Although Pandora: The world of Avatar at Animal Kingdom doesn't open until May 27, previews into the area have been happening since last week. After an annual pass holder sneak peek Monday morning, here are some photos of the gorgeously detailed new area.
Staying at a Walt Disney World resort is essential for a lot of families on their vacation to the Most Magical Place on Earth. The resorts can be expensive, however, and many guests shy away from the Deluxe resorts in favor of the less costly Moderate or Value resort options. Enter David's Vacation Club Rentals.
At this website, any guest traveling to Walt Disney World can book their stay at one of the Disney Vacation Club resorts, with a significantly lower price than the same room would cost via the Disney website. The trick is that David's Vacation Club Rentals connects guests wanting to visit Walt Disney World with Disney Vacation Club members looking to make a little extra money by effectively selling some or all of their points for the year. If that sounds a little confusing, it is, but the website does all the heavy lifting for you.
On the website, you simply type in your travel dates and the website gives you the exact cost of your stay, depending on which resort you choose. Take, for instance, a stay at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.
The chart shows that a family can stay in a one bedroom villa overlooking the savanna for four nights for $2040. The same exact reservation through the Walt Disney World Resort, however, costs about $450 more, as shown below.
The discounts readily available make using David's Vacation Club Rentals a no brainer for anyone planning a Deluxe resort stay at Walt Disney World. Next time you're planning a trip, make sure to head over to the website for savings that will make your trip a little more magical.
A few months ago, I interviewed a Disney character performer referred to as Princess P. about her experiences auditioning to portray a Disney princess. Now that she has been working at Walt Disney World for nearly a year, I caught up with Princess P. to discuss how life has changed since becoming Disney royalty.
When asked about guest interactions, she immediately lit up remembering an older gentleman in a wheelchair who grew excited at just the sight of her. "I don't think I can explain the feeling that you get from an interaction like that," she said, "just that kind of magic is, like, you know what I mean? You can't really put a price on that."
Though for P, sometimes the best interactions are the ones you don't expect to go well. She recently met a little boy who hid behind his mother at first, but ended up sneaking behind Princess P's dress and not wanting to leave.
"That's the kind of magic you get to see. It's little kids who warm up to you and have fun with the interaction when they didn't think they were going to."
While meeting guests as a princess is her primary job, she occasionally gets to portray a "fur" character, or one that is dressed up in a full body suit. Remembering her most recent experiences, she gleefully said "My skin has never looked better. You're drinking so much water, you're sweating out all of your toxins. You get a solid work out every twenty minutes."
She goes on to describe the fact that for a lot of guests, the fully costumed characters are the most special and beloved. Though for Princess P, she will always favor being a "face character", or someone that speaks and looks exactly like a princess, prince, fairy, etc.
"You can gage your interaction differently because you have that ability to go back and forth with them and have a conversation," she said, "Where as with fur, you're just trying to tell them a story with your body, and it doesn't always translate."
One big thing Princess P appreciates about her position is that the opportunity to play a Disney princess is such a rare one.
"I think guests have a different relationship with the princesses and the meaning that it has to them," she said, which is why she appreciates the ability to speak to the guests coming to meet her: "Probably the best part of the job is making up stories and making guests laugh."
While Princess P is loving her current work, there is the occasional battle to overcome, particularly when her co workers have less than flattering ideas about her and other "face character" performers.
"There've been times where people have made assumptions about what kind of person you are, which I think is totally unfair, because there is a spectrum, a variety of people in every job," she said, "For some reason, the people that are negative in the face character department almost represent all of us."
But as any Disney princess would do, P tries to stay positive: "I feel like I'm always trying to prove those stereotypes wrong, and overcome those stigmas," she said, "from my experience, overwhelming the girls are so kind and so humble, and just so supportive of one another."
In addition to doing meet and greets, Princess P is about to start training for a stage show. "It's an incredible opportunity, I really hope I don't blow it."
Of all of the emotions throughout the interview, the most obvious one was overwhelming gratitude for her job.
"It is definitely a blessing. I just got really fortunate and unfairly lucky, like I don't understand it. I just have to pinch myself all the time," she said.
