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December 2015 Archives

December 6, 2015

Disney Parks Village

Gary Cruise banner

Last June we drove to Dayton Ohio for the annual Disneyana Show and Sale hosted by the Dayton "Plane Crazy" Chapter of the Disneyana Fan Club.

Rob was surprised to see his mother Carol looking at a Department 56 Disney village set. “You already have a Dickens Village.” He told her.

Dickens Village

“And you have a Disney Village,” he added.

Disney Village

Rob was insistent, “You don’t need another village.”

“Oh,” she replied, “I need this one, it’s special!

It was a complete version of the Disney Parks Village set produced by Department 56. Each building is modeled after properties you can see in the Disney parks! How special is that?

The first pieces were produced and sold in 1994; a few of the later issues were only produced for a few months before the entire set was retired in 1996. Some of them are extremely rare, making this a very desirable collection!

Here’s what Carol came home with!

New Disney Village

Let’s look at each item individually.

The first piece to be issued, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, was two buildings, sold as a set. They were manufactured between 1994 and 1996 and retailed for $144.00.

Mickeys Christmas Carol 1

Mickeys Christmas Carol 2

Do they look familiar?

The next time you’re at the Magic Kingdom walk through Cinderella Castle from The Hub into Fantasyland. As you exit the castle look right at Sir Mickey’s.

Sir Mickeys

That building was the model for Mickey’s Christmas Carol.

Next to be issued was Olde World Antiques I, a quaint Colonial building, also modelled after a property found in the Magic Kingdom. It retailed for $45.00 in 1994.

Olde World Antiques I

Does this one look familiar? I’ll show you where you can find it a bit later!

The third piece offered in the Disney Parks Village series was Olde World Antiques II, another Colonial building from the Magic Kingdom which also sold for $45.00.

Olde World Antiques II

Let’s jump out of order and look at the fifth piece in the series, the Silversmith shop. Another Colonial structure from the Magic Kingdom. This one is built of stone to contrast with the first two which were brick. The Silversmith was only produced for a few months in 1995 and sold for $50.00. This piece is very rare!

Silversmith

Let’s put the three of them together and add an accessory which sold for $15.00, the Olde World Antiques Gate.

Olde World Antiques Gate

When the three buildings and the gate come together it might look familiar.

Ye Olde Christmas Shop

Do you recognize it now?

Ye Olde Christmas Shop

It’s Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe, on your left as you enter Liberty Square.

We skipped past the fourth piece issued, Disneyland Fire Department #105. This is the only item based on a building in Disneyland, the fire hall in Town Square. It sold between 1994 and 1996 for $45.00

Disneyland Fire Department #105

Disneyland Fire Hall

The sixth, and final piece offered began production in 1995 and was only manufactured for a few months before the series was retired. Tinker Bell’s Treasures sold for $60.00.

Tinker Bells Treasures

Remember earlier when I asked you to walk through Cinderella Castle and look at Sir Mickey’s shop? From that same vantage point look to the left, directly across the street from Sir Mickey’s and you’ll see Tinker Bell’s Treasures.

Tinker Bells Treasures

We looked at one of the accessories, the Olde World Antiques Gate already, but there were several others.

Mickey and Minnie dressed in their Christmas finery came as a two piece set selling for $22.50.

Mickey and Minnie

The Disney Parks Family was a set of three figures and sold for $32.50.

Disney Parks Family

The last accessory issued, The Balloon Seller, is another one of the rare pieces; it was only produced for a few months and originally sold for $25.00.

Balloon Seller

So Carol was absolutely delighted to bring this complete set home from Dayton. This Christmas it has found a place of honour in her Disney Room. Here’s how it looks when it’s all set up and accessorized!

Click on the image to see a larger version!
Disney Parks Village

Isn’t it great?

December 8, 2015

Review - Holiday DLights Tour

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by Guest Blogger Kay Belin

December is the month that draws many guests to Walt Disney World to see their famous holiday decorations and events. This year I decided to take one of their premiere tours, Holiday D-Lights, which takes you into three parks to see some of these amazing sights.

