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May 7, 2014

Jim's Attic - Snow Queen Ride

davis-snow-queen-2.jpg
The Snow Queen Ride
By Jim Korkis

The most recent Walt Disney Feature Animation film, Frozen (2013), is the highest grossing animated feature film ever produced, winning Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Song.

The Meet and Greet with Anna and Elsa at the Norway Pavilion at Epcot was so overwhelmingly successfully that the new Disney princesses now take up residence at the Princess Fairytale Hall in the Magic Kingdom to better accommodate their huge number of fans.

Anna and Elsa in the Norway Pavilion at Epcot:

Walt Disney himself had been interested in the Hans Christian Andersen tale of the Snow Queen as early as 1943.

Walt was in discussions with MGM film producer Samuel Goldwyn to collaborate on a film biography of the famous writer.

MGM would handle the live action sequences and Disney would create short animated sequences of some of Anderson's most famous tales including The Little Mermaid, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and, of course, The Snow Queen.

The project never developed any further but periodically over the years just like with the story of the Little Mermaid, the Disney artists would review the material to see if they could develop a story about The Snow Queen.

The big challenge was that the Snow Queen was basically a villain and all of the Disney animated feature films were about heroes who defeated the villain.

In 2002, Disney came close, even having songwriter Alan Menken compose several terrific tunes including "Love Can't Be Denied". Animator Glen Keane was deeply involved in the film but left when CEO Michael Eisner considered giving the film to Pixar to do. Fortunately, the project was revived again with a new team in 2008.

A few years before his official retirement in 1978, Imagineer Marc Davis designed an attraction for Disneyland and Walt Disney World's Fantasyland that was based on the story of The Snow Queen and was entitled "The Enchanted Snow Palace".

The massive white and blue show building would have looked like a glacier but slowly as guests got closer and looked more carefully, they would have realized that it seemed almost like carvings of towers, windows, doors and more.

Guests would have boarded a boat (just like on it's a small world) to drift pass dancing audio-animatronics polar bears, walruses, penguins and more to the background music from "The Nutcracker's Suite".

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Soon, the guests would drift into a snow cave with frost fairies (like the ones in the film Fantasia) and snow giants carrying icicle clubs. Eventually, the boats would come to the throne room of the Snow Queen herself who was about to leave on her sled for her journey through her kingdom.

To speed her passage, she conjures up a blizzard and the guests are caught in a brief snow storm just before they exit into the hot summer reality of Fantasyland.

Davis felt that a leisurely beautiful, literally cool attraction that could be enjoyed by guests of all ages would have been embraced by guests eager to get out of the heat and spend a restful moment on a boat ride.

However, at an estimated cost of fifteen million dollars, the Disney company decided to pass on the attraction and look to more thrilling rather than artistic experiences.

Now, with the continuing popularity of Frozen, the latest rumor is that the Maelstrom attraction in the Norway Pavilion at Epcot might be re-designed into a Frozen attraction, perhaps adapting some of the work done by Davis. Others feel that it might be more appropriate to have such an attraction in the New Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom.

Whatever the final decision, it is important to remember that decades before the film, the story of Andersen's Snow Queen was very much a part of the Disney heritage.

====================
Check out Jim's other "From the Attic" Blogs

Full features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives: http://allears.net/ae/archives.htm

Jim Korkis

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, his skills and historical knowledge were utilized by Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.

He is the author of three new books, available in both paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon.com:
The Book of Mouse: A Celebration of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse
Who's Afraid of the Song of the South
"The REVISED Vault of Walt":


May 10, 2014

2014 AllEars Group Cruise - The Prequel

Gary Cruise banner

Carol and I are very excited to be joining some old friends, and some friends we have yet to meet, as we board the Disney Fantasy and sail the western Caribbean on the 2014 AllEars Group Cruise. We board the Fantasy Saturday May 10th for a seven day adventure.

2014_AllEars_Cruise

This will be our 10th Disney Cruise and our 4th AllEars Group Cruise. We really enjoy cruising and it's fun to enjoy the experience as part of a group who share so many of our interests.

2014_May_Cruise_Itinerary

If you have ever wondered if Disney cruising might be right for you, or if you wondered what a group cruise would be like - come along and join us as we sail. I will be blogging daily to report on our activities and would love to have you along for the ride!

Here's a bit of a teaser to whet your appetite - a few highlights from our stay at Walt Disney World before we set sail!

Flower_&_Garden

Boat_to_Fort_Wilderness

Buzz_Lightyear

Malificent

Mother_Nature

Kermit_&_Miss_Piggy

Sunset_at_EPCOT

Tune in every day to see what we've been up to on our cruise!

May 11, 2014

2014 AllEars Group Cruise - Day 1

Gary Cruise banner

I was too excited to sleep this morning. I tossed and turned for a while, trying to fall back asleep, but finally surrendered at 6:15. I tried to be quiet so Carol could sleep - that meant that the banging and clattering was subdued, but of course there was still too much banging and clattering. Soon she was up too and we enjoyed a few cups of coffee in our room at Port Orleans French Quarter.

I had a quick breakfast at the Sassagoula Float Works food court and by 8:15 we were on the road headed to Port Canaveral. Saturday morning traffic was very light and we made terrific time across Route 528.

Port_Canaveral_Road_Sign

There is a special thrill as you climb a small rise, about two miles inland, when you get that first brief glimpse of the ship off in the distance. There it was! Just a minute later there was another hill and we had a much better view.

Disney_Fantasy

By 9:30 I had parked, unloaded the luggage, and left Carol and the baggage behind while I returned our rental car just a few miles down the highway. The terminal was bustling with activity as the returning cruisers disembarked to begin their trip home and the embarking cruisers checked in their luggage.

Mickey_Clock

The Avis shuttle bus had me back at the terminal by 10:15 and it was time to say hello to some friends we had not seen in a while. There were so many familiar faces, people from previous AllEars cruises and people from Disney internet communities. We kept quite busy mingling and chatting until check-in opened at 10:45.

Meeting_goof_friends

We entered the terminal, quickly cleared through the security check point and rode up the escalator to the main concourse. Once we arrived on the third floor we were among the first to check-in and get our Key to the World cards.

The_embarkation_door

There were even a few Disney celebrities who dropped by to give us all a photo-op.

Olaf

Captain_Mickey

Minnie

Before we knew it was 11:30 and our boarding group was called to the loading bridge. Once aboard we made our way directly to The Enchanted Garden dining room on Deck 2 for lunch. We were joined by Dave and Brenda from Maryland, Masayo from Japan and Gail from Nevada.

Carol_Masayo_and_Gail

Lunch_group

After a nice lunch we all caught the elevator to Deck 4 and checked in at D Lounge where both AllEars and Mouse Fan Travel had reception desks set up. Once we had all of our information, credentials and swag,

Linda_and_Melanie

Carol and I headed up to Deck 9 to find our stateroom. It was ready and our bags were sitting directly outside the door. Carol got right to work unpacking and getting us settled in for the week while I set up our internet connection. As Carol was decorating our stateroom door our Cabin Steward, Ekarat from Thailand, stopped to introduce himself and see if there was anything we needed. Service is always first-class on Disney ships!

On_the_verandah

Before we knew it the emergency whistles sounded announcing the compulsory lifeboat drill. We headed to our assembly point, the Buena Vista Theatre on Deck 5 and joined the assembled throng as they demonstrated how to don your lifejacket. Soon the mandatory ritual was over and we headed to Deck 12 where we joined the AllEars.net group for the spirited and lively Sail-Away Party.

Carol_waves_the_AllEars_sign

We watched from the rail on Deck 12 as families below us on Deck 11 danced and sang along with Disney characters and cast members.

Singing_and_dancing

James_and_Linda

Deck_party

Richard_Colin_and_Beci

It's always a fun-filled time . . . but tonight, when the ship whistle sounded "When You Wish Upon A Star" at about 4:45 we were still at the dock. It was about 5:20 when we pushed away from the pier and began our journey.

