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April 2012 Archives

April 3, 2012

Disney World creates themed Easter baskets and lets guests customize their own

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Beginning this week, the Easter Bunny's helpers hop into high gear at Walt Disney World resorts, preparing for the holiday on Sunday.

Guests at each hotel will be able to purchase pre-made Easter baskets -- or they can customize their own. The pre-made baskets are themed to pirates, princesses and Mickey Mouse, and they are priced to match customers' expectations at each resort. For example, Easter baskets at the Grand Floridian, a deluxe resort, usually are created with more extravagant items than, say, Port Orleans.

For Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, where I spotted the baskets, the price range for pre-made products was $40 to $50 each. For that price, here's what the child receives:

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Pirate basket: pirate sword, spyglass, pirate hook, eye patch and earring, chocolate coins, Mickey and Pals gummies, Easter rice krispy treat, pirate gun with light and sound.

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Princess basket: coloring book, neon hair clips, princess cup with straw, princess Sweet Tart candy, princess lollipops, two sets of princess silly bands.
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Mickey Mouse basket: Mickey Easter egg plush, coloring book, Mickey and friends Pez candy, Mickey giant gummy, Mickey sugar cookie.

To get the ball rolling, a guest visits the hotel gift shop and either orders a pre-made basket or selects items in the store for a customized basket. Pricing for customized baskets begins with $7 plus tax, which covers the basket, grass, bow, shrink wrap and labor. All baskets are white and all grass is green. However, guests can choose the bow color -- pink, yellow, blue, purple. Then, it's up to the guest to determine the price, which is simply the additional total of the items purchased to go in the basket.

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Walt Disney World sells these rice krispy treats for Easter.

Some of the most popular items to include are plush -- Easter egg Minnie or Easter egg Mickey or Thumper -- and candy, of course. In addition to the wide selection of Disney candy and holiday-themed rice krispy treats already for sale, basket makers will also have traditional Easter candy, such as Peeps, Cadbury eggs and hollow chocolate bunnies.

So what are some of the more creative baskets they've seen over the years? A water-themed basket that featured goggles, beach toys and a swimsuit for the pool-loving child and a basket with a Disney Dooney & Bourke bag as its centerpiece for one lucky wife.

Disney cast members will be taking orders and creating baskets all week -- right up until Easter morning. In fact, the gift shop stays open until 11 p.m. on Saturday and reopens at 6:30 a.m. on Easter Sunday morning at Caribbean Beach.

"Saturday night is when panic hits and we do most baskets. We do a few on Easter morning, too" said Summer Figueroa, retail guest service manager at the Caribbean Beach resort.

Gift shops at the hotels will store the baskets, if guests prefer, because it's difficult to hide them in rooms ahead of time from curious little ones. At the Grand Floridian and Animal Kingdom Lodge, cast members will even deliver the baskets to the rooms.

April 5, 2012

Tips to keep kids happy while waiting in line at Disney World

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The weeks before and after Easter are some of the busiest at Walt Disney World, which means that even with using FASTPass, you are going to be spending time in lines for attractions, as well as restaurants, transportation, stores and bathrooms on your vacation. That's hard enough for adults, but for kids, it can be seemingly impossible.

Cast members recognize this. The queues at Disney World have always cleverly helped tell the story of an attraction. Recently, Imagineers have begun to ramp up the effort to make lines more interactive as well.

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The centerpiece tree from the adjacent playground and other interactive elements spruced up the queue for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
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After a lengthy refurbishment, Space Mountain reopened at the end of 2009 with big-screen video games along the stand-by queue. When Pooh's Thoughtful Spot closed in April 2010, the huge tree was moved in front of The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh. The ride's queue now wraps around the tree and little guests can explore the garden-themed play area. In March 2011, a new queue for the Haunted Mansion opened, allowing guests to peruse the graveyard more fully while waiting to go inside.

Storybook Circus, the first area of the Fantasyland expansion project to soft-open, is expected to have an indoor interactive queue for Dumbo The Flying Elephant when that section of Magic Kingdom is complete.

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Haunted Mansion fans were delighted with the optional graveyard tour in the queue.
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But, even with Disney's improvements, it's tough to keep little kids from melting down in long lines. Here are a few things you can do to help keep them entertained:

** Tuck a new coloring book and crayons or word-search book and pen in your bag for surprises. The $1 bins at Target and Michael's often have these items themed with various Disney characters. Perfect to stash away until your trip!

** Bring snacks and bottles for water. Disney World allows guests to bring in their own food and drinks, except alcohol or glass containers, and there are water fountains throughout the parks. In addition, guests can request cups of ice or ice water at no charge from counter-service food locations. Having a snack in line not only saves time later, but it also gives everyone an energy boost.

** Pull out your family's copy of Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Walt Disney World's Best Kept Secrets and see how many classic Mickey icons you can spot in the queue. You can report any new finds to author Steven Barrett at http://www.hiddenmickeyguy.com/. Read his blogs on AllEars.net at http://land.allears.net/blogs/stevebarrett/

** Electronics, such as a Nintendo DS, iPod Touch, smart phone or other handheld gaming device, are worth their weight in gold. I resisted bringing electronics when my kids were little, because I mistakenly thought screen time had no place at The Most Magical Place on Earth. I have since decided they are perfect for long lines -- and maintaining my sanity. Be sure to pack the cord, too, because if the battery dies you can drop the device off at Guest Relations to charge for free.

** If you have a point-and-shoot or disposable camera, hand it to your child and see what he or she photographs. You might be surprised by the perspective of a child.

** Check out the theme-park map and plot your next few stops. This is more important than ever with the FASTPass times now being enforced. For more than a decade, the end time was ignored, meaning guests could come back any time after the window opened. (Read more about the reason behind the change in my post http://land.allears.net/blogs/guestblog/2012/02/disney_world_to_enforce_return.html)

** If all else fails, make friends with the families in line with you.

April 7, 2012

DisneyQuest is more than video gaming for kids

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DisneyQuest, Walt's Disney World's five-story gaming attraction at Downtown Disney, is all about the video games, right? Yes, but that's not all there is to do.

The entire second floor is set up for kids -- and adults -- to explore their creativity by making art, music and roller coasters. At the Animation Academy, guests sit at shiny red desks with embedded computers and learn how to draw Mickey Mouse and his friends from trained Disney artists. The instructor leads the aspiring artists through the process, step by step. Then, finished drawings are displayed in a slide show at the end of the class, and individuals can choose to purchase their drawings on paper. The Artist's Kit also includes a sheet with animation instructions so you can recreate your drawing at home, and you can add a collectible pin, too.

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Each class at Animation Academy lasts 25 minutes, and a schedule of the featured characters and times is posted nearby daily. We found this attraction to be a welcome break from all the lights and sounds of the video games, and most kids love to draw and color. Plus, it's an unusual opportunity for guests at Walt Disney World. Only the Animation Courtyard at Disney's Hollywood Studios offers a similar experience.

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In the center of the second floor is another drawing opportunity. A circle of Living Easels allows guests to create -- and recreate -- images to their hearts' content. This mostly involves pushing buttons to make the art come to life. A few years ago, we found the concept engaging. Now, with the popularity of touch-screen technology available on iPads, IPod Touches and iPhones, it doesn't seem as complex as some of the apps kids use on a daily basis. Still, it can be a fun diversion while waiting for an animation class. When your Living Easel work is complete, you also can choose to purchase a paper copy.

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In the Radio Disney SongMaker booths, guests create custom CDs. The process begins with the guest choosing to be a male or female singer. Next, it's time to select the type of music from a large collection, including rock, pop, country, salsa and reggae. Then, pick your title and piece together your lyrics from funny and traditional sets of phrases. Finally, listen to your song and choose a CD cover. If you love your song, it is, of course, available to purchase. These booths always seem to be popular and provide lots of silly fun.

Remember the boy in "Toy Story" who dismantled toys and created bizarre, sad new ones? Well, you can be him at Sid's Create-A-Toy. Build your toy on the screen from a selection of parts and then take it home afterward (for a price).

Finally, there is the always-popular CyberSpace Mountain, where passengers design a roller coaster and then ride it. Artists can make this as tame or as wild as they choose, even including multiple loops. My 7-year-old daughter loves this simulator, but we ride it sparingly with her because her coasters are always back-to-back loops. There is a 51-inch height requirement to ride, but anyone can design a coaster. A DVD is available for purchase after your ride.

CyberSpace Mountain is similar to Sum of All Thrills, simulators located in Innoventions East at Epcot. Sum of All Thrills seems to offer a smoother ride, though, because it has more precise automation with passengers sitting in chairs connected to moving arms. On CyberSpace Mountain, riders sit in an enclosed capsule that rolls and leans, increasing the nausea factor, in our experience.

DisneyQuest is open 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. One-day admission is $37 plus tax for children ages 3 to 9 and $43 for ages 10 and older. Annual passes are $71 plus tax for children ages 3 to 9 and $89 for adults. The Disney Quest & Water Parks Annual Passport is $105.44 for children ages 3 to 9 and $137.39 for adults.

Children younger than 10 must be accompanied by an adult, and strollers are not permitted in the building.

For more details, be sure to check out the AllEars.net resource page http://allears.net/btp/dqfaq.htm


April 8, 2012

The Walt Disney Family Museum

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"If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair".
Scott McKenzie - 1967

That popular song by Scott McKenzie drew flower children from across North America and around the world to San Francisco in 1967. It was the Summer of Love. Not many people sport flowers in their hair any more but much of that feeling of peace and love remains in the city to this day.