The tour begins and ends in Epcot making it easy to figure out the transportation. Park tickets are not required and you meet outside the Guest Relations window in front of Epcot. The tour has a maximum of 40 guests which is very manageable and transportation from park to park is on one of the Disney cruise/Magical Express buses.

Our guides and tour coordinators appeared and met us singing and in festive moods making everyone excited about the next few hours on tour. Name Tags and paper work were taken care of quickly and we were soon on our way to the Wilderness Lodge for dinner. Our guides for this tour were Donna, Jim, and Nancy and they were all wonderful and informative.

Whispering Canyon was not open to the public yet so we had the entire restaurant for the group. They were ready for us and soon we had amazing barbecue feast platters set on the tables with baskets of cornbread. The food consisted of ribs, pulled pork, chicken, sausage, corn on the cob, baked beans, and yummy mashed potatoes. Guests with dietary restrictions were easily taken care of and offered great alternatives by the chef. Drinks included water, coke, and ice tea and were constantly being refilled by the service staff. We were not given dessert but told we would have a surprise later in the evening.

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Time was provided to take pictures of the Wilderness Lodge lobby and a bit of history was given about the tree. We observed,in my opinion, one of the prettiest resort trees on property as it's decorated with canoes, teepees, and Indian drums and obviously very unique for the resort.

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Back on the bus and on our way as we headed to the back stage area of the Magic Kingdom. Our next stop was to visit the Event and Decorating Support Team. They work out of a massive warehouse and put together not only the castle lights but also special staging pieces that might be needed or requested for the parks or groups. The main emphasis was learning how they decorate the castle with the lights using LED light strands and special dyed and flame retardant netting.

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Every strand of lights are checked at least three times before they are put on the castle and this whole process actually begins in May. Work on the castle cannot begin each night until all guests leave the park so when the Magic Kingdom is open late it just makes it a little more difficult to get it all done on time. But Disney is used to making magic and it always happens and most never know what it took to get the amazing outcome.

After learning about how the castle is lit we hopped back on the bus and headed to the Magic Kingdom to see the castle lighting show. Our guides provided us with listening devices so crowd noise would not be an issue while in the parks. The group was divided into two making the numbers much easier to handle and we were then dropped off back stage and walked a short distance to the Castle hub where we then observed the great lighting of the beautiful castle. With a theming from Frozen the castle went from a lighted structure to a magical sparkling icicle wonder. This is probably the most magnificent piece of holiday magic Disney offers its guests.

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Time to head to Hollywood Studios! We were given a Rice Krispie holiday treat as we entered the bus and were shown a short video of how all the Disney castles worldwide are decorated for the holidays. The actual castle lighting idea began at the Paris Disney park and only the Tokyo Disney castle is not lit as it is actually not a Disney owned park. It was very interesting to learn facts about not only Walt Disney World but about the parks around the world.

Our next spectacle of Disney lights was the Osborne Family lights in the Studios. It was bittersweet to visit this amazing street filled with millions of LED lights as it is the last year for this display at Disney. We kept to our two smaller groups and were led down the street listening to more amazing facts from our guide Jim. Some of the great trivia he shared include that at the far end of the lights you will see many blue angels flying overhead. Look for a white one and that is representing Jennings Osborne, the patriarch of the Osborne family and who started this light tradition for his daughter. In this same area you will find a large Mickey and Santa shaking hands which is supposed to represent the agreement Jennings Osborne and Disney made to bring the lights to the park. If you look closely you will see they are shaking left hands which is the hand that is closest to the heart.

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As we moved down the street we were told to look for over 150 lit Mickeys and also the purple cat.

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The story behind the cat is when they shipped the decorations this one Halloween cat got mixed up with the Christmas lights and the Osborne family told Disney to just keep it. So every year the cast enjoys placing the cat in different locations and changes it almost every week so guests can hunt it down.

