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September 2008 Archives

September 3, 2008

Disney Magic Heads Into Dry Dock September 2008

A Wave of Enhancements In-Store for the Disney Magic Cruise Ship as it Heads Into Dry Dock in September 2008

CELEBRATION, Fla. - An exciting collection of enhancements awaits the Disney Magic as the ship heads into dry dock Sept. 6-24, 2008. The 2,700 passenger cruise ship will undergo a series of upgrades for guests of all ages.

Here is a glimpse at what's in store:

Indulgence and Relaxation

Quiet Cove, the serene pool retreat reserved for the enjoyment of adults, will undergo a makeover including upgrades to Cove Café, the pool and the deck area. Cove Café, the ship's sophisticated coffee lounge, will incorporate a new seating area with plush, comfortable chairs providing the perfect venue to relax while sipping a cup of gourmet coffee. Meanwhile, the adult pool will be outfitted with soothing, cascading waterfalls from the two hot tubs. Teak deck and lounge chairs with plush cushions will line the pool, creating an inviting, stylish ambiance in line with the Vista Spa and Salon.

Fun for the Little Ones

The Oceaneer Club, a Neverland-themed play space for 3-7 year olds, and the Oceaneer Lab, a whacky and interactive laboratory exclusively for 8-12 year olds, will be enhanced with new registration areas that make the check-in process more efficient and hassle-free. This sets the stage for incorporating Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology in the youth activity areas later this year, which will further enhance and streamline the check-in process. The technology uses RFID tags embedded on wristbands, allowing children to simply tap a sensor to check in and out of the clubs.

Even the youngest cruisers will have a splashtacular time in "Mickey's Splash Zone," a new toddler water playground inspired by Fantasia's Sorcerer's Apprentice. This 385-square-foot extension to the Mickey Pool on deck 9 will feature star- and moon-shaped interactive fountains, a soft play surface and whimsical splash zones; creating an inviting environment for children not yet toilet trained and in swim diapers.

New Conveniences

The guest staterooms onboard the Disney Magic are receiving an infusion of technology with the installation of flat-screen LCD television sets. The new 22-inch units will be mounted on a swivel arm to allow easy viewing from multiple locations within the stateroom.

A leader in the family cruise segment, Disney Cruise Line offers three-, four- and seven-night itineraries to the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Land/sea vacation packages that include a stay at the Walt Disney World Resort are also available.

Florida Hospital Unveils New Details, Name for Disney Children's Hospital

ORLANDO, Fla., Aug. 27, 2008 - Officials from Florida Hospital today revealed new details about their visionary plans to shape the 'Children's Hospital of the Future,' which will make a significant impact on children's health throughout Central Florida and be a model for pediatric hospitals beyond the region.

The plans include sophisticated, interactive technology for patients; accomplished pediatric physicians who specialize in advanced, minimally invasive surgery; and a former United States Surgeon General who will provide leadership for the children's health and policy platform. Administrators also unveiled the hospital's new name, Disney Children's Hospital at Florida Hospital. While The Walt Disney Company has long supported children's hospitals both locally and around the world, Disney Children's Hospital will be the first children's hospital in history to bear the Disney name.

"This hospital will be on the forefront of technology and a model for patient experience that will be truly dedicated to the well-being of children," said Marla Silliman, administrator of Disney Children's Hospital at Florida Hospital.

One of the keystones of this visionary plan is the creation of a dedicated children's emergency department that will be the first in the country to feature Ambient Experience Design solutions from Philips. First impressions set at the entrance, in addition to patient rooms and dedicated play areas, are designed to soothe young patients and their families. Areas throughout the department will feature lighting and design elements to bring the comforts of outside into the hospital setting. Patient treatment rooms will offer animation selections on the ceiling accompanied by soft lighting and music, allowing "escapes" to areas such as the beach or mountains.

"Philips is delivering a captivating and comforting, child-friendly space. We're incorporating the latest in clinical design and technologies, as well as elements, to provide calming, positive assurances to patients and their families," said Brent Shafer, executive vice president and CEO, North America, for Philips Healthcare. "In collaboration with Disney Children's Hospital, we're aiming to define the 'Children's Hospital of the Future.'"

Technology will extend to the in-room experience as well, where the first Interactive Patient Care technology of its kind in Central Florida will allow bedside access to the GetWellNetwork® Patient-Life System® so that pediatric patients can play video games, watch movies and surf the Internet. Parents may also view the latest information on childhood obesity, asthma, diabetes and other topics through patient education videos on the same system. "GetWellNetwork is excited to contribute our Interactive Patient Care technology to the 'Children's Hospital of the Future' at Disney Children's Hospital," said Michael O'Neil, Jr., founder and CEO, GetWellNetwork, Inc.

"This technology enhances the patient experience and gives them access to interactive resources that educate and entertain to make their stay as comfortable as possible. With the touch of a keyboard or remote, patients or their parents can view vital health information and communicate with other areas of the hospital to help meet their health care needs."

Joining the medical leadership of the hospital, Dr. Antonia Novello, former United States Surgeon General, will guide the children's health and policy platform as the vice president of Women and Children Health and Policy Affairs. During her tenure as the first female and first Hispanic Surgeon General, Novello helped launch the Healthy Children Ready to Learn Initiative and actively promoted immunizations of children and childhood injury prevention efforts.

Also joining the hospital's staff are Dr. Bryan C. Weidner and Dr. Christopher M. Anderson, who will provide advanced surgical services including minimally invasive procedures for pediatric patients. Minimally invasive surgeries require fewer incisions, reducing blood loss and hastening patient recovery. Weidner is board certified in general surgery, surgical critical care and pediatric surgery. Anderson is board certified in general surgery and board eligible in pediatric surgery.

