Handy Manny and the Tools Race to New Primetime Special with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Lance Bass

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Handy Manny in 'Handy Manny Big Race'Playhouse Disney’s hit Emmy-nominated series, “Handy Manny,” puts the pedal to the metal with the premiere of the series’ second primetime special, “Handy Manny Big Race,” starring Wilmer Valderrama and guest starring NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. and N’Sync’s Lance Bass, SATURDAY, MARCH 20 (7:00-7:25 p.m., ET/PT) on Disney Channel. In this exciting primetime event for preschoolers and parents, Manny and the tools hit the motor speedway as a pit crew for the highly anticipated Wood Valley 500. The announcement was made today by Earnhardt and Valderrama at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida.

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ESPN360.com to Become Network Moniker-Friendly ESPN3.com in April

ESPN3.com Logo

On April 4, ESPN360.com, ESPN’s 24/7 broadband sports network, will become ESPN3.com.  At that time the network will also introduce new features and functionality that will enhance the viewing experience. Details of these enhancements will be released closer to the launch in the spring.

“The name ESPN3.com more closely aligns with the existing naming convention for our networks,” said Sean Bratches, executive vice president, sales and marketing. “We have approached this as a network for years, and as users have become more accustomed to engaging with content across various screens, it made sense to make adjustments that reflect both the product’s and the industry’s evolution.”

Added Damon Phillips, vice president, ESPN3.com, “The network will continue to offer the same great content that sports fans have come to expect, with more than 3,500 live events annually.  We look forward to rolling out new enhancements to offer the best viewing experience possible in the months ahead.”

ESPN3.com will continue to give consumers control over their broadband sports viewing experience with the ability to pause and rewind live events.  Fans will continue to be able to toggle between up to 20 events in a main viewing window, and with a single click, jump to another event. Video can be viewed in widescreen (16:9) and normal (4:3) views and can be expanded to full screen or reduced to a compact size.  Recently completed events will continue to be archived and available for on-demand replay.

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Boba Fett Confronts Jedi Mickey in Official Artwork for 2010 Star Wars Weekends

Artwork for 2010 Star Wars Weekends at Disney's Hollywood StudiosThe official artwork for the 2010 Star Wars Weekends was released today on StarWars.com. Featuring Boba Fett taking on Jedi Mickey, the artwork does give credence to the speculation that the weekends’ festivities will be focused on bounty hunters.

What is known for certain about the special event, which takes place at Disney’s Hollywood Studios Fridays – Sundays from May 21 – June 13, is that it will pay respect to The Empire Strikes Back which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

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Main Street Electrical Parade Returns to Walt Disney World for ‘Summer Nightastic'; Tower of Terror Upgrade

At a media event taking place this evening at the ESPN Wide World of Sports, Walt Disney World has confirmed a ‘Summer Nightastic’ line-up of events beginning in June in which the historic Main Street Electrical Parade will find its way back along the streets of the Magic Kingdom. With updated LED technology, a new audio system and even new floats, featuring Tinker Bell, Pinocchio and Snow White, the classic favorite is sure to thrill a whole new generation.

During the summer-long event, it’s also expected that Wishes will be temporarily replaced by Magic, Music and Mayhem, the odds-on favorite from the former Pirate and Princess Parties.

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Disney Teams up with First Lady Michelle Obama to Create Healthier Generation

As part of its ongoing effort to promote healthy lifestyles and nutrition for kids and families, Disney today announced that it will develop a program in collaboration with First Lady Michelle Obama supporting “Let’s Move,” her newly announced campaign to create a healthier generation.

“Having been at the forefront of making healthier lifestyle choices appealing to kids and families, Disney is delighted to work with the First Lady to promote exercise, nutrition and healthy living”

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ABC Affiliates, Advertisers Cry Foul over Actions by ESPN and ABC News

Disney has been driving on thin, black ice lately when it comes to their ABC affiliates and their advertisers.

Two separate events are threatening the financial stability of the ABC network’s affiliate stations, most notably throughout the southern region of the United States.

The affiliates are noticeably upset over recent moves by Disney-owned ESPN taking several sporting events away from the affiliates, most notably several NASCAR events. It’s believed that ESPN, which has been producing all sports for the ABC network since 2006, is being handed carte blanche from the parent corporation in terms of which events it can air exclusively because it helps justifies the already industry-high retransmission fees from cable operators. The affiliates fear a significant loss in programming and local ad revenue as a result.

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Video: Drew Brees Ticker-Tape Parade at the Magic Kingdom

Here’s some footage courtesy of Walt Disney World from today’s ticker-tape parade for the 2010 Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints

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Mary J. Blige to be Keynote Speaker at 2010 Disney’s Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey

Singer/producer/actress Mary J. Blige, the “Queen of Hip-Hop Soul,” will be the Keynote Speaker as part of the third annual Disney’s Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey. The event will be held Feb. 11-14 at Walt Disney World Resort.

