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Ears the News with Richard

With just a few days to go before the start of the official previews for the new Fantasyland expansion on 11/19/2012, Disney has announced one of the new acts that will perform as atmosphere entertainment.

From the Official Disney Parks Blog
The Royal Majesty Makers engage boys and girls in random acts of “royaldom,” endowing them with the skills to become princes and princesses. These royal consultants, official ambassadors of Cinderella’s court, inspire and delight visiting villagers with magical moments throughout the land.

Led by retired knight Sir Sterling and royal etiquette expert Lady Llewellyn, the Royal Majesty Makers also include squire extraordinaire Tobias and flirtatious lady-in-waiting Bridget. They may be found in the Castle Courtyard, conducting Knight School, delivering invitations to a royal ball, leading royal dances or even playing a game of “Sir Sterling Says.”

“With the opening of New Fantasyland, we’re excited to introduce several new atmosphere groups that will become part of the storytelling experience you’ll find there,” said Creative Director Reed Jones. “They’re going to bring the neighborhoods of the land to life in really fun ways.”

Complimentary guest Wi-Fi Internet access is now available at Disney's Animal Kingdom, completing the roll out of Wi-Fi to all of the four main parks at Walt Disney World. Downtown Disney's Wi-Fi service is expected to come online by the end of the year.

The Spa at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort will be reopening next month following an extensive refurbishment and change of ownership.

Throughout Walt Disney World, the spas, fitness centers and salons will return to Disney control instead of being operated by an external vendor, with the Grand Floridian location being the first to open. The new line of spas will be called 'Senses - A Disney Spa.'

The new spa at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort will feature 15 treatments rooms, including whirlpools, lounges and steam rooms. The interior has been completely refurbished by Walt Disney Imagineering in keeping with the theme of the resort.

Underlining the new Disney operational control is the inclusion of special packages for young guests, including Magical Manicures and Princess Pedicures.

The new "Senses" spa at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort is expected to reopen on 12/17/2012.

Celebrating its 20th year, the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival will run from 3/6/2013 to 5/19/2013. The front of park area will feature the Fab 5 in a celebratory barbecue scene. A 14ft tall Goofy topiary will be holding an anniversary cake, with Mickey working the grill, Donald and Daisy playing badminton, Pluto grabbing the hot dogs, and Minnie sitting on a blanket of flowers.

Also new will be Monsters Inc. topiary featuring Mike and Sully, part of the Disney-Pixar Monsters University promotion. Staying with the Pixar theme, the Test Track Walkway will be home to a "Cars" playground.

The Flower Power Concert Series will be back, with Micky Dolenz opening the event on 3/8/2013-3/10/2013. Other pop acts set to perform include Chubby Checker & the Wildcats, The Guess Who, Paul Revere & The Raiders and Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone.

Younger guests will be able to visit the Land of Oz in the form of an original interactive play area that will be one of the festival’s newest offerings. Here, guests can follow in the footsteps of Oz The Great and Powerful by playing carnival games in a circus-themed area. Red-and-white tents will offer all kinds of midway games, plus fun photo opportunities.

The next stop is the “Land of Oz Play Area”, where bubbles fill the air, and where you can find play equipment adorned with giant flowers, The Great and Powerful Oz’s crashed hot-air balloon, and more! Guests can also wander through the “Oz Movie Garden,” which will feature lush, unusual plants inspired by the Land of Oz.

Be Our Guest restaurant will be the first Walt Disney World Restaurant to feature Mickey Check menu items as part of the Disney Healthy Living program announced earlier this year.

Mickey Check is part of Disney's efforts to ensure that foods meet nutritional guidelines set out by Disney, and will be used throughout the Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland. Menu items that meet the criteria will be marked on the menu with the Mickey Check icon. 

The first menu items to earn the Mickey Check at 'Be Our Guest Restaurant' are the Mickey Turkey Meatloaf, a Carved Turkey Sandwich, Seared Mahi Mahi and Whole-Grain Macaroni. Other quick service restaurants will be joining the program immediately, with table service restaurants joining the program beginning after the first of the year.

A holiday favorite at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort is being prepped for its debut later this month, marking its 14th year. Opening on 11/19/2012, the Gingerbread House will be open from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM daily, selling all of your favorite gingerbread treats. 

At Magic Kingdom Park, Main Street Bakery will close for refurbishment in January 2013 and reopen serving Starbucks products in early summer. At Epcot, Fountain View will close in March 2013 and reopen serving Starbucks products in midsummer

Due to a poorly worded release of this information on the Official Parks Blog, many Disney fans thought that these two shops were being replaced by Starbucks locations. This however is not the case. Both locations will be themed appropriately to their surroundings. The Main Street Bakery will still be called The Main Street Bakery and will feature many, if not all of the current items they currently have, as well as Starbucks bakery items and drinks. During construction the cinnamon rolls will be available at Gaston’s Tavern and the ice cream sandwiches can be found in the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor.

Disney's newest nighttime show 'Celebrate the Magic' debuted earlier this week during Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.

