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January 23, 2015

Epcot for 8 Year Olds? See Why!

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Deb Wills talks with 8 year old Carson Hamilton about his favorite park at Walt Disney World, Epcot! Hear what his favorite attractions in Epcot are and why any 8 year old will love the park!

Did you miss Carson's first video on AllEarsNet TV?

Deb Wills talks with 8 year old Carson Hamilton all about Walt Disney World. Carson talks about his first ride ever on the Tower of Terror, family fun at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and more!



"And we'll see YOU, real soon!"



January 3, 2015

AllEarsNet TV Shows in 2014

In 2014 we began production of our very own video show on YouTube called AllEarsNet TV. Your response has been great and we are so glad you are enjoying the show! (Be sure to read the entire blog for YOUR chance to win an AllEars prize pack!)

CONGRATS TO Carmen! You are the lucky winner of an AllEars.net Prize package! Your comment was selected by random number generator! Please go to the Contact Us page (http://allears.net/forms/feedback.htm) and send your shipping address! Thank you!!

Our 27 shows ran the gamut in topics from

** Reviews of special events like Harambe Nights, Epcot After Hours, Frozen Summer Fun, and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

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** Stepping Back in Time looking at the 40 Years of Hoop-Dee-Do, the history of the Wedway People Mover and looking back at the Year 2000.

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** Answering Viewer Questions - Deb Koma and I respond to our mail bag of questions!

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** Show about our Favorites - Magic Kingdom and Epcot Counter Service, and the coasters of Disney World

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and much much more............

Here's Your Chance to Check Out Our Top 5 Most Watched Episodes

#5 Epcot After Hours Wind Down

#4 Ft. Wilderness Little Known Facts

#3 Magic Kingdom Counter Service Dining

#2 Epcot Counter Service Dining

#1 THE Most Watched Episode of AllEarsNet TV in 2014:
Frozen Summer Fun


What Episode Was YOUR Favorite??

What would YOU like to see in 2015?! We welcome your ideas as we develop our show schedule for the upcoming year. Leave your comments below. On January 8, 2015 we will select on person at random who left a comment to receive an AllEars Prize Package! We must hear from you no later than January 15, 2015, to claim your prize.


"And we'll see YOU, real soon!"


January 1, 2015

Happy New Year

Happy New Year Everyone!!!!
Big Al Country Bears

Photo ©Disney

December 30, 2014

Most Liked Instagram Photos of 2014

All Ears Prize Pack Winner: Denise Daley-Rix
Congrats Denise. Please leave your address in a comment below (it won't be published :)

AllEars.net has been part of the Instagram craze for almost 2 years now. It is always fascinating to us to see what photos you like the most!

Here are the top 5 MOST LIKED Instagram Photos of 2014

Number 5 is a familiar sight as you are heading toward the Magic Kingdom -- the Magic Kingdom Toll Plaza

Magic Kingdom Toll Plaza


Number 4 is one of our favorite photo spots outside the theme parks. Head over to the Contemporary Resort and check out this Mickey Mouse!

Mickey mouse Sculpture at the Contemporary

The Number 3 best-liked Instagram photo is a holiday favorite - the Gingerbread House at the Grand Floridian Resort!

Grand Floridian Gingerbread House

Number 2 caught everyone's attention earlier this year when the New Fantasyland was completed - The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train!

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

And by far the most-liked All Ears Instagram Photo of 2014 -- The Magic Kingdom Castle is Frozen!


Cinderella's Frozen Castle

What do you want to see photos of in 2015?! Leave your ideas in the comments section below.
On January 3, 2015 we will select 2 comments/winners (by random) to receive an AllEars Prize Package. Once the winners are selected we will post their names at the top of this blog! You will have until January 8, 2015 to claim your prize. All Ears Prize Pack Winner: Denise Daley-Rix Congrats Denise. Please leave your address in a comment below (it won't be published :)

Be sure to follow AllEars on Instagram AllEars Instagram page to be part of next year's top 5!! http://instagram.com/allearsnet


December 16, 2014

Happy Holidays Everyone!

