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May 2, 2015

DisneyBound founder creates themed fitness outfits for runDisney

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A year ago, I told you all about a hot new trend -- DisneyBound -- that allows fans to dress up like their favorite Disney characters without necessarily wearing costumes. Now, runDisney has recognized the popularity of the trend and partnered with its founder, Leslie Kay, to create outfits for its running events. Could planning a themed running look be any simpler?

The term 'DisneyBound' took root when blogger Kay started a Tumblr page to showcase the Disney-inspired outfits she put together. It's a place, she says, "where fashion geeks and Disney nerds collide." Kay, a self-professed fashionista and Disney fan, searches for just the right clothes and accessories to create a character look. Then, artist Phillip Light creates an illustration for her website, and links to online stores are added so admirers can purchase the clothes for the looks they love.

Disney fans have wholeheartedly embraced the concept, and many can be seen sporting their looks in the Walt Disney World parks each day here in Orlando and at other Disney parks worldwide.

But Kay has taken on a new challenge with coordinating athletic outfits for runDisney. On her runDisney blog, Kay says, 'It's safe to say running wasn't always my go-to activity. " However, over the years, I've grown to love the daily challenge running presents. " There are a few beliefs when it comes to running that I haven't outgrown. For instance, your running outfit should be one that inspires you to stay active. The more confident you feel in your activewear, the more you will push yourself to achieve your goals. I also still like to believe in the childlike ideal that a brand new pair of sneakers (especially the ones that blink and light up) will make you run faster.'

For today's final Expedition Everest Challenge, Kay put together a look for runners who want to pay homage to the Yeti. The simple pieces are from Champion and New Balance, which are runDisney partners, and yet the finished result is true to character.

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Kay also has given us fitness looks that channel Mickey Mouse, Dumbo, the Aliens from 'Toy Story' and Elsa and Anna from 'Frozen.' In a video on her blog, she advises runners that putting together the Mickey Mouse look can be very simple, and many people already have what they need in their closets: a black shirt, red shorts and yellow socks.

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DisneyBound isn't all about spending the big bucks on an extravagant outfit, Kay says. "DisneyBound is meant to be inspiration for you to pull together your own outfits which work for your body and wallet, whether from your closet or local mall," she writes on her Tumblr page.

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I think my favorite runDisney DisneyBound look, however, is that of Olaf. It's simple, and could be adapted by guys or gals. Perfect for the #CoolestSummerEver!

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May 5, 2015

runDisney newcomers' look at final Expedition Everest Challenge

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My husband and 12-year-old son ran their first 5K over the weekend - and they chose a runDisney race to make their debut. As longtime local annual passholders, we certainly are familiar with the 'Disney difference' - the level of service that sets Walt Disney World events above many others - but we wondered how that would translate into a sporting event. Although plenty has been written about runDisney events, perhaps impressions and observations from a fresh perspective will help you decide if it's time to register yourself for a runDisney event.

Saturday was the final Expedition Everest Challenge, and it was the priciest 5K on the runDisney schedule because of all the extras it includes. An obstacle course, a scavenger hunt and the after-party were part of the $125 per person price tag. That's almost double what other runDisney 5Ks cost, but the other running events do not come with all the extra features of the Expedition Everest Challenge.

So, was it worth it?

Both of my guys said, 'Absolutely'! Although I fully expected that response from my theme-park-loving son, I have to admit that my husband's excitement over the race somewhat surprised me. I knew he was doing it mostly for my son, but he ended up thoroughly enjoying himself, as well, even though he typically enjoys running by himself. Here is what topped their list of the night's best experiences:

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** Being able to run a race through a Walt Disney World theme park. As they say, 'Every mile is magical!' Parts of the course go backstage, so it's a thrill to see what is not usually made available to guests. Plus, this run at Animal Kingdom is one of the few nighttime races, and special sound and light effects and pyrotechnics were set up along the race route.

