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September 3, 2010

Disney Animation Lets Its Hair Down at Disney's Hollywood Studios

by John Kurowski
AllEars® Guest Blogger

Disney's Hollywood Studios recently unveiled details, concept art, and more characters for Walt Disney Animation Studios' newest production, Tangled.

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Based on the classic fairytale Rapunzel, the world of Tangled seems to have everything one would expect from a Disney animated film: a beautiful princess, a dashing hero, cute animal sidekicks, and an over-the-top villain that not only carries out Disney's long legacy of film, but fits perfectly with their multibillion dollar Disney Princess brand. Located at the exit of the Drawn to Animation show at The Magic of Disney Animation attraction, the exhibit utilizes the same space that has showcased many of Disney's upcoming productions, such as Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up, The Princess and the Frog, and Toy Story 3. The constant changing of this exhibition space to reflect Disney/Pixar's upcoming releases brings the park to its original feeling of an actual working movie studio.

The Magic of Disney Animation at Disney's Hollywood Studios has always featured a behind-the-scenes look at upcoming/current Disney animated films, ever since the park opened. From opening day to the early to mid-2000s guests, could actually watch animators working on upcoming projects from shorts like Roller Coaster Rabbit to full-length animated features like Lilo and Stitch, to projects that never got completed like the Roger Rabbit short Hare In My Soup. From viewing actual production from before, to seeing the concept art produced in California that the attraction currently houses, the one thing that remains consistent through Disney animation lies in the details that Disney artists painstakingly place throughout their films.

The attraction always served as an educational inside look at the animation process. Currently, in the Drawn to Animation show a Disney Cast Member and an animated Mushu, the dragon, describe in detail each step of how a character makes it from a single idea on a sketch pad to a moving and speaking illusion of life. As seen in the show with Mushu, each character goes through a lot of different versions of his look, style, and sometimes even species.

The Tangled exhibit gives guests a look at the evolution of a character's creation with the film's villain, Mother Gothel.

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Controlled by vanity, the character card describes her as "manipulative and over-protective" and as the story progresses she "slowly descends into madness." These classic characteristics of a dramatic theatrical villain seem like a juicy role any seasoned actress would love to tackle, which seems to be where Disney artists got the inspiration for the look of this character. Surrounding her, concept art depicting her with the same likeness of other classical actresses, like Bette Davis, can be seen.

Here, not only can guests take a sneak peek at the characters and concept art, but Disney artists have recreated replicas of props and other physical items that our new cast of characters would encounter in their world. The satchel that Flynn Ryder wears can be found in this display, containing a replica of the "WANTED" poster commissioned for his arrest. Our hero, Flynn Ryder, according to his description, "is a thief, seeking a life of money and freedom." There is also an actual model of the Magic Flower, which contains a power able to save the ailing Queen and her newborn baby, Princess Rapunzel.

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Also on display is a weathered sign for an establishment that looks like it might be a tavern of some sort called The Snuggly Duckling.

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To establish the look of Corona, the fictional kingdom that serves as the setting of the story, the film's directors credit Disneyland, namely the Fantasyland section, as the inspiration for the village's look and feel. Since Disneyland's Fantasyland has a quintessential fairytale look, it seems like the perfect place to tell the Rapunzel story. The artists who created the sign took a cue from many of the shops, restaurants, and attractions found in the Disney theme parks. The wood from the sign appears weathered with peeling paint, giving the impression that this establishment has been part of this kingdom for years, and that its inhabitants have been around long enough to have their own social and cultural habits.

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So far, a lot of the trailers and marketing have not made Princess Rapunzel the focus of the campaign, and have instead opted to show the male lead, Flynn. Some reports blame this on Disney's trying to stay away from the princess aspect of its new animated fairytale so it would cater more toward young boys who would not want to see a girl-centric movie. Even the movie synopsis in the display starts, "When the kingdom's most wanted (and handsome) thief Flynn Ryder picks a mysterious and secluded tower as his hideout, it looks like his luck may have run out. Local Florida Disney artists who have seen the film who I have spoken to assured me to not be fooled by the film's trailers. This film is about Rapunzel and as Flynn Ryder plays a very important part in the movie, this is a princess-centered story, very similar to The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, complete with a film score by Alan Menken, the musical composer for the two earlier mentioned films.