Towards the end, Princess P spoke about her recent, once in a lifetime experience meeting some of the creators of her film. Princess P remembered telling them " 'I've had this dream since I was a little girl because you gave me this strong female role model to look up to and that I could see myself in, because of all your hard work.' And I just started crying. It was really just coming full circle to how insane what I get to do is. And how grateful I am for this opportunity and how I just don't want to not soak in every last second that I can."
This weekend, fans of the Star Wars franchise visited movie theatres across the country to see the newest film in their universe, Rogue One. In Oldsmar, FL, two such enthusiasts attended a late night showing on Friday and shared their thoughts on the original films, best characters, and the role of women within Star Wars.
Rebecca Morales and Maria Suarez, along with another friend of theirs, came to the movie together out of a sense of tradition. Suarez was introduced to the films by Morales. “I actually watched the films with them,” said Suarez, “last year, for my birthday.”
Morales, on the other hand, has been a fan of the movies since childhood, where she first learned about the galaxy far, far away in another language. “So the first time I saw it was in Spanish, yeah, I think I was five,” said Morales, “and I saw Empire first, and then Return of the Jedi. Then I watched it in English and it completely threw me off, because Yoda doesn’t sound the same way in English as he does in Spanish. So, that was weird. That was a weird culture shock.”
Despite the language shift, Morales grew to love the film series and appreciate even the smallest of roles. When asked about her favorite character, Morales said “The one with the fewest lines, Boba,” about Boba Fett, a fan favorite character within the original trilogy of films, “There’s just something so badass about a bounty hunter.” Suarez prefers one of the villains of the series: “Count Dooku,” she said, “I just love Christopher Lee.”
Both Rogue One and the last episodic film Star Wars: The Force Awakens have featured a female protagonist, and some have found that surprising. Morales, however, was quick to point out that women have been a key part of the story from the beginning. “That’s so weird, because I always saw Leia as such a prominent character, and she was always such a badass,” said Morales, “There was always strong female characters in the series.” Morales goes on to discuss how is baffled she is by all the commotion a female lead has caused: “I don’t understand why some people are freaking out so much when so many of, like, the diehard fans are just rejoicing.”
Rogue One was released December 16, 2016 and is currently showing in theatres.
Being a Disney princess is nearly every little girl’s dream. Frilly gowns, sparkly shoes, and apparently weather-proof hair- what’s not to love? Unfortunately, getting this coveted job is not as simple as the wave of a fairy godmother’s wand. There are many steps in the journey, and the very first one is auditioning.
On Disney’s website, there is a basic description of what’s like to be a Character Performer: “Your main responsibility will be to interact with our guests as one of the world-famous Disney Characters. Your day will include lots of autograph signing, posing for photos, hugs, kisses and animated storytelling.” The site goes on to inform prospective performers that’s it’s not all fun and magic, and that wearing potentially heavy costumes in the dreadful Florida heat will be a challenging, but rewarding job. Next up, the site reminds people to wear comfortable clothing, get there on time, and most importantly, smile. As the advice continues, the subject of the Disney Look comes into play.
One of the most common misconceptions is that Disney is only concerned with how attractive their performers are. While physical appearance does play a role, it’s a lot more complex than a certain standard of beauty. Two current performers, one brand new and the other a veteran of the game, describe their beginnings at the company. As both want to maintain the magic and integrity of their current roles, both have decided to remain anonymous. The new performer will be referred to as Princess P, and the longtime performer as Princess L. Princess P began her career as a performer in the spring of this year, and Princess L. has performed in various roles for the last five years, having to audition for each role every time she is cast.
As she started recounting her audition, Princess P remembered the first thing the judge said when entering the room was “This isn’t about how pretty you are, this about our needs and about all the stars aligning just so, and you being exactly what we’re looking for when we’re looking for it.” Princess L recalled a similar experience of not being sure what they were looking for: “My initial audition process consisted of a type- out, where we all stood in rows of 10 and the casting directors looked at our faces. From there, they decided who would fit into whatever random mold they decided they needed that day.”
