Orlando, Amelia Island, The Everglades, and Hurricanes: Your Guide to a Florida Vacation

Orlando, Amelia Island, The Everglades, and Hurricanes: Your Guide to a Florida Vacation

Summer will be here before you know it, and as the last school bell rings for the year, you may be wondering how you will keep your children from going stir crazy over the next few months. If your children do not want to face another summer at a camp and are not too thrilled about spending a few weeks with grandma, there is one other option for you to consider. Why not plan a trip to Florida?

The following guide will prepare you for everything that you need to do before and during your Florida vacation so you and your family can have fun, and stay safe while sticking to your budget. In fact, after reading this guide and taking your vacation, you will be a pro on the shortcuts from Orlando to Miami and the best places to grab a burger. Well, you may not be an expert, you will know everything you need to know to have a blast this summer in Florida.

Orlando

Orlando Florida

Yes, this is the home of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, but Orlando offers so much more than Disney. In fact, one of the first things that you should do upon arrival to Orlando is to buckle up and fasten those seatbelts.

Are your children fans of the Fast and Furious movie franchise? Do you get a little excited when you hear a new sequel is coming out? This movie franchise is the highest grossing series ever for Universal Pictures, and as the trailers for a new sequel are hitting television screens around the country, the high-octane ride can now be experienced by visitors this year at Universal Studios Florida. You and your children can investigate the offices of none other than Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel), and you will even have the opportunity to look at the cars that have made appearances on the big screen.

If you are planning to stay a few nights in Orlando, why not reserve a room at a hotel that has a lazy river. There is not just one hotel in Orlando that has a lazy river, there are 11. So, if your family enjoys leisurely floating down a river while relaxing, your most difficult decision will be choosing which hotel suits your needs best.

A TripAdvisor survey rated the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek as the best hotel with a waterscape. This hotel is located in close proximity to Disney World, and a shuttle service provides free transportation from the hotel to all of the Disney World parks.

Amelia Island

Amelia Island Lighthouse

If you want to plan a vacation that is a little more upscale, but still has kid-friendly options, Amelia Island is an excellent choice. Sprawling over more than 1300 acres, the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort is located at the very tip of the barrier island that is located directly off the coast.

There are almost 4 miles of beautiful, pristine beach to enjoy, and with so many family-friendly activities, it would be impossible for you and your family to have a chance to participate in all of them on your first visit.

Named after King George II of England’s daughter, Amelia, Amelia Island is also referred to as the Isle of 8 Flags. This island is the only property in the United States that has been governed under eight different flags. Although once known as a safe haven for nobles, rumrunners, pirates and confederates, it now has a reputation for being charming and eclectic. Antique shops, quaint and intimate eateries, and art galleries line the 50 block area.

Everglades National Park

The Everglades are a national icon because they are the biggest sub-tropical area of wilderness in the 48 contiguous states. They once reached from Central Florida to Florida Bay. The Everglades is a massive park, and it will take a few hours to drive from one end to the other.

Visitors to the Everglades are often at a loss as to how to begin exploring the park. A lot of the park is inaccessible by vehicles because it is in the swamp. A good idea is to book a trip with a local guiding company. There are many who accept children.

Hurricanes and Florida

Florida had been fortunate in that it had maintained its hurricane-free streak for the past few years. And, when the 2016 hurricane season arrived, it marked the first time in history that the state had avoided a direct hit from a hurricane in more than a decade. However, that all changed when Hurricane Hermine, a category 1 hurricane, made landfall, even though it was quickly downgraded to a tropical storm.

Shortly after, Hurricane Matthew, a category 3 hurricane, appeared. Although it did not directly make landfall, the storm did manage to churn the coast for an entire day, causing fatalities and damaged towns, and also leaving over a million residents without electricity. Many weather experts went on record to say that the 2016 hurricane season in the Atlantic was more active than a normal season.

So, you may be wondering how often a hurricane makes a direct impact on the state. Typically, only one or two hurricanes affect the entire east coast of the United States every year. Of these hurricanes, less than 50 percent hit the state of Florida. Only 37 hurricanes have hit the state since 1851.

All of this means that there is a very low statistical risk that a hurricane will make landfall during your vacation. However, if you are planning your vacation between the months of June and October, you may want to err on the side of caution. Taking out travel insurance, and selecting a hotel that offers a guarantee in case of a hurricane are two options. Both will enable you to be reimbursed if your trip is interrupted or canceled because of a storm.

The summer signals the time of year when your kids are more than ready to put aside their books and school uniforms and trade them for shorts, sandals and sand buckets. This guide has hopefully gone some way to helping you plan an unforgettable summer vacation your children will cherish for the rest of their lives.

Emma Watson and Dan Stevens Talk Beauty and the Beast

Emma Watson and Dan Stevens Talk Beauty and the Beast

Emma Watson and Dan Stevens were our last interview of the day during our #BeOurGuestEvent press day. We sat in our interview room after lunch anxiously awaiting the pair. They both seemed to glide into the room and immediately headed for the Funko Pop figurines on the table. Emma was wearing a completely different dress from the one we had seen her in early that day. We’d hear some many wonderful things about the pair all day, so we couldn’t wait to talk to them about the film.

Coralie Seright – Lovebugs and Postcards

We briefly touched on the audition process with the director earlier in the day. You’re probably wondering like most people if Emma is actually singing in the film. We’d already learn that she was committed to learning to sing for this part. We wanted to know from Emma and Dan how the audition process was for them.

Emma Watson: I think for Disney, it was about wanting to explore whether or not I could sing. I think, really that was the major question mark, so I was put together an audition tape, and I went away and trained. Then I did that classic thing of waiting on tentative hooks to get the call, and to hear whether or not it was up to standard and thankfully it was, so I got offered the role which was just very, very exciting, really.

Dan Stevens : And yes, for me I put a song on tape for, for Bill Condon, and it was the Beast song from the Broadway musical which we end up not using in the movie, but it is was because the Beast doesn’t sing in the animated film. Fortunately he like it.

Belle (Emma Watson) comes to realize that underneath the hideous exterior of the Beast (Dan Stevens) there is the kind heart of a Prince in Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, a live-action adaptation of the studio’s animated classic directed by Bill Condon.

Wardrobe and costumes play and integral part in any movie or television show.  We wanted to know what was it like seeing themselves in full costume the first time?

EW : It was kind of amazing, [LAUGHS]. I think because Belle, you know, it’s a fairytale; I play kind of an architype, really. She’s more of a symbol. The way that I got into character was I sort of started to feel like I was understanding her really well through her costume, so it was like working on putting together the boots that she wore and she had kind of these slightly scruffy socks, and she had the bloomers underneath her skirt which meant that she could swing her leg over a horse.

And creating the kind of tool belt that she has on for when she’s inventing things, and it will carry her books and all these little details. She actually has a ring on this finger which actually just like one that I wear, which is one from my mom. I really felt like I was starting to get to know her, so her costume was really important for me, actually. 

DS : I didn’t really have a costume. Well, I did have a costume. The made costumes for the Beast. They were really giant coats that he wore, and this massive shredded cloak, but I never actually got to put it on. I spent the whole time, as the Beast, anyway, in a forty pound muscle suit on stilts covered in gray lycra. So I looked pretty odd, but nothing like the Beast that you see in the, in the movie.

Photo Credit: Coralie Seright – Lovebugs and Postcards

Emma Watson is known for her portrayal of Hermione in the Harry Potter series. Both Hermione and Belle are very strong charac- very strong characters. In which ways were you able to shape the character of Belle to help continue the empowerment of future generations that will be seeing this film, both young and impressionable?

EW : That’s really a good question. There was talk of- a little bit at the beginning, – of a wedding perhaps at the end, and that had not been in the original, and I was sort of like, oh, me, sorry, can I just point out this isn’t in the original. We need to stay faithful to the original, and I felt strongly about that. I felt very strongly that she needed to have a vocation to fill her time with, this is very important to me.

So we kind of co-opted what was originally kind of crazy ole Maurice’s identity, and I was like, well, that’s not the direction that Kevin’s taking the role in. Could I co-opt that for Bell, and we had her design this washing machine that allows her to have more time to read and to teach. That was super important to me. I think also, actually, people ask me a lot, you know, what’s it like being a Disney princess? And I go, well, actually, Belle isn’t a princess, [LAUGHS].

