VR experience: Disney addition hints at theme park future

Virtual reality (VR) has been talked about for decades, with most public uses of it being gimmicky or wholly underwhelming. The technology has promise in a variety of areas, but consumer uses of it have yet to make a major splash.

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Disney has 10 movies coming out in 2018 — here they all are

There are a lot of movies coming out this year we can’t wait to see, but Disney has one of the most envious lineups. Not only is “Avengers: Infinity War” one of the most-anticipated movies of the year, but the Mouse House is also delivering two more Marvel movies and a sequel to “The Incredibles” 14 years later.

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Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante Opens, The Newest Italian Dining Gem at Disney Springs

Patina Restaurant Group (PRG) yesterday opened the doors for a media preview and soft opening that showcased the stunning new Italian restaurant located at the reimagined Disney Springs at Walt Disney World Resort — Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante.

The new dining destination brings to Disney Springs the warmth of Italy and the dreamiest Italian cuisine this side of the Atlantic, courtesy of Executive Chef Theo Schoenegger. The restaurant will officially begin serving dinner to the public on January 5. Lunch and brunch service will begin later this month (updated hours and special events available on the restaurant’s Facebook page).

Fittingly, the media sneak peek on January 4 coincided with National Spaghetti Day, providing the perfect Italian backdrop for the occasion. A dedication ceremony featured Italian ambassadors, chefs, executives from Patina Restaurant Group, Delaware North (Patina Restaurant Group’s parent company), Disney; and very special guests Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse.

Disney restaurants often have a backstory, part of the company’s tradition of immersive storytelling. Mirroring that tradition, Patina Restaurant Group collaborated with Walt Disney Imagineering to create the story for Maria & Enzo’s.

“The story behind Maria and Enzo is one of travel, food, love and friendship, all steeped in Italian tradition,” said Valenti, referring to the backstory of Maria and Enzo, an Italian couple that immigrated to Central Florida in the 1920s. “Their story is set in a long-forgotten sea-plane air terminal that became the setting for the restaurant.

“We couldn’t be happier to have a chef as talented as Theo Schoenegger,” Valenti continued. “A native Italian with an incredible repertoire, his cooking has a delicious authenticity that brings the story to life.”

Following the dedication, media and special guests enjoyed the food and hospitality at Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante, where Chef Schoenegger presented a variety of signature dishes including, of course, spaghetti in honor of National Spaghetti Day.

Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante

An intimate Italian trattoria set in the once-abandoned Disney Springs airline terminal from the 1930s, now transformed into a restaurant. The dining room is open and airy, featuring 50-foot ceilings with views of Lake Buena Vista. The restaurant interiors showcase artifacts that recall air travel of the time, with brightly illustrated pictographs, reimagined air terminal boarding gates and a First Class Lounge where randomly selected guests are upgraded upon arrival. The menu, created by Michelin star-rated Chef Theo Schoenegger, features a variety of handmade pastas including Busiate con Granchio (spiral pasta with crab), Rigatoni all Norma (eggplant, chile, tomato, ricotta salata) and ‘Ncasciata al Forno(Sicilian baked pasta) – served tableside. Other highlights include Braciola di Maiale (Berkshire pork chop, plum mostarda), Nodino di Vitello (grilled veal chop) and Tonno (grilled ahi tuna steak, pistachio pesto) all served with rosemary potatoes and tempura fried vegetables. The spectacular wine list of more than 100 bottles is – lovingly — primarily Italian. The restaurant is open from 11:30 a.m. to 12 midnight daily, with weekend brunch coming soon.

The backstory is that the restaurant was the dream of Maria and Enzo who met in Italy before moving to Florida and wanted to introduce Italian cuisine to the townfolk of the bustling Disney Springs. An airline pilot, Enzo was drawn to an abandoned airline terminal, which became the spacious setting for the restaurant. 

Enzo’s Hideaway Tunnel Bar

A speakeasy inspired by Roman aperitivo bars, located in the storied rum-runner tunnels that adjoin Maria & Enzo’s. Inspired by Florida’s true history of rum running, Enzo’s Hideaway pours Prohibition-era cocktails and serves a casual menu of hearty Roman dishes, such as the city’s legendary Bucatini alla Carbonara (hollow spaghetti with creamy egg and pancetta sauce) and Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe(square-cut spaghetti with pecorino and black pepper). In honor of the weekly dinners Enzo hosted for family and friends, the tunnel bar hosts Sunday Supper, a family-style meal each week. Enzo’s Hideaway Tunnel Bar is open from 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily.

