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February 7, 2016

Disney Postage Stamps

Gary Cruise banner

Yes, you read that title correctly; there really are Disney postage stamps! They’ve been around since September 11, 1968 when the US Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating the life of Walt Disney.

That stamp featured a portrait of Walt, surrounded by children of the world.

1968 Walt Disney Commemorative Stamp

It was an immediate hit with stamp collectors around the world who scrambled to buy the stamps and some limited edition “First Day Of Issue” envelopes. Philatelists (stamp collectors) refer to these special envelopes as “covers”.

1968 Walt Disney Commemorative Stamp Covers

Over the next twenty years the Disney licensing machine operated in high gear as Disney artists produced custom art work for countries all around the world which were producing Disney postage stamps.

That’s when Carol began her collection, in about 1989. Her first purchase resulted from a magazine ad she saw; it was a packet of 100 stamps from around the world that she purchased from a philatelic distributor in Calgary Alberta.

Since then she has kept her eyes open and her ear to the ground, following for new releases, and she has made some good buys! She is strictly a "topical collector" - she focuses entirely on Disney stamps!

All of the images below come from Carol’s collection. In most cases you can click on the image to see a larger version.

Let's look at some of Carol's Disney stamps from the 1980's, starting with this group from Dominica, a small island-nation in the Lesser Antilles. They featured a Peter Pan theme and were produced for Christmas 1980.

1980 Dominica Peter Pan Christmas
(Did you remember to click on the picture to see a larger version?)

That same year Grenada sold two series of Christmas stamps, one based on Bambi and the other featuring Snow White.

1980 Grenada Christmas

In 1982 the tiny South Asian nation of Bhutan had a special issue of stamps based on Disney's Jungle Book.

1982 Bhutan Jungle Book

There were even stamps to commemorate the 1982 World Cup, played that year in Spain. The soccer themed stamps weren't produced in Spain though, they came from Dominica.

1982 Dominica World Cup

In 1983 Anguilla, a British Territory in the Caribbean, had a series of Christmas stamps showing Disney characters in scenes from Dickens stories.

1983 Anguilla Christmas

A series issued by Antigua and Barbuda celebrated Donald Duck's 50th birthday. Donald and his nephews were shown enjoying a Caribbean cruise vacation for Christmas 1984.

1984 Antigua Cruise Holiday

The theme was "50 Years Of Color Animation" in the series issued by Romania in 1985.

1985 Romania 50 Years of Color animation

In 1988 there was a huge stamp exposition in Chicago. "Ameripex '86" was hailed as The World's Fair of Stamps. The stamps below were produced for that event by Grenada and the Republic of Maldives.

1988 Grenada and Maldives Ameripex

Let's conclude our little postage stamp tour of the 1980's by looking at this cute little Christmas train from 1988. These stamps were produced by St. Vincent, another tiny island-nation in the Lesser Antilles.

1988 St. Vincent Christmas Train

There was a Canadian addition to Carol's collection in 1996. Canada Post and Walt Disney World joined forces to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Walt Disney World by issuing a stamp series featuring Canada's most popular bear. She didn't even have to fly south to get these stamps, she picked them up in our local post office!

1996 Canadian Winnie The Pooh Stamps

Since the new millennium began there have been frequent releases by the US Postal Service, based on "The Art of Disney", and Carol has collected them all.

First came the "Art of Disney Friendship" series in 2004. The four stamps in the series depict some of your favourite characters with their best friends!

2004 The Art Of Disney Friendship Sheet

Naturally Carol bought the "First Day Of Issue" covers!

2004 The Art Of Disney Friendship Covers

The series also included a set of four 8" X !0" prints. My princess bought them as well, to complete her set.

2004 The Art Of Disney Friendship Prints

The theme for 2005 was "Celebration" and Carol was thrilled when this offer from the US Postal Service arrived in the mail!

2005 Celebrate The Art Of Disney Advertising Poster

The Celebration stamps portray Disney characters enjoying festive activities; music, dancing, a birthday and a tea party.

2005 The Art Of Disney Celebration Sheet

Once again she ordered the First Day Of Issue covers!

2005 The Art Of Disney Celebration Covers

. . . and the 8" X 10" prints . . .

2005 The Art Of Disney Celebration Prints

. . . and the postcards . . . you just cannot get too much of a good thing!

2005 The Art Of Disney Celebration Postcards

Things took a romantic turn in 2006. What could be sweeter than these Disney couples?

2006 The Art Of Disney Romance Sheet

As you probably guessed, Carol just had to have the First Day Of Issue covers! They were released at the 2006 EPCOT Flower and Garden Show and each cover shows the corresponding topiary that was on display during the festival.

2006 The Art Of Disney Romance Covers

. . . and the 8" X 10" prints.

2006 The Art Of Disney Romance Prints

We attended the Flower and Garden show that year and Carol was lucky enough to pick up one of the special framed cachets. It was a Limited Edition of 185.

2006 The Art Of Disney Romance Cachet

Magic took center stage in 2007. There were four magical moments from Disney animated feature films depicted on the stamps that year.

2007 The Art Of Disney Magic Sheet

Of course she bought the First Day Of Issue covers and the prints . . .

2007 The Art Of Disney Magic Covers

2007 The Art Of Disney Magic Prints

. . . and the postcards!

2007 The Art Of Disney Magic Postcards

In 2007 the stamps shone their spotlight on Disney Imagination.

2008 The Art Of Disney Imagination Sheet

Carol added a sheet of stamps, the First Day Of Issue covers and the prints to her collection.

2008 The Art Of Disney Imagination Covers

2008 The Art Of Disney Imagination Prints

The next issue from USPS was in 2011, the "Send A Hello" series showing characters from five popular Disney/Pixar animated features.

2011 Send A Hello Sheet

Carol bought the standard covers and the First Day Of Issue covers.

2011 Send A Hello Covers

In 2012 they followed with the "Mail A Smile" series, once again depicting five Disney/Pixar films.

2012 Mail A Smile Sheet

Once again Carol bought both sets of covers.

2012 Mail A Smile Covers

Alas, there haven't been any new releases in North America in the past few years, but Carol continues to keep her eyes and ears open looking for new philatelic treasure!

There are some resources available for aspiring Disney philatelists! There is an out-of-print book dedicated to collecting Disney stamps; there are Disney stamp collecting albums and kits; there is even a Facebook page for Disney stamp collectors. A simple Internet search should help you find these resources if you want to read more, or begin your own collection!