** The camaraderie and party atmosphere of the runners before and during the event. My husband pointed out that he is not ever planning to wear a costume while he runs, but he appreciated the creativity of those who did dress up for the race.

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** The themed photo opportunities staged in the parking lot. The lines were at least 30 minutes long for these sets, but they made for great souvenirs. Because I wasn't at the race, I asked my husband to be sure to get photos, and this was one of my favorites.

** The well-organized packet pick-up and gear bag check-in and check-out. None of these stations had long lines, like he and my son feared, and at each, the cast members were knowledgeable about answering all their newbie questions.

** Professional photos taken at the finish line and of each participant on the course and with his or her medal.

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** The after-party. If you like Expedition Everest roller coaster or any of the attractions in Dinoland, U.S.A., you could ride them over and over again with very short waits. Plus, there was a DJ and dance party, some character experiences and food vendors.

There only were a couple disappointments for my family at the Expedition Everest Challenge:

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** The difficulty of the scavenger hunt portion of the race. The questions were so tough that participants had to spend a lot of time that they would rather have been at the after-party. Cast members did not readily give up answers, either, and they could not enter the party without having solved the five questions. Some participants may have been looking forward to the brain teasers after the run, but my husband said he was exhausted and ready to relax and recharge at the party, not wrack his brain in frustration. Disney trivia might have been fun, he said, but instead he was met with math problems to solve and bizarre word-play games.

** My son's medal was broken. Judging from the number of complaints in online chat groups, he was far from alone. Some have reported that those with broken medals can contact runDisney and have new ones shipped to their homes.

Still, overall, both my husband and son left their first runDisney race feeling inspired and ready to get back to training. Good thing, too, because they both are signed up for Mickey's Jingle Jungle 5K in November and the Walt Disney World 10K in January.



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May 9, 2015

Universal theme parks to build new attractions based on Nintendo characters

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How would you like to step into a life-size video game, much like Wreck-It Ralph does in the animated Disney-Pixar movie? Well, it just might be possible sooner than you think at Universal Orlando.

On Thursday, Universal Studios and Nintendo announced a partnership that "will bring the world of Nintendo to life at Universal theme parks. Together, these two storytelling giants will create spectacular, dedicated experiences based on Nintendo's wildly popular games, characters and worlds," said Universal Orlando spokesperson Tom Schroder.

Although specific characters and games were not mentioned, the news release did say the two companies will be developing "immersive experiences [that] will include major attractions at Universal's theme parks and will feature Nintendo's most famous characters and games."

With that statement, how could gaming fans not think of Nintendo's iconic character, Mario, and his pals Luigi, Princess Peach, Yoshi, Toad and Donkey Kong?

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Fictional character Mario first appeared in 1981 in the original version of "Donkey Kong," which was an arcade game. He was created by Shigeru Miyamoto and is voiced by Charles Martinet. In the more than 30 years since his debut, Mario has appeared in a slew of games, most recently attracting a new generation of gamers with Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros and Mario Party 10.

Clearly, Mario has staying power in the video game arena. And the merchandising continues to increase, too. For the last several years, we have spotted Mario among the Halloween trick-or-treaters, on backpacks and school supplies, plush figures, T-shirts, bedding and more.

Nintendo clearly is appealing to female players, as well, with its nod to royalty, Princess Peach. She embodies traditional characteristics, such as acting selfless and demure and dressing in a long pink gown. As Mario's love interest, Princess Peach is not just a secondary character; she's the lead in several games.

All of this bodes well for Universal Orlando guests. Even without knowing specifics, we know the new experiences will have wide appeal. And, presumably, they will live up to their billing as "immersive" - a claim that's not difficult to believe coming from the creators of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

In addition to its games, Nintendo produces various gaming platforms, including Wii U home consoles and Nintendo 3DS portable systems. Nintendo also publishes the hugely popular Pokemon games, which were developed by Game Freak and Creatures, Inc.



