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July 31, 2016

Dayton Disneyana 2016

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Carol and I always look forward to our trip to Dayton, Ohio for the Disneyana Show and Sale hosted by the Dayton Plane Crazy Chapter of the Disneyana Fan Club. Carol and Rob love scouring the vendor tables looking for new items for their growing Disneyana collections while I enjoy the seminars and speakers.

Dayton Disneyana Guest Speakers

There’s something for everyone at Dayton Disneyana!

We normally travel through Ontario, across the north side of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, but this time we decided that we would try the southerly route to Dayton via New York and Pennsylvania, and on Sunday return home through Ontario.

Map

We got away from our home in Eastern Ontario just after 6 a.m. Our 657-mile journey took us into New York, through Syracuse and Buffalo, then into Pennsylvania.

The south shore of Lake Erie is a very pleasant drive; vineyards along both sides of the highway reminded me of Ontario's foremost wine region, The Niagara Peninsula, about 25 miles away on the north shore of that same lake.

We stopped in Erie, PA for a quick bite of lunch and then crossed the Ohio State Line.

Ohio State Line

At Cleveland we left Interstate 90 behind and took a south-westerly tack to Dayton. We arrived at the Holiday Inn at Fairborn, a suburb of Dayton at 5:30.

I rested for a few minutes after the long drive while Carol got us all unpacked and settled for the weekend! Then it was time to go and meet some of our playmates.

The event chair, Anita, was outside the ballroom, busy with the usual flurry last minute arrangements, but she took a minute to invite the three of us to join them for dinner and meet the panel of guest speakers.

Margaret Kerry
Margaret Kerry with Anita Schaengold the background

Tom and Janice Nabbe
Tom Nabbe and his wife Janice

Wow, it was great. After dinner Jim Hill moderated as Terri Hardin, a former Disney Imagineer, dazzled us with her stories. She started her career as a puppeteer and worked with Jim Henson and the Muppets, worked with Michael Jackson in Captain EO, then as an Imagineer she worked on a variety of rides and attractions in the Disney Parks.

Jim and Terri

Terri's message was similar to Walt Disney’s “If you can dream it, you can do it!” but Terri added that you have to have passion for your dream and you have to fight for it.

Jim and Terri

Terri certainly displayed passion in her presentation and held us all spellbound for over an hour. She was so vibrant and so animated that it was tough to get a clear photograph. She just wouldn't keep still long enough!

What a great night!

Carol went pin trading until 11:00 - I crashed much earlier.

The Dayton event is very affordable; a one-day pass is $10.00, a two-day pass is $15.00 and the passes include admission to all of the seminars. The Friday and Saturday night dinners, featuring some outstanding guest speakers, are optional and are also very reasonably priced. The hotel offers very attractive group rates for rooms ($99/night this year) and 52 individuals or families took advantage of those rates.

Welcome Sign

Carol was signed up as an "Early Bird" so we had to get a quick start Saturday morning! The collectible sale opens to the public at 10:00 a.m. but Carol and Rob were two of the fifty people who paid $25.00 to get in 90 minutes early.

I wanted to get a few pictures before the eager shoppers got started so we made sure we got to the ballroom by 8:00 a.m.

Carol and Mickey

Carol picked up a collector plate that friends Bob and Latosha had found for her a few days earlier while I roamed the room snapping pictures.

Bob and Latosha

An eager vendor

There is always a fantastic variety of quality merchandise for sale and the vendors come from far and wide! This year there were 28 vendors who had 72 tables loaded with merchandise!

Disneyana treasures

Orange Bird collectibles

Hitchhiking Ghosts

Classic Board Games

Collector Plates

Erin Morehouse doesn't look all that eager to greet the shoppers . . . but she wasn't really as frightened as she appeared to be.

Erin Morehouse

Each year Erin and her husband Robby travel all the way from California to sell at Dayton Disneyana.

Packing the goody bags
Each early-bird was given a "goodie bag" packed full of little Disney treasures!

Early birds

While the Early Birds waited patiently outside the ballroom they were entertained by Dayton Plane Crazy chapter member Mary who pole-danced with the Mickey lamp post I donated for the charity auction!

Mary and Mickey

Finally it was 8:30 and the doors opened. The shoppers rushed in and took full advantage of their 90 minute pre-sale. Carol and Rob had their buying pretty much finished by 10:00 a.m.

Rush hour in Dayton

Rob with his goody bag

Happy shoppers

Tom Nabbe and his wife Janice were on hand all day meeting fans, answering questions and autographing books and photos.

Tom and Janice Nabbe

The first seminar speaker, at noon, was well-known Disney insider Jim Hill who spoke about the new live action version of the Jungle Book movie. His fascinating story began by describing how Disney acquired and produced the original animated version and then contrasted that process with the newer live action version.

Jim Hill

This is what I enjoy at sessions like Dayton Disneyana. I thrive on the “insider knowledge”, the Disney trivia. I like to hear the history behind the successes and failures, the triumphs and the duds.

Jim Hill has some amazing contacts in the Disney organization and he brings a wealth of knowledge and a keen insight to the table when he speaks.

Between seminars I joined Carol for a few minutes in the pin trading room. Things were hopping, there were plenty of traders this year!

Pin trading

The next speaker was a genuine Disney Legend . . . and being a Disney Legend is a big deal!

Tom Nabbe

The Disney Legend Award is a hall of fame program that recognizes individuals who have made an extraordinary and integral contribution to The Walt Disney Company. They have been chosen since 1987 by a select committee of senior Disney executives. There are fewer than 300 Disney Legends and our speaker Tom Nabbe is one of them! It's an exclusive group indeed!

Tom Nabbe's Powerpoint Slides
Click on the image above to see a larger version

He told the story of his varied career at Disney . . . and it was fascinating. Tom began selling newspapers outside the Harbor Gate to Disneyland in 1955, when the park was still under construction. The image above is a montage of slides from Tom's PowerPoint presentation. In the upper left slide you see newsboy Tom standing outside that Harbor Gate, flanked by Milton Berle and Jerry Lewis. By 1957 young Tom had persuaded Walt Disney to hire him to portray Tom Sawyer on the newly opened Tom Sawyer Island. The lower left slide shows Tom, in his Tom Sawyer persona, sitting with Walt and the final slide shows scenes from his Disney Legends presentation in 2005.

Tom Nabbe

The final seminar of the day featured Margaret Kerry and Terri Hardin. Margaret was a dancer and actress who was the live action model for Tinker Bell. Terri began as a puppeteer and later worked as a Disney Imagineer. Their panel discussion was moderated by Jim Hill.

Margaret and Terri

Margaret Kerry talked extensively about her career before and after Disney. She has worked with an astounding number of stars. She described meeting Walt, auditioning for him and winning the role! Margaret is an amazingly bright, charming and witty 87 year-old dynamo.

Margaret Kerry

In her Friday night presentation Terri Hardin focused on fighting for your dream with passion and Saturday afternoon she told us how she fought for her dream. As a young woman she had a passion for puppeteering and her drive took her to Jim Henson Studios where, at about 20 years of age, she landed a job in the Muppets show. She had us in stitches as she described working puppets from under a couch, under the floor, in some of the dustiest and dirtiest spots you can imagine.

Terri Hardin

She spoke about Michael Jackson who became her good friend on the set of Captain EO.

It was Terri's other passion, sculpting, that eventually took her to Disney where she worked as an Imagineer.

The seminars wrapped up at 4 p.m. - just in time for the costume contest.

Cheryl as Mary Poppins

More costumes

The contestants paraded through the ballroom, between the vendors tables and then assembled in the seminar theatre where they were judged by an expert panel. The happy winners are pictured below.

Costume winners

Carol, Rob and I had pre-booked for the special Saturday night dinner. We arrived in time for a cold beverage before dinner and then enjoyed a nice meal served buffet style.

After dinner Jim Hill acted as moderator once again as Tom Nabbe and Margaret Kerry spoke to the assembled group.

After dinner speakers

Tom grew too old for the Tom Sawyer role within a few years and moved on to other areas in the corporation. As soon as he turned 18 he moved to the Jungle Cruise but that was just the beginning. He spent many years working in the Parks and Attractions Division before moving into Distribution Services. His career spanned 48 years, beginning as a newsboy, hired by Walt Disney himself, and he retired as a senior executive.

Margaret spoke of her film career and we were all simple amazed. She began as a 4-year-old child actress in the "Our Gang" comedies. You might also remember them as "The Little Rascals".

Margaret Kerry

She worked with Bobby Driscoll, Andy Griffith, Eddie Cantor, the Three Stooges and so many others . . . what an amazing career. I can't wait to read her book, Tinker Bell Talks: Tales of a Pixie Dusted Life, which will be released August 7, 2016.

Terri Hardin won a Tsum-Tsum in the raffle draw and it brought out the puppeteer in her once again. You simply wouldn't believe what a talented puppeteer can do with a Tsum-Tsum. It was hilarious!

Terri and the Tsum-Tsum

Then it was time for the final event of the evening, the charity auction. There were some great items, including a Star Wars print signed by the artist, Shag. It sold for $200. The Mickey lamp was sold last and the bidding was intense. It finally sold for $215 and the auction raised a grand total of $710 for Ronald McDonald House and Give Kids The World!

The auction

After the auction Rob took a minute to have Margaret Kerry autograph the Tinker Bell print he won in a draw and I had a chat with Tom Nabbe.

Margaret and Rob

Tom Nabbe and Gary Cruise

We decided that there was no better way to end a perfect day than with a cold adult beverage.

Some quiet time with Tom Nabbe

Just Rob and I, hoisting a cold one with a real Disney Legend. How cool is that?

This legend even has a window on Main Street!

We enjoyed a more leisurely start on Sunday morning.

The ballroom full of vendors didn't open until 10 a.m. so we slept a bit later and then had breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Soon after Carol and I settled in the restaurant Tom and Janice Nabbe were seated at the table right beside us and we chatted with them throughout our meal.

We left the restaurant just before 10; it was time for Tom and Janice to get to work, for Carol to get some more browsing done and for me to snap a few more pictures. Along the way I bumped into Margaret Kerry and had a shot taken with her.

Gary with Margaret Kerry

The vendors were busy again on Sunday morning. That's when a lot of bargain hunters come out looking for deals . . . and there are usually some deals to be found. Many of the vendors would rather discount the collectibles a bit and sell them than pack them up and take them home again.

Sunday morning shoppers

I spotted Carol in front of the Theme Park Connection display; she waved me over, handed me a "Piece of Disney Movies" pin she's been trying to find for years and said, "Buy this right now and wish me Happy Birthday." So I did. Birthday shopping is now all done! Bonus!

Nicole Newport with her book
Author Nicole Newport with her book "Disney Magic From A to Z"

I bought a copy of Tom Nabbe's book and he autographed a picture of himself sitting with Walt Disney as part of the deal. My Disney collection isn't quite as extensive as Carol's but it's growing!

Tom Nabbe with his book

Tom Nabbe with Walt

Just after 11 a.m. Carol said, "I'm ready to go!" That caught me by surprise; we had planned to get away between noon and 1 p.m. But, she and Rob had both done enough shopping and pin trading, so we did a quick walk around the auditorium saying some goodbyes, hopped in the car and pulled away at 11:30 to begin the 650 mile drive home.

I always feel a bit conflicted when we leave on Sunday; there is another full afternoon of seminars that I miss out on because of the length of our journey home. Maybe one of these years we'll stay for the afternoon sessions and drive home on Monday!

Our original plan had been to follow I-75 north to Detroit and cross the border there but we had heard so much from others about all the construction and delays on I-75 that we decided to return home the same way we came. It turned out to be a wise choice. There was very little traffic and we made excellent time.

We made a couple of stops along the way to stretch our legs, had a quick lunch at Wendy's, fueled the car twice and skipped dinner altogether. We crossed the Canadian border at 9:30, picked up the dogs at Carol's mother's house and were back home just after 10:00 p.m. - more than an hour sooner than my best estimate.

At one point during our north-easterly trip home I asked Rob, "Are you familiar with the theory of Six Degrees of Separation?"

"Yes," he replied, "Like in that old movie, we are all connected to each other by a maximum of six steps."

According to Wikipedia, "Six degrees of separation is the theory that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of "a friend of a friend" statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps." Like Rob, you probably remember the 1993 movie starring Stockard Channing, Will Smith and Donald Sutherland.

"Exactly," I replied to Rob, "So that means when we sat and had a cold one with Tom Nabbe last night we were only one degree removed from Walt Disney."

He mulled that over for a few seconds then said, "When we spoke with Terri Hardin we were one degree away from Jim Henson and Michael Jackson . . . and when we chatted with Margaret Kerry we were one degree removed from Andy Griffin and The Three Stooges. It really is a small world isn't it?"

I think that's the best thing I'm taking home from Dayton Disneyana!

What did the two collectors bring home?

Everything you see pictured below was free. It came in a goody bag, was a gift from a vendor or it was a door prize.

Free Stuff
Click on the image to see a larger version

Rob's purchases are next. His favourite item? The Tinker Bell print signed by Margaret Kerry, pictured above.

Purchased by Rob
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Carol was delighted with the pins, plate, figurines, coin, buttons and Vinylmations she brought home. Also included in her goodies are the two books I picked up, Tom Nabbe's new book "From Disneyland's Tom Sawyer to Disney Legend" and "Disney Magic From A to Z" by Nicole Newport.

Purchased by Carol
Click on the image to see a larger version

It was a wonderful weekend, I’m quite sure that every one of the 475 attendees had a terrific time! The organizers, all volunteers, should be congratulated; Anita Schaengold and her committee always do an excellent job.

They have already begun work on next year’s event. It will be in the same location, The Holiday Inn, Fairborn, Ohio, June 9 – 11, 2017. Mark it on your calendar right now and then follow their web site (HERE) and Facebook page (HERE) for further details.

For more on Tom Nabbe's career, read his book, From Disneyland's Tom Sawyer to Disney Legend: The Adventures of Tom Nabbe.

July 10, 2016

What Do You Do When The Planning Is Done?

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One of the Facebook pages I read on a regular basis is “You May Be a Canadian Disney Addict If . . . “ The page is populated by dedicated Disney fans from across Canada and describes itself as “Where everything Disney meets the Great White North.”

I was fascinated by a post I saw there just a few days ago.

Christine M. from Hamilton, Ontario wrote: “Do you ever feel sad when your trip is all planned and there is nothing left to do but wait? Sometimes I make up imaginary things to keep me busy, like making itineraries I won't actually look at, just to have something vacation related to do. I am at 96 days - ADR's are done and it’s too early for FastPasses. What else can I do to feel the Disney magic while I wait?

I’m sure we’ve all felt Christine’s frustration. While you plan your Disney vacation there are spurts of activity as you hit those important time thresholds; you can make your hotel reservations as much as 499 days in advance, book your dining reservations 180 before your trip and make those FastPass+ bookings at the 60 day mark. (By the way, do you need a handy tool to help you determine those important booking dates? Try the Planning Strategy Calculator. It’s easy and it’s free. Give it a try by clicking the link HERE.)

For many of us, the planning is almost as much fun as the trip! So how do we keep the magic alive during the lulls, between those key dates, those brief flurries of activity? As you read above, Christine makes up imaginary itineraries. They are quite detailed, and even colour-coded. It sounds like she puts a lot of effort into schedules she will never use!

Some of the other readers offered some interesting comments and suggestions.

1. Cheryl S. from Uxbridge, Ontario, Charissa T. from Jordan Station, Ontario, Allainna S. and Tara K. all watch Disney related YouTube videos and vlogs.

2. Jen L. from Georgetown, Ontario makes Mickey ears and door decorations to pass the time.

3. Laura M. from Hamilton, Ontario suggests: “Watch YouTube videos of where you will be staying and rides you like. Read Disney trivia. Watch movies related to particular rides.”

4. Michelle G. keeps checking her airline for cheaper flights, earlier in the day.

5. Jennie B. makes Disney activity books to keep her kids busy on the plane.

6. Tara H. shops for Disney themed outfits. (Tara must be a “Disney-bounder”)

7. Michelle B. reads Disney Food Blogs and plans all of her family’s meals.

8. I chuckled when I read Lisa C.’s comment. She wrote, “Thank God it's not just me!

No Lisa, you can be absolutely certain that it’s not just you! I could visualize my wife Carol and a lot of our “Disney friends” as I read the comments and activities listed above. I think most Disney fans enjoy the planning almost as much as they enjoy the trip itself!

There are plenty of tools to help plan your Disney vacation. The shelves in your local book store probably contain a number of different books dedicated to planning your Disney trip, but it’s also nice to have first-hand tips from other travellers. Don’t forget to check out the AllEars Reader’s Tips Archive; it’s just packed full of good ideas. You can find it by clicking the link HERE. In fact, that’s something you can do between those key booking dates, read some helpful tips from AllEars fans.

Of course, there have to be many other ways to keep your entire family excited and enthused about your upcoming trip. Why don’t you share some of your ideas with us!

How do you keep the Disney magic alive during those planning lulls?

June 26, 2016

Be a Wilderness Lodge Flag Family

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In December 2004 Carol and I had our picture taken with a backdrop that many people will never see.

The view from the roof

To the left of us you can see Cinderella Castle; to the right is Space Mountain and just peeking out between our heads is the Astro-Orbiter. Even though the morning sun shone directly in our eyes and made us squint a bit, I think it’s a great shot!

That morning we were the “Flag Family” at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort.

At 8:15 a.m. we met a Cast Member in the lobby and he led us to the Concierge Level on the very top floor of the hotel.

We thought that the lobby looked great all decorated for Christmas, but it paled in comparison to what we were about to see!

The lobby

In a nearby corner the Cast Member unlocked a door and led us up an exterior stairwell to the roof.

Wow! What a view! Have you ever seen Bay Lake and Discovery Island from this perspective?

Bay Lake and Discovery Island

Or the Contemporary Resort from this angle?

Contemporary Resort

Here’s the Walt Disney World Train Station on the shore of the Seven Seas Lagoon.

The Train Station

There’s the Astro-Orbiter in Tomorrowland.

Astro-Orbiter

The sun was shining brightly on the Grand Floridian . . .

The Grand Floridian

. . . and Cinderella Castle looked stunning in the early morning light!

Cinderella Castle

We raised five flags that morning, naturally the Stars and Stripes was first, followed by the State of Florida flag.

Raising Old Glory

Next was the Disney flag . . .

Disney Flag

. . . then two Wilderness Lodge flags.

Wilderness Lodge
Wilderness Lodge

The Cast Member pointed out a number of items as we stayed for a few minutes snapping pictures. Off in the distance we saw downtown Orlando, EPCOT, MGM Studios and a number of resort hotels.

From the rooftop vantage point you can see almost all of Walt Disney World. It was a fantastic morning. We have tried several times since to repeat the experience, but with no luck! It books up very quickly!

So . . . how do you get to be a Flag Family?

Unfortunately, at the present time you don’t. The program has been "suspended" for a while. The Wilderness Lodge Resort is being refurbished and because of the construction public access of the roof is no longer deemed safe.

Construction is scheduled for completion in 2017 and hopefully the Flag Family program will be reinstated at that time.

If the program returns the old criteria will probably still apply:
1. You must be a registered guest at Wilderness Lodge Resort or Wilderness Lodge Villas to be eligible as a Flag Family.
2. You must book in person, at the front desk, during your stay. You cannot book before your arrival at the hotel.
3. Small groups only. Space is very tight on the roof and would no accommodate more than five or six people.
4. You must be fit enough to climb a relatively steep flight of stairs.

On the Concierge Level

The Cast Member was a wonderful host and we thoroughly enjoyed our short time on the roof at Wilderness Lodge; I hope that management restores the Flag Family program once renovations are completed.

It would truly be a shame if others, including you, could not enjoy that view!

Enjoy some Flag Family photos from over 10 years ago that our readers sent in. Are any of you still vacationing in Disney?

Deb and Friends as Flag Family July 2007.

If you are going to be a guest at Wilderness Lodge, or the Villas, after 2017 be sure to ask at the front desk if you can be the “Flag Family” during your stay!

June 12, 2016

Pin Trading in New Jersey

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Carol’s pin trading career started about fifteen years ago when she read online about a new series of cloisonné pins being sold through The Disney Stores. It was 2001 and the “100 Years of Magic” series was being sold in small batches every Saturday morning. Since there was a Disney Store only 18 miles from our home just west of Toronto, off she went . . . and as the fishermen say, ‘the hook was set!’

How could we have guessed that fifteen years later her collection would include more than 4,000 different Disney pins? How could we have imagined back then how many wonderful people we would meet through her new hobby?

One of the highlights each year is Carol’s annual trip to Somerset New Jersey for an immersive pin trading weekend!

Back in May 2003 John Rick from New Jersey organized the first “Trade ‘Til You Fade” event, a weekend long affair. It was such a resounding success that he followed it up in October 2003 with another weekend event called “Swap ‘Til You Drop”! The two events have been repeated every year since 2003, one in the spring and one in the fall. John is now supported by an experienced team; his wife Sheila, Travel Planner Janis Lavender and her husband David, who help him plan and deliver a wonderful experience for pin traders from a very wide area.

The CJDPT Team
John, Sheila, Janis, David

Carol first attended the “Swap ‘Til You Drop” event in 2007 and enjoyed it so much that she has been back to at least one of the Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders events at Somerset each year.

It’s a six-hour drive for us, about 375 miles from our home in Canada to Somerset - but it’s a trek Carol looks forward to. She knows most of the “regulars” there and of course there are always new faces too!

Comfort Inn Sign

Since we live in Canada you might think that we traveled the furthest to get to the event . . . but you would be wrong. The distance honors for April 2016 go to the pin traders who traveled about 475 miles from Ohio. In previous years there have been traders from as far away as Illinois, Florida and even California.

The weekend itinerary is always full . . .

Event Brochure Pages 1 and 2
Click on the image to see a larger, easier to read version.

Brochure Page 3

Carol is an avid pin trader; I am not. They really don’t interest me much and I know very little about them, but I travel to the pin events with her whenever I can. Over the years we’ve developed a bit of a routine. We make the south-easterly drive on Thursday in order to have a “touristy” day on Friday. That means sightseeing and shopping. Over the years we have taken several trips into nearby Manhattan. We’ve taken the train to Penn Station, the Staten Island Ferry to Battery Park, ridden the NYC Subway to Times Square, enjoyed lunch at Carnegie’s Deli on 7th Avenue, taken a horse-drawn carriage ride around Central Park . . . there’s always plenty to do in the area.

But we always have to be back to the hotel by 5:00 p.m. on Friday . . . that’s when the event kicks off! On a typical Friday night we connect with some of our pin trading friends and enjoy dinner at the Ruby Tuesday’s Restaurant across the street; then Carol grabs her pin bags and heads to one of the trading rooms. The hotel makes three rooms available to traders, the Breakfast Room, the Board Room and a Meeting Room. Before you can say “Swap” the tables are covered with pin books, pin binders, boxes and bins full of pins. It’s a Pin-A-Palooza!

Friday Night Trading

Friday Night Trading

Carol always does some of her best trading on Friday nights. Everyone is fresh and eager; everyone is looking to complete their collections! The traders, at least those I see in New Jersey, are an interesting group. They don’t seem to be competitive; they seem genuinely interested in helping other collectors complete the sets of pins they’re trying to acquire. It’s amazing how well things can work out when people are cooperative rather than competitive!

When Carol returned to the room at about 11:00 p.m. Friday night she was thrilled with the 24 new pins she was able to trade for. Most of them had been on her “Wants List” for quite some time so she had filled plenty of gaps in her collection.

Saturday was all about pins! Nothing but pins!

We enjoyed our first cup of coffee in the room and then headed down to the breakfast room where I enjoyed a fresh Belgian waffle and orange juice while Carol had a bowl of hot oatmeal.

The hotel treats the pin traders very well. Not only do they give very attractive group rates for the guest rooms and provide a complimentary hot breakfast, but they allow the group to bring in their own snacks and beverages. All the traders bring along cans of soda or bottles of water, chips, cookies or some other snack to add to the communal stock of food and drink. There is always a frosty drink of soda or water and a tasty bite available. Just help yourself!

By 9:30 Carol was all set up in the back conference room. I spent much of the day babysitting her three pin bags while she scoured the three rooms filled with traders, looking for the pins she has on her “wants list”.

Saturday Trading

Saturday Trading

As I sat there people would come by, flip through the three bags full of trader pins and then say, “Tell Carol there are three pins in there that I’d like to trade for. My pins are right over there; she can have a look when she gets back.”

Saturday Trading

The traders come from all over; in the parking lot there were plenty of cars with Disney stickers, decals or vanity plates. Those cars came from Ontario, Ohio, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and of course New Jersey. There were probably other states represented there that I missed.

Saturday Trading

On Saturdays the organizers order lunch and put out a small basket where folks can contribute toward the cost.

Lunch

At noon that lunch arrived, a six-foot turkey sub, a six-foot Italian sub, two salads and some potato chips. Yummy!

Lunch

During the day the organizers staged a number of games for everyone. There were Crossword and Word-Search puzzles, Pingo, Name That Toon, Disney Trivia; there was even a 50/50 Pin Game and a raffle for some terrific Disney prizes!

Pingo
Pingo!

Raffle
The Raffle table.

By the time the dinner break rolled around at 5:00 p.m. Carol had traded another 32 pins and 2 Vinylmations. That’s a pretty successful day!

We have some good friends who live in New Jersey, about an hour away. They arrived just as we broke for dinner. We relaxed with them in our room and had a few laughs as we spent an hour catching up with each others busy lives. At 6:00 we walked across the road to Ruby Tuesday’s and carried on our visit over a leisurely dinner.

After dinner we spent another few hours in the hotel, laughing and reminiscing about our many adventures together before saying our goodbyes at 10:00.

We missed the “Let’s Make A Steal” gift exchange which always takes place Saturday nights. Everyone contributes a wrapped Disney themed gift (about $20 value) to the gift table then names are drawn in random order. Those who’s names are drawn can pick a new wrapped gift or “steal” a previously opened gift. It’s always a hilarious time as people try to pick up, and hold onto a gift!

After our friends left Carol went back down for some more trading while I relaxed in the room. (Snore!) She was back home at 11:30 to rest up for a day of travel the next morning! Some of the other traders kept right on going until 1:00 a.m.

Carol surprised me; we were both up and enjoying our first cup of coffee at about 7:15 Sunday morning when I asked, “Are you going to do some more trading this morning?”

“Nope,” she replied, “I’m all done and I miss my dogs. Take me home.”

So I did!

We were all packed up by 8:00 a.m. and stopped in the breakfast room for another coffee and a quick bite to eat before we pulled away. We chatted with the organizers and thanked then for a wonderful weekend before we pulled away to begin our 375 mile trek at 8:30.

We made a brief shopping stop near Syracuse New York to pick up a few grocery items that aren’t available in Canada and quickly carried on northbound. We were back in Canada by 3:30, picked up our two dogs at Carol’s mother’s house and were home unpacking by 4:30.

CJDPT Logo

What a great weekend! A total of 93 traders registered for the event. That number included 51 people who live close enough to pop in for a few hours or a full day as well as the 42 of us who stayed in the hotel for the weekend. We had a chance to reconnect with friends and Carol was delighted with the pins she was able to add to her collection!

If you are a pin trader and the New Jersey events sound like something you might enjoy, be sure to check out the Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders web site by clicking HERE. You can find them on Facebook HERE.

If you plan to attend, be sure to book your hotel through CJDPT to ensure that you get the group rates.

Maybe we’ll see you there!

Carol’s next pin trading excursion will be in August when she heads south for the annual Pin Celebration at Epcot. She’s sure to write a blog about that trip, so stay tuned!

May 29, 2016

Disney’s Halloween Golf Cart Parade

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One of the highlights of the Halloween celebration at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground is the amazing golf cart parade.

Imagine a slow moving procession of golf carts festooned with bunting, streamers, signs, banners, cobwebs, ghosts, skeletons, lights and all sorts of seasonal décor.

Last year there were about 140 carts in the parade which stepped off at 5:00 p.m. on Halloween day. Some of those carts were absolutely astounding. Many Disney campers display unbelievable creativity!

Woody and Jessie led the parade in 2014!

Woody and Jessie

Disney bus

No . . . that's not a Disney bus, it's a golf cart!

Fort Wilderness cabin

No . . . that's not a Fort Wilderness cabin, it's a golf cart!

Hitchhiking ghost

Is that a hitchhiking ghost driving a spooky golf cart?

Many carts are Disney themed!

Stitch

Frozen

Toy Story

Tow Mater

Haunted Mansion

Evil Queen

Some have non-Disney characters.

Hulk, Wonder Woman and Superman

Minions

WDW_October_2010_694.jpg

Some are just cute!

Dunkin Donuts

Happy Halloweiner

Seven Dwarfs

Green Bay Packers fan

It takes imagination, ingenuity, money and time to convert a golf cart into a space ship or a hearse!

Star Wars ship

Haunted Mansion Hearse

Horse Drawn hearse

Horse Drawn hearse

You might think that all these fabulously decorated golf carts are privately owned by campers who bring them from home. Some of them are . . . but that is not always the case. Many of them, probably the majority of the decorated carts, are rentals! Yes, folks vacationing in Disney cabins, travel trailers and tents really enjoy renting golf carts from Disney and entering them in the parade. They use their wild imaginations together with materials they have brought along with them to convert the rental carts into rolling pieces of art!

It's just astounding what people can do with cardboard, duct tape, PVC pipe and paint!

There are usually a few pirate ships!

Pirate Ship

Pirate Ship

Here are a couple of Kilimanjaro Safari trucks.

Kilimanjaro Safari

Kilimanjaro Safari

These enterprising campers hooked two rented golf carts together to make the Slinky Dog from Toy Story. What a great idea!

Slinky Dog

Disney judges parade entrants and provides prizes for the best decorated ones. What does it take to win the top prize?

The house from Up

The house from Up

The winning cart in 2012 was a replica of Carl and Ellie's house from the movie Up!

Millennium Falcon

The winning cart in 2015 was a replica of Han Solo's Millennium Falcon.

If you want to see plenty more of those fabulous golf carts click on the white arrow below to watch a 22 minute video of the 2015 parade produced by our good friends at MouseSteps.com

If you find yourself at Walt Disney World on October 31st and you're looking for something really different . . . the Halloween Golf Cart Parade might be just what you're looking for. The last few years it has started at 5:00 p.m. but be sure to call the Bike Barn at Fort Wilderness (407-824-2742) to confirm the time.

Maybe Carol and I will see you there!

Note: Parking is very limited at Fort Wilderness. If you plan to come see the golf cart parade you should plan on using Disney transportation. Come by Disney bus, or catch a boat from the Magic Kingdom, Contemporary Resort or Wilderness Lodge.

May 15, 2016

Disney’s Halloween Pet Parade

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Every year our dogs Blue and Jake look forward to the costumed pet parade held at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground just before Halloween. It’s the high point on their social calendar!

Back in 2012 our boys Zak and Blue took third place honours with their costumes, Zak as the Headless Horseman and Blue as a canine aviator.

2012 Third Place Winners

The last few years the event has been held on October 30th, in the afternoon, and it always takes place in the off-leash dog park beside the 300 loop of campsites.

Dogs from across the continent . . . and the occasional very wary cat . . . put on their finest Halloween costumes and parade past the panel of judges from the nearby Best Friends Kennel. The nice folks at Best Friends provide all the prizes for the contest winners!

There is always a wide diversity of costumes . . .

Some are purchased.

Eeyore

Some are home made.

Home made costume

Some are formal.

Dog in a tuxedo

Some are just way cool!

Cool shades

Many are Disney themed.

Snow White

Dalmatians

Toy Story

There are cute little pets.

A Maltese named Preston

A cute pair of dogs

There are giant beasts who outweigh their humans.

Great Danes

Some costumes are whimsical.

Tooth Fairy

Cowboy dog

A Packers fan

Some costumes are lavish.

Wicked Witch of the Weird

Here's one of those wary cats I mentioned earlier! Is that Cheshire Cat masquerading as White Rabbit?

Wary cat

Once everyone has paraded past the judging area . . .

Contestants on parade

. . . everyone waits, filled with anticipation . . .

Awaiting the results

. . . while the judges tally the scores!

The judges

Then the results are announced!

The winners in 2010 . . . Jack, Sally and Zero.

Jack, Sally and Zero

In 2015 it was a Star Wars family. The two dogs were dressed as R2D2 and C3PO.

Star Wars family

Our puppies have been shut out since that third place finish in 2012, but they're determined to get back into the limelight. They will parade in their brand new costumes in just under six months and they're already getting excited!

If you're looking for a change of pace at Walt Disney World you might want to drop by for the annual Halloween pet parade. Call the Bike Barn at Fort Wilderness (407-824-2742) to confirm the date and time.

If you can't wait until October, click on the white arrow in the image below to enjoy a ten-minute video of the 2015 event provided by our good friends at MouseSteps.com.

Note: Parking is very limited at Fort Wilderness. If you plan to come see the pet parade you should plan on using Disney transportation. Come by Disney bus, or catch a boat from the Magic Kingdom, Contemporary Resort or Wilderness Lodge.

Blue, Jake, Carol and I will be there to say hello!

May 1, 2016

Background Sounds and Hidden Messages

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Our friends and family know that Carol and I are avid Disney fans and they often ask us for advice before they visit the theme parks. One thing that we always tell them is, “Take time now and then to simply look around . . . examine your surroundings and notice the level of detail the Imagineers build into everything.”

Look at the architecture, look at the building materials, look at the landscaping and see how they have all been used to create a magical Disney experience.

You probably pass on similar advice to your friends . . . but do you ever tell them to stop and listen? Yes, just stop and listen!

There is a lot of detail in the background sounds that envelop you everywhere you go. Sounds that you may not even be aware of!

When you walk from The Hub and head toward Adventureland, listen to the music that you hear. The gardens are filled with speakers, and while the beat and tempo remains the same, the style of music and even the instruments being played subtly morphs into something completely different as you move from one land to another. Every area in the parks has a unique “loop” of background music and the transition from one to the other is so subtle that you really have to focus on it to notice it at all!

If you keep your ears open, every once in a while you will come upon some quite unexpected sounds. There are some hidden treasures, of an audio nature, tucked here and there around the parks!

Try to find a few of these the next time you’re at Walt Disney World:

• In Town Square at the Magic Kingdom look for the hat shop, Le Chapeau, and find the antique phone on the wall. Pick up the receiver and listen. Children, if you try this you will probably want to ask your parents what a “party line” was. No . . . don’t ask your parents . . . ask your grandparents!

Le Chapeau phone

• As you walk down Main Street USA heading toward Cinderella Castle, take a right turn onto the short lane known as Center Street. Listen carefully and you’ll hear a singing lesson from behind one of the second story windows and the sounds of tap dancing from another window.

