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March 19, 2015

Mid-Month Mousy Mindboggler - March 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.

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 February Mid-Month Mousy Mindboggler:

http://allears.net/ae/mb021615-key.pdf

There were 39 correct responses to the word search puzzle on Extinct Magic Kingdom attractions.

The first 10 unused letters in the puzzle were WMEHKFKTJW.

The winner of a Steamboat Willie/Mickey pin was Christine L. of Aumsville, OR. Thanks to everyone for playing!

This month we are going to have another word search puzzle. In this one, we will continue looking at extinct attractions at the various Disney Parks. The second park we will take a look at will be Epcot's Future World. The Future World section of Epcot has probably seen the most changes over the years of any of the theme parks in Florida.

Here's the link to the new puzzle:

http://allears.net/ae/mb031815.pdf

The object is, as always, to have fun, but if you'd like a chance to win a Disney collectible pin: There’s no need to send me the completed puzzle, just list the first 10 unused letters, starting with the first row, 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 April 14, 2015. 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-April.

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

Thanks! Until next month...

March 15, 2015

Disney Fun Around the Country

Gary Cruise banner

Several times each year Carol and I attend Disney-related events which do not take place in the theme parks. For us it's an easy way to keep the magic alive without making that long trek south! It's always fun sharing good times with people who also suffer from our Disney affliction!

Over the last few years I have written several blogs describing some of the Disney collectible or trading events we have enjoyed. In almost every case there has been a recurring theme in the comments people make after reading the blogs.

- “I wish I had known about this, I live very close by.”

- “I would love to know when this is next year!”

- “That sounds like so much fun; I'd love to go some time.”

So if you're looking to spend some happy times with fellow Disney fans, here is a list of a few of those “non-theme park events” coming up in 2015. These can help you put the maximum “Disney magic” in your life!

1. Trade ‘til You Fade - May 15-17, 2015 - Somerset New Jersey
This weekend-long event, organized annually by Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders, is a fun-filled experience for those who collect and trade Disney pins and Vinylmations.

CJDPT Logo

CJDPT Meeting Room

CJDPT Name That Toon

There are games, raffles and even an optional gift exchange which can be hilarious! Full details are available on the Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders web site here: CJDPT

Read an AllEars.net blog about the 2012 event here: Trade ‘til You Fade 2012

2. Dayton Disneyana - June 13 - 14, 2015 - Dayton Ohio
Another weekend long event, however this one caters to Disneyana collectors. The Dayton “Plane Crazy” Chapter of the Disneyana Fan Club do a wonderful job organizing this annual bonanza for Disneyana collectors.

Plane Crazy Logo

A hotel ballroom is chock-full of vendor's tables overflowing with high quality collectibles. This is not a flea market, these are real Disneyana collectors selling quality product.

Dayton Collectibles

Dayton Collectibles

There are always a few interesting speakers who pass on some interesting tidbits of Disney history and gossip.

Dayton Speakers

Tables line the halls outside the ballroom for pin and Vinylmation traders.

Dayton Pin Trading

Full details are available on the chapter's web site: Dayton Disneyana

Read about previous events in these AllEars.net blogs:
Dayton Disneyana 2013
Dayton Disneyana 2014

3. Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet - July 11, 2015 - Lynnwood Washington
Carol and I have not attended this annual event held near Seattle; it's a long way from where we live! But we have heard very good reviews from friends who have been there.

Pacific Northwest Logo

There are always some top-notch speakers and interesting activities.

PNW Speaker Tony Baxter

PNW Photo Spot

PNW Dole Whip

You can read an AllEars.net blog about the 2014 event here: Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet 2014

The 2015 meet will be held at the Lynnwood Convention center in Lynnwood, Washington on Saturday, July 11, 2015. Speakers have not yet been finalized; keep an eye on their web site to confirm further details: Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet

4. Swap ‘til You Drop - October 9-11, 2015 - Somerset New Jersey
Another weekend-long event, organized annually by Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders.

CJDPT Logo

The format for this event is very similar to the Trade ‘til You Fade event held each spring.
Refer to their web site here: CJDPT

So . . . if you're feeling blue because you can't get to one of the Disney parks . . . why don't you plan to attend one of these locally organized fan events!

Disney fans always make a fun-loving group; imagine how easy it is to make new friends when you are surrounded by kindred spirits.

Maybe Carol and I will see you there!

March 1, 2015

Hockey "Disney-Style" . . . The Mighty Ducks

Gary Cruise banner

Like most boys growing up in Canada in the 1950's and 60's my world revolved around hockey. There wasn't much else to do in the tiny Ontario fishing village I called home. I played peewee hockey and my entire family followed the exploits of our local men's Intermediate B team, the Port Dover Sailors. The Sailors were a powerhouse in their league and won the provincial championship several times during my youth.

1962 Port Dover Sailors

Of course, the pinnacle of the hockey world was the National Hockey League. There were six teams, the Montréal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Black Hawks, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers. There were only about 130 professional players and every Canadian boy knew each players name, their positions and their stats! The highlight of the hockey year was always the NHL's Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Stanley Cup

The Stanley Cup is the most prestigious award in hockey. Its rich history goes back to March 17, 1893 when Canada's Governor-General, Lord Stanley of Preston, first awarded it to an amateur team, The Montréal Hockey Club. Another Montréal team, the NHL's Montréal Canadiens has won the cup 24 times, my childhood favourite the Detroit Red Wings have won 11 times and the Toronto Maple Leafs have won 13 times.

If someone had told me years ago that a hockey team from Southern California would someday win the Stanley Cup I wouldn't have believed it. I would probably have said, “A baseball team from Canada will win back to back World Series Championships before a California team wins Lord Stanley's Mug!”

Strange as it may sound, that's exactly how it happened! The Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series in 1992 and then won again in 1993. The Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007.

Let's take a closer look at the Anaheim Ducks and their Disney connection!

Yes, baseball fans know that the Walt Disney Company owned the Anaheim Angels MLB team from 1996 to 2003, but to a Canadian hockey fan that fact isn't nearly as interesting as the story of the Mighty Ducks!

Before it was a real hockey team, The Mighty Ducks was a peewee team in a Disney movie, set in Minnesota and filmed in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area between January 22 and April 11, 1992.

The Mighty Ducks movie

Emilio Estevez played Gordon Bombay, a lawyer and former hockey player who was convicted of drunk driving and sentenced to community service. That's how Bombay wound up coaching the District 5 peewee hockey team.

