✩ Disney World News and Information


  • If you want career advice, start at the top.

    With Walt.

    Disney, that is.

    His view: be interested in everything.

    Never stop learning.

    Would that attitude prove positive for getting a job at Walt Disney World Resort?

    And not some ordinary one...

    But a really good job?

    Walt Disney World Resort just in Orlando alone is the top employer here in terms of numbers. A growing army of more than 60,000 Cast Members.

    Not necessarily of the highest paying jobs in the area's crowded hospitality industry.

    This is not widely known or generally acknowledged but it's believed Disney's employment policy is generally this: They pay just over the 50 percent percentile for many jobs. Or slightly more than minimum wage for most positions.

    Not great but the perks are enormous.

    So let's say you're serious about working at Disney (think of just the perks alone!).

    What are your chances?

    For entry level jobs such as a retail clerk or a sheet-changing job at the Contemporary Hotel, chances are fairly good.

    At least if you live in Orlando. And meet some other fairly simple qualifications.

    But what if you have higher goals?

    Think of it: There may be fewer great jobs than being an Imagineer.

    Otherwise known as WDI.

    High-paying jobs are at WDI

    No. Chances are you would not start there.

    Unlikely, but it is possible.

    But the creative prospect of such a job is thrilling, to say the least.

    You know about the perks but probably less about salaries.

    We not job recruiters or a job placement agency, and our own rough figures are only estimates.

    But some Imagineering (WDI) type jobs at Disney...even at the lowest level starting level...can begin at $23 an hour.

    Mechanical engineers can earn much more, of course --  $60,000 to $150,000 a year, is a figure sometimes cited.

    Software experts who create rides might start at even more, $155,000.

    Even executive assistances or what are termed as project coordinators can earn $40,000-70,000. Senior positions even more.

    Being a jaw-dropper

    Disney at its own site says the Imagineers are behind "some of the most awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping creations of all time. And working alongside our team of dreamers and doers, you'll have the opportunity to gain experience in an incredible array of disciplines."

    Quite a mouthful of achievement, isn't it?

    Jobs at Disney range from master planning to show writing, from ride systems to special effects. And more.

    Disney asks:

    "Does seeing a blueprint make your imagination run wild with possibilities? Do you constantly dream up new ideas? Do you push yourself to achieve whole new levels of thinking and innovation? That's the spirit of Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI)."

    Disney goes on to describe the commitment to the creative nature of its Imagineers:

    "We combine our rich story telling legacy with the latest technology to breathe life behind the Disney stories and characters in our theme."

    Don't underestimate the necessary skills that are required. And they often include technical background such as AudioCAD and Revit experience (not to mention some non-technical attributes such as a positive attitude, and written and verbal communication skills.

    One important point to consider here:

    There are no cookie-cutter, sure-fire formulas for success.

    We never will say it is easy, either

    For any good job. Anywhere.

    If you talk to Disney cast members, you find that some people found jobs there easily.

    Others sent resumes, pestered with repeated phone calls, tried to meet human resource hiring people, etc.

    Did everything they could.

    Unsuccessfully.

    On the other hand, some Cast Members just walked into an office, filled out an application form, and were hired shortly after.

    One successful job applicant made this point:

    "If you want to be an Imagineer, you will probably have to work hard at it  --  for a long time. It won't likely happen quickly or easily. You will have to make up your mind to relentlessly pursue your dream job."

    So if you've thought about the prospect, here's what we can tell you:

    First, if you just want to work here...at any job you can get...

    Here are some hints from those who have worked here now or in the past:

    Rules to remember, and some tips too

    Well, really, this is elementary. But you should live here because...guess what?

    The vast majority of hires (outside of international students or special cases) come from here.

    A simple reason:

    It's much easier for Disney to hire locals rather than someone from, say, Omaha, Nebraska.

    We can't get away from more simple hiring elements:

    Show up dressed for success.

    No earrings on men.

    No purple hair for women (or men).

    No tattoos for either one.

    Yes, dress has gotten more liberal here since facial hair and mustaches were banned. But still conservative is the rule.

    Not everyone wearing a suit gets the job. But your clothes show your seriousness.

    Next: Smile.

    More smiles.

    Keep smiling.

    Some cast members call this cultivating a "Tinkerbelle personality."

