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June 2014 Archives

June 1, 2014

A preview of Harambe Nights at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Deb's Digest Blog

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I recently had the opportunity to attend a preview of the newly announced Harambe Nights event coming to Animal Kingdom on Saturdays from June 7 through August 9. This is the first ever special event and the first regularly scheduled evening entertainment at Disney's Animal Kingdom. A special ticket is required for this after-hours experience. (See below for details.)

JUST WHAT IS HARAMBE NIGHTS?

Harambe Nights is a brand-new experience designed to celebrate the 20th anniversary of "The Lion King." Harambe Village and its people are the hosts for this limited-engagement experience, which allows the popular story to be told in a new and creative way.

The evening begins when you enter the village of Harambe at Disney's Animal Kingdom. The park has already closed for the day, so it's just you and the other attendees enjoying the welcome reception.

Harambe Nights

Refreshing beers, wines and savory appetizers are served. I tasted the yummy Moroccan beef kefta with tamarind glaze, and it had a small kick. The wines are South African, and my favorites are the Fairview Pinotage for that smokey flavor and the Spice Route Chenin Blanc with a fresh taste with fruity notes. The beer selections range from Tusker Beer to Bud Light.

Harambe Nights

Soon, guests will make their way to the brand-new Harambe Theater -- which also is home to "Festival of the Lion King" during the day -- for the nearly hour-long show titled "The Lion King Concert in the Wild."

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On the way into the show, each guest will be given "Lion Chow," served in a cylinder made to look like balsa wood. This definitely is my new favorite snack! The combination of sea-salted pretzel chips, cardamom candied pecans, golden raisins, dried cherries and candied ginger is perfection. It's impossible to stop eating after just one bite.

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Following the show, the real party begins as guests are escorted back into Harambe Village, which is filled with the sounds of Afro-pop music, dancers, stilt walkers, a DJ and characters!

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(Our preview of the event was held indoors due to the weather.)

Harambe Nights

Harambe Nights

Harambe Nights

THE SHOW

The heart and soul of Harmabe Nights is a new theatrical experience called "The Lion King Concert in the Wild." The show celebrates the 20th anniversary of "The Lion King" and tells the story of Simba coming of age.

Marsha Jackson-Randolph

Marsha Jackson-Randolph, who created "The Lion King Concert in the Wild" and is the show director, spoke passionately about the new experience.

"We are so excited to present this story in a way that has not been told before," she said.

This show pulls from some of the iconic scenes from the film in an immersive approach combining a 25-piece orchestra, the Harambe 16-member choir, eight dancers and two narrators, one of which is a celebrity. Much of the music will be familiar, but some new music was created for the show, as well. In addition, there are screens in the theater to enhance the visual contact and bring to life the characters you know and love.

Creating the new show has been an involved, collaborative effort among the various branches of The Walt Disney Co., she said. Disney brought in award-winning choreographer and director Warren Adams to help develop the show. (Adams is known for choreographing "Toy Story: The Musical," and he helped choreograph "The Lion King" for Hong Kong Disney.)

"We think this will be a journey of the heart for you," Marsha said. "We want you to allow your heart to be introduced to this story as told by the village of Harambe with the authentic dance and culture."

After Marsha spoke, we were invited into a rehearsal room for a glimpse of three scenes from the show. Understandably, no recording devices were allowed.

I can't wait to see this show in person!

FOOD.. ISN'T ALWAYS ABOUT THE FOOD?

In a word -- flavorful! I don't think guests, even those who consider themselves foodies, will be disappointed by the food served at Harambe Nights. Items are served at various cooking stations and are paired with the available beer and wines.

Some of our favorites include:

Roasted Beetroot Salad with Sunflower Seeds

Harambe Nights

... On-stage-seared lamb chops with tamarind pomegranate sauce

Harambe Nights

... the Fork-tender peri barbecued pork.

Harambe Nights

... Mango, radish, lime and mustard seed salad

Harambe Nights

Here are two of the vegetarian dishes:

Heirloom Legume Wat served over Basmati Rice

Harambe Nights

Eggplant Tikka Masala Curry served over Creamy Goat Cheese Pap

Harambe Nights

The desserts were delicious as well. My favorites were the Caramel-salted Tanzania chocolate Kenya coffee bite and the Chai cream with zebra stripes from Sanaa.