Center Street Window

• Take a ride on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (we old codgers know it as the WEDway People Mover) and listen to the sound track – you will hear “Paging Mr. Morrow – Mr Tom Morrow”

There are hidden treasures at Disneyland too:

• On the right side of Main Street, go into the alley half way down the street, opposite the Carnation Café. Just past the flower cart, if you listen carefully, you can hear a dentist speaking with his patient as he drills a tooth.

• At Star Tours, while standing in the queue, you can hear a voice paging “Egroeg Sacul”. That’s George Lucas spelled backwards.

Star Tours sign

• As you walk through New Orleans Square on Royal Street heading toward the train station listen to the sounds from the windows above the rest rooms. Is that a voodoo queen?

• As you stand on the platform at the New Orleans train station you hear the dash-dot-dash of a Morse Code message. If you know your Morse Code you can interpret the opening lines from Walt Disney’s speech on the opening day at Disneyland. “To all who come to this happy place . . . “

• Just above the book of spells at the entry to Snow White’s Scary Adventures is a golden apple. Touch that apple and you will hear the Evil Queen laughing.

Disneyland - Snow White's Apple.jpg

These are just a few of the unique sounds that add to the immersive experience we all enjoy at Disney parks; you probably have some favourites that I haven’t mentioned.

As you rush through the parks, heading from one thrill ride to the next, be sure to pause once in a while to enjoy the subtle magic in the sounds that surround you!

April 17, 2016

A Disney Kitchen

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A few weeks ago we were sitting at our kitchen table when I said to Carol, “We have Disney stuff in every room of the house except the kitchen. Why don’t we have it here too?”

She raised a single eyebrow and gave me that look . . . you know the look that every wife in the world has perfected?
The look that asks the silent question, ‘Are you blind or just plain stupid?’

She pointed in this direction . . .

Kitchen Wall

I got up and took a closer look at the shelf on the wall . . .

Pluto Ornament

Then she pointed down, just a bit lower . . .

I took another close look, this time at the cabinet with the lamp . . .

Fox and Hound and Lady and the Tramp

Next she pointed at the tea cart beside the sliding door . . .

Tea Cart

I found this on the bottom shelf . . .

Disney Basket

Ooops – is it possible I was wrong?

Then Carol stood up and started opening doors and drawers. Not a word was spoken but the message was loud and clear! Our kitchen is full of Disney stuff!

Let’s take a peek at some of it.

Disney Tea Pots and Cups
A Disney Tea Pot, cups, salt and pepper shakers

Disney Trivets
Disney Trivets in a drawer

Cookie Jar and Pepper Mill
A Disney Cookie Jar and Pepper Mill beside the bread box

Disney Coffee Mugs
How could I have forgotten the mugs I drink coffee from every morning?

Disney_towels on the stove
Disney Towels on the stove

Disney Refrigerator Magnets
Disney magnets on the refrigerator

Carol even pulled a few things out and arranged them on our kitchen hutch so I could take a few pictures!

Kitchen Hutch

Disney candles, cutting board and bowl

Disney dishes

So . . . I have to admit it . . . I was wrong! There is a lot of Disney stuff in our kitchen!

How about your kitchen? What Disney stuff do you have tucked away?

April 3, 2016

Disney Scrapbooking

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Carol loves to create scrapbooks filled with all of our special Disney memories . . . or does she?

Every time we take a Disney trip she picks up a blank scrapbook, a package or two of “scrapping accessories” and gathers every bit of paper she can find. By the time we get home she has brochures, maps, ticket stubs, colourful paper, Disney themed picture frames, bags of embellishments and many other little bits and pieces which will showcase our magnificent story.

All of this stuff is packed into a bag or a folder and then stored in a big plastic bin . . . waiting until she starts the scrapbook.

That’s where the problem arises . . . the starting! You see, scrapbooking moves up and down on Carol's priority list, but it never hits the top of the list!

We now have two big tote-bins full of those carefully saved memories. In those two bins are more than thirty bags and folders, possibly as many as fifty.

Bags and folders full of paper

I'm afraid that counting the "un-scrapped" trips wouldn't motivate her . . . she just cannot find the right time to start scrapping!

The last scrapbook she completed covered our Panama Canal cruise on the Disney Wonder in January 2011. My sweet scrapper is seriously behind and each year she loses more ground!

It has become a running joke with us, I tease her quite a bit about her “someday I’ll scrap” bags . . . but of course I dutifully pick up every bit of paper I can find . . . everything in duplicate in case she has to cut one of them up!

Empty Scrapbooks
The scrapbooks on the bottom shelf are all empty . . . waiting to be filled!

Yes, we’re both retired and we have all the time in the world, but the time for scrapping just never seems to be there. Other priorities seem to pop up!

Then, just a month or two ago, fate intervened. Our friend Carrie also loves Disney and she's a die-hard scrapper. She and Carol decided it was time for a weekend scrap-a-thon! On the appointed day Carrie loaded up her car, bright and early, and drove east for two hours. She pulled in at 9:30 and started unpacking her trunk.

Wow! This girl has a load of “stuff”! She brought a Cricut, a die cutter, boxes and bins full of paper, embellishments, knives, pens, adhesives and a partridge in a pear tree.

Cricut and Die cutter
Carrie's Cricut and Die Cutter

Embellishments
Embellishments

Paper stock

Tool carousel
A carousel full of tools

The scrap-a-ganza took place in Carol’s Disney room! We set up two tables . . . there wasn’t enough room . . . so we set up a few folding TV tables . . . still not enough. The materials overflowed, filling the coffee table, TV stand, couch, love-seat and a few chairs!

Then they spent an hour strategizing . . . I thought it was just another stall tactic, but they explained to me how important it is to get that first page “just right”!

By 10:30 Carrie and Carol were both in action . . . working on an April 2011 cruise on the Disney Wonder. The ship was re-positioning from Los Angeles to Vancouver and it remains one of our favourite cruises ever!

The empty books
The book on the left is filled with our Panama cruise pictures.
The middle book is waiting for the re-positioning cruise.
The book on the right will eventually showcase our Alaska cruise.

They had that first page pretty much finished when I called them for lunch, then they scurried off to get right back at it. They were determined; they were inspired!

The first page

I poked my head in a few times during the afternoon to see what was going on. I was astounded as I watched the Cricut work, moving the paper back and forth again and again as it cut out little letters on coloured paper. It’s an interesting piece of technology and it sure does a nice job!

A finished page

At one point I said, “Hey, what’s going on? Those are the same pictures you were working with two hours ago!” I was invited to leave!

They took a break for dinner then quickly re-immersed themselves . . . vicariously reliving our fabulous two-day stop in San Francisco. I watched some TV, then popped in to say goodnight at 11:00 p.m. The ladies laboured on into the wee small hours!

Sunday morning we all lingered over a pot of coffee and a few muffins, then Carrie and Carol dove in again! Victoria, British Columbia and Butchart Gardens were on the morning’s agenda and they couldn’t wait to get started! Carol loves flowers and she had plenty of great photos from our stop at that world famous destination!

Busy hands

By the time they broke for lunch the ladies had finished documenting our shore excursion on Vancouver Island and our ship was steaming toward the mainland!

The re-positioning cruise was at an end when the Disney Wonder reached the cruise terminal in Vancouver. Even though we were staying aboard to do a back-to-back cruise to Alaska we left the ship for a few hours and took a self-guided tour at Stanley Park. Not long after lunch the pictures from that excursion were framed, embellished and finding their way onto the pages!

Stanley Park

By 2:30 Sunday afternoon it was Fait Accompli . . . the scrapbook was finished. Here are some sample pages; don’t you think they did a magnificent job?

Sample pages
(Click on the image to see a larger version)

It was a very productive weekend . . . but there are still plenty of trips left un-scrapbooked!

Will Carol find the motivation to finish them on her own . . . or will Carrie have to come back and crack her whip a few more times?

March 20, 2016

Disney Fun Around The Country - 2016

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About a year ago I wrote a blog describing several Disney fan events that take place around the country.

Carol and I really enjoy them; it’s an easy way for us to keep the magic alive without making that long trek south!

It’s always fun sharing good times with people who also share our Disney affliction!

Whenever I publish a blog describing one of the Disney collectible or trading events we have enjoyed there is a recurring theme in the comments:

• “I wish I had known about this, I live very close by.”

• “I would love to know when this is next year!”

• “That sounds like so much fun; I’d love to go some time.”

So if you’re looking to spend some happy times with fellow Disney fans, here is an updated version of last year’s blog. It’s a list of a few of those “non-theme park events” coming up in 2016.

These can help you put the maximum “Disney magic” in your life!

1. Trade ‘til You Fade – Apr 29-May 1, 2016 – Somerset New Jersey
This weekend-long event, organized annually by Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders, is a fun-filled experience for those who collect and trade Disney pins and Vinylmations.

CJDPT Logo


CJDPT Meeting Room


CJDPT Name That Toon

There are games, raffles and even an optional gift exchange which can be hilarious! Full details are available on the Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders web site HERE.

Read a blog about the 2012 event HERE

2. Southern Ontario “Canadian Disney Addicts”
In June 2015 twenty-four strangers met in a Denny’s restaurant in Whitby Ontario. The only thing we had in common was a love of all things Disney. We spent a wonderful afternoon talking about our happy place, sharing ideas, trading Disney pins and Vinylmations and most importantly, making new friends.

Disney Fans in Whitby Jun 2015


Disney Fans chat about pin trading Jun 2015


Whitby Meet November 2015

You can read about the first event in an AllEars blog HERE.

It was so much fun that we decided to meet every three months. If you live in Southern Ontario please come out and join us at Denny’s Restaurant, 75 Consumers Lane, Whitby from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Upcoming dates are:
Sunday, May 22, 2016
Sunday, Aug 7, 2016
Sunday, Nov 20, 2016

3. Dayton Disneyana – Jun 11 - 12, 2016 – Dayton Ohio
Another wonderful weekend-long event, however this one caters to Disneyana collectors. The Dayton “Plane Crazy” Chapter of the Disneyana Fan Club does a terrific job organizing this annual bonanza for Disneyana collectors.

Plane Crazy Logo

A hotel ballroom is chock full of vendors tables overflowing with high quality collectibles. This is not a flea market, these are real collectors selling quality product.

Dayton Collectibles


Lady and the Tramp poster

There are always a few interesting speakers who pass on some fascinating tidbits of Disney history and gossip during afternoon and evening seminars.

Alex Maher and Jim Hill

This year’s event will feature some well known guests:
Margaret Kerry, the original reference model for Tinker Bell
Terri Hardin, a former Disney Imagineer and Puppeteer
Jim Hill, a well known Disney blogger and historian and a very entertaining speaker

A few meeting rooms are set aside so attendees can mix and mingle, there are even some Disney pin and Vinylmation traders.

Busy trading

Full details are available on the Dayton chapter’s web site HERE.

Read about previous events in these AllEars.net blogs:
Dayton Disneyana 2013
Dayton Disneyana 2014
Dayton Disneyana 2015

4. Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet – Jul 9, 2016 – Lynnwood Washington
Carol and I have not attended this annual weekend event held near Seattle, it’s a long way from where we live! But we’ve heard very good reviews from friends who have been there.

Pacific Northwest Logo

There are always some top-notch speakers and interesting activities. Tickets always sell out quickly, so be sure to register early! It's a good idea to book a room at the host hotel for the evening before the event; there are some special activities for those who check-in early!

PNW Speaker Tony Baxter


PNW Photo Spot


PNW Dole Whip

Fellow AllEars blogger Jeanine Yamanaka wrote about the 2014 event, you can read about it HERE.

Arrangements for the 2016 meet are not yet finalized, but you can read more details on their web site HERE:

5. Swap ‘til You Drop – Oct 28-30, 2016 – Somerset New Jersey
Another fun-filled weekend-long event, organized annually by Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders. The format for this event is very similar to the Trade ‘til You Fade event held each spring. Refer to their web site HERE:

So . . . if you’re feeling blue because you can’t get to one of the Disney parks . . . why don’t you plan to attend one of these locally organized fan events!

Disney fans always make a fun-loving group; imagine how easy it is to make new friends when you are surrounded by kindred spirits.

Maybe Carol and I will see you there!

March 6, 2016

Trip Planning 1971 - 1992

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A few weeks ago, while writing a blog about FastPass+ and the new My Disney Experience system my thoughts turned back to the early days at Walt Disney World. In the first decade it wasn’t absolutely necessary to plan any aspect of your trip in advance. Most people there were just “winging it”.

But then they added EPCOT in 1982 and things got a bit more complex. Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom followed to make it four theme parks by 1998. Over the years Disney responded by making different types of planning aids available to guests. It will probably require a series of articles to look at all of the planning tools Disney has distributed over the years; this blog will look at the first two decades, when everything was paper-based.

Carol and I made our first trips to the Magic Kingdom in October 1977. We were friends in those days but we weren’t a couple; we lived several hundred miles apart. I went with my two children and Carol took her son. Strangely enough, when we compared notes about 20 years later we discovered that when I deplaned in Toronto after my first Disney trip Carol boarded the same aircraft to fly south for her first taste of the magic. It really is a small world!

We both stayed off-property that first time and drove rental cars to the park each day. It was only the Magic Kingdom then; there were lines for the most popular attractions, but none were too long and we were wide-eyed with wonder as we saw it all for the first time. Our time at Disney just seemed to fly by!

I visited again in 1979 and 1981, staying off-property each time. Carol’s next trip was in 1979, off-property as well, and she picked up a Disney brochure which had a tear-out leaflet that you could mail to Disney Central Reservations to pre-arrange your accommodations and dining. She put it in the mail several months before her February 1981 trip and Disney quickly sent back a glossy "World Magazine" as well as a Vacation Planning Worksheet.

Here’s what the magazine looked like!
Click on each image to see a larger version you can read more easily!

World Magazine 1981 Cover
Cover

World Magazine 1981 pg 2-3
Page 2 and 3



World Magazine 1981 pg 4-5
Page 4 and 5

World Magazine 1981 pg 6-7
Page 6 and 7

World Magazine 1981 pg 8-9
Page 8 and 9

World Magazine 1981 pg 10-11
Page 10 and 11

World Magazine 1981 pg 12-13
Page 12 and 13

World Magazine 1981 pg 14-15
Page 14 and 15

World Magazine 1981 pg 16-17
Page 16 and 17

World Magazine 1981 pg 18-19
Page 18 and 19

World Magazine 1981 pg 20-21
Page 20 and 21

World Magazine 1981 pg 22-23
Page 22 and 23

World Magazine 1981 pg 24-25
Page 24 and 25

World Magazine 1981 pg 26-27
Page 26 and 27

World_Magazine 1981 pg 28-29
Page 28 and 29

World Magazine 1981 pg 30-31
Page 30 and 31

Stapled in the middle of the magazine was a pull-out Vacation Information guide, everything a visitor needed to know about Walt Disney World.

Once again, be sure to click on the images.

Brochure pg 1
Page 1

Brochure pg 2-3
Page 2 and 3

Brochure pg 4-5
Page 4 and 5

Brochure pg 6-7
Page 6 and 7

Brochure pg 8-9
Page 8 and 9

Brochure pg 10
Page 10

The covering letter from the Disney Vacation Planning Center and the three page set of instructions were a big help as Carol filled out her Vacation Planning Activity Sheet.

1981 Letter

Activity Sheet Instructions

I sure wish she had kept a copy of that form she filled out, but who could have predicted way back then how much nostalgic value that document would have today!

We did find a similar worksheet from 1985, here’s a copy of that one!

1985 Dining and Resort Worksheet

I can only imagine how excited she must have been when her confirmation arrived in the mail a few weeks later. Here’s what it looked like!

1981 Itinerary

They stayed at the Polynesian Resort Hotel, enjoyed dinner at Tangaroa Terrace, a character breakfast aboard the Empress Lily, the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Pioneer Hall, Dinner à la Disney in the Trophy Room, two rounds of golf, a Polynesian Revue at Luau Cove, dinner at Papeete Bay and a final dinner show at The Top of The World. Wow! That was a busy week . . . I wonder if they had any time to visit the Magic Kingdom?

After that first experience in a Disney resort Carol knew that she would never stay off-property again . . . and she’s been true to her word! She has made 57 trips to Walt Disney World since then and has enjoyed a Disney resort each time.

Carol mailed in similar worksheets to book accommodations and meals for her next few vacations; then she reverted to the telephone. The parks weren’t nearly as crowded as they are today and there was no need to book your resort a year in advance! She would phone a few months before the trip and reserve her room. Restaurants didn’t take reservations; there was no need. The only reservations to be made were for dinner shows or character meals and those could easily be done at the front desk when you checked in.

It wasn’t until 1989 they began taking reservations at most of the table service restaurants; and even then they could only be made by guests staying in a Disney resort, and not more than one or two days in advance. There was still plenty of room for walk-in diners.

The process of planning a vacation was just so much more civilized in those days! There was no need to sit at your phone until midnight ready to dial . . . and redial . . . and redial until you got through to a Disney agent. No need to be at your computer at 7:00 a.m. waiting for My Disney Experience to begin accepting log-ins!

Oh wouldn’t it be nice to return to those days!

Those colourful planning magazines were displayed in the room every time Carol arrived at her Disney resort, and she always took one home with her. Planning for the next trip started as soon as she finished unpacking! Her Disneyana collection includes planning books from 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1991-92 and 1993. They are all full of wonderful pictures showing the growth and evolution of her happy place.

Of course Disney always tries to stay abreast of new technology and in 1993 they introduced VHS tapes to help with vacation plans. By 1994 there were no more glossy magazines!

Does Carol have any tapes in her collection? Oh yes! A big bag full! I’ll talk about some of those in a future blog, so stay tuned!

February 21, 2016

Windows on Main Street

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Do you ever stop to look at the windows on Main Street USA? Each of those windows pays tribute to someone who has a significant place in Disney history . . . and each window tells a story.

Academy of Fine Art

When Walt first imagined Disneyland he wanted Main Street to resemble the commercial hub in a turn-of-the-20th-century American town. Harper Goff was one of the early Imagineers who played a key role in designing that magnificent park entrance at Disneyland. It reflects Walt’s memories from his younger years in Marceline Missouri and Harper Goff’s recollections from his formative years in Fort Collins Colorado. Walt Disney said, "For those of us who remember the carefree time it recreates, Main Street will bring back happy memories. For younger visitors, it is an adventure in turning back the calendar to the days of their grandfather's youth."

The storefront windows display goods on sale in the shops along Main Street, but if you look at the second story windows you will see some make-believe businesses. Walt decided to use those windows, and those imaginary businesses, to honour the many people who helped him make his Disneyland dream a reality.

When Walt Disney World opened in Florida in 1971, the Magic Kingdom included Main Street USA and more of those special tribute windows. In fact, every Disney park around the world has a Main Street.

Let’s take a look at a few windows:

Ken Anderson

Walt referred to Ken Anderson as his “jack-of-all-trades”. He was an artist and had a background in architecture. Those factors made him an invaluable resource for Walt as Disneyland was being designed and built. The Ken Anderson window, above the Market House in Disneyland, also shows Walt’s tongue-in-cheek sense of humour. Anderson was an avid fly fisherman . . . and everyone knows that fly fishermen do not need bait!

Roy Disney Family

The Disney family is well represented in this window above Crystal Arts in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. It honours Walt’s nephew Roy E. Disney, his wife Patty and their children Roy Patrick, Abigail, Susan and Timothy. The entire family were avid sailors!

Card Walker

Look above the Emporium in Florida for Card Walker’s window. He was President, CEO and finally Chairman of Disney before retiring in 1983. The reference to psychiatry and justice of the peace attest to Walker’s skill at keeping the many divisions in a large organization moving in the same direction.

Charlie Ridgeway

Charlie Ridgeway worked in Disney’s Publicity Department from 1963 until 1994. His book, Spinning Disney’s World, details his career and gives some fascinating glimpses behind the scenes. It should be part of every Disney fan’s library. Look for Charlie’s window in Florida, above The Arcade.

Marty Sklar

There’s an interesting story behind Marty Sklar’s window at Disneyland and Marty himself tells the story in the Foreword he wrote for Chuck Snyder’s book “Windows on Main Street”. It seems that Marty was still working, as Executive Vice President and Imagineering Ambassador, at Disney in about 2008 when they proposed a window for him at Disneyland; that created a bit of a dilemma!

You see there are very clear rules about the windows at Disneyland, and Marty Sklar was responsible for enforcing them. The rules are: 1) Only retired employees, 2) Only the highest level of service/respect/achievement and 3) Agreement between individual park management and Walt Disney Imagineering. The awarding of windows is a bit less rigid at other parks; Mr. Sklar already had windows at Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland and The Magic Kingdom. But when the Disneyland window was offered he was still working and he respectfully declined.

Marty's magic day came July 17, 2009; the day he retired his Disneyland window was dedicated. You can find Marty’s window at Disneyland’s City Hall.

Chuck Snyder book

There are several books about the windows lining Disney’s Main Streets and the one pictured above, written by Chuck Snyder and published by Disney Editions, is part of my Disney library. You can buy the book online through the Amazon links below or pick up a copy in the theme parks.

Ub and Don Iwerks

Ub and Don Iwerks have a Magic Kingdom window, above The Bakery. Ub was with Walt from the beginning and helped create both Mickey Mouse and the multi-plane camera used in those early days of animation. Ub’s son Don was a Disney cinematographer for over 35 years and helped perfect the Circle-Vision camera.

Jim Cora

Jim Cora has two windows, one at Disneyland, above Disney Clothiers, and the window pictured above which is in Disneyland Tokyo. Jim began his Disney career in 1957 as a part-time attraction host at Disneyland and by the time he retired in 2001 he had risen to Chairman at Disneyland International.

Mark and Alice Davis

Marc and Alice Davis are the only husband and wife team to have windows. Look above the Disneyana Shop in Disneyland. Marc was one of Walt’s “Nine Old Men” of animation. He joined Disney in 1935 and spent his entire career there. His achievements are too many to review here, but you can see evidence of his talents in The Enchanted Tiki Room, It's A Small World, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Alice is a Disney Legend. During the mad scramble to design and build those four famous exhibits for the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, Alice worked with Mary Blair to create more than 150 costumes for "It’s A Small World". She continued designing costumes for audio-animatronic figures, live action movies, even animated characters until her retirement in 1974.

Owen Pope

Owen Pope and his family were the only people to ever live in the Disneyland park. Mr. Pope was a horseman; he bought all the horses for Disneyland, he trained them, built their saddles, he even built the wagons and coaches used in Frontierland. In 1971 Owen Pope and his wife Dolly moved to Walt Disney World where he managed the Tri-Circle-D Ranch at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. Tri-Circle-D Ranch is home to all the Magic Kingdom horses!

Wally Boag

Wally Boag is another Disney Legend and you’ll find his window above the Blue Ribbon Bakery, beside the Carnation Café, at Disneyland. Walt Disney sat in on Mr. Boag’s audition in June of 1955 and offered him a two-week contract to perform as Pecos Bill at Disneyland’s Golden Horseshoe Revue. The show opened July 17, 1955 and Wally Boag performed there until he moved to Walt Disney World in 1971. He directed and performed in a similar show at the newly built Diamond Horseshoe Revue before returning to Disneyland in 1974. By the time he retired in 1982 Wally Boag had performed close to 40,000 shows in Disney parks!

Those are just a few of the hundreds of windows; this blog has barely scratched the surface. If you want to read more about the amazing people hidden behind those windows on Main Street I recommend that you buy one of the handful of books on the subject!

I wonder if Disney would ever accept nominations for new windows? If they did, I know who I would nominate . . . Oscar Martinez!

Oscar Martinez

Oscar began his Disney career on Dec. 29, 1956 and in 2011 he was honoured as the one and only employee to record 55 years of continuous service in any Disney company. During those 55 years at Disneyland he has trained thousands of cast members and has become a favourite of many guests, including Carol and I. We make sure we stop and visit with him every time we get to Disneyland.

Oscar Martinez

To commemorate Oscar’s 2011 milestone The Walt Disney Company created a special 55-year Snow White-themed service award. It’s unlikely that anyone else will ever achieve this milestone, so Oscar’s award is destined to remain one-of-a-kind!

Oscar's 55 Year Award

What do you think? Doesn’t Oscar Martinez deserve a window? Once he retires that is!

I’ll end this blog by suggesting a new game you can play at any of the Disney parks!

In an article written for the Summer 2005 issue of Disney Magazine Diane Disney Miller quoted her father Walt, “...if people were waiting in line, then you had to create more entertainment to keep them happy.” That explains the wonderful interactive queues we all experience in the theme parks, and it also suggests a second reason for those Main Street windows. They can help keep you entertained while you wait!

So . . . the next time you’re waiting along Main Street for the three o’clock parade take a minute to look around at those windows. Some of the names you may recognize immediately. But - when you see a name that isn’t familiar, pull out your smart phone and search the name on the internet. Involve your family; make it a game to see how many of the people honoured in those windows you can identify!

Learn more about the Main Street Windows:

February 7, 2016

Disney Postage Stamps

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Yes, you read that title correctly; there really are Disney postage stamps! They’ve been around since September 11, 1968 when the US Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating the life of Walt Disney.

That stamp featured a portrait of Walt, surrounded by children of the world.

1968 Walt Disney Commemorative Stamp

It was an immediate hit with stamp collectors around the world who scrambled to buy the stamps and some limited edition “First Day Of Issue” envelopes. Philatelists (stamp collectors) refer to these special envelopes as “covers”.

1968 Walt Disney Commemorative Stamp Covers

Over the next twenty years the Disney licensing machine operated in high gear as Disney artists produced custom art work for countries all around the world which were producing Disney postage stamps.

That’s when Carol began her collection, in about 1989. Her first purchase resulted from a magazine ad she saw; it was a packet of 100 stamps from around the world that she purchased from a philatelic distributor in Calgary Alberta.

Since then she has kept her eyes open and her ear to the ground, following for new releases, and she has made some good buys! She is strictly a "topical collector" - she focuses entirely on Disney stamps!

All of the images below come from Carol’s collection. In most cases you can click on the image to see a larger version.

Let's look at some of Carol's Disney stamps from the 1980's, starting with this group from Dominica, a small island-nation in the Lesser Antilles. They featured a Peter Pan theme and were produced for Christmas 1980.

1980 Dominica Peter Pan Christmas
(Did you remember to click on the picture to see a larger version?)

That same year Grenada sold two series of Christmas stamps, one based on Bambi and the other featuring Snow White.

1980 Grenada Christmas

In 1982 the tiny South Asian nation of Bhutan had a special issue of stamps based on Disney's Jungle Book.

1982 Bhutan Jungle Book

There were even stamps to commemorate the 1982 World Cup, played that year in Spain. The soccer themed stamps weren't produced in Spain though, they came from Dominica.

1982 Dominica World Cup

In 1983 Anguilla, a British Territory in the Caribbean, had a series of Christmas stamps showing Disney characters in scenes from Dickens stories.

1983 Anguilla Christmas

A series issued by Antigua and Barbuda celebrated Donald Duck's 50th birthday. Donald and his nephews were shown enjoying a Caribbean cruise vacation for Christmas 1984.

1984 Antigua Cruise Holiday

The theme was "50 Years Of Color Animation" in the series issued by Romania in 1985.

1985 Romania 50 Years of Color animation

In 1988 there was a huge stamp exposition in Chicago. "Ameripex '86" was hailed as The World's Fair of Stamps. The stamps below were produced for that event by Grenada and the Republic of Maldives.

1988 Grenada and Maldives Ameripex

Let's conclude our little postage stamp tour of the 1980's by looking at this cute little Christmas train from 1988. These stamps were produced by St. Vincent, another tiny island-nation in the Lesser Antilles.

1988 St. Vincent Christmas Train

There was a Canadian addition to Carol's collection in 1996. Canada Post and Walt Disney World joined forces to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Walt Disney World by issuing a stamp series featuring Canada's most popular bear. She didn't even have to fly south to get these stamps, she picked them up in our local post office!

1996 Canadian Winnie The Pooh Stamps

Since the new millennium began there have been frequent releases by the US Postal Service, based on "The Art of Disney", and Carol has collected them all.

First came the "Art of Disney Friendship" series in 2004. The four stamps in the series depict some of your favourite characters with their best friends!

2004 The Art Of Disney Friendship Sheet

Naturally Carol bought the "First Day Of Issue" covers!

2004 The Art Of Disney Friendship Covers

The series also included a set of four 8" X !0" prints. My princess bought them as well, to complete her set.

2004 The Art Of Disney Friendship Prints

The theme for 2005 was "Celebration" and Carol was thrilled when this offer from the US Postal Service arrived in the mail!

2005 Celebrate The Art Of Disney Advertising Poster

The Celebration stamps portray Disney characters enjoying festive activities; music, dancing, a birthday and a tea party.

2005 The Art Of Disney Celebration Sheet

Once again she ordered the First Day Of Issue covers!

2005 The Art Of Disney Celebration Covers

. . . and the 8" X 10" prints . . .

2005 The Art Of Disney Celebration Prints

. . . and the postcards . . . you just cannot get too much of a good thing!

2005 The Art Of Disney Celebration Postcards

Things took a romantic turn in 2006. What could be sweeter than these Disney couples?

2006 The Art Of Disney Romance Sheet

As you probably guessed, Carol just had to have the First Day Of Issue covers! They were released at the 2006 EPCOT Flower and Garden Show and each cover shows the corresponding topiary that was on display during the festival.

2006 The Art Of Disney Romance Covers

. . . and the 8" X 10" prints.

2006 The Art Of Disney Romance Prints

We attended the Flower and Garden show that year and Carol was lucky enough to pick up one of the special framed cachets. It was a Limited Edition of 185.

2006 The Art Of Disney Romance Cachet

Magic took center stage in 2007. There were four magical moments from Disney animated feature films depicted on the stamps that year.

2007 The Art Of Disney Magic Sheet

Of course she bought the First Day Of Issue covers and the prints . . .

2007 The Art Of Disney Magic Covers

2007 The Art Of Disney Magic Prints

. . . and the postcards!

2007 The Art Of Disney Magic Postcards

In 2007 the stamps shone their spotlight on Disney Imagination.

2008 The Art Of Disney Imagination Sheet

Carol added a sheet of stamps, the First Day Of Issue covers and the prints to her collection.

2008 The Art Of Disney Imagination Covers

2008 The Art Of Disney Imagination Prints

The next issue from USPS was in 2011, the "Send A Hello" series showing characters from five popular Disney/Pixar animated features.

2011 Send A Hello Sheet

Carol bought the standard covers and the First Day Of Issue covers.

2011 Send A Hello Covers

In 2012 they followed with the "Mail A Smile" series, once again depicting five Disney/Pixar films.

2012 Mail A Smile Sheet

Once again Carol bought both sets of covers.

2012 Mail A Smile Covers

Alas, there haven't been any new releases in North America in the past few years, but Carol continues to keep her eyes and ears open looking for new philatelic treasure!

There are some resources available for aspiring Disney philatelists! There is an out-of-print book dedicated to collecting Disney stamps; there are Disney stamp collecting albums and kits; there is even a Facebook page for Disney stamp collectors. A simple Internet search should help you find these resources if you want to read more, or begin your own collection!

January 24, 2016

FastPass+ - Love It or Hate It?

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About a month ago Carol and I joined a group of AllEars.net readers at Tomorrowland Terrace for a “Meet and Greet”. I really enjoy this sort of get-together; any time Disney fans gather there’s always plenty of friendly chatter about our similar experiences and I usually come away having learned something new about my happy place.

December 2015 Meet and Greet

That particular Sunday morning I spent a few minutes chatting with a couple who read my blogs. I mentioned that I’m always on the lookout for new topics; was there anything they’d like me to write about? “Why yes,” they replied, “How do you use the FastPass+ system? We’ve been here for three days and had three FastPasses each day. We have yet to use a single one of them.”

I rolled that thought around in my mind for a second or two then replied, “I’m not really sure I can help with that. Carol and I seldom use all of ours either. We typically book three each day we are at a park, but we often only use one or two of them.”

We spent a few minutes talking about the reasons why we didn’t take advantage of the passes; as you might expect, our reasons were quite similar.

Let’s take a look back at how the new FastPass+ system has changed our park experiences . . .

FastPass vs FastPass+

Remember those old paper FastPasses? They were introduced in 1999 and gave the holder a one hour reserved time slot for a ride. When they returned during that hour they could enter through an “express lane”. FastPasses were only available for the most popular attractions at each park; the majority of rides or attractions did not have a FastPass line. The most avid guests would arrive at the park for “rope-drop” and as soon as the park opened they would hurry to the FastPass Distribution area for their first ride of the day.

Philharmagic FastPass Distribution

The voucher they received stipulated a time when they could pick up a second FastPass for a different attraction.

Hollywood Studios FastPasses

The system worked very well; guests would often pick up a FastPass then ride another non-FastPass attraction while they waited for their appointed time. It was a simple, but effective system that allowed guests who spent a few minutes planning to enjoy more rides in a short time.

Disney FastPass Logo

Then in 2013 Disney began rolling out the next generation . . . FastPass+ . . . at Walt Disney World. It has not been implemented at the other Disney theme parks yet.

Fastpass+ Logo

It was all part of a huge project code-named "Next Generation Experience". The project had a billion dollar budget and included MagicBands, FastPass+, My Disney Experience, and PhotoPass Memory Maker, four technology advances we’ve probably all become familiar with during the past couple of years.

So how does FastPass+ work? Well, it’s quite a bit different! There is now a FastPass+ line at virtually every attraction and the passes can be booked in advance. If you have pre-purchased your park ticket and are staying in a Disney resort you can book FastPass+ (3 per day) up to 60 days in advance using the online “My Disney Experience” system. If you have pre-purchased a park ticket or hold an Annual Pass you can use the same system to reserve FastPass+ (3 per day) up to 30 days in advance. There is even a mobile app available for smart phones and tablets which lets you manage and change your FastPass+ bookings.

My Disney Experience app

Day guests, who purchase tickets the day of their visit can also book FastPass+ but they have to line up at one of the kiosks in the park to select their passes from whatever remains available.

Regardless of when or how you booked your three FastPass+, once they have been used, or expired, you can book additional passes (only one at a time) at an in-park kiosk.

FastPass+ Kiosk Sign

So how has this impacted the guest experience?

There are some positive aspects, and there are also some negative ones; let’s look at a few of the good things first!

Very Convenient, Very Easy:
“My Disney Experience” is a wonderful tool to help with your trip plan. All of your resort details, FastPass+ selections, dining reservations, etc. appear in one location. It’s easy to use and accessible from your desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smart phone.

No need to rush:
You don’t have to be there at rope-drop and scurry back to Pixar Place for that FastPass+ at Toy Story Midway Mania. Carol and I always feel pretty smug as we wander slowly through Hollywood Studios to use the FastPass+ which she booked 60 days prior . . . that’s a very good benefit of the new system.

Fireworks and Parade viewing areas:
Special viewing areas have been set aside for guests who book FastPass+ to watch parades, fireworks and the nightly Capture The Magic show. These areas offer great views and are not nearly as crowded as surrounding areas. Another great advantage!

