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February 2011 Archives

February 1, 2011

Magical Festivities Salute Chilean Miners as Walt Disney World Resort Honors the Freed Heroes and their Families

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (Jan. 31, 2011) - Magical new memories were embraced today by the rescued Chilean miners as they paraded down Main Street, U.S.A. in grand fanfare at Walt Disney World Resort toward the close of a Disney-sponsored vacation honoring the miners, their rescuers and their families.

Last fall, the world united to celebrate the dramatic rescue of the trapped Chilean miners. Since last Thursday, the miners and their rescuers and families joined in a festive gathering in their honor at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

Aboard Copa Airlines, the group of nearly 160 Chileans arrived last week in grand style to Orlando International Airport where they received a ceremonial "water salute" by local firefighting vehicles: a dramatic arch of water rising over the tarmac as the airplane passed underneath.

Their summer holiday (seasons are reversed in Chile) included a welcome party Friday hosted by Walt Disney World President Meg Crofton and local dignitaries at The American Adventure pavilion in Epcot. The miners enjoyed a long weekend filled with thrilling attractions, shopping, character hugs and VIP treatment in all four theme parks, creating lasting memories with their families.

One highlight of their six-night vacation to Disney was serving as Grand Marshals of the Main Street, U.S.A. parade Monday in Magic Kingdom. The miners and rescuers were greeted by cheers of guests waving Chilean flags in their honor, Disney characters and entertainers pulling out all the stops and the 'Mayor' of Main Street proclaiming their special day. To the accompaniment of "When You Wish Upon a Star" their day was capped by daytime pyrotechnics and streamers in a rainbow of colors of the Chilean flag. Later that evening, they watched Cinderella Castle magically transform during the nighttime spectacle, "The Magic, The Memories, and You!", a projection spectacular starring images of guests shot earlier in the day in the park.

"These courageous men captivated the world with their story of hope and perseverance," said Disney President and CEO Bob Iger. "Great stories are at the heart of all we do at The Walt Disney Company and we are pleased that the next chapter in this inspirational story is taking place at Walt Disney World Resort."

The Chilean miners (31 of the 33 miners were able to make the trip) were scheduled later Monday to share their lessons of hope, courage and pride with about 40 youngsters from local Boys & Girls Clubs.

Trapped 2,300 feet inside the earth for 69 days in a collapsed Chilean mine, the men were pulled from the darkness in a miracle rescue. In one of 2010's most compelling stories, their unbending faith and endurance sustained them throughout a saga that transfixed the world.

"We are not the heroes," said Omar Reygada, one of the miners whose comments were translated from Spanish. "Our families and all the people around the world who prayed, wished us well and helped us through our ordeal - those are our real heroes."

During their Walt Disney World vacation, the miners also will be treated to a keepsake group photo in front of Cinderella Castle and personal photo albums of their visit.

Their departure for home is scheduled for Feb. 2.

February 2, 2011

14,000 Birds of a Feather Flock Together at Walt Disney World Resort

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Feb. 1, 2011 -- While Donald Duck may be the most famous bird at Walt Disney World Resort, he's not the only one. He's apparently got a lot of company.

On a recent day in January, Disney cast members and friends counted as many as 14,000 birds, representing at least 110 different species around the resort. This day-long census was conducted during the first Holiday Bird Count at Walt Disney World. The one-day bird-fest enabled birders of all skill levels to join together to help determine which birds are found in Central Florida during the winter. The event was modeled after the Audubon Society's annual Christmas Bird Count, which began in 1900 as a way for scientists to track trends in bird populations.

"As part of our commitment to conserving bird species, we're excited to engage our cast members in citizen science projects," said senior conservation biologist Dr. Anne Savage, Ph.D. "Ultimately, our goal is to protect birds and their habitat and one of the best ways to do that is by sharing the amazing stories of wildlife found in Florida and around the world."

At Walt Disney World Resort, it appears that the most abundant bird species is the fish crow, with 2,725 of them cited. White ibises ranked second with over 1,000 birds roosting by Oasis in Disney's Animal Kingdom. The bird counters also noted some new species to the list, including Brown Pelicans, Hooded and Black-throated Green Warblers, a Forster's Tern, a Pine Siskin, a Vesper Sparrow and a Shiny Cowbird.

But the most photographed bird of the day was a life-sized duck wearing a sombrero in the Mexico Pavilion. Donald Duck showed his appreciation for the volunteers by posing for pictures with his bird-friendly admirers.

February 7, 2011

Destination D: Walt Disney World 40th Tickets on Sale February 24

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Destination D: Walt Disney World 40th
Tickets on Sale February 24 at 10 a.m. PST; 1 p.m. EST

The Event Offers Members of Disney's Official Fan Club an Exclusive Look at Walt Disney World and Features Disney Legends, Imagineers, Musical Performances, Entertaining Presentations, Rare Screenings, Special Gifts & More.

Plus: D23's Great Disney Scavenger Hunt: Walt Disney World Is Ready to Race!

