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January 2017 Archives

January 2, 2017

You finished your runDisney race. Now what?

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runDisney’s biggest race weekend of the year, the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, kicks off tomorrow. Runners will tackle a 5K, 10K, half marathon or full marathon – or a combination of races – early in the morning. In general, they finish before the theme parks open, so what do runners like to do before they hit the rides and attractions? If you’re new to Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, here are some suggestions.

** Take advantage of special photo ops in the finish line area. There usually is a spot to pose with your medal and a race-themed backdrop, as well as character opportunities.

** Go back to the runDisney Health and Fitness Expo. If you just popped in to the ESPN Wide World of Sports to pick up your bib and race packet, go back to shop and check out the freebies, like the complimentary taping of legs with the purchase of KT Tape. You might find samples of snacks, free pain relievers and other goodies, too.

** Also, at the last two runDisney race weekends at Walt Disney World, rarely seen characters were available to runners only for meet-and-greets at the expo. Lumiere was there for the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend and BB-8 was at the expo for the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend: The Dark Side.

** Refuel. Sure, there’s the snack box at the finish line for your immediate need to eat, but how about an actual meal? If you haven’t made a breakfast or lunch reservation, don’t despair. Even though many of the popular restaurants at Walt Disney World are booked months in advance, people’s plans do change. In general, cancellations must be made 24 hours in advance in order to avoid a per-person charge, so keep checking My Disney Experience online or calling 407-WDW-DINE.

** Schedule a post-race massage. Walt Disney World has multiple spas and fitness centers on property. Again, even if you don’t have a reservation, it’s worth checking for cancellations and last-minute openings.

** Finally, above all else, wear your race medal or “I did it!” finisher T-shirt in the parks or elsewhere on property. After all, you earned it! Cast members and even other guests will congratulate you on your accomplishment and there are numerous places that make for great photo backdrops.



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January 5, 2017

Private Facebook groups cater to variety of Disney interests

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If you love Disney, not only is there an app for that, but there are a wide range of Facebook groups that cater to specific Disney interests, as well as a general love for the brand. During the past year, I have become a member of probably a dozen different Disney Facebook groups. Want to know why?

The members in each private group generally are invested in and knowledgeable about the topic. For example, I belong to several Facebook groups dedicated to runDisney events, even though I’m not a runner. My husband, my son and my daughter are, though, and the fellow members are so supportive. They offer training, planning and race tips that I can pass along. But perhaps the best feature of a large online group of like-minded individuals is that if you have a question, you can get an answer quickly. Members generally genuinely like to help each other. They do not think there are any dumb questions, and administrators do not tolerate nasty behavior if any arises. Ask away!

I also belong to a Facebook group that is made up of collectors and enthusiasts of Disney high-end handbags, such as those by Dooney & Bourke, Harveys and Vera Bradley. Although I own a small number of these bags compared to some of my fellow group members, I enjoy reading about their searches for the perfect bags. Because these bags are expensive, many of the women view them as investments and are looking for the best prices. This group has practices in place to keep members from selling to each other at extremely inflated prices. (Those who want to see what the market will bear are encouraged to use other selling sites, such as ebay.com.) But the group is not just a marketplace; the members answer questions about the care of the bags, new releases, sales and more. I did not know purse charms were a thing before I joined this group, but I gave several for Christmas gifts this year.

As unbelievable as it might seem, there are Facebook groups run by talented individuals who are happy to give their services to members free of charge. One of my recent finds is a group of graphic artists who are willing to touch up cherished Disney vacation photos or guests. Would it be a perfect shot if someone didn’t step into the frame at the last minute? The artists will attempt to remove the photo-bomber. Wish the wind hadn’t blown that strand of your hair straight up in the air in your engagement photo in front of Cinderella Castle? You might be in luck. Of course, the artists only work with your personal snapshots, not copyrighted or professional images.

Another group of graphic artists creates custom Disney designs that guests often use to make magnets, T-shirts and other goods for their vacations. These are especially popular with passengers who will be sailing on Disney Cruise Line and want to decorate their stateroom doors with personalized magnets or create matching outfits for special occasions such as Pirate Night or wedding activities. The artists fulfill custom orders, but the images are to be used for personal use only. Recipients cannot sell or profit from their work.

Is food your passion – or do you just want to make sure you are not wasting your vacation budget on restaurants at Disney Parks that you are likely to be disappointed in? Yes, there is a Facebook group for you. Members can get recommendations, as well as ask other Disney food-and-beverage-related questions. One such group has more than 30,000 members who are willing to share their dining experiences.

As I hinted before, there also are a lot of popular Facebook groups devoted to shopping and selling Disney merchandise. You can find members who want to sell runDisney race merchandise, costumes for runDisney events, trinkets for Fish Extender giveaways on Disney cruises, and even collectibles. Plus, there are personal shoppers who will go into the theme parks and to the official Walt Disney World outlets to find merchandise for their members.

We at AllEars.Net also have our own Facebook community that is dedicated to helping you plan your next Disney vacation and to reliving the magic in between travel times. Here you will find video tours, the latest Disney news and deals, and tips for making the most of your vacation. You can, of course, ask questions and we will do our best to find answers for you. The AllEars.Net group is a private group, which means you have to request to join. Like most Facebook groups, the process of approving members helps us make sure those you are interacting with have the same interests and are not just there to advertise their businesses. We look forward to having you join us!