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Chef Robert Gilbert, Executive Chef of Catering Operations, discusses how to bring a most authentic experience to this event:

The culinary team made sure to include a few vegan offerings in the foods. Guests who are vegan, eat gluten-free, or have specific dietary should talk to the Disney Chefs in person about their dining needs when they arrive at Harambe Nights.

MY THOUGHTS

This is going to be a great experience, and I'm really glad I have tickets for the first show. I am impressed with the food and the small part of the show that we saw. It's easy to imagine a festive street party in Harambe Village, and I can see myself having a fun time, maybe even dancing!

My only concern is about the weather. On the evening of our preview, the skies were threatening and so we were inside Tusker House. I was assured there are contingency plans for the rain, but I wonder how much an indoor setting will "dampen" the experience of the party and impact the overall experience.

EVENT PARTICULARS

General admission tickets for Harambe Nights cost $119 for ages 10 and up or $79 fpr ages 9 and younger. Premium floor-seat tickets were initially available and are now sold out for all nights. The event runs from 7 to 10:30 p.m., and parking is complimentary.

Narrators for Harambe Nights are:

June 7: Viola Davis

June 14: Avery Brooks

June 21: Montego Glover

June 28: David Alan Grier

July 5: Michael Beach

July 12: Harry Lennix

July 19: Joe Morton

July 26: Alfre Woodard

Aug. 2: Brian Stokes Mitchell

Aug. 9: Patina Miller

To reserve tickets for Harambe Nights, visit Disneyworld.com/HarambeNights or call 407-939-1319.

June 3, 2014

MALEFICENT - A Review

Deb's Digest Blog

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I go to movies to be entertained, not to analyze and critique. There are certainly plenty of movie critics online if you want that take on a movie.

Maleficent is not great but it certainly was entertaining from my perspective. The film takes place in a fantasy world so events and people don't always behave how you might expect.

This is the untold story of one of Disney's popular villains, Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. We watch her as a young child explore her world with an open, pure, heart - welcoming, trusting, and loving.

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The story progresses into a very familiar one of - young love, a woman scorned, anger hardens the heart, retribution and then the movie evolves with an unexpected twist. However, if you are going to see the movie thinking it is the Disney animation story we grew up with, it is not. The story of the cursed princess has once again been reinvented.

Maleficent

Angelina Jolie is the heart and soul of this film and her vulnerability as well as her evil intensity, makes this movie come to life. Perhaps the best scene is when she arrives uninvited at Aurora's christening and everyone, save the King, is mesmerized and speechless. Maleficent is full-on evil and casts the well known spell on the child Aurora.

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SYNOPSIS: "Maleficent" explores the untold story of Disney's most iconic villain from the classic "Sleeping Beauty" and the elements of her betrayal that ultimately turn her pure heart to stone. Driven by revenge and a fierce desire to protect the moors over which she presides, Maleficent cruelly places an irrevocable curse upon the human king's newborn infant Aurora. As the child grows, Aurora is caught in the middle of the seething conflict between the forest kingdom she has grown to love and the human kingdom that holds her legacy. Maleficent realizes that Aurora may hold the key to peace in the land and is forced to take drastic actions that will change both worlds forever.

The film stars Angelina Jolie as Maleficent, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple and Lesley Manville.

"Maleficent" is produced by Joe Roth and directed by Robert Stromberg, with Angelina Jolie, Don Hahn, Palak Patel, Matt Smith and Sarah Bradshaw serving as executive producers. Linda Woolverton wrote the screenplay.

As part of the publicity for MALEFICENT, she appeared last week at Walt Disney World's Rock Your Disney Side 24 hour event. I was able to meet her :)

I give the movie 3 stars out of 5 and yes, I'd like to see it again.

June 9, 2014

Harambe Nights - Snapshot

Deb's Digest Blog

UPDATE: Check out our full review of Harambe Nights on AllEarsNet TV:

On Saturday June 7, Deb Koma, Linda Eckwerth and I attended the first Harambe Nights special event in Animal Kingdom.

This is just a quick snapshot of our experience -- for a more in-depth review of the evening, don't miss our AllEarsNet TV show on our YouTube channel this coming Thursday!