She’s actually one of the few Disney of young women who actually isn’t a princess. She’s an ordinary girl from an ordinary village and, and actually that’s very important about her, and she has no aspirations to be a princess. She has no aspirations to marry a prince. And so there was a line in the movie, originally, about Audra, the chest of drawers says to me, oh you know, we’ll make you a gown fit for a princess, and I asked Bill, I said, could I say actually, I’m not a princess?

And he was like, yeah, sure. And so just like little things like that where I just felt like I was protecting and defending Belle’s sort of original DNA and just making sure that we stay truthful and, and faithful to this very independent young woman.

Belle (Emma Watson) comes to realize that underneath the hideous exterior of the Beast (Dan Stevens) there is the kind heart of a Prince in Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, a live-action adaptation of the studio’s animated classic directed by Bill Condon.

We briefly touched on the dancing scenes in the film. Both actors did an amazing job, they trained for three months to learn all the dances for the movie. First they started with separate partners, then started dancing with each other. Both credited learning to Waltz with helping them build chemistry for the film.

Emma Watson as Belle in Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, a live-action adaptation of the studio’s classic animated film.

While discussing the dress Dan shared a funny story with us about how his five year old daughter overheard Emma and him talking about the design of the dress. She went to her room and sketched five designs. Emma played along and picked a favorite, and a few weeks later when his daughter appeared on the set and saw the dress her response – “Yep, that’s the one!”. In her mind she designed that dress. Emma shared the qualities she required of the dress.

EW : So yes, I was very heavily involved in the dress. Trying to get the dress right was really difficult because we needed to dress her to serve a number of different purposes and functions. So it needed to be of the period, so originally we started off with a very kind of like seventeenth century traditional dress, but then we realized that it didn’t do that, like, really cute twirly thing that it does in the animation, when the dress, like, spins behind her?

We were like, damn. It has to do that, [AUDIENCE LAUGHS], otherwise it’s not right. So we’re like, okay, back to the drawing board. It’s gotta twirl. All right, so it can’t be quite seventeenth century, but the bottom’s gotta be different, so let me try another version of it, which kind of have that movement. It needed to be light, so we made it out of chiffon, and then we were like, she’s also gotta ride a horse in it, and she’s gotta be able to kind of go into the third part of the movie which is where she goes back to see her father. So it also kind of needs to feel like an action hero dress which is why the front of the dress looks a bit like a coat of armor.

It’s got gold flecks in it, and it kind of like had that kind of warrior element to it, as well. So, yeah, we kind of created a warrior, modern seventeenth century twisty, twirly dress hybrid.

Coralie Seright – Lovebugs and Postcards

One of the last things we asked about was what was important for both of them, for girls and boys to take away from this movie, because it’s a great- on both sides, there’s such great messages for boys and girls to learn.

DS : There really are. I remember even for me, the animated film as being a Disney film that was immediately loved by boys and girls. I actually have a great friend of mine who’s now in his midthirties. He grew up in the west of England in the countryside, who for him, Belle was his greatest hero, and he used to go into the fields of Somerset and sing, I want to venture in the great wide somewhere [AUDIENCE LAUGHS], you know, because there’s something about the spirit of Belle that is to be championed in all of us. I think that curiosity, that imagination, that ability to see beneath the surface deep, but also to see beyond your immediate surroundings. And she has tremendous vision in all, in all ways, and I think that’s, that something to be applauded.

EW : I think as a child, I had a very hard time working out sometime to why people weren’t kind to other people, and trying to kind of like understand. I think what is so beautiful about Belle is that she’s so nonjudgmental. It’s her ability to see beyond the surface of things and to understand that kind of everyone has a story, and you don’t always know what that story is, and to kind of look deeper into things before you make a judgement.

And, so there’s a kind of like a compassion and empathy there which I think is kind of a relief because I don’t think anyone is inherently evil. I think there’s light and dark in everyone, and I think that she kind of- she symbolizes that very well.

Coralie Seright – Lovebugs and Postcards

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast opens in theaters everywhere on March 17th. Check out the trailer below.

About Beauty and the Beast:

The story and characters audiences know and love come to spectacular life in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” a live-action adaption on of the studio’s animated classic featuring an extraordinary ensemble cast, including: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Hattie Morahan and Nathan Mack with Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson.

Directed by Bill Condon and based on the 1991 animated film “Beauty and the Beast,” the screenplay is written by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos. Alan Menken provides the score, which includes new recordings of the original songs written by Menken and Howard Ashman as well as three new songs written by Menken and Tim Rice. The film is produced by Mandeville Films’ David Hoberman, p.g.a. and Todd Lieberman, p.g.a with Jeffrey Silver, Thomas Schumacher and Don Hahn serving as executive producers.

Special Behind the Scenes Look at the Making of Moana

Special Behind the Scenes Look at the Making of Moana

This week during the #BeOurGuestEvent we had the opportunity to go behind the scenes to learn about the making of Moana. Thanks to Disney Home Entertainment we were treated with a special presentation from an authentic dance troupe from the Pacific Islands. The presentation included a bonus features showcase and a Q+A with Directors Ron Clements & John MuskerProducer Osnat Shurer, Costume Designer Neysa Bove and “Mini Maui” 2D Animation Supervisor Eric Goldberg….and of course the Polynesian dancers!

Our evening started with a special dance presentation before producer Osnat Shurer introduced the directors Ron Clements & John Musker to our group. They started by telling us about how they came up with the idea of Moana. Originally the story was centered about Demigod Maui and his shapeshifting powers. When they pitched the story to John Lasseter, he encouraged them to do research and that’s when we traveled to the Pacific Islands to immerse themselves in the culture. They met and interviewed archaeologists, anthropologists, linguists, villagers, sailors, navigators, and many other people on the islands to learn as much as they could about the culture.  That research trip changed the direction of the film to the current film we’ve seen and fallen in love with. You can learn about the research by watching the bonus feature “Voice of the Islands”

After a couple more presentations we had a question and answer portion with the directors, producer, costume designer, and animator. We had the opportunity to ask questions about the filmmaking process and more.

We jumped right in with the questions starting with what was one thing they saw from the culture that’s still living within that region that they wish that people here sort of would embrace?

John M: The idea of knowing your mountain is a cool thing, which basically has to do with looking to the past and to the future. That you’re the soul of everything.  That you had sometimes in our culture, it’s all just about what’s here now, or what’s coming. But they had a real respect for their ancestors in the past. I think we could take a cue from that in terms of moving forward. That’s one of the things I, I really liked.

Ron C: There’s a big emphasis on connection, and interconnectedness. Connecting to the people around you, the people that were before you, and the people who will come after you. And connecting to nature and, and that sort of sense I think that people on an island have very strongly sense of, we’re all in this together sort of attitude.

We’re in a culture now where there’s a lot of talk about, walls and building this, and building that. The lesson we saw down there was an emphasis on the ocean doesn’t divide people, it connects people. And, and so, a society or world where they it emphasizes. And I think that’s what this film did really in a way that celebrates a culture, we’re trying to get a window to a culture that we don’t know about.

Although it may be a bit early for them we asked about the possibility of a sequel for Moana. I know my family would love to see that for sure. Ron talked about their willingness to explore other Polynesian mythology, and the producer told us about the process for sequels.

Osnat: The, the way we work with sequels here at Disney Animation Studios is that, the filmmakers will after a little rest come back into development, and talk, and think about what they’d like to do next. If there’s a really compelling story from within a world that we’ve already explored, we’ll look at doing a sequel. It will rarely come from the outside. It’ll come from the inside out.

We asked what kind of compliments they have received since the film has been released? I know for me personally, it was very touching to see a culture represented with help from the people in that area of the world. It was beautiful to watch and it was even more special to learn about how much they impacted the film.

Osnat: For, for me there were many, many moments, but one that stands out is, I got to go back to Tahiti. We were announcing that we were translating the movie into Tahitian, this is the first time ever the movies have been translated, ‘cause everybody speaks French, and it was a request that we got from Hinano, who you saw in the film. We were able to make this happen, and the joy, the love, the, the reception that we got, it’s going to go into all the schools. We’re doing the mix after next week. It’s the only movie ever in Tahitian. It’s going to be in 60 schools, the Tahitian Language Academy’s involved, and people were just like, “Thank you. We’re bringing our culture back, and bringing our language back.” So, to me that was the most meaningful moment.