Walt Disney World Resort is celebrating its 40th anniversary, and D23: The Official Disney Fan Club is marking this milestone May 14 and May 15 with their highly anticipated member event Destination D: Walt Disney World 40th, another unforgettable experience available exclusively to D23 Members. The event will take D23 Members on a journey from the moment when the first parcels of land in Central Florida were purchased in 1964 through the opening of EPCOT Center in 1982 and beyond.

D23 today announced that tickets will go on sale February 24 at 10 a.m., Pacific Time (1 p.m. Eastern Time). D23 members can purchase tickets to the spectacular two-day event at http://d23.disney.go.com/expo/030111_EE_DestinationDWDW.html. Last year's Destination D event was sold-out so fans are encouraged to book early.

Guests may also now register for D23's Great Disney Scavenger Hunt: Walt Disney World, which takes place May 12 & 13, and will send hundreds of teams across the Resort's four theme parks in what will be the largest scavenger hunt to ever hit Walt Disney World! Registration for the Hunt is open to both D23 Member and the general public. (Registration for the Hunt is separate from Destination D.)

The weekend's activities will illuminate the rich history of Walt Disney's "Project Florida." Destination D: Walt Disney World 40th will feature a remarkable gathering of Walt Disney World pioneers, retrospectives, screenings of rare and newly discovered film and TV footage and lively presentations that will give D23 members an unprecedented look at this truly spectacular World.

All Destination D guests will also receive a complimentary, limited-edition reproduction of the 1970 "Preview Edition" of the Walt Disney World souvenir guidebook from the Walt Disney Archives Collection. The 22-page, colorful book is just one of the gifts Members will receive. The complete Destination D: Walt Disney World 40th line-up (as well as information about D23's Great Disney Scavenger Hunt) is available at the D23 Web site and includes:

* Appearances by notable Disney Legends & Imagineers Marty Sklar, Bob Gurr, Jack Lindquist, Eric Jacobson, Tony Baxter, Charlie Ridgway and Ron Logan, in addition to Debra Browne, the 1971 Walt Disney World Ambassador.

* A special exhibit from the Walt Disney Archives featuring rare items and artifacts showing the creation and evolution of Walt Disney World Resort.

* A multitude of fantastic presentations covering topics such as bizarre and wacky moments in Walt Disney World's past, Walt's vision for EPCOT, and even a peek at the Walt Disney World that never was!

* Rare autograph session with Disney Legends and authors.

* An enchanting concert, Magic Journeys: A Flight of Fancy through 40 Years of Walt Disney World Musical Memories featuring Disney Legend and Academy Award®-winner Richard M. Sherman.


DESTINATION D: WALT DISNEY WORLD 40TH - EVENT DETAILS

Date: May 14 & May 15, 2011

Location: Fantasia Ballroom, Disney's Contemporary Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Registration: Open Friday, May 13 from noon - 9 p.m. Open Saturday, May 14 at 8 a.m. Registration will be located at the East Registration Counter in the Fantasia Lobby of Disney's Contemporary Resort

Tickets: Available Thursday, February 24, at 10 am PST (1 pm EST)

Visit www.D23.com to order tickets.

Cost: $175 per person; $215 for ticket plus registration of one Great Disney Scavenger Hunt team (between two and four people)

February 9, 2011

Walt Disney World Resort Offers Romantic Playground for Lovebirds on Valentine's Day and Every Day

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The storybook setting and amorous ambiance of Walt Disney World Resort has lovebirds flocking to the Vacation Kingdom for a romantic getaway. Moonlit strolls, luxurious spas and intimate dining make it feel like Valentine's Day every day. With all the choices available, couples commemorating their commitment have a "heart full" of enchanting ways to customize their Valentine's vacations.

Couples who've been bitten by the love bug don't need a fairy godmother to find romance at Walt Disney World Resort. This is, after all, home to some of the world's most famous romances: Cinderella and Prince Charming, Lady and the Tramp, Beauty and the Beast - and don't forget America's sweethearts, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse.

Throughout the 40-square-mile playground, love is in the air at the Vacation Kingdom. During a couples spa experience. In the middle of a romantic dinner. Or on one of the "love boats" that cruise Walt Disney World waterways.

Honeymooners thrive in the romantic allure of Walt Disney World Resort - a top-rated honeymoon destination, according to industry experts.

And for couples who want to make their own fairy tale dream come true - complete with Cinderella's coach and her famous glass slipper - Disney's Fairy Tale Weddings can create an unforgettable union.

The four Walt Disney World theme parks create a perfect setting for spontaneous romance - whether it's a stroll along the lush Maharajah Jungle Trek at Disney's Animal Kingdom or a relaxing stop for espresso and pastries at a sidewalk table in the France pavilion at Epcot World Showcase. Beyond the parks, couples can embrace a bouquet of romantic experiences that seem designed just for them:

The Couple that 'Spas' and 'Flies' Together".. - What's more enjoyable than a luxurious spa treatment? Imagine sharing it with that special someone. The Grand Floridian Spa & Health Club, in Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, features a "couples room" where guests can enjoy specialized spa treatments - such as massages and facials - with the one they love. For information about spa treatments, call 407/824-2332.