February 1, 2016

Still Goofy About Disney: A blog, re-imagined

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Mickey Mouse leads the parade along Main Street U.S.A. during the author's first visit to Walt Disney World in 1972. Photo by Chuck Schmidt


by Chuck Schmidt
AllEars.Net Guest Blogger

When the Walt Disney Company updates an attraction, adding new pizzazz to a ride that's well past its prime, they often tell us the ride has been "re-imagined."

Star Tours in Hollywood Studios was re-imagined a few years back to become Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, with new scenes from Episodes 1, 2 and 3. So, too, was Test Track in Epcot, where you can now design your own car before taking it for a hair-raising spin around the banked speedway.

After seven years writing a blog on all things Disney on SILive.com, we've decided to re-imagine it. Much like the Festival of the Lion King show in Animal Kingdom, which was moved to another location, we'll now be blogging on AllEars.net, the preeminent website for all-things-Disney. In keeping with the re-imagining theme, my contributions to AllEars will be titled Still Goofy about Disney.

The focus of Still Goofy about Disney will be a subject near and dear to my heart: Disney of old. I have always been fascinated with the history of the most successful entertainment company in the world. During my 30-plus years of covering Disney either as the Sunday Editor of the Staten Island Advance or as a Disney blogger, I have been fortunate to have gotten to know many of the most prominent cast members in Disney history, folks like Marty Sklar, Jack Lindquist, Tony Baxter, Bob Gurr, Tom Nabbe, Bill Sullivan, Ron Dominguez, Charlie Ridgway and, of course, Deevy See [just kidding].

Through personal contact or phone interviews, they have shared many, many intriguing stories about their lives and their careers .. stories that I have, in turn, enjoyed sharing with my readers.

My wife Janet and I first visited Walt Disney World in 1972, a few months after we were married. I have still-strong memories of a place that we've returned to dozens and dozens of times over the last four-plus decades. Like those conversations I've had with the Disney Legends, all those previous visits will form the fabric of Still Goofy about Disney going forward.

In addition to my blog, which I started in 2009, I have authored two books on Disney, with a third due out this spring.

The first was Disney's Dream Weavers [Dog Ear Publishing], which goes into detail about the common thread I found running through Disneyland, Freedomland, the 1964-195 New York World's Fair, and Walt Disney World. The second is On the Disney Beat [Theme Park Press], which tells the story of my more than 30 years of covering Disney, either at elaborate Walt Disney World/Disney Cruise Line press events or through extensive interviews with some of the most respected Disney Legends.

Marty Sklar, one of those Legends, graciously wrote a foreword to On the Disney Beat, leaving me both honored and humbled. In part it reads: "It's not just Chuck's reporting and writing that we at Disney appreciate so much. It's the trust that we place in Chuck -- that through his knowledge and appreciation of what we have created and built, we will be treated fairly, respected for our passion and skill, and loved for 'making the magic real.'"

Hopefully, my passion for Disney will continue to shine through in future Still Goofy about Disney blogs.

January 24, 2016

FastPass+ - Love It or Hate It?

Gary Cruise banner

About a month ago Carol and I joined a group of AllEars.net readers at Tomorrowland Terrace for a “Meet and Greet”. I really enjoy this sort of get-together; any time Disney fans gather there’s always plenty of friendly chatter about our similar experiences and I usually come away having learned something new about my happy place.

December 2015 Meet and Greet

That particular Sunday morning I spent a few minutes chatting with a couple who read my blogs. I mentioned that I’m always on the lookout for new topics; was there anything they’d like me to write about? “Why yes,” they replied, “How do you use the FastPass+ system? We’ve been here for three days and had three FastPasses each day. We have yet to use a single one of them.”

I rolled that thought around in my mind for a second or two then replied, “I’m not really sure I can help with that. Carol and I seldom use all of ours either. We typically book three each day we are at a park, but we often only use one or two of them.”

We spent a few minutes talking about the reasons why we didn’t take advantage of the passes; as you might expect, our reasons were quite similar.

Let’s take a look back at how the new FastPass+ system has changed our park experiences . . .

FastPass vs FastPass+

Remember those old paper FastPasses? They were introduced in 1999 and gave the holder a one hour reserved time slot for a ride. When they returned during that hour they could enter through an “express lane”. FastPasses were only available for the most popular attractions at each park; the majority of rides or attractions did not have a FastPass line. The most avid guests would arrive at the park for “rope-drop” and as soon as the park opened they would hurry to the FastPass Distribution area for their first ride of the day.

Philharmagic FastPass Distribution

The voucher they received stipulated a time when they could pick up a second FastPass for a different attraction.

Hollywood Studios FastPasses

The system worked very well; guests would often pick up a FastPass then ride another non-FastPass attraction while they waited for their appointed time. It was a simple, but effective system that allowed guests who spent a few minutes planning to enjoy more rides in a short time.

Disney FastPass Logo

Then in 2013 Disney began rolling out the next generation . . . FastPass+ . . . at Walt Disney World. It has not been implemented at the other Disney theme parks yet.

Fastpass+ Logo

It was all part of a huge project code-named "Next Generation Experience". The project had a billion dollar budget and included MagicBands, FastPass+, My Disney Experience, and PhotoPass Memory Maker, four technology advances we’ve probably all become familiar with during the past couple of years.

So how does FastPass+ work? Well, it’s quite a bit different! There is now a FastPass+ line at virtually every attraction and the passes can be booked in advance. If you have pre-purchased your park ticket and are staying in a Disney resort you can book FastPass+ (3 per day) up to 60 days in advance using the online “My Disney Experience” system. If you have pre-purchased a park ticket or hold an Annual Pass you can use the same system to reserve FastPass+ (3 per day) up to 30 days in advance. There is even a mobile app available for smart phones and tablets which lets you manage and change your FastPass+ bookings.

My Disney Experience app

Day guests, who purchase tickets the day of their visit can also book FastPass+ but they have to line up at one of the kiosks in the park to select their passes from whatever remains available.

Regardless of when or how you booked your three FastPass+, once they have been used, or expired, you can book additional passes (only one at a time) at an in-park kiosk.

FastPass+ Kiosk Sign

So how has this impacted the guest experience?

There are some positive aspects, and there are also some negative ones; let’s look at a few of the good things first!

Very Convenient, Very Easy:
“My Disney Experience” is a wonderful tool to help with your trip plan. All of your resort details, FastPass+ selections, dining reservations, etc. appear in one location. It’s easy to use and accessible from your desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smart phone.

No need to rush:
You don’t have to be there at rope-drop and scurry back to Pixar Place for that FastPass+ at Toy Story Midway Mania. Carol and I always feel pretty smug as we wander slowly through Hollywood Studios to use the FastPass+ which she booked 60 days prior . . . that’s a very good benefit of the new system.

