Last week, Walt Disney World hosted a bevy of bloggers and plethora of podcasters to give a little bit of a sneak preview of what to expect this summer and beyond, calling the event “Awaken Summer”. Here’s a lil taste of the news and information that they shared:

There’s going to be  something new and exciting going on this summer in every theme park at Walt Disney World as well as the water parks and beyond, from new attractions and shows to never-before seen experiences and fun, interactive, ACTIVE fun!

  • For the first time in its 18-year history, Disney’s Animal Kingdom comes to life and lights up at night, with a river salute to The Jungle Book, a fresh way to experience your favorite attractions, cultures and creatures you’ve never seen there before and so much more.
  • “Frozen,” takes over the Norway pavilion at Epcot in a big, magical, musical way…”IN SUMMER!”
  • A brand new “Castle Show” featuring all of the Disney favorites we’re accustomed to seeing, as well as Princesses Tiana and Rapunzel in a colorful spectacular.
  • Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular makes its explosive debut at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
  • Disney Springs welcomes more shops, restaurants and one-of-a-kind experiences as breakdancing finally makes it into Cirque de Soleil.

Let’s take a look by location, thanks Disney for the pictures!

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Beginning Memorial Day Weekend, Disney’s Animal Kingdom will begin day-to-night experiences:

The Tree of Life Awakens

Tree of Life Awakens at Disney's Animal Kingdom at Night

“The theme park’s iconic Tree of Life will undergo extraordinary “awakenings” throughout the evening as the animal spirits are brought to life by magical fireflies that reveal colorful stories of wonder and enchantment. High-tech projections of nature scenes take on a magical quality as they appear to dramatically emanate from within the Tree of Life.”

Tree of Life Awakens at Disney's Animal Kingdom at Night

Kilimanjaro Safaris after Dark

Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney's Animal Kingdom at Night

“Each evening, the popular Kilimanjaro Safaris daytime experience is artfully bathed in the glow of sunset with special lighting allowing guests to explore this attraction well into the night. During the expedition, guests can now encounter the nighttime behavior of the wildlife and better tune in to the unique vocalization of the animals. Plus, there are two new species to discover: African wild dogs and hyenas.”

Fab’s note: Remind me sometime to tell you why they don’t have honey badgers.

Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney's Animal Kingdom at Night

The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic

“For the summer, Discovery River becomes the stage for music and pageantry in a limited-engagement show inspired by Disney’s hit live-action film The Jungle BookThe Jungle Book: Alive with Magic is a live show filled with music and special effects that celebrates the new film and the classic songs, now infused with an Indian influence.”

While this is kind of a placeholder for Rivers of Light while they’re making it perfect, I’m really excited about it because unless you’ve been under a rock, you know how much I love the music to this film. I think this will be worth waiting around for.

Harambe Wildlife Parti

Harambe Wildlife Parti at Disney's ANimal Kingdom at Night

“When the sun sets, the popular Village of Harambe will become a hot spot with the new Harambe Wildlife Parti. Here, “party animals” can dance alongside a variety of entertainers and local street musicians, and enjoy the lively rhythms of African music. Guests can also partake in exotic foods and libations, and explore the diverse wares of village artisans and merchants in the vibrant marketplace.”

Harambe Wildlife Parti at Disney's ANimal Kingdom at Night

Discovery Island Carnivale

Discovery Island Carnivale at Night at Disney's Animal Kingdom

“The spirited community of Discovery Island has come together to celebrate their love of the natural world with the Discovery Island Carnivale. This nightly experience will captivate guests with lively music, jubilant dance, vibrant costumes, stilt walkers and tasty culinary creations — winding from one end of the island to the other.”

Tiffins Signature Restaurant

Tiffins Signature Restaurant Coming to Disney's Animal Kingdom in 2016

“In addition to the diverse new entertainment offerings, guests will enjoy Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s new signature eatery, Tiffins. Open for both lunch and dinner, this new signature dining experience will celebrate the art of traveling and include waterfront views from both indoor and outdoor seating areas. “Tiffin” is an Indian English word meaning midday meal or type of container used to carry food while traveling.”

