Main

Backstage Magic Archives

May 11, 2008

Adventures by Disney Backstage Magic - Day 6

MouseFanTravel President Beci Mahnken was part of the first ever Adventures by Disney Backstage Magic Tour!

Day 6 - It's Time to Say Goodbye

Once again the day begins with the 5:30 am wake up call. I decide to snooze for awhile until I remember I have to pack and get ready for the luggage pick up and I do not want to be too late to breakfast. This will be my last chance to hang out with all these people who have become good friends just over a matter of days.

Today we are invited to the Chip & Dale Critter breakfast at Storyteller Café. Since we do not have a schedule to keep except to meet our transportation to the airport, we can show up at our leisure anytime between 7 am - 9 am. I manage to get my act together and join in on the fun around 8 am.

Unfortunately some of the adventurers had early flights so I missed saying goodbye - err I mean - till we do another adventure. (I am just not a fan of goodbyes). So we enjoyed a wonderful buffet breakfast and did the ritual exchange of email addresses saying we all hope to keep in touch. There were lots of hugs around the room with the occasional interruption by Chip and/or Dale to bring a bit more fun into the mix.

Some of the travelers had autograph books they asked others to sign and the guides also had a memory book that we could record some thoughts on our adventure. Sadly it was coming to a close. I hugged Michelle and off she went to catch her transportation to the airport. Others went to catch their rides too but some had time to kill and went to the parks. I had to go pack.

When I was ready to leave, I sent a text to the park goers who were now back at the hotel. They came down to the lobby to say goodbye one more time. Quinn and Diana met me outside as well and had my bag ready to go. The town car was a little late so it gave us all a chance to chat some more. A few minutes later, we were back to goodbye - err - see ya soon hugs, and I was off to the airport to catch my flight.

Beci and the Adventures Guides

On the flight back to home I got to thinking about the times I have been in the company of die hard Disney fans. When the topic of those true 'behind the velvet rope' experiences come up - like being immersed in the creativity of Imagineering, or the history of Walt's Apartment, etc - Many people would say they would do about anything for those experiences. Well, now here is your chance.

One of the objections I hear when talking with clients about taking an Adventure By Disney is that its so expensive. But when you consider what you get - hotel, most of your meals, transportation, sure. But it's the special, unique experiences that you can't really put a price on - it is worth every penny and then some.

Behind the scenes tours like Jimmy Kimmel Live, The El Capitan Theater, and the rare opportunity to be inside the gates and visit Jim Henson Studios and the Creature Shop.

To visit the birthplace of the ideas and witness the creative process from inside the walls of Imagineering, as well as inside the barn where Imagineering took its first baby steps. To walk through the halls of the animation building where so many of the classics were born at the Walt Disney Studios.

To visit the apartment and see the view from Walt's perspective as he perfected the art of creating magic. All of these experiences allow the individual to truly walk in Walt's footsteps and see his world from his eyes. wow.

And if that wasn't enough value, there is shopping at Mickey's of Glendale!!
ok, I couldn't help myself there.

What I meant is ...

The value of new friends and those little moments that just happen

- Sing-alongs on a bus with a bunch of people who you didn't even know 2 days ago - not to mention the standing ovation onboard.

- Sharing our favorite Disney books with a group over breakfast - (thanks Brent & Nick)

- Realizing you are simply a group of lemmings because not only will you follow a paddle sign, you will also follow the tallest guy in the group if he holds his hat in the air.

- Watching everyone turn into happy squealing 6 year olds at 'pin time'. (yes another little bit of Disney magic!)

- Talking my new friends onto the Tower of Terror not once - but twice even though a couple of them where not so sure they would live through the experience. The good news is Tracey and I have a date in December to go again when we are both in WDW later this year.

- Having a new appreciation for "daisy's eggs". (thanks scott, I think)

- Being able to baby sit Stitch for an hour or so. (thanks brad)

- Being reminded that not everyone has been to Disneyland and getting the opportunity to see a family and a few others experience the original park for the first time. That is an experience in itself.

- Realizing that you and your new friends are living proof that you are never too old, or too young, to be fascinated by a muppet, or to appreciate the magic.

I could go on and on and so can the group. Since I returned the email bin has been buzzing with everyone sharing their pics and favorite memories. All of this was not only worth the cost, but in the end, it was priceless.

I would like to end by saying thanks to all the guests who shared the experience with me and made it memorable, the guides for making it extra magical and to follow along my usual tradition of waving to Walt as I leave the park - to say thanks for setting such a high bar and making magic that just keeps getting better everyday.

Till Next time.

Walt's Pad

Read Beci's Entire Backstage Magic Blog!

Beci Mahnken is the President/CEO of MEI & MouseFanTravel.com . To date she is a vetran of 3 Adventures By Disney trips, more then 40 cruises including 16 with Disney and countless Walt Disney World and Disneyland adventures. Read her blog on the London and Paris Adventure by Disney.

May 10, 2008

Adventures by Disney Backstage Magic - Day 5

MouseFanTravel President Beci Mahnken was part of the first ever Adventures by Disney Backstage Magic Tour!

Day 5 - Behind the Orange Grove

It was a late night last night and the alarm came early again to ensure we made the 7 am meet time. But who could resist all the rides just begging to be queued up for? I mean, we can always sleep after vacation, right?

The day begins at a favorite character brunch spot, Goofy's Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel. This is a buffet that features all of the normal breakfast fare, plus some items you may not want to try - ever. Brad was a brave soul and jumped feet first right into trying the peanut butter pizza. While others in the group started out on the right track with fruits, etc, but then realizing they had left their own kids at home, went right for the soft serve ice cream!

Goofy's Kitchen Entrance

Goofy's Kitchen Seating Area

Goofy's Kitchen Ice Cream

We enjoyed the company of lots of characters, besides our table mate of course. (as you can tell the group started acting like a big family of brothers and sisters having fun on mom & dad's credit card) Alice, among others, stopped by below to sign Brocks autograph book. We also saw Baloo and even Goofy made a special trip away from his chef duties to say hi too!

Alice at Goofy's Kitchen

After breakfast it was off to the resort entrance to Disney's California Adventure. We arrived at the gate well before park opening and the guides led to our first stop on today's journey, Soarin Over California! Park closed - nice. This really is the ultimate Fastpass. We load in two bays for the ride then before the pre-show, one of the groups were told they are going on a different adventure - backstage! Our group gets on the ride and we enjoy one of my favorite attractions on property. Once our ride was over, the other group was loaded into their hang glider - slash - giant erector set - and we were escorted behind the scenes to watch our comrades from a very unique perspective - under the screen! It was truly remarkable and has to be seen in person to really appreciate it.