Make like Aladdin and Jasmine - fly through the sky with your loved one on an adventurous tandem parasail over Bay Lake. Those looking to soar to new heights can spend 10 minutes alone soaring high above Disney and get a bird's-eye view of Magic Kingdom and its neighboring resorts. Contact Sammy Duvall's Watersports Centre at Disney's Contemporary Resort, or call 407/939-0754 for reservations.

Magical Resorts - From the romance of an African lodge to the Victorian splendor of Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, the mood is set for an enchanting stay at a Walt Disney World resort hotel. Disney's fantasy hotels transport couples to faraway places with lavish theming, picturesque views and superior service. For reservations, call 407/W-DISNEY (934-7639).

The Love Boat - The Grand Floridian's Grand 1 - an elegant 52-foot yacht - can give couples, or parties up to 18, a stunning view of "Wishes" fireworks showering above Magic Kingdom during select evening cruises along Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake. Private butler service and gourmet meals also are available. Reservations may be made up to 90 days in advance by calling 407/824-2682.

Disney Dining Serves Romance - Couples find Disney dining infused with romance in settings ranging from subdued to spectacular. For Walt Disney World dining information, guests can call 407/WDW-DINE (939-3463) or check out all the possibilities at www.disneyworld.com/dining.

Nature Lovers - A horseback ride through one of the backwoods trails at Walt Disney World Resort is just the thing for couples who share a love of nature and each other. Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground offers wrangler-led tours (45 minutes) through the deep, pine-scented woods that make up part of the Vacation Kingdom's 40 square miles. Tours leave several times daily from Trail Blaze Corral, and may be reserved by calling 407/WDW-PLAY (939-7529).

Romantic Evening - Horse-drawn carriage rides through the wilderness of Walt Disney World Resort are a romantic treat for couples looking for a secluded nighttime outing. The antique carriages depart from Pioneer Hall at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground and traverse throughout the scenic landscape of the 750-acre rustic resort. Or guests can choose a relaxing old-fashioned carriage ride through Disney's Port Orleans Resort-Riverside with pickup at Boatwright's Dining Hall. For reservations, guests can call 407/WDW-PLAY (939-7529).

Weddings Around the 'World' - The epitome of Disney romance can be summed up in four words: Disney's Fairy Tale Weddings. Since the first wedding at Disney's Wedding Pavilion in 1995, approximately 1,600 couples each year have exchanged vows at Walt Disney World Resort.

For these couples, dreams become reality. Where else but at Disney could a bride arrive for her wedding in Cinderella's glass coach, have a handsome major domo carry wedding rings to the altar in a glass slipper, or have Mickey and Minnie greet guests at the reception?

Whether it's an elegant ball at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, a traditional ceremony at Disney's Wedding Pavilion or a beach-themed wedding complete with tiki torches, leis and luau on one of the Walt Disney World white-sand beaches, Disney custom designs each wedding with the famous "Disney Difference" - providing attention to the tiniest detail.

Disney's wedding specialists incorporate all the elements in a one-stop shop including the ceremony, entertainment, cuisine, floral arrangements, audiovisuals and accommodations. For more information on Disney's Fairy Tale Weddings, call 321/939-4623 or visit disneyweddings.com.

Couples who are tying the knot back home can arrange a Disney's Fairy Tale Honeymoon by calling 321/939-4623 or visiting the website at disneyhoneymoons.com.

Renewing Vows - Many couples who've been married for years are coming to Walt Disney World Resort, often with their families, to renew their vows five, 10, 25 and 50 years later. A Disney vacation provides the perfect backdrop to celebrate this family milestone. Disney's Fairy Tale Weddings experts can tailor the ceremony and celebration to suit each couple.

February 11, 2011

Disney Fantasy Moves a Step Closer to Reality During Keel Laying Ceremony

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PAPENBURG, GERMANY (Feb. 11, 2011) - Today, Disney Cruise Line celebrated the keel laying of the Disney Fantasy at the Meyer Werft shipyard. This is the second of two newly-designed ships that take the family cruise experience to all new heights. Sister ship to the Disney Fantasy, Disney Dream, entered service on Jan. 26, 2011.

The keel laying ceremony is a significant milestone in the ship building process when the first block, or section of the ship, is lowered into the building dock and a coin is placed under the keel for good fortune. Placing the coin was Karl Holz, President of Disney Cruise Line, assisted by Minnie Mouse.

The Disney Fantasy will offer many of the innovations that the Disney Dream features and brought to the cruise industry for the very first time, including AquaDuck -- the world's first shipboard water coaster. However, the Disney Fantasy will feature a few new design elements and guest experiences that will give the ship a unique identity all her own.

The 4,000-passenger Disney Fantasy will sail week-long Caribbean cruises from Port Canaveral, Fla. with its maiden voyage scheduled for March 31, 2012.