    Keep in mind that all Cast Members, from actors portraying Snow White to operators of the Jungle Cruise, all have to maintain a smiley face façade. ALWAYS.

    Next: Show you did your homework.

    Do you regularly visit the Disney site?

    Look for ways in an interview to show your knowledge about the company you want to work for.

    Show how you prepared (for whatever job you are looking for).

    Homework and flexibility add up to a winning attitude

    Show you are flexible.

    Talk about how you are willing to work odd or non-traditional 9-5 hours.

    Disney has an adage: "We work while others play." Pay attention to it.

    If you really want the job, make yourself readily available.

    Say you have some security background. This is not a difficult or impossible experience.

    But it is just one example of a valuable skill for a job applicant.

    Show also that you are in the long haul. And not just a few weekends.

    Keep in mind that an often expressed "love of Disney" is not really among your positive selling points to recruiters.

    Also show that you know it is not easy to work here. Long hours. Constant smile. Etc.

    Interviewers don't want amateur cheerleaders not willing to work long hours at sometime tedious jobs.

    Be aware of reality, too.

    Animal lovers may think it would be great to work at Animal Kingdom.

    But most people working there DO NOT WORK with the animals.

    So you have a far better chance of driving a Safari truck than you do of feeding or giving rabies shots to the monkeys.

    Unless, of course, you have experience working with a veterinarian or at an animal hospital.

    Having a car is also important

    Here you are fantasizing about your new job as a Cast Member...enjoying your free admission...and you have no obvious way to get to the park. No car. No truck.

    Fantasize more.

    Knowing the bus schedule does not count.

    You better have a car or truck or Moped. And a driver's license or a roommate who does.

    Then get a referral. The more senior, the better.

    Just knowing someone here is not what we mean.

    There are cast referral cards where members suggest others who would be worth looking at. It helps if that person is a more senior employee.

    But it's no guarantee.

    Overall, what all this is saying...in large part...is to always be a good interview.

    Start with timeliness.

    Smile.

    Ask questions.

    Demonstrate your knowledge of Disney.

    So do your homework not just at Disney but learn good interview techniques (books are ok, and so is the Internet).

    Hopefully, you have a college degree.

    Not, not always necessary, but it sure helps.

    Now we come to the harder part.

    WDI jobs.

    The first and very best way to get one is to be really good at something marketable.

    That means simply a skill that is in demand.

    Find your own special skill

    Randy Pausch was a former WDI member who later got cancer and gave a series of guest talks known as the "last lecture."

    They boiled down to this:

    "Be good at something. That makes you valuable. Have something to bring to the table. Almost always, that will make you welcome there."

    The reality is that unless you have a definite skill that is in demand, Disney is hardly going to offer you a higher paying WDI job. You need to offer something special.

    If you have a referral of any kind, that is a leg up.

    But networking effectively also helps.

    Join associations, clubs and projects that let you become familiar with operations.

    Get to know others who might help you.

    Even just hanging out with Cast Members might lead to a job opening.

    Another alternative

    Don't even look for a full-time job.

    Forget it.

    Start as a consultant or contractor (no, that does not mean you are necessarily old and experienced).

    These positions are in demand in areas such as computer software, to cite just one example.

    They can lead to full-time jobs.

    Or consider this...

    Find any full-time bottom positions. Even picking up waste.

    Start at the very bottom.

    Anything at all.

    Take on new initiatives.

    Be a model person.

    Get noticed by your supervisors.

    Disney likes to promote within (lots of places say this but they REALLY do it).

    Hopefully your efforts get results. You are promoted.

    But the best way to get ahead (for sure and not having to rely so much on others) remains having a skill that is in demand.

    Something somebody else wants.

    This is not extremely difficult.

    Especially if you consider the vast range of job categories found in WDI:

    Accountant, architect, audio-specialist, computer programmer, space planner, facility designer, financial analyst, illustrator, interior designer, lighting designer, mechanic, plastics fabricator, project manager, sculptor, show set designer, and tool and die maker.

    Here's just one example of success:

    Ray was a serious artist in college who dreamed at the University of Illinois of someday showing his work at the Chicago Art Institute. He thought that someday his water colors would be eagerly bought by patrons.

    His own art show.

    Things did not exactly work out that way.

