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Sunday, August 23, 2015

darthmaz314 Disney Snapshot of the Day - Frozen Fireworks Over the France Pavilion in Epcot

It's not difficult to find a great photo opportunity at Walt Disney World and today's darthmaz314 Disney Snaphot of the Day is proves that point. Each of the four parks of Disney World are deigned not to be seen while you are in any of the others. However, this visual segmentation sometimes fails in the case of fireworks, as they are high in the night sky and can usually be seen from great distances. Fireworks in Epcot and Hollywood Studios are particularly susceptible to this as these parks are the closest to one another in proximity.

One night, crossing the bridge between France and the United Kingdom in Epcot's World Showcase, a look to the left yielded this view. Majestic fireworks bombarding the night sky, as part of the Frozen Fireworks show in Hollywood Studios, just happen to be providing a magnificent backdrop for France's Eiffel Tower. 

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Disney Frozen Fireworks Over France
courtesy darthmaz314.com


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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Star Wars Land Details Finally Announced at D23

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Star Wars Land Concept Art - courtesy Disney/Lucasfilm

Nearly three years after the announcement of Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm, it was confirmed at this weekend's D23 convention that both Disneyland and Walt Disney World will be embarking on expansions to introduce a greater Star Wars presence in their parks. In short, Star Wars Land is coming to both coasts. The expansion will the largest in Walt Disney World's history, with Disney announcing that the new land will span fourteen acres. Very little has been announced in terms of specifics, but what has been shared is definitely cause for excitement. 

While there has been much speculation as to which of Star Wars many worlds would make a suitable setting for a new themed land, Disney threw a curveball at fans by deciding to abandon them all and create a new world in which to immerse guests for this Star Wars experience. What has been shared thus far is that the world will be part of the "outer rim" territories, on the boundaries of "wild space," all of which means we can expect it to feature a spaceport, much like Mos Eisley on Tatooine. Plans for a cantina are also in the works. In the concept art that has been released (a mere few drawings,) the planet's architecture and topography look as though it is a melding of familiar elements from Padme Amidala's native Naboo, the Republic capital of Coruscant, and Kashyyyk, home of the Wookies.

Disney executive Scott Trowbridge, who has been assigned exclusively to "Star Wars" projects, indicated Saturday at D23   that the new land will be totally immersive and allow guests to experience the characters, setting, and stories of Star Wars like never before. The announcement of immersive theming is not a surprise, since this strategy has been immensively successful at Universal Studios' Wizarding World of Harry Potter and and is a main reason that the attraction is a phenomenal experience that truly transports guests to the magical world of the popular book and film series.
  
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Star Wars Land Concept Art - courtesy Disney/Lucasfilm

From what Disney has revealed thus far, there will be an attraction that allows guests to pilot the Millenium Falcon in a customizable experience that places them squarely in the midst of a battle between the First Order (the new antagonists of The Force Awakens) and the Resistance (the new twist on the Rebellion of the original trilogy.) The concept art depicts the Falcon actually docked in the land itself. If they in fact build a scale version of the classic Correllian freighter, the land will definitely have its park icon and it is almost impossible to imagine how many photos of that thing will be taken in the coming years. 


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The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley -
courtesy darthmaz314.com

Taking a cue from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter's Diagon Ally, it appears that Star Wars Land will feature tall building structures and what look like some type of naturally occurring organic towers, which are possible supposed to be treelike or made of rock. This tall backdrop, which will most likely also house additional attractions and merchandise locations, will prohibit guests' visibility beyond the land itself, which will foster a feeling of true immersion in the theming.  

Again, very little has been announced in terms of specifics and even less about time frame for a debut of this much anticipated land. It will most likely take years to create this land, especially considering the attention to detail and painstaking process that Disney applies to all of its park construction projects. However, the overwhelming response to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal and the fact that it has fueled Disney's rival in Orlando to capture a frightening (yet still modest in comparison) percentage of the theme park market share in the last few years, will undoubtedly force the Mouse to compress his construction schedule. 


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Star Wars Land Concept Art - courtesy Disney/Lucasfilm

Disney also has plans for some more immediate Star Wars experiences to whet the appetite of the rabid fan, which will debut in the near future. More about these in future posts. For now, rest in the knowledge that the premier entertainment company on Earth owns the Star Wars property and has confirmed that they are building their largest in-park expansion ever, which will debut in the midst of a pack of new Star Wars films. Finally, it is really happening.

