This was a week with some great news for hard-core Disney fans. Details for the next D23 conference were released along with an awesome new collectable line that will be a must for most of us. Another new breakfast option was revealed (this one officially) along with additional details about the new Animal Kingdom restaurant, Tiffins. Also, word of a couple of things at Hollywood Studios at aren’t closing, and an upgrade to Agent P’s Adventure at Epcot. Finally, some very disturbing “news” about one of Disney World’s iconic attractions.
1 – Disney Announces New Sense of Africa Tour
Disney has been announcing a slew of new special experiences and dining options. The latest is the new Sense of Africa Tour at Animal Kingdom Lodge. The tour includes breakfast at Boma followed by encounters with animals such as giraffe, ostrich, okapi and red river hogs (that’s Mr. Pig to you!). This truly unique experience will be 3.5 hours long and will give guests a special back stage peek at the care and interaction of Disney’s animal residents.
2 – Dates for the 2017 D23 Expo Announced
D23 2017 dates were announced this week with tickets going on sale July 14, 2016. D23 is the official Disney fan club and D23 is an absolutely amazing gather of Disney fans that takes place every other year. The convention offers fans star-studded presentations, dazzling exhibits, unique collectibles and, of course, once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
It’s a celebration of all things Disney and you may remember that at D23 Expo 2015, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts gave guests an exclusive look at Shanghai Disney Resort, broke news of the Toy Story-themed land coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, debuted the model for Pandora: the World of AVATAR, and—in perhaps the biggest news coming out of the event—announced that Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts would both be receiving Star Wars-themed lands. For the hard core Disney fan, this is more of a pilgrimage than an expo. D23 2017 will be held July 14-16, 2017 and the Anaheim Convention Center in California.
We’ll be there and we’d love to see you there too.
3 – Disney Partners with LEGO to Introduce Awesome New Disney Collectable
A new line of LEGO mini-figures wouldn’t normally make the news list. But what about a line of LEGO mini-figures based on Disney’s most beloved classic characters? That’s right, LEGO is releasing a series of 18 Disney character mini-figures from Mickey & Minnie to Aladdin and Buzz Lightyear. No doubt, these are going to be gobbled up by Disney fans of all ages.
4 – Dark Side Half Marathon Details Release Along with Great Change to Packet Pickup
It’s no secret that runDisney events are popular. They not only draw hundreds of thousands of runners to Disney World every year, they leave as many or more at home wishing they got in. The latest addition to the race line up is the Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend which will take place April 14-17, 2016. The weekend will feature Star Wars themed races including the half marathon, 10k, 5k and kids races. Disney has released photos and details of race medals and merchandise for the event.
More importantly, Disney announced a new option for packet pick up that participants have been asking for for years. Packet pick up will now be available race morning at the starting area. There is an additional $39 fee for this which is understandable as the logistics and staffing of offering this option will add significant extra cost for runDisney. The fee will also be a small and welcome price to pay for all the runners who are otherwise forced to travel a day earlier and take an extra day off from work. If this goes well, we hope to see it at other races as well.
5 – Writers Stop in Hollywood Studios to Remain Open
A pleasant little surprise this week was news that Writers Stop, and cool little café tucked away on the edge of Streets of America will not be included in the massive list of closures coming next week at Hollywood Studios. This weekend will see a third of the park walled off as work begins on Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land. Writers stop will feature coffee and pastries as well as a charcuterie and cheese plate along with alcoholic beverages. The shop will also offer a line of merchandise for the home and kitchen.
6 – Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure Coming to Your Phone
Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure is a great way to introduce some fun and play into what can otherwise be a more tedious half of Epcot for some of Disney’s younger guests. Participants race around World Showcase completing tasks and searching for clues to thwart the latest evil plot of Dr. Doofinshmirtz. If you are unfamiliar with Agent P’s adventure, think giant scavenger hunt with interactive effects. The game is free and is played with a F.O.N.E., (Field Operative Notification Equipment) that is distributed by Cast Members and returned after the conclusion of the mission.
Guests will now have the option of playing the game using their own smart phone. Just visit the recruitment center near Odyssey Bridge between Future World and World Showcase to pick up a F.O.N.E or to activate the game on your device.
