Main

Adventures by Disney Archives

December 7, 2012

Disney Shares What's Happening "Around Our World" at Press Event

debkomabanner.jpg

The final day of the New Fantasyland press event began over at Downtown Disney's AMC 24 Theatre with Disney's presentation to update everyone on what's happening "Around Our World."

around-our-world-1.jpg

Before the show there was much speculation as to whether any significant revelations would be made -- many were thinking (wishfully) that speaker Bruce Vaughn, Chief Creative Executive, Walt Disney Imagineering, would announce that a version of California Adventure's Carsland would be coming to Walt Disney World.

Let me tell you right off, the answer to that is...no. At least, there was no announcement to that effect. Instead the biggest news we heard, at least in my opinion, is that the previously announced Avatar Land, a new area in Animal Kingdom to be themed after the successful James Cameron film and its upcoming sequels, is definitely proceeding. (Rumors have circulated that perhaps the project was dead, since there hasn't been much news about it since it was originally announced.) According to the Vaughn, development of the new fantastical land is "still on track" and something that they're "very excited" about.

around-our-world-7.jpg

around-our-world-8.jpg

Aside from that tidbit, the rest of the presentation served as a recap of what's been happening at Disney Parks and around the Disney universe most recently.

Meg Crofton, President, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations, United States and France (to give her full title), introduced the program by sharing a few bits of trivia about the New Fantasyland and Test Track attractions, now that they're officially open to the public.

around-our-world-2.jpg

She revealed, for example, that there is a Hidden Mickey in the new Little Mermaid attraction that will only be visible once a year, on November 18 -- Mickey Mouse's birthday. She also pointed out this subtle tribute to the original Epcot attraction World of Motion -- it's the logo for the old ride, which originally occupied Test Track's site.

around-our-world-5.jpg

In addition to his confirmation of the Avatar project, Vaughn also spoke at length about other recent developments around the Disney Parks.

around-our-world-6.jpg

Vaughn of course highlighted the New Fantasyland and its many features, calling the Audio Animatronic Lumiere, found in the Enchanted Tales with Belle experience, the most advanced that Disney has at the moment. He also talked about the non-queue queue at the revamped Dumbo attraction, hinting that the "queue lounge" is something we might be seeing more of. Vaughn also talked briefly about the Princess Fairy Tale Hall, which will open in New Fantasyland next year, and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, not due to be finished until 2014. Vaughn said the train's thrill level will rank somewhere just below Big Thunder Mountain Railroad's, and added that the representations of the dwarfs themselves in the attraction will be "unique."

Vaughn also took the opportunity to announce the addition of a new gallery in Epcot, to be housed in the American Adventure. The Bernard and Shirley Kinsey Collection will be made up of 40 pieces of art, artifacts, books and documents from the Kinseys' personal collection of African-American art and history. The gallery will hold previews during African-American heritage month in February 2013, an will officially open in March.

around-our-world-9.jpg

After recapping the new attractions at Disneyland Resort -- primarily Cars Land and the new Buena Vista Street -- Vaughn turned the program over to Karl Holz, President, New Vacation Operations and Disney Cruise Line.

around-our-world-10.jpg

Holz also gave an overview of the latest news relating to his areas of responsibility, the Disney Cruise Line and Adventures by Disney. Future itineraries for both have already been announced -- the one item that was news to me was Holz's mention of a special princess event to be held in the Doges Palace in Venice, as part of the DCL's sailing in the Mediterranean next year.

Crofton concluded the presentation by giving a fuller explanation of Limited Time Magic, a program announced several weeks ago.

around-our-world-11.jpg

The idea behind Limited Time Magic is to "give guests an extra dash of pixie dust" by providing themed weekly surprises that will create special memories. Crofton offered as examples of upcoming Limited Time Magic themes a week dedicated to pirates and a "love" week around Valentine's Day.

The presentation ended with the audience receiving its very own Limited Time Magic treat -- a selection from the "original boy band," the barbershop quartet known as the Dapper Dans. The foursome departed from their usual standards and delighted us with a medley of hits from recent REAL boy bands like Backstreet Boys, N Sync, and One Direction. If all Limited Time Magic offerings are as whimsical as this was, I'm excited for the program to start.

around-our-world-12.jpg


DISCLAIMER: I was a guest of Walt Disney World at the New Fantasyland Press Event.

October 20, 2009

Adventures by Disney, HarperCollins Announce "The Search for Flat Stanley's Next BIG Adventure"

by
Debra Martin Koma
Senior Editor, AllEars.Net

I got up early Monday -- a crisp, cold autumn morning -- and headed into our nation's capital to attend a special Disney press conference announcing a new project by Adventures by Disney and HarperCollins Children's Books.