Soarin' at Disney's California Adventure

Once everyone had exited the building we were met by a Soarin cast member who gave us some background on the attraction and showed us the source of those wonderful pine and orange scents we experience as we fly over the state. They poured a few of the yummy-smelling little beads in a cup and passed it around. We were given the ok to touch them which had the consistency of a hard gel like substance but they were really quick to ensure they got all of them back before we left.

We said goodbye to our new friends at Soarin and made our way across the empty park to the Hollywood Pictures Backlot area. As we crossed the plaza we saw the main gates in the distance with a line of people waiting to get in. It's great to be in an empty park!!!

 Disney's California Adventure Before Official Opening

Our next stop - Disney Animation. We paused to view a special welcome message and take a group shot.

 Disney Animation

Once inside we were treated to a special visit with everyone's favorite Turtle, Crush, as well as a lesson in how to draw Mickey at the Animation Academy. Personally I can barely draw anything beyond a stick figure so I tapped Jim to put his wonderful work of art on display for the picture below. They had tubes waiting for us to collect our works of art so we could take them home and proudly display them above the fireplace. Jim, yes. Me, no way? Mine was neatly folded and stashed in my backpack to be disposed of later in the closest recycle bin. Art just wasn't my calling - a lesson I learned early in life while playing with those art tests in the back of the TV guide.

 Animation Academy - How to Draw Mickey

And Disney being, well, Disney, they will find any excuse to celebrate something and make a guest feel special. This time they had ears for the folks celebrating a birthday in April and May. Here are three of the people who are getting old this month!

 Birthday Ears

The rest of our afternoon was scheduled on our own, so I was able to talk a few brave souls into coming along with me to my other favorite ride - The Tower of Terror. It was Haydee's first ride (check out the faces on these victims - errr - lucky guests) and we made sure she was in the front row so no amount of eye closing was going to take any of the fun away.

Michelle on the other hand... is this really the same Michelle who played mountain goat on the rim of the Grand Canyon on our Southwest Adventure and giggled at the rest of us for having heart failure watching her? REALLY? Because the way she was holding onto my arm on this ride, you'd' swear she was actually scared of falling or something.

I am happy to report that according to the ride pic, Haydee was brave enough to let go at least once, with at least one arm. And Michelle didn't leave a bruise on my arm, much to my surprise.

 Tower of Terror

We had the rest of the afternoon to relax and enjoy the parks, the resort, the pool, nurse our feet, nap, write blogs, or in my case, run around like a mad woman looking for boxes to ship my loot from the Mickey's of Glendale safely home. Quinn had anticipated my challenge and went out of his way to have some boxes available at the business center that would do the trick. I spent some time packing and taping boxes to fedex back home and they should arrive by Thursday. It will be like Christmas, or more accurately, a game show of how many shirts and collectables can you grab in 30 minutes all over again!

Later that evening, we met one last time at the sorcerer hat at Disneyland Hotel to walk as a group to our Farewell Dinner. This is always a bitter-sweet event because it means the adventure is almost over. The venue was Sleeping Beauty's Pavilion above Goofy's Kitchen with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the hotel pool area. The tables were decorated with old movie reel centerpieces and the festivities began just as the sun began to set. Dinner was a buffet style with plenty of choices - including pasta, meats, salads and of course dessert - along with wine, beer and soda to wash it all down.

Farewell Dinner

The group was very excited to learn that we had a special guest in attendance for the evening. Disney Historian, Stacia Martin would be taking requests to draw the favorite characters of the Adventures by Disney guests. wow! We got in line and put our names on the list while each of us really had trouble trying to decide on just one! Mine was Sorcerer Mickey. He reminds me of my Daddy who loved Fantasia - so that would be an easy one for me.

When I hear my name, we are asked to come forward and be introduced to Stacia. She invited each person to watch and talk with her as she created her original art just for you

Disney Historian, Stacia Martin Draws Sorcerer Mickey for Beci

Disney Historian, Stacia Martin Draws Pooh for Laura

Disney Historian, Stacia Martin Draws the Cheshire Cat for Nick

As the dinner winds down its time to go around the room and tell everyone what their favorite moment has been from the trip. It's amazing how many people change their answer from day 1 when they ask - what are you looking forward to most.

Quinn and Diana have a special 'goodnight kiss' for us too. They have prepared a video of memories from the past few days. It's amazing that it seems like weeks ago that we were in Hollywood and now it's just about over - after a couple more pictures of course!

Mickey and Minnie stopped in to say goodbye to the group and take photos for another keepsake to remember the adventure.

Beci, Michelle, Minnie and Mickey

But wait! It's not over yet! We still have a fireworks show see!

Someone grabs the sign - which is now a requirement for someone to have anytime we go anywhere in a group - and off we go to a VIP viewing spot in Disneyland. They has a roped off area at the Plaza Pavilion which offered an ok view of the action including Tinkerbell's many flights over the crowd and around the castle. It did have some obstruction issues but it was a fair trade for not having to fight the crowds for a spot.

After the show, we all went out exploring on our own. Some headed back for the hotel while others took our stack of FastPasses to see how many more rides we could fit in before we have to say goodbye in the morning.

Who's up for Haunted Mansion? Then Big Thunder, and of course we have to go on Space Mountain again right? hmmm. It is late, maybe Fantasyland will be light on crowds! We finished the night with the classics - Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, the Storybook adventure and Dumbo was our nightcap.

It's been a great day!

Tomorrow, its time to say Goodbye.

Read Beci's Entire Backstage Magic Blog!

Beci Mahnken is the President/CEO of MEI & MouseFanTravel.com . To date she is a veteran of 3 Adventures By Disney trips, more then 40 cruises including 16 with Disney and countless Walt Disney World and Disneyland adventures. Read her blog on the London and Paris Adventure by Disney.

May 9, 2008

Adventures by Disney Backstage Magic - Day 4

MouseFanTravel President Beci Mahnken was part of the first ever Adventures by Disney Backstage Magic Tour!

Day 4 - Walt's World

The alarm went off at 5:30 am to ensure I had enough time to shower and do a little work before our 7 am meeting time in the lobby of the hotel. From there we walked towards the gates of Disneyland entering long before the general public. This provided us with a special magical moment of walking down Main Street with just our group and a couple of cast members who were busy getting the park ready for the guests. What a treat to enjoy the park in such a peaceful and calm atmosphere.

