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Author Archives: Rick Howard

Experience the Sights and Sound of Africa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, No Passport Needed

Wildlife photography has always been a passion of mine. I was recently walking through Harambe Village early one morning after photographing gorillas inside Disney’s Animal Kingdom, when I was struck by the vast array of handmade items from Africa: hand-carved wood masks and animals, intricate beaded creations, beautiful woven baskets and so much more. Africa is one of the most fascinating and diverse countries I know of, and I stopped to capture some of the intriguing details, all the while being quietly transported to yet another paradise.

I hope these snapshots capture some of the beauty and history of this amazing place. I also included a gorilla photo from that morning.

 

A Look Ahead: The Kinsey Collection Opens at Epcot in 2013

One of my favorite things to do when I’m exploring an international pavilion around World Showcase at Epcot is to check out some of the fun cultural exhibits featured in the area.

Starting in late winter, the American Heritage Gallery in the American Adventure Pavilion will feature a brand new exhibit that tells an American story of determination and inspiration through more than 40 pieces of art, artifacts, books, sculptures and documents.

The Kinsey Collection will showcase personal treasures of African-American art and history

The Kinsey Collection will showcase personal treasures of African-American art and history that were collected from 90 countries and date back to as early as the 17th century.

After previews during African-American Heritage Month in February, the Kinsey Collection will open in March. The collection will be included in Epcot admission.

 

Vintage Walt Disney World: New Year’s Resolutions

Another year begins, and most likely, another set of New Year’s resolutions have been made. Here at “Vintage Walt Disney World,” we’re going to let some vintage Epcot attractions inspire you to keep those resolutions throughout 2013.

Promised to exercise more? If only you could still hop on one of these Wondercycles. These video-enhanced exercise bikes allowed guests to enjoy a light workout when visiting the Wonders of Life Pavilion. (Apparently, walking around Epcot isn’t workout enough on vacation.)

video-enhanced exercise bikes

Maybe, you’ve decided to eat better. If Food Rocks was still presented daily at The Land, you’d be able to hum along with Neil Moussaka as he sang “eat your spinach, yes its true cuz’ vegetables are good for you.” Making your vegetable eating a whole lot more fun.

Food Rocks was presented daily at The Land

Possibly, you want to stay in touch with friends and family. The “holographic telephone” in Horizons might have come in use. Wouldn’t our Audio-Animatronics friends from this attraction be amazed by our smartphones of today?

The “holographic telephone” in Horizons

 

Whatever your resolution, here’s to a healthy and prosperous 2013!

‘Destination: Cars Land’ Makes its Rose Parade Debut

Did you see our float, “Destination: Cars Land” in the 124th Rose Parade from Pasadena, Calif., on New Years Day? If not, you’re in luck because we have a video recap for you! The 125-foot-long float was a floral replica of Cars Land, the new land at Disney California Adventure park here at the Disneyland Resort, and it floated down Colorado Boulevard to the classic tune, “Get Your Kicks On Route 66.” From the thousands of volunteers to the thousands of flowers, seeds and foliage, everything seemed to go off without a hitch — until it broke down! Check it out.

 

New Pins to Collect or Trade Coming to Disney Parks in 2013

New Pins to Collect or Trade Coming to Disney Parks in 2013

When I served as project manager for Disney Pin Trading, I was often asked by guests which pins they should collect or trade. My best advice for someone starting a Disney pin collection is to pick a certain theme and trade for what you like. For years, we have offered mini-collections that are an easy way to jump start a collection. I spoke with Jeanne Lewis, merchandiser for Disney pins, about some of these new collections arriving in 2013.

“We have new limited edition pin collections coming to Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts next year,” explained Jeanne. “Some pins will be released each month, while others may be released every other month or once each quarter. I like these mini-collections because they have one consistent story. I also like making these pins extra special by adding different elements like stained glass or sculpted metal.”

 new limited edition pin collections coming to Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts

Fans at Disneyland will see the next chapter of the “Piece of Disneyland Resort History” collection. For this series, Jeanne acquired costume pieces from the Creative Costuming team from various Audio-Animatronics figures. I like the “it’s a small world” pin that features pieces of the Japanese girl’s obi sash from the attraction’s final scene. Each pin in the series will have an edition size of 1,000.

