May 3, 2016

Should Disney special-event merchandise only be sold at the event?

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For many, if not most, travelers, a fun part of the vacation experience is bringing home a souvenir or two. We love to have something tangible to remind us of our time spent exploring new places. And there’s no doubt that Disney merchandise is some of the most popular – for personal use and for collectors. From the seemingly unlimited supply of Mickey Mouse plush and T-shirts to the high-end Dooney & Bourke bags and Pandora jewelry, Disney Parks (and other Disney properties) offer something for just about everyone.

Special Disney events, such as the Halloween and Christmas parties and park anniversaries, usually mean a new line of commemorative products will be offered for a limited time at the place where the special event is taking place. There is some degree of exclusivity because these items can only be purchased at the events they represent. (Secondary-market sellers are another story.)

Last summer, my family and I made our first trip to Disneyland during the 60th anniversary celebration of the resort, which continues through Sept. 5. Of course, we purchased merchandise from the Disneyland Diamond collection, knowing it was special and something we could only get there. In fact, some of the Diamond products were so popular that they remained out of stock when we visited – nearly three months after the celebration started.

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So, imagine our surprise – and disappointment -- this past weekend when my daughter spotted her Diamond edition mouse-ear headband for sale at the Magic Kingdom here in Orlando. It wasn’t labeled as Disneyland 60th anniversary merchandise, rather it was mixed in with other Disney Parks mouse-ear hats and headbands. This certainly was possible because this particular item doesn’t have any wording indicating it was made for the Diamond celebration. Still, it clearly was designed with the anniversary in mind – the bow is blue (the color of the themed merchandise) and bedazzled with fake jewels (diamonds).

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Seeing her carefully chosen souvenir from a special event so readily available at another location felt like a betrayal of sorts. There is a reasonable expectation by people attending special events that the exclusive merchandise will not be sold elsewhere by Disney – and certainly not just passed off as regular park merchandise. What makes the exclusive merchandise special is not just the limited quantities of products, but the fact that you experienced the event. To me, it’s kind of like going to your city’s arena for a professional basketball game and being able to buy T-shirts for any of the concert tours that have stopped there in the last year. It doesn’t make sense to make the merchandise available to people who don’t attend the special event, and it takes away something from the people who do.

And, frankly, diluting the exclusivity doesn’t necessarily benefit Disney, either. Sure, the company has the potential to sell more of a certain item because more units are available at more locations, but it might not be in as much demand because buyers know it’s not an “exclusive.”

Do you agree or disagree? Is “exclusive” merchandise more desirable to you? Would you be less likely to buy the merchandise if it were available elsewhere? Tell us in the comments, please.



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April 29, 2016

runDisney adds new Virtual Running Shorts Series for summer

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runDisney announced new races on Thursday – and there is no limit on the number of participants, although there still is a deadline to register. Runners and walkers now can sign up for virtual races that are scheduled to begin next month.

If you’ve never heard the term “virtual race,” it refers to a race that can be run in any location, even as part of another actual race. Basically, the participant chooses the pace (walking, jogging, running) and the location (inside, outside, on a treadmill or not).

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runDisney is offering participants the opportunity to bring some of the magic of its popular races to their hometowns with its new Virtual Running Shorts Series. The series includes three separate 5Ks and a challenge to complete all three 5K races in specified time frames:

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** Yellow Shorts 5K – must be completed between May 15 and June 1. Register now through May 31.

** Red Pants 5K – must be completed between June 5 and 18. Register now through June 17.

** White Glove 5K – must be completed between June19 and 30. Register now through June 29.

Virtual Running Shorts Series – all three races totaling 9.3 miles must be completed in each race’s timeframe. Register now through May 31.

Each 5K costs $39 per person, and the series challenge is $142. So what do you get for that entry fee? Every registration includes a virtual bib and a Mickey finisher medal. The series challenge comes with each of the individual medals plus a fourth medal and a tumbler. Each individual medal represents one of Mickey’s iconic fashion staples, and the challenge medal features Mickey sporting his complete ensemble.

No finishing time is required for the races in the Virtual Running Shorts Series. As with other runDisney 5K races, participants must be at least 5 years old to register, and everyone must sign waivers online during the registration process.

The new runDisney races benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, an organization that fights blood cancers. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society also was the celebratory charity of Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, meaning it can use the races as both a platform to create awareness and to raise funds for research.