This exhibit promises to be only the first time we will see the Tangled characters in the parks. Coming this fall to the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Park, a Rapunzel and Flynn Ryder meet and greet character location will be found in Fantasyland. In Florida, the location will replace the Fairytale Garden Theatre, where Storytime with Belle is performed several times each day. The last day for Storytime with Belle is currently slated for September 12 in order to prepare the venue to accommodate Disney's newest princess... and all her hair! At Disneyland Park, concept art for the new Soundsational Parade has been published online featuring a unit made up of Rapunzel's signature tower. Plus many merchandise locations will feature the characters of the film, including plush versions of Pascal, Rapunzel's loyal reptilian friend.

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Using the parks to promote Disney films is a tradition started by Walt Disney all the way back in the 1950s when props and sets from his new 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea were brought into Disneyland to both advertise his expensive, new movie and to also keep the park filled with new attractions. In Walt Disney World the introduction of new stage shows and parades tend to coincide with a new film's release date. Most recently, last year's Tiana's Showboat Jubilee ran during the holiday season to promote the release of The Princess and the Frog. Time will tell what the future of Rapunzel and Company will be within Disney theme parks, but traditionally when a new addition to the popular Disney Princess line is introduced, they tend to stay around for a long time.


September 8, 2010

Roxy Checks In

by John Kurowski
AllEars® Guest Blogger

Like most people who need to escape from the day to day routine, Roxy needed a vacation. She thought about Las Vegas, Niagara Falls, even Hawaii crossed her mind, but she ultimately decided on her favorite vacation spot, Walt Disney World.

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The need for some rest and relaxation could not have come at a better time because Roxy was able to pamper herself for a glorious stay at the newest addition to the Walt Disney World Resort, Best Friends Pet Care Center.

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Located near Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Resort, this new luxury kennel for the furry, scaly, and feathery replaces the five existing kennels previously located at the four theme parks and Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort. According to the staff, Best Friends has been running the operation of the old Disney kennels for two years while they have been waiting for the facility to open.

Best Friends Pet Care Center offers many different pet services: Grooming, Doggy Day Camp, and overnight lodging. Just like human guests have options with their on-property Walt Disney World accommodations so do the fluffy members of the family. Dogs, or their humans, can choose from an Indoor Suite, an Indoor/Outdoor Suite, a Vacation Villa, or a VIP Suite. Roxy finds it a tad gauche to divulge which room type she chose but after her stay at the resort she finds Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch her new favorite movie.

In Kitty City, Cats have the choice of either a Two-Level or Four-Level Condos with separate compartments for food/water and litter boxes. And other animals, like fish, birds, rodents, reptiles, and amphibians they can check into the Pocket Pet room. Doggy Day Campers can play in one of two groups, one for small dogs, and one for larger canines. Each room does feature a webcam so droppers-off can watch from home or work what kind of cute behaviors, or mischief, their four-legged loved ones are up to.

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Roxy felt comfortable knowing that she and her canine and feline friends' needs came first at her new temporary digs. For starters, the ventilation in Kitty City and the Pocket Pet room each have their own heating and air conditioning units so that while staying at Best Friends they will not pick up a scent or get the feeling that a dog might be around, in case they do not like to be near dogs. Also in the grooming rooms they use an ambient filtered air system that reuses the air in the room, instead of conditioned air that has a tendency to dry the animal's skin.

The indoor and indoor/outdoor suites, the smallest of the doggy accommodations, feature windows low to the floor so the dogs can look outside while enjoying their rest. Also the floors in these units sit at a slight slant so that any bladder accidents that may occur can quickly disappear and flow outside through the building's innovative draining system.

Each type of pet accommodation comes with Free Dining Plan all year long. The menu consists of Purina Beneful and Purina Pro Plan. Purina sponsored the kennels when Disney operated them years ago, but when Best Friends took over two years ago their sponsorship ended. As a convenience, any guest who prefers a different type of dog food brand can bring it to the facility and that will be prepared for the pet. Being a pampering retreat for Roxy, she wanted to know more about the dining add-ons. For an additional charge she could choose to receive bottled water each day and also treat herself to an ice cream treat. Lick O Licious, the featured brand of doggy ice cream, is made exclusively for the Best Friends Pet Care Centers and features a blend of many different appealing flavors for dogs including peanut butter and honey. The ice cream is made completely of soy products and contains no dairy. Cats can choose to enjoy Cookies and Milk as well as the equally delicious and self-describing treat, Tuna on a Ritz cracker.

