Celebrating Mickey Mouse’s Birthday at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts

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This weekend marked the birthday of the one it all started with – Mickey Mouse! Fans turned out to join the #HappyBirthdayMickey fun with special celebrations at all of our Disney Parks around the world. Take a look at the festivities at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts in the video below!

Leading up to the big day, Mickey Mouse visited exciting destinations such as Japan, Chile, Canada, China, England and the United States, sharing magical moments on Disney’s Mickey Mouse Facebook and Instagram pages. Join us in celebrating the one and only Mickey Mouse and share your favorite moments using the hashtag #HappyBirthdayMickey!

UCF Knights Face Early Season Test As Hosts of 2017 AdvoCare Invitational at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex

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UCF head men’s basketball coach Johnny Dawkins begins his second season at the helm of a Knights program that he directed to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) semifinals during his inaugural season as head coach last season.  The Knights posted a 24-12 (.667) overall record and led all 351 Division I men’s basketball programs in field goal percentage defense (36.5). The Knights, who were 15-3 at home last season, are among eight teams participating in the 12th Annual AdvoCare Invitational tournament that will be played at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort (Nov. 23, 24 and 26).

The tournament, regarded by basketball experts as one of the best early season tune-ups in all of college basketball, features 2016 NCAA Sweet 16 team West Virginia, as well as the Knights (3-0).  Other participants include Long Beach State, Marist, Missouri, Nebraska, Oregon State and St. John’s.

Disney Sports PR Manager Reggie Roberts spoke with Coach Dawkins last week about his expectations for the AdvoCare Tournament, his outlook for the 2017 season, and what he wants this year’s team to be known for.

Reggie Roberts:  You’ve got the team off to a 3-0 start this year.  Give us a sense of where this team is and how good can you be?

Coach Dawkins: “This year’s team is a different team from last year’s team.  We lost three seniors from last year’s team and our current team only has one senior, so obviously, we’re a young team, but I like our talent and I like our energy.  I think we can be very competitive, and I think we have shown that during the first three games.  One of the main differences between last year’s team and our current team is last year’s team knew what it took to win games. Our current team is in the process of learning how to win.  We are learning what we have to do for 40 minutes to give ourselves a chance to win games and they’ve done a good job so far, but it’s still a process with this group because in order to make it a habit, you have to continually do the things that help you win, and our guys are still learning to build those habits.”

RR: You mentioned this team learning how to win.  Saturday’s game against William & Mary was one of those close, back-and-forth games, until you guys were able to pull away late.  What was your main takeaway from that win that helped you guys improve to 3-0 with the AdvoCare Invitational coming up?

CD: “This was a good test for us. They’re (William & Mary) a really good team from the standpoint of how they execute.  They run one of those offensive systems that are difficult to guard.  I thought our guys, being as this was the first time they’ve seen a team play that way, defended it well, and I think we won this game because we defended well.”

RR:  Each team has a signature or a trait they are known for.  What do you want your team to be known for this year?

CD: “We were the number one field goal percentage defensive team in the country last year (limited opponents to 36.5 percent shooting from the field in 2016). Out of 351 Division I college basketball teams in the country last year, we were number one.  That’s what we hang our hat on. We believe our defense gives us a chance to be competitive with our opponents every night. That’s what we bought into last year and that’s one of the big reasons we were able to have a successful season.”

RR:  What do you and your team have to do to come out of next week’s tournament feeling like you got better and got what you needed to get accomplished?

CD: “We need to play our brand of basketball – UCF basketball.  That means we need to defend the way we are capable of defending and we need to improve and get better every time we step on the floor.  The tournament will be a success for us if we do those things.  We don’t measure ourselves simply by wins and losses; we measure ourselves by our standard which is how we play and by the things we want to see happen on each and every possession both offensively and on the defensive end of the floor. That’s what we look for.  If we can do those things we need to do on the defensive end and share the ball the way we are capable of, that means we are improving.  We will be three games into our season by the time the tournament starts, so we are a work in progress.  We are still forming our team, so we want to make sure that we see steady progress in areas that bring us together, and if we do those things, it will be a successful tournament for us and the wins will come.”

RR: Can you give us a sense of who your top guys are – particularly your starters and the first few guys off the bench?

CD: “Starting wise – at the center spot – you’re looking at Tacko Fall (Center, 7-6, Dakar, Senegal). Tacko is one of the best defensive centers is the country (Named American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2016). He almost averaged a double-double last year as a sophomore and has gotten a lot better offensively in the low post.  He’s very efficient in that he shot over 70 percent from the field (71.5) which led the conference.  Next to him, we have a lot of perimeter guys. One of our guys is A.J. Davis (Guard/Forward, 6-9, Atlanta, Georgia) who is a very versatile player, terrific defender on the perimeter who plays with a lot of length and versatility. Offensively, he plays multiple positions for us.  He does everything from bringing the ball up the court to assisting other guys score the basketball for us.  He’s a jack of all trades for us – kind of our glue guy.  Next to him his Dayon Griffin (Guard, 6-4, St. Petersburg, Florida). Dayon is a transfer player (Louisiana Tech) who sat out last year.  He is an excellent three-point shooter with deep range who can also take you off the bounce and get to the basket.  He’s also a solid defender. At the point guard spot, we have Terrell Allen (Guard, 6-2, Upper Marlboro, Maryland), who is a pure point guard who looks to make others better.  He finds guys in transition, gets into the paint and creates for himself and others, and can make the open shot.  At the next spot is Ceasar DeJesus (Guard, 6-2, Jersey City, New Jersey), who is a scoring guard who is a really good finisher at the basket.  He’s a playmaker, and he is a freshman which says a lot about him since he is starting as a freshman.  He has performed well for us so far.  The next guy is Chance McSpadden (Guard, 6-4, Winter Haven, Florida), who is an excellent defensive player who is also a good open floor shooter, runs the floor well in transition. He is more of a scoring guard, but he can make plays.  Off the bench, we have Rokas Ulvydas (Forward, 6-11, Kaunas, Lithuania) and Chad Brown (Forward, 6-9, Deltona, Florida).  Rokas is our big 6-11 versatile center who can step outside and make shots or can score it in the low post.  Chad is the energy guy.  He runs the floor well and is a great shot blocker.”

