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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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Five Things You Might Have Missed on Buena Vista Street at Disney California Adventure Park

posted on June 17th, 2014 by Tyler Slater, Social Media Content Coordinator


This month marks the second anniversary of the grand reopening of Disney California Adventure park. Since then, the details of Buena Vista Street have captured the hearts of Disney fans and families – making the new entrance one of the most beloved lands at the Disneyland Resort. Today, I’m excited to share some of the details you might have missed in one of our newest additions, Buena Vista Street!

1. Disney California Adventure Park Rededication Time Capsule

Just inside the entrance of Disney California Adventure park, near the flagpole, look for a plaque on the ground. It reads: “May the hopes and dreams represented by the collection contained within the time capsule beneath this marker inspire a future generation of dreamers when it is unsealed a quarter century from now, on June 15, 2037.”

Do you know where the other time capsule is located at the Disneyland Resort? How about the year in which it will be opened?

2. Hyperion Bridge – The Disneyland Monorail crosses over a bridge that is inspired by a Los Angeles landmark, the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge. The original bridge opened in 1929 and can still be found in Los Angeles, spanning Interstate 5 from Glendale, Calif., to the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles.

3. Street Addresses on Buena Vista Street

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This next detail is a favorite of mine: Next time you visit Disney California Adventure park, look at the addresses of each of the buildings on Buena Vista Street. Believe it or not, there is a significance to the numbers! The first two digits of all the addresses (26 or 27) refer to two of the years that the Walt Disney Studios were located on Hyperion Avenue in Los Angeles. The second two digits often, though not always, correspond to a milestone year in the history of the Studios. For example, the address of Julius Katz Shoe and Watch Repair is 2701 Buena Vista St., representing the year of Walt Disney’s birth – 1901.

4. Rock Candy Mountain Model – Located in the window of Trolley Treats is a model of Rock Candy Mountain, a short-lived concept to be part of Storybook Land Canal Boats in Fantasyland at Disneyland park. In the original plans, the exterior of the mountain was to be completely covered with candy – and the model was covered with real candy! Fortunately the original has since retired but we do have a replica featuring a scale-model trolley (fitting for Trolley Treats) traveling through lollipops, taffy, chocolate, fudge and more. If you look closely, you might find a hidden Mickey, of sorts, deep inside the mountain.

5. Atwater School of Art & Animation

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As you walk by Atwater Ink & Paint, look for the Atwater School of Art & Animation sign. The instructors are listed as: “Messrs. Clark, Davis, Johnston, Kahl, Kimball, Larson, Lounsbery, Reitherman, Thomas.” Do these names sound familiar? Well, these “instructors” are actually Walt Disney’s “Nine Old Men,” a group of key animators who provided direction for Disney animated classics like “Peter Pan,” “Cinderella” and many more.

Have you discovered other details of Buena Vista Street? Please share with us in the comments below!

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D23 Brings More Magic to Disney Fans

posted on June 3rd, 2014 by Jeffrey Epstein, Manager, Marketing


We know you love Disney. So we at D23: The Official Disney Fan Club are bringing the magic of Disney to 11 cities (including at stop at Walt Disney World Resort!) across the country starting this August during out D23 Disney Fanniversary Celebration roadshow.

The 100-minute shows — hosted by an archivist from the Walt Disney Archives and a D23 Team Member — feature rarely seen images, photography, video, and music that honor Disney milestones celebrating landmark anniversaries. And of course there are many Disney Parks anniversaries to celebrate, including Disneyland Resort Monorail, Matterhorn Bobsleds, and Submarine Voyage (55th anniversary), Haunted Mansion (45!), Splash Mountain (25), and the opening of Disney’s Hollywood Studios (formerly Disney-MGM Studios, celebrating its 25th anniversary). Plus we’re celebrating films, TV shows and much more when we hit the road.

D23 members can purchase tickets now at a discount, and tickets will be available to the general public July 9. Get all the details here.