P1050105.JPG

Disney is teaming with the book publisher to invite children ages 7 to 12 to participate in a nationwide competition -- The Search for Flat Stanley's Next BIG Adventure.

You must know what Flat Stanley is, right? No? OK, some background.

P1050103.JPG

Flat Stanley is a fictional character created more than 45 years ago by author Jeff Brown, in response to his own son's fears that he might be flattened in the night by the falling of the bulletin board over his bed. The resulting character, a four-foot high boy who is only a half-inch thick, eventually became a popular classroom staple -- kids are encouraged to take their own copy of a paper doll Flat Stanley on vacation, or send him to friends and family in various locations. The paper doll's photo is taken in these different spots, and the children then report to their classmates on the character's wanderings.

The tie-in with Adventures by Disney seems natural, as AbD is, according to its vice president Don Gross, all about taking families to new and exciting locations around the world, "immersing them in various cultures and exposing them to new experiences."

P1050102.JPG

At this morning's presentation, representatives were on hand from
Disney (including Gross and Duncan Wardle, vice president for creative inc. at Disney Destinations), as well as the Library of Congress historian, John Y. Cole, who was there to officially induct three books
from the Flat Stanley's Worldwide Adventures series into the Library.

Also present was author Josh Greenhut, who has written the fifth in the Flat Stanley series, the upcoming The Amazing Mexican Secret.

To help launch the new AbD/HarperCollins competition, Greenhut read to a group of children from Washington, DC's Sheridan School, explaining to them the history of the Flat Stanley character and telling a little anecdote about Flat Stanley's travels to DC and his encounter with then-Senator Barack Obama.

P1050126.JPG

P1050130.JPG

The Search for Flat Stanley's Next BIG Adventure will give children ages 7 to 12 the chance to win an Adventures by Disney vacation -- all they need to do is to create a specially themed Flat Stanley with a 150-word story about the adventure.

Entries will be judged in three age groups: 7- to 8-year olds; 9- to 10-year-olds and 11- to 12-year-olds. There will be one winner chosen from each age group. Each of the winners can choose from one of the AbD 19 worldwide vacations.

As part of this contest, a new website has been established that features
Flat Stanley with a variety of backgrounds and accessories, as well as interactive games, and information from AbD to help young writers help develop their plot lines. You can also find official rules for the contest (which ends November 30, 2009) on the site HERE.

You can also read the official press release on the contest HERE.

September 24, 2008

Adventures by Disney - Backstage Magic - Now It's Time to Say Goodbye

Our last breakfast was at Storyteller's Cafe at the Grand Californian, but it seemed a bit lonesome since not everyone was there. Some of our tour family had very early flights and were already gone; others had much later flights and were sleeping in on their last day. But for those of us there, it was a bittersweet time.

I can't say enough nice things about everyone in our group. We had all sorts of personalities and a wide variety of ages and interests, but everyone just meshed together perfectly. If any of you happen to be reading this blog, thank you for the pleasure of your company and thank you for helping make this trip so memorable.

Gary and I left the Grand Californian in grand style, a shiny black town car to take us back to LAX and our totally uneventful trip home.

Gary, Gloria and 2 Special Guests


If you've followed along this far, you've probably done so because you might be considering this or another Adventures by Disney trip.

I cannot begin to tell you how first-class the Adventures are. Prior to booking, when we looked at the cost of the trip, it was definitely in the "pricey" range. After having actually been on the Adventure, I know why. Everything was absolutely top notch and that is the "signature" of all the Adventures.

We were met at (and returned to) the airport in a private town car. Our meals were wonderful. The accommodations couldn't have been any better. The Hollywood Renaissance Hotel where we spent the first two nights was connected directly to the Hollywood & Highlands center and the Kodak Theater (where the Oscars are presented). Perfect location; perfect tours.

There was not one little item that our guides Quinn and Julie did not think of and take care of for us. Thirsty? Here's a bottle of water. Hungry? Here's a snack. Too hot in the sun? Here's an umbrella to use.

Adventure Guides Quinn and Julie

Second, if you are a pin collector, the trips are the only way you can get pins specific to your trip. We received one pin each day. I'm assuming it's probably the same on all the trips.

Overall, our Adventure exceeded every expectation I had for a "tour." I did virtually no planning and just went with the flow.