Carol and I enjoyed our first trip to San Francisco in April 2011. It's an amazing city and we will be returning! We were aboard the Disney Wonder as it repositioned from Los Angeles to Vancouver to begin the summer series of Alaska cruises. We had a two-day stay in San Francisco and we did our best to cram in as many of the sights as we could. We saw Haight-Ashbury, the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf and Lombard Street. We rode a cable car and had a burger at In-N-Out . . . but the highlight of our time in San Francisco was the Walt Disney Family Museum.

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For Disney fans it's a must-see. Add it to your "bucket list" right now!

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Friends who had previously visited the museum told us what a wonderful place it was, but we were really unprepared for what awaited us. Wow . . . what a wonderful tribute to the life of an amazing man.

We all know Walt's story, a man who rose from humble beginnings and founded one of the world's largest entertainment conglomerates. It is a true "rags to riches" story, one of many such stories in the modern world. The thing which sets Walt Disney's story apart from all those other success stories is the way in which he did it. Walt was not driven by money and the pursuit of riches like many of his successful counterparts. He was a true family man and he was determined to deliver high quality entertainment for all members of the family. Walt once said, "A man should never neglect his family for business." and he certainly lived his life that way! That's what made Walt Disney so special and so dear to all of us who enjoy the legacy he left.

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The Walt Disney Family Museum opened in a former barracks building in San Francisco's Presidio on October 1, 2009. It's almost in the shadow of the famous Golden Gate Bridge. Walt's daughter Diane was actively involved in the design, development and construction of the museum and has remained active in it's operation. Once you visit the facility and see the tributes to Walt you will see how clearly the love of this man for his family shines through in the exhibits. Of course, their love for him is equally apparent.

When you visit the museum, remember that strollers are not allowed in the galleries; there is limited parking for strollers on the veranda. Photography and videography are not allowed in the galleries and I thank the Walt Disney Family Museum for allowing me to use pictures from their web site in this blog.

The museum has eleven main areas, the entry foyer followed by ten galleries, each one depicting a different facet of Walt's life. Carol always teases me that I cannot walk past a button, dial or switch without pushing, turning or flipping it, and she's correct; I'm a gadget guy. There are plenty of buttons dials and switches to play with in the museum; it's full of interactive displays, videos, models and film clips in addition to the static displays. Be prepared to spend at least a full day exploring the exhibits. Our two hours there was not nearly enough time. We will be returning and we will probably set aside two days to poke around the exhibits. I hardly had time to push any of the buttons!

Here's what you will find in the exhibit areas:

The Entry Foyer

This area is devoted to awards and you will see some of Walt's 26 Academy Awards here. He had 22 wins plus 4 honorary awards, a record which may never be beaten. His 59 nominations are also a record. Some friends warned us that most people who visit stop to admire the Oscars on display and as a result this area is often congested. They suggested that we scoot past the Oscars and start our exploration in Gallery 1. So that's what we did, we peeked at the many awards and continued on to the Galleries.

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Gallery 1 - Beginnings

This gallery is dedicated to Walt's youth, his wartime service and his early business ventures.

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Gallery 2 - Hollywood

Walt's arrival in Hollywood in 1923 is the starting point for this gallery which shows how he developed his early cartoons, the Alice Comedies, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and culminates with the birth of Mickey Mouse in 1928's Steamboat Willie.

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Gallery 3 - New Horizons in the 1930's

With the success of Mickey Mouse Walt began to experiment and soon the Silly Symphonies, led by the innovative The Skeleton Dance, were a big hit. The '30s was a decade of creativity and growth for Walt and his studio.

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Gallery 4 - The Move to Features - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

The entire gallery is dedicated to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, at the time often referred to as "Walt's Folly". A full length animated feature had never been done before. Cartoons were just "fillers" played between the features. Walt liked to do the impossible so he risked everything he had on Snow White. It was a huge hit and catapulted the studio to new heights.

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Gallery 5 - We Were In a New Business

After the success of Snow White the entire business focus changed from shorts to features. Successes such as Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Bambi followed in short order and a new studio was built in Burbank.

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Gallery 6 - The Toughest Period in My Whole Life

The 1940s were difficult for Walt and the studio. The first set back was a bitter three-month-long strike by the artists and then the country entered the Second World War. The studio shifted production to a variety of films to support the war effort and emerged from the war years as strong as ever.

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Gallery 7 - Postwar Production

After the war Walt was determined to diversify and soon the studio was producing live-action films as well as animated features. Walt had realized his dream and was now a producer of live-action movies.

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Gallery 8 - Walt and The Natural World

The True-Life Adventures series of nature documentaries began in 1949 with Seal Island. There were 10 short subjects and seven features in the series and they accounted for nine of Walt's 22 Academy Awards.

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Gallery 9 - The 1950's and 1960's - The Big Screen and Beyond

This gallery focuses on Walt's success in television with the Mickey Mouse Club and the hugely popular "Wonderful World of Color" and flows into the development of the Disneyland theme park.

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Gallery 10 - December 15, 1966

The final gallery focuses on Walt's death on December 15, 1966 while celebrating his life by displaying the many tributes which flowed in from around the world following his death.

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My wife Carol and I both found our visit to the museum to be a very moving and emotional experience. As we walked down a glass-walled ramp between galleries we came to a wooden park bench. A plaque on the wall recounted Walt's experience sitting on a park bench watching his daughters play. He dreamed of a place where children and parents could play together. That germ of an idea grew into Disneyland and later into all the wonderful Disney theme parks around the world. We stopped for a few minutes and I sat on that bench. What a poignant moment that was!

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When we got to the final room, Gallery 10, we both got misty and we had to rush through before we broke down completely and turned into blubbering fools. It really was that stirring for each of us.

All too soon it was time to go so we had a quick bite to eat in the snack bar and then finished our visit in the gift shop. We picked up a few souvenirs and naturally Carol had to have a few Walt Disney Family Museum pins for her collection!

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We didn't have time to visit the facilities in the museum where regular movie screenings, educational classes and activities are held. Alas, we just didn't have time to see it all.

So take a minute now and add the Walt Disney Family Museum to your bucket list. It's a wonderful tribute to an amazing man and his enduring legacy. No Disney fan should miss it!

Visit their website for more information.
http://disney.go.com/disneyatoz/familymuseum

April 10, 2012

Easter activities at Disney World a sweet treat for kids

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Toddlers are invited to pose with oversized Easter eggs on the lawns at Epcot's U.K. pavilion.

This year, my children and I visited Epcot on Easter Sunday for the first time. Of course, we couldn't wait to check out the special holiday events, most of which were held outside the United Kingdom pavilion.

The setting was beautiful with the traditional green English gardens and mazes formed by hedges that were dotted with the colors from the variety of Easter eggs and spring flowers. In this area, kids could participate in three events -- egg hunts, egg relay races and meeting Mr. and Mrs. Rabbit.

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This cast member was immersed in the Easter spirit Sunday as she coordinated activity reservations.

The maestro for all the Easter activities was a very patient cast member stationed in a life-size ribboned basket. It was her job to hand out reservation slips for the various events, which were limited to a certain number of children per session to avoid overcrowding.

Our group started with the Easter egg hunt for children younger than 3. Our friends were welcomed into a small area with a low wrought-iron fence and invited to choose five eggs to place in the Easter-themed bags they were given. In addition, they could pose with some Easter eggs that were almost as big as the kids. Very cute photos! No reservation was needed for this area.

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The Maze Garden behind Epcot's U.K. pavilion added a fun twist to the annual Easter egg hunt.

Next, we lined up with our time slips for the egg hunt for ages 3 to 9. This search was located in the Maze Garden every 10 minutes. Cast members were efficiently hiding eggs on one side while kids were participating on the other. Eggs were placed in bushes and on walkways, and guests were again instructed to find five for their bags, and a cast member checked each bag at the exit. Of course, as most of the kids spilled out of the mazes, they eagerly opened the plastic eggs, which contained trinkets, stickers and candy.

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Older kids were invited to participate in an Easter egg relay.

The Easter egg relay races for ages 8 to 12 were offered once each hour. Kids were first divided into two teams of 6 or 7 by two nature-themed characters from the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. I see this couple working together each year during the festival, and though their stage names change, their shtick doesn't. It's catchy and the kids can relate to their banter. The pair emceed the race, which involved each child balancing an egg on a large metal spoon while they speed-walked -- or ran -- a lap on the brick path that borders the gardens.

At the end, all the relay participants received goody bags with treat-filled plastic eggs. This, time, however, each bag had one special egg that contained a great prize, such as a Disney trading pin or a FASTpass for one of the big rides that was good during any time Sunday -- or the rest of the week.

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Mr. Rabbit greeted guests while the Mrs. took a break.

Finally, we stood in the long line to meet Mr. and Mrs. Rabbit. It took us about 30 minutes to approach the popular couple, who were dressed in their Easter finery. Both appeared refreshed, despite all their early-morning deliveries.

The Easter events at the U.K. pavilion began at 11 a.m., and it was somewhat busy. By the time we had finished all the activities, though, the crowds had dwindled and there still were hours left to go for guests who wanted to join the fun.

Epcot also hosted a second Easter egg hunt location for ages 3 to 9 at the Innoventions "East-er" Garden (between Innoventions and Universe of Energy). The advantage there was that it opened earlier at 10 a.m., but it did seem more crowded than the U.K. location.