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Also, D23 just announced the names of even more Disney Legends and Imagineers who will join Destination D: Attraction Rewind this November at Walt Disney World Resort. This member-exclusive, two-day event will feature panels and presentations — including some unbelievable images and terrific stories — about beloved Disney Parks attractions of the past, with an entire day dedicated to Disney’s participation in the 1964-65 World’s Fair in New York City. Disney Legends scheduled to appear include Marty Sklar, Bob Gurr, Alice Davis, Charlie Ridgway, Ron Logan, and Bill Sullivan. And from Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI), Gary Landrum, Jason Grandt, Dave Minichiello, and Pam Rawlins will take part. (Talent subject to change.) Plus there will be a special pop-up shop from Mickey’s of Glendale — WDI’s employee store, featuring a selection of Imagineering merchandise as well as collectibles created just for the event. And the closing party will be Pleasure Island: Rewind, an evening celebration themed around the Downtown Disney nightlife district. For more info and to get tickets, click here.

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Seven Reasons You’ll Love Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom Park

posted on May 13th, 2014 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


Can you believe we’re nearly two weeks away from the official opening of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train? The attraction, which will officially debut to guests on May 28, is the crowning jewel in the New Fantasyland expansion, which has also included the addition of Enchanted Tales With Belle, Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid, Dumbo the Flying Elephant and more.
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Here are seven reasons you’ll love this attraction.

  1. It’s the newest Disney “mountain” – The debut of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train not only added another attraction to New Fantasyland, but it also plussed up the park’s landscape with another Disney “mountain” – the newest since Splash Mountain debuted in 1992.
  2. It features an innovative ride system – Imagineers developed special five-car trains designed to swing independently from side to side as they move along the track.
  3. A fun interactive queue – The attraction’s queue allows guests to immediately step into the story of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” by becoming miners themselves and playing a jewel washing game. See photos here.
  4. Awesomely advanced Audio-Animatronics figures – Seven Dwarfs Mine Train features some of the most advanced Audio-Animatronics figures our Imagineers have ever created. (To learn more about the design process, click here).
  5. Its amazing level of detail - Like the rest of New Fantasyland, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is incredibly detailed – from the Wisteria Vine that lines the door of the Dwarfs’ cottage (just like in the film), down to the tracks of forest creatures that can be seen in the attraction’s pathway.
  6. Special nods to the film – Be on the lookout for a few historic treasures on your way through the attraction, including the song “Music In My Soup” in the queue. This tune was originally cut from the film during production in the 1930s, but Imagineers re-recorded it for this attraction. Also note the shadows of the Dwarfs marching home along the lift inside of the mine. These shadows were actually rotoscoped (traced frame by frame) from a scene in the original film.
  7. References to the previous Snow White attraction – When Magic Kingdom Park opened in 1971, Snow White’s Scary Adventures was among the list of opening day attractions. Look for familiar vulture figures perched at the top of the first climb, as well as Grumpy, Doc, Bashful, Sleepy, and Happy figures toward the end of the attraction.

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Time-Lapse Video: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Rises From New Fantasyland

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


As Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs announced last week, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will officially open its doors in New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom Park on Wednesday, May 28.

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The addition of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train not only brings the story of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” back into the park – it also adds a fourth Disney “mountain” to the park’s skyline (the other three are Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Space Mountain and Splash Mountain).

Watch Seven Dwarfs Mine Train rise up out of the ground in this new video, provided by Walt Disney Imagineering, below.

Visit the posts below for more videos of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train:

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The Magic of Disney Parks Storytelling: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland Park

posted on April 30th, 2014 by Tyler Slater, Social Media Content Coordinator


“The Magic of Disney Parks Storytelling” is one of my favorite Disney Parks Blog series, so I’m excited to take the reins from my fellow author, Erin Glover. And I’m even more excited to begin with one of my favorite attractions, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

When we announced that Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was reopening at Disneyland park a little over a month ago, it was absolutely amazing to see the excitement on the Disney Parks Blog and I, too, was thrilled for the return of the “wildest ride in the wilderness.” Now that the miners are back at Big Thunder Mountain, I knew the next installment of “The Magic of Disney Parks Storytelling” had to be about this classic attraction. So, are you holdin’ onto your hats and glasses? Ye-howdy, here we go!

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According to legend, a supernatural force has dwelled deep within Big Thunder Mountain and would be angered by any trespassers. Many believed these ghostly tales were what largely kept the area uninhabited for many years. But when an old prospector found some gold nuggets along the mountain’s slopes in the late 1860s, miners rushed to the town of Rainbow Ridge for their own chance to strike it rich.