On behalf of all the AllEars.net Team,

Deb Wills and Deb Koma wish all of you HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Our Awesome AllEars® Team:

Steve Barrett - Blogger

Erin Blackwell - Photo Blogger

Gary Cruise - Guest Blogger

Jason Dz - Photo Blogger

Linda Eckwerth - Photographer / Administrative Officer

Kristin Ford - Blogger

Laura Gilbreath - Senior Blogger

Gloria Konsler - Photo of the Week, AllEars® Mailbag

Jim Korkis - Feature Writer/Blogger

Jack Marshall - Assistant Webmaster

Alice Miller - Feature Writer/Blogger

Scott Thomas - Photo Blogger

Jeanine Yamanaka - Blogger

Lee Zimmerman - Videographer

November 10, 2014

Wandering Oaken Trading Post's New Location

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I almost hate to admit this, but I have not seen the movie "Frozen" yet. I know, I know -- Bad Disney Fan. For the record, I've bought the DVD, just haven't made the time to sit and watch. But, given the "Frozenification" of Walt Disney World these past few months, I FEEL as though I've seen it. Moreover, as I walk around the parks, at times I feel as though I'm living it!

Nowhere is this feeling more prevalent than in Disney's Hollywood Studios, which features a "Frozen" sing-along and other Frozen-inspired features.

I recently made a pass through the relocated Wandering Oaken Trading Post and Frozen Snowground and felt as if I had been transported to snowy Arendelle and was overwhelmed by all manner of things "Frozen."

To find the new location, walk to the park's Studio Catering Company and then follow the signs pointing you to what was the exit of the now-closed Backlot Tour, in the former AFI Showcase. There's a bit of theming there to let you know you're entering the somewhat rustic outpost.

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I really liked some of the details they've brought from the previous trading post, to fully convey the spirit of the film.

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If you have a "Frozen" fan who you'll be shopping for this upcoming holiday season, this is the place for you! Name a merchandise item and you'll find it here with Anna, Elsa, Olaf, Kristoff and/or Sven the reindeer decorating it. Just take a look at some of what you can find here:

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Plush Sven ($21.95)

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Olafs in Abundance! Plush ($17.95), Hat ($29.95), Talking Plush ($29.95)
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Walls and walls of dolls!

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Even Precious Moments Anna and Elsa!

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Note that many of these collectible-type items have a limit of five per customer.

Besides the cuddly toys, there's a wide variety of apparel and accessories, from jewelry to t-shirts (for boys and girls), pencil cases ($19.95), cell phone covers ($36.95), and of course the all-important Magic Wand ($9.39).

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To get a little more bang for your buck, note that there's currently a special offer: Buy $40 worth of merchandise and get this tote bag for $16.95:

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And Annual Passholders, don't forget about your discount!

Over in the Frozen Snowground, you can pick up some refreshments, and maybe even play in the expanded snow area. (The ice skating rink from the previous location didn't make the transition over to this spot.)

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And don't miss your PhotoPass photo op!

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All in all, this little area is well-themed and a nice side-trip while you're touring the park -- a great place to beat the heat and maybe pick up a souvenir or two for any of your family or friends who know how to "Let It Go!"

I'm sure I'll appreciate it even more once I see the film -- sometime soon, I promise!


October 28, 2014

Raglan Road Irish Pub Sparks Tiny Dancer

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When Eddie and Adele Terrell of Perth, Australia, brought their young daughter Natarsha with them to an evening at Raglan Road Irish Pub a few years ago, they never expected it to be a life-changing event.

And yet it was.

The Terrell Family visited the establishment back in October 2010, when Natarsha was a fun-loving 4-year-old. As Eddie puts it, "We just wanted somewhere to eat, and saw this Irish pub, and thought, let's drop in there."