Learn About Dance & Culture of the South Pacific Islands

After screening, the bonus features and our question and answer portion attended a special presentation with Tiana Liufau about her contributions to the film. She shared about dances in the movie and how dance is a part of her culture.

After the presentation, I snapped a few photos with Tiana and her dances while waiting for dinner. Fellow blogger Tami shared photos of some of the delicious food we had the opportunity to try over at her blog Talking with Tami.

I had a great night jumping into the beauty of Moana in a new way. Be sure to grab your Blu-ray combo pack of Moana which is available in stores now. So you can view all these special bonus features and learn so much more about the people of the South Pacific Islands.

About Moana:

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Moana,” the sweeping story of a spirited teenager who sets sail on a daring adventure to save her people, starring newcomer Aulii Cravalho as the voice of brave and tenacious Moana and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (HBO’s “Ballers,” “Central Intelligence”) as the larger-than-life demigod Maui, has dazzled both critics and audiences. The film earned a 95critics’ consensus on Rotten Tomatoes and the No. 1 spot at the domestic box office opening weekend. Now, “Moana” sets a new course, arriving in homes on Digital HD/3D and Disney Movies Anywhere (DMA) on Feb. 21, and on Blu-ray 3D™, Blu-ray, DVD and On-Demand on March 7.


Walt Disney Studios 2017 Movie Slate

Walt Disney Studios 2017 Movie Slate

It’s going to be another great year at the movies, and Walt Disney Studios has a great line up.  I’ve been looking forward to 2017 for a while now.  My favorite Disney movie of all time is being remade into a live-action film.  I’ve been waiting on Beauty and the Beast since I saw the first poster.

Another film high on my list this year is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.  Since being invited to a super secret set visit last year, I’ve been waiting to share details about this film with you.  Soon I’ll be spilling the beans so be sure to check back.

March 17, 2017 BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Walt Disney Studios)

#BeautyAndTheBeast #BeOurGuest

 

The story and characters audiences know and love come to spectacular life in the live-action adaptation of Disney’s animated classic “Beauty and the Beast,” a stunning, cinematic event celebrating one of the most beloved tales ever told. “Beauty and the Beast” is the fantastic journey of Belle, a bright, beautiful and independent young woman who is taken prisoner by a Beast in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the Beast’s hideous exterior and realize the kind heart of the true Prince within. The film stars: Emma Watson as Belle; Dan Stevens as the Beast; Luke Evans as Gaston, the handsome, but shallow villager who woos Belle; Kevin Kline as Maurice, Belle’s father; Josh Gad as LeFou, Gaston’s long-suffering aide-de-camp; Ewan McGregor as Lumière, the candelabra; Stanley Tucci as Maestro Cadenza, the harpsichord; Audra McDonald as Madame de Garderobe, the wardrobe; Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette, the feather duster; Hattie Morahan as the enchantress; and Nathan Mack as Chip, the teacup; with Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, the mantel clock; and Emma Thompson as the teapot, Mrs. Potts.

Directed by Bill Condon based on the 1991 animated film, “Beauty and the Beast,” the screenplay is written by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos and produced by Mandeville Films’ David Hoberman, p.g.a. and Todd Lieberman, p.g.a. with Jeffrey Silver, Thomas Schumacher and Don Hahn serving as executive producers. Alan Menken, who won two Academy Awards® (Best Original Score and Best Song) for the animated film, provides the score, which includes new recordings of the original songs written by Menken and Howard Ashman, as well as three new songs written by Menken and Tim Rice. “Beauty and the Beast” will be released in U.S. theaters on March 17, 2017.

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April 21, 2017 – BORN IN CHINA (Disneynature)

#BornInChina

Narrated by John Krasinski (“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi,” NBC’s “The Office,” “Amazon’s “Jack Ryan”), Disneynature’s new True Life Adventure film “Born In China” takes an epic journey into the wilds of China where few people have ever ventured. Following the stories of three animal families, the film transports audiences to some of the most extreme environments on Earth to witness some of the most intimate moments ever captured in a nature film. A doting panda bear mother guides her growing baby as she begins to explore and seek independence. A two-year-old golden monkey who feels displaced by his new baby sister joins up with a group of free-spirited outcasts. And a mother snow leopard—an elusive animal rarely caught on camera—faces the very real drama of raising her two cubs in one of the harshest and most unforgiving environments on the planet. Featuring stunning, never-before-seen imagery, the film navigates China’s vast terrain—from the frigid mountains to the heart of the bamboo forest—on the wings of red-crowned cranes, seamlessly tying the extraordinary tales together. Opening in U.S. theaters on Earth Day 2017, “Born in China” is directed by accomplished Chinese filmmaker Lu Chuan, and produced by Disney’s Roy Conli and renowned nature filmmakers Brian Leith and Phil Chapman.

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May 5, 2017 – GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (Marvel Studios)

#GotGVol2

Set to the all-new sonic backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” continues the team’s adventures as they traverse the outer reaches of the cosmos. The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage. Old foes become new allies and fan-favorite characters from the classic comics will come to our heroes’ aid as the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand.

Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is directed by James Gunn and stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, featuring Vin Diesel as Groot, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Tommy Flanagan, Laura Haddock and Kurt Russell. Kevin Feige is producing, and Louis D’Esposito, Jonathan Schwartz, Victoria Alonso, Nik Korda and Stan Lee are the executive producers. The screenplay is by James Gunn. Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” blasts into theaters on May 5, 2017.

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May 26, 2017 – PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES (Walt Disney Studios)

#PiratesOfTheCaribbean #APiratesDeathForMe

Johnny Depp returns to the big screen as the iconic, swashbuckling anti-hero Jack Sparrow in the all-new “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.” The rip-roaring adventure finds down-on-his-luck Captain Jack feeling the winds of ill-fortune blowing strongly his way when deadly ghost sailors, led by the terrifying Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), escape from the Devil’s Triangle bent on killing every pirate at sea—notably Jack. Jack’s only hope of survival lies in the legendary Trident of Poseidon, but to find it he must forge an uneasy alliance with Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), a brilliant and beautiful astronomer, and Henry (Brenton Thwaites), a headstrong young sailor in the Royal Navy. At the helm of the Dying Gull, his pitifully small and shabby ship, Captain Jack seeks not only to reverse his recent spate of ill fortune, but to save his very life from the most formidable and malicious foe he has ever faced.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” also stars Kevin R. McNally as Joshamee Gibbs,  Golshifteh Farahani as the sea-witch Shansa, David Wenham as Scarfield, Stephen Graham as Scrum, and Geoffrey Rush as Captain Hector Barbossa.

 Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg are directing “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” with Jerry Bruckheimer producing. The executive producers are Mike Stenson, Chad Oman, Joe Caracciolo, Jr., Terry Rossio and Brigham Taylor. Jeff Nathanson wrote the screenplay. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” drops anchor in U.S. theaters on May 26, 2017.

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June 16, 2017 – CARS 3 (Disney / Pixar)

#Cars3

Blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast racers, the legendary Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) is suddenly pushed out of the sport he loves. To get back in the game, he will need the help of an eager young race technician, Cruz Ramirez (voice of Cristela Alonzo), with her own plan to win, plus inspiration from the late Fabulous Hudson Hornet and a few unexpected turns. Proving that #95 isn’t through yet will test the heart of a champion on Piston Cup Racing’s biggest stage!

Directed by Brian Fee (storyboard artist “Cars,” “Cars 2“) and produced by Kevin Reher (“A Bug’s Life,” “La Luna” short), “Cars 3” cruises into theaters on June 16, 2017.

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November 3, 2017 – THOR: RAGNAROK (Marvel Studios)

#ThorRagnarok

In Marvel Studios’ “Thor: Ragnarok,” Thor is imprisoned on the other side of the universe without his mighty hammer and finds himself in a race against time to get back to Asgard to stop Ragnarok—the destruction of his homeworld and the end of Asgardian civilization—at the hands of an all-powerful new threat, the ruthless Hela. But first he must survive a deadly gladiatorial contest that pits him against his former ally and fellow Avenger—the Incredible Hulk!

“Thor: Ragnarok” is directed by Taika Waititi and returns Chris Hemsworth starring as Thor and Tom Hiddleston reprising his role as Loki. They are joined by Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson and Karl Urban, with Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Hopkins.