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January 7, 2017

Orlando Science Center's Otronicon gives Disney fans opportunities for hands-on learning and gaming

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Otronicon, the annual four-day Orlando Science Center event celebrating technology, starts Friday, Jan. 13. Disney fans will find plenty to inspire them, including an interactive exhibit presented by Walt Disney World that takes participants behind the scenes of some of the resort’s most popular attractions.

Now in its twelfth year, Otronicon has grown from a conference for video gamers to one that encompasses the many forms of technology that we use in our everyday lives. This year, an emphasis again has been placed on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers. Many, if not most, of the exhibitors are local companies with a vested interest in the development of STEM programs and jobs in Orlando.

In addition, the focus on teaching kids how to create code for computers returns with an Hour of Code each day at 11 a.m. This initiative introduces computer science to new learners through simple programming games and features popular characters, such as those from Minecraft, Star Wars and Moana. Plus, speaker Ashley Moore presents a talk at 2:30 p.m. Saturday that teaches adults about “coding, design, robotics and maker skills in fun and engaging ways to help them overcome bullying, build confidence and teach them to spread goodness. We use coding and design as a vehicle to help kids become confident leaders with skills that make an impact.”

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Disney's Imagineers demonstrate “Storytelling through Technology” each day throughout the event. The exhibit promises to take visitors on a journey “through technology and time” that highlights “technologies used to bring the animated figures and visual effects featured at some of Walt Disney World’s most iconic attractions and shows to life.” Participants also can explore a “color and play” station, where they can add color to favorite Disney characters and then see them come to life through the use of augmented reality technologies.

Video games still make up a large part of the event, too. Families can take part in daily competitions hosted by Powder Keg Games; visit the Indie Game Showcase to discover the latest and most innovative game releases all in one place; and try a number of new and popular games. Otronicon 2017 also features state-of-the-art medical and military simulators from Florida Hospital for Children and Lockheed Martin, respectively. And participants can learn about new technology at Kennedy Space Center through several demonstrations.

Admission to Otronicon is $19.95 per day for adults; $17.95 per day for students and seniors; and $13.95 per day for children ages 3 to 11. Admission to Otronicon is free for Science Center members. Hours for Otronicon are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. A separate ticket is required for Science Night Live featuring Otronicon! From 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. Jan. 14.

Volunteer opportunities for those ages 13 and older still are available as well. The Science Center needs volunteers to serve as game techs, exhibit operators, way finders and more. Each shift lasts about four hours, and volunteers get free admission to the event on the days they volunteer and free Otronicon T-shirts. Sign up here or contact Zach Lynn, director of volunteers and engagement, at zlynn@osc.org or 407-514-2223.



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January 10, 2017

What happens when runDisney cancels a half marathon at Walt Disney World?

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On Friday, runDisney announced a rare decision to cancel one of its races because of weather. The half marathon, part of Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, was scheduled to start at 5:30 a.m. Saturday, and the anticipated weather was looking pretty dicey with a line of thunderstorms from the country’s winter weather expected to cross the state while volunteers were setting up and while runners were waiting in corrals.

The threat wasn’t necessarily the rain. Despite the caution needed to run on slick surfaces and the uncomfortable feeling of running a long race in heavy, soaked clothing that chafes, those weren’t the deciding factors, we’re told. It was the possibility of lightning in what is commonly known as the Lightning Capital of the United States.

And such a threat was fresh in the minds of runDisney organizers and runners alike after lightning forced the 2015 Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon to be delayed and the distance shortened to a little more than a 10K. Certainly everyone wants runners to be safe, but there is a lot of frustration involved when a solution cannot be found for runners to participate in the races in which they have invested a lot of time training, money and travel to complete. For those not familiar with runDisney half marathons, they cost almost $200 per person and runners – especially first-timers -- often train for at least six months in preparation for the race.

That’s what happened in 2015 and again this weekend. The runners, including my own son and husband, of course understand that safety comes first. Frankly, it felt a little patronizing to be told that over and over by non-runners who had no understanding of what was involved in the preparation for this event. But what they wanted was the opportunity to run the race – even if it had to be delayed – that they had worked so hard and sacrificed for. That did not happen.

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Still, it was amazing to see how both runDisney and fellow half-marathoners did step up after the cancellation was announced. runDisney events are scheduled to take place rain or shine so refunds are not freely given by the organization. However, in this situation, runDisney gave runners the choice of a refund of their entry fees in the form of a gift card; two one-day park-hopper tickets for Walt Disney World; the ability to transfer registration to another runDisney half marathon within the next 24 months; or the option to convert this weekend’s registration to the full marathon on Sunday. In addition to selecting one of these options, all registered runners did or will receive their medals.

But runners are a tough bunch and they want to earn their medals, not just be handed them. Many decided to pound the pavement (unofficially) at their Walt Disney World resorts on Saturday for 13.1 miles. Some even organized impromptu half marathons with volunteers who handed out water and toiletpaper finish lines for each runner to break at the end of his or her journey. Others ran on treadmills to fulfill the commitments and honor the pledges they made to certain causes.