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May 12, 2015

What to expect at Walt Disney World's Coolest Summer Ever 24-hour party

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In less than two weeks, Walt Disney World will host its third annual 24-hour party to kick off the summer travel season. Each 'all-nighter' has taken place at the Magic Kingdom on Memorial Day weekend and has included special entertainment, unique food options and even themed merchandise. Plus, guests are invited to dress in costumes to show their #DisneySide.

This year's Coolest Summer Ever event takes place from 6 a.m. May 22 until 6 a.m. May 23., and Disney officials have teased us with a few hints about the magic to be offered that night. Here's what we know so far:

** "Frozen" characters Anna, Elsa, Olaf and Kristoff will welcome park guests at 6 a.m. after an opening show and ceremony. (Although there has been no official announcement, it's widely thought that Olaf will begin meet-and-greets that night. The popular snowman has been seen meeting guests at resort hotels and private events since the fall. No word on Kristoff, and Elsa and Anna already are stationed every day at Princess Fairytale Hall.)

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Teen Beach 2's Maia Mitchell, Ross Lynch, Grace Phipps and Garrett Clayton

** A host of Disney Channel and Disney XD actors will appear in the Magic Kingdom during at least two themed events. First, the stars will serve as Grand Marshals during the Festival of Fantasy parade at 3 p.m. Afterward, look for some of the actors to join the Club Chill DJ dance party from 4 to 11 p.m. in Tomorrowland. (There also will be previews of upcoming films and music videos.) The actors who have been confirmed, include:

From 'Jessie': Karan Brar, Skai Jackson and Peyton List
From 'Austin and Ally': Ross Lynch, Laura Marano and Calum Worthy
From 'Liv and Maddie': Dove Cameron
From 'Teen Beach 2': Maia Mitchell, Garrett Clayton and Grace Phipps
From 'Decendents': Sofia Carson
From 'Mighty Med': Bradley Perry and Jake Short

Please note that there has been no indication as of yet that the actors will do meet-and-greets with guests.

** After the dance party in Tomorrowland, Rockettower Plaza becomes the location for sing-along screenings of Disney's "Frozen" from midnight to 4 a.m.

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** Other late-night dance parties will be hosted by Disney characters wearing their pajamas in Frontierland and the Castle Hub. Characters announced so far include Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Chip, Dale and Goofy. (At the first party, guests were able to meet Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, who were dressed in their PJs, in the Town Square Theater. Last year, although they appeared for the opening and closing ceremonies, the famous pair did not meet with guests individually, and many of us were disappointed. We are hoping that changes this year because that was one of our favorite souvenirs.)

** A morning dance party will take place, as well. Join your favorite heroes from "The Incredibles" in the #IncrediblesSuperDanceParty in Tomorrowland, starting at 9:30 a.m.

** Radio Disney personalities Ernie D, Brooke, Candice and Nate will broadcast live from the event from 8 a.m. to midnight.

** There will be additional showings of regular parades. The Move It! Shake it! Dance and Play It! Street Party will take place at 9:30 a.m. and 5:40 p.m., and the Main Street Electrical Parade will step off at 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. Olaf, Kristoff, Anna and Elsa 'put Magic Kingdom Park 'on ice' with pre-MSEP parade appearances,' according to the Disney Parks Blog.

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** Annual Passholders were invited last month to pre-order the event T-shirts, which feature Olaf and change colors when exposed to sunlight.

** A live Magic Cam feed will allow fans from home to catch glimpses of parades, shows and fireworks at select times during the event.

** For the first year, Mickey waffles will be served for an early-morning breakfast in the park. That's an unusual occurrence for quick-service restaurants at the Magic Kingdom, although they are routinely available at the character breakfasts. See you in line!

Take a look back at the all-nighter events in 2014 and 2013.



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May 14, 2015

SeaWorld Orlando to host Canine Companions for Independence graduation

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On Saturday, SeaWorld will be honoring some very important animals, and park guests are invited to share in the celebration. Although these particular animals are not ones that will perform in the theme park's shows or serve as company ambassadors, their specialized training has prepared them for equally challenging and rewarding roles.