Kevin Feige is producing with Louis D’Esposito, Brad Winderbaum, Victoria Alonso, Thomas M. Hammel and Stan Lee serving as executive producers. The story is byCraig Kyle & Christopher Yost and Stephany Folsom, and the screenplay is by Eric Pearson. “Thor: Ragnarok” thunders into U.S. theaters on November 3, 2017.

November 22, 2017 – COCO (Disney / Pixar)

#Coco

Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel (voice of newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt). Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector (voice of Gael García Bernal), and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history. Directed by Lee Unkrich (“Toy Story 3”), co-directed by Adrian Molina (story artist “Monsters University”) and produced by Darla K. Anderson (“Toy Story 3”), Disney•Pixar’s “Coco” opens in U.S. theaters on Nov. 22, 2017.

December 15, 2017 –  STAR WARS: EPISODE VIII (Lucasfilm)

#StarWarsVIII

Which film are you most excited about seeing this year?

 

My Favorite Moments of Disney Social Media Moms Conference

My Favorite Moments of Disney Social Media Moms Conference

I stepped out of my comfort zone and attended my first conference solo.  It’s been a while since getting married and having children, that I’ve done anything like this.  When the magical invite came for the Disney Social Media Moms Conference I wasn’t sure about attending, after talking to a few blogger friends and my husband I took that leap and registered.  Just to give you an idea Disney Social Media Moms Conference is an annual conference held by Disney Parks.  This year it was at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.

Disney Social Media Moms (4)

My day started pretty rocky for attending the conference.  I missed my early morning flight since I was planing on arriving early to eat lunch at Be Our Guest.  Luckily I was able to purchase a new ticket and get the conference in time.  I started by walking through the conference hall area and I had to take a photograph of these banners.  I’ve seen them online for year and always wanted to get my own photo there.

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I couldn’t get a good photo of me in the hallway but I walked those halls with pride.  I was so happy that I had decided to attend the conference and it was off to a great start already.

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I found some blogger buddies I had just meet the month before at the Captain America Event, so of course we had to take photos with us representing our team.  Taty of Cool Moms Cool Tips and Myrah of Coupon Mamacita, really helped me enjoyed the event as a solo blogger attending without my family.

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American Tourister had an amazing display of their products in the registration area.  I was super excited about that Iron Man luggage since I’m #TeamIronMan.  I was hoping to win one during the conference but unfortunately I didn’t win, however two lucky bloggers took home a three piece set of the Super Heros luggage and the Star War luggage.

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I just loved this photo of myself because it shows how happy and beautiful I looked at the event.  I was really having a fun time and looking forward to meeting lots of great people.

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During the opening dinner event at Animal Kingdom I had the opportunity to learn about The Lion Guard and get some cool swag for my littles since they were home and missing all the fun.

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Yes I was excited about taking a photo with Zootopia’s Nick Wilde and Judy Hops.  Luckily I was one of the first people to get a photograph with them.  I made sure I let all the kids know they were inside waiting to take photos.  The line quickly grew for photo ops with them.

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These sparkling chai tea dessert cups were simply delicious.  I loved the sparkle and shine of them so I had to take a photo to share.  They really sparkled during our nighttime event and I hope I get another bite of them soon.

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I traveled to the dark and light side.  It was a fun experience to visit Star Wars Launch Bay after the opening breakfast before the park opened.  Lines weren’t long so it was perfect for us influencers.  I have to say that Kylo Ren was pretty intimidating.

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I had a great time hanging with old friends and making some new ones.  Myrah really helped me through the event since I was by myself, especially on Mother’s Day morning.

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The character meet and greets were so much fun.  I just loved getting to take photos with characters I remember from my childhood and ones that my kids now love and enjoy as well.

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I participated in the Alamo Fun Run and meet Afropolitian Mom who walked with me around the World’s Showcase to the finish line.  It was great to participate and see the sun rise over Walt Disney World.  I still have my medal from that day hanging on my wall to remind me that I can do anything I put my mind to.

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One of my favorite memories from the Disney Social Media Moms Conference was getting to meet my favorite princess of all time Belle.  There were other princesses there but I waited in line to get a picture with her.  Within minutes tears formed in my eyes and just like that I was a little girl again.  I’ve always felt a special connection to Belle.  She loves to read just like me, she’s smart, caring, and she puts other’s before herself.  That’s me.  When I approached she complimented me on my dress, invited me to her castle and told me she would tell Beast I was there.  I know she probably says those words to everyone but it meant everything to me.  It was the perfect way to end the experience for me and one that I will never forget in my life.

Thanks to Walt Disney World Parks, BSM Media, and the Disney Social Media Moms Conference for inviting me to the conference.  I received discounted accommodations through the event.  Any opinions shared are my own.


Collecting Labels’ Top Boutique Hotels in Lake Buena Vista

Collecting Labels’ Top Boutique Hotels in Lake Buena Vista

My husband and I are planning our first family trip to Walt Disney World this year.  I can’t wait to take the kids and see the look on their faces when they realize they are visiting the happiest place on earth.  Collecting Labels shared a great post of Top Boutique Hotels in Lake Buena Vista and I wanted to share with my readers in case you’re planning a trip to the area anytime soon.

This post originally appeared on Collecting Labels’ “Top Boutique Hotels in Lake Buena Vista” on February 26th, 2016.

Photo by Brett Kiger via flickr

I haven’t been to Disney in almost ten years, but when I think about it, I always remember my first time there. I was ten. My parents took my brothers and me when they felt we’d all be old enough to enjoy it. My oldest brother Nick, was 16. Perhaps it was slightly too old to enjoy it. At least that’s how he felt.

He spent most of the vacation with his headphones on, discman tucked into his big baggy jeans. He was too cool for the autograph books, for the log flume, and the different countries in Epcot. Then we went to the Magic Kingdom and saw Mickey Mouse. It’s a look I’ll never forget. My big brother smiled. He posed with Mickey, got his autograph. He even laughed at the silliness of it all.

Now it’s time to go back with my boyfriend Luke. He’s been before, but we’ve never been together. I want to create new memories for us both, memories that we can look back on when we think of Disney that will make us smile and laugh.

Disney’s Grand Floridian

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is right next to the Seven Seas Lagoon. It’s the perfect place to base ourselves for enjoying the water park while also being a bit romantic. It has a private beach and a spa where we can get a couples massage. Then we can act like kids at the hotel’s waterslide, have breakfast with some of the characters, and easily access the rest of the park by bus.

Disney’s Beach Club Resort

Right near Epcot Center and Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Beach Club Resort is a great place to stay for enjoying my favorite parts of Disney. It’s a New England Style building with a private beach and the feel of a Connecticut yacht club. We can even hire a boat to take us from the hotel’s dock across to Epcot!

Jambo House

The sight of this hotel that looks over the Animal Kingdom just about melted my heart. The horseshoe-shaped balconies that face the savannas are a huge selling point for this hotel. It’s also one of the cheaper places to stay in Lake Buena Vista. Even just one night at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas at Jambo House would be an incredible experience.

Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort looks like a slice of paradise. I’ve never been to a Polynesian island, but it’s exactly as I imagine it would be: lots of teak furniture, surrounded by nature, and beautiful ocean views in every direction. One of the things I love about this hotel, in particular, is the option to watch Disney movies outside under the stars in the evenings.

Old Key West Resort

A perfect Florida theme for a perfect Florida getaway. Disney’s Old Key West Resort is colorful, bright and full of natural light. It’s Key West without being tacky. I love that each room has a balcony where you can sit and enjoy coffee in the morning while taking in the surroundings.

All this planning has gotten me so excited about our impending trip. No matter what hotel in Lake Buena Vista we choose, I’m confident that this trip is going to be full of memories.

This post originally appeared on Collecting Labels’ “Top Boutique Hotels in Lake Buena Vista” on February 26th, 2016.

First Poster for The BFG Revealed by Disney

First Poster for The BFG Revealed by Disney

Beauty and the Beast is my all time favorite Disney movie, in the top ten is James and the Giant Peach.  This year Disney is partnering with famed author Roald Dahl and director Stephen Spielburg to bring another of Dahl’s books to life again.  Here’s the first poster for the upcoming release.