For my family, the walk back to the World Showcase was certainly worth it -- beautiful photos and so many activities in one place. We certainly would recommend it to any families looking for a little seasonal fun during their visits to Epcot.

April 12, 2012

Disney's dolphin presentations showcase cognitive research at Epcot

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An Epcot cast member helps prepare the shape cards for dolphin training.

My almost-8-year-old daughter loves dolphins these days, something that's not uncommon for little girls, it seems. And, certainly, last year's Dolphin Tale movie inspired kids to to find out more about the mammals and other marine life.

Moved by my daughter's new passion, I began looking into what types of interactions and experiences with dolphins Walt Disney World offers its guests.

At Epcot, four dolphins -- Malabar, Rainier, Khyber and Calvin -- live in the aquarium at The Seas with Nemo & Friends. Visitors can watch them glide by and play from both the lower-level windows and the upper-deck viewing areas. And when the dolphins need a break, they can swim through a gate to pools "back stage" that guests cannot see.

Three times a day, trainers educate interested visitors about dolphin behavior with 15-minute presentations with the animals in the Observation Deck on the second floor. (A daily schedule is posted near the second-floor walkway to the dolphin tanks.)

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A Disney dolphin looks at the shape card he is supposed to match.

"It's interesting to see how surprised guests are at how smart dolphins appear to be," said Kim, a long-time dolphin trainer at Disney World.

She said trainers try to show guests something different every day, but one of their current projects involves cognitive research to study how dolphins perceive surface area. For example, can a dolphin learn to recognize a triangle it has just seen because of its shape, size, or both? Kim said it can take a dolphin up to a year to learn to discriminate between shapes, something they hope translates to a useful skill in the dolphin's environment.

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A dolphin tries to match a shape card he's seen by pointing to a bird outline.

During the presentation, one trainer will hold a shape card to the tank's glass and a dolphin will swim over to take a look. Then, the dolphin receives a signal to move to the next window and choose between two shapes to find a match. If he succeeds, he gets whistle and hand signals from the trainer and applause from the audience before heading to the surface for a food reward from another trainer. Guests usually find it amusing when the dolphin blows bubbles, pleased with himself for choosing the correct answer.

Disney's focus on dolphins is a scientific one, Kim said, rather than an entertaining one.

Disney World does have one up-close dolphin interaction called Disney's Dolphins in Depth. During this three-hour, behind-the-scenes program, participants learn how Disney cares for the dolphins each day, how researchers study and train them backstage and what issues are affecting marine life worldwide. During the last 30 minutes, guests stand in waist-deep water and interact with the dolphins. There is no swimming involved, and the group is limited to 8 people per day.

Participants must be at least 13 years old, and those 17 and younger must be accompanied by a parent. The cost is $194 plus tax per person; theme park admission is not required or included in this experience. Disney's Dolphins in Depth takes place at 9:45 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

To read more about The Seas with Nemo & Friends, see the AllEars resource page at http://allears.net/tp/ep/e_seas.htm

April 14, 2012

Disney World's Fort Wilderness Campground is for horse lovers

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Perhaps one of the best-kept secrets at Walt Disney World is Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. This is especially true for horse lovers. My family has stayed at the campground several times and enjoyed many of the outdoors activities, but there are some great equestrian experiences that you can take advantage of without staying there.

Younger children can enjoy a short pony ride at the Tri-Circle-D Farm for $5. No reservations are necessary; just show up between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., and you can participate. (Hours are subject to seasonal changes.) This is a great before-dinner activity if you've booked a meal at the campground -- the ranch is located close to the restaurants, kids don't really get dirty, and it's not time-consuming.

A cast member will lead a pony to a small platform, where the child waits. Then, the animal stands patiently as a parent helps the child climb into the saddle. After guests take photos, it's time to go. Parents are asked to lead the ponies on a short, self-guided trail around the stables.

To participate, kids cannot weigh more than 80 pounds or be taller than 48 inches. My daughter is too tall for this activity now, but when she did ride, she was thrilled to be paired with a white pony "like Hannah Montana's."

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The Tri-Circle-D Farm also is home to the Percheron and Belgian draft horses that pull the trolleys down Main Street U.S.A. at the Magic Kingdom. Plus, there is a blacksmith shop on the premises and "Smithy," who maintains the horseshoe needs of the Fort Wilderness trail-ride horses and streetcar teams. Guests are invited to walk through the working barn and talk with cast members who may be caring for the horses and ponies.

Guided trail rides

Older riders can join a 45-minute guided trail ride, which leaves from the Trail Blaze Corral near the parking lot at the front of the campground. This is a pretty tame experience, with horses trained to stay single file, for the most part. Riders must be at least 48 inches tall and 9 years old and can weigh no more than 250 pounds. The price is $46 per person and current times are 8:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance by calling 407-939-7529.

Horse-drawn carriages

Horse-drawn carriage rides depart from Crockett's Tavern near Pioneer Hall each night from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Each carriage holds four adults or two adults and three small children for the 25-minute rides throughout the property. Cost is $45 for the carriage, which can be reserved up to 180 days in advance at 407-WDW-PLAY.

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For Halloween and Christmas, there are holiday-themed carriage rides. Last year, we tried the Haunted Carriage Ride for the first time. It was scary enough to give my kids at ages 7 and 9 a thrill, but not intense enough to spook them.

The driver started the telling of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" before a recorded narrator picked up the tale, as the carriages traveled through the trees and along the shore of Bay Lake, stopping at key places mentioned in the story. For my children, there was only nervous anticipation leading up to the appearance of the headless horseman. However, the woods can be dark, depending on what time your ride occurs, and that can certainly affect small children.

The horse-drawn carriages are magically converted to sleighs for holiday rides through the grounds of the Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness Campground. Listen to Christmas music, see the holiday lights and get cozy under a blanket -- if it's cold enough in Florida -- during your ride.

Seasonal carriage rides have an increased price of $60 per carriage, and ride hours are usually a little different. Reservations can be made 90 days in advance.

Fort Wilderness also offers two nightly group wagon rides, which are $8 per adult and $5 for children ages 3 to 9. The rides usually depart at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. from Pioneer Hall and no reservations are needed. Groups of 30 can rent their own wagon ride for $300 an hour.

To read more about the carriage rides, see the AllEars.net page http://allears.net/btp/carriage.htm#fw3 For details about Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, check out this AllEars.net page http://allears.net/acc/faq_fw.htm

April 16, 2012

Disney Dollars - A Pocketful Of Pixie Dust

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Imagine you are at the Happiest Place on Earth with a pocketful of cash!

What could be better? How about being at the Happiest Place on Earth and that pocketful of cash has pictures of your favorite Disney characters!

You have a pocketful of Disney Dollars. How cool is that? It's almost like a pocketful of Pixie Dust!

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Carol likes to keep Disney Dollars on hand to use for special gifts . . . when friends or family are heading on a Disney vacation their birthday or anniversary gift from us will often include a small envelope stuffed with a few Disney Dollars. Occasionally when Carol settles up with a friend who has picked up a pin or Vinylmation for her they will find a few Disney Dollars in their little pay packet! Everyone is always delighted with a gift of Disney Dollars.

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Where can I buy Disney Dollars?
According to the official Disney web site Disney Dollars can be purchased at Guest Relations at all theme parks and water parks, Resort/hotel front desks and Resort/hotel concierge areas. We have sometimes been unable to find them at the resorts so we normally pick them up at Guest Relations.

Where can I spend Disney Dollars?
Disney Dollars are accepted at Ticketing locations, Food & Beverage venues, Merchandise locations, Recreation areas, Resort/hotel concierge desks, Resort/hotel front desks and Guest Relations at all theme parks and water parks.

Disney Dollars were first released to the public on May 5, 1987. The bills came in $1 and $5 denominations from 1987 to 1989 but in 1990 they added the $10 bill to the list. Naturally they are collected by Disney memorabilia fans. Of course Carol is an avid Disney collector so she has set aside a variety of these highly desirable items in her permanent collection. You can take a closer look at her collection here: http://www.carol-anne.ca/Disney Dollars.htm

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Over the years some of the series have featured specific themes such as park anniversaries or pirates and princesses. The Disney artists who design the notes never miss a trick as they strive for the "cuteness factor".

Disney Dollars are printed on high quality bank note paper and incorporate anti-counterfeiting features such as microprinting, and hard to scan/copy reflective ink and imprinting on the front and back of the bill. In addition the bills are printed with serial numbers and letters which are unique to each bill. Disney Dollars created for Disneyland in Anaheim bear a serial number beginning with A and those created for Walt Disney World in Florida and The Disney Stores begin with D and T respectively.

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In 2005 only, Disneyland (A) and Walt Disney World (D) released $50 bills that were designed by Disney artist Charles Boyer for Disneyland's 50th Anniversary Celebration. Mr. Boyer personally signed a number of these bills and a signed copy is a very valuable collectible!

New Disney dollars have been produced every year since 1987 except 1992, 2004, 2006 and 2010. In 2011 the only bill produced was the $1 denomination and there has been no announcement yet whether a new 2012 version will be made.

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Disney Dollars have even been portrayed in cloisonné pin form for Disney Pin Collectors . . . and yes, Carol has a full set of these too!

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Many folks are afraid that Disney Dollars, a truly unique form of currency/collectible, will be permanently replaced by dull plastic gift cards. Ugh! Where's the fun in that?