The Southeast Region of Canine Companions for Independence will be hosting its Puppy Matriculation Ceremony at SeaWorld Orlando's Nautilus Theatre at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 16. Teams of 14 graduates and their new assistance dogs will graduate in front of their puppy raisers, instructors, volunteers, and Canine Companions staff members and graduates. But SeaWorld guests are also welcome to attend the ceremony, as well.

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Graduation marks the end of an assistance dog's professional training and the beginning of a partnership between a human in need and a canine that will provide service and companionship. The organization says these dogs are expected to 'provide emotional support to children in the courtroom settings, will help special education children in schools, will turn the child in a wheelchair into the cool kid and will give independence to adults so they can live on their own.'

The Southeast Region of Canine Companions for Independence was established in 1989. Its regional training center, which serves the states of Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, is located in Orlando. SeaWorld's $1 million donation allowed the state-of-the-art facility to open in 2000.

Canine Companions for Independence has placed more than 4,680 assistance dogs with program graduates during the last 40 years. Graduation celebrations are taking place across the country this weekend. Those who would like to watch the graduation ceremonies but who cannot attend in person can view them on CCI's website, where they will be live streamed.

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To achieve its mission, Canine Companions for Independence hosts fundraising events --called DogFest Walk 'n Roll -- throughout the year in different cities. Orlando's event is on Nov. 21 at Lake Lily in Maitland. Owners and their canines are invited to register now for the community dog walk and find out how they can support the organization with fundraising, sponsorships and donations.



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May 16, 2015

Magic Kingdom's 24-hour party is perfect way for this family to make memories

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While many families will focus on traditions of backyard barbecues and swimming for Memorial Day weekend, my family will usher in summer with our own tradition of staying up all night in the Magic Kingdom.

As Walt Disney World annual passholders, we are fortunate to be able to spend plenty of time in the theme parks on a regular basis. Some might wonder why would we want to brave the crowds and deprive ourselves of sleep when we go could back to the Magic Kingdom any day. After all, our children go to school all day before we head to the Magic Kingdom.

Sure, my husband and I enjoy the party atmosphere and some of the special entertainment, but what really drives us is our kids' desire to stay up all night in The Most Magical Place on Earth. They are old enough at 10 and 12 to actually make it until dawn, and their excitement is the stuff of family memories that we will recount for years to come. For them, the thrill isn't necessarily to stay in the park for 24 hours straight but to stay up all night in the park. Remember when you were younger and staying up on New Year's Eve was a big deal? Well, multiply that by 1,000!

Of course we will check out the special entertainment that will be offered at the Coolest Summer Ever kickoff event and the short middle-of-the-night queues for favorite attractions, but we also have a few must-do's of our own:

** Although guests are invited to dress up in costumes, we usually save that for Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Instead, my daughter loves to wear Disney-themed pajamas for the event, and I may or may not be joining her this year. She's too old to wear her pajamas in public otherwise, but my daughter used to love changing into her PJ's in the park as a little girl.

** Our first stop on Main Street, U.S.A., is The Emporium to shop for event merchandise. Because we all have plenty of Disney T-shirts and don't purchase souvenirs on each visit like vacationers, this is a treat. We each add one of the all-nighter T-shirts to our collections.

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** My favorite souvenirs are photos of my family at locations you can't snap on any other day. Last year, there were clever clock backdrops that guests could pose in front of with their arms forming the clock's hands to tell the time. We also stop in front of a clock on Main Street, U.S.A., right before we leave the park to show how late we were able to stay up.

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** Sweets! More hours in the Magic Kingdom means more opportunities to sample the specialty food items, right? It's been hot weather at the last two 24-hour parties, so we have gravitated to the Eye Scream Sundaes and Mickey's Kitchen Sink Sundaes at the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor. This is one night where I don't limit the kids' sugar intake.

** Our last stop is breakfast in the Magic Kingdom. My husband and I are night owls, so our kids very rarely have the opportunity to eat breakfast in the theme parks, which qualifies it as special in their minds. This year, I will be leading the crew to breakfast because it's the first time Mickey waffles - my favorite -- will be served at the event.

