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July 2012 Archives

July 1, 2012

Disney Animation Cels

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The next time you visit Disney's Hollywood Studios be sure to visit The Magic of Disney Animation in the Animation Courtyard. There is a terrific ten-minute show where Mushu provides some comic relief while you learn about the animation process. After you are entertained by Mushu and have enjoyed some interesting interactive galleries you make your way toward the exit. Watch closely as you pass through the last few galleries on your way toward the gift shop. There are some wonderful animation cels on display. Cels similar to these used to be an integral part of animated film production.

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Until recently animated films were produced by photographing a series of hand painted sheets of cellulose acetate; these were referred to as cels. In 1933 Walt Disney Studios developed a unique "multi-plane" camera. This invention dramatically improved the animation process by holding multiple cels in layers and adding three dimensional depth to the animated film. One of these revolutionary cameras is on display in the "One Man's Dream" exhibit at Disney's Hollywood Studios. It's worth a visit to have a look at this interesting device.

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Did you know that a traditional animated film used 24 frames per second and most frames were comprised of a background image and four cels which were mounted in the multi-plane camera? An 80 minute animated feature would use 460,800 cels. The outlines of the images were drawn on the front of the cels while colors were painted on the back of the acetate to eliminate brushstrokes and give a clean image. Animators worked in teams comprised of a "lead animator", up to three "in between animators" and several "clean-up animators". The lead animator was responsible for a specific character and would draw about one of every four drawings of that character. The in between animators would produce cells to fill the gaps between the cels created by the lead animator and finally the clean-up animators would touch up the cels wherever necessary to ensure clean lines and smooth motion.

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Of course the animators didn't just sit down and churn out finished cels. They made several sketches before deciding on the best and then based the cel on that sketch. They created an average of five sketches for every finished cel so that 80 minute feature I mentioned earlier would require up to 2.5 million sketches. That's a lot of work and it required a highly talented work force. In 1941 when Disney Studios were producing Dumbo they employed over 1,200 people and several hundred of them would have been animators.

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After a movie was completed the "production cels" were often sold to collectors. More popular shows and movies demanded higher prices for the cels, with some selling for thousands of dollars. A cel depicting several characters from the finale of Who Framed Roger Rabbit sold for $50,600 at Sotheby's in 1989.

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The last Disney movie created using traditional hand-painted cels was 1989's The Little Mermaid. Disney Stores sold production cels from The Little Mermaid at prices from $2,500 to $3,500.

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Computers have now taken over the animation process. Today there are only five animation artists who continue to hand paint animation cels, created purely for sale to collectors. These five talented folks work for the Walt Disney Ink and Paint Department and you can often see one of them at work just before you exit the Animation Gallery gift shop. His name is David Rippberger. He's been painting animation cels since 1993 and has plied his art and interacted with guests in the Animation Gallery gift shop for the past sixteen years. Stop and say hello to David; he is always happy to talk about his work and to show you how it is done. He is a wonderful ambassador for Disney and we look for him every time we visit Disney's Hollywood Studios.

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Since the Ink and Paint Department was established in 1995 they have created 52 different cels. Some are limited to a specific number of pieces produced while others are produced for a period of time and then "retired".

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There is always a new cel in the planning stages and there are enough Disney characters to ensure that there will always be something to appeal to all tastes. You are bound to see something you like.

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Cels can be purchased in several different formats. The cels are the same but the framing and accessories are different. At the time of writing (May 2012) the purchase options are:
1) an unframed cel for $125
2) a cel matted in a black frame for $215
3) a cel matted in a black frame with a pin for $240
4) a cel matted in a black frame with a pin and an autographed postcard for $265
5) a cel matted in a gold frame for $290

Carol usually prefers option #4, the "three-way" with cel, pin and a postcard bearing an image of the cel. The postcard is signed by all of the Ink and Paint artists. She has collected fourteen cels - so far! Naturally not every cel appeals to her, but when one does . . . well, she just has to have it! The cels pictured all come from Carol's collection.

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So next time you are at Disney's Hollywood Studios be sure to visit The Magic of Disney Animation and say hello to David Rippberger. He provided much of the information included in this blog and he's always happy to show guests how he adds the "magic" to Disney animation cels!

