Disney Wonder to Get Upgraded in Fall of 2016

Disney Cruise Line finally admitted changes are coming to Disney Wonder, its second oldest ship.

Line president Karl Holz said that changes were coming in 2016 to the 2,713-passenger, 83,000-ton ship, but would not divulge details about its redesign.

“There’s even more up our sleeves,” Holz said at a media event at Walt Disney World last week. “I can’t share the details quite just yet. We’ll be making some very exciting enhancements to the Disney Wonder later this year. Please stay tuned.”

Its sister ship, Disney Magic, had a makeover in 2013, getting the AquaDunk water slide, dining venue Cariocas and the Marvel Avengers Academy space in its Oceaneer Club. Back then Holz said the changes were coming to Wonder, and speculation was it would take place in 2014, but no major changes came.

Wonder, which began sailing in 1999, is scheduled now for dry dock to the Navantia shipyards in Cadiz, Spain in September, which is when major changes would take place. What will be coming is still unknown, but don’t expect a carbon copy of Disney Magic.

“We don’t want to do the same things on all the ships,” said Imagineer Peter Ricci back in 2013 about the Magic’s refurbishment. “We want different experiences.”

Structure aside, one possible change coming to Disney Wonder would be a new stage show. Disney auditions have put out a call for characters from “Frozen,” which right now only has a three-song arc as part of “Disney Dreams” on Disney Magic, which also debuted a new “Tangled” production last fall.

The casting call put out earlier this year sought actors for the line’s “newest onboard production” seeking voices for Elsa, Anna and Olaf, which do perform on Disney Magic, but also Hans and Kristoff in a production to be directed by Broadway’s Sheryl Kaller, known for productions of “Mothers and Sons” and “Next Fall” and choreography by Joshua Prince, known for Broadway’s “Shrek the Musical” and “Beautiful – The Carol King Musical.”

A second casting call specific to this new production seeks performers with “strong tumbling ability.” That could be a call out for those trolls that look like rocks and do a fair bit of rolling around.

A previous casting call pointed to the end of the ship’s “Toy Story” musical production, which will continue through the summer as Disney Wonder sails in Alaska. The new production schedule says performers will train over the summer at the line’s Toronto rehearsal facility and then begin performances in late summer and into spring 2017. That falls in line with the ship’s emergence from the September dry dock. Wonder’s announced sailing schedule offers nothing for September or October, which would be a long dry dock. The ship’s other two productions are “The Golden Mickeys” and “Disney Dreams – An Enchanted Classic.”

When it does emerge from dry dock, it will eventually begin sailing in Galveston in November and December before repositioning to Port Canaveral to offer 3- and 4-night Bahamas cruises through April 2017 after which it returns to Alaska.

The plans for Disney Wonder have been in the works for a long time. Back in 2013, Holz said, “When it comes to the Disney Wonder, every single one of our ships we’ve had a robust reinvestment program in those ships and we’ll continue to do that. We’re obviously in that period of time when we’re asking ourselves, “What’s next?” … This is not something you dream up over the course of six months. The reimagining of a ship is something that really begins 2, 2 1/2 almost 3 years out.”

One reason, though, Disney Wonder’s refurbishment has been put off is the continued construction in the Panama Canal, which is in the final stages of expansion. Right now, Disney Wonder is the only ship in the fleet that can pass through the canal with its maximum height and width limitations. After the canal expansion, all four of the current ships will be able to make it through.

“Alaska has been a very important itinerary to us,” said Disney Cruise Line marketing manager Jennifer Haile-Tinn. “We want to make sure we have a ship that can fit through the canal so we can continue to give that to our guests.”

The nugget of news confirming Wonder’s refurbishment was the only new information about the cruise line revealed at the media event, although sister outfit Adventures by Disney announced the expansion of its river cruising plans to include new trips on the Rhine River in 2017 in addition to the Danube River cruises its offering beginning this summer.

There was also no new information on the recently announced two new ships coming to the fleet in 2021 and 2023, other than they’re working on them.

“These vessels will showcase the immersive family entertainment, enchanting storytelling and unparalleled service that only Disney can deliver,” Holz said, “The Walt Disney Imagineering team is already dreaming up exciting new ways to create the world’s most magical oceangoing adventures.”

From the Orlando Sentinel

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Farewell…the Earffel Tower at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is Gone

The iconic Earffel Tower at Disney’s Hollywood Studios has been removed, bringing an end to the parks original symbol and icon.

The tower which stood at 130 ft, and as every Disney fan knew had a hat size of 342 3/8. The top tower weighed 32,000 lbs, and each ear weighed in at 5000 lbs.