Fireworks and Parade viewing areas:
Special viewing areas have been set aside for guests who book FastPass+ to watch parades, fireworks and the nightly Capture The Magic show. These areas offer great views and are not nearly as crowded as surrounding areas. Another great advantage!

FastPass+ Logo

Unfortunately, there are some disadvantages as well.

Flexibility is restricted:
The new system forces you to commit to visiting a theme park 30 to 60 days in advance and restricts your ability to be spontaneous. For example, you have pre-booked FastPass+ for Animal Kingdom but when you wake up it’s pouring rain. Before the new system you might have decided to go to EPCOT that day and visit Animal Kingdom later in your vacation. It’s no longer that easy . . . it’s really tough to let those FastPass+ go!

Park-Hopping is difficult:
All three FastPass+ must be booked at the same park. This restricts your ability to hop from one park to another. Yes, once your three passes have been used you can hop to another park and book another FastPass+ at a kiosk, but it’s not nearly as easy as it used to be!

You can’t always get what you want:
The day has finally arrived, it’s 60 days before your vacation and you sit down to make your FastPass+ bookings for Hollywood Studios. Naturally you want Toy Story Midway Mania so you book it first. Then you move on to your second favourite and book the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. For your last selection you would like Rock ‘N Roller Coaster . . . but wait . . . it’s not on the list. Why can’t you see it? It’s not available and you will not be able to book it because the attractions at Hollywood Studios and EPCOT have been “tiered” to ensure fairness. Guests can select one Tier 1 attraction and two Tier 2 attractions. Toy Story Midway Mania and Rock “N Roller Coaster are both Tier 1, so you cannot reserve them both. That’s a big disadvantage! To see more detail about FastPass+ and Tiering read the AllEars page HERE.

Longer standby lines:
Imagine when you couldn’t get Rock ‘N Roller Coaster in that example above that you decided to go anyway and use the standby line. Wow – it was slow! Yes, the FastPass+ system seems to be putting more people than ever before into the FastPass line and this naturally slows down the standby lines. Even attractions that didn’t have FastPass lines in the old days now have long and slow standby lines as people whisk past in the new FastPass+ line. Another reason it’s difficult to be spontaneous!

Long FastPass+ lines:
Yes, the FastPass+ lines are sometimes long, very long. When we visited the parks in late October 2015 the FastPass+ line for Kilimanjaro Safaris was contained by a temporary system of posts and ropes. It stretched from the FastPass+ entrance all the way to the standby entrance. During the same trip the FastPass+ line for Toy Story stretched all the way back to One Man’s Dream.

What about inexperienced visitors? Do cast members explain FastPass+ to day guests? It’s difficult for me to imagine myself as a day guest, visiting Walt Disney World for the first time, but I suspect that if I were that day guest, I would be disappointed by what I found in the parks. Huge lines everywhere I looked and people hustling past, right beside me, in an express lane. I’m not at all sure I’d be back.

So how does the new system work for Carol and I? Well, I’d like to tell you it’s fabulous. I’d like to tell you that it’s the best thing ever . . . but that would be a very big exaggeration. If we were to boil our feelings about the system down to a single word, that word would be “meh”.

We would be quite happy to return to the old system.

Peter Pans Flight FastPass

Carol really enjoys planning our Disney adventures and she takes full advantage of My Disney Experience. It’s a good tool for planning and making reservations, but the new FastPass+ just isn’t a perfect fit for us. We all too often find ourselves a bit frustrated that we have three attractions booked at EPCOT and yet the weather is perfect for a trip to Animal Kingdom. We could not accurately forecast the weather 60 days ago and there’s just no room in the new system for the kind of spontaneity or improvisation we’re used too!

Imagine this scene; Carol is booking our day at Hollywood Studios. She has a 9:30 FastPass+ at Toy Story Midway Mania and a 10:45 pass at Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. She asks my opinion, “For our third FastPass+, would you rather have Disney Junior at 11:40 or the Frozen Sing-Along at 12:15?” My reply is quick, “Neither”! So she leaves it at the two she has already booked and the program automatically assigns us a third pass at Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. We haven’t watched that show since 2002 and I don’t think we’ll use that FastPass+ to see it this time. We very seldom use all three of our FastPass+.

So to that couple who asked how to use FastPass+ all I can say is, "We feel your pain and we share your frustration."

Yes, FastPass+ has some good points, but in our particular case they are slightly outweighed by the bad points.

How about you? Do you love FastPass+ or do you hate it?

January 22, 2016

Star Wars Day at Sea Cruise

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By Guest Blogger Denise Preskitt


Nearly one year ago, Disney Cruise Line announced a new experience for 8 sailings this year on the Disney Fantasy: Star Wars Day at Sea. Held from January 9th through April 16th, 2016 on Western Caribbean cruises, many benefits were touted. Those benefits included character meet and greets, special food offerings, and celebrity insiders and autograph sessions.

This was never meant to be a full Star Wars cruise, which is one thing I have been asked quite a bit about. It was replacing one port stop on the itinerary. We booked the cruise immediately and sailed on the first one, January 9th.

Much of what was promised was a part of the experience. However, one thing that everyone seemed to be looking forward to was completely lacking: celebrity insiders and autograph sessions. Considering how well Disney has been able to add celebrities to Star Wars Weekends, it was quite a surprise that they couldn't find anybody for the first cruise (there was a new Imagineer, who couldn't answer many questions). That said, it was actually a fun day.

The Disney Fantasy was full for the first sailing, there was even a sign telling guests not to ask for upgrades because they'd not be available due to that. There was a large photo backdrop in the atrium, which was the first real sign of the cruise to come. This backdrop was there until almost the end of the cruise, so there was actually no need to have a photo in front of it right away. There was almost no other Star Wars décor the whole cruise – really, none.

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Two elements of the cruise did include Star Wars the entire time. Star Wars films were shown each day, including “Star Wars: A Force Awakens” (non-Star Wars films were shown as well).

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And Star Wars Day at Sea merchandise was available from the second day through most of the sailing – I believe it was put away the last night.

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When we boarded, we were told that there would be an interactive meet and greet and that we needed to choose – by Sunday – which one we were interested in by filling out paperwork in the room. The paper wasn't there, eventually the room steward came and was a little confused about what he was supposed to bring, but it was in one of his hands and we were able to figure it out. I think that should be smoother in future sailings. The meet and greet locations available to choose from were Bespin, Tatooine and the Dark Side. It seems that one is guaranteed, but everyone we knew was given two experiences.