    But he did make a good living as a successful and much-admired artist at a major Chicago advertising agency before retiring to Florida. Here in Orlando, he got a job doing caricature drawings at the Magic Kingdom.

    He showed management abilities to his bosses.

    Ray ended up supervising set designs for various Disney rides.

    Not exactly what he had in mind many years ago, but still a creative, satisfying (and well-paying) position with WDI.

    But even more than having a skill, perhaps, our best advice is to get an attitude.

    What do we mean?

    Let's get back to Walt Disney himself. And Imagineer Mary Blair.

    You might have heard of her.

    She created the conceptual drawings and doll designs for "It's a Small World."

    She's famous for that.

    But that was not what she was hired for.

    When and why rubber cement is important

    When she first met Walt Disney, long before she (or even he) became famous, she told Walt about her use of latex in her art work.

    Latex? Rubber cement?

    How common, sold at the five and dime. So what?

    You might not expect the creator of Disney to be interested in latex or rubber cement. But by all accounts, he was fascinated.

    He spoke with her for several hours. Hired her.

    So you never know, do you?

    We don't know this for sure, but it's very likely Walt filed that information away. And used it later in movies...or at Walt Disney World Resort.

    Never stop learning.

    Walt knew it.

    Always good advice.###

     

    Disney World Bucket ListDoes it bother you a little: This notion of visiting so many places on a “bucket list?”

    These are often seen as “101 places to go before you die.”

    Why 101?

    No answer.

    But, yes, this all bothers us a little, too.

    Going like 101 places is a lot of travel arrangements…not to mention expenses.

    You would also need a lot of time.

    Like months and years instead of weeks and days.

    And if you think about it:

    How likely are you to ever visit or even want to see the Crystal Mosque in Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu, Malaysia, or even the much closer Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver, British Columbia?

    Not.

    But one theme park in Orlando?

    Likely.

    They’re right here at a single spot.

    One stop shopping

    So what if we speculate on what you should see here….a local bucket list…when visiting Walt Disney World Resort?

    Any list like this is merely an opinion, of course. And it may leave out your own personal favorites.

    Which would incline you to discount the rest of the list.

    Which is also OK.

    But for our purposes, and just to bring up the subject for speculation and to give you our thoughts, let’s look at our own top ten favorites here.

    Within just the Disney park.

    And why we chose to select them (as well as some insights to make your own visit more enjoyable).

    You, of course, are then free to scream and holler or stand up and applaud…(up to you).

    A great start is a simple one, perhaps.

    Disney’s nightly fireworks.

    Found at multiple locations

    This one belongs to the history books.

    We’ve done it as a country for reasons you know about.

    Disney does it nightly. Several different places these days.

    Disney’s highly expensive and spectacular version are not what you find in your backyard with family and friends lighting off sparklers and tiny tubes that go “bang.’

    Disney utilizes perimeter bursts, making it seem like the fireworks are all around you. Stirring music, too.

    Why see it:

    To start, who does not like fireworks?

    Universal appeal (and we’re not referring to the theme park, but unique to Disney).

    One reason is that this is almost unique to Disney. Or we think so.

    Far as we know, it is one of the few theme parks anywhere to have fireworks on a daily basis.

    A major reason for that is probably cost.

    Disney does not publicize prices of this kind.

    But various estimates put the cost of a 15-minute display at about $40,000.

    For one night.

    Adding up to multi-millions quickly

    This might discourage you from starting your own neighborhood club to just have fireworks for one day, July 4.

    There are many versions of the best way to view the fireworks.

    Or the best place.

    We’re not going to get into that here but among the best places are outside the park. Mainly to avoid crowds. But even more: avoid the rush of crowds trying all at once to get out of the park after the show.

    The best place to see the show could very well be not right at the Magic Kingdom’s highly popular viewing area of Cinderella Castle but at the Contemporary Resort.

    If you don’t mind paying, spring for a dinner (maybe $50 a person) at the California Grill where the lights dim and music plays during the show.

    But on the other hand, fireworks anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances are worth seeing.

    So you can see them anywhere. Inside the park. Outside, even.

    And it’s all OK.

    So we come to Main

    Our second area is Main Street, U.S.A.

    The attractions here are admittedly tame by thrill standards.