The official runDisney blog states: “Virtual races are becoming more and more popular in the running world with the ease of participating from anywhere. As runDisney continues to grow, we will look for more opportunities to stay connected with our runners as well as introduce a healthy and active lifestyle to new audiences.”

Do you agree – are the new runDisney virtual races good motivators to train? Or is the cost too high when you haven’t stepped foot on Disney property? Tell us in the comments why you think these races are a positive or negative addition to the runDisney portfolio.



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April 28, 2016

Walt Disney World announces 2016 Shining Stars among its Dreamers and Doers

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Walt Disney World has announced its 2016 Shining Stars recipients from among about 400 Central Florida students who were named Disney Dreamers and Doers last month.

The students originally were chosen by their schools for actions they took this past school year to inspire other students. Each of the 400 winners at schools across Central Florida was recognized with a medal, a certificate and four one-day theme-park tickets to use during the next year.

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In addition, each Disney Dreamer and Doer was entered in the competition for Disney's Shining Stars. These awards are given to 15 students -- one each at the elementary-, middle- and high-school level in Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Lake and Polk counties. Shining Stars receive Disney World annual passes for their immediate families for one year, Mousecar statues (Disney's version of the "Oscar" featuring Mickey Mouse), and certificates noting their accomplishments. Plus, the students and their families are invited to attend an IllumiNations Dessert Party at Epcot on June 4. Disney officials, not school principals, choose the Shining Stars.

Among this year's Shining Stars are students who have made community contributions by assisting elderly family members, fostering acceptance among schoolmates, and helping others learn from their health challenges.

The 2016 Disney Dreamers and Doers Shining Stars are:

Lake County

Ryan Boyd, Groveland Elementary School, 4th grade
Tyler LaBelle, Windy Hill Middle School, 7th grade
Reaghan Wooster, Tavares High School, 12th grade

Orange County

Bryce Drayton, Apopka Elementary School, 5th grade
Cortez Fisher, Central Florida Leadership Charter Academy, 8th grade
Tomas Castorani Correa, Magnolia School, 10th grade

Osceola County

Ayden Nadler, Harmony Community School, 5th grade
Haley Steidley, Trinity Lutheran School, 8th grade
Carla Rivera, New Dimensions High School, 11th grade

Polk County

Markayla Wesley, Caldwell Elementary School, 5th grade
Joshua Bowen, Lakeland Highlands Middle School, 8th grade
Chanel Jackson, Kathleen High School, 11th grade

Seminole County

Kristen Spennemann, Lake Mary Preparatory Elementary School, 3rd grade
Kaitlyn Boyle, Greenwood Lakes Middle School, 7th grade
Emma McDonald, Lake Howell High School, 12th grade

So, how do you apply to become a Disney Dreamer and Doer?

It’s never too soon for students to take positive actions in their communities, but the application process historically takes place in the spring. This year had the earliest deadlines in recent years – in February – so watch for information at your school or online.

The process begins when students are asked to nominate themselves by writing a 300-word paragraph describing their achievements. The official rules give these examples of student contributions: "strengthening their families; conservation/environmental projects; helping others; safety; school achievement in spite of barriers; improving their schools; serving as a role model for siblings/friends; or any other positive action." An addition to the rules for 2016 notes: “High academic achievement and volunteer involvement can be considered but should not be the only determining factors to select a school’s Disney Dreamer and Doer.”

Then, the student asks a teacher to champion his or her application by writing a 75-word endorsement. The two essays are turned in to the school's principal by the school's announced deadline, and a school winner is chosen based on the strength of the essay. (Grammatical accuracy is not a factor.)

"Students may be comfortable in the spotlight, or shy away from it. Some take positive action that is visible; some actions may not be visible to many," the Disney press release states. "We believe all students do good things and have the potential to be a Disney Dreamer and Doer. We look forward to hearing about students in each of these categories."



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April 26, 2016

Disney Channel to air all 100 of its original movies this summer

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E! News has referred to the summer of 2016 as a throwback to 2009 largely because of concert reunions among the popular Disney Channel stars of that era. Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas are taking their “Future Now” tour on the road, and Joe Jonas’s band DNCE is opening for Selena Gomez’s “Rival” tour. But now Disney Channel itself is taking us back to that heyday with its announcement that it will replay every Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM) ever made to kick off Memorial Day Weekend.