Of course, then, we have another tradition, in which we drive home and go to bed and sleep into the afternoon.



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May 19, 2015

How teens can earn volunteer hours at Walt Disney World

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Students AND parents everywhere are rejoicing that school is almost out for summer break. My family certainly is among them! But along with the daydreams of lounging by the pool or at the beach without a jam-packed schedule might be the recognition that summer is a great time for kids to complete any required community service hours.

Theme-park fans, like my own children, may wonder if there are any volunteer positions at Walt Disney World. And, in fact, there are opportunities - primarily through ESPN Wide World of Sports. Unfortunately for my 12-year-old son, the minimum age has increased from last summer. You now must be at least 14 to volunteer and those younger than 16 must be accompanied by parents or guardians. All minors must have a parent of guardian's permission and a signed waiver.

Volunteers, also known as Sports Enthusiasts, can work at events held at the facility at Walt Disney World or at runDisney races held on Disney property. Currently, volunteer registration is open for the Amateur Athletic Union National Club Championships for Track and Field. Volunteer positions for start/finish line, field events, clerk's tent and awards tent are available from July 10 to 18. The application notes that all positions require physical exertion such as raking or lifting. Volunteer shifts are typically assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.

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. The next runDisney event in Orlando is the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend, which includes the half marathon, Mickey's Jingle Jungle 5K and kid races. All events take place Nov. 6 and 7. 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 the event.

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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May 21, 2015

Do you think Walt Disney World is right to ban selfie sticks on attractions?

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Selfie sticks: Love 'em or leave 'em?

In case you're like David Letterman and need an introduction to the monopods that allow tourists and social-media users to take better-positioned photos of themselves, allow me to explain. These sticks essentially extend the reach of your arm to allow for better composition of a self-portrait with your smartphone. Selfie sticks secure smartphones on one end, and users press a Bluetooth button on the other - or use a remote control - to snap the shot.

To be sure, selfie sticks have been gaining in popularity during the past year, and they sat firmly atop many holiday wish lists recently. Perhaps adding to their popularity is the inexpensive nature of the devices; entry-level selfie sticks can be had for less than $10.

Certainly, here in Orlando we have a greater opportunity than some cities to witness (and experience?) selfie sticks because of all our tourist attractions. And, of course, they are prominently visible at the theme parks. It's becoming quite common to see selfie sticks on Main Street, U.S.A., in the Magic Kingdom, as visitors pose for their iconic photos in front of Cinderella Castle.

However, selfie sticks are not allowed to be used on rides at Walt Disney World. (They can be stowed, along with other personal items, on the rides.) Still, guests are not getting the message, so the resort and its sister theme parks at Disneyland have posted warning signs near some attractions, such as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, according to various media reports.

"Thunder Mountain has had an especially high number of incidents in which the ride had to be stopped because of selfie-stick use," the Orlando Sentinel recently reported.

As someone who documents with photos and video much of what I do in the theme parks, I just can't understand the need to use a selfie stick on a roller coaster. Is shooting that video really worth the very real possibility of injuring yourself or someone else on the ride? Especially when the images probably aren't going to be that stellar anyway as your smartphone bounces at the end of a 3-foot stick.

Walt Disney World is not the first tourist attraction to ban selfie sticks, though many of the other venues have done so more because the poles interfere with other visitors' experiences rather than their safety.

Have an opinion? Tell us what you think about selfie-stick use in the theme parks in the comments below.



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May 23, 2015

Disney Infinity 3.0 brings Stars Wars franchise to gamers

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The Force is coming to a galaxy not so far away for gamers. Disney Interactive has announced that it will launch a third edition of Disney Infinity this fall that focuses on the popular Star Wars franchise.

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The Disney Infinity 3.0 starter pack will include the updated version of the game, a 3.0 edition base, Ahsoka Tano and Anakin Skywalker figures, one Star Wars "Twilight of the Republic" play set piece, and one web code card. A bonus: The price of the starter pack has dropped by about $10 over previous versions.

