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Ears the News with Richard

'Sofia the First' will begin making her meet and greet appearances at Disney's Hollywood Studios on Sunday 8/11/2013. The new meet and greet will feature a new 'Enchancia' backdrop, and will be located just outside 'Disney Junior - Live on Stage!' in the Animation Courtyard. Along with the new meet and greet will also be a new pirate ship backdrop for the 'Jake and the Never Land Pirates.'
Disney's Animal Kingdom is now operating a new morning opening procedure giving early access to some attractions.

The previous rope-drop hold near the tip board has been discontinued. Guests will now being allowed entry into the park 15 minutes before the official opening time. Once inside the park guests are no longer stopped at a rope, and can experience some of the offerings before the official opening time. Kilimanjaro Safari, Expedition Everest and TriceraTop Spin are open for guests, along with some snack kiosks on Discovery Island. FASTPASS distribution does not begin until the official park opening time.

Jack and Sally will be joining this year's Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom. The meet and greet will be in Town Square on Main Street U.S.A. Jack and Sally meet and greets are very rare and have always been insanely popular. The wait time for this will no doubt exceed that of e-ticket attractions during the summer.

Also new for Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party in Tomorrowland - Monsters, Inc. Mike and Sulley will host the Monstrous Scream-O-Ween Ball dance party on the Rockettower Plaza Stage.
Favorites such as the trick or treat stations, candy trails, Boo To You Parade and HalloWishes fireworks are all confirmed to be returning.

The premium events for the 2013 International Food and Wine Festival are now on sale. See below for a list of what is available, and tickets can be purchased by calling 407 WDW-FEST. You can read more about each event on the official site.
  • New Scotland: Land of Food & Drink (Sept. 28), $95 or $115 
  • New Spirits Confidential (Nov. 1), $80 or $95 
  • New Parisian Breakfast (Saturdays), $37 
  • New Hibachi Experience (Oct. 8, 15, 22, 29, Nov. 5), $120 
  • “3D” Disney’s Dessert Discovery (Oct. 4, 11 and 25), $55 or $90 
  • Epcot Wine Schools (Sept. 29, Oct. 27, Nov. 3), $135 per person 
  • Culinary Adventures in Signature Dining (more than 25 dinners throughout the festival; prices vary) 
  • Mixology Series: Taste, Shake and Indulge Like the French (Saturdays), $65 
  • Kitchen Memories (Sept. 27, Oct. 4, 11, 18, 25, Nov. 1, 8), from $110-$170 
  • Cheese Seminars (Sept. 28, Oct. 5, 12, 19, 26, Nov. 2, 9), $80 
  • Party for the Senses (Oct. 5, 12, 19, 26 and Nov. 2), $145, $180 or $285 
  • Food & Wine Pairings (Tuesdays, Thursdays), $55 Sweet Sundays (Sept. 29, Oct. 6, 13, 20, 27, Nov. 3, 10), $99 
  • The Discovery of Chocolate (Oct. 13 and 27), $75

Disney has released the artist line-up for the 2013 Night of Joy events at the Magic Kingdom. Here is the full rundown:

Night of Joy 2013

Friday, September 6
Cinderella Castle Forecourt Stage
7:40 p.m. – Steven Curtis Chapman/Michael W. Smith
9:50 p.m. – MercyMe
11:55 p.m. – Skillet

Galaxy Stage
7:30 p.m. – Audio Adrenaline
8:50 p.m. – Audio Adrenaline
10:25 p.m. – Mandisa
12:10 a.m. – For King and Country

Rockettower Plaza Stage
8:15 p.m. – City
9:40 p.m. – We As
11:20 p.m. – Moriah Peters

Saturday, September 7
Cinderella Castle Forecourt Stage
7:40 p.m. – Francesca Battistelli
9:30 p.m. – Gospel Music Association Winner Steven Musso
9:50 p.m. – TobyMac
11:55 p.m. – Newsboys

Galaxy Stage
7:30 p.m. – Matthew West
8:50 p.m. – Matthew West
10:25 p.m. – Group 1 Crew
12:10 a.m. – Building 429

Rockettower Plaza Stage
8:15 p.m. – Jamie Grace
9:40 p.m. – Jamie Grace
11:20 p.m. – Plumb

It has been confirmed that the Magic Kingdom's afternoon parade, Celebrate a Dream Come True, will be closing at the end of 2013 to make-way for the new Festival of Fantasy Parade. Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade plays during regular park hours during Christmas week, so it would seem that the final performance of Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade will be on or around December 19 2013.
The new Festival of Fantasy Parade is expected to begin in March 2014, giving a three month period to make adjustments and upgrades to the parade route and storage areas.

The new Rapid Fill refillable mug system is now going live across the Walt Disney World Resorts.
Rapid Fill allows guests to purchase a specific number of days of refills. RFID chips embedded in the mugs only allow usage of the fountain for the purchased number of days. At the end of the purchased period, the mug will deactivate itself. The new mugs will be able to be used at any resort hotel quick service fountain, regardless of where it was original purchased.

Unlike the existing refillable mug program where pricing is fixed for a length of stay, the new Rapid Fill will use a tiered pricing structure. Pricing is listed below (days are counted as a calendar day, and not a 24 hour period).

$8.99 for 1 day
$11.99 for 2 days
$14.99 for 3 days
$17.99 for length of stay

As with the current refillable mug program, it will be included in some Disney Dining Plan benefits. Past mugs will not be able to be reused, and a new mug will need to be purchased for each resort stay.

Although installed at all resorts, it is not yet activated in all locations, but should be live by the end of the month.

Mugs are all the same design, featuring the Fab 5 in a pool scene. Lids are in a range of colors, including black, green, orange, pink, purple, teal and yellow.

Disney's Animal Kingdom debuted an all new acrobatic dance act in the Asia section of the park. 
You can see the show daily, just outside the Yak and Yeti Local Foods quick service restaurant. Show times for this week are 9:50am, 11:10am, 12:50pm, 1:30pm and 2:10pm. Check a times guide on the day of your visit to confirm times.

Video from WDWMagic.com

Fans of DiVine (the living plant) will be pleased to hear that a second act is now open at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Bamboo can be found daily along the walkway between Africa and Asia. DiVine is now meeting guests in the Oasis near to the parks main entrance on the right-hand side as you enter. 

Video from WDWMagic.com

Tarzan and Jane are set to make a brief appearance for meet and greets at Disney's Animal Kingdom next week.

Be on the lookout around the Oasis just inside the main entrance for the rarely seen Tarzan characters from 8/18/2013 to 8/24/2013. It is not expected that they will become permanent additions to the meet and greet line-up.

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