Many had already left the upper decks when Carol and I unfurled the Canadian flag and held it against the rail for our family who were watching at home on the Port Canaveral webcam. Most of the people in our group were texting friends who were watching the webcam, saying, "I'm beside the Canadian flag!" As we passed the camera at Fish Lips Bar & Grill some of them started receiving pictures of the ship on their cell phones - there we were with the flag! Cool!

We stayed at the rail until we reached the end of the jetty where AllEars blogger Kristin Ford and her two children were waving frantically. We were equally frantic as we waved back!

Kristen


By the time we had left the harbour it was dinner time. We all rushed down to Deck 2 for our 5:45 dinner at Enchanted Garden. Our dinner-mates are Masayo from Japan and Gail from Nevada. We had known them both from previous Disney trips and previous cruises. It was nice to catch up with them over a delicious meal. Our server is Tanapong (Tana) from Thailand and our assistant server is Jelena from Serbia.

Dinner_group

After dinner we visited with some of the surrounding tables of AllEars cruisers before heading up to our stateroom. Before long Masayo called and dropped off some very special items she had brought us from Tokyo Disneyland! Thanks Masayo! The three of us headed off to the Walt Disney Theatre to watch the "Fantasy Come True" stage production. We have seen this particular show several times, but it never gets old . . . talented cast members and lively Disney characters combine to deliver an engaging story. The song and dance numbers and the broadway-style staging are professional quality and, of course, it's all geared for the entire family!

It was another day of travel, followed by plenty of activity in the sun and fresh air. After the show the three of us headed back to our staterooms for a quiet night.

Tomorrow we will have a relaxing day at sea . . . come on back and see what we've been up to!

May 12, 2014

2014 AllEars Group Cruise - Day 2

Gary Cruise banner

Carol and I have found that we never sleep past 7:00 a.m. while we're cruising, so she always orders room service coffee for 7:00 a.m. It arrived on time, as always, and this time she included a few small pastries. We were booked for brunch at Palo and the pastries were intended to tide me over until noon. The strategy worked well, by noon I was ravenous!

I headed up to the Cove Café on Deck 11 at 7:45 for the AllEars.net Cawfee Tawk meet scheduled for 8:00; Carol followed about a half hour later. We stood, sipped coffee and yakked, renewing acquaintances, for over an hour. There were plenty of familiar faces from past cruises and some newcomers as well. It's really quite easy to mix and mingle when we all share a love of all things Disney.

The_Cove_Cafe

The_Cove_Cafe

Carol and I left at about 9:20 and went back to our stateroom for a few minutes before heading down to The Tube, a lounge on Deck 4 Aft, for the Castaway Club Reception for Gold and Platinum members.

Castaway_Club_Reception

There were complimentary cocktails and finger foods; Cruise Director Ray thanked us for our continued loyalty to Disney Cruise Lines, then the guest of honor arrived - Captain Mickey. He posed for pictures with everyone as all the senior crew members mingled with Castaway Club members.

Carol_and_I_with_Mickey

Masayo_with_Mickey

Milton_and_Michelle_with_Mickey

After the reception we scurried back to our cabin to get dressed for our brunch at Palo. On our way to brunch we met Minnie!

Minnie

We really enjoy this upscale dining experience at Palo. There is a wonderful array of Mediterranean cuisine and the service is always outstanding. Our server, Jessyca from Peru, was superb. We had a very enjoyable experience. The food and the service were top notch! It was 2:00 p.m. when we finished.

At_Palo

We changed back into more casual clothes for the 2:30 p.m. Ice Cream Social on Deck 11. Ice Cream Social has become a bit of a misnomer.

Nancy_and_Mary_Jean_with_ice_cream

While everyone spends a few minutes enjoying ice cream, most folks spend far more time trading those highly coveted AllEars Trading Cards. There is a series of 66 different cards, each with a Disney themed picture and story. Each cruiser received a packet of 66 cards with their welcome gift, but the 66 cards were not the complete set, they were multiples of only a few cards in the set. In order to get a complete set, they had to find other cruisers in our group, compare cards and trade to fill blanks in each collection. The Ice Cream Social quickly became a spirited trading session!

Trading_AllEars_cards

Trading_AllEars_cards

How spirited was it? A certain gentleman from Ohio stole the entire collection of a lady from Maryland. Don't feel too bad for her, the collection was recovered and returned to her . . . and I have reason to believe that the gent from Ohio may have been framed!

Cuba passed by on our Port side as trading continued until 3:45, when the heat and humidity finally drove us indoors. Once again we were worn out and we took a well earned nap!

We were up and dressed for dinner by 4:45. It was formal night and there were plenty of photographers set up in the Atrium, so we struck out to stalk some characters. Yikes - the lines were huge! We managed to find Goofy at Preludes and his line was relatively short.

Two_Goofy_guys

Our dinner was in the Royal Court, Deck 3 Midship. It was very nice, I enjoyed baked brie, French onion soup, lobster macaroni while Carol had a lobster and shrimp appetizer, French onion soup and Chateaubriand. We both had creme brulee for dessert. Every dish was outstanding. This was probably the best meal we have ever had in the regular dining rotation.

Photo-bombed_by_Deb

There was plenty to talk about during the meal. Carol and Gail began to compare their Disney collections. One would say, "I have quite a few Disney Classic Collection pieces." The other would reply, "Me too!" Or, "I collect Disney buttons." "Me too. I have them all organized displayed in frames." It went on and on and on. There two ladies certainly have similar interests!

We sat talking for so long that we were among the very last to leave the dining room. Cast members were setting up tables for the 8:15 seating and began flashing the lights to urge us to leave. It worked!

We went back to our cabin and changed into more casual clothes before heading down to Deck 4 Aft. AllEars cruisers were meeting at La Piazza for cocktails at 9:15. A good number of our group were there and we had a very nice time chatting over drinks. We left the camera behind, so there are no incriminating pictures.

Carol and I rushed away at 11:00 to catch the adult show in the Walt Disney Theatre. It was a hilarious hypnosis show by Ricky Kalman. He used about a dozen volunteers from the audience to keep us in stitches. The highlight of the performance was cruiser Craig who thought he was the world's foremost hand puppet performer. He was convinced that each of his hands held a puppet and he sang a stirring rendition of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody as the puppets mimed the words! We roared with laughter.

It was midnight when we returned to our stateroom and hit the sack after a fun filled day at sea.

2014 AllEars Group Cruise - Day 3

Gary Cruise banner

Carol woke me as she got out of bed . . . at 6:00 a.m. We set our clocks back last night and gained an hour, but we didn't reset our minds, so we awoke at our normal time. Carol dashed up to Deck 11 and brought back coffee which we sipped on our veranda as we watched Cozumel appear through the mist!

Cozumel_in_the_distance

Nearing_the_Cozumel_wharf

We had no excursions booked for the day, it was time to enjoy the ship while everyone else was ashore. Carol left at 8:45 and dashed up the wharf to the first jewelry store. She bought a "silver" necklace when we were here last October. It turned out to be something other than sliver and my sweet bride was determined to get satisfaction. I was a skeptic, but she came back smiling and bearing a similar necklace clearly stamped as genuine sterling silver. Sure hope it is . . . or that vendor won't know what hit him the next time my tornado is in town!

The_Fantasy

When Carol left, I went to Cabanas for a bite of breakfast and then went directly to the Cove Café where I sat outside reading my book. It seemed like no time until a friend passed and said, "Carol is looking for you in Cabanas." I joined her and sat as she had a light snack and showed me the new necklace.

We went directly to Deck 13 Forward and found a pair of comfy chairs in the shade at Satellite Falls. This has become our favorite "Adult Only" spot on the ship. Most passengers have not discovered it and it's remarkably peaceful. Friends Susan, Pam, Nancy, Margaret and Tom spent a good part of the day there as well. There is a shallow pool built around the bottom of the dome which you see in the photograph below.

