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The Gaylord Palms' Christmassy DreamWorks Experience translates into lots of holiday face time with the "Shrek," "Madagascar" and "Kung Fu Panda" characters

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The Gaylord Palms' Christmassy DreamWorks Experience translates into lots of holiday face time with the "Shrek," "Madagascar" and "Kung Fu Panda" characters

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Francis T. sent me this e-mail yesterday:

I know that you mostly write about Disney. But my eight year old has recently discovered the Dreamworks animation movies and is now completely obsessed with Shrek. We're headed to Orlando next month. So I was wondering if you had any recommendations about where I could take Ian so that he could then be guaranteed plenty of  facetime with his new favorite character.

Copyright DreamWorks Animation, LLC. All rights reserved

Dear Francis T.

First of all, if Ian really is a Shrek fan, be sure that you and your son watch ABC tonight between 8:30 - 9 p.m. ET/PT. You see, just ahead of the live grand finale of "Dancing With the Stars: All-Stars," the Alphabet Network will be airing "Shrek the Halls." Which is this half hour-long holiday special that stars the green guy, Fiona, Farkle, Fergus, Felicia as well as their storybook friends.

Here's an interesting bit of "Shrek the Halls" trivia for all your Disney animation buffs out there: This 2007 DreamWorks Animation production was actually directed by Gary Trousdale. Who -- back when he was teamed with Kirk Wise -- co-directed a trio of well-received full length animated features for Walt Disney Animation Studios. To be specific 1991's "Beauty and the Beast," 1996's "Hunchback of Notre Dame" and 2001's "Atlantis: the Lost Empire ." FYI: Kirk & Gary also created the pre-show film for that late, lamented Epcot attraction, "Cranium Command" (which used to be presented inside of the "Wonders of Life" pavilion at Future World).

Getting back to Shrek now ... If you're headed to Orlando next month and are seriously looking to do the Shrek's-greatest-hits tour while you're in town, then you have to spend at least one day at Universal Studios Florida. Which is where  -- in the Production Central portion of this theme park -- you'll find USF's Shrek 4-D attraction.

This 12 minute-long 3D film basically covers what happened between the end of the original "Shrek" film and its 2004 sequel, "Shrek 2 ." It reveals that -- en route to Hotel Honeymoon -- Shrek and Fiona were (SLIGHT SPOILER HERE) waylaid by the Ghost of Lord Farquaad and his henchman, Thelonious. And these newlyweds  need Donkey & Dragon's help if their wedding night is ever going to get back on track.

Copyright NBCUniversal / DreamWorks Animation, LLC. All rights reserved

 And now here's a fun fact for all you Disney theme park fans: Pacific Data Images (i.e. the DreamWorks Animation's acquisition that initially handled all of the CG for this Glendale-based studio) also did some computer animation for another 3D movie that's currently being screened in the Orlando area. They're the folks who -- back in 1991 -- created all of the Waldo footage featured in "Jim Henson's Muppet*Vision 3D" over at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Anyway ... Once you and your son have experienced " ...  the miracle of OgreVision" and have then wandered the aisles at Shrek's Ye Old Souvenir Shoppe, if you're still in need of additional interaction with the big green guy ... Well, then you've got to head on over to the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center. Which is currently offering DreamWorks Experience packages.

Photo by Jim Hill

Which -- for a Shrek fan like Ian -- would be like he's died and gone to ogre heaven. Given that -- if you book a two or three-day DreamWorks Experience package -- this is what will greet you upon arrival in your hotel room.

Photo by Jim Hill

That's right. It's a plate of Ogre Fingers (which are kind of like Twinkies that have been covered in thick green fondant). Lovingly presented on a bed of chocolate cookie crumbs, surrounded by gummy worms and colorful candy rocks.

What's more, your morning wake-up call can be delivered by Shrek himself (or Donkey. Or Po from the "Kung Fu Panda" films. Or King Julien from the "Madagascar" trilogy. It all depends on who your favorite DreamWorks Animation character is). And you can then start your day off with a big glass of swamp juice ...

Photo by Jim Hill

... which you can use to wash down a Shrek-shaped waffle ...

Photo by Jim Hill

... which is only available at the ShrekFeast Interactive Character Meal. Which -- as you might expect, given the name of this particular Gaylord Palms offering -- features a moment where Shrek & Fiona will actually come by your table and then interact with your family.