The “Window to the Magic” collection is also coming to Disneyland Resort. This pin series features scenes from classic Disney animated films where magical things took place by windows. The pins in this series will have edition sizes of 1,000.

The “Window to the Magic” collection

For Walt Disney World Resort, there will be a pin-of-the-month collection called “Good Luck / Bad Luck.” This playful collection shows there are two sides to every story – lucky and unlucky. I thought the Flower pin was funny (poor Flower!). The edition size for these pins will be 1,000.

For Walt Disney World Resort, there will be a pin-of-the-month collection called “Good Luck / Bad Luck.”

I convinced Jeanne to let me tease two new surprise pin collections for 2013. There will be six different pins in each collection, released at various dates throughout the year. The Walt Disney World Resort collection is called “Remember When” and gives a nod to classic Disney attractions and characters. The Disneyland Resort collection has images of vintage Disney characters in stylized crests. The surprise pins will each have an edition size of 750.

 

 

 

 

 

Rose Parade Fans Floored by ‘Destination: Cars Land’ Float

Happy New Year! If you, like many across the country, like to start your new year watching the annual Rose Parade from Pasadena, Calif., you probably saw the Disneyland Resort “Destination: Cars Land” float New Years Day. I had the privilege to watch the parade myself from the stands along the parade route, and seeing our float in person was incredible. If you missed it, or if you just want a closer look, I’ve got photos to share with you from chief photographer, Paul Hiffmeyer.

 Disneyland Resort “Destination: Cars Land” float

The float got off to a good start as it stepped off onto Orange Grove Blvd., but then …

Cars Land Float Breaks Down

… it broke down! In a flash of sparks and smoke, it looked like the fun would be over. But Mater, who you can see following close behind in the photo above, was there to save the day! With a quick jump-start, Radiator Springs’ favorite tow truck had the float running good as new and on its way down the parade route!

On board the float was Disney Channel “Shake It Up” star, Zendaya and DJ Ernie D from Radio Disney

On board the float was Disney Channel “Shake It Up” star, Zendaya and DJ Ernie D from Radio Disney, who broadcast live from the float during the parade.

Shot of the entire Cars Land float

Finally, I’ll leave you with a shot of the entire float. You can see Lightning McQueen and Sally racing in the front, on top of a floral “Welcome to Cars Land” sign; Flo’s V8 Cafe and Cozy Cone Motel signs (along with a mini Cozy Cone Motel underneath); floral representations of ride vehicles from Luigi’s Flying Tires and Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree; Luigi and Guido cheering on miniature Radiator Springs Racers vehicles racing through a floral replica of Ornament Valley – with a real waterfall!

Check back tomorrow for one more behind-the-scenes video from the float construction!

 

 

New Test Track Costumes Unveiled at Epcot This Week

We have another update on the progress of the reimagined Test Track – Presented by Chevrolet at Epcot to share with you today. Guests visiting Epcot this week can spot Cast Members sporting new Test Track uniforms. (Cast members will be on hand at the attraction only to answer questions, as Test Track doesn’t grand open until December 6).

New Test Track Costumes Unveiled at Epcot This Week

Walt Disney Imagineering costume designers worked in collaboration with Chevrolet to design costumes that reflect style and technical innovation. Elements of the automobile design experience in the attraction are found in the colors of the costume, while the silver/gray base color was chosen to represent one of the many colors of Chevrolet automobiles. The blue and black accents found in the Test Track graphic reflect the field testing required of all new vehicles and the color changes that take place inside the car while experiencing the attraction.

Walt Disney Imagineers Unveil the Backstory of Barnabas T. Bullion, Founder and President of Big Thunder Mining Company

Last week, we shared an image of a portrait that’s a part of a new project our Walt Disney Imagineers are currently working on – and today we’re happy to reveal the identity of that man and share details on the role he’ll play in the enhanced storyline of a certain Magic Kingdom Park attraction, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Barnabas T. Bullion, Founder and President of Big Thunder Mining Company

The fellow’s name is Barnabas T. Bullion, and he’s the gold magnate who rules the Big Thunder Mining Company with a golden fist. Imagineers have already begun working overnight in the park on the attraction’s new interactive queue, where you’ll be able to see this portrait, as well as an additional landscape portrait of the mountain itself.