A number of attractions at the park were under refurbishment. Since this is probably the only trip I'll make to California for a long time, I was disappointed not to be able to see the Haunted Mansion, Fantasmic, The Main Street Electrical Parade, Small World and the Aladdin show. If you take the tour at another time, you probably will not experience as many closures. But, as I said, that was a bit of a disappointment. I wish I had known beforehand; I might have booked for a different date.

A minor disappointment was with the "backstage" part. I loved everything we did; I just wanted to do more. When I took the day-long Backstage Magic tour at WDW, we went into costuming, the paint shop, the carpentry shop, some of the storage facilities, computer central for the MK parade, etc. I was expecting this same sort of backstage experience, but it wasn't there.

I asked our guides about this and they pointed out reasons why those types of experiences were not included. First (and probably foremost), the upper management at the California parks has a different philosophy about "backstage" than does the management at the Florida parks. They are more protective of the "magic" and are less willing to share how the magic is made; they do not want to spoil it for the guest.

Second, Adventures by Disney tours are designed for families with children as young as 5. (They do not design a special tour when it's adults only.) At WDW, you must be 16 to go on the Backstage Magic tour ...so, sights (like rows of Mickey Mouse heads) that might be interesting for teens and adults would be totally inappropriate for smaller children.

There is also a safety factor, especially when children are in a group as well as a "space constraint" factor. Disneyland does not have the luxury of space that the Florida resort area has. We had 24 on our tour and often had to split into two groups. (Some tours have as many as 40.)

Even with the rehabs and less of the "backstage" than I would have liked, this Adventure was wonderful and worth every penny. Could you go to California and see the parks for less money? Absolutely! Could you have the same experiences? Absolutely no way!!

Would this trip be right for you? Maybe yes, maybe no. Think about what you want to get out of your trip. If you want to go and spend maximum time in the two parks, ride every ride, see everything there is to see, then, no, it's probably not for you unless you add on a day or two more to your trip. Yes, you can see a lot, but there's no way to see it all in the amount of free time you have.

Do you like Disney history and learning about the company philosophy passed down by Walt Disney himself and how it shapes the parks today? If so, this trip will be a dream come true. On the other hand, if you could care less about the history, then skip the Adventure and just go visit the parks.

Do you like a good bit of structure to your trips? Your Adventure is VERY structured for most of the time. Yes, you do have some free time on your own, but often it's just a couple of hours. You do have to be up early for breakfast and morning activities. You do need to meet with the group on time for various elements of the tour. You do walk a LOT, but it's a "comfortable" trip. Sneakers and casual clothes are appropriate most all the time.

So back to that earlier question, is this trip right for you and your family? Only YOU can make that determination, but I give the Adventure an A+ and I give our Adventure guides Quinn and Julie and A++ for their knowledge, their willingness to share, their hard work and their wonderful, warm and welcoming personalities.

If you have specific questions, you can e-mail me at ggkons at gmail dot com and I will try to answer as quickly as I can.

September 23, 2008

Adventures by Disney - Backstage Magic - Disney's California Adventure

All Ears team member Glo from Miami and her husband Gary continue their report on their Adventure by Disney - Backstage Magic! Click here for all of Glo's reports! Scroll down for most recent entries.

Today is the last full day we had on our tour and it was packed full of wonderful experiences.

The day began early again (7 AM) with a great buffet breakfast at Goofy's Kitchen in the Disneyland Resort. I would be remiss if I didn't stop to tell you that they fed us very well on the trip "maybe too well ;-) The various breakfast buffets were wonderful as were all of the other meals. Also, throughout the day, if appropriate, Quinn and Julie would make cold bottles of water and juice as well as other snacks (granola bars, cookies, fruit chews, etc.) magically appear. We did not go hungry or thirsty, for sure!

After breakfast, we headed to Disney's California Adventure for a couple of backstage activities before the park opened.

Disney's California Adventure


First was Soarin' over California at Condor Flats. Although the building façade looks different and some of the queue is different, this is exactly the same attraction that was installed at WDW in 2005. We split into two groups and while one group "soared," the other group did a backstage activity.

Soarin' Over California


From Soarin' we went directly to the animation building and had a private talk with Crush. This was not the Turtle Talk with Crush show that many are familiar with, but rather, just a conversation with Crush for our group. I was hoping they would explain some of the technology of this attraction and was a bit disappointed when they didn't, but it was still a wonderful experience.

We also went into studio where we were taught how to draw Mickey Mouse. Some of us had wonderful Mickey's, but others agreed that their Mickeys looked more like Chip or Dale. No matter, it was a fun experience and those drawings magically appeared in tubes to be taken home on the last morning.

As an extra and special activity, our group then headed over to the Tower of Terror and rode as a group using some sort of "Magical Fast Pass" our guides possessed.