Satellite_Falls

There is a 360° bench seat around the interior of the pool and the water covers the seat to a depth of several inches. As you sit with your butt and legs in the pool a cooling shower falls from the ring above you. The simulated raindrops fall about where your toes are when you stretch you legs out fully. You are surrounded by the "backside of water" and the ocean breeze carries a light cooling mist from the rainfall. If you prefer, you can stretch out with your back against the wooden slats that line the exterior of the pool and fully immerse yourself. It's a pretty blissful place. We need to make sure it remains undiscovered. Please don't tell anyone about Satellite Falls . . . mum's the word!

Carol left at 10:45 for her "Pamper Package" at Senses, the shipboard spa. The package included a 50 minute Full Body Massage, a Foot & Ankle Massage, an Indian Scalp Massage and a 25 minute Booster Facial.

Senses

I sat reading, periodically dunking in the pool to cool off. When Carol rejoined me at Satellite Falls she looked well oiled and fully relaxed.

We relaxed for another half hour or so and then went in search of food! After a nice lunch at Cabanas we made our way back to Satellite Falls and spent another slothful hour. Then it was time for the Aqua Duck - a giant waterslide which takes you out over the ocean as you wind your way down two decks to the splash-down zone. Great fun!

Aqua_Duck

Aqua_Duck

We were back to our stateroom at 2:30 - SNORE!

We sat on our veranda and watched as we pushed away from the wharf at Cozumel at 4:30 p.m. and began our overnight journey to Grand Cayman.

Sailing_away

Then it was time to head off to Deck 3 Aft for dinner at Animator's Palate. We encountered Minnie Mouse along the way so naturally we stopped for a picture!

Carol_and_Gary_with_Minnie

The characters from Finding Nemo performed during our dinner.

Dinner_at_Animator's_Palate

Crush was the emcee for the evening and he picked Carol and I to co-star in the show. I learned how to speak "Whale" and then told Carol, "I adore you Carol." in that loud and eerie whale drawl. I must have done well because the entire dining room was chanting GA-RY GA-RY GA-RY. It was quite a stirring evening!

Dory

Crush

After dinner we wandered through the shops on Deck 3 and I waited while Carol traded some pins and Vinylmations, then we returned to our stateroom. I spent some time putting this blog together while she wandered the halls dropping off "fish extender" items for our friends.

About 9:00 we wandered down to the adult entertainment area in search of playmates. We ended up at Skylines where we both enjoyed a cocktail with a small group of our fellow AllEars cruisers. We left just before 11:00, heading toward the Walt Disney Theatre. Along the way we met Fran and Carol who joined us for the Shawn Farquar magic show. We have seen Shawn perform before and we were once again intrigued and mystified by his sleight of hand.

The show ended just after 11:30 and we made our way home to fall into bed.

May 13, 2014

D23's Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved

by
J. Scott Lopes
AllEars.Net Guest Blogger


d23-fantasia-evolved.jpg


One of the great benefits of being a D23 member is having the opportunity to attend numerous special events that are held throughout the country each year. A few weeks ago, I read on the D23, The Official Disney Fan Club web page that there would be a special event in my area, so I made plans to attend.

On April 13, 2014, during the PAX East gaming festival located in Boston, Massachusetts, Disney Interactive and Harmonix hosted an exclusive event for D23 members to preview their new game, Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved. The event was held at the Trade restaurant in Boston.


d23-fantasia-evolved-trade.jpg


About 100 people turned up for the event. Guests were having an exciting time playing the game during the event on one of two gaming consoles, and Disney cast members were encouraging all guests to take a turn and try out the new game:


d23-fantasia-gaming.jpg


During the event there was a great assortment of food and drinks, such as pizzas and sliders.

As with most Disney events, there were surprise giveaways. In total there were three prize packs: a wireless headset, a print signed by the development team, and a package that consisted of an engraved iPod Touch pre-loaded with music from the game and also a copy of the game at launch.


d23-fantasia-evolved-gifts.jpg


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Although there were only three prizes, all guests were able to get a Fantasia gift bag that contained a tee shirt, pin, and an unsigned copy of the print.


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Overall this was a great event. It was a lot of fun to be able to meet other fans and also play the latest Disney game. Being from New England, it's hard for me to make it to events in Florida or California, so it is nice to be able to go to local events.


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



May 14, 2014

2014 AllEars Group Cruise - Day 4

Gary Cruise banner

It was a wasted day. A gloriously wasted day. This was exactly the kind of day we hope to have during a cruise!

For Carol and I, the cruise is not about the ports of call and the excursions. For us, it's all about the ship-board experience. It's about being pampered . . . it's all about the people we are cruising with. We enjoy cruising with friends or as part of a group. And we especially enjoy having the ship almost to ourselves when everyone else goes ashore in the ports. This was one of those very quiet days when everyone else was off enjoying some sort of shore adventure.

I awoke at 6:00 a.m. but Carol showed no inclination to get out of bed. I grabbed the camera and headed up to Decks 12 and 13 to take some pictures before other passengers began to stir.

Here's what I saw:

Adult_pool
The adult pool on Deck 11, in front of the Cove Café.

Small_Adult_pool
The small adult pool on Deck 12 above the Cove Café.

Satellite_Falls
Satellite Falls on Deck 13 Forward. Notice the shaded area full of deck chairs on the right. There are more deck chairs in full sunlight on the left.

Rain_clouds
There were very dark clouds on the northern horizon at 6:25, and two visible storm cells where it was raining heavily.

Aqua_Duck
This photo shows the area where the Aqua Duck water slide takes riders out beyond the ship's rails and over the ocean!

Donald_in_the_stack
Donald seems to have had a mishap beside the spot where the Aqua Duck passes through the forward stack.

Children's_slide
The children's slide beside the Mickey pool.

Family_pools
The family pools on Deck 11 with the Funnel Vision screen in the background.

Aqua_Lab
The Aqua Lab splash zone on Deck 12.

I moved indoors for a few minutes. Here is a sample of the decor in the main atrium at Midship.

Atrium_chandelier
The chandelier highlights the peacock theme.

Peacock_tail_feathers
The peacock theme continues with the spray of tail feathers at the bottom of the grand staircase.

Peacock_in_grille-work
Even the metal grille-work features peacocks!

Shutters
The photo studio, Shutters, is on Deck 4 Midship. There are a number of racks like the one pictured. The racks contain folders, one folder per cabin, and all photos taken by Disney photographers magically appear in the correct folder.

Running_track
Deck 4 is the promenade deck, with a walking/running track. Two and a half laps equals one mile!

It was almost 7:00 a.m. and I knew my princess would be stirring and looking for her coffee. I picked up some java on Deck 11 and headed back home. We savored coffee on our veranda and soon decided to head to Cabanas for breakfast. None of our playmates were there. We thought that was odd! It wasn't until later in the day that we were reminded - all of our friends from Tagrel.com had met for breakfast at The Royal Court. We were supposed to be there but we completely forgot! We're both very sorry Karen, chalk it up to a "senior's moment".

Heading_to_Grand_Cayman
Grand Cayman was a faint dark line on the horizon as we toured the upper decks, snapping photos on our way to Satellite Falls.

Carol_at_the_Rail

Grand_Cayman_on_the_horizon

I settled in a shaded chair at 9:15 and spent over 5 hours alternately soaking in Satellite Falls and relaxing with my book. Carol stayed a few minutes then headed off to Senses for her spa treatment.

Anchored_beside_us

Grand_Cayman

Grand_Cayman

We were anchored at Grand Cayman by 10:00 a.m. and it wasn't long before tenders arrived to shuttle passengers back and forth to the island. I continued to relax on Deck 13.

Tenders

Tender

Carol enjoyed the Bliss Treatment which lasted 75 minutes and included a Hot Stone Back Massage, a Foot and Ankle Massage, a Scalp Massage and a Hydrating Facial. She said the name was appropriate, it really was bliss!

Carol rejoined me at about 11:00; it wasn't long before Nancy, Pam and Susan arrived to remind us we missed breakfast. Dang!

We grazed around the food counters near the pools on Deck 11, chicken fingers and tuna wraps were the favorites!

It was close to 2:00 p.m. when we decided we had about all the heat we could stand. We stopped along the way for another plunge on the Aqua Duck. There was no line - absolutely no one in front of us.

