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April 2, 2015

Families will find a lot to enjoy at renovated Polynesian Village at Walt Disney World

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One of the original hotels at Walt Disney World, Disney's Polynesian Village has long been known as a favorite among families. And the completion of the recent renovations and expansion have reinforced that family comes first at this South Pacific-inspired resort.

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The biggest change certainly is the addition of Disney Vacation Club villas and Walt Disney World's first over-the-water bungalows. The Polynesian is the third and final hotel on the monorail loop to add DVC accommodations. Although DVC membership appeals to many types of repeat visitors, there's no denying that families often consider the timeshare company because it allows them more room and more dining options when traveling.

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"With the DVC bungalows and studios, you have so much more flexibility," said Kate Melody, a Disney Parks Moms Panelist and DVC member. "I have four children and so really the bungalows would be a better choice for us. Being a larger family, we like the flexibility of the villas. The new setup for the studios actually has a split bathroom, so for us in the morning trying to get four children plus Mommy getting ready - you want to look good for those PhotoPass photos - is a little bit of a challenge in a standard hotel room. That's one of the reasons we purchased Disney Vacation Club."

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Kate Melody (left) and Juliette Merchant

Juliette Merchant, another Disney Parks Moms Panelist, DVC member and mother of four, agreed, adding that she enjoys cooking when staying at Walt Disney World. "I cook every day of the week at home except Fridays. And when I come to a DVC resort, that's what I do," she said. "We may do one meal outside the villa each day, and that's probably lunch so the kids get a little bit of a treat. I cook breakfast in our villa, and I cook dinner. I love being able to feed my family the foods that I want to feed them. Of course, it's cheaper, but I know that they're going to eat what they're used to eating. For our family, coming to the resort is such a big draw for them they don't feel deprived if we're not going to every park (or restaurant.)"

Regardless of whether guests stay in hotel rooms or the DVC villas and bungalows, they share access to the resort's many amenities. The centerpiece for many families is, of course, the pool deck. At the Polynesian, the main pool -- the Lava Pool - has been under construction for almost a year. It's expected to reopen within the next two weeks with an additional 35,000 square feet of deck space, said Polynesian Village General Manager Norm Noble.

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Norm Noble

"The volcano [by the pool] has been redesigned, and it has a much more natural feel," he said. "I think people are going to connect with that. It's unique and different."

In addition, a new children's interactive water play area, Kiki Tikis Splash Area, has been added. It contains two smaller slides, while the volcano in the Lava Pool still houses one water slide.

A new eight-person infinity hot tub that overlooks Seven Seas Lagoon opens with the Lava Pool this month. That's an addition that guests repeatedly have requested because the Polynesian was the sole deluxe resort at Walt Disney World without one. A renovation completed in 2001 added warmer water areas and seating to one end of the pool, but they were a far cry from a hot tub.

The quiet pool is set to close for renovations when the new Lava Pool opens to guests.

"Nothing has changed with the marina and its offerings," Noble said. "However, the one thing we have created is the lawn where we are going to be able to do some different experiences. We're going to be able to move the lighting of the torch that we typically would do at 6 o'clock every evening. That's now going to be done on the lawn. And then we're also going to show movies for kids on the lawn. We did show them on the beach."

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You can read about other entertainment, such as hula lessons with Disney Legend Auntie Kau'i and the Spirit of Aloha luau, in my blogs from when we stayed at the Polynesian two years ago. Those entertainment aspects remain unchanged. Also, my AllEars newsletter feature gives an overview of our vacation experiences.

Disney's Polynesian Village houses two table-service restaurants, Kona Café and 'Ohana, plus two bars on the second floor of the main Ceremonial House. The recent renovations extended to the quick-service Captain Cook's restaurant and the new Pineapple Lanai, home of the famous Dole Whip ice cream, on the first floor.

The most-talked about location for adult beverages and small plates of food, however, is the new Trader Sam's Grog Grotto. This intimate, interactive bar and lounge is modeled after its very popular counterpart located in the Disneyland Hotel. The Florida edition also has additional seating outdoors at Trader Sam's Tiki Terrace, which has its own bar with live entertainment that is Polynesian-themed.