WELCOME TO ANIMAL KINGDOM

From the moment we arrived at the parking toll plaza for Animal Kingdom, we began to feel "special". A welcome banner was on display and there were lots of Harambe Nights signs leading us to a special parking area. Cast Members were decked out in face paint and animal ears headbands, clearly in the festive spirit.

After a quick scan of our event tickets, we were given a wristband for show seating and were on our way!

Harambe Nights


WELCOME RECEPTION

We arrived at 6:30 and the Welcome Reception was already in full swing! Live music, great appetizers, beer, wine, soft drinks and FACE PAINTING! Cultural representatives were sharing fun facts about their countries and there was a feeling of excitement in the air. The party had begun.

Harambe Nights

Harambe Nights

Harambe Nights


LION KING CONCERT IN THE WILD

Let me begin by saying ALL the live performers were outstanding -- from the orchestra, choir and dancers to the narrators and even the very animated sign language interpreters. Special kudos to celebrity narrator Viola Davis, who definitely got into her role.

Our chief complaint was that we wanted to see MORE of them. We were disappointed that the show relied so heavily on clips from the Lion King film, when there were so many talented live performers right there on stage. The narrators and performers could have told more of the story. Also, the stage platform the dancers were on was a bit too low. Even though we were sitting higher in the bleachers we still couldn't see their feet.

We wondered, too, about the view of those in the audience who were sitting in the more expensive "premium seating" area. Obviously, the view from the first few rows must have been fantastic, but we thought that audience members further back were probably having a hard time seeing the stage, since the seats were all on one level, with no risers.

Harambe Nights

Harambe Nights

Harambe Nights

Harambe Nights


HARAMBE STREET PARTY

Our concerns about the Concert in the Wild aside, we felt the remainder of the evening was a huge sucess. The Harambe Street Party was tons of fun. It took place all over the Village of Harambe (down to the Safari) and part way to Asia from Tamu Tamu! Plenty of tables and chairs, lots of excellent food and beverage stations. Characters roamed around the area throughout the night, dancing with guests and hamming it up for the cameras. There was a live band, and a DJ when the band took a break. We didn't see anyone who looked like they weren't enjoying themselves -- smiles and laughter all around!

Harambe Nights

Harambe Nights

Harambe Nights

Harambe Nights


Our Overall Rating on a Scale of 1 - 5 (5 being the best)

Deb Koma: 4.5

Deb Wills: 4.5

Linda Eckwerth: 4.5

We all agreed this evening was well worth the price!

General admission tickets for Harambe Nights cost $119 for ages 10 and up or $79 fpr ages 9 and younger. Premium floor-seat tickets were initially available and are now sold out for all nights. The event runs from 7 to 10:30 p.m., and parking is complimentary.

To reserve tickets for Harambe Nights, visit Disneyworld.com/HarambeNights or call 407-939-1319.


RELATED LINKS:

Rate and Review Your Harambe Nights Experience

Harambe Nights Preview

June 24, 2014

My Next Adventure - Italy 2015! Join Me!

Deb's Digest Blog

Thanks to everyone who participated in our Adventures by Disney Destination Poll this spring. The winning destination is ITALY!

Thanks to our friends at MouseFanTravel.com we have an exclusive adults-only Adventure planned for September 3, 2015!

Join Linda Eckwerth and me for an 8-night, 9-day journey through Italy!

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Itinerary Highlights:

We begin our adventure in Rome.

Day 1

Check into our hotel -- Gran Melia Rome Luxury Urban Resort

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Welcome reception and dinner

Day 2

VIP Experience at The Colosseum

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Tour some historic sites in Rome including the Spanish Steps, the Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain.

Pantheon


Trevi Fountain

Day 3

VIP Private Tour of St. Peter's Basilica.

St. Peter's Basilica

Private Tour of Castel Sant' Angelo

Private After-Hours Tour of the Vatican City Museum, including the Sistine Chapel.

Vatican City Museum

Day 4

After breakfast on Day 4 we travel by motor coach to the Umbrian and Tuscan countryside. On the way we visit Orvieto.

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Check into our next hotel Borgo di Cortefreda

Day 5

While in Tuscany we make pasta, experience a wine-tasting and dine in the 13th century Certaldo Monastery with a Medieval-themed banquet from the time of Boccaccio.

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Day 6

We depart after breakfast for Florence via motor coach.

