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The following are some key business-side stories from the last six months.

This is the initiative that sparked congressional attention. What are your thoughts?

At Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, we continually push the boundaries of creativity and innovation to deliver the best possible experience for our guests. We’re always looking for ways to take what we do and do it even better. Over the past few years, we’ve devoted considerable time and resources to create a more immersive, more seamless and more personal experience for each and every guest who spends time with us. I know there’s been significant speculation about these efforts among our fans, so we’re pleased to give you a glimpse into the work we are doing to take the entire Disney guest experience to the next level.

And check out this preview by Ricky Brigante from Inside The Magic:

Imaginations Design Contest Winners
Creativity and innovation are at the heart of what the The Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, and even more importantly, so is cultivating the next generation of talent to carry on the Disney legacy.

Earlier this month, students from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, took first prize in Walt Disney Imagineering’s 22nd ImagiNations Design Competition. ImagiNations challenges college students from around the country to conceive and craft a proposal for a mock Disney theme park, attraction, hotel or other themed entertainment experience or product. The goal of the annual contest is to encourage participants to exhibit their creative and technical skills and ability to collaborate rather than produce plans for actual development.

Mickey & Minnie Go Exploring
Starting this spring, Mickey and Minnie Mouse will invite you into their very own exploration headquarters at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The all-new Adventurers Outpost on Discovery Island is home base for your globetrotting Disney pals, where they meet friends old and new, as they get ready to set off on their next adventure.

Ticker Guide Note: Could this be a first step in moving guests out of Camp Minnie-Mickey to prepare for Avatar Land?

Disney Makes Up With Consumers
Beautifully Disney defines timeless beauty through collections of fairytale nostalgia, unlocking harmonious colors. Through the collections of this new and enchanting makeup line, it is the goal to keep guests romanced by the contrast of mysterious yet inviting colors and sparkle to experience modern recreations of our most beloved and treasured Disney characters. Beautifully Disney is sure to bring out the sheer brilliance of your inner most beauty. The character inspired collection is the first of its kind for Disney Parks and has been developed to evoke the spirit, beauty, and fantasy of all things Disney.

Once Upon A Disney
You know that the popular ABC hit Once Upon A Time takes the classic Disney stories we grew up with and turns them on end, with extra character background, intriguingly interwined stories and constantly shifting battles of good vs. evil. But did you know that each episode also contain the equivilent of Hidden Mickey's, tributes to those classic stories? Check out these hidden Disney references you might have missed:

Tom Hanks Saving Mr. Banks
Walt Disney has returned to Disneyland for the first time in decades, as Disney magic meets movie magic. The upcoming film “Saving Mr. Banks” began filming inside Disneyland today, with Tom Hanks portraying the role of Walt himself. Check out these photos from last November and tell me if you think Tom Hanks really looks like Walt Disney.

Starbucks, Talking About StarBucks
At the Magic Kingdom, on Main Street USA, the Main Street Bakery will close in January 2013, reopening as a Starbucks location a few months later, in early summer. Inside, an early 20th century look will be retained through the location’s theme and Cast Member costumes. At Epcot, the Fountain View will close in March 2013, reopening reopen as a Starbucks location sometime midsummer. Costumes here will be in line with the “futuristic theme” of the park.

Each will be a fully functional Starbucks location, including all the usual beverages, baked goods, and sandwiches, with more locations on the way “soon” for both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. The Main Street Bakery will continue to serve Disney menu items as well.

The Starbucks inside the Disney California Adventure theme park has been successful since its opening within the Fifer and Practical Café in June 2012, featuring prices in line with most other Starbucks locations throughout the country. Signage in the area is minimal, indicating the location features Starbucks products but not overwhelmingly advertising it as such. The same will likely be true for the Main Street USA and Future World locations, keeping with their themes.

Disney In The Community
More than 150 community leaders in November got a glimpse of the largest expansion in Magic Kingdom Park history. In between sampling the fare at Be Our Guest Restaurant and experiencing attractions like Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid and Enchanted Tales with Belle, they heard about the positive impact New Fantasyland is having on Central Florida.