FastPass+ Logo

Unfortunately, there are some disadvantages as well.

Flexibility is restricted:
The new system forces you to commit to visiting a theme park 30 to 60 days in advance and restricts your ability to be spontaneous. For example, you have pre-booked FastPass+ for Animal Kingdom but when you wake up it’s pouring rain. Before the new system you might have decided to go to EPCOT that day and visit Animal Kingdom later in your vacation. It’s no longer that easy . . . it’s really tough to let those FastPass+ go!

Park-Hopping is difficult:
All three FastPass+ must be booked at the same park. This restricts your ability to hop from one park to another. Yes, once your three passes have been used you can hop to another park and book another FastPass+ at a kiosk, but it’s not nearly as easy as it used to be!

You can’t always get what you want:
The day has finally arrived, it’s 60 days before your vacation and you sit down to make your FastPass+ bookings for Hollywood Studios. Naturally you want Toy Story Midway Mania so you book it first. Then you move on to your second favourite and book the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. For your last selection you would like Rock ‘N Roller Coaster . . . but wait . . . it’s not on the list. Why can’t you see it? It’s not available and you will not be able to book it because the attractions at Hollywood Studios and EPCOT have been “tiered” to ensure fairness. Guests can select one Tier 1 attraction and two Tier 2 attractions. Toy Story Midway Mania and Rock “N Roller Coaster are both Tier 1, so you cannot reserve them both. That’s a big disadvantage! To see more detail about FastPass+ and Tiering read the AllEars page HERE.

Longer standby lines:
Imagine when you couldn’t get Rock ‘N Roller Coaster in that example above that you decided to go anyway and use the standby line. Wow – it was slow! Yes, the FastPass+ system seems to be putting more people than ever before into the FastPass line and this naturally slows down the standby lines. Even attractions that didn’t have FastPass lines in the old days now have long and slow standby lines as people whisk past in the new FastPass+ line. Another reason it’s difficult to be spontaneous!

Long FastPass+ lines:
Yes, the FastPass+ lines are sometimes long, very long. When we visited the parks in late October 2015 the FastPass+ line for Kilimanjaro Safaris was contained by a temporary system of posts and ropes. It stretched from the FastPass+ entrance all the way to the standby entrance. During the same trip the FastPass+ line for Toy Story stretched all the way back to One Man’s Dream.

What about inexperienced visitors? Do cast members explain FastPass+ to day guests? It’s difficult for me to imagine myself as a day guest, visiting Walt Disney World for the first time, but I suspect that if I were that day guest, I would be disappointed by what I found in the parks. Huge lines everywhere I looked and people hustling past, right beside me, in an express lane. I’m not at all sure I’d be back.

So how does the new system work for Carol and I? Well, I’d like to tell you it’s fabulous. I’d like to tell you that it’s the best thing ever . . . but that would be a very big exaggeration. If we were to boil our feelings about the system down to a single word, that word would be “meh”.

We would be quite happy to return to the old system.

Peter Pans Flight FastPass

Carol really enjoys planning our Disney adventures and she takes full advantage of My Disney Experience. It’s a good tool for planning and making reservations, but the new FastPass+ just isn’t a perfect fit for us. We all too often find ourselves a bit frustrated that we have three attractions booked at EPCOT and yet the weather is perfect for a trip to Animal Kingdom. We could not accurately forecast the weather 60 days ago and there’s just no room in the new system for the kind of spontaneity or improvisation we’re used too!

Imagine this scene; Carol is booking our day at Hollywood Studios. She has a 9:30 FastPass+ at Toy Story Midway Mania and a 10:45 pass at Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. She asks my opinion, “For our third FastPass+, would you rather have Disney Junior at 11:40 or the Frozen Sing-Along at 12:15?” My reply is quick, “Neither”! So she leaves it at the two she has already booked and the program automatically assigns us a third pass at Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. We haven’t watched that show since 2002 and I don’t think we’ll use that FastPass+ to see it this time. We very seldom use all three of our FastPass+.

So to that couple who asked how to use FastPass+ all I can say is, "We feel your pain and we share your frustration."

Yes, FastPass+ has some good points, but in our particular case they are slightly outweighed by the bad points.

How about you? Do you love FastPass+ or do you hate it?

January 3, 2016

Disney Soaps and Lotions

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Do you have a shelf that looks like this?

Medicine Cabinet Soaps and Lotions

Is your travel bag filled with these?

Generic soaps and lotions

When you work on a crossword or Sudoku puzzle do you have one of these in your hand?

Disney Pens

If you answered yes to those questions you are in good company. I think almost every Disney fan takes home a pen or two and some of those handy little packages of soap and bottles of shampoo and lotions each time they stay in a Disney resort.

They are so handy to have, just the right size to carry along when you travel and the lotions are perfect for the night table beside your bed at home. Since they all say “Disney” right there on the package they’re collectibles as well!

Every day Mousekeeping drops off a fresh supply in your room and it accumulates much faster than you can possibly use it. The only logical solution is to take it home!

As you might expect, Carol has quite a varied collection. Let’s look at a few items.

These days everything is generic, every resort has the same soaps and shampoos . . . but in days of yore it was different; and Carol has collected the proof!

Grand Floridian soaps and lotions

The Grand Floridian Resort used to have a complete line of specialty products to enhance the experience for guests. That green bottle in the back row is shampoo for the ladies; to its right is a dark bottle – that’s shampoo for the men! The ladies and the gents apparently had to share conditioner; it’s on the far right. The white jar in the front is facial cream and the green tin is a sewing kit. Alas, even the mighty Floridian uses the generic line these days!

Contemporary and Fort Wilderness soaps

Here are a couple of soap bars from that same era, the Contemporary Resort and Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.

Disneyland Hotel soaps and lotions

When we last stayed at the Disneyland Hotel in 2011 they still provided specially branded toiletry products, including a shower cap. That’s something that’s rarely seen these days!

Disney Cruise Line soaps and lotions

The Disney Cruise Line has a line of H2O Spa soaps and lotions; Carol likes the H2O products and always brings home every drop Mousekeeping leaves in the stateroom.

Now let’s look at some of the generic soaps and lotions.

Generic soaps and lotions

This group of products from several years ago included two different styles of bottled body lotion, facial soap that was wrapped and also boxed, and a handy little sewing kit.

Generic soaps and lotions

Here’s another old group of generic soaps.

Generic soaps and lotions

And still more old soaps. The cellophane wrapper lets you see the Mickey embossed on the round bar.

Generic soaps and lotions

It looks like H2O is now the exclusive supplier for Disney resorts; it’s the only brand we’ve seen in the resorts during our recent trips.

Carol has pulled out all those unique "resort-specific" items in her collection and tucked them safely away in her Tickle Trunk. It would be a shame if they were used by accident; they’re irreplaceable!

How about you?

Do you have a collection of old Disney soaps, shampoos, lotions and toiletries?
What’s your favourite?

December 20, 2015

The Candlelight Processional

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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 6, 2015

Disney Parks Village

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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?

November 8, 2015

From the Tickle Trunk – Disney Recipes Part II

Gary Cruise banner

A few weeks ago we began a culinary tour of Disney Parks and Resorts courtesy of some old copies of Disney Magazine! Have you tested any of those Disney recipes yet?

Let’s pick up our tour right where we left off!

In the Fall 2004 issue we find instructions and pictures for:

1. Panna Cotta – Palo, Disney Wonder and Disney Magic
2. Monterey Clam Chowder – Pacific Wharf Café, Disney’s California Adventure
3. Nut-Crusted Salmon – Boma, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
4. Jungle Julep – Tahitian Terrace, Disneyland
5. Grapefruit Cake – The Hollywood Brown Derby, Disney-MGM Studios

Don't forget to click on each of the pages to see a larger, more readable version. You’ll definitely want to write some of these recipes down!

Disney Magazine Fall 2004 pg 75

Disney Magazine Fall 2004 pg 76

Disney Magazine Fall 2004 pg 78

That Panna Cotta served at Palo is absolutely wonderful . . . and it’s now served at Palo on all four of the Disney ships! If you’re not familiar with Palo, it’s a very upscale adult-only dining experience and is well worth the very reasonable $30.00 up-charge for either brunch on sea-days or dinner every day. Reservations go quickly, so book early!

And the Grapefruit Cake at the Hollywood Brown Derby is a dessert you must try. I always have the Cobb Salad which is a meal in itself, then follow with Grapefruit Cake! Very light, very tasty!

From the Winter 2004 issue you might like to make:

1. Banana Bread Pudding - Boma, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
2. Orange-Glazed Baby Carrots – Chef Mickey’s, Contemporary Resort
3. Mashed Boniato Potatoes - The Hollywood Brown Derby, Disney-MGM Studios
4. Sweet Potato-Hazelnut Gratin – Artist Point- Wilderness Lodge
5. Cranberry-Orange Scones – Storytellers Café, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel

Disney Magazine Winter 2004 pg 76

Disney Magazine Winter 2004 pg 77

Disney Magazine Winter 2004 pg 78

Some words were just made to go together . . . and three words that fit each other extremely well are banana, bread and pudding. I’ve sampled the Banana Bread Pudding at Boma and at ‘Ohana. I couldn’t decide which I liked best, so I tried them both again . . . and again . . . and again. There’s no clear winner so I’ll just have to keep tasting! Honourable mention for Ger's Bread & Butter Pudding at Raglan Road. It’s delicious too!

And finally, from the Spring 2005 issue:

1. Thai Noodle Bowl - The Hollywood Brown Derby, Disney-MGM Studios
2. Beef Stroganoff – Yacht Club Gallery, Yacht Club Resort
3. Creamed Spinach – 1900 Park Fare, Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Disney Magazine Spring 2005 pg 74

Disney Magazine Spring 2005 pg 75

I haven’t tried any of the dishes from the Spring 2005 issue, but we will be at Walt Disney World when this blog is published and we have dinner booked at 1900 Park Fare during that trip. I’ll probably give that Creamed Spinach a try!

Do you use any Disney recipes at home?

We do! The Hoop-Dee-Doo Cornbread from Trails End Restaurant at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. Carol does not normally like corn bread, but she really enjoys it at Fort Wilderness and prepares it at home quite often. Yum!

Disney is normally very happy to share recipes, so if there is a dish you particularly enjoy, ask your server if the recipe is available. They are often pre-printed for guests who ask.

Don’t forget, many of them (including that corn bread I mentioned above) are already listed on AllEars.net HERE!

You and your family can still enjoy a taste of Disney, even when you're not there!
Have fun whipping up your favourite Disney dish at home!

October 25, 2015

From the Tickle Trunk – Disney Recipes

Gary Cruise banner

I was looking for a topic for a new blog; nothing was coming to mind so I took another exploratory trip through Carol’s trusty old Tickle Trunk. What do you suppose I found?

Six old Disney Magazine articles featuring some fabulous Disney recipes! The series of articles spans a year and a half, from Winter 2003 to Spring 2005 and contains the recipes most requested by magazine readers!

Have a look at the pages below; some of your favourite Disney dishes are sure to be there!

Here’s the Winter 2003 Issue which features:

1. Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup – from Le Cellier Steakhouse, EPCOT
2. Caramel French Toast – from Storyteller’s Café, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel
3. Frunch – from Boma, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
4. Cheese Pizza – from Gasparilla Grill & Games, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
5. Monte Cristo Sandwich – Blue Bayou Restaurant, Disneyland

Click on each of the pages to see a larger, more readable version. You’ll want to write some of these down!

Disney Magazine Winter 2003  pg 71

Disney Magazine Winter 2003 pg 72

Disney Magazine Winter 2003 pg 73

Yes, the article is a bit dated and many things have changed in the past decade. Garsparilla Grill & Games is now known as Gasparilla Island Grill, but they still serve that great cheese pizza! The Blue Bayou no longer serves the Monte Cristo Sandwich, but just a few months ago I had one just like it at Café Orleans which is right next door to the Blue Bayou. It was yummy, as always!


The Spring 2004 Issue tells how you can make:

1. Caesar Dressing – Concourse Steakhouse, Contemporary Resort
2. Breakfast Lasagna - Crystal Palace, Magic Kingdom
3. Tomato-Basil Sauce – Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port, Disneyland
4. Honey Coriander Chicken Wings – ‘Ohana, Polynesian Resort
5. Rice Cream – Restaurant Akershus, EPCOT

Disney Magazine Spring 2004 pg 71

Disney Magazine Spring 2004 pg 72

Disney Magazine Spring 2004 pg 73

Hmmmm . . . breakfast lasagna! That reminds me, it’s time we went back to The Crystal Palace for breakfast. It’s a tasty dish and not at all like the name suggests. It’s a deliciously fruity “bread-pudding-like” dish; a sweet treat to get your day started!


The Summer 2004 Issue gives instructions for:

1. Kate’s Coyote Grilled Chicken - Whispering Canyon Café, Wilderness Lodge
2. Butterscotch Crème Brûlée with Almond Biscotti – California Grill, Contemporary Resort
3. Ginger Dressing – Mitsukoshi Teppanyaki Dining Room, EPCOT
4. Goofy’s Peanut Butter and Jelly Pizza – Goofy’s Kitchen, Disneyland
5. Stuffed French Toast – Cinderella’s Royal Table, Magic Kingdom

Disney Magazine Summer 2004 pg 74

Disney Magazine Summer 2004 pg 76

Disney Magazine Summer 2004 pg 77

Would it surprise you to hear that I’ve sampled Goofy’s Peanut Butter and Jelly Pizza? It’s served on the breakfast buffet and I just had to try it! It’s very rich, oh-so gooey, and just as childishly delicious as it sounds!

I've never sampled that Stuffed French Toast, but it sounds delicious. If it's similar to the Tonga Toast at Kona Café I may have to endure some princesses and give it a try!

Wow, I think I’ve gained a few pounds just writing this blog, so I’m going to leave it there for now!

There are three more articles and lots more recipes to go. I’ll include them all in Part II of this blog in just a few weeks.

If you can’t wait that long, or if you have a favourite Disney dish you’re wishing you had the recipe for, check out the AllEars.net recipe page HERE!

October 11, 2015

Epcot Food & Wine Festivals Gone By

Gary Cruise banner

I'd like to begin this blog by explaining to you that Carol and I are neither gourmets nor epicures! We are simple “meat and potatoes” people. In fact, for a long time we avoided the Food & Wine Festival for that very reason. Neither of us enjoys wine and our impression of the festival was that you ate overpriced little samples of exotic foods paired with wines that we knew we wouldn’t enjoy.

Festival Logo 2014

Many of our friends assured us that we would enjoy the food, even if we didn’t drink wine, so we finally decided to give it a try.

Festival Logo 2012

On November 3, 2009 we picked up a little gift card on a coiled bracelet which fits handily on your wrist so it can be swiped at each food kiosk.

Gift Cards

We loaded it with a $75 credit and very warily began our culinary experiment!

The "International Marketplaces" are scattered around the promenade that rings the World Showcase Lagoon. As you approach each of the Marketplaces the menu is prominently displayed.

Australia Menu

After selecting what you would like to sample, you queue up for the cashiers who are located beside the kiosk. They take your order and scan your gift card; "CA-CHING". These days you can also pay with your MagicBand.

After paying you move on to the kiosk where your order will be ready quick as a wink!

Australia Marketplace

Our trek around World Showcase took us in a clockwise direction and we ordered one or two items from each kiosk to share between us.

Taste Your Way Around The World

We started with a Shrimp Stew with Coconut and Lime from the Brazil Marketplace; it was excellent. Then we tried a Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri and Boniato Puree from Argentina; excellent as well. Next came a Corn Tortilla with Chipolte Chicken from Mexico; I liked it but Carol wasn’t thrilled with the refried beans on it.

TerraMarketplace

Terra Menu

We stopped at Spain and enjoyed a tasty Crème Catalana, similar to Crème Caramel.

From Poland we ordered Kielbasa and Potato Pierogie with Caramelized Onions and Sour Cream.

Poland Marketplace

Poland Menu

Poland Kielbasa and Potato Pierogie

Mmm, Mmm good!

The Pork Pot Stickers from China were excellent but the Rice and Lentil Crepe with Potato and Onion Filling from the India Marketplace didn’t suit our palate; after a quick taste it was immediately tossed in the trash!

We sampled the Chicken and Coconut Soup with Mushrooms from Thailand and really enjoyed it.

German Food 2012

By the time we finished our Nuernberger Sausage on a Pretzel Roll from Germany we were getting full, so we topped it all off with a divine Bread Pudding from New Orleans and decided to head back to Fort Wilderness, the dogs needed to eat too!.

We had both enjoyed a wonderful lunch and there was still a $34.25 credit on the gift card so we decided that we would head back and use it up at dinner time!

When we returned we picked up our journey around World Showcase right where we left off at lunch. Our first stop was Puerto Rico where we shared Chicken with Rice, quite good!

Puerto Rico Marketplace

Puerto Rico Menu

We walked on to Greece where we ordered the Greek Salad with Pita Bread, the Spanakopita and the Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki. I liked them all but Carol wasn’t fussy about the Spanakopita. We stopped to watch a bit of the Off Kilter set beside Canada and then moved on toward England where we shared an order of Seared Scallops from New Zealand. They were OK, not great but OK.

Then came Ireland where I had the Lobster & Scallop Fisherman’s Pie and Carol had the Warm Chocolate Lava Cake with Bailey’s Ganache. Both were excellent! Once again our last stop was New Orleans for bread pudding. Terrific! We were both stuffed again and there was still $2.00 left on the card . . . so Carol bought some popcorn and a drink.

Think about that folks, two excellent lunches and two equally good dinners for $73.00! If we had eaten at any combination of table service restaurants we would have paid more; so not only was it great food, it was great value too!

Belgium Marketplace

Belgium Menu

Belgian Waffle

Since 2009 we have returned to the Food & Wine Festival every year except 2011, we missed the opening of the festival by just a few days that year!

There are more than 30 food and drink Marketplaces scattered around World Showcase during the festival which typically runs from late September to mid November.

Italy Marketplace

Italy Menu

We’ve developed a nice routine; we read the menu when we arrive at each Marketplace and decide what we’d like to sample. Then Carol hops in line to buy our selections while I snap photos of the menu and the kiosk. By the time she has picked up the food I have normally found a spot at a nearby table and we settle for a few minutes to enjoy our little nibbles.

Food 2012

Food 2012

Note: There are more diners than there are tables, but most folks are happy to share table space. There have been many times, while Carol was still in line and I was standing alone at a table, that I noticed another couple or a small group with their hands full of food looking for a spot to eat it. I always wave them over and offer to share our table. Many times other folks have invited Carol and I to join them and we’ve had some interesting conversations with some total strangers! Don’t be afraid to share!

Sharing a Table

Our typical Food & Wine experience extends over a few days; we start our lunch at one side of the World Showcase Lagoon and eat until we’re full. Then we come back a few days later and pick up where we left off. The last couple of years it has taken us three days to complete the circuit and we have spent about $100 over the three days. That’s six quality lunches for a hundred dollars . . . we would have spent that much if we’d eaten nothing but burgers and fries!

So we’ve been converted . . . even though we’re not wine-drinkers, we really enjoy the festival! In fact, Carol found a beer she actually enjoyed! She has never been able to acquire a taste for beer, but we had heard good things about Schöfferhofer Grapefruit Beer from the Brewer's Collection kiosk.

Brewers_Collection_2014.jpg

In 2014 I picked up a Schöfferhofer to wash down my bratwurst from Germany. After drinking more than her share of it, Carol announced that it was the only beer she ever enjoyed!

Our favourite dish? For Carol it’s Boeuf Bourguignon from France, braised short ribs in cabernet with mashed potatoes.

France Marketplace

France Menu

My perennial “fave” is from Ireland, the Lobster and Seafood Fisherman's Pie.

Of course, there’s more than food involved. During the festival the America Gardens Theatre is home to the “Eat to the Beat” concert series. There’s always a terrific line-up of performing artists for these free nightly concerts. The 2015 schedule includes Wilson Phillips, Christopher Cross, Starship with Mickey Thomas, The Pointer Sisters, Rick Springfield, Air Supply and many, many more!

Eat To The Beat - The Pointer Sisters

Eat to the Beat schedule

There really is something for everyone at the Food & Wine Festival. If you are a oenophile you can find many of the wines offered at the International Marketplaces on sale at the Festival Welcome Center Merchandise Shops. The Welcome Center (formerly the Wonders of Life Pavilion) is located in Future World between Mission: SPACE and Universe of Energy and hosts many seminars and demonstrations including Wine & Beverage seminars, Culinary demonstrations, Mixology seminars, Cheese seminars, etc., etc.

Festival Welcome Center

Every Friday and Sunday there are plated brunches hosted by renowned chefs and Saturday nights you can enjoy the ultimate Food & Wine Festival experience, the Party for the Senses. Guests start the evening with reserved seating at the Eat to the Beat Concert, then head to an exclusive party held in the World ShowPlace Events Pavilion between Canada and the United Kingdom.

Party For The Senses

This elegant party is perfect for foodies who can sample great food from famous chefs, taste 50 wines and beers and enjoy live entertainment.

Party For The Senses

Party For The Senses

For compulsive collectors like Carol there’s a Marketplace Discovery Passport available every year. It lists the Marketplaces, in the same order that you find them as you travel around World Showcase in a clockwise direction, and gives a brief description of what’s available at each location.

Marketplace Discovery Passport

There is a box beside every menu item where you can tick off what you sampled, and a larger box where the cast members in the kiosk will stamp your “passport.” How could a collector possibly resist something like that? It’s also pretty handy for a blogger who’s trying to remember what he had for lunch on a particular Tuesday about six years ago!

Even the youngest gourmands can enjoy the festival by participating in “Remy's Ratatouille Hide & Squeak Scavenger Hunt”. Kids can search for little Remy statuettes with maps, stickers and prizes.

So if you’ve been holding back from the annual EPCOT Food & Wine Festival, take my advice and give it a try! I think you’ll like it!

To find out more about the festival follow these links.

AllEars.net pages with detailed information can be found HERE

There are also AllEars.net blogs about the “Sneak Preview” for the 2015 event.
Part 1 is HERE . . . . Part 2 is HERE

For the menus and prices at the 2015 Marketplaces look HERE

AllEars.net even has some great tips to help you plan your Food & Wine adventure HERE

The official Disney festival information is HERE

Maybe Carol and I will bump into you one of these years as we “Taste Our Way Around The World.”

See you then!

September 27, 2015

Disney Artist - Alex Maher

Gary Cruise banner

One of the things I most enjoy about Disney fan meets is the new and interesting people I meet there. One of those people is Disney Design Artist Alex Maher who I had a chance to meet and speak with a few months ago at Dayton Disneyana.

Alex Maher

Carol had met him several times at events for pin collectors, but this was my first opportunity to make his acquaintance. I’m sure glad I didn’t pass up the chance!

Footloose and Collar Free Print
When Alex signed this print, Footloose and Collar Free, for Carol he told her it was one of his favourite pieces!

This certificate was included with the print.

Footloose and Collar Free Certificate


I wrote a bit about the Saturday afternoon seminar Alex participated in at Dayton, and the many drawings he did that week end, in a previous blog about Dayton Disneyana; you can find it HERE.

Alex Maher and Jim Hill

In this blog I’ll focus on Alex’s Friday afternoon presentation. He began his remarks by telling us he was the world’s biggest fan of Walt Disney; then he spent an hour proving beyond a doubt that his claim was true!

Before I describe the seminar, let me tell you a bit about Alex’s background and how he landed his dream job with Disney.

Alex is a “Florida Cracker”; that’s a term people born and raised in Florida use to describe themselves! As the short Disney biography pictured above says, Alex spent his early years in Miami where his father was a writer and artist. His first memory of Disney dates back to his days in kindergarten; during a visit to the school library he picked up a Disney book . . . he couldn’t read, but in his words, “I was mesmerized by the pictures. Since that day I’ve been a fanatic about Walt Disney.”

In those days, before the Internet, writers spent countless hours in libraries doing research. Alex would often accompany his father on those library trips and while Dad researched his latest project, young Alex would read everything he could find on Walt Disney. He began to sketch Disney characters and his father, also an artist, would provide constructive criticism. “That’s really good Alex, but do you think it might be better if you . . . ?”

One truly amazing fact he shared with us – Alex has had no formal art training. In addition to being the world’s greatest fan of Walt Disney he is also a gifted artist! His talents include drawing, painting, sculpting and the ability to conceive and design original works. And it’s all self-taught!

A print by Alex Maher

After finishing high school Alex joined the US Navy; as you might expect, sketches of Disney characters adorned many area of his ship! He left the military in 1983 and returned to Miami where he worked in several “Mom and Pop” graphic design shops. He became a member of the National Fantasy Fan Club (also known as The Disneyana Fan Club) in the early 1980’s. Naturally he followed the help wanted ads and applied for every Disney job he saw. No job resulted, but he just kept on applying.

By 1987 he was Art Department Head at a small college near Miami. Most days, during his lunch hour, you could find Alex in the college library. He searched every issue of the New York Times from 1901, the year Walt Disney was born, until 1966 when Walt passed away. He photocopied every article that mentioned Walt in any way and painstakingly organized the news clippings in a series of binders. Of course, while Alex was assembling this life history of his idol, he continued to apply for any job he could get at Disney.

In 1991 he made a daring decision. He felt that if he was ever going to land a job at Disney he would have to be closer to the action. So, with no guarantee of a job, Alex decided to press a little harder to follow his dream. He and his wife sold their home and moved, with their two children, to Orlando.

He finally managed to get a job interview; they were looking for bus drivers . . . it wasn’t the creative job he was looking for, but it would be a foot in the door. He made it to the second interview and was hopeful, until the department manager asked, “Your background is all related to art. Why do you want to be a bus driver?” Alex replied honestly, “I’ve heard that Disney promotes from within, so I’m hoping that if I start here it can lead to an art-related job in the future.” It turned out that the manager wasn’t interested in spending the money to train a driver, only to have him move to the art department . . . Alex didn’t get that job!

He did find work at another theme park, just down the road, but in Alex’s words, “It was fun, but it just wasn’t Disney.”

Bambi

Through his membership in the National Fantasy Fan Club he knew the names of a few accomplished Disney artists. One of them was Don “Ducky” Williams. Alex explained it this way, “I didn’t know him personally, but read many articles about him in our club newsletters. When I moved to Orlando, I tried to meet him but he was on vacation at the time. But I did meet his boss who said ‘Come back tomorrow and show me some of your work.’ I got busy that night and did three drawings, Roger Rabbit, Jessica Rabbit and Mickey Mouse. I met the manager the next day; he liked my work, but said there was nothing available in his department. He suggested I try the merchandising division. The next day I visited the creative department of the merchandise division and luckily they liked my work. I was hired on as a freelance artist.”

Finally Alex had a job at Disney and it wasn’t long before they saw his potential. On December 6, 1993 he became a full employee rather than a freelance artist. It was a long struggle, but Alex was finally a very proud Disney cast member!

Tinker Bell

So what does a Disney Design Artist do?

The short answer is, pretty much everything, other than animation. Their work revolves around merchandise, any kind of merchandise, and you can see it on shelves all over the parks. If you buy a coffee mug, a print, a figurine, a t-shirt, a cloisonné pin or a Vinylmation the concept for the piece sprang from the imagination of a design artist. Figurines and other complex pieces require a “four position drawing” showing the piece from four different viewpoints.

Alex was one of the original members of the “Pin Team” established in 1999 to design trading pins and those cloisonné pins still make up a large proportion of the designs he creates.

Here are a few pins from Carol's collection that Alex Maher designed.

Boxed Pin Set
This boxed set is a Limited Edition of 1400 from the 2006 Pin Celebration at EPCOT

Signed Pins
These two pins are also from the 2006 Pin Celebration at EPCOT. Alex Maher has signed the back of each pin as well as the backer card it is mounted on.


What are the challenges for a Disney Design Artist?

According to Alex, new characters are a challenge. It’s tough to design a t-shirt or a coffee mug if you don’t understand the character. Everyone is familiar with Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy and Donald. How they will react in a situation or what expression you will see on their faces can be easily imagined. But new characters, like Joy or Anger from the recently released Inside Out aren’t so easy; the creative people don’t yet fully understand the personality of the character. The artists often see a “rough cut” of the movie long before its release, but they sometimes have to submit their concept art to the manufacturers as much as 18 months before the merchandise is available for sale. Sometimes the movie can change appreciably and the personalities of the animated characters can transform in that time.

Characters in costumes are challenging. When designing a figurine featuring a character in an African costume the artist has to be very careful with the choice of colours. Colours have very strong meanings in African culture. Posture, position and gestures are important too. In North America the “thumbs up” gesture means ‘All right’ or ‘A-OK’ but in many foreign cultures it’s a definite no-no.

Scuba Diving Mickey

I’m pretty sure that the job of a Disney Design Artist isn’t always fun and games, but Alex sure makes it seem that way. The pride he feels for his work and for his association with the Disney Corporation shines through in everything he says and does. He is a great ambassador for Disney!

Now, let’s get back to that Friday afternoon seminar I mentioned at the beginning of this blog. If you’re not convinced yet that Alex Maher is the worlds biggest fan of Walt Disney these next few paragraphs should drive the point home!

Alex presented a slide show he prepared quite a few years ago, titled The History of Walt Disney. All the information he gathered from all those New York Times articles was combined with knowledge he gathered from other reading and from conversations with Disney family members, Disney executives and Disney Legends. He sifted and organized the data into an hour-long presentation.

As Alex spoke he used the computer slides to illustrate key points and places in Walt’s life. Alex began his story with Elias and Flora, Walt’s parents, and their 1888 marriage in Kismet Florida, about 50 miles north of Walt Disney World. He followed the family to Chicago where Walt was born in 1901 and showed us pictures of that house as it looked then and contrasted that with a picture of the house as it looks today.

You see, Alex Maher has made a pilgrimage . . . actually a series of pilgrimages. He has visited every significant location in the life of his hero and he took photographs everywhere he traveled. His research took him to Chicago IL, Marceline MO, Kansas City MO, Los Angeles CA and many other places. Most of those places he has visited several times, always eager to find out more and more about Walt.

Uncle Robert's garage
This is the garage behind Walt's Uncle Robert's house where Walt and Roy first operated their animation studio.


The same garage at Griffith Park
That garage is now located at Griffith Park


The stirring story Alex wove for everyone followed Walt’s life from cradle to grave; we heard of his school years, his years on the farm near Marceline, delivering newspapers in Kansas City, driving an ambulance in World War I, through to his early days of animation, partnering with brother Roy Disney and long time friend Ub Iwerks. The Alice Stories, Oswald, Mickey Mouse, animated movies, live action movies, Disneyland and Walt Disney World were mingled with stories of Walt’s family life, his triumphs and his tragedies.

Alice from the slide show

It was all illustrated with pictures from the Disney Archives and pictures Alex has taken during his frequent research trips. There were pictures of Walt’s many homes, the schools he attended, churches, animation studios, the garage where the first animation cels of Mickey Mouse were created, Main Street in Marceline, the Marceline train station which is now a museum dedicated to Walt Disney, and even the carousel at Griffith Park where Walt conceived the idea of Disneyland while sitting on a park bench watching his daughters.

Garage where the first cels of Mickey were created
Walt and Roy built identical pre-fab homes in 1927. Walt's house is shown in the upper right and the bottom picture is Walt's house as it looks today. The first animation cels featuring Mickey Mouse were created in Walt's garage in 1928, a year after the house was built.


Alex’s eyes got a bit misty a few times during the hour and his voice almost failed him a time or two; I was feeling the same way and I suspect that almost everyone else in the room was too! The depth of Alex’s reverence for Walt Disney came through loud and clear!

Alex has delivered the presentation we saw at Dayton Disneyana to people from all levels in the Disney organization; senior executives, the legal department and the Imagineers have seen the presentation in their boardrooms. Cast members from many other departments have enjoyed the show in their lunchrooms and members of the National Fantasy Fan Club have seen it at their local meetings. I’m sure glad I had the chance to experience it at Dayton Disneyana!

Let me wrap up by showing you a few more of Alex’s creations and then giving you a glimpse of what will be hitting the store shelves soon.

Prints of Alex Maher's painting of Elsa are flying off the shelves!

Elsa by Alex Maher

This one is selling well too!

Mickey by Alex Maher

After the Friday seminar someone asked Alex what his favourite creations were; he mentioned two. The first was a jumbo pin, a limited edition of 750. It shows Mickey riding on Walt’s backyard steam engine, the Lilly Belle, with Walt’s red barn in the background. The train slides back and forth on the track. Alex is proud of this one because every member of the Disney family was given one when it was released in 2007.

Walt's Train Pin

The second was his painting for the 60th Anniversary of Disneyland. Artists were asked to create a series of six paintings, one to commemorate each decade in the park’s history. Alex designed and painted the 1955 – 1964 canvas. Below is a print of that painting that he signed for Carol in Dayton.

Alex Maher signed print

He described what we can look for in the future. Most of these items will début at the D23 Expo in August and some may make it to store shelves by the time this blog is published!

Look for a large figurine of Goofy, dressed as Bert from the Mary Poppins movie in his one-man band outfit. Based on the gestures Alex made, it will be about 18” tall.

Alex designed the logo pin for the 2015 D23 Expo

D23 EXPO Logo Pin

He created these 8 pins which are part of a 16 pin Mystery Box Puzzle Series. Pin collectors buy boxes containing 2 wrapped pins and then trade pins in an attempt to get one of each of the sixteen pins.

Mystery Pin Set

Once traders have all 16, the pins combine like a jig saw puzzle to form Sleeping Beauty Castle.

D23 EXPO Mystery Pin Frame

Look for this 14” tall figure of Jingles, the carousel horse from Mary Poppins. This version will be sold at Disneyland. In Florida Jingles will have a rider, Mickey Mouse dressed as a Dapper Dan.

Jingles

This Three Caballeros figurine is 14” tall.

Three Caballeros figurine

Alex and his family took a huge risk in 1991; they packed up and left everything behind to follow his Disney dream. Today both Alex and his wife are happily employed by Disney, their 30 year-old son is a film producer in Hollywood and their 25 year-old daughter is a sketch artist at Disneyland.

Just like Walt said, “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”

September 13, 2015

From the Tickle Trunk - Audio-Animatronics

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On a recent trip into Carol’s Tickle Trunk I came across an article on Audio-Animatronics from the Summer 2003 issue of Disney Magazine. The article described how the Enchanted Tiki Room, with it’s exciting new technology, created a sensation over fifty years ago!

It all started with a dream Walt Disney had; he wanted to create a little mechanical man which could move and talk. Here’s a short excerpt from the Walt Disney Family Museum’s article by Keith Gluck on the early days of Audio-Animatronics that gives a hint how Walt’s dream may have started.