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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Star Wars Land at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Officially Announced - Concept Art Released

After years of speculation, endless postulations and prognostications, all fueled by boundless anticipation, the hopes and dreams of Disney and Star Wars fans across America were finally realized on Saturday, when at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, it was made official…Star Wars Land is coming to both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. Much more will follow on the details of this new massive expansion here at darthmaz314. For now, enjoy the first concept art to be released at D23. From what has been confirmed so far, this expansion will be worth the wait. Now you can all go change your underpants.

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Star Wars Land Concept Art 1 - photo courtesy Disney/Lucasfilm

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Star Wars Land Concept Art 2 - photo courtesy Disney/Lucasfilm
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Star Wars Land Concept Art 3 - photo courtesy Disney/Lucasfilm 


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Saturday, August 15, 2015

George Lucas Reveals that a Classic Disney Character Inspired Jar Jar Binks at D23 Expo Disney Legends Ceremony

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Disney Meets the Force - courtesy the Walt Disney Co.
Day one of the D23 Expo in Anaheim, California wrapped up last night with no announcements regarding Disney Parks, but there were many highlights including the 2015 Disney Legends induction ceremony. The Disney Legends Award is basically the highest honor that the Disney Company can bestow upon those who have worked with and/or been associated with their brand. It usually is bestowed upon those truly special artists and/or employees that have made their mark under or alongside the Disney brand for a significant period of time.

Among this year's list of honorees were composer Danny Elfman, soap opera queen Susan Lucci, movie icon Johnny Depp, and Star Wars creator and film legend, George Lucas. Lucas, of course sold his money printing machine Lucasfilm to the Disney Company three years ago in 2012 for over $4 billion. Lucas, who was historically known for being shy and reserved, seems to never be at a loss for words in his later years. In his heartfelt Disney Legends acceptance speech, Lucas made two comments that were of note to darthmaz314, one of which seems to be garnering a decent amount of press, the other all but confirms that big Star Wars news is on the horizon for Disney Parks this weekend.


Firstly, Lucas revealed that the much maligned (and even hated by many) prequel character Jar Jar Binks, was in fact inspired by  the classic Disney character Goofy. Upon reflection, you can see the parallels between the two characters both physically and in their interaction with others. darthmaz314 has stated previously that although Jar
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Meesa and Goofy is Related?
Jar was a creative gamble in many respects, the main issue with him was that the character "just didn't work." He crossed the line from being comically irritating to downright unlikable for many Star Wars fans. Lucas' comment about Goofy inspiring the Jar Jar character, coming now that Star Wars fever is again raging through the world and many have doused their incendiary loathing of Binks, is more trivia worthy and comical and will probably not amount to much, except a new wave of Disney hate crimes being perpetrated on Goofy characters in the parks, as frustrated Star Wars fans seek to vent their vitriol on the tall and lanky member of Disney's Fab Five (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto.)

Lucas's other comment focused on the fact that after years of prodding and persuading to have more Star Wars presence in the Disney Parks, he was only able to get that done by agreeing to sell his company Lucasfilm to Bob Iger. If that is not unofficial confirmation of Star Wars Land, I don't know what is.

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Friday, August 14, 2015

An Announcement of Star Wars Land at D23 Expo? and Why Competition by Universal Orlando is Good

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Will This Weekend Be the Stars Wars Land Official Announcement??? - courtesy darthmaz314.com

Since Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012, there has been a steady stream of speculation about the possibility of a Star Wars Land being built at Walt Disney World. With a slew of new Star Wars films on tap for the next several years, a stronger presence of Star Wars at Disney Parks seemed to be an inevitability. Half of Hollywood Studios has been closed in the last year, seeming to clear a huge piece of real estate for…wait for it…Star Wars Land, and yet no announcements from Disney. A cavalcade of Comic-Cons, Star Wars Celebrations, and D23s have passed and there have been announcements about everything except J.J. Abrams' R2-D2 underpants and guess what?…Star Wars Land. This weekend, all of that may finally change. 

The D23 Expo, the official Disney fan club’s bi-annual convention, comes barreling into Anaheim this weekend and amidst the many presentations, panels, and publicity, there may finally be some official announcements regarding a stronger presence of Disney’s most valuable acquisition in their theme parks. Recent rumors are all but guaranteeing the announcement of a Star Wars Land for the Disneyland Park. Will we at long last also have confirmation of a Star Wars Land coming to Orlando? Could there be announcements of a Pixar Place expansion and/or a Cars Land like the one in California? The wait may finally be over, but one thing is certain, the next few years are absolutely guaranteed to be some of the most exciting and anticipated for lovers of Disney World.