Empty Disneyland

Empty Disneyland

Empty Disneyland

Empty Disneyland

Michelle and Beci in Disneyland

At the end of the street we arrived at the Plaza Inn for a breakfast buffet with and visits from some old friends including Minnie, Chip, Dale and the star of the show, The Fairy Godmother. She wandered around the room checking everyone's plates to ensure they had the proper nutrition required for the days events. Check out her 'shock and awe' below when she discovered James David (his in-trouble name) didn't select enough fruit on his trip through the buffet line.

Plaza Inn

Chip at the Plaza Inn

Fairy Godmother and Jim at the Plaza Inn

Minnie at the Plaza Inn

After breakfast we gather our belongings and put away our cameras and cell phones because we are headed backstage. Our first stop is the Indiana Jones Adventure. We enter into a backstage door to see a few of the ride vehicles on display. The cast members give us a demonstration of the ride vehicle hydraulic capabilities and the gyrations it goes through when guests are on the ride.

Matt, the teenager and most likely the best gamer in the group, is handed the joystick control to give it a whirl. I think he has a future in thrill ride programming. Of course no demonstration would be truly complete unless we had a chance to experience what we just saw. So we were escorted up to the load area and onto the cars. No lines, no wait. Wow! I could get used to this.

Next stop, the Big Thunder Ranch area where we meet Courtney who tells us about the history of the horses and animals in the park. We took a peek into the building that houses memorabilia including awards and ribbons that have been earned over the years. It was neat to learn the horses not only work at the park but are shown as well. We were given the unique opportunity to feed the local residents and I couldn't help but notice that the moment the cast member appeared with the feed, the scene somewhat mirrored the events at Mickey's of Glendale the previous day.

Big Thunder Ranch Area

Big Thunder Ranch Area Feeding the Goats

After our visit to our new 4 legged friends, we put our cameras away again and head backstage to meet Ed and Vern at the roundhouse. They tell us more about Walt's love for steam trains and history behind the engines we see today. Then its back to the Circle D ranch to visit the small house which was once the real home of the Dolly and Owen Pope. The Pope's are the only people who ever lived at Disneyland and actually took care of the ranch which at one time had 220 horses etc.

Courtney meets back up with us and explains that the horses only work 2 hours per day and have 1 week off per month. They are allowed to work 5 years in total and then are retired. It's a record breaker in Anaheim so we enjoyed a rest break and the guides had water handy to re-hydrate.

Of course with all this activity we are ready for lunch! We work our way to New Orleans Square where there are tables waiting for us at Café Orleans. We are greeted by a line of cast members with beads a plenty to welcome us and we work our way to our seats. Lunch was a set menu with a variety of choices but the favorites of the group were the blackened chicken Caesar salad and the infamous Monte Cristo sandwich. Dessert was a plate of Mickey head beignets. wow, Im in heaven here!

Cafe Orleans Menu

Cafe Orleans  Monte Cristo

Cafe Orleans Salad

New Orleans Square - Michelle

The entertainment was a resident pirate who tried on several occasions to get away with the beignets, but we were watching so he visited with each guest and spun tales of his high seas adventures.

New Orleans Square - Pirate

We ended our visit to New Orleans Square with a picture on the stairs leading to the Dream Apartment and a ride on Pirates of the Caribbean, VIP entrance again with no lines or wait.

New Orleans Square Stairs

Could this possibly get any better?

Why - YES!!!!

We walked back down Main Street and gathered in front of the Fire Department building. There we divided into 3 groups because the places we would be visiting next would be a slightly tighter fit.

But first things first - please stow all electronic devices - cameras and cell phones out of site and out of hands.

I was in the group that was to be the first to ascend the stairs to Walt's Apartment. Wow. I was about to step into a room filled with history. To stand where he did as he watched guests enjoy his park. I get a chill just thinking about that. But I am jumping ahead of myself.

Walt's Pad

We passed the backstage gate and to the right was the staircase that leads to the private room above the firehouse. The Tour Guide paused to tell us a story about how Walt's grandkids would sneak across the small street behind the building and into the jungle on the other side. Jungle? The rear of the apartment backs up to a portion of the Jungle Cruise ride. Can you imagine having that park to play in as a kid?

The door has a hand crank bell that signals someone is about to enter and as the door opens we are met with a room where time seems to have stopped. The small dwelling consisted of the main room which also served as sleeping quarters with 2 sofa beds and bathroom, decorated in Victorian furnishings with red and white as the main color scheme.

A small kitchenette area to the right inside the entry way features a few conveniences like his original griddle which he used to make gilled cheese sandwiches and other simple items. Across the room stands an antique Regina Music box that stands approximately 4 feet high and was a gift from Walt to his wife Lillian. To the right was the entry to the bathroom and to the left was a table with a Victorian style rotary phone that Walt actually used. It was featured in the August 1963 pictorial for National Geographic showing Walt on the phone. This was one of the few times the apartment was photographed.

Looking towards the park you see two red couches that serve as beds, face each other from opposite sides of the room. One was for Walt and the other for Lillian so they could be together when Walt was putting in so many hours creating his magic. Between them is the infamous lamp that you can see from the street below. It's a tradition that the cast members leave the lamp on to honor Walt and to symbolize that he is always looking over his park.

We were told it was ok to sit on some of the furniture as long as we ask which ones before taking any action. Brock and I sat down on the couch to the right, near the phone. Then as I was gazing at all the items around the room a wave of emotion just hit me out of no where. I looked at the lamp and realized I was looking at the same view he had as he gazed onto the park that he built to make his guest's dreams and wishes come true. This wonderful, creative man became a grandfather to more then one generation and this was quite and emotional moment. Luckily we were allowed a group photo that was taken by the guides camera only - so I do have a treasured keepsake from the visit.

Thanks Walt. You have certainly made this little girl's dreams a reality.

Reluctantly we departed the apartment to make room for the next group. But we weren't quite done reliving history just yet.

We made our way to the Train Station where the Lillie Belle would arrive shortly to take us on a Grand Circle tour of Disneyland. While we waited, we were shown the VIP parade viewing area for the afternoon parade. Unfortunately they only had 20 seats available for the group of 36. I think they counted on the fact that some would decline the invitation to attend, but I think this is an area they need to tweak on this itinerary to ensure no one is turned away from such a great perk!

Reserved VIP Parade Viewing Area

The Lilly Belle is a parlor car that was removed from general service in favor of the open style cars as Walt felt they offered a better view of his Grand Canyon and Primeval World attractions. About 10 years later the suggestion was made to revive it as a bicentennial car. That idea resulted in the private car now known as the Lilly Belle - named after Walt's wife Lillian. She decorated it in her favorite Victorian style and included family pictures to add a touch of Walt to the place.

