a whole new world
May 27, 2020

Disney has unveiled plans to reopen its Florida theme parks, though with plenty of precautions in place and some activities put on hold.

The company this week proposed reopening Walt Disney World Resort's Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom on July 11, with Epcot and Hollywood Studios reopening on July 15, Variety reports. These dates were approved by the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

This reopening would occur about four months after Disney World's Orlando theme parks closed during the coronavirus pandemic, and the plan comes as every state in the U.S. has started some form of reopening process. Disney recently began to reopen Disney Springs, its dining and shopping area, doing so with precautions like temperature checks and masks being required. The Disney World theme parks will also implement temperature checks and require marks to be worn, while capacity will be reduced as well.

Additionally, when the parks reopen, Disney said it will "temporarily pause cast member meet-and-greets, temporarily suspend parades and firework displays, and temporarily close playgrounds and water-effects areas." The park is looking to close "anything that could draw a crowd," according to the Reporter.

This move comes after Universal Orlando proposed an earlier reopening date of June 5, with the park operating at limited capacity and with temperature checks and masks required. SeaWorld is also planning to reopen in Orlando on June 11. Brendan Morrow

March 26, 2020

Almost immediately after stepping back from the royal family, Meghan Markle is headed to the wonderful world of Disney.

Disney announced Thursday a new nature documentary, Elephant, is headed to Disney+ next month that Markle will narrate. The documentary "follows African elephant Shani and her spirited son Jomo as their herd make an epic journey hundreds of miles across the vast Kalahari Desert," Disney said.

A trailer for Elephant released Thursday describes it as being narrated by "Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex," with Variety observing Disney doesn't use the HRH royal title. Elephant will be hitting Disney just a few days after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's step back as senior members of the royal family is made official on March 31, though they've already finished their last royal duties.

It was previously reported in January that Markle had lined up a Disney voiceover project that would benefit Elephants Without Borders. At the time, a clip resurfaced of Harry chatting with Disney's then-CEO Bob Iger and telling, "You know she does voice-overs?" Iger responds, "Oh, really?" The conversation, it seems, piqued his interest.

It's possible this won't be Markle's final Disney collaboration, if one report suggesting she's interested in acting in a superhero film is to be believed. Could her next step be a transition from being a senior royal to being a Disney princess? We'll see, but for now, Elephant will stream on Disney+ on April 3. Brendan Morrow

December 19, 2018

Disney fans ain't never had a Genie like Will Smith.

The first images of Smith's version of the character in Disney's live-action Aladdin were revealed Wednesday via Entertainment Weekly. The first thing you'll notice is that he's not blue like in the animated version, although that doesn't mean he won't appear that way in the movie at all. EW reports that "the final version of Will Smith's Genie in his blue floating lamp form isn't quite finished."

Smith certainly has large shoes to fill by taking over for the late Robin Williams, but he told EW that he hopes to deliver a take on the character that is "an homage to Robin Williams" but still "musically different." Indeed, he said he'll be bringing some "hip-hop flavor" to the Disney universe, with one executive describing the character as part Fresh Prince, part Hitch. The "flavor of the character" will be "different enough" from the Williams version so that it's not trying to "compete" with it, Smith explained.

Entertainment Weekly's cover story reveals some other details about the movie: Smith's Genie will definitely be singing "Friend Like Me," and Jasmine will get a new solo number that wasn't in the original film. She'll also have a best friend character to play off of, with director Guy Ritchie saying he hopes to make her a "more rounded character.".

Disney's Aladdin hits theaters on May 24. Brendan Morrow

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