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September 20, 2014

Walt Disney World Hidden History - Book Review

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Walt Disney World Hidden History: Remnants of Former Attractions and Other Tributes,
2nd edition by Kevin Yee
By Alice McNutt Miller

If your family is anything like mine, when you arrive at one of the parks at Walt Disney World, say the Magic Kingdom, you sprint down Main Street USA toward whichever attraction for which you have your first FastPass+, without looking up, down, or around you. You miss the little details. A LOT of little details: references to Disney films and former attractions; tributes to Imagineers and prominent Disney personalities; and many other hidden gems. What you really need is a guidebook to show you where to look.

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Keven Yee has just released the 2nd Edition of Walt Disney World Hidden History, a comprehensive update of the 1st edition of the book, reflecting the myriad changes in the parks since its original publication in 2011 (See Review) .

This edition includes over 150 new and updated references, and tons of color photos. The format of the new book is the same as in the first edition, taking the reader on a virtual tour of each of the parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom) starting with the entrances, and moving through each of the “lands.” There is also a “General Walt Disney World” chapter that includes references found throughout the resort, including in the water parks, resort hotels, Downtown Disney. Yee also throws in a bonus chapter on “History at Universal Studios Florida” and includes helpful lists of current and former attractions and of the individuals honored in the Main Street USA windows in the Magic Kingdom, as well as a comprehensive index.


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New inclusions of note include those devoted to references in the Backstage Magic with Mickey Mouse, Storybook Circus and other New Fantasyland areas. After reading Yee’s book, I think Disney history buffs who have not yet taken in the sights in Backstage Magic with Mickey Mouse (including me!) would be well advised to do so. This area is full of subtle and not-so-subtle references, including tributes to famous (animators Wilfred Jackson, Fred Moore and Ward Kimball) and not-so-famous (marketing executive Scott Tilley) Disney personages, and installations celebrating Disney parks and attractions throughout the world.

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The New Fantasyland section sheds light on some of the newer references that park-goers may have certainly noticed, but not understood. Whose portrait is that hanging prominently in the back of the Bonjour Village Gifts? Why Magic Kingdom Vice President Phil Holmes, of course! Next time you are in the gift shop, take a closer look: “Numerous winks in the painting pay tribute to changes during his tenure: a ring with ‘40’ stamped on it (the 40th anniversary of the park in 2011), Aladdin’s lamp (the addition of Magic Carpets of Aladdin), Snow White’s apple (the closure of Snow White’s Scary Adventures), peanuts (for the addition of Storybook Circus), bronze statue of Donald Duck (the trinket given to Cast Members when they pass 40 years of service), and a map of the Magic Kingdom showing Mickey’s Toontown Fair (the first land to close).

While I very much enjoyed the updated edition of the book, I still wish that it were organized in a more user-friendly way. Other than separate chapters for each park, , and without sub-headings for the various park locations, the topic headings are rather random, referring alternately to attractions, names of Imagineers, dates and other unrelated items. The best way to make sense of the flow would be to read the book, in order and with a park map next to you, as the references will take you on a relatively linear tour of the parks.

The book has been painstakingly researched, however, and color photos enhance the presentation. I’m not sure Yee has missed any references, as he seems to have scoured every inch of the parks for them. Readers—serious Disney history buffs and casual park visitors alike—will certainly find something to enjoy. And something to search for on their next visit!

Disclosure: The author provided a complimentary review copy, however my opinions are my own. The above link to the book is via the AllEars Amazon affiliate store.

September 15, 2014

Mid-Month Mousy Mindboggler - September 2014

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.

Around the middle of each month, James 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:

Here's the answer key to the August Mid-Month Mousy Mindboggler crossword:

http://allears.net/ae/mb081614-key.pdf

There were 87 correct responses that knew Dewey’s real name is Deuteronomy Duck. The other two nephews are named Huebert and Louis.

The winner of a Tigger pin was Julie H. of Topeka, KS. Thanks for playing!

This month I am going to try a little something different! I thought we would try a word search puzzle.

The theme is Walt Disney World Resorts, and the clues are beneath the puzzle. There’s no word bank this month, so this may be a little more challenging!

If you'd like to be entered for a chance to win a collectible Disney pin, there’s no need to send me the completed puzzle; just list the first 10 unused letters, starting with the first row of the puzzle. Send your resulting answer IN THE SUBJECT LINE OF AN EMAIL addressed to dzneynut.puzzle@gmail.com.

Here's the link to the new word search puzzle:

http://allears.net/ae/mb091514.pdf

Any feedback on the different format would be appreciated!

Send your entries no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on October 12, 2014. 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, along with a new puzzle, in mid-October.

Enjoy and good luck!

As always, we would love to hear any feedback, or any ideas for themes you'd like to see covered in future puzzles. Drop James a line at dzneynut.puzzle@gmail.com.

September 14, 2014

Dayton Disneyana 2014

Gary Cruise banner

Last year Carol and I, along with son Rob, made our first trek to Dayton Ohio for the annual Disneyana Show & Sale hosted by the Dayton "Plane Crazy" Chapter of the Disneyana Fan Club. Everyone enjoyed it so much that we just had to return this year.

There was one issue . . . Rob decided to test the strength of our garage floor a few weeks ago. He dove from the top of a step ladder to the concrete slab 8 feet below. The final score was Concrete Floor 1 - Rob's Shoulder 0.

Friday June 13th
By 5:55 a.m. Rob had found a comfy position in the back seat; his shattered left shoulder, held together by a few steel pins and plates, was supported in a sling and resting on the center armrest. We were a bit apprehensive - would he be comfortable throughout a 10 - 11 hour drive?

We hit the road about 5 minutes ahead of plan and drove through a few heavy showers for the first few hours. Once we passed Toronto skies cleared and we made great time.

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We crossed the US border at Detroit and pulled off at Monroe Michigan for lunch.

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By 2:00 p.m. we had pulled off in Toledo Ohio where Carol and Rob visited the Disney Store. Traffic was light for the last leg of the trip and we pulled into the Windham Garden Hotel at 5:15. Rob had endured the trip quite well.

