PHOTO: Disney Previews Na’vi Character at Avatarland Groundbreaking (Hi-Res)

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Avatarland Groundbreaking at Walt Disney World (David Roark/Disney) Using Na’vi-inspired shovels and assisted by a Na’vi, (left to right) George Kalogridis, president of Walt Disney World Resort; Meg Crofton, president of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations, United States and France; Tom Staggs, chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts; a Na’vi; Jon Landau, Avatar Producer; Bruce Vaughn, chief creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering; and Joe Rohde, creative executive, Walt Disney Imagineering, pose Jan. 8, 2014 during the ceremonial groundbreaking of an Avatar-inspired land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

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Speculation: Disney’s Avatarland Development May Be Way Off Track

Disney’s ‘Avatarland’ expansion, based on the successful James Cameron film franchise, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom may in fact be in trouble as rampant rumors have speculated in recent months. Yet just as recently as December, Disney has remained adamant that everything was just fine, according to this article by the Orlando Sentinel.

But according to paperwork recently filed with the Orange County comptroller’s office, everything may not be hunky-dory in the land of the Na’vi. The document calls for the installation of FASTPASS+ for ‘Festival of the Lion King,’ a show that was expected to close and relocate elsewhere in the park to make way for the ‘Avatarland,’ which is said to replace Camp Minnie-Mickey.

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Starbucks Slated for May Opening at Disney’s Magic Kingdom

According to internal documents dating various refurbishments around the Walt Disney World, we can currently expect Walt Disney World’s first in-park Starbucks to open at the Magic Kingdom theme park on May 18, 2012.

The restaurant will be located at the Main Street Bakery which is scheduled for closure between January 6, 2013 and May 17, indicating it will emerge as a Starbucks-branded location on May 18, 2013. As with its west coast counterpart, the Main Street, USA location Starbucks will remain themed to its location with cast members donning costumes that lend themselves to the theme park’s land.

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AvatarLand ‘Leaked’ Blueprints Show Attraction Possibilities, Layouts

Rumored leaked blueprints for AvatarLand attractionsIt doesn’t seem to rain much in the rainforest-like environment of Avatar’s Pandora, but we’re pretty sure that if and when it does rain there, it pours. No sooner than a forum thread pop up suggesting James Cameron gave the okay to Disney to proceed with AvatarLand at Disney’s Animal Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort, that purported ‘leaked’ blueprints of some sort involving the layout of the new land’s attractions.

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WDW Refurb Update: Mad Tea Party, Blizzard Beach Extension, Other Date Changes

We received a new update from Walt Disney World regarding upcoming refurbishments and have new additions as well as several date revisions. While we recommend verifying all of the changes by visiting our ReSearch page, here are some of the highlights:

  • Mad Tea Party at Magic Kingdom is scheduled to close on January 7, 2013 and re-open on February 19.
  • Splash Mountain dates revised to close on January 2 and re-open on March 20, 2013.
  • The Boneyard at Disney’s Animal Kingdom will have another 2-day closure, closing October 24, 2012 and re-opening on October 26.

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REPORT: ‘Festival of the Lion King’ at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Won’t See 2013

The latest species on the endangered list to be highlighted at Disney’s Animal Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort will be the Tumble Monkey, if reports are to be believed. A reliable insider has advised us that the gymnasts performing at the popular ‘Festival of the Lion King’ show located at Camp Minnie-Mickey have been put on six month notice (as of last month) and — to date — there have been no changes or amendments made to said job loss notification.

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Photo: White Rhino Calf Born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

White Rino with Calf at Disney's Animal KingdomMother’s Day may be a little more memorable this year for a Disney “mom” that recently gave birth to a white rhino calf at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

After a 16-month gestation period, Kendi delivered her fourth calf Friday, May 4. The healthy male, which has not yet been named, is the ninth white rhino born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom; his mother, 13-year-old, Kendi, was the first.

“The birth of a white rhino calf is certainly something to celebrate since the population of this species is endangered in the wild,” said Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., vice president of Animals, Science and Environment for Disney Parks. “It’s encouraging that with protection and careful management, the global population of white rhinos continues to grow.”

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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: 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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How Disney’s Animal Kingdom Goes Batty Over Halloween

Bat training and enrichment at Disney's Animal KingdomAs Halloween approaches, several creatures of the night are getting a series of treats from a team of medical experts at Disney’s Animal Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Around this time each year, veterinary care specialists conduct annual wellness checks on a roost of endangered bats as part of Disney’s commitment to excellent animal care.

The bats, known as Malayan flying foxes, receive complete physical examinations, including blood analysis, vaccination and dental cleaning in front of thousands of Guests who view the procedures from a large, on-stage window into a state-of-the art veterinary hospital. With a wingspan close to six feet, the Malayan flying fox is one of the largest bats in the world and can be seen on exhibit along the Maharajah Jungle Trek in the Asia section of the theme park.

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