‘Star Wars Weekends’ Celebrity Guests, Details Announced for May 18 – June 10, 2012

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Star Wars Weekends 2012Via the official Disney Parks blog, Walt Disney World has released further details for its upcoming Star Wars Weekends celebration at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for weekends between May 18 and June 19, 2012. In addition to the previous announcement regarding James Arnold Taylor acting as the Star Wars Weekends’ celebrity host and Ashley Eckstein as the host of the ‘Behind the Force’ special presentations, the following celebrities and autograph FASTPASS information has been released:

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Walt Disney World Debuts All-Inclusive PhotoPass+; Dining and Attraction Photos Included

Disney's PhotoPass+In an effort to provide better service to guests at the Walt Disney World Resort, Disney Photo Imaging (DPI) has announced that it will begin offering a new service known as PhotoPass+ beginning April 4, 2012.

For one, all-inclusive price ($199.95), the PhotoPass+ (which includes a lanyard) offers families the standard PhotoCD (currently $169.95 at the regular price) plus photo print packages at select dining locations and digital downloads on participating attractions, whereas each would have to be purchased individually for an additional fee otherwise. As an added bonus, the PhotoPass+ also includes a stock photo CD consisting of hundreds of images from around the Walt Disney World Resort.

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Dooney & Bourke Retro (Disneyland Exclusive) and Buttons Collections to Debut in May

Dooney & Bourke 'Retro' Collection Exclusively at Disneyland ResortDooney & Bourke Creative Director Ian Ray will be on hand at Disney Vault 28 in the Downtown Disney District at the Disneyland Resort to unveil the company’s newest collections on Saturday, May 12, 2012 from 2 pm – 5 pm PT.

The Retro collection will be exclusive to the Disneyland Resort and will be available in a variety of popular silhouettes including a wristlet, mini barrel, tassel tote, satchel, letter carrier as well as an iPad case. Prices range from $78 – $268.

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Disney Parks ‘NextGen’ Patent Application Invites Big Brother for the Ride (Literally)

When Disney’s Art of Animation Resort opens this summer, its guests will be one of the first to experience the driving force behind Walt Disney World’s NextGen project — the room key. Instead of the traditional card key readers that most hotels use, guests at Art of Animation will access their room via RFID. Although some vacation destinations (notably Great Wolf Lodge) have already embraced the magic of RFID for years and have even taken it far beyond the hotel room, this gesture is particularly noteworthy because it signals the start of what we’ve already known to be coming and it’s just the tiniest tip of the largest iceberg this universe has ever seen.

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‘Art of Animation’ Sections to Open Sooner Than Anticipated; Photo of Lobby Released

Disney's 'Art of Animation' Resort LobbyThe wings dedicated to the popular films featured at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort will now be opening than sooner than expected after the resort hotel’s grand opening May 31

“We are excited that the Cars, The Lion King, and The Little Mermaid wings at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort will all open earlier than we originally planned, bringing more permanent resort jobs to Central Florida sooner,” said Kevin Myers, vice president of resort operations for Walt Disney World Resort. “Demand for family suites exists in the marketplace today and the new opening dates reflect how optimistic we are about tourism in Central Florida.”

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Photo: Kathy Ireland Celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with Minnie at Walt Disney World

Kathy Ireland with Minnie MouseSupermodel-turned-entrepreneur Kathy Ireland poses March 15, 2012 with a St. Patrick’s Day-themed Minnie Mouse in the United Kingdom pavilion at Epcot in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Ireland is CEO and chief designer for “kathy ireland Worldwide,” a global design and marketing firm she founded in 1993.

Photo by Gene Duncan, courtesy Walt Disney World

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‘Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure’ to Replace ‘Kim Possible’ at Epcot

Agent P's World Showcase AdventureThe official Disney Parks blog confirmed earlier today that it will introduce the popular Disney Channel series ‘Phineas and Ferb’ to Epcot later this year when it replaces the also-popular ‘Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure’ with ‘Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure,’ starring Perry the Platypus’ alter-ego, Agent P.

The change was reported earlier this year by @TouringPlans on their Twitter, with an expected timeline of June (the Disney Parks blog mentions only summer as the transition time), but was recently confirmed by Walt Disney Parks Chairman Tom Staggs in an interview with Travel Weekly (via Jim Hill Media).

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PHOTO: Jordin ‘Sparkles’ with Minnie Mouse at Walt Disney World

Singer Jordin Sparks poses with Minnie Mouse March 11, 2012 during the fifth annual Disney’s Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Sparks, who is starring in the upcoming movie Sparkle opening this summer, served as a speaker during the commencement ceremony. Disney’s Dreamers Academy is a career-inspiration program for 100 high school students across the U.S.

Photo by Phelan Ebenhack, courtesy Walt Disney World

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WDW Refurb Update: Monorail Service to be Disrupted Daily in March

Walt Disney World Cast Member Dave provided confirmation via Twitter this evening that beginning March 2, 2012 and through March 17, 2012, all Magic Kingdom monorail service will be suspended daily from 11:30 am through 6 pm. This is being done primarily so that construction work related to the Grand Floridian DVC expansion can be completed, although ‘planned maintenance’ is also mentioned in the notice.

In response to the reduction of service, more buses and water transportation will be put on line to accommodate guests traveling between the Magic Kingdom and the TTC and area resorts. Monorail service between the TTC and Epcot will not be affected by this change.

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Walt Disney World Now Casting for Merida Meet and Greet Character

Merida ©Disney/PixarWalt Disney World has issued casting calls for Princess Merida, the heroine that will be featured in Disney/Pixar’s Brave which opens in theaters nationwide on June 22, 2012. Expected to begin appearing at Soundstage 4 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (where the Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian exhibit was formerly housed) in May, Merida will become the first face meet and greet character representing a Disney/Pixar property within the Disney Parks.

According to the casting notice, she will be 5’4″ – 5’6″ in height and is described as ‘impetuous, rough and tumble, strong-willed, determined and playful.’ She is also expected — at times — to be accompanied by a puppet version of the three cubs from the film.

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