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March 21, 2015

Florida artists bring pixie dust and props to Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival

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Two Florida artists who have been spreading pixie dust at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival for years with their miniature fairy houses are back with new creations this year. And for one special weekend, you can meet them at the festival and purchase unique pieces from their company, the Prop Duster Dept.

Sisters Vikki Yarborough and Ronda Maseman work just like the Disney Fairies do -- by recycling objects that humans have discarded and by collecting things from nature.

Last year, they told me about their company's origins: "We are sisters that have been feeding off of one another's ideas and imagination, creating things together for many years. Our current path began with making various props for gardens -- wind chimes, stepping stones, scarecrows, bird baths, mosaic garden animals, topiaries covered in seeds and homes to attract fairies. The Prop Duster Dept. was born when someone said we make props dusted with pixie dust. The fairies then asked for more, so we took a side path to create these fantasy homes."

At this year's Flower and Garden Festival, guests can see their signature fairy house, which is the large one modeled after Tinker Bell's home in the Disney movies and features an overturned teacup. It's located adjacent to the Tinker Bell topiary outside the butterfly garden in Future World.

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"The large Tinker Bell house has been in the Festival since the DVD movies began [in 2008]," Yarborough told me. "We watched the movie to get the an idea which direction to go. With Tinker Bell's guidance, we found a large white teapot and a stump of wood for the base, similar to that in the movie; then added other natural items that Tink had used to decorate her house. Each year we bring her home after the festival and refurbish it to get it ready for the next year."

In past years, the festival also featured multiple fairy topiaries and their homes also were designed by Yarborough and Maseman. I was sad to see they did not return this year.

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However, the pair has created several other stunning pieces in the festival for visitors to enjoy. For example, outside the China pavilion, there is a ram statue made out of natural materials. It represents the Year of the Sheep, and signs in the surrounding garden explain the significance of the zodiac in the Chinese calendar.

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The sisters also have styled props for various gardens, including Miss Piggy's gardening gloves in her basket of gardening supplies, spice balls in Morocco, Winnie the Pooh's honey pots and the three pollinators - a bee, a snail and a butterfly - in Pooh's garden outside the U.K. buildings.

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The Prop Duster Dept. is responsible for this year's miniature gardens in Japan, as well. Yarborough and Maseman developed a Zen Garden, a Tea Garden and a Mountains Garden based on actual sites.

Guests can see more of the sisters' work and purchase pieces during the festival's Art in the Garden weekend, March 27 to 29. Their white artist tent will be located on the Canada side of the World Showcase promenade and will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. all three days.

Can't make it out to Epcot that weekend? Yarborough and Maseman will be showcasing their fairy houses at a garden tour event, The Private Gardens of Historic Orlando featuring Lake Eola Heights. It takes place in downtown Orlando from noon to 5 p.m. on April 19.

Maseman lives in Central Florida and teaches art to children during the school year and summer art camp at the Mount Dora Center for the Arts. In her spare time, she loves to paint miniature watercolors.

Yarborough lives in Fort Lauderdale with her husband of 36 years and five dogs. She has two grown sons, one who works at Disney's Animal Kingdom. When she's not creating pixie dust, she enjoys working with stained glass and other home projects.



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February 17, 2014

Unique Disney Fairies houses to be sold at Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

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Among the many things my family and I look forward to each year at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival is the area dedicated to the Disney Fairies. What began as a promotion for the direct-to-DVD movies has grown from topiaries of each fairy to include a collection of tiny fairy houses, and the popular pieces have moved from a small Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden to inside the butterfly tent so they could be enjoyed by more guests each year.

My children and I love studying the small houses, which debuted in 2008, to see how the fairies have used everyday objects in new ways to create their homes. One of our favorites incorporates a roller skate, and another sprite took up residence in a teacup she embellished. (You can see photos of several of the fairy houses from past years on my blog here.)