New Adventures with Favorite Attractions

Expedition Everest at Night at Disney's Animal Kingdom

“Most attractions remain open at nightfall, and will shine like never before. At sundown, Kali River Rapids will reveal mysterious twists and turns throughout the rainforest with dramatic and drenching fun. Expedition Everest thrills adventurers as it lurches forward and backward through the icy peaks of the Himalayas. At night, the majestic mountain challenges trekkers to an evening ride revealing breathtaking views of the Animal Kingdom canopied by starlight. Amidst the colorful midway games at Chester & Hester’s Dino-Rama in DinoLand U.S.A., the thrills turn up aboard the zany Triceratop Spin or Primeval Whirl under the lights.”

Primeval Whirl at Disney's Animal Kingdom at Night

More Magic to Come with “Rivers of Light”

Rivers of Light at Disney's Animal Kingdom at Night

“The nighttime will grow even more magical with the premiere of the majestic nighttime jewel, “Rivers of Light.” This illuminating musical experience – currently in development with a premiere date to be announced soon – will celebrate the magic of animals, humans and the natural world with a blend of performers, floating lanterns and theatrical animal imagery.  The Disney creative team collaborated with the award-winning filmmakers at Disneynature to bring never-before-seen footage, telling dramatic and compelling stories from the animal world to the show.”

Rivers of Light at Disney's Animal Kingdom at Night

“On the natural stage of Discovery River, guests will marvel as a timeless custom comes to life before their eyes in a stirring performance. The ceremony begins with the arrival of a pair of mystical hosts, two complementary forces who come to the river bearing gifts of light. They set out from the shore on elaborate lantern vessels, engaging in a dramatic dance of water and light to summon the animal spirits. With these storytellers as guides, the wonders of “Rivers of Light” unfold, building to a magnificent finale with bursts of light as animal images soar to the heavens– signifying the ancient belief that when animals passed from one world to another they danced in the sky and became beautiful rivers of light.”

I’m not crying. You’re crying.

“Disney’s Animal Kingdom is such a majestic and beautiful park,” said George A. Kalogridis, President of Walt Disney World Resort, “With new experiences and new ways to experience favorite attractions, nighttime at Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be a can’t-miss experience for Walt Disney World guests.”



Anna, Elsa, Olaf and Company bring winter In Summer starting in June, you can Find Dory’s friends at Turtle Talk at The Seas, and go Soarin’ Around the World!

Frozen Ever After

'Frozen Ever After' Attraction Rendering

“Anna, Elsa and their Frozen friends will welcome guests aboard the new Frozen Ever After boat ride that sails into a “Frozen” world at the Norway Pavilion. Passengers on their way to Arendelle’s Winter in Summer Celebration for Queen Elsa visit the ice palace and hear beloved film tunes plus new lyrics by Oscar-winning “Let It Go” songwriters Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez.”

Princess Fairytale Hall: Anna & Elsa

“Also at Norway Pavilion, Anna and Elsa will greet guests in the new Royal Sommerhus, modeled after a traditional Norwegian cabin.”


“A stone entrance greets guests to the kingdom of Arendelle. Queen Elsa, Princess Anna, Kristoff, Olaf, trolls and Marshmallow join them on their boat journey through the frozen willow forest, past Troll Valley and up to the North Mountain to Elsa’s ice palace. After disembarking, guests can meet the regal sisters in the cozy Royal Sommerhaus. Inspired by a cabin in the countryside of Norway, the sisters have opened their summer home for visitors.”

Soarin’ Over the World

“In Future World, guests will celebrate the U.S. debut of the new Soarin’ Around the World attraction at The Land Pavilion June 17. Now with a third Epcot theater, plus new digital screens and projection systems, the expanded attraction takes guests on an exhilarating “flight” above spectacular global landscapes and man-made wonders.”