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The next morning, Disney had a queue for guests who wanted to purchase Star Wars Day at Sea merchandise. This was the first full day at sea. We didn't wait in the queue, opting instead to go later in the day. Everything seemed to be there for the whole cruise. Prior to sailing, we had filled out an RSP form for merchandise – both of us chose the limited edition pin #1. Each sailing was to receive one special limited edition pin. However, the first pin never arrived. We were given pins for our trouble, and pins from later cruises were set out (and pin #1 will be shipped, maybe in spring). I'm not sure what will happen with Limited Edition pins for later cruises.

Fast forward to Star Wars Day at Sea.

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We had received our tickets for the meet and greets the previous evening. The way this was handled was very organized, as were the meets themselves. The Personal Navigator for the day included everything guests needed to know, and the app had almost everything. Star Wars music played throughout the hallways and atrium.

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While we had two meet and greets, a friend of ours also had one that his family chose not to attend with him. It did allow us to experience all three locations, although not all the characters.

Guests began congregating in the atrium at about 8:30 a.m., waiting for the walk-around characters. That started at about 9:00 a.m., as Stormtroopers and Tusken Raiders could be seen above. This was an 11 hour experience, with characters roaming until 8:00 p.m. It seemed to get less busy by mid afternoon.

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In addition to the official characters on board, there were many guests dressed head to toe in fantastic costumes. From Jabba the Hutt to Kylo Ren and so many other characters (including face masks and everything else), this was one of my favorite parts of the cruise. Kylo Ren was not meeting on board, but I could still get a picture of him thanks to a well costumed guest.

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We didn't make it to some of the offerings, like Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple and the Padawan Mind Challenge. There actually was quite a bit to do on board, and not enough time to do everything we had planned. (Editor's Note: I spoke with a family who had been on this same cruise. They said out of the 1500 kids on board only a small amount were able to be part of the Jedi Training because it was only offered on a limited basis. Let's hope that is a future change.)

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Outside, the Disney Fantasy was skirting the beautiful coastline of Cuba all day. From what I was told, it had to do with the weather being not optimum elsewhere. The cruise otherwise had quite a lot of rain, and we didn't make it to Castaway Cay due to weather. Seeing Cuba was one of my favorite parts of the day and of the cruise.

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Stormtroopers could be found out on the jogging deck (deck 4) and during “Pool Patrol”. Pool Patrol was shown as a few little blips in the schedule, but it was fun to see them at the pool area. Perhaps it wouldn't have been as fun if I was wanting to be in the pool, but it was a nice little addition to the day. Boba Fett occasionally would be above the crowd, taunting.

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The ship horn also played the Imperial March several times during the day, only on Star Wars Day at Sea.

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Counter service food items were available with a Star Wars theme. I'm not really sure what made the Death Star Pizza themed to the Death Star, but the Darth Vader Bantha Burger was similar to what you will find in the parks, black bun and all.

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On to the interactive meet and greets. These were meet and greets like you'd find at Disney's Hollywood Studios, where guests form an orderly line and meet a character. Each meet and greet alternated with 2 different characters. Darth Vader alternated with Captain Phasma at the Dark Side. Chewbacca and Boba Fett were at Bespin. And Tattoine included R2-D2 with C-3PO and Darth Maul.

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2 of 3 meet and greets we visited did not allow choosing of the character. While in line for Darth Vader and Captain Phasma, we wanted to meet the latter (since she was new), and the guest behind us did not know who she was and wanted to meet Darth Vader. In the Droid/Darth Maul location, they did allow anyone who wanted to wait for R2-D2 and C-3PO to do so. It'd be nice if this was always the case, especially since the meet and greets weren't that busy. Darth Maul was alone for a while, everyone could have met him and still continued to wait (and even if not, it was a very nice bonus to be able to choose). Our last meet and greet was in the morning on the next day.

Activities on board included a Star Wars Costume Celebration. This was enjoyable to watch, with a wide array of guest costumes. It was not a contest, as nobody won anything.

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Characters were still roaming the atrium on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th floors – but eventually the evening entertainment arrived, replacing Star Wars music. Country songs and other music filled the air while the characters walked about. It would have been good if there wasn't that break in continuity.


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Star Wars Day at Sea in many ways replaces the Pirate Night events. Fireworks and the late buffet are on Star Wars Day at Sea, not both. From what I understand, the Pirate Night menu was not available, but we were in Palo that evening. Some activities still go on, but much is moved to Star Wars night.

A special menu was offered for the evening, but the best part about it was the menu itself. Everyone at the table wanted one, even if we could have purchased it. The food itself was named after different characters, but there wasn't anything special when the items arrived at the table. My Qui-Gon's Crisp Chicken was sort of like a Shake and Bake meal. This was overall my least favorite Disney cruise over the years in food and service (the latter was remedied the last few nights).

Desserts included Calrissian Velvet Cake, which was a crunchy red velvet cake. I didn't finish it. There are numerous other choices as well, one guest at the table ordered a Mickey Bar instead.


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The last events of the day were the Summon the Force show, fireworks, and then the dinner buffet.

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The Summon the Force show featured mostly characters we'd seen during the day, and celebrated all the films. I have been asked many times about Disney characters in Star Wars costumes, and from what I understand, those aren't coming back. It is too bad, since that was my favorite part of Star Wars Weekends.

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The Summon the Force show included Stormtroopers, Darth Vader, Boba Fett, and many others. I recommend leaving dinner early if you are at the second seating to secure a spot. I arrived late, and did manage to snag an upper level spot right behind someone that left me with a tiny bit of photo room.

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The Summon the Force Fireworks were similar to Buccaneer Blast, but Star Wars themed. It is the only fireworks show at sea, and shouldn't be missed. There was also a dance party.

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If you've seen the Pirate late buffet, this wasn't too different. Items from the shops and refreshment stand, like BB-8 sippers, were used as decorations. If you are looking to buy a BB-8 sipper or Tie-Fighter popcorn bucket, it is much cheaper on board than in the parks. Watermelons at the buffet showcased Star Wars.

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The next morning, we met Chewbacca and that was the end of Star Wars Day at Sea. We did receive a “The Force is Strong with this Ship” window cling, but it disappeared the next day (it was thrown out) and we had to ask for another one.

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When the Disney Cruise Line announced the sailing, it said also that, “In the evening, adults entering the night club will feel like they stepped into the Mos Eisley cantina scene. Characters and cantina music set the mood as Star Wars-themed specialty cocktails are served.” I didn't see anything like that. There were two Star Wars themed drinks – one with alcohol and one without.