Finally, the runners honored each other’s hard work preparing for the race by wearing on Saturday the yellow half-marathon tech shirts that came with their race packets. Cast members and fellow Walt Disney World guests expressed their solidarity, too, at the hotels, theme parks and the runDisney expo. Disney prepared for the elevated crowd level on the last day of the expo, which normally is the least crowded, by adding character meet-and-greets and other entertainment. Perhaps, most importantly, staffing allowed runners to efficiently redeem their refund options and return any unwanted merchandise, giving everyone the opportunity to leave Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend on a positive note.



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January 12, 2017

2017 Disney Parks Moms Panel includes first openly gay mom

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The Walt Disney Company has unveiled its 2017 Disney Parks Moms Panel, and among the new members is the panel’s first openly gay mother. The Disney Parks Moms Panel, which answers online readers’ questions about planning Disney vacations, has included a gay dad, but the lesbian mother is a step forward in terms of diversity – and one that Disney is willing to tout in its press release and on the panel website.

“This year's Panel promises to deliver an impressive roster of trusted Disney advisors from all walks of life and experiences. With parents of twins and those with special needs children to single working moms, bilingual mavens and members of the LGBT community, the 2017 Panel is inclusive of every type of parent or guardian looking to plan a magical Disney getaway,” an official release states. This is the first time in 10 years of the Disney Parks Moms Panel that a press release has highlighted the LGBT community.

The lesbian mom is Jan K., whose specialty is Walt Disney World Resort. She writes in her bio, “I am a mother of three and live with my beautiful wife in New Jersey! I am proud to be the first openly lesbian Disney Parks Moms Panelist and I am thankful that Disney sees diversity of all types as one of its main strengths.”

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Jan K. is one of 12 new and 19 returning members of the Disney Parks Moms Panel for this year. Here are the other freshman members and their specialties:

** Trish A.; Halifax, N.S., Canada (Disney Vacation Club)
** Jennifer C.; Ottawa, Ont., Canada (Walt Disney World Resort)
** Emille C.; Orlando, Fla. (Walt Disney World Resort)
** Todd D.; Pickering, Ont., Canada (Walt Disney World Resort)
** Anabel M.; North Hills, Calif. (Disneyland Resort)
** Linda M.; Denver, Colo. (Disneyland Resort)
** Lindsey M.; Houston, TX (runDisney)
** Lindsey P.; Kennesaw, Ga. (Walt Disney World Resort)
** Donyell L. R.; Wilmington, N.C. (Walt Disney World Resort)
** Thiana S.; Novo Hamburgo, Brazil (Walt Disney World Resort)
** Beth S.; Vernon Hills, Ill. (Disney Cruise Line)

Competition for a spot on the Disney Parks Moms Panel is intense -- thousands apply in the fall each year – and the panelists are chosen after three very different rounds of interviews. The new panelists have diverse careers, and among the group are a litigation lawyer, high school English teacher, engineer, registered nurse and university professor. Two of the new panelists also speak Spanish and will be able to assist Spanish-speaking guests with questions, too. In addition, one of the new panelists speaks fluent French and another speaks fluent Portuguese.

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. The 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, Adventures by Disney, runDisney and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Despite the name, however, panelists are not just limited to those who are mothers -- dads and grandparents have been chosen, as well.

During the past decade, more than 150 moms, dads, and grandparents have served on the Disney Parks Moms Panel. Users of the panel website have access more than 300,000 questions asked by previous visitors and answered by the panelists.

To learn more about the Disney Parks Moms Panel and meet the panelists, visit http://disneyparksmomspanel.disney.go.com



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January 14, 2017

2 sweepstakes to award Disney vacations plus special perks

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It’s not too late to enter two sweepstakes that give their winners Disney vacations with some special perks.

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GoGo squeez is sponsoring Run the Magic Sweeps in which the grand prize is a four-night vacation to a runDisney race of the winner’s choice. The goal of the partnership is to encourage families to be active and healthy together.

The race vacation prize includes four entries in runDisney races at one of the following events:

** Star Wars Half Marathon – The Dark Side, Walt Disney World Resort (April 20 - 24, 2017)

** Tinker Bell Half Marathon, Disneyland Resort, (May 11-15, 2017)

** Disneyland Half Marathon, Disneyland Resort (August 31-September 4, 2017)

** Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon, Walt Disney World Resort, (November 2- 6, 2017)

Plus, the winner will receive four round-trip coach class airfares; one standard room with a maximum of four persons at a moderate Walt Disney World Resort Hotel or Disneyland Resort for four nights; and four 4-Day Magic Your Way Park Hopper Tickets or its equivalent to be awarded to the grand prize winner and up to three guests.

To enter the Run the Magic Sweeps, go to the official page and fill out the form. The deadline for all entries to be received is 11:59:59 p.m. ET on Jan. 15, 2017 – that’s tomorrow! Each adult can enter once per day. You must be at least 18 years old and a legal resident of the 50 United States and Washington D.C. Click here to read the complete official rules.