The Mighty Ducks poster

The kids never scored and never won . . . the new coach's task looked hopeless!

The Mighty Ducks poster

Of course it was a Disney movie so naturally the kids slowly improved. They renamed themselves “The Mighty Ducks” and the movie ended with a penalty shot goal which clinched their championship win.

The Mighty Ducks bench

It premiered September 20, 1992 in Westwood, California and was panned by critics. Roger Ebert gave it 2 stars and said: “It must be said that this movie is sweet and innocent, and that at a certain level it might appeal to younger kids. I doubt if its ambitions reach much beyond that.”

Despite the poor reception from the critics, the movie did very well at the box office. Production costs were $10 million and the movie grossed over $50 million.

There were two sequels.

The Mighty Ducks 2


The Mighty Ducks 3

There was even a televised cartoon series!

The Mighty Ducks cartoon

The biggest thing spawned by the movie was a new National Hockey League team. In December 1992 The Walt Disney Company paid $50 million to acquire one of two new expansion franchises. The Mighty Ducks went to Anaheim and the Florida Panthers went to Miami.

Mighty Ducks of Anaheim Logo

Disney quickly pulled together a management and coaching team to guide the fledgling Ducks. They drafted well in the expansion draft held in Quebec City June 4, 1993.

Mighty Ducks of Anaheim Logo

The Winter 1993 issue of The Magic Years Magazine gives a bit background for the new team. Click on the magazine pages below to see larger versions of the scanned images.

Magic Years Page 40

Magic Years Page 41

1993 Game Schedule

The Duck's first season opened October 8, 1993 at home, in the newly built arena, aptly named “The Pond”. After a 20 minute pre-game show, reported to cost $450,000, the puck was dropped for the first time at The Pond! The Mighty Ducks lost 7 - 2 to the Detroit Red Wings. Just a few days later on October 13th they recorded their first victory, a 4 - 3 win over the Edmonton Oilers. That first year they went on to set a league record - they recorded 33 wins, 46 losses and 5 ties. No expansion team had ever notched 33 wins in their first season, but in 1993/94 both The Mighty Ducks and the Florida Panthers did.

1994 Mighty Ducks Team Photo


The Ducks sold out 27 of 41 home games that year, including each of the last 25 games. They sold 98.9% of The Pond's seats that first season and they could not keep up with the demand for Ducks merchandise. All the Disney Parks and all Disney Stores were displaying Mighty Ducks hats, shirts, toy hockey sticks, pucks and jerseys. Mighty Ducks merchandise outsold any other NHL team in 1993/94.

Ducks jerseys

The Ducks finished 4th in the Pacific Division and did not make the playoffs that first season, but by 1996/97 they had improved. Their 36 - 33 - 13 record put them in the playoffs. They beat the Phoenix Coyotes 4 games to 3 in the first round and then in the second round fell in 4 straight games to the Detroit Red Wings.

Management traded and drafted wisely over the years. The list of Mighty Ducks players and alumni contains some very well known hockey names, Teemu Selanne, Paul Kariya, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf along with Hall of Famers Jari Kurri, Adam Oates and Scott Niedermayer are a few that come to mind!

The Ducks made the playoffs again in 1998/99 and 2002/03 before the Disney era ended. In 2005 Disney sold the team to Broadcom co-founder Henry Samueli for a reported $75 million.

The word Mighty was dropped from the team name and they became The Anaheim Ducks. They had a 43 - 27 - 12 season in 2005/06 and went all the way to the Stanley Cup semi-final series which they lost to the Edmonton Oilers.

Then in 2006/07 they won it all.

2007 Stanley Cup

2007 Stanley Cup

On June 6, 2007 a 6 - 2 win over the Ottawa Senators sealed the Anaheim Ducks Stanley Cup victory.

2007 Stanley Cup winners

2007 Stanley Cup Ring

They won the final series very convincingly, 4 games to 1, and proved that big-league hockey really does belong in Southern California!

When this blog was published The Ducks were in third place in the 30-team National Hockey League. Only four points separated them from the Montréal Canadiens and the first place Nashville Predators. Could another Stanley Cup be in sight?



February 16, 2015

Mid-Month Mousy Mindboggler - February 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.

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 January Mid-Month Mousy Mindboggler:

http://allears.net/ae/mb011615-key.pdf

I was pleasantly surprised to receive almost 200 correct responses to last month’s puzzle about Walt Disney quotes!

The bonus answer I was looking for was “The Disneyland Story.” Another possible answer was “What is Disneyland?”, but that was not the answer you got if you solved the puzzle to reveal the answer by noting the circled letters.

I was also impressed by the number of people that figured out the significance of the date (Oct. 27, 1954) of the first Disneyland television broadcast! My birthdate was indeed Oct. 28, 1954, but since it was one minute after midnight, I considered it occurring in the same evening. Maybe that’s where my strange obsession of Disney comes from?

The winner of a Lion King pin was Cristina S. of Sunnyvale, CA. Thanks to everyone for playing!

This month we are going to go back to a word search puzzle, but this will be the first in a series of puzzles examining extinct attractions at the various Disney Parks. The first park we will take a look at will be the Magic Kingdom.

Here's the link to the new puzzle:

http://allears.net/ae/mb021615.pdf

The object is, as always, to have fun, but if you'd like a chance to win a Disney collectible pin, here's what you should do: There’s no need to send me the completed puzzle; just list the first 10 unused letters, starting with the first row, 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 March 13, 2015. 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-March.

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

Thanks for playing!

February 15, 2015

It All Started With . . . Storyboards

Gary Cruise banner

Recently, while I was reading The Revised Vault of Walt written by noted Disney historian (and AllEars.net Feature Writer) Jim Korkis, I ran across an interesting quote. Walt Disney was writing of memories from his school days and commented, “It was always my inclination to think in pictures rather than words.” My mind started to play with the concept of thinking in pictures; it was intriguing.

I soon concluded that it was quite natural that Walt began by thinking in pictures when he was working on a project. You see, Walt started out as an animator, an artist. That's probably how he always thought of himself, not as an innovator, not as a businessman, but as a cartoonist.

Walt was involved, in a very hands-on way, in every project undertaken during his lifetime and he always followed the same process; he started with storyboards.