The backstory tells the tale of Enzo and Maria discovering a long-hidden cavern below the terminal that connected to abandoned sections of the next-door power plant (which today is called The Edison). To Enzo’s astonishment, he came across a Prohibition-era hideaway where a team of flying rum-runners once gathered. Evidence of smuggler activity was everywhere, untouched for decades. Bottles and casks of rum were found along with a roster of flying operatives and their code names. It was a fascinating glimpse at an unknown chapter of the town’s past. Enzo shared his discovery with the local historical society and also decided that the space might make an irresistible spot for dining and socializing. Now it is a cozy gem of a hideaway for Enzo to highlight the family recipes he grew up on, featuring specialties from Rome and nearby regions.

Pizza Ponte

A fast-casual concept and the perfect place for a quick bite serving pastries, pizza, Italian sandwiches, and espresso. Pastry specialties include Bomboloni (Italian doughnuts) Sfoglia di Riso (pastry with rice cream) and Tiramisu. Savory items include signature Triangolo (stuffed pizza bread) sandwiches, Porchetta (roast pork) and Pizza al Taglio, Sicilian-style pizza by the slice. Pizza Ponte is open from 8 a.m. to 12 midnight daily.

The backstory reveals that Maria began a simple cafe inside the lobby of what was once the bustling Disney Springs air terminal. Pastries and pasta were the initial offerings, but eventually the family was able to install wood-fired pizza ovens that helped make them even more successful. Pizza Ponte is accessed from the entrance beneath the air terminal’s old Control Tower. Within this entrance, guests can view family photos from Maria and Enzo’s many cousins, uncles, aunts and others who began to arrive as their business began to thrive. An elegant wraparound window anchors the space and catches a lot of attention from pedestrians crossing the bridge from the Disney Springs West Side. Offerings reflect many of the most popular foods from both Maria’s roots in Southern Italy and Enzo’s favorites from the region around Rome.

For more information on these Patina Restaurant Group restaurants, visit www.patinagroup.com or visit the restaurants on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @MariaAndEnzos, @EnzosHideaway and @PizzaPonteFla.

About Patina Restaurant Group

Patina Restaurant Group (www.patinagroup.com) is a bicoastal boutique company and leader in the premium segment of the restaurant industry.  In New York, its portfolio features Lincoln Ristorante, STATE Grill and Bar at the Empire State Building, Stella 34 Trattoria at Macy’s Herald Square, The Sea Grill at Rockefeller Center, Brasserie 8 ½, The Grand Tier Restaurant at the Metropolitan Opera, La Fonda del Sol at Grand Central, Yellow Magnolia Café at Brooklyn Botanic Garden and The Rink at Rockefeller Center. Other East Coast properties include Tutto Italia Ristorante and Via Napoli at the Epcot World Showcase in Lake Buena Vista, Fla, and Morimoto Asia Orlando at Disney Springs.

On the West Coast its portfolio includes the renowned Los Angeles Times’ four-starred and Michelin-starred Patina Restaurant in Walt Disney Concert Hall, Café Pinot, Ray’s & Stark Bar, Catal, Tortilla Jo’s, Catal and Naples in Anaheim’s Downtown Disney District, Leatherby’s Cafe Rouge, and catering and food service in museums and cultural centers throughout California.

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Garden Rocks Concert Series Tunes Up March 2-May 28 with New Acts and Fan Favorites during 25th Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

Disney guests will be working their way back through five decades of hit tunes slated to rock the 25th Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival between March 2 and May 28 during the Garden Rocks Concert Series.  The festival, which runs 90 days from Feb. 28-May 28, 2018, will showcase performers every Friday through Monday.

Fan favorites Night Ranger (“Sister Christian”) will open the series March 2-5, and The Spinners, known for “Working My Way Back To You,” will wrap the concert schedule May 25-28.  Several new bands will perform at Epcot for the first time: Foghat (“Slow Ride”); Smash Mouth (“All Star”); Lonestar (“Amazed”); and Don Felder, formerly of The Eagles (“Hotel California”). Other bands new to the Garden Rocks series will be Rick Springfield (“Jessie’s Girl”), Survivor (“Eye of the Tiger”) and Jo Dee Messina (“Stand Beside Me”).