The grounds features a unique dog park with a walking trail behind it for pets and their humans to enjoy a nice stroll together. The park has a cleverly rigged water fountain for dogs who enjoy playing in water. Roxy's favorite feature of the doggy park came within its layout.

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The park sits at the end of a cement walkway separated by a gate so timid dogs (and their humans) will not just come right out into the play area and invade other dogs' personal space. The turf surrounding the facility utilizes a unique and innovative way to irrigate the land due to its tendency to get unsanitary rather quickly. They use Astroturf in various locations, some having sprinklers inside to clean it, but other patches of the ground have the capability of completely lowering into the ground, where they will be power washed, then rise back up.

The Vacation Villas are the closest accommodations to the doggy park. Set up as a row of glass enclosures, Roxy's humans joked that they expected to see Hannibal Lecter at the end of the corridor, but these villas are a lot more inviting.

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Each villa contains two light fixtures that emanate soft lighting, a bed, and a flat screen television playing Disney movies. Dog-themed films seem to be on the program schedule, so it's a good thing Disney has made a lot of them. Each villa also has its own doorway to the outside that is controlled by the staff due to the fact that the outdoor sections are covered, but not air conditioned. The dogs staying in these villas also receive a bed time biscuit at night.

For the discriminating pooch the VIP Villa is truly the way to go. These rooms feature more space than the vacation villa but also has the flat screen television as well. They have their own private outdoor section and are connected to webcams so the dog's humans can log on to see what their four-legged pal is up to, 24 hours a day. The rooms also come with a bedtime story and two potty walks a day. Families with multiple pets that like to spend time together can book these villas for their dogs to stay together. Roxy inquired about future availability in a VIP Villa for a return visit and the staff told her that if she wants to come back she needs to book soon because these are selling out fast!

Roxy gives the Best Friends Pet Care Center two paws way up! The staff really goes above and beyond to make sure the pets' (and their humans') needs are met. For instance, if an owner likes their dogs to wear dresses on Sundays, casual outfits on weekdays, and pajamas at night, the staff will accommodate that request. Roxy, being somewhat of an exhibitionist, took advantage of their clothing optional policy. This, however, is restricted to the animals, humans must be fully clothed at all times. As of right now, in addition to livestock and farm animals, the Best Friends does not accept monkeys nor venomous snakes. Exotic pets, like pigs, will be accepted and can stay either in the Pocket Pets room or in a room where the pig would be alone to protect the dogs that might not be used to what a pig is. Roxy's humans, like most pets' humans, always felt guilty boarding her while they enjoyed vacations, but with a lodging facility that caters to its guests' needs like this one does, the only guilt they feel comes the time she has to return home.


September 13, 2010

'50s Prime Time Restaurant Photo Blog

by Jeff Onorato
AllEars® Guest Blogger

My favorite restaurant to eat at when I visit Disney's Hollywood Studios is the Hollywood Brown Derby. I absolutely love their Cobb Salad and Grapefruit Cake. Not to mention the refined setting and Old-Hollywood charm. Lately I have found myself eating there on almost every trip to Walt Disney World. So when I was planning my most recent trip I decided to break the mold and try something a bit different. I made reservations for the 50's Prime Time Café instead. It's located just around the corner from the Brown Derby next to Hollywood & Vine. It overlooks Echo Lake.

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I had dined at the Prime Time Cafe once before, so I had an idea of what I was in for. For me, this restaurant captures what Disney World is all about. They serve good food at reasonable prices in a really fun, well-themed atmosphere. To say that the servers here "have character" would be a gross understatement though. I would be reminded of this on my most recent visit in August. This meal was during a solo trip to the World, so my experience there may not be atypical of what a family of five might encounter.

The décor of the popular lunch and dinner spot harkens back to the 1950's and takes diners on a trip down memory lane. Pictured below are the check-in and waiting areas. Take notice of the hula-hoops tucked away next to the stove.