So if you want to liven up your gifts with a little Disney magic you might want to stock up on Disney Dollars during your next trip. I hope I'm wrong but I suspect that they may not be available too much longer!

Have you found a fun and creative way to use Disney Dollars? We'd all like to hear about it . . . so post a comment below and share your idea!

April 17, 2012

Disney Kids and Nature Celebration unites Disney Channel stars, Earth-friendly ideas

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Disney Channel actors Laura Marano, Ross Lynch, Debby Ryan, Bella Thorne and Zendaya interacted with youth leaders at Disney's Friends for Change Youth Summit during the Disney Kids and Nature Celebration at Walt Disney World.

The Walt Disney Co. began celebrating Earth Day at Walt Disney World with a weekend that featured its new star chimpanzees, Disney Channel actors and kids who want to help save the planet.

The Disney Kids and Nature Celebration kicked off April 13 with the world premiere of DisneyNature's Chimpanzee movie, which will be in theaters April 20. It tells the story of Oscar, a young chimp, and his adventures in the forest with his family. Tim Allen narrates the film.

"My favorite scene is everyone's favorite -- when the chimp gets on the other one's back. To know that no matter what happens to you, someone is always going to be there for you. For me, that was beautiful and made me tear up," said Bella Thorne, who plays Cece on Disney Channel's Shake It Up.

Her co-star Zendaya, who plays Rocky, wasn't as sentimental. She said, "I just loved the funny moments. I think I am kind of a comedienne just because I'm on a comedy show, and I love that kind of stuff."

Dr. Jane Goodall attended the red-carpet premiere at Downtown Disney, and a portion of tickets sales during the first week will be donated to her Institute to protect chimpanzees. The renowned researcher spoke about her work and the importance of helping the planet.

Ernie D, the lead on-air DJ for Radio Disney, said, "When I talked to Dr. Jane Goodall on the red carpet, she basically said, 'If every country lived like the United States of America, we would need six Earths to sustain that for only 10 years.' That was mind-blowing to me."

(See Jack Spence's blog, which includes photos and videos from the premiere, at http://land.allears.net/blogs/jackspence/2012/04/chimpanzee_disneynature_world.html The McClain Sisters, including China Ann from Disney Channel's A.N.T. Farm, performed the movie's anthem, "Rise.")

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Mickey Mouse, with Laura Marano and Ross Lynch from Disney Channel's "Austin & Ally," presented each Planet Challenge award.

The Disney Kids and Nature Celebration continued April 14 with a day dedicated to celebrating the winners of Disney Channel's Planet Challenge and youth leaders who are already helping the environment in their communities. An awards ceremony at Epcot's American Gardens Theatre honored Brickett Elementary's fifth-grade class from Lynn, Massachusetts for their project "Think Before You Idle" and Christa McAuliffe School - PS 28's seventh-grade class from Jersey City, New Jersey, for their "Project Reservoir."

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Students from Brickett Elementary and Christa McAuliffe School - PS 28's pose with Laura Marano; Meg Crofton, Walt Disney World president; Jay Rasulo; and Ross Lynch.

Then, the group moved to World Showplace, an indoor venue at Epcot, to hear Craig Kielburger speak about how kids really can make a difference. He founded Free the Children, an organization dedicated to halting global child labor, when he was 12 years old. Kielburger explained how his requests for help were turned down repeatedly, but he continued his dogged pursuit of what he knew he needed to do. Today, Free the Children is one of the leading youth-driven charities that benefit children.

Kielburger emphasized that every individual has a gift that can be used to make the world a better place. I asked Debby Ryan, who plays the title role on Disney Channel's Jessie, how she thinks she can make a difference in the world.

"Craig has been a role model of mine for a while, and he is so passionate," Ryan said. "He has this phrase, which is 'shamelessly idealistic.' I am that way. I am so realistic and I know what the world is, but I also am idealistic in that I think that we can change some things. I picture the world the way I would like to see it and then I think we can backtrack and see the steps that you require to actually make those changes."

Jay Rasulo, senior executive vice president and chief financial officer of The Walt Disney Co., encouraged the 100 youth participants to be leaders and to not be afraid to fail. "I was most sure what I was doing was right when I was passionate about it and people told me it was a bad idea -- but I didn't think it was," he said.

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The Disney Channel stars take the stage with Radio Disney personality Ernie D. at the Friends For Change Youth Summit.

After a break for lunch with music and games from Ernie D and the Radio Disney Road Crew, the kids got to work making some concrete plans to help their communities. They were divided into groups, each led by a Disney Channel star, to create Disney 365 spots, which are promotional messages that air on the network. These messages of planet stewardship, however, were intended to inspire the kids' local communities to get involved.

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Debby Ryan works with a group of students at the Friends For Change Youth Summit to plan a community initiative to help the planet.

"I think that we are aware, but we are not willing to take action. Awareness is the first step, but some kids, and adults, too, feel too small and that they can't help," said Laura Marano, who plays Ally on Disney Channel's Austin & Ally. "Today, at the Disney's Friends For Change Youth Summit, you see 100 kids from around the world doing things and you realize you're never too small to help. You're never too small to pick up trash or conserve water or join different organizations. Let's not just be the generation that's aware but the generation that changed it."

Marano's co-star Ross Lynch, who plays Austin, chimed in: "We're destroying the planet, and we all need to get outside and experience it. I love to be outside, and I love to play sports. Half of the beauty of sports is the nature around you. What if that's not there? I feel like we're kind of being selfish because we're all using it for ourselves when we have to look at other generations to come."

Disney Channel is expected to soon announce a new initiative tied to its Friends For Change campaign. "I feel like the next phase of Friends For Change, which I'm so excited to get started on, is so much bigger," said Ryan. She said it's likely to replace the Friends For Change Games, which succeeded the Disney Channel Games that were taped at Walt Disney World in 2007 and 2008.

"I feel like I've been blessed to have fans and to have people that I'm able to reach out to," said Zendaya. "But everybody has a voice. If you can use that to speak up for something positive, then that's when we start making a change."


April 19, 2012

Disney to unleash Epic Mickey sequels on new gaming platforms

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The powers of Oswald The Lucky Rabbit and Mickey Mouse work together in Epic Mickey 2.

Disney has announced two sequels to its popular Epic Mickey video game for Wii -- Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two for Play Station 3, Xbox 360 and Wii platforms, and Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion for Nintendo 3DS systems.

Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two brings Oswald the Lucky Rabbit into the game with Mickey, and legendary game designer Warren Spector and developer Junction Point Studios are introducing several new features, in addition to the expanded platforms.

Players will hear one of Walt Disney's first cartoon characters, Oswald, speak for the first time ever (voiced by Frank Welker). Oswald's electricity will combine with Mickey Mouse's magical paint brush to unlock new interactions; this suggests a new dual play format. In addition, the game aims to be the first to have characters singing at certain key moments. (Emmy award-winning composer James Dooley and lyricist Mike Himelstein were brought onboard to introduce the musical elements.)

Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two is again set in the world of forgotten Disney characters and theme park attractions called Cartoon Wasteland. In the original game, Mickey accidentally damages the world and is forced to try to fix it while fighting villains with his paintbrush.

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Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion for Nintendo 3DS features dual screen mode, using both 2D (as seen in this shot) and 3D.

In Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion for the 3DS, the innovations have gamers even more excited. Players will be immersed in a side-scrolling game with interactive painting, a dual-screen mode and sharp graphics in 3D mode.

The "power of illusion" is described this way in the press release: "The game offers a special drawing and painting function that allows players to create rough versions of objects that magically transform into classic Disney-style 2D illustrations. Utilizing the game's unparalleled dual screen integration, players then move their creations to the top screen where they are further transformed into full-color, fully-rendered 3D visuals."

Created by developer DreamRift and Junction Point Studios, Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion again is set in Wasteland, but this time, the game pays homage to the classic Sega Genesis title "Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse." The evil witch Mizrabel from that game finds herself an unwilling inhabitant of Wasteland, and unleashes a plot to escape using the Castle of Illusion to imprison and drain the cartoon essence from currently famous Toons. Players will take on the role of Mickey Mouse as he tries to save the Toons.

Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two is available for pre-order on Amazon.com for $44.99 and In Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is listed at $34.99. Both have a release date of October 1.

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In 2010, gamers could preview Epic Mickey at Downtown Disney's Festival of the Masters.

When the original Epic Mickey was released in 2010, my then-eight-year-old son couldn't wait to get his hands on the game. Disney previewed it at a booth at Walt Disney World's Festival of the Masters. Guests could test drive Epic Mickey on four screens, and experts were on hand to help players get used to a game where they determine the course of play based on the decisions they make at certain points in the game. In addition, Disney artists were offering drawings of Mickey Mouse with his Epic Mickey paintbrush and illustrations of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. It was a great experience.

My son did find the original Epic Mickey to be difficult to play at first. Once we purchased a guidebook, though, he was better able to learn a few tricks that he could build on to go even farther into the game.

Although it hasn't been announced yet, it's not too soon to hope for another such opportunity to experience the new games this year at Downtown Disney.


April 21, 2012

Tips for celebrating National Princess Week at Walt Disney World

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Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway star in "The Princess Diaries" and "The Princess Diaries: Royal Engagement."


The first National Princess Week begins tomorrow, April 22, and its founders want to invite children "to celebrate the sparkle and wonder of every princess -- real, aspiring or imagined."

