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August 2016 Archives

August 2, 2016

American Girl launches rewards program for frequent shoppers and visitors


The American Girl brand recently announced it has launched a loyalty program, meaning frequent shoppers now can earn rewards for their purchases. Orlando is home to one of only about two dozen American Girl stores in the United States, and visitors there can take advantage of this program.

As the parent of a tween girl who has thoroughly enjoyed American Girl dolls and products for years, I’m excited to hear about American Girl Rewards. The brand was established in 1986, so it’s been a long time coming.


Here’s how American Girl Rewards works: For every $1 you spend, you earn 1 point. When you reach 200 points, you receive $10 in rewards. Points can be earned through purchases or “play” (dining or activities in store restaurants). Customers can earn up to $50 per month and $500 per year. Each $10 reward certificate does have an expiration date, so it must be redeemed before it expires.

Additional rewards accumulate with the number of points earned. Silver rewards (0-349 points) also include a birthday gift for your girl and members-only surprises. Gold rewards (350-699 points) include all Silver benefits plus early access to elect sales and events, and exclusive members-only experiences and events. Berry rewards (700 or more points) include all Silver and Gold benefits plus a VIP surprise and bonus benefits.


Points will remain active as long as one qualifying purchase is made during a 12-month period. This means you won’t lose points that you are accumulating toward a reward certificate. However, the tier of rewards (Silver, Gold, Berry) you have achieved for additional benefits is only good for one year and must be established again in each 12-month period.

All regular, sale and clearance merchandise purchased at americangirl.com, by phone or in American Girl retail stores qualifies for rewards points. In-store American Girl restaurant purchases also qualify for points. Sales tax, shipping charges, gift cards and bulk sales for commercial purposes or resale are not eligible.

To join, create a free online account here. You must have an email address to do so.

The American Girl store in Orlando is located at Florida Mall, which is not far from the theme parks and is a destination for many tourists.

At the end of this month, the store will be hosting Melody’s Summer Block Party! to celebrate the arrival of Melody Ellison. This event for girls ages 8 and older will give girls a glimpse into Melody’s world in 1964 Detroit, where she learns to lift her voice for fairness and justice. Girls will be immersed in her world through the music that inspired Melody and fun ’60s-themed decor. Plus, each girl will take home a special Melody-inspired doll tee (while supplies last) and enjoy some fun crafts.

Melody’s Summer Block Party! takes place at 10 a.m. Aug. 26 and 27, and noon Aug. 28.

Learn more about American Girl in my other blogs posts!


August 4, 2016

Disney launches new YouTube fashion series 'Destination: Disney Style'


On Tuesday, Disney launched a new YouTube series, “Destination: Disney Style,” that takes viewers to different countries “to explore the unique ways its characters and stories are interpreted through fashion,” according to the press release.

The five-part series is hosted by YouTube stars LaurDIY, Jaleesa Moses, Meredith Foster and Lucy & Lydia. Each episode gives fans a glimpse of recent international Disney collaborations, street style and trends in an international location.


In the first episode, “Tokyo Disney Street Style” – released Aug. 2 and available now -- LaurDIY gets an insider's look at Disney Expo Japan 2016, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. Plus, she explores the way the renowned Harajuku Girls incorporate Disney into their Tokyo street style looks. Click here to see for yourself!

"Filming this series was an absolute blast," she said. "It was my first time in Tokyo and it was so cool to experience all the Disney style around the city – especially around Harajuku!"

LaurDIY is a YouTube star who has more than 3 million subscribers, and, as her name suggests, she focuses on Do It Yourself projects, including fashion. “Every Sunday we get our DIY on and get crafty with room decor, accessories, snackies, organization + more! Hope you find something to inspire you and welcome to the #prettylittlelaur fam,” Lauren Riihimaki writes.

LaurDIY will be back on the Aug. 30 episode of “Destination: Disney Style” when she gets an early look at the upcoming Disney•Pixar x Forever 21 collection.


In the meantime, fans and fashionistas can look forward to the following episodes:

Aug. 9: Shanghai Fashion Week – Jaleesa Moses gets a front row seat for the shows featuring Minnie Mouse-inspired designs from Chinese fashion designers Ji Cheng, Lulu Han, Makin Ma and Cindy Soong.

Aug 16: Disney x Coach – This Mickey Mouse collection is flying off shelves and popping up in NYC street style; Meredith Foster meets the creative force behind the collaboration.

Aug 23: London Calling - London-based Lucy & Lydia are on the VIP list for the launch of the Disney x Cath Kidston collection and explore some distinctly British Disney street style.