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Trader Sam's is the first bar at Walt Disney World to restrict access during some hours to those only 21 and older. You can read more about the policy in my previous blog.

In California, Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Room is set in the 1930s, while the Orlando location has 1,200 props based on a 1960s theme. And that timeframe is indicative of the newly designed areas throughout the resort.

"What we had here was an opportunity to look at that time period when tiki really hit its stride: post WWII to mid-20th century," said Kyle Barnes, the Imagineer responsible for overseeing the design and direction for the entire renovation at the Polynesian Village. "So we took that era as an inspiration for our furniture and then melded that with the original design of the resort itself."



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April 3, 2015

Easter entertainment and dining at Walt Disney World

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It's Easter weekend at Walt Disney World, which means it's quite crowded. But the upside to all the extra visitors is that additional food and entertainment options have been added for the weeks before and after the holiday. Here's what to look for around the resort.

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In the Magic Kingdom:

** Guests can meet Mr. and Mrs. Bunny in the 'garden' adjacent to City Hall in Town Square from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Sunday, April 5.

** An Easter pre-parade will be presented twice today and Sunday - at 11:45 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. - before the Festival of Fantasy Parade. In past years, the pre-parade has featured the Azalea Trail Maids, Daisy Duck, Thumper and Miss Bunny, Rabbit from Winnie the Pooh, and Mr. and Mrs. Bunny, of course.

** At least two eateries that do not have regular hours will be open through April 11. Aunt Polly's on Tom Sawyer Island is open for the first time in forever. It has a limited menu, but the novelty of having a snack on the island may be fun for veteran guests. Expect to find fresh fruit; chips; hummus with veggie chips; PB&J with apple slices, carrots and a drink; turkey sandwich with apple slices; and lemonade, strawberry lemonade, tea and water.

** The second spot is the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon, a quick-service restaurant for lunch and dinner. You can see the seasonal menu on our AllEars.Net resource page.

At Epcot:

** Mr. and Mrs. Bunny also take photos and sign autographs on Easter Sunday behind the United Kingdom pavilion near the maze garden.

** In the same UK area, children ages 3 to 9 can sign up for an Easter Egg hunt and kids ages 8 to 12 can participate in an Easter Egg Relay. When my children were younger, we did this for several years, and it was a lot of fun. You can read about our experiences here.

** Guests of all ages can take part in the Disney Egg-stravaganza, which is a hunt for eggs themed to Disney characters, through Sunday. To participate, each guest must purchase a map for $4.95 at Heritage Manor Gifts (American Adventure Pavilion), Pin Central, Plaza Towers (Port of Entry) and World Traveler (International Gateway). Record your finding and then turn in the map to Port of Entry for a surprise.

At the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa:

** Check out the exquisite display of edible Easter eggs in the lobby. Or take our virtual tour of the creations.

** Reserve your spot for a brunch at 1900 Park Fare today and Sunday at 1 p.m. This is not a character meal, but a spread fit for a princess.

What are you waiting for? Get hopping!



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April 6, 2015

Spring Break Beach Bash debuts this week at Disney's Yacht & Beach Club

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Spring break is a break from the routine, right? Well, Walt Disney World is making sure this time of the year truly lives up to its meaning for its resort guests. At Disney's Yacht & Beach Club hotel, for example, the staff has introduced a Spring Break Beach Bash this week - and it's open to all Walt Disney World guests, a cast member told me.

The Beach Bash is set up - you guessed it - on the beach behind the Beach Club, adjacent to the pirate ship water slide. And what they are offering far exceeds the nightly outdoor movie and marshmallow roast, which - for the record - we find pretty entertaining without any additions. But on select days this week, the activities have been greatly expanded.

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Along the sidewalk, tables are set up to offer guests a whole lot of free, family friendly entertainment. Kids can choose from among several crafts to make, and each receives a 'Happy Spring' bag of candy. Plus, there is a station handing out s'mores kits. (Typically, the deluxe resorts, such as the Yacht & Beach Club, provide marshmallows for toasting but sell the kits for between $5 and $10.)