Here's how Disney Archive Director Dave Smith replied to a question about storyboards in the Summer 2001 edition of Disney Magazine.

Disney Magazine Summer 2001

There you have it, confirmed by Disney Historian and Archivist Dave Smith, the storyboard process was first developed at Walt Disney Studios in the early 1930's.

An early Storyboard

When Walt and his animators were working on a project, the first step was to outline the story, the plot. They made sketches of the various scenes in the story and hung them, in order, around the walls. A storyboard began to take shape! Those sketches became the storyboard!

Walt and a Storyboard

Soon each scene would be “fleshed out” - every scene would have a storyboard of its own. Only after the storyboard was complete in every way and the animators all understood the project very clearly, did they begin drawing the artwork which would be used in the animation.

Walt and a Storyboard

Lady and the Tramp Storyboard

Even today, in the age of Computer Generated Animation, the story is fully developed using storyboards before anything goes into production.

Disney Magazine Fall 2002 pg 49

Disney Magazine Fall 2002 pg 51

In the early 1950's Walt Disney began a daring project which changed the entertainment and vacation world forever. He designed and built Disneyland - and he thought in pictures while he did it!

Disneyland Concept Art

Walt and Disneyland Map

Here's how the Imagineers describe it in The Imagineering Guide to the Magic Kingdom:
"Walt was our first Imagineer, but as soon as he began developing the early ideas for Disneyland, he started recruiting others to help him realize his dream. He snapped up several of his most trusted and versatile animators and art directors to apply the skills of filmmaking to the three-dimensional world. They approached this task much the same as they would a film project. They wrote stories, drew storyboards, created inspirational art, assigned the production tasks to the various film-based disciplines, and built the whole thing from scratch. Disneyland is essentially a movie that allows you to walk right in and join in the fun. As Imagineer par excellence John Hench was fond of saying in response to recent trends, "Virtual reality is nothing new... we've been doing that for more than fifty years!"

Walt and Disneyland Model

1953 Disneyland Map

Disneyland Sketch


Disneyland was the first of its kind! It was an overnight success - and now, 60 years later it still sets the standard other theme park operators aspire to achieve.

Of course there are now many more Disney theme parks around the world, and there are even some pretty good imitators! But we all know that Disney parks are special. They are in a class by themselves!

EPCOT Storyboard 1964

If you ask what makes Disney parks different you will get scores of responses like, cleanliness, quality, themeing, attention to detail, consistency, family focus, etc., etc.

I think that the process Disney Imagineers use to design the parks plays a huge role in making their theme parks both unique and superior. I think that the quality, consistency, attention to detail and all those other unique attributes can be tied back to the use of storyboards.

WED Enterprises 1964

First the Imagineers designed the story; then they designed the park!

Let's all close our eyes and imagine we are standing in the background at that first meeting in the early 1950's. Walt called his most imaginative people, his Imagineers, together and outlined his ideas for a place where parents and children could have fun together. Walt had plenty of ideas but the Imagineers soon added their own creative touches and before you could say “Rivers of America” there were sketches on the walls, Sleeping Beauty Castle, Main Street USA, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Frontierland and Adventureland. The storyboard was taking shape!

Another Storyboard

One of the Imagineers, maybe it was Walt, suggested a train station, “Let's have the entry, the main gate, pass through the train station. Guests will not see Main Street until they come out of the station and have left the real world behind.”

Disneyland Train Station

Disneyland Entry Sign

Wouldn't it have been fun to be a spectator at that first meeting, over 60 years ago?

Soon the storyboards for each of the original “lands” were created, followed by a sketch for each individual building.

Let's pause and look at how these storyboards helped create the themeing, consistency and quality Disney is famous for. Let's jump ahead in time and look at Liberty Square in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

Liberty Square was designed to reflect Colonial America at the time of the Revolutionary War. The construction style displayed in the building façades is exactly what you would have seen in that era - for example, look closely at the shutters on the windows, they have sagged. Iron was hard to find and very expensive in Colonial times so window shutters were supported by leather hinges which stretched over time. A very realistic touch!

Crooked shutters

The subtle music which you hear in the background at Liberty Square is appropriate to the late 1700's and is played using instruments which would have been common at the time. No synthesizers and no electrical amplification were used in the production of that sound track!

The Liberty Bell on display was cast from the same mold used to create the original bell in Philadelphia, and the circle of thirteen flags surrounding the bell represents the original thirteen colonies.

All of these touches were defined in the storyboard.

Part of the Disney storyboard process requires that each building or attraction must also have a “back-story” or history. Every aspect of the interior and exterior of the attraction has to be consistent with this fabricated history. Naturally, in Liberty Square this means it must be true to the Colonial era. A prime example of this is Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe.

Christmas Shop

If you look closely at the exterior of the Christmas Store you can see aspects of the “back-story”. It appears to have originally been three separate colonial style buildings or storefronts, a perfume shop, a silversmith and an antique shop. Over the years the original shops changed hands and later housed a music teacher's shop, a wood carver's shop and the third became the home of a German family, the Kepples (named for Walt's grandfather Kepple Disney). Next time you visit Liberty Square take a few minutes to wander through Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe. Look for the musical instruments, tools and wooden toys left by those former occupants! All of this richly detailed themeing sprang from the Imagineers and those original storyboards.

Christmas Shop Tools

The same level of detail applies to Main Street USA. The Emporium is one huge store comprising almost the entire two blocks on the west side of the street, yet from the exterior it looks like a number of different storefronts. Have you noticed that the inside of the building changes the same way the outside does?

Here's an experiment you can try. Next time you visit the Magic Kingdom walk along the sidewalk on the west side of Main Street. When you come to a door into The Emporium pause for a moment and look at the exterior façade of the building. Now step inside and examine the décor. See how it matches the storefront? Walk a bit further down the sidewalk and that exterior façade will change. Look in the next door; the décor inside has changed to match the new storefront outside.

Do you realize what just happened as you walked down Main Street? That's right; you just walked through a storyboard.

Let's hop over to another park, Disney's Hollywood Studios, for another example. This one is a little more obvious because the storyboards are still on the walls at this one. I'm talking about “One Man's Dream” which follows the story of Walt's remarkable life.

One Man's Dream

Take your time as you read all the fascinating information the exhibit contains. Those thrill rides will still be there when you finish; there's no need to rush through this gripping story of Walt Disney and his dream!

