“Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” coming to theaters this fall

Frozen fans — there’s a new Frozen mini-movie coming your way this fall, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure!

This isn’t the first Frozen short to be released — Frozen Fever came out in 2015 and was a lot of fun. But while Frozen Fever clocked in at seven minutes long (typical for a Pixar short), Olaf’s Frozen Adventure will be a 21-minute featurette complete with four new original songs! Watch the trailer below:

From Walt Disney Studios:

BURBANK, Calif. (June 13, 2017) – Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS) and Pixar Animation Studios are teaming up this holiday season when WDAS’ new featurette “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” opens in front of Disney•Pixar’s original feature film “Coco” on Nov. 22, 2017. The new trailer for the featurette will run in front of Disney•Pixar’s “Cars 3,” beginning this Friday, June 16, when Lightning McQueen’s new big-screen adventure opens in theaters nationwide.

“I’m thrilled that Disney Animation’s featurette ‘Olaf’s Frozen Adventure’ will be coming to theaters in November with Pixar’s ‘Coco,’” said John Lasseter, chief creative officer, Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios. “It’s a perfect pairing – they’re both beautiful, heartfelt films about families and how people carry traditions forward. I can’t wait for audiences to get to see both of these terrific projects together on the big screen.”

Featuring four new original songs, the 21-minute featurette welcomes the original cast and characters back to the big screen, including Olaf (voice of Josh Gad), who is on a mission to harness the best holiday traditions for Anna (voice of Kristen Bell), Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel) and Kristoff (voice of Jonathan Groff). Directed by Emmy®-winning filmmakers Kevin Deters and Stevie Wermers-Skelton (“Prep & Landing”), produced by Oscar® winner Roy Conli (“Big Hero 6”), with original songs by Elyssa Samsel and Kate Anderson (“Between the Lines”), “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” will be in theaters for a limited time beginning Nov. 22.

Sneak Peek: Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

We had the opportunity to attend one of Walt Disney World’s Passholder Previews for Pandora, Animal Kingdom’s new land. Be warned: there are lots of photos ahead, showing off Pandora’s amazing visuals and delights.,  including new rides, food, and beautiful architecture.

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Come in for a sneak peek into Pandora at Disney's Animal Kingdom, opening May 27, 2017. Click To Tweet

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As soon as you walk into Pandora, the landscape changes. There’s the lush foliage and flora you’re used to at Animal Kingdom, but it’s … different somehow. Alien. You’re in another world. The floating mountains loom in the distance and the sounds of birds are everywhere around you. All the strange and exotic blooms of Pandora are there for you to enjoy. From what the cast members told us, the nighttime views are even more spectacular, when Pandora’s bioluminescent plants come to life.

 

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Our first stop, after taking in all the sights, was Pongu Pongu, where we each ordered a Night Blossom. This non-alcoholic frozen beverage (seen here in the souvenir cup) is a mix of limeade combined with apple and pear flavors topped off with passion fruit boba balls. It was very sweet, but I thought incredibly refreshing.

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We enjoyed our drink in the outside seating area for Satu’li Canteen and then stepped inside for lunch. The quick service setup will look familiar to any Disney visitor — you place your order at the register, then pick it up at the counter. This restaurant, though, will be the first to offer mobile ordering through the My Disney Experience app, beginning May 27th. Make sure you’ve installed the latest update before you go.

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The food at Satu’li Canteen? Pretty darn good. I got the Chopped Wood-Grilled Chicken Bowl with wild grains and rice and the creamy herb dressing (seen here). My husband got steak with potatoes and the onion sauce and enjoyed his just as much. Both were tasty and filling. In fact, we were too full for dessert but the offerings looked delightful.

Now … the new rides.

First up, Avatar Flight of Passage. For the Passholder Preview, we were taken through the standby queues, though there were no lines at all given the limited attendance allowed. It gave us a chance to enjoy the scenery, and to appreciate all the work that went into designing this world.