While there may not be a fifth gate (new theme park) in the plans for Disney World, there is certainly more development and expansion in the works than any other time in recent history. The fact is that when Universal Orlando put on the big boy pants back in 2010 with the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, they began to truly compete with Disney for the Orlando theme park dollar. Five years later, there is now a Wizarding World presence in both Universal Orlando parks and with parent company Comcast backing up a freight train and dumping money into their theme parks, Universal has become a must do in Central Florida. Their market share has been steadily growing and they are continuing to revamp and expand, at a much faster and more efficient rate than Disney. Bad news for Disney fans, right? Wrong.

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The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hogwarts Castle
- courtesy darthmaz314.com
Disney Chairman Bob Iger all but told the world that the New Fantasyland expansion would be the end of new capital construction projects at Walt Disney World for a while. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter forced him to tell the world something different. The result is a wave of announced and rumored developments that will have new experiences crashing like waves upon the Disney faithful for the foreseeable future. The transformation of Downtown Disney to Disney Springs, the currently under construction Avatar Land at Animal Kingdom, a rumored re-imagineering of Epcot under new vice president Tom Fitzgerald, and of course, the much speculated upon additions of Star Wars Land and Cars Land, could all translate into phenomenal change and development at Walt Disney World in the years to come. The bottom line is Universal's strides forward and the resulting increased competition will be a win/win for the for the fans of both Disney and Universal. Bring on D23. And let's hear some announcements this weekend.



darthmaz314 always welcomes your comments and asks you to share this and all our posts with your friends (or enemies) if you like what you see. Also, please visit, follow, and like our facebook page...

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Pirates of the Caribbean Closed for Summer 2015 - Watch a Full Ride Through POV Video at darthmaz314.com

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Pirates of the Caribbean at Walt Disney World - courtesy darthmaz314.com

Do you love the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Walt Disney World? Do you love the film series and are dying to get to Walt Disney World to experience one of the greatest Disney dark rides ever conceived for the first time? Are you a Disney World regular who makes sure that Pirates is always on your "must do" list? Well, if you have plans to travel to Walt Disney World this summer, you will unfortunately be unable to experience this classic Disney attraction, as it is closed for refurbishment through the summer and most likely September. Several internet sources indicate that the attraction will reopen September 25th. However the official Disney World website indicates that Pirates "is currently closed for enhancements. Please check back here for the latest updates and information about when it will reopen." 

That is a bit of good news/bad news, in my opinion. The use
of the word "enhancements" hints to more than a clean-up and paint job refurbishment, particularly since the attraction will be closed for an estimated four months. With a fifth
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Pirates movie on the horizon, these enhancements may even include some tie-ins to the upcoming film. Although, Disney may be hesitant to do this until the film proves that the franchise still has life enough to ensure a box office success. 

The bad news about Disney not providing a definitive re-open date is that it could mean that this refurb will last beyond September. However, it could also mean that they are leaving the door open for an earlier date if the work progresses quickly and they find themselves ahead of schedule. In either case, if you have a trip on the horizon on these finals summer weeks, be warned that not only do "dead men tell no tales," they will certainly not be telling them in Orlando in the near future.

But for any of you who proclaim its a "pirate's life for me," and are in need of a quick fix, click on the link below for our full POV ride through of Pirates of the Caribbean. 



What is your favorite Disney World attraction? Post a comment and let us know. darthmaz314 always welcomes your comments and asks you to share this and all our posts with your friends (or enemies) if you like what you see. Also, please visit, follow, and like our facebook page...

Friday, August 7, 2015

darthmaz314 Disney Hidden Gems: Sonny Eclipse at Cosmic Rays Starlight Cafe

Today, darthmaz314.com introduces another recurring series of posts, this one entitled "Disney Hidden Gems." Some of the best things about Walt Disney World are the small details and hidden gems. These things are not always the top shelf thrill rides or blockbuster attractions. They can even be things that do not scream "Disney." Often they are details that remind people of their first special memories or experiences at Walt Disney World. 

For those who do become repeat Disney visitors, these hidden gems are often things that make them feel "at home at Disney." They are familiar, constant, and nostalgic. They can be something as small as a particular food item, a favorite merchandise shop, a certain special spot in a park where they take a photo during each visit, a character that they absolutely must meet every time, or even a personal tradition that someone initiates and keeps going with family or friends. (By the way, these are some of the things that make people return to Walt Disney World over and over. But that is a topic for another post.)