In celebration of its 100th movie, a remake of the 1980s film “Adventures in Babysitting” starring Sabrina Carpenter (“Girl Meets World”) and Sofia Carson (“Descendants”) that debuts June 24, the network will air 51 of its most popular movies during the four-day Memorial Day Weekend. Encore presentations of these and every other DCOM ever made will continue through June. The movies also can be seen on the Disney Channel app and VOD (video on demand).

All 100 DCOMs will be available for sale throughout the summer on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and Google Play. The “100th DCOM Celebration” begins May 27, and the schedule is posted at the end of this blog post.

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In the United States, DCOMs hold the record of six of the Top 7 original cable movies ever: “High School Musical 2,” “Teen Beach Movie,” “Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie,” “Descendants,” “Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension” and “Camp Rock.” Just about all of these movies are ones that my family watched repeatedly on Disney Channel.

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It’s difficult for me to believe that it’s been 10 years since the original “High School Musical” movie aired on Disney Channel and eight years since we first saw “Camp Rock.” Both of my children were young when the movies were released, but they were so in love with the characters, the music and the choreography. We had viewing parties, Halloween costumes, and just about every piece of “High School Musical” and “Camp Rock” merchandise, I think. (“Hannah Montana” was wildly popular during this time, too, but the two “Hannah Montana” movies were theater releases, rather than DCOMs.)

As a parent, I fondly remember the times we got to see some of these artists in concert at special events at Walt Disney World. In 2007 and 2008, my children and I attended the taping of the Disney Channel Games at ESPN Wide World of Sports. It aired in segments on Disney Channel and culminated with concert footage -- also shot at the Walt Disney World sports facility – that featured Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, Demi Lovato and the Cheetah Girls. Disney gave away free tickets to the concerts both years, and we were fortunate to go the second year. We also saw the principal actors from “High School Musical” and performances by Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers at the Magic Kingdom during tapings for what was then called the “Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade” special.

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In 2010, Kevin and Nick Jonas, Demi Lovato and other “Camp Rock” actors shot a Friends for Change segment for Disney Channel in Tampa. At the time, I worked at the Orlando Sentinel, and I was invited to interview the performers on location. That certainly was an interesting experience!

So, my family and I definitely were immersed in Disney Channel during those years, and our nostalgia most likely will draw us to watch the network during the “100th DCOM Celebration.” We also can look forward to “High School Musical 4,” for which Disney currently is holding video and in-person casting auditions.

Let the binge-watching begin! The “100th DCOM Celebration” schedule is as follows:

FRIDAY, May 27:

10:00 a.m. – “Disney’s Kim Possible Movie: So the Drama”

11:20 a.m. – “Read It and Weep”

12:55 p.m. – “Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior”

2:40 p.m. – “Jump In!”

4:15 p.m. – “Lemonade Mouth”

6:15 p.m. – “Zapped”

8:00 p.m. – “High School Musical 2″

9:55 p.m. – “The Cheetah Girls 2″

11:45 p.m. – “Zenon the Zequel”

1:25 a.m. – “Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge”

2:55 a.m. – “Twitches Too”

4:25 a.m. – “Alley Cats Strike!”

SATURDAY, MAY 28:

6:25 a.m. – “You Wish!”

8:05 a.m. – “The Proud Family Movie”

9:50 a.m. – “Quints”

11:25 a.m. – “Horse Sense”

1:10 p.m. – “Cow Belles”

2:50 p.m. – “Twitches”

4:30 p.m. – “The Even Stevens Movie”

6:15 p.m. – “Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie”

8:00 p.m. – “Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam”

9:50 p.m. – “Princess Protection Program”

11:30 p.m. – “The Cheetah Girls: One World”

1:05 a.m. – “Zenon: Z3″

2:40 a.m. – “Halloweentown High”

4:20 a.m. – “The Thirteenth Year”

SUNDAY, MAY 29:

6:00 a.m. – “Right On Track”

7:45 a.m. – “Full-Court Miracle”

9:35 a.m. – “Eddie’s Million Dollar Cook-Off”

11:20 a.m. – “Brink!”