Tower of Terror


We then had lunch and the rest of the afternoon and early evening on our own, but were left with instructions to meet at the Hyperion Theater where we would walk to the location for our farewell dinner. I can't remember where we were supposed to have our farewell dinner, but wherever it was, that location was closed and a buffet was set up for us in the "props room" of the Hyperion. It was a great location and obviously constructed to be used as a private group dining facility.

Hyperion Theater

As with all the other meals, the food was delicious, but there were a number of other surprises in store for us. An animator, Stacia, who has been with the Disney Company for some 30 years, drew characters per our requests. What a fun experience.


gloabd21.jpg


We also watched a slide show of all our various adventures and had a visit by a couple of very special characters. I'll never tell, but I'll bet you can guess.

"but that wasn't all the magic for our last night. Once dinner was over, we had an hour or so before we met back in Disneyland to view the fireworks from our special viewing area "and special it was! Perfect view of the castle with no one in front of us.

You know those dirty looks you get when you use a Fast Pass on Rock n Rollercoaster when the stand-by line says 90 minutes and you just waltz by a zillion people? Yep, we got lots of those kinds of looks as we sat on the strategically placed benches behind a rope with two cast members "guarding" our view saying, "This is a walkway, move right along. You can't stand here."

For a few minutes we thought we might not get to see the fireworks show. According to Guide Julie, they are canceled more often than you'd think because the park is located so close to the freeway. So, if the wind is blowing in the wrong direction, the debris from the shells falls on the moving cars and this is not a good thing. They will delay the fireworks up to 15 minutes, hoping the winds die down enough, but if that hasn't happened by 9:40, they cancel the show because local ordinances restrict the noise after 10 PM. Those of you who know me personally, know I LOVE fireworks and I was so hoping they wouldn't be canceled "and they weren't.

The show begins much the same way as "Wishes" in the Magic Kingdom at WDW, but then takes all sorts of spectacular twists and turns. Tinker Bell flies from the top of the Matterhorn, down to the castle, past the castle, around the castle, back toward the Matterhorn. It is much more impressive than the "flight" at WDW "and so were the fire jets from the castle parapets! All in all, it was a wonderful show and a wonderful way to end our adventure.


September 22, 2008

Adventures by Disney - Backstage Magic - Disneyland

All Ears team member Glo from Miami and her husband Gary continue their report on their Adventure by Disney - Backstage Magic! Click here for all of Glo's reports! Scroll down for most recent entries.

I think for the remainder of this blog, I am going to just give a short outline of what we did and not go into too many details.

This is the real "backstage" part of the tour and I want to give those of you who might be considering the trip enough information to help make a decision, but I don't want to spoil all the "magic" for anyone. Also, it is obvious that our tour (and some of the amenities received) differ from some of the earlier tours. My guess is that once in a while things have to be changed due to circumstances. I know personally I was looking forward one a tour element I read about in one of the earlier reports and, guess what, we didn't even go near that area ...a bit disappointing because I had built it up in my own mind ...and I don't want that to happen to you if you go on the tour.

Disneyland Partners Statue

Our morning began in the lobby at 7:45 AM when we all met for our "march" to Disneyland. Park opening was at 9 AM, but we got to enter at 8 AM and only had to share the park with the maintenance vehicles still about. After walking down Main Street and having pictures taken in front of the castle, we walked to the Plaza Inn for breakfast with the characters. Unlike WDW where the characters are all from the same theme (princesses or Pooh and friends or Mickey and friends, etc.), there is no "theme" in Disneyland.

Plaza Inn Character Breakfast - Gary and Eeyore


Our "dining room" was a part of the beautiful Victorian "inn" that used to be closed off and reserved for Walt and his guests, but today it is open to anyone who happens to be lucky enough to be seated there.

After breakfast, we headed to the Indiana Jones attraction and went "backstage" for the first time. We were able to see one of the vehicles up close and learned about the design, the maintenance, the computers, sounds and, yes, the ride itself. Then we went to the head of the line and rode the attraction. Again, as with resorts and restaurants, I'm not going to offer reviews of the individual attractions since reviews are so readily available.


From Indy, we went to the roundhouse where the trains are housed and learned probably more than I personally wanted to know about steam engines. One interesting thing to note is that these engines were originally designed to run on wood or coal (or in one instance, sugar cane), but they have been retrofitted so they now run on a clean burning and "green" biofuel. Disney is even experimenting with running the engines on compressed garbage, but that's not quite a go yet.