When you get to the end of the exhibits, before you enter the theatre, pause for a few seconds and look back down the hall . . . yes, it's true - you just walked through another storyboard.

Next time you visit a Disney park, do yourself a favor. Slow down! Take time to look at your surroundings from a different perspective.

When my inner-child looks around at a Disney park he sees mystery, excitement, magic and adventure. When I pause to let my inner-adult have a look, he notices something totally different. My adult eyes take in the many little details which create that immersive experience Disney is famous for.

Let your inner-adult look around now and then, you will see storyboards, and their influence, everywhere you look!

February 1, 2015

A Swamp Buggy Tour With A Disney Twist

Gary Cruise banner

Several months ago I wrote a blog about the Disney Wilderness Preserve and I told you that I would follow up with a blog about our “Butterflies by Swamp Buggy Tour” there. Well, we had a wonderful time on the tour and here's the blog I promised!

Welcome Sign

Before I describe the tour, I'd like to give a little bit more background on the history of this amazing property, which can trace its origin back to the Clean Water Act originally passed in 1972. Section 404 of that Federal Statute deals with “compensatory mitigation”. What that means in simple terms is that any activity which negatively impacts wetlands, streams or other aquatic resources must be offset by compensating mitigation activities (restoration, enhancement, establishment or preservation of resources) in another area.

In 1992 The Disney Corporation was still actively developing the vast Walt Disney World property and much of this development had exactly the sort of “negative impact” referred to above. They were draining and filling wetlands in order to build hotels, parks, shopping areas, etc. The Clean Water Act stipulated that they had to create, preserve or enhance an equal area of wetlands on another part of their property. At the same time they heard about the Walker Ranch, a nearby 8,500 acre tract which was being rezoned for urban development. This huge former wetland area at the headwaters of the Everglades had been ditched and drained many years ago. After extensive logging the property was used as a cattle ranch for several decades before the threat of development arose; the proposal was to convert this sensitive wildlife habitat to residential neighborhoods and golf courses.

Wildlife habitat

More wildlife habitat

Disney purchased the property, turned ownership over to The Nature Conservancy, then worked with the new owner to restore the wetlands. Drainage ditches were filled in, wetlands were restored and wildlife has returned. There is now 47% more water on the property than there was in 1992. The Nature Conservancy describes the Disney Wilderness Preserve as “wildly successful”.

These two brochures explain it much better than I can. Click on each of the four images below to see a larger, readable version.

Nature Conservancy Brochure Page 1

Nature Conservancy Brochure Page 2

Nature Conservancy Brochure Page 1

Nature Conservancy Brochure Page 2

Disney scored a very interesting “first” with their preserve. It was the first “off-site” mitigation ever done - the restoration was on property Disney did not own. They restored a huge area of wetlands, enough to offset future development on the Walt Disney World property. Once Disney had set this precedent other companies, including Orlando International Airport and Universal Studios followed suit; they added other parcels of land to the property. The preserve is now almost 12,000 acres or 19 square miles.

OK, that's enough background, lets climb aboard our swamp buggy and I'll let the pictures tell most of the story.

Carol and I, along with our friend and fellow Fort Wilderness camper Al from Missouri, were on the road just after 8:00 a.m. We were excited to participate in this once a year event, part of NatureFest, organized by VisitCentralFlorida.org. They only accept 15 registrants due to the seating capacity of the swamp buggy. It was a glorious, sunny Thursday morning as the three of us drove in the mile-and-a-half long lane from Old Pleasant Hill Road to the Disney Wilderness Preserve's main office and Welcome Centre.

Conservation Learning Center

Conservation_Learning_Center

Butterfly Garden

Butterfly Garden

By 9:00 a.m. we were registered and had met our hosts for the day, the Preserve's Operations Manager Petra Royston and lepidopterists (butterfly experts) Tom Palmer and Sue Farnsworth.

Lepidopterist Tom Palmer

We spent a half hour in the Conservation Learning Centre where Tom gave us an audio-visual prevue of what we would be seeing during the day, then off we went to board our chariot . . . our really big chariot!

Our Swamp_Buggy

Florida Sand Cranes
A pair of Florida Sand Cranes were on hand to see us off!

Petra was our guide and driver; as she drove she gave us a history of the preserve and pointed out plants, trees and points of interest.

Backing away to start our tour

Tom stood at the front of the buggy watching out for butterflies while Sue covered the rear.

Tom watching for butterfiles

We stopped a few times, disembarked and explored the grounds, capturing pictures of the many butterfly species which call the area home. We all had spotting guides to help us identify what we were seeing, but there was no time to look at a list when we were in hot pursuit! Thankfully Sue and Tom were always close at hand to tell us what we were looking at!

Looking for butterfiles

Looking for butterfiles

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Fritillary
Fritillary

Fritillary
Fritillary

After a few miles we came to a sign directing us to Lake Russell; we walked the last few hundred yards to the scenic shoreline.

Lake Russell Sign

Walking to Lake Russell

Lake Russell is unique in several ways! There is no development on the shore of the lake. It is pristine, that's a rare thing in Florida. It is part of the headwaters of the Everglades and is fed by Reedy Creek. Yes, that's the same Reedy Creek which runs through Walt Disney World about 15 miles to the north!

At Lake Russell

Lake Russell

Lake Russell

After spending a few minutes enjoying the natural beauty of the lake we returned to the swamp buggy and continued our journey, stopping often to walk around and snap more pictures.

Petra and Tom watching

Stopped along the Highway

Stopped along the Highway

Ceraunus Blue
A Ceraunus Blue - this butterfly is the size of the fingernail on your pinkie finger.

Soldier
A Soldier

As we made our way south toward Lake Hatchineha our guide Petra explained how the drainage ditches were quickly filled in to restore the wetlands. She described how controlled fire is used in a three-year cycle to stimulate the growth of the longleaf pine forest. This variety of pine remains very small for about 6 years, resembling a tuft of grass while it develops a deep taproot. During this phase its tender bud is protected from the typically low and fast-moving fire by its long needles. Once the taproot is established the tree shoots up 6 feet or more in just a couple of years and is beyond the harmful reach of those fires.

Young longleaf pines

Our adventure took us almost seven miles south to a guest cabin near the shore of Lake Hatchineha where we stopped for lunch. Carol had packed a few sandwiches for us and we enjoyed them on the veranda of the cabin which normally houses visiting scientists and students.