Somewhere during the course of that fateful meal, the family was treated to a set of Irish dancing on the pub's stage, featuring dancer Danielle Fitzpatrick. Young Natarsha couldn't take her eyes off the high-energy footwork, backed by rollicking Celtic music.

"She was jigging around to the music and the dancers took a real shine to her and came over and spoke during their break," Eddie recalls. "When the dancers came on again they made eye contact with Natarsha and waved to her and so the seed was sown."

Even though Natarsha was just 4, she made up her mind that she was going to become an Irish dancer. Despite the fact that her parents attempted to put her off for two years, she says, "I just kept asking and asking and finally my mum said, 'Oh, OK!' And they let me start taking classes."

Adele says she enrolled her daughter, who had no previous dance background, in the local Irish dancing school, Kavanaugh Irish Dance, which turned out to be one of the best schools in Western Australia. In 18 months, Natarsha went from beginner to winning several medals and dancing in both the State and National championships.

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When asked, Natarsha can't explain what drew her to Irish dancing beyond the lively music and the beautiful dancers on stage, but she knows that she loves it and intends to keep dancing for some time to come. Says mom Adele, "We've had to give up every other after-school activity... I've become a Dance Mom!" But that's not a complaint, she says. The entire family has been enjoying the journey that their only daughter has embarked on.

As for Danielle Fitzpatrick, the dancer who inspired Natarsha, she couldn't be more pleased. Danielle started dancing at age 3 and said she's ready to give the stage over to the upcoming generation. And young Natarsha seems up to the challenge, despite the long hours and hard work involved.

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Her father Eddie notes that he's grateful to Raglan Road for providing his daughter with such inspiration, which is partially why he was so enthusiastic to bring her back to "the scene of the crime" four years later.

"I was saying to Natarsha, in the future, you could be here on this stage," he says. "This could be how you make your living, dancing in front of people like this, doing something you love. And I could see her face light up."

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Here's a brief interview with Natarsha and her parents, Eddie and Adele -- you can hear them tell their story in their own words.

And here's just a few seconds of the lovely young Natarsha sharing the stage with Danielle at Raglan Road.



August 5, 2014

Upcoming Reader Question Show on AllEarsNet TV

Have you heard about our new show? It's called AllEarsNet TV. You can find us on our YouTube Channel!

Each week we will bring you a new show about the Disney "World"... from all corners of the globe. While the focus will be on the US Disney Parks, we may also include episodes discussing the Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney, Hong Kong Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea, Disneyland and Aulani!

We plan to film an upcoming episode answering YOUR questions! So here is your chance to be part of our show!

Leave your question in the comment field below. Whatever name you put in the comment may be used on the show. If you'd like your home state/country mentioned please include in your comment as well. Keep in mind it will not be possible to answer every single question, but we will read every single one you submit!

We will not be publishing these questions but will be answering some on an upcoming show that will air later this month. Thanks!!!

July 31, 2014

Food and Wine Feeding Frenzy

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UGH! I feel as though I just finished the annual running of the bulls at Pamplona. And I am well and truly trampled.

OK, not literally, obviously. But figuratively that's what the annual frenzy to book Epcot Food and Wine Festival events has become for me.

For those of you who don't know, every year Deb Wills and I attend a variety of the Festival events, both to report on them for the AllEars.Net website and AllEars newsletter, and because well, let's face it, we really enjoy food and wine!

We book these events just like you do, because, you may be surprised to learn, we pay for these events ourselves. (Yes, sometimes we get an invitation to attend something as a media guest, but those occasions are in the minority, as we really do try to maintain an independent perspective when we're reviewing, not just the Festival, but anything Disney.)

We set our alarms and dutifully call 407-WDW-FEST at precisely 7 a.m. on the designated day(s). We get the panic-inducing ALL CIRCUITS ARE BUSY message and go through the infuriating phone tree. We wait an inordinate amount of time on hold (a long-distance call, by the way, not a toll-free number) listening to "It's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" while thinking, "Yeah, maybe, but right now today really stinks."