Next we went to the horse barn where currently there are some 30 horses in the herd. Although there are new stalls, the barn itself is the same structure that was used when Walt was there. We learned how the horses are cared for and trained to be used on Main Street and also for Fairytale Weddings and other functions.

Lunch (which came way to soon considering we had a big breakfast) was at the Port Orleans Cafe and was wonderful! They need to bring those Monte Cristo sandwiches back to Columbia Harbor House!

Jungle Cruise Entrance

According to our schedule, we had the afternoon and evening free after lunch, but Quinn and Julie had a couple of other surprises up their sleeves for us including a train ride in the "Lilly Belle," a beautifully restored coach car on the Disneyland Railroad.


From there we went across the street to the Main Street Firehouse, up the back stairs and into the private apartment that Walt and Lillian used when they stayed at the park. Here (as well as all other backstage areas) cameras were prohibited and everyone in our group respected tat request. Out guides did take some pictures for us, but so far we haven't seen them.

Our last surprise for the day was a roped off area at the train station terrace, right up front and in the middle where we were able to watch Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams. Although much shorter than the ones at WDW, this is really a beautiful parade. Gary and I saw it the first night and again in the afternoon. It's different, but equally beautiful, at the different times of day.

Parade Viewing Location


Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams

Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams



After the parade, we were on our own for the rest of the day and evening. Many in our group made reservations at Napa Rose, the Grand Californian's signature restaurant. Gary and I chose to spend the evening at California Adventure just walking around, getting the lay of the land and (for me) the first obligatory ride on California Screamin'.

We had planned to go back to the magic Kingdom for the 9:30 fireworks, but decided our pillows were calling our names very loudly. By the time the fireworks were over (We could hear but not see them.), we were ready to crash!

One thing I'm still having a hard time wrapping my mind around is that you can walk from Disneyland to California Adventure to Downtown Disney and back again all more quickly than you could walk from the front of Epcot to the International Gateway.

Tomorrow is backstage at California Adventure. Stay tuned.

September 20, 2008

Adventures by Disney - Backstage Magic - Glendale

All Ears team member Glo from Miami and her husband Gary continue their report on their Adventure by Disney - Backstage Magic! Click here for all of Glo's reports! Scroll down for most recent entries.

If you're following along, you'll know this is the day we had to be up 7 AM for breakfast, bags packed and ready for our hotel change to the Grand Californian and our tour of Walt Disney World Imagineering and the Disney Studios.

Imagineering is on the "Glendale campus" and each of the buildings that belong to Disney are discretely marked with address markers that have the same shape as cast member badges.

The Imagineering building is #1401 and our guide for the tour was Dave Fisher, one of the imaginers, a story writer. Dave gave a brief background presentation, interspersed with pictures and video clips of various parts of the Disney Company history. He explained that Walt's real gift was as a storyteller and that he surrounded himself by others who could help tell the story the way HE wanted it told and even today, it is Walt's storytelling gift that has been passed along to the entire company.

Walt, Mickey and Glo

The most wonderful part of this tour was an up-close-and-personal encounter with Lucky the Dinosaur, a new type of audioanimatronic figure that is capable not only of the normal motions we've come to expect, but also locomotion. All on its own, Lucky can walk forward, backwards, turn corners, etc. This "traction" was at Walt Disney World for an all-too-brief period of time before it was moved to Hong Kong Disneyland. I never had the pleasure of meeting Lucky before, but it is certainly something I will fondly remember from this trip.

He also explained that Walt's original concept for a park was a 20 acre area to be called Mickey Mouse Park, but it soon became apparent that 20 acres were not enough to contain all the ideas Walt has in his head, so plans were expanded and the original Disneyland was built.

Amazingly, construction began on July 16, 1954 and Disneyland Park opened on July 17, 1955, one year and one day later. This is so unbelievable that they could build a whole park in one year in the 1950's but in the 2000's it took 5 years just to build Expedition Everest at the Animal Kingdom!

Imagineering encompasses 140 different disciplines, including, story writers, sculptors, technicians and sound effects specialists.

Our first stop on the tour was Studio C, a sound studio designed to produce the sound effects for the various circle vision films. We also saw a developing technology not quite ready to "go public" yet called D-Snap. With this D-Snap you would purchase a piece of software that would enable you to stand in various locations throughout the parks and have your picture taken by a remote camera, a bit like PhotoPass, but without the photographer. Then, the camera would either e-mail or text message the picture directly to your cellphone.

From there we toured the sculpting studios and learned a bit about how clay models can be turned into larger models and how the larger models are used to actually design everything from the giant icons at All Star Movies to the actual attraction structures themselves.