This unique experience begins with your private conductor escorting you to the car and punching your VIP keepsake ticket. Then you board the train and get settled in for a train ride of a lifetime around Disneyland.

Lilly Belle  Conductor

Lilly Belle

Lilly Belle

Lilly Belle

The afternoon was on our own, so we met up with the group later that night for a VIP viewing of Fantasmic. I will go on the record to say I prefer the show at Disneyland over Disney World. Yes, even with the massive crowds that make it impossible to get anywhere around the lake area.

After the show a group of us headed out to take advantage of the fast passes we had in hand. Jungle Cruise (best in the dark) Buzz Lightyear and Space Mountain were all on the agenda. We even created a magical moment for guests who wanted to get on Space Mountain but the 60 minute wait was to long for them. Our fast passes were dated and there was no way we would use them all. So some lucky folks got to enjoy Space Mountain with very little wait.

Today - good memories & great friends.

Tomorrow - California Adventure, here we come!

Read Beci's Entire Backstage Magic Blog!

Beci Mahnken is the President/CEO of MEI & MouseFanTravel.com . To date she is a veteran of 3 Adventures By Disney trips, more then 40 cruises including 16 with Disney and countless Walt Disney World and Disneyland adventures. Read her blog on the London and Paris Adventure by Disney.

May 8, 2008

Adventures by Disney Backstage Magic - Day 3B

MouseFanTravel President Beci Mahnken was part of the first ever Adventures by Disney Backstage Magic Tour!

Making the Magic - Day 3 Part 2

Back on the bus and a few minutes later we are driving through the gates of The Walt Disney Studios. In 1937 Disney released his first full length animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs which received wide acclaim. Walt saw a need to expand the studio and used the profits from that production to build this studio in Burbank. For this reason, the dwarfs are shown holding up the roof on the main administration building.

Walt Disney Studios Building

Walt Disney Studios Mickey Avenue Sign

We walked onto the lot and wandered streets to the animation building. Once inside we walked down the long hall that was covered in original background art and animation cells from some of the famous films over the years. Directly across from the animation building is Inking and Painting. The cool thing is they are connected by an underground tunnel to protect the artists work from the elements when being transported from building to building.

Walt Disney Studios Animation Building

Walt Disney Studios Hyperion

We exited the animation building and headed to Disney's Legends Plaza. In 1998 this plaza was dedicated to commemorate 75th anniversary of the company and the plaza features bronze plaques and sculptures to honor the gifted animators, imagineers and others who have had a significant impact on the company. We spent quite a bit of time looking around, taking in the history and taking pictures too.

Walt Disney Studios - Disney's Legends Plaza

The picture shows a bronze of the Legends award that is given.

According to the website:

The Spiral ... stands for imagination, the power of an idea.
The Hand ... holds the gifts of skill, discipline and craftsmanship.
The Wand and the Star ... represent magic: the spark that is ignited when imagination and skill combine to create a new dream.

Walt Disney Studios - Disney's Legends Plaza Bench

Our lunch stop was at the Commissary at the Studios. We were given a voucher good for entrée, side, beverage and dessert - in a counter service style. there were many choices from soups and salads to deli sandwiches, pasta, burgers and pizza. Of course we were on a working studio lot so were on the lookout for familiar faces. This visit the group reported seeing Marty Skylar of Imagineering fame.

Walt Disney Studios - Commissary

Walt Disney Studios - Commissary

After lunch we had more shopping time, then it was back to the bus for the drive to the Disneyland Resort. The drive had a soundtrack. In Hollywood we heard classic TV show tunes of the 70s like the Love Boat, and as we got closer to Disneyland the theme changed to monorail and current Disney themes. We had a blast singing the classics and giggling like little kids. I think Walt would be proud.

Going back to the first day when we met at the welcome reception, the guides asked how many people had never been to Disneyland. I was amazed at the number of people who raised their hands! One of them was Haydee (below). Her son Alex had asked her on this trip and she was very excited to experience the magic of her first Disneyland trip with her son. When we took the exit I looked back at her and she was all teary-eyed.

Haydee on the Adventures by Disney bus

Being a veteran of many visits to Disneyland, this caused me to stop for a moment and remember what it was like to walk through the gates of Disneyland on my 7th birthday with my Daddy in tow. Then again on my 21st birthday, after driving all night from a show in Las Vegas, seeing it for the first time from and adults eyes. Now I am going to be blessed to see it again, this time watching this wonderful lady who is about to turn into an 8 year old right in front of us. This is what I love about the power of this place and the magic of Disney.

We pulled up to Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa which is the flagship of the 3 Disneyland resorts, and we were escorted into the lobby to receive our room keys and info packets. Right away we headed for our rooms, with all the bags from the shopping spree as I wasn't about to let those out of my site. Thanks to Brent & Brock, we managed to get everything where it needed to be. And we aren't even talking about the luggage. The bellman will deliver those shortly.

Here is where we hit the first room snag, and frankly 3 days in was pretty good considering we were the inaugural group on this itinerary. We found our room and opened the curtains to find ... gravel and a wall. Now I'm not normally the kind to push the issue when I get unlucky on the draw, especially when standard room view is what's promised when you book this tour, but frankly I didn't even know there was such a room that had nothing but a gravel wall in front of you.

Putting my vacation planner hat on, I decided it would be best to raise the issue so this doesn't happen to others in the future. I went downstairs and found our guides. One of the Adventures Managers was also on property and he immediately took on the action item to take a look at the problem. I was very impressed by the care and concern they displayed and left it win their capable hands to work out.

In the meantime, 4 of us adventurers were ready to go Soarin! Michelle, Brent, Brock and I had just enough time to run over to California Adventure and go thru the single rider queue before returning to prepare for the welcome reception. I met the Adventure staff in the lobby who advised they have moved us and the bell staff has moved our luggage as well. They handed us new room keys and stated they would ensure that particular view will no longer be assigned to Adventures Guests.

Wow. How wonderful to see in action what I have come to expect from the Disney brand. Great customer service and a fast resolution to a challenge complimented by a smile and a sincere "thank you for bringing this to our attention." We head up to the new room and indeed, we have a nice standard view with barely a hint of gravel. This will due very nicely.

After unpacking and a change of clothes, we headed to the lobby to meet the gang for the evening festivities. There we were greeted by the David, the 2008 Disneyland Ambassador who officially welcomed us to Disneyland. Michelle and I were also presented with special repeat guest pins!

Michelle and Beci with Disneyland Ambassador David

We walked over to the Disneyland Resort and enjoyed a wonderful welcome reception featuring a wine tasting at the Cellar. We were offered a selection including a Pinot noir from Camelot, a chardonnay from Century Cellars and finally a Johannisberg reisling from Robert Mondavi Private Reserve. (yum!).