The Guest Cabin

A big Spider
This big guy watched from a nearby tree while we ate lunch!

Spanish Moss

We passed several scientific monitoring stations during our travels.

University of Central Florida research station
A University of Central Florida research station.

NEON research station
This is a National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) station.

According to the NEON web site it is “measuring the physical and chemical properties of atmosphere-related processes, such as humidity, wind, ozone and reactive nitrogen. They also measure net ecosystem exchange or the amount of gas that is exchanged between the atmosphere and the ecosystem”.

It's quite an achievement; property that was perilously close to becoming another vast tract of urban sprawl is now a centre for ecological research and training. The Disney Wilderness Preserve is a living laboratory for conservation science!

Our return trip took us past some “snag oaks” - dead oak trees.

Snag oaks

Oaks do not normally grow in wetlands, but once this property was drained they flourished in some areas. These dead oaks are a very clear sign that the wetland restoration efforts are a complete success.

Wetlands

Wetlands

The Disney Wilderness Preserve is home to 26 species of plants and 19 animals that are either rare, threatened or endangered. Petra explained the elaborate efforts that were required when they transported red-cockaded woodpeckers from north Florida and Georgia to the site. The species is on the brink of extinction and the Nature Conservancy is working hard to establish a thriving community at the preserve. Read about their efforts HERE.

We saw two red-cockaded woodpeckers off in the distance, too far away to get any pictures. Fortunately, we did get a closer look at another endangered species on our way back to our starting point. Just before our tour ended we spotted a few Florida Scrub Jays. This bird lives only in Florida and nests in scrub brush, usually only 3 to 6 feet above the ground. Extensive development in the central Florida area had reduced the bird's natural habitat to the point where the population was depleted and the species was at significant risk. Since the Disney Wilderness Preserve was established and the wetlands were restored, the scrub oak has returned and the Florida Scrub Jay is making a resurgence.

Florida Scrub Jay

Florida Scrub Jay

Seeing these beautiful birds was a wonderful way to end our day at the Disney Wilderness Preserve!

The Walt Disney Company continues to fund a number of projects and activities at the Disney Wilderness Preserve. They are committed to conservation! As I said in my last blog, it makes me proud to be a Disney fan!

If you are looking for a very different sort of “Disney experience” why not plan a trip to the Disney Wilderness Preserve. While the swamp buggy tour only happens once a year, there are hiking trails and picnic areas you can enjoy anytime.

Trail Guide

Click on the images above and below to see larger versions.

Trail Guide Map

Here's how to get there: From I-4 take Exit 58 onto Osceola-Polk County Line Road, Route 532 Eastbound. Turn left onto South Orange Blossom Trail (Hwy17-92), toward Poinciana/Kissimmee. Turn right on Poinciana Boulevard and continue approximately 13 miles. Turn right onto Pleasant Hill Road. Turn left onto Old Pleasant Hill Road, Drive approximately ½ mile and turn left onto the Preserve's Scrub Jay Trail.

Carol and I hope you take the time to visit the Disney Wilderness Preserve and that you enjoy it as much as we did!

January 18, 2015

From the Tickle Trunk - Disney Clubs

Gary Cruise banner

Are you a member of D23? To the best of my knowledge, it is the only “official” fan club, organized by Disney, in operation today.

But D23 has had several ancestors over the years . . . and those old clubs are what I'll describe briefly in this blog. I'll be using plenty of scanned images from some of the old brochures, newsletters and magazines Carol has safely stashed away in her Tickle Trunk!

Naturally when someone mentions Disney clubs the first thing which comes to mind is the Mickey Mouse Club.

I was one of those kids, way-way-way back in the mid-1950's, who rushed home from school every afternoon to watch Jimmie Dodd and the Mousketeers sing and dance their way through challenges and adventures. But that was not really a club; you could not become a member!

But you could subscribe to the magazine!

Mickey Mouse Club Magazine

There was a real "membership club" in that era, the Magic Kingdom Club, founded in 1957 as a marketing tool for Disneyland.

Magic_Kingdom_Club_Membership_Card

It was almost like a loyalty program, offered to employee groups from large companies in southern California. Unfortunately, it wasn't too beneficial for young children like Carol and I, living an entire nation away, about 2,400 miles north-east of Disneyland!

Magic Kingdom Club Membership Voucher

It was a very novel approach to marketing in the 1950's - employers could offer a no-cost benefit to employees and those lucky employees received membership cards which gave some attractive discounts at Disneyland!

What sort of discounts? There were discounts on Disney park tickets and Disney annual passports, discounted rooms at Disney resorts, discounts on parking, members even received a bag full of goodies like bumper stickers, key chains, decals and sometimes even a few Disney Dollars! Sorry Ralphie . . . no secret decoder!

Magic Kingdom Club Buttons

There were quarterly newsletters (Disney News) which kept members up-to-date on new Disney movies, changes in the park and changes to the club's benefits!

Disney News Fall 1989

Disney News Fall 1992

Disney News Fall 1993

Disney News Summer 1990

As the Disney parks grew, so did the club! It expanded nationally in 1971 when Walt Disney World opened and then went “international” as other parks were established around the world.

Soon there were exciting new benefits, including discounts with "non-Disney" partners such as airlines, cruise lines and car rental companies. There were even special vacation packages for individuals, families and groups.

There was a Gold Card membership which was fee-based. Those who were not employees of one of the member companies could buy a Magic Kingdom Club Gold Card.

Magic Kingdom Club Ad Fall 1989
(click on the picture above to see a clearer image you can read)

It has been reported that the club, at its peak, had over 30,000 member companies and more than six million card-carrying members. Wow!

In early 1986 Disney established the Magic Years Club just for seniors, 50 years of age and over. Click on the picture below to read how the Lakeland Ledger described this new club in their February 24, 1986 edition.

Magic Years News Article

Carol's mother, Sybil, joined Disney's Magic Years Club in 1989 and the newsletters shown below are from her collection (now safely stored in Carol's Tickle Trunk).

Magic Years Membership Form

Magic Years Membership Guide

Magic Years Magazine Spring 1990

Magic Years Magazine Winter 1993

Magic Years Coupon Book

Magic Years Bumper Sticker

Some time before 1993 the minimum age for membership was increased from 50 to 60, but the benefits remained the same.