Featuring a cast of Disney characters, you will see Tinker Bell, Alice, Dumbo, Merida, Buzz Lightyear, Captain Jack Sparrow, Simba, Mickey Mouse and more. The new castle projection show replaces 'The Magic, The Memories, and You!' and premiered during regular park hours November 13, 2012; there will also be performances during Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party nights.

Along with the all new show comes improvements to the placement of the projectors. They have been moved further back on the rooftops of Main Street USA to be completely hidden from view during the daytime.

Video from WDWMagic

GM put out a great press release late last week giving us some new details about the reworked Test Track experience, and today Disney has a new update giving us a few more details.

The new Test Track officially opens on 12/6/2012, with some limited soft openings expected before that date in late November. Read on for the full Disney press release.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Walt Disney World Resort guests will experience the thrill of designing their very own virtual vehicle – then putting their design through its paces – when the re-imagined, multi-sensory Test Track Presented by Chevrolet grand re-opens Dec. 6, 2012.

The iconic Epcot attraction, a new collaboration between Chevrolet Design and the creative team of Walt Disney Imagineering, celebrates how meticulous design not only shapes the look of Chevrolet cars and trucks, but drives their performance on the open road.

For inspiration for the project, Walt Disney Imagineers made numerous visits to Detroit, collaborating with Chevrolet designers and touring the inner sanctums of Chevrolet’s design studios.

“As storytellers, to be able tell Chevrolet’s design story was fun for our Imagineers,” said Eric Jacobson, senior vice president of WDI. “Chevrolet designers come from the same creative roots as Imagineers. Test Track Presented by Chevrolet will become, for Epcot guests, an exciting part of their visit to Walt Disney World Resort.”

Amid upbeat music, eye-popping lighting effects and a collection of Chevrolet concept cars and model vehicles, guests themselves will become automotive designers – and peer into the future of personal transportation in the process.

“Through an enduring partnership, Chevrolet and Disney continue to inspire generations to imagine the impossible and innovate,” said Chris Perry, vice president, U.S. Marketing, General Motors. “The re-imagined Test Track reflects the personality and values of Chevrolet design and offers guests a behind-the-scenes look at a discipline that drives our business. This first-of-its-kind automotive design attraction represents the best of Chevrolet design and Disney innovation.”

Test Track guests enter an all-new, interactive pre-show area – completely retooled and re-imagined from the garage-like testing area of the former GM Test Track. The sleek new “Chevrolet Design Center” invites guests to create their own virtual custom-concept vehicle. Car design wannabes will get to shape their own virtual car, truck or crossover vehicle and learn how their design choices perform against four important attributes:
• Capability
• Efficiency
• Responsiveness
• Power

At design kiosks, rows of touch screens become canvasses for guests to try their hand at design magic. Here, they can virtual-draw – maneuver their vehicle design by shape, length, width and engine size. Once they create the design of their dreams, guests complete their creation with even more choices. They can make a design statement with an expressive front grill, order up wheels by size and style, add paint and other graphics and trick out their vehicle – top to sides, front to back – with the latest accessories. Then comes the crowning touch of their design – adding Chevrolet’s world-famous bowtie logo.

Their virtual Chevrolet vehicle complete, the adventure then shifts into high gear as guests – armed with a card encoded with their personal design that travels with them – board their 6-person “SimCar” ride vehicle. Ahead: a thrilling journey into a dazzling multi-sensory digital experience as guests put their personal design through a series of performance tests – the exhilarating heart of Test Track Presented by Chevrolet.

Along their route, riders experience changing terrain and extreme conditions as their designs are scored for Capability, Efficiency, Responsiveness and Power. How does their design stand up on the challenging hills, switchbacks and straight-aways of the Test Track circuit? How well does it navigate through bumpy roads, icy conditions, turn-on-a-dime curves and other surprises? Their design skills are put to the test – at speeds of up to 65 mph.

The fun and excitement continues in the post-show area.
• Scoring their design. Guests get to compare their car’s results to that of a baseline SimCar – and also see how they performed against their fellow “designers.”
• At a digital driving table laying out a road course, guests can race their virtual custom-concept vehicles against other guests’ designs, over changing terrain and encountering extreme conditions.
• Brand-new car designers can create their own commercial – starring their virtual car.
• In another experience, guests get to pose with actual Chevrolet vehicles. Through green screen technology — with a few taps on their touch screen – guests can suddenly find themselves posing with their Chevrolet on the lunar surface, arcing across the galaxies, navigating the bright-white of a polar landscape or other thrilling scenes. The images become easily sharable on social media, sending virtual postcard greetings to family, friends or co-workers back home.
• New and concept Chevrolet vehicles are laid out showroom-style. Guests can get behind the wheel of Chevrolet’s latest models. Chevrolet product specialists are on hand to answer any questions. 

The operating hours for the next couple of weeks have been significantly extended to accommodate the Fantasyland expansion previews for Annual Passholders. Park hours on many days are 8:00 AM to 1:00 am.

During this time Disney will be closing some attractions earlier than the park closing time to allow for maintenance. Here is a list of affected attractions:

11/12/2012: Walt Disney Enchanted Tiki Room closing at 10pm
11/13/2013: Splash Mountain, Haunted Mansion and "it's a small world' closing at 10pm
11/14/2013: Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh closing at 10pm


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