Four Seasons Resort at Walt Disney World’s Golden Oak Breaks Ground

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Larry Silverstein, president and CEO of Silverstein Properties, Mickey Mouse, Meg Crofton, president, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations, U.S. and France, and Kathleen Taylor, president and CEO of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. (PRNewsFoto/Walt Disney World Resort)Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts kicked off construction of its luxury resort at Walt Disney World Resort today, in a groundbreaking ceremony with joint venture partners Silverstein Properties and Dune Real Estate Partners. The 444-room resort, being built in the enclave of Golden Oak at Walt Disney World Resort, will create about 2,000 construction jobs, and hundreds of resort positions when open.

“Travelers around the world know and trust Four Seasons, and Walt Disney World is the world’s premiere family vacation destination,” said Meg Crofton, president Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations US & France. “Together, our two companies offer a brand-new reason to visit and experience Central Florida.”

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WDW Refurb Update: House of Innoventions Closed til Mid-2012; Studio Backlot Tour

House of Innoventions at Epcot’s Innoventions East is now closed, presumably due to the recent announcement that Green Builder Media will be transitioning it into what will be known as the ‘VISION House.’ No specific date has been provided for the re-opening other than an expected time frame of May, 2012.

The Studio Backlot Tour at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is now slated to close on February 13, 2012 and re-open on March 11.

There is also a minor quiet pool refurb scheduled at the Beach Club Villas on December 14 and 15.

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WDW Refurb Update: Kali River Rapids to Close in January

The official Walt Disney World website is now reporting a temporary closure for Kali River Rapids at Disney’s Animal Kingdom beginning January 23, 2012 and re-opening on February 10.

In addition, we have learned of additional counter service and dining location closures which include the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor in the Magic Kingdom (closed January 9 through February 17) and an extension of Tutto Italia Ristorante in the Italy Pavilion at Epcot. The restaurant is now scheduled to close a day earlier and re-open a month later.

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Photos: Cee Lo Green, Jennifer Hudson Perform for Disney Parks Christmas Parade

Jennifer Hudson tapes Christmas Day TV special at Walt Disney Wo

Walt Disney Parks began taping its portion of the 28th Annual ‘Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade’ special today at the Magic Kingdom theme park. Performances were provided by Cee Lo Green, Jennifer Hudson and ‘American Idol’ winner Scotty McCreery, with some additional appearances by the Buddies (promoting their new film, Treasure Buddies and Statler and Waldorf from the Muppets.

The tapings continue tomorrow with expected performances by Bella Thorne and Zendaya Coleman of Disney Channel’s ‘Shake It Up’ and a rumored performance by Justin Bieber.

The Disneyland Resort performed its portion of the parade in early November.

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Ghirardelli to Open Shop Inside Disney California Adventure, 2012 (Concept Art)

Ghirardelli at Disney California Adventure (Concept Art)Disneyland Resort today announced that Ghirardelli will open a new location inside Disney California Adventure park in late spring 2012. The soda fountain and chocolate shop will add yet another layer of traditional San Francisco flair to the Pacific Wharf area of the park.

“The addition of a world-renowned brand like Ghirardelli highlights our focus on providing quality, immersive experiences that transport our guests to a different place – in this case to San Francisco,” said Mary Niven, vice president of Disney California Adventure park. “With the culmination of our expansion only a few months away, it is an exciting time at Disney California Adventure and we look forward to partnering with Ghirardelli in bringing this delicious chocolate experience to our guests.”

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Photos: Maria Bello, Seth Rogen, Wayne Brady at Walt Disney World

Maria Bello with Duffy (Gene Duncan/Walt Disney World)Actress and activist Maria Bello, who stars as fedora-wearing Detective Jane Timoney on the NBC crime drama “Prime Suspect,” wears a mouse-eared fedora and poses with “Duffy the Disney Bear” in front of the holiday tree at Epcot theme park at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida on November 25, 2011. Bello also is a co-founder of “WE ADVANCE,” an organization to advance the well-being of women throughout Haiti.

Photo by Gene Duncan, courtesy Walt Disney World

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‘Live with Kelly’ to Broadcast from Disney’s Aulani, February 20 – 24, 2012

This week on “LIVE! with Kelly,” co-host Kelly Ripa and guest co-host Jerry Seinfeld announced that the popular nationally-syndicated show will travel to Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, Ko Olina, Hawaii, for five shows airing February 20-24, 2012. The “LIVE” broadcasts will be set against the backdrop of Aulani’s beautiful beachfront cove on the island of O‘ahu.

During the five shows, “LIVE” will showcase the best of O’ahu, and highlight all that Disney’s latest one-of-a-kind vacation destination has to offer. In addition to broadcasting from the stunning new resort, Ripa and Seinfeld also announced an exciting contest in connection with the trip. “LIVE” will fly one lucky couple and 30 of their guests to Aulani for the wedding of a lifetime.

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Walt Disney World VoluntEARS to Feed Homeless on Thanksgiving

Disney VoluntEARs at Coalition for the HomelessClose to 600 people will enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at Coalition for the Homeless on Thursday – thanks to Chef Tony Marotta and his team at Walt Disney World Resort.

Preparations for the meal, which includes roasted turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, green beans, and pumpkin pie, began on Sunday, when the team started making sauces, gravy, stuffing and cranberry relish – all from scratch.

“It is an extremely rewarding experience to be able to provide a sense of family and involvement for those who would have otherwise missed out on this time of year, when sharing a meal and giving thanks as a family is so important,” said Marotta, who has also made Thanksgiving meals for the organization in previous years.

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Disney Memories App Offers Virtual Character Interaction at Disney Store Times Square, Other Locations

Mickey Mouse as a virtual character in Disney Memories App

Admittedly we were a bit hasty with our take on the Disney Parks Memories App when it was first released a few days ago for the Apple iPhone and iPad 2 devices. Although it was soon pulled as we also reported, it was re-launched last night with some minor revisions, along with an Android version. After it was re-released and we were invited to experience some of the enhancements it offers when you visit specific locations, we decided to take a second look.

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Fantasia Takes Center Stage at 2012 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

A little gardening magic will go a long way when an eight-foot-tall floral Sorcerer Mickey topiary holds court at the entrance to the 19th Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival March 7 – May 20, 2012 at Walt Disney World Resort. Standing atop a 12-foot-tall floral mountain cliff and towering above the park’s front-entrance topiary bed, the commanding Sorcerer Mickey will direct a riot of color in the manicured shapes of dancing broomsticks, buckets, mushrooms, hippos, alligators and elephants straight from the classic Disney film, Fantasia.

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