February 15, 2011

Let the Memories Begin with the Disney Parks Memories Sweepstakes

Let the Memories Begin with the Disney Parks Memories Sweepstakes
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Enter the Disney Parks Memories Sweepstakes for a chance to win a 4-person family vacation to a Disney Resort each week in February 2011!

Guests can enter either online or via mobile once a day for the chance to win:
• Current week: 5-days, 4-nights at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida
• Week 4: 7-days, 6-nights at any Disney Resort worldwide

Guests can also go to the sweepstakes site each day to download the Daily Digital Download, featuring exclusives such as Disney-themed picture frames, wallpapers and more.

The sweepstakes runs from now until Feb. 28, 2011.

For rules, please see: Official Rules

Schedule Announced for D23's Destination D: Walt Disney World 40th at the Walt Disney World Resort

This year Walt Disney World Resort is celebrating its milestone 40th anniversary, and D23 is saluting this magnificent occasion with a magical two-day event that will illuminate the rich history and storied legacy of Walt Disney's "Project Florida" for fans of all backgrounds - from the casual guest to the most ardent armchair experts.

Destination D: Walt Disney World 40th will transport D23 Members on a journey from the moment the first parcels of land in Central Florida were purchased in 1964 through the opening of EPCOT Center in 1982. The exclusive event will offer two full days of special entertainment, surprise guest appearances, a remarkable gathering of Walt Disney World "pioneers," retrospectives, screenings of rare and newly discovered film and TV footage, archival displays and informative presentations that will give D23 Members an unprecedented look at this truly spectacular World.

Highlights of Destination D: Walt Disney World 40th include appearances by such notables as Disney Legends Marty Sklar, Bob Gurr, Jack Lindquist, Charlie Ridgway, Tom Nabbe, Bob Matheison, Orlando Ferrante and Ron Logan, in addition to Debra Browne, the 1971 Walt Disney World Ambassador to the World.

The weekend will culminate with an enchanting concert, Magic Journeys: A Flight of Fancy through 40 Years of Walt Disney World Musical Memories, featuring Disney Legend and Academy Award® winner Richard M. Sherman.

All guests will also receive a complimentary, limited-edition reproduction of the 1970 "Preview Edition" of the Walt Disney World souvenir guidebook. Published exclusively for the Walt Disney Archives Collection, the 22-page soft cover booklet - featuring colorful photography and exquisite illustrations - highlights the excitement that was soon to debut in Orlando.

Plus there will be a special exhibit from the Walt Disney Archives featuring rare items and artifacts from the creation and evolution of Walt Disney World Resort.

If you wish to request sign language interpreting services for this event, please submit your request to feedback@disneytwentythree.com at least two weeks prior to the event date.

You may purchase discounted Walt Disney World Resort park tickets to use during your time at Destination D and/or D23's Great Disney Scavenger Hunt by clicking here.

Current line-up for Destination D: Walt Disney World 40th (times, panels and talent subject to change):

SATURDAY, MAY 14, 2011

Opening Program
9:30 a.m. - 10 a.m.
D23 Head Steven Clark welcomes D23 Members with some special guests and a few surprises you won't want to miss!

Weird Walt Disney World
10 a.m. - 11 a.m.
Following their laugh-out-loud antics at Destination D: Disneyland '55, Walt Disney Archives director Becky Cline and Disney historian Paul F. Anderson are at it again - this time taking guests on a fun-filled trip through the strangest and most bizarre parts of Walt Disney World history. A peculiar "lawnmower tree?" A crazy cast of singing fruits and vegetables? Who knows what the duo will unearth as they explore the wonderfully weird and wacky side of the Vacation Kingdom.

Walt Disney World: The Way We Were
11 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
Remember the charm of the Orange Bird and the musical delights of the Mickey Mouse Revue? The elegant Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village and backwoods adventures along the Fort Wilderness Railway? Join Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith as we explore vintage pictures of Walt Disney World theme parks and resorts, including rare photos of construction and a fond look at some favorite attractions, shops and restaurants of the past.

Lunch Break
12:15 p.m. - 2:15 p.m.

EPCOT: Walt Disney's Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow
2:15 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Walt's vision for an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow far transcended the realm of family entertainment and for many years remained shrouded in secrecy. Re-enter the 1960s hallways of WED Enterprises with Archivist Steven Vagnini and Disney expert Paul F. Anderson in this unprecedented look at the inspirations and plans for Walt's EPCOT, and find out the little-known ways that Imagineers brought their late founder's dream to reality throughout the entire Walt Disney World Resort.

Past Forward: A History of Walt Disney World on Television
3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Like its predecessor, Disneyland, the early success of Walt Disney World Resort can be attributed to the extensive television exposure it received through both Disney broadcast efforts and news media coverage. Be sure to tune in to this nostalgic journey through Walt Disney World Resort history as reflected in the many national network TV specials and nascent offerings from the early years of The Disney Channel. Join Disney Archivist Rob Klein as he takes TV remote in hand to stroll through some of the many highlights of Walt Disney World Resort on television.