Magic Years Ad Fall 1993

On October 14, 2000 the Magic Kingdom Club and the Magic Years Club morphed into The Disney Club. Each of the former clubs had been offered free of charge to most members, but the new Disney Club required all members to pay dues.

Disney Magazine Summer 2001

Carol was a card-carrying member of the Magic Kingdom Club in 2000 when the transition took place and she decided that all was not lost; the discounts were still more than enough to offset the annual dues of $39.95!

Membership Card

Here is listing of some Disney Club discounts from 2002. Click the image to see a larger version.

2002 Disney Club brochure pg 14-15

The Disney Club also sent out quarterly magazines!

Disney Club News Issue 11

Disney Club News Issue 14

Disney Club News Issue 15

The magazines and newsletters were packed full of interesting announcements and articles. I will probably write a few future blogs based on some of those old articles!

Click on the image below to read the cover of the November 2001 newsletter. If you like Disney trivia, pay close attention to those Monsters Inc. Fun Facts.

Disney Club News Issue 9

Click on the image below to read a Spring 2003 article about the Pirates of the Caribbean display at the Gallery in Disneyland!

Disney Club News Spring 2003 Article

It came as quite a shock to members when Disney scrapped the relatively new Disney Club in late 2003. For the first time in 46 years there was no club - no way to feel that warm sense of affiliation with Disney.

Everyone kept waiting for a revamped club to rise from the ashes, but alas, there was no Phoenix! The magazines no longer came, the club was gone, and all those swell benefits were gone as well.

At about the same time the always popular “Official Disneyana Convention”, held at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World was cancelled. No one really understood this abrupt change in company policy.

Perhaps the corporation decided to focus their attention on the newly launched Disney Rewards Visa Card which offered similar discounts, but that was little consolation to Carol and I. We didn't qualify for the new cards; they are not offered to Canadians.

So we waited years until a new club appeared . . . D23 was announced in 2009. The name D23 refers to D for Disney and 23 for 1923, the year when Walt Disney arrived in Hollywood and his company was founded.

You are probably wondering, “Is Carol a member of D23?”

Silly question - of course she is! There are so many benefits and discounts, how could she resist?

And unlike the Visa Rewards Card, they let Canadians join!

January 17, 2015

Mid-Month Mousy Mindboggler - January 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.

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 December Mid-Month Mousy Mindboggler Word Search:

http://allears.net/ae/mb121614-key.pdf

There were only *8* responses to the word search puzzle about Disney and the Holidays. I guess everyone was too busy getting ready for the holidays to stop and play a game about the holidays!

The first 10 unused letters in the puzzle were OFJZNLKAIC.

The winner of a Cruella DeVil pin was Lynn T. of North Brunswick, NJ. Congratulations, Lynn, and thanks for playing!

This month we are going to change gears and try another crossword puzzle, and the subject this month is the quotable Walter E. Disney.

Walt Disney was a creative genius and a philosopher on many subjects of interest to the American people. Please note that all of the words in the word bank are used in the puzzle. And, if anyone can figure out the personal significance of the date in the bonus clue, I will give you an extra chance in the drawing.

Here's the link to the new puzzle:

http://allears.net/ae/mb011615.pdf

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 your entries no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on February 13, 2015. 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-February.

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

Thanks for playing!

January 12, 2015

Wyoming Winter Wonderland - Adventures By Disney

Wyoming Winter Wonderland - Adventures By Disney
By Guest Blogger Kay Belin

Many guests might cringe at the thought of actually paying for an adventure in the cold and snow but for me it was a bucket list item that I was thrilled to be able to experience. Wyoming is one of my favorite states and lying in the northwest corner of it is our first national park, Yellowstone. Millions of guests crowd into the boundaries every summer to see the sights making it a great trip but also a congested one.

The Wyoming Winter Wonderland trip was an experience not many will ever have and I am blessed to have enjoyed it with my daughter and grandson. The adventure began in Jackson Hole, Wyoming which is a quaint western town full of history, shops, and outdoor activities. We stayed in the historic, The Wort Hotel, which is located right in the heart of town. We opted to come a day early as winter travel can bring winter delays and we didn’t want to miss out on anything or be stressed.

Our first day on our own included a wonderful private wildlife safari around the Jackson Hole area. It was the perfect thing to do while we waited for our Disney adventure to begin. My eight year old grandson loved spotting the wildlife and our guide shared many new facts. Our tally at the end of the day included seven moose, several dozen Big Horn Sheep, bald eagle, a dozen bison, numerous mule deer, and thousands of elk. Jackson Hole is the home every winter for the elk that come down from the mountains to feed in the valleys. This particular valley has been where the elk have come for as long as settlers can remember. They do not feed the elk unless there are unusual circumstances with the winter conditions and they let nature take its course with the circle of life of its inhabitants. (Now we are all thinking about that great song from the Lion King.)

Wyoming Winter Wonderland - Adventures By Disney

Our first adventure event was a welcome dinner that night. It was fun to meet the other families who were joining us. I had actually met one family two years ago on the Backstage Magic trip so it became a fun reunion of old friends. We enjoyed a buffet meal and entertainment from a singing cowboy. It was a great evening and because this was my seventh Adventure By Disney trip, my daughter’s fourth, and my grandson’s fifth, we knew it was the beginning of a magical journey. (My previous adventures have included South Africa, Italy, Switzerland, Wyoming summer, Backstage Magic, and Peru). Our guides Ralph and Jaime assured us of the fun that was to come our way over the next few days.

Wyoming Winter Wonderland - Adventures By Disney


Day 2 was our first full day and it was spent in the Tetons dog sledding. It was probably the most anticipated event for many in the group so the cold frigid temperatures were not a deterrent. Remember this was winter in Wyoming and we woke up to -25 real temperature and -40 wind chill temperature! Nothing was going to stop us except maybe the dogs who acted like we must be crazy trying to go out in those conditions. Some people rode in the baskets of the sled and others, who were brave, actually drove their own team. “On Dasher, on Comet, on Cupid, on Blitzen” kept running through our minds as we trekked for ten miles uphill to our lunch spot.