One other thing we saw that was very interesting was the layout model for a new part of Disney's California Adventure called Cars Land, scheduled to open sometime in 2012. This expansion will be placed where the current Timon and Pumba parking lots are located for those of you familiar with the California parks.

Another very interesting Imagineering demonstration was an A100 audioanimatronic figure with no clothing or "skin." The figure is purported to be Joe Cocker and move to a Joe Cocker soundtrack. It is absolutely fascinating to see what goes into those moves that seem so life-like.

There was a bit of time for shopping at Mickey's of Glendale where some of the merchandise is exclusive to this particular shop and very highly sought after.

Although lunch was supposed to be at the Studio's commissary, it ws switched to the D-Café at Imagineering. Weather was absolutely gorgeous and most everyone chose to eat at the tables outside.

From Imagineering we headed down the road to The Disney Studios. Truthfully, this part of the trip was a bit of a let-down. Yes, it was exciting to actually be ON the Disney Studios lot and our guides had lots of information about what happened here and what happened there. However, other than the Legends Plazas (old and new), we didn't get to actually SEE very much.

The Disney Studios Water Tower


One of the newer buildings at Disney Studios has a roof line "supported" by the seven dwarfs. This is a tribute to the movie "Snow White" which many consider to be the movie that "built" the Disney Studios due to its huge success.

Tribute to Snow White


Since the 75th Anniversary of the Company in 1987, Disney annually honors a number of "legends," people in many different disciplines who have been instrumental in the success of the Disney Company. The dedication plaque says (in part) that Legends are those people "whose imagination talent and dreams have created the Disney Magic. Each honoree has a square bronze plaque with their hand prints (if alive at the time the honor is bestowed), the year and an embossed graphic that depicts their particular discipline or area of contribution.

We did spend a bit of time in the Frank G. Wells Building (where the archives are housed) and got to see an actual multiplane camera. An interesting fact is that the last time the multiplane camera, a technique invented by Walt Disney, was used in 1989 on "The Little Mermaid."

Next was about an hour's drive on the Los Angeles freeway system to Anaheim, the location of the Disney parks and our home for the next three days, the Grand Californian.

There's really not a lot to tell about the afternoon and evening of day 3. I'm not going to give you a review of the Grand Californian or the restaurants where we ate. You can find those in lots of other places. Suffice it to say, the Grand Californian is a beautiful resort, very similar to Disney's Wilderness Lodge at Walt Disney World, but more "craftsman" than "mission" for those of you who are architecture buffs and with all the amenities of the Grand Floridian. It's a rather unbeatable combination in my book.

We had a wine and cheese reception in the Vineyard Room of Hook's Point and then went upstairs for a lovely dinner.

After dinner we were on our own until the next morning. Some of our group went to the parks, some walked around Downtown Disney and others went to bed ;-)

One thing I will say for this tour is that it is not for anyone who tires easily. Although our guides have built in plenty of bathroom breaks and relaxing meals, the rest of the time you are walking and standing. By this evening, a number of people were starting to mention tired feet.

September 19, 2008

Adventures by Disney - Backstage Magic - El Capitan

All Ears team member Glo from Miami and her husband Gary continue their report on their Adventure by Disney - Backstage Magic! Click here for all of Glo's reports! Scroll down for most recent entries.

Can you say exhausting day!!! ...but so many wonderful things to see and do that I will only be able to scratch the surface or I will be here typing until midnight!

Our morning began at 8 AM in the Disney Soda Fountain and Shop next to the beautifully restored El Capitan Theater. The Soda Fountain cast members came in early to make our breakfast which included (among lots of other things), Mickey waffles!

Disney Soda Fountain Shop Sign


After breakfast, we headed next door for a tour of the El Capitan, the second oldest theater in Hollywood (1926). [Older is Grauman's Egyptian Theater (1925) and one year older is Grauman's Chinese Theater (1927).] A number of other companies owned the theater for a time, but it wasn't until Disney purchased it in 1988 and began a $14M restoration that took three years that the theater once again became a "star" on Hollywood Boulevard. The beautiful carved plaster ceiling had been covered over with dry-wall and it wasn't until the renovation began that the beautiful, original ceiling was uncovered.

El Capitan


The El Capitan houses a Mighty Wurlitzer organ. Four of these organs were made, but only three are still in existence. The one at the El Capitan, one at the Fox Theater in San Francisco and one at the Fox Theater in Detroit.

The fourth one was broken up for parts to repair other various organs across the country. The organ is comprised of some 3000 different pipes, some of which are as tall as 25 feet. Rob Richards, one of three house organists, gave a small demonstration of the organ's capabilities and explained how it operated.