 

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I have a feeling this queue will never look so empty again! It was a long, long walk to get to the ride, and it gives you pause to think how many parkgoers will fit in it. Rumor has it that the queue can accommodate a 6 hour wait, but I would hope for anyone’s sake that’s overestimating.

After you reach the end of that very long hallway, you wait until a “link room” is available. At that point, you and fifteen other riders are ushered into a room where the link process is explained to you, as well as a brief history of the Avatar program.

 

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At this point, we were asked to turn off cell phones and cameras, so I can’t give you pictures of the room where the ride takes place itself. My experience, though, was this: as I expected, I wasn’t able to ride. I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Flight of Passage does not accommodate all body types, and this is true. In addition to being somewhat Pooh-sized, I’m a tall girl (over 5′ 10″) with long legs. No amount of scootching up or pointing my toes or sitting up straight or any of the tips you’ve heard were going to make a difference when my knees were already right up against the seat, with no room to move. Some tall people and some people more “Pooh” than I am have ridden, but it all depends on each person’s individual body shape. If you’re all leg and not tiny, you may run into the same problem I did. The Cast Member was super nice and helped me, and sounded absolutely miserable that I wasn’t able to ride (she was more upset than I was, but more on that later).

So, I stepped outside through the exit door and waited there on a bench while my husband rode. While I waited, I had a great time talking to Cast Member William, who told me that this is a frequent occurrence and one the CMs feel terrible about. He said, and I hope he doesn’t mind me paraphrasing him here, that as Flight of Passage Cast Members it’s their sole purpose to give us an excellent ride experience, and that they’re truly disappointed when they can’t accommodate a particular rider.

We also talked a bit about why I wasn’t upset at missing the ride — I never had any intention of doing it, even if I had fit (but wanted to see if I did) because I have a lower back fusion and continuing disc problems, and this ride seemed like it would easily aggravate that. (A cast member I spoke to indicated his own mother won’t ride for the same reasons.) Disney gives its usual health disclaimer for this ride, warning those with high blood pressure, motion sickness, and “other conditions that could be aggravated”. For me, because of the back restraint on this ride, as well as the banking and leaning that would take place, this was too big of a risk for my too-easily-aggravated back condition. I’m sure it’s perfectly safe for anyone else, but if you’re in my shoes, be careful.

My husband, however, did ride, and enjoyed it very much. You wear 3D glasses and the visuals are perfect and seamless. You truly feel as if you’re flying, and part of that is because of the sounds, smells, and feel of your banshee beneath you, as well as the wind in your face as you soar and dive through Pandora’s skies. Everyone’s thrill level is different, but many are describing Flight of Passage as “Soarin’ meets Star Tours meets Mission Space” — three great rides rolled into one and set in the exotic world of Pandora.

 

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For a complete change of pace, we then went on the Na’vi River Journey, a beautiful boat ride through Pandora’s nighttime world. The ride is serene and lovely — we rode it twice — and the technology is stunning. The boats have two seats and legroom is ample for a comfortable ride.

Both rides will offer FastPass+, but Park visitors can only choose one of the two Pandora: World of Avatar rides in their first three selections. In other words, you can FastPass Flight of Passage, Kali River Run, and Dinosaur, and then if you like, try to get a same-day 4th FP for Na’vi River Journey. This may or may not be easy to do at first, so choose wisely (and use MDE to your best advantage).

Pandora is an exciting addition to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, with a great deal to enjoy visually, two new rides, an excellent quick service dining option, and banshees of your own to buy at Windtraders gift shop. Face painting, a drum circle, and other activities can be found throughout the land. While some may have questioned adding Pandora to Animal Kingdom (due to the fact that, well, Pandora doesn’t exist, unlike DAK’s other inhabitants), its message of conservation and protection ties in closely with Disney’s commitment to environmentalism. I think visitors both young and old (and even those who’ve never seen “Avatar”) will enjoy this new land to explore.