Soarin over the world

Turtle Talk With Crush – And Then Some!

“Guests will also find new additions at “Turtle Talk with Crush” beginning in May with characters from Disney•Pixar film “Finding Dory”. When Crush the sea turtle swims up to the “Human Tank” at Epcot, he’ll be joined by Dory and some of her new friends that guests will get to know when “Finding Dory” swims into theaters on June 17, 2016.”

Characters from "Finding Dory" Coming to Turtle Talk with Crush

Magic Kingdom

Classic Disney characters will join princesses and other modern characters this June in a new show on the grand Cinderella Castle stage, and Magic Kingdom guests can meet a new princess.

Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire Show


“For the first time, Tiana of “Princess and the Frog,” and Rapunzel of “Tangled,” co-star with Anna and Elsa of “Frozen,” and a host of favorite Disney characters in the new Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire show. Performed on the grandest stage in the kingdom, the star-studded tale of friendship presents Mickey Mouse and his troupe of Merry Makers – Minnie Mouse, Donald, Daisy and Goofy – who invite 10 new friends from different animated worlds to join the celebration. This “timeless fairytale” of a show combines grand dance, fireworks and stunts with memorable music, an original song and special effects.”

(Who knew Don’s favorite bar was The Snuggly Duckling?)


Elena of Avalor Makes Her Princess Debut in August


“Disney Parks will welcome its first princess inspired by diverse Latin cultures. The heroic Princess Elena of Avalor will be appearing at Walt Disney World Resort this summer following her television debut in a new animated series  on Disney Channel.

Kids and families worldwide will be enchanted by the story of Princess Elena, a bold, caring, funny and clever 16-year-old who is ascendant to the throne in the fairytale kingdom of Avalor.  The series follows the story of Elena, who saves her kingdom from an evil sorceress and must now learn to rule with the support of her appointed Grand Council and some magical friends by her side. Elena’s adventures will lead her to understand that her new role requires thoughtfulness, resilience and compassion, the traits of all truly great leaders, while highlighting the importance of family and family traditions.

The inspiring story of Elena of Avalor will be shared in 33 languages in 163 countries on Disney Channels worldwide. And, Disney Parks, where universally enchanting stories come to life every day, will be the place where families can see Disney’s newest princess in person.  At Walt Disney World Resort, the Disney Princesses will welcome Elena in August.”

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Construction is underway for Star Wars Experiences on both coasts, but in the here and now – and in the summer to come – there’s plenty of excitement and fun to go around.

Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular

Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular at Disney's Hollywood Studios

The “Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular,’’ a nightly fireworks show set to Star Wars-themed music that will be reimagined as Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular this summer.

Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular: As the next generation of the current Star Wars-inspired fireworks show, this blockbuster nightly show, unprecedented in Disney’s Hollywood Studios history, will light up the sky with Star Wars-themed fireworks, lasers, light projections and other special effects combined with Star Wars-themed music and iconic characters and scenes from the saga.

New Star Wars Nighttime Spectacular Coming to Disney's

Through these state-of-the-art special effects that project onto the nearby Chinese Theatre and other surrounding buildings, guests will gaze at the twin suns of Tatooine, push through a field of battle droids, navigate through an asteroid field, soar down the trench of the Death Star and deliver the final blow to destroy Starkiller Base. The show, which will unfold through a series of acts, will be punctuated by a tower of fire as well as powerful spotlight beams that create lightsabers in the sky.

Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular at Disney's Hollywood Studios

From what I hear, the crazy popular dessert packages WILL be carried over to the new show…but check with THEM first, don’t just take MY word for it!

Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away


The live stage show “Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away” debuted April 4, celebrating moments from the Star Wars saga with live vignettes featuring popular characters such as BB-8, Kylo Ren, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, and Darth Maul.

Captain Phasma & First Order Stormtroopers

Stormtroopers March at Disney's Hollywood Studios

As a Disneylander, I’m so, so very jealous.

