Year of Million Dreams Press Event January 24-26, 2007

CLICK HERE for First Hand Reports and Photos

The media have gathered in Orlando for this week's press event to officially re-dedicate the Living Seas pavilion in Epcot, as well as announce what's new for the coming year.'s Deb Wills is attending the event and will be filing reports and sending photos throughout the week.

Deb Wills' Itinerary for the Event:

Wednesday, January 24

5 – 7 p.m. Finding Nemo – The Musical premiere, Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The premiere will include special guests from the Tony-Award-winning creative team: composers Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez; puppet creator Michael Curry; director Peter Brosius; and Executive Vice President of Disney Creative Entertainment, Anne Hamburger.

7:30 – 9:30 p.m. Big Blue World Party, Epcot – The Seas With Nemo and Friends. Pavilion will be rededicated as The Seas With Nemo and Friends. Dinner, special entertainment and a fireworks finale.

Thursday, January 25

9:30 a.m. Disney Dream Jobs Announcement with Al Weiss, President Worldwide Operations, Magic Kingdom – Cinderella Castle Forecourt.

11 a.m. Disney Wish Lounge Grand Opening, Magic Kingdom – Casey’s Corner. The opening of a "Wish Lounge."

Throughout the afternoon — Media Sneak Peek Monsters, Inc. The Laugh Floor Comedy Club

7:30 – 10:30 p.m. "The Royal Treatment" Celebration, Magic Kingdom. The First Family to win a stay at the Cinderella Castle Suite will be honored. Special musical performance and a dreams dining experience.

Friday, January 26

9:15 – 10 a.m. What's New, What's Next Presentation.

Cinderella Castle Suite Tour

FIRST-HAND REPORTS's Deb Wills is in Orlando attending the event and sending reports and photos.

Friday, January 26, Evening:

After a whirlwind few days, I am exhausted! But I did want to share just a few more photos from this morning's "What's New, What's Next" presentation on this last day of the press event:

Meg Crofton

Meg Crofton,
President of Walt Disney World

Tom Fitzgerald, Senior Creative
Executive for Walt Disney Imagineering, announcing
Toy Story Mania!

Sketch from new Toy Story Mania

Jay Rasulo,
Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts

Friday, January 26, Morning:

The big "What's New, What's Next" presentation that was just held this morning didn't reveal any huge surprises, but did serve to confirm at least one rumor that has been swirling around lately. The main announcement is that Toy Story Mania! will arrive at the Disney-MGM Studios in 2008, in the space formerly occupied by "Who Wants to be a Millionaire — Play It!" The new ride, which will also open in Disney's California Adventure in the Paradise Pier section, marks the first time an attraction has been designed and built simultaneously at Disneyland Resort and at Walt Disney World. The attraction will "set a new standard" for interactive ride/game technology. When you enter the attraction, you'll be greeted by the "barker," Mr. Potato Head, who, using technology similar to that found in Epcot's "Turtle Talk with Crush," will interact with guests. Then guests of all ages will put on 3-D glasses and ride themed vehicles along a route lined with "classic midway games of skill," while shooting their toy cannons at animated targets. As you ride, you'll pass through a series of games hosted by various Toy Story characters, like Bo-Peep and the Little Green Men. The ride will also be able to determine individual users' skill levels and will increase the degree of difficulty accordingly.

Also at the presentation was photographer Annie Leibovitz, who was hired to photograph celebrities as Disney characters for the Year of a Million Dreams promotion. Leibovitz spoke briefly about photographing singer Beyonce as Alice in Wonderland, alongside actor Oliver Platt as the Mad Hatter and singer Lyle Lovett as the March Hare.

The biggest buzz was generated by the announcement of a pilot program called Disney's Online Concierge. Now being tested throughout the Contemporary Resort, the program involves each room having its own computer that provides a variety of services to guests. Guests can use the computer to check on flights, order room service, play videogames, connect to Disney internet sites, and contact valet and bell services. The online concierge will also send personal emails to the guests, with information on the upcoming day's events and weather. If the program proves successful, it will be expanded and may eventually allow guests to make online reservations at Disney restaurants.

Thursday, January 25, Evening:

This evening was "The Royal Treatment" Celebration at the Magic Kingdom. The featured singer was Daniel Powter ("Bad Day"), who wrote a special song for the night called "The World You've Dreamed of Lately." Beautiful song and a perfect fit for the evening. They had a special "coronation" event of the family who won the overnight stay in the Cinderella Castle Suite.