7 – Discounts Now Available for Club Villain
The hallmark of any great villain is that they are very difficult to kill. Apparently, the same goes for villain themed parties. Club Villain, an adult party featuring great food, drinks and dancing, debuted earlier this year for a limited, temporary engagement. After a very popular debut, Club Villain was extended through May. Word has just come out that discounts are now available to Annual Passholders and DVC Members for the “less and less temporary” extra ticket experience. Love Disney’s naughty side and looking for some adult themed entertainment? This is one you should probably check out.
8 – Sounds of Summer Concert Series Announced
Details for the 2016 Sounds of Summer Concert Series have been released and this year’s edition sees three new band added to the line up. Sounds of Summer features cover bands paying tribute to many of the biggest names in music. Additions include Fleetwood Mac, Tina Turner and Bruce Springsteen tributes. Here’s the full line up and dates (subject to change):
- June 5-11: Don’t Look Back – A Tribute to Boston
- June 12-18: Hotel California – A Salute to the Eagles
- June 19-24: Rumours – A Fleetwood Mac Tribute Band
- June 25-July 1: Simply Tina – A Tribute to Tina Turner
- July 2-9: Stayin’ Alive – A Tribute to the Bee Gees
- July 10-16: Bruce in the USA – A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen
- July 17-23: DSB – A Tribute to Journey
9 – The Force Awakens in Epcot as Iconic Attraction Get’s Massive Makeover
This alarming “news” was hot off the presses on April 1st. Not content with a land of their own over in Hollywood Studios, the Forces of Star Wars (no doubt led by Kylo Ren and the First Order) invade Epcot with massive changes to the park’s icon, Spaceship Earth.
May the Farce be with you! 🙂
10 – More Details Released on Tiffins
From Disney Food Writer, Pam Brandon:
The newest Walt Disney World table-service restaurant is part of the biggest expansion in the history of Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Tiffins, in the park’s Discovery Island area, opens this summer with dishes inspired by the world travels of the park’s creators.
“Tiffin” is the Indian word for a lunchbox used by travelers (also a mid-day meal), and the 252-seat restaurant in the park’s Discovery Island area will open daily for lunch and dinner with menus that takes diners to Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas.
A detailed map within the restaurant’s entryway sets the stage for an immersive dining experience celebrating world travel, with bold artwork derived from sketches, journals and research from those who created the theme park.
“Tiffins is the signature restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, celebrating the culture of design and research that went into creating this unique park,” said Emily O’Brien, Walt Disney Imagineering executive show producer for Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
O’Brien describes the interior design as “a gallery you can dine in with artwork that is a direct result of travels to Africa, Asia and South America which influenced the design of the park.” The ideas of the park’s design team, including sketches, photography, architecture and textures, are all presented in a way that is uniquely Disney.
“All the senses are explored and turned into amazing works of art,” said O’Brien. “The galleries, or dining rooms, focus on Asia [Trek Gallery with 74 seats] and Africa [Safari Gallery with 64 seats], and the third [Grand Gallery with 114 seats] pays homage to animal species that the Disney Conservation Fund works to protect.”
The travel-inspired artwork includes a static, three-dimensional piece that features prayer flags blowing in the wind. “As our research team traveled up the high mountains of Nepal, the winds were strong,” explained O’Brien. “The prayer flags are rarely seen hanging, they are always blowing.” This portrayal of the motion is realistically captured in the display which will hang above a corner booth in the Trek Gallery.
“Tiffins is not about a make-believe place, it’s about real people and places,” said O’Brien.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is about the intrinsic value of nature, transformation through adventure and a personal call to action, and the adjacent Nomad Lounge brings into focus these core values. With beautiful waterfront views, the lounge focuses on storytelling, and also on guests’ travels, with large banners as “artistic representations” of answers to travel questions written on the perimeter wall. For instance, “what do you always do when traveling” or “what was your most adventurous moment?”
“We’re trying to tell the story of how guests can make a change,” said O’Brien. While the answers of Disney experts are displayed, guests also have the opportunity to purchase a tag that supports the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and to write their own answers to the questions to display above the bar– a way to share their own travel stories “so they can be a part of the story,” said O’Brien.