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I had a reservation for 11:30 and was promptly seated upon checking in. The restaurant was quite busy at that time of the day. I strongly recommend making reservations if at all possible.

If you should have to wait, the Tune-In Lounge is open just next door to the Café. Not only do they have a full bar with a bevy of adult beverages, but the regular menu is available for guests here too. This is a great alternative for singles or last-minute walk-ups when the restaurant has no available seating. You can also have a seat in their "living room" while you wait for your table to become available. Smoothies, Flavored Sodas (vanilla, cherry), Milkshakes, Root Beer Floats and Malts are available for those who prefer a cold, non-alcoholic beverage. I especially like the signage outside. There is also a staircase which leads up to the Echo Lake apartments - home to many aspiring actors and actresses.

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I always feel like I'm in an episode of Leave It to Beaver when I eat here. The checkered dining room is a maze of vintage kitchenettes, complete with Formica tables and vinyl chairs. Several tables throughout the restaurant are outfitted with small TV sets that play black-and-white sitcoms from the 50's. These are fun to watch while you're waiting for your meal to come out. All tables do not have these, so it's important to request one if you would like a table with a TV.

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The first thing I noticed when I sat down was an empty plate, cloth napkin, and silverware placed in the center of the table in a pile. I thought that was a bit strange initially. My server, Lisa, then made her way to the table. She pulled out a chair and sat down to join me. Now that she was comfortable, Lisa proceeded to tell me that she was my long lost cousin and went over the menu of what "mom" was cooking up in the kitchen. After our quick reunion, I placed my drink order. Lisa said she would be right back and instructed me to "set the table - do my chores" until she returned. All told, I got off pretty easy though. I overheard the table next to me receive a greeting of "What do you want?" from their server, er, cousin. It was all very comical and brought a smile to my face.

I started off with the Blue Claw Crab Cake ($8.49).

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It was a decent sized crab cake for the price, and served over succotash with a sweet chili sauce which I really enjoyed. It was finished off with a garnish of crispy fried onions. Seafood Salad, Onion Rings, Chicken Noodle Soup, and an Iceberg Wedge with Blue Cheese dressing are a few other appetizer choices.

For my entrée, I had Dad's Traditional Meatloaf ($14.99).

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This was a mixture of beef and pork topped with tomato glaze and served with mashed potatoes and green beans. I was forewarned to "eat all of my vegetables" as the meal was presented. This caveat is nothing out of the ordinary at the Prime Time Cafe. The Meatloaf was very moist and tender, and the tomato glaze was perfect fit for it. It was similar to ketchup in taste and consistency. The sides were tasty too - the potatoes were topped with gravy and the green beans were nicely done in an al dente style. Entrée selections also include: Grandma's Chicken Pot Pie, Mom's Old Fashioned Pot Roast, Aunt Liz's Fried Chicken, Artichoke and Ricotta Agnolotti, and a Grilled Chicken or Fish Sandwich.

After looking over the dessert choices, I decided on the S'mores ($4.79).

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Dessert is not presented on a traditional menu here. Instead, your server will bring out a viewfinder to look through at the different selections offered. A flip through the slideshow will give you a glimpse of the other sweets: Dad's Brownie Sundae, Boston-Cream Cupcakes, Seasonal Cobbler, and a "no sugar added" Cheesecake make the list. There wasn't anything special or exotic about the S'mores I had, but they were awesome. They were just your basic graham cracker, marshmallow and chocolate. They really hit the spot. I'm looking forward to trying one of their Peanut Butter & Jelly milkshakes on a future visit.

This restaurant gets my top recommendation for families, especially multi-generational ones traveling with grandparents and kids. The tongue-in-cheek humor will definitely be a hit with children and grandparents alike. They are a participant in the Disney Dining Plan, with a requirement of 1 table-service credit and also offer Tables is Wonderland discounts. As of this writing the restaurant is not included in the Fantasmic Dinner Package. It's also a great option if you're in search of a less-expensive meal that won't break the bank.

Prime Time Café fits in perfectly with the Studio's nostalgic take on Hollywood. They dish up more of the light-hearted shtick that you encounter from the "Streetmosphere" performers that liven up Hollywood Boulevard. This is an interactive experience that you will want to play along with to fully enjoy. The 50's Prime Time Café truly is a blast from the past.