July 8, 2012

Keeping the Disney Magic Alive

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How do you keep "the magic", that special Disney feeling, alive between Disney trips?

We all feel "the magic" when we are at a Disney park. A sense of wonder fills me when I walk down Main Street and it stays with me as long as I'm there. I become immersed, wrapped up in the experience of another world or another time. The sights, the smells, the background music and sounds, they all just envelop me. It happens just as Walt planned it to happen! I'm sure it happens to you too. It truly is a magical place!

But what happens when you leave? How do you keep the magic alive in all those long months and sometimes years between trips? How do you sustain the enthusiasm and excitement?

Carol and I have several ways to keep the fires kindled, ways that each of us uses to keep our inner child engaged until our next visit to the Most Magical Place on Earth. Here are a few of the things we do!

Scrapbooking
Carol enjoys scrapbooking and she often keeps busy at it after one of our adventures. She relives the trip as she preserves our precious memories of it! On a week-long vacation we will often take as many as a thousand digital pictures and Carol saves every scrap of paper from the trip. Once we get home she sorts out the mementos she has gathered and they all go into a bag or box.

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The bag or box will soon contain park maps, daily time schedules, Key to the World Cards, coasters, all sorts of bits and pieces which evoke memories of the fun we had. She will sort through all the digital images and pick out a hundred or so of her favourite which she e-mails to the printer. These will be clipped, cropped, embellished and combined with some of the mementos from the bag.

Carol spends hours at her crafting table creating a beautiful scrapbook which will give us lasting memories of the magical experiences we had. The table is in our "Disney Room" so she is surrounded by her Disneyana collection while she works!

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I will sometimes pick out a few hundred pictures as well, compile them into a digital slide-show, add some titles and some pan, zoom and fade effects, dub some background music and then burn it all onto a DVD we can watch on television. We also maintain a personal blog/web site where we post reports with plenty of pictures from our adventures. We are always delighted when strangers visit our site and add comments to the online guest book. We often wonder how some of these people found our site!

Carol likes to build the hands-on scrapbook; I prefer to put together the higher-tech versions!

Reliving our previous trips through scrapbooks and blogs always whets our appetite and keeps us pumped-up as we look forward to our next adventure.

Trip Planning
Planning is another activity which we both enjoy. We always have another Disney trip or two (or three) in the planning stages and we share the planning work in a very fair and even proportion. Carol does 90% and I do 10%. Fair and square! We have an excellent travel agent who takes care of our accommodations whether we are staying in a Disney resort hotel or at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. She knows exactly what we like and always gets us the best deal available! We do the rest. Carol scours the Internet to determine hours of operation at the parks and then begins to lay out a trip plan. Each trip has its own folder filled with trip related documents.

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Naturally I add the planned trips to our web site to keep it as up-to-date as possible.

If it's a camping trip I am involved in the planning too. I use our GPS program to plot the course we will take on our southbound drive. We try to change our route from time to time to give us some variety and to see some new sights. I look up campgrounds along the way, pick out some likely candidates for our overnight stays and sent the list of prospects to senior management for review. Carol has veto rights! Once the boss has blessed the route I make all the campground reservations and other arrangements for the RV. Our northbound trip home is always the same, a 1,405 mile four-day dash with stops at Walterboro SC, Wytheville VA and Harrisburg PA before we arrive home.

Regardless of where we stay, Carol's first priority is determining the theme park hours. Once they are announced she sets the days we will allocate to each park. We normally don't want to visit a park which has "Extra Magic Hours"; they are usually too busy. The park days are then laid out on her "Trip Calendar" grid.

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This is a very important document! During the trip it's in her pocket or purse at all times, a very handy quick reference guide!

Soon she begins to make our dining plans. Where do we eat? We have some favourite restaurants which we always visit, 'Ohana and Le Cellier, but we like to change the others around a bit so we can have some variety. Once the reservations are made all of these details are recorded on the Trip Calendar along with information on park hours, times for fireworks shows, etc.

Carol is almost as excited when she plans a trip as she is when we're actually on the trip!

Pin Trading Meets
Carol has been an active Disney Pin Trader since 2001 and we have met some wonderful people through that hobby. About ten years ago she found a link on the Internet that told about a small group of pin traders in Toronto who met occasionally in a library to trade. It was only about 45 miles from our home so off we went to investigate. We had great fun with these new-found Canadian traders and we went to these library meets for a few years.