landscape portrait of Big Thunder Mountain

According to the enhanced backstory: “Barnabas T. Bullion is the founder and president of the Big Thunder Mining Company. The longtime mining magnate comes from a powerful East Coast family and considers gold to be his very birthright by virtue of his oddly appropriate name; in fact, he considers the ultimate gold strike to be his destiny. And that is why he is having so much trouble with Big Thunder Mountain. According to superstitious locals, Big Thunder Mountain is very protective of the gold it holds within, and the unfortunate soul who attempts to mine its riches is destined to fail. And so far that prophecy is coming to pass. The mine has been plagued by mysterious forces and natural disasters ever since. And yet the Big Thunder Mining Co. is still in operation. In fact, Bullion is discovering new veins of gold and digging new shafts every day, offering a closer look at the Big Thunder mining operation than ever before. But a word to the wise for anyone attempting to visit the mountain: watch out for runaway trains.”

Look for these new additions and a number of additional interactive elements in the coming months at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the wildest ride in the wilderness!

All in the Details: My What a Guy, Gaston! Exploring Gaston’s Tavern in New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom Park

The preview period for New Fantasyland is now underway, which means more guests than ever are already experiencing fantastic new Magic Kingdom Park attractions that bring stories such as “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid” and “Dumbo” to life.

Exploring Gaston’s Tavern in New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom Park

One of these locations is Gaston’s Tavern in Belle’s Village, where Gaston has made a few appearances so far, no doubt enjoying all of this excitement and attention.

A centerpiece of the village, which appears right in front of Gaston’s Tavern, is a fountain of Gaston and his sidekick, LeFou. According to the storyline of this area, the statue was a gift to the village from Gaston himself.

in front of Gaston’s Tavern, is a fountain of Gaston and his sidekick, LeFou

When you visit, don’t miss the inscription on the dedication plaque, which suits Gaston perfectly. Here, you find out that this “gift” is actually titled “A Tribute to Gaston” and bears the following inscription: “An extremely generous gift to the humble people of my village, from me, Gaston.”

 

 

 

The Art of Pumpkin Sculpting at Disneyland Park

It takes great effort for me to cut out the eyes – or triangles – on a pumpkin, let alone a gaping mouth with a missing tooth or two. Even then, it’s usually a crooked face at best. I’m sure some of you reading this can relate. That’s probably why the pumpkins at the Halloween Carnival at the Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree fascinate me. They are works of art created by our pumpkin sculptors. Yes – they are pumpkin sculptors, not pumpkin carvers. This video shows their considerable talent as they transform pumpkins into popular Disney characters. Enjoy!

 

A Refreshing Spin on Alley Eats at Downtown Disney

Dine. Drink. Bowl. Maybe in that order for some of us – that’s the approach to having fun at the soon-to-open Splitsville Luxury Lanes at Downtown Disney West Side. And, wow, this two-story “bowling alley” puts a new spin on the sport with 50,000 square feet of fun for the entire family – 30 lanes cleverly separated into clusters, two kitchens, dramatic architecture, outdoor seating, billiard tables and live entertainment.

Splitsville Luxury Lanes at Downtown Disney West Side

We love that there’s a bowling concierge who delivers your shoes to your lane. We’ll go just for that privilege, plus a waitress to take our food and drink orders. Roll a few strikes and spares, soak up the energy, then grab a menu and get bowled over by the cuisine created by Tim Cushman, one of Food & Wine magazine’s “Best New Chefs” in 2008.

There’s sushi rolled on display – and they’re serious about freshness, since “who would expect sushi with bowling,” says Mark Gibson, co-founder of Splitsville. So they’ve got experts slicing and dicing everything from California rolls to spicy tuna to their signature Crab Rangoon – a dozen rolls in all.

appetizer-sized filet sliders

But ask Gibson his favorite, and he’ll tell you that the appetizer-sized filet sliders are right up there, served with onion rings and horseradish cream. Other starters include 3-pepper calamari sautéed with cherry, jalapeño and banana peppers; seared ahi tuna; alley nachos with the works, and Loaded Fries “smothered with nacho cheese, bacon and love,” reads the menu.