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Sonny Eclipse at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe in the Magic Kingdom - courtesy darthmaz314.com

Today we introduce this series of posts with a modern classic hidden gem...Sonny Eclipse at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe in the Magic Kingdom. Sonny Eclipse is a fairly elaborate audio animatronic that "holds court" over the Magic Kingdom's largest "food court." After you have purchased your food at Cosmic Ray's, a popular quick service location at Magic Kingdom, if you choose to sit in the largest seating area, you will be entertained by the dulcet tones and poor jokes of lounge singer Sonny Eclipse from the planet Zoo Nork and his back-up singers the invisible Space Angels. Sonny is a great example of elaborate theming, an element that seeks to immerse you in the story Disney is attempting to tell you. In this particular case, you are in Tomorrowland, a futuristic setting, eating in Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe, and are being entertained by an alien named Sonny Eclipse who just happens to have invisible celestial back-up singers called the Space Angels. I think you get the picture.

So darthmaz314 invites you to experience a true hidden gem from the Magic Kingdom by enjoying a tune that Sonny dedicates to his heavenly back-up singers, entitled (big surprise) Space Angels.


Watch Sonny Eclipse sing Space Angels here on darthmaz314.com or by visiting our You Tube channel Joe Darthmaz by clicking the link below:






darthmaz314 always welcomes your comments and asks you to share this and all our posts with your friends (or enemies) if you like what you see. Also, please visit, follow, and like our facebook page...

Thursday, August 6, 2015

More Photos of the Magic of Disney Animation at Disney Hollywood Studios

As promised, darthmaz314 brings you more photos from the now closed Magic of Disney Animation attraction at Disney Hollywood Studios. 

In the section adjacent to the Animation Academy and meet and greet areas, there was always artwork from the upcoming or current Disney/Pixar release. It is fun to look back now at concept art for films that not yet been released at the time, but have now been cemented in Disney storytelling lore.

courtesy darthmaz314.com
Concept Art from Wreck It Ralph at The Magic of Disney Animation - courtesy darthmaz314.com

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Concept Art from Wreck It Ralph at The Magic of Disney Animation - courtesy darthmaz314.com

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Concept Art from Wreck It Ralph at The Magic of Disney Animation - courtesy darthmaz314.com

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Concept Art from Monsters University at The Magic of Disney Animation - courtesy darthmaz314.com

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Concept Art from Monsters University at The Magic of Disney Animation - courtesy darthmaz314.com


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Concept Art from Monsters University at The Magic of Disney Animation - courtesy darthmaz314.com


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Concept Art from Monsters University at The Magic of Disney Animation - courtesy darthmaz314.com


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Mike & Sully Maquettes from Monsters University at The Magic of Disney Animation - courtesy darthmaz314.com



darthmaz314 always welcomes your comments and asks you to share this and all our posts with your friends (or enemies) if you like what you see. Also, please visit, follow, and like our facebook page...

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Magic of Disney Animation is Now Closed at Disney Hollywood Studios

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The Magic of Disney Animation - courtesy darthmaz314.com

On 6/24, darthmaz314's Disney Snapshot of the Day featured the signage display for the Magic of Disney Animation attraction. Little did we know that this attraction would be announced as closing forever a few days later. 


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Animation Courtyard Archway at Disney
 Hollywood Studios - courtesy darthmaz314.com
The Magic of Disney Animation was an original attraction of the then-named Disney MGM Studios and was situated at the far end of the Animation Courtyard beyond The Voyage of the Little Mermaid and Playhouse Disney. At the time of the attraction's debut, one of the most innovative and unique of its experiences allowed guests to look down on Disney animators as they worked in partially glass-walled offices, eerily bringing to mind some sort of voyeuristic human workplace safari. The attraction was the front end of the actual Walt Disney Animation Studios Orlando division, which turned out some impressive work before its closure in 2004. Some of the most notable work to emanate from the Orlando studios was ink and paint work for The Little Mermaid, the "Be Our Guest" sequence from Beauty and the Beast, the "I Just Can't Wait to be King" sequence from The Lion King, and full production work on the features Brother Bear, Mulan, and Lilo and Stitch. However, as the years passed, any semblance of actual studio production, live action or animated, was slowly extracted from the park but a few of the safari-like animator offices/studio tour elements remained. 

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Animation Workstation from the Magic of Disney Animation in Disney Hollywood Studios - courtesy darthmaz314.com

The Magic of Disney Animation also featured a short film that examined the process of bringing a Disney animated character to life. In this experience, a cast member interacts with an on-screen incarnation of Eddie Murphy's Mushu the dragon from Mulan, as they comically describe the process of creating an animated character, from the first pencil marks on paper all the way through its explosion on screen as a vibrant and seemingly living creature. The original version of the film featured an animated Robin Williams as the comic relief alongside legendary newsman Walter Kronkite, who functioned as a guide and narrator for guests. In this iteration, Robin Williams is transformed into an animated version of himself as a Lost Boy from Disney's Peter Pan. Williams portrayed an adult Peter Pan in the 1991 Disney film Hook. The Williams/Kronkite version of the attraction film was quite entertaining and endearing and can now be looked back on with great nostalgia, since both men have passed on. 

