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Ears the News with Richard

Disney has finally confirmed two things we have known for some time. Soarin is getting a third theater and Toy Story Midway Mania will be getting a third track. Opening dates are still a little fuzzy, but Disney has given us the ambiguous “late 2016” for and opening date for both Toy Story and  Soarin. Disney has also revealed that Soarin will be receiving both screen and projector updates.

The smoking location near to Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom has been removed.
Starting February 27 2015, there will only be four available smoking locations. Near Big Thunder Mountain in Frontierland, near the entrance to Adventureland, and two on the walkway between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland (one near Storybook Circus, and the other closer to Tomorrowland).

The changes will be reflected on new park maps.

 Disney introducing photo identification for guests that frequently fail biometric authentication at the turnstiles.

Currently in testing at Disney's Animal Kingdom, the process involves those guests that are not able to successfully authenticate with the biometric fingerprint reader visiting guest relations to setup a photo ID. At guest relations, their identity is verified, and a photograph taken, which is then electronically associated with the My Disney Experience profile for that guest.

Once setup, the additional enrollment allows the Cast Member at the turnstiles to see a digital photograph of the guest, and to then manually verify the identity of the guest based on that photograph without requiring a successful fingerprint read.

If the testing process successful, the new system should make for a more convenient entry process for those guests that frequently encounter problems with the fingerprint reader, and preventing the need to show ID.


Disney's Hollywood Studios will once again host a special ticketed merchandise event to kick of Star Wars Weekends.

Taking place on Thursday May 14 2015 from 10am to 3pm, 'Galactic Gathering' will give guests the first opportunity to purchase new products created especially for Star Wars Weekends. Guests who attend this event will also have the opportunity to meet Disney characters, Disney Design Group Artists and Ashley Eckstein from Her Universe.
Tickets to this event are $250 per guest (theme park admission is not included but required to participate in this event).
Packages for the Galactic Gathering will include the following:
     ‘Rebel’ or ‘Empire’ retail MagicBand (Guests can choose their side when registering online) - Exclusive to attendees.
Image courtesy Disney Parks Blog
     Commemorative trading pin  - Exclusive to attendees.
     Darth’s Mall Light Speed Pass which gives expedited entry into Darth’s Mall for all five weekends  - Exclusive to attendees.
     First opportunity to pre-purchase select merchandise including personalized Aurebesh nametags, D-Tech phone cases, Dooney & Bourke handbags, Galactic Gathering Disney Gift card, retail MagicBands, limited edition pins and Vinylmation.
     First opportunity to purchase the new designs of Star Wars-themed Disney Gift Cards.
     Han Solo-inspired popcorn bucket with popcorn.
 Registration will begin on March 4 at 1pm Eastern on http://www.DisneyParksMerchandise.com


The Magic Kingdom's Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid reopened this week  following a 4 week refurbishment.

Improvements have been made throughout the attraction, including more sea creature figures throughout some of the more sparse scenes and new improved lighting.

Early criticism of the ride, which opened in October 2012, was aimed at the high levels of light that were used throughout the show scenes, in particular the large central "under the sea" scene. Much of the ceiling was visible, exposing utility piping and fixtures. The new lighting scheme is closer to the existing Fantasyland rides, using a combination of regular lighting and black light. The change is subtle, but improves the appearance of the scene.

Some of the figures also now include real hair, instead of the solid plastic look. The "kiss the girl" scene in particular is improved.





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