Although the tower actually never held water, the Disney’s Hollywood Studios version represented the common sight of water towers at motion picture studios.

Disney announced back in January 2016 that the Earffel Tower would be removed. The area that the tower occupied will soon be home to Toy Story Land.

Even though the tower served as the parks official icon, Disney has often used both the Chinese Theater and The Hollywood Tower Hotel in promotional material to represent the park.

New Rick Bayless Gourmet Mexican Restaurant at Disney Springs is Getting a New Name

The new gourmet Mexican restaurant at Disney Springs has a new name – Frontera Cocina.

The restaurant was originally announced as Frontera Fresca back in October, it was then renamed Tablas Frontera in February.

It is unknown if the name change will reflect a change in presentation, as Tablas referred to the food being served on planks. Cocina simply means kitchen.

Frontera Cocina, is scheduled to open this summer in the new Town Center district of Disney Springs.

runDisney Launches Virtual Running Shorts

runDisney’s latest offering seeks to solve the problem that you might not be at a Walt Disney World Resort to take part in a runDisney race.

The Virtual Running Shorts Series is a set of three virtual races (Yellow Shoes 5K, Red Pants 5k and White Glove 5K), that you complete in your own choice of location, with a runDisney medal in return.

It wouldn’t be a runDisney event without a challenge, so there is a fourth option to run all 3 virtual races for more commemorative gifts at the end.

Now you can experience a taste of a runDisney race in your own backyard!

For the first time ever, runDisney is going virtual with the all-new Virtual Running Shorts Series, and the whole family is invited to join the Disney fun. Walk, jog, take a stroll through the neighborhood, or run your race on a treadmill. You choose the course that’s right for you! Select from one of three Mickey-themed Disney 5Ks or run all three to complete the Running Shorts Series. Four specially-designed Finisher Medals celebrating Mickey Mouse add even more Disney excitement to this brand new offering!

Whether you’re a seasoned runDisney runner or a beginner ready to take the first step, the all-new Virtual Running Shorts Series is a great way to celebrate a summer filled with great Disney runs and lots of fun!

runDisney Virtual Running Shorts – Yellow Shoes

Completion Timeframe: May 15 – June 1, 2016 

Put on your running shoes and take home Mickey’s yellow shoes! 

Get set to bring home the all-new Mickey’s Yellow Shoes Finisher Medal during the first-ever virtual runDisney Running Shorts 5K – Yellow Shoes. Themed yellow shoes in honor of Mickey’s iconic footwear, this Running Shorts 5K invites you to put on your running shoes and run on whatever course you choose – through your neighborhood, on a community track, or on your gym treadmill. Run with friends, family, or head out on your own.

Running Shorts 5K – Yellow Shoes Highlights 

  • 3.1 mile run on course of runner’s choosing
  • Proof of run not required
  • Share your experiences at #runDisneyShorts

Running Shorts 5K – Yellow Shoes Race Participants Receive

  • Commemorative Mickey’s Yellow Shoes Finisher Medal*
  • Yellow Shoes Digital Race Bib

Dates, times, prices and inclusions subject to change. 

Disney reserves the right to refuse the entry into, and/or revoke any registration for, any race for any reason in its sole discretion with refund of any applicable registration fees being the sole remedy of any such refusal and/or revocation.

*You must register for the Virtual Running Shorts Series to receive the Running Shorts Mickey Series Medal and Mickey tumbler in addition to individual race medals. 

runDisney Virtual Running Shorts – Red Pants

Completion Timeframe: June 5 – June 18, 2016 

Mickey’s Red Pants has everyone on the run!  

Inspired by Mickey’s iconic red pants, the Runner Shorts 5K – Red Pants is your inspiration to complete a 3.1 mile run on the course of your choice. Make it a Disney adventure to remember and invite family and friends to join the fun. Best of all, everyone receives their very own, one-of-a-kind Mickey Red Pants Finisher Medal to commemorate the event.

Running Shorts 5K – Red Pants Highlights 

  • 3.1 mile run on course of runner’s choosing
  • Proof of run not required
  • Share your experiences at #runDisneyShorts

Running Shorts 5K-2 Red Pants Race Participants Receive

  • Commemorative Mickey’s Red Pants Finisher Medal*
  • Red Pants Digital Race Bib

Dates, times, prices and inclusions subject to change. 

Disney reserves the right to refuse the entry into, and/or revoke any registration for, any race for any reason in its sole discretion with refund of any applicable registration fees being the sole remedy of any such refusal and/or revocation.