Wine Tasting at Disneyland

Wine Tasting at Disneyland

The guides also choose this as the setting to congratulate the anniversary couples in the group, presenting them with appropriate head wear.

Anniversary Couple on the Adventures by Disney

Another Anniversary Couple on the Adventures by Disney

The reception also featured a selection of appetizers as well as a guitar player who sang and set the perfect mood for the festivities. As the reception was winding down we were lead upstairs to Hooks Point Restaurant for dinner. We were offered a salmon dish or a mesquite grilled chicken entrée with accompaniments and Key Lime pie for dessert.

Hooks Point Restaurant

"You've just been on quite an adventure and enjoyed a wonderful dinner. Now what are you going to do?"

Why, we are going to Disneyland of course!

After dinner we are ready for some theme park fun! We head over to the gates together and group all the first time visitors at the front of the line so they are the first to enter the park. Once inside we are lead down main street by way of "the paddle".

No not THAT kind of paddle! THIS kind of paddle!

Disneyland at Night

It tends to draw attention thus has become the symbol that you have attained the coveted "teachers helper' spot in the group.

Disneyland at Night

We were led to the Haunted Mansion, but we walked right past the front entrance and made our way around the right hand side of the building to a special entrance across from the pet cemetery. We entered into a special stretching room where the cast member asked 5 bodies - err guests - to lay down in the dead center of the room and just about gave them a heart attack when the lights came back on by standing directly over them. (reminds me I need to blog about my haunted mansion experience that left me not only speechless, but breathless as well)

Anyway, after that we were given some special fast passes and given the rest of the evening on our own to explore the park.

Its an early day tomorrow. We are set to explore Walt's World! Stay tuned!

Read Beci's Entire Backstage Magic Blog!

Beci Mahnken is the President/CEO of MEI & MouseFanTravel.com . To date she is a veteran of 3 Adventures By Disney trips, more then 40 cruises including 16 with Disney and countless Walt Disney World and Disneyland adventures. Read her blog on the London and Paris Adventure by Disney.

May 7, 2008

Adventures by Disney Backstage Magic - Day 3

MouseFanTravel President Beci Mahnken was part of the first ever Adventures by Disney Backstage Magic Tour!

Here is Day3 of her blog - Making Magic:

Since the theme for the day is Making Magic, now is a great time to tell you about our guides.

But, before I do, let me just say, I was never keen on the idea of group travel. It always conjured up thoughts of waiting on people who are slower then I am or trying to catch up to people going faster then I am and trying not to be that person holding up the group, yet still wanting to avoid being rushed. You get the picture. Then I went on my first Adventures By Disney to London & Paris and my whole idea of what group travel was, well, changed.

Each adventurer has at least one thing in common when we walk in the door - a love for all things Disney and we can share our stories of being a fan, how many times we have been on various theme park rides (Tower of Terror!!!) or the crazy things we do to avoid riding on others. (For me - anything that has anything to do with water) Anyway. That one thing bonds the group right out of the gate and you find you enjoy being around these people as if it was a group of longtime friends who have gathered each year and miss each other in between trips. Then when you get home, you miss them. Seriously.

The guides play a key role in the success of that group dynamic. They create a warm welcoming feeling the moment you meet them and help everyone get to know each other with the greatest of ease. And for me, there is an added benefit. I am usually the one having to stress about the details. Even on vacation with my family there is an element of stress to make sure everything is as magical as it can possibly be.

Adventures By Disney takes care of everything with the kind of TLC that I give my clients and my family on their vacations. And after 3 of these trips I can say I am extremely pleased with the consistency. These folks are on top of everything and you can turn to them for assistance at anytime. They always respond with a smile and are a great example of the Disney service standard we are all so accustomed to.

The magic makers on this trip? Diana & Quinn

Diana (pronounced deeana) is a 13 year veteran of the Walt Disney Company. She has had a wide variety of experience including Food Ops, Administration, Walt Disney Travel Company and was a guide on the Spirit of America Adventure. She is extremely friendly, has an infectious smile and is at ease with everyone in the group, especially the kids.

Quinn is also a long timer, having dedicated 14 years to Disney. He started in attractions in Fantasyland, worked his way into guest relations and earned his plaid vest which is a very high honor to achieve. Most recently working in communications, he has been a finalist for the Disneyland Ambassador position which with his knowledge and stellar service skills, he would be a natural at that job.

Diana and Quinn Adventures by Disney Guides

My only complaint so far on this trip? Having to be up and packed, ready for luggage pick up at 7 am. Somehow I managed to sleepwalk my way though the packing process and set the luggage just inside the door for the hotel bell services to retrieve and transport to the bus.

Then I remembered - its IMAGINEERING DAY!

I'm wide awake now! We head to breakfast at a restaurant in the hotel called Twist. They had a very nice breakfast buffet with eggs, a variety or meats, fruits, cereals, and breads. A great way to start the day!

After breakfast we all gathered in the lobby and began squealing like 8th graders about the days itinerary. The bus was a bit delayed in LA traffic, so Quinn handed out our id badges for the day. Oh that was cool and it felt like we were holding winning lotto tickets.

Imagineering ID Badges

Alex and Haydee

Once the bus arrived we loaded up and headed out on the 45 minute ride to Disney Imagineering. Along the way we were given some news.

First - before leaving the bus we would be required to hand over all cameras and cell phones and leave them on the bus.

Second - We would be allowed 30 minutes to shop in the very exclusive "Mickey's of Glendale". This is the Cast member store that is the only place where you can purchase Disney Imagineering gear. This store is not open to the public, so it's a very special benefit to this adventure and the news completely drown out the disappointment of having to leave my camera behind.

But wait! There's more! -- Each person in the group will also get a coupon good for 40% off ONE item. I just about had heart failure as I started digging on my wallet to ensure I had an appropriate credit card! More on that in a bit.

As we made the left turn past the buildings, it was hard to tell anything Disney was going on, unless you were paying attention to the address markers which are shaped like a cast member name tag, or if you happen to get a glimpse of something Disney in a window now and then.

Below are some of the exterior shots before we had to put away the cameras.

Imagineering Exterior

Imagineering Grounds

We got off the bus and met David, an imagineer who would be our guide to all the wonders beyond the glass doors in front of us. As we entered the building we walked down a long hallway that was decorated with various posters and drawings commemorating the history of Disney including attractions, films and events.

The hallway itself was like being in a museum and we could have spent hours staring at each of the pieces along the way. But there was a schedule to keep so we made our way to room full of chairs and a screen where we saw a presentation on the history of Imagineering and some news on upcoming projects that have been officially announced.