In the sand, the recreation staff leads kids in games, including crab walks, water balloon tosses, relays, dance competitions and hula-hoop contests.

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Plus, Disney artists are stationed nearby, offering face painting, again free of charge, for children and adults alike. The images range from small classic Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse designs to full-face designs, such as the tiger my nephew chose. (Typically, face painting costs $12 to $15 in the Walt Disney World theme parks.)

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And to top it off, two pontoon boats were dedicated to the Spring Break Beach Bash. Cast members ferried groups of 10 visitors around on the lake to see the sights and sounds of the Boardwalk. These pontoon boats usually are reserved for the nightly fireworks cruises, which are not inexpensive.

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The Spring Break Beach Bash is another example of how Walt Disney World cast members make extra magic every day. My children and their cousins did not expect to spend their evening at the Beach Bash, but when they discovered it, they were thrilled with all the different activities. As a Disney World veteran, I certainly appreciated the value of the entertainment that was being provided at no cost.

The Spring Break Beach Bash is scheduled to take place again this week from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday and Friday at Disney's Yacht & Beach Club.



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April 11, 2015

Registration is open for Disney Soccer Academy for kids

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Orlando City Soccer Club, the City Beautiful's first professional soccer team, certainly has brought new local fans to the game. And if your children are among them, one way to channel that enthusiasm might be with a four-day clinic at the Disney Soccer Academy. The summer camps take place at ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World and promise appearances from some of the game's biggest stars. And perhaps just as winning for parents is the fact that the price has dropped from last summer's camps.

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Registration now is open for the two camps, which take place June 22 through 25 and June 29 through July 2, and you do not have to be a Florida resident to participate! Parents can register their children, who must be ages 5 to 18, online or in person from 8 to 9 a.m. June 22 and 29. There is no limit on the number of players who can attend each session.

Athletes are put in groups on the field, where they are taught by licensed coaches from around the world. The focus is on technical development and playing games with small teams; kids practice their shooting, dribbling and defending skills. Plus, professional English Premier League and Brazilian soccer players get in the games with the kids.

"It's an opportunity for children to come and be involved with current professional players. "¦ We have some of the top of the line stars coming out to be involved and play with the kids," said Glen Buckley, Soccer Academy director, on the Disney website.

Disney Soccer Academy is run by Midwest Soccer Academy, which has been training athletes of all ages and abilities since 1973.

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Although each camp day runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., it is not all under the hot Florida sun. Warm-up and the first training session take place from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Then, kids break for lunch, which is included in the camp cost, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. They head back out onto the field for a second training session from 1 to 3 p.m. For an additional cost of $60 per week, players can stay for aftercare from 3 to 5 p.m.

If there is inclement weather, alternate activities may be planned and refunds will not be issued.

The cost of one session at the Disney Soccer Academy is $349. In addition to the instruction and lunch, the price also includes an event T-shirt and a gift for each athlete. Friends and families are invited to watch the clinics, and they pay a separate admission charge. Daily admission is $17 for adult guests (ages 10 and older) and $12 for children (ages 3 to 9). Spectators also can purchase a Length of Event pass, but those prices have yet to be announced.

Athletes who are 17 and younger must check in with their legal guardians on the first day of camp. Everyone who is participating - athletes and coaches - must sign waivers and turn them in the first day before they will be issued their credentials.

Athletes and their legal guardians are required to book camp accommodations at Disney's Athlete Housing program and through Disney's Sports travel provider, GET Sports, unless certain conditions are met, such as living within a 90-minute drive or having reservations at a family-owned timeshare. For more details, visit Get Travel.



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April 14, 2015

Central Florida students can apply to be Disney Dreamers and Doers

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Oscar season may be over for now, but Walt Disney World's version of the famed awards are in full swing. Everybody knows what the Oscars are. But do you know what the "Mousecars" honor? The exclusive golden Mickey Mouse statues are bestowed on some of the most promising students in Central Florida next month through the Disney Dreamers and Doers program.