In the summer of 1949, Walt Disney took his wife Lillian and daughters Diane and Sharon on a holiday to Europe. The family visited England (and stopped by the set of Treasure Island - Disney’s first all-live-action feature), Ireland, Switzerland, and France. One afternoon in Paris, Walt ventured out on his own and did some shopping. He returned to the hotel room with two large bags filled with a variety of wind-up toys. With his family looking on, he unpackaged every one of them, wound them up, and studied them. Diane remembers that moment. “Sharon and I were very entertained by them,” she recalls, “and his manner.” But her father saw something in those toys. “It’s amazing that you can get such interesting movement from a very simple mechanism,” Walt observed. A few of those very toys can be viewed in Gallery 7 of The Walt Disney Family Museum, accompanied by a description from Diane: “Not terribly unique, but possibly the forerunners of Audio-Animatronics.”

Those simple wind-up toys must have stimulated Walt’s imagination and his determination as well because it wasn’t long before he challenged his Imagineers, Roger Broggie and Wathel Rogers, to build a nine-inch-tall figure that could move and talk. They called it “Project Little Man”. If you’ve visited the One Man’s Dream exhibit at Disney’s Hollywood Studios you probably recall the picture of a young Buddy Ebsen doing vaudeville dance routines.

Buddy Ebsen

Imagineers studied Ebsen’s motions and tried to reproduce them in that nine-inch mechanical man.

Alas, Project Little Man was shelved when a much larger project came along; Disneyland had moved from the “dream it” stage to the “do it” stage and all other projects, including that little guy moved by cams and gears, were instantly moved to the back burner!

The giant squid in the 1954 movie 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea was robotic and there were a few rudimentary automated characters in the 1955 Jungle Cruise attraction, but the real introduction of Audio-Animatronics didn’t take place until 1963.

That’s where Tim O’Day’s 2003 article in Disney Magazine picks up the story. O’Day describes how Walt called the Sherman brothers to a soundstage filled with birds, flowers and tiki poles. As they looked around everything came to life, birds singing, drums pounding and tikis chanting. Walt said it needed a story, so the Sherman’s wrote the music, still in use today, about the birds that sing and the flowers that croon.

The Enchanted Tiki Room opened to rave reviews on June 23, 1963.

The four-page Disney Magazine article is pictured below. Click on each image to see a larger version which is easier to read.

Disney Magazine Summer 2003 page 42

Disney Magazine Summer 2003 page 43

The New York World’s Fair of 1964 was not far in the future when the Tiki Room opened and plenty of corporations were clamoring for Disney to design pavilions for them and incorporate their wonderful new Audio-Animatronic technology.

Disney Magazine Summer 2003 page 44

Disney Magazine Summer 2003 page 45

Disney's team of Imagineers got busy designing and building It’s A Small World sponsored by Pepsi Cola, Ford’s Magic Skyway sponsored by the Ford Motor Company, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln sponsored by the State of Illinois and The Carousel of Progress sponsored by General Electric.

Below are two short video clips, excerpts from a May 17, 1964 episode of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World Of Color television show titled “Disneyland Goes to the World’s Fair”. Click on the red arrow to watch each video.

Once the World’s Fair was over, plunk, plunk, plunk, partial-plunk . . . the exhibits found a home at Disneyland! (The partial-plunk refers to Ford's Magic Skyway - only the dinosaurs found a home at Disneyland; they're in the Primeval World diorama you see from the railroad. The propulsion system used for the Skyway was replicated in the People Mover which opened in July 1967.)

I can only imagine the impact these phenomenal new attractions had on attendance levels when they all arrived between July 1965 and July 1967!

Of course, the Imagineers had plenty more projects in the works and Audio-Animatronics were featured in almost all of them; Pirates of the Caribbean opened in 1967, The Haunted Mansion in 1969, Country Bear Jamboree in 1972, America Sings in 1974, the Jungle Cruise got some enhanced Audio-Animatronics in 1976 . . . the list goes on and on.

Over the years the technology has changed quite a bit as well. Look back up to that magazine article. The image at the top of the fourth page shows the stack of discs which controlled movements of the figures in Pirates of the Caribbean in 1967.

Okay, keep that image in your mind and let’s “fast-forward” to 2011. Below is another short video clip, this time it’s Ursula as she was being installed in the new “The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure” attraction. Pay close attention when you see the control panel, it’s almost like the operator is playing a video game.

The latest advances in the evolution of Audio-Animatronics were displayed at the 2009 D23 Expo – Lucky the Dinosaur and Autonomatronics.

Lucky is an 8 foot tall Segnosaurus, but he’s also a very advanced Audio-Animatronics figure.

Lucky

He is not attached to an attraction. Lucky pulls a cart filled with flowers (as well as lots of electronics and a big battery pack) and follows "Chandler the Dinosaur Handler" wherever he goes! Lucky not only moves, but he talks and interacts with park guests. He has appeared in several of the Disney parks, but hasn't been seen for a number of years. I haven’t bumped into him yet, so I hope he makes a comeback!

Lucky

Autonomatronics is truly the next generation of Audio-Animatronics and naturally, the prototype is named Otto.

Otto

Members who attended that 2009 D23 Expo were astounded by Otto’s abilities. Unlike other figures who repeat the same actions over and over again, Otto can see and hear. He is full of sensors and can tell if someone is nearby; he can even tell if you’re smiling. Based on the input he gets from his sensors Otto can make choices about what to say and do.

Otto

Wow! The future is here!

Walt Disney was fond of saying, “If you can dream it, you can do it”. The Disney Imagineers just keep on dreaming and they keep on doing.

I’m sure the Imagineers who created those engineering marvels back in the 1960’s would be amazed at today’s sophisticated Audio-Animatronics figures; it makes me wonder what the future holds.

I have no idea what’s coming next but I’m pretty sure it will be amazing!

August 30, 2015

The Orange Bird

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Every time I see Carol’s collection of Orange Bird figures and memorabilia a song runs through my mind!

Carols collection

♫♪ Come to the Florida sunshine tree ♪♫
♪♫ For fresh tasting orange juice, naturally ♫♪

Does that sound familiar to you? It was sung by an Oklahoma beauty queen named Anita Bryant!

Back in the mid 1960’s Walt Disney was busy building his latest daring venture which he called the Florida Project. The Disney Company had acquired 57 square miles of land in central Florida where Walt envisioned a huge family entertainment complex. Today we know it as Walt Disney World, the most popular tourist destination in the world!

A project of that magnitude required money . . . lots and lots of money! To keep ahead of the constant demand for cash the Disney Company entered into partnerships with a number of companies and groups who “sponsored” different aspects of the project. One of those partnerships was with the Florida Citrus Commission. The Commission and the Disney Company had been partners since 1941 . . . they were licensed by Disney to use Donald Duck's name for their Orange Juice almost 75 years ago! Who doesn't remember Donald Duck orange juice . . . we probably all drank it as kids and some us may still be enjoying it!

They began sponsorship negotiations in 1967 and in October 1969 a deal was finalized! The Florida Citrus Commission (FCC) would sponsor a 3 million dollar pavilion in Adventureland that included The Tropical Serenade (now The Enchanted Tiki Room), The Sunshine Tree Terrace snack bar and the rest of The Sunshine Pavilion. The Florida Orange Bird was quickly designed by Imagineers at WED Enterprises, and a massive marketing campaign began! The little bird was simple in design and he didn’t speak. He communicated through small thought balloons!

Orange Bird Nice

Orange Bird thoughts of beach

The public face of the FCC was Anita Bryant who had been crowned Miss Oklahoma in 1958 and was second runner-up in the Miss America pageant of 1959. She enjoyed a successful singing career, with 11 of her songs reaching the top 100 in the charts, before she signed on as FCC spokeswoman in 1968.

Soon Miss Bryant and the Orange Bird were appearing everywhere!

Florida_Citrus_Pavillion.jpg

They were on billboards all over Florida, in print ads and in TV commercials. Do you remember the slogan “Breakfast without orange juice is like a day without sunshine”? That was Anita Bryant and the Orange Bird.

There was even a full length 45rpm LP written by the Sherman Brothers and narrated by Bryant. The record included an illustrated 10 page storybook that told the back story of The Orange Bird.

Record Album

From 1971 to 1975 the Florida Welcome Centers gave out orange juice samples in the Orange Bird paper cups pictured below and gave one of the tin-tab buttons to all visitors.

Welcome Center Relics

There were Orange Bird coin banks, comic books, drinking glasses, t-shirts, plates and mugs. Carol has managed to add a few of these vintage items to her collection!

Carol has two of the 1970's coin banks, pictured below with an Orange Bird whistle.

Orange Bird Banks and Whistle

Orange Bird Nutrition Adventures Comic 1980

She is quite proud of these Orange Bird china pieces from the 1970's.

Vintage Orange Bird china

The Orange Bird appeared regularly near the Sunshine Tree Terrace and posed for pictures with guests. The picture below features our son Rob with the famous bird in about 1978.

Rob_and_Orange_Bird.jpg

Alas, the partnership between Miss Bryant and the FCC began to break down in 1977. She lived in Miami at the time and took a very strong stance against gay rights. Her home city had recently adopted strong anti-discrimination legislation and she worked long, hard and successfully to overturn it. She became a very vocal and public opponent of same-sex relationships. This caused plenty of friction with the FCC and before long Miss Bryant was leading a boycott of Florida citrus products. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

As you might expect, the FCC elected to let their contract with Bryant lapse, leaving the little Orange Bird with no partner. His prominence soon began to fade and by 1987 the cheerful little critter was no longer visible in the park, on billboards or in ads.

Carol was sad to see her little friend, and all his merchandise, leave her happy place; but there is a happy ending to this tale.

Lou Mongello, author of "Walt Disney World Trivia Book: Secrets, History & Fun Facts Behind the Magic" and the host of The WDW Radio Show explained it this way in his November 2007 article for the AllEars.net weekly newsletter: “The Orange Bird made a mysterious comeback in 2004 - but not in the United States. Tokyo Disneyland began to produce its own, unique Orange Bird merchandise line around that time. Today's Orange Bird looks somewhat similar in proportion to the popular Japanese animated characters with heads disproportionately larger than their bodies. Recently, April 14 has been designated as "Orange Day," in Japan, a new holiday (promoted by Japanese and U.S. citrus growers like Sunkist). The concept is that on "Orange Day" people confirm their love with the objects of their affection by exchanging oranges or orange-colored gifts.”

Japan Orange Bird Poster

And now, at long last, he’s back at Walt Disney World too! The first signs of his triumphant return were at the EPCOT Trade Celebration in September 2011. The theme of the event was “The Florida Project”. The décor and all the pins and other merchandise created for the event revolved around classic rides and attractions that were part of those early years. The Orange Bird was very prominent at the event, he was featured on the "Early Bird" pin given to the first group of registrants.

2011 Early Bird Pin

He appeared in many of the displays!

Orange Bird Decor 2011

And on some of the other pins too!

2011 Pins

It was during the 2011 EPCOT Trade Celebration that Disney Design Artist Alex Maher drew this beautiful sketch of the Florida Orange Bird for Carol. She couldn't wait to have it matted and framed when she got home! It's one of her favourite treasures!

Alex Maher sketch

Alex designed many of the Orange Bird pins Carol now has in her collection!

Pin Collage

Pin Collage

Then in 2012 D23 announced Orange Bird's “official” return to the park. The six minute video clip below, produced by D23, gives a good summary of his history and his return to glory.

The D23 "Destination D" Attractions Rewind event held in 2014 again shone a spotlight on the Sunshine Tree Terrace and Orange Bird!

D23 Attraction Rewind

D23 Attraction Rewind

Carol is a happy Disney fan; the Orange Bird is back and his merchandise is everywhere! She’s selectively acquiring more Orange Bird treasures to display in her Disney Room!

Orange Bird Bell

A few weeks ago we attended the D23 Expo in Anaheim. She spotted this 1970's Orange Bird bell that Gary's Collectibles from Ozark Missouri were displaying; naturally it had to come home with her!

Orange Bird Hat

Now, if she could only find one of these hats . . .

August 16, 2015

Disneyland Chronicles – An Updated Timeline

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By the time this blog is published on AllEars.net Carol and I will be enjoying our 10th visit to Disneyland and attending the D23 Expo in Anaheim.

Although it seems like yesterday, it was a decade ago when we made our first trek west to visit Disneyland for the park’s Golden Anniversary. We had a ball as we joined in the fun at “The Happiest Homecoming On Earth”, the official name of the 50th Birthday celebration! Just before flying west we received the Summer 2005 issue of Disney Magazine and had a chance to read a very timely article by Jennifer Eastwood titled “The Disneyland Chronicles”.

The wonderful five-page article gives a short history of the park, a timeline of significant and unusual events in the history of the resort. It certainly whet our appetites as we read that article just before our big adventure began!

In addition to the timeline, there were recollections from some famous names you are sure to remember, Hayley Mills, Michael Reagan and Bobby Benson.

The article is included below, click on each page to see a larger copy you can read at your leisure.

Disney Magazine Summer 2005 pg 36

Here are a few of my favourite points from the article:
- The park officially opened on July 17, 1955 and only seven weeks later they welcomed their One Millionth guest – Elsa Marquez.
- In 1961 the first Disneyland Grad Nite Party was held. Teens in formal garb spent ALL NIGHT in the park.
- In 1963 the first Audio-Animatronics appeared, ♫♪ in the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room ♪♫
- In 1967 The Pirates Of The Caribbean opened.
- In 1969 hundreds of VW Beetles paraded down main Street on Love Bug Day and later in the year The Haunted Mansion opened.
- In 1979 the first baby was born at Disneyland – Teresa Salsedo was delivered on a bench behind the Plaza Inn – she later received the first birth certificate issued by Disney!

Disney Magazine Summer 2005 pg 37

Disney Magazine Summer 2005 pg 38

Disney Magazine Summer 2005 pg 40

Disney Magazine Summer 2005 pg 41

There’s plenty more good reading there; take some time to read all of Jennifer Eastwood’s article!

Now Disneyland is celebrating 60 years, it’s the Diamond Anniversary. Let’s look at what’s happened in the decade since Carol and I made that first Disneyland trip in 2005! Let's update the timeline!

Walt Disney said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”

That has proven to be very true! Let’s look at the big changes in the past ten years!

In 2008 - Toy Story Midway Mania opened - A huge resort expansion began with the 2008 opening of Toy Story Midway Mania! at Disney California Adventure park. This ride-through, interactive adventure, located on Paradise Pier, takes riders into a high-energy 4-D carnival midway hosted by “Toy Story” characters. Riders don 3-D glasses and rapid-fire their cannons as they whirl and twirl through the midway firing balls, darts, paintballs and rings at everything in sight! Toy Story has become one of our “must-do” rides, Carol and I become very competitive as we spin through the targets!

Toy Story Midway Mania

Toy Story Midway Mania

2009 - Mickey’s Fun Wheel - The next big attraction on Paradise Pier at Disney California Adventure park, Mickey’s Fun Wheel, was actually a “re-Imagineering” of the old Sun Wheel. The 160-foot-diameter eccentric wheel lost its old marquee of sun rays and added a new Mickey Mouse marquee. The gondolas, some fixed and some sliding, all bear images of Minnie, Donald, Pluto or Goofy. The attraction is surrounded by the Games of the Boardwalk, carnival-style games in a Victorian boardwalk setting.

The Sun Wheel

Mickeys Fun Wheel

2010 – “World of Color” - a night-time spectacular featuring nearly 1,200 colourful dancing fountains and animated projections on a water screen the size of a football field, began nightly performances at Disney California Adventure park.

World of Color

World of Color

2011 - Star Tours – The Adventures Continue / The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure - At Disneyland park, the original Star Tours attraction that opened in 1987 was “re-Imagineered” as Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, featuring more than 50 3-D adventures that send voyagers for the first time to Coruscant, Tatooine and other destinations in the Stars Wars galaxy. Across the esplanade at Disney California Adventure park, The Little Mermaid - Ariel’s Undersea Adventure debuted, taking guests “under the sea” to experience a classic dark ride featuring scenes and songs from The Little Mermaid film.

Star Tours

Ariel's Undersea Adventure

Ariel's Undersea Adventure

2012 - Cars Land / Buena Vista Street - One of the biggest projects in Disneyland history saw the former Timon parking lot transform into Cars Land. This 12 acre themed land at Disney California Adventure park invited guests to enter a breathtaking new world inspired by the hit Disney•Pixar film “Cars” and featured three new attractions – Radiator Springs Racers, Luigi’s Flying Tires and Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree. The addition of Buena Vista Street transformed the gateway of Disney California Adventure park into the 1920s and 1930s Los Angeles that greeted a young Walt Disney.

Cars Land

Mater's Junkyard Jamboree

Radiator Springs

2013 - Fantasy Faire / “Mickey and the Magical Map” - At Disneyland park, the royal red carpet rolled out at Fantasy Faire, a picturesque village square that welcomed guests to meet Disney’s fairy tale heroes and heroines. “Mickey and the Magical Map” a new, live stage show in the Fantasyland Theatre featuring Mickey Mouse in his timeless role as the sorcerer’s apprentice made it’s debut.

Fantasy Faire

Mickey and the Magical Map

Mickey and the Magical Map

2014 – Billy Hill & the Hillbillies / Anna & Elsa’s Royal Welcome - I’m a “glass half full” sort of guy, but I must admit that a couple of recent changes at Disneyland have left me disappointed, feeling like my glass is suddenly half empty. After 21 years entertaining Disneyland guests Billy Hill & the Hillbillies were informed in 2014 that their contract would not be renewed. Ouch! My absolute favourite Disneyland performers are now thrilling their many fans in a new location, Knott’s Berry Farm. Then the amazing Zoetrope disappeared from the Animation Academy at Disney California Adventure park. A friend who visited Disneyland earlier this year told us that the area where Carol and I would stand in absolute wonder as we watched the Toy Story Zoetrope spin has been transformed to Arendelle. Anna and Elsa, who continue to take over the entire Disney world, now meet and greet their little friends in the Animation Academy.

Gary with the Billies

The Zoetrope

While the last two changes have taken some of the magic out of Disneyland from my perspective, most of the developments of the past decade have been very positive. It seems that Walt was right; Disneyland just hasn’t stopped changing. In fact, change has been so prolific that some of the most recent changes have already undergone another change! Luigi’s Flying Tires has closed to make way for Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters which is scheduled to open in 2016.

I wonder what’s coming next?

There are rumoured to be some big announcements scheduled during the D23 Expo, so by the time you read this we may have all heard about some new Disney magic coming in the future!

August 2, 2015

Dayton Disneyana 2015

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It’s a long drive from our home in south-eastern Ontario to Dayton Ohio, 615 miles to be exact! That’s about 10 hours of driving but it was a trip we had been looking forward to for quite some time!

This was our third trek to Dayton for the annual Disneyana Show & Sale hosted by the Dayton "Plane Crazy" Chapter of the Disneyana Fan Club.

Dayton Disneyana Logo

This year's event was held in a new venue, The Holiday Inn Dayton/Fairborn, and the organizers had lined up a great list of speakers. For Carol and our son Rob, it’s all about the collectibles and the trading; for me it’s the speakers and seminars!

There’s something for everyone in Dayton!

Friday June 12, 2015
We pulled away from home at precisely 6:00 a.m. and made great time for the first couple of hours; then we hit Toronto at rush hour and slowed down! Once we were through the city, traffic moved steadily again. We crossed the Detroit River on the Ambassador Bridge and pulled up to the U.S. Border in Detroit at noon.

Ambassador Bridge

By 12:45 we had crossed the Ohio State Line; Rob and Carol needed some retail therapy so we made a brief stop at the Disney Store in Toledo. I thought they would be able to waste an hour, but they were back in only 45 minutes, hardly time for me to have a decent nap!

We arrived at the Holiday Inn just after 6:00 p.m. and by 6:30 we were unpacking in our rooms. We had agreed to meet Rob in the lobby at 6:45 to head out find a grocery store and have some fast food for dinner.

Holiday Inn Lobby

Before leaving, Rob urged us to go take a look at the big shark on display outside the ballroom! It was Bruce from Finding Nemo.

Bruce

While we were taking pictures one of the event co-chairs, Anita Schaengold, tapped me on the shoulder and invited the three of us to join them for dinner. It was a special dinner for people who had attended the seminars that afternoon. All the seminar attendees and the speakers were there! The speakers were author Bob Welbaum, Tom Tumbusch, of Tomart Publications, noted Disney historian and journalist Jim Hill and Disney Design Artist Alex Maher. We were quick to accept Anita’s kind invitation, filled our plates at the buffet and took our places at a table with families from Maine and Ohio.

Friday night dinner

We chatted over dinner, then listened as each of the speakers described a magical Disney moment from their past. At the end of the evening there were draws for door prizes.

Drawing for door prizes

Rob won a calendar from Disneyland Paris and Carol won a Pirates of the Caribbean themed Post-It Note holder. There was a prize for almost everyone there . . . I was one of three attendees who struck out. Anita didn’t want anyone to leave empty-handed so she asked Alex if he would do three quick sketches and he immediately agreed.

Alex drawing Goofy

It was the best prize I could ask for, a sketch of my favourite character, Goofy, drawn just for me by a very popular Disney artist!

Alex Maher

After dinner a lady came over and said, "Hi Gary, I'm Terri and this is my husband Dan. We're here because I read your blog after last year's event." Not only were Terri and Dan "first-timers" at Dayton Disneyana, they were volunteers as well. They manned the silent auction table most of the weekend. It was great to meet them; I'm glad they took the time to say hello.

We made our way to the car and tracked down a grocery store. It was the only opportunity we’ll have for Carol to pick up a few products we really enjoy and cannot find in our Canadian stores.

We were back to the hotel by 9:30. I settled in for the night, tired after a long day behind the wheel. Carol went down looking for pin traders but there weren’t many there yet. She made one trade and was back to the room before 11:00. We weren’t long heading to bed - Carol had to be refreshed and recharged when shopping started at 8:00 a.m. the next morning!

Saturday June 13, 2015
Morning came early! Carol and Rob had paid a very small fee to be among the 50 “Early Bird” shoppers. This gave them entry to the sales floor 90 minutes before the doors opened to the general public.

Dayton Disneyana 2015 Sign

An eager shopper

Carol thought that it started at 8:00 so they were both in line at 7:45. Unfortunately, the scheduled start was 8:30! Since the two of them were at the very front of the line, they stayed put and held their lead position.

I went into the room where the vendors were setting up and got some “pre-sale” pictures. Once again there was an amazing variety of merchandise. Naturally there were pins and Vinylmations.

Pins

Vinylmations

Merchandise

There were collector plates, mugs and ornaments.

Collectible treasures

More collectible treasures

There were figurines and dolls.

Theme Park Connection display

There were books and movie posters.

Tomart books

Movie posters

Erin and Robby from Morehouse Collectibles, pictured above, came all the way from Anaheim California! That's about 2,200 miles; I guess that makes our 615 mile drive seem like a walk in the park!

A wide variety of goodies

Vintage games

Wow, look at those vintage Disney games! I knew that Carol would enjoy browsing through all the great old collectibles!

Watches

Kitchen sinks and popcorn buckets

When the doors opened at 8:30 she and Rob were waiting anxiously.

Rob and Carol
Don't they look like hitchhiking ghosts?

They were the first through the door!

Let's get shopping!

A shopping frenzy began!

Carol is an avid collector of Disneyana and son Rob has a smaller collection, but he understands his mother’s taste very well so he acts as her eyes and ears!

Rob shops at Theme Park Connection

He has a knack for spotting things that Carol has missed! He bought a few things for his own collection and spotted several “treasures” for Carol.

A cheerful vendor

The Tuppers are retired teachers and now operate Toyland Treasures, pictured above. They drove in from Maine with a truckload of vintage Disneyana.

A happy shopper

I took a few more pictures of the crowd of early-birds and then headed to the hotel restaurant for breakfast.

After breakfast I returned to the banquet hall and picked up Carol’s first load of treasures which I hauled up to our room.

By the time I joined Carol again at 11:00 she was all finished her Disneyana shopping and proudly showed me the rest of her purchases. Her most prized acquisition was the complete Walt Disney World Christmas Village by Department 56.

Department 56 Disney Village

The set includes five buildings and a group of accessories and figurines. She has admired it at a gift shop in Salisbury Beach Massachusetts but they were asking waaay too much money for it. Today she got a bargain!

She spent the rest of the day in the Pin Trading Room.

Pin Trading

The hotel had a table set up just outside the ballroom where they sold fresh sandwiches. They were tasty and reasonably priced! When lunch time rolled around Carol enjoyed one of those sandwiches at the trading table while she carried on making pin deals.

I spent the afternoon listening to the seminar speakers; they kept me occupied from 1:00 until 4:30. The first speaker was Jim Hill, a well known journalist and Disney Historian who gave us a healthy dose of background on the New Fantasyland. Jim is a very entertaining speaker and always shares some little-known insider information.

Jim Hill

Jim concluded his presentation at about 2:15 and Disney Design Artist Alex Maher joined him on stage. Alex had spent the first part of the afternoon at an easel in the back of the seminar room where he worked on several sketches.

Alex Maher and Jim Hill

As soon as Alex joined Jim onstage they began a very interesting interview. Jim asked Alex about his background and the nature of his work with Disney. The dialogue was captivating; we heard that Alex was a Disney fan from the age of five. Long before he began to work for Disney he was a member of the Disneyana Fan Club. In fact, there was so much interesting information during that fascinating hour that I may have to write a blog about Alex Maher and his career with Disney.

Alex continued to sketch

At the end of their interview Alex returned to his easel and we watched him sketch for another few minutes while he and Jim fielded questions from the audience.

Rob took some time off from pin trading and joined me for the final speaker of the day, Disney Legend Bill Farmer, the voice of Goofy for the past 28 years.

Bill Farmer

Being a Disney Legend is a big deal, a really big deal! There aren’t very many Disney employees who have been honoured with this title, and even fewer non-employees. Bill is not a Disney employee; he and all the other voice artists are independent contractors, members of the Screen Actors Guild, who are hired on a job-by-job basis.

Have you ever heard of The Annies? The Annie Awards are the "Oscar equivalent" for the animation industry and Bill has been nominated as Best Actor three times.

Annie Award Winner

This year he won the prestigious Best Actor Award for his work on Goofy's Grandma. He performs the voices for both Goofy and Grandma! Watch the cartoon by clicking the red arrow in the image below!

Bill told us a bit about his background, how he began his long relationship with Disney, some of his fondest memories and some of his biggest blunders! As his tale unfolded he kept us all in stitches by playing short video clips and relating his life story using a variety of characters and voices. He was Goofy, Yosemite Sam, Pluto, Doc, Bullwinkle, James Cagney, Walter Brennan, Walter Cronkite, Richard Nixon . . . and many more characters. It was a wonderful session and everyone was delighted that it ran a bit overtime!

Signing autographs and pictures

When the seminars were over Rob joined me in the hall adjacent to the auditorium and before long Bill was there to sign autographs and pose for pictures. What a treat to shake hands with a real Disney Legend! We even met his wife Jennifer!

Bill Farmer's Autograph

Acting goofy with Bill Farmer

By 5:00 Carol and I were back in the room and relaxed for a short while before heading out for dinner. We had signed up for the group dinner, featuring a terrific guest speaker; it was Bill Farmer one more time! After cocktails and appetizers we enjoyed a very nice buffet dinner, then the voice of Goofy took the stage again for his sequel.

Bill Farmer

Although there was a bit of overlap with his afternoon presentation there was also a great deal of new information and insight. The new material was fascinating and even the few gags which were duplicated were hilariously funny; I laughed just as hard the second time around! It was a wonderfully entertaining evening!

Bill Farmer and Darth Goofy

The conference organizers presented Bill with a token gift, a Darth Goofy developed for the most recent Star Wars Weekend event. Bill had not yet seen one and was delighted with the gift!

After Bill's presentation there were some draws for door prizes; no wins for the Cruise family this time! I would have loved the grand prize, a large sketch of my favourite character, Goofy, drawn that afternoon by Alex Maher and signed by both Alex and Bill Farmer . . . but it went to a very good home!

Elsa

Alex did quite a few sketches during the day, including Elsa pictured above. They were all included in the following day's silent auction with the proceeds going to Ronald McDonald House.

Check to Ronald McDonald House

That part of the night wrapped up at 9:00 and I headed to the room to watch the Stanley Cup Playoff hockey game. Chicago defeated Tampa Bay 2 - 1 to take a 3 - 2 series lead! Hooray!

Carol picked up her pins and Vinylmations and struck out for some more trading.

Busy trading

Busy trading

She was back just before the game ended and we were soon off to bed. Tomorrow would be another long day; Carol would trade all day. Rob planned to spend the morning browsing the merchandise and then join me at noon for another seminar.

We planned to pull out to head home by approximately 1:30 . . . which would get us home sometime between midnight and 1:00 a.m. Ouch!

Sunday June 14, 2015
The Vendor displays in the ballroom opened at 10:00 a.m.

Still plenty of goodies on display

New arrivals were still checking in; many people come for just one day, or even for a few hours. Attendance is very reasonably priced!

Admission prices

The shopping traffic was slower Sunday morning, compared to the big rush when those 50 “early-birds” stormed in on Saturday! While Carol and Rob browsed I took time to chat with a few vendors.

Lady and the Tramp poster

Gary & Gary Collectibles come to Dayton every year. When I heard that they were from Missouri I said, “I know a couple in Blue Hills Missouri who would like that Lady & The Tramp poster.” Gary took it down and held it so I could get a good picture!

Lady and the Tramp salt and pepper shakers

His business partner Gary said, “I bet they’d like these Lady & the Tramp salt and pepper shakers too!”

“Yes. They would!” the Gary behind the camera replied!

Like many of the vendors, they have a wide variety of quality merchandise. Everything is reasonably priced, and it seems that on Sunday the vendors are more flexible in their pricing. They prefer to sell it rather than pack it up and take it home.

Bargains waiting for buyers

Gary & Gary Collectibles will have a big sales booth at the D23 Expo in Anaheim this August! Be sure to look them up!

Carol looks for deals

At noon Rob and I headed off to the auditorium to listen in on one final seminar before beginning the long drive.

Jim Hill

Jim Hill gave us some fascinating background information about Disney’s animated feature Alice In Wonderland which was released in 1951.

Jim took us back to 1934 when Walt first considered the idea of an Alice production, and the various concepts that the project went through over the years. At age 41, Mary Pickford, a co-owner of Disney’s distribution company, United Artists, really wanted to portray Alice in a live-action feature to kick-start her fading career. A screen test was completed in 1934 but middle-aged Pickford didn’t come off too well as a young girl; the project was shelved!

Along came Ginger Rogers in 1944. Another screen test and again, young Alice wasn’t portrayed particularly well by a 33 year-old dancer, but an audio recording of the Alice stories, with Ginger as the voice of Alice, did hit the market and sold well!

Jim described how Disney artists tried very hard to remain true to the original illustrations done by Sir John Tenniel for the first publication of the Alice stories in 1865.

Jim shows the original art

More original art

More original art

More original art

He described how what we now consider to be a Disney classic was panned by critics in 1951 when it was first released; it did very poorly at the box office. Jim told us how Disney worked to hard to reinvigorate the feature and make it the success we know today.

Any true Disney fan will be fascinated by the kind of background Jim Hill and his peers can provide.
I strongly urge you to attend fan gatherings like Dayton Disneyana to hear some of these fascinating stories!

There was one more seminar scheduled for 2:00 p.m. but alas, it was time for us to go!

Tinker Bell by Alex Maher

Alex was still sketching

We said our goodbyes as we watched preparations for the silent auction. We heard later that Alex Maher completed 11 large sketches and ten of them were raffled; the sketch of Goofy had been awarded as a prize Saturday night. Proceeds from the sketches were added to the other silent auction items and a little over $2,100 is now on it's way to Ronald McDonald House. Outstanding!

Chip and Dale by Alex Maher

Our friend and fellow Canadian “Disney nut” Gabe is a huge Chip & Dale fan. He was leaving the same time that we did, but he left instructions with a friend who was bidding on his behalf. Gabe is now the proud owner of the Chip and Dale sketch pictured above!

We were northbound on I-75 just after 1:30 and spent the entire afternoon dodging construction and thunderstorms. Temperatures bounced between 80º and 65° again and again as the storm cells passed.

We left the Interstate in Detroit and crossed the border into Canada at 5:45. There were still occasional showers, but traffic moved well on the Canadian freeway, Highway 401. We made a couple of stops for fuel, coffee and a bite to eat and pulled into our driveway at 11:45, tired after a long, but fun-filled weekend.

The 2015 event in Dayton was bigger and better than ever. Rob, Carol and I accounted for 2 of the more than 50 rooms that attendees occupied at the Holiday Inn that weekend. Over 500 dedicated Disney fans and collectors browsed through the merchandise which 21 vendors had displayed on 78 tables. There was an amazing variety of product to choose from; there were vintage Disney figures from the early 1930's and there were brand new popcorn buckets introduced just a week prior at Disneyland! New and old, large and small; it was a collectors paradise!

The vendors came from coast to coast and everywhere in between. I spoke with vendors who had driven to Ohio with fully loaded trucks and vans from California, Maine, Florida, Colorado, Missouri and Illinois.

Dayton Disneyana is a "must-do" event for Disney fans and collectors!
Why weren't you there?

Carol was thrilled with her 25 pin trades. The treasures she bought are pictured below, Rob's are there too!

Free gifts and draw prizes
These are all free gifts and draw prizes!

Rob's purchases
Rob's purchases.

New Disney Village
Carol's new Disney Village. It'll look great when she gets it accessorized for Christmas!

Carol's purchases
The rest of Carol's purchases.

If you are a Disneyana collector you would really enjoy this event. Even if you’re not a collector, just a Disney fan like me, you would get a lot out of the seminars and the speakers. I just love hearing the “insider information”, the historical background and of course the hints as to what might be coming to Disney next!

Event Co-chairs Pam Phillipe and Anita Schaengold together with their committee have once again done a terrific job! Dayton Disneyana just keeps getting better year after year!

As I said at the beginning of this blog, there’s something in Dayton for everyone!

Next year’s event is scheduled for the weekend of June 10 – 12, 2016 at the Holiday Inn Dayton/Fairborn.

Go to your calendar, right now, and mark your trip to Dayton on it!

The event web site will give complete details as they become available! Check the web site HERE.

Their Facebook page is HERE.

July 19, 2015

Southern Ontario Disney Fans Invade Whitby!

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June 28th was a cool, damp and dreary day in Southern Ontario.

How could we add a bit of warmth to a foul day in early summer?

Carol and I hopped in the car and drove west for two hours to join a group of Canadian Disney fans who were meeting in Whitby Ontario, a small city in the eastern suburbs of Toronto. The group came from far and wide to share their love of all things Disney!

There were 23 adults and 1 child at the first meeting of its kind in the Toronto area. Carol and I really enjoyed the opportunity to visit for a few hours with a half-dozen dear friends and to meet about 15 strangers who share our Disney affliction! It was a wonderful afternoon!

Disney Fans in Whitby Jun 2015

The true roots of the June 2015 get-together can be traced back over a decade to the very early days of Disney Pin Trading! About a dozen years ago Carol was browsing through a “Pin Trading Thread” on one of the popular Internet sites for Disney fans. She said, “Oh, look – there’s a pin trading meet in Toronto in a few weeks.”