Celebrate the 4th of July at Disney’s Grand Floridian

4th of july fireworksStarting to make your summer plans, especially for the 4th of July? Independence Day can be an exciting but crowded day at Disney World. Guests from all over will be there celebrating and enjoying the Parks. If you aren’t up to braving the enormous crows at Cinderella’s Castle that night but still want to enjoy the fireworks in a beautiful and exclusive venue, you might be glad to hear that Disney’s Grand Floridan Resort & Spa will host a special limited ticket event to celebrate July 4th.

The entire event will be held at the marina at the resort. Dinner will include grilled steak and shrimp, other cookout favorites, dessert, and includes both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. After the meal, guests will have a terrific viewing location to watch the 4th of July fireworks show performed at the Magic Kingdom, including music piped into the area during the show for a full experience.

The tickets will be $120 (plus tax) for adults and $59 (plus tax) for children (ages 3-9). Reservations are already available for the event by calling (407) WDW-DINE. I would recommend making your reservation as soon as possible for this first-time event that is sure to be popular. You do not have to be staying at the Grand Floridian in order purchase tickets to the event.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Teaser Trailer is Here!

The first official teaser trailer (and teaser poster) from STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI just debuted at Star Wars Celebration Orlando. Watch it now here!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is in theaters on December 15, 2017. Teaser poster:

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Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along starts April 7

beauty singalongIf you loved the new live-action Beauty and the Beast as much as I did, you might want to see it again, and this time sing along to all your favorites, songs both new and old as time.

From Walt Disney Studios:

BURBANK, Calif. (April 3, 2017) – Fans of the worldwide box office smash “Beauty and the Beast” will be able to sing along with their favorite characters when the “Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along” hits approximately 1,200 theaters nationwide on Friday, April 7, 2017.

The “Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along” will feature on-screen lyrics to such beloved songs as “Belle,” “Be Our Guest,” “Gaston” and “Beauty and the Beast” written by eight-time Oscar®-winning composer Alan Menken and two-time Oscar-winning lyricist Howard Ashman and new songs “How Does a Moment Last Forever” and “Evermore” written by Menken and veteran lyricist and three time Oscar winner Tim Rice.

Disney’s live-action adaptation “Beauty and the Beast,” in which the story and characters audiences know and love come to spectacular life, has grossed more than $875 million worldwide to date, making it the highest grossing movie musical of all time. The film opened in U.S. theaters on March 17, 2017 immediately setting a box office record for the largest March opening ever for a PG-rated film (over $170 million). “Beauty and the Beast’s” domestic box office total currently stands at $393 million. Overseas the film has grossed more than $482 million as of today.

The film’s soundtrack, which includes songs from the score performed by Ariana Grande and John Legend, Celine Dion and Josh Groban, has been equally as well received, entering the Billboard 200 chart at No. 3 and Billboard’s Soundtrack and Children’s charts at No. 1. The Beauty and the Beast Soundtrack is available at: http://disneymusic.co/BeautySndtrkP and wherever music is sold and streamed.

Review: AMC Disney Springs 24 Dine-In Theatre

Last weekend my husband and I went to Disney Springs to see Beauty and the Beast, Disney’s new live action version of the animated classic. (The movie was wonderful,  by the way!) We decided to head up to WDW for the movie so we could do some shopping, be immersed in Disney, and to try out AMC’s Dine-In Theatre.

Seating is reserved. The chairs are comfortable, but getting old; the leather is stiff and aging. They lean back but in a desk chair kind of way, not like the feet-up recliners you see in a lot of theaters these days. In front of you there’s a table for your food, which conveniently has a foot bar I found very comfortable to prop my feet up on. It’s not stadium seating at all, though; there isn’t much slope to the floor so I wouldn’t get seats too far in the back. Overall, the theater viewing room itself needs a refurb soon.