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For more than three decades, this award program has recognized local students who have inspired others and made the world a better place. In return, The Walt Disney Co. hopes to inspire and reward the area's student leaders with theme-park tickets -- or even annual passes -- to Walt Disney World and provide Disney-themed keepsakes, such as the Mousecars.

Disney relies on each school in Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Lake and Polk counties (plus the Florida Virtual School) to nominate one child for the honor of being named a Disney Dreamer and Doer.

The process begins when students are asked to nominate themselves by writing a 300-word paragraph describing their achievements. These achievements don't necessarily have to be academic. 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 other positive actions."

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.)

This year's deadline for each school to submit its Disney Dreamer and Doer winner is April 24. That means each school likely has set earlier deadlines - within the next two weeks -- that local students will want to check.

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In total, there are about 400 students from elementary, middle- and high-school students in Central Florida chosen to receive the one-day park-hopper tickets, medals and certificates.

Once a school's Disney Dreamer and Doer is chosen, he or she is entered in a larger competition, Disney's Shining Stars. The awards are given to 18 students -- one elementary, middle and high school student in Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Lake and Polk counties and from the Florida Virtual School. Disney officials, not school principals, choose the Shining Stars. Shining Stars receive Disney World annual passes for their immediate families for one year, Mousecar statues and certificates noting their accomplishments.

"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."

Among last year's winners are a student who learned to give back after living in a homeless shelter; a student who organized book drives for needy kids; and a student who excelled in science education with a goal of creating clean, unlimited power sources.

Schools will be notified by May 8 if their students are among this year's Shining Stars.

April 17, 2015

Review: Disneynature's 'Monkey Kingdom' celebrates Earth Day admirably

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"Monkey Kingdom," Disneynature's newest film that opens nationwide today, gives viewers a front-row seat to view the lives of macaque monkeys living in Sri Lanka. What sets the film apart from other nature movies, though, is the story narrated by comic Tina Fey.

Director Mark Linfield (Disneynature's "Chimpanzee," "Earth") draws viewers into "Monkey Kingdom" by humanizing the struggle of the monkeys. His crew filmed a troop of monkeys for 1,000 days - almost three years - and during that time, personalities emerged that helped Linfield find the focus for the film. His leading lady, Maya, is a scrappy underdog who wants to better her lot in life.

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Through Maya, we are introduced to the caste system of the jungle. Some macaque monkeys definitely are more equal than others, and poor Maya is at the very bottom of the heap. But she is industrious and motivated to improve her situation by working within the monkey hierarchy, which is fascinating in its layers of alpha animals.

Maya's personal journey also takes viewers on a journey through the Sri Lanka jungles, countryside and even into an "urban jungle." Some of the funniest scenes in the movie take place when the monkeys break into a house in the city that is decorated -- and fully stocked with snacks and treats - for a child's birthday party.

"Monkey Kingdom" is the eighth film from Disneynature, and as we've come to expect, it delivers gorgeous photography of its subjects and their various habitats. One of the most unusual sequences is when the monkeys, and other animals of the jungle, have their annual feast on winged termites, which overwhelm the sunlit fields. We see during the film's credits that the filmmakers were positioned incredibly close to their subjects, even shooting underwater so we can see the monkeys swimming. Who knew monkeys were adept at searching for food in ponds?

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"Monkey Kingdom" is rated G, and there is little that would make it inappropriate for families. Although there is fighting between Maya's troop and a rival group of monkeys, the scenes are not overly wrought with violence. Even when a predator makes a kill - and be assured, there is the inevitable Disney plot device of a death - what is shown is no worse than what audiences see in Disney's animated movies.

Overall, 'Monkey Kingdom' is an enjoyable movie for audiences of all ages. Plus, by going to see it during opening week, viewers can feel good about contributing to a worthy cause. For every ticket sold through April 23, Disneynature will make a donation to Conservation International to help protect monkeys and other endangered species in their natural habitats.