After the presentation, we were split into our 2 groups and off we went to visit a few of the departments to see what's happening. Our first stop is the sculpture studio. When you walk in you are greeted with a large room with a high ceiling and glass cabinets around the perimeter of the room filled with pieces. Valerie, also an imaginer/sculptor who studied under one of the masters Blaine Gibson, introduced us to the marquettes (pre-mold) they use as part of the process to get to the size they want for the project. There were examples of the presidents heads, many characters, Walt, Mickey and even the marble Snow white and seven dwarfs sculptures that were in Disneyland park but were replaced after years of wear and tear..

Next we moved to a sweet sound studio where we enjoyed an amazing sound presentation of the technology they use for the Lincoln attraction. Anyone remember the Civil War presentation where you are the young soldier getting his haircut? It's also available for your hearing pleasure at Sounds Dangerous. It was the same technology with the headphones and all, but plus'd up a notch or two in the dark. It was extremely cool! Of course you automatically assume it's a trick with the headphones, but in fact, the headphones themselves are pretty much standard, straight off the rack variety.

He explained the recording process was actually the real wonder with the ingenious use of a head with strategic microphone placement and recording processes that produces a recording of the sounds just as a human would hear them. They have a head rigged with microphones that they affectionate call "Klaus" and apparently have put the poor guy through all kinds of paces for the love of realistic sound.

From there we moved down a hallway past a large open area with mock ups and models of what appeared to be the designs for the new and improved California Adventure Park. Of course, nothing was close enough to see detail and it was very noticeable that anything within our eye line was already out there for public consumption, but still, it was magical!

Last stop on the tour, before shopping of course, was a visit to Joe Cocker. This is A100 animatronic that put on quite a show, even without skin. It allowed you to see the skeleton and wiring as a demo to see what it really takes to make a human form move and sing. Why Joe Cocker? Seems his favorite tune is "Feelin Alright" complete with back up singers in the form of 3 heads (no bodies) on a table a couple of feet away.

After the demonstration, we exited the building into a courtyard where there were a couple of vintage ride vehicles like a people mover and a skyway bucket from Fantasyland.

In front of us was a building with "Mickey's of Glendale" on the side, and I heard the words, "You have 30 minutes to shop and your time starts now!" For those Top Chef fans out there, I felt like it was a quick fire challenge, or as if I just stepped into a twisted game show of grab as much as you can in 30 minutes, but then you have to pay for it!

It was a frenzy of finding the right sizes, shapes and colors for everyone on the list. Then I had an idea. I saw some very special items that I thought might be of particular interest to Disney fans, especially those attending MagicMeets! So I bought a few items that will be added to the silent action for the Dream Team Auction. Watch the announcements on the auction site!

Periodically you would hear off in the distance, "you have 10 minutes left to shop". "You have 3 minutes left to shop" - Personally I am hoping they have a security tape of that day - it would be a great to watch the mayhem! Side note - Thanks to all the folks who ended up behind me in the check out line. Its for a great cause and I appreciated your patience.

After the feeding frenzy at the shopping stop, Michelle and I loaded our multiple oversized, overstuffed bags on the bus and we headed to the next stop. Walt Disney Studios.

oh! one thing I wanted to mention - A couple of times on the trip we experienced true magical moment or two but even though others are posting the spoiler, I will refrain from detailing it here. I want you to feel that's sense of "Oh! My! God!" the way I did.

Read Beci's Entire Backstage Magic Blog!

Beci Mahnken is the President/CEO of MEI & MouseFanTravel.com . To date she is a veteran of 3 Adventures By Disney trips, more then 40 cruises including 16 with Disney and countless Walt Disney World and Disneyland adventures. Read her blog on the London and Paris Adventure by Disney.

May 6, 2008

Adventures by Disney Backstage Magic - Day 2b

MouseFanTravel President Beci Mahnken was part of the first ever Adventures by Disney Backstage Magic Tour!

Here is Day 2 Continued:

Lights, Camera, Adventure! -the Afternoon Update

I am in serious danger of dating myself here, but some of my earliest memories were of my best friends - Bert, Ernie, Big Bird, and of course Kermit the Frog. I was an only child and found Sesame Street to be a welcoming environment of folks who always had a smile for me and where I learned all the basics like how to count while not being scared of vampires, sing my ABCs, and giggle at the funny guy who couldn't seem to carry 12 banana cream pies no matter how hard he tried. My mom found it to be the perfect babysitter for an hour each afternoon when she needed a break from the little angel in the house.

With all this nostalgia running through me, I was very happy to hear that Jim Henson Studios was one of the tour stops. Little did I know just how special it was going to be or how it would touch me.

After the Jimmy Kimmel adventure we boarded the bus for our 5-10 minute journey around the corner and down the street to the studio that Charlie Chaplin built. Yes, you read that right! The studio was actually built in 1917 by Mr. Chaplin who filmed several of his classics there including Gold Rush, and the Great Dictator. Charlie sold the studio in 1957 and owners have included Red Skelton and CBS.

Several of the original buildings are still in place and the site was designated a Historical Cultural monument. In 1999 the Henson family purchased the lot and as the pictures below illustrate, they have ensured Charlie's legacy remains including a Kermit stature at the top of the gate sporting a top hat and tails.

Beci and Michelle at the Henson Sign

Welcome Sign at Henson Studios

Michelle and Charlie Chaplin

Once we passed through the guard gate and had a chance to look around the main courtyard. Even though the studio sits on a busy street the craziness that is LA seemed to melt away and a peaceful tranquility comes across you in these surroundings. There are several buildings that make up the complex including the main offices, administration, a production facility, state of the art recording studios where "We are the World was recorded, and yes, the creature shop!

Adventures by Disney Guide leads the way

We divided into to groups and were on our way to explore this gem. While the studio does offer limited tours, it is a working facility and does not have the usual 'walk up - on the hour tour schedule' you see with other area attractions. To get the kind of access we had was truly amazing!

The first stop was a small theater where we viewed a video make just for the Adventures By Disney tours which featured a couple of real characters - Bobby Vegan (a pig) and Samson Knight (a bull).

They provided an overview of the history of the facility. We moved to the main reception lobby where they have glass cases displaying many of the awards and accolades they have received over the years. On the opposite wall is a large picture of the man himself - Jim Henson. This became a very popular picture spot so we could tip our hat to the genius behind all the muppet magic.

Jim Henson Awards

Beci and Michelle with Jim Henson Portrait

Then it was time for the much anticipated creature shop! But not before our cameras and cell phones were locked away so none of the excitement would leave the grounds before their time.