The Walt Disney World That Never Was
4:30 p.m. - 5:45 p.m.
What do the Western River Expedition, Asian Resort Hotel and Sleeping Beauty dark ride have in common? While these amazing experiences were crafted in the minds of skilled artists at Walt Disney Imagineering, they comprise a different kind of dimension of Walt Disney World history: the grand experiences that never made it off the drawing board or out of the model shop. With an array of rare artwork and photographs, longtime Imagineer Tony Baxter lifts the curtain and takes us on a behind-the-scenes tour through the incredible world of the Walt Disney World that never was.

Dinner Break
5:45 p.m. - 8 p.m.

From the Vault: Walt Disney World Resort on Film
8 p.m. - Walt Disney World is not often associated with motion pictures and film, but from before groundbreaking up through the creation of EPCOT Center, Walt Disney World Resort was heavily promoted through such theatrical and internal films as "Project Florida," "The Magic of Walt Disney World," "A Dream Called EPCOT" and "EPCOT 77." Join your hosts Disney Imagineer Tony Baxter and Disney author and historian Tim O'Day as they screen these rare treasures from the Disney film vaults, plus newly discovered and restored documentation footage of the construction and early years of Walt Disney World Resort.

SUNDAY, MAY 15, 2011
Sunday Morning Surprise with the Walt Disney World Resort Ambassador Team
9:30 a.m. - 10 a.m.
You won't want to miss this very special - and did we mention surprising? - presentation at the start of your day!

Walt Disney World in Detail
10 a.m. - 11 a.m.
Think you know everything there is to know about the Walt Disney World Resort? Find out as we join Disney author and Imagineer Jason Surrell as he uncovers the little-known details and design references that have made ride vehicles, cast member costumes and even unassuming trash cans such treasured parts of the magic.

Imagineering Walt Disney World: From Yesteryear to Tomorrowland
11 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
Join longtime Imagineer Eric Jacobson, who oversees the portfolio for Disney's largest resort in the world. Eric will share insider stories and images of yesteryear, as well as new and exciting surprises of things on the horizon at Walt Disney World.

Lunch Break
12:15 p.m. - 2:15 p.m.

Creating "A Whole New Disney World"
2:15 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
What began as 27,400 acres of quiet Central Florida swampland blossomed into an incredible, one-of-a-kind vacation destination "Where Dreams Come True." From the top-secret acquisition of the land to the Imagineering and entertainment behind the magic, hear the stories of how it all happened in this impressive panel discussion featuring: Debra Browne, Orlando Ferrante, Bob Foster, Bob Gurr, and Ron Logan. Hosted by Disney Legend Marty Sklar.

Making the Magic Happen
3:30 p.m. - 4:45 p.m.
Opening and maintaining a resort the size of the city of San Francisco was no easy task and our panel of Disney Legends - Jack Lindquist, Bob Matheison, Tom Nabbe, Charlie Ridgway and Bill Sullivan - will recount what life was like making the magic happen, from opening the Magic Kingdom through the debut of EPCOT Center. It's a story of challenges, misadventures, creativity, and unbridled excitement for the leaders who inherited "A Whole New Disney World" from Uncle Walt and his Imagineers. Hosted by Tim O'Day.

Quick Break
4:45 p.m. - 5 p.m.

Autograph Session with Disney Legends and Authors
5 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.
Please note, there is limit of one item per person to be signed for each guest. Thank you.

Dinner Break
6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.

Magic Journeys: A Flight of Fancy through 40 Years of Walt Disney World Musical Memories
8:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
As a spectacular conclusion to Destination D: Walt Disney World 40th, Disney Legend and Oscar® winner Richard M. Sherman, who along with his brother Robert has contributed a multitude of tunes to the Disney parks songbook, headlines this unforgettable tribute to the melodies that helped shape the World.

Micks N' Mingle
9:30 p.m. - 10:45 p.m.
One last opportunity to meet your fellow D23 Members, the D23 Team behind Destination D: Walt Disney World 40th and some of our special guest participants before we officially bring our extraordinary event to a close.

NOTE: Available only to D23 Members in good standing. Members may reserve a ticket for themselves and one (1) guest. There are a limited number of tickets available. The room will be cleared during several breaks; during these breaks seats may not be saved. This is a separate event from D23's Great Disney Scavenger Hunt. D23 Members will be required to provide their membership number when purchasing tickets. Credentials may be picked up only with a valid photo ID AND D23 MEMBERSHIP CARD. D23 Members who do not bring their membership card may not be admitted to the event. Ticketed members who do not attend the event forfeit their place as well as all experiences, benefits, and gifts associated with the event. All D23 Special Events are subject to change without notice. Panels are subject to change. Talent is subject to availability. There are no cancelations or refunds, and tickets are not transferable.

Event Information

DATES
May 14 and 15, 2011

LOCATION
Fantasia Ballroom, Disney's Contemporary Resort
Walt Disney World
Orlando, Florida

REGISTRATION
Open Friday, May 13 from noon - 9 p.m. Open Saturday, May 14 at 8 a.m. Registration will be located at the East Registration Counter in the Fantasia Lobby of Disney's Contemporary Resort.

