride currently holds an ax, and nearby portraits of the happy couple reveal a headless groom when the lightning flashes.

In the artwork above, artist Morgan Davidson gave the Bride a Halloween twist. What do you think? Tell us in the comments section below!

For more Happy Haunts, check out the posts below:

New Disney Kingdoms Series to feature Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

posted on October 18th, 2014 by Thomas Smith, Social Media Director, Disney Parks


A reader favorite here on the Disney Parks Blog, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, will be the focus of a new Disney Kingdoms series and today we’re thrilled to share a first look at the spectacular cover artwork and details behind the adventure set in the wild Frontier.

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Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a five-part comic series driven by Walt Disney Imagineering storytelling that’ll include earthquakes, floods and, of course, dynamite-chewing goats. Disney Kingdoms editor Bill Rosemann says, “This action-packed story by writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Tigh Walker will feature the never-before-told saga of how the gold mine in Big Thunder Mountain became the haunted legend it is today.”

As readers explore the “wildest ride in the wilderness,” they’ll go back in time to a Gold Rush town where daring men and women were in a daily battle between man and mountain. There will be plenty of surprises and mystery along the way as the series uncovers why Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is more than a rumbling, tumbling train car attraction.

Disney Kingdoms Big Thunder Mountain Railroad series will be on sale in comic shops across the country in the spring of 2015.

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Behind the Scenes: Adding ‘Fantasia’ Magic to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

posted on October 6th, 2014 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival features the creative talents of many different departments here at Walt Disney World Resort, including our excellent Food & Beverage team. But did you know that Walt Disney Imagineering and Horticulture also play an important part in getting the park ready for the festival?

Check out this video, in which our Walt Disney Imagineers and Horticulture cast members work together to transform the park’s Entrance Planters with “Fantasia”-inspired graphics and topiaries – in just eight hours.

Drawing inspiration from the film, the graphics and horticulture designs illustrate Chef Mickey orchestrating “magical forks” to spread flavor throughout the festival. This theme is carried out throughout the park’s other graphics and horticulture displays.

What is your favorite part of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival? Tell us in the comments section below.

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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, Public Relations Manager, Disney Destinations


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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