The New Fantasyland

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Last Tuesday night, the Walt Disney Co. held a media event to provide an update on all the grat things happening at Disney’s Parks and Resorts as well as launch their Let the Memories Begin campaign.

Al Weiss, President of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, spoke first and provided an update on what the year has brought to the parks and how the future looks from where he sits; and he thinks they look pretty good. He welcomed us and primed the pump for the speakers as well as what we were going to see that evening. He mentioned that there were more projects on the slate at one time than at any other time during the entire history of the company.

He then proceeded to showcase some of the great things going on around Disney’s World from a high level perspective. From Paris with Toy Story Playground to California and the World of Color at Disney’s California Adventure. He then spoke to the news Cars Land for 2012 at DCA.

Al then proceeded Westward and spoke of Aulani, the new Disney Vacation Club, in Hawaii and Hong Kong Disneyland, before landing in Shanghai and the new park to be built there. Finishing up with Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Dream – which brought a warm response from those in the audience. Closing up with the Let the Memories Begin Campaign, he introduced Meg Crofton.

I had worked directly with Al during my time at Disney and spoke with him before the event. He has a warm and personable guy with a friendly demeanor that was happy to talk, not only with me, but everyone I saw go up to shake his hand. It is nice to see that type of engagement from such a high level executive.

The Little Mermaid

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Meg Crofton, President of the Walt Disney World Resort, followed up and proceeded to run through the projects in process for the Walt Disney World Resort. The details of the project were detailed for us with a video introduction to the overall campaign, showcasing families and footage that coincided with the campaign as well as what things are coming soon to the park.

Starting on the Wild Africa Trek at Disney’s Animal Kingdom she proceeded through the enhancements and expansions going on throughout the resort with visits to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Via Napoli, parades and more; interspersing some of these with videos of the experiences.

I had also worked with Meg during my time at Disney; my team reported through to her and provided executive support to all the Disney C-level teams. Meg was a very straight-talking boss, but friendly and approachable by everyone and I enjoyed working for her and her team.

Meg finished up by introducing Eric Jacobson, Senior Vice President Creative Development at Walt Disney Imagineering. He provided the details that all of us wanted to hear about the New Fantasyland expansion at the Magic Kingdom.

© Copyright Disney

He showed several of the great theme concepts for us as he spoke through some of the major attractions to be added with the largest expansion to the Magic Kingdom since it opened. There are some minor differences to the original plans released, and the speculation that is rampant amongst the fan-base, which we can only attribute to the impact that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure has had on local park attendance.

The next speaker was Peter Yesawich, from Ypartnership, and he spoke of the market research their company performed on behalf of the Walt Disney Co. to find out more about kids, families and vacations. And yes, I worked for him too…

Finally, the last speaker was Alan Bruun, Show Director Walt Disney Creative Entertainment. Alan provided some amazing details on the newest show to hit the park, The Magic, Memories and You! It is absolutely stunning to hear the level of effort put into this show. Hand-selecting 500 high-quality images from the park everyday to put into the show, is quite a feat; but projecting them onto the castle from sixteen different projectors position around the park boggles the mind.

In preparation for the show, they actually developed a 3-D model of the castle so they could create an immersive and believeable projection show on the castle. The image above shows the projection of the 3-D grid onto the castle for review and possible refinement. There is really no way to give the show justice with words alone. It is one of the greatest shows I have seen at the Magic Kingdom in years. The team has done a great job and I look forward to seeing this show again and again.

After these presentations Al came back on stage to wrap it up and send us out to the park to experience these shows firsthand. It was a great event capped off by a memorable evening of classic Disney Magic. The hype from the executives matched the performance of the show and I cannot recommend The Magic, The Memories and You! enough. It is a new type of show that integrates Cinderella Castle in such a new and dramatic way that you must see it to really experience how cool it is.

We will have plenty more information with more details as they become available. We will also have more information on the other great events associated with this event and the Christening of Disney Cruise Line’s the Disney Dream.

Disclosure: I was an invited guest on this media event. As a guest, The Walt Disney Co. provided food and lodging during my trip to the park. I am under no obligations to The Walt Disney Co. from this media event and write about the experiences so our guests on can learn more about the many destination vacation opportunities available from Disney’s Parks and Resorts.