LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – From May through August 2009, summer simmers with exciting new attractions and experiences at Walt Disney World Resort. The smash TV hit “American Idol” inspires a new attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios while, at Magic Kingdom, a Liberty Square icon reopens its doors and street parties turn up the spirit as Disney’s “What Will You Celebrate?” hits full-stride. Treehouse lodging is back, Stars Wars Weekends let guests release their inner Jedi, Downtown Disney unwraps new fun – on the ground and in the air – and there’s music, music, music filling the air at Epcot … Summer fun at “The American Idol Experience” This marks the first summer of fun for “The American Idol Experience,” which puts Disney’s Hollywood Studios guests in the spotlight, immersing them in the thrill of auditioning and performing or voting on their favorite musical performances. Modeled after the famous “American Idol” television show, the newly opened Walt Disney World attraction makes dreams come true by showcasing the talents of park guests age 14 and older who have aced the auditions (audition slots are limited and interested guests are encouraged to arrive early or register online at www.disneyworld.com/idol). Like the television show, fans – not the onstage judges – have the final say on who is deemed the best of the best. With seating to accommodate 1,000 audience members, the high-tech theater is wired so guests can vote for their favorite singer. There are several show times daily. “What Will You Celebrate?” adds park fun, gifting option As “What Will You Celebrate?” invites Disney Parks guests to turn personal milestones into magical Disney experiences, the ways for guests to customize and personalize a visit are seemingly endless – and growing! With everything from fireworks cruises, street parties and behind-the-scenes tours to specialty cakes and in-room decorations to choose from, guests have more choices as they ponder, “How will I celebrate?” With all there is to do in Disney parks, guests can tailor a celebration with favorite attractions, favorite characters and special experiences. Thanks to new Web planning tools, learning about available choices and then customizing a “celebration vacation” itinerary is easier than ever. Through www.disneyparks.com, guests (or their travel agents) choose the celebration destination – Disneyland Resort in California or Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. With a click, they access an interactive online celebration “planner” to shop the many experiences that are a cornerstone of a “celebration vacation” at Disney parks – experiences that transform guests into the stars of their own party whether the occasion is a birthday, anniversary, Quinceañera, personal triumph or any celebration. The icing on the cake of “What Will You Celebrate?”: guests visiting one of the Walt Disney World or Disneyland theme parks on their birthday in 2009 get in free. More than two million people have already registered their birthday on the Walt Disney World and Disneyland Web sites. Already, the parks have welcomed birthday celebrants from quadruplets turning 4 to a milestone birthday of 107. There is even a way to participate in a guest’s upcoming celebration visit when you can’t be there: by “gifting.” The giver reviews the possibilities using the online planner, then calls a Disney Dream Maker to personalize and customize the gift. At Walt Disney World Resort, Dream Makers can be reached at 407/WDW-GIFT. The fun is nonstop, too, with a party spirit stamping new shows in Magic Kingdom: Everybody’s favorite galactic pal – the “Guru of Gross-Out,” “the Maker of Mischief” – now stars in “Stitch’s SuperSonic Celebration,” a live stage spectacle (grand opening May 6) in Tomorrowland that celebrates everything worth celebrating around the universe in honor of “Galaxy Day.” This interactive, retro-futuristic musical revue features an animated version of Stitch interacting live with Magic Kingdom guests. The show also stars Tip Trendo, “celebritainer” party host extraordinaire, the Galactic Girls, Tip’s deep space diva back-up dancers, a pair of hip-hop robots run amuck, all underscored by a space-pop soundtrack that will rock the cosmos! Several show times daily. Floats, a cast of Disney characters, stilt walkers and more “move it” down Main Street, U.S.A. accompanied by high-energy tunes and an open invitation to guests to come join the fun during performances of “Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It!” street party. Near Cinderella Castle, Mad Hatter, Genie, Lumiere and Sebastian – the life and light of the party – pop out of four huge boxes that dominate the floats. They join about a dozen other Disney characters headed by Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse to mix and mingle and dance in the street with Magic Kingdom guests during a 12- to 15-minute party that takes place three times daily. New music, new costumes and changes to some of the floats are part of the afternoon Magic Kingdom parade, “Celebrate a Dream Come True.” The procession through the park is an update to the former “Disney Dreams Come True” parade with more pauses – during which party dancers perform to get guests into a celebratory spirit – and with a grand marshal in the lead role of the procession. The new theme park fun continues at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Epcot: Khaki-clad cast – including Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Goofy – gather near Disney’s Animal Kingdom entrance each evening during park closing to bid farewell to guests with the music-filled Adventurers’ Celebration Gathering. Cast members shake their pom-poms and urge guests to join in the street-party fun by dancing to the music and forming a conga line procession while the Disney characters keep the beat from atop their safari vehicle. Inspired by Disney Channel’s Emmy Award-winning “Kim Possible” animated series, Disney’s Kim Possible World Showcase Adventureinvites Epcot guests of all ages to take on the role of secret agents to save the world from various comical villains and their mad inventions. This ultra-interactive, high-tech adventure packed with mystery and excitement is offered in seven World Showcase pavilions. ‘Star Wars’ Weekends returns to Disney’s Hollywood Studios Once again, the power of the Force and the magic of Disney combine in May and June 2009 for Star Wars Weekends, a sci-fi fan-fest inspired by the popular film saga. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from May 22-June 14, Disney’s Hollywood Studios becomes the temporary home for a band of out-of-this-world characters, including Wookiees, Sith, droids, Jedi, Ewoks, bounty hunters and Rodians. Dates are May 22-24, May 29-31, June 5-7 and June 12-14. A giant, “A to Z” gathering of Star Wars characters – from Anakin Skywalker to Zam Wesell – roams the streets of the theme park during meet-and-greet sessions. Jedi Training Academy – one of the interactive entertainment experiences featured in the theme park – takes place throughout the day on the event’s main stage and allows young guests to learn from a Jedi Master before testing newly acquired skills in a battle with Darth Vader. Also featured: the chance to purchase one-of-a-kind Star Wars memorabilia, Star Wars trivia contests, special Star Wars parades, rides on the famed Star Tours attraction, and autograph sessions and star conversations with famous Star Wars actors and creative geniuses. Event activities are included in theme park admission. For more information, guests may go online to www.starwars.com or www.disneyworld.com/starwarsweekends. Music is in the air at Epcot Legendary music fills the air at Epcot during the summer of 2009 as the park hosts Flower Power concerts and Sounds Like Summer concerts at America Gardens Theatre. From Chubby Checker & The Wildcats to Tony Orlando, a lineup of music hit-makers from the 1960s and 1970s will strike nostalgic notes each weekend in May during Flower Power concerts that are part of the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival through May 31. The lineup also includes The Nelsons, Jose Feliciano and The 5th Dimension. Guest information is available at www.disneyworld.com/flower (click on “Concerts”) or by calling 407/824-4321. The whole family will be rockin’ and rollin’ when tribute bands recreate classic hits from musical icons under the stars as part of the Sounds Like Summer concert series daily June 15-Aug. 9. During the series, seven popular tribute bands will celebrate the music of the Bee Gees, Eagles, Bon Jovi, ABBA, the Supremes, U2 and Tom Petty. Concerts are included in regular Epcot admission. For more information, visit Disneyworld.com or call 407/824-4321. The Pirates League sets sail in Magic Kingdom June 29 Calling all scoundrels, rogues and ne’er-do-wells – Captain Jack and the crew of the Black Pearl want YOU. Starting in late June, the Pearl drops anchor in Adventureland for The Pirates League, recruiting and training park guests of all ages in the scurrilous ways of buccaneers. Each guest checking in at the plunder-filled recruitment office gets an official pirate name. Next step is the Muster Station where – after applications of beards and eye patches, scarves and scars, earrings and gold teeth – the new recruits leave their old identities behind. Past a hidden portal and into the treasure cache, the new shipmates speak the pirate oath and have their official “pirate portrait” taken before being turned loose on an unsuspecting Adventureland – and no doubt feeling right at home at the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. Boys, girls and grownups ready for the pirate life start the process by calling 407/WDW-CREW beginning May 11. Packages start at $49.95 plus tax. Hall of Presidents to reopen in July; fireworks paint the skies July 4 A July reopening is planned for the Hall of Presidents, an iconic attraction in Magic Kingdom. An Audio-Animatronics version of President Barack Obama will join representations of the previous 43 presidents of the United States as part of an attraction that has been celebrating American history since Walt Disney World Resort opened in 1971. Disney Imagineers also are updating a broad array of show elements. The star-spangled fun doesn’t stop there… July Fourth is a grand celebration of all things America. What better patriotic place to be than Walt Disney World Resort as freedom rings from corner to corner of the Vacation Kingdom. “Disney’s Celebrate America!-A Fourth of July Concert in the Sky” will dazzle Magic Kingdom guests at 9 p.m. on the Fourth of July. That same park will feature a performance of the “SpectroMagic” nighttime parade, at 10:30 p.m. In the meantime, Disney’s Hollywood Studios guests are treated to a 9 p.m. performance of “Fantasmic!” while at Epcot, a holiday-inspired “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth” bursts above World Showcase Lagoon at 10 p.m. ‘Picnic in the Park’ comes to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Summer guests to Disney’s Animal Kingdom have a new casual option to restaurant mealtimes – “Picnic in the Park” for al fresco dining. The to-go meal includes either sandwiches or rotisserie chicken or ham. Meals include sides, desserts and bottled water for each guest. Prices range from $24.99 for a meal for three to $56.99 for a meal for six. Meals can be booked