From the El Capitan, we headed right next door to the Hollywood Masonic Temple which was built in 1921 at a cost of $140K. The building now houses the studios for Jimmy Kimmel Live and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Because of its historic designation, there are limitations as to what changes they can actually make to the building. So, inside, much of the original architectural detail is visible, but the space is used in a very utilitarian (and not very decorative) manner.

For those of you who follow the show, we got to meet Uncle Frank up close and personal. That man is a hoot! We visited the "green room" where celebrities wait to be called to the stage. In this case, the "green room" is really a very comfortable lounge area with a pool table, bar, pin ball machines and video games.

The studio itself is home to the actual set where the show is taped using 6 cameras. There are 184 audience seats.

During the bus trip to Jim Henson Studios, our coach driver Don pointed out various interesting buildings along the way. One such fact is that there are 2369 "stars" on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the most recent star, just installed last Friday, honors The Village People, the disco band from the late 1970's most famous for the song "YMCA."

At the Henson Studios we were greeted by a large statue of Kermit the Frog atop one of the front buildings, complete with his Charlie Chaplin suit, hat and cane.

Kermit Statue at Jim Henson Studios


The buildings in the Henson Studio complex were the Charlie Chaplin studios from 1917 to 1952 and have been designated a national Historical Cultural Monument.

Our Henson guide, Michael, from the "Creature Shop" introduced us to muppet-type puppetry through animatronics to today's new digital puppetry. All of the original wood bungalows from the Caplin Studios have now been retrofitted for some of today's production needs.

Glo and Muppets


The sound stage is where the old Perry Mason TV series was filmed as well as The Red Skelton Show and the original Tarzan movies with Johnny Weissmuller. More recently, the "We Are the World" video was shot there.

The Jim Henson Studios have won 50 Emmys, 9 Grammys and 2 Oscars, many of which are on display in the reception area.

Although it isn't on the official itinerary, when we left the Henson Studios, we headed to the 4200 acres Griffith Park area that houses, among other things, Walt Disney's original Carolwood Barn where he built and housed the Carolwood Pacific Railroad, a 1/8 scale steam train that used to run around the grounds of the Disney family's Holmby Hills home in the 1950's. In fact, it was this railroad that was actually Walt's inspiration for creating a theme park. It seems the crowds at his home on Sundays grew so large that it was almost impossible to accommodate everyone who wanted a ride on the train and thus the idea of some sort of a park where families could enjoy things together.

In 1998 when the family decided to sell the Holmby Hills home, Diane Disney Miller, requested that the original barn to the Griffith Park location. The barn has been faithfully restored and includes wood workbenches made by Walt himself as well as many of his tools and models.

Once back at the hotel, we had just about an hour before our trip across the street again to see the actual production of the Jimmy Kimmel Live show.

Tonight's guests were actress Alicia Milano, producer Stephen Merchant and an outdoor performance by Ne-Yo. I've never been to a live taping before, so it was a very interesting experience. I'm not sure if I'd be one of the "unwashed masses" standing in line for two to three hours to try and get into the studio audience, but when you have friends in high places (and pay Disney big bucks for their tours LOL) you get guaranteed seats and don't have to wait quite as long.

Tomorrow is our "change hotels" day. We have to have our bags ready for pick up by 7 AM and will be on the coach heading to Walt Disney Imagineering at 8 AM. Later in the day we visit the Walt Disney Studios and check into the Grand Californian. Exciting thing to come. Stay tuned!

September 18, 2008

Adventures by Disney - Backstage Magic - We're in Hollywood!

All Ears team member Glo from Miami and her husband Gary continue their report on their Adventure by Disney - Backstage Magic! Click here for all of Glo's reports! Scroll down for most recent entries.


Neither of us slept real well last night, but we were still up at dark o'clock to get ready for our Backstage Magic adventure.

Lines were long at the airport, even for an 8 AM flight. No problem, we always get there plenty early. This is the first flight in a long time where Mr. K did not have an aisle seat. I know I booked one for him, but they must have switched equipment or something because we ended up with a window and middle. We survived just fine ;-) Both of us slept part of the way.

Backstage Magic Map

When we landed at LAX, it felt like we had to walk to the next county to find baggage claim, but once we got found it, one of our guides (Julie) was there to meet us, along with Lyle who would get our baggage and drive us to the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel. The drive took close to an hour. You've heard about LA traffic, right? ...but it was a luxurious ride in a shiny, black town car.

In the lobby, our other guide (Quinn) greeted us, gave us our room key and we were off on our own until 4 PM when we get to meet the rest of our "family" for the tour. In our room were some gifts with the Adventures by Disney logo. I must say, they really do everything first-class!