1:10 p.m. – “Double Teamed”

2:55 p.m. – “Rip Girls”

4:35 p.m. – “Motocrossed”

6:20 p.m. – “Cloud 9″

8:00 p.m. – “Teen Beach 2″

9:55 p.m. – “Bad Hair Day”

11:40 p.m. – “How to Build a Better Boy”

1:20 a.m. – “Pixel Perfect”

2:55 a.m. – “The Other Me”

4:30 a.m. – “Genius”

MONDAY, MAY 30:

10:00 a.m. – “Stuck in the Suburbs”

11:30 a.m. – “Halloweentown”

1:05 p.m. – “Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century

2:55 p.m. – “Smart House”

4:25 p.m. – “High School Musical”

6:15 p.m. – “Camp Rock”

8:00 p.m. – “Descendants”

10:05 p.m. – “Teen Beach Movie”

11:55 p.m. – “Cadet Kelly”

1:50 a.m. – “The Cheetah Girls”

3:35 a.m. – “Johnny Tsunami”



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April 23, 2016

Volunteer opportunities for teens at Walt Disney World

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Teenagers who would like to earn community service hours before the end of the school year still can register to volunteer at the 2016 Special Olympics Florida State Summer Games on May 20 and 21 at ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World.

Disney volunteers, also known as Sports Enthusiasts, can work at events held at the facility or at runDisney races held on Disney World property. They must be at least 14 to volunteer and those younger than 15 must be accompanied by an adult. All minors must have a parent or guardian's permission and a signed waiver.

For the 2016 Special Olympics Florida State Summer Games, volunteers are needed to help with Opening Ceremonies, Healthy Athletes, Meals Assistant, Cycling, Team Soccer, Soccer Skills, Tennis Skills, Track and Field and more. Volunteer shifts are typically assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.

The only event on the summer calendar for Sports Enthusiasts is AAU National Club Championships for Track and Field, which takes place July 9 to 16. Volunteer positions will be available for start/finish line, field events, clerk's tent and awards tent. Registration has not opened yet but is expected to soon, so keep an eye on this website if you are interested.

For runDisney races, volunteers may work at the Health & Fitness Expo or kid races located at ESPN Wide World of Sports or at the start/finish line or along the course of races that go through the parks at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. The next runDisney event in Orlando is the Walt Disney World Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend, which includes the half marathon, a new 10K, a 5K and kid races. All events take place Nov. 3 to 6. Registration for volunteers opens several months in advance, but it is not available yet.

Walt Disney World recognizes that even though its Sports Enthusiasts are volunteering for their own personal reasons, they could not host the races without the volunteers' help. As such, volunteers are given "appreciation," for their time. Each person receives a snack and one commemorative piece of apparel for each volunteer shift.

In addition, volunteers are eligible to earn points toward a complimentary theme-park ticket. Each hour of service completed is equal to one point, and it takes 16 points to earn a day's admission to Walt Disney World. Earned tickets are mailed within 60 days of reaching 16 points.

To get started, you must register through Active.com. You have the option to access the information as a guest or to create an account, which streamlines future registrations.

Volunteers will receive confirmation in the mail of the shifts for which they have been scheduled about a month prior to the event. The mailing also will include further information on parking, directions, and other useful information.

Questions? Call the Sports Enthusiast Information Line at 407-938-3880, or email wdw.sports.enthusiast@disneysports.com.



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April 21, 2016

Celebrate Earth Day at Epcot with special meet-and-greet, family friendly activities

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Many Disney fans know that Animal Kingdom celebrates Earth Day – that’s this Friday! – with its Party for the Planet. After all, Earth Day is the Walt Disney World theme park’s birthday, too. But did you know that Epcot marks the day with special events, as well? Certainly the nature tie-in is a good fit during the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, which is going on now.

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The activity at Epcot I’m most excited about takes place Friday, Saturday and Sunday at The Seas with Nemo & Friends. Guests can meet Captain Ron, a dog who is a member of Disney's sea turtle conservation team trained to sniff out sea turtle nests along the beach at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort so that scientists can mark the nests to protect them.

“The strip of coast is one of the largest sections on Earth for green sea turtles to lay their eggs,” said Kyle Huetter, education manager of Animals, Science and Environment at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

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This special dog and his trainer, Pepe Peruvero, can be seen helping the sea turtle conservation team patrol the beach at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings from late June through the end of August. Captain Ron, a 3-year-old pocket beagle, joined the team last summer.