*You must register for the Virtual Running Shorts Series to receive the Running Shorts Mickey Series Medal and Mickey tumbler in addition to individual race medals. 

runDisney Virtual Running Shorts – White Glove

Completion Timeframe: June 19 – June 30, 2016 

Take home Mickey’s White Glove in the final run of the summer!

The final leg in our virtual Running Shorts 5K series is the Running Shorts 5K – White Glove that spotlights Mickey Mouse’s legendary white gloves. This virtual race, scheduled from June 19 through June 30, 2016, invites you to run your 3.1-mile race on whatever course you choose. Participants receive a commemorative Mickey White Glove Finisher Medal.

Running Shorts 5K-3 White Glove Highlights 

  • 3.1 mile run on course of runner’s choosing
  • Proof of run not required
  • Share your experiences at #runDisneyShorts

Running Shorts 5K-3 White Glove Race Participants Receive

  • Commemorative Mickey’s White Glove Finisher Medal*
  • White Glove Digital Race Bib

Dates, times, prices and inclusions subject to change. 

Disney reserves the right to refuse the entry into, and/or revoke any registration for, any race for any reason in its sole discretion with refund of any applicable registration fees being the sole remedy of any such refusal and/or revocation.

*You must register for the Virtual Running Shorts Series to receive the Running Shorts Mickey Series Medal and Mickey tumbler in addition to individual race medals. 

runDisney Virtual Running Shorts Series

Completion Timeframe: May 15 – June 30, 2016

Summer’s ultimate running challenge – three 5Ks, four Mickey Finisher Medals, and 9.3 miles of fun!  

Experience all the magic of runDisney’s newest offering with a summer chock-full of virtual runs!  runDisney’s Virtual Running Shorts Series combines all three Running Shorts 5Ks, for 9.3 miles of fun into the summer’s ultimate run experience. Complete all three Running Shorts 5Ks within the scheduled dates and you’ll earn the first-ever Running Shorts Mickey Series Medal and Mickey tumbler in addition to your Red Pants, Yellow Shoes and White Glove Individual Finisher Medals.

You must register for the Virtual Running Shorts Series to receive the Running Shorts Mickey Series Medal and Mickey tumbler in addition to individual race medals. 

Running Shorts Series Highlights 

  • Running Shorts 5K – Yellow Shoes, 5K – Red Pants, and 5K – White Glove runs totaling 9.3 miles.
  • Proof of run not required
  • Share your experiences at #runDisneyShorts

Virtual Running Shorts Series Participants Receive 

  • Running Shorts Challenge Digital Race Bib
  • Special Mickey Series Finisher Medal and Mickey tumbler, along with Commemorative Running Shorts Yellow Shoes, Red Pants and White Glove Individual Finisher Medals.

Dates, times, prices and inclusions subject to change. 

Disney reserves the right to refuse the entry into, and/or revoke any registration for, any race for any reason in its sole discretion with refund of any applicable registration fees being the sole remedy of any such refusal and/or revocation.

*You must register for the Virtual Running Shorts Series to receive the Running Shorts Mickey Series Medal and Mickey tumbler in addition to individual race medals. 

Tokyo Disneyland Adding Beauty and the Beast Land, Big Hero 6 Attraction

Tokyo Disneyland’s newly announced attractions might bring new people in to be their guests.

The Oriental Land Company, which owns the whole Tokyo Disney Resort, announced expansions for Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea Parks that would be completed by the end of 2020.

The big highlight is a revamped Fantasyland centered around a new area with a heavy Beauty and the Beast theme.

TDL - Beauty:Beast

Expected to arrive in Spring 2020, visitors will be able to experience the Beast’s legendary castle and Belle’s bucolic village. The main ride in the castle puts riders on “enchanted serving dishes that dance in rhythm to the film’s well-known music and follow Belle on a romantic musical adventure inside the enchanted Castle where she dances her way into the heart of the Beast, just in time to break the fateful spell,” according to a press release.

TDL - Big Hero

Big Hero 6 lovers also received good news. Baymax will accompany riders on a 90-second whip ride set to music. Like Beauty and the Beast, it’s estimated to open in Spring 2020.

From Entertainment Weekly

China Eastern Unveils Disney-Themed Plane

In anticipation of the June 16 opening of the Shanghai Disney Resort, China Eastern Airlines has unveiled a plane painted blue and featuring Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse portraits.

China Eastern will decorate two airplanes with Disney elements including the Enchanted Storybook Castle as well as Mickey and Minnie. Other themed planes will be unveiled in the coming years.

China Eastern Airlines is one of its official sponsors of the resort and the sponsor of Dumbo the Flying Elephant attraction.