New episodes of “Destination: Disney Style,” debut at 10 a.m. PT every Tuesday throughout the month of August.

"Fashion and pop culture collide in such creative ways, and it's incredible how fans infuse their favorite Disney characters into daily looks to make a truly personal style statement,” said Josh Silverman, EVP Global Licensing at Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media.


August 6, 2016

Disney Princess Elena of Avalor to appear in welcome ceremony at Magic Kingdom, leadership guide for Girl Scouts


Save the date! On Thursday, Aug. 11, Walt Disney World will welcome Princess Elena of Avalor to the resort for the first time in a limited-time show, “The Royal Welcome of Princess Elena of Avalor.” It will take place at 10:45 a.m. ET on the Cinderella Castle Forecourt Stage at the Magic Kingdom. (If you cannot be there in person, you can watch on the Disney Parks Blog, which will live stream the show.)


Beginning on Aug. 12, the show will be presented several times each day. (Check the daily times guide or My Disney Experience app for times.) During the production, Cinderella and Prince Charming welcome guests and introduce Princess Elena. She arrives with regal banner carriers and musicians, who accompany her in a performance of the song, “My Time,” which describes her adventures and return to Avalor.

Princess Elena stars in Disney Channel’s new series, “Elena of Avalor,” which debuted last month. It airs at 7:30 p.m. Fridays.


In addition, the Girl Scouts of the USA have partnered with Disney Channel and its “most adventurous Disney Princess yet” to educate girls about what it takes to be a leader and inspire girls to be leaders.

To start, the Girl Scouts emphasize that G.I.R.L stands for Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader. The organization has a history of empowering girls for more than 100 years. And Disney Channel has turned its spotlight on a young princess who is learning to be a collaborative, communicative and confident leader. Together, the network and the Girl Scouts have published “The Elena of Avalor Leadership Guide.”

The guide, which is designed for girls in preschool through fifth grade, is free and available online in English and Spanish. It features 12 simple but proven tips for enhancing each girl’s critical thinking, goal-setting and problem-solving skills.

This guide includes everyday ways to help girls make a difference in their own lives and in the world around them. Each section begins by describing strengths of girls and the leadership skills of Princess Elena. Then it offers activities to help each girl recognize the leader within herself.

For example, fourth- and fifth-graders typically have developed these qualities:

• She’s got plenty of opinions and likely wants to make them known.
• She understands the concept of equity and believes in being fair.
• Her critical thinking abilities are growing, which makes her able to more easily consider and process the perspectives of other children and adults.

The problem: “If a problem comes up in Avalor, it’s Elena’s job as Crown Princess to solve it. One day, Elena learns that a rock monster is angry, causing the volcano to erupt, which is dangerous to her kingdom and the people who live there. Elena wants to learn why the rock monster is angry, so she goes to talk to him. That’s when she learns the rock monster was upset and acting out because some local children took away rocks that belonged to him! The problem wasn’t as simple as she’d thought, so Elena had to really think about how to fix it.”

The activity: “To solve any problem once and for all, you need to learn what’s causing the issue in the first place. Then, you need to think of all the possible solutions and what effect they would have on the situation. Talk with your girl about Elena and the rock monster. Can she come up with more than one solution to the problem?”

Girl Scouts of the USA and Disney Channel hope that the “The Elena of Avalor Leadership Guide” will help girls develop their leadership skills and feel empowered to help others do the same.


August 9, 2016

SeaWorld Orlando hosts Summer Soak Party, Jack Hanna Weekend


It’s summer in Orlando, which means temperatures in the 90s every day -- and locals and visitors alike searching for relief. SeaWorld Orlando has introduced a new way to beat the heat this summer with its daily Summer Soak Party, and it’s included with regular admission or an annual pass.


Sprinklers and rain curtains are the highlights of the Summer Soak Party, which takes place on the stage at Bayside Stadium. All ages are invited, and swimsuits are not required. (You may want to at least bring a change of clothes for afterward, however.)

My almost-12-year-old daughter experienced the Summer Soak Party last week while she was attending a SeaWorld Orlando summer camp, and she came home raving about it. The concept is not high tech, but it is a fun way to cool down after a day in the theme park. In addition, the party features a DJ spinning pop music and dancers to keep things lively.

My daughter and her fellow campers went barefoot to keep their sneakers dry, but she said the pavement was rough and hurt her feet. She pointed out that was great because the surface was not slippery, but it was uncomfortable so she would bring water shoes next time. (A kiosk by the Bayside Stadium kiosk sells water shoes if you want to purchase some on the spot.)