We relaxed for a few minutes, then struck out once again; Carol needed some Retail Therapy. The Christmas Tree Shop, Jo-Ann Fabrics, and WalMart followed in short order as I waited in the car with my book!

We had a quick bite for dinner and headed back to the hotel for the night. By 9:00 I had settled in the room to watch the Stanley Cup final game (Los Angeles Kings won the championship in the second overtime period) while Carol and Rob headed to the foyer outside the ballroom to trade Disney pins and Vinylmations.

Carol was back to the room and trying to sleep by 11:00 - the game carried on until 12:30 when I fell into bed exhausted after a long day.

Saturday June 14th
We were up before 7:00 a.m. and enjoyed the hotel's complimentary hot breakfast; we finished just in time for "early entry". Carol and Rob had paid $15 for the privilege of shopping for 90 minutes before the "official opening".

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I was allowed into the vendor area before the doors opened and I enjoyed a few quiet minutes, wandering the aisles and snapping a few pictures. The entire ballroom was filled with tables, racks and shelves! Everywhere I looked it was overflowing with an amazing variety of Disney collectibles. The vendors had merchandise well organized and nicely displayed.

I was excited . . . I could only imagine how Carol would react!

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At 8:30 Carol, Rob and the rest of the 50 "Early-birds" charged through the door.

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Vendors had donated quite a few draw prizes for the early-birds, some were included in the swag-bag each of them received and some were set aside for a random draw. Early-birds all received a long strip of draw tickets which they could drop in the red Solo Cup in front of each vendor's "special" prize. If you really wanted the prize you could drop multiple tickets to improve your odds. Once all the cups had been located and the tickets were dropped, the early-birds all got busy shopping! Carol and Rob were lucky, Carol won one draw prize and Rob won two in the draw which took place later in the day!

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See the red Solo cup, in the picture above, beside that collector plate? Rob won the plate!

There was an incredible variety of merchandise! To paraphrase Ariel, "There were gadgets and gizmos a-plenty, there were whozits and whatzits galore. You want thingamabobs? There were twenty!"

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There were movie posters, VHS and DVD videos, LP’s, CD’s and video games.

There were plates and spoons, cups and glasses, clocks and watches.

There were comic books, magazines, coloring books, toys, framed pictures, animation cels, figurines, games and collectibles in varieties too many to mention.

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As you might expect, there were pins and Vinylmations! Very important to Carol!

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Tom Tumbusch from Tomart Publications showcased their Disneyana and Pin Trading catalogues and the pin traders were delighted to pore through the surplus pins Tomart have used in the production of their books.

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Brian from Theme Park Connections brought a truckload of interesting Disney merchandise from their Orlando store, near the Florida Mall, a 937 mile trip.

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They were selling some very interesting items, like this piece which holds the chains on the railing for the queue inside the Haunted Mansion. WOW!

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How about those signs from the Polynesian Resort? They were very popular!

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I spent some time watching Carol and Rob “work” the banquet hall. They each have different collections and different tastes, but each one understands very clearly what appeals to the other. They work as a team, each one searching for themselves and scouting for the other as they circle the hall again and again!

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Just after noon I dashed out to pick up lunch for the collectors, they were too busy combing through all the treasures to even consider leaving the hotel!

They settled at tables in the hall outside the banquet room and ate lunch, then stayed there for some pin and Vinylmation trading. About once an hour Carol or Rob would take a lap around the vendor’s tables . . . as more items were sold the wares were spread out and they could spot treasures they had overlooked earlier!

By the time I returned with lunch the speakers had begun their presentations. The first speaker was Mark Henn, an acclaimed Disney animator. Mark was born in Dayton and in 1980 his dreams came true, be became a Disney animator.

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I underestimated the popularity of this hometown hero . . . when I returned with lunch the meeting room where he was speaking was jammed to capacity and the door was closed. I missed his presentation - Dang! I did catch up with him later and spent a few minutes chatting. He is a gifted animator, painter and sculptor. Here Mark is pictured with art from some of the Disney projects he has worked on over his 30 year career.

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Next to speak was Jim Hill, a noted Disney historian.

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Jim talked about the history of Disney Parks and delighted us with a few little-known facts and with several humorous stories about some unusual attractions that were never produced. It was a very relaxed and enjoyable session.

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The trading and browsing continued until 5:00 when the vendors closed up shop for the day. We enjoyed a nice dinner in the hotel restaurant and I retired to the room to play on the computer and watch TV while Carol and Rob resumed trading pins and Vinylmations in the foyer.

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Carol was back to the room by 11:00 p.m.

Sunday June 15th
The ballroom didn’t open until 10:00 a.m. so we had a leisurely morning, coffee in the room followed by a late breakfast in the restaurant. Carol and Rob made a few more rounds of the ballroom. They like Sunday shopping since the vendors seem to be a bit more flexible with prices. It’s so much easier to sell something than it is to pack it up and take it home.

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Soon they had set up outside, in the foyer, and did some more pin and Vinylmation trading . . . with occasional laps around the vendors tables. The vendors are all very friendly and easy to deal with - kindred spirits who love Disney just as much as we do!

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Here Rob chats with Gary Smith from Missouri. He is a partner in Gary & Gary Collectibles.

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Although the event carried on until 4:00 p.m. we had to face the long drive home before then. We said our goodbyes and thanked the organizers at noon. The Dayton "Plane Crazy" Chapter of the Disneyana Fan Club, who host the event annually, deserve a lot of credit for a job well done! They describe this event as “Dayton Disneyana Collectible Expo & Disney Pin and Vinylmation Trading” but it is actually much more than that. It’s more like a convention for Disney fans. Everyone who attended seemed to thoroughly enjoy the chance to mix and mingle with so many other people who share our passion for anything related to Disney! Special thanks to Anita Schaengold and Pam Phillippe who co-chaired this year's event committee.

By 12:05 we were northbound on I-75. The trip was uneventful, light traffic and sunny skies. We made very quick stops for lunch and gas and arrived at the Canadian border at 4:15 where Rob met this distinguished gentleman at the Duty Free Store.