Guests can dance in their seats each festival weekend to classic tunes at the park’s outdoor America Gardens Theatre overlooking the World Showcase Lagoon.  An eclectic mix of fan favorites includes 1960s icons Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone, ’70s-’80s chart-toppers The Village People and new-millennium hit-makers Simple Plan.

Performances are at America Gardens Theatre at 5:30, 6:45 and 8 p.m. every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday of the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival and are included with Epcot admission. Here is this year’s lineup (subject to change without notice):

March 2-5                    Night Ranger “Sister Christian”

March 9-12                  STARSHIP starring Mickey Thomas “We Built This City”

March 16-19                Simple Plan “Welcome to My Life”

March 23-26                Little River Band “Reminiscing”

March 30-April 2        The Orchestra starring former members of ELO “Evil Woman”

April 6-7                      Foghat (NEW!) “Slow Ride”

April 8-9                      Survivor (NEW to Garden Rocks!) “Eye of the Tiger”

April 13-14                  Smash Mouth (NEW to Garden Rocks!) “All Star”

April 15-16                  Rick Springfield (NEW to Garden Rocks!) “Jessie’s Girl”

April 20-21                  Jo Dee Messina (NEW to Garden Rocks!) “Stand Beside Me”

April 22-23                  Lonestar (NEW!) “Amazed”

April 27-30                  Blood, Sweat and Tears featuring Bo Bice “Spinning Wheel”

May 4-7                       Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone “I’m Henry VIII, I Am”

May 11-12                   Village People “Y.M.C.A.”

May 13-14                   Don Felder, formerly of The Eagles (NEW!) “Hotel California”

May 18-21                   The Guess Who “American Woman”

May 25-28                   The Spinners “Working My Way Back to You”

Electrifying! The Edison at Disney Springs Opens With an Over-The-Top New Year’s Eve Party

Corks popped, performers dazzled, searchlights painted the skies and The Edison – the newest hot-spot at Disney Springs – rang in 2018 with a gala, grand opening party Sunday night.

The Edison, a lavish, “Industrial Gothic”- themed restaurant and entertainment venue, toasted the new year with an eye-filling spectacle of world-class entertainment, bountiful food stations, craft cocktails and an unforgettable fizzy Champagne toast for the countdown to midnight.

The showy soiree began with a Hollywood-style red carpet made from the train of a red ball gown. Hosts in flapper attire and inventors on stilts greeted special guests amid the dazzling step and repeat photo ops reminiscent of a Tinseltown premiere. Inside, a live band, cabaret dancers, aerialists, variety acts and a DJ created an otherworldly scene and grand celebration as guests welcomed in 2018.

The ticketed grand opening party was the glittery lift-off for The Edison. By day, the new venue will be a playful dining experience for families, while at night, the space transforms into a destination focused on craft cocktails, contemporary American fare and entertainment unique to Central Florida, all within an eye-popping, waterfront setting.

The Edison creates a completely unique combination of style, art and design with great food, cocktails and world-class entertainment.  A fully immersive experience, The Edison features multiple themed areas to explore, such as the Lab performance space, The Ember Parlour, Telegraph Lounge, The Patent Office, The Tesla Lounge, The Radio Room, and the Waterfront Patio.

“The lights are officially on at The Edison and we’re delighted that guests can now experience the extraordinary entertainment, craft cocktails and cuisine unlike anything else in Central Florida,” said Nick Valenti, CEO of Patina Restaurant Group. “The reimagined power plant celebrates an era of invention and imagination in a new and distinct way.”

Open for lunch and dinner, The Edison treats guests to menu creations of Chef PJ Finneran that consist of contemporary American fare such as Pork Belly Pops (chile-brown sugar glaze), Crispy Fried Chicken (cast iron buttermilk biscuits), and a signature The Edison Burger, (a juicy combination of house-ground sirloin, short rib and brisket, topped with Cabot cloth-bound cheddar, onion rings, smoked bacon, house pickles, lettuce, tomato, special sauce and served with hand-cut fries). The Edison will soon introduce Bartender’s Midnight Breakfast, a late-night menu that will include traditional breakfast fare at night and offer guests a perfect way to keep the party going as the evening is winding down.

The Edison’s beverage lineup focuses on artfully crafted cocktails, interesting beers and wines, and house-made punches that serve from two to 10 guests. The Edison Signature Series includes cocktails such as The Wonderlust (Pernod Absinthe, Nolet’s Gin, Crème de Violette, pineapple syrup, lemon), Lady Marmalade (Corsair Absinthe, Hangar One, Noilly Prat vermouth, Giffard Ginger, verjus, pomegranate), The Crimson Vesper (Absolut Elyx, Lilet Rouge, Plymouth Sloe Gin, orange) and The Edison (Woodford Reserve, Belle de Brillet Pear Liqueur, lemon).