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Our movie was at 11 AM, so we got there a little early to get our food order in right away. There are menus waiting for you, as well as silverware and 3D glasses, if needed. You can look at the full menu here on Disney’s site, but it offers a wide array of choices, including but not limited to burgers, boneless wings, nachos, sushi rolls, flatbreads, teriyaki bowls, mac & cheese, salads, wraps, tacos, chicken tenders, fish & chips, and doughnuts. You can also, of course, order traditional movie fare such as popcorn, candy, and drinks.

When you’re ready to order, you press a button at your table.

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Shortly thereafter, a waiter arrives and takes your order. The food arrived rather quickly after that — we had everything, drinks, appetizers, and main course, before the movie started. The waiters were all extremely helpful, polite, and attentive. Definitely a little of the Disney spirit of customer service going on there.

Review: AMC Disney Springs 24 Dine-In Theatre at Walt Disney World Click To Tweet

You don’t have to order early, though. And if you need anything during the movie, like a refill or napkins or dessert, just push the button and your waiter comes by again. This, though, was my biggest concern about a dine-in theater. I hate it when people talk, use their cell phones, or do anything distracting during the movie. It drives me crazy. People ordering food, waiters walking around, all during a Disney extravaganza and remake of one of my favorite movies, that I’d waited over a year for? Sounds like a recipe for disaster. Weirdly, though, it wasn’t at all distracting. The aisles are wide and the waiters really know how to be unobtrusive. It was fine, no problems, no distractions. Trust me, if there’s ANYONE this arrangement was going to bother, it was me, and it didn’t.

So, on to the food!

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We ordered two appetizers, the first being the Crispy Brussels Sprouts. They were very nicely seasoned, crunchy-crispy, and the cheese was a nice added touch. I know everyone isn’t a fan of Brussels sprouts (though I don’t know why not!) but these were delicious.

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We also got the loaded tater tots, and these were a little disappointing. The tots did have cheese sauce, bacon, scallions, and Ranch dressing, but not the way I’d imagined it — there was just a drizzle of each on top of regular old tater tots. Which are always yummy, but I expected something a little more decadent.

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Both of us had burgers and fries as our entrée. The fries were pretty good, especially while they were still hot. Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, nicely greasy. The burger wasn’t exceptional, though. The bun was fine but the patty itself was overcooked and dry.  My husband got the Royal Burger, which was loaded with bacon, brie, carmelized onions, sweet fig jam, and Royal sauce, and he didn’t notice that it was dry, given all those gooey toppings. A better-cooked burger to start with, though, would be a good improvement all around.

We had a great time at the AMC Dine-In at Disney Springs and would definitely go to a movie there again, especially a Disney movie, just to feel a little more immersed in the land of the Mouse. A few updates, a fresh coat of paint, and a better meat thermometer and I’d give it an A+, but even without those it’s a fun experience I can definitely recommend.

 

Music video for “Beauty and the Beast”

Just released: the new breathtaking music video for Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” (opening in theaters March 17, 2017), featuring John Legend and Ariana Grande.

Review: Le Cellier Steakhouse

Le Cellier Steakhouse in Epcot’s Canada Pavilion serves tender steaks, fresh seafood, cheesy poutine fries and other regional cuisine inspired by the provinces of Canada. From Disney:

Under sweeping stone arches and flickering candle sconces, this sizzling steakhouse recalls the wine cellars of grand château-style hotels like Fairmont Le Château Frontenac and Fairmont Château Laurier. Enjoy such signature dishes as the Canadian cheddar cheese soup and the “Le Cellier” mushroom filet mignon—or, for a lunch-time exclusive option, design your own 3-course feast from a selection of luscious prix fixe menu choices. And for a sweet ending to any meal, save room for maple crème brûlée or one of our other decadent desserts!

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I’ve had the pleasure of eating at Le Cellier twice and enjoyed both experiences greatly. The first time was during the Christmas holidays; the restaurant was decorated in a festive but understated way with garland and white lights. We had a wonderful time.