    But here is where you see some history. Two blocks of turn-of-the-century nostalgia.

    Horse-drawn carriages doing their clop-clop on cobblestone.

    The nostalgia keeps on coming.

    Take a ride on a horseless carriage, a replica of an early fire engine, a jitney or a horse-drawn trolley.

    See the Flag Retreat daily at 5 p.m.

    You don’t have to be a ex-military to recall the old days when uniformed soldiers joined those old parades down Main Street, small town, USA.

    Walt Disney had his own personal tiny railroad at his home but here you can ride the 20-minute long steam train.

    Why see it:

    This is among the least crowded of anywhere in the park.

    Explore at your leisure. Enjoy the unhurried pace of another time. Another century.

    Nothing quite like it in busier and more frenetic sections of the park.

    It generally only gets busy when everything else closes down.

    While here, try a famous hot dog at Casey’s Corner, and dessert at the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor.

    It might add to your enjoyment to know facets of Main Street that the general public is often unaware of.

    For example, the windows above the main floors have specific names. Not just anyone, but the names of men and women crucial to the park’s development.

    Another window names Elias, Walt’s father, over the Main Street Emporium.

    Let’s not get too carried away in our pick here. But we suspect, knowing what we do about Walt, that this would be his own personal favorite place in the park.

    Riding with ghosts

    No. 3. There are many iconic, long-standing rides at Disney worth considering as “must sees” such as Pirates of the Caribbean, even Roller Coasters such as Space Mountain and Splash.

    But we’ll cast a vote here for the Haunted Mansion, #3.

    The spook-filled English Tudor style home has consistently ranked among the best-loved Magic Kingdom attractions for almost half a century.

    Visitors these days can play with new interactive elements that have been added over the years.

    These include new instruments in the Decomposing Composer’s Crypt that not only look weird but also carry some surprising sounds.

    Disney insiders will appreciate the Ghost Host. He is voiced by Paul Frees, whose voice provided the characters for many animated cartoons, including Boris Badenov from Rocky & Bullwinkle.

    Special effects include portraits aging, ala Dorian Gray-style.

    Riders in a Doom Buggy encounter an inevitable séance by Madame Leota.

    The entire ride is less than eight minutes long. On your way out, be sure to see the Pet Cemetery.

    Why see it:

    This has remained a Magic Kingdom classic since it opened with the rest of the park on October 1, 1971. It has been refurbished several times, including an updated waiting line in early 2011.

    It has also added interactive elements, keeping it up to date but not radically changing the concept.

    The premise here is a creepy haunted house.

    But the genius is also evident in that the ride is not too scary for just about all ages. There is often more humor than fright.

    And adults who enjoy the spookiness for its laughs more than its haunting images of dark rooms, bats and many ghosts and ghouls seem to be able to this experience comfortably with at least older children.

    While a lot of other attractions have faltered and fell, it has stood the test of time. Enough said.

    It’s Twilight Time again

    No. 4. You don’t have to be an adult old enough to remember the disturbing “The Twilight Zone” to appreciate the Tower of Terror. It does the job -- as advertised.

    The deep voice you are hearing is that of television’s classic writer-creator Rod Serling.

    Look around as he tells of the Hollywood Tower Hotel before boarding a 1917-style elevator. Then the lights go out and you begin to fall, and fall, and fall…into the Twilight Zone.

    This is an unmistakable up and down experience. And about as scary as any roller coaster.

    You can take this ride several times and have different results -- thanks to a computer that varies the ride.

    Why see it:

    This is a real thrill ride outside the realm of the roller coaster.

    Only about eight minutes. It’s like falling from a tower almost 200 feet tall, which qualifies as a high-rise.

    But that’s long enough.

    This is the highest attraction at Walt Disney World Resort.

    It may also be the scariest.

    Fear of heights? Skip it.

    No. 5. Epcot's World Showcase in a description sounds sort of…banal…or boring.

    What you already know about it:

    It represents almost a dozen countries where visitors walk around a reflective lagoon. It encourages late-goers because most activity does not start till 11 a.m.

    Ho, hum? But no.

    It is possibly the most scenic and laidback area of Disney.

    There are also films and live performances.

    But its claim to fame for us:

    It is easily the best attraction for foodies and for shoppers.