The Summer Soak Party also has food and beverages on sale nearby, including:

** $1 Cotton Candy
** $1 Popcorn
** $3 Beer
** $3 Novelty Ice Cream
** $2 Water

Pass members can save even more on these culinary offers with their 10 percent discount. Also, pass members can get one free 12-ounce draft of Mako Red Ale per person daily through Aug. 31 at Terrace Bar, Mama's Pretzel Kitchen or Spice Mill.

The Summer Soak Party takes place from noon to 6 p.m. daily through Aug. 14, and then on weekends through Sept. 5.


In the meantime, world-renowned animal expert “Jungle Jack” Hanna is back for another weekend of storytelling at SeaWorld Orlando on Aug. 20-21. The conservationist, author and television personality will share animal facts and his travel tales during interactive presentations at the Nautilus Theater. The shows are included with park admission.

SeaWorld also will have several opportunities for guests to individually interact with Hanna at the park for an additional charge. A package that includes a meet-and-greet plus a reserved seat to his 1 p.m. Saturday show is $39 per person. Guests can Dine With Shamu for dinner Saturday, meet Hanna and have a reserved seat at his 3 p.m. show for $59 per person. On Sunday, guests can opt to Dine With Shamu for breakfast, meet Hanna and have reserved seating at his 11:30 show for $49 per person. Pass members receive a 10 percent discount for all Hanna events. Tickets can be purchased online now.

SeaWorld Orlando continues its summer hours – 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. – through Aug. 14 and then its closing time reverts back to 6 p.m., except for Labor Day Weekend.


August 11, 2016

Welcome back, Disney World passholders! Here's what you missed during the blockout


Friday marks the end of the summer blockout period for some local Walt Disney World annual passholders, and if you’re like my children, you’re counting the minutes! Silver annual passholders -- Florida residents who have not been able to access the theme parks all summer -- gain re-entry tomorrow (Aug. 12). And although some of the Awaken Summer experiences had debuted before the blockout period, there are plenty of new things for passholders and visitors alike to check out.

Magic Kingdom


At the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s newest princess, Elena of Avalor, will be welcomed to Walt Disney World for the first time in a ceremony on the Cinderella Castle Forecourt Stage at 10:45 a.m. today. The limited-time show, “The Royal Welcome of Princess Elena of Avalor.” will be presented several times each day, beginning Friday. Check the daily times guide or My Disney Experience app for times. For more details, see my previous blog post.


The same stage is home to a new production that debuted in mid-June: “Mickey's Royal Friendship Faire.” It replaces the long-running “Dream Along With Mickey.” Fans may be concerned that the new show doesn’t feature as many characters, but there is nothing to worry about on that front: “From the land of the bewitching bayous, Goofy has invited Princess Tiana, Naveen and Louis to add a little spice of New Orleans jazz to the party. Donald Duck brings some new friends he met in the land of the enchanted woods, where Daisy Duck introduces us to her special guests, Rapunzel and Flynn. Finally, Mickey Mouse shares a surprise with Minnie Mouse, as he has traveled to the land of the mystic mountains to invite Olaf, Princess Anna, and Queen Elsa, who swirls a blast of her icy magic.” Check the daily times guide or My Disney Experience app for show times.

This week also marks the start of a limited-time meet-and-greet with Belle at the Magic Kingdom. Usually, guests can only meet the princess who loves to read at the Enchanted Tales attraction in Fantasyland. However, through Aug. 31, she will meet with certain guests at Heritage House in Liberty Square from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. To take advantage of this experience, guests must have purchased Memory Maker, Memory Maker One Day or an annual pass that includes complimentary PhotoPass photos. Only one person in each party must have the required entitlement.



Frozen Ever After is probably the most-talked-about summer addition at Walt Disney World. The attraction in the Norway pavilion is, of course, based on the “Frozen” movie and it really does live up to its hype with it animatronics and special effects. Deb Wills and I rode Frozen Ever After on its opening day, and we both really enjoyed it. Her report is here and my blog post with tips for parents dealing with the long waits is here. The best thing you can do, above all else, is to get a FastPass. Be online as soon as your booking window opens and, if you cannot secure a ride reservation, keep checking back because other guests do change plans. Also, know that Elsa and Anna have moved from the Magic Kingdom back to the Norway pavilion and they meet guests there.

Soarin’ reopened as Soarin’ Around the World in mid-June with brand new projections, technology and a new movie. In addition, a third theatre has been added in hopes of reducing stand-by wait times. My family and I experienced the new digital screens and projectors, which give much sharper images than the old celluloid ones, and the new theater before our blockout dates and were impressed with the noticeable upgrade in quality. Now, we need to see the new movie, which takes guests on a tour of the great wonders of the world.