Stormtroopers March at Disney's Hollywood Studios

“First Order Stormtroopers led by Captain Phasma march in formation from Star Wars Launch Bay to the park’s Center Stage, in an intimidating demonstration of the First Order’s indomitable strength..”

Star Wars Launch Bay

Star Wars Launch Bay at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars Launch Bay showcases large-scale artifacts and encounters with characters including Kylo Ren.

Kylo Ren at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple

Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple

The re-imagined Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple experience featuring new characters, including the Seventh Sister from the Disney XD series Star Wars Rebels.

Star Tours – The Adventures Continue

New Destination to Debut in December on Star Tours - The Adventures Continue at Disney's Hollywood Studios

“Fans of this popular attraction experience journeys involving new characters and adventures from Star WarsThe Force Awakens. Based on the Star Wars films, Star Tours takes guests to multiple Star Wars destinations where they interact with characters from the saga. With an eye-popping digital presentation leveraging Dolby 3D to deliver a vivid and realistic experience, a dramatic musical score and motion simulator-based technology, guests are immersed in the Star Wars galaxy like never before on a theme park attraction.”

Disney Springs and Water Parks

Inspired by Florida’s waterfront towns and natural beauty, Disney Springs is a charming district filled with unique retailers and restaurants from award-winning chefs. Throughout the summer, new stores and restaurants will open as Disney Springs more than doubles the number of retail, dining and other venues for guests

  • As Disney Springs continues to expand and diversify its dining, shopping and entertainment, more exciting high-profile tenants are coming onboard, including AnthropologieUnder Armourkate spade new yorkSephora and Lucky Brand, among others. Other new shops opening in 2016 include ZaraTommy BahamaLilly PulitzerUNIQLO and PANDORA.
  • More than 30 new tenants will be coming to Disney Springs this summer, including retail shops and dining venues.
  • Home to world-class dining, Disney Springs is shaping up to be a culinary dream. With its chic style and Pan-Asian flavors, Morimoto Asia offers just a taste of what’s to come as more new eateries are gearing up to open in the coming year, including Tablas Frontera by Chef Rick Bayless; Homecoming – Florida Kitchen and Shine Bar by Chef Art Smith; STK Orlando, a modern steakhouse with the ambience of a sleek lounge; Sprinkles, the world’s first cupcake bakery; Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza, a modern-day “pizza joint” with artisanal pies; and the reimagined, Planet Hollywood Observatory with new outdoor terrace and live entertainment.
  • Celebrity Chef Rick Bayless and Chef Art Smith join master Chef Masaharu Morimoto in a growing collection of James Beard Award winning chefs at Disney Springs.
  • At Cirque du Soleil’s “La Nouba,” the new B-Boys hip-hop, breakdancing threesome showcase a rare mix of rhythm, strength and “how-did-they-do-that?” moves. As part of the show’s ongoing evolution, the masterful Aerial Bamboo act joins recent additions of madcap clowns and a breathtaking rolla bolla juggling act.

Water Parks

Meanwhile, Disney water parks will ramp up with playful spirits and summer fun faster than Olaf can beg for warm hugs. It’s also a nice way to beat the heat and break up the day when the theme park hours are long and the parks are crowded. Open the theme parks, get stuff done, bus it to the water park, get wet for the hottest part of the day, then when it’s starting to cool off and so are you, head on back to the theme park for the evening.

“At Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park, Olaf from Disney’s animated hit “Frozen,” will be living his “In Summer” dream as he and Kristoff host The “Frozen” Games of friendly, fun competitions.”


“Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park castaways can splash down on a sandy summer beach with a cold ale and savory snack after a wild slide on Crush ‘n’ Gusher water coaster.”

Disney's Typhoon Lagoon

It sounds like it’s going to be one heck of a summer at Walt Disney World. I’m grateful that I got a look. Usually, my favorite time is fall because of Food & Wine and Halloween and of course MiceChat Invasion! But really, there’s no BAD time to go!

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