Wyoming Winter Wonderland - Adventures By Disney


The lunch stop was at a natural granite hot springs where we were encouraged to change into swimsuits and let our muscles enjoy the warm waters. It was very “cool” to be out in the winter snows swimming in a natural hot springs. However, remember this was a VERY cold day and changing in and out of a swimsuit from our multiple layers of clothes in a small unheated wooden room was a bit torturous. Many laughs and memories were made that day as we talked about this once in a lifetime experience. I can verify now that you should never put a wet body part on anything when it is extremely cold. No-one tried the tongue on the metal railing but we do know that wet hands and wet feet will stick to ice!

Wyoming Winter Wonderland - Adventures By Disney

Lunch was served around a campfire where we were all kept warm with hot cider and cocoa. Then it was back to harnessing the dogs and heading home the ten miles. The canines didn’t need much encouragement this time around as they knew the direction they were taking was toward their warm abodes. It seems we all took a special memory home with us from this great day.

Wyoming Winter Wonderland - Adventures By Disney


Day 3 was the day I had anticipated all my life. It was the day I would enter Yellowstone National Park in the winter. We were on a bus until just south of the entrance where we stopped for a picnic lunch at Flagg Ranch. From this point we were separated into three winter snowcoach vehicles called bombardiers. They had skis instead of tires in the front and special treads in the back as all roads leading into Yellowstone are snow covered. Our drivers were our guides and they stopped and pointed out great sights along the way. We passed frozen rivers, lush snow covered forests, lakes, fire damaged areas, and geyser and hot spring spots. It took about 2 ½ to 3 hours to make the trek from the southern entrance to Old Faithful Snow Lodge.

Wyoming Winter Wonderland - Adventures By Disney

Wyoming Winter Wonderland - Adventures By Disney

Dinner that night was enjoyed in the beautiful dining room of the lodge where we were greeted with hats, leis and horns on our tables. Yes, this was New Year’s Eve and we would be welcoming 2015 from the middle of the greatest National Park in the country. To pass the time after dinner we all enjoyed a campfire outside of the lodge and toasted marshmallows for s’mores. The stories we all shared while watching the clear sky full of stars and hearing Old Faithful erupting in the background made this extremely magical. About half of the group actually stayed up to toast at midnight. I would never let an opportunity go by for something as special as that. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Wyoming Winter Wonderland - Adventures By Disney

Day 4 was an all day adventure on our snowcoach bombardier vehicles. This was the day you didn’t want to leave the camera in the room as the sights we saw were breathtaking. We experienced hot springs and geysers where you could feel the earth shaking when they erupted. We also came upon geyser fields where the steam and the cold air made it appear it was one big hot pot of water. An occasional snowmobiler would pass but it often felt like you were the only ones in the park besides those animals that called it home during the winter.

Wyoming Winter Wonderland - Adventures By Disney


Two of the most exciting viewings of the day included the great Grand Canyon of Yellowstone with the half frozen Yellowstone Falls in the background. It was an amazing sight that we enjoyed as a group, and it was certainly a highlight for many of them. The other included bison who were trudging along the snow covered roads. They came next to the vehicles so we were all blessed with amazing photos of an up close and personal bison picture to return home with. The history we learned and the sights we saw on this day alone made this trip a lifetime experience!

Wyoming Winter Wonderland - Adventures By Disney

We returned to our Old Faithful Snow Lodge in time to see the great Old Faithful Geyser erupt before dark and finished the day off with a farewell dinner in a private dining room. Stories were shared, experiences talked about, and pins handed out to all guests. We all went to our rooms knowing this journey was sadly soon coming to an end.

Wyoming Winter Wonderland - Adventures By Disney

Day 5 was the day we were to return to Jackson Hole or head to the airport for a flight. Jaime and Ralph invited the group to join them on a last hike to see the Castle Geyser. After all, this was a Disney adventure and we couldn’t leave without a view of our castle in Yellowstone. It was cold so the walk was brisk but worth the hike. We didn’t see a single person out and spotted two coyotes who were using the warm thermal ground for their bed that night. Our final view of Old Faithful and the surrounding area at sunrise was worth getting up just a little earlier.

Wyoming Winter Wonderland - Adventures By Disney

Wyoming Winter Wonderland - Adventures By Disney


Back on snow vehicles for the trek out of Yellowstone made us all sad. We had a wonderful group and new friends had been made and hopefully future rendezvous’ would happen at another Adventure By Disney location. Most stayed the post night back at the Wort Hotel since flights left before we reached Jackson Hole. Some of the group shopped, some went to museums, and others such as my small family enjoyed a sleigh ride through the elk refuge.

Wyoming Winter Wonderland - Adventures By Disney


The Winter Wonderland title just doesn’t give this adventure justice. It is magical and amazing and beyond beautiful. I fell in love with this part of the country many years ago while traveling with my parents. To be able to experience it in the elements of winter was a lifetime thrill. The accommodations were clean and comfortable, the food was good, and the guides were great. But if you are looking for luxury then check out some of the other options. This was truly an ADVENTURE and one I highly recommend to anyone who loves the natural beauty and history of our country. And don’t be afraid of the weather if you are a southern family…..we had families from Miami, Birmingham, and Houston. They came prepared, dressed accordingly, and had the time of their lives. We all returned with the gift of our photos to share but nothing compares to the being there in person.

Hmmmm, where will my next adventure be? I do believe I will head to Utah, Arizona, and the Grand Canyon this June with Adventures By Disney. Hope to see some of you there and if not I will be back to give you a report of the experience!

Happy travels to everyone in 2015!


January 4, 2015

Favorite Disney Snacks

Gary Cruise banner

Have you ever picked up a snack at one of the Disney parks, taken a bite and immediately thought, "Wow! This is good! I wish I had discovered this years ago!" That has happened to Carol and I quite a few times over the years and we've "discovered" a few favorites!

There is a vast, and ever-changing selection of food choices at Walt Disney World and we often discover new choices. Here are a few of our current "faves".

Pork Egg Rolls
Animal Kingdom is our favorite spot for egg rolls. We usually arrive at Animal Kingdom early in the morning, enjoy a safari ride and a few other attractions and then head back to Fort Wilderness for the afternoon. The quick service counter at Yak & Yeti is often our last stop before we leave.

Egg Rolls

In our opinion, the pork egg rolls they serve are the best at Walt Disney World. An order of 2 egg rolls costs $4.49 and is just enough for a light lunch.

Carrot Cake Cookie
This dessert delicacy can be found at the Writer's Stop in Hollywood Studios. Many people walk right past the Writer's Stop and don't even notice it as they rush from one attraction to the next. It is just past the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater, on your right as you make the turn from Commissary Lane onto the Streets of America.