When we had the chance to return last month, we were worried that our meal, and our impression of Le Cellier, wouldn’t live up to the first impression it gave. Luckily, it very much did.

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My husband and I both started with the Canadian Cheddar Cheese soup. Made with Moosewood Beer and Applewood Smoked Bacon, this is unbelievably tasty. I thought it would be fun to dip Le Cellier’s famous pretzel bread in the soup, but in all honesty that made for too salty of a bite. As an aside, when we tried the “same” soup at Biergarten last year, we found it overall too salty, as well. But the soup offered up at Le Cellier is perfect.

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We tried the poutine on our previous visit and… we’re not fans. I love a good french fry and my husband does as well. But we like fries that are crisp, on the outside at least, and drowning fries in gravy or cheese creates a texture we’re not fond of. You know, my mother used to make what was, I’m told, a fantastic pork roast. I don’t like pork roast, though. So even the best pork roast in the world, which for all I know hers might have been, wasn’t ever going to be my favorite thing to eat. It’s the same thing with poutine. Le Cellier’s might be fantastic, if you like that kind of thing. We found it soggy. But it might be just what you’re looking at on a plate of smothered fries.

For the main course, I can never resist filet mignon. Le Cellier’s is served on a bed of mushroom risotto and with an asparagus relish (which I omitted) and truffle butter sauce. The risotto is creamy and rich; I didn’t quite finish all of it as a result. If I had one complaint it might be that the flavor is a little too strong and could overwhelm the flavor of the filet.

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The beef itself was cooked to an absolutely perfect medium rare, as requested. It had a nice char, but truly could be eaten with a butter knife, it was so tender. And delicious — drenched in the truffle butter, this might have been the most wonderful steak I’ve ever had. Is it buttery and rich? Yes. If you don’t like your beef that way, you might want to ask them to omit the sauce. I personally couldn’t resist ever bit just as it was.

Review: Le Cellier Steakhouse in Disney World's Epcot lived up to expectations & then some. Click To Tweet

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My husband enjoyed the Angus New York Strip, and he felt just as I did about the beef — perfectly cooked, tender and delicious. As per the menu it is normally served with a potato turnip gratin and crispy onions. This didn’t appeal to him (personally, I love turnips) so he asked if he could substitute the sides for those which normally accompany the Rib-Eye instead. Of course his request was accommodated, and so instead he enjoyed Crisp Fingerling Potatoes and Frisée salad with Bacon Viniagrette and Heirloom Carrots. He wasn’t excited about any of them; the salad was okay and the rest unmemorable.

Another disappointment was the side of Smoked Macaroni & Cheese that we ordered to share. We were debating between that and the Loaded Mashed Potatoes, and I think we should have gone the other way (next time!). The dish was creamy and the bacon crumble added nice texture, but when they say “Smoked”, they mean smoked. I found the flavor way too smoky. The portion size was very generous, though, and this was easily shared.

On our previous visit, my husband ordered the creamed spinach and enjoyed it very much. Our waitress also recommended the aforementioned Loaded Mashed Potatoes (and I ignored her, more fool I) so those are two sides you might want to give a try if smoky cheese isn’t your thing either.

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Finally, we arrived at dessert — who can resist? And neither of us could resist ordering the house specialty, the Maple Crème Brûlée. I can very highly recommend it, especially if you don’t have too much room left for dessert. The served dish wasn’t skimpy, but the creamy brûlée was light and airy, and didn’t feel overwhelming. The whipped cream tasted fresh, and the crisp, crunchy maple tasted wonderful. We were both very glad of our choice.

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Overall, we had a wonderful time at Le Cellier. You have to want steak, and you have to want it buttery and seasoned.  If you’re a fan of poutine, as well, I doubt you’ll be disappointed. The service was excellent and we enjoyed our experience there, both times. Give it a try and see if you agree that Le Cellier is not to be missed.