TICKETS
Available Thursday, February 24, at 10 a.m. PST/ 1 p.m. EST. Check back here for link to order tickets.

COST
$175 per person; $215 for ticket plus one Great Disney Scavenger Hunt team (of between two and four people)

February 21, 2011

Baby Gorilla Reaches Milestone

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Feb. 18, 2011 -- At Disney's Animal Kingdom, a very rare gorilla named Lilly is about to reach a monumental milestone - her first birthday. And while birthdays in the animal world are not typically marked on a calendar, Lilly's first year has been historic.

Since she was born last Feb. 19, animal care experts around the globe have been keeping a watchful eye on Lilly's development. Within weeks after her birth, Disney's animal care team noticed she was different. She was much smaller than other gorillas her age and was not meeting typical behavioral milestones, such as grasping, rolling over and crawling. In addition, Lilly's mother Kashata seemed to be holding the endangered western lowland gorilla longer than normal.

Puzzled, the team scoured medical journals and found no reports of similar cases. After consulting with external medical and pediatric experts, they conducted a series of tests to rule out possible causes, such as vitamin deficiencies, thyroid disorders and liver abnormalities. While the exact cause of her condition is still unknown, animal care experts believe she may have a developmental delay that affects her nerve and muscle cells. Without similar documented case studies in veterinary literature, the team realized that they had to pioneer new protocols in animal care and shifted their emphasis to treatment.

Each day, a team of animal keepers engages Lilly in what appears to be a form of play, but is actually a form of structured therapy. They encourage her to climb, roll over and grasp objects, including food and toys, all in an effort to strengthen her muscles and spark her curiosity. Since September, the team has noted a marked difference in the young primate. She now weighs 13 pounds - three pounds more than she did in November, and she appears much more active and social among her family grouping.

"We are committed to providing all our animals with the best care," according to veterinarian Mark Stetter, D.V.M. "In Lilly's case, we are encouraged by the progress in her stamina, strength and dexterity. But since there are no other documented cases like her, we are continuing to monitor her closely."

Along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, Disney guests are captivated by Lilly. They are in awe of her toddler-like curiosity and marvel watching the tender interaction between her and the other gorillas on exhibit, including her 450-pound father, Gino.

For Disney's Animal Programs team members, there's no better way to celebrate a baby's first birthday. "We are sharing the knowledge we're learning from Lilly among professionals in the medical and zoological communities to help improve care for animals in zoological habitats and conservation efforts in the wild," said Stetter.

February 23, 2011

Magic Kingdom Guests Will Be Able To Determine a Time To Meet with Mickey Mouse Beginning Later This Spring

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Magic Kingdom officials have a hunch a really "hot ticket" in their realm this summer is going to be something other than a ride, a snack or a show. Rather, it's a first-ever opportunity to nail down a time to meet with Mickey Mouse.

When meet-and-greets with Mickey move into a permanent new location in Town Square later this spring, Magic Kingdom guests will be able to obtain a Disney's FASTPASS ticket specifying a one-hour window when they can return to see the popular character for hugs, photos and autographs -- without waiting in the standby queue. It will mark the first time the complimentary, computerized service has been available for a character meet-and-greet at any Disney Park.

Since spending time with Disney characters is at the top of the "must-do list" of many guests, the FASTPASS ticket will allow them to experience their Mickey Mouse meet-and-greets more conveniently. As a result, guests will be able to devote more time enjoying other Magic Kingdom experiences with family and friends.

The new meet-and-greet location, Town Square Theater, will be located inside the current Exposition Hall area just inside the park entrance. Imagineers already are working to completely transform the space for the new experience. "This isn't just remodeling Expo Hall; it is completely re-imagining this entire venue as a beautiful Victorian-era theater and the new home for Mickey Mouse," Jon Georges, WDI Director, Senior Show Producer, said.

"Mickey and Main Street, U.S.A. are great examples of pure Americana that complement each other very well," Concept Designer Jason Grandt said. "We drew a lot of inspiration from classic Mickey animated shorts such as The Nifty Nineties and Mickey's Grand Opera. Many of the scenes in these shorts look like they take place right on Main Street."

Guests arrive at a building befitting Mickey Mouse's stardom -- with a grand-Victorian-theater elevation, including a marquee that glistens with gold-leaf trim and sparkles with lights. Inside, there's a mosaic floor, lush curtains with gold rope tie-backs and polished-brass chandeliers. Imagineers are creating new elements and surprises for Magic Kingdom guests, including an interactive queue -- with an extra touch of Disney magic -- and highly themed retail shops.

The queue takes guests "backstage," where Mickey is waiting to greet them in a rehearsal-room environment amid posters, steamer trunks and stage props.

In addition, during the New Fantasyland construction, royalty will be visiting as the Disney Princesses will be in Town Square Theater to meet and greet their loyal subjects.

