In Gatlinburg, Disney star kicks off aquarium's summer promotion

"Austin & Ally" actor Calum Worthy greets fans
Jun. 25, 2013 @ 11:11 PM

Last week marked the official beginning of summer, and with it comes Kid’s Fin-Tastic Summer, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies’ event series.

Fin-Tastic Summer will be held through July 26, and it will let children meet Disney Channel celebrities, see Dora and Spongebob, watch movies under the stars, and create arts and crafts.

On Friday, Calum Worthy, who plays Dez on Disney’s “Austin & Ally,” inaugurated the series and met a crowd of eager fans.

Worthy, 22, said he is always happy to come out and meet the fans who have made his TV success possible. The show, which debuted in 2011, will begin filming its third season in two weeks.

The Victoria, Canada, native attributes the show’s success to the loyalty of fans and the dedication of the cast.

“I really think they’re some of the hardest working kids in Hollywood,” Worthy said, speaking of his fellow actors. “We never take a lunch break, and we work as hard as we do because we believe in the show.”

As any 10-year-old can tell you, Dez is an aspiring filmaker who plays Austin’s socially awkward, but hilarious, best friend.

“When I tried out, there wasn’t much description of Dez’s character,” Worthy said. “I just knew that he was a filmmaker, was supposed to be kind of crazy, and that he was Austin’s best friend. I just went with my instincts, went out and did something crazy, and I guess it worked, because I got the part.”

Worthy relates to Dez. “I’m probably as crazy as he is, but I hide it better, and I hope I make better life choices,” he said.

Still, Worthy noted, “I think I dress a little better than he does.”

Friday’s event in Gatlinburg was Worthy’s first trip to Tennessee. He thinks the area is beautiful, but what really stands out is the people. “Everyone is so nice,” he said. “People in Canada are supposed to be sweet, but I think the people here are really sweet.”

Worthy said one of the highlights of his trip was having the opportunity to meet Gatlinburg native Regen Morris, a 12-year-old Pi Beta Phi student who was diagnosed with anaplastic astrocytoma, a type of cancer, this past year.

“He’s so positive, and I plan to keep in touch with him through Skype as much as I can,” Worthy said. “He’s a great kid, and I really want to encourage people to help him any way they can.”

Amy and Clayton Crooks and their son Clayton Jr. from Knoxville were among the fans who met Worthy at Friday’s meet and greet.

“We love Dez and his character,” Amy said. “He was very personable and it was nice to meet him.”

“He was great with the kids,” her husband said. “He seems so nice and down to earth. Maybe it’s that little island he’s from in Canada that keeps him that way, but it was totally unexpected.”

Free outdoor movies will be held each Friday night of Ripley’s Fin-Tastic summer, beginning at 9 p.m. SpongeBob SquarePants will be making special appearances throughout the Aquarium daily this week, and Dora the Explorer will make her visit July 15-21.

On July 10, Peyton List, who plays Emma Ross on Disney’s TV series “Jessie” will host a meet and greet for fans between 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Actress Stefanie Scott, Lexi Reed on Disney’s “A.N.T. Farm,” will greet fans from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. on July 26.

“We have all kinds of exciting and fun things planned for kids and the entire family during Ripley’s Kid’s Fin-Tastic Summer,” said Aquarium General Manager Ryan DeSear.

Noted Andy Taylor, assistant director of marketing for Ripley’s Aquarium, “We like to disguise education behind fun.”

jfrye@themountainpress.com