    That’s true because all the different countries display their own shops. No cookie cutter souvenirs here.

    And each country has its own distinctive cuisine.

    So you can buy unusual items and sample what you might otherwise think of “strange” and unusual food.

    You stroll (and that’s the perfect word for enjoying it) from one country to another. All right here.

    No jet trip and packed suitcases required.

    You meet cast members who can discuss their countries (just like meeting locals if you are in, say, France or Mexico).

    Why see it:

    Special events geared mainly for adults here include the always expanding International Food and Wine Festival, and the International Flower and Garden Festival.

    A couple of reasons for adults to particularly like Epcot: the UK pavilion has a secret garden alongside the Rose & Crown Pub with a quiet sitting area near the lagoon.

    Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is all fake, either. Just to cite one example: the Venetian gondolas moored near the Italy pavilion are the real thing.

    But young people or kids can also appreciate what initially may be seen as boring “culture.”

    Among options for them is to get a World Showcase Passport. They are inexpensive. But include country stamps (just like a real passport still required for some countries).

    Epcot has gone out of its way to be kid-friendly in this and other ways, including games geared for children. And despite its adult nature, it has succeeded.

    No. 6: Not a lot is different at the PhilharMagic Concert Hall in the Magic Kingdom. But the 3D is worth a look.

    Visitors get to see most of the familiar characters: Mickey, Goofy, etc. The songs are also familiar because you have heard them before but not on this stage.

    It’s all viewed on a 180-degree screen, one of the widest in the world. As an aside, the seats are padded and very comfortable. Lots of leg room.

    The entire production of Mickey's PhilharMagic was created totally on computer, representing the first time the featured classic Disney characters were completely modeled and animated by computer.

    Animator Nik Ranieri, already known for Disney's animated classic "Beauty and the Beast," returned to render him in 3-D for "Mickey's PhilharMagic."

    Animator Glen Keane, creator of the magical Ariel in "The Little Mermaid," also returned to develop her in 3-D.

    Why see it:

    The show features the largest cast of classic Disney animated stars who have ever performed together in a single 3-D show. The 150 foot by 28 foot high screen is also the most immersive wrap-around image Disney ever created. Reasons enough.

    No. 7: There are many shows at Disney but the one we think you should not miss is “Festival of the Lion King.”

    At 30 minutes, it’s relatively long at Animal Kingdom. Includes dancers. Acrobats and perhaps best of all, fire jugglers.

    Audience members get to interact with animal sounds.

    As the performers fill the theater, four huge moving floats (really stages) are brought out. Simba is a 12-foot high animated character sitting on Pride Rock.

    There is an elephant, a swaying giraffe and then one with Pumbaa and Timon. And if you have not seen it, you will love the acrobatic monkeys.

    Another highlight: “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” sung and performed as a ballet with 50 performers.

    Why see it:

    Fine for adults but kids really love it. They can and do join the performers. The high level of quality here is evident in the fact that after the first run of the show in 1998, several performers went on to perform on Broadway.

    No. 8. A familiar name again: Walt himself is also said to have been the creator of “The Hall of Presidents.” The attraction with talking presidents in Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdomcreated a stir with its life-like speakers when it first opened.

    There are audio-animatronics versions of each of the US presidents.

    Perhaps the best one is Abraham Lincoln, who rises from his chair to read the famous and memorable Gettysburg Address.

    Why see it:

    The technology may be old hat now but the sentiment is the same. And the history lessons as spoken by our US presidents reaches out to young and old. With an easy to swallow dose of patriotism.

    Walt would love it.

    No. 9: Cinderella’s Castle. How can you not see the very symbol of the Magic Kingdom?

    It opened, of course, in the very beginning.

    Painted in grey, blue and gold, it is Imagineers’ concept of a French palace or fortress. It’s medieval looking in nature with turrets and spires on the upper level.

    Why see it:

    There’s only one of them. It’s a great place to find Disney characters, especially in the rear of the castle.

    You might appreciate it more by knowing no bricks were used in its 18 months of construction. The castle was also built to withstand hurricane winds of almost 100 miles an hour (has not been tested to quite that level so far).

    The structure itself is made of steel covered with fiberglass.

    At almost 190 feet tall, it towers over the rest of the Magic Kingdom.