Mulan_on_Tunnel_Vision

We marched straight up the stairs, flopped into our tubes and slipped and slid to our splash-downs on deck 12.

Aqua_Duck

Aqua_Duck

I had a nice snooze while Carol did some laundry. Before we knew it, it was time for dinner so we headed out in search of characters. There weren't many out and the lines were long so we settled for a picture of my princess on her throne.

Royalty

Dinner was once again in the Enchanted Garden, in the same booth seat we shared Saturday evening.

Enchanted_Garden

After dinner we headed back to the stateroom for a half hour, then went searching for some playmates to have a drink before the 10:30 show in The Tube Lounge. We encountered Donald Duck along the way!

Carol_and_Gary_with_Donald

Dave and Brenda, from Maryland, were not too far behind us in the line for a picture with Donald!

Dave_and_Brenda_with_Donald

On our way back to the Tube, Dave, Brenda, Carol and I bumped into Fran and Carol. We all headed to Skylines for a cocktail. When we arrived, there were Deb, Linda, James & Linda, so we joined them.

After a quick drink and a few laughs it was time to head to The Tube for the comedy and ventriloquism of Kevin Johnson. We have seen his show before . . . as we left I decided to be gracious and said to Carol, "He was OK but . . . " She said, "No he was not OK- it was bad!" She was right, it was a poor show.

We were back to our cabin by 11:30 and soon nodded off to sleep!

May 15, 2014

2014 AllEars Group Cruise - Day 5

Gary Cruise banner

We finally slept until our normal 7:00 a.m. Everything was peaceful and quiet; we were docked at Falmouth, Jamaica.

Carol went to Deck 11 and picked up coffee which we enjoyed on our veranda as we looked out over this scenic town on the north shore of the island.

Falmouth_Jamaica

As soon as the ship docks the crew scurries to start routine maintenance jobs. In the photo below you see a lifeboat lowered on its davits for maintenance while a worker hangs in a basket overhead spraying rust protection on susceptible areas.

Routine_maintenance

We had a nice breakfast at Cabanas and then strolled the upper decks snapping pictures of our surroundings. A Royal Caribbean ship, the Freedom of the Seas, arrived soon after we awoke, turned around in front of us and backed into the other side of the wharf.

Falmouth_Jamaica

The sun and humidity drove us indoors where we spent some time walking the halls completing our group trivia quiz. James, one of our fellow cruisers, developed a very challenging list of Disney Cruise Line trivia questions to help keep us busy all week!

Soon it was time to disembark so we headed to D Lounge on Deck 4 Midship. Our 11:15 departure group met there and we were led onshore right on time. It appears to be a brand new port area, everything is fresh and new, but of course it features the same jewelry shops seen in all other Caribbean ports!

The_port_at_Falmouth

After a short walk through the port area Carol, Nancy and I boarded our bus and began the short trip into the mountains to the Good Hope Estate.

The_bus_ride

A tour guide on the bus pointed out some of the highlights along the way, such as the school for tour guides and the water filtration plant!

Good_Hope

The Good Hope Estate is very picturesque and has an interesting history. The Great House was built in 1755 as a wedding gift for the 19-year old woman who was marrying the owner's son. The bride only lived 7 years and was buried inside the house. There are many activities at Good Hope, including zip lines, carriage rides, rafting, tubing, a playground for children and of course, the high tea we had signed up for.

Carriage_ride

Zip_line

We toured the property, dodging brief rain showers.

Flowers

Veranda

Drawing_room

Blue_room

Then Carol snapped pictures of some amazing long-tailed hummingbirds before we were seated for high tea.

Good_Hope_buildings

Sitting_for_tea

Having_tea

The service was good, but the food was disappointing; the scenery made up for any disappointment though. During the meal Carol kept darting outside to capture pictures of flowers and more hummingbirds.

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Hummingbird

Hummingbird

We caught a 2:00 p.m. shuttle bus back to the port where I spotted this unusual sign. Look very closely at that arrow!

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Disney cruisers must be smarter than those on other cruise lines . . . Disney doesn't use this sort of sign to tell guests they're going the wrong way!

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I relaxed with a frosty Red Stripe beer while Nancy and Carol caroused the shops.

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We were back aboard the ship at 2:45. After a hot and sticky time ashore in Jamaica, Satellite Falls sounded like the best place to be, so we dropped everything in our cabin and headed up for a relaxing soak! Aaaah!

At dinner the previous night, Brenda from Maryland dreamed up a great little fundraising idea to support Deb Wills' charity, the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. Brenda volunteered Melanie for hair-braiding. Those of us in the AllEars Cruise group were given the opportunity to contribute and Melanie would get one braid for every $5.00 contributed. We pretty quickly kicked in enough to buy 51 braids. Isn't that great team spirit? We were on Deck 11 at 3:30 p.m. as Melanie sat down in the chair to begin!

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After a few braids were completed we headed to our stateroom to cool off, it was a steamy day out! After a refreshing nap we headed back to Deck 11 and returned just in time to watch as the last few braids were completed. After 44 braids Melanie had run out of hair! The finished product look great and the process raised $300.00 . . . isn't Melanie a good sport?

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Once the braiding was done, shortly after 5:00 p.m., Carol and I hurried back to our cabin to dress for dinner. We had been invited by Beci from Mouse Fan Travel to join her for dinner in the private dining area at Palo. The group included Beci and Annette, Deb and Linda, Janine and her mother Shirley, Colin and Richard, Dave and Brenda and Carol and I. There is just no better combination than good friends, good food and good drink. When this combination comes together in opulent surroundings such as Palo, magic sometimes happens. This was one of those magical times! Our server, Cindy from England, joined in the revelry with us and by the end of the evening we all had sore ribs - brought on by all the laughter.

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What a wonderful time! Thanks to Beci for inviting us, and thanks to all for sharing so much laughter with us!

We tore ourselves away from Palo at 10:30 and decided to head to Deck 12 where the Pirate Night party was in full swing. We met Masayo and Gail and watched the stage show and fireworks with them, then stayed, leaning on the top rail as we watched the dance party below us on Deck 10.

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It was 11:30 when we headed below deck to our stateroom. We turned our clocks ahead one hour, making it 12:30 a.m., and fell into bed!

2014 AllEars Group Cruise - Day 6

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This morning we woke at 7:15. Cuba was visible through the haze on the western horizon and Haiti was just out of sight beyond the eastern horizon. I brought coffee back from Deck 11 and we enjoyed it on our veranda as we watched the Caribbean, and a few container ships, roll past. What a nice way to begin the day!

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Deb Wills was hosting Cawfee Tawk at the Cove Café, It has become a tradition for AllEars cruisers to meet for coffee on "sea days". We stood and yakked for an hour and a quarter.

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Cawfee_tawk

Carol and I, along with a few others, enjoyed looking through the wonderful "memory books" Deb and Linda brought along. One described their Adventures By Disney trip to Scotland last year and the other covered their beautiful wedding in Hawaii just a few months ago. It was a real treat to leaf through the photo journals and share such sweet memories with two wonderful women.

At 10:00 we headed aft on Deck 11 to Cabanas where Carol had orange juice and a light snack while I had breakfast.

Cabanas

Cabanas

Back at our cabin Carol changed into her bathing suit and struck out to Satellite Falls, I stayed behind to write and publish another day of the blog for AllEars.

I joined Carol on Deck 13 just before noon and we alternated dunking and scorching for a few hours.

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Carol had lunch at Cabanas and brought me back a nice snack from Flo's V/8 Café. I ate at poolside.

By 2:00 p.m. we were both hot and tired; we headed home where I napped. Once Carol was cooled down she headed off shopping. She bought a new Dooney purse and checked our pictures at Shutters before she came home to do her final preparations for the afternoon Pin Trading session.

We left at 3:15 and headed to The Tube on Deck 4 Aft. Deb Wills had provided about 100 pins and Carol was running the trading board for the hour long event.

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All the pins were displayed on a cork board and traders lined up for the opportunity to trade two pins.