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Traffic was even lighter once we crossed the Ambassador Bridge and hit the Canadian freeway. We stopped at Carol’s parents, picked up the dogs and were home at about 10:30 p.m. after a great weekend.

You are probably wondering, "What did they bring home?" Well here's a picture of some of it.

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Carol's favourite items? Those three collector plates belong to a set she began collecting in the 1980's. Back in those days she could only afford to buy one a year and they have been long out of production. Now she is only missing two! That coffee mug is a classic - It's Musket Mickey. He's dressed in a coonskin hat and carrying a musket. In these days of political correctness Mickey carries a walking stick, so when you find him with a musket it's definitely a keeper. Rob bought the Christmas Carollers as a birthday gift for Carol. They are standing on top of the red box. Mickey plays the piano and Goofy sings while Donald covers his ears!

Rob's favourite? The bobble-head Goofy in the blue box which he picked up at Gary & Gary Collectibles.

If you are a collector of Disney art or memorabilia, you really should plan a visit to Dayton Disneyana. Next year’s event will be held at the Holiday Inn Dayton/Fairborn I-675, 2800 Presidential Drive, Fairborn, OH June 13 - 14, 2015.

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Check the Dayton Disneyana web site for more details HERE

Like them on Facebook HERE.

August 31, 2014

Be A Conservation Hero

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Are you a Conservation Hero?

Do you own any of these?

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If your answer was “Yes” - you are a Conservation Hero!

Do you own any of these?

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If your answer was “Yes” - you are a Conservation Hero!

Have you ever tossed a coin in here?

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If your answer was “Yes” - you are a Conservation Hero!

You didn’t know that you were a hero? Most people don’t . . . but when you buy those conservation buttons, when you press those pennies or when you toss coins in a Disney fountain you are making a donation to the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund. And your contribution is bigger than you think it is! I’ll explain how it all works, but first here’s a bit of preamble:

The Walt Disney Company takes their social responsibility very seriously and have developed a comprehensive environmental policy as a key component of their corporate culture.

This is how they explain it on their web site: “Acting responsibly is an integral part of our brand. It strengthens the connection we have with consumers, makes our company a more desirable place to work, and helps us attract the very best and brightest to join our global cast. It builds goodwill in the communities in which we operate. All of these things contribute to The Walt Disney Company’s continued growth and success.”

One of the six key factors in their statement of business ethics reads as follows: "Environmental Stewardship: Use resources wisely and protect the planet as we operate and grow our business”

You can read more about Disney’s Corporate Ethics Policy HERE.

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The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund was established April 22, 1995 (Earth Day) and since that time they have awarded over 1,000 grants totalling over $24 million to fund environmental projects in 112 countries.

WOW! That’s over half of the countries in the world!

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What sort of projects do they fund? According to the Disney web site: “Grants provide financial support for: the study of wildlife; the protection of habitats; the development of community conservation and education programs in critical ecosystems; and experiences that connect kids to nature through exploration and discovery.”

Here is a sampling of the animals and locations involved in 10 of the 150 projects funded in 2013:
1. Umbrellabirds - Ecuador
2. Maasailand Lions - Tanzania
3. Painted Dogs - Zimbabwe
4. Tigers - Indonesia
5. Grizzly Bears - Canada
6. Golden-Winged Warblers - United States
7. Golden-Capped Fruit Bat - Philippines
8. Cheetahs - Namibia
9. Bottlenose Dolphins - United States
10. Ploughshare Tortoises - Madagascar

Where does the money come from? This is where you come in - every time you buy a Conservation Hero Button you are donating to the fund. When you press a penny you are helping preserve our planet. When you toss a coin into a Disney fountain you are a Conservation Hero! Doesn’t that make you feel good?

There are even Disney tours and experiences that support the fund. Take the Backstage Safari Tour, the Wild By Design Tour or the Wild Africa Trek and you are supporting the fund!

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Would it make you feel better if Disney were to match your donation?

Well start feeling better . . . because they do! Disney pays 100% of the overhead costs for all of the contribution streams. Every cent you pay for a button, every cent you pay for a pressed penny and every cent you toss into a fountain is fully matched by the Walt Disney Company. They even pay all of the administrative costs to operate the Conservation Fund! That means that when you donate $1.00 for a Conservation Hero button, Disney pays for the production and distribution of the button and $2.00 goes directly to a worthwhile conservation project.

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Even Rizzo and his friends volunteer their time to help collect the donations!

The Walt Disney Company very quietly and modestly does some pretty amazing things, and this is one of them! Things like the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund make me very proud to be a Disney fan!

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There are some other ways to donate, outlined in the picture above.

If you want to read more about the projects, or about other ways to contribute, click HERE and follow the DWCF Featured Links.

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So now that you know about the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund . . . what are you waiting for? Get to a Disney park as soon as possible. Buy some buttons, press some pennies and toss some coins in the fountains.

Be a Conservation Hero!

August 26, 2014

Recreation and Relaxation at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort

Andrew Rossi

While Part One focused on an overview of Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, we will now start to delve into all that the resort has to offer. The resort is really one that caters to all types of vacationers, from those who are looking to stay constantly active to those that just want to relax. It is the type of vacation destination that allows you to do as much (or as little) as you like.

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Enjoying the Sun and Surf on the Beach:
One of the most alluring aspects of Disney’s Vero Beach Resort is its location on Florida’s Atlantic coastline. No matter where you are at the resort, you are just a short walk away from the beach. Beach chairs and umbrellas are available for rent, but resort guests are also allowed to bring their own chairs. For those looking to play on the waves, boogie boards, sailboats, jet skis, kayaks, and banana boats are all available for rent at the beach as well.

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Playing by the Pool:
For those that would rather spend their time by the pool than on the beach, the resort offers plenty of space to lounge and relax. The pool area has numerous lounge chairs available, but there is more to do here than just soak up the sun.