Imagine my delight in learning that guests can purchase some of these houses for the first time for just two weeks during this year's Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. From March 22 to April 6, the creators and their one-of-a-kind pieces will appear in the Garden Oasis merchandise area in one of the pergolas near the Mexico pavilion. These clever garden homes actually are created for the horticulture department at Walt Disney World by Florida artists Vikki Yarborough and Ronda Maseman.

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"We are sisters that have been feeding off of one another's ideas and imagination, creating things together for many years," the two wrote. "Our current path began with making various props for gardens -- wind chimes, stepping stones, scarecrows, bird baths, mosaic garden animals, topiaries covered in seeds and homes to attract fairies. The Prop Duster Dept. was born when someone said we make props dusted with pixie dust. The fairies then asked for more, so we took a side path to create these fantasy homes."

Yarborough and Maseman work just like the fairies do -- by recycling objects that humans have discarded and by collecting things from nature.

"The creative process begins as other people's cast-offs found at flea markets, garage sales, yard sales, our own kitchen cabinets or garden shed. These items could be a sifter, old toy, copper tea pot, colander, bird house, paint cans, clay pots, and on the list goes. We never know what we will find," they wrote.

"Nature then provides us with " tree branches, sticks, bark, seed pods, leaves, moss, sand, dirt, shells -- anything that is found on the ground. The fairies don't want you to cut fresh stuff. We never leave the house without bringing a bag to gather the treasures we find. Then the fun begins, putting all these items together to create the homes."

Guests at Walt Disney World can see the results for themselves. The 21st annual Epcot Flower and Garden Festival begins on March 5 and runs through May 18. Most festival events are included in regular theme-park admission. The prices of the fairy houses will vary, based on the size and materials used.

And if you can't get enough of fairy creations, be sure to watch for "The Pirate Fairy," the fifth in the animated Tinker Bell movies, which is scheduled for release on April 1. Get a sneak peek here.

As magical as the fairy houses can be, the fairy topiaries were equally fun to see, as well, and they always made for a great photo backdrop with the kids. Unfortunately, I've recently learned that most of the topiaries will not appear this year as they have in years past. Tinker Bell will be located outside her butterfly house, though.



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October 23, 2012

'Secret of the Wings' allows Tinker Bell and Disney Fairies to sparkle in 3D

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My elementary-school-age children have happily anticipated and enjoyed each direct-to-DVD movie in the Tinker Bell series. Today, the fourth installment hits shelves, and we think it's the best yet.

Disney's "Secret of the Wings" is another computer-animated chapter in the back story of Tinker Bell, Disney's most famous fairy. It originally was to be called "Tinker Bell and the Mysterious Winter Woods," which follows the naming trend of the previous three Disney Fairy movies. But the title was changed, and the movie took longer to finalize this time around, leaving fairy fans to wait two years between movies. They had been accustomed to a new story every fall.

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It seems, though, that the wait was worth it. "Secret of the Wings" is a beautiful movie -- that is rich in story and imagery. It's the first in the franchise to be presented in 3D, and this format really enhances all the details of Pixie Hollow and the Winter Woods. Viewers will love seeing the movie up close and with better definition -- from the Snowy Owls flying by with baskets made by the fairies to the individual snowflakes that cascade down from above the trees.

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Viewers, especially the children in our theater audience, were amazed when they saw the process of how the animals receive their winter coats as they cross into the Winter Woods. Tinker Bell (voiced by Mae Whitman) evoked a laugh when she hesitantly tried to get in on the transformation, as well. The mischievous tinker fairy is determined to visit another season, but, unfortunately, her wings cannot tolerate the cold.

Her attempts to reach the Winter Woods unexpectedly reunite Tinker Bell with the sister she never knew she had. Tinker Bell and Periwinkle, a frost fairy, were born of the same laugh but separated as children. Once they meet, they want to get to know each other and be together, but the seasons are conspiring against them. Tinker Bell needs to remain where it's warm -- in Spring, Summer or Autumn -- and Periwinkle (voiced by Lucy Hale) must stay in Winter. If they fairies don't stay where they belong, their wings could be broken.