"The addition of Dr. Novello to our staff is a real coup for Disney Children's Hospital and the children of Central Florida and beyond," Silliman said. "In addition, the skill and expertise of renowned pediatric surgeons and the Nicholson Center for Surgical Advancement will help keep us on the leading edge of surgical technology." The new dedicated lobby and entrance for Disney Children's Hospital is expected to open in mid-2009. The three-level lobby designed by Walt Disney Imagineers will feature several of the most beloved Disney characters from "The Little Mermaid," "The Lion King," "Brother Bear" and "The Jungle Book."

"Walt Disney World Resort is committed to the dreams of children in our community, and we're pleased to lend some of our magic to Disney Children's Hospital at Florida Hospital," said Shannon McAleavey, senior vice president of Public Affairs for Walt Disney World Resort." This will be a special place that will enable children to use their imaginations in a unique, immersive environment that will contribute to their overall health and healing."

In the lobby, children of all ages will be able to draw individual markings on a cave wall, create jungle sounds on musical step pads, fish for virtual salmon, or play in a magical world of popping bubbles and dancing sea horses. And each night as the sun sets, the lobby will transform into a celestial display as unique as each child, featuring constellations on the ceiling and a musical score created by the young patients.

"The partnership between Florida Hospital and Disney demonstrates that Central Florida is quickly becoming known just as much for medicine and science as it is for its thriving tourism industry," said Lars Houmann, president of Florida Hospital and chairman of bioOrlando. "We believe Disney Children's Hospital will provide the blueprint for other children's hospitals in the future."

Disney Children's Hospital at Florida Hospital is currently undergoing construction and renovation, which is expected to be completed by 2010. The project continues to rely on the generous philanthropic support of the community.

When complete, the seven-story, 200-bed hospital will have family-centered pediatric rooms; a first-of-its-kind, dedicated pediatric Emergency Department featuring ambient lighting; an Advanced Center for Pediatric Surgery led by renowned surgeons; destination pediatric programs including advanced surgery, oncology, neurosurgery, cardiology, transplant services and full-service pediatrics; and an innovative Health and Obesity platform.

September 4, 2008

New Character Costumes at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Parties

Mickey and Minnie Planning to Show Off New Costume-Party Look at Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party Dates, Beginning Sept. 5

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - When the Disney characters dress up for Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party this September and October, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse will be debuting a whole new look. Mickey has traded his scarecrow costume for stunning purple and orange eveningwear fit for a Halloween ball. Not to be outdone, Mickey's best girl, Minnie Mouse, exchanged her witch costume for a party dress to complement Mickey's attire.

For Mickey, it's a top hat and purple tails. For Minnie, it's a party dress with a purple hat with an orange ribbon - bright and colorful, befitting the fun on 26 evenings between Sept. 5 and Oct. 31 when Magic Kingdom hosts the popular after-hours party.

Guests are invited to dress up as well for the 7 p.m.-midnight party which features two scheduled entertainment extravaganzas guests can see at no other time: the "Boo-to-You" Halloween parade and the bewitching "Happy HalloWishes" fireworks spectacular. There's trick-or-treating galore and also a chance to experience popular attractions throughout the evening.

Parties are slated for Sept. 5, 9, 12, 16, 19, 23, 26, 28, 30 and Oct. 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 13, 16, 19, 21, 23, 24, 26, 28, 30, 31. To purchase advance tickets, guests can call 407/W-DISNEY or visit disneyworld.com/halloween.

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DUCK-O-LANTERN: Donald and Daisy Duck are decked out in their newest Halloween party-wear in front of the Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. It's all part of the fun that takes place when the Magic Kingdom hosts "Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party." Activities include trick-or-treating, a Halloween parade and Disney's "Happy HalloWishes" fireworks show. A separate ticket is required to attend.

Disney's Official Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party Website

September 5, 2008

Calling All Walt Disney World Vacation ‘Know-It-Alls’: The Mouse Searching for 16 Parents for 2009 Moms Panel

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (Sept. 1, 2008) - Disney Parks today announced its search for a group of park-savvy parents to be named the 2009 Walt Disney World Moms Panel, following in the footsteps of the first-ever online Walt Disney World Moms Panel which has been fielding and answering thousands of vacation questions in 2008.

The quest is for 16 parents who pride themselves on being Walt Disney World "know-it-alls" and have an undying passion to share their Disney knowledge with others at www.disneyworldmoms.com. From Sept. 8 through Sept. 19, interested applicants can visit www.disneyworldmoms.com/2009 to apply for the panel. The application process begins with a series of questions and three brief essays - about their family, why they are a great Walt Disney World vacation planner and their favorite Disney vacationing tip.

"The first-ever Disney Moms Panel has responded to more than 9,000 questions from vacation planners this year. They have offered our guests countless tips to plan a magical vacation at our resort," said Meg Crofton, president of Walt Disney World Resort. "We thank the 2008 panel for their contributions and look forward to working with a new group of parents."

Since the launch of www.disneyworldmoms.com in January 2008, the current 12-person panel has responded to questions covering just about anything from how to sign up for a character dining experience to what items are allowed in the parks. In exchange for serving up their Disney expertise online in 2009, the expanded, 16-person panel will each receive a 5-night, 6-day vacation at Walt Disney World Resort for four people.