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There was an initial flurry of trading for the first 15 minutes, followed by sporadic trading for the rest of the hour.

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Trading those popular AllEars Trading Cards was the really popular activity.

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Tables full of cards were scattered throughout the lounge and traders wandered from table to table striking deals as they tried to complete their sets.

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Trading_Cards

Trading_Cards

At about 4:45 we headed home to change for dinner. It was semi-formal night at Royal Court. I put on long pants for the occasion!

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Dinner was great, at least mine was. I ordered parmesan crusted chicken with fettuccini, Carol ordered lobster. Her lobster was OK . . . not great, just OK. I couldn't finish all of my chicken and she was quick to gobble up the leftovers.

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Back in the stateroom after dinner we discovered some new towel art - the best one of this cruise!

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I relaxed while Carol started to pack. Yes, unfortunately our adventure was drawing to a close. The following day we would be at Castaway Cay and the next day we would disembark and head home. Boo - Hiss!

At 9:15 we struck out for La Piazza on Deck 4 Aft; the AllEars cruisers were meeting for cocktails. There was plenty of chatter and laughter, I even saw a few AllEars Trading Cards change hands!

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La_Piazza

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La_Piazza

Shortly after 10:00 p.m. many of us made our way next door to The Tube where Buckets 'N Boards were scheduled to play at 10:30.

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We had seen this pair a few times on previous cruises and were looking forward to their show. They didn't disappoint.

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This talented duo use various sizes of plastic buckets as drums, they tap dance, they sing, they play ukuleles, they play propane cylinders . . . and they do it all with a huge amount of energy and plenty of humor. It was hilarious!

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Buckets_'N_Boards

Once again our ribs were sore as we headed to bed at 12:15.

May 16, 2014

2014 AllEars Group Cruise - Day 7

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Carol had ordered room service coffee for 7:00 a.m. so we were up and moving at 6:50. It was so calm and quiet that I thought we must be docked at Castaway Cay. Carol stepped out on the veranda and told me we were still at sea, sailing slowly. There was no sign of the Disney island from our verandah.

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Nearing_Castaway_Cay

By the time our coffee arrived at 7:10 we had spotted land and before we knew it the bridge had activated the thrusters to spin the ship around and back us into our berth. I'm not sure I'd be comfortable spinning something this big and backing it up.

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Carol left before we were moored, she was heading to D Lounge to meet with the early debarkation group. Those who have signed up for the 5K run/walk get off first and are escorted to the 5K course. I stayed behind and spent some time preparing and uploading the daily blog for AllEars.net.

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About 9:00 a.m. I headed up to Deck 11 and had breakfast at Cabanas, then wandered the ship taking a few more pictures. A sea gull photo-bombed me. Do you see the gull below?

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Before I knew it, it was 10:30, time to go ashore to meet Carol. As I stepped off the elevator on Deck 1, I met Brenda. She was heading out to connect with her husband Dave who also did the 5K. As Brenda and I made our way toward the tram we met Barrie. The three of us rode the tram to Serenity Bay.

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Carol and Audrey were sitting with their toes in the Caribbean when we arrived. That's Fran and Carol out in the water.

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We sat along the shore, with the waves lapping at our feet as Carol told me about the 5K course she had walked in the heat and humidity. She walked with friends Nancy, Karen and Susan and they all gave each other some moral support as they did their best to cope with the heat. Carol has been walking at home as much as possible, trying to get ready for the Castaway Cay 5K. She takes our Shetland Sheepdog Blue for a fast paced circuit of 2 1/2 kilometers on the walking trails near our home. Blue will be very proud of his Mommy!

At 11:30 we made our way over to Cookies II where our AllEars.net cruisers were meeting for lunch. There was a good turnout and we had a nice meal. The only downside was the downpour that happened just after Carol and I went through the line and picked up our lunch.

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We were thankful to be seated under and umbrella when the skies opened up . . . even then we got wet, but not nearly as wet as those standing out in the open. It rained hard for about 10 minutes and then the rain cloud passed.

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Carol heard the tram approach at about 12:45 and we dashed off to catch it for a return trip to the Fantasy. Naturally Carol had to stop and take pictures of all the flowers along the way!

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Flowers

Of course we had to stop at Mount Rustmore.

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Just before we boarded we snapped a picture of Carol with her new 5K bling as she stood at a scenic spot with the Disney Fantasy in the background!

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Then we spotted Olaf, he was appearing at the Post Office.

Olaf

We were back aboard at 1:15, still hot and sticky. We changed into our bathing suits and headed to Deck 11 for a soak in the adult pool in front of the Cove Café. The water was quite warm, in the mid to high 80's, but when we got out the breeze felt nice and cool. Carol was smiling as she showed me her goose bumps!

We headed back to our Stateroom shortly after 2:00 p.m. I napped while Carol did some more packing. By 3:45 we had showered and made our way to Shutters to finish selecting our pictures. We quickly settled on the 10 images we wanted to purchase, paid for them and Carol took them to the stateroom.

When she came back to the atrium we noticed a lot of blue shirts . . . that means characters are coming! I asked one of the blue shirts what was going on. He said, "It's the Farewell Party, all of the characters are coming in about 5 minutes." Carol had mentioned earlier in the day that we had no pictures with Pluto or Daisy. I asked him, "Where will Pluto be?" He told me exactly where to stand and we were first in line when the characters appeared.

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Pluto

Then we found Daisy.

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Daisy

Chip and Dale were an unexpected bonus!

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Then it was time to head for D Lounge on Deck 4 for the AllEars Farewell Party. This was our last get-together, the wrap-up of our group cruise. We mingled and chatted over hors d'oeuvres and wine for a few minutes before the function was called to order.

AllEars_Farewell_Reception

Deb Wills had contributed an amazing table full of Disney paraphernalia as raffle prizes. Prizes were handed out for the Door Decorating Contest, the Trivia Challenge, the first to acquire a full set of AllEars Trading Cards, and a few other "spoof" awards. Then the raffle began. Those in our group received a raffle ticket for each and every meet they attended and those tickets were drawn randomly for prizes. As it turned out, there was a prize for everyone and everyone was a winner!

Prize_table

Carol was a big winner, she won a $100 Gift Card provided by our good friends at Mouse Fan Travel. The Grand Prize, also courtesy of Mouse Fan Travel was a there day stay at a Disney resort, including park hopper tickets and the dining plan.

I'd like to extend a big thank you, from Carol and I, to everyone who made this trip such a resounding success. Deb, Linda, Melanie and Barrie from the AllEars team took care of the social aspects of the trip.

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Mouse Fan Travel took care of all the travel arrangements and had four representatives onboard, Beci, Annette, Colleen and Sandy, who worked with Disney Cruise Line to ensure that out trip was filled with magic. Thanks to one and all!

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The Farewell Party concluded at 5:45 and we all hustled off to Animator's Palate for our final dinner aboard the Fantasy. This was the night when we all drew characters on our placemats and then saw them come to life and dance later in the evening.

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Animator's_Palate

Animator's_Palate

The dining room is filled with some awesome technology. Not only do the paintings on the walls come to life from time to time, showing classic scenes from Disney movies. Then, all those sketches on our place mats come to life and dance, boogie and skate across the screens. The new generation of Animator's Palate is a unique experience. It's still amazing after the third time we've seen it!

After dinner we said our bittersweet farewells. We're ready to go home, we're missing our dogs . . . but it's tough to say goodbye to friends. Of course, we'll see many of them again at some other AllEars function.

Have you enjoyed traveling along with us? I hope so!

May 20, 2014

Mid-Month Mousy Mindboggler - April 2014 Solution

Riddle

THE MOUSY MINDBOGGLER

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

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

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

HOWEVER...

We will not be having a puzzle this month on the Guest Blog, because James was sailing with Deb Wills on the Disney Fantasy on the AllEars.Net Group Cruise!

APRIL SOLUTION:

Below is the solution to last month's Minnie puzzle, though:

http://allears.net/ae/mb041614-key.pdf

Of course, as many of you figured out, "Mickey's Nightmare" was the only cartoon in which Minnie and Mickey were apparently married, but it was just Mickey's dream. Will Mickey ever settle down?