Hollywood Studios


At Hollywood Studios, the “Star Wars”-themed fireworks show got a major upgrade with the addition of lasers, light projections and other special effects combined with music and iconic characters and scenes from the saga. “Star Wars: A Galactic Spectactular” incorporates scenes from all seven films in the “Star Wars” series. A tip from Deb Wills: “In order to fully see the fireworks and projections you need to be in front of the two huge towers on Hollywood Boulevard." If guests want to ensure a good viewing spot, they can book A Galactic Spectacular dessert party. The party takes place inside Star Wars Launch Bay, and 15 minutes before the fireworks show, guests are escorted to a VIP viewing area.

Have fun this weekend with the new-to-you experiences, guests and returning passholders! And please check back for details about all the fall activities that kick off in September.


August 13, 2016

Walt Disney World annual passholders can buy friends and family deeply discounted tickets


Walt Disney World is offering its passholders an unusual perk: a hefty discount on 1-Day Park Hopper tickets for friends and family. I’ve been a passholder for more than a decade, and I cannot remember seeing such a deal.

From Aug. 12 through Sept. 30, passholders can purchase the tickets at almost half off -- $79 per person – for up to six people per passholder. The regular price for the 1-Day Park Hopper is between $155 and $160 for adults and $149 to $154 for children ages 3 to 9. (The price range is because of Disney’s seasonal and tiered pricing.) 1-Day Park Hopper tickets allow guests admission to any or all of Disney World’s theme parks -- Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios – on that same day.

To take advantage of this offer, passholders must accompany their guests to a theme-park ticket window to purchase the tickets. This is the only way the tickets can be purchased, and the Park-Hoppers must be used the day of purchase.

While that deal is open to all annual passholders – local or not – there are two other ticket offers right now that cater to Florida residents. The 3-Day (and 4-Day) Florida Resident Disney Select Tickets give the guest access to one theme park per day for the number of days purchased at a significant savings. These tickets are not Park Hoppers, and they expire within six months of the first use or Dec. 17, 2017 – whichever comes first. There also are blockout dates: Dec. 15 to Dec. 31, 2016; Jan. 1 to Jan. 2, 2017; April 8 to April 21, 2017; June 5 to Aug. 10, 2017.

The 3-Day Florida Resident Disney Select Tickets are $199 plus tax per person (ages 10 and older), which makes the price per day about $66. The 4-Day Florida Resident Disney Select Tickets are $219, which makes the price per day about $55. Guests do have the option of adding the Park Hopper feature to this Florida Resident deal at an additional cost. For the 3-Day ticket, it’s an additional $27.50 plus tax, which makes the price per day about $75.50. For the 4-Day ticket, it’s an additional $34.50, which makes the price per day about $63 plus tax.

But when Florida residents are spending more than $250 for four days, they might want to consider an annual pass. The Florida Resident Silver pass has the same blockout dates as the Disney Select Tickets and includes admission to the four theme parks with Park Hopping AND parking included for one year for $389 plus tax.


August 16, 2016

Recipe for S'mores Gelato Shake at D-Luxe Burger at Disney Springs is cause to celebrate


I cannot believe that my family and I missed celebrating National S’mores Day last week – Aug. 10 to be exact. Like many kids, my own tween and teen have many favorite desserts, but s’mores top their lists (and mine). From roasting the marshmallows over a fire to melting them in the microwave in a pinch, we relish the process and the resulting gooey sweet treat.

Certainly, each time we stay at a moderate or deluxe Walt Disney World hotel, we make time to visit the campfires staffed by cast members to roast marshmallows. (The marshmallows and sticks are complimentary for resort guests, but you’ll need to bring your own graham crackers and chocolate bars.)

At Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground, Walt Disney World hotel guests can immerse themselves in the traditional campfire experience. Two fires are lighted about 7:30 p.m. in the summer -- an hour later than the rest of the year -- and cast members let them burn throughout the evening so guests can cook whatever they'd like, from hotdogs to marshmallows. There are no complimentary marshmallows, but the nearby Chuckwagon sells supplies and guests are welcome to bring their own food, as well.

As much as we love the campfire experiences, this summer we discovered a new way to enjoy the flavors of a s’more: in a gelato shake at the new D’Luxe Burger restaurant that opened at Disney Springs in May. Now, my son and I especially cannot visit Disney Springs without feeling the urge to stop and splurge on one of the s’mores shakes. (They are expensive at $7 for one size.)