Over the years the meets have evolved, now there are fewer of us but we have become good friends and we meet in each other's homes several times a year instead of the library. There isn't much trading anymore! We chatter about the parks, compare notes on our upcoming travel plans, talk about new pins and Vinylmations, and occasionally we trade pins. The trading really has become secondary to the friendships we have made with these folks. We love to hear about their recent Disney trips and they like to hear about ours. We all seem to live vicariously through each other's experiences.

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When Carol travels to New Jersey to trade pins or attends the annual EPCOT Pin Event this group of "Toronto Traders" will be there as well and she hangs with them!

Discussion Groups
Online discussion groups are another way we keep our enthusiasm alive. There are a number of Disney Fan sites on the Internet and we dabbled in a few of them before settling on our favourite, Tagrel.com.

We find Tagrel to be the friendliest site in the Disney fan community and since our first involvement with the forums there, about eight years ago, we have made some good and lasting friends. We have met our Tagrel friends at the parks, we have sailed with them, we have celebrated with them and we have grieved with them. Some of them are almost like family!

The site itself has a forum which contains a number of discussion themes or "Threads" where members post messages and have discussions. There are threads devoted to hobbies, specific Disney parks, other theme parks, Disney Cruise Line, personal trip reports, Disney news and rumours and many more. Of course there's always plenty of chatter about our next group meeting at the parks. At least once a year we try to draw as many Tagrel community members as possible together at the parks.

We call these events "Tag-O-Mania" when we go to Walt Disney World and "Tag-A-Venture" when we head to Disneyland. Wherever we meet we always have a great time; we gather as a group to ride on attractions and we gather for group meals. Things often get a bit zany!

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We have contests and friendly competitions. Imagine that you have just been given a list of cryptic clues about some specific locations or items in the Magic Kingdom. There are 30 clues to point you to 30 different locations. You and your small team are allotted 90 minutes to solve the riddles, figure out the clues and then run around the park taking pictures of the revealed locations. It's a challenging photo scavenger hunt which leads you on a high speed adventure around the park. It's great fun.

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The Tagrel.com site has brought us a great deal of enjoyment and some wonderful friends; it has become a very important part of our lives. It's one more way we keep the magic alive every day!

AllEars Weekly Newsletter
Every Tuesday night, like clockwork the AllEars newsletter arrives. We are one of about 143,000 households which receive this fact-filled and fun-filled electronic update on all things Disney. It is the most current, accurate and comprehensive source we have found for late breaking Disney news!

Every week there are pointers and tips provided by readers from around the world, some awesome photographs, an interesting feature article, information about upcoming events and specifics about those all-important AllEars meets. Regular features include restaurant and hotel reviews, menu updates and previews of new attractions or refurbishments.

If you need to know what's open, what's closed, what's down for refurbishment or who's playing at the "Flower Power", "Eat to the Beat" or "Sounds Like Summer" concerts in the America Gardens Theatre then you need to subscribe to the AllEars newsletter. Just go to the bottom of the AllEars.net main page and click on "Subscribe Here" to start receiving this free newsletter. It will give a weekly recharge to your Disney batteries!

So, those are a few of the main things we do to keep our excitement high between trips. Of course there are many other ways, you can listen to Disney music, you can tune in to online Disney radio stations, you can listen to one of the many Disney themed podcasts, the list goes on and on.

How about you? Do you have any interesting or unique ways to keep the magic alive? Please share them with a comment below!

July 15, 2012

Garage Sale Gold

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I was born without the "collector's gene", that genetic defect which compels some people to collect the oddest things. Even as a child I lacked the affliction. Since every Canadian boy was expected to collect hockey cards I gave it a try . . . but I just didn't see the sense in it. I got no pleasure from it. It all seemed pointless, so I quickly gave it up as a lost cause.

For years I smugly watched my friends with their collections, hockey cards, baseball cards, music and so many other things. I knew that I was immune; I was never going to catch the bug, I was above that sort of thing! I was normal and collecting would never be a part of my life.