    Finally, it’s a good place to have lunch and dinner. And there are character breakfasts.

    No. 10. Two of the longest lines at the park are always for the mountains: Space and Splash.

    Tomorrowland’s Space Mountain comes from the active mind of….

    Guess who?

    Walt himself is again given credit for the idea of combining a coaster with the space age (remember that NASA and the US government’s space efforts used to be mainly out of Cape Kennedy, less than an hour’s drive from Orlando).

    Why see it:

    Darkness. It’s like outer space itself. The coaster dips and swerves through the galaxy in less than three minutes.

    But the speed is really very slow: no faster than 28 miles an hour.

    The illusion of high speed in the darkness is the key.

    Our other top ten, Splash Mountain is based on Walt Disney's 1946 classic "Song of the South.

    It has more than 65 Audio-Animatronics. To bring the classic Disney story "Song of the South" to life, Walt Disney Imagineers created a magnificent mountain chock-full of backwoods swamps, bayous and waterfalls.

    Why see it:

    No matter your mood, “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” will be the best uplift you’re likely to experience anytime soon.

    The ride includes a five-story drop and speeds up to 40 miles per hour.

    Splash Mountain has a 950,000 gallon reservoir.

    So you will get wet.

    So what?

    It’s worth it. ###

    The news is good

    Have you heard the news?

    Or seen it?

    If so, you might think it’s really July 4 or the US Independence Day is still being celebrated.

    No wonder.

    Especially when you see or hear the fireworks at Walt Disney World Resort on the 4th of the July.

    Once is not enough, in this case.

    They’re in three theme parks.

    Each and every night.

    Actually, it’s hard to miss them -- whether you’re in the park or even nearby.

    Does anybody not like fireworks?

    So it’s news that is a bonus not only for Disney-goers but also for anyone who lives or is visiting local attractions near the park.

    Which reminds us of something to consider:

    Not all news is bad.

    Some of it is good.

    It’s time (overdue, perhaps) to take a closer look at the good news at Disney these days.

    And what it means as well.

    Or we should say: what it means to you, the visitor.

    But first, let’s explode some myths about the fireworks.

    Fireworks a symbol of happy times

    First myth: Does Disney do this to please its guests?

    Well, sure, they like it.

    But more importantly: The bottom line, as they say.

    Disney officials quoted in newspaper stories are frank about the practice: it helps keep visitors in the park where they presumably will buy more turkey legs, Mickey Mouse ears and any other generally overpriced souvenir possible.

    Nothing wrong with that.

    The productions serve both as a cherry-on-top moment for park guests and a benefit for park coffers, an industry observer says.

    Last month, "Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular" fireworks show, based on "Star Wars" themes, debuted at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

    "IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth" runs at Epcot and guests see "Wishes" at Magic Kingdom nightly.

    Guest reaction: explosive

    The reaction was highly positive -- especially because of the anticipation of the new under construction Star Wars Land.

    "If you know the story of 'Star Wars' up to this point, the fireworks actually tell it through use of color and music and quotes," said one regular attendee.

    Celebrate the Fourth from The Contemporary Resort

    Another person quoted on the fireworks issue, Mike Tockstein, is what is known as a pyrotechnics expert.

    “Disney's fireworks show is not just fireworks," he said. "It's just an entire production that makes them unique in regards to fireworks displays."

    The three-shows-a-night set-up might indicate Disney World is getting bang for its buck, according to a news story.

    "For most people coming down to Central Florida, the fireworks traditionally have only been at one time a year at Fourth of July and now they have the opportunity to see them two or three nights on vacation," said a Disney official

    Is this making some visitors stay longer, as Disney hopes?

    No exact figures are available. But who cares?

    What it means:

    It’s good for you, no matter what the motivation, because, as we said, no one dislikes fireworks. Everyone likes it.

    And everyone also likes the music accompanying it. Who does not like composer John Williams?

    But even more related good news:

    Disney has asked FAA permission to fly drones as part of their nighttime programs.

    What it means:

    We can only hope that in addition to your love of fireworks, you also like drones.

    We don’t want Star Wars to dominate news but the movie and the upcoming land has also led to another delicious development: “Star Wars: The Sweet Tooth Strikes Back.”

    A dessert party, naturally.

    It’s tied to the fireworks.