We received 66 correct responses.

The winner of a Mickey Mouse collectible pin was Michael C. from Westminster, MD.

Congrats and thanks for playing!

And remember, look for us again in the middle of June, when we'll be back with the next Mid-Month Mousy Mindboggler! We'll be taking a closer look at Daisy Duck.

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

May 21, 2014

Jim's Attic: Humphrey the Bear at Wilderness Lodge

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Humphrey the Bear at Wilderness Lodge
By Jim Korkis

Disney's Wilderness Lodge Resort is the only Disney resort hotel to have an official mascot, the brown bear. Images and allusions can be found throughout the resort including bear tracks imbeded in the walkways.

To make that potentially fearsome mascot more friendly for younger guests, some of the brown bear images are of the Disney animated character Humphrey the Bear, a lovable, overweight brown bear who lives in the fictional Brownstone National Park.

Humphrey is most prominent on a totem pole on the outside of the Mercantile Store in the lobby of the resort. A smiling Humphrey is at the bottom of the pole supporting frontier garbed Mickey Mouse, Goofy and Donald Duck on top of him.

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Over the years, the store has sold exclusive merchandise featuring the image of Humphrey.

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In addition, Humphrey pops on signage throughout the resort that many guests fail to notice. On the road leading to the Wilderness Lodge, just to right before the archway, is a round metal sign with silhouettes of Mickey Mouse being followed by Humphrey.

At the entrance to the Villas at Wilderness Lodge is another metal sign with the silhouettes of Mickey walking along and Humphrey riding on top of an old fashioned penny farthing bicycle to mark the bike crossing path.

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Only seven Disney cartoon characters have starred in their own theatrical cartoon series. Humphrey the Bear was the last one to do so before the Disney company decided to stop making theatrical cartoon shorts.

Humphrey starred prominently in four Donald Duck cartoons, Rugged Bear (1953), Grin and Bear It (1954), Bearly Asleep (1955), and Beezy Bear (1955).

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He was so popular that Disney gave him his own series but only two cartoons were completed, Hooked Bear (1956) and In the Bag (1956).

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In addition, Humphrey appeared in the opening credits for the original Mickey Mouse Club television series in 1955 holding the trampoline on which various characters bounce Mickey Mouse high into the air.

Humphrey the Bear does not speak but communicates through expressive grunts supplied by voice man Jimmy MacDonald who also did the voice of Mickey Mouse. Sometimes, director Jack Hannah would step in to supply some of the grunts.

Hannah directed all the Humphrey the Bear animated appearances in the Golden Age of Disney animation and since he lived in the same city where I grew up, I got a chance to interview him many times. He was actually the very first Disney animator I ever interviewed.

"For the sake of something new, we tried the Duck with a bear and it seemed like an immediate success for them to play against each other," Hannah revealed to me in an interview. "Later, when we started thinking of another picture for the bear, it seemed natural to be in a National Forest and that's how the Little Ranger came into being. The Little Ranger always treated his bears like his own pets and I always found that funny as did the audience."

Humphrey has also appeared in cartoons made for television including House of Mouse and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. He even has a short cameo at the end of the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

While Humphrey never appeared in any cartoon featuring him in the circus, he was recently revived to be included in the New Fantasyland expansion. He is prominent on the sign for Big Top Treats "Circus Snacks Galore" with him happily munching away on a caramel apple. In addition, that same image is used on a Storybook Circus poster.

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However, while he may sneak over to the Magic Kingdom to grab a tasty treat, his official Walt Disney World home is Wilderness Lodge.

Disney Historian Jim Korkis goes up into his imaginary attic to rummage around his archives and often stumbles across an unusual story about Walt Disney World. Those who have met me know that I take real joy in talking about Walt Disney.

RELATED INFORMATION AND LINKS
Disney Historian Jim Korkis goes up into his imaginary attic to rummage around his archives and often stumbles across an unusual story about Walt Disney World. Those who have met me know that I take real joy in talking about Walt Disney.

====================
Check out Jim's other "From the Attic" Blogs

Full features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives: http://allears.net/ae/archives.htm

Jim Korkis

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, his skills and historical knowledge were utilized by Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.

He is the author of three new books, available in both paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon.com:
The Book of Mouse: A Celebration of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse
Who's Afraid of the Song of the South
"The REVISED Vault of Walt":


May 24, 2014

Star Wars Weekends for a non-Star Wars fan

by Guest Blogger Phillip Creglow

In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I am not a fan of Star Wars.

Wait...what? Not a fan of Star Wars?!?

Yes, it's true. While I have seen each of the movies once, recognize most of the popular characters, and hum along to the theme music, my interest in the franchise is casual at best. Sort of like someone who only follows college basketball during March Madness, fills out a bracket for the office pool because everyone else is doing it, yet has no emotional investment in a team before the big event.

In this case, the big event is Star Wars Weekends at Disney's Hollywood Studios. I had a general understanding of this annual event based on conversations with running friends. Now that I live in Orlando and could easily commit to finding out for myself what Star Wars Weekends had to offer, I planned my first visit for opening day, Friday, May 16.

My day at Hollywood Studios started at 10:30 AM and upon entering the park I picked up a Star Wars Weekends park guide.

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Since I had done very little planning, the guide was the perfect reference point in deciding how to manage my time. The park was already busy and people were lining up all along Hollywood Boulevard in preparation for the 11:30 AM "Legends of the Force" Motorcade and Celebrity Welcome. I immediately walked toward the event stage at the base of The Sorcerer's Hat. Cast members were recommending viewing locations so I found a spot near the American Idol Experience. This location provided an acceptable view of the motorcade characters, most notably the large assembly of Clone Troopers and Stormtroopers.

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Sadly, this viewing location did not provide a close look at the classic Disney characters dressed as Star Wars Pals or the Star Wars celebrity guests, as they were dropped off at the event stage for the post-motorcade show. Later on I was able to get a closer look as the Disney characters and celebrity guests make their way back down Hollywood Boulevard following the post-motorcade show. Clearly it pays off to arrive early and get a spot on Hollywood Boulevard. Lesson learned.

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After the "Legends of the Force" motorcade, I made a quick exit to get in line for a look at the merchandise featured at Darth's Mall. The line had queued up well outside the main entrance and I shouldn't have been surprised given the number of people carrying multiple large shopping bags while exiting. My total wait time was close to 40 minutes, which actually offered a nice break from the sun. The downtime was fortuitous because once inside, it was a madhouse!

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Much like a runDisney expo, the merchandise space was crowded and people were filling shopping baskets to the brim. Toys, apparel, art work, glassware in addition to separate lines for character greetings, snacks and collectibles. I picked up a Star Wars Weekends coffee mug and quickly found the checkout line. Little did I know, that same mug along with other event merchandise could be found at multiple locations throughout the park. Lesson learned.

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Given the crowded scene at Darth's Mall, I decided to skip the afternoon events at the Premier Theater and focus instead on the character greetings in the park. With multiple characters roaming select areas of the park, the atmosphere is best described in one word: energized. While I enjoy visits to Hollywood Studios, the park can often feel empty and subdued outside of Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards. This is not the case during Star Wars weekends.

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With character greetings taking place near Streets of America, Commissary Lane, and Star Tours, there was a noticeable energy and excitement from guests unlike anything I had ever witnessed outside of Magic Kingdom. Even if I didn't recognize certain characters, other guests were there to help. Notable character experiences included a Stormtrooper demanding, "Let me see your identification!" and a sizeable crowd - mostly adults - letting out an audible "Auuguuguuurrrggghhhh!" as Chewbacca held court outside of Star Tours - The Adventures Continue.

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I closed out my day on Star Tours - The Adventures Continue, which had a surprisingly short 30-minute wait. Another surprise was the small number of guests dressed in Star Wars costumes. Honestly, I can't blame anyone for choosing comfort over a costume given the warm weather. Additionally, I was surprised how often I found myself looking up information about Star Wars characters on my iPhone. Still a non-Star Wars fan, you ask? For now, let's just say I am more intrigued and plan to learn more about the franchise.