By the large tree in the center of the street you will see toy soldiers surrounding the bottom. The soldier in the center is a bit different as he proudly wears Mickey ears. This is to honor the cast member, Dan, who was responsible for inventing the different relay lighting systems needed for the show each night. He passed away a few years ago and they found his name tag in his locker and if you look closely this soldier is also wearing a Disney name badge.

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Continuing down on the left side you will see what appears to be crossed light sabers in the upper floor window. The story goes that this is now marking the spot where they will begin the dismantling of the Osborne Lights to begin the new construction of the future Star Wars Land. Not sure if this is true but it does make a nice Disney story.

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Cross the street here and in the first floor windows you can see photos of the actual Osborne Family light displays from their home in Arkansas.

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The last bit of trivia to add is heading back up the street and in a little alcove. Look up and you will find Kermit sitting up high playing a banjo. The word is that he is actually using a banjo pick from the famous Mulch, Sweat, and Shears group that entertained guests in the Studios for years but are now gone. There are many, many more things to see and observe and on this tour it was fun to have someone share some of the more unknown stories and facts.

Once again we were back on the bus and again headed to a backstage area of Epcot. Our last special treat of the evening was the incredible Candlelight Processional. It was fascinating to learn that the Candlelight show was started in Disneyland with Dennis Morgan as the first narrator. Walt met with the USC music director, Dr. Hirt, who suggested the format that is still used today. Guest choirs, full orchestra and guest narrators are brought together for this moving spectacle. It was later moved to Walt Disney World where it held shows for a few years at the train station in the Magic Kingdom. Rock Hudson was the first narrator there and when Epcot was built it found its permanent home in this park where we watch it today.

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Watching the Candlelight Processional is always moving and inspirational but I was disappointed in our reserved seats. We were led to the second and third last rows and had a few trees to dodge to get unobstructed views. This was the end of the tour but everyone had the opportunity to stay and watch Illuminations if they chose to do so.

This tour is one of Disney's most expensive tours at $269 plus tax per person so one needs to think hard about what they hope to see and do for their time and money. I think it is a great choice for the guest who might have a very limited time at Disney and who wants to experience as many of the holiday events as possible. Park tickets are not required which is a savings and you are offered a meal that is included. To be able to see the Magic Kingdom castle lighting, the Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights, and the Candlelight Processional (and Illuminations on your own) in one evening is amazing. Plus you get some backstage stops and professional guides who can answer questions and offer information you might otherwise not receive.

The biggest disappointment was the fact that seating for the Candlelight event was in the far back rows. You would hope that paying a large amount of money for a tour would also get you better seats to a show. You would actually get front seats if you chose to do a dinner package instead. We were sitting among guests who had been in the stand-by line. It would also have been nice to offer water on the bus at some point. The tour is five hours long and many of us were needing refreshment. The Rice Krispie treat is cute but not much of a dessert treat, again on what they tout as their premiere holiday tour.

This tour can accommodate guests who use scooters or wheelchairs but they must provide their own. They cannot use Disney park rentals. The minimum age for the tour is 16 as you will be visiting backstage areas. Cameras are welcome but guests must adhere to rules about not using them in backstage areas. Backpacks and bags are allowed but you will be subject to bag inspection at all parks even though you enter through backstage areas. Closed toe and heel shoes are also required as I believe this is also a rule for anyone using backstage areas.

I am not sure what they will do next year when the Osborne Lights will be gone. I would imagine they will reinvent a holiday tour to include possibly something else. If you are planning a several day Disney vacation at this time of year you can easily do the events on your own. This is especially true if you plan on being in the parks to do other things and buying a daily ticket is not an issue. Besides a commemorative pin for the tour and backstage access you are not getting anything special beyond what the normal guest would experience on their own. That was disappointing for the price but as I said before this is a great tour for the guest with one night to see it all.