Currently, guests can visit with Mickey Mouse in Tomorrowland, in a location to the right of Space Mountain. Meet-and-greet experiences with the Disney Princesses are currently at Adventureland Verandah.

February 25, 2011

Disney’s Innovative Technology for Visually Impaired Guests Earns National Award

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., February 22, 2011 - Walt Disney Parks and Resorts first-of-its-kind technology developed for visitors with disabilities has received another national accolade. The Assistive Handheld Technology Device for visually and hearing impaired guests earned the American Foundation for the Blind's prestigious Access Award.

The nonprofit organization's Access Award honors companies that foster equality by designing their services for all people. The foundation credited Disney's Assistive Handheld Technology Device with creating "unprecedented freedom" for guests with disabilities.

"Too often, swift advances in technology bring the rewards of convenience and entertainment to an eager world while inadvertently leaving those who are visually impaired behind," said Carl R. Augusto, AFB president and CEO. "Each of this year's Access Award winners displayed a real commitment to making sure their products and services are equally accessible to everyone. And with the growing number of people with vision loss, focusing on accessibility is not only the right thing to do, it's also a savvy business decision."

Initially debuted by Disney engineers in 2001, the Assistive Handheld Technology Device recently added ground-breaking, Disney-patented* technology that expands guests' accessibility through audio and visual descriptions at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. The 7.2-ounce device displays vivid audio narratives and descriptions of popular rides, attractions, and scenery. Utilizing wireless technology, an interactive menu allows users to access diverse information including architectural elements or the location of the closest restroom, and takes pre-programmed actions to fully immerse guests in the Disney experience.

"Working with our own team of experts and industry leaders, we continuously researched and tested new ways to achieve rich visual and audio descriptions for moving rides and outdoor scenery," said Greg Hale, chief safety officer and vice president of Worldwide Safety and Accessibility for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. "The unprecedented technology we introduced last year exemplifies Disney's long legacy of commitment to innovation and heightens accessibility for guests with disabilities."

The ingenuity behind the Assistive Handheld Technology Device has been well-received by guests with visual impairments such as Robyn Walker. "I commend Disney for doing this, I travel extensively and I spend a lot of time looking for things like restaurants and restrooms. This device helped me find things quickly, I am very impressed," she said.

The Access Award is the most recent honor bestowed the Assistive Handheld Technology Device. Last year, the technology earned the National Society of Professional Engineers 2010 "New Product Award."

"We appreciate the recognition received for Disney's Assistive Handheld Technology Device, but our greatest reward is continually improving the quality of the Disney experience for guests with special needs," said Hale. "Guests' and industry groups' encouraging response to the device inspires us to spread our technology so it can be emulated beyond our parks."

Through patents and licensing, Disney's technology has helped expand accessibility for a wide variety of retail, commercial and industrial applications. Locations already employing the technology include the World of Coca Cola Museum, The Hall at Patriot Place and Dallas Cowboys Stadium.

From Under the Sea to Galaxies Far, Far Away . . . Opening Dates Are Set For A Soundsational Summer at Disneyland Resort

'Mickey's Soundsational Parade' Debuts May 27;
The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel's Undersea Adventure and
Star Tours - The Adventures Continue Open June 3

ANAHEIM (Feb. 25, 2011) - As families prepare for their 2011 summer vacations, the Disneyland Resort announces grand opening dates for several, highly-anticipated new attractions and family experiences.

The all-new "Mickey's Soundsational Parade" will bring a new beat to the streets of Disneyland Park beginning May 27. Also at Disneyland park, guests will once again visit galaxies far, far away with the opening of Star Tours, The Adventures Continue, on June 3.

At Disney California Adventure Park, the expansion continues with the June 3 grand opening of The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel's Undersea Adventure. Guests will also find some exciting changes at the Disneyland Hotel this spring.

May 27 premiere: All new for 2011, "Mickey's Soundsational Parade" officially steps off for Memorial Day weekend with an explosive musical score, thrilling rhythms and bold percussion that will have guests dancing to many of their favorite Disney tunes. Live musicians will amplify the fun, and colorful dancers will entertain guests to the beat of a syncopated drum line, twinkling cymbals and steel drums. Mickey Mouse and his pals will be jamming like never before, riding down Main Street, U.S.A. on whimsical float units.

Grand opening June 3: At Disney California Adventure park, get ready for an all-new voyage with one of Disney's most beloved characters, Ariel. The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel's Undersea Adventure will invite guests to take a magical journey under the sea to experience all the fun and adventures in Ariel's world. From the great songs to state-of-the-art animatronics and special effects, guests will become a part of her world in a way that's never happened before.

The experience is a musical retelling of the classic motion picture as the best-loved songs come alive in magnificent scenes. Guests will sing along with Sebastian and Flounder, keep an eye out for the evil Ursula, and watch the Little Mermaid fall in love.

The Little Mermaid attraction represents the next big milestone in the expansion of Disney California Adventure park. "World of Color" debuted last year and continues to wow guests every night with magic that combines choreographed lights, lasers, music, animation and Disney storytelling. And beginning in 2012, guests will explore the new, 12-acre Cars Land.