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The View’s The Magic is Endless Sweepstakes awards three winners vacations to Walt Disney World. As if that isn’t a big enough prize, the winners also will attend a taping of the ABC’s The View at the resort.

Each grand prize winner and three guests will stay at one of 25 Walt Disney World hotels for a five-night, six-day vacation from March 3 to 8, 2017, to coincide with the television show taping at Animal Kingdom.

Plus, the winner will receive four round-trip coach class airfares; one standard room with a maximum of four persons at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel for five nights; four 6-Day Magic Your Way Park Hopper Tickets; four tickets to a live taping of The View to take place the week of March 6, 2017 at Disney’s Animal Kingdom; one $500 Disney gift card; and four 20-inch American Tourister Disney/Lucas/Marvel hard side carry-on luggage pieces.

To enter The View’s The Magic is Endless Sweepstakes, go to the official page and fill out the form. The deadline for all entries to be received is 11:59:59 p.m. ET on January 29, 2017. Each adult can enter once per day. You must be at least 18 years old and a legal resident of the 50 United States and Washington D.C. Click here to read the complete official rules.

Good luck, everyone!



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January 17, 2017

Moana: Singalong to hit theaters, plus bonus features for home versions revealed

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Need more Pua and Hei-Hei (not to mention Moana and Maui) in your life ? Well, you’re in luck.

Walt Disney Pictures has announced that Moana fans will get another opportunity to see the animated film in movie theaters. A singalong version returns to the big screen at about 2,000 theaters on Jan. 27.

Not all Disney animated movies receive this star treatment. The reason Moana is getting a second go-round with audiences? According to Forbes.com, “Moana has already earned $225 million domestic, making it the fourth-biggest non-Pixar Disney animated offering ever in North America, behind only Zootopia ($341million), Frozen ($400 million) and The Lion King ($422 million including the 3D reissue). It has earned $450m worldwide.” (You can read my movie review here.)

The website also points to Moana’s soundtrack, which is No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Album Sales chart and No. 2 on the Billboard 200 album chart. Much of the original music has been developed in collaboration with Hamilton composer and actor Lin-Manual Miranda, so it’s no surprise that it is a big hit.

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In addition, Walt Disney Animation Studios is giving fans a sneak peek at the bonus content they will receive with home versions of the movie. Perhaps most exciting is that there will be a new mini-movie featuring Moana and Maui, as well as deleted scenes and a deleted song.

Moana will be available on Digital HD/3D and Disney Movies Anywhere (DMA) on Feb. 21 and on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, DVD and On-Demand on March 7.

On,Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and Digital 3D/HD/SD, consumers will get:

** Maui Mini-Movie: “Gone Fishing” – When Maui decides it’s time to take charge of the ocean and catch his next meal, Moana must show him the error of his ways … with a little help from her friends!

** Voice of the Islands – An in-depth look at how Pacific Island people and cultures inspired the filmmakers to create the story of “Moana.”

** Meet the stars of “Moana” in this dynamic Q&A featuring Dwayne Johnson, newcomer Auli‘i Cravalho, and famed animation directors Ron and John.

** Meet the musical team behind “Moana” in this fascinating Q&A featuring Opetaia Foa‘i, Mark Mancina and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

** Island Fashion – Find out how costume designer Neysa Bové took on the unique challenge of creating costumes using materials and techniques native to the islands of Oceania.

** They Know the Way: Making the Music of “Moana” – Musicians Opetaia Foa‘I, Marc Mancina and Lin-Manuel Miranda take us on a personal journey through their involvement in the movie and how it changed their lives.

** Fishing for Easter Eggs – Dive deep into the ocean and fish for the Easter Eggs hidden by the animators at Walt Disney Animation Studios.

** The Elements of … – This series of four mini-docs explores the technical achievements behind some of the ground-breaking effects used in the film.

Mini Maui – Meet “Mini Maui,” Maui’s tattoo sidekick. Animated by legendary hand-drawn animator Eric Goldberg, we explore how the 2D world collides with CG animation to bring the demigod’s tattoos to life.

Water – In the movie, the ocean is a character. This piece explores how the water is given a personality, along with the technical feats of creating a believable ocean landscape farther than the eye can see.

Lava – Te Kā is a creature made of lava, smoke and fire. This piece dives into the challenges of making an animated creature of massive scale brought to fiery life by character, technical and effects animators.

Hair – One of the greatest technical achievements of the film was the animation of the beautiful, curly hair on Moana and Maui. Take a look at the hair-raising detail that goes into animating each strand, adding performance to the movie that has never been seen before.

** Deleted Song: “Warrior Face” – With introduction by songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda.

** Deleted Scenes – Ron and John introduce the following deleted scenes: Race the Wind/Ties that Bind; Discussing Moana’s Future; Under the Sea; Grandmother’s Warning/Legend of Maui; Education of Moana; Father, Daughter, Boat; and Canoe Race.