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Dominating the pool area is the “Pirate’s Plunge,” this 163-foot water slide spirals around the pool’s signature lighthouse and can be enjoyed by all members of the family. Keep an eye out for the “Pool Games” on the recreation schedule because this is where, amongst other activities, children and adults alike can be timed coming down the slide to see who can get from top to bottom the fastest.

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Adjacent to the water slide is the Tiger Lily Play Area. This is a special splash zone for children where they can play on a pirate ship complete with water cannons and their own miniature water slide.

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For those kids that want to play out of the water, there is also a nearby playground.

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The kids can also keep themselves entertained in the air condition of the nearby Blinkers Arcade.

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In this same area, guests can also find Port Holes, a nine-hole miniature golf course themed to Peter Pan. While not up to the same quality as Fantasia Gardens or Winter Summerland at Disney World, this course is still fun and entertaining. Plus, a round of golf for non-DVC Members is just $2 and only $1 for DVC Members.

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As guests make their way around the course they have to navigate around ships wheels, treasure chests, and shark fins. A couple of the holes are actually quite challenging.

If you are looking for a little more activity in your day, the pool area is also where you can also find the Anchors A-Weigh fitness center, which features a good variety of exercise equipment.

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Rentals:
One final component of the pool area is Eb and Flo’s Rentals. This is where guests can visit for any of their recreational needs. A good number of the rentals available are actually complimentary. Among these are shuffleboard (which can be played on the adjacent court), tennis racquets, basketballs and footballs, as well as bocce and croquet. These latter two can be played on the resort’s beautiful sports lawn right in front of the Inn.

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This lawn is actually named Lasorda Field after former Dodger’s manager Tommy Lasorda. It is yet another way the resort pays homage to the history of Vero Beach, which form many years served as the home of Dodger’s Spring Training.

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Eb and Flo’s is also where you can rent bicycles. At just $5 an hour for DVC Members and $7 for non-Members, bicycles are a great way of getting out and seeing some of the area surrounding the resort. There are actually a few bike trails that are located near the resort that take you along the Indian River and allow you to enjoy more of the natural beauty of the area.

Eb and Flo’s also has a variety of board games available to rent. These are complimentary and can be brought back to the guest rooms to play. If you are looking for DVD and Blu-Ray rentals, these are available (and also complimentary) at the Island Grove Packing Co. in the resort’s lobby.

The Lake Side:
Just across the street from the resort is additional recreational area for guests to enjoy. Situated around a beautiful lake, this area is accessible via a tunnel than runs beneath the street.

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With most guests enjoying the beach or the pool, this area may go unnoticed by many but actually has a lot to offer. This is where you will find the resort’s tennis and basketball courts as well as areas for beach volleyball and soccer.

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Around the lake guests can also find the Treasure Trail. This is a quiet nature trail that allows guests to enjoy the natural beauty of the area. Throughout the trail there are a number of signs that point out the various flora and fauna native to the area.

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The Spa:
If you want to pamper yourself while on vacation, then The Spa at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort is the place for you. The spa is located right inside the Inn adjacent to the lobby. Featuring everything from messages and facials to manicures and pedicures, the spa takes relaxation to a whole new level.

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Organized Activities and Excursions:
Disney’s Vero Beach Resort features a variety programs that are great for all members of the family. For kids, there are a number of organized activities just for them. Among these are the Disney Discovery Club, which is for children ages 4 to 12 and allows them to take part in scavenger hunts, arts and crafts, outdoor activities, and other fun programs. For older kids there is the Teen Geo Challenge, where teens ages 13 to 19 learn new skills on a resort-wide scavenger hunt using GPS technology. There are also TeeNightz where teens ages 13 to 19 gather for a night of sports, games, and trivia around the campfire.

For the entire family there are adventures that take place both at the resort and the surrounding areas. Fishing Fundamentals allows guests to learn the basics of fresh water fishing at the resort’s private lake. The Lagoon Adventure takes guests to the nearby Environmental Learning Center at the Indian River Lagoon for a hands-on interactive experience. Here guests will have the opportunity to catch and release a number of different native fish and get up close encounters with other native wildlife. The Kayak Adventure also takes guests to the Indian River Lagoon for an afternoon paddling around the lagoon’s waterways and small islands. There is also the Pelican Island Bike Tour that allows guests ages twelve and up to explore the nation’s first wildlife refuge along with a naturalist who will help identifying the many plants and birds native to the area.

If you are visiting the resort from May to October there is also the Turtle Outing. This special excursion allows guests to learn more about sea turtles and get an up-close view of them during nesting season. Turtle Troop is a similar experience just for kids ages 7 to15 where they learn about sea turtles as they walk on the beach, identify tracks, and discuss nesting behaviors.

The resort’s recreational offerings even continue into the night with a campfire every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday evening. Ingredients for S’mores are available for purchase.

The Surrounding Area:
With so much to do at the resort many guests may just opt to stay there, but the surround area offers even more to see and do. Nature lovers can enjoy the beauty of Sebastian Inlet State Park, the Sebastian River Preserve, and the McKee Botanical Gardens. For those looking to do a little shopping there is the nearby Indian River Mall (which also features an AMC Movie Theater) as well as the Outlets at Vero Beach. The surrounding area also features a number of both private and public golf courses as well as a wide variety of restaurants.

With so many different activities and excursions available both at the resort and the surrounding areas, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort offers something for everyone. Whether you are visiting the resort following a trip to Disney World and just need to relax and wind down or maybe a stay at Vero Beach is your vacation, there is more than enough to do that will keep all members of the family entertained. No matter what you do while visiting, one thing you can expect from Disney’s Vero Beach Resort is that the service and quality are up to the high standards you would expect from any other Disney resort.

See past blog entries by guest blogger Andrew Rossi here.