"One of the most rewarding aspects of being on the Walt Disney World Moms Panel has been the opportunity to use my travel experiences in ways that help other families plan the most magical vacations ever," said Darcie Maranich, a panelist and mother of four from Vail, Ariz. "I encourage anyone who has valuable pointers for vacation planning to apply - for me, it is a dream come true being a part of the Moms Panel, and I look forward to the information the next round of panelists will share."

About the Walt Disney World Moms Panel

Launched in January 2008, the Walt Disney World Moms Panel is an online forum where guests can get insider tips and insights for vacationing at Walt Disney World Resort from real moms who have mastered the art of planning a Walt Disney World vacation. The 2008 Walt Disney World Moms Panel consists of 12 real parents selected to share their vast knowledge of the resort and personal secrets of success with other families who are considering a trip to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Guests can pose questions and have them answered by the panelists, as well as gain access to other valuable park insights and vacation planning tools - including a new online "How-To" video series featuring homemade videos from the panelists sharing their favorite Disney vacation tips. For more information, visit www.disneyworldmoms.com.

September 11, 2008

Stopping by the Big Cheese's 'Office'

Actress Melora Hardin, star of NBC's hit series "The Office," at the Magic Kingdom - Sept. 7, 2008

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Actress Melora Hardin (left) star of NBC's comedy series "The Office," takes time with daughters Rory (age 6, second from left) and Piper (age 3, right) to meet a business suit-clad Mickey Mouse Sept. 7, 2008 at the Magic Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. New episodes of "The Office" return to NBC on Sept. 25, 2008 with a one-hour season premiere. (Matt Stroshane, photographer)

September 15, 2008

First Rescue Center for Gorillas to Open in Eastern Africa

International Partnership Will Reintroduce Rescued Gorillas in Democratic Republic Congo

September 15, 2008 -- The first center in eastern Africa designed to rescue, rehabilitate and reintroduce orphaned gorillas back into the wild will begin construction later this month in the Democratic Republic (DR) of Congo. The center will also include a conservation education and public information program, and will work in partnership with local conservationists and authorities.

The new center is projected to hold up to 30 eastern lowland (Grauer's) and mountain gorillas and will be located on 370 acres of land within a 1,235-acre forested area near the Tayna Nature Reserve, in Kasugho, North Kivu, a stable region of eastern DR Congo.

Tayna Nature Reserve


The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International initiated the project, which has been granted funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and USAID. The Fossey Fund has already been caring for 11 such orphaned gorillas that are victims of poaching and other illegal activities, in temporary facilities in Rwanda and DR Congo, in partnership with the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project.

Eastern lowland gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri) are classified as "endangered" and mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) are identified as "critically endangered" by the 2007 World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List, and experts consider both subspecies at high risk for extinction within several decades.

Orphaned Gorilla Ndeze will be among first gorillas at new gorilla rescue center

"This is a critical opportunity for us to help many more young gorillas that have been victimized by unlawful activity or habitat destruction, and also to strengthen our partnership with the people who are the true stewards of the land and the animals," says Fossey Fund president Clare Richardson. "All gorilla species are threatened with extinction. Both public education and rehabilitation services are critical to their chances for survival."

"Rescued gorillas require intensive care and specialized psychological rehabilitation if they are ever to contribute to the long-term survival of their species," says Alecia Lilly, Ph.D., Fossey Fund vice president. "Our decades-long studies of mountain gorillas and ongoing work with eastern lowland gorillas will provide a sound basis for this rehabilitation and socialization process."

Orphaned Gorillas Maisha and Kaboko at Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International

The Fossey Fund will operate the facility in partnership with the Congolese conservation authority ICCN (Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature) and the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance. Also included in the partnership are the Tayna Nature Reserve and Tayna Center for Conservation Biology, the association of community-based gorilla reserves in Congo (UGADEC), Conservation International, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and animal experts from Disney's Animal Programs.

Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA), which represents 18 primate sanctuaries in 12 African countries, will coordinate design and construction of the facility. PASA will also oversee a management team and staff to run the center once it is opened.

"Unfortunately, orphaned gorillas have become a serious problem in eastern Africa," says Doug Cress, PASA executive director. "With the creation of a specialized center, we will be better able to meet their unique needs and begin to reduce the poaching and illegal trade that has decimated these species."

The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund will provide funding toward initial operating expenses for the facility. In addition, experts from Disney's Animal Programs will provide materials and in-kind services to assist with development and construction of the center, help relocate the current orphaned gorillas and provide educational opportunities for students and the community.

"We are pleased to collaborate with these respected conservation groups to provide staff expertise and funding in the creation of this much-needed facility to rehabilitate young, orphaned gorillas and, ultimately, reintroduce them back into the wild," says Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., vice president of Disney's Animal Programs and Environmental Initiatives.

The land for the new center was donated by the Tayna Center for Conservation Biology. The site is adjacent to some 222,000 acres of forest in a fully protected nature reserve.

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September 16, 2008

Disney Vacation Club Continues Unprecedented Growth

Disney Vacation Club Continues Unprecedented Growth With Two New Development Projects Future accommodations are rooted in Walt Disney World history
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (Sept. 16, 2008) - Two highly anticipated resort developments announced today will expand the Walt Disney World experience and continue the rapid growth of Disney Vacation Club, Disney's innovative vacation-ownership program:

-- the 15-story Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort is scheduled to join the Disney Vacation Club family of properties in fall 2009, while

-- the Treehouse Villas at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, scheduled to open in summer 2009, will become the next room category offered at that resort.

Disney Vacation Club also announced that Bay Lake Tower sales are scheduled to begin on Sept. 21 for Disney Vacation Club Members, while sales to the general public and sales for the newest phase of Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa will begin at a later date.