We lived about 40 miles west of Toronto at the time and although pin trading was in its infancy, Carol was already an avid collector. We packed some pins into the car on the appointed day; filled with trepidation. This was our first “Disney event”! It was before MouseFest, before MagicMeets, before Reunion and before Carol had gone to any of the Annual EPCOT Pin Celebrations. We had some serious reservations as we drove eastward toward Toronto . . . Who would we meet? How weird would they be?

We had a terrific day! The event was held in one of the meeting rooms at a North York branch of the Toronto Public Library. The crowd was small, but everyone was friendly and we all shared a common interest, our love of all things Disney. Even though I have no interest in pin trading, there was plenty of chatter about many other aspects of our Disney experiences.

Those trading meets carried on for over a year, and we attended every month or two. The group varied, sometimes including a couple of ladies from Buffalo New York. Those dedicated traders crossed an international border then drove about 110 miles to spend a few hours trading pins! That’s dedication!

Alas, over time the crowd diminished. Soon there was just a small core of regulars, Gabe – the chief organizer, Susan, Allison, Carrie, Bob, Juanita, Carol and I. If you’ve read Carol’s blogs about the annual EPCOT Pin Celebrations, you know this group as “The Canadian Connection”.

2010 EPCOT Trade Celebration

2013 EPCOT Trade Celebration

We decided to eliminate the cost of renting a meeting room and began meeting at one of our homes. The trading meets have carried on for a dozen years now; but very little trading takes place any more. Our get-togethers are all about sharing our most recent Disney experiences, and enjoying the good friendships we have developed in the past decade.

About a year ago Gabe said, “Why don’t we try to reach out to other Disney fans in the area?” Everyone agreed to give it a try, so Gabe got to work! The tough part was finding a place to meet. He wanted something close to the freeway, easily accessible and very economical, preferably free! He made stop after stop before he finally found just what he was looking for! A local Denny’s Restaurant had a big area off to one side of the dining room that they only open during peak periods. We were welcome to use it between 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon.

Broadcasting news of the meet was much easier now than it was back in 2002 or 2003 when we first met. Social media makes it easy to reach out to our fellow fans. Gabe posted an announcement about his meet on a Facebook page titled “You May Be A Canadian Disney Addict If . . .” and the chatter began!

On the appointed day our group of “old-timers” who have been meeting for over ten years met at Denny’s for lunch at 12:30 and kept an eye on the door as the fans, most clad in Disney t-shirts, started to arrive! Before we had finished our lunch a half-dozen strangers wearing Disney inspired fashions were standing around our table. It was as though everyone was in uniform; there were Mickey shirts, Goofy shirts, Disney Cruise Line shirts and a variety of Disney purses. It wasn’t hard to pick out the newbies as they arrived!

Disney Fans in Whitby Jun 2015

They came from far and wide, Eva & Tarek from Brampton, Ann & Robert from Markham, Terence & Sarah from Markham, Ann & Don from Courtice, Dean and Charissa from Jordan Station, Cheryl from Uxbridge, Katie from Port Perry and Collette, it was a pleasure to meet all of you!

Carol and I drove the longest distance, about 135 miles, but our dedication pales in comparison to Dean and Charissa who drove about 110 miles from Jordan Station, near Niagara Falls. Our drive was all on the freeway with no big cities; we cruised at 75 miles per hour. Dean and Charissa drove through about 60 miles of congested traffic as they came directly through the heart of Metropolitan Toronto. Believe me, Toronto traffic can be nasty; worse than New York City, worse than Los Angeles! They win the award for determination and grit!

So what happens at a Disney Fan Meet? Well, you never know for sure what to expect, but at this one there was lots of chatter, some pin trading, some Sorcerers of that Magic Kingdom card trading and lots of information sharing!

Disney Fans chat about pin trading Jun 2015

Comments overheard included:

• “We’re thinking about going to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party for the fist time. Is it worth it?”
• “We’ll be going to the EPCOT Food & Wine Festival in October; any tips for us?”
• “I’m just getting started in pin trading. Do you have any advice?”

There were lots of experienced Disney fans and pin traders there to answer all the questions raised. It was fun to simply stand back and watch it all happen!

What a terrific way to keep the “Disney magic” alive between trips to that happy place we all share!

Terence and Sarah were married just a few weeks ago and will be honeymooning aboard the Disney Dream in September. Many of us are veteran Disney cruisers so we had plenty of tips to help them enjoy the cruise.

Some of us scoured nooks, crannies and closets to find some Disney trinkets which we donated as door prizes. There was a prize for everyone, and enough booty left over to cover our next meet in November!

The draw brought out some moments of Disney magic right there in Whitby!

Katie and Cheryl

Katie was thrilled with her snow globe, Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas. Cheryl can’t wait to fill up her new Pirates of the Caribbean themed post-it note holder/desk organizer and find a special place for it on her desk at home!

Terence and Sarah

Terence and Sarah were thrilled with the set of Walt Disney World prints that Carol found at the bottom of her Tickle Trunk! Do you see the sparkle in their eyes? That’s Disney magic! They were planning to frame those prints and hang them as soon as they got home!

The crowd had begun to thin as folks left to head home when Carol said, “Are you about ready to go?” I was shocked when I looked at my watch! It was 5:45 . . . where had the last two hours gone! Time really does fly when you’re having fun!

We plan to get together again, at the same Denny’s Restaurant from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday November 22nd. If you live within driving distance of Whitby please come on out and join in the fun!

If our little group is too far away, why not organize your own Disney Fan meet! It’s as easy as finding a place to meet and then publicizing it on one of the many social media sites!

That Facebook page I mentioned earlier is already buzzing with discussion about similar get-togethers in London Ontario and Vancouver British Columbia.

Why don’t you make some Disney magic happen in your home town? Get busy and organize something magical . . . just like Gabe did!

July 5, 2015

Disney Collector Plates

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About a year ago Carol said, “I need more room, build me a plate rail.”

The walls in her Disney Room were filled with Disney art and memorabilia and adding new items was becoming a challenge. Her collector plates were hanging in several clusters on the walls and she desperately needed to free up space for some new treasures!

Knowles Collector Plates

I quickly replied “Your wish is my command fair Princess!”

Actually, there was a bit of procrastination and a lot of nagging involved but eventually I got to work building two plate rails in the Disney Room. There are three overhead bulkheads which enclose the steel I-beams spanning the room. They were just the right height to display plates!

Carol claims that she never really wanted to collect plates; she bought her first few out of desperation. It all started back in the early 1990’s . . . Carol was an avid Disney fan and since she is a natural-born collector she craved Disney items. Alas, flying to Walt Disney World every year or two didn’t give her much opportunity to feed her addiction; she couldn’t bring home anything large or fragile!

There were no Disney Stores in the our area at the time; our Canadian department stores had little or no Disney merchandise and online shopping was still decades away. How could she possibly appease that monster within that drove her to collect?

Then one fateful day a mailer from The Knowles China Company arrived. Yes, Disney Collector Plates, the “Disney Treasured Moments” series.

Knowles Plate

There were eight in the series, from different animated features, and she faithfully bought one each month. She didn’t want to collect plates, but what alternative did she have? As each of them arrived it was lovingly added to her display!

The plates were limited in number; no more than 150 firing days. Each plate was individually numbered and came with a Certificate of Authenticity. Naturally Carol still has the original boxes and those ever-so-important certificates!

That series sold very well for the Knowles Company so naturally they followed it with another series, then another . . .

Carol was actually quite selective, after getting the complete set for that first series she only picked out “special” ones from the many offerings that followed.

In less than a decade Carol’s collection of Disneyana had grown to the point that we decided to move it all into one area of our Burlington Ontario home. Our “Disney Room” was born! Those original Knowles plates found a place of honour, hanging beside Carol’s crafting table in a corner of the Disney Room.

Eight Original Plates

By 2006 we had both retired and moved to our new retirement home in Kingston. It wasn’t long before I was busy finishing the basement, creating a new Disney Room. The eight Knowles plates were once again able to hang near the crafting table.

Eight Original Plates

Of course, since we were retired we started taking more frequent trips to our “Happy Place” and most times we were travelling in the motor home. There was no limit to what she could bring home! Big or small, we could fit it all in!

So it was inevitable that she would fill up the available space! It’s actually surprising that it took eight years to happen!

I started with two plate rails, one 11 feet long, the other 17 feet. She moved the plates from the walls and had plenty of room left over for new additions. The 11 foot rail was only half full! “That’s great,” she said, “That’s all the space I’ll ever need.”

Those two plate rails are shown in the picture below.

Plate Rails

She began looking for a few plates to fill up the empty space. Flea markets, garage sales and thrift stores filled the need!

Dayton Disneyana 2014 Plates

She found plates to match the Christmas tree ornaments she picked up years ago!

Plate Collage

Plates commemorating events she had attended . . .

Plate Collage

Plenty of new plates . . . plates for all occasions . . .

Plate Collage

Then came the dreaded words, “I need another plate rail.”

“Yes my Princess!” Sigh!

As I was listing the materials I needed to buy at the lumber store she added, “Could you make two rails and make one of them wide enough to hold glasses and mugs?”

“Anything for you my Princess!” Sigh!

The finished product looks great though, even the mugs and glasses display quite well.

Mug Collage

Mug Collage

The buying continued; several plates came home from Dayton each time we went to the annual Disneyana sale there. Now she has 11 feet of mug rail – FULL - and 39 feet of plate rail – FULL.

Just a few weeks ago we came back from our third trip to Dayton Disneyana and three more plates came home with us! There's no room on the rail for them!

Dayton Disneyana 2015 Plates

I think I know what’s coming in the near future!

Yes, there is room for another 17 foot rail!

I think it’ll be going up soon!

June 21, 2015

Fishing at Walt Disney World

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Go Fishin

Last October Carol and I were on our way from Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground to the Magic Kingdom. As we stood on the dock at the Marina waiting for the boat we were able to watch the joy a young boy experienced as he caught his first fish. Wow! He was grinning from ear to ear and his eyes were sparkling; his grandfather, standing behind the boy, was beaming too! That bass was the first of several fish he landed in the few minutes that we waited on the dock.

Fishin at the Fort

They hadn't even sailed away from the slip where the 21-foot Tracker pontoon boats moor; the Disney guide simply backed the boat up, about 20 feet, and they fished between the boat slip and the marina dock. The guide baited the hook and then demonstrated how to cast the line. After several practice casts the happy young angler was able to consistently drop his line in the shadow of the dock, where the guide had told him the fish like to hide.

The Fort Wilderness Marina Dock

I think the folks on the dock were having almost as much fun as the boy and his grandfather. Everyone was cheering him on!

It took me back to fond memories of my childhood; I grew up in a small town on the north shore of Lake Erie. Boating and fishing were a big part of our family life and those few minutes on the Fort Wilderness dock took me back decades to happy times catching yellow perch, often pulling in two at a time, on the reef about 5 miles offshore.

Disney Fishing

It's not unusual to see people fishing in Bay Lake near Fort Wilderness, but it was a rare treat to be so close to the action. We could watch and listen as the guide worked with that boy and helped him land his first catch! It was another illustration of Disney Magic!

Here's how the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel described fishing at Walt Disney World in a September 9, 2010 article:

Lake Buena Vista - Bass guide Dave Osani offers these words of caution to those who fish the lakes at Walt Disney World for the first time:

"Warning," Osani said with a laugh. "May be habit-forming."

Osani, who has guided at Disney for 15 years, knows what he's talking about. He's seen novice anglers - men, women, boys and girls - get hooked on fishing and had experienced anglers become speechless after catching more bass and bigger bass than they'd ever caught before.

Then there were the sisters, one a veteran saltwater angler from Miami and the other from Polk County. In a four-hour trip with Osani last year, they caught 20 fish on lures.

They asked Osani if he was available to fish the following day and he guided them to 30 bass in four hours.

They came back the next day with two other members of their group. Osani guided the four anglers to 64 fish in two hours. The quartet came back the next day and caught 49 fish in two hours with Osani, including a big bass of 6 pounds, 15 ounces.

Outings like that make fishing at Disney a magical experience, both for the anglers who fish there and for guides like Osani.

"It's not always great, but a bad day here is better than a good day at most places," Osani said. "It's not uncommon to catch 40 fish in two hours."

An article in the Spring 2003 Issue of Disney Magazine provides a bit of interesting background.
Disney Magazine Spring 2003 page 41

Click on the image below to see a larger version.
Disney Magazine Spring 2003 page 40

A guest comment in 2004 gives this perspective!
Disney Magazine Spring 2004 page 15

Disney offers two fishing options, the Guided Fishing Excursions described above, and Dockside Fishing.

Here is the sign listing current pricing at the Fort Wilderness Marina. Click on the image to see a larger, easier to read copy.

Fort Wilderness Marina Fishing Prices

The fishing excursions are a bit more than some vacation budgets can accommodate but dockside fishing provides some lower-cost options. At either Port Orleans Riverside or Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground you can rent a fishing pole, grab some bait and wet a line! If you bring your own poles, just buy some bait, the fishing is free!

At the Riverside resort the Fishin' Hole at Ol' Man Island is stocked with catfish, blue gill and bass. Click on the picture of the sign below to see current prices.

Riverside Fishin Hole

At Fort Wilderness you can fish along the side of any of the streams and canals that criss-cross the property or on the shore of Bay Lake or any of the ponds. You will find bluegill, gar, catfish, crappie and bass.

Shore Fishing

There is no fishing allowed from roads, bridges or docks, with the exception of a special "fishing dock" located behind the Meadow Trading Post. The fishing dock is pictured below.

Fishing dock at the Meadow

Bud M. from Cumming Georgia is pictured below holding the 5 1/2 pound bass he caught behind the Meadow Trading Post on June 3, 2015.

Bass at Meadow Trading Post

Just a few minutes later his daughter Ally landed a 3 pound bass.

Ally's Bass at Meadow Trading Post

Daughter Katie's bass was smallest, but still much better than no bass at all! Nice work Katie!

Katie's Bass

The fish were all landed using worms Bud bought at the Bike Barn. Looks like it's no coincidence that the large-mouth bass is the Official Fish of the Peach State! Thanks for sharing your pictures Bud & Sonya!

Read more about fishing, and find current prices on the official Disney site HERE or on AllEars.net HERE.

All fishing at Walt Disney World is "catch and release" so be sure to take pictures of your trophies before you let them go!

Bay Lake Bass

So, the next time you're at Walt Disney World and you decide you need some quiet time, a bit of a break from the hectic pace at the theme parks . . . why not go fishin'?

Goofy About Fishin

Head on over to Fort Wilderness or Port Orleans Riverside, grab a pole and spend a few hours pretending to be Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer . . . or maybe Ally or Katie M. from Cumming Georgia!

Doesn't that sound relaxing?

PS - Special thanks to my friend and fellow Fort Wilderness camper, Al Boeck, who endured some unusually hot weather in May to take many of the photos you see in this blog.

June 7, 2015

Trip Planning – More Important Than Ever

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Carol and I have been to Walt Disney World so many times that we no longer feel compelled to rush around and try to do it all! We take our time, we savour the experience! Over the years we've picked up some "insider knowledge" from other Disney addicts and we've learned a bit through our own mistakes. Our friends often ask us for advice before they visit our happy place.

What do we tell them? Plan ahead!

Experts in real estate will tell you that the three most important factors in assessing a property are Location, Location, Location. The three most important steps to ensure an enjoyable Disney vacation are Planning, Planning, Planning!

We often sit and chuckle after we check in for dinner at some of the nicer Walt Disney World restaurants. As we wait to be seated there is an endless stream of exasperated guests who hope to find a table service restaurant with available seating at the last minute. Many guests don't understand that the most popular Disney restaurants are fully booked months in advance!

A long time friend of Carol's asked her, "I want to take my niece to Disney and I think we'll go at Christmas. Any suggestions?" Carol was quick to reply, "Don't even think about going at Christmas, it will be too crowded."

Crowded Christmas

"How crowded?" the friend asked? "Imagine the entire population of Toronto trying to fit into your local Legion Hall." They didn't go at Christmas!

There was a wonderful article on planning in the Disney Magazine about a decade ago, in Spring 2004. It was written by Kim Wright Wiley who was a Contributing Editor at Disney Magazine and continues to author many books about Disney vacation planning. The article looks at planning primarily for those who've never been to Walt Disney World, then adds a second section for Disney veterans and a final chapter for Disneyland.

Disney Magazine Spring 2004 page 30

Disney Magazine Spring 2004 page 31

Disney Magazine Spring 2004 page 32

Disney Magazine Spring 2004 page 33

I've included scans of the 2004 article above and below. Click on the images to see a larger version which is easier to read. There's some very good information there!

Disney Magazine Spring 2004 page 34

Disney Magazine Spring 2004 page 35

Disney Magazine Spring 2004 page 36

Disney Magazine Spring 2004 page 85

So what has changed in the intervening decade? It has only been 11 years, but technology has changed the booking and reservation process in a very big way. You no longer have to use a telephone; it can all be done on your computer, tablet or smart phone using the My Disney Experience system. You had better study up on a few new concepts such as Disney's Magical Express, MagicBands and FastPass+ which did not exist in 2004 when the article was written!

New Technology

Is planning still important? Yes, it's still important to plan, in fact, it's more vital than ever before.

The parks are busier now than they were just a decade ago. Since that article appeared Disney has opened Saratoga Springs Resort (2004), Animal Kingdom Villas (2007), Bay Lake Tower (2009), Art of Animation Resort (2012), The Villas at Grand Floridian (2013) and the Polynesian Villas (2015). These resorts add up to almost 5,000 new guest rooms and suites. While the hotel capacity grew there were no significant expansions to the theme parks; the result is longer lines and busier parks.

The low seasons are nowhere near as low as they used to be! There could be 10,000 to 20,000 people in those new guest rooms and some of them might be standing in front of you as you wait to ride Peter Pan's Flight or buy a hot dog at Casey's!

Many of the booking "windows" have changed as well. For example, you can now book your Disney hotel room up to 499 days from your departure. Our friend (and AllEars.net Photo Blogger) Scott Thomas has developed a handy tool to help you calculate those oh-so-important dates. You can find Scott's online Planning Strategy Calculator HERE.

Planning Strategy Calculator

Magical Gatherings have changed too. They're now called Disney Group Getaways. If your group will occupy 10 or more rooms in a Disney resort you might qualify for some special treatment! Look for details HERE.

If you're looking for a place to get up-to-date information to help you formulate your plans, look no further than the AllEars.net planning page HERE. It's updated regularly with the latest information available . . . and it's free!

AllEars Newsletter Logo

If you haven't already subscribed to the AllEars.net Weekly Newsletter, you should subscribe now. It is delivered FREE each week to more than 140,000 subscribers who share an interest in all things Disney. The newsletter is a great information source. There's always a feature article and there are often valuable tips from other AllEars.net readers. Subscribe HERE.

There are a number of other resources available to help in your planning. Check your local book store or search on Amazon for planning guides by Disney Vacation experts such as Birnbaum, PassPorter, The Unofficial Guide and many others. Find the Amazon link HERE.

Do I have any planning tips for you?
Nope, I don't . . . Carol does all of the planning for us. BUT I do have a few suggestions for you:
• Don’t plan every minute of every day. Leave some “down-time”, time to kick back and relax or time to do something spontaneous.
• At the end of your vacation think back to the thing you enjoyed most, then go do it again. Savour the experience a second time!
Act silly! Wear a funny hat, dance in the rain, sing as though no one can hear you. That’s what Walt Disney wanted you to do!
• If you’re a frequent Walt Disney World visitor, try to do something new and different each trip. Take an archery lesson, a backstage tour, go fishing or take a romantic moonlit ride in a horse-drawn carriage. There’s an almost endless list of things to do there!

The time you spend planning will ensure that you and your family fully enjoy your Disney vacation; it's an investment that really does pay huge dividends!

May 24, 2015

Disney Craft Projects

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I don't really consider myself to be "crafty" but over the years I have created a few interesting Disney items for our home. I've built several Mickey Lamp Posts; they're about 6' tall. One lights up our patio at home and the others travel in our motor home to add a Disney touch to our campsites wherever we go!

Mickey Lamp Post

The lamps get decorated for special occasions!
Halloween Mickey Lamp Post

Rope lights shaped like Mickey decorate our home for Christmas and Halloween.
Mickey Rope Light

Carol's collection of Antenna Toppers is displayed on wooden racks I have whipped up in my little workshop.
Antenna Topper Racks

Many campers at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground have "Musket Mickey" signs like this one. They are all hand crafted by Warren T. from South Carolina.
Fort Wilderness Sign

Not long ago I was browsing a Facebook page created especially for Canadian Disney fans. The official motto is: A place where everything Disney meets the Great White North.

As I scrolled down through the posts a unique picture caught my eye.
Framed Key To The World Cards

Valerie W. from Belleville Ontario wrote, "So I couldn't figure out what to do with some of the cards I have and decided to make this. When we go again in January I will take the white piece with me and have Characters sign it."

She took the family's Key To The World Cards, attached them to a coloured background, added a white matte and framed them. What a great idea! Character autographs on the matte will be the finishing touch; this piece of home-made art will remind Valerie and her family of their wonderful Disney trip for many years to come.

Valerie's creativity sparked my interest and I began to wonder what other craft ideas were out there. A simple internet search turned up plenty!

Here are samples of just a few.
Halloween Decorations
Disney themed Halloween decorations.

Halloween Stencils
Disney stencils for your Jack-O'Lanterns.

Halloween Treats
Disney Halloween treats.

Instructions for the items in the three images above can be found on the Disney.com site HERE.

Here's a cute Disney Savings Jar from mommity.com. You or your children can use it to save for your next Disney adventure.
Savings Jar
Instructions are HERE.

Have you collected Pressed Pennies from all the Disney Parks? Why not make them into a charm bracelet?
Pressed Penny Bracelet
Find out how at whatido.com HERE.

We all enjoy counting down the days until our next Disney vacation. Here's a project from myfavefinds.com which lets the entire family follow the countdown.
Disney Trip Countdown
See how it's made HERE.

If none of these spark your interest, why not try your own Internet search. Just enter "Disney craft project" in your search engine then scan through the images until you see a project that appeals to you. There are thousands of great ideas out there!

How "Crafty" are you? Have you created any Disney crafts you'd like to share with AllEars.net readers?

May 10, 2015

Happy 60th Birthday Disneyland

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Although it was 11 years ago, it seems like yesterday when Carol I started to make plans for our "once-in-a-lifetime" trip to Disneyland. We were as excited as little children as we contemplated the trip!

You see, we are both part of the generation that saw Disneyland take shape before our eyes! Back in the mid 1950's we lived several hundred miles apart and we wouldn't meet for almost two decades, but each of us was hooked on Disney even back then! I rushed home from school each day to watch the Mickey Mouse Club.

Mickey Mouse Club Poster

Jimmie Dodd and the Mouseketeers kept me entertained with skits and song & dance routines; there were cartoons and serial adventures like The Hardy Boys and Spin and Marty.

Mickey_Mouse_Club_Mouseketeers.jpg

Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeers

Television was in its infancy and Walt Disney quickly proved that he understood the power of this new medium. He used it very effectively to sell his latest and most daring venture - Disneyland. Every Sunday evening Carol and I were both glued to the old black and white TV set watching snowy images of Walt Disney himself as he hosted the hour-long Disneyland program.

Disneyland TV Show Logo

That version of the weekly television show ran from 1954 to 1958 and along with serial adventures such as Davy Crockett and classic Disney animated features like Alice in Wonderland, the show often gave us brief glimpses of the exotic adventures awaiting at Disneyland, in Adventureland - Fantasyland - Frontierland - Tomorrowland and Main Street USA. It was the first of its kind, the original theme park.

Alas, Disneyland was so far away! It was over 2,300 miles as the crow flies. Interstate Highways were not yet built and the most expedient course was along Route 66, a drive of more than 3,000 miles from our homes in Canada. The world seemed so much larger and so inaccessible in those days!

An issue of The Disney News published in the summer of 1990, when the park was 35 years old, described the world of 1955, when Disneyland opened. The two-page article makes interesting reading. Inflation in 1955 was under 1% (.3%), unemployment was 4% and the minimum wage was $1.00. Times were good and the economy was booming! Names in the news included a controversial new singer - Elvis Presley, a young actor - James Dean and in December 1955 the civil rights movement got a spark from newsmaker Rosa Parks. Television programs included Roy Rogers, Davy Crockett, I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, Gunsmoke and Dragnet. Ann Landers wrote her first newspaper column that year.

The article is shown below, click on the images to see larger, readable versions of the pages.

Disney News Summer 1990 pg 34

Disney News Summer 1990 pg 35

Now let's jump ahead 49 years to early 2004; the world had shrunk considerably. Carol and I had been to Walt Disney World many times and now we were beginning to plan a trip to the granddaddy of all theme parks. It was so exciting! The trip that was beyond our wildest dreams as children was now going to be a reality.

Then the Disney Magazine arrived in the summer of 2004, describing the celebrations planned for the park's 50th birthday. It was billed as "The Happiest Homecoming on Earth". It sounded too good to miss! Read about it below.

Disney Magazine Summer 2004 pg 19

It was actually painful when we decided to wait a year and go west in 2005 to witness the 50th Anniversary festivities! But we finally made the trip in May; we checked in at The Disneyland Hotel and enjoyed a glorious week walking in Walt's footsteps. We enjoyed it so much that our once-in-a-lifetime trip has become more of an annual tradition. We've been back eight more times in the nine years since that first trip.

60 Years Diamond Anniversary Celebration

And now the park is poised to celebrate its 60th birthday. Gosh, isn't it funny how that can make us feel very old and very young at the same time. We feel old when we think that six decades have gone by since we first dreamed of a trip to Disneyland . . . but we feel like a kids again when we consider that we might soon get back there!

Over the past few months we've been talking quite seriously about heading west for the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration, the 60th Anniversary celebrations which kick off on May 22, 2015. Will we go? We're undecided at the moment. But it sure sounds good!

There will be a new "Paint the Night" Parade.

Paint The Night Parade

And a new "Disneyland Forever" Fireworks Show.

Disneyland Forever Fireworks

Disneyland Forever Fireworks

And a brand new "World of Color - Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney" will light up the skies every night at the Disney's California Adventure.

Read more about all the new entertainment here.

Watch a video below which gives a "sneak peek" of the new attractions.

They are making some very interesting changes to Sleeping Beauty Castle as well. It should be breathtaking! Listen carefully during the video below to hear the new word the Imagineers have coined for the occasion. They're going to "diamondize" the castle.

Fellow AllEars blogger Laura Gilbreath attended a special Media Preview at Disneyland on April 14th and had a "sneak peak" at new entertainment, new merchandise and new food items to be offered as part of the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration. Use the links below to read Laura's blogs which include many more "insider" pictures and details. Some of the special merchandise she previewed looks spectacular!

Disneyland Diamond Anniversary Preview - Part 1

Disneyland Diamond Anniversary Preview - Part 2

There has been nothing mentioned about how long the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration will last, but the Happiest Homecoming lasted through two summers. If this celebration does the same, Carol and I just might be able to get there to enjoy it!

In the meantime, Happy 60th Birthday Disneyland!

April 26, 2015

From the Tickle Trunk - Disney Comic Books

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Let's dip into the Tickle Trunk again and take a look at some old Disney comic books.

1979 January Mickey Mouse Comic

All of them date from the late 1970's and early 1980's when Rob was at exactly the right age for comic books. I think Rob probably outgrew them, but his mother didn't! I wonder if he knows that she hid them all away in the bottom of that old Tickle Trunk?

Comic Collage

Comic Collage

Many of the Disney characters are represented, Mickey, Goofy, Donald Duck, Scrooge McDuck, Chip and Dale. There are even a few lesser known stars like Gyro Gearloose.

Comic Collage

Comic Collage

There was a terrific article about Disney comic books in the Summer 2003 issue of Disney Magazine and it's full of some very interesting facts. I've included scans of that article below, click on the images to see a larger, more readable version of each page.

Disney Magazine Summer 2003 pg 50

Disney Magazine Summer 2003 pg 51

One of the most astounding facts, in my opinion, is how popular Mickey Mouse became in a very short period of time. I'm sure we're all familiar with the story of Walt Disney and his early character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Walt didn't own the rights to Oswald, Charles Mintz did. When the two men had a falling out in the spring of 1928 Walt was left with no character.

It sounds like an injustice, but if it hadn't happened that way Walt may have never dreamed up his most significant creation! Enter Mickey Mouse, who made his first public appearance in Steamboat Willie which debuted in New York City on November 18, 1928.

Disney Magazine Summer 2003 pg 52

Disney Magazine Summer 2003 pg 53

The first Mickey Mouse comic appeared January 13, 1931 in daily newspapers as a syndicated comic strip. Only two years later, in 1933, Mickey Mouse Magazine was born. It was initially given away free at movie theatres and department stores but it must have been a huge hit, because by 1935 it had been reborn as a monthly "paid" magazine and by the end of that year it had a circulation of over 130,000. Think of that . . . Mickey was only seven years old!

The magazine was translated and foreign editions were published in many countries around the world. Mickey really was an overnight success!

Disney Magazine Summer 2003 pg 54

Disney Magazine Summer 2003 pg 55

The first Disney comic book, Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, was launched in 1940 and within two years boasted a circulation of over 1,000,000 copies per month. The world's favourite mouse was barely a teenager at the time!

Volume 1 Issue 1

Most of the comics in those early years began with a 10-page story, drawn by Carl Barks, starring Donald Duck and ended with a story starring Mickey.

By the mid 1950's Mickey had a very popular daily television show, a theme park and the best selling comic book in America. Walt Disney's Comics and Stories was selling over three million copies each month.

Walt Disney Comics and Stories No 516

Like all comics of that age, the back page featured advertisements urging young readers to sell greeting cards and select fabulous rewards from a catalogue! Another ad urged kids to buy plenty of Kellogg's cereal and enter a "stick-up for breakfast" contest to win a stone-age video game. How about those sea-monkeys? Did you ever own a bowl full of happiness?

Comic Collage Ads

Unfortunately, Disney comic book sales went into decline in the late 1970's and on into the 1980's. Many of the titles disappeared from the shelf altogether. On a recent visit to a huge bookstore and a specialty store catering to comic book collectors I could find no trace of a new Disney comic book.

In the mid 1950's they were selling over three million copies a month and just 60 years later they have gone the way of the dinosaurs!

But there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel; Time Magazine published an announcement January 22, 2015 that IDW Publishing will begin reprinting translated versions of classic Disney comics that were originally published in foreign languages overseas. The first to be reprinted will be Uncle Scrooge No. 1, expected to be in stores in April 2015, followed by reprints of titles Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Walt Disney Comics and Stories which should arrive in stores before July.

Uncle Scrooge No 1

Guess who has registered at our local comic book store to reserve a copy of the new Uncle Scrooge No. 1 . . . Carol just has to have one to add to the Tickle Trunk!

April 12, 2015

Mousecars and Ducksters

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Until about six months ago I had no idea that the most coveted awards handed out by Walt Disney were small statues of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. "Mousecars" and "Ducksters"

Last October Carol and I had the good fortunate to be at Walt Disney World in October when the final D23 Fanniversary session was held there, at the Atlantic Dance Hall. Although she has been a D23 member for several years, this was our first event. Our hosts, Billy from Burbank CA and Kevin from Syracuse NY, shared plenty of pictures and "insider" information during their two-hour presentation.

D23 Fanniversary

They talked about the many Disney anniversaries happening during the year, starting with four attractions from the 1964 New York World's Fair (Carousel of Progress, Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln, It's A Small World and The Magic Skyway) and worked their way through to the most recent events, such as the previous day's announcement that the big Sorcerer's Hat would be leaving Disney's Hollywood Studios.

D23 Fanniversary

They used slide shows, music and video to illustrate the "insider" stories they told us, and we were shown some video clips that have never before been publicly aired. There were some funny bloopers by Walt Disney as he recorded segments for the Disneyland Show in the late 1950's and a very touching interview with Julie Andrews when she described working with Walt on the Mary Poppins movie.

For me, the highlight of the day was the Duckster they brought with them. Billy donned white cotton gloves and carefully cradled the rare artefact while we took pictures of it.

A Duckster

This small statuette of Donald Duck was presented by Walt and the Disney Corporation to those who gave exemplary service. It must have been a true honor to be awarded a Duckster!

The other award, the original, is the Mousecar. The name, as you have probably figured out, is a play-on-words, a combination of the words Mouse and Oscar. The first Mousecar was presented in 1947 by Walt Disney to his brother Roy.

Bernie Cobb's Mousecar

Here's how Disney Historian and Archivist Dave Smith explained it in the Summer 2004 Issue of Disney Magazine.

Disney Magazine Summer 2004

As Dave said, there are no accurate records of how many Mousecars have been awarded and who received them, but here is a list I was able to compile with a quick internet search. I cannot guarantee its accuracy!

Mousecar recipients: Louis Armstrong, Bernie Cobb, Marc Davis, Roy P. Disney, Amanda Fogelberg, Kathie Lee Gifford, Manuel Gonzales, Floyd Gottfredson, Dick Huemer, Lucille Ogle, Dean Palacios, Zack Schaja, The Sherman Brothers, Riley Thomson and Elmo Williams.

Here is a picture of Dick Huemer as he proudly received his Mousecar.

Dick Huemer Mousecar

Very few Disney "outsiders" have ever received a Mousecar, but here's an example that dates back to the mid 1960's when Walt awarded one of the prestigious statuettes to Louis Armstrong. As you read the details in the article from the Summer 2001 Issue of Disney Magazine below, pay close attention to the picture of Walt and "Satchmo". Is Mickey holding a trumpet?

Click on the image of the article to see a larger version that's easier to read.

Disney News Summer 2001

Sadly, a few of these historic relics have found their way to auction houses; in 2005 Riley Thomson's Mousecar was auctioned for $5,358.

The Duckster was designed a few years after the Mousecar and, as near as anyone can tell, Walt Disney first awarded it in 1952, to Martha Torge.

Mouscar and Duckster

Once again, records are sketchy but it seems that recipients of the Duckster included: Carl Barks, Marvin Goldfarb, Susan Henning, Bob Karp, Clarence Nash, Jennifer Sleeper, Al Taliaferro, Martha Torge and Max Westebbe.

How appropriate that Carl Barks and Clarence Nash were awarded Ducksters! Carl Barks wrote and drew nearly five hundred "Duck Stories" for Disney Comic Books and Clarence Nash was the voice of Donald Duck for over 50 years! Do you suppose Walt had them in mind when he designed the second statuette?

Susan Henning's Duckster was engraved "Best Unseen Performance by an Actress". Susan acted in The Parent Trap where she performed as a body double for Hayley Mills. Susan's face never appeared on screen, hence the reference to "unseen".

1963 Disney Awards

There is no indication that Walt Disney ever received a Mousecar or Duckster but in the photo below, from about 1965, he has one of each proudly displayed on his desk.