Three play sets have been announced for Disney Infinity 3.0. One is "Twilight of the Republic," which is a new, original chapter of the Star Wars Saga, set in the Episodes I-III timeline. Disney Interactive promises gamers will use "the Force and Lightsabers in epic battles as Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, and Darth Maul." The second, "Rise Against the Empire," features missions with Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa, Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Darth Vader. This play set takes place during the original trilogy and allows players to pilot X-Wing Fighters and the Millennium Falcon to planets, such as Tatooine and Hoth, and the moon Endor.

The third Star Wars play set that will be released later this winter will be based on the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie due out in December.

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Multiplayer toy box expansion games will allow users to play with all of the Disney, Disney-Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars characters in their collections from Disney Infinity 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. The enhanced toy box will include Toy Box Takeover (action-adventure) and Toy Box Speedway (kart racing).

"Disney Infinity is the only game where fans can play with Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars characters together in one experience," James Pitaro, president of Disney Interactive, said in a press release. "We worked closely with Lucasfilm to deliver an authentic Star Wars game experience, featuring some of the most iconic stories and characters from the past, present and future."

In addition to the introduction of Star Wars franchise, Disney Infinity 3.0 will introduce other popular characters. Look for a play set with all five emotions from Disney-Pixar's upcoming animated movie "Inside Out": Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust. Plus, there is a new Marvel play set that will include Hulkbuster Iron Man and Ultron, and "Tron" characters Sam Flynn and Quorra will be sold as physical figures. Fan-favorite characters Mickey, Minnie, Mulan and Olaf also will be joining Toy Box 3.0.

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Disney Infinity 3.0 is again being developed by Avalanche Studios, which helped create the first two versions of the game. It will be available on PlayStation4, PlayStation3, Wii U, Xbox One and Xbox 360 consoles, as well PCs and iOS and Android devices.

Expect to see more news about Disney Infinity 3.0 released at E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) on June 16 in Los Angeles. Current rumors that have yet to be officially confirmed are that Disney Infinity 3.0 will have eight play sets and that the play set pieces will no longer be sold in blind sets.



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May 26, 2015

Disney Channel's 'Teen Beach 2' stars kick off beach party at Typhoon Lagoon

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It's just about a month until the debut of the much-anticipated "Teen Beach 2" movie on Disney Channel, and we have some new details about what you can expect to see!

Walt Disney World kicked off its summer Teen Beach 2: Beach Party at Typhoon Lagoon on Friday, and we were there to hear as-of-yet unreleased songs from the soundtrack, see choreographed dances that will make kids want to jump up and join in, and talk to one of the stars, Ross Lynch, about his role in the new film.

The soundtrack from the original "Teen Beach Movie" reached No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart and was No. 1 on the soundtrack chart, and the new album would seem to be headed in the same direction with its peppy, high-energy tunes. Only one track has been released so far, "Gotta Be Me," which is performed by the four main actors - Lynch, Maia Mitchell, Garrett Clayton and Grace Phipps - and John DeLuca and Jordan Fisher.

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At the beach party, we previewed "Best Summer Ever" and "That's How We Do." Expect to see the latter song in a choreographed, large-scale production scene in the new movie. Partygoers got a taste of the dance moves, with surfer and biker characters teaching the crowd how to do "The Milkshake" and "The Jelly Belly." Most of the songs on the soundtrack are performed by the cast; after all, "Teen Beach 2" is a musical. (There is one song by Lynch's band, R5.) The soundtrack will be in stores on June 23.

"This music is a little more contemporary, more modern," Lynch told us. "The [music from the] first movie was more retro, like surf guitar."

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From left: Ross Lynch, Maia Mitchell, Grace Phipps and Garrett Clayton.