For several years, Big Thunder Mountain Mining Company produced a large quantity of gold and the myths of a supernatural force remained simply legend. However, by 1883, the miners were forced to blast deeper and deeper into the mountain to continue producing profits. Shortly after the explosions began, strange things started happening: eerie noises echoed through the new shafts, cave-ins became frequent and equipment would mysteriously fail. As soon as the mine trains began rolling out of the station on their own, people started fleeing the area.

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Today, the Big Thunder Mountain Mining Company welcomes guests to hop aboard a train, but beware – you just may experience the mountain’s more supernatural forces and perhaps even stumble upon an explosive mine shaft.

Next time you hop on board Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, keep an eye out for the horseshoe at the entrance to the first mine shaft; you’ll notice it hangs right-side-up to keep the luck inside. Nearing the end of the attraction, you’ll enter another mine shaft with a “Keep Out” sign in front. There, you’ll see another horseshoe, however this time, it is upside-down.

Have you had a chance to ride the newly reopened Big Thunder Mountain Railroad? What is your favorite part? Leave your answers in the “Comments” section below!

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Imagineers Bring New Audio-Animatronics to Life at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

posted on April 29th, 2014 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


How do you recreate Disney characters for a new attraction? According to Walt Disney Imagineering, it all starts with a hand-drawn sketch …

Imagineers Bring First Full 3D Audio-Animatronics to Life at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Imagineers Bring First Full 3D Audio-Animatronics to Life at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Imagineers Bring First Full 3D Audio-Animatronics to Life at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Imagineers Bring First Full 3D Audio-Animatronics to Life at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

In this new video, our Imagineers take you behind the scenes to see how they’re bringing to life some of the most advanced Audio-Animatronics characters ever created. According to them, the process involved working with Walt Disney Animation Studios and going back to the original film to study each Dwarf’s individual motions and even facial expressions in order to get them just right. The end goal: To make them look as if they just jumped off of the screen.

What do you think of the Dwarfs? Tell us in the “Comments” section below

For more on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train read the posts below:

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All in the Details: Construction Walls Come Down at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

posted on April 25th, 2014 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


Seven Dwarfs Mine Train achieved another milestone overnight last night, when Walt Disney Imagineering removed the final construction walls from around the attraction.

All in the Details: Construction Walls Come Down at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train All in the Details: Construction Walls Come Down at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

These are the first photos we’ve shown that offer a look at what the entrance will look like, including both the Standby and FastPass entrances.

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is scheduled to open later this spring. Stay tuned to the Disney Parks Blog for more news and updates on the attraction.

For more on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train read the posts below:

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Today in Disney History: 1964 New York World’s Fair Opened 50 Years Ago Today

posted on April 22nd, 2014 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


You may have noticed the beautiful artwork that’s appearing above on the blog today – and it’s all in honor of the 50th anniversary of the April 22 opening of the 1964 New York World’s Fair.
Artwork by Disney Legend John Hench

It was for this World’s Fair that Walt Disney and his team designed several attractions that would eventually make their way into Disney theme parks, including “it’s a small world,” Carousel of Progress, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and Ford Magic Skyway (part of which would become the Primeval World along Disneyland Railroad).

Walt’s involvement with the World’s Fair gave his team new opportunities to develop innovative technology and Audio-Animatronics figures that would take Disney attractions to a new level. It also gave us Disney Parks fans a few Sherman Brothers songs that we’ve come to cherish over the years: “it’s a small world (after all)” for the “it’s a small world” attraction and “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” for Carousel of Progress.

Be sure to check out original World’s Fair attraction sketches and artwork from the Walt Disney Imagineering Art Library in our header section above.


Read more about Disney attractions at the World’s Fair in the posts below:

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All in the Details: Glittering Gems Light Up Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Queue at Magic Kingdom Park

posted on April 22nd, 2014 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


This week, we’ve received some of our most exciting “sneak peek” photos yet from within Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. As we previously shared, the attraction features an interactive queue with a few different elements guests can look forward to.

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One interactive opportunity, according to our friends at Walt Disney Imagineering, is the chance to sort gemstones at a 15-foot digital sluice box. Here, guests can drag gems into different trays and match them by color and shape.

All in the Details: Glittering Gems Light Up Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Queue All in the Details: Glittering Gems Light Up Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Queue

Buckets of glittering gems also highlight the area – simply gorgeous props!

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For more on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train read the posts below:

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