"Our founder, Walt Disney, was well known for having one foot in the past and one in the future," said Disney Vacation Club President Jim Lewis. "These new resort developments share that dynamic sensibility, blending modern luxury and design with the nostalgic spirit of two of the most storied resorts in Walt Disney World history."

The announcement comes during an unprecedented era of growth for Disney Vacation Club, established in 1991 to give families decades of affordable vacations at Disney destinations and beyond. Disney Vacation Club membership has more than doubled since 2004, expanding to include more than 350,000 individuals from approximately 100 countries and every U.S. state.

That membership growth has also driven Disney Vacation Club expansion, inspiring Walt Disney Imagineers to dream up new vacation home opportunities. In addition to Bay Lake Tower and the Treehouse Villas, development continues on Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, The Villas at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at the Disneyland Resort in California and the recently announced resort at Ko Olina on the island of Oahu.

"What excites me most about this tremendous growth is that we're not only creating new accommodations, but new experiences," Lewis said. "Each of the projects we've undertaken at Disney Vacation Club is unlike anything previously available in our resort portfolio, and both Bay Lake Tower and the Treehouse Villas proudly build on that tradition."

Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort

The new, curvilinear Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort is designed to complement the fabled styling of the original building, which opened with the Magic Kingdom Park on Oct. 1, 1971, and featured comedian Bob Hope as master of ceremonies. Mimicking the color palette and strong horizontal lines of its iconic predecessor, the new structure even sports a rooftop lounge inspired by the original resort's A-frame architecture.

The tower's crescent shape, hugging lush landscaping, planned recreation options and a lakeside pool, promises to deliver some of the most dramatic views available anywhere at the Walt Disney World Resort. Some villas face scenic, undeveloped stretches of Bay Lake, while others offer spectacular views of the Magic Kingdom Park, located a short walk away.

The views promise to be equally appealing inside the tower's 295 two-bedroom-equivalent villas, where visionary design meets Disney chic to define the vacation experience. As the closest resort to the Magic Kingdom Park, Bay Lake Tower guests can easily return to their rooms for quick breaks from their busy day in the Park, where they can relax in an inspiring setting offering many of the conveniences of home.

Most of the rooms in this iconic resort will feature innovative touches, such as modern artwork designed specifically for Bay Lake Tower, flat-screen TVs, full kitchens complete with granite countertops and modern appliances, separate bedrooms, washers and dryers, and other home-like amenities. Plus, to accommodate larger families or families traveling together, many Bay Lake Tower vacation villas are designed to sleep up to nine, though some units can also be divided into one-bedroom villas that sleep five and studios that accommodate four, creating flexible options for smaller groups.

"These vacation homes will be furnished with some amazing custom pieces that are works of art unto themselves," said Imagineer Brian McFarland. "It's all about maintaining that feel of clean lines and open spaces, with plenty of Disney touches."

Add to the plans a spacious lobby filled with woven woods and glass-wrapped columns, sweeping views from a rooftop lounge and fireworks viewing deck, and the convenience of a sky bridge linking families to shops, restaurants and the monorail station, and you have a Disney Vacation Club destination that is both practical and fashionable.

Treehouse Villas at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa

Meanwhile, nestled in natural forest glens just around the river bend from the bustling Downtown Disney area, the Treehouse Villas at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa will mark the newest phase of what has become the largest Disney Vacation Club resort. Phase one of the idyllic lakeside community debuted in 2004, and phase three sold out earlier this year.

This new phase will revive Walt Disney World "treehouse living," a cherished tradition from 1975-2002. While crews are replacing villas of the '70s with brand-new vacation homes, Imagineers took special care to honor the original octagonal design.

The construction process itself is unique as each stand-alone Treehouse Villa will come together like a giant 3-D puzzle to ensure both superior quality and environmental sensitivity.

All 60 three-bedroom homes, elevated 10 feet off the ground on pedestals and beams designed to blend into the forest environment, will sleep nine and are planned to offer modern luxuries such as cathedral ceilings, granite countertops and flat-screen TVs, all presented in a style dubbed "cabin casual."

"I was lucky enough to have a treehouse as a kid, but it was certainly nothing like this," said Imagineer Todd Thomasson. "In developing this resort, we've all learned a new word, 'glamping,' which apparently means glamorous camping. The Treehouse Villas will be glamping at its absolute best."

Disney Vacation Club is owned by Disney Vacation Development Inc., part of the magic of The Walt Disney Company. To learn more, visit www.disneyvacationclub.com.

All Ears Fact Sheet and Photos: Bay Lake Tower

All Ears Fact Sheet and Photos: Treehouse Villas

September 17, 2008

Al Roker to Emcee, Charlie Trotter to Whip up Magic at Bocuse d’Or USA ‘Culinary Olympics' at Walt Disney World Resort

Contest to Culminate Sept. 27 in Star-Studded Gala Featuring World's Top Chefs

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - When the gold-standard Bocuse d'Or USA culinary cook-off unfolds Sept. 26 and 27 at Epcot in Walt Disney World Resort, TV personality Al Roker will emcee the excitement. When the contest concludes and spatulas rest, culinary great Charlie Trotter, along with other star chefs from around the world, will host a Gala Dinner and Awards ceremony fit for the most discriminating gourmet.

The opening-weekend event of the 13th annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, open to park guests, promises to deliver celebrity panache, high kitchen drama and extraordinary culinary moments.