Walts Desk Items

Do you suppose a dedicated Disney fan and occasional blogger like me could ever earn one of these wonderful awards?

You're right, it's highly unlikely . . . but in September 2009 a Duckster was awarded at the D23 Expo to contest winner Jennifer Sleeper, a Financial Analyst, who created the official portrait of Donald Duck for his 75th birthday.

I won't give up hope!

March 29, 2015

From the Tickle Trunk - Disney Postcards

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Look what I found in the Tickle Trunk! Some Disney postcards!

Postcard Scans

Postcard Scans

Gather round children while I tell you a story from olden times!

Back in the mists of ancient history, before the internet, before camera phones, before Twitter and Facebook, people sent postcards! Quaint but true!

Life was hard back in days of yore; vacationers at Walt Disney World who wanted to send home a picture that said, "I'm here and I'm having fun!" had a much more difficult time doing it! They couldn't just snap the picture and upload it!

They had to buy a postcard, buy a stamp, lick and stick the stamp (there were no peel & stick stamps back when dinosaurs roamed the earth), write a message then address the card (with a pen) and drop it in a mailbox. Often times the vacationers were already back home before the postcard arrived.

WDW Post Card Back

Instant messaging with attached pictures was pure science fiction a mere 15 years ago!

Postcard Scans

Photography was a very expensive hobby and good cameras were complicated to operate. Most people who wanted a quality picture of Cinderella Castle found it easier and cheaper to buy a postcard to put in their photo album!

Cinderella Castle

Postcards were big business, they were sold everywhere! Naturally Disney had plenty for sale and over the years some found their way home with Carol and I!

Liberty Belle

1983 Golf Resort
The Golf Resort - 1983

20000 Leagues Submarine

Country Bears

There were cards for every occasion. Each resort, each theme park and even many of the attractions in the parks were depicted in cards.

Contemporary Resort

Big Thunder

1988 Big Bertha

Naturally the Disney characters were included!

Goofy Mickey and Pluto

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Postcards are also a way to add a different perspective to your photo album or scrapbook. If you want an aerial picture, a "bird's-eye view" of the Magic Kingdom or a Disney resort, it's much more economical to buy a postcard than to charter a plane!

Polynesian Resort from the air

There were packets containing a number of themed postcards. When you detached the perforated postcard the stub which remained in the booklet showed a smaller version of the postcard image.

Frontierland Postcard Booklet

Main Street Postcard Booklet

Pirates Postcard Booklet


There is a wonderful series of "Art of Disney" postcards. These are copies of famous Disney works of art, printed on embossed paper.

Mickey and Minnie Fishing

Tinker Bell

They're so pretty you just want to frame them . . . in fact, Carol has framed some!

Framed Postcards

So many of the cards are bright, colorful and frivolous that I'm surprised Carol hasn't collected more of them . . . but she never really caught the deltiology bug! Yes, that's the word coined to describe postcard collecting, if you have more than a few dozen of them you are a deltiologist!

According to Wikipedia, "Worldwide, deltiology is the third largest collecting hobby after stamp collecting and coin/banknote collecting."

That explains a lot . . . these days it is extremely easy to shoot a picture and upload it, so hardly anyone sends postcards any more.

Yet the stores still have racks and racks of them! They must be for the scrapbookers and the deltiologists!

One of those postcard collectors is our very own Deb Wills, AllEars Founder & Webmaster. You can see a few cards from Deb's collection in a 2011 blog. Click HERE.

Celebrating 40

Another avid collector is Brian Martsolf. Brian wrote a very detailed article about Disney postcards for the AllEars.net newsletter about a decade ago. You can read it HERE.

Brian recently told me, "The role of postcards, as Disney World vacation souvenirs, has changed over the years. Digital photography has made quality imagery easy for everyone and as a result the simple, but very professionally taken photo postcards of things around WDW are becoming harder to find. Disney is now focusing more of their postcard production on "specialty" cards of various types. Today postcards come in many forms; there are die cut postcards, cut into the shape of the artwork on the cards, some shaped like Disney characters. There are lenticular postcards with images that change depending on which angle you hold them at, some of these give the illusion of movement, in other examples the effect is used more to give extra depth to the image. There are sticker postcards, and magnet postcards and accordion-style packages of cards."

"The internet is great for collectors of WDW postcards; if you visit EBay, you will probably find any postcard you are looking for, and you can even get some good deals there on occasion. But if you want to get a better price per card check out other postcard sale sites on the web, such as Playle.com, CardCow.com, or one of any number of sites out there. Also don't forget to check out any listings for postcard shows and sales that might come to your area of the country. This is really where you can get the best bargains. A substantial part of the secondary market portion of my collection has come from just a few visits to postcard shows."

I asked Brian to tell me about a few of his favorite postcards from the extensive collection he owns. Brian said, "Getting down to three favorites is hard so instead I'll give my three favorites from just the pre-opening series of WDW postcards." The three cards are pictured below, captioned with Brian's comments about them.

South Pacific Resort
"The un-built version of the Polynesian Village Resort"

Osceola
"The pre-opening art of the side-wheeler "Osceola". It was the inspiration for the Southern Seas, and Ports-O-Call side-wheeler steam ships which sailed Disney waters. I never got the chance to ride them before their retirement"

Preview Center

Preview Center
"The Preview Center promotional postcard (front and back shown above) is one of the rarest of WDW postcards, and is definitely the rarest of the pre-opening cards. A nice tribute was paid to this card during the "Florida Project" pin event in 2011. I bought one of those very cool (and very large) tribute pins!"

Brian has an extensive web site with pictures of his collection and a detailed history of WDW postcards, be sure to take a look at it HERE.

Do you have a collection of Disney postcards?

If you are like most avid Disney fans you are sure to have a few postcards tucked away somewhere!

March 15, 2015

Disney Fun Around the Country

Gary Cruise banner

Several times each year Carol and I attend Disney-related events which do not take place in the theme parks. For us it's an easy way to keep the magic alive without making that long trek south! It's always fun sharing good times with people who also suffer from our Disney affliction!

Over the last few years I have written several blogs describing some of the Disney collectible or trading events we have enjoyed. In almost every case there has been a recurring theme in the comments people make after reading the blogs.

- "I wish I had known about this, I live very close by."

- "I would love to know when this is next year!"

- "That sounds like so much fun; I'd love to go some time."

So if you're looking to spend some happy times with fellow Disney fans, here is a list of a few of those "non-theme park events" coming up in 2015. These can help you put the maximum "Disney magic" in your life!

1. Trade 'til You Fade - May 15-17, 2015 - Somerset New Jersey
This weekend-long event, organized annually by Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders, is a fun-filled experience for those who collect and trade Disney pins and Vinylmations.

CJDPT Logo

CJDPT Meeting Room

CJDPT Name That Toon

There are games, raffles and even an optional gift exchange which can be hilarious! Full details are available on the Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders web site here: CJDPT

Read an AllEars.net blog about the 2012 event here: Trade 'til You Fade 2012

2. Dayton Disneyana - June 13 - 14, 2015 - Dayton Ohio
Another weekend long event, however this one caters to Disneyana collectors. The Dayton "Plane Crazy" Chapter of the Disneyana Fan Club do a wonderful job organizing this annual bonanza for Disneyana collectors.

Plane Crazy Logo

A hotel ballroom is chock-full of vendor's tables overflowing with high quality collectibles. This is not a flea market, these are real Disneyana collectors selling quality product.

Dayton Collectibles

Dayton Collectibles

There are always a few interesting speakers who pass on some interesting tidbits of Disney history and gossip.

Dayton Speakers

Tables line the halls outside the ballroom for pin and Vinylmation traders.

Dayton Pin Trading

Full details are available on the chapter's web site: Dayton Disneyana

Read about previous events in these AllEars.net blogs:
Dayton Disneyana 2013
Dayton Disneyana 2014

3. Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet - July 11, 2015 - Lynnwood Washington
Carol and I have not attended this annual event held near Seattle; it's a long way from where we live! But we have heard very good reviews from friends who have been there.

Pacific Northwest Logo

There are always some top-notch speakers and interesting activities.

PNW Speaker Tony Baxter

PNW Photo Spot

PNW Dole Whip

You can read an AllEars.net blog about the 2014 event here: Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet 2014

The 2015 meet will be held at the Lynnwood Convention center in Lynnwood, Washington on Saturday, July 11, 2015. Speakers have not yet been finalized; keep an eye on their web site to confirm further details: Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet

4. Swap 'til You Drop - October 9-11, 2015 - Somerset New Jersey
Another weekend-long event, organized annually by Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders.

CJDPT Logo

The format for this event is very similar to the Trade 'til You Fade event held each spring.
Refer to their web site here: CJDPT

So . . . if you're feeling blue because you can't get to one of the Disney parks . . . why don't you plan to attend one of these locally organized fan events!

Disney fans always make a fun-loving group; imagine how easy it is to make new friends when you are surrounded by kindred spirits.

Maybe Carol and I will see you there!

March 1, 2015

Hockey "Disney-Style" . . . The Mighty Ducks

Gary Cruise banner

Like most boys growing up in Canada in the 1950's and 60's my world revolved around hockey. There wasn't much else to do in the tiny Ontario fishing village I called home. I played peewee hockey and my entire family followed the exploits of our local men's Intermediate B team, the Port Dover Sailors. The Sailors were a powerhouse in their league and won the provincial championship several times during my youth.

1962 Port Dover Sailors

Of course, the pinnacle of the hockey world was the National Hockey League. There were six teams, the Montréal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Black Hawks, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers. There were only about 130 professional players and every Canadian boy knew each players name, their positions and their stats! The highlight of the hockey year was always the NHL's Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Stanley Cup

The Stanley Cup is the most prestigious award in hockey. Its rich history goes back to March 17, 1893 when Canada's Governor-General, Lord Stanley of Preston, first awarded it to an amateur team, The Montréal Hockey Club. Another Montréal team, the NHL's Montréal Canadiens has won the cup 24 times, my childhood favourite the Detroit Red Wings have won 11 times and the Toronto Maple Leafs have won 13 times.

If someone had told me years ago that a hockey team from Southern California would someday win the Stanley Cup I wouldn't have believed it. I would probably have said, "A baseball team from Canada will win back to back World Series Championships before a California team wins Lord Stanley's Mug!"

Strange as it may sound, that's exactly how it happened! The Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series in 1992 and then won again in 1993. The Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007.

Let's take a closer look at the Anaheim Ducks and their Disney connection!

Yes, baseball fans know that the Walt Disney Company owned the Anaheim Angels MLB team from 1996 to 2003, but to a Canadian hockey fan that fact isn't nearly as interesting as the story of the Mighty Ducks!

Before it was a real hockey team, The Mighty Ducks was a peewee team in a Disney movie, set in Minnesota and filmed in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area between January 22 and April 11, 1992.

The Mighty Ducks movie

Emilio Estevez played Gordon Bombay, a lawyer and former hockey player who was convicted of drunk driving and sentenced to community service. That's how Bombay wound up coaching the District 5 peewee hockey team.

The Mighty Ducks poster

The kids never scored and never won . . . the new coach's task looked hopeless!

The Mighty Ducks poster

Of course it was a Disney movie so naturally the kids slowly improved. They renamed themselves "The Mighty Ducks" and the movie ended with a penalty shot goal which clinched their championship win.

The Mighty Ducks bench

It premiered September 20, 1992 in Westwood, California and was panned by critics. Roger Ebert gave it 2 stars and said: "It must be said that this movie is sweet and innocent, and that at a certain level it might appeal to younger kids. I doubt if its ambitions reach much beyond that."

Despite the poor reception from the critics, the movie did very well at the box office. Production costs were $10 million and the movie grossed over $50 million.

There were two sequels.

The Mighty Ducks 2


The Mighty Ducks 3

There was even a televised cartoon series!

The Mighty Ducks cartoon

The biggest thing spawned by the movie was a new National Hockey League team. In December 1992 The Walt Disney Company paid $50 million to acquire one of two new expansion franchises. The Mighty Ducks went to Anaheim and the Florida Panthers went to Miami.

Mighty Ducks of Anaheim Logo

Disney quickly pulled together a management and coaching team to guide the fledgling Ducks. They drafted well in the expansion draft held in Quebec City June 4, 1993.

Mighty Ducks of Anaheim Logo

The Winter 1993 issue of The Magic Years Magazine gives a bit background for the new team. Click on the magazine pages below to see larger versions of the scanned images.

Magic Years Page 40

Magic Years Page 41

1993 Game Schedule

The Duck's first season opened October 8, 1993 at home, in the newly built arena, aptly named "The Pond". After a 20 minute pre-game show, reported to cost $450,000, the puck was dropped for the first time at The Pond! The Mighty Ducks lost 7 - 2 to the Detroit Red Wings. Just a few days later on October 13th they recorded their first victory, a 4 - 3 win over the Edmonton Oilers. That first year they went on to set a league record - they recorded 33 wins, 46 losses and 5 ties. No expansion team had ever notched 33 wins in their first season, but in 1993/94 both The Mighty Ducks and the Florida Panthers did.

1994 Mighty Ducks Team Photo


The Ducks sold out 27 of 41 home games that year, including each of the last 25 games. They sold 98.9% of The Pond's seats that first season and they could not keep up with the demand for Ducks merchandise. All the Disney Parks and all Disney Stores were displaying Mighty Ducks hats, shirts, toy hockey sticks, pucks and jerseys. Mighty Ducks merchandise outsold any other NHL team in 1993/94.

Ducks jerseys

The Ducks finished 4th in the Pacific Division and did not make the playoffs that first season, but by 1996/97 they had improved. Their 36 - 33 - 13 record put them in the playoffs. They beat the Phoenix Coyotes 4 games to 3 in the first round and then in the second round fell in 4 straight games to the Detroit Red Wings.

Management traded and drafted wisely over the years. The list of Mighty Ducks players and alumni contains some very well known hockey names, Teemu Selanne, Paul Kariya, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf along with Hall of Famers Jari Kurri, Adam Oates and Scott Niedermayer are a few that come to mind!

The Ducks made the playoffs again in 1998/99 and 2002/03 before the Disney era ended. In 2005 Disney sold the team to Broadcom co-founder Henry Samueli for a reported $75 million.

The word Mighty was dropped from the team name and they became The Anaheim Ducks. They had a 43 - 27 - 12 season in 2005/06 and went all the way to the Stanley Cup semi-final series which they lost to the Edmonton Oilers.

Then in 2006/07 they won it all.

2007 Stanley Cup

2007 Stanley Cup

On June 6, 2007 a 6 - 2 win over the Ottawa Senators sealed the Anaheim Ducks Stanley Cup victory.

2007 Stanley Cup winners

2007 Stanley Cup Ring

They won the final series very convincingly, 4 games to 1, and proved that big-league hockey really does belong in Southern California!

When this blog was published The Ducks were in third place in the 30-team National Hockey League. Only four points separated them from the Montréal Canadiens and the first place Nashville Predators. Could another Stanley Cup be in sight?



February 15, 2015

It All Started With . . . Storyboards

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Recently, while I was reading The Revised Vault of Walt written by noted Disney historian (and AllEars.net Feature Writer) Jim Korkis, I ran across an interesting quote. Walt Disney was writing of memories from his school days and commented, "It was always my inclination to think in pictures rather than words." My mind started to play with the concept of thinking in pictures; it was intriguing.

I soon concluded that it was quite natural that Walt began by thinking in pictures when he was working on a project. You see, Walt started out as an animator, an artist. That's probably how he always thought of himself, not as an innovator, not as a businessman, but as a cartoonist.

Walt was involved, in a very hands-on way, in every project undertaken during his lifetime and he always followed the same process; he started with storyboards.

Here's how Disney Archive Director Dave Smith replied to a question about storyboards in the Summer 2001 edition of Disney Magazine.

Disney Magazine Summer 2001

There you have it, confirmed by Disney Historian and Archivist Dave Smith, the storyboard process was first developed at Walt Disney Studios in the early 1930's.

An early Storyboard

When Walt and his animators were working on a project, the first step was to outline the story, the plot. They made sketches of the various scenes in the story and hung them, in order, around the walls. A storyboard began to take shape! Those sketches became the storyboard!

Walt and a Storyboard

Soon each scene would be "fleshed out" - every scene would have a storyboard of its own. Only after the storyboard was complete in every way and the animators all understood the project very clearly, did they begin drawing the artwork which would be used in the animation.

Walt and a Storyboard

Lady and the Tramp Storyboard

Even today, in the age of Computer Generated Animation, the story is fully developed using storyboards before anything goes into production.

Disney Magazine Fall 2002 pg 49

Disney Magazine Fall 2002 pg 51

In the early 1950's Walt Disney began a daring project which changed the entertainment and vacation world forever. He designed and built Disneyland - and he thought in pictures while he did it!

Disneyland Concept Art

Walt and Disneyland Map

Here's how the Imagineers describe it in The Imagineering Guide to the Magic Kingdom:
"Walt was our first Imagineer, but as soon as he began developing the early ideas for Disneyland, he started recruiting others to help him realize his dream. He snapped up several of his most trusted and versatile animators and art directors to apply the skills of filmmaking to the three-dimensional world. They approached this task much the same as they would a film project. They wrote stories, drew storyboards, created inspirational art, assigned the production tasks to the various film-based disciplines, and built the whole thing from scratch. Disneyland is essentially a movie that allows you to walk right in and join in the fun. As Imagineer par excellence John Hench was fond of saying in response to recent trends, "Virtual reality is nothing new... we've been doing that for more than fifty years!"

Walt and Disneyland Model

1953 Disneyland Map

Disneyland Sketch


Disneyland was the first of its kind! It was an overnight success - and now, 60 years later it still sets the standard other theme park operators aspire to achieve.

Of course there are now many more Disney theme parks around the world, and there are even some pretty good imitators! But we all know that Disney parks are special. They are in a class by themselves!

EPCOT Storyboard 1964

If you ask what makes Disney parks different you will get scores of responses like, cleanliness, quality, themeing, attention to detail, consistency, family focus, etc., etc.

I think that the process Disney Imagineers use to design the parks plays a huge role in making their theme parks both unique and superior. I think that the quality, consistency, attention to detail and all those other unique attributes can be tied back to the use of storyboards.

WED Enterprises 1964

First the Imagineers designed the story; then they designed the park!

Let's all close our eyes and imagine we are standing in the background at that first meeting in the early 1950's. Walt called his most imaginative people, his Imagineers, together and outlined his ideas for a place where parents and children could have fun together. Walt had plenty of ideas but the Imagineers soon added their own creative touches and before you could say "Rivers of America" there were sketches on the walls, Sleeping Beauty Castle, Main Street USA, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Frontierland and Adventureland. The storyboard was taking shape!

Another Storyboard

One of the Imagineers, maybe it was Walt, suggested a train station, "Let's have the entry, the main gate, pass through the train station. Guests will not see Main Street until they come out of the station and have left the real world behind."

Disneyland Train Station

Disneyland Entry Sign

Wouldn't it have been fun to be a spectator at that first meeting, over 60 years ago?

Soon the storyboards for each of the original "lands" were created, followed by a sketch for each individual building.

Let's pause and look at how these storyboards helped create the themeing, consistency and quality Disney is famous for. Let's jump ahead in time and look at Liberty Square in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

Liberty Square was designed to reflect Colonial America at the time of the Revolutionary War. The construction style displayed in the building façades is exactly what you would have seen in that era - for example, look closely at the shutters on the windows, they have sagged. Iron was hard to find and very expensive in Colonial times so window shutters were supported by leather hinges which stretched over time. A very realistic touch!

Crooked shutters

The subtle music which you hear in the background at Liberty Square is appropriate to the late 1700's and is played using instruments which would have been common at the time. No synthesizers and no electrical amplification were used in the production of that sound track!

The Liberty Bell on display was cast from the same mold used to create the original bell in Philadelphia, and the circle of thirteen flags surrounding the bell represents the original thirteen colonies.

All of these touches were defined in the storyboard.

Part of the Disney storyboard process requires that each building or attraction must also have a "back-story" or history. Every aspect of the interior and exterior of the attraction has to be consistent with this fabricated history. Naturally, in Liberty Square this means it must be true to the Colonial era. A prime example of this is Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe.

Christmas Shop

If you look closely at the exterior of the Christmas Store you can see aspects of the "back-story". It appears to have originally been three separate colonial style buildings or storefronts, a perfume shop, a silversmith and an antique shop. Over the years the original shops changed hands and later housed a music teacher's shop, a wood carver's shop and the third became the home of a German family, the Kepples (named for Walt's grandfather Kepple Disney). Next time you visit Liberty Square take a few minutes to wander through Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe. Look for the musical instruments, tools and wooden toys left by those former occupants! All of this richly detailed themeing sprang from the Imagineers and those original storyboards.

Christmas Shop Tools

The same level of detail applies to Main Street USA. The Emporium is one huge store comprising almost the entire two blocks on the west side of the street, yet from the exterior it looks like a number of different storefronts. Have you noticed that the inside of the building changes the same way the outside does?

Here's an experiment you can try. Next time you visit the Magic Kingdom walk along the sidewalk on the west side of Main Street. When you come to a door into The Emporium pause for a moment and look at the exterior façade of the building. Now step inside and examine the décor. See how it matches the storefront? Walk a bit further down the sidewalk and that exterior façade will change. Look in the next door; the décor inside has changed to match the new storefront outside.

Do you realize what just happened as you walked down Main Street? That's right; you just walked through a storyboard.

Let's hop over to another park, Disney's Hollywood Studios, for another example. This one is a little more obvious because the storyboards are still on the walls at this one. I'm talking about "One Man's Dream" which follows the story of Walt's remarkable life.

One Man's Dream

Take your time as you read all the fascinating information the exhibit contains. Those thrill rides will still be there when you finish; there's no need to rush through this gripping story of Walt Disney and his dream!

When you get to the end of the exhibits, before you enter the theatre, pause for a few seconds and look back down the hall . . . yes, it's true - you just walked through another storyboard.

Next time you visit a Disney park, do yourself a favor. Slow down! Take time to look at your surroundings from a different perspective.

When my inner-child looks around at a Disney park he sees mystery, excitement, magic and adventure. When I pause to let my inner-adult have a look, he notices something totally different. My adult eyes take in the many little details which create that immersive experience Disney is famous for.

Let your inner-adult look around now and then, you will see storyboards, and their influence, everywhere you look!

February 1, 2015

A Swamp Buggy Tour With A Disney Twist

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Several months ago I wrote a blog about the Disney Wilderness Preserve and I told you that I would follow up with a blog about our "Butterflies by Swamp Buggy Tour" there. Well, we had a wonderful time on the tour and here's the blog I promised!

Welcome Sign

Before I describe the tour, I'd like to give a little bit more background on the history of this amazing property, which can trace its origin back to the Clean Water Act originally passed in 1972. Section 404 of that Federal Statute deals with "compensatory mitigation". What that means in simple terms is that any activity which negatively impacts wetlands, streams or other aquatic resources must be offset by compensating mitigation activities (restoration, enhancement, establishment or preservation of resources) in another area.

In 1992 The Disney Corporation was still actively developing the vast Walt Disney World property and much of this development had exactly the sort of "negative impact" referred to above. They were draining and filling wetlands in order to build hotels, parks, shopping areas, etc. The Clean Water Act stipulated that they had to create, preserve or enhance an equal area of wetlands on another part of their property. At the same time they heard about the Walker Ranch, a nearby 8,500 acre tract which was being rezoned for urban development. This huge former wetland area at the headwaters of the Everglades had been ditched and drained many years ago. After extensive logging the property was used as a cattle ranch for several decades before the threat of development arose; the proposal was to convert this sensitive wildlife habitat to residential neighborhoods and golf courses.

Wildlife habitat

More wildlife habitat

Disney purchased the property, turned ownership over to The Nature Conservancy, then worked with the new owner to restore the wetlands. Drainage ditches were filled in, wetlands were restored and wildlife has returned. There is now 47% more water on the property than there was in 1992. The Nature Conservancy describes the Disney Wilderness Preserve as "wildly successful".

These two brochures explain it much better than I can. Click on each of the four images below to see a larger, readable version.

Nature Conservancy Brochure Page 1

Nature Conservancy Brochure Page 2

Nature Conservancy Brochure Page 1

Nature Conservancy Brochure Page 2

Disney scored a very interesting "first" with their preserve. It was the first "off-site" mitigation ever done - the restoration was on property Disney did not own. They restored a huge area of wetlands, enough to offset future development on the Walt Disney World property. Once Disney had set this precedent other companies, including Orlando International Airport and Universal Studios followed suit; they added other parcels of land to the property. The preserve is now almost 12,000 acres or 19 square miles.

OK, that's enough background, lets climb aboard our swamp buggy and I'll let the pictures tell most of the story.

Carol and I, along with our friend and fellow Fort Wilderness camper Al from Missouri, were on the road just after 8:00 a.m. We were excited to participate in this once a year event, part of NatureFest, organized by VisitCentralFlorida.org. They only accept 15 registrants due to the seating capacity of the swamp buggy. It was a glorious, sunny Thursday morning as the three of us drove in the mile-and-a-half long lane from Old Pleasant Hill Road to the Disney Wilderness Preserve's main office and Welcome Centre.

Conservation Learning Center

Conservation_Learning_Center

Butterfly Garden

Butterfly Garden

By 9:00 a.m. we were registered and had met our hosts for the day, the Preserve's Operations Manager Petra Royston and lepidopterists (butterfly experts) Tom Palmer and Sue Farnsworth.

Lepidopterist Tom Palmer

We spent a half hour in the Conservation Learning Centre where Tom gave us an audio-visual prevue of what we would be seeing during the day, then off we went to board our chariot . . . our really big chariot!

Our Swamp_Buggy

Florida Sand Cranes
A pair of Florida Sand Cranes were on hand to see us off!

Petra was our guide and driver; as she drove she gave us a history of the preserve and pointed out plants, trees and points of interest.

Backing away to start our tour

Tom stood at the front of the buggy watching out for butterflies while Sue covered the rear.

Tom watching for butterfiles

We stopped a few times, disembarked and explored the grounds, capturing pictures of the many butterfly species which call the area home. We all had spotting guides to help us identify what we were seeing, but there was no time to look at a list when we were in hot pursuit! Thankfully Sue and Tom were always close at hand to tell us what we were looking at!

Looking for butterfiles

Looking for butterfiles

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Fritillary
Fritillary

Fritillary
Fritillary

After a few miles we came to a sign directing us to Lake Russell; we walked the last few hundred yards to the scenic shoreline.

Lake Russell Sign

Walking to Lake Russell

Lake Russell is unique in several ways! There is no development on the shore of the lake. It is pristine, that's a rare thing in Florida. It is part of the headwaters of the Everglades and is fed by Reedy Creek. Yes, that's the same Reedy Creek which runs through Walt Disney World about 15 miles to the north!

At Lake Russell

Lake Russell

Lake Russell

After spending a few minutes enjoying the natural beauty of the lake we returned to the swamp buggy and continued our journey, stopping often to walk around and snap more pictures.

Petra and Tom watching

Stopped along the Highway

Stopped along the Highway

Ceraunus Blue
A Ceraunus Blue - this butterfly is the size of the fingernail on your pinkie finger.

Soldier
A Soldier

As we made our way south toward Lake Hatchineha our guide Petra explained how the drainage ditches were quickly filled in to restore the wetlands. She described how controlled fire is used in a three-year cycle to stimulate the growth of the longleaf pine forest. This variety of pine remains very small for about 6 years, resembling a tuft of grass while it develops a deep taproot. During this phase its tender bud is protected from the typically low and fast-moving fire by its long needles. Once the taproot is established the tree shoots up 6 feet or more in just a couple of years and is beyond the harmful reach of those fires.

Young longleaf pines

Our adventure took us almost seven miles south to a guest cabin near the shore of Lake Hatchineha where we stopped for lunch. Carol had packed a few sandwiches for us and we enjoyed them on the veranda of the cabin which normally houses visiting scientists and students.

The Guest Cabin

A big Spider
This big guy watched from a nearby tree while we ate lunch!

Spanish Moss

We passed several scientific monitoring stations during our travels.

University of Central Florida research station
A University of Central Florida research station.

NEON research station
This is a National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) station.

According to the NEON web site it is "measuring the physical and chemical properties of atmosphere-related processes, such as humidity, wind, ozone and reactive nitrogen. They also measure net ecosystem exchange or the amount of gas that is exchanged between the atmosphere and the ecosystem".

It's quite an achievement; property that was perilously close to becoming another vast tract of urban sprawl is now a centre for ecological research and training. The Disney Wilderness Preserve is a living laboratory for conservation science!

Our return trip took us past some "snag oaks" - dead oak trees.

Snag oaks

Oaks do not normally grow in wetlands, but once this property was drained they flourished in some areas. These dead oaks are a very clear sign that the wetland restoration efforts are a complete success.

Wetlands

Wetlands

The Disney Wilderness Preserve is home to 26 species of plants and 19 animals that are either rare, threatened or endangered. Petra explained the elaborate efforts that were required when they transported red-cockaded woodpeckers from north Florida and Georgia to the site. The species is on the brink of extinction and the Nature Conservancy is working hard to establish a thriving community at the preserve. Read about their efforts HERE.

We saw two red-cockaded woodpeckers off in the distance, too far away to get any pictures. Fortunately, we did get a closer look at another endangered species on our way back to our starting point. Just before our tour ended we spotted a few Florida Scrub Jays. This bird lives only in Florida and nests in scrub brush, usually only 3 to 6 feet above the ground. Extensive development in the central Florida area had reduced the bird's natural habitat to the point where the population was depleted and the species was at significant risk. Since the Disney Wilderness Preserve was established and the wetlands were restored, the scrub oak has returned and the Florida Scrub Jay is making a resurgence.

Florida Scrub Jay

Florida Scrub Jay

Seeing these beautiful birds was a wonderful way to end our day at the Disney Wilderness Preserve!

The Walt Disney Company continues to fund a number of projects and activities at the Disney Wilderness Preserve. They are committed to conservation! As I said in my last blog, it makes me proud to be a Disney fan!

If you are looking for a very different sort of "Disney experience" why not plan a trip to the Disney Wilderness Preserve. While the swamp buggy tour only happens once a year, there are hiking trails and picnic areas you can enjoy anytime.

Trail Guide

Click on the images above and below to see larger versions.

Trail Guide Map

Here's how to get there: From I-4 take Exit 58 onto Osceola-Polk County Line Road, Route 532 Eastbound. Turn left onto South Orange Blossom Trail (Hwy17-92), toward Poinciana/Kissimmee. Turn right on Poinciana Boulevard and continue approximately 13 miles. Turn right onto Pleasant Hill Road. Turn left onto Old Pleasant Hill Road, Drive approximately ½ mile and turn left onto the Preserve's Scrub Jay Trail.

Carol and I hope you take the time to visit the Disney Wilderness Preserve and that you enjoy it as much as we did!

January 18, 2015

From the Tickle Trunk - Disney Clubs

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Are you a member of D23? To the best of my knowledge, it is the only "official" fan club, organized by Disney, in operation today.

But D23 has had several ancestors over the years . . . and those old clubs are what I'll describe briefly in this blog. I'll be using plenty of scanned images from some of the old brochures, newsletters and magazines Carol has safely stashed away in her Tickle Trunk!

Naturally when someone mentions Disney clubs the first thing which comes to mind is the Mickey Mouse Club.

I was one of those kids, way-way-way back in the mid-1950's, who rushed home from school every afternoon to watch Jimmie Dodd and the Mousketeers sing and dance their way through challenges and adventures. But that was not really a club; you could not become a member!

But you could subscribe to the magazine!

Mickey Mouse Club Magazine

There was a real "membership club" in that era, the Magic Kingdom Club, founded in 1957 as a marketing tool for Disneyland.

Magic_Kingdom_Club_Membership_Card

It was almost like a loyalty program, offered to employee groups from large companies in southern California. Unfortunately, it wasn't too beneficial for young children like Carol and I, living an entire nation away, about 2,400 miles north-east of Disneyland!

Magic Kingdom Club Membership Voucher

It was a very novel approach to marketing in the 1950's - employers could offer a no-cost benefit to employees and those lucky employees received membership cards which gave some attractive discounts at Disneyland!

What sort of discounts? There were discounts on Disney park tickets and Disney annual passports, discounted rooms at Disney resorts, discounts on parking, members even received a bag full of goodies like bumper stickers, key chains, decals and sometimes even a few Disney Dollars! Sorry Ralphie . . . no secret decoder!

Magic Kingdom Club Buttons

There were quarterly newsletters (Disney News) which kept members up-to-date on new Disney movies, changes in the park and changes to the club's benefits!

Disney News Fall 1989

Disney News Fall 1992

Disney News Fall 1993

Disney News Summer 1990

As the Disney parks grew, so did the club! It expanded nationally in 1971 when Walt Disney World opened and then went "international" as other parks were established around the world.

Soon there were exciting new benefits, including discounts with "non-Disney" partners such as airlines, cruise lines and car rental companies. There were even special vacation packages for individuals, families and groups.

There was a Gold Card membership which was fee-based. Those who were not employees of one of the member companies could buy a Magic Kingdom Club Gold Card.

Magic Kingdom Club Ad Fall 1989
(click on the picture above to see a clearer image you can read)

It has been reported that the club, at its peak, had over 30,000 member companies and more than six million card-carrying members. Wow!

In early 1986 Disney established the Magic Years Club just for seniors, 50 years of age and over. Click on the picture below to read how the Lakeland Ledger described this new club in their February 24, 1986 edition.

Magic Years News Article

Carol's mother, Sybil, joined Disney's Magic Years Club in 1989 and the newsletters shown below are from her collection (now safely stored in Carol's Tickle Trunk).

Magic Years Membership Form

Magic Years Membership Guide

Magic Years Magazine Spring 1990

Magic Years Magazine Winter 1993

Magic Years Coupon Book

Magic Years Bumper Sticker

Some time before 1993 the minimum age for membership was increased from 50 to 60, but the benefits remained the same.

Magic Years Ad Fall 1993

On October 14, 2000 the Magic Kingdom Club and the Magic Years Club morphed into The Disney Club. Each of the former clubs had been offered free of charge to most members, but the new Disney Club required all members to pay dues.

Disney Magazine Summer 2001

Carol was a card-carrying member of the Magic Kingdom Club in 2000 when the transition took place and she decided that all was not lost; the discounts were still more than enough to offset the annual dues of $39.95!

Membership Card

Here is listing of some Disney Club discounts from 2002. Click the image to see a larger version.

2002 Disney Club brochure pg 14-15

The Disney Club also sent out quarterly magazines!

Disney Club News Issue 11

Disney Club News Issue 14

Disney Club News Issue 15

The magazines and newsletters were packed full of interesting announcements and articles. I will probably write a few future blogs based on some of those old articles!

Click on the image below to read the cover of the November 2001 newsletter. If you like Disney trivia, pay close attention to those Monsters Inc. Fun Facts.