The folks at D-Luxe Burger, however, have given us the gift of the recipe (via the Disney Parks Blog) for these delicious shakes to tide us over between visits.


12 ounces vanilla gelato
2 ounces whole milk
½ ounce dark chocolate sauce
1 ounce toasted marshmallow syrup
1 tsp crushed graham crackers
whipped cream, to garnish
mini marshmallows, to garnish
graham cracker, to garnish
dark chocolate sauce, to garnish


** Blend vanilla gelato, whole milk, dark chocolate sauce, toasted marshmallow syrup and crushed graham crackers until smooth
** Serve in a tall glass
** Garnish with whipped cream, mini marshmallows, graham cracker and a drizzle of dark chocolate sauce.

Chef’s note

At D-Luxe Burger, the vanilla gelato is made in-house, but for this recipe vanilla gelato can be purchased from the grocery store. Toasted marshmallow syrup can be found at specialty grocery stores.

Love s'mores as much as the Ford family? Tell us in the comments about the other s'mores-themed desserts at Walt Disney World that you've enjoyed!


August 18, 2016

Disney launches messenger app Disney Mix with focus on kid safety


Disney has launched a new app that allows kids to chat and connect with friends in new ways, while reassuring parents that the online community it is creating is one with safety in mind. Disney Mix is a free app that is aimed at children ages 4 and older.

The messaging app not only allows kids to talk online with each other, but it also gives them the ability to play games, make memes and share stickers – all within the app. Disney Mix users even can make their own custom 3D avatars that can be customized in an infinite number of ways including animations. Plus, kids can add Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Movies to their Friends List and receive the latest videos and photos delivered directly to them.


Remember Disney’s Club Penguin? I know I do. For a time when he was younger, my son was quite infatuated with that virtual world. I think we still have all the stuffed Puffles and assorted penguin friends! Disney has said it is building on what it learned from that wildly popular website and community to create Disney Mix.

“Disney has more than a decade of experience in online communities for kids from Club Penguin and our other virtual worlds, and so we know what both kids and their parents want,” Disney Interactive said in a statement with the app’s launch.

“We also know that in order to have fun, kids and their parents, need to feel they are safe. So we’ve used the experience of the Club Penguin team while investing in new tools, moderation and educational resources. And just like Club Penguin, we’re empowering the community to help us keep it safe by giving them easy ways to report bullying and other inappropriate behavior so we can address it quickly.”

In practical terms, Disney Mix users must agree to community rules, which focus on not giving out personal information to people they don’t know, keeping content clean and, of course, refraining from bullying other users. Kids who break these rules will be banned from the app.

To help enforce the rules, Disney Mix has filters in place to block inappropriate chat, language and personal information. Furthermore, users can report any conversation to Disney Mix moderators by clicking the whistle icon on the top of that chat thread. Also, kids can only chat with people they have accepted as “Friends,” and they can remove friends at any time.

To create an account, users must be 13 and older or have their parents’ permission. Disney Mix is available on iOS and Android devices, both tablet and handheld.


August 21, 2016

2017 Disney Parks Moms Panel selection process begins Sept. 7



Get ready, get set, type! The application process for the 2017 Disney Parks Moms Panel begins at noon EST Wednesday, Sept. 7, and those interested have until noon EST Wednesday, Sept. 14, to express their interest.

The Disney Parks Moms Panel has evolved from its inception in 2008, but its goal remains the same: to provide vacation-planning advice from adults in families that are interested in and knowledgeable about the Disney properties. For the most part, the panelists' jobs are to answer a number of written questions each week, though there also are some public appearances by the group. In exchange, The Walt Disney Co. provides the selected panelists with family trip -- plus a second weekend trip for training -- to one of the Disney properties.

Now, Disney Parks Moms Panelists not only help plan magical vacations for guests heading to Walt Disney World, but they also answer questions about Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club, runDisney and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. And they do it in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese. Despite the name, however, panelists are not just limited to those who are mothers -- dads and grandparents have been chosen, as well.

If you are the one all your friends turn to when they plan Disney vacations, this may be a golden opportunity for you! To get started, visit MomsPanelSearch.com beginning Sept. 7. If the application process is the same as in recent years, you can expect to answer written questions in the first round. About a month later, applicants are notified whether they have been selected for the next round, which requires submitting a short video and answering more written questions. The final round consists of a phone interview.

Competition for a spot on the Disney Parks Moms Panel is intense -- thousands apply each year and only about 20 new members are chosen. But as the panel's creator, Walt Disney World Director of Social Media Leanne O'Regan, wrote on the Disney Parks Blog: "The most recent panelists to join the team include several who have applied every year, a few who applied for the very first time, and those in between. Dreams really can come true."

