LIVE UPDATES: Disney’s Awaken Summer media preview

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Walt Disney World Resort is planning big, big things this summer and beyond. To ramp up the excitement, the company will make dozens of announcements this week about new attractions coming to the parks in 2016, and News 13 is covering it all.

Tuesday: Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom

It’s Day 2 of the "Awaken Summer" media preview at Walt Disney World.

This week, Disney is making tons of announcements about the newest offerings coming to the parks this summer and beyond. News 13 is bringing you the latest updates as they happen.

On Monday, we got to take a behind-the-scenes look at the new "neighborhood" called Town Center at Disney Springs, which is scheduled to open May 15.

Today, we’re hitting three parks for announcements and updates: Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.

Disney representatives will share details about the new “Frozen” attraction, “Frozen Ever After.” It’s expected to open sometime this year, but no official date has been announced. Hopefully, we’ll find out today.

The new attraction is in the Norway pavilion at Epcot, where Maelstrom used to be. The boat ride will take guests on a journey through Arendelle. Norway is being expanded as well. A new meet-and-greet area is being added for guests to meet Anna and Elsa.

We’re also expected to learn about the redeveloped Soarin’ (soon to be called Soarin’ Around the World), which will take guests on a flight over some of the world’s most unique landscapes and landmarks.

We’ll also head to Animal Kingdom to learn about the upcoming “Rivers of Light” nighttime show. The show was delayed earlier this month from its original April 22 debut. Still, work is be done to get the show ready for guests.

News 13 will be providing updates from Disney all day for the “Awaken Summer” media event. Be sure to check our website for updates. Also follow our Facebook page and Twitter feed for the latest.

Monday: Disney Springs’ Town Center

Disney officials unveiled new details Monday afternoon about Town Center, Disney Springs’ largest expansion to date.

The new "neighborhood," the fourth Disney Springs area, is expected to open May 15 and add at least 30 new tenants to the massive entertainment and retail area near Epcot.

Although Town Center is still under construction, Disney officials provided tours of the new retail area to media and guests during a preview event Tuesday. Amid the smell of lumber and plaster, construction workers in hard hats were busy putting the finishing touches on the site as Disney imagineers and representatives framed the "neighborhood’s" narrative. 

Town Center is themed on a turn-of-the-century Florida settlement that developed around a natural spring, officials said. At the heart of Town Center is a bright, sparkling blue waterway from which water bubbles from the Florida spring. A "settlement" developed around the spring, officials said. Floating lanterns cascaded around the spring’s waters are intended to illuminate the area at night, enhanced by added lighting under the water, they said.

The "spring" is surrounded by oak, palm and cypress trees, all native to Florida. Small, twinkling lights in the trees are meant to invoke fireflies. 

In keeping with early 1900s Florida narrative, "settlers" built around the spring. Restaurant D-Lux Burger, one of two Disney owned-and-operated eateries coming to Town Center, is modeled after a former cattle ranch that was one of the first buildings that "settlers" "built" around the spring. 

Retailers came and went, goes Disney’s storyline for Town Center, adding to the sense of entrepreneurship and development around the spring. 

As guests walk further back from the spring, the architecture evolves from the lumber and wood used by the early "settlers" and into Spanish Colonial and Mediterranean themes. Cream-colored, two-story Spanish villas line walkways, with 15 shades of white and topped with nine different shades of hand-glazed, terra cotta tiles. They’re meant to invoke a sense of how "store owners rehabbed and built up" the Town Center, Disney officials said. 

Several fountains throughout the area keep with the water theme, tying back to the spring. Even the chandelier in Morimoto Asia, an existing Disney Springs restaurant currently adjacent to Town Center, is made of bottles — part of the settlement storyline as a former bottling company around the spring. 

Claire and Paul Hawker were visiting Disney Springs from London on Tuesday. This was their second trip; the Disney shopping district was still known as Downtown Disney on their last visit. 

"It’s amazing," Claire Hawker, 35, said. "We feel lost."

Said Paul Hawker, 36: "It’s similar (to before), but it looks a bit more modern — modern Disney.

"Part of coming to Orlando is to shop," he said. 

Retailers in Town Center will include Sephora, Kate Spade New York, Under Armour, Coca-Cola Store, Anthropologie, among others.

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April 19, 2016 |

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