Roker, together with Dana Cowin, editor-in-chef of Food & Wine magazine, will spotlight the action for Epcot guests in the park's World Showplace arena-like setting. There, eight two-person teams of the country's top chefs will turn up the heat in the kitchen with the hope that their culinary creations land them a top spot representing Team USA at the Bocuse d'Or World Cuisine Contest - commonly called the Culinary Olympics - in Lyon, France, Jan. 27-29.

Epcot guests can attend the competition and observe the culinary wizardry. Each of the eight teams will serve up elaborate fish and beef dishes to be judged by a top-chef panel: Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, Trotter, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Georges Perrier, Laurent Tourondel, and former Bocuse d'Or USA competitors. Dishes will be judged on excellence in taste, presentation, technical skill and overall kitchen organization.

The competition culminates Sept. 27 with a Gala Dinner and Awards ceremony recognizing the first-, second- and third-place teams. Tickets are still available for the star-studded event featuring gourmet cuisine, live musical entertainment, dancing, a silent auction and a chance to meet and mingle with some the world's top chefs, including the Gala Dinner Chefs, as well as contest founder Paul Bocuse, and the Deans of The French Culinary Institute, Alain Sailhac and Andre Soltner.

The Gala Dinner includes hors d'oeuvres, a four-course tasting menu, and a dessert reception prepared by Chefs Boulud (Daniel, New York City), Trotter (Charlie Trotter's, Chicago), Patrick O'Connell (Inn at Little Washington, Washington, D.C.), Perrier (Le Bec Fin, Philadelphia), Tourondel (BLT, New York City), Soltner (French Culinary Institute), Salihac (French Culinary Institute), David Myers (Sona, Los Angeles) and Traci des Jardins (Jardiniere, San Francisco), and will be paired with Diageo Reserve Signature Cocktails and Moët Hennessy Champagnes. The highlight of the evening will be a Dom Pérignon toast and the announcement of the Bocuse d'Or USA winning team.

The eight finalists competing for a spot on the US Team include:

# Timothy Hollingsworth, Sous Chef, French Laundry, Yountville, Calif.
# Chef Hung Huynh, "Top Chef" Season 3 Winner, Solo, New York City
# Rogers Powell, Instructor, French Culinary Institute, New York City
# Chef John Rellah Jr., Executive Chef, Hamilton Farm, Gladstone, N.J.
# Richard Rosendale, Chef/Owner, Rosendale's, Westerville, Ohio
# Michael Rotondo, Chef de Cuisine, Charlie Trotter's, Chicago
# Kevin Sbraga, Culinary Director, Garces Restaurant Group, Philadelphia
# Percy Whatley, Executive Chef, Delaware North Parks, Yosemite, Calif.

The newly selected Bocuse d'Or USA team will join 24 teams from around the world at the Bocuse d'Or World Competition in Lyon, held every two years.

Reservations for the Gala Dinner and Awards event are $450 per person, plus tax, at 407/WDW-FEST and include 2-day Epcot admission (a $150 value). Proceeds benefit Bocuse d'Or USA (a not-for-profit organization sponsoring the competitors' training, travel and culinary education).

Throughout the six-week-long Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, Sept. 26-Nov. 9, guests can sample food and wine from around the world at international marketplaces and specialty dinners, attend seminars and wines schools and meet guest chefs. For more information, call 407/WDW-FEST or visit www.disneyworld.com/food.

September 18, 2008

Disney Parks Announce 'What Will You Celebrate?'

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LET THE CELEBRATION BEGIN: In a New York City ballroom on Sept. 18, 2008, Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Jay Rasulo (pictured) announced that Disney Parks will welcome guests in 2009 with free theme park admission on their birthday. The free one-day, one-park ticket is good for birthday celebrants in 2009 at any theme park at Disneyland Resort in California or Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. In 2009 during "What Will You Celebrate?", Disney Parks will roll out new entertainment and services that allow guests to turn their personal milestones into magical Disney experiences. Guests can get more details at www.disneyparks.com. (Diane Bondareff, photographer)

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A BIG APPLE CELEBRATION: A Disney balloon vendor, Mickey Mouse and a group of children join Jay Rasulo (center), chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Sept. 18, 2008 during an impromptu visit to New York City's Times Square. The visit followed Rasulo's announcement that Disneyland Resort in California and Walt Disney World Resort in Florida will welcome guests in 2009 with free theme park admission on their birthday. Disney Parks have embraced a new travel trend called "celebration vacations" by adding new entertainment and add-on services that allow guests to turn personal milestones such as birthdays and anniversaries into magical Disney memories. (Diane Bondareff, photographer)

September 24, 2008

Disney Outlines Growth Strategy For Sports Business

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Sept. 24, 2008 - With the sports tourism industry expanding by $200 million last year, Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex today outlined plans to further grow its business and bring new visitors to Central Florida.

Disney's Wide World of Sports

The strategy includes plans to expand facilities, enhance existing events, diversify the Complex's events portfolio and create more one-of-a-kind, immersive sports experiences that only Disney can provide.

Expansion plans for the complex reflect a nationwide trend in which more youth are participating in sports and are willing to travel longer distances for competition. Last year in the United States, the sports tourism industry grew from $700 million to $900 million, with an overall economic impact of $6.1 billion.

"Our goal is to be recognized as the pre-eminent multi-sports venue for amateur and professional sports and create events that benefit guests, the community and business," said Ken Potrock, senior vice president of Disney Sports Enterprises. "Each year, Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex draws more than a million spectators who might not otherwise visit Central Florida, resulting in a significant economic benefit to our region."

At the center of the complex's growth strategy are plans announced earlier this year to re-brand Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex as ESPN Wide World of Sports, aligning the world's No. 1 family vacation destination with the worldwide leader in sports.