Overall, I enjoyed my Star Wars Weekends experience and I am planning to return in the near future.

Here are a few helpful tips that I will utilize during my next Star Wars Weekends visit and may be helpful to you as well:

- Arrive early for the "Legends of the Force" Motorcade! I should have grabbed a spot on Hollywood Boulevard when I arrived at the park an hour before the start of the motorcade. Since I was there by myself, I could have found a better viewing spot up to 30 minutes prior, but more time is required if you are visiting as part of a larger group. Next time I will try and get closer to the event stage but still maintain a position on Hollywood Boulevard.

- If you want Star Wars Weekends commemorative merchandise, you might consider skipping Darth's Mall and dedicate that time to an attraction or show at the Premier Theater. Most of the commemorative items (including my coffee mug) were available at other merchandise locations throughout Hollywood Studios. For my next visit, I am also planning to use a FastPass+ reservation for a show at the Premier Theater instead of a regular attraction.

- Stay for the fireworks! Sadly, a prior commitment kept me from staying into the evening for the Symphony in the Stars fireworks show. Just following the commentary on Twitter, I regretted not being able to stay into the evening. Plus, fireworks shows are rare at Hollywood Studios so why not take advantage of a special occasion? Scheduling, scheduling, scheduling.

Next time I will be better prepared, more knowledgeable of the characters, and be sure to experience the evening entertainment.

"You will find only what you bring in," said Master Yoda.

Lesson learned.

Phillip Creglow rediscovered Disney two years ago following a twelve year hiatus. After relocating to Orlando in 2014, he is on a mission to make up for lost time by making frequent visits to the Disney parks, participating in runDisney events, and sampling the best food and beverages available at Walt Disney World.

May 25, 2014

Disney and Star Wars could things get any better than that?

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A guest blog by Erik Tyler

Once a year for 4 weeks Disney lets the Empire take over Hollywood Studios for its annual Star Wars Weekends. This year with Disney in full control there were some great changes in store" to start they extended the experience another weekend for a 5th weekend. It's just simply an amazing time"

For the past 8 years I have been visiting Orlando to celebrate Star Wars Weekends at Disney's Hollywood Studios" you would think I was crazy how much I look forward to this trip all year long. What started out as trip for my obsession to the films has turned into a yearly reunion of great friends who share 2 of the same passions". Disney and Star Wars" Unfortunately since I travel from NY I only have the fortune of going for 1 of the weekends so each year is a gamble as to who I will be able to get to meet. My buddy and I try to maximize our time as well as plan smart. We buy an annual pass 1 year and choose either of the last 2 weekends so that we have the choice of the 1st 2 weekends the following year, so this year we chose weekend 1.

As with every year the goal is to obtain the coveted fast pass for the celebrities of the weekend. Disney only allows one fast pass per guest per day, so here is your 1st obstacle. Since there are normally 3- 5 guests per weekend you really need to plan out and prioritize whom you want/need to meet. My goal for the weekend was to get a fast pass for Ahmed Best (he played Jar Jar Binks), one for Vanessa Marshall (who will be voicing Hera Syndulla in the new Star Wars Rebels coming out this November on Disney XD) and if possible one for Peter Mayhew (who played Chewbacca).

The other 2 celebrities for the 1st weekend were the host of SWW himself - James Arnold Taylor (the voice of Obiwan Kenobi from the Clone Wars) and Ashley Eckstein (the voice of Ahsoka Tano from the Clone Wars and creator of the Her Universe clothing line) both I was fortunate to meet in years past. Since these fast passes are given out before the park opens and are limited you need to get to the park prior to opening.

Now depending on the celebrity and on the demand he or she pulls will dictate the time you need to be on line. For example, this was Ahmed Best's 1st appearance at Star Wars weekends so his demand is going to be higher than some of the other celebs who have been there in years past, so my guess/estimate was to get there about 2:00am to get on his line. The lines for the autograph fast passes form off to the right of the ticket booths and are normally labeled by a sign that has the actors name on it.

There is also a line for those who would like to wait for access to Darth's Maul to get 1st access to the limited weekend merchandise. Well upon arrival about 1:50 am we were about 50th in line for Ahmed standing around the security checkpoint. Ahmed's line was at this point the longest of 6 lines. Peter's line was not too far behind in length, with the merchandise line catching up as well - as the night went on the line for Ahmed grew almost to the boat docks - Peter's line and the merchandise line went well past the security checkpoint. People did get in line for Vanessa, James and Ashley but they were not nearly as long.

Celebrity autographs are broken into different time slots throughout the day depending on the schedule of that celebrity. So depending on where you are in line will depend on what time slot you get a past pass for. We were lucky enough to score the 1st session for Ahmed Best at 10:30 - 10:45. It sounds like a long time to wait for the fast passes but over the years you see a lot of familiar faces and become friends with those passionate enough to wait online with you.

Time actually flies talking and catching up with all your line mates, friends and fellow fans. There is such a great familiarity with everyone on line - it's great to be among those of your peers who have the same love as you do!

In order for your fast pass to be valid you need 2 things, you need a wristband and the physical fast pass in order to meet the celebrity. The wristbands are normally handed out around 6:00am and the fast passes about an hour later. If you do not have a wristband you do not get a fast pass. The same goes if you find or have a fast pass but do not have a wristband they will not let you get an autograph. You need both!!!

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The park opens at 8:00am this year but they actually let you into the park at 7:30-7:45 to see the opening show by the rope near Sunset Blvd. Stormtroopers come out on what looks like moving watchtowers, they interact with the crowd and joke about so many people being held back by a teeny tiny little rope. It is quite comical. At just about 8:00 they drop the rope and open the park to everyone. Now here is when you need to utilize your time. Hopefully you have already taken the time when planning your trip and set up fast passes for the rides and shows and made your dining reservations.

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One of the changes this year came with the rollout of the fast pass + and the magic bands, so if you are staying on Disney property you get 2 months to schedule your fast passes for the rides at the park, if you are staying off property then you only get 30 days - one of the things I noticed was how they tiered the fast passes for the rides at Hollywood Studios so you had to choose 1 attraction from tier 1 and 2 attractions from tier 2.

Here is where your next obstacle comes into play. if you are as neurotic as my buddy Jack and I are then 2 months ago you made your fast pass times for what attractions you wanted to go on and then 10 days before weekend 1 everything is thrown up in the air when Disney adds the shows to the fast pass + and makes them all Tier 1 so now you need to cancel your plans you made 2 months ago and start over. Stars of the Saga was our 1st choice for Friday but the other 2 shows (Behind the Force: Star Wars Rebels and Obi-wan and Beyond) had to be made for Saturday and Sunday if we wanted to have fast passes for them otherwise we had to wait in front of the theater for Standby access or do without seeing them. So hopefully you all were fast to the trigger and were on top of your fast pass+ because most of the shows for almost all the weekends have "sold out" for all 5 weekends.

If you are planning to come to Hollywood Studios to experience Star Wars weekends with younglings head over to the entrance to the ABC Sound Studio and sign them up for Jedi Training Academy. Space is limited even with the additional time slots that were added. It's great fun for them to practice their Lightsaber skills and battle Darth Vader and Darth Maul. My kids have done this in years past and loved the interaction with the characters.

Our weekends always start with a ride on Star Tours - The Adventure Continues. It is a must do for me at least once or twice a day while at Star Wars Weekends. I have been trying for the past 2 years to finally get to be the Rebel Spy. This year was finally my turn. My first ride of the year, first ride of the day and weekend and it was ME, it was finally ME!!!! I WAS THE REBEL SPY!!! I screamed out when my picture popped up - can this day get any better I thought... Well little did I know...