We approached a plain looking building and as the doors opened we could see desks and tables filled with animatronics and puppets in various states of production. There is so much Muppet eye candy in this room, it's a shame we have to rely on our memories because I'm not sure I can do it justice.

My eyes went right for the oversized highchair with a baby dinosaur sitting in it. Anyone remember those famous words "Whos the baby?". ABC ran Dinosaurs from 1991 to 1994 and this little critter was front and center. There were also several characters from the movie "Cats and Dogs" including a few of the little Dobermans who were so good at taking orders and Mr. Tinkles who still sits on his cushion not doing much of anything because the material used to make up his jaw is a little worn. Other items on display - more like hanging around in plain site - included a couple of the tin shoulders from the Sam Eagles Grand finale of Muppet Vision 3-d and what looked like a model used in the David Bowie ala-muppet classic, Labyrinth.

We met Mike Oosterom who is a master puppeteer and actor who has an impressive body of work including the infamous Groundlings improv group. He is also part of the Helson alternative troop called Puppet Up (www.puppetup.com) which is an uncensored comedy show made just for us older kids that already know our ABCs.

Mike gave us a demo of how they work with puppets which isn't anywhere as easy as it sounds. Some of these are impressive marriages of art of technology requiring anywhere from 2 to 6 people to operate all the elements of the figure. He provided a hands-on demonstration of the challenges of working with the puppet and keeping an eye on the video monitor. Truly amazing!

We were able to view Brian Henson's office who now conducts the company business from his late father's office space. There were so many figurines, awards, and memorabilia that you could be occupied for hours looking at each piece. Then we were lucky enough to watch some green screen production work for an upcoming PBS series 'Sid the Science Kid' set to air Sept 2008.

We enjoyed a nice lunch in the beautiful Southern Californian weather and just before our tour ended, Mike joined us in the courtyard with one of his Puppet Up friends. Each person in the group had an opportunity to get a pic and interact with the star herself.

Beci,Mike Oosterom

Mike Oosterom and Adventures by Disney Group

I was very bummed when it was time to depart. This was truly a highlight for me and its only DAY 2!


As we boarded the bus, our guides informed us that they had a little surprise for us - with the caveat that we understand how special this is because the next portion of the trip will not always be on the Backstage Magic Tour due to scheduling reasons.
So we got lucky this time!

Hmmm, after experiencing 2 other Adventures by Disney trips I can tell you, that always means something cool. And this time was no exception.

We were headed to Griffith Park. The die hard Disney folks out there will remember this is the site of the carousel where Walt would take his daughters to enjoy a day in the sunshine and helped to inspire him to dream up Disneyland so families would have a place to play together. But if you are thinking that's where we were going, you'd be wrong. Unfortunately the carousel wasn't actually open that day, but some very special folks volunteered their time to open up another special place in the park where we could bask in inspiration.

Since 1999, Griffith Park has also been the home of Walts' Barn which is also known as 'The Birthplace of Imagineering'. The barn was originally built by Walt in 1950 and was surrounded by his own 1/8th scale railroad on his property in Holmby Hills. It was his private workshop that he considered his personal 'happy place'.

The railroad was named Carolwood Pacific Railroad, after the street on which he lived. He operated the railroad until 1953 when Disneyland became his priority. It was his love of the train was the inspiration for the trains that now run the parameter of the parks today.

When the family sold the house in Holmby Hills, Walts family made arrangements to move the barn to the Los Angeles Live Steamers facility in Griffith Park as Walt was a charter member of the train enthusiasts club. In addition, that would mean the barn would always be surrounded by the trains that Walt loved so much.

We toured the barn which is a treasure-trove of Walt history including his personal workbench, tools, trains, and even one of his pork pie hats.

Walt's Barn in Griffith Park

Walt's Bench in Griffith Park Barn

Walt's Train Barn in Griffith Park

Walt Disney and Trains

After the tour, we had the opportunity to ride one of the trains! Below you see our Adventures By Disney Guides ready for their turn. Many of use elected to ride twice!

Adventure by Disney Guides

We boarded the bus for the trip back to the hotel where everyonetimen their own. Many went to Jimmy Kimmel Live, others hit the town to have dinner in one of the many restaurants in the area.

Tomorrow... Imagineering!

Read Beci's Entire Backstage Magic Blog!

Beci Mahnken is the President/CEO of MEI & MouseFanTravel.com . To date she is a veteran of 3 Adventures By Disney trips, more then 40 cruises including 16 with Disney and countless Walt Disney World and Disneyland adventures. Read her blog on the London and Paris Adventure by Disney.

May 5, 2008

Adventures by Disney Backstage Magic - Day 2a

MouseFanTravel President Beci Mahnken was part of the first ever Adventures by Disney Backstage Magic!

Here is Day 2 of her blog: Lights, Camera, Adventure! - the Morning Report

Yes, I will admit it. I am not a morning person. There. I said it. Even in my own time zone having to be up around 7:45 is hard enough, but being awake, showered, dressed and ready to tackle a day on nothing but hotel room coffee. Well, it's a challenge. But today was the first full day of exploring Hollywood the Disney way which made it a little easier to accept.

We met our fellow band of adventurers in the hotel lobby and once gathered we were on our way in search of food and yes, coffee. Luckily we were just a short walk to our exclusive Breakfast with Ariel inside Disney's Soda Fountain and Studio Store.

Breakfast at Disney's Soda Fountain and Studio Store

The room was set up with festively decorated tables and Little Mermaid music playing to set the stage. Servers brought beverages and we were given few breakfast options that included the regular breakfast fare along with some especially themed choices.

Breakfast Menu for Disney's Soda Fountain and Studio Store

Mickey Waffle at Disney's Soda Fountain and Studio Store

Our first surprise of the day? Ariel stopped in for a visit!

Beci and Michelle with Ariel

And we also found a not-so Hidden Mickey!

Hidden Mickey

They also had activities for the kids and kids at heart. They set up an activity station at the counter complete with pics of the Little Mermaid characters that you could cut out and assemble to make your very own mobile.

Ariel Activities

After we were all fed and caffeinated, it was time for the first of 4 major tour spots, the El Capital Theater which was conveniently located adjacent to the Disney Soda Fountain.

Elcapitan

Our guide to this treasure was Ed. He was on the restoration team and had a wealth of knowledge to share. The El Capitan Theatre opened in 1926 and was known as "Hollywood's First Home of Spoken Drama" due to the fact that it was host to live stage productions until the mid-1930s when showing movies. In 1941, the theater played host to the premier of "Citizen Kane" and in 1989 it was lovingly restored to showcase it's populate detail.