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We have reserved entry and access to Michelangelo's David and a tour of the Duomo.

That afternoon, we have a private VIP tour of Palazzo Vecchio.

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Day 7

Breakfast and then we take an ITALO high-speed bullet train to Venice.

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We will enjoy a private gondola tour of the city.

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Private tour of the Piazza San Marco and Basilica

Check into our final hotel, the Hilton Molino Stucky Venice hotel

Day 8

Guided Tour of the Doges Palace, Venetian Carnevale Mask-Making, and our Farewell Dinner is aboard the Jolly Roger schooner.

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Day 9

After breakfast it's time to depart :(

Whew! What an itinerary!

Accommodations

Our home in Rome is the Gran Melia Rome Luxury Urban Resort! Experience Old World elegance at this stunning hotel that is enveloped in the scenic beauty of ancient Rome, offering spectacular views of St. Peter's Basilica and Castel Sant' Angelo. Located on the banks of the River Tiber, you'll find yourself in the heart of the cultural and entertainment attractions of the bustling city, just a short walk from the Vatican. With modern amenities, a magnificent pool and lush gardens, your stay at this urban resort will be truly unforgettable. 3 Nights


In Tuscany we stay at the Borgo di Cortefreda. One of the most exclusive hotels in Tuscany, it combines elegance and style with the true philosophy of wellness. All the comforts of a 4-star hotel: satellite TV, air conditioning, wi-fi and ADSL in room, minibar, hair dryer and telephone. 3 Nights


Our Venice home is the Hilton Molino Stucky Venice hotel. This hotel in Venice was once a flourishing flour mill Beautifully restored, it now houses a hotel unlike any other, offering a different view of Venice. A short, five-minute boat ride from the heart of Venice it offers breathtaking views over the city. 2 Nights

DINING

The Adventure includes 8 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches and 4 Dinners. The guides will assist you by providing recommendations for the "meals on your own."

FLIGHT INFORMATION

Arrive: Rome FCO
Depart: Venice VCE

WHY ADVENTURES BY DISNEY

I absolutely love the Adventures by Disney product and each of my experiences on my three trips were equally wonderful. Every little detail is taken care of for you. Your pre-trip planning consists of learning the rich history about the areas you will visit, not trying to determine where to stay and exactly what to do!

Before my first AbD, I found the offerings intriguing, but so expensive. Everyone I spoke with who had done an Adventure raved about it and said it was worth every penny. I had never done an organized tour before, wasn't sure what I'd think of it. I now stand with those folks and can only sing the praises about the incredible experience.

Here are some of the reasons I love Adventures by Disney:

A Disney representative meets you at the airport and a driver takes you to your hotel!

Every place we went, our rooms were ready and our luggage was already in them! No check-in lines, our guides had us all pre-registered and handed out the keys as we entered the lobby of each hotel.

Our guides were like the Energizer bunnies. No matter what time of day, where we were, or what the situation, they consistently went over and above. They made the Disney Difference.

We were treated like VIPs at almost every place we went. The Disney name goes a long way! We only had to mention at any of the hotels we were with the "Disney" group and folks couldn't do enough to make us happy.

Not every single moment is planned -- free time is built in for your own explorations.

At each stop we had local guides on the tour sharing their knowledge and expertise. They were able to answer just about any question asked and knew the special things to point out to us, things you wouldn't necessarily find in a printed guide.

It was wonderful to be able to look out the bus windows and see the scenery along the way. Since we weren't driving, one person wasn't missing the highlights.

All gratuities are included except for the Disney Guides.

Want to join the fun?

Download this PDF file and contact Adventures@MouseFanTravel.com


Here is a 2012 Adventures by Disney Video of this trip. It provides a brief overview, but since it is a couple years old, things could very well have changed.


FIRST-HAND REPORTS ABOUT ADVENTURES BY DISNEY

Read all about my Southwest Splendors Adventure by Disney!

Here's my trip report from the Backstage Magic Adventure!

Beci shared her Adventure by Disney to Ireland!

Colleen went to South Africa!

Erin enjoyed the Costa Rica Adventures with her family!

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About June 2014

This page contains all entries posted to Deb's Digest in June 2014. They are listed from oldest to newest.

May 2014 is the previous archive.

August 2014 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.