December 17, 2015

Club Disney at the Sunset Showcase

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by
J. Scott Lopes
AllEars.Net Guest Blogger

Sunset Showcase, a new flex space (Disney speak for a multipurpose venue), was recently opened, and is currently hosting Club Disney, a club environment that has a DJ playing Radio Disney top 40 songs along with Disney characters to dance with. The space is located near Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. It is accessed by a gated entrance located to the right of the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster FastPass+ queue.

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Inside the space, there is a DJ booth along with a quick service food location for snacks:

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(We have the snack menu for Club Disney HERE.)

The center of the space has a dance floor complete with large screens around the room and a Mickey-eared disco ball:

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In addition to some comfortable seating around the room, there are also large touch screens that are set up for virtual finger painting:

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The outside area is also large and spacious and I can see a lot of potential for using this space for various events.

Starting mid-January, Sunset Showcase will host Club Villain, a special ticketed event that will feature Disney villains geared towards adults because of the DJ and alcohol being served. I was told the event will be family friendly, though -- preferably for children 10 and up.

Reservations are being taken for Club Villain now. You can read more about it HERE.

This is a great space to check out on your next trip!

About the Author:

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


December 20, 2015

The Candlelight Processional

Gary Cruise banner

Just a few weeks ago Carol and I enjoyed the Candlelight Processional at Walt Disney World and once again it was every bit as inspiring as the first time we saw it thirteen years ago. We were instantly mesmerized back in 2002 when a herald of trumpets focused our attention on the orchestra which played as the massed choirs marched into the America Gardens Theatre singing Christmas carols.

2002 John Tesh narrates

We were captivated by the time the choirs had settled on their risers. In fact, the Candlelight Processional has become an important part of our Christmas tradition. When we visit Walt Disney World in December we never miss this stirring portrayal of the nativity story.

2002 John Tesh

The Candlelight Processional tells the story of Jesus’ birth in both music and word. That magnificent fifty piece orchestra supplies the music and the singing voices are provided by Disney’s professional a cappella group, The Voices of Liberty, together with a choir comprised of Disney cast members in green gowns and several guest choirs in golden gowns. There are hundreds of voices in the massed choir!

Disney Candlelight Processional choirs

Between musical numbers a guest narrator relates the story of the birth of Jesus. Over the years we have heard the story told by John Tesh (2002), Eartha Kitt (2004), Cicely Tyson (2005), Mario Lopez (2006), Chita Rivera (2007), Neil Patrick Harris (2008 and 2013), Geena Davis (2011), Dick Van Dyke (2012 at Disneyland) and Whoopi Goldberg just a few weeks ago in 2015.

2007 Chita Rivera

2006 Mario Lopez

2011 Geena Davis

2013 Neil Patrick Harris

As we sat through the stirring Christmas spectacle on December 5th (for the 10th time in 13 years) I wondered how this magnificent show got its start. When we got home I did a little digging online and here’s what I found.

The first year Disneyland opened, in December 1955, a group of 12 singers from University of Southern California were hired to perform as the Dickens Carollers. They dressed in period costumes and roamed the park singing classic Christmas songs for a week. In a special one-day event, to kick off the holiday season in December 1955 the Dickens Carollers were joined by several guest choirs who joined in a massed choir and sang from the steps of the Main Street train station with accompanying music from several school bands.

1956 Massed Choir at Disneyland
Dickens Carollers and the massed choir - December 15, 1956

Disney lore suggests that one day in 1958 Walt Disney was chatting with his friend Dr. Charles Hirt, Music Director at University of Southern California, and Walt said something like, “We need more than just Christmas carollers at Disneyland. Why can’t we have a big choir assemble at the hub of Main Street by the Railroad Station in Town Square? Let’s have them sing to the guests there, and I can listen from my office over the Fire Hall.” And so the processional was born.