The Writers Stop

Once you are inside you might not even notice the cookies in the display case. Don't pass them by though! Wow, are they good!

Carrot Cake Cookie display

On our trip to The World in October 2014 we also saw the Carrot Cake Cookie at Sweet Spells, between Starring Rolls and Villains in Vogue.

It's a tasty cookie sandwich! Two moist cookies with a wonderful carrot cake texture and flavor are held together by a sweet cream cheese icing.

Carrot Cake Cookie

Carrot Cake Cookie

Oh boy! A taste of heaven for $3.99 - or one snack credit on the Disney Dining Plan.

Citrus Swirl
Looking for a tasty alternative to Dole Whips? Tired of those long lines at the Magic Kingdom's Aloha Isle? Head on through Adventureland to the Sunshine Tree Terrace.

Sunshine Tree Terrace

Turn between the Tiki-Tiki-Tiki Room and Aladdin's Flying Carpets and find a tasty frozen treat - have a Citrus Swirl! There is seldom a line and Carol just loves them! The Disney Food Blog describes the Citrus Swirl as: “A bit like a creamsicle, this chilly snack twists vanilla soft-serve with a sweet-tart frozen orange juice.” Carol describes it as: “Yummy, my favourite treat!”

Citrus Swirl

(Sometimes I wonder if it might be the Orange Bird merchandise that attracts Carol to the Sunshine Tree Terrace - she has an impressive collection of Orange Bird trinkets and treasures!)

I like the pineapple float from Aloha Isle, pineapple soft-serve ice cream with real pineapple juice ($4.99).

Aloha Isle

Pineapple Float

I pick up a float while Carol buys her swirl ($3.79). I stir, and stir, and stir as I make my way back to the Sunshine Tree Terrace to meet Carol. By the time I get there it's like a very thick milk shake . . . I sip it through a straw. Nice!
Caution - brain freeze zone!

Citrus and Pineapple

Croissant Doughnut (Cronut)
Try this next time you visit EPCOT. The Refreshment Port, on the right as you head toward the Canada Pavilion, sells them.

The Refreshment Port

Look for the “Croissant Doughnut” on the overhead menu.

Overhead Sign

Imagine a moist croissant texture inside, a slightly crispy doughnut exterior, all dipped in cinnamon-sugar . . . a taste of heaven for $4.69!

Croissant Doughnut

The first time Carol and I tried a cronut we bought one and split it. That's not likely to happen again . . . they are too good to share!

Churros
Have you tried the Churros in Frontierland? A churro is a long thin doughnut or cruller, light and bubbly on the inside, slightly crispy on the outside. They are dipped in cinnamon-sugar and served warm.

Churro

Churro

What's not to like? Look for the wheeled cart along the Rivers of America in Frontierland. This tasty treat will cost you $4.00 or one Disney Dining Plan snack credit.

Be careful around the churro cart! Last February Carol's parents, John and Sybil, were sharing one of these deep-fried treats. They broke it in half and Sybil had taken one small bite when a sea gull swooped down and snatched it out of her hand. The brazen bird landed about thirty feet away and defiantly gulped it down while we watched!

Werther's Caramel Corn
The Werther's Shop in the Karamell-Küche at EPCOT's Germany Pavilion is a dangerous spot!

Karamell-Küche

When it opened in 2010 it was the only free-standing retail location for Werther's in the world and, to the best of my knowledge, it remains the only spot in the world where you can buy fresh, warm Werther's Caramel Corn.

Caramel Corn

The second you walk in the door the aroma grabs your attention! Every day cast members are busy making fresh caramel confections, including caramel apples and popcorn, caramel-drizzled cupcakes, rice krispie treats, cookies, strawberries, and much more. Wow!

Caramel Corn

I'm not sure who it was that first said, “You can't eat just one!” But I'd be willing to bet that they were eating warm Werther's Caramel Corn at the time. Only $3.99 or $5.99 for a bag full of bliss! Buy the large one - you'll be glad you did!

Mickey Sandwich Bar
Everyone loves the classic Mickey Bar, officially named “Mickey's Premium Ice Cream Bar” - a Mickey shaped piece of ice cream dipped in milk chocolate. But have you ever tried a Mickey Sandwich Bar? You will see it on the vendor carts in all the parks, they call it “Mickey's Ice Cream Sandwich”.

Mickey Sandwich

It is very similar to the classic Mickey Bar, but the Mickey shaped ice cream is clad in two soft-textured chocolate wafers.

Mickey Sandwich

Mickey Sandwich

It has a much stronger chocolate flavor; just the thing for a choc-o-holic like Carol! (I'm not a chocolate fan, so I prefer the milder flavor of the dipped version!) Either bar will cost you $4.00 and is sure to refresh you while you wait in the blazing sun for that three o'clock parade!

Mickey Sandwich

Italian Sausage
My final item, sausage-in-a-bun, is not really a snack, it's more of a light lunch . . . if you haven't tried it, you really should! It's worth stopping for!

Min & Bill's Dockside Diner is the place for this simple delicacy! Along the shore of Echo Lake, in Hollywood Studios, is a quick service restaurant disguised as a boat. That's Min & Bills!

Min and Bills

Min and Bills

They prepare your snack as you wait. You can watch as they trim a bit off the end of a fresh, tasty French bread stick then use a special little machine to remove a tube of bread from the center of the baguette.

Min and Bills machine

This hole is stuffed full of sauteed onion and green pepper along with a mild Italian sausage. Dee-lish! The sandwich is served with a teensy-weensy bag of potato chips and costs $9.19. Here's a money saving tip - ask them to “Hold the chips.” and they will knock $2.00 off the price. The sandwich with no side is $7.19. It's a nice option when you're looking for a light lunch.

Sausage on a bun

They also serve a similar sandwich in a Pretzel bun, the center of the bun is removed and stuffed with a frankfurter and Dijon mustard. Sometimes they are a bit generous with the mustard; I recommend that you ask for the mustard “on the side.” The frankfurter is $8.29 (or $6.29 without that ittsy-bittsy bag of chips).

So that's it folks . . . our short list of “favorite snacks”. There are plenty of other choices too, turkey legs, caramel apples, pretzels, popcorn, etc., etc.

What is your favorite Disney snack?

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