** Music Video: “How Far I’ll Go” – Performed by Alessia Cara.

** “How Far I’ll Go Around the World” – Multi-language reel of the song “How Far I’ll Go.”

** Audio Commentary – With directors Ron and John.

** Theatrical Short Film: “Inner Workings” – With introduction by the filmmakers, is the story of the internal struggle between a man’s pragmatic, logical side and his free-spirited, adventurous half. Created by a small team at Walt Disney Animation Studios in a unique, fast-paced style that blends CG and traditional hand-drawn animation, the short explores the importance of finding balance in daily life.

The DVD-only version will have “Inner Workings” short, “How Far I’ll Go” music video and audio commentary.



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January 19, 2017

SeaWorld Orlando unveils food, performers, pass member deals for new Seven Seas festival

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SeaWorld Orlando has just released more details about its brand-new Seven Seas Food Festival – and there is a lot to look forward to, including special deals for annual passholders.

Beginning Feb. 11 and continuing on Saturdays through May 13, guests can visit the new food festival, which features some of the same components that they have come to love at the theme park’s other festivals – special food to purchase and enjoy and concerts that are included in the day’s admission.

The food has been created to replicate international street food traditions from 11 coastal markets. Guests will “set sail” on a taste adventure as they discover more than 60 unique Asian, Latin, European, Polynesian and North Atlantic dishes throughout the park. Plus, more than 55 local and international craft brews will be featured exclusively during the festival, as well as wine pairings and specialty cocktails. A selection of menu highlights include:

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Asian Market - Peking Duck Lo Mein with Fresh Oriental Vegetables
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Korean Market - Bingsu Salted Vanilla Ice Cream topped with Caramel Popcorn
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Mexican Market - Braised Chicken Adobo with Mole Sauce
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Caribbean Market - Cinnamon Slow Roasted Pork Belly with Sweet Plantain Mash
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Florida Market - Fried Kataifi Orange drizzled with Local Honey
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Mediterranean Market - Smoked Cured Salmon topped with Sweet Dill Mustard
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North Atlantic Market - Banana & Caramel Cheesecake topped with Whipped Cream & Caramelized Bananas
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Brazilian Market - Brazilian Churrasco with Chimichurri & Garbanzo Frito
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Pacific Coast Market - Braised Pork Cheeks with Savory Apple Polenta
Polynesian Island Market - “Loco Moco” Grilled Spam, White Rice, Scrambled Egg & Brown Gravy
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Gulf Coast Market - Southern Creamy Cheese Grits with a Blackened Shrimp

In addition to the market booths, the event will feature an array of barbecue and comfort cuisine including Slow Smoked Ribs, caramelized in a SeaWorld original BBQ sauce, Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese and a Grilled Kielbasa Sausage Sandwich.

At a media event for the announcement of the festival, I sampled Hawaiian Pulled Pork Slider served with Pineapple Pepper Cole Slaw and Asian BBQ sauce, Watermelon Gazpacho topped with Tecate Beer Jalapeño Foam and Vermont Pound Cake Grilled Cheese topped with a freshly made Raspberry Sauce.

SeaWorld Orlando pass members are invited to an exclusive preview tasting of the Seven Seas Food Festival with Chef Hector Colon on Saturday, Jan. 28 from 1 to 4 p.m. For $19, each pass member will sample six dishes and hear Chef Hector speak about his inspiration for creating the new foods. Reservations are required and can be made on the pass member website.

The Seven Seas Food Festival also features live performances each Saturday from top country, rock and Latin music artists. Concerts take place at 3 p.m. or 4 p.m., depending on the artist. The lineup, which was just announced, is as follows:

Lynyrd Skynyrd (February 11)

Lee Brice (February 18)

Bill Engvall (Feb 25)

Styx (March 4)

Justin Moore (March 11)

ZZ Top (March 18)

Phillip Phillips (March 25)

TBA (April 1)

Village People (April 8)

Commodores (April 15)

Oscar D’León (April 22)

Olga Tanon (April 29)

Grupo Mania (May 6)

TBA (May 13)

Beginning at 10 a.m. Jan. 19 through Jan. 25, pass members have early access to purchase front-row and other reserved seating for concerts. This can be done on the pass member website.

Finally, pass members can take advantage of a third offer. If they Visit SeaWorld Orlando on three Saturdays during the Seven Seas Food Festival, they will receive an exclusive pass member mason jar glass. To collect it, pass members scan their passes at Wild Arctic gift shop every time they visit and pick up the free glass on the third visit.

SeaWorld’s Seven Seas Food Festival begins at 11 a.m. every Saturday -- Feb. 11 through May 13 -- and continues through park close. Like all special events at SeaWorld, the Seven Seas Food Festival is included with park admission.



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January 21, 2017

What are the Villain Kids up to in Disney Channel's Descendants 2?

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With the release of Descendants 2 on the horizon – this summer! – it’s time to check in with Disney Channel for an update on the much-anticipated sequel.

In the fall, we found out about three evil additions to the group of Disney villains’ offspring:

** 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.

Now, Disney Channel is telling us more about how they fit into the sequel’s storyline: “When the pressure to be royally perfect becomes too much for Mal, she returns to her rotten roots on the Isle of the Lost where her archenemy Uma, the daughter of Ursula from The Little Mermaid, has taken her spot as self-proclaimed queen of the run-down town. Uma, still resentful over not being selected by Ben to go to Auradon Prep with the other Villain Kids, stirs her pirate gang including Captain Hook's son Harry and Gaston's son Gil, to break the barrier between the Isle of the Lost and Auradon, and unleash all the villains imprisoned on the Isle once and for all.”