WDW News roundup: Rivers of Light (finally), Pandora, and Star Wars dates

This was a big week in Walt Disney World news as dates were confirmed for some highly-anticipated new attractions at the Parks: Rivers of Light, Pandora and Star Wars Land!

First, Rivers of Light is finally opening on February 17, 2017 — in just a few short days! “Get swept away in a timeless show that celebrates the beauty of all living things. With a brilliant fusion of water, sound and light, it’s quite unlike anything you’ve experienced before!” Both FastPass+ and dining packages (at Tiffins and Tusker House) are now available. After all the delays and setbacks, we’re looking forward to seeing this evening show at Animal Kingdom.

pandoraSpeaking of Animal Kingdom, on The Walt Disney Company Q1 FY17 earnings call, Bob Iger announced that Pandora: The World of Avatar will open on May 27, 2017. According to the Disney Parks blog, this new land will feature two exciting new rides:

First, the family friendly Na’vi River Journey will send guests through a bioluminescent rainforest. Their journey will end in an unforgettable encounter with a Na’vi Shaman, a figure who has a deep connection to the life force of Pandora. And second, Avatar Flight of Passage will offer guests the jaw-dropping experience of exploring the world of Pandora atop a Banshee.

Also opening will be dining at Satu’li Canteen and a gift shop for Na’vi cultural items, toys, science kits, and more, Windtraders. Can’t wait until May? Read up to prepare for your Visit to Pandora now.

Big week in Walt Disney World news- Rivers of Light, Pandora & Star Wars Land openings revealed! Click To Tweet

Lastly, on that same call, Iger also revealed that Star Wars-themed lands at Disneyland park and Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be opening in 2019. From the Disney Parks blog:

At each location, guests will be transported to a never-before-seen planet – a remote trading port and one of the last stops before wild space – where Star Wars characters and their stories come to life. Check out some of our earlier images, including a glimpse at one of the signature attractions which lets you take the controls of the Millennium Falcon!

Buy tickets now for Beauty and the Beast

On March 17, rediscover a tale as old as time. Tickets are on sale NOW for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at BeOurGuest.com and at Fandango.

Check out the final trailer for a new take on a classic story:

Directed by Bill Condon, the film brings the story and characters audiences know and love to life in a stunning, cinematic event. From Walt Disney Studios:

The story and characters audiences know and love come to spectacular life in the live-action adaptation of Disney’s animated classic “Beauty and the Beast,” a stunning, cinematic event celebrating one of the most beloved tales ever told. “Beauty and the Beast” is the fantastic journey of Belle, a bright, beautiful and independent young woman who is taken prisoner by a Beast in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the Beast’s hideous exterior and realize the kind heart of the true Prince within. The film stars: Emma Watson as Belle; Dan Stevens as the Beast; Luke Evans as Gaston, the handsome, but shallow villager who woos Belle; Kevin Kline as Maurice, Belle’s father; Josh Gad as LeFou, Gaston’s long-suffering aide-de-camp; Ewan McGregor as Lumière, the candelabra; Stanley Tucci as Maestro Cadenza, the harpsichord; Audra McDonald as Madame de Garderobe, the wardrobe; Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette, the feather duster; Hattie Morahan as the enchantress; and Nathan Mack as Chip, the teacup; with Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, the mantel clock; and Emma Thompson as the teapot, Mrs. Potts.

Directed by Bill Condon based on the 1991 animated film, “Beauty and the Beast,” the screenplay is written by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos and produced by Mandeville Films’ David Hoberman, p.g.a. and Todd Lieberman, p.g.a. with Jeffrey Silver, Thomas Schumacher and Don Hahn serving as executive producers. Alan Menken, who won two Academy Awards® (Best Original Score and Best Song) for the animated film, provides the score, which includes new recordings of the original songs written by Menken and Howard Ashman, as well as three new songs written by Menken and Tim Rice. “Beauty and the Beast” will be released in U.S. theaters on March 17, 2017.

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