Hollywood Sign


The Hollywood & Highlands Center is connected directly to the hotel, so we went there for a quick bite to eat and a few pictures. We did the "Walk of Stars" and saw Grauman's Chinese Theater, the El Capitan Theater and the Disney Soda Shop ...only on the outside, of course; not enough time for much else.

gloabd2.jpg


Now it's time to get cleaned up just a bit before our Welcome Reception.

At 4 PM our group of 24 adult Disney lovers met in one of the lounges at the hotel for a little Welcome reception and introductions.

Talk about small world! We just picked a random table and the other couple at the table was from Orlando. In fact, the husband (Joe) is the pharmacist at the drug store close to our home in Poinciana. What a coincidence!! ...but it gets even better.

At the last table, Nancy introduced herself and she lives in the same subdivision as we do, maybe 1/2 a mile away. Unbelievable! There are also two Pegs from Pennsylvania, one from Camp Hill where the recent Magic Meet was held. She went to the meet last year, but not this year.

Julie and Quinn gave us a few instructions for the next days, primarily about when cameras are allowed and when they aren't, and then we proceeded to dinner at Trastevere Restaurant in the adjoining center. We had a private room in the back. Good thing because this is NOT going to be a quiet group, I can tell you that!

Appetizers and salads were served family style, but everyone got to order off the menu for their entree. It was delicious, but getting to know new friends was even better. In between the appetizers and salads was a wild game of Disney trivia. Lots of fun! ...and somehow one of the "contestants" said "Alex Trabeck" for an answer. Needless to say, it was NOT the right answer, but it made for some wonderful laughs.

After dinner, Gary and I walked back down to Hollywood Boulevard where the new movie "Eagle Eye" is premiering tonight at Grauman's Theater. Lots of people were lining both sides of the street and cameras kept flashing, but we sure didn't see anyone we thought was famous. Oh, well...

Hollywood Bldv


It's now 11:10 PM Florida time but only 8:10 PM California time. Let me tell you, I'm ready for bed! Tomorrow morning we have to meet at 7:45 for breakfast and then the real "meat" of the tour begins. We tour the restored El Capitan theater, The Disney Soda Shop, the Jimmy Kimmel Live studio and Jim Henson's Muppet Studio.

Some folks are planning on going to the taping of the Jimmy Kimmel show, but I think we are going to go see "Sleeping Beauty" (restored) on the big screen at the El Capitan, that is, if we don't collapse by that time ;-)

Now I think I hear my pillow calling my name.

September 17, 2008

Adventures by Disney - Backstage Magic - Getting Ready

All Ears team member Glo from Miami and her husband Gary report on their Adventure by Disney - Backstage Magic!

Adventure by Disney Logo

Shortly after Gary and I got back from our 40th anniversary Disney Mediterranean cruise, we started discussing going to California sometime in the future to visit the Disney parks there. We both thoroughly enjoy the Florida parks and visit them often since we live near-by, but we haven't been to Disneyland since an extended business trip in 1988.

We had thought we'd get to California when California Adventure park opened, but somehow that just never happened. I think it might have something do do with grandbabies coming one per year since 2002 ;-)

About this time last year Disney announced their new "Backstage Magic" tour of the two California parks and a lot of other interesting places. We signed our name on the "dotted line" for the September 16-21 "adults only" tour and then pretty much forgot about it until the final payment came due sometime in the Summer.

Just over a month ago we received our "Welcome" kit, complete with a great messenger bag and "luggage spotters." (Luggage spotters are bright blue "pouches" that Velcro around your luggage handles so your bags are easy to spot on the baggage carousel. ) Wow! Our trip was now just a month away!! It was getting exciting.

...but as I sit here today, our trip is less than 48 hours away and the "month-ago excited" is nothing compared to the "less than 48 hours" excited. We've gone over the daily itinerary with a fine-tooth comb and have decided what kind of clothes we need to bring. Tomorrow is Packing Day and there are little yellow "stickies" all over the place. I should have bought stock in the "Post-It Notes" company!!

I plan to blog as much of the trip as I can squeeze into an extremely crowded schedule. So, if you're interested in The Muppets, Disney Imagineering, Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure or if you're interested in seeing how an Adventures by Disney tour operates, read along with me for the next week and I'll try to share with you some of the fun and a few pictures ...but I won't share all the surprises in case you might be considering this trip for yourself.

Return to Blog Central

About Adventures by Disney

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to AllEars® Team Blog in the Adventures by Disney category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

All Ears Meet and Greets is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.