All in all, it was still a fun time. But there was a major disconnect with some of the announced offerings versus what materialized for the first cruise. Having Star Wars “celebrities and insiders” would not have only fulfilled what was announced, but it would have given great guest satisfaction. Some decorations would have been nice. It didn't feel like the event had been worked on for nearly a full year. Star Wars: The Force Awakens was shown quite a few times, including in the Walt Disney Theater (in place of the show that night). There was trivia and some activities for the kids. It wasn't that there wasn't anything to do, because the schedule was pretty full. But it isn't Star Wars Weekends, not nearly – so keep expectations at a minimum, and I hope Disney will pull a few tricks out of its hat for future cruises.


January 16, 2016

The Mousy Mindboggler -- January 2016

Riddle

THE MOUSY MINDBOGGLER

If you subscribe to the AllEars® Weekly Newsletter, you'll know that we run a little game called the Mousy Mindboggler. Sometimes it's a word game, sometimes it's a riddle, sometimes it's some other brain-teasing challenge -- but it's always fun!

Once each month, in the AllEars® newsletter, our friend James Dezern (known as "dzneynut" around several Disney discussion forums) supplies us with a puzzle of his own design.

Every month, James also Shares the Magic in another way -- by posting an all-new puzzle here in this AllEars.Net Guest Blog. The subject of the puzzle will vary, and James will award the winner of the challenge a collectible Disney pin!

This month, James writes:

I only received 15 correct responses to last month’s Guest Blog Picture Quiz! I guess these picture quizzes are more difficult than I thought! Yah can’t blame a guy for trying!

Here are the locations of last month’s Christmas trees:

Photo 1: Animal Kingdom-Entrance
Photo 2: Epcot-World Showcase Plaza
Photo 3: Grand Floridian Resort-Grand Lobby 2nd floor
Photo 4: Magic Kingdom-Town Square
Photo 5: Animal Kingdom Lodge-Kidani Village
Photo 6: Boardwalk Resort-outside on grassy lawn

Photo 3 was the odd photo out.

The winner of a Scrooge McDuck pin, randomly drawn from the correct responses, was Kellie C. of Washington, DC.

If you missed it, that’s OK, because here’s another chance.

This month we are going to go back to a crossword puzzle, but this is a special puzzle I created to commemorate the 20th anniversary of this wonderful site we call home, AllEars.Net!

The subject of this puzzle is “This Year in Disney History, 1996.” All of these events happened sometime during the 1996 calendar year.

For this puzzle ALL of the clues are used. Some of you that attended the anniversary activities last month in Walt Disney World may recognize this puzzle!

http://allears.net/ae/mb011516.pdf

The object is, as always, to have fun, but if you'd like a chance to win a Disney collectible pin, send me the answer IN THE SUBJECT LINE OF AN EMAIL addressed to dzneynut.puzzle@gmail.com.

Send your entries no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on February 12, 2016. All correct answers will be entered into a random drawing, and the winner will be awarded a Disney pin. The answers and drawing winner will be posted in this Guest Blog in mid- to late February.

As always, any feedback on the puzzle format or topics would be appreciated! Drop me a line at dzneynut.puzzle@gmail.com.

Thanks!

January 3, 2016

Disney Soaps and Lotions

Gary Cruise banner

Do you have a shelf that looks like this?

Medicine Cabinet Soaps and Lotions

Is your travel bag filled with these?

Generic soaps and lotions

When you work on a crossword or Sudoku puzzle do you have one of these in your hand?

Disney Pens

If you answered yes to those questions you are in good company. I think almost every Disney fan takes home a pen or two and some of those handy little packages of soap and bottles of shampoo and lotions each time they stay in a Disney resort.

They are so handy to have, just the right size to carry along when you travel and the lotions are perfect for the night table beside your bed at home. Since they all say “Disney” right there on the package they’re collectibles as well!

Every day Mousekeeping drops off a fresh supply in your room and it accumulates much faster than you can possibly use it. The only logical solution is to take it home!

As you might expect, Carol has quite a varied collection. Let’s look at a few items.

These days everything is generic, every resort has the same soaps and shampoos . . . but in days of yore it was different; and Carol has collected the proof!

Grand Floridian soaps and lotions

The Grand Floridian Resort used to have a complete line of specialty products to enhance the experience for guests. That green bottle in the back row is shampoo for the ladies; to its right is a dark bottle – that’s shampoo for the men! The ladies and the gents apparently had to share conditioner; it’s on the far right. The white jar in the front is facial cream and the green tin is a sewing kit. Alas, even the mighty Floridian uses the generic line these days!

Contemporary and Fort Wilderness soaps

Here are a couple of soap bars from that same era, the Contemporary Resort and Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.

Disneyland Hotel soaps and lotions

When we last stayed at the Disneyland Hotel in 2011 they still provided specially branded toiletry products, including a shower cap. That’s something that’s rarely seen these days!

Disney Cruise Line soaps and lotions

The Disney Cruise Line has a line of H2O Spa soaps and lotions; Carol likes the H2O products and always brings home every drop Mousekeeping leaves in the stateroom.

Now let’s look at some of the generic soaps and lotions.

Generic soaps and lotions

This group of products from several years ago included two different styles of bottled body lotion, facial soap that was wrapped and also boxed, and a handy little sewing kit.

Generic soaps and lotions

Here’s another old group of generic soaps.

Generic soaps and lotions

And still more old soaps. The cellophane wrapper lets you see the Mickey embossed on the round bar.

Generic soaps and lotions

It looks like H2O is now the exclusive supplier for Disney resorts; it’s the only brand we’ve seen in the resorts during our recent trips.

Carol has pulled out all those unique "resort-specific" items in her collection and tucked them safely away in her Tickle Trunk. It would be a shame if they were used by accident; they’re irreplaceable!

How about you?

Do you have a collection of old Disney soaps, shampoos, lotions and toiletries?
What’s your favourite?

December 31, 2015

Mousy Mindboggler - December 2015

Riddle

THE MOUSY MINDBOGGLER

If you subscribe to the AllEars® Weekly Newsletter, you'll know that we run a little game called the Mousy Mindboggler. Sometimes it's a word game, sometimes it's a riddle, sometimes it's some other brain-teasing challenge -- but it's always fun!

Once each month, in the AllEars® Bits and Bites issue, our friend James Dezern (known as "dzneynut" around several Disney discussion forums) supplies us with a puzzle of his own design.

Every month, James also Shares the Magic in another way -- by posting an all-new puzzle here in this AllEars.Net Guest Blog. The subject of the puzzle will vary, and James will award the winner of the challenge a collectible Disney pin!

This month, James writes:

I only received FOUR correct responses to last month’s Guest Blog Picture Quiz! I guess these were more difficult than I thought!