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"Teen Beach 2" also turns the tide, so to speak, on the characters. In the first made-for-television musical, Brady and Mack (Mitchell) were transported back in time to the 1960s, when surfer movies were all the rage. The sequel, however, brings retro surfers Tanner (Clayton) and Lela (Phipps) into the modern world, which, of course, is a set-up for many comedic scenes.

My junior reporters, my 10-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son, talked to Lynch about his character, Brady, and what it was like filming "Teen Beach 2."

"It starts with Mack and Brady's relationship," he said. "Things are going strong, and they go back to school. School brings a little more conflict, and it gives the characters a little more of an emotional arc."

"I'm similar [to Brady] in some ways " but I'd say Brady is a little bit more " lazy. I'm not lazy. I work a lot and I always like to be productive."

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You can see our full interview with Lynch below:


"Teen Beach 2" premieres at 8 p.m. June 26 on Disney Channel.

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The Teen Beach 2: Beach Party at Typhoon Lagoon continues through July 5. It features a DJ spinning tunes from the movies on the stage by the clock tower adjacent to the wave pool. Costumed bikers and surfers, much like the characters in the movies, lead guests in dancing, hula hooping and tossing beach balls. The beach party also offers other traditional summer activities, including relays on the sand, a water balloon toss and a limbo challenge. Winners are awarded Teen Beach 2 beach balls as prizes. The beach party is included in regular admission to the Disney water park.

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Photo op available at Typhoon Lagoon at Walt Disney World through July 5.

Here's a look back at the original beach party when 'Teen Beach Movie' actors Clayton (Tanner), Kent Boyd (Rascal) and Chrissie Fit (CheeChee) surprised guests at Typhoon Lagoon two years ago.

You can read about my interviews with the trio here.

DISCLAIMER: I was invited by Walt Disney World to experience its new Teen Beach 2: Beach Party. This did not affect my story; my opnions are my own.



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May 28, 2015

Critics praise Disney-Pixar's animated movie 'Inside Out' before its June 19 launch

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Try not to get too emotional about this, but how can you not anticipate the next Disney-Pixar film, "Inside Out"? It"s a Pixar product, after all, and we"ve come to expect artistic distinction when that name is attached to computer-animated movies. This studio is the creative spirit behind the "Toy Story," "Cars" and "Finding Nemo" franchises.

"Inside Out" was screened in a non-competitive setting at the Cannes Film Festival, and critics already have begun praising the film, which is due out in theaters on June 19.

The movie's official description states, "Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it's no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions - Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley's mind, where they help advise her through her everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to her new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley's main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school."

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Variety.com praised "Inside Out" for its staying power. "In terms of its ambitious underlying concept, however, "Inside Out" blows the others away, going beyond the screen to become something audiences will carry around for the rest of their days - not as tie-in merchandise or spinoff theme parks (although there will inevitably be plenty of both), but as an elegant and iconic visual metaphor for understanding their own emotions, and empathizing with others," wrote Peter Debruge, Variety's chief international film critic.

He goes on to explain, "While the initial idea was directly suggested by Disney's 1943 "Reason and Emotion" short a wartime one-reeler that characterized the eponymous disciplines forever dueling for control " the Pixar team has rethought the model, giving it the most intuitive and indelible form, with the result that viewers can't help but imagine a similar dynamic operating in their own heads."

The Associated Press recounts a conversation when directors Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen introduced "Inside Out" at a screening last month at CinemaCon.

Docter told the audience that the story was inspired by watching his own daughter grow up. She actually voiced young Ellie in the 2009 Pixar film "Up," and Docter called his daughter "very spirited and spunky," much like the film character. But then she turned 11, and her outlook and attitude changed, he said.

"In 'Inside Out,' amid the confusion of adolescence and the stress of the move, Joy and Sadness get sucked out of the control center, leaving only Anger, Fear and Disgust to run the ship," according to the AP. "As Joy and Sadness struggle to find a way back to headquarters, Riley's life, personality and childhood innocence melts down as the remaining emotions try to do their best to emulate Joy."