On December 20, 1958 that first Candlelight Processional was made up of sixteen choirs massed together, they sang as they moved down Main Street and ringed the flagpole in Town Square. They were accompanied by the Dickens Carollers who sang from the balcony at Sleeping Beauty Castle.

1958 Candlelight Processional

The Candlelight Processional has been a Disney tradition since 1958, but it has changed and grown over the years. The first change happened almost immediately; guests could not see the singers when they stood in a circle around the flagpole with Dr. Hirt conducting from the center. When the program was repeated in 1959 the choristers performed from bleachers or risers beside the train station where the singers could face guests.

Information about those early years is pretty sketchy but it sounds like the processional was only held twice a year.

Disneyland Processional risers

Guest narrators were added in 1961 and actor Dennis Morgan was the first to appear. As you might expect, the list of narrators who have appeared at Disneyland in the intervening years reads like a ‘who’s who’ of show business. Names like Morgan Freeman, Gary Sinise, James Earl Jones, Lou Gossett Jr., Marie Osmond, Jane Seymour, Tom Skerritt, John Stamos, Gregory Peck, Olympia Dukakis, Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda, James Stewart, Cary Grant, John Wayne, Pat and Shirley Boone, Buddy Ebsen, Howard Keel, John Forsythe, Michael Landon, Rock Hudson, Ed Asner, Kurt Russell, Edward James Olmos, Lou Diamond Phillips, Dick Van Dyke, Marcia Gay Harden, Patricia Heaton, Molly Ringwald and many, many more have presented that magical nativity story.

1975 Candlelight Processional

The Candlelight Processional continues to be offered at Disneyland two nights each year, generally the first weekend in December, in Town Square. There is one performance each night, so plan to arrive early!

Naturally when Walt Disney World opened in 1971 the processional was introduced there as well. Like at Disneyland, the choirs sang from bleachers in Town Square. The first guest narrator was Rock Hudson and he was followed by celebrities like Cary Grant, Dean Jones, Joseph Campanella, Ross Martin, Perry Como, James Hampton and Darrin McGavin, Pat and Shirley Boone, Howard Keel, Walter Cronkite, George Kennedy, Paula Zahn and a host of others. Like the California version, there were only two performances each year.

By 1993 guests in Florida were demanding more opportunities to see the spectacular show so in 1994 it was moved to the America Gardens Theatre at EPCOT with two shows a night spread over 15 nights. It was so popular that first year that the following year’s schedule had 60 showings, 2 each night over 30 nights. In recent years there have been about 100 shows each year, three shows per night over 30 or more nights, from late November to December 30th. By the time the 2015 series wraps up there will have been 108 performances!

2013 Neil Patrick Harris

2015 Whoopi Goldberg

The performance is offered free of charge, and each show is jam packed! The theatre seats over 1,000 people and those who cannot get a seat stand, several rows deep, across the back of the theatre to enjoy the spectacle.

The music is simply superb. The job of directing the performance is split between Rick Mizell, Music Director at Walt Disney World and Dr. John Sinclair of Rollins College As the director leads both the choir and the orchestra the songs you hear are: Shout for Joy, O Come All Ye Faithful, Il Est Ne (He Is Born – a traditional French carol), O Holy Night, Angels from the Realms of Glory, Rejoice with Exceeding Great Joy, We Three Kings, What Child is There, Do You Hear What I Hear, Silent Night, Joy to the World, The Hallelujah Chorus and Let There Be Peace on Earth.

2015 Guest Choirs

This year Carol and I had a chance to talk with a Disney employee who performs in the volunteer cast member choir. She described the rigorous audition process they go through before they’re accepted. She told us that they try to have four school choirs together with one church or community choir in each show. If you would like to perform in the processional with your choir you can start the ball rolling by sending in an audition recording. Details about the application process can be found by clicking on the appropriate link on the right: Disneyland Walt Disney World

2013 Candlelight Processional

If you are going to be at Walt Disney World in late November or December I highly recommend the show. People begin lining up at least an hour before each performance, so plan to arrive early. One of the easiest ways to ensure that you have a seat for the show is to book a “dining package” at one of the participating restaurants. You can read all the details about the packages here: Dining Packages

I’ll wrap up this blog by telling you about a magical moment that happened in California on December 12, 2012. Carol and I were fortunate to be at Disneyland at just the right time to see the Candlelight Processional – and as an added bonus, the narrator was Dick Van Dyke.