Academy Award-winning actress, singer and best-selling children's book author Julie Andrews is the face of the campaign. She starred with Anne Hathaway in two "The Princess Diaries" movies, which are being re-released on their 10th anniversary, and has co-authored with her daughter the popular "The Very Fairy Princess" series.

This collaboration between Target and The Walt Disney Company aims to allow children to create their own princess activities in their home towns. But if you're lucky enough to be visiting Walt Disney World, the home of the Disney Princesses, there are many experiences to be found, both large and small.

Here are some suggestions, based on my own family's experiences and ideas adapted from Andrews' ideas at http://julieandrewscollection.com/30-ways-to-celebrate-national-princess-week/

1. Start your day by wearing a tiara and keep it on everywhere you go. Bring your own from home, or you can purchase one in just about every gift store on Disney World property.

2. Build your own castle. If you are staying at a Disney World resort or planning to visit one of the water parks, find the sandy area and get to work designing a palace for royalty. A fun way to build the foundation is with the castle mold sold in most gift shops for about $6, and it makes a great inexpensive souvenir afterward. (For tips on visiting the Disney water parks, see my newsletter article at http://allears.net/ae/issue651.htm)

3. Take a carriage ride and learn how to step into a carriage with grace and practice your royal wave. Andrews offers these suggestions:
** To enter a carriage, turn your body slightly sideways, and step in with the foot closet to the carriage. Bend forward slightly and lower yourself onto the seat. Draw your outside leg in after you. You can also keep both legs together and sit first, then draw them up and in after you. Do the reverse when exiting.
** To perform a royal wave, hold your arm out straight, bend it at the elbow, then with a relaxed, open palm, rotate your wrist side-to-side lightly, as you would if you were screwing in a light bulb.
Carriages leave from Port Orleans Riverside and Fort Wilderness resorts and cost $45 per group. (For details, see http://land.allears.net/blogs/guestblog/2012/04/disney_worlds_fort_wilderness.html)

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Girls can choose from three Princess hairstyles at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.

4. Make a reservation for the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at Downtown Disney or inside the Magic Kingdom. At these salons, Fairy Godmothers-in-training will transform each girl into the princess she's always dreamed of being. Choose your royal treatments -- from hair, makeup, nails and an outfit. Prices start at $54.95. My daughter was transformed into Ariel when she was 4 and Belle when she was 7, and she was so excited about the experiences. (You can read more, plus see photos and video, at http://land.allears.net/blogs/guestblog/2012/03/magical_makeovers_at_disney_wo.html)

5. Visit the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa for the My Disney Girl's Perfectly Princess Tea. "Rose Petal," a magical rose, hosts this event with Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) for children ages 3 to 11 daily (except Tuesdays and Saturdays) from 10:30 to noon. The party includes a sing-along, stories and traditional foods served with tea or apple juice. Girls receive "My Disney Girl" 18-inch doll dressed in a Princess Aurora gown with accessories, a tiara, Princess link bracelet, princess scrapbook page, a rose, and a "Best Friend" certificate. (Boys receive a Duffy the Disney Bear instead of the doll.) The price is $250 plus tax (includes gratuity) for one adult and one child. (Read guest reviews of this experience on AllEars.net at http://allears.net/din/girlstea.htm)

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Topiaries featuring royal couples are showcased at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.

6. At the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival (through May 20), look for the princess-shaped topiaries in World Showcase. Classic Disney couples can be found between the United Kingdom and France pavilions, and characters from "Beauty and the Beast" are located in the fresh-cut flower gardens of France. In Germany, you'll find Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in topiary. (AllEars has explored every nook and cranny of the festival and you can find details at http://allears.net/tp/ep/fg12/epcot-flower-and-garden-festival-2012.htm)

7. See your favorite princesses in live performances at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Belle appears in her own 30-minute Broadway-style show daily at the Theater of the Stars, and Ariel tells her story during a 17-minute show at The Voyage of the Little Mermaid. On select nights, several of the Disney Princesses take part in Fantasmic!, a 25-minute show using water sprays as a backdrop for animation combined with live-action characters. (Get the lay of the land with this DHS page: http://allears.net/tp/mgm/mgm.htm)

8. Take a ride on Snow White's Scary Adventures at the Magic Kingdom before it closes on May 31. It is one of the original rides from when the theme park opened 1971, though it was reworked in 1994 to make it less frightening. When the Fantasyland expansion construction is finished next year, there will be a new Dwarfs' cottage and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster. (You can stay up-to-date on the new Fantasyland rides and attractions at http://allears.net/tp/mk/fant_expansion.htm)

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Guests can meet Cinderella before their meal in her castle at Magic Kingdom.

9. Meet your favorite Disney Princesses in person for photos and autographs. Epcot and Magic Kingdom are the places to go for these encounters. Most of the princesses can be found inside the Town Square Theater at Magic Kingdom's entrance, though a few, such as Tiana, Ariel and Jasmine, are out in the park. Rapunzel moved last week from the Fairytale Courtyard to the Town Square Courtyard to make room for Brave's Merida in mid-May. At Epcot, the Disney Princesses can be seen outside various World Showcase pavilions, including Mulan in China. Check the daily guide for specific locations and times. (Plus, here are tips for finding your favorite princess: http://allears.net/tp/fur.htm)

10. Dine with the Disney Princesses. Cinderella hosts a breakfast, lunch and dinner in her castle at the Magic Kingdom with her Fairy Godmother and other princesses. My son and daughter really enjoyed this experience, both for the characters and the location. Reservations go quickly, so be prepared to book these meals exactly 180 days out. At Epcot, share a meal with royalty at Akershus Castle Royal Banquet Hall in the Norway Pavilion. At the Grand Floridian, guests can join Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremain (her stepmother), Drucilla and Anastasia (her stepsisters) at Cinderella's Happily Ever After Dinner. This buffet is one of the tastiest character meals, and the banter between the stepsisters and their mother is hilarious. Plus, little girls have a rare opportunity to dance with Prince Charming. (Find out how to plan your character meal at http://allears.net/din/cb.htm)

Finally, at the end of your day, let your little princess snuggle in bed with some princess pajamas and a princess storybook before she dreams of all the fun she had celebrating the Disney princesses. Andrews suggests foregoing any peas under the mattress.


April 22, 2012

Experience the Flavors and Beauty of the Pacific Northwest at Artist Point

Andrew Rossi

When it comes to an overall sense of grandeur, there are few places at Disney World that match the majestic beauty of Wilderness Lodge. I would go so far as to argue that no resort at Disney World goes as far as in being able to transport guests to another time and place and make them feel as though they are no longer in the middle of Florida. Inspired by the Great American Northwest National Park lodges from the turn of the 20th century, the theme of harmony with nature is prevalent throughout.

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The resort's decor and artifacts pay homage to ancient Native American cultures as well as the pioneering spirit of early American explorers, with the seven-story lobby (built from 85 loads of Lodgepole Pine) and 82-foot-tall fireplace helping to make resort one of the most visually stunning on property.

Wilderness Lodge Lobby

Overall, the resort is what I would consider rustic-elegant and it is only fitting that it features a restaurant worthy of this dignified and impressive setting. Artist Point is one of Disney's Signature Dining Locations and, while it may not have the same notoriety as say a Yachtsman Steakhouse or California Grill, this restaurant offers guests one of the finest dining experiences in all of Disney World.

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Overview:
Artist Point, like the rest of Wilderness Lodge, draws its inspiration from the National Park lodges of the Pacific Northwest, an area which encompasses Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia; everything about the restaurant, from its décor to its menu focusing on seafood, sirloins and game to its award winning wine list featuring 131 selections, is reflective of this region.

Artist Point is one of two full service restaurants at Wilderness Lodge, along with the Whispering Canyon Café, but the two could not be more different (you can see my review of Whispering Canyon Café here). Artist Point presents a sharp contrast to the raucous, laid-back, family friendly Whispering Canyon. This is a restaurant that is all about refinement, as reflected in its Signature status. In fact, Artist Point is one of just 16 Signature dining locations in all of Disney World, restaurants that are considered the cream of the crop amongst the numerous dining experiences to be found across property.

One of the marks of the more elegant and refined atmosphere found at Signature restaurants is a dress code. The dress code for Signature restaurants is as follows (as stated on the Disney World website). Men are encouraged to wear khakis, slacks, jeans, dress shorts, and collared shirts. Sport coats are optional. For women it is suggested that they wear capris, skirts, dresses, jeans, dress shorts. There are also certain articles of clothing that are not allowed in the dining room, such as tank tops, swimwear, hats, cut-off or torn clothing. Also, while t-shirts are allowed, the policy is that anything with offensive language or graphics is not acceptable.

Disney defines its Signature restaurants as dining experiences that "provide unparalleled cuisine served in elegant and relaxed settings," and this certainly holds true for Artist Point. It is a restaurant that offers everything you would expect from Disney in terms of atmosphere, food, and service, but elevates it to a whole new level.

Atmosphere:
The sheer impressiveness and sense of grandeur that you get when you enter the lobby of Wilderness Lodge is carried through to Artist Point. Everything about this restaurant is on a large scale, from its high vaulted ceilings, ornate iron lanterns suspended from massive timber columns, immense windows offering beautiful views of Bay Lake and the resort's Silver Creek Falls, and its breathtaking murals and paintings.

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Artist Point is indeed an apt name for the restaurant because its artwork really makes the atmosphere stand out. The restaurant's menu actually presents some background information on the various paintings that are present throughout the dining room. The most striking of the artworks are the massive murals inspired by the work of Thomas Moran.