"This leads to sassy tones where there weren't meant to be, mood swings, and irrationality -- moments that parents of pre-teens, and former pre-teens, know all too well," the news service points out.

After all, none of us want to believe our little darlings have turned into monsters. It's far more palatable to blame adolescent changes on struggling emotions.

Beginning May 30 - that's Saturday - Walt Disney World guests can view a special preview of "Inside Out" at the Imagination Pavilion theater at Epcot. The short sneak peek repeats every 15 to 20 minutes and is included in regular admission.



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May 29, 2015

SeaWorld Orlando reveals new details about Mako shark-themed coaster to open in summer 2016

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SeaWorld Orlando revealed this week that its #nothingfaster campaign is indeed leading up to a shark-themed roller coaster that will open in summer 2016. Mako, named after one of the world’s fastest sharks, will hit all the superlatives at 200 feet high, 73 miles per hour, 4,760 feet (almost a mile) in length, a ride time of 3 minutes, 13 seconds -- and it’s Orlando’s first hypercoaster.

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A hypercoaster is known for multiple, tall inclines and high speeds, which combine to create the weightless feeling of “air time” when a rider lifts off the seat. SeaWorld is calling the Mako experience one that offers “relentless airtime” and is “highly repeatable,” according to Brian Morrow, creative director of SeaWorld attractions.

See for yourself with a virtual ride on the coaster in the video below.


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Brian Morrow, creative director of SeaWorld attractions


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Like all well-designed theme park attractions, Mako has a back story that its creators crafted: “A bunch of sunken ships have sort of fallen apart over time, landed right here, and the sea has taken them back,” Morrow said at a media event. “Corals have grown on the ship. From that come the prey fish that live in the coral reef, and that brings the sharks. Mako is going to crash through the shipwreck and scatter all the prey fish, and the guests will be part of that experience as they are standing in the plaza. The sound and lighting will sound like the fish are scattering as the predator comes into the realm, and as it circles the guests, the music will follow.”

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Shark feeding at Shark Encounter

Mako will be integrated into the shark realm of the theme park, which already includes the Shark Encounter attraction, with its underwater viewing tunnel and surface feeding of the animals, and Sharks Underwater Grill, a signature restaurant with underwater views of the shark tanks. The attraction will add an educational component about sharks, and it will show guests what they can do to help sharks in the wild.

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Sharks Underwater Grill

SeaWorld isn’t revealing much about the coaster’s station, but the queue will make “riders feel as though they are floating under a pier, winding through shipwrecks and shadows,” a press release states.

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So, how will Mako compare to SeaWorld Orlando’s other big coasters, Manta and Kraken?

“Mako complements the other two attractions, said Mike Denninger, senior director of rides and engineering at SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. “Kraken is more about speed and loops and twists, and Manta is that soaring thrill as you’re soaring along like a manta ray. Mako is going to be about speed and weightlessness and these dynamic dives that you’re going to get like you were a Mako shark in the ocean.”

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Mike Denninger, senior director of rides and engineering at SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

“I think this type of attraction has a more broad appeal than other coaster attractions,” Denninger said. “Mako is all about air time. It is, in essence, the pure roller coaster experience. It’s vertical curves and straight curves where you really feel that weightlessness as you’re soaring over the curves. And then you have that strong G-force that feels like you’re being pulled into your seat at the bottom of the curves. There are no inversions on a hypercoaster.”

As with Manta and Kraken, riders on Mako must meet a 54-inch height requirement.

You can see more of my interview with Denninger, which took place 200 feet in the air – approximately where the first incline of Mako will crest – in the video below.


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View from first incline of Mako

“What we’re known for is the tying of education, animal habitats and rides together,” said Morrow. “[Visitors] can go underwater with sharks, feed sharks and then go on this attraction like you are the shark. And it only happens here.”

NOTE: Special thanks to Amanda Tinney of DisneyEveryDay.com for shooting the photos and video of me in the construction crane basket.



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About May 2015

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

April 2015 is the previous archive.

June 2015 is the next archive.

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