The center of the restaurant is stage for a dance floor and performance stage, where an eclectic lineup of live entertainers including musicians, aerialists and dancers fire up the night.

The Edison is now open Sunday-Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. and Thursday-Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Guests at The Edison must be 21 years or older starting at 10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday nights. There is a cover charge of $15 per guest beginning at 10 p.m. Additionally, The Edison has an enforced dress code Thursday-Saturday evenings beginning at 10 p.m. Men must wear slacks, jeans or dress shorts. No ball caps, sleeveless shirts or flip-flops are permitted. Jackets are optional.

This destination restaurant will host a variety of unique events, chef-driven dinners and promotions throughout 2018. The restaurant offers savings for Disney Annual Passholders, Disney Vacation Club members, Tables in Wonderland cardholders and Disney Cast Members. For more information on The Edison, visit TheEdisonFLA.com.

Walt Disney World Resort Celebrates 25 Years of Marathons with Central Florida’s Largest Sports Event

The 25th annual Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend presented by Cigna, ranks among the nation’s most popular destination races, growing from 8,200 runners in 1994 to more than 100,000 athletes and spectators expected at the event this year, including 76 “perfects” (runners who have participated in every Walt Disney World Marathon). As Central Florida’s largest sporting event, the four-day race weekend offers activities for runners of all ages and levels including the 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathonrunDisney Kids Races and runDisney Health and Fitness Expo.

Storylines include: 

Georgia Cleland (Ruxton, Md.) is attempting to tackle her first marathon, which is remarkable given she is still trying to overcome the lingering effects of the life-threatening acute lymphocytic leukemia she battled as a child. Now 33 years old and having grappled with intense treatments, including cranial radiation and chemotherapy, she is running with Team in Training, the campaign her father founded in her honor 30 years ago.  Team in Training is the world’s largest endurance sports fundraising and training program, raising more than $1.5 billion for research to fight blood cancers.

Tony Randolph (Baltimore, Md.), who was once nearly homeless and wrestling with substance abuse, is an example for everyone that there is no hill too high to climb. Randolph, who is running the 5K this weekend, has used running to help him leave his homelessness and substance issues behind, and now has stable housing and his own landscape business with the help of the Back on My Feet organization. The national non-profit organization supported by the Cigna Foundatiocombats homelessness through running and community support.

Bindu Panapalli (Glen Allen, Va.)  has tried to help cancer patients for years through her job as a lab technician. Now she is a walking, talking – and running – example of how to courageously fight the disease. Despite several surgical procedures and chemotherapy treatments over an 18-month period, Panapalli is running the 10K this weekend as a testament to others who are trying to overcome similar challenges. Afterwards, she will be back at work helping fellow cancer patients while also working toward a doctorate degree.

When & Where: 

Walt Disney World 5K Race:Date: Thursday, Jan. 4

Start 5:30 a.m.

Arrive at Epcot by 4:30 a.m. for live coverage of the start and finish line.
Walt Disney World 10K Race: Date: Friday, Jan. 5Start 5:30 a.m. Arrive at Epcot by 4:30 a.m. for live coverage of the start and finish line.
Walt Disney World Half Marathon Race:Date: Saturday, Jan. 6

Start 5:30 a.m.

Arrive at Epcot by 3:30 a.m. for live coverage of the start and finish line.
25th annual Walt Disney World Marathon Race:Date: Sunday, Jan. 7

Start 5:30 a.m.

Arrive at Epcot by 3:30 a.m. for live coverage of the start and finish line.

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Disney’s Lady and the Tramp Wags Its Way into the Walt Disney Signature Collection on Digital Feb. 20 and Blu-ray Feb. 27


What better way to celebrate today’s National Spaghetti Day, then announcing this February, Disney’s cherished animated classic, “Lady and the Tramp,” will join the highly celebrated Walt Disney Signature Collection! As one of the greatest love stories ever told, “Lady and the Tramp” is sure to melt the hearts of generations with its beloved characters, brilliant animation, memorable music and sweet sentiment. Every member of the family will treasure this timeless tale—loaded with three versions of the film, classic bonus material and three all-new features—when it heads home on Digital and on Movies Anywhere Feb. 20 and on Blu-ray on Feb. 27!

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