“Dogs have amazing noses, and Disney is the first organization to use them for sea turtle conservation. A good nose, like Captain Ron’s, can cut egg-finding times from 30 minutes to about 30 seconds,” said Dr. Anne Savage, conservation director of Animals, Science and Environment at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

“He is trained to locate a specific scent that is attributed to newly laid eggs, as eggs smell different throughout their time on the beach. Captain Ron is being trained to provide an alert when he sniffs sea turtle egg mucus. This will allow the team to better survey the beach for nests and protect them from common threats -- foot traffic, construction activity, and even predators.”

So how did Peruyero train a dog for such a unique task?

“I selected him out of a litter that I monitored for several weeks,” he said. “The name Captain Ron was actually selected before I even picked the dog – it’s a very funny movie that I have enjoyed in the past with a character that is very similar to my dog’s personality. In the movie, the character’s personality, and sort of offbeat exterior, is only a cover for a more sensitive, internal personality. The captain in the movie is also a problem solver. These are all characteristics that my Captain Ron has.

“Captain Ron’s training is based on a toy-reward system. He has associated the odor of sea turtle egg mucus with the response of the toy. Most dogs take several weeks to learn and are older and take much longer to master the discipline. Captain Ron was a bit of an anomaly -- it took him less than 30 minutes to imprint on the odor and approximately 4 to 5 days to begin to respond in an acceptable fashion that we could transfer out into the field.

“During the off-season we have frozen samples that are collected by the research group that allow us to train and keep him on track,” Peruyero said. “We also have an artificial beach which we have created at our facility which is approximately 30 yards around and has beach sand mixed with salt water and it also has shells, seaweeds and other distractors. This is the area that we use to train since we are well over 100 miles from the nearest beach.”

“Captain Ron's job as a sea turtle and detection expert is seasonal, therefore there's a lot of off-season time that he is just my buddy and pet. Most days he just hangs out with me at work and helps me train some other dogs. He has a tremendous personality, very even-tempered. This is something Captain Ron has naturally.”

Captain Ron and Peruyero will be near the scuba diver lockout chamber in The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot for a short presentation at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. After that, guests can meet Captain Ron for a photo and talk with Peruyero.

“Beyond Captain Ron’s abilities, if we can help make a connection to him because people love dogs, and they can see what he’s doing to help sea turtles, then we can inspire more people to care about the environment and how we can all help to make a difference,” Savage said.

To increase the public's awareness about the plight of sea turtles, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission allow a few trained and approved groups to conduct nighttime turtle walks along certain beaches in Brevard County. The walks take place in June and July, and registration usually takes place in May. My family and I did one of the turtle walks two summers ago, and we were fortunate to see a sea turtle come ashore and nest. You can read about our experience here.

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In addition to learning about sea turtles, guests at Epcot can visit several gardens and participate in other fun and educational activities for Earth Day Weekend (Saturday and Sunday only). At the Audubon Florida Garden (located across from Cactus Road Rally with Cars characters), visitors are invited to compare their legs and “wingspan” to a bird’s. Depending on their size, guests can see what type of bird they would be -- from an ostrich or condor to a hawk or crane. Guests also can expect to see purple martins flying overhead. Currently, about 30 to 40 birds are nesting in the purple martin houses at this garden.

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At the Nature Conservancy Garden (located near the end of Imagination Walkway near Music Garden Melodies play area), visitors can participate in a game to learn more about they are using resources and understanding their environmental footprints. Guests can “Leap for Wildlife” at the National Wildlife Federation Garden (located on the other side of Music Garden Melodies), where they will be challenged to see how far they can jump forward and compare their leap to that of an animal or species.

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In addition, Epcot will again host some of the activities it debuted during Outdoor Family Fun Weekend earlier this month. Here are those details. Plus, on Earth Day (Friday only) at “The Jungle Book” Sand Sculpture near the African Outpost in World Showcase, cast members will be handing out complimentary buttons for the new movie.



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April 19, 2016

Disneyland offers special 'Celebrate Girl Scouts' programs in April, May, June

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Disneyland is celebrating Girl Scouts of all ages in April, May and June with Disney Youth Education Series programs offered on Saturdays and Sundays. Individual girls or their troops can register now for special events at Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure.

If this sounds exciting – and who wouldn’t like learning at a theme park? -- don’t delay because some programs already are sold out.

Saturday programs take place at Disneyland Park. Those that still are available for Cadets, Seniors and Ambassadors include:

Culinary Experience in Disneyland Park (May 14, June 25): “Take a behind the scenes tour of some of Disneyland Resort Food and Beverage Operations. Learn how Disney meets and exceeds the demand for the high volume quality meals we serve to millions of people. Get a peek behind the curtain into how we receive, store, prepare and serve Guest meals. Gain an understanding of how we work with other companies, vendors and operating partners, showcasing our Disney Difference.”