As the Disney article continues, it confirms these sentiments: “Understand that there are many factors that must be taken into account when determining who gets kept, and who does not. Just do your best and feel good about your performance. The rest is out of your hands.” The writer then emphasizes that every performer will be judged by their ability to tell a story, move effectively, and bring an animated character to life. The last two qualifications they mention are height and build, which they realize “are out of your control, but play a big part in who gets kept because of available positions.”
After the audition, both performers spoke about another challenge: waiting for the news. Princess L had to be incredibly patient after being told she would receive in answer within two weeks. “Three months went by, and I assumed that I hadn't gotten the position. Then, out of the blue, I was called and asked to attend a call back audition in Orlando. My callback consisted of make-up & costumes, and memorization of a small slide. From there, I waited yet another month until I found out that I had the position.” Princess P, on the other hand, had nearly the opposite happen. “They said, ‘We’ll let you know in a week.’ And I’m like, okay, I’ll just be waiting.” It turns out she was contacted in a week, and they let her know that she was on waiting list to be hired. After five months, they finally had a job for her.
At the end of their recollections, both Princesses L and P emphasized that remaining optimistic is one of the important challenges about the audition process. Princess P simply recalled a costume and make-up trial thinking “My dream is coming true right now. Even if I don’t get the job…that was all I needed. This will satisfy me for years to come.” While Princess L emphasized “You never know what the casting director is looking for. You could have the best audition of your life, and they won't even look at you twice,” she said, “The key is being persistent and constantly working at your craft. Take dance classes, get to the gym, take vocal lessons, and be prepared for what you want. And, after all of that, if you don't get the role, don't take it personally! The world of characters is incredibly strange and difficult. Love yourself.”
As the spooky season of Halloween comes to a close, the world begins to prepare itself for Thanksgiving. Walt Disney World, however, jumps out of jack o’ lanterns and right into elves and Christmas trees.
Many argue that beginning in November, both Florida’s theme parks and “The Happiest Place on Earth” in California feel even more special covered in garlands, ornaments, and wreaths galore. This year will be no exception as the holiday season touches down.
Graphic Created by Chelsea Matthews
The most famous holiday celebration at Walt Disney World is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom Park. The twenty-one-night event features free cookies and hot cocoa to get guests in a festive mood, despite the decidedly warmer temperatures. There’s also a special parade featuring Mickey Mouse, classic Disney characters and, of course, Santa Claus himself. As families wander around the park to enjoy the special decorations, they can some meet characters that only come out to play seasonally. This year, for the first time, attendees will be able to meet Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde from the incredibly popular film Zootopia. Finally, as the night comes to a close there will be a new stage show entitled Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration before the grand finale: Holiday Wishes Fireworks Spectacular.
Not to be outdone, Disney’s Hollywood Studios will debut its new nighttime entertainment called “Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!” . This spectacular will showcase projections on the park’s replica of the Chinese Theater, fireworks, and even a little snowfall. While many guests were disappointed to learn that last year was the final lighting of the much beloved Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights so the park can make way for new improvements, this new show will hopefully be a promising successor.
Just a boat ride away from Disney’s Hollywood Studios is EPCOT , where visitors to Walt Disney World can continue their holiday festivities. The Candlelight Processional is a classic favorite which highlights students from around the country singing classic Christmas carols. Each show is narrated by a celebrity, who tells the biblical Christmas story. This year’s lineup includes twelve celebrities, including long time host Neil Patrick Harris and Jodi Benson, the voice of Princess Ariel Disney’s The Little Mermaid. After enjoying the music, guests can sample various holidays treats as they wander through the twelve countries of EPCOT’s World Showcase. Similar to the offerings of the annual International Food and Wine Festival, EPCOT’s Holidays Around the World features booths of drinks and small plates that represent cultures across the globe. As with Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot ends the night with fireworks in a holiday version of its nightly show IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.
Of course, the holidays at Disney don’t end in the theme parks. Resorts around Disney join in the yuletide celebration, and make for a fun (and free) exploration when guests might be looking for a more relaxed vacation day. And Disney Springs is not to be forgotten, as this year marks the first for its trail of fifteen Disney themed trees, in addition it’s meet and greet with Santa Claus and a nightly tree lighting ceremony.
Needless to say, anyone hoping to experience a little bit of pixie dust over the holiday season will find no shortage of things to do at the Walt Disney World resort.