Disney Club News Issue 9

Click on the image below to read a Spring 2003 article about the Pirates of the Caribbean display at the Gallery in Disneyland!

Disney Club News Spring 2003 Article

It came as quite a shock to members when Disney scrapped the relatively new Disney Club in late 2003. For the first time in 46 years there was no club - no way to feel that warm sense of affiliation with Disney.

Everyone kept waiting for a revamped club to rise from the ashes, but alas, there was no Phoenix! The magazines no longer came, the club was gone, and all those swell benefits were gone as well.

At about the same time the always popular "Official Disneyana Convention", held at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World was cancelled. No one really understood this abrupt change in company policy.

Perhaps the corporation decided to focus their attention on the newly launched Disney Rewards Visa Card which offered similar discounts, but that was little consolation to Carol and I. We didn't qualify for the new cards; they are not offered to Canadians.

So we waited years until a new club appeared . . . D23 was announced in 2009. The name D23 refers to D for Disney and 23 for 1923, the year when Walt Disney arrived in Hollywood and his company was founded.

You are probably wondering, "Is Carol a member of D23?"

Silly question - of course she is! There are so many benefits and discounts, how could she resist?

And unlike the Visa Rewards Card, they let Canadians join!

January 4, 2015

Favorite Disney Snacks

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Have you ever picked up a snack at one of the Disney parks, taken a bite and immediately thought, "Wow! This is good! I wish I had discovered this years ago!" That has happened to Carol and I quite a few times over the years and we've "discovered" a few favorites!

There is a vast, and ever-changing selection of food choices at Walt Disney World and we often discover new choices. Here are a few of our current "faves".

Pork Egg Rolls
Animal Kingdom is our favorite spot for egg rolls. We usually arrive at Animal Kingdom early in the morning, enjoy a safari ride and a few other attractions and then head back to Fort Wilderness for the afternoon. The quick service counter at Yak & Yeti is often our last stop before we leave.

Egg Rolls

In our opinion, the pork egg rolls they serve are the best at Walt Disney World. An order of 2 egg rolls costs $4.49 and is just enough for a light lunch.

Carrot Cake Cookie
This dessert delicacy can be found at the Writer's Stop in Hollywood Studios. Many people walk right past the Writer's Stop and don't even notice it as they rush from one attraction to the next. It is just past the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater, on your right as you make the turn from Commissary Lane onto the Streets of America.

The Writers Stop

Once you are inside you might not even notice the cookies in the display case. Don't pass them by though! Wow, are they good!

Carrot Cake Cookie display

On our trip to The World in October 2014 we also saw the Carrot Cake Cookie at Sweet Spells, between Starring Rolls and Villains in Vogue.

It's a tasty cookie sandwich! Two moist cookies with a wonderful carrot cake texture and flavor are held together by a sweet cream cheese icing.

Carrot Cake Cookie

Carrot Cake Cookie

Oh boy! A taste of heaven for $3.99 - or one snack credit on the Disney Dining Plan.

Citrus Swirl
Looking for a tasty alternative to Dole Whips? Tired of those long lines at the Magic Kingdom's Aloha Isle? Head on through Adventureland to the Sunshine Tree Terrace.

Sunshine Tree Terrace

Turn between the Tiki-Tiki-Tiki Room and Aladdin's Flying Carpets and find a tasty frozen treat - have a Citrus Swirl! There is seldom a line and Carol just loves them! The Disney Food Blog describes the Citrus Swirl as: "A bit like a creamsicle, this chilly snack twists vanilla soft-serve with a sweet-tart frozen orange juice." Carol describes it as: "Yummy, my favourite treat!"

Citrus Swirl

(Sometimes I wonder if it might be the Orange Bird merchandise that attracts Carol to the Sunshine Tree Terrace - she has an impressive collection of Orange Bird trinkets and treasures!)

I like the pineapple float from Aloha Isle, pineapple soft-serve ice cream with real pineapple juice ($4.99).

Aloha Isle

Pineapple Float

I pick up a float while Carol buys her swirl ($3.79). I stir, and stir, and stir as I make my way back to the Sunshine Tree Terrace to meet Carol. By the time I get there it's like a very thick milk shake . . . I sip it through a straw. Nice!
Caution - brain freeze zone!

Citrus and Pineapple

Croissant Doughnut (Cronut)
Try this next time you visit EPCOT. The Refreshment Port, on the right as you head toward the Canada Pavilion, sells them.

The Refreshment Port

Look for the "Croissant Doughnut" on the overhead menu.

Overhead Sign

Imagine a moist croissant texture inside, a slightly crispy doughnut exterior, all dipped in cinnamon-sugar . . . a taste of heaven for $4.69!

Croissant Doughnut

The first time Carol and I tried a cronut we bought one and split it. That's not likely to happen again . . . they are too good to share!

Churros
Have you tried the Churros in Frontierland? A churro is a long thin doughnut or cruller, light and bubbly on the inside, slightly crispy on the outside. They are dipped in cinnamon-sugar and served warm.

Churro

Churro

What's not to like? Look for the wheeled cart along the Rivers of America in Frontierland. This tasty treat will cost you $4.00 or one Disney Dining Plan snack credit.

Be careful around the churro cart! Last February Carol's parents, John and Sybil, were sharing one of these deep-fried treats. They broke it in half and Sybil had taken one small bite when a sea gull swooped down and snatched it out of her hand. The brazen bird landed about thirty feet away and defiantly gulped it down while we watched!

Werther's Caramel Corn
The Werther's Shop in the Karamell-Küche at EPCOT's Germany Pavilion is a dangerous spot!

Karamell-Küche

When it opened in 2010 it was the only free-standing retail location for Werther's in the world and, to the best of my knowledge, it remains the only spot in the world where you can buy fresh, warm Werther's Caramel Corn.

Caramel Corn

The second you walk in the door the aroma grabs your attention! Every day cast members are busy making fresh caramel confections, including caramel apples and popcorn, caramel-drizzled cupcakes, rice krispie treats, cookies, strawberries, and much more. Wow!

Caramel Corn

I'm not sure who it was that first said, "You can't eat just one!" But I'd be willing to bet that they were eating warm Werther's Caramel Corn at the time. Only $3.99 or $5.99 for a bag full of bliss! Buy the large one - you'll be glad you did!

Mickey Sandwich Bar
Everyone loves the classic Mickey Bar, officially named "Mickey's Premium Ice Cream Bar" - a Mickey shaped piece of ice cream dipped in milk chocolate. But have you ever tried a Mickey Sandwich Bar? You will see it on the vendor carts in all the parks, they call it "Mickey's Ice Cream Sandwich".

Mickey Sandwich

It is very similar to the classic Mickey Bar, but the Mickey shaped ice cream is clad in two soft-textured chocolate wafers.

Mickey Sandwich

Mickey Sandwich

It has a much stronger chocolate flavor; just the thing for a choc-o-holic like Carol! (I'm not a chocolate fan, so I prefer the milder flavor of the dipped version!) Either bar will cost you $4.00 and is sure to refresh you while you wait in the blazing sun for that three o'clock parade!

Mickey Sandwich

Italian Sausage
My final item, sausage-in-a-bun, is not really a snack, it's more of a light lunch . . . if you haven't tried it, you really should! It's worth stopping for!

Min & Bill's Dockside Diner is the place for this simple delicacy! Along the shore of Echo Lake, in Hollywood Studios, is a quick service restaurant disguised as a boat. That's Min & Bills!

Min and Bills

Min and Bills

They prepare your snack as you wait. You can watch as they trim a bit off the end of a fresh, tasty French bread stick then use a special little machine to remove a tube of bread from the center of the baguette.

Min and Bills machine

This hole is stuffed full of sauteed onion and green pepper along with a mild Italian sausage. Dee-lish! The sandwich is served with a teensy-weensy bag of potato chips and costs $9.19. Here's a money saving tip - ask them to "Hold the chips." and they will knock $2.00 off the price. The sandwich with no side is $7.19. It's a nice option when you're looking for a light lunch.

Sausage on a bun

They also serve a similar sandwich in a Pretzel bun, the center of the bun is removed and stuffed with a frankfurter and Dijon mustard. Sometimes they are a bit generous with the mustard; I recommend that you ask for the mustard "on the side." The frankfurter is $8.29 (or $6.29 without that ittsy-bittsy bag of chips).

So that's it folks . . . our short list of "favorite snacks". There are plenty of other choices too, turkey legs, caramel apples, pretzels, popcorn, etc., etc.

What is your favorite Disney snack?

December 25, 2014

Our Disney Christmas Tree

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Carol and I look forward to the Christmas season every year. She likes to decorate for the holidays and I really enjoy the results of her efforts. As you might expect, our love of all things Disney reflects in our Christmas décor!

In our living room we have a very traditional Christmas tree; decorated with lights, coloured balls and festive garland. It stands in front of the window and is visible to all who walk or drive past.

Living Room Tree

But downstairs in our family room, our sanctuary, where Carol and I spend a lot of our time, is our favourite symbol of the Christmas season, our Disney Christmas tree.

The Disney Tree

It is 100% Disney from top to bottom.

Tinker Bell Angel

Every ornament reflects our passion for Disney. Carol has been collecting Disney ornaments for years and years. Some are brand new and others are old and irreplaceable!

Oswald

Thumper and Miss Bunny

It takes Carol a long time to decorate the Disney tree. Most of the ornaments are in their original packaging to protect them from damage, and as she carefully unwraps them the memories from past trips to Walt Disney World come flooding back.

There's a lot of reminiscing as Carol carefully arranges them all. Each memento from those old Disney adventures has to be in just the right spot! Sometimes the result can be startling!

Dopey and Tinker Bell
Is Tinker Bell really longing for one of those free kisses? Would Snow White approve?

There are many different Disney characters on our tree, some of them have been around for decades, others are very recent additions to the Disney family!

Steamboat Willie

Olaf and Elsa

Dozens of classic animated feature films, cartoons and TV Specials are represented.

Jaq and Gus

Bambi and Thumper

101 Dalmatians family

Pinocchio

White Rabbit

Bob Crachett Mickey

Scrooge McDuck

Some ornaments depict Disney's most popular couples enjoying the Christmas season.

Mickey and Minnie

Donald and Daisy

Lady and the Tramp

Mickey and Minnie

Other ornaments are much more whimsical.

Mickey and Pluto

Mickey and Goofy

Gone Fishin' Goofy

Beaker

How cute can the ornaments be?

Santa Mickey

Snowman

Not a Creature was stirring
Yes, the book reads "Not a creature was stirring . . ."

Pluto reindeer

Rocking Horse Mickey

Tour Guide Minnie

Some of the ornaments are animated, some are musical and some are illuminated. It's quite dazzling when it's all done!

Mickeys House
Push a button and the lights on Mickey's house flash in time with the music it plays!

Mickey Mouse Club
The drum flashes with light and keeps time to the music as this ornament plays "M-I-C . . . K-E-Y . . . M-O-U-S-E"

Sorcerer Mickey
Mickey's sorcerer hat lights up on this little beauty!

Mickey and Goofy as astronauts
It must be a Space Walk! Astronaut Mickey is holding Goofy who is dangerously close to the rocket's exhaust nozzle. The exhauts pulses with light as Mickey struggles to save Goofy.

All the shiny balls adorning the tree are shaped like classic Mickey heads!

Disney ball and garland
And if you look closely at that garland you will spot plenty of Hidden Mickeys!

Our Disney Christmas Tree gives us a lot of pleasure every year and we hope that you have enjoyed this little glimpse of it.

Mickey and Pluto at Fireplace

At this jolly time of year Carol and I would like to pass along our Christmas wish for you. No matter what you celebrate during this festive season, we sincerely hope that each and every one of you are able to share joyful times with family, friends and those you love most.

Merry Christmas!

December 21, 2014

From the Tickle Trunk - WDW News - Autumn 1989

Gary Cruise banner
Let's pull another old newsletter out of the Tickle Trunk.

This is a colorful one; it was issued in the autumn of 1989 and the masthead calls it the "Wonders of Life Edition".

1989 Front_Page

That new pavilion at EPCOT opened October 19, 1989 and this edition heralded all the brand-new attractions on the front page!

Most of the front page was devoted to a picture of Body Wars, with insets of other attractions. Read how they described the new exhibits in the text below the picture:

Take the ride of your life - "Body Wars" at this five-acre pavilion teeming with activities, hands-on exhibits, and entertainment.

EPCOT CENTER - An incredibly imaginative celebration of life is now underway at the new Wonders of Life, presented by Metropolitan Life at Epcot Center Future World.

Its centerpiece, "Body Wars" uses Disney's newest simulator technology that miniaturizes and propels you on an intensely thrilling, high speed roller-coaster-like ride through the human body as it fights a bacterial invasion.

At "Cranium Command," another major attraction, you can climb inside the head of a 12-year-old boy for a lighthearted look at how mind and body interact.

The gold-domed Wonders of Life is full of surprises! See "The Making of Me," a sensitive film starring Martin Short which explores the mysterious, tender and sometimes humorous events surrounding pregnancy and birth.

"Fitness Fairgrounds," another hot spot, is a collection of hands-on exhibits. Here you can have your tennis, golf, or baseball swing analyzed by the pros. You can select a video tour while riding a "Wondercycle," explore the "Sensory - Funhouse," and pick up some health tips from Goofy. You'll celebrate wellness and fitness with incredible live and Audio-Animatronics shows. There's a whole world of amazing entertainment at Wonders of Life, just waiting for you!

The Wonders of Life Pavilion had a successful 18-year run before closing January 1, 2007. It now serves as a "Special Events" building for events like the annual EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival.

How many of those original attractions do you remember?

1989 Page 2

Page 2 is devoted entirely to Disney-MGM Studios, which was also brand-new! The third theme park at Walt Disney World had opened about six months prior. The second page is dominated by two large pictures of the "Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular" and descriptions of the many new attractions. Let's take a closer look at what they had to say about the new park:

DISNEY-MGM STUDIOS THEME PARK - The breathtaking thrills are immense, and they get even bigger if you are chosen as an "extra" at the "Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular" now in full production at the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park.

Amid rapid-fire shots, exploding trucks, out-of-control airplanes and an immense rolling rock, you'll be on the edge of your seat if not in the center of the action, as stunt professionals reenact famous Indiana Jones adventure scenes. Performances throughout the day are just one more way the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park puts you in the picture.

Make Your Day
Another way to be a star is to stop by SuperStar Television, presented by SONY®. Just prior to the show, audience members are chosen to star in live productions of popular TV shows. Ifs funny, exciting, and another way to make your day!

More excitement comes inside the Chinese Theatre where you'll see movies as never before on "The Great Movie Ride" Theatre-size cars take you into the action of classic films, re-created through an incredible mixture of live action and the latest in Disney Audio-Animatronics wizardry!

Add sound to movies at the Monster Sound Show, presented by SONY®. At the heart of the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park is "The Magic of Disney Animation," actual studios where Disney characters come to life right before your eyes!

On the Set
Next comes some of life's most thrilling moments! On the Backstage Studio Tour you can visit sound stages and see movies actually being made! At Catastrophe Canyon, you'll experience firsthand how earthquakes, floods, and fireballs are created. And before your tour is over, you'll unravel more mysteries of special effects.

At mealtime, choose from eleven smashing restaurants including Hollywood & Vine, the 50's Prime Time Cafe/Tune In Lounge and the Sound Stage Restaurant where you can eat on a real movie set. From start to finish, it's a full day of Hollywood adventure!

Wow, some of those attractions, like the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, are pretty much unchanged after more than 25 years while others, like SuperStar Television, have disappeared entirely. A few others have opened and closed since this newsletter was published . . . remember "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" and "The American Idol Experience?"

What's that piece in the bottom right corner of page 2? A star every day? Here's a closer look:

See a Star

I expect that there are now several generations of readers wondering, "Who are those people? Pat Boone? Rose Marie? Mariette Hartley? Isabel Sanford?" Suddenly I'm feeling very old!

There were only two articles on page 3 and I'll show them individually.

Pleasure Island

How many of those Pleasure Island haunts do you remember - Mannequins Dance Palace, XZFR Rockin' Rollerdome (with a daily Zappy Hour), the Adventurers Club, Videopolis East, the Neon Armadillo Music Saloon, the Comedy Warehouse?

In those early days the food venues included Merriweather's Market, the Portobello Yacht Club, the Fireworks Factory and three dining areas aboard the Empress Lilly riverboat.

Typhoon Lagoon

Typhoon Lagoon had only been open for three months and was already a very popular destination. Do you remember your excitement when you first saw that huge wave? When you first slid down Humunga Kowabunga? When you took that first lazy drift around Castaway Creek? I sure remember!

1989 Page 4

The back page, page 4, spoke of two items I was not familiar with, along with one I know well, the long-standing pyrotechnic and laser spectacular staged nightly at EPCOT. "Illuminations" originally debuted at EPCOT January 30, 1988, as a replacement for "Laserphonic Fantasy." Over the past 27 years there have been several versions of the ever-popular Illuminations show. The second generation show, "IllumiNations 25" debuted for the 25th anniversary of Walt Disney World Resort and ran 1996 - 1999. Generation three, "IllumiNations 2000: Reflections of Earth" launched in 1999 to ring-in the upcoming millennium celebration. The show has remained much the same since 1999, but the reference to the year 2000 has been dropped from the name. Today it's known as "IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth"

Sing Along Parade

Here's a closer look at the "Disney Character Hit Parade". The Dapper Dans and some Disney characters are pictured singing from the bow of a steamboat, the S. S. Mickey Mouse! I didn't see this version of the afternoon parade, but if I had I would have called it a hum-along. I'm nowhere near the singer those Dapper Dans are, believe me you would prefer my humming!

Dreamflight

Dreamflight was an attraction I had never even heard of before reading this newsletter. It was sponsored by Delta Airlines from 1989 until 1995 and replaced "If You had Wings" which had been sponsored by Eastern Airlines. Now that's a name I remember! The building which housed If You had Wings and Dreamflight is now the home of Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, one of my favorites!

Looking back at the contents of this simple little newsletter, you can almost feel the excitement that was in the air in late 1989. You can really sense what an exhilarating time it was, plenty of change and so many thrilling new activities and attractions!

Let's just pause and reflect for a minute - when Walt Disney World opened in 1971 there was one park, the Magic Kingdom. When this newsletter was published, just 18 years later, there were three theme parks, two water parks, a wildlife sanctuary, a campground, more than a dozen hotels and resorts, a shopping and entertainment district and so much more.

In a mere 18 years Walt Disney World had risen from swampland to become the most popular vacation destination in the world.

WOW!

December 7, 2014

Memories of Discovery Island

Gary Cruise banner

Before I begin, I have a confession to make - I have never been to Discovery Island. Sad, but true! Fortunately, Carol and Rob enjoyed several short boat rides from Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground to Discovery Island, so once again they have acted as my consultants!

1979 Postcard Book - Discovery Island
1979 Postcard

Bay Lake, which surrounds Discovery Island, is a natural lake - unlike most of the waterways on Disney property. Even the Seven Seas Lagoon, which you cross by ferry from the Ticket and Transportation Centre to the Magic Kingdom, is man-made!

1984 Discovery Island Flyer
1984 Flyer (click on the image above for a clearer view)

It is quite likely that Walt Disney sailed on Bay Lake and walked on Discovery Island before buying the property. Of course in those days Discovery Island was called Riles Island and was used as a hunting retreat!

A few years after The Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, work began on a nature park on the 10-acre island. It opened as Treasure Island on April 8, 1974. The original theme for the island centred around pirates from the book by Robert Louis Stevenson. The "back-story" included a secret hideaway, buried treasure and the wreck of Captain Flint's ship, The Walrus.

1977 Treasure Island Brochure outside
1977 Brochure

The island was a showplace for exotic birds and plants but they were all wrapped up in pirate decor. What sort of birds were there? The 1977 brochure, pictured above, refers to Blue Peafowl, Vulturine Guineafowl, Caribbean Flamingo, Chilean Flamingo, Southern Bald Eagle, Macaw, Cockatoo, African Crowned Crane, Demoiselle Crane and Sandhill Crane. Many of these were housed in one of the largest walk-through aviaries in the world.

Plant life, imported from around the world, included banana, palm and bamboo from East India, gardenias from China, orchid trees from India and passion flowers from South America.

Boats ran across Bay Lake between Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground and the island every 20 minutes throughout the day.

Discovery Island Tickets

The place-names on the map below help tell the story of the pirate theme . . . Cap'n Flint's Perch, Buccaneer's Cove, Doubloon Lagoon, Mutineer Falls, Gang Plank Walk and Rum Point are a few!

1977 Treasure Island Brochure inside
1977 Brochure

The quotation in the upper right corner is from Ben Gunn, a character from the R. L. Stevenson book. Gunn was one of Captain Flint's crewmen who was marooned on Treasure Island for three years.

Gunn's quote appears in the image below.

Look closely

In the upper right hand corner of the map you see a ship which has run aground on the beach; that's Captain Flint's ship, The Walrus, shown below in a Disney postcard from 1975.

The Walrus postcard

Treasure Island never reached the anticipated attendance levels so after only two years it was closed and extensive renovations began! The pirate theme disappeared and when it re-opened in early 1976 it was named Discovery Island, focused specifically on conservation.

February 1981 Discovery Island

1979 Discovery Island Brochure outside
1979 Brochure

As you might expect, the map of Discovery Island is very similar to the map of Treasure Island. The trails and walkways were renamed and included Bird's Eye View, Trumpeter Springs, Swan's Neck, Vulture's Haunt, Toucan Corner, Pelican Bay and Turtle Beach.

1979 Discovery Island Brochure inside
1979 Brochure

Discovery Island became renowned for its bird, plant and tortoise populations and was accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association in 1978. The aviaries were expanded and the facility functioned as a breeding facility for rare birds. The 40 foot tall, 32,000 square-foot, walk-through aviary remained; there were bird shows, a flamingo pool, and the Turtle Beach was still there.

The Walrus was still aground on the beach.

Rob along the trail

Rob at Parrots Perch

Brochures from the 1980's and 1990's show an increasing focus on conservation and environmental responsibility!

Animals and plants of Discovery Island

Wildlife on Discovery Island

1986 Discovery Island Brochure pg 1
1986 Brochure

1986 Discovery Island Brochure pg 2
1986 Brochure

1990s Discovery Island Brochure pg 1
1990 Brochure

1990s Discovery Island Brochure pg 2
1990 Brochure

As you left the Discovery Island dock, you encountered the Thirsty Perch Snack Bar and the restrooms on your left. The map directed you to the right, toward the Discovery Island Bird Show near the North Inlet. In some areas the walkway was elevated, crossing ponds, wetlands and marshy areas where birds and animals roamed freely. There were plenty of animal encounters as you passed Trumpeter Springs, North Falls, Swan's Neck and Bamboo Hollow. Next in the journey was Monkey Point, home of the colony of Lemurs from Madagascar and their distant relatives, the Marmoset. Cranes Roost and Toucan Corner were the final viewing opportunities before you entered the enormous walk-through aviary, home of the striking Scarlett Ibis and so many other exotic birds which were visible over, under and beside the elevated boardwalks of Avian Way!

Great Hornbill postcard
Great Hornbill Postcard

Sarus Cranes postcard
Sarus Crane Postcard

Soon after exiting the aviary, you arrived at Pelican Bay populated by injured pelicans which had been treated in the Animal Hospital housed on the island. These injured birds spent their remaining years living in the lap of luxury as Disney guests!

Several varieties of pelicans lived around the ponds at Pelican Lagoon near the beach. Just past the pelicans were the giant turtles of Tortoise Beach, then Alligator Pool and the Birds of Prey Theatre were the final stops along the walk before you returned to your starting point at the dock.

Rob with a parrot

1990s Discovery Island Map
Mid 1990's Map

There were cast members all along the route; they described the animals you were seeing, their native countries, their natural habitats and their diets. In some areas there were opportunities to interact with the birds and animals, and there were some wonderful shows to see in the small theatres located along the trail. What a wonderful place! A peaceful and serene nature park so close to the clamorous activity in the Disney theme parks.

Vulture postcard
Vulture Postcard

Rob recollects, "My favourite thing along the trail was searching for the cavy! These South American rodents seemed to have the run of the place; when my Mom wanted to find me, she'd always look in the area where the cavies were and there I'd be. They were very shy animals and when I found them I'd stand very quietly and watch . . . it was never too long before some noisy kids came along and scared them away." (Remember, Rob had reached the ripe old age of eight at the time!)

"I always enjoyed the turtles." Rob added, "They were huge and roamed the beach not far from the dock. There was just a short concrete wall to keep them in place and you could easily step onto the beach and get close to them. Sometimes you would see a small kid riding a tortoise. The whole island was a very interactive place!

A Peacock

Discovery Island postcard
Discovery Island Postcard

Alas, it all came to an end. Many of the birds and animals moved to the new Disney's Animal Kingdom when it opened in 1998 and Discovery Island closed permanently in April 1999. Today you can still see the vestiges of the aviary netting as you sail past the island heading to or from Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground.

The wreckage of Cap'n Flint's ship, the Walrus, is still there, almost covered in vines and foliage, as you can see in the picture below which I took in October 2014.

The Walrus October 2014

The island is now a registered bird sanctuary and each evening as the sun begins to set you will see thousands of birds come in to roost for the night.

It seems a fitting end for Discovery Island.

November 23, 2014

From the Tickle Trunk - Disney Matchbooks

Gary Cruise banner

Here's another piece of Disney history plumbed from the depths of the Tickle Trunk - Disney matchbooks!

Carol's old pine box of memories contains a shiny metal box full of matchbooks she collected decades ago!

Match Book Tin

Times were much different in the 1970's and 1980's and our acceptance of tobacco smoke and those who used tobacco products was much more open.

These days there are a few designated smoking areas scattered around Disney parks. Sometimes they are hard to find and at other times my nose can pick them out very easily. But in the early days smoking was permitted almost everywhere in the parks; even in restaurants!

There was a Tobacconist Shop on Main Street in Disneyland and in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. These stores displayed and sold hand-crafted pipes and tobaccos from around the world. Cigars and cigarettes were also available, but they were kept discretely under the counter.

Almost every Disney resort and restaurant had matchbooks which were given away free to customers. Yes, it was a vastly different time!

By the mid '80's the health risks associated with tobacco smoke were becoming clearer and public perception brought about slow but persistent change. Disney matchbooks are no longer available, smoking is now taboo in restaurants and designated smoking areas are few and far between.

The Tobacconist Shop in Florida closed in 1985 and the California shop followed suit in 1991. I suspect that we have seen the last of Disney matchbooks!

If you have any old Disney matchbooks be sure to hold onto them, they are real collector's items.

Here are a few examples from Carol's matchbook collection!

Match Books

More Match Books_2

There are even a few match boxes!

Match Boxes and books

And here are a few added bonuses at no extra cost!

1) Two Disney ash trays!

Disneyland Ash Tray
Do you see the faint gold printing inside the ash tray? It reads "Disneyland"

Orange Bird Ash Tray

2) A few Disney sewing kits!

Sewing Kit - Grand Floridian
From the Grand Floridian

Sewing Kits

Yes, that old Tickle Trunk has a bit of everything in it, great memories from years gone by!

November 9, 2014

Memories of River Country

Gary Cruise banner

I have many wonderful Disney memories, picked up over the years during all those magical trips to the sunny south. But I've also racked up a few Disney regrets. This blog is about one of those regrets!

I never made it to Disney's first water-park, River Country . . .

1979 Postcard Book River Country

Everything I've read and everything I've heard about River Country has convinced me that it was exactly my kind of place! A modern six acre water park with dramatic and exciting water slides, all cleverly disguised as an old fashioned swimmin' hole from the days of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer! Yup! My kind of place!

1984 River Country Flyer
1984 Brochure

1987 River Country Brochure outside
1987 Brochure

1987 River Country Brochure inside
1987 Brochure

Fortunately, Carol and Rob were there several times and she brought home some great memories as well as plenty of brochures, postcards, tickets and photographs to add some color to my descriptions of their memories. There was plenty of descriptive information in the Tickle Trunk!

1989 River Country Brochure Front
1989 Brochure

Some of these images are thumbnails, click on the image to see a larger version you can read more easily.

1989 River Country Brochure Inside
1989 Brochure

Here's how that 1987 brochure described River Country: "Dive into the bygone days of the ol' swimmin' hole with River Country's twisting water slides. Hop on your inner tube for a white-knuckle white water rapids ride. Relax in a sparkling 330,000-gallon swimming pool. Or let your guppies go off on their own at Kiddie Cove, a specially designed area for youngsters. A sandy beach and winding nature trail complete the idyllic scene.

Towel rentals and lockers are available as well as a snack bar with food, soft drinks, beer and wine. Or you can pack a picnic basket and enjoy a full day of fun in this unique corner of the world."

River Country opened with fanfare June 20, 1976 when Susan Ford, President Gerald Ford's daughter, took the first trip down Whoop 'n Holler Hollow and splashed into Bay Cove, the larger of the park's two main bodies of water.

Birds-eye View Postcard

The park was located beside Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, along the south shore of Bay Lake. There was very little parking available for River Country; most visitors used Disney transportation to get there. Guests who arrived at the campground by boat simply walked a short distance to the River Country entrance. Those arriving by bus transferred to a campground tram or bus and rode to The Settlement area before walking a few hundred yards to River Country.

River Country Water Wagon

River Country cannon

River Country Map

Bay Cove was the main "swimmin' hole at River Country. It had a sand bottom and was filled with filtered water drawn from Bay Lake. This very natural looking man-made lagoon was separated from the lake by a large inflated dam which kept the water level in the lagoon about six inches higher than the adjacent lake. The filtration system drew water from the lake, filtered it and sent it to the various slides throughout the attraction at a rate of 8,500 gallons per minute. Surplus water spilled out over the top of the dam and returned to Bay Lake.

Bay Cove

At one side of Bay Cove were the two large water slides, Whoop 'n Holler Hollow and White Water Rapids, and opposite was the main beach covered with white sand, beach chairs and umbrellas. The lagoon tapered in depth, from the sandy shore at the beach it grew deeper as you approached the slides. The slides dropped adventurous guests into six feet of water and there was a bit of a distance to swim before they were able to touch bottom. This area was for experienced swimmers only!

River Country postcard

Whoop 'n Holler Hollow was the most exciting of the slides! There were two fibreglass body slides, one 160 feet and the other 260 feet. Riders careened and sloshed through plenty of twists, bends and tight hairpin turns before plunging into the lagoon.

Carol rides the slide
Carol

Rob
Rob

Rob.jpg
Rob

At White Water Rapids riders rode an inner tube as they bobbed past man-made rocks and through Raft Rider Ridge, next to Whoop 'n Holler Hollow, before entering the high-speed chute and splashing down into the lagoon. The water slides featured a lot of man-made rock, similar to that seen at Big Thunder Mountain and other places throughout Walt Disney World. Most riders floated around on the tubes for a few minutes before trekking up the queue to ride again!

White Water Rapids

Rob at White Water Rapids
Rob

In the middle of the lagoon was a small platform which had two water activities. At the Boom Swing guests could dangle from a wooden ship's boom, swing out over the bay and drop into the water. There was also a Cable Ride, similar to a "zip line", where the daring could grab a handle, slide down the cable and let go to enjoy a cooling plunge into the water! Nearby, in the water, was a Tire Swing. Swimmers could climb up onto a raft-like dock and board a tire-swing. It took practised skill to swing back and forth and then time your release to achieve a graceful dive!

Tire Swing postcard

Bay Cove was bounded by two bridges which gave easy access to the slides. Bay Bridge was located near the inflated dam on the Bay Lake side. A "tipsy" floating Barrel Bridge, similar to the one at Tom Sawyer Island, separated Bay Cove from Kiddie Cove where children could enjoy a shallow beach and four small slides.

Kiddie Cove postcard

The oversized heated pool was known as Upstream Plunge. Half of the pool was cordoned off for swimmers while the other was set aside for those who risked life and limb riding down Slippery Slide Falls. The side-by-side slides, along a sculpted concrete rock face, ended with a seven foot drop into the pool! No other Disney water slides have ever featured this sort of drop! Yeehaw!

River Country Press Photo

Slippery Slide Falls

Slippery Slide Falls
Rob - ready to plunge!

Indian Springs was the first Disney splash pad for the kiddies, an area where they could run, splash and squirt each other. What could be more fun?

Splash Pad postcard

There was even an elevated boardwalk across the cypress swamp; sunken trees and wildlife were abundant all along the Cypress Point Nature Trail.

Goofy was the official mascot at the park and made frequent appearances. He sometimes arrived by boat, other times on horseback and always enjoyed a soothing and cooling plunge down one of the slides. In the late 90's every day was the 4th of July as Goofy and a number of other characters including Chip, Dale, Minnie and Pluto took part in River Country's daily All-American Water Party.

Rob has fond memories of several visits to River Country about three decades ago, "It was a great spot for a kid," he told me, "there was just so much to do! It was the first place I experienced water slides and I really enjoyed each one of them, but even better were the other water activities. The boom swing and the cable ride were terrific. I liked to ride the cable all the way to the end. When it jarred to a stop I could do a full back flip and land in a perfect dive. I used to float around the tire swing and watch as folks let go at the wrong time and did some nasty belly flops!"

Rob is a nature lover, so I asked if he liked the Cypress Point Nature Trail. "Oh yeah," he said, "I never missed it. There were plenty of birds along the shore, small deer roaming freely and a big alligator in a fenced in area."

Tickets

Rob went on, "As a kid I saw River Country as a great place to have fun, but I didn't really appreciate the way it was built. Now, when I look back after more than thirty years I can see the nostalgia they built into the place. All of that new and modern stuff was made to look old and rustic . . . and the things I enjoyed most were so simple, dropping off an old wooden spar into the water or sliding down a wire and flipping into the pond. It reinforces the notion that newer isn't always better!"

Carol enjoyed it there too. Yes, she rode the slides, but she liked the heated pool much better than that chilly lagoon! Carol and her friend Judy scurried to commandeer their favourite table and umbrella so they could relax and enjoy some "down time" basking in the sun while the kids, Rob and Jenn, romped and played.

Their favourite table

Carol was always near the water when she grew up; boating and swimming were a regular part of her family life so River Country was a natural for her. The rustic charm the Imagineers created on the shore of Bay Lake reminded her of her Canadian home on the shore of Buck Lake. She also had one unusual memory from River Country. It was the first place any of them ever encountered Chicken Tenders; they were served with a tasty red sauce and were a huge hit!

Sometimes there were three generations represented, when Carol's mother Sybil joined in the fun. There was something there for everyone!

Beach postcard

The beach

Here's a funny little incident that happened while I was writing this blog. Rob was visiting Carol and I and he had just read a draft of this article. We were discussing it over dinner when I mentioned that during my online research I saw pictures of a River Country licence plate and a River Country beach towel. Carol quietly stood, went down the hall to the linen closet and in seconds came back with this towel.

River Country towel

That woman has everything!

So what happened to River Country? Why did it close?