Visitors at Walt Disney World can see a sand sculpture dedicated to 'Monkey Kingdom' take shape near The Outpost in World Showcase at Epcot. Artists will begin working today and the big reveal will be on Earth Day (April 22).

DISCLAIMER: I viewed 'Monkey Kingdom' at a media screening before its official release. This did not affect my review; my opinions are my own.



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April 19, 2015

SeaWorld Orlando's sea lions and otters return in 'Clyde & Seamore's Sea Lion High'

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Guests who have missed seeing SeaWorld's sea lions and otters in their hilarious shows at the Orlando theme park don't have to wait any longer. Sea Lion & Otter Theater reopened Thursday with the brand-new "Clyde & Seamore's Sea Lion High" show, and AllEars.Net was invited to be among the first to see it.

"The whole fun concept is that there are sea lions AND humans attending high school. So, you have to bring your imagination with you when you come to Sea Lion High," said Judy Jenkins, director of education. "They haven't earned all their credits to graduate, so that's where the story builds and the drama comes in, and we'll find out today whether they'll graduate and have the opportunity to go to Ocean University."

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Guests can expect the same type of humor in the new show that the animals and their trainers delivered in the previous production, "Clyde & Seamore Take Pirate Island," and in my personal favorite, "Sea Lions Tonite!"

"Kids will like that [Sea Lion High] is laugh-out-loud funny," Jenkins told me. "The sea lions seem so serious, in a sense, and the trainers are silly with their costumes and their lines. That combination just makes you laugh. I love the connection that guests can have with other guests, as well, when they're all laughing."

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But those laughs don't necessarily come easy. Some of the behaviors are ones that trainers have been working on with the animals for three years. Other acts take less time. It depends on the individual animal and that's animal's individual relationship with people, said Kelly Flaherty Clark, curator of animal training at SeaWorld Orlando.

There are 10 sea lions, two Pacific walruses and 13 otters that are trained for roles in "Clyde & Seamore's Sea Lion High."

"In the cast of the show, we can use 10 sea lions or two sea lions, and that keeps their days variable," Clark said. "The sea lions don't know when the school bell rings if they'll be doing the whole show or if they're going to be coming out for just science class or just gym or just the finale."

And don't forget the otters.

"There is a lot of new otter behavior in this show," Clark said. "We love to watch them swim, so we put some behaviors in the show that show the audience how otters swim. An otter gets a can that should be recycled out of the water and then an otter is swimming on the second level of this show. The audience can appreciate new aspects of their natural capabilities."

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Repeat visitors to SeaWorld Orlando may notice that some of the scenes in "Clyde & Seamore's Sea Lion High" resemble ones from the previous show, "Clyde & Seamore Take Pirate Island." That's because they were so popular with the audiences that the creators wanted to retain them. The lunchroom scene is almost identical to the old dinner scene when the sea lions steal fish and then deny it. The seemingly earnest behaviors of the sea lions always have audiences in stitches.

If you're interested in learning more about animal training, be sure to get to theater at least 15 minutes before show time because the pre-show consists of an animal trainer explaining how certain behaviors are learned by the animals in "Clyde & Seamore's Sea Lion High."

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Longtime Seamore & Clyde fans likely will miss the beloved mime who entertained crowds before "Clyde & Seamore Take Pirate Island." In his place now is a crossing guard who interacts with guests as they find their seats. Unfortunately, at the show we saw, he just wasn't as funny. Of course, this is just the beginning of the production, though, so that act may improve over time.

One change that will be a welcome one for some visitors is the expanded soak zone. An announcement before the show makes sure those seated in those lower bleachers understand that a soak zone means getting hit with more than just a few drops of water.

True to its theme of education, "Clyde & Seamore's Sea Lion High" teaches lessons that are at the heart of SeaWorld's goals of conservation, such as the importance of recycling and keeping our oceans healthy.

"We do have some messages, but they're done in a very fun, entertaining way," Jenkins said. "As a result, it's more memorable, and it will stay with guests longer, even after they've left the park."

