grand opening

Aulani Grand Opening Ceremony Video

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I was fortunate enough to be the guest of Disney for the opening of Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Hawai’i. The place is fantastic.

Before the trip I wasn’t sure whether or not the magic of Hawai’i needed a touch of Disney’s, but the fit is seamless. The combined storytelling of the islands and the mouse make for an amazing adventure. Really. I’m already making plans to return with my family so that they can also enjoy all that Aulani has to offer.

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Disney Brings Magic Back to the East Coast with new Disney Store

Please welcome guest author Daniel Wanderman and photographer Liz Degen. All photos are from Liz unless otherwise noted. A big thanks to them both.

As a Disney aficionado and frequent visitor to the parks, I jumped at the chance to experience the grand opening of the freshly redesigned Disney Store at my local mall.

Over 80 years ago, Roosevelt Field was the site of an airfield where Charles Lindbergh took off in the Spirit of St. Louis for his historic transatlantic flight to Paris. Today, the area is home to the eighth largest shopping mall in the country and the first Disney Store on the East Coast to undergo this magical makeover.


Disney Store North America General Manager Molly Adams

Our day started with a tour of the store led by Molly Adams, Vice President and General Manager of Disney Store North America. She showed us around the 4,500 square foot facility and reminded us that it’s “not just another place to buy Disney products; it’s really about being immersed in the Disney experience and feeling the magic.” This became apparent as she led us down a trail of pixie dust, one of the signature icons of the new stores.


Photo by Daniel Wanderman

Lots more below the jump:

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Coco Key Water Resort now open in Orlando

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A new resort has opened this week in on International Drive in Orlando, and with it, a piece of Disney history is being preserved. The CoCo Key Hotel and Water Resort-Orlando is at 7400 International Drive, miles from Walt Disney World. But Disney historians will… Read More »Coco Key Water Resort now open in Orlando

Harry Potter to officially open on June 18th at Universal Orlando

Harry Potter fans get ready for the most immersive Wizarding World experience you can have outside your imagination. The Grand Opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort has been set for June 18 and parts of the land will be opening even sooner. Universal Orlando released details of the expansion to Islands of Adventure and the highly anticipated new attraction “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” this morning.

One of three themed attractions within The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, including Flight of the Hippogriff and Dragon Challenge, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is the heart of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This all new adventure combines a powerful storyline with spectacular new technology so effectively that guests will be completely immersed in the experience.

And as they live their adventure, guests will feel things no one has ever felt inside a theme park attraction, move in ways no one has ever moved, experience film like no one else ever has, explore vast sets punctuated by amazing special effects – and have an adventure only possible in Harry Potter’s world.

The new attraction lies deep within Hogwarts castle, a majestic structure that towers over The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – the only place in the world where the wonder, excitement and adventure of the Harry Potter books and films comes to life.

The Adventure

Imagine…

…meeting Harry, Ron and Hermione as if they were in person

…soaring over Hogwarts castle with Harry

…being swept into a Quidditch match

…feeling the chilling effect of a Dementor

…exploring your favorite places inside Hogwarts castle

…living adventures you’ve only been able to imagine – until now.

The Story

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey draws you into the excitement and chaos of Harry’s life. As you venture through Hogwarts castle, you meet Harry, Ron and Hermione who convince you to skip a planned lecture and follow them. Upon taking their advice, you travel by Floo powder, and begin the adventure as you soar over Hogwarts, narrowly escape a dragon attack, have a close encounter with the Whomping Willow, get pulled into a Quidditch match and more.

“Guests will experience firsthand a completely new adventure featuring the iconic characters, amazing creatures and recognizable locations they’ve only read in the books or seen in the films,” said Thierry Coup, creative director for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Lots more below the jump, including new facts about the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey:

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Harry Potter Sneak Peek reveals new details

The magic minds behind the Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s keystone attraction “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” have released a short clip of behind the scenes snippets from filming involved involved in creating the attraction. Watch it for yourself: This sneak peek has revealed… Read More »Harry Potter Sneak Peek reveals new details

Walt Disney World opens on-site health and wellness center for cast members and families

This morning in a backstage area behind Epcot, the Walt Disney Company redeemed a prescription for healthy cast members when it opened the Center for Living Well as a one stop shop for primary medical car for 40,000 eligible Cast Members and their families. Disney partnered with Take Care Health Systems a provider of over 375 similar on-site facilities to bring this valuable resource to the cast members of Walt Disney World.

As a primary care center, the Center for Living Well includes Labs, Facilities, Pharmacy, and the ability to handle any urgent care matters. Additionally there are staff members who will help patients to develop the tools required to stay healthy for the long run.

With the Center for Living Well “Cast Members gain a tool for healthier living,” said Meg Crofton, president of Walt Disney World Resort. “It will make it easier than ever before for them to take advantage of the many health and wellness resources Disney offers.”

President of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Al Weiss, who has been appointed the Executive Champion for health and well being at the Walt Disney Company, said the center will provide cast members Holistic look at health with teaching opportunities. It will also tie-in with other facilities provided around the resort, such as health clubs, to ensure a healthy cast. That makes it a win-win in the long term.

Another benefit of the center is the outreach to the many cast members who come from overseas to work at the resort. Large populations of Haitians, Vietnamese, and Spanish speaking people work around the resort. The center for Living Well features signage in multiple languages, staff members who are fluent in one or more of the common languages, and resources available via telephone for other translation needs. This will no doubt be a big selling point as Disney attempts to attract more workers from these communities.

In addition to cultural sensitivities, they’re also taking privacy into concern. The design and layout of the facility means you’re unlikely to run into your boss while waiting for service. Wait times will be minimized and exam rooms are specially designed to protect the identity of whomever is in the room.

The Center is open to all Disney Cast Members who are enrolled in one of the 5 Cigna plans. It will be open 7 days a week (M-F 7A-7P and S-S 9A-5P) with the pharmacy open the same hours. They are recommending that everyone make appointments, although walk-ups will be accepted.

I have a full set of photos from the event this morning and a tour of the facility over at my flickr account. You can also read the whole press release below the cut.

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