August 24, 2014

Discover One of Disney’s Best Kept Secrets at the Vero Beach Resort

Andrew Rossi

We all know that vacationing at Walt Disney World may not always be the most relaxing experience. Waking up early in the morning to get to the parks for opening, running from attraction to attraction, dealing with the heat and the crowds, it can be a physically, mentally, and emotionally draining experience. Sometimes it may even feel like you need a vacation from your vacation. Wouldn’t it be great if there was somewhere nearby that you could go to relax and unwind for a few days following all of this? Or maybe you are just looking for the kind of vacation where you can sit by the pool or at the beach without having to worry about running around from place to place? Fortunately, Disney has just the place and this hidden gem is located conveniently close to Walt Disney World. Disney’s Vero Beach Resort is the perfect escape and a great way to end a Disney vacation or be a vacation unto itself.

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Location, Location, Location:
Even though it is located less than a two hour drive southeast of Walt Disney World, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort feels like an entirely different world. It is close enough to Disney World and Orlando International Airport to be easily accessible to Guests travelling to the Orlando area and yet far enough removed that it offers an escape from the crowds and congestion.
Vero Beach is located right on the Atlantic Ocean in an area known as Florida’s Treasure Coast. With the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Indian River on the other, the area features miles of beaches to enjoy in addition to the natural beauty of nearby botanical gardens, wildlife preserves, and state parks.

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The resort's location is certainly one of its main allures; every room is just steps away from the beach and a majority have views of the ocean. While here, you definitely do not want to miss the stunning views of the sunrise each morning.

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A Taste of Old Florida:
The resort’s style is one that harkens back to a bygone age with an old-fashioned elegance and charm; it has an upscale feel that is at the same time warm and inviting. The resort celebrates the splendor of Old Florida with an architectural style reminiscent of the grand hotels found along Florida’s northeastern seaboard at the turn of the 20th century. In addition, the resort’s relatively small size (just 211 rooms) makes it more intimate, quiet, and far less crowded than the resorts at Disney World.

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The resort's rooms are split up between the main Inn, three Villa Buildings, and six Cottages. Located in the Inn, resort’s lobby is certainly a sight to behold, with its high ceilings and numerous windows giving it a very open and airy feel.

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The lobby is also where you can find the Island Grove Packing Co., which is the resort’s gift shop featuring an array of resort-specific merchandise in addition to many items that can be found at Disney World. The shop also offers an array of groceries.

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Throughout the resort, in both the common areas and Guest rooms, there are various design elements that pay tribute to the legacy of Old Florida. This theming helps set the tone for the resort and immerses Guests into the history of the region. Along the walls you will spot everything from black and white photographs and newspaper clippings to old postcards and paintings; it is really like stepping back to an earlier time. The three main themes that carry through the resort are citrus, treasure, and the environment.

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Citrus:
The number one industry in Indian River County is citrus. The area produces over ten varieties of oranges and grapefruits and is home to twelve packing houses. In fact, many of the local groves contributed authentic labels to the resort which are now displayed throughout the lobby. This theming also makes its way into the Guest rooms, which feature various citrus-inspired décor and motifs in their design.

Treasure:
Indian River County is one of three counties located on Florida’s Treasure Coast. The area got its name due to all of the shipwrecks that occurred off of its shores and treasure continues to be found to this day. The region’s history also includes a number of notorious pirates who would use the barrier islands as hiding places for the riches they plundered from European vessels. Throughout the resort there are a number of authentic pieces and replicas that help to document this part of the region’s history.

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Environment:
Vero Beach was chosen as the site of Disney’s first oceanfront resort due, in part, to the richness of its surroundings. Due to the uniqueness of its location, the Indian River Lagoon has one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the continental United States, supporting over 3,000 species of animals and plants. During the resort’s construction, every effort was made to leave all the existing trees intact and those that had to be removed were relocated to a nearby environmental learning center.

With all the natural beauty of the area, it is not surprising that it plays a large role at the resort and it is sea turtles that take center stage. Disney’s Vero Beach Resort shares space with the native nesting grounds of the Loggerhead Sea Turtle. The Walt Disney Company has a long history of conservation efforts and the Vero Beach Resort continues that legacy. The beachfront resort was specifically designed to create minimal impact on the turtles’ nesting patterns. In addition, since moonlight acts as a beacon to guide the hatchlings safely to the ocean, the resort’s east-facing windows are tinted to diminish the impact of interior lighting, and no exterior lights face the ocean. The resort also offers a variety of educational programs for both children and families to learn more about sea turtles and their nesting habits.

In addition to this important conservation message, sea turtles feature prominently throughout the resort's décor. Most notably amongst these is the mosaic in the center of the lobby.

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Accommodations:
Disney’s Vero Beach Resort is part of the Disney Vacation Club and, as such, its various accommodations are similar to those that you would find at other DVC resorts in Disney World. One unique element of Vero Beach, however, is it’s Inn Rooms. These rooms are similar to a Studio but instead feature two queen beds rather than one bed and a pullout couch.

The resort also features One and Two Bedroom Villas, both of which have full-sized kitchens. These units are located in buildings adjacent to the main Inn.

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The most unique element of Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, however, are its Beach Cottages. It was in one of these that I had the fortune of staying during my last visit to the resort. In all, there are six cottages that sit overlooking the beach and each has a name that pays tribute to sea turtles. For example, the particular cottage that I stayed in was “The Loggerhead Cottage.”

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These cottages are perfect for a big family vacation as they can accommodate up to twelve people between three bedrooms and a pullout couch in the living room.

All of the bedrooms and bathrooms are located on the lower level of the cottage. Two of the bedrooms feature a pair of queen-sized beds while the third “master” bedroom features a king. This third bedroom also has a jacuzzi-style tub in its bathroom.

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Making your way to the upper level, it is clear to see that the cottages were constructed to maximize the incredible views. The most notable feature is its huge windows on all sides that allow in ample sunlight.

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The upper level of the beach house features a living room (with pullout couch) along with a full kitchen and dining room.

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There are also two balconies off the upper floor, one facing towards the Inn and the other towards the beach. The balconies feature tables, chairs, and lounges for those looking to catch some sun without having to walk to the pool or the beach. It is a great location for enjoying breakfast, lunch, or dinner with an ocean view.

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With all of its amenities, these cottages really are a home away from home.

