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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.
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
." 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
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.
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 ...
... which you can use to wash down a Shrek-shaped waffle ...
... 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.
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
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
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
As you might expect, that party monster King Julien is
greeting guests & holding court in the Key West atrium, just across from
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.
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?
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
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
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 ...
... 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.
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.
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.
Aaaahhhh. This explains why there was a kung fu panda backdrop at the gaylord opryland resort.