But I overlooked one little thing. I forgot the perverse pleasure Mother Nature takes when she makes sure that a normal "non-collector" like me falls in love with a die-hard fanatical collector of all things Disney. So Carol came into my life, swept me off my feet and before you could say "Disneyana" we were married. It seemed like it was just a few seconds after I said, "I do" when she said, "Follow me" and dragged me off to a flea market. My dear wife is the epitome of the collection affliction. If there was an organization searching for a cure to the collecting bug I think Carol could be their poster girl!

In the eleven years since we were married we have covered a lot of ground and visited a lot different of places while she continually searches out new items to add to her collection of "Disney stuff". I am still not a collector (he said smugly) but I am certainly immersed in the activity.

So what have I learned in the past eleven years? There are Disney treasures everywhere. Just everywhere!

Carol has found some amazingly nice Disney collectibles at garage sales, at flea markets, at thrift shops and rummage sales. I think that old adage must be true; "One man's trash is another man's treasure" and Carol has collected a lot of treasure!

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Mickey Mouse first appeared in Steamboat Willie in November 1928 and people were clamouring to buy the first stuffed Mickey Mouse doll when it hit the stores in 1930. Walt Disney quickly proved himself to be a master marketer, licensing his copyrighted characters for all sorts of interesting products.

How successful was he? Try a few simple tests . . . first type Disneyana into a Google search bar - Wow, there are over 5 million items. Next go to eBay and type Disneyana into the search bar there. Yikes, there are over 275,000 items for sale. That's a lot of collectibles folks!

Everyone has had Disney toys and games at some point in their lives and often people outgrow them. Yes, I know that's a hard thing for we die-hard Disney fans to understand but it really does happen. And when it occurs it creates wonderful opportunities for collectors like Carol. Many people have no idea how valuable some of these old treasures are.

Here are a few examples:
1. Carol has the old Disney lunch box our son Rob took to school every day back in the 70's. It's a bit banged and battered from normal use but it's in pretty good shape. Check on eBay and you will see it selling for about $75.00.
2. At a garage sale she spotted a commemorative Wedgewood plate, in the original box, from Disney Cruise Line. It has a picture of Castaway Cay on the front. We have not discovered when or how it was sold, but similar Wedgewood plates featuring the Magic and the Wonder are selling on eBay for about $125.00. Carol bought hers for 25 cents!

Garage sales and Thrift Stores are full of this sort of hidden gold!

And Carol is not alone in her quest; our son Rob is always vigilant as he prowls for bargains! Hardly a week goes by that the phone doesn't ring and I hear this sort of conversation, "Yes, I already have that . . . no, that sounds interesting . . . how big is it? . . . Yes, I think I'd like it!" A few days later Rob shows up with his latest find. Of course if it's Jack Skellington our phone will not ring. Rob is a big Nightmare Before Christmas fan and has quite a shrine dedicated to Jack and other characters from the movie.

Here are some examples from her Disneyana collection. Most are in mint condition. This is just a sampling of the things she and Rob have picked up at thrift shops and garage sales.

Let's start with items from Value Village. In the USA you will find this group's stores operating under the trade names Savers, Value Village, Unique and Valu Thrift.

That classic Mickey Mouse telephone pictured earlier in this article cost Rob $24.99 at Value Village. If you like it there's a "buy it now" offer on eBay for $120.00

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The inked stamp set (boxed at rear) cost $4.99; the Eeyore frame was $3.99. There are two sets of Mickey and Minnie figures, they were $4.00 each. The set on the right are salt & pepper shakers.

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The Disney collector coins were $5.00 each, the silver spoons $3.00 each. The bottle opener and the pewter shovel spoon were $5.00 each. On the right is a bolo tie from Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. It features Musket Mickey, a park icon you do not see anymore. It's a real treasure; a friend found it in a Florida thrift store and picked it up for us.

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Yes, those are genuine Snowbabies. Buy the set now for $125.00 on eBay or $29.99 at Value Village. Can you believe it?

Let's look at a few Garage Sale items.

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That's the Disney Cruise Line plate I mentioned earlier, about $125.00 on eBay and $.25 at a garage sale. Brer Bear was $.50 and that wonderful Mickey clock was $2.00

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My First Game is a Disney classic. This one, produced in 1955, was $5.00 at a flea market, all the other items came from garage sales. Trivial Pursuit (still on the shelves in the Emporium on Main Street USA) cost $2.00 and was still wrapped in its original cellophane. That terrific chess set came in a nice metal box for only $5.00

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These Christmas ornaments were all $3.00 or less.