Dining:
While not exactly a large resort, Disney’s Vero Beach does offer a number of different dining options. The first dining location is Shutters, a casual restaurant with a nautical theme that is good for the entire family and open for breakfast and dinner. The menu specializes in fresh Florida seafood, but also features wood-fired rotisserie chicken, slow-roasted pot roast, and flatbreads prepared in their onstage wood-burning pizza ovens. If you are looking for character dining, Shutters is home to “Goofy’s Beachfront Breakfast” on Saturdays . The restaurant also has a “Beachfront Sunday Brunch,” which includes your choice of champagne, mimosa, or Bloody Mary.

Shutters

Sonya’s offers a more adult-oriented, quiet, and intimate atmosphere with rich wooden décor. Sonya’s specializes in wood-fired steaks, fresh Florida seafood, as well as other seasonal specialties.

Bleachers is the resorts quick service option located conveniently right by the pool. Open for lunch, this dining location is the place for hamburgers, hotdogs, pizza, salads, ice cream, and an array of tropical ad specialty drinks.

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Finally, there is the Green Cabin Room. Interestingly enough, in the original planning of the resort, this space was first intended to be a library but was then converted into a bar. With spectacular ocean views and cushiony chairs this is a great place to relax in a quiet setting. Light lunch offerings and appetizers can be found on the menu alongside a number of cocktails and specialty coffee drinks. It’s the perfect place to stop for cocktails before your meal or after-dinner drinks.

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Now that you have been familiarized with an overview of the resort, the Part Two will highlight the various (and numerous) recreational offerings that can be found at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. Whether you just want to relax or have a day full of activities, there is something for all members of the family.

See past blog entries by guest blogger Andrew Rossi here.

August 17, 2014

AllEars Trading Cards

Gary Cruise banner

I thought Carol had them all!

She had a collection of Virtual Magic Kingdom Cards . . . I foolishly thought there were no more Disney cards for her to collect!

Then, along came AllEars Trading Cards. I don’t have to tell you the result - Carol had to have them all!

Here’s a bit of background: From time to time the AllEars Team will announce details of a “Meet and Greet”. These informal sessions are held in one of the Disney theme parks or resorts. Readers and fans are invited to mix, mingle and chat with the AllEars team.

The Trading Card idea materialized a few years ago, during an AllEars “Meet & Greet” when former AllEars Photoblogger Barrie Brewer said to AllEars Founder Deb Wills, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a little memento to give to people who come to our Meet and Greets?” Deb liked the idea and Barrie got busy designing some prototype trading cards.

From the very beginning the cards were a hot commodity with AllEars readers!

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The first few cards contained scenes from Walt Disney World and some photography tips from the Photoblog Team.

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It wasn’t long before the cards started to show some classic scenes from the parks and resorts, along with a bit of history or background for the scene pictured.

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Each member of the AllEars Team has their own personal card, which you can only get from them. How’s that for exclusive?

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The back of each card displays the AllEars logo and the Photoblog web address.

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There's even a handy little "checklist" card, you can record your collection by ticking the boxes on the back!

I know what you’re thinking . . . “Where do I buy some of these cards?”

That’s what makes the AllEars Trading Cards so highly coveted . . . these unique collectibles are not for sale. You can only get them directly from an AllEars Team Member or by trading with other Disney fans. Cards are not available through the mail except from time to time when a limited number of cards may be offered as part of a charity auction.

Trading was intense from the start. During the last two AllEars Group Cruises, and as part of the AllEars 15th Anniversary celebration, my wife Carol ran meets to trade Disney Pins. The trade meets at all three events were hugely successful, but the trading in AllEars Trading Cards totally overshadowed the trading of pins.

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Disney fans really like them!

So, how do you get some cards?

1. Plan to attend an AllEars Meet and Greet. You can find details of past and future events HERE.

2. If you bump into an AllEars Team Member in any of the parks, ask for one of their cards.

3. Keep your eyes and ears open for the next AllEars Group Cruise or similar event. There are always plenty of cards, and card traders at these large gatherings.

There are now 66 cards, plus the Team Member cards. You can see them all HERE

If you want AllEars Trading Cards you have to come out and play!

The AllEars Team is looking forward to meeting you real soon!

August 16, 2014

Mid-Month Mousy Mindboggler - August 2014

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.

Around the middle of each month, James 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:

Here's the answer key to the July Mid-Month Mousy Mindboggler crossword:

http://allears.net/ae/mb071914-key.pdf

There were 61 correct responses that knew the chipmunk's names, Chip & Dale, originated with an English furniture designer by the name of Thomas Chippendale. Another interesting fact about Disney character names: there are only a handful of animated character names that are used more than once, such as Chip the chipmunk and Chip, Mrs. Potts' son from "Beauty & the Beast." Can you think of any others?

The winner of a Mickey & Minnie pin was April C. of McKinney, TX. Congratulations and thanks for playing!


Continuing this month with the classic Disney character theme, we take a look at Donald’s Nephews. This is probably the last of the Disney character puzzles. Here is the link to the crossword puzzle:

http://allears.net/ae/mb081614.pdf


Next month I am considering a series on extinct attractions, such as Horizons and Mickey Mouse Revue. Any input would be appreciated!

The object is, as always, to have fun, but if you'd like a chance to win a Disney collectible pin, arrange the letters that are circled in the puzzle to come up with the answer to the bonus question, which relates to the puzzle theme. Send your resulting answer IN THE SUBJECT LINE OF AN EMAIL addressed to dzneynut.puzzle@gmail.com. Send the bonus term or phrase no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on September 12, 2014. 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, along with a new puzzle, in mid-August.

Enjoy and good luck!

As always, James would love to hear any feedback, or any ideas for themes you'd like to see covered in future puzzles. Drop James a line at dzneynut.puzzle@gmail.com.

August 3, 2014

From the Tickle Trunk – Walt Disney World News 1990

Gary Cruise banner

The last WDW newsletter we looked at was from October 1982. Now Mr. Peabody has dialed his WABAC Machine forward eight years so we can take a look at the Summer 1990 edition.