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Plus, we’re getting our first look at the Descendants 2 movie poster and a teaser trailer.

OhMy.Disney.com describes the trailer this way: “The teaser starts with Mal, Evie, Carlos, and Jay, who are all looking cooler than ever. We then get a quick look at Mal surrounded by flames, Evie throwing papers in the air, and the rest of the cast busting out some seriously cool dance moves. Most adorable moment: Carlos hugging a dog. Most wicked moment: the brief glimpse of Uma, Ursula’s daughter, at the very end of the teaser trailer. Her evil laughter, combined with her flawless hair and outfit absolutely gave us chills! We can’t wait to see more of Uma.”

In the original Descendants, the story explored the premise that the Disney villains (and some heroes) had children. The group was 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, led to a battle of good versus evil set amidst the backdrop of typical teenage angst.

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.

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.



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January 24, 2017

Disney launches its own adult coloring app

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Adult coloring books have been incredibly popular for a while now, and Disney has been in on the trend with its “Art of Coloring” books that are billed to “inspire creativity and relaxation.” Now, the company is making its coloring books even more accessible through a new app, Color by Disney.

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Color by Disney offers hundreds of coloring pages featuring beloved Disney and Pixar characters – and it’s being marketed to adults as a way to relieve stress. Disney touts the app as having these features:

** Hours of Disney Magic: Experience the joy of capturing the most memorable Disney and Pixar moments through a world of color.

** Infinite Creative Expression: Hundreds of design and character combinations ranging from modern classics like “Frozen” and “Moana” to iconic films like “The Lion King” and “The Little Mermaid” to Pixar favorites like “Brave” and “Monsters, Inc.”

** Film-Inspired Effects: Add a dash of pixie dust with an extensive collection of classic film-inspired color palettes, special gradients and fun filters, including glitter and watercolors.

** Share Options: Connect the app to social media networks to showcase and share magical masterpieces.

** Instant Access: Color by Disney is an always-on service providing hours of engagement for users taking a break from their daily grinds.

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Color by Disney is available for iOS and Android mobile devices as a subscription-based app. The app is free to download and then the coloring pages are added each week as part of a subscription. Three packages are available: one week all-access for $2.99; one month all-access for $7.99; or a year all-access for $39.99. But users can experience Color by Disney for free with a seven-day trial.

Color by Disney is available for download now on the Apple App Store, Google Play Store and Windows App Store.

Disney is just one popular subject for adult coloring enthusiasts. There are online and real-life groups dedicated to every niche you can think of – from animal lovers to popular television shows. And with good reason, it would seem.

A story in The Washington Post pointed out: “Coloring books work like other mindfulness techniques such as yoga and meditation, says Craig Sawchuk, a clinical psychologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Such approaches work ‘almost like a volume knob to turn down the sympathetic nervous system, the stress response.’ Coloring can help slow down heart rate and respiration, loosen muscles and stimulate the brain, he says.”

So, break out that tablet or smart phone and start relaxing!



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January 26, 2017

Tips for enjoying cold weather at SeaWorld Orlando, Walt Disney World

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Attention, theme park visitors: Floridians will be celebrating winter beginning Friday. That’s because Orlando temperatures actually are going to dip into the 60s during the day and into the 40s at night for an entire week. Break out the parkas, hats and gloves! And don’t forget the boots – we must seize this rare opportunity!

If you’re from a colder climate than our normally balmy Florida weather, I’m sure you’re shaking your head, but I hope you are chuckling along with us, too. I’m originally from Indiana, so I know what it’s like to be truly cold outside, but this change in weather is the closest we get to a change in seasons here in Orlando. Humor us! My children were born here in Central Florida so they view this next week as an opportunity to not only break out the winter clothes but to drink gallons of hot chocolate.

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In all seriousness, when the forecast calls for colder than normal weather here, there are some things that theme parks do differently – and you, the visitor, should take into account, too. I’ve updated my annual story to include suggestions from readers as well as new information from the theme parks. Here are some things to keep in mind:

** Water parks will close. Disney's Typhoon Lagoon already is not open to guests because of scheduled maintenance, and Disney's Blizzard Beach is slated to be closed Friday (Jan. 27) through Sunday (Jan.29) because of the anticipated cold weather. Guests who had planned to visit the Disney water park still can enjoy the adjacent Winter Summerland miniature golf course, though. Reader George suggests an alternative is to take your favorite beverage and relax in your hotel’s hot tub. Reader Craig suggests waiting a day after the water park reopens to go, if your vacation allows, because the water park can be busier than usual after a closure.

** Some animals will stay indoors, but others will not be deterred by the cold. At Disney's Animal Kingdom, a three-hour process brings all animals indoors each night to climate-controlled areas. In the morning, they are given a choice whether to venture out or stay warm and cozy. When Florida has a cold snap, such as this one, extra precautions also are taken in the outdoor habitat, such as adding heating elements, for example. So, riding Kilimanjaro Safaris will not be a bust, but you're unlikely to see the Komodo dragon from the walkway along its outdoor habitat because it is sensitive to the cold. The same goes for some other animals.