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About The BFG

The BFG (Mark Rylance), while a giant himself, is a Big Friendly Giant and nothing like the other inhabitants of Giant Country. Standing 24-feet tall with enormous ears and a keen sense of smell, he is endearingly dim-witted and keeps to himself for the most part. Giants like Bloodbottler (Bill Hader) and Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement) on the other hand, are twice as big and at least twice as scary and have been known to eat humans, while the BFG prefers Snozzcumber and Frobscottle. Upon her arrival in Giant Country, Sophie, a precocious 10-year-old girl from London, is initially frightened of the mysterious giant who has brought her to his cave, but soon comes to realize that the BFG is actually quite gentle and charming, and, having never met a giant before, has many questions. The BFG brings Sophie to Dream Country where he collects dreams and sends them to children, teaching her all about the magic and mystery of dreams. 

Having both been on their own in the world up until now, their affection for one another quickly grows. But Sophie’s presence in Giant Country has attracted the unwanted attention of the other giants, who have become increasingly more bothersome. Says Spielberg, “It’s a story about friendship, it’s a story about loyalty and protecting your friends and it’s a story that shows that even a little girl can help a big giant solve his biggest problems.” Sophie and the BFG soon depart for London to see the Queen (Penelope Wilton) and warn her of the precarious giant situation, but they must first convince the Queen and her maid, Mary (Rebecca Hall), that giants do indeed exist. Together, they come up with a plan to get rid of the giants once and for all. 

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Directed by three-time Academy Award® winner Steven Spielberg (“Bridge of Spies,” “Schindler’s List,” ”Saving Private Ryan”) from a screenplay by Melissa Mathison (“E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” “The Black Stallion”) based on the best-selling novel by Roald Dahl, “The BFG” stars three-time Tony Award® and two-time Olivier Award winner Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies,” “Wolf Hall”), newcomer Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton (“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” “Downton Abbey”), Jemaine Clement (“Rio 2,” “The Flight of the Conchords”), Rebecca Hall (“The Gift,” “Iron Man 3”), Rafe Spall (“The Big Short,” “Prometheus”) and Bill Hader (“Inside Out,” “Trainwreck”). The film is produced by Spielberg, Frank Marshall (“Jurassic World,” “The Bourne Ultimatum”) and Sam Mercer (“Snow White and the Huntsman,” “The Sixth Sense”) with Kathleen Kennedy (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Lincoln”), John Madden (“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” “Shakespeare in Love”), Kristie Macosko Krieger (“Bridge of Spies,” “Lincoln”), Michael Siegel (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Rise of the Guardians”), Frank Smith and Naia Cucukov serving as executive producers. 

 Roald Dahl’s “The BFG” (Big Friendly Giant) was first published in 1982 and has been enchanting readers of all ages ever since. Dahl’s books, which also include “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “James and the Giant Peach” and “Matilda,” are currently available in 58 languages and have sold over 200 million copies worldwide. Originally created as a bedtime story, “The BFG” was Dahl’s own favorite of all his stories. “It was very important for us to be loyal to the language,” says Spielberg, “and the great writer Melissa Mathison, who also wrote ‘E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,’ wrote ‘The BFG.’”  

 “The BFG” opens in U.S. theaters on July 1, 2016, the year that marks the 100th anniversary of Dahl’s birth.

Learning About Creating Genie from Eric Goldberg #AladdinBloggers

Learning About Creating Genie from Eric Goldberg

I am not a great artist at all, as a matter of fact I don’t believe have any talent for drawing or painting at all but I was beyond excited to meet Head Animator of Genie, Eric Goldberg.  It was probably one of the most touching interviews we had during this trip because Mr. Goldberg shared his memories of working with Robin Williams with us.  He spoke to highly of Williams and brought almost the whole room to tears sharing those memories with us.

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Goldberg started drawing at the age of four, he learned by practicing to draw Woody Woodpecker.  He would spend hours creating flip books.  Genie was Goldberg’s first job at Disney and it was very memorable for him.  You could tell when he would talk about his time working on Genie.  He described Robin as an animator’s dream, sharing about how funny he was on set.  When you purchase your copy of Aladdin the bonus features also include ‘The Genie Outtakes,’ which is pretty much some of the takes that Robin gave when he came in to do his recording for the character.  Did you know that Robin Williams is also the narrator at the start of the movie.  I didn’t realize that until Goldberg shared it with us.

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Eric Goldberg

When Goldberg started drawing and creating different characters he had different influences but he credits Al Hirshfeld with being inspiration for Genie.  He said that’s why the character has so many smooth lines and he looks like a continuous line in some areas.   He did say though that he wasn’t responsible for Genie’s blue color.  Goldberg says he sees himself in Genie, and that the character has a warm place in his heart.

Genie Drawings

Animators have a very tough job when creating characters, they have to read the script and decide how they are going to bring that character to life through their animations.  Goldberg said he’s always learning about the characters he’s created even after the movie has been released.  One of our gifts from this trip was a signed lithograph of Genie, Goldberg personally signed them for all the bloggers.   Goldberg’s drawings are quite popular, he even has a book out called An Animators Gallery – it contains black and white drawings of all Disney characters.

Genie Drawings

Genie Drawings

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Before we started our drawing session with Goldbery, he shared special clips and more from his time working on Aladdin and creating Genie.  His favorite scene in the whole movie is the one where Genie is dancing with his hands during the ‘Friend Like Me’ song.

While my drawing isn’t the best this was an amazing experience and I would do it all over again just to hear Goldberg talk about Robin Williams and his amazing talent.

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Aladdin is releasing from the Disney Vault on Blu-Ray Combo Pack and DVD on October 13th, it’s already available on Digital HD and DMA.

Disclosure: I attended an expenses paid press trip with Disney Home Entertainment in exchange for sharing with my readers, all opinions expressed are my own.

Exclusive Aladdin Bonus Content

Exclusive Aladdin Bonus Content

Aladdin is coming out the vault, it’s already available on Disney Movies Anywhere and Digital HD.  The Diamond Edition Blu-Ray Combo Pack is hitting stores on October 13th, and I have some exclusive bonus content from the disk.  As a part of my recent #AladdinBloggers trip we had the opportunity to sit with head animator of Genie and he shared with us some of the content that would be available for this release.

In the clip below directors Ron and John talk about the movie Aladdin and the song ‘You Ain’t Never Had A Friend Like Me’.  Check out the clip below:

About Aladdin:

 Soar away on a magic carpet ride of nonstop laughs and thrills in one of the most spectacular adventures on all time! Now meticulously restored and enhanced – experience the wonders of “Aladdin” like never before, from the Academy Award®-winning music (Best Music, Original Song for “A Whole New World” and Best Music, Original Score, 1993) to the unforgettable moments of sidesplitting comedy and soaring adventure.

 In the heat of an enchanted city, a commoner named Aladdin and his mischievous monkey Abu battle to save the free-spirited Princess Jasmine from the schemes of the evil sorcerer Jafar. Aladdin’s whole life changes with one rub of a magic lamp as a fun-loving, shape-shifting Genie appears and grants him three wishes, setting him on an incredible journey of discovery.

Voice Cast: Robin Williams (Jumanji, Night at the Museum) as The Genie, Scott Weinger (TV’s “Full House”) as Aladdin, Linda Larkin as Jasmine, Gilbert Gottfried (TV’s “Saturday Night Live”) as Iago, Jonathan Freeman (Aladdin: the Musical on Broadway) as Jafar, Douglas Seale (Rescuers Down Under, For Love or Money) as Sultan and Frank Welker (Mulan, The Smurfs 2) as Abu.

 Producers: John Musker and Ron Clements  (The Little Mermaid, Hercules)

Writers:  Ron Clements and John Musker (The Little Mermaid, Hercules),Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio (Shrek, The Pirates of the Caribbean 1-4)

Music & Lyrics: Alan Menken – Music (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, The Hunchback of Notre Dame), Howard Ashman – Lyrics (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast), Tim Rice – Lyrics (The Lion King, Evita)

 Aladdin is available for purchase on DMA and Digital HD right now, you can purchase the DVD or Blu-Ray combo pack starting October 13th.

15 Minutes with Raffey Cassidy and Thomas Robinson #TomorrowlandBloggers

15 Minutes with Raffey Cassidy and Thomas Robinson

Last week during my Tomorrowland press junket we had fifteen minutes to chat with two stars of the movie.  Raffey Cassidy who plays Athena and Thomas Robinson who plays young Frank.  The scene with Thomas and Raffey at the beginning of the movie at the World’s Fair made my kids want to see Tomorrowland in theaters.  When chatting with the pair we had to find out what was their favorite scene from the movie.  Thomas said he liked the ‘Blast From the Past’ scenes.