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There’s a new theme park, Disney-MGM Studios . . . and look at all that color on the front page! They are really pushing that 5-Day Plus Super Pass. Of course, with three theme parks you now need 5 days!

Hey, look - the Muppets have arrived! “Here Come the Muppets” was a live show that premiered on May 25, 1990 at Disney-MGM Studios. The pre-show area featured a video of Rowlf playing the piano and singing, with interruptions from Sam Eagle. The show, which featured walking Muppet characters, ran until September 2, 1991, and was replaced in that location by The Voyage of the Little Mermaid. Two weeks after the show closed, a second live Muppet show, “Muppets on Location: Days of Swine and Roses”, opened in a different area of the park.

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There was plenty of color on page two as well. And who are these strange characters? Dick Tracy? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? What’s with that?

I had never seen or heard tell of these characters at any Disney park . . . so some research was called for!

Wow . . . here’s what I found: Dick Tracy, Flattop, Mumbles and Tess Trueheart appeared live on stage at the Theatre of the Stars! The production, Diamond Double-Cross, didn’t last too long - it opened May 21, 1990 and ran until February 16, 1991. There were even Dick Tracy characters in the troupe of roving “Streetmosphere” performers; they disappeared in February 1991 as well.

And those turtles? Carol remembers seeing them. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles appeared in the "New York Street" section of Disney-MGM Studios. Emerging from their Turtle Party Wagon, they would "ninja dance" across the stage while April performed the theme song to their show. After the main show was done they would pose for pictures and sign autographs. The Turtles also appeared in Disney's "Very Merry Christmas Parade" and sang their own rendition of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town". In the Easter parade they danced to their single "Pizza Power!" The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live shows and appearances came to an end in 1996.

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There was plenty of new information on Page 3.

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At EPCOT the Wonders of Life Pavilion had just opened in October 1989 and Body Wars was an exciting new attraction. Guests boarded Bravo 229, a “LGS 2050" probe vehicle and were miniaturized, ship and all, before being injected into a human body to observe a splinter and rescue Dr. Cynthia Lair. The LGS 2050 weighed approximately 26 tons but once miniaturized it weighed less than a drop of water, so it was easily able to navigate its way to the splinter and find the doctor. At the injury site she was taking a blood cell count when she was accidentally pulled into a capillary. Captain Braddock boldly followed her through the capillary and into a vein, even though it meant entering an unauthorized area. The captain steered Bravo 229 past the heart and into the right ventricle, then on into the lung where the doctor was being attacked by a white blood cell. Captain Braddock fired his lasers to free the doctor but by then the ship was very low on power. Dr. Lair suggested that they use the brain's energy to recharge the ship. Passing through the heart, the ship followed an artery all the way to the brain where a neuron touched the ship and re-powered the batteries. The Bravo 229 and all the guests were safely de-miniaturized outside of the body. Everyone returned home, safe and sound; funny how that always turns out! Body Wars ran for 18 years and closed on January 1, 2007.

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IllumiNations was still quite new in 1990; it premiered at World Showcase Lagoon on January 30, 1988. It had to go through several version changes before it became the “IlluniNations, Reflections of Earth” that we see today.

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Mickey’s Starland originated as Mickey's Birthdayland which opened on June 18, 1988. It transformed into Mickey's Starland on May 26, 1990. The area was briefly renamed Mickey's Toyland in late 1995. The land closed in early 1996 for an extensive refurbishment, and on October 1, 1996, it reopened as Mickey's Toontown Fair for the park's 25th anniversary. The back-story portrayed the land as the holiday home for the characters who normally lived at Mickey's Toontown in California. Mickey's Toontown Fair was closed on February 11, 2011 in order to build the New Fantasyland. Some elements of Mickey's Toontown Fair have been demolished and others have been re-themed to the new Storybook Circus area.

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Page 4 had a detailed listing of park hours for the months of June, July and August. The two news articles took us outside the theme parks where there was also plenty of brand new excitement!

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Typhoon Lagoon opened less than a year prior, on June 1, 1989 and it was a very popular destination. It’s my favourite Disney water park; I just love that wave pool!

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Pleasure Island was a new phenomenon as well. It had opened May 1, 1989 and drew huge crowds every night. There was a wide variety of venues; something to please everyone, and every night was New Year’s Eve! Do you remember the Neon Armadillo? The Adventurer’s Club? All those great old clubs are now closed and bulldozed as Pleasure Island, along with the rest of Downtown Disney, is being transformed into Disney Springs!

Isn’t it funny . . . so many of the things which were so exciting, so revolutionary and daring in 1990 are merely distant memories as we look back 24 years from 2014.

The Muppets have relocated to a 3D Theatre, Dick Tracy is gone, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are gone, The Wonders of Life Pavilion is closed and Body Wars is shuttered. Mickey’s Starland and Pleasure Island have both been levelled and redeveloped. There is always something new coming along to captivate us.

I suppose that’s what Walt Disney meant when he spoke about Disneyland many years ago. He said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” I’m sure that Walt, if he had lived to see his Florida Project open, would have said the same thing about Walt Disney World; it will continuously evolve and grow.

That’s just one of the things that makes our happy place so magical!

July 20, 2014

From the Tickle Trunk - Disney Seminars

Gary Cruise banner

Great memories come out of the Tickle Trunk . . . but it also has a few surprises in it. Surprises for me that is! You see, Carol and I were not a couple during the years when she took her first fourteen trips to Walt Disney World and some of the things she pulls out of that magical pine box, from those early trips, are things I have never even imagined before.

This blog is about one of those things I never imagined - The Wonders of Walt Disney World seminar series.

In November 1985 Carol and her son Rob booked a 14-night stay at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. Sharing the trip with them were Carol’s very good friend Judy, and Judy’s daughter Jenn.

Several months before they left a package arrived in the mail; it was confirmation of their resort reservation and the envelope included a very handy 16-page 8 ½” X 11” brochure filled with all sorts of handy information about Walt Disney World. Look at the picture of that brochure below, and check out the index in the lower right corner.

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Do you see that reference to Disney Learning Programs on page 9? Carol saw it too. Here’s what it said.