    But the guests of honor are not Luke or Darth but more down-to-earth (sort of) Minnie Mouse.

    “An epic feast,” Disney describes it. “Just in time for the Academy Awards Season.”

    Held at the new Minnie’s Silver Screen Dine at Hollywood & Vine at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

    There’s a familiar red carpet for diners. Close-up photos of stars (diners).

    The event runs from now until March 20.

    What it means:

    One more food option, and a sweet one at that.

    It’s been said that Walt Disney must have liked to eat. Why?

    Because there are so many dining options these days at Disney.

    In other foodie news, an old favorite, California Grill atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort “soars to new height,” Disney says.

    Why?

    Guests for the first time can enjoy the daytime skyline of not only the Magic Kingdom, but also Epcot and even Disney resorts.

    They can do this while dining brunch-style at the California Grill (which is best known for serving fresh cuisine).

    Brunch at the Top offers sushi and homemade breakfast pastries, including caramel apple Monkey bread and Tillamook Cheddar biscuits and Lake Meadow Natural Eggs.

    Following that, diners can visit the show kitchen.

    What it means:

    Don’t let cost deter you though it’s $80 for adults (Includes a cocktail and fake “mimosas” for the kids).

    Then, there’s the Thirsty River Bar and Trek Snacks at Animal Kingdom.

    It’s described as an eating adventure with “exotic drinks and food.”

    What exactly is that?

    Pastries in the morning and sushi and sandwiches later on.

    Breakfast pastries include assorted muffins and Danish, croissants and a chocolate twist.

    Healthful snacks offered include fresh fruit, crudité and hummus, edamame and an Asian noodle salad.

    To drink, indulge in Khumbu Icefall, or a Himalayan Ghost. Or try a Flying Yak or Pink Lotus.

    What in the world is in those drinks?

    We haven’t tried them and don’t know. A description was not given.

    But we know the last two, the Yak and Lotus, are non-alcoholic, at least.

    What it means:

    Let us know when you find out what is in the Yak and Lotus, but they sound fine to us.

    A new theme-park restaurant has the unlikely long name of Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen. Whew (hope the service is faster than the name).

    Call it the Skipper Canteen.

    It’s themed to Magic Kingdom's Jungle Cruise attraction, and is directly across from the Swiss Family Treehouse.

    There, you can eat in the meeting room of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers. Dishes are said to have more spice than normally found at theme park food.

    What it means:

    You might prefer to be seated in the parlor full of animal imagery rather than the huge mess hall where you might get lost before the waiter finds you (only kidding but it’s all part of the adventure). No plastic or paper, either, but real plates and silverware.

    Another restaurant opening is of note for a major reason: it will not accept reservations.

    Not. Not.

    Tables in Wonderland will be strictly walk-up dining.

    Disney says it’s a test.

    What it means:

    We hope it passes the test. It may mean others will follow. Required reservations are ok, but it also helps to have more options. Get there at 10:30 when it opens to be sure to get a table.

    It took a while for Disney to even get around to serving beer. Wine has certainly been acceptable at an even faster pace. So it is no shock that an OrlandoMaster sommelier George Miliotes is planning to open “Wine Bar George” at Disney Springs behind Raglan Road and across from Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar. 

    No definite plans have been announced but it’s no idle rumor but a fact that it is coming sometime.

    What it means:

    This should be a welcome addition. More, varied eating choices.

    Miliotes is no stranger to Disney. Miliotes opened the “California Grill” at the Contemporary Resort with chef if Clifford Pleau in 1995 and worked for Disney until they left in 2002 to help create “Seasons 52″ for Orlando chain Darden.  He then created the wine list for Darden’s “The Capital Grille” in 2007.

    In more news:

    The Disney Vacation Club this year is celebrating its 25th birthday. Several ways have been announced for how members will be able to celebrate:

    ---Members will have special after-hours events throughout the year at Animal Kingdom, Typhoon Lagoon and Magic Kingdom. A “Merry Member Mixer” will be held at Epcot later this year.

    ---A new lounge will open in Epcot’s Imagination Pavilion. Comfortable seating is promised. It will offer free computers. Also, complimentary beverages and charging stations for portable devices.