Tomorrowland Kids Group Photo

At the time of our interview both kids stated they were thirteen but the movie took some time to film. Thomas shared that he actually started filming two days before his eleventh birthday.  So he was actually ten when filming started and Raffey was eleven when the cameras started rolling.  It took Brad Bird about one and a half years to complete the movie.

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During the film Young Frank and Athena develop a relationship when they are young, and Raffey and Thomas seem to also have a friendship as well.  They both agreed it was fun and cool to be on the set with each other.

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Raffey currently live in England but she shared with us her hopes for moving to California, “the weather would be more reliable here than a lot of places,” said Raffey comparing it rainy weather where she currently lives.  I have to say I was quite impressed with her character Athena, before seeing the movie I didn’t realize how big her role was in the film.  Without Athena’s drive and determination who know’s what would have happened.

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There’s a scene in the movie where Raffey is driving a car.  We asked her if she was actually driving and she said yes, she learned how to drive for the movie.  Before filming started they training for two months to learn stunts and action scenes.  Thomas actually completed twenty hours of indoor skydiving classes to prepare for one scene in the movie.  He was proud when he told us it was the equivalent of 15,000 skydives.

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We wondered what the kids took home from the set and souvenirs, especially Thomas.  We asked did he have the jet pack at home.  He laughed and said no, it was very heavy.  The actual pack weighs in at 40 pounds and according to Thomas the so-called light version was 39 pounds.  He couldn’t stop smiling when telling us about those packs.  Raffey said she took home a few pieces of rubber glass from a scene she filmed with Britt Robertson.

Tomorrowland Concept Art – Photo Credit: Disney

Both actors shared their plans to continue their educations and attend college.  Raffey has plans to attend British University while Thomas aspires to be a chef and attend culinary school.  Both said they plan to continue acting.  One of the last things we asked both kids was what they wanted people to know about the film.  Thomas said that it’s a reminder to remain optimistic and reach for the stars.  Raffey’s responded saying hopefully it impresses people and encourage them to believe that one person can change the world.

About Tomorrowland

tomorrowlandDreamers Wanted…Disney invites you to an incredible world of epic imagination where anything is possible. Buckle your seat belt, as the director of The Incredibles takes your family on an action-packed thrill ride.

Join former boy genius Frank (George Clooney), optimistic, science-minded teen Casey (Britt Robertson), mysterious Athena (Raffey Cassidy) and the brilliant David Nix (Hugh Laurie) in a world of pure Disney imagination. Tomorrowland transports you on an inspiring and magical journey of wonder and adventure to a place where if you can dream it, you can do it.

Disney’s Tomorrowland will be released on Blu-ray combo pack, Digital HD, and Disney Movies Anywhere on October 13th.  Visit a Disney Store or online to pre-order.

Kenny Ortega on Disney Descendants #DescendantsEvent

Kenny Ortega on Disney Descendants

I have to admit that when I was invited to my most recent press trip the one thing I was most excited for was the Descendants portion of the trip.  I’ve been watching for updates on this new Disney Channel Original Movie since I saw teasers online last year.  Something about it intrigued me from the start, so this was epic for me.  Aside from screening the movie and getting to watch DVD bonus scenes we also had the chance to interview Director Kenny Ortega.  You probably know him from his role in High School Musical or Hocus Pocus or his work with world-famous Michael Jackson.  Regardless of how you know his work you know he’s legendary and I had the honor of interviewing him.  He was just so down to earth.  He entered the room and the first thing he did was thank us for flying in and taking the time to screen the movie and do the interview with him.

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The first question came from Barb, she stated that she had been a fan of Ortega’s work since Xanadu and way, way back. She wanted to know because a lot of his work is different what inspires him to making that dance for that song?

Ortega: “What inspires me is years and years ago I had the opportunity to work with Gene Kelly.  Xanadu is what brought us together. Gene Kelly was someone who I grew up wanting to be like, singing, dancing, acting, directing, and choreographing.  I loved all of it and we became friends.  He became my mentor and he used to say to me that there needs to be a reason at the center of your ideas that motivates all of your work and so that and things that I shared with Michael Jackson and other amazing people who came into my life as mentors and teachers and friends.

Then I’m always looking when I read a script or when I’m pitched an idea for those things that live in the center of the big picture that move me, that motivate me, that excited me and they give me purpose and reason to get up and go to work every day and to have ideas. And so when music and dance become part of the storytelling it’s fairly simple for me when you can turn a page and there’s a reason for it to exist. You know, part of my work is already accomplished, that the writer has the characters go from here to here and this is what happens in between. Now you wanna develop a musical number that helps you achieve that and that not only goes for the lyrics but the feel of the music, the style of the music and what those and how the staging or choreography would be designed.”

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Ortega has worked on a lot of musicals.  In my circles he’s touted for his work on High School Musical and I’m a huge Hocus Pocus fan, although I didn’t know he was connected to that film until I attended this trip.  Ortega stated that Descendants had very special memories for him.

Ortega: “I think perhaps it had a lot to do with when in the beginning Gary Marsh reached out to me and said ‘I’ve been waiting ever since High School Musical and our success together as a team to find something that had your name on it that would give me purpose to call you and to say come on back and so I’m sending you something tonight. Will you take a moment to look at it. I hope that you feel about it as I do’.  When I read it I was blown away. I mean here I was a kid that grew up watching Disney and watching Disney animations, Cruella Deville, Maleficent, all of these magnificent Walt Disney characters and suddenly they were on the page and I was like I’m being invited to be able to like play with these iconic heritage characters and their offspring to develop brand new characters for Disney.

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So right there it was like so thrilling for me and then everything that happened thereafter, the wonderful writing team that I had to work with, the openness of this studio and the support that I felt from them, five months of looking for the cast, looking in Great Britain, all through Canada, all across the United States and even as far as Australia to find our Prince.  Then to show up and to realize that everyone was excited in bringing something to the day. That there are selections that landed us with a company of people, whether they be behind the camera or in front of the camera that really wanted to be there and so it was joyous, every minute of it.  Every day I opened my eyes I couldn’t wait to get on the set.”

Being on set with a legend like Ortega must have been both amazing and a bit intimidating for some of the cast.  Not all of them had dancing skills and I can honestly tell you the musical numbers are great in this movie.  Ortega shares how it was being on set with a cast that had both dancers and non-dancers for this movie.

Ortega: “It’s something that I’ve done all along all the way back to Newsies which was my first film as a director. Christian Bale had come to us. He was not a dancer, not a singer. David Moscow and all of the leading kids were actors. Gabriel Damon, Max Casella, Marty Balasko. All these amazing kids were these amazing actors that had this sort of drive and ambition and they were ready for anything and they wanted to be challenged and they were brave and courageous kids and I felt that with these people. And that I’ve always found that like with High School Musical one and two and three we incorporated sport into choreography, sport as dance and so we would use real baseball players with actors and dancers.

What it did was the actors would raise the bar of the dancers and the athletes and all the way around it worked. So with Descendants we had kind of a factory. We had three different rooms. I had an amazing group of assistants that worked with Paul Becker, my associate choreographer and these kids were given dance class improv. They were stretched. They were given private tutoring and then also the dancers generously sort of took it upon themselves to sort of mentor the actors.

So you watched kids learn really ten times as fast as they might in an ordinary situation. Dove went from being a non dancer to being able to attack the movement as ferociously as anybody in the room. I mean and again that takes not only focus and determination but a lot of bravery. We had some brave kids working on this movie.”

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One of my favorite scenes from the movie is a nod to my favorite Disney movie of all time.  I won’t spoil it by telling you but I have to say I wanted to jump up and sing and dance when the scene came up in the movie.  Everyone in the room gave Ortega props for adding that scene to the movie it was such a lovely spin.  He admitted that the scene almost didn’t make it into the movie but they ended up with an extra day and a half and they nailed it.  He said he wanted it to be a safety net for Mal (played by Dove Cameron), a point where they villain kids started to feel like they could fit in.  I can’t wait for you guys to see it yourself.  Ortega’s favorite scene though was the opening number “Rotten to the Core”.  Disney Channel shared a sneak peek at the first six minutes of the movie, check it out below and let me know what you think of Ortega’s favorite scene to shoot in the movie.