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Fairies who have debuted in the previous films appear here, too, including Silvermist, Fawn, Iridessa, Rosetta, Vidia, Terrence, Clank, Bobbie and Queen Clarion. We are introduced to winter fairies Lord Milori, Dewey, Gliss, Spike, Sled and Slush, who take us deep into the Winter Woods. It's fun to see the new fairies reveal their talents and work together with their warm-weather friends to help Tinker Bell and Periwinkle. Clank and Bobbie uphold their reputations as inventors with their amazing snowmaker, and Queen Clarion and Lord Milori may surprise you with their secret.

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The fairies' journey explores themes that are not unusual for a Disney movie: standing up for what you believe in, protecting family, the value of perseverance and a little bit of a G-rated love story. Together, though, the themes make "Secret of the Wings" compelling for children and Disney fans alike. My children were engrossed in the movie from start to finish.

The soundtrack for "Secret of the Wings" reads like a Who's Who of current and former Disney Channel stars, with tracks from Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Bella Thorne, Zendaya, Bridgit Mendler, Laura Marano and Tiffany Thorton. The theme song, "The Great Divide," is by The McClain Sisters.

Guests who are visiting the Magic Kingdom in the next few months can meet Periwinkle and Tinker Bell (in her winter costume) at Tinker Bell's Magical Nook. They will pose for photos in their new Winter Woods set and sign autographs. See photos and read about the new meet-and-greet in my blog post. I'm curious to see how the fourth Tinker Bell movie may influence the Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden at Epcot's Flower & Garden Festival because the pixie-size houses and fairy topiaries are some of my favorite parts of the annual event.

"Secret of the Wings" is available today on DVD, Blu-Ray and Blu-Ray 3D. Look for a preview of the next Tinker Bell movie, due out in Spring 2014.


DISCLAIMER: I was a guest at a screening of Disney's "Secret of the Wings." This did not influence my review, and my opinions are my own.


September 13, 2012

Periwinkle joins Tinker Bell in Winter Woods of Disney Fairies meet-and-greet

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It's beginning to look a lot like winter in one corner of the Magic Kingdom. Tinker Bell's Magical Nook in Adventureland, home to meet-and-greets with the Disney Fairies, has taken on a sprinkling of snow and ice, along with the usual pixie dust.

The new environment has been created especially for frost fairy Periwinkle, who joined the character lineup at Walt Disney World on Sunday. Periwinkle makes her first appearance in the newest Disney Fairies direct-to-DVD movie, "Secret of the Wings," which will be released on Oct. 23. In the meantime, Periwinkle and her long-lost sister, Tinker Bell, are signing autographs and posing for photos with guests daily.

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Much of the experience is unchanged from when it moved from the now-defunct Mickey's ToonTown Fair section of the theme park. The queue winds through the main room, where there is fairy art on display. It's interesting, but certainly not enough to capture little ones' attention for the duration. (Waits of 45 minutes are not unheard of at the Magical Nook.)

When guests reach the front of the queue, they are escorted around the corner to line up in front of the tall grass that frames the entrance-way. In the fairy room, the sets are designed on a large scale so that guests feel like they are the size of the fairies. It works, but I found the technique that was used in ToonTown more fun. There, guests walked down a long hallway where the scale changed from human-sized to pixie-sized before they entered the fairy room.

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Still, once inside, guests will now feel as though they stepped into Pixie Hollow and Winter Woods, where Tinker Bell meets Periwinkle. Tinker Bell is wearing her winter costume, complete with long sleeves, tights and boots. Her wings light up, which fascinated my daughter, and they had a talk about how that happens.

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Periwinkle's set looks more wintery, with blue and while elements, like her costume. There also are snow drifts and powder on the trees, and the lighting helps set the tone for a few shivers.

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Disney World officials plan to change the Magical Nook sets and fairies seasonally, a Disney spokeswoman told me. Periwinkle is expected to be available for the winter season, and no end date has been announced so far.

On a related note, I'm told that Disney World will not host complimentary screenings of "Secret of the Wings," as it had with other movies in the Tinker Bell series. For several years, passholders were invited to sign up to preview the movie on a large screen inside one of the theme parks.

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