Singer Daniel Powter
First Family
Castle with Fireworks
Cinderella with family

Later in the evening, I had a magical — well, make that a dream moment. I got to ride the carousel with a dozen Disney characters, right next to Peter Pan. It was incredible. I was like a little excited kid when I got off. The evening was very special and made up for all the rain that we had during the day.

Minnie on Carousel
Deb Wills with Peter Pan on Carousel

Thursday, January 25, Morning and Afternoon:

This morning is cold and rainy, but the announcement made by Al Weiss about the chance to win a Disney Parks Dream Job went off as planned. Here's the gist of the announcement: and Disney Parks are giving Americans the chance to live out their "Dream Jobs" in conjunction with Disney's "Year of a Million Dreams" celebration. Interested Disney Wish Lounge Signparties 18 years and older are invited to submit their virtual resumes online from January 24 through February 20 at to win the opportunity to work at a Disney theme park for one day. Participants will be asked to showcase their most original and creative Disney resumes, including why they want to work at a Disney Park, qualifications and skills for their desired position, as well as why this is their Disney Parks "Dream Job." Five finalists will be selected for each "Dream Job" by the public to win the chance to become a Jungle Cruise Skipper, Haunted Mansion Butler or Maid, Apprentice Pirate, Fantasyland Princess-in-Waiting or a Disney Park Parade Performer. Winners will receive a trip to the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California in June 2007 where they will live out their dream jobs. Complete rules and regulations can be found at the above website.

Also this morning, at 11 a.m., a new Disney Wish Lounge was opened in the Magic Kingdom. It's located between Casey's Corner and the Baby Care Center, and is a private lounge for special Disney guests. The Lounge will be open during normal park hours and provides a respite for Make-a-Wish families. It's a small but comfy lounge with big screen tv, couch and chairs that will be staffed by someone from Guest Relations who will also be able to assist in any planning needs (reservations, etc.). Katie Justice was the honorary princess of the day and was the official ribbon cutter of the Wish Lounge. Disney grants over 5,000 wishes each year and this is another way to provide a helping hand to the families.

Wish Lounge Kick-Off
Wish Lounge Kick-Off

Wednesday, January 24:

The Year of a Million Dreams Press Event had a soggy kick-off today, but that didn't dampen the spirits of the attendees.

After picking up my credentials and press materials, I hurried off to the Animal Kingdom for the first press showing of Finding Nemo: The Musical. This is probably the fourth time I have seen the show and I like it more and more each time. The cast was spectacular and they seem to get more and more comfortable in their roles each time I see the show. I would advise that if you haven't seen the movie to do so before seeing the show. The storyline will flow much better for you.

Located in Theater in the Wild, previous home of Tarzan Rocks, Finding Nemo – The Musical is the first time Disney has taken a non-musical animated feature and transformed it into an original musical production. After the first showing, many of the creative talents behind and in front of the audience were on hand for interviews. I was able to speak with composers Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (below right), Anne Hamburger, executive VP of Disney Creative Entertainment and the cast members who play Marlin and Dory. (More on that coming.)

Marlin of Finding Nemo Musical
Lopezes - Composers of Finding Nemo Musical

After a reception that was moved inside the Theater in the Wild (due to rain), another show was performed for all media attendees. At the end, the entire audience gave a standing ovation to the very talented cast.

Finding Nemo Musical
Finding Nemo Musical
Finding Nemo Musical
Bruce the Shark in Finding Nemo Musical

We were then taken by bus from Animal Kingdom to Epcot and entered Future World near the Imagination Pavilion. As we approached The Seas with Nemo and Friends, it was obvious Disney went all out for this "Big Blue World Party," with entertainment and decorations all with an aquatic theme. The party was originally to be held outside, but the rain forced most of the festivities inside. The entire pavilion was open for perusal and enjoyment (including Turtle Talk with Crush). Dinner and live entertainment was located in the Coral Reef restaurant.

Press Event
Jellyfish at Press Event

The rain let up so we went back outside to take in some of the atmosphere. The "Jellyfish" were out in force, dancing their way around the pavilion. Unfortunately at this point, the rain really became heavy and we waited under cover for the official dedication ceremony. In front of the Pavillion, Meg Crofton, with some help from Bruce the Shark, officially rededicated The Seas with Nemo and Friends. Immediately after, the air was filled with laser lights, fireworks and music to celebrate the new makeover.

Tomorrow is Magic Kingdom day with a full schedule on tap including the opening of the Disney Wish Lounge, a special Guestology tour, Sneak Peaks at Monsters Inc. Comedy Club and in the evening, The Royal Treatment Celebration.