DISCLAIMER: I was a guest of SeaWorld Orlando for the grand opening of "Clyde & Seamore's Sea Lion High." This did not affect my story; my opinions are my own.



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April 20, 2015

Walt Disney World to celebrate Earth Day 2015 at Animal Kingdom, Epcot

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Wednesday is Earth Day, and Walt Disney World is celebrating!

Animal Kingdom is marking April 22, which is also the theme park's birthday, with its annual Party for the Planet. Most of the activities are based at Rafiki's Planet Watch, so those interested should head to the back of the park, where they will take a short train ride to the festivities.

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There, guests will find several opportunities to learn about and celebrate the Earth. Through Saturday, April 25, visitors can meet and take photos with Rafiki and Jiminy Cricket. The latter, a character from 'Pinocchio,' usually only comes out for special occasions, so this is a somewhat rare appearance. Also through Saturday, guests can have their faces painted or a caricature drawn -- for a charge.

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Want to learn a little while celebrating? Cast members who work on conservation efforts around the world will have displays and presentations. Plus, research stations will showcase behind-the-scenes footage from Disneynature's 'Monkey Kingdom' that shows how technology is used to enhance conservation efforts. (For every ticket sold through April 23, Disneynature will make a donation to Conservation International to help protect monkeys and other endangered species in their natural habitats. My review of the film can be found here.)

In past years, a series of hands-on activities were designed to help kids learn about various aspects of conservation and planet stewardship. From discovering how to shop for products that are Earth-friendly to identifying animals in the wild, kids traveled around the park, collecting prizes that together formed a wildlife tracking kit. It was a clever and fun educational exercise. My fingers are crossed that the stations will be back this year.

Animal Kingdom again this year hosts artists who specialize in landscapes and nature designs, and their work is available for purchase through Earth Day. There also will be Disney Earth Day merchandise for sale on Wednesday. And what birthday would be complete without a cupcake? A cute Worms & Dirt confection is for sale on April 22 at Kusafari Coffee Shop and Bakery and Isle of Java.

An Earth Day Times Guide will be available at the front of park with all the day's special activities.

Earth Day also will continue to be celebrated at Epcot. Most of the activities will be located inside The Seas with Nemo & Friends. Displays throughout the pavilion -- many of which also can be seen on World Oceans Day on June 8 -- help children learn how turtle excluder devices protect sea turtles and how conservation efforts save coral reefs, manatees and sharks.

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At one booth inside The Seas, a cast member will explain how The Walt Disney Co. is helping to protect coral reefs near Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line's private island in the Bahamas, by relocating sea urchins that help control the algae there. At another, guests will learn that they can contribute to the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund's sea turtle conservation efforts through the Adopt-A-Nest Program. They can do so at the gift shop at Epcot's The Seas with Nemo & Friends; the Out of the Wild shop at Animal Kingdom; and at Disney's Vero Beach Resort.

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Finally, be sure to check out the sand sculpture that showcases Disneynature's "Monkey Kingdom" at the World Showcase Outpost. It's been completed this week as an early Earth Day present!



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April 23, 2015

Teen Beach 2: Beach Party kicks off on May 22 at Disney's Typhoon Lagoon

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Walt Disney World is bringing back its beach dance party at Typhoon Lagoon for a limited time this summer. Inspired by the sequel to Disney Channel's 'Teen Beach Movie,' the fun kicks off May 22 as part of the 'Coolest Summer Ever' at the resort.

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The original party debuted at the water park in the summer of 2013, when the movie was released. It featured a high-energy DJ spinning remixes of retro tunes on the stage by the clock tower adjacent to the wave pool. Costumed bikers and surfers, much like the characters in the movie, led guests in dancing, hula hooping and tossing beach balls. The beach party also offered other traditional summer activities, including relays on the sand, a water balloon toss and a limbo challenge.

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This year's event, 'Teen Beach 2: Beach Party' will have the same format, according to Charles Stovall, a public relations manager at Walt Disney World. The party will take place multiple times each day through July 5. (A placard in front of the stage will list daily times.)