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In 1871, Ferdinand Hayden, director of the United States Geological Survey, invited Moran to join his expedition team into the Yellowstone region. During forty days in the wilderness, Moran visually documented over thirty different sites and produced a diary of the expedition's progress and daily activities. His sketches captured the nation's attention and helped inspire Congress to establish the Yellowstone region as the first national park in 1872. The mural in the dining room comes from Moran's sketch of the Green River area of Wyoming.

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In addition, the dining room also features five six-foot by six-foot paintings inspired by the works of Albert Bierstadt. In 1859, Bierstadt was given the tremendous opportunity of accompanying General Lander on an expedition to survey a wagon route to the Pacific, a route that would eventually become known as the Oregon Trail, and was responsible for sketching much of the natural beauty encountered during the expedition.

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The various artwork found around the dining room really adds to the beauty of the restaurant, but it also helps to solidify the Pacific Northwest theming and pays homage to the resort's National Park inspiration.

One of the other features of Artist Point's atmosphere is its large windows that offer breathtaking views of the resort's grounds. I dined here at night so there was not really much to see, but if you happen to dine here while it is still light out you will be treated to views of Bay Lake, the resort's pool area, and the forested landscaping. The windows really bring the outdoors in, which helps to solidify the rustic feel, in addition to giving the dining room an openness and airiness that is aided by the restaurant's high cathedral ceilings.This is an example of the view you could have from your table:

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The restaurant's openness is also evident in the sheer size of the dining room. This allows for the tables to not be placed right on top of each other, which helps make the dining experience both more quiet and private. Indeed, this is a restaurant that, despite its grand scale, actually has a very intimate feel. This is the perfect dining location for adults looking for a romantic getaway. The restaurant's refined, upscale feel combined with its immersive Pacific Northwest theme make it a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks.

The Menu:
One of the marks of a Signature dining location is that their menus change more frequently than most other restaurants in Disney World. The reason for this is that the menus at Signature restaurants reflect what ingredients a fresh and in season at that particular time of year. The one constant with the menu at Artist Point is that it is going to reflect the flavors of the Pacific Northwest. The offerings I describe here reflect what was on the menu when I dined here in early March.

One thing that impressed me most about the menu at Artist Point was the great variety of ingredients used in their dishes. This is definitely a restaurant for the more exotic and adventureous diners, as evidenced first by the appetizer offerings. Among the appetizers featured on the menu were a Smokey Portobello Soup with Roasted Shiitakes and Chive Oil ($10.00), Kettle-Steamed Copper Ale Penn Cove Mussels ($14.00), a Mixed Field Greens Salad ($11.00) with shaved Asian pear, sunflower seed granola, smokey blue cheese, and a champagne vinaigrette, Salt-Roasted Heirloom Beets ($13.00) with truffled chèvre, cider-poached pink lady apples, spiced walnuts, and a mulled wine vinaigrette, a Beef Noodle Bowl ($14.00) in a fragrant oxtail broth, Penn Cove Roasted Oysters with Dungeness Crab Ceviche ($13.00), and a Selection of Artisanal Cheeses ($14.00) including smokey blue cheese, reypenaer, and humboldt fog with seasonal garnishes and walnut toast.

Like the appetizers, the entrée offerings are reflective of the great outdoors of the Pacific Northwest and it all starts with the house specialty, the Cedar Plank-Roasted King Salmon ($35.00) accompanied by autumn squash, root vegetables, baby sprouts, and spice cider reduction. Among the other seafood options on the menu are a Wild-Caught Jumbo Prawn and Crab "Hot Pot" with Mussels ($32.00) with crispy pork, jasmine rice, and a spiced Thai coconut broth, Seared Diver Scallops ($33.00) with parmigiano-reggiano butternut squash risotto, toasted pumpkin seeds, and balsamic vinegar, and Seared Pacific Swordfish ($34.00) with black trumpet mushroom hash, salsify, and a meyer lemon emulsion.

The entrée selections from land include a Pan-Seared All-Natural Airline Chicken ($29.00) with pumpkin fettuccine, Swiss chard, pumpkin seed pesto, and cranberry jam, a Herb-Roasted Veal "Tomahawk" Chop ($46.00) with hunter-style foraged mushrooms, Yukon gold potato smear, and a veal glaze, Grilled Certified Hand-Cut Black Angus Beef Tenderloin ($42.00) served with fried macaroni & cheese, smoked fennel, roasted carrots, poblano ketchup, and chimichurri paint, a Char-Grilled Buffalo Strip Loin ($43.00) with purple potato purée, hazelnut cauliflower polonaise, onion marmalade, and a blackberry pinot noir reduction, and for vegetarians there is the House-Made Sweet Potato Gnocchi ($28.00) served with wild mushrooms, spinach, caper butter, and drunken goat cheese.

You might also want to save room for dessert as the menu features several delectable options. The restaurant's signature dessert is the Artist Point Cobbler ($11.00) with seasonal berries and house-made black raspberry ice cream. There is also the Warm Chocolate Cake ($11.00) featuring warm valrhona chocolate with Grand Marnier chantilly and berry seltzer, a Baked Apple Upside-Down Cake ($10.00) with sweet-and-sour caramel sauce and brown sugar ice cream, and a Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée ($10.00) with a chocolate-hazelnut biscotti.

For my meal I decided to be adventurous and try something completely new to me. Buffalo is not a dish common to many menus, especially at Disney World. I figured that this was a rare opportunity that I should not pass up and decided to try the Char-Grilled Buffalo Strip Loin. My server recommended that I order the buffalo cooked medium, which would give it a pink color throughout but also accentuate the tenderness and juiciness of the steak. While the buffalo had a slightly stronger, more gamey flavor than beef, if I had not been told it was buffalo then I probably would not have even realized what it was. When you think of buffalo you picture the big, burly animal and would probably imagine the meat to be a little tough, but I was surprised at just how tender the meat was. Buffalo naturally has a more reddish color than beef, so even if you were to order it well-done you could still expect the meat to have a pinkish color. I was very happy that I ordered the steak medium because it really helped bring out the full flavor of the buffalo.

Buffalo

One of the things that impressed me most about the dish was the tremendous amount of flavors that it encompassed. Each of the accompaniments to the buffalo had its own distinct flavor and yet they all blended together perfectly. No one flavor really dominated the others, but instead they seemed to enhance and bring out the best in each other, giving the dish a level of complexity that really separated it from the types of dishes found in non-Signature restaurants. The most unique accompaniment had to be the purple potato puree. While it may have an odd appearance, it had the consistency of smooth mashed potatoes and lent a creamy and subtle sweetness to the dish. The hazelnut cauliflower polonaise presented a definite contrast in texture, but I was also surprised with how well the hazelnut paired with not only the cauliflower but the buffalo as well.

Like the potato puree, the onion marmalade also had a slight sweetness to it, but the real star accompaniment was the blackberry pinot noir reduction. The sauce provided more of a fruity flavor as opposed to that of wine, which presented a perfect compliment to the slight gaminess of the buffalo. My only complaint was that there was not more of the sauce to go along with the generous portion of meat. I think the best way I can sum up this dish in just a couple of words is high quality; everything about it, from the ingredients to the flavors to the presentation, left a lasting impression.

For dessert I decided to try what is considered the restaurant's signature dessert, the Artist Point Cobbler. This dessert usually comes topped with house-made black raspberry ice cream, but I chose just to have some vanilla ice cream on the side instead. The picture of this dessert does not really do it justice, with the berries on top just a garnish that hides the real treat underneath. First, there is the light, flakey crust and beneath that lies the ooey gooey berry goodness that makes the dessert truly special. The berries included rasberries, blackberries, and blueberries and really had the consistency, texture, and flavor that you would expect from the filling of something like a blueberry pie.

Cobbler

Overall this is a very simple dessert, one that can easily be made at home on your own, but its execution was top notch. The cobbler comes served warm and the fruity flavor of the berries combines perfectly with the crust and the vanilla ice cream. This is not an overly sweet dessert and that I why I felt that the vanilla ice cream (as opposed to the raspberry) was a better compliment providing some added sweetness and creaminess to counter the slight tartness of the berries.

Service:
In my past experiences at Signature dining locations I have been completely blown away by the attentive service that I have received. The servers at Signature restaurants generally have fewer tables to wait upon and can therefore pay much closer attention to the guests that they are serving. While I found the service at Artist Point to be very good, it was not necessarily great; there was nothing about my server that really stood out as being special. With a menu that contains so many different, exotic ingredients and flavors I was expecting the sever to give an in-depth explanation of some of the dishes, instead she briefly mentioned what some of the restaurant's more popular items were. My server was certainly very nice and quite pleasant, checking in frequently to make sure I was enjoying every part of my meal, but I did not feel as though her service stood out from anything I would receive at a non-Signature restaurant.

One thing I greatly enjoyed about the service was the pacing of the meal. While not slow by any means, the meal progressed at a leisurely, relaxing pace that really allows you to enjoy not only all the flavors of the meal, taking time to digest between courses, but also the beauty of the atmosphere.

Dining on a Budget:
Another mark of Signature dining locations are their priciness. It is very difficult to dine on a budget when going to one of these restaurants. That being said, you are truly getting what you pay for in terms of the high quality food, atmosphere, and service you receive. If you are looking for a place to splurge on a meal and have a truly memorable experience, then Artist Point and the other Signature restaurants across Disney World are definitely worth a try. However, I certainly would not want to eat at a Signature restaurant every night of my vacation because the cost would be far too high.