At SeaWorld Orlando, many of the marine animals already thrive in cooler waters, such as the orca whales, sea lions and dolphins, so these temperatures don't affect their performances. The shows will go on! You might want to skip the Splash Zone, though. And although the penguins in the Antarctica attraction reside in a climate-controlled area, guests just might feel like they've stepped onto the South Pole, too, no matter how chilly it might be outside. Reader NT3 suggests bringing (or buying) a blanket or towels from your hotel room to sit on for attractions and shows.

** Steer clear of water rides, such as Splash Mountain or Journey to Atlantis. These places may be open, but do you really want to spend the rest of your day shivering from wet, soggy clothes and hair? If they are on your bucket list, be sure to stash some extra clothes in a locker for afterward.

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** Seize the opportunity to drink plenty of hot chocolate or warm coffee in the theme parks. SeaWorld has the best deal for hot chocolate, with its refillable souvenir mug. It works the same way as its drink cups -- after a one-time purchase of the cup, all refills are a little more than a dollar each. (Pass members can apply their discount to the refill price.) At Disney World, coffee lovers can get their Starbucks fix at locations in each of the four theme parks and two stores at Disney Springs. Of course, Disney visitors can sip on hot chocolate that’s readily available, as well.

** When vacationers arrive at the theme parks, it's easy to get caught up in the excitement and the anticipation of their favorite attractions. But when it's cold, adjust your schedule accordingly. Plan to visit indoor attractions in the morning or evening, when temperatures are coolest. As the day warms up, spend more time outdoors for a more pleasurable experience. Also, know that some outdoor roller coasters may be affected by the cold weather, and operators also have to wait for the tracks to warm up for the coasters to perform correctly and safely.

** If you're staying in the Disney resorts, don't forget that some, like the Fort Wilderness Resort or the BoardWalk Inn, offer enticing fireplace settings in their main lobbies. Others, such as the Polynesian Resort or the Beach Club, also offer nightly beachside fire pits complete with s'mores that also can be fun family escapes from the rare Florida cool-downs. The cozy evening gatherings around the fire can be the perfect way to wind down after a long day in the parks, too. Who knows, if you're outside at a fire pit, you might even catch a glimpse of a fireworks show, as well.

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** Finally, the No. 1 tip from locals and seasoned visitors alike: Dress in layers for changing temperatures. You may very well be comfortable in shorts in the middle of the afternoon, but once the sun goes down and the wind begins whipping across the lakes, you’ll be longing for a jacket -- or at the very least, a sweatshirt. Lockers are relatively inexpensive if you want to bring extra clothes and not have to carry them around all day. As reader Ashley said, “How much fun are you going to have if you're freezing for a couple of hours?”



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January 28, 2017

Get a glimpse of Universal Orlando's new water park, Volcano Bay, opening May 25

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One of the perks of being an Orlando resident is the opportunity to go regularly to the fantastic water parks that are associated with our three big theme parks. With two children who swim like fish, I have enjoyed our family’s annual water park passes. Until this point, we have alternated between Disney’s Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon and SeaWorld’s Aquatica water parks. Each is unique in its theming and a full day’s worth of fun for my family. But a new aquatic playground joins the lineup this summer, and we are excited to experience all it has to offer.

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Universal Orlando announced this week that its Volcano Bay water park will open May 25. The park will have a Pacific Isle theme, calling on the fabled Waturi islanders for inspiration for the tropical paradise. As details have emerged about the upcoming water park, two features are being touted as improvements to Orlando’s existing water parks. The first is the TapuTapu wearable band, which allows guests to enter virtual queues and avoid physical queues for the rides. Sounds a lot like Disney’s MagicBands, no? But Walt Disney World has not rolled out its MagicBands at Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon. The other welcome new aspect is that Volcano Bay guests will not have to lug their own tubes and rafts up stairs to the start of the aquatic adventure.

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Volcano Bay will have four distinct areas: The Volcano, Wave Village, River Village and Rainforest Village. The Volcano, named Krakatau, is the centerpiece of the park. It rises 200 feet above the tropical landscape, streaming waterfalls during the day and fiery lava effects at night. Inside the volcano are a variety of water slides (as described by Universal):

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** Krakatau Aqua Coaster: Four-person canoes slide upward through the mists and into the dark twists and turns within the volcano before emerging with a plunge through a shimmering waterfall.

** Ko’okiri Body Plunge: Join in the centuries-old tradition of honoring the volcano god, Vol, by braving the incredible Ko’okiri Body Plunge. Featuring a 70-degree fall through a drop door and 125 feet of screaming fun, this dizzying descent ends with a watery tribute from Vol himself.

** Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides: Twin trap doors simultaneously drop two guests down clear, intertwining tubes before sending them splashing into the waters below.

** Punga Racers: A favorite among Waturi children of all ages, Punga Racers send single riders on their manta ray mats sliding down four lanes through underwater sea caves.

The Wave Village overlooks the waters of Waturi Beach at the base of the volcano and gives families a place to hang out and swim nearby in one of two wave pools.