In partnership with nationally syndicated radio personality Steve Harvey, Walt Disney World Resort will host 100 high school students from across the nation at this year’s academy – giving them unprecedented access to the magic behind Walt Disney World Resort and creating unique, interactive seminars with a wide range of enriching and inspiration topics from “the unseen jobs of entertainment” to “the business of sports” to “the power of networking.”

Blige, whose latest album “Stronger withEach Tear” hit No. 2 on the Billboard Top 200 Album Charts, will speak at the academy’s Commencement Ceremony, a graduation of sorts for the students. Past Keynote Speakers include Judge Greg Mathis and BET Founder Bob Johnson.

Other celebrities scheduled to share their blueprints for success at this year’s academy include R&B star Cupid; actor Roshon Fagen (“Camp Rock”); CNN correspondent Christopher Lawrence; actor Daniel Curtis Lee (“Disney’s Zeke & Luther”); songstress Kimberley Locke; actors Chris (“Zoey 101″) and Kyle (“Cory in the House”) Massey; actress Tamara Mowry (“Sister, Sister”); producer Will Packer (“Stomp The Yard”); singer Ruben Studdard; gospel group Trin-i-tee 5:7; and celebrity trainer Harvey Walden. As in 2009, Sherri Shepherd, actress and co-host of “The View,” will return to host the celebrity conversations. Contemporary gospel star Yolanda Adams will speak at the event’s opening ceremony.

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Disney Animal Experts Say Farewell to Flippered and Furry Friends

Key Largo Woodrat. Photo courtesy of DisneyBreaking up is hard to do – especially before Valentine’s Day. But for a team of animal care experts from Disney’s Animal Programs, saying goodbye often means a new beginning for the wildlife they’ve taken under their wing.

During the next few weeks, animal managers, veterinarians and behaviorists will wish farewell to dozens of endangered animals that will return to their native Florida habitat after spending weeks, months or even years with members of the Disney team. The animals range from a tiny, 11-ounce endangered rodent to a recently rehabilitated four-pound sea turtle to an eight-foot, 828-pound manatee. Whether flippers or feet, the common thread is that each one has received top-notch care as a reflection of Disney’s commitment to animal conservation and wildlife rehabilitation.

CRACKING THE CODE ON WOODRAT LOVE
Most recently, the animal care team collaborated with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Lowry Park Zoo on the first-ever reintroduction of 14 Key Largo woodrats to the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge in South Florida. The woodrats were bred at both Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa as part of a recovery plan to augment the existing population found only in Key Largo. Scientists estimate that this native species has dwindled to about 500 after years of habitat loss, drought and the invasion of non-native animal species, such as the Burmese python.

“Although small in size, the Key Largo woodrat plays a larger role in the circle of life,” according to Anne Savage, senior conservation biologist at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. “Through diligent study, we may be able to link these tiny rodents to the distribution of essential sources of food for other animals. That activity could facilitate the growth of fungus, trees and other fauna. That’s an important reason to be concerned about saving them.”

Prior to their release at Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge, the Key Largo woodrats were placed in individual enclosures with nest structures designed and built by refuge volunteers.  Supplemental food was provided for nearly a week while conservation biologists observed the animals in their new environment and felt comfortable removing the animals’ protective enclosures. Each animal has been fitted with radio-collared transmitter which will help scientists track their movements once released.

Breeding this elusive species was a challenge since scientists had very little information about social structure, reproductive biology or ecology. Through diligent research, Disney animal experts studied the behavior of this nocturnal animal and found ways to successfully breed 30 of the native species. Since June 2006, 18 litters have been born in Disney’s colony with litter size ranging from one to three pups.

Aside from scientific discovery, researchers develop special attachments to many of the Key Largo woodrats. “It feels similar to sending children off to college,” said Savage. “As scientists, we hope the woodrats have cultivated the skills to survive on their own and they will be successful in their natural habitat. It’s exciting to be part of this conservation effort and see them move on to their next chapter.”

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Photo Gallery: Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees in Ticker-Tape Parade at Magic Kingdom

Super Bowl XLIV MVP Drew Brees joins Mickey Mouse Feb. 8, 2010 in a celebratory parade in the Magic Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Brees, the quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, is the latest celebrity to star in the “I’m Going to Disney World!” and “I’m Going to Disneyland” commercials which aired only hours after the NFL championship game ended. Brees led his team to a 31-17 victory over the AFC champion Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV in Miami. (Kent Phillips, photographer)

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