Artist Point is on the Disney Dining Plan, but as a Signature restaurant it is worth two table service credits. One way you can save some money at Artist Point is with a discount. The restaurant does participate in Tables in Wonderland and thus members receive its 20% discount. In addition, Annual Passholders can receive at 10% discount although there is no discount for Disney Vacation Club members.

The Overall Experience:
Being my first time dining at Artist Point I was extremely impressed. This is certainly a restaurant that lives up to it Signature status. From the beauty and grandeur of the dining room to the intricate blending of ingredients and flavors in its dishes, Artist Point is one of the more elegant restaurants that I have dined at in all of Disney World. While a menu that is more on the exotic side may not make it appealing to everyone, if you are willing to go a little outside the box and try new things then you will not be disappointed. Artist Point's menu is definitely one of the more unique of the many Disney restaurants that I have dined at, but that is one thing that makes it so appealing. Even though it is certainly not a cheap meal by any means, I left feeling as though I had gotten my money's worth. It is truly a quality dining experience in every aspect and one which I look forward to returning to in the future.

See past reviews by Guest Blogger Andrew Rossi.

Check out Reader Reviews of Artist Point and post your own too!

April 24, 2012

Take a peek at new Disney Dooney & Bourke bags and find a deal

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Dooney & Bourke Retro collection

In the last few years, some Disney fans have found a new, high-end souvenir to collect. Who wants to bring home more scrapbooks and T-shirts when you can choose an unusual, well-made handbag? Combining the whimsical designs of Disney with the well-known quality of the Dooney & Bourke brand, these stylish bags have become increasingly popular.

Disney Dooneys, as they are fondly called, are introduced in several new patterns each year. West Coast collectors are eagerly awaiting the release of two new collections on May 12 -- just in time for Mother's Day! The Retro collection with a unique color palette depicts traditional graphics and logos of the various lands inside Disneyland. This new line will be available in a variety of silhouettes including a wristlet, mini barrel, tassel tote, satchel and letter carrier as well as an iPad case, which is a first. Prices range from $78 to $268. On the release day, Ian Ray, creative director for Dooney & Bourke, will be signing the new Disney Dooneys from 2 to 5 p.m. at Disney Vault 28.

The second collection, called Buttons, is being kept under wraps until closer to its debut on May 12. Disneyland and Walt Disney World guests will be able to purchase the Buttons collection on its release date. Disney World guests will find the Buttons collection at TrenD at Downtown Disney West Side.

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Dooney & Bourke Disney Cruise Line Fantasy Inaugural Voyages collection

A new Disney Cruise Line Dooney & Bourke collection debuted on the maiden voyage of the Disney Fantasy cruise ship earlier this month, and the bags feature more muted colors than most of the Disney Dooney bags we've seen so far. The design incorporates names and icons of all the ships on a blue-gray background.

"To make the new collection even more enticing for Disney Fantasy guests, the select collection silhouettes on the Disney Fantasy will feature leather embossed luggage tags that showcase they were part of the Inaugural Disney Fantasy Voyages," said Laura Caszatt, product developer for Accessories.

The new DCL collection includes a variety of shapes, including a wristlet, mini barrel, Susanna tote, satchel and travel duffle, and prices range from $55 to $395. These bags are exclusive to the Fantasy until this summer, when they will be available on all the DCL ships.

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Upcoming Dooney & Bourke Disney Cruise Line collection

Another cruise collection will debut later in 2012 on Hawaiian itineraries. Disney offered a sneak peek at the striped, nautical satchel, which will cost $235. It, too, will have widespread availability on the ships later in the summer.

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Dooney & Bourke Sketch collection Crossbody bags

Some of the most popular DIsney Dooney & Bourke bags both on land and at sea are from the Sketch Collection, said Erin Catalano, merchandise communication specialist at Walt Disney World Resort. The bags in the Sketch Collection show various colorful icons from the ships or Disneyland or Disney World.

Looking for a deal on these expensive bags? A few discounts can be yours for the asking. Stores on Disney World property that sell Dooney & Bourke bags will honor the 10 percent discount for annual passholders and 20 percent discount for premium annual passholders. Or, Disney Visa cardholders can get a 10 percent discount for any purchase over $50 at Disney World.

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Dooney & Bourke Princess collection bucket bag

To find a deal on Disney Dooney & Bourke bags off Disney World property, visit the Dooney & Bourke outlet stores. There is one in Orlando Premium Outlets on Vineland Avenue (near Downtown Disney) and one in Orlando Premium Outlets at the end of International Drive. Both locations usually carry a small selection of Disney Dooneys and sell them at a 40 percent discount. Currently, the Vineland Avenue location has the Princess bucket bag for $99. (It originally sold for $165.) At the International Drive location, shoppers will find the Princess bucket bag, plus the Princess satchel with black background for $132. (It originally sold for $220.) That location also has several of the 2011 Disney Dream Inaugural Voyages Crossbody Bag for $74. (It originally sold for $165.) If you wished you had purchased one last year, now is your chance!

If you're not on vacation, you can still purchase Disney Dooney & Bourke bags. DisneyStore.com carries most of the bags you will find at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, and occasionally even offers Disney Cruise Line bags. Currently, there are 27 bags for sale, and two of those are 2011 Disney Dream Inaugural Voyages bags, which have been marked down 40 percent. The website also has the Disney Sketch Crossbody Bag in four colors marked down 24 percent. Plus, any Dooney & Bourke purchase allows you to buy a Sketch credit card holder/keychain for $15. The one drawback with ordering online is that you cannot choose the pattern placement. For bags with a uniform pattern, such as the Minnie Mouse bows, this is irrelevant, but for patterns such as the popular Sketch collections, it can make a difference.

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Dooney & Bourke Princess collection satchel


Walt and the Promise of Progress City: A New Standard for Clean

EDITOR'S NOTE: Over the past few months, AllEars.Net has been highlighting exclusive excerpts from Sam Gennawey's book, Walt and the Promise of Progress City. The book explores the process through which meaningful and functional spaces were created by Walt Disney and his artists, as well as how guests understand and experience those spaces. It also takes a look at how Walt wanted to change the public's expectations about city life in the same way his earlier work had redefined what it meant to watch an animated film or visit an amusement park. In this month's excerpt, we learn about how Walt redefined the public's expectations for a clean and cared for environment.

A New Standard for Clean
by Sam Gennawey

Before Disneyland, most amusement parks were rather seedy places. The operators thought of the customers as "marks" and were not above a little bit of shady play if it would earn a little more money. If somebody left with a dime in his pocket, the operator was not doing his job well enough. Trash was tossed anywhere and little attention was paid to the landscaping or architecture.

"By 1952, amusement parks were often identified with the tarnished world of film noir, of scandal beneath the big top, and carnies," according to Norman Klein. Patrons felt unsafe in many areas of a traditional amusement park. Walt said that he wanted Disneyland to be different from the "dirty, phony places, run by tough-looking people." When Walt described the idea for the park to his wife, she asked, "Why would you want to build an amusement park? Amusement parks are dirty. They don't make any money." Walt's reply was, "That's the whole point. I want a clean one that will."

Walt sensed there was a change happening in the American culture. Families in the 1950s had begun to reset their expectations for what was meant by progress. There was a growing national consensus that proclaimed that cleanliness and uniformity was a sign of progress. With the spread of freeways, people preferred to patronize modern, familiar motel chains and eat in clean coffee shops housed in space-age Googie23-style buildings. Walt assumed correctly that they would want to visit a different type of family amusement park as well. Karal Ann Marling noted, "If Disneyland was a place of amusement and escape, it was also, in its own way, a kind of pre-EPCOT utopia, a better, cleaner, more pleasant and resonant American place than 1955 afforded the average urbanite who drove to Anaheim on the Santa Ana Freeway." When Walt gave a tour of the park, a journalist commented that everything would soon be covered in litter. Walt curtly replied, "It'll never happen." "Why not?" asked the reporter. "Because, we're going to make it so clean people are going to be embarrassed to throw anything on the ground," was Walt's reply. Walt was right. Disneyland had validated people's expectations for cleanliness of public spaces, and the park would in time redefine the standard.

Disney Legend Marty Sklar said, "In the Disney theme parks, a dirty floor or an out-of-order facility may individually be of minor significance, but in the long run, they will diminish visitors' expectations of everything we do." Historian Judith Adams noticed, "Everything about the park, including the behavior of the 'guests,' is engineered to promote a spirit of optimism, a belief in progressive improvement toward perfection." Walt's drive toward a spotless environment became legendary. Architect Charles Moore noted, "No raw edges spoil the picture at Disneyland; everything is as immaculate as in the musical comedy villages that Hollywood has provided for our viewing pleasure for the last three generations. Nice looking, handsomely costumed young people sweep away the gum wrappers almost before they fall to the spotless pavement."

Imagineer Bruce Gordon said, "At the time Walt was thinking about building a park, most amusement parks were not in a place you'd want to let your kids go on their own. The parks were kind of dirty, in seedy neighborhoods. You wouldn't want to drop off your kids there and meet them three or four hours later, the way you can in a Disney park today."

Today, virtually every commercial business district in every city goes out of its way to be as clean as Disneyland. This was not always so. Cultural historian Richard Francaviglia took a look at Marceline's Main Street during the time that Walt lived there as a young boy. "It was unpaved, rutted and rilled and horse manure helped turn it into a soupy quagmire." Walt did not accept his childhood experience as a given; he recreated the image of a traditional central business district and raised our expectations for quality, variety, and surprise.