You can see why Ortega like Rotten to the Core as much as he did.  It was such a fun and edgy way to start the movie off.  Someone mentioned in the interview that they felt it had moves from Thriller and while Ortega said it didn’t he did say that it does have similar energy to Thriller.  Some of the cast also said it reminded them of the Michael Jackson number and Ortega said he was thrilled to be compared to any of Jackson’s work.  Here’s more on what he had to say about filming the scene.

Ortega: “My favorite? I think Rotten to the Core and I’ll tell you why. I started as an actor at 13 years old and I was lucky enough to be in the original London touring production of Oliver and when I first read the script and started to imagine the world I thought of the Isle of Lost, a bit of Dickens and a little kind of old, you know, old London town under the bridge, that darker underworld and I loved the idea of being able to take Rotten to the Core, use it as character introduction and also to introduce us a bit to the island and what this place is.

And we found in a few of our screenings for young people who when we asked then after if you would prefer to visit the Isle of Lost or if you would prefer to visit Auradon where would you like to visit and the first kid raised his hand and said would we be able to leave when we wanted to? And I said of course and he said the Isle of the Lost, you know, so we made it I think a kind of fascinating and interesting world and that particular number was just lots and lots of fun to create as a choreographer and to imagine as a designer.”

Developing a musical like this one takes time and we wanted to know the time frame to plug-in the musical numbers and develop each one with a song and a dance.

Ortega: “We started out without music and dance as a part of the story. The original story was written as an action adventure comedy and I was very happy with that, very excited about that and looking forward to being a part of that. As I said to you just working with this wealth of characters was so exciting and challenging for me. And then Gary said to me I can’t believe we have you here and we’re not gonna have music and dance. And I said I’ll do it every day of my life given the chance.

So he said why don’t you do like we did with High School Musical and create an arc of how you imagine music and dance might be able to help sort of strengthen and tell story. And so Steve Vincent (VP of Music & Soundtrack at Disney Channel), our musical supervisor and I came back and presented it to Gary (President and Chief Officer for Disney Channel), Adam and Makita and that began the process and that was early on in our sort of initial development phase. Then the music goes out to a number of different composers and lyricists and I meet with them or I’m on the phone with them and I guide them in terms of what we’re looking for in terms of tone, tempo, feel and content and then we start to get material back and then Steve, the studio and myself sort through it.

We give second sets of notes, third sets of notes and that group of songs start to get smaller and smaller and smaller until we land on them. Andrew Lippa wrote Evil Like Me for Kristen Chenoweth as Maleficent in the museum and his first demo we were like that’s the song. Other times it takes a while. it could take months and then Paul and I talked about the staging and, we went into only a week of preparation for all of the music and dance in the movie where we sketched it all out with our assistants, our skeleton crew and then the actual actors all inside of three weeks learned the entire movie’s choreography. It’s unbelievable isn’t it?”

Credit: Descendants Wiki

Romance is a central theme of Descendants.  There’s a love story in the plot but parents can rest assured it’s kid friendly because there’s no kissing.  Ortega said he purposely left that out of the movie.  Feeling that there is already too much pressure placed on that aspect of relationships.  It also leaves room to watch the love story grow and these kids grow into young adults.  I’m hoping that means there’ll be a Descendant 2 or something that furthers the story.  People are already taking about a sequel and according to Ortega it’s all up to the fans.  Be sure to tweet as much as you can with the hashtag #DescendantsMovie to let Disney Channel know you want to see more of this cast and their story.

One of the reasons I love this movie is the cast and of course we wanted to know how did they come up with this cast.  Ortega had already shared with us that the prince – Ben was found in Australia, so how they find the rest of the cast?

Ortega: “I worked with Kristen Chenoweth. I directed her before and I’m in love with her.  I saw her four times on Broadway in Wicked. I did get to see her opening night of on the 20th Century and I’m going back for her closing night and party. I’m going to be part of the introduction of her getting her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and so I’m a huge fan. But anyway, we were getting ready to cast our movie before the movie Maleficent came out and suddenly we kind of realized that Angelina was sort of taking up a lot of territory with her interpretation of Maleficent.

Gary Marsh called me and said what do you think of Kristen Chenoweth to play Maleficent? I was like what? It was not only yes I wanna work  with her in any capacity but what she’d do with this. She’s so brilliant. She’s so versatile, so capable. You know, she’s such fun, a real team player and so it was a delight, you know, and I was like yes, let’s go after her and it wasn’t easy. She was a busy lady. When we finally got her to commit it was a joyous day and no one was more excited than Dove who grew up idealizing her and when Dove found out that Kristen was playing her mother in the movie I mean fireworks went off.

Kathy Nagimy is one of my favorite human beings on the planet.  She is an awesome lady. We stayed friends for over 23 years since we did Hocus Pocus and she always brings something to the table doesn’t she, in everything that she does and these kids. With the kids we took our time, we put them through a lot.  Some of them auditioned eight to twelve times back again, back again, back again.  The fact that they kept coming back was a part of what helped me realized that they were in it to win it and that whatever it took for them to land these roles.

I mean Booboo Stewart had already done X Men and Twilight and came back eight times. You know, when they first told me what about Booboo Stewart I was like he’s not gonna come in. And Judy Taylor, our casting director, said you’re wrong, he wants to come in and not only did he come in, he came back eight times to read with other actor and actresses and what a dream he is. What a dream. Isn’t he wonderful? A real star. They all are.”

Ortega spoke so highly of this cast and how much he loved working with them all.  Our next question was of course about who he wanted to work with that he hadn’t had the chance to work with before.  He has a pretty nice list including Meryl Streep. Janet Jackson, Bruno Mars, George Clooney and he would love to work with Christian Bale again.  I can’t believe he hasn’t worked with Janet Jackson yet and with her new project I think Ms. Jackson needs to call up Mr. Ortega.

Disney Descendants premieres on the Disney Channel on Friday, July 31st at 8 PM.  Be sure to tune in and live tweet during the show using the hashtag #DescendantsMovie.  Plus come back next week for my review of the movie and cast comments from Dove Cameron and Cameron Boyce.

Spirited Away Movie Review

Spirited Away Movie Review

Studio Ghibli and Disney has teamed up to bring you the Oscar award winning Spirited Away to Blu-Ray and Disney Digital.  The movie was released a few weeks ago and I received the movie for review purposes any opinions expressed are my own.

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About Spirited Away:

From Hayao Miyazaki, one of the most celebrated filmmakers in the history of animated cinema, comes the Oscar®-winning triumph (2002, Best Animated Feature Film), filled with astonishing beauty and epic adventure, a dazzling masterpiece for the ages. “Spirited Away” is a wondrous fantasy about a young girl, Chihiro, trapped in a strange new world of spirits. When her parents undergo a mysterious transformation, she must call on the courage she never knew she had to free herself and return her family to the outside world.  An unforgettable story, brimming with creativity, “Spirited Away” will take you on a journey beyond your imagination. It’s a fantastic tale the whole family will want to experience over and over again on Disney Blu-ray!

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My Thoughts:

When my DVDs arrived in the mail my first thought was to put on Spirited Away for the kids to watch, luckily I decided to read the back of the box and decided against it for my seven and eight year old kids.  I just didn’t think they could understand the movie, especially if it had any spirits.  They get bad dreams over simple stuff so I decided this wouldn’t be a good fit for them.  I would recommend you checked it out on your own before letting younger kids watch.  There are a few scenes in the movie that may be scary for kids, for example Chihiro’s parents turn into pigs after eating a whole bunch of food and the village they stumbled upon turned into a ghost spa.  I watched the movie on my own.

Spirited Away

I actually enjoyed the movie very much.  I will admit that some parts seemed a bit weird to me but overall it was a great movie.  I loved the animation of this movie and how much culture they put in despite it being a movie about a ghost spa.  I loved how they showed your Chihiro’s journey during the film.  When she first arrives she’s scared and doesn’t know what to do.  She quickly made a friend who she trusts to help her get her parents back to human.  I couldn’t imagine being in her shoes as a young girl and having to rescue my parents.  When we first meet Chihiro she’s complaining in the car to her parents about moving. She seems spoiled and whinny.