The party is included in regular admission to Typhoon Lagoon, which is $58 for ages 10 and older and $50 for children ages 3 to 9.

'Teen Beach Movie' actors Garrett Clayton (Tanner), Kent Boyd (Rascal) and Chrissie Fit (CheeChee) surprised guests at the kickoff of the beach party two years ago, and we were there to catch the fun, as you can see in the video below.

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'Teen Beach Movie 2' is the first Disney Channel movie sequel since 'Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam' in 2010. In the continuation, modern-day teens Brady (Ross Lynch) and McKenzie (Maia Mitchell) get a real-world visit from Lela, Tanner, Butchy, and other surfer and biker pals from the beach party film within a film, 'Wet Side Story.' That much was revealed after the credits of the first movie, but trailers for the sequel aren't giving away much of the new plot. Disney Channel also has not publicized a release date.

Stay tuned to AllEars.Net for details as they are released.



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April 25, 2015

Disney launches app for Apple Watch, storybook service for AT&T U-verse

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Want all Disney all the time? Now you can have it. Disney is extending its reach digitally, making its products and services available on even more platforms, including the new Apple Watch, and in a brand new way on AT&T U-verse.

On Friday, the Disney Moment app became the first Disney app to launch on the Apple Watch. Unlike many of the apps for the new device that focus on health and fitness, social media or event planning, Disney Moment 'delivers Disney entertainment to fans throughout the day, while maximizing the innovative features of the new watch,' according to a press release.

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The new app has four main types of content, which come largely from Disney Publishing Worldwide's publishing programs and magazine series. Among them:

** Entertaining content: Trivia, inspirational quotes, mini quizzes and a character of the day.
** Magic-At-A-Glance: 'Up to 20 real-time content notifications a day using Apple Watch Glances to view highlights of unseen content throughout the day. "¦ Tapping the Disney Moment Glance screen takes users to the newest Disney Moment.'
** Swipe and Zoom: Apple Watch's unique Digital Crown allows users to scroll through and zoom in and out of each Disney Moment.
** Spread the Smile: Users can favorite Disney Moments and then share them on social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.

A save feature allows users to save their favorite Disney Moments simply by tapping "Favorites" or "Save" on the Apple Watch app and iPhone app. Once saved, users can share their favorite Disney moments with friends and family through a number of social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and more.

Disney Moment costs $5.99 and requires iOS 8.0 and greater and iPhone 5 and above.

Meanwhile, AT&T U-verse customers now will have access to the popular Disney Story Central app on their television screens. Disney Story Central is a subscription service that offers a collection of narrated classic Disney stories for $8 per month.

Parents and their children can read along with beloved Disney characters including Mickey Mouse, Elsa, Anna and Olaf on their TV screens. New stories will be added to the platform every few months, according to a press release. Visit www.att.com/u-verse to see if Disney Story Central is available in your area.

AT&T U-verse customers already have access to live and on-demand programming from Disney Channel, Disney Junior and Disney XD on their U-verse TVs and through the U-verse App.



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April 28, 2015

SeaWorld Orando says it is building tallest, fastest, longest roller coaster to open in 2016

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SeaWorld Orlando has announced that it is building Orlando's tallest, fastest and longest roller coaster. The 200-foot thrill ride is expected to open in 2016.

Although few details were released in its short press release, the theme park did provide some clues about theming, indicating the ride will 'rise from the ocean depths' and 'take its place atop the food chain.' Which marine animal do you think that could that be? And if you're thinking shark, what kind?

Visitors and SeaWorld fans can follow the progress of the ride's construction by using the hashtag #nothingfaster on social media sites. More information is promised in late May.

SeaWorld employed a similar marketing technique leading up to the opening of its most recent thrill ride, Ihu's Breakway Falls at its Aquatica water park. Guests could follow along using the hashtag #nothingtaller.

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That ride definitely lived up to its billing with an 80-foot-tall platform. Just ask my daughter, the only member of my immediate family brave enough to put herself in an enclosed box and wait for the bottom to drop out so she can free fall into a water slide. You can read more about her experiences here and here. Ihu's Breakaway Falls is the tallest, steepest and only multi-drop tower slide of its kind in the southern United States.