Here are some flea market acquisitions.

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That little Donald figure is actually a stapler, only $2.99 - The Pinocchio Matchbox car dates back to the 70's and was $2.99 - The pewter item at the rear is a 100 Years of Magic picture frame and includes a Disney pin, only $8.00 - Snow White was $.50 and that little blue and red box on the front contains a Mickey Mouse Disneykin, buy it now for $11.99 on eBay but he cost only $2.00 at the flea market.

Another good hunting ground is the Salvation Army Thrift Shop.

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The items in the back are a ring-coil notepad for $3.00 and a $.50 packet of Pluto pumpkin seeds. The standing Winnie the Pooh was $3.00 and the Pooh in the tree was $1.00

My last picture is a mixed bag.

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Peter Pan, a Jim Shore creation, was $5.00 at the Salvation Army Thrift Shop, the Tigger "Bouncy Fun" Christmas ornament is from Bradford Exchange. You can buy it online for $16.99 but it was $2.99 at Value Village. Lady and the Tramp cost $5.00 at a flea market.

While I don't have that "collector's gene" and I don't experience the joy that Carol does when she finds a "new" gem it always makes me happy when I see that big grin on her face. It's a good hobby!

I hope this gives you a sense of what is out there waiting for you. If you like Disneyana you should get out there Saturday mornings and scour those garage sales; track down all the thrift shops.
There are treasures to be found everywhere!

July 22, 2012

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Disney Things

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What is your favourite park at Walt Disney World?

What are your "must-do" rides or activities?

What are the things you only do once in a while?

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One of the greatest things about Walt Disney World is the diversity of experience you can enjoy there. With the four theme parks, two water parks, golf courses, hotels, campground, scores of restaurants and all the surrounding attractions there is virtually no limit to the things you can enjoy.

Many of our friends who, like Carol and I, are frequent visitors have established some favourite attractions and activities, things they "must-do" every time they visit Walt Disney World.

Here's my list of favourites. Let's start with my favourite park, the Magic Kingdom.

Magic Kingdom

Why does this park top my list? Well, it's the classic, the first Florida park. This is where I first took my children in 1977. It is chock-full of good memories and will probably always be my "special place"! I remember the huge grins on both my daughter Michelle and son Steve's faces as we rode Dumbo together all those years ago. They loved It's A Small World and Peter Pan's Flight.

Peter Pan

About two years ago my son Steve took his family and they stood in line for 90 minutes to see Peter Pan. His comment? "What a hokey ride . . . why did I stand in line an hour and a half for that?" It will never be hokey for me because I'll always remember Steve's reaction when we rode it together in 1977. Peter Pan is one that Carol and I ride every visit.

The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean are two more that we never miss.

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Pirates

These rides are not "hi-tech" like some of the newer attractions but they still transport me to another world or another time. As I ride I sing along with the 999 happy haunts and the scallywag pirates. "Yo-ho, Yo-ho, a pirates life for me!" As we pass through Adventureland we are always compelled to savour a cold treat. Carol heads to Sunshine Tree Terrace to pick up a Citrus Swirl while I scoot to Aloha Isle for a Pineapple Float. We meet in the middle somewhere and try to achieve simultaneous brain-freezes.

We take a spin with Buzz Lightyear almost every trip.

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This ride brings out the worst in us. We become ultra-competitive, each trying to outscore the other as we blast Emperor Zurg into the next galaxy! It's great fun!

We enjoy many of the other rides as well but we don't feel compelled to enjoy them every time we visit. Once in a while is good for most of them. Of course, Wishes, the fireworks spectacular, is a "must-do" as well. We try to position ourselves at the back of The Hub, near Casey's Corner to get the best view of the show with Cinderella Castle in the foreground. That leads me to the one other snack we always stop for . . . a Casey's hot dog. Yum!

Many will probably be surprised at my second place ranking. Disney's Animal Kingdom ranks second for me. Why? Well, it's all about the animals.

Tiger

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Both Carol and I love seeing the animals. We walk all the back trails around the Tree of Life to see and photograph things most visitors miss. Hint: If you walk these trails at noon you will often see cast members feeding the animals and the animals will be front and center for you. There are plenty of photo-ops around noon on the Tree of Life Trails.