The level of cleanliness was not the only change in the traditional central business district. By the early 1950s, many historic Main Streets in the United States had been threatened by shopping malls followed by suburban housing tracts to the suburbs. Downtowns had become run down and were considered irrelevant. New regional shopping malls -- like Victor Gruen's Northland Center in a Detroit suburb and his enclosed Southdale Center near Edina, Minneapolis -- were the new center of commerce. To compete, many cities reinvented their historic central business districts by prohibiting automobile traffic and creating downtown pedestrian malls. Most of these conversions failed, furthering the decline of many downtowns.

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Interested in Walt and the Promise of Progress City? Order it through the AllEars.Net Amazon store HERE!


April 26, 2012

Disney Performing Arts workshop full of surprises, including visit from 'The Lion King' cast

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Decatur Central High students learn choreography during a Disney Performing Arts workshop.

When I grew up in suburban Indianapolis, our high schools didn't have show choirs -- there was band, marching band and choir. But that was way before "Glee" capitalized on the popularity of the show choirs in schools today.

Yesterday, I watched performers from another Indianapolis high school, Decatur Central, take part in a Disney Performing Arts workshop. Tucked away in a studio behind Epcot -- "back stage" as Disney likes to call the area -- the students learned two dance routines for songs for which they had prepared the vocals in advance of their trip. There were jazz hands, jazz squares, a shake-and-bake step, original moves from the students, and even some high-fiving in the mix.

Their instructor, Thomas Murphy, is a longtime Disney performer and choreographer. In fact, he helped design the Disney Channel Rocks! street dance party at Disney's Hollywood Studios. He also performed at Tokyo Disney's "Disney World is Your World" show, which is the source of the workshop's two songs -- "D-Pop Magic" and "Disney World Is Your World."

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Thomas Murphy and Minnie Mouse danced with the vocalists.

Murphy's upbeat personality kept the kids moving and motivated -- even at a 9 a.m. call time, which is practically the middle of the night for teenagers. He encouraged the vocalists to keep smiling when onstage, even if they make a mistake. "Performing is not from the neck down," he told them.

Decatur Central was participating in Disney's Show Choir Magic session, a workshop the group added to their Walt Disney World experience. The goal of the course is to give students a glimpse into the life of a professional performer.

The main objective for the 29 students traveling to Orlando, however, was to perform an original piece they prepared back home in Indiana on a Disney World stage for visitors. The group had to audition to be chosen for this honor. They fulfilled that dream Wednesday night at Downtown Disney.

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The Indianapolis show choir poses with Minnie Mouse and 'The Lion King' performers.

Before they left the workshop, though, there were a few surprises in store for the vocalists. First, Minnie Mouse popped into the room and joined their dance routine. She knew all their moves and was not shy about leading the students with Murphy. Then, the group performed for a panel of "Disney show producers." What the students didn't know, though, was that the "producers" actually were performers from the national stage tour of "The Lion King."

"The Lion King," which is celebrating its tenth anniversary, is in Orlando at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre through May 14. Four performers from the Grammy-award and six-time Tony award-winning show answered questions from the students. The performers were Nick Cordileone (who plays Timon) and Amyia Burrell, Electra Weston and Paul Sadler (all ensemble performers).

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Students ask questions of performers from the national stage tour of 'The Lion King.'

The Decatur Central students asked a variety of questions, including how to pursue a performing arts career and what makes professional performers nervous on stage, and they requested Cordileone voice Timon for them, which he happily did.

But what really got everyone laughing was when the performers talked about times they had flubbed their scenes and what they did to recover on stage. Sadler described his first role in "Phantom of the Opera" and completely forgetting his opening lines. He said he tried to buy himself time to think by running around the stage growling. His cast mates, of course, knew he should be speaking and had to turn away so they wouldn't laugh during the production, he said.

For Weston, it was an incident that occurred when she was playing Queen Sarabi in "The Lion King." She and Mufasa are supposed to present Simba to the other animals from atop Pride Rock. Unfortunately, they were halfway up the rock when it was discovered that she wasn't holding the lion cub. They both debated what to do, before Mufasa ran back to get Simba, and Weston had to maintain her composure and try to look regal in the process.

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'The Lion King' cast members (from left): Paul Sadler, Electra Weston, Amyia Burrell and Nick Cordileone.

Clearly, with real-world anecdotes such as these and more, the students received valuable insight into acting, stage productions and how to create performance magic - something Disney excels at every day for its park guests.

Tomorrow, I'll share my interview with "The Lion King" cast member Amyia Burrell, who was once a Disney Parks performer.

April 27, 2012

'The Lion King' performer Amyia Burrell talks about her start at Walt Disney World

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'The Lion King' performer Amyia Burrell (second from left) visited a Disney Performing Arts workshop with castmates (from left) Electra Weston, Nick Cordileone and Paul Sadler.

An actress with the touring production of a Disney show has returned to her roots and helped other performers with skills she has gained. Amyia Burrell, an ensemble performer for the award-winning national stage tour of "The Lion King," visited a Disney Performing Arts workshop this week and spoke with students about performing professionally.

Burrell plays a variety of animals -- with 14 costume changes -- in "The Lion King," which has an engagement at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre in Orlando through May 14. She spoke to me this week about the show and what it's like to revisit Walt Disney World years after getting her professional start there. 

Burrell's first professional performing contract was at Walt Disney World when she was a 21-year-old dancer in "Mickey's Twas The Night Before Christmas." She went on to dance in "Cinderellabration" and "Dream Along With Mickey," also in the Magic Kingdom. Burrell also played Squirt in "Finding Nemo -- The Musical" at DIsney's Animal Kingdom during her stint at Disney Parks from 2003 to 2007.

During that time, Burrell went to another Disney property, Tokyo Disney, from 2004 to 2005 and performed in "Rhythms of the World." Since 2007, however, she has performed in the touring production of "The Lion King."

Describe your experience at Walt Disney World.

Working at Walt Disney World is an experience like no other. You just create this huge family and it's a wonderful work environment. You're around people who are amazingly wonderful all the time. I had the best experience of my life working here.

What was your favorite role?

I enjoyed every single one of those roles. Of course, I loved performing on the castle stage because it's just the most amazing place to perform. On the days it was kind of rainy, we got to do meet-and-greets. I loved doing the meet-and-greets -- just to go out and see the little girls who wanted to meet the princesses. "Nemo" was actually one of my favorite performances here. They did a really, really good job on that one.

Do you have childhood memories of Disney Parks?

My mom actually told me this story the other day. She grew up in California, and I did, too. She can remember her first time going to Disneyland Park with her dad. It is one of her most vivid memories. And coming to watch me perform for the first time on the castle stage at Walt Disney World, she said she was just in awe because the parks have such happy memories for her. That was such a wonderful story for me to hear.

Did you always want to be a performer?

I did. I grew up in Los Angeles, and I started dancing when I was 3. I actually went to college and studied bio-medical engineering, but I was unhappy that I wasn't dancing. When I got my first contract at Disney World, I said, "I'm going to go for it." This is something I've always wanted to do, but I never imagined myself at this point.

What is your favorite thing to do at Walt Disney World?

My favorite thing to do is to go to Animal Kingdom and go on the safari. I'm not a roller-coaster rider so I steer away from those. I love Animal Kingdom -- to do the safari or just walk around and see all the animals. [Burrell said she is excited to possibly check out Wild Africa Trek.]

You taught a workshop at Walt Disney World this week. What was that like?

We taught some choreography that coincides with what we do in the show [The Lion King]. It was a regular jazz workshop class that I taught with another one of the cast members, one of our dance captains from the show. We taught it to some cast members from "Festival of The Lion King" [a musical at Animal Kingdom], and we also had some of the staging specialists and character performers.

Do you get nervous before performances?

When there are shows that are extra special, like when your friends are there, I get a little nervous. Since I worked in this city for a long time, I've had a lot of friends come to my performances, and that kind of makes me nervous because I always want to do a good show.

What is your favorite scene in "The Lion King"?

I have a couple of favorite scenes. I love the opening number -- "The Circle of Life." I am one of the zebras and nothing beats this scene. We're standing off stage and we're doing our off-stage singing and we can hear the reactions from the crowd. And, actually, from where I stand out in the wings, I can kind of see the audience at one point. Seeing their reaction to what's going on on the stage when the sun first comes out and then giraffes move across the stage -- the audience just loves it. My first time seeing it, my mouth was open the entire time. The elephant coming down the aisle is just one of the most beautiful scenes I've ever seen.

I have to say that another one of my favorite scenes is "Lioness Chant." I love "Lioness Chant" because it's all of the females in the show -- singers and dancers -- and that's our one number where we're hunting. The gazelles are jumping across the stage and we're all swiping and hunting the gazelles. In the end, we make a big circle around a gazelle for the kill. The energy is so high on that part. It's an amazing scene to play in. There are six female singers and six female dancers and also the baby Nala.

Which Disney story would you like to see made into a Broadway show next?

When I was doing "Nemo," I actually thought it would make an amazing Broadway performance. I would actually like to be Nemo (not Squirt). I don't have a little kid's voice, but if I did do a role, I would love to play Nemo.

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About April 2012

This page contains all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in April 2012. They are listed from oldest to newest.

March 2012 is the previous archive.

May 2012 is the next archive.

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