After just a few songs and a few short narratives from Mr. Van Dyke it started to rain very lightly. The microphone on the podium went silent and the PA announcer advised that the show would be paused for a few minutes for the safety of the performers. It wasn’t long before a stage hand walked out from backstage and handed Dick Van Dyke an open umbrella.

2012 Dick Van Dyke

He looked around at the assembled crowd, smiled and said something like, “Don’t worry, I won’t fly away. Only Mary Poppins can do that!” A roar of laughter and applause cascaded all around Town Square.

The weather cleared and the show resumed after just a short pause, but that brief rain shower gave Carol and I a memory we’ll never forget!

December 31, 2015

Mousy Mindboggler - December 2015

Riddle

THE MOUSY MINDBOGGLER

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

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

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

This month, James writes:

I only received FOUR correct responses to last month’s Guest Blog Picture Quiz! I guess these were more difficult than I thought!

Here are the answers to last month’s photo quiz:

Photo 1: Space Mountain
Photo 2: Pirates of the Caribbean
Photo 3: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Photo 4: Mickey Mouse Revue

As far as what they have in common, each of these attractions is one of a handful of Magic Kingdom attractions that required a separate E-ticket or coupon to ride in addition to the base admission ticket.

These A thru E-tickets were required for most of the park attractions in Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom until around 1982, when passport tickets were introduced in anticipation of the opening of Epcot Center.

These were the E-ticket attractions at the Magic Kingdom:
Hall of Presidents
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Haunted Mansion
Jungle Cruise
Country Bear Jamboree
Pirates of the Caribbean
Space Mountain
it’s a small world
Mickey Mouse Revue (later downgraded to D-ticket)

Prior to 1983, an E-ticket ride referred to those attractions that were the most popular, not necessarily the most thrilling. This changed when Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, responded that the experience of a Space Shuttle launch, was similar to an E-ticket ride at Disneyland. This term then became synonymous with the best or most thrilling attractions.

The winner of a Disney villain pin, randomly drawn from the correct responses, was Jeffrey D. of Rocky Mount, VA.

If you missed it last month, don't worry -- Here’s another chance!

Continuing with the photo quiz with a twist idea, I’m going to show you a few cropped pictures of Christmas trees from Walt Disney World

Try to identify where at the Walt Disney World Resort each of these trees can be found, either at one of the theme parks or resort hotels.

OK, if everybody is neat and pretty, let’s begin!

PHOTO 1

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PHOTO 2

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PHOTO 3

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PHOTO 4

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PHOTO 5

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PHOTO 6

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Match each of the following locations with one of the photos above.

-- Magic Kingdom
-- Animal Kingdom Lodge
-- Boardwalk Resort
-- Animal Kingdom
-- Epcot

You'll notice that there is an extra tree photo whose location is NOT on this list.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to identify where at WDW can this extra tree be found!

The object is, as always, to have fun, but if you'd like a chance to win a Disney collectible pin, send me the answer IN THE SUBJECT LINE OF AN EMAIL addressed to dzneynut.puzzle@gmail.com.

NOTE: Please don't reply to this blog with your answers! If you want a chance at winning the pin, you MUST submit your answer to the email address.

Send your entries no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on January 10, 2016. All correct answers will be entered into a random drawing, and the winner will be awarded a Disney pin. The answers and drawing winner will be posted in this Guest Blog in mid- to late January.

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

Thanks!

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About December 2015

This page contains all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in December 2015. They are listed from oldest to newest.

November 2015 is the previous archive.

January 2016 is the next archive.

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