Spirited Away

As the movie continues you quickly start to feel for this young girl who’s world was flipped upside down so quickly it would terrify anyone.  Following instructions she lands a job at the spa, and is spared from being turned into a pig but she still has to rescue her parents and no one at the spa has the answers she needs and when she was told the one person she trusted wasn’t who she thought, she’ll left wondering who she can trust to help her get her parents.

Spirited Away

Another apparent theme in this movie was friendship and love.  It’s clear that Chihiro loves her friend Haku, but her roommate and mentor at the spa keeps telling her to not trust him.  Soon their friendship is tested and we see just how much Chihiro really trusts and believes in him.

Spirited Away

Chihiro’s strength is what gets her through this tough journey and her determination to get her parents and go back to her new home.  She ends up leaving the spa to help save her friend Haku and help him restore her honor.  She helps an unwanted spirit find a good home and Haku ends up finding his own true identity.

Spirited Away

Spirited Away is entertaining with a bit of suspense, it will have you wondering what will happen next.  You’ll be transported into a world like no other on a journey of self discovery and a lesson in true love.  You can purchase the DVD in stores now or on Amazon.  It’s a must add to your collection if you’re a fan of anime.  Be sure to also check out The Cat Returns also from Studio Ghibli.

 

Blogger Bucket List: I’m Attending the #AntManEvent

Blogger Bucket List: I’m Attending the #AntManEvent

A few weeks ago I was at a family function and my sister in law was commenting on all the places my blog had taken me.  She wanted to know what I had coming up and I responded by saying nothing.  At the time I really didn’t have anything planned and I wasn’t expecting anything to come down the pipeline.  See my only hope this year was attending an Inside Out press event, then I got my legendary Monkey Kingdom Event invite that took me to Walt Disney World for the first time in my life.  It was beyond magical.  So you could imagine my excitement when I received the email with the subject ‘Marvel, Disney Channel and Disney XD invites you to Los Angeles.

AntMan-Event-Badge

This is blogger bucket list type of stuff.  I’ve never attended a Marvel press junket and I am so excited to have the opportunity to screen ANT-MAN (opening in theaters July, 17th) myself and twenty-four other bloggers will also have an opportunity to attend a press junket to interview talent from the film.  We still don’t know who we’ll be interview from the film but I’m excited to attend one of these events and check it off my bucket list because I didn’t even expect to have it on there at all.

descendants

Another part of our trip is screening Disney Channel’s upcoming original movie Descendants.  I think I’m more excited about this than anything.  I’ve been excited about this movie since I saw the preview when watching Disney Channel with the kids.  Descendants will air on the Disney Channel on July 31st, at 8 PM.  Be sure to tune in then you won’t want to miss this Disney Channel Original.  Also connect with Descendants online – http://disneychannel.disney.com/descendants.  Check out the trailer below:

The fun doesn’t stop there as you will also travel to Hollywood Center Studios to visit with two of the DESCENDANTS villain kids Dove Cameron and Cameron Boyce on the sets of their TV series, Disney Channel’s “Liv AND Maddie” and Disney XD’s “Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything.” Additionally, you will also be taken to the set of the new Disney Channel series “BUNK’D.”

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gamers guideLiv and Maddie airs on Sunday’s on the Disney Channel and Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything premieres on Disney XD on July, 22nd at 9:30 PM.  Check out a sneak peek at Gamer’s Guide below:

It’s going to be an awesome couple days and I can’t wait to see some of my blogger friends and meet some new ones.  To get you excited for my coverage of the #AntManEvent here’s a trailer from the film.

Be sure to follow me @nickicoupons on Twitter and @nostephens on Instagram for all the fun during the event and if you’re on Periscope be sure to follow me @nickicoupons for live streaming of the event.

McFarland Perfect for Family Movie Night

McFarland Perfect for Family Movie Night

I’ve been waiting for McFarland to be released so my family could see it.  I was first introduced to the movie last November while I was in LA for the Big Hero 6 Event.  The bloggers had and opportunity to screen the movie before anyone.  It was amazing then and I couldn’t wait for everyone else to see how good the movie truly is.

McFarland

McFarland was released on Blu-Ray and Disney Digital on June, 2nd, if you haven’t purchased it yet I highly suggest you pick up this movie to add to your collection.  McFarland perfect for family movie night, it’s a film that will remind you that hard work and dedication pays off.  I loved the team spirit displayed in this movie and the family feel as well.  When the coach and his family moved to McFarland they couldn’t imagine how close they would end up with the rest of their community.  To have a bond so strong that they joined together to help the team and make the family feel welcomed.

Photo Credit: Disney
Photo Credit: Disney

My whole family loved McFarland and I think yours will as well.  My husband coaches football and this past year he also coached basketball and the movie really resonated with him, he knows what it’s like to have athletes who seem to have the whole world on their shoulders and the careful balance it takes to push them pass their personal lives and into greatness.  He said he would be sharing this movie with his teams from now on.  McFarland is the prefect reminder that you shouldn’t count yourself out, even when everyone else has.  Pick up the blu-ray in stores now and see why this film is both inspirational and entertaining.

About McFarland USA:

In the tradition of Disney sports movies comes “McFarland, USA” based on a true story of underdogs triumphing over tremendous obstacles. This heartwarming drama follows novice runners who strive to build a cross-country team under Coach Jim White (Kevin Costner) in their predominantly Latino high school. Everyone has a lot to learn about each other, but when Coach realizes the boys’ exceptional running ability, things change. Beyond their talent, it’s the power of family, commitment to each other and work ethic that transform them into champions — helping them achieve their own American dream.

Walt Disney Studios and Disney Parks Teaming Up

Walt Disney Studios and Disney Parks Teaming Up

Imagine a place where anything is possible!  You’ve probably seen the trailer for Tomorrowland starring George Clooney.  The film is set to be released in theaters on May 22nd.  To celebrate the release Walt Disney Studios and Disney Parks are teaming up to offer guests of Disney Parks an opportunity to view a sneak peek of the movie.

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While on our trip for the #MonkeyKingdomEvent we will have an opportunity to check out the 12 minute sneak peek a full day before it opens to the public.  Guests will get an inside look at the making of Tomorrowland.  Read more about this collaboration below:

About Tomorrowland Sneak Peak:

Walt Disney Studios announced an unprecedented collaboration between the Studio, Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort to offer park guests a 12-minute sneak peek of Disney’s upcoming thrilling, mystery-adventure film, “Tomorrowland,” opening in U.S. theaters on May 22. Guests will also enjoy an impressive exhibit that features the making of the movie with props, concept artwork and photos from the filming of the movie plus exclusive images from the Disney Archives. The sneak peek and exhibit will open April 17 in Tomorrowland at Disneyland Park and on April 18 in Future World at Epcot and will be available to the public for a limited time.

The must-see event marks the first time that a sneak peek has been offered at Epcot in Walt Disney World and the first time Walt Disney Studios has teamed up with both parks to showcase an upcoming Disney film with footage and an in-depth look at the making of the film. Sure to spark the imagination and curiosity of all, the special exhibit details the process of bringing director Brad Bird’s vision to life and will show how filmmakers created the world of Tomorrowland, along with archival images of iconic Disneyland attractions featured in the movie.

 tomorrowland poster

In the movie, the premise that the futuristic city of Tomorrowland could actually exist pays homage to Walt Disney’s vision for both Tomorrowland at Disneyland Resort and Epcot at Walt Disney World Resort where ever-evolving technologies are showcased along with ideas to make the world a better place for all.  “We are excited that park guests will be the first to get an extended look at ‘Tomorrowland’ in the part of Disneyland that inspired the film. Tomorrowland is the one section of the park that Walt Disney himself designed to be tied inexorably to constant change. After all, the future is always in motion, continually shifting as humankind’s choices of the present remake the world ahead of us. ‘Tomorrowland’ is a state of mind. My hope is that the exhibit will convey some of the magic that went into bringing this land… and this movie, to life” stated Brad Bird, the film’s two-time Oscar® winning director.

 “Tomorrowland,” a riveting mystery adventure starring Academy Award® winner George Clooney, tells the story of former boy-genius Frank (Clooney), jaded by disillusionment, and Casey (Britt Robertson), a bright, optimistic teen bursting with scientific curiosity, who are bound by a shared destiny and embark on a danger-filled mission to unearth the secrets of an enigmatic place somewhere in time and space known only as “Tomorrowland.” What they must do there changes the world—and them—forever.