Grand opening June 3: For those who dare to venture into the deep, dark corners of the universe, Star Tours - The Adventures Continue officially launches in Tomorrowland at Disneyland park, taking guests on interstellar adventurers to Coruscant, Tatooine and other destinations in the "Star Wars" galaxy. With the return of favorite Star Wars characters and the addition of more familiar faces and destinations, guests will experience Starspeeder travel in an all-new way . . . in 3D! This attraction also launches at Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort on May 20.

Disneyland Hotel Enhancements: As part on an exciting renovation project, the Disneyland Hotel gets a retro theme with a contemporary twist. Along with beautiful new décor in the rooms, guests will enjoy historic and nostalgic elements of Disneyland park, circa the 1950s. In keeping with that spirit, the new Tangaroa Terrace restaurant will open this spring, along with the new bar called Trader Sam's. The tiki-inspired design and storyline for this restaurant and bar tie in thematically with the mid-century modern architecture of the Disneyland Hotel and the adjacent Dream Tower, soon to be renamed Adventure Tower.

Guests will enjoy these exciting additions and more at the Disneyland Resort this summer. To learn about the continuing expansion at Disney California Adventure park, guests can visit the Blue Sky Cellar preview center located within the park. The Blue Sky Cellar houses concept drawings, models and other exhibits from Walt Disney Imagineering that allows guests a sneak peek of what's coming next to Disney California Adventure.

February 27, 2011

Disney's Princess Half-Marathon Caps Weekend of events that draws event-record 22,000 participants to Walt Disney World Resort

Jacksonville runner wins annual runDisney event

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - (Feb. 27, 2011) - Holding off challengers virtually the entire race Sunday, Jennifer Hanley-Pinto of Jacksonville, Fla. survived long enough to cross the finish line first to win Disney's 2011 Princess Half Marathon at Walt Disney World Resort.

Caitlin Latimer of Lexington, Ky. came in second with a time of 1:23:14, which was just 24 seconds behind Hanley-Pinto, whose winning time was 1:22:50. Heather Schulz of Orlando was third (1:25:01) despite running a faster time than last year when she finished second.

Yet as fast as the field was, no one could quite outrun Hanley-Pinto, 33. Latimer and Schulz stayed on her heels down the stretch but couldn't overtake her as she finished ahead of a field of more than 17,000 runners. In all, more than 22,000 runners participated in endurance events throughout the weekend at Disney, including a health and fitness expo, a 5K and several kid races.

The weekend of events were all designed to celebrate and promote women's empowerment, health and an active lifestyle. It's widely regarded as one of the nation's largest endurance race weekends geared towards women.

Disney's Princess Half Marathon Weekend was the second of runDisney's four signature events. The remaining two are the Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend (September 2-4, 2011) and the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend (September 30-October 1, 2011) events. For more information or to registration for any runDisney events, go to www.rundisney.com.

February 28, 2011

Victoria & Albert’s Chef Among Semi-finalists Named Best in South

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., February 22, 2011 - The James Beard Foundation has released its highly coveted annual list of top chefs in the country and among the semi-finalists for "Best Chef: South" is Scott Hunnel of Victoria & Albert's at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.

Established in 1990, the James Beard Foundation Awards recognize culinary professionals for excellence and achievement in their fields and continue to emphasize the Foundation's mission: to celebrate, preserve, and nurture America's culinary heritage and diversity.

To make the list of the best and the brightest talents in the food and beverage industries, the James Beard Foundation annually holds an online open call for entries beginning in mid-October. This year, over 28,000 entries were received, the most in the Awards' history. Semifinalists in 19 awards categories are determined by committee and placed on a nominating ballot. The list of nominees is then sent to an independent volunteer panel of more than 550 judges across the country, who votes to determine five finalists in each category. Results are kept confidential until the winners are announced at the Lincoln Center in New York City in May.

This isn't the first time Chef Hunnel has been nominated as one of James Beard's best. He also got a nod from the Foundation in 2007, 2008 and 2009 for his refreshingly contemporary approach in the kitchen and straightforward cooking philosophy.

For the past 17 years, Hunnel has drawn national and international applause for his preparation of American regional cuisine with classical influences. During his tenure at Victoria & Albert's, the elegant, 50-seat restaurant has repeatedly achieved AAA Five-Diamond status - the only restaurant to do so in Central Florida.

To keep exceeding guests' expectations, Chef Hunnel often takes gastronomic journeys around the world for inspiration and ideas. In recent years, his search has taken him to the kitchen of George V in Paris, truffle hunting in Italy and to markets and restaurants in Hong Kong, Bangkok and London. Those experiences have led to other accolades including Forbes Four Diamonds, the DiRōNA Award of Excellence, Wine Spectator's Best of Award of Excellence and Florida Trend's Golden Spoon award.

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About February 2011

This page contains all entries posted to Disney and Florida Attractions News Blog in February 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

January 2011 is the previous archive.

March 2011 is the next archive.

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