Photo by Jim Hill

I have to say that -- when Nancy, Alice and I dropped by the Gaylord in July and did  the whole DreamWorks Experience -- the ShrekFeast (which is presented in the backmost portion of the Villa de Flora on select Saturday & Sunday mornings from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.) offered quite the spread. Though -- that said -- this early in the morning, I just couldn't bring myself to sample the green goo that was bubbling in what our hostess referred to as " ... the magic fountain."

Photo by Jim Hill

I mean, I know. It was only white chocolate that had had green food coloring added to it. But even so, the very idea of eating a chunk of cake or a marshmallow which had been dunked in chocolate fondue was ... Well, I'm not one of those guys who likes to start his day off by immediately slipping into a diabetic coma. But your mileage may vary.

 Anywho ... After breakfast, if you're now looking to burn off some of those extra calories you took on  you while ogre-indulging at ShrekFeast, why not grab the family and head out for a Rise of the Guardians Scavenger Hunt? This indoor activity (which takes its inspiration from DreamWorks Animation's latest theatrical release) will send you wandering through all of the Gaylord Palms' spectacular atriums as you collect information to solve puzzles and crack codes. And provided that you enter all of the right answers on the appropriate website, you could wind up winning the grand prize.

Photo by Jim Hill

Mind you, you'll probably wind up revisiting the Gaylord Palms' indoor atriums later in the day. Given that this is where you and your family will then get to meet & greet with some of your favorite DreamWorks Animation characters.

As you might expect, that party monster King Julien is greeting guests & holding court in the Key West atrium, just across from Sunset Sam's.

Photo by Jim Hill

Meanwhile in the bamboo forest at the edge of the Old Spanish fort that you'll find in the Gaylord Palms' St. Augustine atrium, Po happily poses with "Kung Fu Panda" fans.

Photo by Jim Hill

And -- as you might expect -- who's made a new home for himself in the faux swamp found in the Everglades atrium but Shrek himself?

Photo by Jim Hill

The only downside of visiting the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center next month, Francis is ... Well, to be blunt here, you're a year too late for the "Shrek the Halls" -themed ICE! winter holiday attraction.

For those of you who don't know: Every year between early November and the first day of January, the Gaylord Palms presents this special seasonal show. Where 40 artisans from Harbin, China transform two million pounds of ice into a frosty walk-thru interactive DreamWorks Animation character experience.

Photo by Jim Hill

Last year, the Gaylord built this popular Central Florida Xmas activity around DWA's "Shrek the Halls" TV special. For the 2012 - 2013 holiday season, ICE! is drawing its inspiration from DreamWorks Animation's 2009 holiday special, "Merry Madagascar." Which detailed how Alex the Lion and his friends from the "Madagascar" trilogy saved Christmas after Santa & his reindeer crash land on the Island of Madagascar one Christmas Eve.

And since Santa suffers a head injury as a direct result of this crash and now can't remember who he is, all Claus wants to do now is party with King Julien and the lemurs ...

Photo by Jim Hill

... it's up to Alex and his friends to deliver all of those presents to the children of the world.

I had hoped to include a few more shots of the interior of this year's version of ICE! But -- to insure that all of the icy characters now on display in "Merry Madagascar" remain intact right through January 1st -- the staff of the Gaylord Palms keeps all 20,000 square feet of this indoor exhibit at a frigid 9 degrees. Which is why my camera froze up just three rooms into this spectacular seasonal walk-thru.

But the upside is that my camera eventually thawed out once I got outside again. Which is where I found the walk-around character versions of the "Madagascar" cast entertaining some Gaylord Palms guests at the Crack-a-Lackin' Pool Party.

Photo by Jim Hill

In short, it's kind of wall-to-wall DreamWorks Animation 24/7 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center these days, Francis. So if you really are looking to give your son Ian a Shrek-filled Central Florida vacation when you arrive in Orlando next month ... Well, you may want to consider booking one of those Christmassy DreamWorks Experience packages that this Disney World-adjacent property is currently offering. Especially taking into consideration the Cyber Monday specials that the Gaylord Palms is offering now through December 2nd for selected dates over the course of this resort's 7 1/2 week long holiday celebration.

Photo by Jim Hill

Because there's just no other place in the Orlando area where you'll be able to get this sort of access to the big green guy and his friends & family over the 2012 - 2013 holiday season.

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  • Aaaahhhh.  This explains why there was a kung fu panda backdrop at the gaylord opryland resort.

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