And there is no magical formula to being picked to provide the best answers about all things Disney. I can tell you, though, that several factors weigh heavily in the evaluation process:

** Writing ability. Your application must be flawless, with no grammar or spelling errors or typos. After all, your job is going to be providing written answers for the Disney website. (In fact, the moms panel's answers are not reviewed or approved by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Online prior to posting.)

** Accuracy. Double-check your Disney facts to make sure things haven't changed since your last experience. This will be vital when you are answering questions online for families planning Disney vacations.

** Your personality. Disney is not hiring publicists or copy writers for this panel. Instead, the company is looking for engaging personalities who can express themselves clearly in an enthusiastic way.

Get to know the current Disney Parks Moms Panel at https://disneyparksmomspanel.disney.go.com/meet-the-moms/ You also can see the types of questions they answer -- which are pretty much about anything and everything!

Good luck to everyone who applies for 2017. Please let us know how the process goes and if you are chosen to advance in the application process.


August 23, 2016

University of Central Florida launches new theme-park management degree


Do you dream of becoming a show producer at Walt Disney World or maybe a casting agent at Universal Orlando?

University of Central Florida students start classes this week, and some of them will begin work on a new, unique degree tailored to such theme-park careers. The Rosen College of Hospitality Management at UCF has established a bachelor of science degree in entertainment management with a $5 million private donation.

The new degree will provide a career path for students seeking employment as business practitioners versus performers in the entertainment industry. This four-year undergraduate program will focus on the managerial aspects of entertainment and is the first of its kind to be offered by a SACS- accredited public institution in the United States, according to the university.

Entertainment-management students will be immersed in the business side of entertainment in the key areas of design, engineering, operations, finance and marketing to equip them to identify, create and manage successful entertainment products. The program will also develop important management skills, including leadership, communication, critical thinking, problem solving and teamwork, to prepare graduates for management roles in private and nonprofit organizations.

The Bachelor of Science in Entertainment Management is an educational partnership between Rosen College and UCF’s College of Arts and Humanities. Students will take classes in both colleges to complete the 120-credit-hour program, which complements a variety of other disciplines.

Rosen College points out that the international entertainment industry is worth an estimated $1.5 trillion and is expected to grow by an annual average of 4.4 percent through 2019, meaning graduates likely will enter a favorable job market. They may pursue careers in a variety of entertainment industry sectors, including live performances and events, historical/cultural/educational exhibits, digital media, film enterprises, tourism attractions, experiential hospitality-related products, special events, sporting events and recreational or leisure activities.

The Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida, located in Orlando, provides students with a unique opportunity to learn and work in a premiere tourist destination. UCF has been ranked in the top five hospitality management programs worldwide and is the largest in the United States.

UCF’s entertainment-management degree program was established with a donation from Gregory Elias, a Curaçao-born lawyer and businessman with a lifelong interest in music and the arts.

For more information, visit hospitality.ucf.edu/entertainment or contact Rosen College at 407-903-8000 or entertainment@ucf.edu.


August 25, 2016

Disney Channel's 'Descendants 2' news: brand-new characters, third prequel novel & Halloween costumes


As filming of Disney Channel’s “Descendants 2” gets underway this month, three new characters and the actors who will play them have been revealed.

The latest additions are offspring of additional Disney villains:

** Harry, the son of Peter Pan's Captain Hook, will be played by Thomas Doherty.

** Uma, daughter of The Little Mermaid's Ursula, will be played by veteran Disney Channel actor China Anne McClain.

** Gil, son of Beauty and The Beast’s Gaston, will be played by Dylan Playfair.


Fans of the record-setting, made-for-television original movie, “Descendants,” will be happy to know that all their favorite main characters are returning to the sequel. Booboo Stewart, Dove Cameron, Sofia Carson and Cameron Boyce will reprise their roles as Jay (son of Jafar), Mal (daughter of Maleficent), Evie (daughter of the Evil Queen) and Carlos (son of Cruella de Vil), respectively. Kristin Chenoweth returns as Maleficent, too.

“Descendants” explores the premise that the Disney villains (and some heroes) had children. The group is granted permission by the benevolent teenage son of King Adam and Queen Belle to leave the remote Isle of the Lost where they had been banished and attend prep school with the Disney heroes' kids. This, of course, leads to a battle of good versus evil set amidst the backdrop of typical teenage angst.

The movie would appear to have a happy ending -- after a large-scale musical production number – but Mal, with a wink, talks directly to the camera, promising the tale is not over. So, we assume that is where “Descendants 2” will pick up.