at the podium near the park entrance or, after 1 p.m., picnics can be ordered at Tusker House Restaurant. Picnics are ready for pick-up within two hours at the Kusafiri Coffee Shop & Bakery in the park. New and aloft at Downtown Disney: Characters in Flight Ever imagined lofty, Tinker Bell views of Walt Disney World Resort and beyond? That dream is now possible. Downtown Disney treats guests to breathtaking, 360-degree panoramas with a new iconic attraction, Characters in Flight operated by Aerophile. The tethered gas balloon takes guests 400 feet into the air from the waterfront of Downtown Disney West Side near Pleasure Island. The 72-foot-diameter balloon can accommodate up to 30 guests at a time on a six-minute “flight” by day or night, weather permitting. Characters in Flight made a spring debut, joining other newcomers at Downtown Disney for summer: Tren-D – a hip new Downtown Disney Marketplace boutique with urban-inspired fashions. Disney Design-a-Tee – presented by Hanes, inviting Marketplace guests to personalize the popular T-shirt souvenir to their own tastes. T-Rex : A Prehistoric Family Adventure, A Place to Eat, Shop, Explore and Discover – a fun prehistoric environment millions of years in the making. Paradiso 37, a Downtown Disney restaurant from E-Brands to feature a selection of menu offerings representing the 37 countries of the Americas. On the RISE: New ESPN event at sports complex The inaugural ESPN RISE Games presented by Target will take place July 19-25, 2009, at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex. The week-long event will be anchored by three invitation-only, elite high school sporting events: the AAU 17-under Boys Basketball Super Showcase, the Under Armour High School Softball All-American game, and a new high school football event – Champion Gridiron Kings – a 7-on-7 competition featuring skill position players. The event will also feature competitive youth sports – baseball (10U, 11U and 12U), basketball (10U, 12U and 14U), field hockey (14U, U16 and 19U) and track & field (14-18). The ESPN RISE Games is expected to welcome 4,000 student athletes. Team enrollment for the event’s open basketball, baseball, field hockey and track & field programs is available. Additional information on the ESPN RISE Games presented by Target is available at www.espnrisegames.com. Whole new world of lodging greets summer guests New home-like accommodations presented by Disney Vacation Club are scheduled to debut in time for summer guests. New options will combine to revive “treehouse living” at Walt Disney World Resort, immerse guests in the African experience and offer up breathtaking views of Bay Lake and Cinderella Castle. Treehouse Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa – Treehouse living, a cherished Walt Disney World tradition from 1975-2002, returns with the scheduled opening of 60 three-bedroom villas elevated 10 feet off the ground on pedestals and beams. Designed to blend into the forest glens where they are nestled, these vacation villas will sleep up to nine and provide Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa with a new room category. Kidani Village at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – Following the successful conversion of select rooms at Jambo House (at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge) into vacation villas in 2007, Kidani Village is taking shape (for phased openings scheduled in the spring and fall) with thatched roofs and a hewn timber design. Kidani means “necklace” in Swahili and the new building is shaped like a piece of native African jewelry with villas forming the beads, walkways creating the knots in between and the lobby representing the ornament or jewel at its center. With the planned spring opening also comes Sanaa, a new family dining location, featuring savannah views at select tables and serving familiar foods from tandoor ovens in addition to slow-cooked specialties with the flavorful spices of Africa and India. Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort – Scheduled to open late summer, Bay Lake Tower nestles beside Disney’s Contemporary Resort and will serve up a variety of views including grand vistas of lakes and land, such as Magic Kingdom, from its 295 two-bedroom equivalent villas. Planned amenities include a community hall, pool bar, in-room dining, tennis courts, a pool and a water play area. Disney Vacation Club accommodations can be booked by anyone for overnight stays through www.disneyworld.com or by calling 407/W-DISNEY (934-7639). Walt Disney World Resort debuts online check-in service In time for summer, Walt Disney World Resort has launched Online Check-In Service, designed to simplify and streamline guest arrivals. The new service is complimentary and available to guests staying at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels and Disney Vacation Club resorts. Within 10 days of their arrival dates, guests are able to provide check-in information, advise the resort of their arrival times and request room preferences (although those cannot be guaranteed). Guests can also register the names of all the people in their party and provide a credit card to cover charges at the resort hotel. Upon arrival at their resorts, guests visit a special welcome location where their room keys and other registration material are waiting. Disney cast members are also available to provide additional information and answer questions. Meeting professionals can also arrange private group check-in at a Disney resort convention center or other locations. For more information about the new Online Check-In Service or to make a resort reservation, call 407/W-DISNEY or your local travel agent or click on disneyworld.com.