LAKE BUENA VISTA – The television commercials capture that sense of youthful excitement – kids who have just found out where they’re headed on their summer vacation …. to Walt Disney World. They explode in cheers.
“Those goosebumps get you every time,” said Adam Parrish, as he watched the commercials that Central Florida’s largest employer, Walt Disney World, has been running as part of its “Let the Memories Begin” campaign.
With the Memorial Day Weekend now just a few weeks away and with it the start of the crucial summer tourist season, Disney is trying to get out the message that there’s plenty of new things to do at the theme park giant today.
Parrish, the associate manager of marketing strategy, said the new things cut across the entire Disney property, from the parks to the resorts and Downtown Disney shopping market.
“There’s a lot of exciting things going on,” Parrish said.
This morning, the convention center at Disney’s Contemporary Resort hosted the monthly meeting of the Central Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association, the trade group representing the growing number of business owners who manage homes rented out on a short term basis to tourists and business travelers. These homes are increasingly at a fast pace, particularly in Polk and Osceola counties. They appeal to families that want to rent out a fully furnished house with multiple bedrooms, a kitchen, and private pool, rather than a hotel room.
Disney is a member of the CFVRMA’s board of directors and has worked with the vacation home industry in recent years to promote tourism in Central Florida.
“We at the CFVRMA are very honored to be having Disney on our board,” said An Flamand, the vice president of the trade association. “I am looking forward in the next year to working with them.”
During the meeting, Parrish made a presentation about the changes that have been made at Disney, in an effort to keep coming up with new things for guests to enjoy.
At Downtown Disney, he noted, there’s the Lego Imagination Center, which has expanded its space and built several new Disney-themed sculptures out of the lego toys.
“It’s something new for your family to get out and see,” he said.
The AMC movie theater in Downtown Disney now has a Fork & Dine Concession Stand of the Future, he said, with a wide variety of foods and drinks to pick from.
“This has some really neat offerings for folks of all ages,” he said.
There’s also a new ring juggling act at Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba.
“There’s a lot of new things happening at our Downtown Disney area,” Parrish said.
Disney has also come up with new ways to stay cool, by creating Beach Comber Shacks and Polar Patios at its resorts, so guests can sit out by the pool and find a comfortable spot in the shade.
“They’re a great way to stay cool and beat the summer heat,” he said.
There have also been changes made to the parks, he said, noting that “At the center of all of this is our Magic Kindgom theme park.”
The Town Square Theater, for example, has been redeveloped, so guests can go backstage and see Mickey’s dressing room.
Disney Imagineering has also created Interactive Queues at the Many Adventures of Winne the Pooh and Haunted Mansion rides. These are available along the walkway to the rides, and allow the guests to check out some new sites before they board the ride.
“It’s a great way to start the experience before you even get on the attraction,” Parrish said.
Eric Goodman, who works at Walt Disney Engineering, said the new sights at the Haunted Mansion are “actually a whole new graveyard we’ve set up. You’ll see some of your old favorites are still around.”
For example, the new interactive queue has a composer’s tomb and a one-eyed cat that was in the original designs for the Haunted Mansion ride, but never made it inside.
“It was all done in one night,” Goodman said. “It was a lot of guys and a lot of muscle. Make sure you look for those details in there, there’s a lot of fun stuff.”
There are, of course, major changes coming to Fantasyland thanks to the expansion plans there, with a new Storybook Circus and playground opening in the spring of 2012.
At Epcot, there’s a new restaurant in the Mexico Pavillion, La Hacienda de San Angel, while at Disney Animal Kingdom, the Wild Africa Trek just opened. It’s a three hour excursion for guests to enjoy.
“Really, this experience has just gotten rave reviews,” Parrish said.
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