‘Disney After Hours’ Now Available at Half Price for Annual Passholders and DVC Members

The recently introduced ‘Disney After Hours’ evening event at the Magic Kingdom appears to not be selling well. Disney is now offering a 50% discount for Annual Passholders and DVC Members.

Tickets can now be had for $75 for guests who are Annual Passholders or Disney Vacation Club Members.

Originally priced at $150 for the three hour event, there are five nights remaining from the seven that were originally planned.

On the nights of April 28, May 5, May 8, May 12 and May 19, 2016, the theme park will close to all but a limited number of ticketed Guests. That means 3 hours of nonstop fun enjoying popular attractions, Character experiences and more, with complimentary refreshments included. Regularly $149, Passholder can purchase Disney After Hours tickets for just $75 by calling (407) 560-PASS or (407) 560-7277 or by visiting any Walt Disney World ticket window. Guests under 18 years of age must have parent or guardian permission to call.

Disney And Nokia Team Up On Virtual Reality Camera Deal

Disney sees a role for virtual reality in film.

The entertainment and media giant has signed a multi-year deal with Nokia Technologies to use Nokia’s new high-end camera that captures scenes in 360 degrees, Nokia said on Monday.

Nokia said Disney will use Nokia’s OZO cameras and related software to shoot 360 video for upcoming Disney films as well as marketing materials. Disney recently used the cameras to film 360-degree video extras for Disney’s The Jungle Book including interviews with the cast and a short film about the film’s world premiere.

Of course, people will need a compatible headset to view the 360-degree videos in all their glory, like the Facebook Oculus Rift and HTC Vive or the cheaper and less feature-packed Google Cardboard.

“We are very excited to collaborate with Nokia Technologies to help explore the creation of VR content for our theatrical releases,” said Walt Disney Studios chief technology officer Jamie Voris in a statement. “We aim to bring extraordinary experiences to audiences around the world, and specially-created VR content is one more way we can transport people even further into the worlds our filmmakers create.”

Nokia, which revealed its $60,000 camera in November, said it would target Hollywood filmmakers. Fortunereported that Nokia was the first company to bring a high-end 360-degree video camera to the market, but there are several rivals that could give Nokia some competition.

From Fortune Magazine

Disney to Make Maleficent and Jungle Book Sequels

A second Jon Favreau-directed Jungle Book will be made and Angelina Jolie will reprise her role in a Maleficent sequel, Disney has announced.
The studio also confirmed a Mary Poppins sequel, starring Emily Blunt, and 101 Dalmatians spin-off, Cruella.
The Mary Poppins film will also star Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote and performed in Broadway hit, Hamilton.

A Tim Burton-directed Dumbo and a “Tinker Bell project” starring Reese Witherspoon are also in development.

Also confirmed by Disney were a live-action adaptation of Madeline L’Engle’s fantasy novel A Wrinkle In Time, the Dwayne Johnson-starring Jungle Cruise and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, a Christmas story based on ETA Hoffman’s 19th Century tale.

Jon Favreau will helm a second film about the story of man-cub Mowgli

A second Jon Favreau-directed Jungle Book will be made and Angelina Jolie will reprise her role in a Maleficent sequel, Disney has announced.

The studio also confirmed a Mary Poppins sequel, starring Emily Blunt, and 101 Dalmatians spin-off, Cruella.

The Mary Poppins film will also star Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote and performed in Broadway hit, Hamilton.

A Tim Burton-directed Dumbo and a “Tinker Bell project” starring Reese Witherspoon are also in development.

Also confirmed by Disney were a live-action adaptation of Madeline L’Engle’s fantasy novel A Wrinkle In Time, the Dwayne Johnson-starring Jungle Cruise and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, a Christmas story based on ETA Hoffman’s 19th Century tale.

The studio also confirmed writers for the projects, which include Kelly Marcel, who wrote the screenplays for Fifty Shades of Grey and Saving Mr Banks, penning the Cruella film, and Jennifer Lee, who wrote Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph, scripting A Wrinkle In Time.

While not confirming release dates for any of the films, the studio did announce a release schedule, which will see live-action films based on fairy tales released in July 2017, April 2018 and December 2019, and another two untitled films put out in March and December 2018.

From BBC News

TradNation Run at Epcot Comes to a Close…New Band to Appear Soon

Epcot’s Canada Pavilion will soon have a new musical act as TradNation’s engagement comes to a close.

Alberta Bound will begin playing at the Mill Stage early in May. The group had previously played at Epcot during downtimes of Off Kilter.

TradNation’s limited engagement was part of Epcot’s latest strategy of using short-term entertainment acts rather than the permanent acts of the past, such as Off Kilter.