Closing The Door On Epic Mickey
Following poor sales and reviews for “Epic Mickey 2,” Disney Interactive has shuttered Junction Point Studios. The video game company was founded in 2005 by veteran developer Warren Spector, later acquired in 2007 by Disney to create the “Epic Mickey” series. Warren Spector posted a goodbye letter on Facebook, emphasizing his continued love of Disney despite no longer working for them:

Finger Lickin' Good
When Walt Disney World first added HGTV stars to the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival a few years ago, the line between that popular annual event and the park’s Flower and Garden Festival began to blur. This year Disney takes a giant step further in almost combining these two happenings by adding a Garden Marketplace throughout the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, offering unique food and drinks around the World Showcase promenade.

It all takes place daily March 6 – May 19, 2013, included with Epcot park admission. Among amazing topiaries and gardens, the new food-and-beverage Garden Marketplaces will add taste to the sensory experience of attending this event. A total of 11 marketplaces will show off unique flavors in a familiar format to anyone who has attended the Food and Wine Festival.

D23 Goes To Tokyo
Disney announced plans to expand the popular D23 Expo to its overseas resort in Tokyo for Disney fans created by D23: The Official Disney Fan Club. D23 Expo Japan, the first Expo to be held outside the U.S., will feature presentations hosted by senior Disney creative executives showcasing what’s on the horizon from across The Walt Disney Company, including theme parks, movies, television, music, and interactive gaming.

Merchandise and collectibles, Disney characters, and surprises will be included in the event, which will take place October 12–14, 2013, at the Tokyo Disney Resort. Ticketing and program information will be announced in March.

At the D23 Expo Japan, D23 and the Walt Disney Archives will present Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives, featuring nine decades of treasures from the Archives’ collection. Tokyo Disney Resort will also celebrate its 30th year with a special retrospective exhibit.

Marvel Goes To Hong Kong
Marvel is coming to Disney Parks. Unfortunately for United States and European fans of Wolverine, Captain America, Iron Man, and the Hulk, it’s initially happening overseas. Hong Kong Disneyland will be the first Disney theme park to build a new “themed area” featuring Marvel characters. In his 2013-14 budget speech, Hong Kong Financial Secretary John Tsang said, “In the coming few years, Hong Kong Disneyland will launch a new night-time parade and put in place a themed area featuring ‘Marvel heroes’, the first of its kind in the world.”

Hong Kong Disneyland is currently in the midst of wrapping up a large expansion that began with Toy Story Playland, continued with Grizzly Gulch, and will culminate with the opening of Mystic Point later this year. But it seems they’re not stopping there, expanding further with the Marvel universe. It’s not clear yet how extensive this Marvel “area” will be. Whether it’s a full new “land” for the park featuring rides and other attractions or just a smaller area for characters to meet and greet remains to be seen. Either way, it will be the first park to fully utilize Disney’s 2009 $4 billion purchase of Marvel.

Management Merry Go Round
Disney Parks announced a change in leadership at its United States theme parks on both coasts which took effect February 1st, 2013. Current Disneyland president George Kalogridis has been named president of Walt Disney World, replacing Meg Crofton who will remain President of Operations for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, United States and Paris. Michael Colglazier, currently vice president of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, will become the new president of Disneyland Resort. The full release can be found here:

To Infinity And Beyond!
In a special event at Disney’s El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, California, Disney Interactive today unveiled the highly-anticipated upcoming video game called “Disney Infinity.” This game allows players to take control of Disney characters from across decades of filmmaking, from classic animated films to modern day Pixar movies, and explore open worlds interacting together. Using real life figurines, players will be able to combine the many worlds of Disney across consoles, mobile devices, and online.

Check out the full video of the presentation as well as first person descriptions of the game:

Who was especially interested in seeing D23 leaving the confines of the United States, and Mavel heading over to Asia...
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