Here are the answers to last month’s photo quiz:

Photo 1: Space Mountain
Photo 2: Pirates of the Caribbean
Photo 3: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Photo 4: Mickey Mouse Revue

As far as what they have in common, each of these attractions is one of a handful of Magic Kingdom attractions that required a separate E-ticket or coupon to ride in addition to the base admission ticket.

These A thru E-tickets were required for most of the park attractions in Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom until around 1982, when passport tickets were introduced in anticipation of the opening of Epcot Center.

These were the E-ticket attractions at the Magic Kingdom:
Hall of Presidents
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Haunted Mansion
Jungle Cruise
Country Bear Jamboree
Pirates of the Caribbean
Space Mountain
it’s a small world
Mickey Mouse Revue (later downgraded to D-ticket)

Prior to 1983, an E-ticket ride referred to those attractions that were the most popular, not necessarily the most thrilling. This changed when Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, responded that the experience of a Space Shuttle launch, was similar to an E-ticket ride at Disneyland. This term then became synonymous with the best or most thrilling attractions.

The winner of a Disney villain pin, randomly drawn from the correct responses, was Jeffrey D. of Rocky Mount, VA.

If you missed it last month, don't worry -- Here’s another chance!

Continuing with the photo quiz with a twist idea, I’m going to show you a few cropped pictures of Christmas trees from Walt Disney World

Try to identify where at the Walt Disney World Resort each of these trees can be found, either at one of the theme parks or resort hotels.

OK, if everybody is neat and pretty, let’s begin!

PHOTO 1

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PHOTO 2

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PHOTO 3

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PHOTO 4

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PHOTO 5

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PHOTO 6

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Match each of the following locations with one of the photos above.

-- Magic Kingdom
-- Animal Kingdom Lodge
-- Boardwalk Resort
-- Animal Kingdom
-- Epcot

You'll notice that there is an extra tree photo whose location is NOT on this list.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to identify where at WDW can this extra tree be found!

The object is, as always, to have fun, but if you'd like a chance to win a Disney collectible pin, send me the answer IN THE SUBJECT LINE OF AN EMAIL addressed to dzneynut.puzzle@gmail.com.

NOTE: Please don't reply to this blog with your answers! If you want a chance at winning the pin, you MUST submit your answer to the email address.

Send your entries no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on January 10, 2016. All correct answers will be entered into a random drawing, and the winner will be awarded a Disney pin. The answers and drawing winner will be posted in this Guest Blog in mid- to late January.

As always, any feedback on the puzzle format or topics would be appreciated! Drop me a line at dzneynut.puzzle@gmail.com.

Thanks!

December 20, 2015

The Candlelight Processional

Gary Cruise banner

Just a few weeks ago Carol and I enjoyed the Candlelight Processional at Walt Disney World and once again it was every bit as inspiring as the first time we saw it thirteen years ago. We were instantly mesmerized back in 2002 when a herald of trumpets focused our attention on the orchestra which played as the massed choirs marched into the America Gardens Theatre singing Christmas carols.

2002 John Tesh narrates

We were captivated by the time the choirs had settled on their risers. In fact, the Candlelight Processional has become an important part of our Christmas tradition. When we visit Walt Disney World in December we never miss this stirring portrayal of the nativity story.

2002 John Tesh

The Candlelight Processional tells the story of Jesus’ birth in both music and word. That magnificent fifty piece orchestra supplies the music and the singing voices are provided by Disney’s professional a cappella group, The Voices of Liberty, together with a choir comprised of Disney cast members in green gowns and several guest choirs in golden gowns. There are hundreds of voices in the massed choir!

Disney Candlelight Processional choirs

Between musical numbers a guest narrator relates the story of the birth of Jesus. Over the years we have heard the story told by John Tesh (2002), Eartha Kitt (2004), Cicely Tyson (2005), Mario Lopez (2006), Chita Rivera (2007), Neil Patrick Harris (2008 and 2013), Geena Davis (2011), Dick Van Dyke (2012 at Disneyland) and Whoopi Goldberg just a few weeks ago in 2015.

2007 Chita Rivera

2006 Mario Lopez

2011 Geena Davis

2013 Neil Patrick Harris

As we sat through the stirring Christmas spectacle on December 5th (for the 10th time in 13 years) I wondered how this magnificent show got its start. When we got home I did a little digging online and here’s what I found.

The first year Disneyland opened, in December 1955, a group of 12 singers from University of Southern California were hired to perform as the Dickens Carollers. They dressed in period costumes and roamed the park singing classic Christmas songs for a week. In a special one-day event, to kick off the holiday season in December 1955 the Dickens Carollers were joined by several guest choirs who joined in a massed choir and sang from the steps of the Main Street train station with accompanying music from several school bands.

1956 Massed Choir at Disneyland
Dickens Carollers and the massed choir - December 15, 1956

Disney lore suggests that one day in 1958 Walt Disney was chatting with his friend Dr. Charles Hirt, Music Director at University of Southern California, and Walt said something like, “We need more than just Christmas carollers at Disneyland. Why can’t we have a big choir assemble at the hub of Main Street by the Railroad Station in Town Square? Let’s have them sing to the guests there, and I can listen from my office over the Fire Hall.” And so the processional was born.

On December 20, 1958 that first Candlelight Processional was made up of sixteen choirs massed together, they sang as they moved down Main Street and ringed the flagpole in Town Square. They were accompanied by the Dickens Carollers who sang from the balcony at Sleeping Beauty Castle.

1958 Candlelight Processional

The Candlelight Processional has been a Disney tradition since 1958, but it has changed and grown over the years. The first change happened almost immediately; guests could not see the singers when they stood in a circle around the flagpole with Dr. Hirt conducting from the center. When the program was repeated in 1959 the choristers performed from bleachers or risers beside the train station where the singers could face guests.

Information about those early years is pretty sketchy but it sounds like the processional was only held twice a year.

Disneyland Processional risers

Guest narrators were added in 1961 and actor Dennis Morgan was the first to appear. As you might expect, the list of narrators who have appeared at Disneyland in the intervening years reads like a ‘who’s who’ of show business. Names like Morgan Freeman, Gary Sinise, James Earl Jones, Lou Gossett Jr., Marie Osmond, Jane Seymour, Tom Skerritt, John Stamos, Gregory Peck, Olympia Dukakis, Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda, James Stewart, Cary Grant, John Wayne, Pat and Shirley Boone, Buddy Ebsen, Howard Keel, John Forsythe, Michael Landon, Rock Hudson, Ed Asner, Kurt Russell, Edward James Olmos, Lou Diamond Phillips, Dick Van Dyke, Marcia Gay Harden, Patricia Heaton, Molly Ringwald and many, many more have presented that magical nativity story.