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Sounds great doesn’t it. What? You can’t read it? Oh yeah, the print is pretty small in that picture . . . so here’s what it says:

Wonders of Walt Disney World

"Wonders of Walt Disney World" is a nationally recognized educational program, now available to guests ages 10-15. State and local superintendents and commissioners of education from across the country have given approval to the program concepts and many school systems award education credits to program participants, enabling families to take an off-season vacation without disrupting learning.

Each program is accompanied by two Disney-illustrated books of interesting ideas and creative learning activities. Guests submitting a paid registration 45 days in advance receive the first book by mail and begin their Disney experiences at home. This "pre-trip" book encourages young people to explore the resources of their own world in preparation for their Walt Disney World visit.

Once they arrive, a 6 1/2-hour field trip through onstage and backstage areas allows them to see ideas from their books as practical solutions to the challenges of operating Walt Disney World Co. The second book, presented at the end of the day's activities, contains suggestions on putting new ideas and interests into practice. Students may choose any one of the following subjects.

Exploring Nature: A True-Life Adventure
From an 11-acre island refuge for near extinct wildlife to our 7,500 acre wilderness preserve, students experience first-hand lessons about man's responsibility to his environment. Ecology truly comes alive in a setting of natural beauty and wonder. Tuesdays or Thursdays.

The Energy That Runs Our World
The innovative, state-of-the-art technical systems that power Walt Disney World Resort are the focus here as students visit our power plant, investigate alternate energy sources and examine the Disney philosophy of energy management. Mondays or Wednesdays.

Disney Creative Arts
At Disney, "art" is more than just paintings on museum walls. In this special program, an instructor and a Disney character artist illustrate that art is, indeed, all around us. Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays.

The Walt Disney World of Entertainment
"Let's put on a show!" What really goes into entertaining millions of people every year? Students not only get to meet the performers who take center stage but also learn about the people behind the scenes who contribute to a "good show." Tuesday, Thursdays or Fridays.

Enrolling
Programs are conducted daily, except Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Cost for each program per person is $45 and includes both books, the 6 1/2-hour field trip (including lunch), all program materials and the use of a Kodamatic instant camera and film.

To enroll, just complete the attached registration form at the back of this section and enclose a check for $45 per participant or call (305) 828-2405. For additional registration materials and more information, write: "Wonders of Walt Disney World," P.O. Box 40, Lake Buena Vista, Florida 32830. If you must cancel, call (305) 828-2405 for information on re-scheduling and refunds.

It sounded good to Carol; she discussed it with Judy and then they asked Jenn and Rob, thirteen and fourteen years old at the time, if they’d like to participate. Naturally they were both die-hard Disney fans and they both said yes. Rob couldn’t decide between Exploring Nature: A True-Life Adventure and The Walt Disney World of Entertainment, so he took them both. Carol thinks that Jenn signed up for the Disney Creative Arts session.

It wasn’t long before Rob’s pre-course material arrived in the mail - two 10” X 10” booklets and a covering letter.

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Rob got busy with his pre-course reading and completed a couple of exercises in the booklets before they headed south. A sample exercise from the pre-course book is pictured below.

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On the appointed days he struck off to meet the instructors and the other children who were participating. Each student was given a Polaroid camera to use for the day and record some of the things they learned. Soon they were off on their backstage adventure.

Rob is a little fuzzy on the details of each day (after all, it was 29 years ago) but he remembers that the seminars were very interactive. The instructors were fun to be with, and the kids had plenty of input. They shared lots of opinions and ideas over the course of each day.

The image below show’s Rob’s name badge and a few of the Polaroid pictures he took during the Walt Disney World of Entertainment seminar.

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I asked Rob what he liked best about the experience. He said, “We spent a lot of time in the swamp; Florida has a lot of wetlands and we talked a lot about the ecology of the swamp. Discovery Island was great fun. We watched as they fed many of the birds and the cast members explained their diet. I was pretty impressed that they tried so carefully to match what the birds would eat in the wild.”

“Later in the day we were taken backstage to watch the horticulturalists make new topiaries. We watched as they built a new wire frame and then saw several partially grown plants, as the cast members explained how they trained the plants to coil around the frame, different textures and colors of plants for different parts of the body. It was painstaking work, but the finished topiaries sure looked good!”

“One of my favorite memories though, was seeing the boats used in the Electric Water Pageant. They took our group to the canal where the fourteen boats docked during the day and we got to see them up close. They looked huge . . . and there were so many light bulbs. What a job changing those bulbs! It was 1985, long before LED lights, and they told us how many bulbs they changed on an average day. I forget the number, but I remember thinking that it was a big job!”

Somewhere during the course of their roving seminar the group stopped to eat a box lunch . . . Rob remembers enjoying his PBJ sandwich. (I’ll bet they don’t serve PBJ any more)

At the end of the day each student was given a very nice hard covered text book created and produced by The Disney University. It covered all the principles and concepts they had “discovered” during the day. The image below shows a page from Rob’s Exploring Nature: A True-Life Adventure text book.

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Carol remembers clearly how excited Rob was when he came back to the resort each evening to tell her all about his day. His school teachers probably wouldn’t describe him as a model student, but Rob sure enjoyed his schooling at Walt Disney World!

Over the next few years Carol continued to get information about the education programs when she booked a vacation. The program changed a bit over the years. Here are some pages from a flyer she received in 1989.

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By that time they had dropped The Energy That Runs Our World seminar but the other three were still offered. There were even programs for adults. Of course, Rob was outside the target age group for the youth seminars by 1989 and that was the last flyer Carol received.

Gosh, wouldn’t it be nice if Disney still offered educational programs like that?

But wait . . . they do! Yes! They do!

There are sessions at Disneyland and at Walt Disney World. You can select from a number of programs offered at each park.

To see what’s available in the Youth Education Series click here.

There’s even a Kingdom Keepers Quest, for details click here.

Browse around those links and take a look at the full menu of educational offerings. It looks like there’s something there for everyone, even adults!

Want to add a new dimension to your Disney vacation? Try one of the seminars!

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