Disney’s Approach to Leadership and Teamwork (May 14, June 4, June 11, June 25): “Discover your personal leadership style by exploring Walt Disney’s leadership styles, past and present, and discover how through small and simple acts great things can be accomplished. Exercises designed to reinforce courage, curiosity and constancy aim to give participants the confidence to set goals and accomplish their dreams.”

Marketing the Story of Your Visual Brand (May 14, June 4, June 11, June 25): “Disneyland Park will serve as the backdrop for this exploration of photography, public relations & marketing and its relationship to story. Scouts will discover their artistic eye and come to understand the technical and creative elements that result in images with impact that connect people, places and events. The iconic environment provides scouts with the opportunity to discover and apply the art of storytelling through the art and science of photojournalism.”

One Saturday program at Disneyland park is just for Daisies, Brownies and Juniors:

Energy and Waves Physics Lab 101 (May 14, June 25): “Discover light and sound as forms of energy and how to use them in practical application. See first-hand how these elements are a vital part of creating world class attractions and how Disney uses these physical properties to entertain and amaze guests from all over the world. As they travel through the park, scouts will come to understand some of physics most noted historical figures and their impact on the field.”

Sunday programs take place at Disney California Adventure. Each targets a different age group of Girl Scouts.

For Daisies only – must be ages 5 to 7 years old and have an adult chaperone stay with them for the entire duration of the program:

Exploring the Golden State (May 1, May 15, June 5, June 12, June 26): Learn about California’s rich history including the influencial Dreamers who have shaped the Golden State. Explore the people, events, hopes and dreams that have shaped the Disneyland® Resort’s home state.

For Cadettes, Seniors and Ambassadors:

Creating a Leadership Legacy (May 1, May 15, June 5, June 12, June 26): Discover Walt Disney’s secret of making dreams come true. Scouts will become confident in their ability to accomplish their goals and be motivated to achieve the impossible. Scouts will also be challenged to develop personal core values, have the courage to step out of their comfort zone, and identify their personal leadership legacy.

Each program is approximately three hours long, and troops and individual Scouts can expect to experience the events with other Girl Scouts. “Exploring the Golden State” is about two hours in long. Particpants must be at east 7 years old, with the exception of “Exploring the Golden State,” which is designed for ages 5 to 7.

To attend one or more of these sessions just for Girl Scouts, each girl and each chaperone must purchase a Youth Education Series ticket package. They can choose from a one-day, one-park ticket for $85; one-day, park-hopper ticket for $124; two-day park-hopper for $168; three-day, park-hopper for $205. An additional Youth Education Series program can be added to a multi-day ticket package for $44 per participant. No taxes or service charges will be added. These prices include a Disney Youth Education Series “Celebrate Girl Scouts” participation patch and Disney Youth Education Series string backpack.

One complimentary chaperone ticket will be issued for every 10 paid Scouts. One complimentary troop leader ticket will be issued for every 30 paid students. The same discounted pricing is available for additional guests visiting Disneyland on the same day. These additional guests, including non-participating youth, will not be permitted to attend the programs but instead can explore the park.

For more details and to receive a registration form, email DLR.Celebrate.Girl.Scouts@disney.com or call 714-956-6454 between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. PST Monday through Friday.

Although Walt Disney World is not offering the “Celebrate Girl Scouts” program in 2016, Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops with 10 or more participants can register for regular Youth Education Series programs year-round at DisneyYES.com. The Orlando resort offers such unique programs as going backstage at Cirque du Soleil, discovering marine life conservation, everyday chemistry, exploring careers in zoological sciences, and the evolution of technology, to name a few subjects.



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April 16, 2016

Review for parents: Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book’

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Disney’s remake of “The Jungle Book” is one that appeals to a new generation of audiences, but it takes a more serious tone than the 1967 musical film adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s stories. Sure, the movie has amusing moments and amazing action sequences, but parents of young children will want to heed the PG rating because there are some scary and dark scenes.

The strength of “The Jungle Book” is, of course, in the adventures of Mowgli (played by Neel Sethi), a “man cub” who grows up in the jungle. In this live-action version, he is adopted by a pack of wolves. Panther Bagheera (voiced by Ben Kingsley) saves Mowgli after he becomes an orphan and entrusts his care to pack leader Akela (voiced by Giancarlo Esposito) and mama wolf Raksha (voiced by Lupita Nyong'o).