1975 Candlelight Processional

The Candlelight Processional continues to be offered at Disneyland two nights each year, generally the first weekend in December, in Town Square. There is one performance each night, so plan to arrive early!

Naturally when Walt Disney World opened in 1971 the processional was introduced there as well. Like at Disneyland, the choirs sang from bleachers in Town Square. The first guest narrator was Rock Hudson and he was followed by celebrities like Cary Grant, Dean Jones, Joseph Campanella, Ross Martin, Perry Como, James Hampton and Darrin McGavin, Pat and Shirley Boone, Howard Keel, Walter Cronkite, George Kennedy, Paula Zahn and a host of others. Like the California version, there were only two performances each year.

By 1993 guests in Florida were demanding more opportunities to see the spectacular show so in 1994 it was moved to the America Gardens Theatre at EPCOT with two shows a night spread over 15 nights. It was so popular that first year that the following year’s schedule had 60 showings, 2 each night over 30 nights. In recent years there have been about 100 shows each year, three shows per night over 30 or more nights, from late November to December 30th. By the time the 2015 series wraps up there will have been 108 performances!

2013 Neil Patrick Harris

2015 Whoopi Goldberg

The performance is offered free of charge, and each show is jam packed! The theatre seats over 1,000 people and those who cannot get a seat stand, several rows deep, across the back of the theatre to enjoy the spectacle.

The music is simply superb. The job of directing the performance is split between Rick Mizell, Music Director at Walt Disney World and Dr. John Sinclair of Rollins College As the director leads both the choir and the orchestra the songs you hear are: Shout for Joy, O Come All Ye Faithful, Il Est Ne (He Is Born – a traditional French carol), O Holy Night, Angels from the Realms of Glory, Rejoice with Exceeding Great Joy, We Three Kings, What Child is There, Do You Hear What I Hear, Silent Night, Joy to the World, The Hallelujah Chorus and Let There Be Peace on Earth.

2015 Guest Choirs

This year Carol and I had a chance to talk with a Disney employee who performs in the volunteer cast member choir. She described the rigorous audition process they go through before they’re accepted. She told us that they try to have four school choirs together with one church or community choir in each show. If you would like to perform in the processional with your choir you can start the ball rolling by sending in an audition recording. Details about the application process can be found by clicking on the appropriate link on the right: Disneyland Walt Disney World

2013 Candlelight Processional

If you are going to be at Walt Disney World in late November or December I highly recommend the show. People begin lining up at least an hour before each performance, so plan to arrive early. One of the easiest ways to ensure that you have a seat for the show is to book a “dining package” at one of the participating restaurants. You can read all the details about the packages here: Dining Packages

I’ll wrap up this blog by telling you about a magical moment that happened in California on December 12, 2012. Carol and I were fortunate to be at Disneyland at just the right time to see the Candlelight Processional – and as an added bonus, the narrator was Dick Van Dyke.

After just a few songs and a few short narratives from Mr. Van Dyke it started to rain very lightly. The microphone on the podium went silent and the PA announcer advised that the show would be paused for a few minutes for the safety of the performers. It wasn’t long before a stage hand walked out from backstage and handed Dick Van Dyke an open umbrella.

2012 Dick Van Dyke

He looked around at the assembled crowd, smiled and said something like, “Don’t worry, I won’t fly away. Only Mary Poppins can do that!” A roar of laughter and applause cascaded all around Town Square.

The weather cleared and the show resumed after just a short pause, but that brief rain shower gave Carol and I a memory we’ll never forget!

December 17, 2015

Club Disney at the Sunset Showcase

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by
J. Scott Lopes
AllEars.Net Guest Blogger

Sunset Showcase, a new flex space (Disney speak for a multipurpose venue), was recently opened, and is currently hosting Club Disney, a club environment that has a DJ playing Radio Disney top 40 songs along with Disney characters to dance with. The space is located near Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. It is accessed by a gated entrance located to the right of the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster FastPass+ queue.

sunset-showcase-exterior.jpg

Inside the space, there is a DJ booth along with a quick service food location for snacks:

club-disney-dj.jpg

(We have the snack menu for Club Disney HERE.)

The center of the space has a dance floor complete with large screens around the room and a Mickey-eared disco ball:

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club-disney-disco-ball.jpg

In addition to some comfortable seating around the room, there are also large touch screens that are set up for virtual finger painting:

club-disney-wall.jpg

The outside area is also large and spacious and I can see a lot of potential for using this space for various events.

Starting mid-January, Sunset Showcase will host Club Villain, a special ticketed event that will feature Disney villains geared towards adults because of the DJ and alcohol being served. I was told the event will be family friendly, though -- preferably for children 10 and up.

Reservations are being taken for Club Villain now. You can read more about it HERE.

This is a great space to check out on your next trip!

About the Author:

J. Scott Lopes is a long time Disney fan who first went to Walt Disney World as a child in 1989 and has enjoyed traveling to Orlando ever since. He is interested in all things Disney Parks related and especially interested in the Walt Disney Imagineering division and all of the work and detail that they put into everything that they engineer.


December 8, 2015

Review - Holiday DLights Tour

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by Guest Blogger Kay Belin

December is the month that draws many guests to Walt Disney World to see their famous holiday decorations and events. This year I decided to take one of their premiere tours, Holiday D-Lights, which takes you into three parks to see some of these amazing sights.

The tour begins and ends in Epcot making it easy to figure out the transportation. Park tickets are not required and you meet outside the Guest Relations window in front of Epcot. The tour has a maximum of 40 guests which is very manageable and transportation from park to park is on one of the Disney cruise/Magical Express buses.

Our guides and tour coordinators appeared and met us singing and in festive moods making everyone excited about the next few hours on tour. Name Tags and paper work were taken care of quickly and we were soon on our way to the Wilderness Lodge for dinner. Our guides for this tour were Donna, Jim, and Nancy and they were all wonderful and informative.

Whispering Canyon was not open to the public yet so we had the entire restaurant for the group. They were ready for us and soon we had amazing barbecue feast platters set on the tables with baskets of cornbread. The food consisted of ribs, pulled pork, chicken, sausage, corn on the cob, baked beans, and yummy mashed potatoes. Guests with dietary restrictions were easily taken care of and offered great alternatives by the chef. Drinks included water, coke, and ice tea and were constantly being refilled by the service staff. We were not given dessert but told we would have a surprise later in the evening.