The El Capital Theater is also home to the a fascinating 1920s era Wurlitzer pipe organ that not only plays what you would expect, but is also able to replicate all kinds of sound effects, birds, drums, sirens, etc - all the bells and whistles which ironically is exactly where the phrase the was born. We were treated to a serenade of sounds and a rendition of happy birthday for one of our group members before moving onto the stage itself for a short tour of the backstage area.

Elcapitan Organ

We then moved to our next tour of the day. Right next door is the historic former home of the Hollywood Masonic Temple which was renovated by the Walt Disney Company and now is the location of the Jimmy Kimmel Live Show.

As we entered the building we were informed this is one of the many locations on the Adventure where photography is a very big no, no, so unfortunately we do not have any visuals for you on this one. We were met inside the door Operations Manager Kelly Wong, and Production team member Chris Nuzzi. We started the tour with a clip video to familiarize us with the show and then we visited all the nooks tucked away in the corners of this historic building.

We were taken into the control room to see how the logistics of the live show that goes to tape, is executed. We also views the editing areas, dressing rooms, green rooms (complete with pool table and video games) and stage area that holds less the 200 people. Most of us were a little surprised that the audience area was as small as it was but makes for a wonderfully intimate experience. If you ever want to see the show.. get there early.

Or better yet, when the guides say "who wants tickets?", raise your hand... fast!! Unfortunately they had only a few tickets so when the demand exceeded the supply, they did a drawing for winners. 10 lucky winners attended the show tonight and we can't wait to hear about it over breakfast!

I think the highlight of the tour was a chance meet and greet with the infamous "Uncle Frank" - yes, he is actually Jimmy's Uncle and has become somewhat of a celebrity himself, as well as Guillermo. They talked with us for about 10 minutes sharing their background and stories of their adventures with Jimmy. Very cool.

We did do a group photo with the only camera allowed - the guides camera. So we are looking forward to seeing that one. OH! And apparently the restoration didn't get rid of a few tenants! Kelly told us about a few happy haunts that seemingly call the historical building home. From the kids laughter near the elevator to the mysterious man in the Zoot Suit wandering the halls, there are characters hanging out ready to say hello at the most unexpected times.

After exiting the building we were able to view the outside stage area and waved good-bye as we boarded our buss for the next destination - Jim Henson Studios. Look for those details in my next post!

Read Beci's Entire Backstage Magic Blog!

Beci Mahnken is the President/CEO of MEI & MouseFanTravel.com . To date she is a veteran of 3 Adventures By Disney trips, more then 40 cruises including 16 with Disney and countless Walt Disney World and Disneyland adventures. Read her blog on the London and Paris Adventure by Disney.

May 4, 2008

Adventures by Disney Backstage Magic - Day 1

MouseFanTravel President Beci Mahnken was part of the first ever Adventures by Disney Backstage Magic Tour!

Here is Day 1 of her blog:

It all started with a mouse".

Actually this morning, it all started with a 5 am alarm buzzing to ensure I made it to Seatac Airport in time for my flight to Los Angeles for my third Adventure by Disney.

This time it's the inaugural Backstage Magic Tour that includes the highlights of Hollywood and the magic of the Disneyland Resort in California. That's right! We are a group of 36 very willing guinea pigs for this adventure and are the first guests to experience this very unique itinerary.

When I landed at LAX I was greeted just outside the security doors by one of our guides, Diana (pronounced Deeana) and our very friendly driver who made sure my checked luggage was retrieved from the carousel and wheeled to my personal town car. Well, I must admit I did have to share. Luckily one of my agents, and Adventures By Disney expert, Michelle Cunningham arrived around the same time I did. She was waiting with Diana so we could spend some time together catching up on the 13 mile trip to our hotel.

Adventures by Disney Greeting at LAX airport

We arrived at the beautiful Renaissance Hollywood Hotel which is located at the Hollywood & Highland complex where the Kodak Theater hosts the Academy Awards each year.

It is also centrally located to many of the areas highlights including Grauman's Chinese Theater and of course the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Upon our arrival we were escorted into the lobby where we met our second guide, Quinn. He provided our room keys with instructions for meeting the rest of the gang, who will be our family for the next 5 days, later that afternoon.

Michelle checks in

Michelle and I are roomies on this trip. We have a standard room with a décor that mirrors the hotel's mid-century modern design style. The rooms are nicely appointed with coffee maker, fluffy duvet covers, a nice selection of Lather brand bath amenities and nice floor to ceiling windows with wood blinds.

Renaissance Hollywood Hotel

We were welcomed with a host of Adventures by Disney goodies too including a tote bag, lip balm, fans, and other items to make our adventure more comfortable,

Adventures by Disney Goodies

At 4 pm we ventured down to the Twist Restaurant at the hotel for snacks and the opportunity to meet our fellow travelers. Within 15 minutes we had met several new friends including Brent and Brock from Nashville.

One of the best parts of these adventures is having the opportunity to meet a group of new people who share our love for all things Disney. Even if you have nothing else in common, you can talk for hours on that subject alone. But honestly, this group of 36 guests won't have to hard of time bonding. Everyone seemed to be getting along and getting to know each other from the start, aided by a couple of ice breaker games at the reception as the opening act The main event was yet to come.

After some housekeeping we were escorted to the Trastevere Restaurant just out side of the hotel in the Hollywood & Highland Center where we enjoyed a nice variety of Italian antipasti and choice of several entrée options with chicken, pasta and fish options. I had the chicken dish, that I dare not try to pronounce, and it was wonderful. The dessert was a traditional tiramisu that I think even Annette, Mouse Fan Travel's official dessert connoisseur, would certainly approve of. A selection of beverages including soda, beer and white or red wine was the option for dinner and coffee was offered with dessert.

The main event was a Disney trivia event in game show format starring our fellow adventurers. It was great entertainment and I will save the details for the exception of the fact that singing was in fact involved. It was a wonderful way to start an adventure!

Ice Breaker Game

Tomorrow - a 7:45 am meet time for breakfast and special tours including The Jimmy Kimmel show and the Jim Henson Studios!

Read Beci's Entire Backstage Magic Blog!

Beci Mahnken is the President/CEO of MEI & MouseFanTravel.com . To date she is a veteran of 3 Adventures By Disney trips, more then 40 cruises including 16 with Disney and countless Walt Disney World and Disneyland adventures. Read her blog on the London and Paris Adventure by Disney.

Return to Blog Central

About Backstage Magic

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in the Backstage Magic category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Costa Rica is the next category.

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