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Next up was making sure we got over to Echo Lake to where they have the tents set up for the autograph sessions and scope out where Ahmed's tent would be and get ready to use our fast passes. In years past this always seemed to take forever. Not sure what the difference was between years past and now but it seemed to go by much quicker. As time drew closer and the cast member called for 10:30 fast passes my buddy Jack and I go over to get in line, I pull out my back pack to get out my box (the one we are all too familiar with when you order Star Wars photos from Official Pix) and I get out my Clone Wars photo of Jar Jar and Jack's Phantom Menace photo of Jar Jar to get ready for our meet and greet with Ahmed.

When it was our turn the cast member takes my bag and my phone to snap my picture with Ahmed. He couldn't have been nicer. We spoke about meeting once before at the Big Apple Comic Con in NY and I thanked him for coming out to weekends and posed for my pic, Ahmed was great he even personalized the photo for me, which is always a staple for me. Jack was up next and Ahmed was just as pleasant to him as he was to me. Disney is great they always have a 5x7 head shot of the celebrity for those who may not have something to get signed so even if SWW wasn't something you planned and you happen to stumble upon it you have something to walk away with.

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After meeting Ahmed it was great knowing I had 1 down and 2 to go with my goal of the 3 celebrities I wanted to meet this weekend. It was getting close to 11:00 so we made our way over to Hollywood Blvd to see if we could catch "Legends of the Force" Motorcade and Celebrity Welcome. It was great to see the some of the friends we've made over the years that are part of the 501st marching along with the celebrities for the weekend and the Disney characters done up in Star Wars attire.

You get to see Jedi Mickey, Minnie as Leia, Darth Goofy, Chip and Dale Ewoks and Donald as a Stormtrooper" along with many of the characters from the Original Trilogy, the prequel, The Clone Wars and the New Star Wars Rebels show. It just amazes me how Star Wars is just as relevant now as it was when I fell in love with it 30 years ago. Before the motorcade began I was able to stop for one of the Darth Vader popcorn buckets that were New this year as well as one of the signature Darkside Drinks that came in a Stormtrooper cup.

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When the motorcade was finished we headed over to lunch at the Sci-Fi Diner (A new option this year for SWW was character dining although I didn't get a chance to take part in it I have heard great things" - be sure to check out Jedi Mickey's Star Wars Dine at Hollywood & Vine and/or the Star Wars Dine in Galactic Breakfast at the Sci-Fi Diner) we meet up with a good friend for lunch and got to relax. It's been a long day so far and there was a lot more to do.

After lunch I got the call from our resort that a package I was waiting for was delivered (I was waiting for the Hera Syndulla photos I had shipped overnight from Official Pix) so Jack and I took a moment to walk back to our resort (we were staying right next door at Disney's Boardwalk Villas) to pick up the package.

Another sign this was turning out to be a great day - when we got back to the Studios we headed over to the Premiere Theater to get inline for our fast pass to see Star of the Saga". The show was great! The opening skit with the Stormtroopers is hilarious, it's a must do every year. This is a Star Wars themed talk show, James Arnold Taylor interviews the weekend celebrities to go over their lives and experience in making the films. I found it extremely interesting when he spoke with Peter about his surgery and getting back in shape to play Chewbacca again in Episode VII next year. They went over the 1st cast read through and how the original cast worked with the new cast; for a fan this was just pure Disney Magic.

As the show came to an end James Arnold Taylor told everyone in the audience to hash tag any photos they took throughout the day on Twitter or Instagram with #SWWFINALE and we could have the chance of seeing our photos up on Star Wars Weekends stage screen before the nights new Symphony in the Stars Fireworks!

After the show was over Jack and I figured we would try our luck and see if we could grab a walk up autograph for Vanessa Marshall. This is always a long shot depending on how fast the celebrities are signing and how many people make it back for their session. Well as her line dwindled down and the stars aligned, the cast member brings us over to her line (walk ups are lined up at another section and are taken first come - first serve) and again I pull out my back pack and get out my Official Pix box and I pull out the Hera Syndulla photos for us to get ready.

The cast member again takes my bag and phone and I greet Vanessa by welcoming her to the Star Wars family and tell her how I look forward to the Star Wars Rebels show. She asked where I was from and when she heard NY she got all excited and started talking about the NY Giants. We spoke about her coming up to NY Comic Con in October. She was super upper sweet, so genuinely nice and into the whole experience. She got so excited when she saw the photos from Official Pix. She even thanked both Jack and I for coming to see her and even gave us her Twitter and Instagram accounts to follow. As I was leaving I asked if I could have one of the 5x7 head shots and she was flattered and even signed that for me as well. I can not express how great and kind she was - easy to say I will always be a fan.

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I have to admit the fan boy in me was on a high. I was now 2 for 3 in my weekend goal on day one. This NEVER happens!!! I said to Jack "what do you think our chances are? You think we should try for a Peter Mayhew walk up?" What did we have to loose?

So we head over to the ABC Sound Studio to get in line for Peter. (His autograph session is indoors, since he is still recovering from his knee surgeries.. he needed to be out of the heat and at a more comfortable seating). His walk up line was long so my hopes weren't too high but my gut told me to stay and wait it out. It was hot and there was no shade for this walk up line but never the less we waited. Little by little in groups of 10 the cast member would come over and take people in line over to meet with Peter. Closer and closer. OMG I was getting so excited. Finally the cast member gets to Jack and I and the group who were in line after us and takes us over. Is this really happening? Could I possible be 3 for 3 in one day.

YESSIR!! In we go, I was fumbling I was so excited trying to get out my box from Official Pix. I get up to the table that Peter was at and said hello and wished him a Happy Birthday. (He turned 70 while he was there for SWW!) I got my picture with him and got him to sign my photo. Peters a nice guy but he does not personalize his autographs, which as a fan who likes that sort a thing was a little bit of a bummer. Jack was up next and got the 5x7 head shot signed and both of us walked away 3 for 3. WOW what a day!!! Never in all my years doing SWW have I been that successful.

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Well it's almost 6:00 and was time to find something to eat and then get ready for the Padawan Mind Challenge at 6:30 and the DJ Lobot Dance Party at 7:00. We grabbed a bit to eat on Sunset Blvd and headed over to watch the mind challenge. It was cute watching Ashley Eckstein quiz a family from the crowd with questions and put them up against some of the Empires guards. Needless to say Ashley choose the right family they knew their stuff. It was quite entertaining and we had a few laughs.

7:00 rolls around and out comes DJ Lobot (non other than DJ Elliot from past years SWW and Star Wars Celebrations) what a great mix he put together and a fantastic costume - by far he's the best in the business. As the night went on we made our way to the corner of Hollywood and Sunset to get in position to watch the Symphony in the Stars Fireworks. This was also NEW to SWW and was a good replacement for Hyperspace Hoopla and a proper way to end a perfect day in Disney.

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At Just about 9:30 James Arnold Taylor comes out and gets the crowd amped up, he brings out all the characters from the saga across the stage and then point to the screen and shows us the pictures that were posted during the day with #SWWFINALE. I'm watching as picture, after picture flashes on the screen. All of a sudden there it was a picture of ME with Ahmed Best. I had posted that to my Instagram account earlier and hash tagged it like suggested never thinking my picture would be used - again this was just another wonder to the amazing day I was experiencing - after the photos were finished.

James kicks off the fireworks wishing the force to be with us all. I don't know how to explain how spectacular these fireworks were. Can anything be better than having fireworks done to the scores of John Williams? Ahh, I think not. LOL they were just simply AMAZING!!!

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When the fireworks ended we said goodnight to some friends because it was going on a 21 hour day for Jack and I and we were exhausted. It was time to call it a night so we could do it all over again tomorrow.

We still had so much to do over the next two days - shopping at Darth's Maul, ride the attractions for the park, meet up with more and more friends.

Could day 2 and 3 get any better??? I'm up to find out. I hope you all enjoy my review of Star Wars Weekend day #1, as much as I enjoyed being there!!

In my opinion next week I think Jeremy Bullock will be the celebrity with the longest line so plan accordingly...

May the force be with you all.

Erik is a veteran Star Wars fan and has attended numerous Star Wars Weekends and Star Wars Conventions

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About May 2014

This page contains all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in May 2014. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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