Disney-Style Dreams

Walt Disney World's unique 'Year of a Million Dreams' is magic

By: Ana Figueroa

It may not be the Anaheim original, but Walt Disney World Resort in Florida is no second fiddle when it comes to the dream business.

Dreams, of course, are at the heart of the latest and possibly most ambitious Disney parks promotion ever. During the 15-month-long “Year of a Million Dreams” celebration, Disney plans to disburse a million dreams (literally) to visitors at its properties on both coasts. The “Disney Dreams Giveaway” includes dreams large and small, ranging from commemorative FASTPASS badges to stints as grand marshal in a Disney parade, or even a Disney Cruise or Disney Vacation Club membership.

TravelAge West attended a special sneak preview at Walt Disney World in January, and discovered firsthand the stuff that Disney dreams are made of. Headlining the event was the debut of the new Cinderella Castle Suite at the Magic Kingdom park. High atop the castle’s turrets, the folks at Disney Imagineering have created a one-of-a-kind fairy tale chamber where the clock never strikes midnight. The suite features gleaming gold mosaic tiles, canopy-draped beds, ornate stained-glass windows and custom-designed tapestries weaving the tale of Cinderella.

There’s even a glass slipper displayed in the entryway.

No reservations required, and none are accepted for a Castle Suite sleep over. That privilege is reserved for a one lucky family, randomly chosen each day during their Walt Disney World Resort visit. Future winners probably won’t receive quite the same fanfare as the Fouch family of De Witt, Michigan, however. As the first-ever recipients of a night at the Cinderella Castle, the Fouch family was feted with a special after-hours celebration that featured a ride in Cinderella’s carriage, concert by Grammy nominee Daniel Powter, and a makeover by the Fairy Godmother herself.

The Cinderella Castle Suite wasn’t the only new bit of wizardry that Walt Disney World previewed recently. A new attraction at Epcot, “The Seas with Nemo & Friends” shows off state- of- the -art technology that juxtaposes animated figures amidst a backdrop of water. Riders hop a “clamshell” and join the search for Nemo while peering into a colorful reef set in one of the largest saltwater aquariums in the world. (The same technology makes its debut at Disneyland this June, when “Nemo” transforms the classic submarine attraction.)

The “Nemo” theme finds an even more spectacular backdrop in "Finding Nemo-The Musical,” which also premiered at Walt Disney World Resort.

Set in the “Theater in the Wild” at the Animal Kingdom park, the all-new Broadway-caliber musical stage show features original songs by Tony Award-winning "Avenue Q" co-composer-creator Robert Lopez and a cappella musical "Along the Way" co-creator Kristen Anderson-Lopez.

“Finding Nemo-The Musical” marks the first time Disney has transformed a nonmusical animated feature into an original musical stage production. Based on TravelAge West’s opening night preview, the show is sure to become a resort “must see.” Elaborate puppetry, dancing and high-tech effects transform the theater into a convincing undersea environment. At times, the audience will believe that they’re floating

along with Nemo and friends in the Great Barrier Reef.

Another Disney-Pixar animation hit sets the stage at "Monsters, Inc.

Laugh Floor Comedy Club” at Magic Kingdom. A sneak preview revealed an interactive attraction in which guests can laugh, joke and match wits with comedians recruited by “Monsters, Inc.’s” very own Mike Wazowski.

The Comedy Club is coming soon to Tomorrowland.

And, speaking of tomorrow, the folks at Walt Disney World Resort weren’t content to simply preview the new attractions already in place.

They also announced that two new attractions based on the hit Disney- Pixar “Toy Story” franchise are in the works for 2008. And, they unveiled a “Year of a Million Dreams” ad campaign featuring images by Annie Leibovitz. The acclaimed photographer was on hand to personally display her fantasy-filled photos featuring Scarlett Johansson as Cinderella, Beyonce as Alice in Wonderland spinning in a giant teacup and David Beckham slaying a dragon. More images from Leibovitz are in the works, anchoring an ad campaign set to run in upscale publications throughout the year. Rumor has it that celebrities are jostling for inclusion in the stunning series, proving that no matter how rich or famous you are, everyone wants to be part of a Disney dream.