Walt Disney World has been on a mission to share and honor the deep rich culture that has contributed to one of the most memorable places on earth. Offering animation classes about Floyd Norman who was Disney’s first full-time Black animator—legendary for bringing characters to life such as Shere Khan and Kaa from Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book‘ to current Black animators such as Bruce Smith and Marlon West who have continued the tradition. The two men have worked with the Walt Disney Animation Studios in films ranging from ‘The Jungle Book‘ to ‘The Princess and the Frog‘ to ‘Frozen‘ and beyond. Adding our favorite southern flavors, our beloved music artists and breathtaking art featuring diverse cultures and nonstop fun, Disney continues to top the bucket list. Dive into the fun-filled parks and exclusive behind the scenes looks—here’s a glimpse into the tapestry of an epic trip.
The Art of Flawless Vacation Planning
Before the adventure began, I delved into the art of vacation planning, mastering the tools and tips to ensure a flawless Disney experience. Connecting our Magic Bands added an extra layer of convenience, granting us easy access to everything Disney. These magical bands became our keys to unlocking the wonders of the park, from seamless park entry to effortless dining reservations.
Armed with invaluable tools and tips for planning a perfect Disney vacation, I began by creating my My Disney Experience Account. This digital hub allowed me to seamlessly manage all my plans, linking bookings and preferences in one convenient place. The My Disney Experience App proved to be my trusty companion, offering real-time updates, planning tools, and features like Disney Genie service, online check-in, mobile order, and merchandise mobile checkout.
Deciding on the dates and length of my stay was a breeze with the Theme Park Reservation Availability calendar. Consulting the Special Events page helped me choose the perfect time, ensuring an optimal Disney experience. Navigating the planDisney Resort Pocket Guide collection aided me in selecting the ideal resort for my travel party, completing the foundation for a memorable stay.
Thrills and Chills at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Our journey began at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where we were catapulted into the heart of live-action magic. From meeting Ariel from The Little Mermaid to the larger-than-life show of Fantasmic!, every moment was a cascade of thrills. The Fantasmic! show was a sight to see delivering a jaw-dropping show on water including lights, explosions and nearly every Disney character. We ‘oohed and ahhed’ and some of our favorite childhood heroes and villains escaping the world for a magical place we all remembered.
Culinary Delights Across Six Continents
EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival allowed me to indulge in a diverse array of dishes from around the globe. From Kenyan Coffee Barbecued Beef to Adobo Yuca Fries, Trinidad Sunrise Crispy Yuca Bowl, each dish was a flavorful masterpiece. The Cooking With Soul collection had us divulge in African-American culture, adding a southern touch to our culinary exploration. Some of my faves at the festival were the vegan pho and the fried cod but every offering proposed a ‘party in my mouth’. From Four-Cheese Baked Macaroni & Cheese to soulful dishes at Tusker House, the culinary options are a celebration of diverse influences. Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey adds an extra layer of sophistication to various food and beverage items all across Disney.
Boyz II Men Delight at The ‘Eat to the Beat’ Concert Series
One of the trip’s highlights was the electrifying performance by Boyz II Men at the Eat to the Beat Concert Series. The night came alive with soulful tunes, creating a magical atmosphere that resonated with the spirit of Disney. From the End of the Road To Water Runs Dry, Wanya. Shawn and Nathan took us back to some of our favorite memories with the sunset in the background. The sold-out crowd sang to every song as Boyz II Men surprised fans with their classic hit as well as a few popular rock songs as Shawn strummed his guitar. As the sunset and the breeze blew past the sold-out concert. the Philadelphia natives proved they were the perfect choice for the EPCOT series.
A Lesson in Animation and Black Animators’ Legacy
Exploring deeper into Disney’s rich history, we participated in the Animation Experience at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. This immersive session not only taught us the art of animation but also shed light on the pivotal role of Black animators like Floyd Norman, Bruce Smith, and Marlon West. Their contributions continue to shape the magic of Disney storytelling. We got the opportunity to learn more about Floyd Norman– Disney’s first full-time Black animator and received a step-by step tutorial teaching us how to draw Kaa from Disney’s “The Jungle Book.” Learning the story behind this amazing man made me appreciate the artistry that brings Disney characters to life.
Journey of Water: Inspired by Moana Preview
A sneak peek into the upcoming Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana, left us eagerly anticipating the interactive experience. Set to open in this year, this adventure promises to inspire guests to cherish and protect the essence of water. With playful elements and beloved characters from Moana, it’s poised to be a captivating addition to the Disney experience with the most beautiful backdrop for photos.
Immerse Yourself in Art and Thrills
The Disney Springs Art Walk showcases vibrant murals by artists like Nneka Jones, adding a cultural touch to your visit. There are several Black artists whose works are currently being featured at the outdoor art walk. Some of the breathtaking murals at Disney’ Springs Art Walk were created by the most compassionate and dedicated artists.
Thrill-seekers can experience the latest rides like TRON Lightcycle/Run and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, while the upcoming Tiana’s Bayou Adventure promises a musical journey through the beloved film’s story.
Crafting Your Perfect Disney Adventure
With four theme parks, two water parks, over 25 Disney Resort hotels, and a myriad of activities, a Walt Disney World Resort vacation can be tailored to suit every guest’s preferences. Whether you’re a family, a group of friends, or a kid-at-heart, the magic of Disney awaits.
For those planning their first visit, a comprehensive checklist ensures a smooth journey:
-Create Your My Disney Experience Account: Manage vacation details in one place.
-Download the My Disney Experience App: Access planning tools and features for a seamless experience.
-Decide on Dates & Length of Stay: Use the Theme Park Reservation Availability calendar to plan your visit.
-Choose Your Resort: Explore the planDisney Resort Pocket Guide collection for the perfect stay.
-Purchase Theme Park Tickets & Make Reservations: Plan your theme park visits and explore room-and-ticket packages for added benefits.
-Choose Your Method of Entry: Enable MagicMobile or link your MagicBand for easy access.
-Book Dining Reservations: Set reminders and secure reservations 60 days in advance.
-Browse Enchanted Extras Collection Offerings: Explore unique experiences and seasonal events during your stay.
Iconic Must-Do experiences:
-Meet beloved characters like Mickey Mouse.
-Indulge in famous park treats, from Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bars to pineapple Dole Whip.
-Ride the newest attractions like Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and TRON Lightcycle/Run.
-Experience EPCOT’s seasonal festivals and shop around Disney Springs.
-Embrace the magic of park hopping with various transportation options.
-Watch a mesmerizing nighttime spectacular to conclude your day.
From the meticulous planning to the thrilling experiences and cultural celebrations, Disney’s enchantment left an unforgettable mark. For anyone embarking on their own Disney trip, be prepared for a journey that transcends imagination and creates memories to last a lifetime.
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photos and video: Kenya Thomas