For the those who enjoy a look behind the scenes at the animation process, both films were enjoyable and worth the time, particularly since they provided a respite from the oppressive Orlando heat. For those not wishing to sit through the film, it could be bypassed by walking through the back of the theater and out into the next section of the attraction.

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You're A Character Interactive Station at The Magic of
Disney Animation - courtesy darthmaz314.com


Another major portion of the Magic of Disney Animation attraction was the "Animation Station" area which featured interactive computer consoles that allowed guests to paint animation scenes, try their hand at adding sound effects to a
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Theming at The Magic of Disney Animation -
courtesy darthmaz314.com
scene from a Disney film, and play a game called "You're a Character" in which they answer a series of questions to determine which Disney character best represents them. This area was also home to the Animation Academy, which was a scheduled attraction during which guests are given a crash course on creating a character sketch by a Disney animator.


Also featured in the Magic of Disney Animation were several character meet and greet areas, the two most significant featuring Sorcerer Mickey and characters from the most recent Disney/Pixar film. The last area included a waiting queue that was always very cleverly and heavily themed around the featured characters' film.

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Toy Story 3 Themed Character Meet and Greet Area at
The Magic of Disney Animation - courtesy darthmaz314.com

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Ratatouille Themed Character Meet and Greet Area at The Magic of Disney Animation - courtesy darthmaz314.com

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Huge Ratatouille Scenery Animation Cel Used as Theming for
Character Meet and Greet Queue Area at The Magic of Disney Animation - courtesy darthmaz314.com

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Another Huge Ratatouille Scenery Animation Cel Used as Theming for  Character Meet and Greet Queue Area at The Magic of Disney Animation - courtesy darthmaz314.com


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Wreck It Ralph Themed Character Meet and Greet Queue Are at The Magic of
Disney Animation - courtesy darthmaz314.com

Lastly, the Magic of Disney Animation pavilion also housed a museum-like section that featured concept art, storyboards, sculpted maquettes, and other story development and promotional materials from a recent Disney or Pixar release. Adjacent to this was another room with a display case that housed Academy Awards won by Walt Disney and the Walt Disney Studios.

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Concept Art & Cels for WALL-E at The Magic of Disney Animation - courtesy darthmaz314.com

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WALL-E Model at The Magic of Disney Animation -
courtesy darthmaz314.com

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Concept Art for Tangled at The Magic of Disney Animation -
courtesy darthmaz314.com

While it is true that I am among those extremely excited to see Hollywood Studios revamped and expanded to include a Star Wars Land (and hopefully a version of California's Carsland), I am sad to say goodbye to some of the attractions (like Magic Of Disney Animation) being closed to make room for these changes. This attraction offered a variety of experiences that were uniquely Disney and fit the "behind the curtain" production experience that was once a part of Hollywood Studios concept. It was also a great spot to escape the sauna that is Orlando in summer, while still being entertained in true Disney fashion. An addition, the character meets and greets often featured some of the more rare characters, many of which you would not find anywhere else on property. Some examples I personally have witnessed included Stitch, Jafar, Mulan, Miko the Racoon, the Incredibles, Frozone, Pinocchio, Geppetto, Captain Hook, Smee, the Genie and more. 

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Characters That Have Appeared at The Magic of Disney Animation
Meet & Greet - courtesy darthmaz314.com

In fact, one rainy and not so crowded day at Hollywood Studios about five years ago, my family had some of the greatest character interactions ever in the meet and greet area with several of the characters mentioned above, all of

whom were at the top of their games in terms of guest interaction. Particularly memorable, was Stitch, who truly created one of those unforgettable Disney moments for my family, which included wrapping himself around my wife's leg and refusing to let her leave. 

The Magic of Disney Animation officially closed on July 12th. It now exists only in our memories and the photos and videos in which we may have captured it over the years. If you have interesting photos of the attraction, feel free to e-mail them to darthmaz314@gmail.com and we may include them in follow-ups to this post.


Check back soon for a follow-up post featuring more of darthmaz314's photos from The Magic of Disney Animation. 

darthmaz314 always welcomes your comments and asks you to share this and all our posts with your friends (or enemies) if you like what you see. Also, please visit, follow, and like our facebook page...