‘Star Wars’ Author Timothy Zahn to Offer Signing at Walt Disney World, October 14

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'Heir to the Empire' 20th Anniversary Edition by Timothy ZahnOn Friday, October 14, 2011, noted author Timothy Zahn will be on hand to sign his latest Star Wars novel, Choices of One as well as the 20th anniversary edition of the best-seller, Heir to the Empire.

Zahn will be at The Writer’s Stop located in Disney’s Hollywood Studios from 1 – 3 pm. As always, theme park admission is not included and items must be purchased at the event (no personal items).

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WDW Refurbs: Dumbo, Big Thunder Mountain and Liberty Belle Closures (New Fantasyland Opening Date?)

Now appearing on the official Walt Disney World calendar, we have a few key operational updates affecting guests in early 2012.

Perhaps the most riveting (if such a word could be used) is that of Dumbo, which is now scheduled to close on January 9 and re-open on February 18 March 12. Reasons aren’t generally given for the refurbs publicly, but there’s a slight possibility this may be for its move over to the Storybook Circus section of the New Fantasyland Expansion, which Walt Disney World has announced will open in early/spring 2012 with a relocated Dumbo coupled with a duplicated version that will have vehicles rotating in a clockwise direction, a first for the attraction anywhere in the world.

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Photos/Video: Walt Disney World Celebrates 40th Anniversary at Magic Kingdom

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With much fanfare, provided onstage by the Main Street Philharmonic, the Walt Disney World Resort celebrated the 40th birthday of the Magic Kingdom, the Contemporary Resort, the Polynesian Resort, Fort Wilderness and even the Electrical Water Pageant. Following the performance of several Disney classics by the band, Main Street soon became flooded with Mickey, Minnie and dozens of popular Disney characters as they paraded down the street, celebrating celebrations from years past.

Below is a video of the full character cavalcade:

On stage, the characters were united with 40-year cast members and Disney Parks executives, including Meg Crofton, President of Walt Disney World and Disney Parks and Resorts.

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Spring 2012 to Feature New Fantasyland Expansion, ‘Sorcerers of The Magic Kingdom,’ Disney Fantasy and More

Casey Jr. Roundhouse, Dumbo and Great Goofini in Magic Kingdom's New FantasylandIn spring 2012, Disney guests can fly like no elephant (or Disney guest) has ever flown, subdue villains with magic spells, sail the azure waters of the Caribbean aboard a brand-new luxury ship, and settle down for the night in rooms celebrating Disney royalty.

January-May 2012 at Walt Disney World Resort also is a time when road runners take to the streets and byways of the Vacation Kingdom in marquee runDisney events, Major League Baseball returns to Champion Stadium, Epcot blooms and Disney celebrates the possibilities of youth.

Here’s a look at what’s in store …

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‘Villain by Noah’ Collection to Debut at Disneyland’s Vault 28, October 15

Poisoned Apple Vinylmation by NoahOn October 15, Noah will debut his new Villain collection at Vault 28 in the Downtown Disney District at the Disneyland Resort. The collection is inspired by four of Disney’s greatest villains to date: Ursula the Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid, Cruella De Vil from 101 Dalmatians, the Evil Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and the most feared of them all, Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty.

Noah’s portraits of the villains will be available as short-sleeve tshirts (including long sleeve for the Evil Queen) as well as a special limited edition tshirt created just for the event. An original painting by Noah inspired by the portraits will also be available for $7500 and as a limited edition (295 pieces), canvas wrapped giclee for $295.

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Walt Disney World Anniversary Pin Release Information (and How to Get Into Magic Kingdom Early)

Limited Edition 'I Was There' Dangler Pin (LE 1500, $12.95)While the Magic Kingdom will open at 9 am for most folk on October 1st, 2011, for its 40th Anniversary extravaganza, the fortunate folk who managed to secure a pre-opening breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table and Crystal Palace will be happy to know that the privilege is also being extended to those who secure the right to purchase some of the many limited edition pins as well as the very limited number of Anniversary custom Vinylmation figures by Noah.

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2011 Food and Wine Festival Offers Mobile WebApp, Gowalla Stamps

Epcot International Food and Wine QR mobile site codeAvailable throughout Walt Disney World’s Epcot during the International Food and Wine Festival, September 30 – November 13, 2011, the QR code shown here will take guests to an official mobile site for the event. Although the actual URL is pretty hefty, for the benefit of those without a QR decoder app, we are offering http://626.sk/food which will direct you to the mobile site.

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Wine and Dine Half Marathon ‘Finish Line Party’ to Feature Attractions and New Food Offerings for First Time

A capacity field of runners will experience new food and wine options as well as have exclusive access to signature Disney attractions for the first time at the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend, Sept. 29-Oct. 2, at Walt Disney World Resort, further enhancing an event affectionately known as the “ultimate runners night out.”

At the post-race Finish Line Party at Epcot that lasts until 3 a.m., several Epcot attractions will be operating, including Soarin’, Test Track and Mission: Space. Also, there will more than 20 new food and beverage kiosks, bringing the total number to nearly 90, as well as live video feeds of the race on giant monitors.

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Photo: Disney’s Aulani Resort Marks Official Opening in Ko Olina, Hawaii

Aulani (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disney Destinations)A Disney-inspired Hawaiian celebration launched the grand opening of Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, Thursday night with music, sparkling colored lights and the ceremonial mixing of sand with pixie dust. Aulani combines the magic of Disney storytelling and guest service with the beauty and traditions of Hawaii, creating an unforgettable family vacation experience on a beautiful lagoon along the coast of Oahu.

Bob Iger, president and chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company, and Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, joined Hawaiian officials for the grand opening event at sunset. Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse added to the fun at the beachside event.

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Disney Acquires Global Theme-Park Rights to ‘Avatar'; Animal Kingdom Expansion Announced

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Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Worldwide is joining forces with visionary filmmaker James Cameron and Fox Filmed Entertainment to bring the world of AVATAR to life at Disney parks. Through an exclusive agreement announced today by Disney, Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and Fox, Disney will partner with Cameron and producing partner Jon Landau to create themed lands that will give theme park guests the opportunity to explore the mysterious universe of AVATAR first hand. Disney plans to build the first AVATAR themed land at Walt Disney World, within the Animal Kingdom park. With its emphasis on living in harmony with nature, Animal Kingdom is a natural fit for the AVATAR stories, which share the same philosophy. Construction is expected to begin by 2013.

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