Kilimanjaro Safaris is an irresistible draw for us. We sometimes ride it twice, once in early morning and then again just before the park closes. Hint: You can get better pictures from the back row of the truck, but be prepared for the bouncing! It's the bumpiest seat!

Lion at Coppies

Carol is not a fan of roller coasters; she does not like the upside-down experience, but for some reason she really enjoys Expedition Everest. I don't understand why, but I'm glad she does. We ride together once and that's enough for her. I sometimes go directly to the single-rider line and take another spin.

Expedition Everest

After coaxing for a while I finally convinced Carol that coasters are smoother and less stressful if you raise your arms and stop fighting against the rocking and shaking motion. Once she tried it she agreed with me and now she often rides with her arms in the air. The only problem is that she cannot stop giggling when her arms are up. So if you see a woman on Everest, arms in the air and giggling like crazy - that's Carol!

Flights of Wonder is another great show we always enjoy. It always surprises us how many people walk by and skip this awesome performance. The need for conservation is delivered in an entertaining and inspiring fashion. Carol has co-starred in the show four times.

Flights of Wonder

When they ask for volunteers in the owl segment she is always up and waving her hands. Another regular stop is at the gibbon habitat near Kali River Rapids; we love to watch them swinging around their island. If you ever hear them calling to each other you will never forget the experience!

Gibbons

If we have lunch at Animal Kingdom it is almost always egg rolls from the quick service counter at Yak & Yeti; try them - they're great!

Third for me is EPCOT. This park is all about education . . . but the learning at EPCOT is all bundled up in a package of fun so you really don't notice. Educators need to look into this to see how it's done . . . learning can be fun!

Our first "must-do" is the very first attraction, Spaceship Earth.

Spaceship Earth

History, communication and science in one easy lesson; we seldom miss it. Another regular is Soarin'.

Soarin

I like the hang-glider ride one more than Carol but she humours me and rides along with me. It all evens out when I stifle my yawns as I wander through Germany's Der Teddybar shop with her.

We always look for Off Kilter, the celtic rock group who play beside the Canada pavilion, we both enjoy them.

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When I hear the Jamitors or The British Revolution I stop to listen while Carol dashes off to shop. Our interests aren't always the same but there are so many things to do that we can both enjoy ourselves at all times.

Dining at EPCOT is great, there are so many good restaurants, but our favourite is Canada's Le Cellier. We seldom miss having dinner at Le Cellier.

Last, but certainly not least is Disney's Hollywood Studios. This is also a wonderful park full of many terrific attractions, rides, sights and sounds. I love the "Streetmosphere", the many street entertainers who put on such entertaining shows.

Streetmosphere

I can sit and watch them again and again, which works out well because Carol can shop again and again!

Studios is home to the newest ride at Walt Disney World, Toy Story Midway Mania. Similar to Buzz Lightyear it's a giant video game that places you in the middle of the action. We try to ride Toy Story several times each trip if we can.

Toy Story Potato Head

We don our 3D glasses and turn into shooting demons, each of us once again striving to totally annihilate our beloved spouse. "I am not your mother . . . break those plates!"

We both enjoy the Tower of Terror and after riding it Carol generally heads down Sunset Boulevard to explore the Villains in Vogue shop while I head to the single-rider line for a spin on Rock 'n Roller Coaster.

Another "must-do" at Studios is a trip to the Animation Courtyard and a visit with David Rippberger, the Disney Ink and Paint artist who works in the Animation Gift Shop. David creates the hand painted animation cels which Carol collects and we like to visit with him to keep abreast of what's coming up next.

Our final irresistible lure at Studios is a relatively new discovery for us. Italian sausage in a bun at Min & Bill's Dockside Diner. We shared our first sausage in a bun about a year ago . . . as soon we bit into it we agreed we would never share one again. They are just too good to share! Don't miss this delicious lunch treat.

Of course no vacation would be complete without a trip to Downtown Disney. I always take my book along and find a spot to sit while Carol shops.

Days of Christmas Store

I read and people-watch while she scours through the Art of Disney Shop, the Disney Days of Christmas Shop and of course Disney's Pin Traders. Once she has worked up a good appetite she joins me and we head directly to the Earl of Sandwich.