September 20, 2010

Duffy the Bear - Walt Disney World

By Guest Blogger Sandi Lamborne!

On Saturday September 18th my husband and I attended the Duffy the Bear passholder special event held at the Odyssey in EPCOT.

We were greeted outside by cast members who checked our names off their reservation list and handed us an admission ticket which once inside could be traded in for a very cool Duffy the Bear Rice Krispie treat. It was a nice surprise. There were also cups and several water coolers so guests could cool off with a cold drink before the presentation.

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Inside the seating area was a stage set up with Duffy the Bear banners and projection screens on either side showing slides of Duffy the Bear.

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When the event started Vanessa Rosas - WDW Ambassador came out to welcome the passholders and soon introduced Dara Trujillo- Manager Synergy and Special Events. She told us not to take pictures (That is why I stopped taking shots and don't have a picture of the Duffy Character) She talked about the character and shared his story: One day, Mickey was getting ready to set sail on a long sea voyage. Minnie made Mickey a special teddy bear to take with him so he would never be lonely. Mickey loved the bear and named him Duffy. Mickey and Duffy sailed around the world. They visited all sorts of exciting places and made a lot of friends along the way.(They showed slides of Duffy meeting Disney characters) Mickey and Duffy took pictures with their new pals and made memories that would last a lifetime. At the end of their voyage, Mickey and Duffy sailed back home to share all their magical memories with Minnie. (This story is on the tag of Duffy's ear after you buy him)

She then introduced Forrest Bahruth-WDW Show director. Forrest worked in Tokyo Disney where Duffy, the six year old bear, is very popular at their US country that is themed after Cape Cod so he is there on a dock. He also has his own stage show there and photo spots where guests can take Duffy's pictures in the countries (Sort of like the photo spots in EPCOT but designed specifially for Duffy). EPCOT is going to use that same approach and set up photo spots for Duffy too.

Dara came back on stage and told us that there would be Duffy stuffed bears of several sizes available and outfits that go with each country in EPCOT. They were very cute. And there are also going to be outfits for holiday seasons like Valentine's day, Fourth of July, Christmas, and a very cute Easter Bunny too. The merchandise coming out first will include a covered coffee mug and popcorn bowl. Yes, there will be pins and vinylmation coming out later.

Duffy will have his own meet-and-greet. It is being built now not far from the Odyssey. Right in front of I believe it is called Gateway Gifts. The gift shop will be remodeled to sell Duffy items, and I think it will be called Duffy Central. It is well positioned to be at the entrance of World Showcase.

Duffy will make his first appearance in EPCOT on October 14th. They will be giving out "I hugged Duffy" stickers after you meet Duffy.

Also the KidCot mask that the kids color and carry around to each country is going to be replaced with a Duffy the bear and the paddle will be stamped in each country with Duffy stamps. Very cool and it makes sense since Duffy is a world traveler.

At the end of the event Duffy came out to greet the crowd and answer a few questions (via Dara of course) He walked around the room and one lucky guest won a free Duffy stuffed Bear. It was hard not to take a picture.

There is going to be a Disney cartoon of Duffy that will be available on the TVs of Disney Resorts. (Which will be a way to introduce Duffy before the kids hit the park)

This is going to be a huge money-maker for Disney as the kids will want a Duffy bear to take pictures in each country and outfits from the countries and grown-up will want the pins etc..(They didn't say this at the event. It is just my thinking)

There is also going to be some type of Duffy food and kids placemats at the restaurants in EPCOT. I think this a great idea too to continue to make EPCOT more kid friendly.

We were allowed to buy a Duffy 18 inch bear and a sailor outfit. The bear was $25.00 and the outfit was $15.00. We were allowed to use our passholder discount and they went like hotcakes. The funny part is that we were led to believe that this was a secret passholder meeting and we weren't supposed to tell anyone but then they let us buy the Bear and walk around the park with it. I think they just wanted us to be the first to know and that is really neat.

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Duffy is VERY popular at Tokyo Disneyland! Read Jack Spence's Report.

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About September 2010

This page contains all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in September 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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