    ---Other celebrations planned for the 25th anniversary include special merchandise, complimentary member buttons, a new membership card, and special photo kiosks offering an opportunity to take a photo and print it while waiting

    What it means:

    More incentives to join.

    Will they or won’t they?

    That question comes up with news accounts saying Disney is testing paid parking for non-resort guests at resort parking lots.

    These would create a system where guests without advanced dining reservations or non-guests at resorts would pay to park there.

    Disney’s Contemporary Resort was the first resort that began testing this concept. Disney’s Boardwalk Inn Resort is said to be next.

    What it means:

    Critics say it would discourage visitors to quick service bars and restaurants (where diners would have to pay for parking to buy, say, an ice cream cone or a beer), and discourage shoppers who don’t want the added hassle. Well, it’s hard to say something good if this approach is taken, but at least, as far as we know, it is only a concept.

    This news is only in the rumor category but it seems to have some credibility: Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) is working with Walt Disney Imagineering on a boat ride.

    What makes it believable is that ILM is the visual effects group created by Star Wars’ creator George Lucas.

    Past news reports were that Disney is also working on a boat ride for an Avatar themed land in Disney’s Animal Kingdom,

    Sounds ho, hum. The latest boat rumor, that is.

    Just another boat trip (row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream, etc.)?

    But wait a minute.

    Not really.

    What it means:

    This ride would be part of the planned Star Wars land. It is described as “unprecedented.”

    The reason is that it would be controlled down to the smallest millimeter to align frame by frame to a giant projector able not only to provide 3D images but to determine where viewer’s eyes are to create an even closer 3D image.

    For Epcot lovers, this year’s International Flower & Garden Festival will extend to 90 days or three months (a length similar to children’s summer vacations from school). It was previously only 75 days.

    That’s not all that’s new.

    “Fresh farm market flavors at the festival’s Outdoor Kitchens, new Disney character topiaries, interactive play gardens and live rockin’ music will shower spring surprises on park guests,” Disney says.

    More:

    ---Dozens of Disney-crafted “flower towers” and beds of multi-colored blooms will add to the floral splendor of the park’s landscape.  At least 70,000 bedding plants will surround the Future World east and west lakes alone; on the water, 220 mini-gardens will be set afloat.

    ---Planned highlights include a Floral Sun Garden behind Spaceship Earth and spring-inspired goods.

    ---The Ranger Mickey topiary garden in Future World will offer a guest selfie and family photo opportunity featuring a Spaceship Earth backdrop.

    ---An innovative new “Fab Five” play garden featuring Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto and Donald Duck topiaries will debut with musical instruments built into children’s outdoor climbing systems.

    ---The Garden Rocks concert series will present pop bands with music spanning four decades.

    ---More than 10 mini-gardens will surprise guests around every corner. A new edible flower garden near Morocco pavilion will showcase petals with flavor.

    What it means (whew…if you like this festival, there’s a lot to like) :

    Guests will have more time to see the gardens and try the various foods. Guests will also have more time to dance in their seats at Garden Rocks concerts. There’s also more time to take photos with your favorite plants, topiaries or characters. Should be enough activity for at least three months.

    Also what seems to be in the bad news category: The park is adding new security. Yes, hard to look at this as entirely positive.

    A sign of the times, for sure.

    But it does include officers on horseback at Disney Springs. That is a sort of user-friendly touch.

    Horses were used in the past at Disney but the park stopped using them years ago. The reason: sanitary.

    In other words, horse poop.

    Disney must have worked with the police to create special bags for preventing that type of discharge.

    Other security measures have included metal detectors in front of the parks.

    What it means:

    Random checks of visitors screened for weapons. Part of an effort to make the park even safer, so it’s worth adding the extra security so guests can feel safer.

    Here’s news that you may quickly say “so what?”

    Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, announced in mid-January that Bob Weis will become president of Walt Disney Imagineering.

    Weis is currently a vice president at Imagineering and has been overseeing the work at the Shanghai Disney Resort that opens later this year.

    Weis is another familiar name in creativity here. He has worked on Star Wars, Toy Story and Avatar themed lands.

    He also oversaw the redesign of Disney California Adventure and Disney/MGM Studios.

    What it means:

    Creativity is at the heart of Disney. And it should be in good hands in the future with Chapek in charge.

    Happy news, indeed. ###