Earl of Sandwich

This place has elevated the simple sandwich to an art form. Wow they're good! We often get back to "Earl's" several times during our stay!

There is so much to do outside the parks that I may make that the subject of another blog sometime. For now I will just mention two more of our favourite "non-park" things. First is dinner at 'Ohana in the Polynesian Resort . . . we never miss it. Great food, great location, great value! If you time it right and get a window table you can watch the Wishes fireworks extravaganza from your table. They pipe in the soundtrack too!

Second is a camping favourite, if we're staying in our RV at Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground we head to the beach at the campground a few evenings during our stay. There is a nice little patio beside the dock and we relax at a patio table as we watch Wishes. They pipe in the soundtrack here as well and as an added treat the fireworks are reflected on the waters of Bay Lake. It's a terrific place to watch the show with no crowds! Shortly after Wishes is over the Electrical Water Pageant sails past . . . what a great way to end a day!

So those are a few of my favourite things! There are so many things to do at Walt Disney World that it just never gets stale for us and I doubt that it ever will!

What are your favourite things?

July 29, 2012

WDW or Disneyland - Which is Better?

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People often ask Carol and I which we prefer, Walt Disney World in Florida or Disneyland in California. They are always surprised when we respond, "You can't compare the two; they're really quite different."

Our friends often protest, "But they're both Disney resorts, they have many of the same rides and attractions at both. They must be comparable!"

No, they are not . . . at least not in our opinion.

We have been going to Walt Disney World regularly since 1977 and we are huge fans. In 2005 we took our "once in a lifetime" trip to Disneyland, it was the 50th Anniversary year. Wow! We were blown away. It was wonderful, so wonderful that we have now been there seven times in the past seven years. So much for "once in a lifetime".

Walt Disney World is the most popular and the largest vacation destination in the world. It covers 47 square miles, has four theme parks, over 20 Disney owned and operated hotels, a huge campground, countless restaurants, two water parks, a five story video arcade, a shopping district, several golf courses and a Richard Petty track. All of the facilities are connected by a transportation system which includes hundreds of buses, scores of boats and a monorail. It's a self contained city which employs about 66,000 people and hosts tens of millions of tourists every year.

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Disneyland is a classic. It was the world's first theme park and it led the way for all the others. This is the park I grew up dreaming of . . . I would rush home from school every day to watch The Mickey Mouse Club on television. Spin & Marty, Davy Crockett, the Mousketeers and Annette. Oh yes . . . Annette! Every boy in my generation had a crush on Annette! Each Sunday night Walt Disney was on TV showing us a bit of Adventureland, Fantasyland, Frontierland or Tomorrowland; he captured our imaginations and whet our appetites. It was almost 50 years before I fulfilled my boyhood dream and took the trip west to Disneyland.

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The scope and scale of the properties is so much different. Disneyland is in an urban area and is surrounded by fully developed properties. Walt Disney World has lots of room to grow; only about a third of the 47 square miles has been developed so far. The entire Disney property in California would fit inside the parking lot at Florida's Magic Kingdom.

This disparity in size makes for some big differences in the experience you have at each resort. In California you can walk between the theme parks or to any of the hotels and other attractions in just a few minutes. In Florida you rely on the free Disney transportation system to get from your resort to the parks and attractions. This leads you to some wonderful sights you can see from the boats or on the monorail.

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Approaching Florida's Magic Kingdom by boat

In California the monorail is considered an attraction; in Florida it's a vital transportation link. In California everything is close and convenient; in Florida it's vast and diverse.

Do they have the same attractions? Yes and no!

Both parks have Pirates of the Caribbean, but they are different! Both parks have It's a Small World, but they are different! Both parks have a castle but they are different!

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Walt Disney World's Cinderella Castle

When we first arrived at Disneyland in 2005 Carol headed off to the Bank of Main Street (now the Art Gallery) to pick up her Annual Pass while I headed to the upper deck of the Train Station to get a picture of Sleeping Beauty Castle. As I took my first look down Main Street USA the first thought I had was, "Where's the castle?"

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Where's the castle?

Then I saw it . . . so much smaller than Cinderella Castle in Florida. It's only 77 feet tall, less than half the 189 foot height of Cindy's place which serves as the focal point in the Magic Kingdom.

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Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle

In Disneyland if you are disoriented you look for The Matterhorn (147 feet) to get your bearings.