"Through the collaboration of two powerful brands we will be able to help make the ultimate sports dreams come true for young athletes and further establish the Wide World of Sports Complex as the place to compete and watch sports," said Potrock. "Athletes will be able to compete and train on world-class fields and courts and be immersed in an experience that only Disney and ESPN can provide.'

Creative teams are still in the early stages of working together to bring this experience to life. Initial concepts involve incorporating many signature elements of ESPN, such as sports programming, sports events, breaking news, on-air talent and sports celebrities to complement the event management and renowned hospitality already evident at the Sports Complex.

As part of this commitment to growth, Potrock today announced that Disney Sports and ESPN are creating a week-long, multi-sport event planned for July 2009 that will feature some of the top high school athletes in the country. The ESPN RISE Sports Festival, scheduled for July 18 to 25, will involve more than 2,000 young athletes, many of whom are among the most heavily recruited in the nation, competing in six sports - softball, baseball, basketball, football, lacrosse and track & field - at the Wide World of Sports Complex. The competition will be televised live on ESPNU and other ESPN Web outlets.

This growing demand in sports tourism has prompted expansion plans throughout the Sports Complex, including several announcements this year.

Earlier this summer, the sports complex opened Jostens Center, a new state-of-the-art field house that will enable Disney to accommodate twice as many indoor sports events each year such as basketball, volleyball, wrestling, cheerleading as well as other competitions.

In June, the complex announced plans to partner with Osceola County and the Central Florida Sports Commission to bring 13 United States Bowling Congress tournaments to Osceola County - each of which could bring 70,000 to 85,000 athletes and spectators to Central Florida. As part of this agreement, Disney will make land available for a new 100-lane bowling center that is large enough to accommodate the tournaments.

In December 2007, the sports complex debuted additional outdoor playing fields for football, soccer, lacrosse and field hockey competitions.

Each year, the Disney sports complex stages more than 180 events. Since its inception, the complex has hosted athletes from more than 70 countries involved in more than 50 different sports. "A majority of the athletes and spectators who compete in a Disney sports event are first-time visitors to Disney," said Potrock. "In fact, roughly 85 percent of these guests would not have come to Disney if it weren't for an event at our sports complex, and many of them, particularly coaches, are repeat visitors."

For example, one of the largest events is the Walt Disney World Marathon, which draws nearly 80,000 runners and spectators to Central Florida annually, making the event the largest sports event in Central Florida and on-par with some of the area's largest conventions. In addition, an overwhelming majority -- nearly 90 percent of Marathon and Half-Marathon participants - travel from outside of Central Florida, which has an economic ripple on area hotels, restaurants, retailers and more.

Since Disney opened the sports complex in 1997, nearly 2 million athletes and enthusiasts have competed at the venue including many of the biggest names in amateur and professional sports, such as Tiger Woods, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Mia Hamm, Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones, Serena Williams, Shaquille O'Neal and Pete Sampras, among others. In one year alone, Disney's competition schedule includes more than:

3,000 basketball games
2,400 softball games
1,800 baseball games
3,900 soccer matches

The Wide World of Sports also hosts the Atlanta Braves spring training season, a Tampa Bay Rays regular-season series, the Major League Baseball Draft, the NBA Pre-Draft Camp, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp, Chelsea Football Club-sponsored events, the Pop Warner Super Bowl, Amateur Athletic Union National Championships, Varsity All-Star Cheerleading competitions and USSSA events. ESPN televised 20 sporting events from the complex in the last year. Walt Disney World Resort and ESPN also annually work together to host the popular ESPN The Weekend event at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

September 25, 2008

Disney’s Favorite Pixie, Tinker Bell, Introduces Magic Kingdom Guests to Her New Fairy Friends

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- To celebrate the animated film "Tinker Bell," Disney's most famous fairy and four of her best friends are featured in a meet-and-greet experience in Mickey's Toontown Fair at Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort.

To meet Tinker Bell and her fairy friends, guests enter a magical forest called "Pixie Hollow," a special place deep in the heart of Never Land.

Tinker Bell, made famous in the 1953 Disney animated classic "Peter Pan," for her "hostess" role in Disney television specials and for "flying" above the Disney theme parks, is joined inside Pixie Hollow by four fairy friends: Fawn, an animal fairy; Iridessa, a light fairy; Rosetta, a garden fairy; and Silvermist, a water fairy.

In addition to meeting the Fairies at Magic Kingdom, guests can learn more about the Disney Fairies at www.disneyfairies.com.

And if Tinker Bell doesn't "ring a bell" or jog a memory, here are some "fun fairy facts" about the sprightly pixie:

-- Tinker Bell debuted at Walt Disney World Resort in 1971, as the classic attraction Peter Pan's Flight opened in Fantasyland. The beloved attraction immerses guests in the "Peter Pan" story as passengers board flying pirate ships bound for Never Land.

-- Tinker Bell began "flying" from high atop Cinderella Castle in 1985. Since then, she has taken her flight thousands of times to light the sky with magical fireworks.

-- Tinker Bell made her Walt Disney World parade debut in 2007. She made that premiere appearance atop a float in "Disney's Enchanted Adventures Parade," an entertainment extravaganza during Disney's Pirate and Princess Party.

-- Tinker Bell merchandise continually ranks among the top sellers of character-based merchandise at Walt Disney World Resort.