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The movie opens with Mowgli practicing wolf skills -- learning to run fast enough to outrun predators and to leap between fragile tree branches as another means of escape. These sequences make good use of 3D effects, which enhance the entire movie, making it worth your while to pay a little extra for the 3D version of “The Jungle Book.”

Although Sethi clearly is the lead character of “The Jungle Book,” it could be argued that the star is the collection of digital effects that go way beyond the convincing use of 3D photography. The newest technology has allowed filmmakers to create an environment so lifelike that audiences quickly immerse themselves in the film and assume the jungle is a real place.

“Live-action” is something of a misnomer for this movie, however, because Sethi is the only full-fledged actor in a movie that is mostly computer-generated imagery (CGI). However, a cast of well-known actors lend their voices to the animals of the jungle. We are introduced to many at the beginning of the movie when they gather at Peace Rock. Typically, the rock is submerged, but when water is scarce and it becomes visible, all species know that they can come to drink at Peace Rock without fearing attacks from predators.

Tiger Shere Khan (voiced by Idris Elba) chooses to ignore this rule of survival and shows up at Peace Rock to threaten Mowgli, setting up his pursuit of the man cub throughout the film. The tiger is so menacing, it’s easy to forget he’s not real. He appears when you would expect him to – and often when you don’t, so be prepared to jump in your seat a few times. Parents may find these scenes are good times to take little ones to the bathroom.

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Director Jon Favreau ("Iron Man" and “Elf”) skillfully leads audiences on a journey through the jungle after panther Bagheera decides that Mowgli must return to the human world for his own safety. Along the way, he befriends Baloo (voiced by Bill Murray), and we are treated to the pair frolicking to the famous song, “The Bare Necessities.” Although the lighthearted scene is most welcome in a landscape of serious action, it does seem a little out of place, too. Mowgli must go on to escape encounters with the freakishly gigantic King Louie (voiced by Christopher Walken) and slithering python Kaa (voiced by Scarlett Johansson).

As readers of my previous reviews know, one of my pet peeves about Disney movies is the almost-certain use of death to propel the story forward. There is no denying that “The Jungle Book” has its share of deaths, but they don’t feel gratuitous or drawn out. Instead, the audience will find the ending fitting, especially when they see Mowgli come full circle.

My 11-year-old daughter thoroughly enjoyed the movie. She did get startled by some of the action, but she didn’t have any lasting fears. My 13-year-old son, however, found the tone of the movie to be too serious to be entertaining. It was no “Zootopia” or “The Lion King,” he said. Although “The Jungle Book” does have a happy ending, the villain is not a singular entity that can be neatly banished. Rather, the multiple predators of the jungle are a constant threat to those weaker than them. And perhaps that leaves us all a little uneasy. Still, I enjoyed the movie, and I suspect many moviegoers – adult and older children – will feel the same way.

DISCLAIMER: I viewed “The Jungle Book” at a media screening before its official release. This did not affect my review; my opinions are my own.



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April 14, 2016

50s Prime Time Cafe at Disney's Hollywood Studios serves up delicious dishes & entertainment

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Who doesn’t love comfort food from time to time? Guests at Disney’s Hollywood Studios can enjoy a traditional “home-cooked” meal and the environment of a much simpler family meal time – the 1950s – when they choose to dine at the 50's Prime Time Café inside the theme park at Walt Disney World.

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My family and I snagged a last-minute reservation for this table-service restaurant on Saturday, and we were not sorry afterward. It had been years since we’d eaten there, but the 50's Prime Time Café remains consistent -- each time has been an entertaining and delicious meal. I definitely will continue to recommend the 50's Prime Time Café to guests of all ages.

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Your dining experience begins when you check in at the desk inside the restaurant, which is located near the front of the park, just off the first block of Hollywood Boulevard. You are invited to wait in the Tune-In Lounge, which immediately immerses guests in that retro experience. Feel free to watch black-and-white clips from popular television shows circa 1955 on floor-model sets. Kitschy wallpaper, orange and teal pleather seats, multi-light floor lamps and bi-level end tables make you feel like you are in your grandmother’s house.