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The Matterhorn

While the California castle is smaller than its Florida counterpart it has some very interesting features. You can walk through several hallways and see a diorama of scenes from Sleeping Beauty. Don't miss this attraction!

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In Florida Tinker Bell flies every night from Cinderella Castle but in California, where The Matterhorn dominates the skyline, she flies from the peak. She disappears for a while and then she flies back for an encore. It's an amazing sight in Florida but it's amazingly spectacular in California.

Many attractions appear in both parks but each coast has a number of unique ones as well. In California Country Bear Jamboree closed in 2001 but carries on in Florida. Mr. Toads Wild Ride, based on The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, continues to operate in California but closed in Florida in 1998. Oddly enough, each of the attractions was closed to make room for Winnie The Pooh!

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Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

Almost all the attractions which are duplicated in each park have unique differences. In California you line up outdoors for It's A Small World and you board the boats outside before you sail into the attraction. In Florida you board inside. The interior configuration and displays are quite different as well. The exterior façade of the California version is lavishly lit at Christmas and the nightly The Magic, The Memories and You show is projected on it. It's a very busy area every evening.

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Disneyland's It's a Small World loading area

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Disneyland's It's a Small World at Christmas

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Florida's It's a Small World loading area

The Haunted Mansions in each destination have some of the same scenes but on the whole they are very different. Carol and I much prefer the California version which is located in New Orleans Square rather than Liberty Square like the Florida mansion. Try to schedule a visit to California between Halloween and Christmas. They shut the mansion down for a few weeks before Halloween and after Christmas in order to add the Nightmare Before Christmas overlay and then remove it. They don't just tweak the ride, it's a complete makeover. If you are a Nightmare fan you simply must see the Disneyland Haunted Mansion with the overlay. It is mind-blowing!

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Disneyland Haunted Mansion

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Walt Disney World Haunted Mansion

We also prefer the California version of Pirates of the Caribbean which is set in New Orleans Square. You board your boat at Lafitte's Landing and get a peek at the dining area of the Blue Bayou Restaurant as you sail through the bayou before plunging into the pirate's grotto.

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Disneyland Pirates of the Caribbean

In Florida the Pirate's attraction is part of Adventureland. You pass through a golden Spanish fort called Castillo Del Morro (inspired by Castillo de San Felipe del Morro in San Juan) before you board the boat for your descent into Pirate's Cove.

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Walt Disney World Pirates of the Caribbean

I must also mention my favourite entertainers at Disneyland, Billy Hill & the Hilbillies! This quartet plays regularly at the Golden Horseshoe Saloon and the show is always a laugh-fest. They are all talented musicians and they are all complete hams.

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We make it a point to sit through several of their 25 minute shows each time we visit. When I walk past the empty Diamond Horseshoe Saloon in Florida's Magic Kingdom I always lament that Florida doesn't have Billy Hill.

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We need to stage a sit-in or some sort of protest . . . each of us carrying a "We Want Billy Hill" sign. OK . . . OK, all you folks in California relax, we're not trying to steal Kurt and the boys, we just need a group like them!

There are so many other differences, the Aladdin Show, an awesome Toontown, Storybookland, the California Screamin' roller coaster, the Alice In Wonderland Ride, New Orleans Square and so much more in California.

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Aladdin Show at California Adventure's Hyperion Theatre

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Disneyland's Storybookland

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Disneyland's Toontown

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Disneyland's Toontown

Florida has Mission Space, the Finding Nemo show, the Festival of the Lion King show, The Great Movie Ride, the Lights, Motors, Action stunt driving show, The Universe of Energy and plenty of other unique attractions.

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Hollywood Studio's Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights

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Lego figures at Downtown Disney

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EPCOT's Mission Space

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Animal Kingdom's Festival of the Lion King

In California they have just opened an exciting new area in the California Adventure park. Carsland looks amazing, I can't wait until we see it this December. Of course in Florida they have opened some of the new attractions in the totally redeveloped Fantasyland. It seems that there's always something fresh at each destination.

If you still don't believe me when I say, "You can't compare the two; they're really quite different." there is only one thing for you to do. Visit both just as soon as you can . . . then you can draw your own conclusions.

I'm sure you'll agree with me then!

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About July 2012

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

June 2012 is the previous archive.

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