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Time was provided to take pictures of the Wilderness Lodge lobby and a bit of history was given about the tree. We observed,in my opinion, one of the prettiest resort trees on property as it's decorated with canoes, teepees, and Indian drums and obviously very unique for the resort.

holiday-dlights-5.jpg

Back on the bus and on our way as we headed to the back stage area of the Magic Kingdom. Our next stop was to visit the Event and Decorating Support Team. They work out of a massive warehouse and put together not only the castle lights but also special staging pieces that might be needed or requested for the parks or groups. The main emphasis was learning how they decorate the castle with the lights using LED light strands and special dyed and flame retardant netting.

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Every strand of lights are checked at least three times before they are put on the castle and this whole process actually begins in May. Work on the castle cannot begin each night until all guests leave the park so when the Magic Kingdom is open late it just makes it a little more difficult to get it all done on time. But Disney is used to making magic and it always happens and most never know what it took to get the amazing outcome.

After learning about how the castle is lit we hopped back on the bus and headed to the Magic Kingdom to see the castle lighting show. Our guides provided us with listening devices so crowd noise would not be an issue while in the parks. The group was divided into two making the numbers much easier to handle and we were then dropped off back stage and walked a short distance to the Castle hub where we then observed the great lighting of the beautiful castle. With a theming from Frozen the castle went from a lighted structure to a magical sparkling icicle wonder. This is probably the most magnificent piece of holiday magic Disney offers its guests.

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Time to head to Hollywood Studios! We were given a Rice Krispie holiday treat as we entered the bus and were shown a short video of how all the Disney castles worldwide are decorated for the holidays. The actual castle lighting idea began at the Paris Disney park and only the Tokyo Disney castle is not lit as it is actually not a Disney owned park. It was very interesting to learn facts about not only Walt Disney World but about the parks around the world.

Our next spectacle of Disney lights was the Osborne Family lights in the Studios. It was bittersweet to visit this amazing street filled with millions of LED lights as it is the last year for this display at Disney. We kept to our two smaller groups and were led down the street listening to more amazing facts from our guide Jim. Some of the great trivia he shared include that at the far end of the lights you will see many blue angels flying overhead. Look for a white one and that is representing Jennings Osborne, the patriarch of the Osborne family and who started this light tradition for his daughter. In this same area you will find a large Mickey and Santa shaking hands which is supposed to represent the agreement Jennings Osborne and Disney made to bring the lights to the park. If you look closely you will see they are shaking left hands which is the hand that is closest to the heart.

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As we moved down the street we were told to look for over 150 lit Mickeys and also the purple cat.

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The story behind the cat is when they shipped the decorations this one Halloween cat got mixed up with the Christmas lights and the Osborne family told Disney to just keep it. So every year the cast enjoys placing the cat in different locations and changes it almost every week so guests can hunt it down.

By the large tree in the center of the street you will see toy soldiers surrounding the bottom. The soldier in the center is a bit different as he proudly wears Mickey ears. This is to honor the cast member, Dan, who was responsible for inventing the different relay lighting systems needed for the show each night. He passed away a few years ago and they found his name tag in his locker and if you look closely this soldier is also wearing a Disney name badge.

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Continuing down on the left side you will see what appears to be crossed light sabers in the upper floor window. The story goes that this is now marking the spot where they will begin the dismantling of the Osborne Lights to begin the new construction of the future Star Wars Land. Not sure if this is true but it does make a nice Disney story.

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Cross the street here and in the first floor windows you can see photos of the actual Osborne Family light displays from their home in Arkansas.

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The last bit of trivia to add is heading back up the street and in a little alcove. Look up and you will find Kermit sitting up high playing a banjo. The word is that he is actually using a banjo pick from the famous Mulch, Sweat, and Shears group that entertained guests in the Studios for years but are now gone. There are many, many more things to see and observe and on this tour it was fun to have someone share some of the more unknown stories and facts.

Once again we were back on the bus and again headed to a backstage area of Epcot. Our last special treat of the evening was the incredible Candlelight Processional. It was fascinating to learn that the Candlelight show was started in Disneyland with Dennis Morgan as the first narrator. Walt met with the USC music director, Dr. Hirt, who suggested the format that is still used today. Guest choirs, full orchestra and guest narrators are brought together for this moving spectacle. It was later moved to Walt Disney World where it held shows for a few years at the train station in the Magic Kingdom. Rock Hudson was the first narrator there and when Epcot was built it found its permanent home in this park where we watch it today.

holiday-dlights-23.jpg

Watching the Candlelight Processional is always moving and inspirational but I was disappointed in our reserved seats. We were led to the second and third last rows and had a few trees to dodge to get unobstructed views. This was the end of the tour but everyone had the opportunity to stay and watch Illuminations if they chose to do so.

This tour is one of Disney's most expensive tours at $269 plus tax per person so one needs to think hard about what they hope to see and do for their time and money. I think it is a great choice for the guest who might have a very limited time at Disney and who wants to experience as many of the holiday events as possible. Park tickets are not required which is a savings and you are offered a meal that is included. To be able to see the Magic Kingdom castle lighting, the Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights, and the Candlelight Processional (and Illuminations on your own) in one evening is amazing. Plus you get some backstage stops and professional guides who can answer questions and offer information you might otherwise not receive.

The biggest disappointment was the fact that seating for the Candlelight event was in the far back rows. You would hope that paying a large amount of money for a tour would also get you better seats to a show. You would actually get front seats if you chose to do a dinner package instead. We were sitting among guests who had been in the stand-by line. It would also have been nice to offer water on the bus at some point. The tour is five hours long and many of us were needing refreshment. The Rice Krispie treat is cute but not much of a dessert treat, again on what they tout as their premiere holiday tour.

This tour can accommodate guests who use scooters or wheelchairs but they must provide their own. They cannot use Disney park rentals. The minimum age for the tour is 16 as you will be visiting backstage areas. Cameras are welcome but guests must adhere to rules about not using them in backstage areas. Backpacks and bags are allowed but you will be subject to bag inspection at all parks even though you enter through backstage areas. Closed toe and heel shoes are also required as I believe this is also a rule for anyone using backstage areas.

I am not sure what they will do next year when the Osborne Lights will be gone. I would imagine they will reinvent a holiday tour to include possibly something else. If you are planning a several day Disney vacation at this time of year you can easily do the events on your own. This is especially true if you plan on being in the parks to do other things and buying a daily ticket is not an issue. Besides a commemorative pin for the tour and backstage access you are not getting anything special beyond what the normal guest would experience on their own. That was disappointing for the price but as I said before this is a great tour for the guest with one night to see it all.

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