September 27, 2008

CULINARY GREATS -- Bocuse d'Or USA Semifinal Competition at Walt Disney World -- Sept. 26, 2008

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Disney Chefs present an elaborate fish dish, Sept. 26, 2008, created by Chef Richard Rosendale of Rosendales in Columbus, Ohio, during the Bocuse d'Or USA semifinal competition held during the launch of the 13th annual Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. The legendary Chef Paul Bocuse (right) and sole female Bocuse d'Or International winner -- Chef Lea Linster (left) of Luxembourg, judge the platter during the competition at Walt Disney World. The rigorous competition was held before a live audience. (Gene Duncan, photographer)

September 29, 2008

Celebrate Halloween Time at Disneyland Resort with Family Fun, Haunted Mansion Holiday and Disney's Happiest Haunt Tours

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Anaheim, Calif. - Halloween Time at Disneyland Resort will fill Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure parks with not-so-scary spook-tacular entertainment beginning Friday, Sept. 26 and continuing through Sunday, November 2.

The season of tricks and treats will be celebrated at Disneyland Resort with the traditional giant "Mickey Mouse" jack-o'-lantern in Disneyland Town Square, Haunted Mansion Holiday in New Orleans Square and Candy Corn Acres in Disney's California Adventure, along with festive foods, a lively mix of Disney characters in Halloween costumes and year two of Disney's Happiest Haunt Tours.

During regular park hours at Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure, Halloween Time at Disneyland Resort offers parents and children plenty of family-friendly fun in addition to the parks' many popular adventures. Halloween Time activities include special shows, meet-and-greets with Disneyland characters in spirited costumes, along with opportunities to decorate Halloween cookies and listen to storytellers at "Woody's Halloween Roundup" at Big Thunder Ranch.

Dedicated fans of Halloween and the Disney parks will want to sign up to experience all the "hot and cold running chills" of the season on Disney's Happiest Haunt Tour, an expanded version of the Halloween tour launched in 2007. From Sept. 26 to Oct. 31, the three-hour Disney's Happiest Haunt Tour will be offered twice a day, beginning at the "witching hours" of 5:15 and 5:30 p.m. The tour, conducted by a "unique" Disneyland Resort tour guide, includes the stories behind some of Disney parks' spookiest attractions, told from the perspective of Disney villains. Stops at thrilling attractions including the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Haunted Mansion Holiday, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Snow White's Scary Adventure are among the highlights of the tour.

Disney's Happiest Haunt Tour is darkly humorous and spooky and is not recommended for young children or for those who might not enjoy the featured attractions (or might not meet the 40-inch height requirement for Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad). The tour fee is $59 and does not include park admission. Guests who take the tour receive an exclusive collectible remembrance and a Halloween treat. Each tour group has a maximum size of 20 guests. Tours may be booked up to 20 days in advance by calling (714) 781-4400.

Popular, family-friendly entertainment also returns for the Halloween season. At Disney's California Adventure Sunshine Plaza is the Candy Corn Acres, where Mickey Mouse's pal Goofy sets out to grow the West's biggest and most unusual candy corn, including candy corn coconuts, candy corn carrots and candy corn pumpkins. The Plaza will be overgrown with the "fruits" of Goofy's labor.

Also returning for the season is Haunted Mansion Holiday. Inspired by the innovative animated film, Tim Burton's "Nightmare Before Christmas," Haunted Mansion Holiday comes to life when Jack Skellington and his friends create holiday mayhem at the Haunted Mansion in New Orleans Square.

A perfect way to celebrate Halloween in special Disney style is the one-of-a-kind Mickey's Trick-or-Treat Party. This private costume party lets little ones laugh and play with some of their favorite Disney Characters-including Mickey himself-and ride select attractions as they trick-or-treat through Disney's California Adventure park. The experience also includes interactive games, "spirited" music, and a nightly character cavalcade. It's an unforgettable evening of Halloween fun for everyone. Dates for Mickey's Trick-or-Treat Party are Oct. 3, 10, 16. 17, 22, 23, 24, 28, 29, 30 and 31. Tickets are $29 per person when purchased at least one day in advance, $37 per person for tickets purchased day-of and for all Oct. 31 tickets. They may be purchased online at www.disneyland.com or by calling (714) 781-4400.

Throughout the Disneyland Resort during Halloween Time, families can enjoy unique Halloween-themed food items including Zero's Ghostly Ghoulash, a favorite of Jack Skellington's pet in "Haunted Mansion Holiday," and merchandise including Disney costumes, collectible pins and coins and a special set of Halloween-themed Mickey Mouse ears resembling the Mickey jack-o'-lantern in Town Square.

For more information about Halloween Time at Disneyland Resort and new attractions, visit www.disneyland.com/halloween.

This Year's ABC Super Soap Weekend the Last!

Cameron Mathison Headlines ABC-SOAPNet Super Soap Weekend at Disney's Hollywood Studios; Thorsten Kaye, Erika Slezak and Jason Thompson Join the Event

This year's event marks the last in Orlando as ABC's Daytime Division embarks on the 2009 Soap Nation Tour, a collection of nationwide initiatives designed to interact with fans more often on a year-round basis.

BURBANK, Calif. (Sept. 29, 2008) - Cameron Mathison will headline ABC-SOAPnet Super Soap Weekend Nov. 15 and 16 at Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Also joining the stellar lineup of 30 stars from the ABC daytime dramas are Thorsten Kaye, Aiden Turner and Rebecca Budig from "All My Children," Erika Slezak, Michael Easton and Kristen Alderson from "One Life to Live," and Laura Wright, Kelly Monaco and Jason Thompson from "General Hospital." Soapnet.com will reveal the full Super Soap Weekend all-star lineup on Tuesday, Sept. 30.