A Refreshing Spin on Alley Eats at Downtown Disney

A Refreshing Spin on Alley Eats at Downtown Disney

 

 

The extra-juicy burgers are a blend of Black Angus brisket, short ribs and ground beef, and if you’re really hungry, order the triple-decker Mad King burger, a full pound with double cheese and bacon, topped with a crispy onion ring. But it’s not all sandwiches and salads. Standout entrées include slow-cooked pulled pork with fries and slaw; blackened mahi mahi with grilled shrimp and spicy, buttery voodoo sauce; an 8-ounce filet mignon; and steak chimichurri. There are seven kinds of pizzas, from cheese to barbecued chicken and the Firehouse with mozzarella, diced chicken tenders, spicy bleu cheese sauce and a drizzle of Ranch dressing.

Enormous desserts to share include made-to-order sundaes, brownie a la mode and red velvet cake with butter frosting (it’s called “Giant Cake” for a reason). And there are plenty of menu options designed just for kids, all for an affordable $7.

And we haven’t even mentioned drinks, from an old-fashioned Icee to and 18-ounce frozen schooner of draft beer. There are signature cocktails like rum runners and piña coladas, snicker-tinis and key lime martinis. And their popular “Bowl” drinks which include Long Island Iced Tea and the Beach Bowl.

Plans are to open the doors at 10 a.m. and keep customers “rolling in and rocking out” until 2 a.m.

“It’s all about families and friends having fun together,” says Gibson. “And while you might come to Splitsville for the bowling and atmosphere, you’ll come back for the food!”

Just Two More Party for the Senses at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

There’s still time to enjoy one of the real treats of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival – the Saturday night Party for the Senses, a feast of food, wine, beverages and entertainment that’s a true delight. And while the reserved seating is sold out, our favorite way to experience the party is to stroll and nosh (we never sit, but instead enjoy conversation with the chefs and wine experts, and compare notes with fellow party-goers). The final two parties for this year are on October 27 and November 3.

And while the cuisine changes each week, we always find something delicious at the tasting stations. A recent party featured everything from Peking-style braised duck (Kona Cafe at Disney’s Polynesian Resort) to Chef Paula Da Silva’s (1500˚, Miami Beach) buttery lamb belly and spicy tuna tartare cleverly wrapped in a crisp shell from Wolfgang Puck Café at Downtown Disney. All in all, there are nearly two dozen tasting stations with wine, beer and cocktails to pair. You won’t know until you arrive what you’ll be having, but the discovery is part of the fun.

Party for the Senses at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

The only thing that stops our noshing is the extraordinary spectacle of Cirque du Soleil, on stage throughout the evening with live music and thrilling acrobatics.

You can start the evening at the Eat to the Beat concert at America Gardens Theatre and end with a stroll around World Showcase and the IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth fireworks and laser show – it’s a special evening you won’t want to miss. Just come hungry (and leave satisfied).

Price is $145 per person, plus tax. Epcot admission is required. Call 407-WDW-FEST for reservations.

Guests are Seeing Stripes at Disney’s Animal Kingdom — Zebras Out on New Kilimanjaro Safaris Savanna

The Disney Parks Blog has been following our progress as a new animal habitat was added to the end of the Kilimanjaro Safaris
 as a home for a herd of plains zebras. I am pleased to share a photo from the zebras’ first day out (yesterday, October 23) taken by Disney photographer Gene Duncan.
Guests are having lots of fun snapping their own photos of the zebras

Guests are having lots of fun snapping their own photos of the zebras, which in the wild live in eastern and southern Africa. And our animal care team is continuing to keep a close eye on the various members of the herd as they acclimate to their new habitat. The team reports that they are doing great.

A Beast in His Lair at Magic Kingdom Park

Last week we had the opportunity to photograph Beast in front of his castle in New Fantasyland for a film shoot. I took this shot in-between takes and I just had to share it with you. As you can see, sometimes you don’t even need to see the whole character to tell a pretty cool story with a photo.

A Beast in His Lair at Magic Kingdom Park

 

 

Behind the Scenes: Haunted Mansion Holiday Gingerbread House at Disneyland Park

If you’ve seen Haunted Mansion Holiday this year, you know how impressive the 9-foot-tall gingerbread house, which Pam first told you about in August, has turned out – and if you haven’t, you still have until January 6 to check it out! Today we’re taking you behind the scenes of the creation of Jack’s gingerbread house with Brian “The Pumpkin King” Sandahl, Senior Designer for Disney Entertainment Creative Development. See how his team of talented designers and bakers brought one of our tallest gingerbread houses to life for the Halloween and Holiday seasons.

 

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