River Village also is designed for guests of all ages, including the youngest. It features:

** Honu ika Moana: Just like the ancient Waturi people who rode the ocean waves on friendly sea turtles and whales, guests can enjoy these two twisting, turning, multi-person slides. Honu sweeps up two massive walls, while ika Moana sprays water on riders from the center of the raft.

** Tot Tiki Reef + Runamukka Reef: The little ones can frolic among the splashy slides and fountains of the Tot Tiki Reef toddler play area, while Runamukka Reef delights older children with its bubbling geysers, water guns, slides and dump cups.

** Kopiko Wai Winding River: Take a slow ride on the Kopiko Wai Winding River. Sprays of water surprise along the way.

Finally, Rainforest Village stretches along the shores of an action-packed river that houses these attractions:

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** Ohyah + Ohno Drop Slides: Ascend cliff side and plummet down the twisting waters of Ohyah before dropping out four feet above the pool below. To achieve even greater bragging rights, brave the rope bridge and plunge down Ohno, a serpentine adventure that ends six feet above the pool below. (Dare I say it? Does this sound like the pool at Disney’s defunct River Country?)

** Maku Puihi Raft Rides: This six-person rafting adventure is not for the faint of heart. Choose one of two paths or try them both — just be ready for a thrilling ride. Puihi careens through a dark, winding tunnel before the stomach-flipping thrill of zero gravity hang time. Maku slides you through a deep volcanic gorge before spinning wildly around bowl-like formations.

** TeAwa The Fearless River: Take a thrilling whitewater ride with churning rapids and choppy waves.

** Taniwha Tubes: Riders can try four twisting tracks, but beware — mischievous tiki statues spray jets of water when you least expect it.

So far, Universal has only announced combination tickets that include Volcano Bay with admission to Universal Studios and Island of Adventure. We’re eagerly waiting to find out the price of one-day admission and annual passes for the new water park.



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January 31, 2017

Should you take kids to Epcot's new arts festival?

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We’re halfway through the inaugural Epcot International Festival of the Arts, and if you’re a Disney fan, you’ve probably read or watched plenty about what the festival has to offer guests. (Our own Deb Koma has written a detailed review that is informative.) But maybe you’re wondering whether kids will enjoy these extra offerings at Epcot. My children, ages 12 and 14, and I have visited the festival on two separate weekends in order to find out the answer to that question. Here are some of our thoughts:

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** We all were pretty excited to try the Food Studios. After all, like many Walt Disney World regulars, we look forward to Epcot’s other festivals – Food & Wine and Flower & Garden – that feature the walk-up kiosks with appetizer-sized portions of dishes and samples of beverages. There are fewer foods to taste at the Festival of the Arts, so my family and I tried most of them on our two visits. And although we liked most of we sampled, I can’t say there were things that just wowed us. That’s different from our experiences at the Food & Wine and Flower & Garden festivals. We have left those culinary experiences raving about certain foods and planning our return to get them again. So, if you’re like us, you might enjoy having dinner somewhere other than the Food Studios and then visiting the booths for dessert, which are cleverly themed.

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** Each evening at the America Gardens Theatre, there are three Disney on Broadway shows that feature professional Broadway singers performing Disney favorites. The shows take place at 5:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m. and 8 p.m. Friday through Monday of each festival weekend. We saw Kerry Butler and Kevin Massey perform songs from Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Tarzan, Newsies and Aladdin, and we thoroughly enjoyed the half-hour show. The stage is beautifully lit and set up for each story. Butler and Massey return for additional performances Feb. 3 to 6.

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** One of the best surprises, we think, are the large-scale photo backgrounds that allow guests to step into art masterpieces. My daughter loved posing for Edvard Munch’s The Scream and Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. There are four such opportunities this year, and I hope they add more in the future for the Festival of the Arts.

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** Although my son has long been engaged in creating two-dimensional art and my daughter is in the performing arts, neither was especially interested in perusing the art featured in the tents around World Showcase for the festival. I’d like to think that’s because, for kids especially, there are many more exciting things to do at Epcot, like ride attractions. Some unconventional art did attract my daughter’s attention, however. On both visits, she stopped at the TOMS shoes booth to see the hand-painted Disney designs.

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** On the other hand, both of my children enjoyed the Animation Academy, which takes place in Innoventions East from 9:15 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. daily. This is just like the attraction at Hollywood Studios that was closed to make way for the Star Wars Launch Bay, and there also is a similar experience at DisneyQuest. In these sessions, which can last 10 to 20 minutes, a cast member teaches the class how to draw a popular Disney character. My kids have been going to these sessions since they were little and they still find them worthwhile.

Overall, we did appreciate Disney’s new festival dedicated to the arts and would recommend checking it out if you’re going planning a visit to Epcot with children. I’m just not sure this is yet a festival that has enough appeal for families to make a special trip JUST for the festival. That said, this is the first year for the Epcot International Festival of the Arts, and we look forward to seeing what Walt Disney World adds in the coming years to expand its offerings.



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About January 2017

This page contains all entries posted to A Mom and The Magic in January 2017. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2016 is the previous archive.

February 2017 is the next archive.

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