Once we get through to a real, live human being we endure as they slowly scroll through the computer screen searching for the event that we have asked about ("Is it at 1 p.m.? I don't see anything with that name..."). We can practically hear our chances at reserving the event whoosh past us as a hundred other guests book our coveted lunch or dinner. I often imagine myself reaching through the phone and taking over the cast member's computer, channeling Woody in Toy Story and screaming in exasperation, "Oh, give me that! Plus is positive, minus is negative!" If by some chance an event that we request is open, we hastily recite our Disney VISA card numbers and listen impatiently to the spiel about nontransferable, nonrefundable, yada yada yada, eager to move on and book the next event.

So, I've just concluded the 2014 bull-running, er, booking experience. I was attempting to reserve events for two trips: one for the first weekend of the festival, for research purposes, and one personal getaway weekend in October with my husband. Yes, I was planning on spending a lot of money, and I had my Disney VISA all warmed up. But after spending 45 minutes on hold on Tuesday, I was unable to book any Festival event that I wanted, save one. Today, I wasn't even able to get past the "ALL CIRCUITS ARE BUSY" message and gave up trying after 20 minutes of speed-dialing. Fortunately Deb Wills, who somehow managed to get in the phone queue ahead of me on both days, saw my frantic emails detailing my situation and was able to book several events for me while scheduling her own. If it wasn't for that, I wouldn't be attending ANY of the festival events that I wanted.

Now I'm left here wondering, just as I did last year, and every year for the last 10+ years that I've been "running with the bulls," WHY? WHY does it have to be so frantic and infuriating? Why does a company that prides itself on providing excellent customer service consistently get this wrong?

Oh, it's not that Disney hasn't tried to expedite this process. They've put a selection of events online, so that you can conveniently book them yourself at your leisure. And they have implemented several "early booking" dates for certain guests -- those with Tables in Wonderland memberships, Annual Passholders, Disney VISA card holders and residents of the Golden Oak Community. Since I qualify for three of those categories, lucky me, I can book some of these events a few days ahead of the general public. So why am I complaining? That sounds like a good solution, right?

No, what that really means is that now I can call on TWO days, wait a half-hour each time, maybe more, and find myself STILL shut out of the events that I want to attend. Yeah, lucky me.

I know that by now some of you might be saying, "What's she complaining about? At least she can afford to go to these events -- they're too expensive for me." I know. First World Problems, as they say.

But I'm not alone. There are plenty of people who really enjoy the Food and Wine Festival and look forward to it as much as I do -- and dread the cursed "booking day" just as much, as well.

While I'm on interminable hold, feeling my normally low blood pressure skyrocketing, I'm surfing the Internet, reading message boards and Facebook. I see many folks chattering about the same thing. Some are triumphant: "I got through! And my cast member actually knew what she was doing! I got everything I wanted!" But most aren't: "I was on hold on two phones, my cell and my home phone, for 45 minutes! By the time I got through, the reserved seating for the Walt Disney dinner was gone." "I couldn't get the tequila lunch I wanted." "The cast member couldn't find the Eat to the Beat package, and put me on hold for another 10 minutes. When he came back, he said it wasn't in the system yet! By then, everything else I wanted to book was sold out."

So what IS the answer? How can Disney avoid leaving a bad taste in so many people's mouths? And more importantly, how can we all reserve at least some of the events we want without having to go through this annual feeding frenzy?

Is the problem understaffing? Are there simply not enough cast members working at 7 a.m. on "booking morning" to handle the call volume? When I call exactly at 7 a.m. and am told that my wait time will be "more than 30 minutes," I suspect that to be the case.