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Back on dry land, SeaWorld Orlando has two large-scale roller coasters. Manta and Kraken. Manta, which aims to give riders the feeling of 'what it's like to spin, glide, skim and fly like a giant ray,' is the more daring of the two. Riders are strapped into this attraction almost parallel to the ground as the ride starts and remain facing forward as they race up steep hills, aim for sprays of water and twist and turn. It's definitely not for the faint of heart, especially with a head-first, face-down inverted nosedive. Kraken is based on the mythical tales of a sea creature of the same name. It, too, is a floorless coaster with high and long drops and quick spirals. Imagine the new rollar coaster topping Manta and Kraken!

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SeaWorld Orlando also has a more in-depth expansion on the horizon. The Blue World Project is a multi-million-dollar project that will create first-of-its-kind environments for its signature killer whales at all three theme parks. SeaWorld San Diego will roll out the new environment in 2018, with Orlando and San Antonio to follow. Each new environment will have a total water volume of 10 million gallons, nearly double that of the existing facility, and a surface area of nearly 1.5 acres. The wow factor comes with the views that will be more than 40 feet tall, providing guests with the world's largest underwater viewing experience of orcas. Plus, guests will be able to walk alongside the whales as if they were at the shore.

AllEars.Net will bring you the latest details about all of SeaWorld's new attractions.



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April 30, 2015

Disney's Maker Studios to feature Marvel characters and partner with ESPN and ABC

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Maker Studios' recently unveiled plans for upcoming content illustrates how The Walt Disney Company plans not only to leverage its digital audiences, but also how popular characters, such as those from Marvel, fit into its content strategy.

I wrote about Maker Studios back in February when its co-founder, vlogger Shay Carl Butler, was in Orlando to attend Playlist Live 2015, a three-day convention that started as a way for attendees to learn more about video production from experienced creators.

Maker Studios is a multi-channel network and YouTube video supplier. It reportedly gets about 5.5 billion views per month across its 55,000 YouTube channels. The Walt Disney Company acquired Maker Studios in 2014 for a deal that potentially could be worth almost $1 billion.

In its presentation to potential advertisers this week, Maker Studios revealed that it is working with Disney's Marvel division to not only promote current releases, such as this week's 'Avengers: Age of Ultron,' but also original content based on the 'lore' of the comic book universe.

According to the Los Angeles Times, 'Maker's pitch is aimed at advertisers who want to reach millennials, age 13 to 34, who spend an increasing number of hours watching video online and on mobile devices. Sixty percent of that age group visits YouTube at least once a day, according to the company's data.'

Maker Studios encompasses far more video channels that have nothing to do with Disney than those that do. But clearly, The Walt Disney Company is going to make access to its properties more readily available to those under the Maker Studios umbrella.

It also was announced that Disney's ESPN and X Games will partner athletes with content creators and "deliver cutting edge content year-round," according to Deadline.com. The site also reported that Maker will "collaborate on nonfiction storytelling around politics and culture" including an original, American Women, with ABC's Lincoln Square Productions. Plus, among Maker's large catalogue of upcoming original content is 'Maker Tales,' fairy tales re-imagined as music videos.

"Before the Mickey Mouse Club, kids' shows were only hosted by adults with other kids solely used as the in-studio audience. In the 60 years since then, technology has completely changed, but the desire for young people to connect directly with their peers has not," Erin McPherson, chief content officer at Maker, said in a recent USA Today report.

Want to hang out with the blogger stars from Maker Studios? Dates for Playlist Live 2016 in Orlando already have been announced. The conference will take place April 22 to 24 at the Orlando World Center Marriott. Tickets, with early-bird discounts, are on sale now at https://www.playlist-live.com/orl-tickets/products



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About April 2015

This page contains all entries posted to A Mom and The Magic in April 2015. They are listed from oldest to newest.

March 2015 is the previous archive.

May 2015 is the next archive.

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