Kenny Ortega returns as the director, executive producer and choreographer of the sequel, which is as much of an early indicator of success as you can get. After all, Ortega is the force behind Disney Channel’s biggest franchise, “High School Musical.” Since its debut, “Descendants” ranks as cable television’s fifth highest-rated movie of all-time. It only falls behind “High School Musical 2” as the most-watched movie on Disney Channel. Those are some impressive statistics!

“Descendants 2” is scheduled for a summer 2017 release. In the meantime, fans of the Disney characters can immerse themselves in their world through other avenues. Two prequel novels – “The Isle of the Lost: A Descendants Novel” and “Return to the Isle of the Lost: A Descendants Novel” – have topped best-seller lists. And Disney Publishing Worldwide just announced a third novel by Melissa de la Cruz with an expected release date in May 2017.



More immediately, kids can get their “Descendants” fix with Halloween costumes, which seem to be quite popular again this year. I spotted these Mal and Evie costumes at Walt Disney World last weekend. They come in children’s sizes extra-small (4) to extra-large (11-12) and can be purchased on property or through the Shop Disney Parks app for about $55 plus tax apiece. The Disney Store, which has mall locations and an online site, has its own collection of “Descendants” costumes.

My tween daughter's favorite moment of the 2015 D23 Expo: Meeting the 'Descendants' cast! Will they return for the 2017 D23 Expo?


August 27, 2016

Create final memories of Main Street Electrical Parade at Walt Disney World


The Main Street Electrical Parade has been my favorite Disney Parks parade ever since I saw it for the first time at Walt Disney World when I was a little girl visiting from Indiana in 1979.

Like many fans, I was enthralled with the novelty of the parade’s array of lights and electronic music. Even when it later left Orlando for other Disney theme parks, I still considered the Main Street Electrical Parade my favorite Disney parade. No others could top it.

So imagine how excited I was to learn about the parade’s return to the Magic Kingdom in 2010. By that time, I was living in Orlando with a family of my own, and I couldn’t wait to share this magic with them. But I was going to be on the receiving end of a little pixie dust myself first.


Then a journalist at the Orlando Sentinel, I was invited to cover the return of the Main Street Electrical Parade at a Summer Nightastic media event that allowed writers and photographers to get up close to lighted floats that had just returned from Disneyland. We even were allowed to sit inside one of the bug floats where the driver is positioned. Talk about a dream come true!

Fast-forward six years, and we now have to bid farewell to the Main Street Electrical Parade again because it’s heading back to the West Coast for a limited-time engagement. The last day to see the parade at Walt Disney World is Oct. 9. Sad to see it go? Here are some ways to create some final memories.


** See the Main Street Electrical Parade one last time if you’re going to be at the Magic Kingdom. Make the parade the focus of your visit and take the time to stake out an excellent viewing location. We like to sit along the curb on Main Street, and the center sections in the hub by Cinderella Castle and Town Square offer great views. Know that to secure many of these spots, you’ll need to wait in place ahead of time.


** If you won’t be at the Magic Kingdom before Oct. 10, you can watch the parade live from the comfort of your own home when the Disney Parks Blog streams the parade live tomorrow (Sunday, Aug. 28). On Sunday, a link to the livestream will be provided on the Disney Parks blog site.


** Even after Oct. 9, you can watch the Main Street Electrical Parade whenever you want with our AllEars.Net video of the parade.



** Bring the Main Street Electrical Parade home with two merchandise options. Two limited edition T-shirts commemorating the Main Street Electrical Parade were sold last summer through the Disney Store online. One featured Mickey Mouse and the other Minnie Mouse. Now, a small selection of these T-shirts has shown up at Walt Disney World. I spotted both shirts at Epcot’s Mouse Gear last weekend. The Mickey version also is available on the Shop Disney Parks app. The other item is a collectible pin that depicts Elliot from “Pete’s Dragon” sparkling with jewels to represent the lights on the well-known float. The words “Disney’s Electrical Parade” are displayed, as well, which was the name of the version of the parade that was shown at Disneyland from 2001 to 2010. The pin is available on Disney property and through the Shop Disney Parks app.