Is the problem insufficient training? I recall last year when a cast member told me that he could see the event I wanted in the system, but he didn't know how to book it. How is that possible? This year, a cast member told me that he couldn't find the thing I was asking about in the system. (This actually has happened to me almost every year.) It took five full minutes before the cast member located the event. And believe me, those five minutes are precious when you're competing with hundreds of other guests for a spot at a limited seating dinner. Needless to say, by the time he found it, the event was sold out.

I can't put all the blame on the cast members handling the phones, though. Some of them are wonderful -- extremely competent and pleasant, on a day that must be awfully stressful. I'm sure it's terrifying to have thousands of calls light up your phones at 7 a.m. on Food and Wine booking day. They probably feel like they're being thrown to the wolves as they have to deal with thousands of cranky callers, some of whom are probably not as nice and patient as I try to be when hearing repeatedly, "No. Sorry. Not that one either. Sold out. Sorry." I don't envy them at all.

I do have a few suggestions that might streamline the process. Like, if I'm calling WDW-FEST, which is presumably a phone line dedicated to festival events, why do I have to go through the usual Disney Dining phone tree? That takes up valuable time. Maybe there could be dedicated phone lines for specific events, so that people calling to reserve the Signature Dinners -- which have very limited seating and can be unbelievably pricey -- wouldn't be competing with people wanting to book the Food and Wine pairings.

But the truth is, I don't know what the ultimate solution is. I only know that, as a consumer, this annual Food and Wine Festival frenzy is what I would call A Very Bad Customer Experience.

Still, by the time September rolls around and I'm biting into my first sample from an International Marketplace, I probably won't remember how frazzled I'm feeling at this moment. The Epcot Food and Wine Festival is truly THE event at Walt Disney World that I look forward to and enjoy the most every year, so I know that once it starts I'll get caught up in all the new tastes and experiences. I'll plunge headlong into sampling as much of the Festival as I can and will enthusiastically report on everything I experience for AllEars.Net readers. It's what I do, every year. And I love it.

It's just that until then I'm left with this "trampled by the bulls" feeling.

Good thing I have six weeks or so to recover.


July 29, 2014

Special All Ears Meet August 17, 2014 - Event at CAPACITY!

UPDATE: The event is now at capacity. You must have filled out the form AND received a confirmation email to attend.

Thanks everyone -- we are going to have a great time!

UPDATE: July 29th 1pm time slot is FILLED. Very few spots remain. Remember you must RSVP with form below.

UPDATE: As of July 18, 2014; 1:45pm eastern time, all confirmations have been emailed to everyone.

A special AllEars® Meet and Greet is being held on Sunday afternoon, August 17, 2014 between 1 and 4 p.m. in a Disney Vacation Club Grand Villa at Walt Disney World.

Our special guests for this get-together:

Steve Barrett - Author of the Hidden Mickey Guides
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Jim Korkis - Disney Historian and author of many Disney-related books.
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Steve and Jim will be available to informally meet with you and are happy to autograph their books. Please note: NO books will be sold at the event. If you wish to purchase a book for autographing and don't already have one please see the links below.

Meet AllEars® team members Deb Wills, Jack Spence, Linda Eckwerth, Jack Marshall, Kristin Ford and Deb Koma, too!

In addition, we will also have AllEars® Trading Cards, door-prize drawings and other goodies!

PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

No strollers will be allowed inside the villa.
The villa may by two stories and therefore not fully accessible.
No food will be allowed in the villa and no food will be available.
We will have bottled water available while supplies last.

To avoid overcrowding at the event, YOU MUST FILL OUT THIS FORM and select the time(s) you prefer to attend. Your email and cell phone number are important so that we can notify you where the meet will be located. We check into the Villa on the 16th and will notify people of the location at that time.

Please allow up to 1 week to hear back from us once you submit your form. We will get to them as soon as we can (hopefully in just a couple days) Your confirmation will be sent from a YAHOO email address! Please bring that email with you when you come to the villa.

Any questions? Please leave a comment below.

We are all looking forward to a great afternoon!


BOOKS BY STEVE BARRETT


BOOKS BY JIM KORKIS

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