This year will mark the last Super Soap Weekend in Orlando as ABC's Daytime Division embarks on the 2009 Soap Nation Tour, a collection of nationwide events designed to interact with fans on a year-round basis offering greater access to stars in more cities, more often. The final Walt Disney World weekend will be dedicated to the fans with special retrospectives and exclusive productions.

This year, special trivia and commemorative clip packages honoring the 45th anniversary of "General Hospital," the 40th anniversary of "One Life to Live," "All My Children's" 10,000th episode, and past Super Soap Weekends will be shown during the event. Super Soap Weekend will become more interactive than ever before with the introduction of new mobile programs and text trivia. A special musical number will be developed for Colgate Total Street Jam that honors the final event, as well.

Throughout the weekend, fans will have the opportunity to meet favorite stars from "All My Children," "One Life to Live" and "General Hospital." Festivities include celebrity motorcades, autograph sessions, game shows, interviews and the chance to purchase one-of-a-kind memorabilia from each of the shows. The Colgate Total Street Jam will close the event each day with live musical performances by some favorite daytime stars. Colgate Total toothpaste has served as the presenting sponsor of the event for nine consecutive years.

"We recognize that we live in a 'Soap Nation' - from primetime soaps to daytime soaps to reality and celebrity soaps, they are all around us. The 2009 tour will be a collection of coast-to-coast fan-based events that will ignite our 'Soap Nation'," said Brian Frons, president, Daytime Disney-ABC Television Group.

"Our fans have told us that they want us in their neighborhoods so we are traveling our daytime talent to better serve them. The new year will bring new ways we will involve our stars in more events, in more cities, more often." Frons continued, "We thank Walt Disney World for being a wonderful host and partner and look forward to our plans to send Super Soap off with a bang and the celebration it deserves."

"We have certainly enjoyed hosting the ABC soap stars - and their fans - over the years, and we're going to make sure this year's event is a fitting finale," said Rilous Carter, vice president, Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Confirmed events within the 2009 Soap Nation Tour that support the new effort begin on the West Coast with the maiden voyage of SOAPnet Presents Rock the Soap, a three-day cruise (from Los Angeles to Mexico) hosted by Bob Guiney and filled with top daytime stars including Rebecca Budig, Thorsten Kaye, Jason Thompson, Kelly Monaco, Kassie DePaiva and Bree Williamson, featuring musical performances, autograph sessions and parties. More information about the event can be found at www.rockthesoap.com; new contests will be developed to provide trips to New York so winners can attend "Broadway Cares," a one night musical celebration featuring daytime stars; and continued participation in the CMA's Music Festival with stars attending the event weekend. Additional information regarding new fan experiences and expanded affiliate events will be released next year.

ABC-SOAPnet Super Soap Weekend is included with theme park admission to Disney's Hollywood Studios, where guests of all ages are caught up in the glitz, glamour and excitement of show business. For future updates and more information about ABC-SOAPnet Super Soap Weekend, guests may call the recorded Super Soap Hotline recording at 407/397-6808, or visit the ABC Daytime Web site at ABC.com.

September 30, 2008

The All New Disneyland Birthday Club Delivers a Virtual Party Right to Your Computer

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As part of Disney Parks "What Will You Celebrate?" campaign, Disney fans of all ages will now be able to celebrate their birthdays with a personalized virtual party delivered right to their computers.

The all-new Disneyland Birthday Club, available online, adds to the fun of the magical offer announced on Sept. 18: Everyone who visits a Disneyland Resort theme park on their birthday in 2009 can get in free.

The Disneyland Birthday Club is a virtual club that offers Disney fans a complimentary Virtual Birthday Party via e-mail. After registering at www.Disneyland.com/BirthdayClub, they'll receive a "Happy Birthday" e-mail with birthday greetings from one of their favorite Disney characters, complete with "virtual" balloons and streamers, catchy birthday music and even a fantasy birthday cake with candles to "blow out," along with some additional birthday surprises.

The Disneyland Birthday Club Web site features birthday party planning tips, available upon registration.

The Disneyland Birthday Club is an at-home online feature, free with registration. Guests can also opt to join the Club when they register for the "Free On Your Birthday" ticket using the "What Will You Celebrate" link at www.Disneyland.com. Guests can begin using "Free On Your Birthday" tickets on Jan. 1, 2009.

Disneyland Birthday Club registration is now open. The first birthday e-mails will be sent in November. A Spanish-language version of the Birthday Club site, www.DisneylandEspanol.com/BirthdayClub, will go online in late September.

The offer for free admission on your birthday in 2009 is also good at Walt Disney World Resort, as Disney Parks embraces a new trend in family travel called "celebration vacations." This newly identified national trend shows that American families are hitting the road to mark life's special occasions - birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, reunions and more - with a "celebration vacation."

In 2009, Disney Parks will champion this growing trend with new entertainment and services that allow guests to turn their personal milestones into magical Disney experiences. Disney presented the trend to guests with a first-ever opportunity to visit free on their birthday.

"Birthdays are the one occasion that we all share every year," said Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, at an announcement event today in New York. "We thought a free birthday ticket would be the icing on the cake as we extend this new 'celebration vacation' trend to Disney Parks."

To help guests plan their celebrations, the magic-makers at Disney are prepared to make it easier than ever for guests to plan celebrations large and small, customizing and personalizing each experience. New Web tools can help customize any celebration.

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About September 2008

This page contains all entries posted to Disney and Florida Attractions News Blog in September 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

August 2008 is the previous archive.

October 2008 is the next archive.

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