RR: And finally, give us a sense of how competitive your conference will be this season?

CD: “We have a great conference. We think we play in one of the best conferences in the country.  Wichita State recently joined the conference and they are a Top 5, Top 10 team and then you have Cincinnati, which is a Top 15 team.  We also play in a conference that includes Memphis, Connecticut, SMU, and Temple, so it’s a great league that has very accomplished coaches. Some of the coaching resumes of our guys include guys who are national championship winners, national coach of the year winners, and to be quite totally honest with you, I think we play in one of the best conferences in the country.”

University of Iowa Football Program Named 2017 Disney Sports Spirit Award Winner

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Football program lauded for its inspirational “Kinnick Wave’’ to patients at nearby children’s hospital

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (Nov. 20, 2017) – The 2017 Disney Sports Spirit Award will be presented to the University of Iowa this year.

Disney Sports announced the selection on Nov. 20 and will present the award to the school during The Home Depot College Football Awards presented by GILDAN, which are televised live on ESPN on Dec. 7 at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.

The Hawkeye program is a first-time recipient of the award given annually to college football’s most inspirational player, coach, team or figure.  The program earned the award after launching a heart-warming tradition this season that is touching the lives of scores of young patients housed at a nearby children’s hospital.

On Sept. 2, shortly after opening the University of Iowa’s Stead Family’s Children’s Hospital that sits virtually next door to the team’s Kinnick Stadium, a new tradition was started during Hawkeye home football games.

At the end of the first quarter, the stadium announcer encourages the roughly 70,000 fans who attend every home game to stand and wave to the young patients at the children’s hospital.  Word spread quickly inside the hospital, and more and more patients made their way to the hospital’s upper floors which provide an unobstructed view of the football field below.

And they started waving back.

As the season progressed, opposing players began joining the wave. Even the game’s referees have gotten in on what’s now affectionately called the “Kinnick Wave.’’ In its wake have come stories of young patients who have been moved to embrace a more hopeful outlook despite their illness.

“First and foremost, we are excited to have been selected the 2017 winner of the Disney Sports Spirit Award,” said Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz.  “I don’t believe anyone would have imagined the wave — “The Kinnick Wave” — would have become such a universal show of support.  It’s a simple way for 70,000 people to recognize the kids, the parents and hospital staff who are the real champions, fighting every day to overcome significant medical challenges. I’m proud that a kind gesture has had a profoundly positive impact on so many people in our state and the nation. We are honored and proud to be part of the Kinnick Wave.”

Disney Sports Vice President Faron Kelley, who will be in Atlanta to present the award to Coach Ferentz, said the “Kinnick Wave” has had a significant impact all over the state of Iowa.

“The impact these fans are having on the lives of those young patients probably can’t be fully measured,’’ said Kelley. “Waving at them is seemingly a simple gesture but the effect it’s having on those kids should be an inspiration to all of us, and that’s why we so enthusiastically chose the Iowa football program for this coveted award.’’

The Iowa football program becomes the 22nd recipient of the award, joining past honorees James Connor (2016), Hank Goff (2015), Bob Stoops and Sterling Shepard (2014), Devon Walker (2013), Nate Boyer (2012), Carson Tinker and the University of Alabama (2011), D.J. Williams (2010), Mark Herzlich (2009) and Tim Tebow (2008), among others. The award was first given in 1996 to Rossville High School’s Daniel Huffman.

Kelley will present the award during The Home Depot College Football Awards presented by GILDAN on Dec. 7airing on ESPN at 7 p.m. EST. The show – hosted by ESPN’s Chris Fowler; and joined by Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard, Maria Taylor and Tom Rinaldi – will originate from the College Football Hall of Fame and Chick-fil-A Fan Experience in Atlanta.

‘Olaf’s Frozen Adventure’ Actor Jonathan Groff Visits Walt Disney World Resort

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Earlier this month, actor Jonathan Groff stopped by Walt Disney World Resort to share a visit – and a warm hug – with his pal, Olaf.

Jonathan and the lovable snowman star in “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure,” a featurette that’s set to screen before Disney Pixar’s “Coco,” in theaters starting November 22. In this latest tale from Arendelle, royal sisters Anna and Elsa realize that unlike other families, they don’t have any holiday traditions. Olaf and Sven then embark on a hilarious journey throughout the town to find the perfect holiday traditions Anna and Elsa will love.

Here at the Walt Disney World Resort, “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” has already inspired the addition of a new finale for the existing “For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This new finale, which will run throughout the holiday season, features Olaf and three songs from the new featurette.

Moms Panel Monday: Making Memories with your Preschooler

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Take a stroll down memory lane with Disney Parks Moms Panelist, Lindsey P., as she reminisces about some of her favorite times spent at Magic Kingdom Park as a child. From spinning in the tea cups with her dad at the Mad Tea Party to taking flight on Peter Pan’s Flight, she can still remember the smiles and giggles.

And now as a mom herself, Lindsey is making those same magical memories with her children:

For more tips on planning a magical vacation with your preschooler, or to ask questions about planning your next Disney vacation, be sure to visit DisneyParksMomsPanel.com for a personalized response from our knowledgeable panel.