** Just as iconic as the lighted floats is the “electro-synthe-magnetic” music of the parade. Guest columnist Al Krombach, a veteran journalist and an alumnus of the Florida State University College of Music, recently wrote an article for the AllEars newsletter detailing the musical history of the parade. The article soon will be archived and can be read here. He concludes by offering this advice about purchasing the Main Street Electrical Parade music: “Recordings of the Main Street Electrical Parade soundtrack seem to be limited to Disneyland reissues. The most recent release is a 9-minute version in "The Legacy Collection – Disneyland," a three-CD set (Walt Disney Records, 2015). It also can be found in 5-minute versions on "Official Album -- Disneyland/Walt Disney World" (Walt Disney Records, 1991) and on "The Music of Disney – A Legacy in Sound," a three-CD boxed set (Walt Disney Records, 1992). A true collector's item is a limited-edition 7-inch LP recording of the original parade sound track issued in 1973.” There also is a CD called “Disney’s Electrical Parade” (Disneyland) available for purchase on the Shop Disney Parks app.

Can’t bear to say goodbye to the Main Street Electrical Parade? Start planning a trip for early 2017 when the parade will appear at Disneyland park in Anaheim, Calif.


August 30, 2016

What you need to know about Disney World's Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular fireworks show


This past weekend, my family and I finally had the chance to see the new evening show at Hollywood Studios, Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular. And, let me tell you, the force is strong with this production. You won’t want to miss it!

Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular took over in June for the previous version of Star Wars-themed fireworks, Symphony in the Stars. This version got a major upgrade with the addition of lasers, light projections and other special effects combined with music and iconic characters and scenes from all seven films in the “Star Wars” series.



Here are a few tips for parents and others interested in seeing Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular at Hollywood Studios.

** First, know that you don’t have to be a diehard Star Wars fan to enjoy this evening show. My almost-14-year-old son is not enamored with the saga, and he still was amazed by what he saw. He pointed out more than once that there was so much to look at that he wasn’t sure where to look next.

** On the other hand, if you are a big Star Wars fan, like my almost-12-year-old daughter, you most likely will enjoy the fact that all the movies play a part in this show and favorite characters are represented not just on the screens but in unusual ways, as well.

** The single most important tip I can give you for viewing this show is that you really need to be standing in front of the last two screens on the sides of Hollywood Boulevard in order to be able to fully experience the show. And, believe me, it is worth it to be in that “hub” during Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular.

** Of course, to find a spot at the front of Hollywood Boulevard means planning to get there early to secure a space – unless you opt for the dessert party, which guarantees its participants a prime viewing area. (More on that to come.) That begs the question of “How early is early enough to secure a decent viewing spot?” Not to dodge the question, but that all depends on the crowds at Hollywood Studios. One way to judge crowd levels is by the standby wait times for attractions. On Saturday, crowds were lighter, and we walked up to a spot on Hollywood Boulevard just past the screens about 30 minutes before the start of the show.

** At the time, the street was taped off with designated waiting and walking areas. That’s a routine crowd-control method at Walt Disney World theme parks. However, much to our surprise, about five to 10 minutes before the show’s start, the tape was removed by cast members and guests were encouraged to move forward and fill in all the spaces. When we all moved forward, my family and I ended up standing in front of the last screens. Perfect!



** If you find that you have arrived on Hollywood Boulevard too late to secure a viewing spot up front, your next best bet is to see if you can skirt the crowds by walking the perimeter and scout any openings by Min and Bill’s Dockside Diner. That’s because the majority of the show takes place with projections on the center-stage and side screens and fireworks appear in the sky above the right screen. So, if you stand at Min and Bill’s you’ll be directly facing the fireworks.

** Want to skip the waiting and positioning on Hollywood Boulevard? Then the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party might be for you. The party takes place inside Star Wars Launch Bay, and 15 minutes before the fireworks show, guests are escorted to a VIP viewing area. The party features a selection of sweets, fruit, alcoholic beverages for those 21 and older and a souvenir stein featuring Chewbacca. The price is $69 for ages 10 and older and $39 for ages 3 to 9; tax and gratuity are included.



** Parents of young children should be aware that some parts of the show are loud, but otherwise Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular is not scary. When my son was little, he was fascinated by all the fireworks shows at Walt Disney World, but he could not tolerate the noise levels, so we always carried earplugs. They seemed to do the trick; he happily enjoyed the shows without the worry of the next loud boom. Headphones might serve the same purpose.

** Check the Times Guide early in the day for the schedule for nighttime entertainment. There will days when times for Fantasmic! and Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular overlap and you will have to make a choice about which show you want to see. On some days, it may be possible to see both.

** Finally, if you are trying to decide whether to wait for Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular or the stage show, Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away, I’d recommend the former, hands down. The stage show is little more than a glorified pageant of Star Wars characters, while the nighttime show truly is spectacular.


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About August 2016

This page contains all entries posted to A Mom and The Magic in August 2016. They are listed from oldest to newest.

July 2016 is the previous archive.

September 2016 is the next archive.

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