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The lounge actually serves the full restaurant menu, plus there are plenty of adult beverages at the bar and shakes to go. You won’t want to skip the house specialty – a peanut butter and jelly shake.

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When your table is ready, the host or hostess will take your party of “cousins” into one of many kitchens. You’ll be seated at a Formica table with views of built-in shelves and cabinets full of ‘50s knick-knacks, tea towels, vintage-looking curtains and more retro TV sets.

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Perhaps the most fun part this meal (besides eating) is that your server is not above gently scolding diners who do not mind their manners. Put your elbows on the table? You’ll be told to rethink that. Need to make a trip to the bathroom? Don’t think you’ll escape and return without being asked if you washed your hands – no matter how old you are! The server may also “help” stragglers finish their meals by using the “airplane technique.” Years ago, my father was cajoled into pantomiming the motions to the nursery rhyme, “The Little Teapot.” Talk about funny!

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But the real reason you’re there is to eat, right? Our family chose Mom’s Old-fashioned Pot Roast, Aunt Liz’s Golden Fried Chicken and Grandma’s Chicken Pot Pie. My daughter had A Sampling of Mom’s Favorite Recipes, which included the pot roast, fried chicken and traditional meatloaf. Truly, none of us had a bad thing to say about any of our meals. The pot roast, which is served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, brown gravy, carrots, celery and onions, is my go-to meal and one that is always satisfying. Afterward, we indulged in traditional desserts of warm apply crisp a la mode and Dad’s Brownie sundae. Both were generous portions and definitely enough to share. To see the fill menu for the 50's Prime Time Café, see our AllEars.Net menu page. There is also a children’s menu.

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50's Prime Time Café is a popular restaurant, so I strongly suggest making reservations. We were able to make a same-day reservation because we were willing to eat a late dinner (at 9 p.m.) that overlapped with the Star Wars fireworks. Incidentally, when the fireworks started, my children stepped outside and had a decent view of the entire show. And, if you have a window seat, you might even see parts of the fireworks show from inside, too.



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April 12, 2016

'Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away' show begins at Disney's Hollywood Studios

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It’s been almost a year since Disney’s Hollywood Studios hosted the last of the now-discontinued Star Wars Weekends. And just when many fans were missing the annual opportunity to immerse themselves in the sci-fi galaxy, the park has introduced two new experiences for Star Wars fans.

A new stage production – “Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away” – and a stormtrooper procession debuted last week as part of the summer’s “Star Wars Awakens” entertainment offerings. My family and I were in the park and experienced both this past weekend on our own, not as part of a media event.

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Although there are no published times for the stormtrooper procession, we happened upon it at 4 p.m. when we were arriving near the stage at the end of Hollywood Boulevard in front of the Chinese Theater. Captain Phasma from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” leads a platoon of First Order stormtroopers on a march from Star Wars Launch Bay to the stage multiple times each day. Once there, she instructs the stormtroopers about what is expected of them -- sort of a training exercise, if you will. The whole “show” lasts about five minutes, but it does give guests and Star Wars fans a sense of the foreboding First Order.

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“Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away” revisits iconic moments from the film saga with movie clips and appearances from popular Star Wars characters like Darth Vader, Darth Maul, C-3P0, R2-D2 and Chewbacca. However, the only characters from the most recent installment are Kylo Ren and BB-8. Although that is somewhat disappointing to fans of the newest trio of heroes, it is the lovable droid’s first appearance as a character at Walt Disney World. My 11-year-old daughter was really happy to see BB-8, but she would have loved to see Rey, as well.

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Overall, “Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away” was not what my family and I were expecting – or hoping for. The production is heavy on movie clips and the characters don’t do much more than a few poses on the stage. There isn’t a lot of interaction between the characters, and it feels pretty superficial. I guess we had been spoiled by “Hyperspace Hoopla,” a stage show that capped off each day during Star Wars Weekends. That show included a large number of Star Wars characters in a mashup of dancing and pop-culture references. It was very creative and well-executed. And the new show just isn’t.

It feels like a placeholder until the new immersive and detailed Star Wars Land opens. The best thing I can say about “Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away” is that it does give audiences the opportunity to see some of the beloved Star Wars characters that otherwise won’t be making appearances (as far as we know) this summer.

For its first week, “Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away” took place five times a day – at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30, 2:30, 3:30, 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. at Center Stage. Be sure to get there early, especially if you have small children, because it will be tough for them to see the stage from more than a few rows back.



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