There were a number of factors. First, both Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon had opened, in 1989 and 1995, and drew some guests away from the old swimmin' hole! Attendance was down, but there was another serious issue as well. It affected all bodies of water in Florida. A nasty little amoeba prevalent in Florida water was found to attack the nervous system and brain. It had already caused Disney to ban swimming at all of the other beaches around Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon.

River Country closed September 1, 2001, at the end of the warm-weather season, as it did every year. Everyone expected that it would reopen in spring of 2002 . . . then came the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Attendance at Walt Disney World plummeted and management took drastic actions to control costs as their revenue plunged. River Country didn't re-open in the spring of 2002 and on April 11, 2002, the Orlando Sentinel reported "Disney World spokesman Bill Warren said that River Country could be reopened if 'there's enough guest demand.'"

Finally on January 20th 2005 came the expected announcement, River Country would not be reopening. The closure was permanent!

The only other Disney park ever to close was Discovery Island in April 1999; River Country joined it in 2001 but it didn't become "officially closed" until 2005.

The park now lies in ruin; you can still peek through the fence in some spots and see the crumbling slides that used to drop riders into Upstream Plunge. The walkway at Cypress Point Nature Trail is still visible if you ride the boat from Fort Wilderness to the Magic Kingdom, but it's rotting away and slowly falling into Bay Lake!

Dang! If time machines are invented and I get the chance for a "do-over", a visit to River Country will be very high on my list!

October 26, 2014

Disney Vanity Plates

Gary Cruise banner

About ten years ago I thought it might be a good idea to buy my favorite Disney fan, my wife Carol, a customized license plate for her car. Now, what should the plate say? Yes, of course it had to be Disney . . . but what exactly should it say?

If you are a married man you will understand that this is not the type of decision I am authorized to make. There had to be some consultation! We talked about it and she thought it was a great idea. We tossed around a number of possibilities . . . and finally settled on the one pictured below.

LVDISNEY

It is simple, and conveys our love of all things Disney! Most people are quick to interpret "Love Disney" which is exactly what we intended. A few have guessed "Live Disney" and that's good too, we do a lot of living Disney!

One friend saw the plate and said, "Oh look Carol, two of your favorite places - Las Vegas and Disney!" Yes Lidia, that's a good answer too . . . Las Vegas is our second favorite spot; we were married there!

Since picking up Carol's special plate we have noticed plenty of similar Disney themed tags. Disney characters are well represented with a heavy concentration of "Grumpy" and "Goofy". Often when we attend a Disney fan event I will take my camera and snap a few shots in the parking lot. Some of the ones I've found have been very inventive.

10KRBEL

Terry told us that her family, when they first saw this plate, thought she may have taken up long distance running and was a "10K Rebel" but she assured them it meant "Tinker Bell" Of course, any Disney fan would have known that!

Others use their license tags to describe their favorite ride or attraction.

999HPHNT

There are many ways to say Disney Magic!

DSNEMGC

DZNEMAGK

Here's a proud Disney Vacation Club owner!

DVC MBR

Is this Steve Barrett's plate? I thought he lived in Florida, not Ohio!

HIDN MKY

His and hers plates from Pennsylvania!

MICKEY 9

MINNIE 9

Here's a wistful comment from someone who is longing to be elsewhere!

O2BN WDW

Tinker Bell has bestowed good fortune on this family from the Granite State!

PXIDSTD

How else can you tell people that you "Love Disney"? Here are a few options!

WDW LVR

WDW4ME

WDWFANS

DIZNYFRK

Here's a collage of all those wonderful plates shown above!

Vanity Plate Collage

Aren't they great?

I'll end this blog with a few questions:

1. If you have a Disney vanity plate or have seen a good one, what does it say?

2. If you were going to get a Disney vanity plate, what would it say?

3. Here in Ontario we can use any combination up to eight letters and numbers. If Carol were going to surprise me with a vanity plate for the motor home (hint, hint) what should it say?

October 12, 2014

From The Tickle Trunk - WDW News November 1982

Gary Cruise banner

Let's dip into the Tickle Trunk and have a look at the Walt Disney World News from November 1982. That was an exciting time in Disney history; EPCOT had just opened a month prior.

A few months ago, when we looked at the October 1982 copy, my blog focused primarily on EPCOT; I purposely ignored almost everything else in the news since most was repeated in the November edition.

So let's see what else was going on in Disney history 32 years ago!

November 1982 Front Page
(Click on the picture for a larger view of the image)

The lead article on page 1 still spotlighted all those new sights, attractions and experiences at EPCOT but let's take a closer look at that "Special Entertainment at Magic Kingdom"

November 1982 Magic Kingdom Entertainment

When you click on the image to zoom in for a close-up you only see the text from page 1, so I'll quote the entire article . . . here's what it said!

"MAGIC KINGDOM - Fanciful parades, rollicking revues, and the "oom-pa-pa" of merry bands fill every nook and cranny of the Magic Kingdom. No matter where you are, chances are there's one of a dozen different groups who perform every day just a step away.

On Main Street, U.S.A., where shops, attractions, and restaurants reflect turn-of-the-century, Victorian America, you can hear a barbershop quartet harmonizing "Dai-sy, Dai-sy, give me your answer true!" While further down the avenue a rinky-tink piano player tickles the ivories of a snow-white upright at the Refreshment Corner.

Just beyond the whispering palms, the exotic, mysterious world of Adventure-land beckons. The rousing sound of an authentic steel drum band fills the open-air bazaars and follows explorers as they penetrate the wilderness on the "Jungle Cruise," climb high into the sky on the "Swiss Family Treehouse," and wander Caribbean Plaza.

As guests stroll the pioneer streets of Frontierland toward Liberty Square, they just might catch the banjo-pickin' and fiddlin' of a country group playing up a storm along the Rivers of America.

From Frontierland and the tunes of yesteryear to Tomorrowland's hits of the future, stop by the Tomorrowland Terrace where the rock band Tabasco spices up the menu with the space-age sounds of the Eighties. For something more down to Earth, be sure not to miss the very talented Kids of the Kingdom at the Tomorrowland Stage. In a 30-minute musical salute, they bring each land of the Magic Kingdom to life while letting you know that "Walt Disney World Is Your World." The show also features some of your favorite Disney characters - in some rather "out of character" roles.

Of course, you'll find Disney characters throughout the Magic Kingdom. In front of Cinderella Castle, they'll be singing and dancing their way into your hearts with medleys from the "Best of Disney." At the Fantasy Faire Stage in Fantasyland, Mickey, Goofy, Alice in Wonderland, and more appear several times each day in the music and comedy revues of the "Fantasy Follies."

And the whole gang comes out for the exciting new Character Parade down Main Street, U.S.A. Each afternoon, along with marching bands and merrily whirling floats, Mickey Mouse and a host of Disney characters turn Main Street into the Fourth of July.

Plus, on November 26 and 27, the Magic Kingdom features extended hours along with the return of the sparkling Main Street Electrical Parade (9 and 11 p.m. nightly) and spectacular "Fantasy In The Sky" fireworks (10 p.m. nightly).
The Magic Kingdom is filled to the brim with fun, fantasy, and music. For an up-to-the-minute schedule of what's happening where, check at City Hall in Town Square as you begin your journey through "the happiest place on Earth."

Special Entertainment
November 26 and 27, the Magic Kingdom features extended hours that let you enjoy more of your favorite attractions longer - along with the sparkling Main Street Electrical Parade, 9 and 11 p.m. nightly and spectacular "Fantasy In The Sky" fireworks, 10 p.m. nightly

Special Event
Armed Forces Days
From November 1 through 30, members of the armed forces and their families receive special-value admission to the dazzling new Epcot Center and the warmth and wonder of the Magic Kingdom. With each Epcot Center ticket pur¬chased, a voucher will be issued entitling each person to one day's admission to the Magic Kingdom anytime up to three months after their Epcot Center visit for just $8 per person. And a special Armed Forces Days ticket for just $12 per person entitles you to one day's admission to the Magic Kingdom."

My favourite parade was there - The Main Street Electrical Parade! I don't recall that "spicy" rock band Tabasco, but I do remember the Kids of the Kingdom and their exciting musical revue. I wonder what those talented kids are doing today?

November 1982 Page 2

Page 2 describes a dazzling show at the Top of the World.

November 1982 Top of the World

The picture is captioned "Five exciting entertainers will take you on a musical tour through the show stoppers of "The American Musical Theatre".

I remember this show from a visit in 1983; it was high-energy and very entertaining. This was my very first dinner show at Walt Disney World and I distinctly recall how impressed I was!

November 1982 Page 3
Page 3

Fort Wilderness had a lot to offer in 1982! River Country and Discovery Island were exciting destinations, but this article looked at the many other things to do at Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.

Great Outdoors

Fort Wilderness is still one of Disney's hidden gems; most visitors to Walt Disney World have no idea the campground exists. Many of those who do know of the resort are not aware of all the activities available. There is even more to do now than there was 32 years ago. It really is a wonderful place; come on over and see for yourselves!

November 1982 The Village

The area we know as Downtown Disney (currently transforming into Disney Springs) was still known as "The Village" in 1982. It was a busy spot . . . click on the image to read what was going on!

Gosh . . . a $5.00 beverage minimum, what a quaint concept!

The Village was a very busy area in 1982. Many of the shops and restaurants have changed over the years, but the popular Festival Of The Masters is still presented each year in November. The festival draws hundreds of talented artists from around the world. It's a cornucopia of sights, sounds and flavors!

From the very beginning EPCOT staffed the international pavilions around World Showcase with young people from the various countries represented there. Here's an article describing the benefits of having these young people represent their home countries.

November 1982 International Representatives


Disney talked about "a true family of man" and "a spirit of international fellowship" and their description is as accurate today as it was all those years ago. The young people working in every country around the lagoon are wonderful ambassadors for their nations!

November 1982 Page 4
Page 4

November 1982 Character Breakfasts

There were three different character breakfasts to choose from . . . Wow - only $5.50 for adults.

I really enjoy looking back at these old newsletters; they bring back some very fond memories of happy times. They also give me cause to reflect on how things have changed; look at those prices! A $5.00 beverage minimum and a character breakfast for $5.50. Today a single adult beverage costs more than $5.00 and the character breakfasts at most locations now cost about $30.00 for adults!

Of course, I also reflect on the many things that have not changed. Prices are higher, but the value is unchanged! The wholesome family atmosphere, the quality, the attention to detail, the "magic" which Walt Disney built into everything he did - it's all still there!

September 28, 2014

The Disney Wilderness Preserve

Gary Cruise banner

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and how you can be a Conservation Hero. While I was browsing the Internet, doing research for the blog, I came across an intriguing web page. The headline read "Butterflies by Swamp Buggy at Disney Wilderness Preserve"

Butterfly_Swamp_Buggy_Web_Page

My first thought was, "What better way to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of nature than by chasing butterflies through a wilderness preserve with a swamp buggy?"

My mind drifted back about 15 years to the vacation Carol and I enjoyed at Pelee Island, Canada's southernmost point.

Pelee_Island_map

Every summer Pelee Island is teeming with Giant Swallowtail butterflies and we spent a glorious, sunny summer afternoon snapping pictures of swallowtails. I still have vivid memories of Carol, camera in hand, bounding through farm fields following flitting butterflies. Butterflies can flit faster than Carol can bound so her antics kept me entertained all afternoon!

My second thought was, "Disney Wilderness Preserve? What's that?"

Did you know that there is a big Disney conservation project just minutes from Walt Disney World?

You are not alone . . . neither did I. Not many people are aware of the Disney Wilderness Preserve, just 15 miles from Walt Disney World. It's at 2700 Scrub Jay Trail in Kissimmee.

It's a huge preserve, about 12,000 acres - almost 19 square miles!

The project began in 1992, before the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund was established. The Walt Disney Company heard that an 8,500 acre cattle ranch located at the head of the Greater Everglades Watershed was going to be re-zoned for extensive residential and commercial development. This would have destroyed a huge tract of natural wetlands, as well as habitat for many endangered plants and wildlife.

Disney acted quickly and quietly to preserve this sensitive property. Working with The Nature Conservancy, the State of Florida, and a number of other groups, The Walt Disney Company purchased the property to mitigate its expansion and transferred it to the Conservancy. They were instrumental in the creation of a nature preserve dedicated to wetlands conservation on an unprecedented scale. After the initial purchase The Walt Disney Company provided funds for restoration and wildlife monitoring on the property and they continue to endow a number of on-site projects.

Lake_Russell

How successful has the project been? On their web site, The Nature Conservancy refers to it as "A Model Preserve" and goes on to say, "Land that was heavily logged and ranched for decades has been restored to very near to its original state and once again resembles the descriptions left by the area's first Spanish missionaries."

Sounds good to me - sensitive wetlands preserved as natural animal habitat rather than littered with factories, roads, houses and strip malls. Just another heroic initiative that makes me proud to be a Disney fan!

Palmetto

But let's get back to the swamp buggy and the butterflies. I mentioned the web site to Carol; she immediately said, "We're there in October, let's sign up!" So we did!

This is one of many events which makes up Central Florida NatureFest, an Outdoor and Photography Festival organized each year by the Central Florida Visitor's and Convention Bureau. The cost is a mere $5.00 per person!

Here's how they described it. "Fall is the best time for butterflies in our area when wildflowers are abundant. Disney Wilderness Preserve is a mosaic of habitats such as marshes, lake edges, open meadows, flat woods and roadsides. All of these areas are attractive to butterflies. To be expected here are swallowtails, sulphurs, hairstreaks, crescents, fritillaries, skippers and more.

The Disney Wilderness Preserve is a vast and beautiful natural site and the best way to travel in these parts is by Swamp Buggy. So all aboard the Swamp Buggy and be ready to hang-on while your guides point out butterflies and nature's beauty. This is a spectacular excursion that everyone can enjoy."

Our friend and fellow Fort Wilderness camper Al, from Missouri is joining us. Carol is keen on the butterflies but Al and I are really looking forward to that swamp buggy ride!

I hope to do a blog about the Butterfly/Swamp Buggy adventure so stay tuned! If I can get any good action shots of Carol bounding after butterflies I'll be sure to include them!

In the meantime, here are a few pictures provided by VisitCentralFlorida.org and The Nature Conservancy.

Disney_Wilderness_Preserve

Butterfly_Swamp_Buggy_Tour

Giant_Swallowtail
Giant Swallowtail

Zebra_Swallowtail
Zebra Swallowtail

Can you enjoy the Disney Wilderness Preserve? Yes, you can. The preserve is open daily Sunday-Friday (closed Saturdays and most major holidays) 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. There is no entry fee, but donations are always welcome.

Cypress_at_Lake_Russell

Boardwalk

The 2 1/2 mile hiking loop takes you past the shore of Lake Russell and then offers a closer look at the preserve's natural communities. What will you see? The landscape and foliage includes: cypress swamp, freshwater marsh, scrub, flatwoods and oak hammocks.

Lake_Russell_at_Reedy_Creek
Lake Russell at Reedy Creek

There is a rejuvenated longleaf pine forest with a lush understory of native grasses, saw palmetto and other shrubs. The rejuvenation is the result of "prescribed fire" on the land. They have used "controlled burns" to remove invasive plants that are not native to the area. These fires have resulted in an amazing return to the type of pine forests those first Spanish missionaries saw.

Long_Leaf_Pine_Forest

Pine_flatwoods

Key flowers include the fall-flowering ixia, Catesby's lily and terrestrial orchids.

Rose_rush
Rose Rush

Pickerel_weed
Pickerel Weed

Animal life includes bald eagle, red-cockaded woodpecker, wood stork, sandhill crane, northern harrier and crested caracara. The preserve is also home to the southeastern big-eared bat, Sherman's fox squirrel, eastern indigo snake and gopher tortoise. The Florida panther has even been documented crossing the site!

Sandhill_cranes

Read about the Disney Wilderness Preserve HERE.

Sunset

Next time you visit Walt Disney World, set aside a day for a hike at the Disney Wilderness Preserve.

It looks awesome, I cannot wait to experience it first-hand!



Sincere thanks to VisitCentralFlorida.org and The Nature Conservancy for agreeing to share their photos!

September 14, 2014

Dayton Disneyana 2014

Gary Cruise banner

Last year Carol and I, along with son Rob, made our first trek to Dayton Ohio for the annual Disneyana Show & Sale hosted by the Dayton "Plane Crazy" Chapter of the Disneyana Fan Club. Everyone enjoyed it so much that we just had to return this year.

There was one issue . . . Rob decided to test the strength of our garage floor a few weeks ago. He dove from the top of a step ladder to the concrete slab 8 feet below. The final score was Concrete Floor 1 - Rob's Shoulder 0.

Friday June 13th
By 5:55 a.m. Rob had found a comfy position in the back seat; his shattered left shoulder, held together by a few steel pins and plates, was supported in a sling and resting on the center armrest. We were a bit apprehensive - would he be comfortable throughout a 10 - 11 hour drive?

We hit the road about 5 minutes ahead of plan and drove through a few heavy showers for the first few hours. Once we passed Toronto skies cleared and we made great time.

Ambassador_Bridge

We crossed the US border at Detroit and pulled off at Monroe Michigan for lunch.

Two_big_boys

Sign_to_Toledo

Entering_Ohio

By 2:00 p.m. we had pulled off in Toledo Ohio where Carol and Rob visited the Disney Store. Traffic was light for the last leg of the trip and we pulled into the Windham Garden Hotel at 5:15. Rob had endured the trip quite well.

We relaxed for a few minutes, then struck out once again; Carol needed some Retail Therapy. The Christmas Tree Shop, Jo-Ann Fabrics, and WalMart followed in short order as I waited in the car with my book!

We had a quick bite for dinner and headed back to the hotel for the night. By 9:00 I had settled in the room to watch the Stanley Cup final game (Los Angeles Kings won the championship in the second overtime period) while Carol and Rob headed to the foyer outside the ballroom to trade Disney pins and Vinylmations.

Carol was back to the room and trying to sleep by 11:00 - the game carried on until 12:30 when I fell into bed exhausted after a long day.

Saturday June 14th
We were up before 7:00 a.m. and enjoyed the hotel's complimentary hot breakfast; we finished just in time for "early entry". Carol and Rob had paid $15 for the privilege of shopping for 90 minutes before the "official opening".

Welcome_sign

Entry_Fees

I was allowed into the vendor area before the doors opened and I enjoyed a few quiet minutes, wandering the aisles and snapping a few pictures. The entire ballroom was filled with tables, racks and shelves! Everywhere I looked it was overflowing with an amazing variety of Disney collectibles. The vendors had merchandise well organized and nicely displayed.

I was excited . . . I could only imagine how Carol would react!

Movie_posters

Mickey_and_a_friend

Framed_art

Mr._Toad

At 8:30 Carol, Rob and the rest of the 50 "Early-birds" charged through the door.

The_shopping_begins

Vendors had donated quite a few draw prizes for the early-birds, some were included in the swag-bag each of them received and some were set aside for a random draw. Early-birds all received a long strip of draw tickets which they could drop in the red Solo Cup in front of each vendor's "special" prize. If you really wanted the prize you could drop multiple tickets to improve your odds. Once all the cups had been located and the tickets were dropped, the early-birds all got busy shopping! Carol and Rob were lucky, Carol won one draw prize and Rob won two in the draw which took place later in the day!

Carol_is_in_her_glory!

See the red Solo cup, in the picture above, beside that collector plate? Rob won the plate!

There was an incredible variety of merchandise! To paraphrase Ariel, "There were gadgets and gizmos a-plenty, there were whozits and whatzits galore. You want thingamabobs? There were twenty!"

Plenty_of_Disney_goodies

Even_more_goodies

There were movie posters, VHS and DVD videos, LP's, CD's and video games.

There were plates and spoons, cups and glasses, clocks and watches.

There were comic books, magazines, coloring books, toys, framed pictures, animation cels, figurines, games and collectibles in varieties too many to mention.

Tabels_and_tables_full_of_collectibles

Disney_watches

As you might expect, there were pins and Vinylmations! Very important to Carol!

A_jumbo_pin

A_pin_board

Racks_of_Disneyana

Tom Tumbusch from Tomart Publications showcased their Disneyana and Pin Trading catalogues and the pin traders were delighted to pore through the surplus pins Tomart have used in the production of their books.

Tom_Tumbusch

Tomart_books

Brian from Theme Park Connections brought a truckload of interesting Disney merchandise from their Orlando store, near the Florida Mall, a 937 mile trip.

Theme_Park_Connection

They were selling some very interesting items, like this piece which holds the chains on the railing for the queue inside the Haunted Mansion. WOW!

From_the_Haunted_Mansion

How about those signs from the Polynesian Resort? They were very popular!

Brian_with_a_Polynesian_sign

Master_Gracey

Carol_with_a_giant_Mickey

I spent some time watching Carol and Rob "work" the banquet hall. They each have different collections and different tastes, but each one understands very clearly what appeals to the other. They work as a team, each one searching for themselves and scouting for the other as they circle the hall again and again!

Working_the_room

Just after noon I dashed out to pick up lunch for the collectors, they were too busy combing through all the treasures to even consider leaving the hotel!

They settled at tables in the hall outside the banquet room and ate lunch, then stayed there for some pin and Vinylmation trading. About once an hour Carol or Rob would take a lap around the vendor's tables . . . as more items were sold the wares were spread out and they could spot treasures they had overlooked earlier!

By the time I returned with lunch the speakers had begun their presentations. The first speaker was Mark Henn, an acclaimed Disney animator. Mark was born in Dayton and in 1980 his dreams came true, be became a Disney animator.

Mark_Henn_biography

I underestimated the popularity of this hometown hero . . . when I returned with lunch the meeting room where he was speaking was jammed to capacity and the door was closed. I missed his presentation - Dang! I did catch up with him later and spent a few minutes chatting. He is a gifted animator, painter and sculptor. Here Mark is pictured with art from some of the Disney projects he has worked on over his 30 year career.

Mark_Henn_with_his_art

Next to speak was Jim Hill, a noted Disney historian.

Jim_Hill

Jim talked about the history of Disney Parks and delighted us with a few little-known facts and with several humorous stories about some unusual attractions that were never produced. It was a very relaxed and enjoyable session.

Maleficent_popcorn_buckets

Carrie_and_Susan_like_what_they_see!

Ghouls

More_treasures

The trading and browsing continued until 5:00 when the vendors closed up shop for the day. We enjoyed a nice dinner in the hotel restaurant and I retired to the room to play on the computer and watch TV while Carol and Rob resumed trading pins and Vinylmations in the foyer.

Pin_trading_bags

Cases_of_Vinylmations_to_trade

Carol was back to the room by 11:00 p.m.

Sunday June 15th
The ballroom didn't open until 10:00 a.m. so we had a leisurely morning, coffee in the room followed by a late breakfast in the restaurant. Carol and Rob made a few more rounds of the ballroom. They like Sunday shopping since the vendors seem to be a bit more flexible with prices. It's so much easier to sell something than it is to pack it up and take it home.

Working_the_room_on_Sunday

Carol_and_Susan_are_happy_Disney_collectors!

A_shelf_full_of_Disneyana

Collector_plates

An_endless_variety_of_collectibles

Another_pin_board

Soon they had set up outside, in the foyer, and did some more pin and Vinylmation trading . . . with occasional laps around the vendors tables. The vendors are all very friendly and easy to deal with - kindred spirits who love Disney just as much as we do!

Gary_Smith_and_Rob

Here Rob chats with Gary Smith from Missouri. He is a partner in Gary & Gary Collectibles.

Pin_traders

A_Lego_Yoda

Figurines

A_Mickey_telephone

Avid_shoppers

Christmas_decor

More_figurines

Although the event carried on until 4:00 p.m. we had to face the long drive home before then. We said our goodbyes and thanked the organizers at noon. The Dayton "Plane Crazy" Chapter of the Disneyana Fan Club, who host the event annually, deserve a lot of credit for a job well done! They describe this event as "Dayton Disneyana Collectible Expo & Disney Pin and Vinylmation Trading" but it is actually much more than that. It's more like a convention for Disney fans. Everyone who attended seemed to thoroughly enjoy the chance to mix and mingle with so many other people who share our passion for anything related to Disney! Special thanks to Anita Schaengold and Pam Phillippe who co-chaired this year's event committee.

By 12:05 we were northbound on I-75. The trip was uneventful, light traffic and sunny skies. We made very quick stops for lunch and gas and arrived at the Canadian border at 4:15 where Rob met this distinguished gentleman at the Duty Free Store.

Rob_and_the_Ambassador

Traffic was even lighter once we crossed the Ambassador Bridge and hit the Canadian freeway. We stopped at Carol's parents, picked up the dogs and were home at about 10:30 p.m. after a great weekend.

You are probably wondering, "What did they bring home?" Well here's a picture of some of it.

Carol_and_Rob's_purchases

Carol's favourite items? Those three collector plates belong to a set she began collecting in the 1980's. Back in those days she could only afford to buy one a year and they have been long out of production. Now she is only missing two! That coffee mug is a classic - It's Musket Mickey. He's dressed in a coonskin hat and carrying a musket. In these days of political correctness Mickey carries a walking stick, so when you find him with a musket it's definitely a keeper. Rob bought the Christmas Carollers as a birthday gift for Carol. They are standing on top of the red box. Mickey plays the piano and Goofy sings while Donald covers his ears!

Rob's favourite? The bobble-head Goofy in the blue box which he picked up at Gary & Gary Collectibles.

If you are a collector of Disney art or memorabilia, you really should plan a visit to Dayton Disneyana. Next year's event will be held at the Holiday Inn Dayton/Fairborn I-675, 2800 Presidential Drive, Fairborn, OH June 13 - 14, 2015.

Plane_Crazy_Chapter_logo

Check the Dayton Disneyana web site for more details HERE

Like them on Facebook HERE.

August 31, 2014

Be A Conservation Hero

Gary Cruise banner

Are you a Conservation Hero?

Do you own any of these?

Conservation_Hero_Buttons_1

Conservation_Hero_Buttons_2

Conservation_Hero_Buttons_3

If your answer was "Yes" - you are a Conservation Hero!

Do you own any of these?

Pressed_Pennies_1

Pressed_Pennies_2

If your answer was "Yes" - you are a Conservation Hero!

Have you ever tossed a coin in here?

Muppets_Fountain

If your answer was "Yes" - you are a Conservation Hero!

You didn't know that you were a hero? Most people don't . . . but when you buy those conservation buttons, when you press those pennies or when you toss coins in a Disney fountain you are making a donation to the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund. And your contribution is bigger than you think it is! I'll explain how it all works, but first here's a bit of preamble:

The Walt Disney Company takes their social responsibility very seriously and have developed a comprehensive environmental policy as a key component of their corporate culture.

This is how they explain it on their web site: "Acting responsibly is an integral part of our brand. It strengthens the connection we have with consumers, makes our company a more desirable place to work, and helps us attract the very best and brightest to join our global cast. It builds goodwill in the communities in which we operate. All of these things contribute to The Walt Disney Company's continued growth and success."

One of the six key factors in their statement of business ethics reads as follows: "Environmental Stewardship: Use resources wisely and protect the planet as we operate and grow our business"

You can read more about Disney's Corporate Ethics Policy HERE.

Disney_Worldwide_Conservation_Fund_Logo

The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund was established April 22, 1995 (Earth Day) and since that time they have awarded over 1,000 grants totalling over $24 million to fund environmental projects in 112 countries.

WOW! That's over half of the countries in the world!

DWCF_Factsheet_Overview

What sort of projects do they fund? According to the Disney web site: "Grants provide financial support for: the study of wildlife; the protection of habitats; the development of community conservation and education programs in critical ecosystems; and experiences that connect kids to nature through exploration and discovery."

Here is a sampling of the animals and locations involved in 10 of the 150 projects funded in 2013:
1. Umbrellabirds - Ecuador
2. Maasailand Lions - Tanzania
3. Painted Dogs - Zimbabwe
4. Tigers - Indonesia
5. Grizzly Bears - Canada
6. Golden-Winged Warblers - United States
7. Golden-Capped Fruit Bat - Philippines
8. Cheetahs - Namibia
9. Bottlenose Dolphins - United States
10. Ploughshare Tortoises - Madagascar

Where does the money come from? This is where you come in - every time you buy a Conservation Hero Button you are donating to the fund. When you press a penny you are helping preserve our planet. When you toss a coin into a Disney fountain you are a Conservation Hero! Doesn't that make you feel good?

There are even Disney tours and experiences that support the fund. Take the Backstage Safari Tour, the Wild By Design Tour or the Wild Africa Trek and you are supporting the fund!

Animal_Kingdom_Animal_Guide

Would it make you feel better if Disney were to match your donation?

Well start feeling better . . . because they do! Disney pays 100% of the overhead costs for all of the contribution streams. Every cent you pay for a button, every cent you pay for a pressed penny and every cent you toss into a fountain is fully matched by the Walt Disney Company. They even pay all of the administrative costs to operate the Conservation Fund! That means that when you donate $1.00 for a Conservation Hero button, Disney pays for the production and distribution of the button and $2.00 goes directly to a worthwhile conservation project.

MuppetVision_3D_Fountain_Closeup

Even Rizzo and his friends volunteer their time to help collect the donations!

The Walt Disney Company very quietly and modestly does some pretty amazing things, and this is one of them! Things like the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund make me very proud to be a Disney fan!

DWCF_Factsheet_Contribution_Locations

There are some other ways to donate, outlined in the picture above.

If you want to read more about the projects, or about other ways to contribute, click HERE and follow the DWCF Featured Links.

Brochure_outside

Brochure_inside

Create_Change

So now that you know about the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund . . . what are you waiting for? Get to a Disney park as soon as possible. Buy some buttons, press some pennies and toss some coins in the fountains.

Be a Conservation Hero!

August 17, 2014

AllEars Trading Cards

Gary Cruise banner

I thought Carol had them all!

She had a collection of Virtual Magic Kingdom Cards . . . I foolishly thought there were no more Disney cards for her to collect!

Then, along came AllEars Trading Cards. I don't have to tell you the result - Carol had to have them all!

Here's a bit of background: From time to time the AllEars Team will announce details of a "Meet and Greet". These informal sessions are held in one of the Disney theme parks or resorts. Readers and fans are invited to mix, mingle and chat with the AllEars team.

The Trading Card idea materialized a few years ago, during an AllEars "Meet & Greet" when former AllEars Photoblogger Barrie Brewer said to AllEars Founder Deb Wills, "Wouldn't it be nice to have a little memento to give to people who come to our Meet and Greets?" Deb liked the idea and Barrie got busy designing some prototype trading cards.

From the very beginning the cards were a hot commodity with AllEars readers!

AllEars_Trading_Card_1

AllEars_Trading_Card_2


AllEars_Trading_Card_3

AllEars_Trading_Card_4

The first few cards contained scenes from Walt Disney World and some photography tips from the Photoblog Team.

AllEars_Trading_Card_19

AllEars_Trading_Card_31

It wasn't long before the cards started to show some classic scenes from the parks and resorts, along with a bit of history or background for the scene pictured.

AllEars_Trading_Card_B

AllEars_Trading_Card_F

Each member of the AllEars Team has their own personal card, which you can only get from them. How's that for exclusive?

AllEars_Trading_Card_Reverse

The back of each card displays the AllEars logo and the Photoblog web address.

AllEars_Trading_Card_Checklist

There's even a handy little "checklist" card, you can record your collection by ticking the boxes on the back!

I know what you're thinking . . . "Where do I buy some of these cards?"

That's what makes the AllEars Trading Cards so highly coveted . . . these unique collectibles are not for sale. You can only get them directly from an AllEars Team Member or by trading with other Disney fans. Cards are not available through the mail except from time to time when a limited number of cards may be offered as part of a charity auction.

Trading was intense from the start. During the last two AllEars Group Cruises, and as part of the AllEars 15th Anniversary celebration, my wife Carol ran meets to trade Disney Pins. The trade meets at all three events were hugely successful, but the trading in AllEars Trading Cards totally overshadowed the trading of pins.

Card_Trading_1

Card_Trading_2

Card_Trading_3

Disney fans really like them!

So, how do you get some cards?

1. Plan to attend an AllEars Meet and Greet. You can find details of past and future events HERE.

2. If you bump into an AllEars Team Member in any of the parks, ask for one of their cards.

3. Keep your eyes and ears open for the next AllEars Group Cruise or similar event. There are always plenty of cards, and card traders at these large gatherings.

There are now 66 cards, plus the Team Member cards. You can see them all HERE

If you want AllEars Trading Cards you have to come out and play!

The AllEars Team is looking forward to meeting you real soon!

August 3, 2014

From the Tickle Trunk – Walt Disney World News 1990

Gary Cruise banner

The last WDW newsletter we looked at was from October 1982. Now Mr. Peabody has dialed his WABAC Machine forward eight years so we can take a look at the Summer 1990 edition.

1990_Front_Page

There's a new theme park, Disney-MGM Studios . . . and look at all that color on the front page! They are really pushing that 5-Day Plus Super Pass. Of course, with three theme parks you now need 5 days!

Hey, look - the Muppets have arrived! "Here Come the Muppets" was a live show that premiered on May 25, 1990 at Disney-MGM Studios. The pre-show area featured a video of Rowlf playing the piano and singing, with interruptions from Sam Eagle. The show, which featured walking Muppet characters, ran until September 2, 1991, and was replaced in that location by The Voyage of the Little Mermaid. Two weeks after the show closed, a second live Muppet show, "Muppets on Location: Days of Swine and Roses", opened in a different area of the park.

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There was plenty of color on page two as well. And who are these strange characters? Dick Tracy? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? What's with that?

I had never seen or heard tell of these characters at any Disney park . . . so some research was called for!

Wow . . . here's what I found: Dick Tracy, Flattop, Mumbles and Tess Trueheart appeared live on stage at the Theatre of the Stars! The production, Diamond Double-Cross, didn't last too long - it opened May 21, 1990 and ran until February 16, 1991. There were even Dick Tracy characters in the troupe of roving "Streetmosphere" performers; they disappeared in February 1991 as well.

And those turtles? Carol remembers seeing them. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles appeared in the "New York Street" section of Disney-MGM Studios. Emerging from their Turtle Party Wagon, they would "ninja dance" across the stage while April performed the theme song to their show. After the main show was done they would pose for pictures and sign autographs. The Turtles also appeared in Disney's "Very Merry Christmas Parade" and sang their own rendition of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town". In the Easter parade they danced to their single "Pizza Power!" The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live shows and appearances came to an end in 1996.

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There was plenty of new information on Page 3.

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At EPCOT the Wonders of Life Pavilion had just opened in October 1989 and Body Wars was an exciting new attraction. Guests boarded Bravo 229, a "LGS 2050" probe vehicle and were miniaturized, ship and all, before being injected into a human body to observe a splinter and rescue Dr. Cynthia Lair. The LGS 2050 weighed approximately 26 tons but once miniaturized it weighed less than a drop of water, so it was easily able to navigate its way to the splinter and find the doctor. At the injury site she was taking a blood cell count when she was accidentally pulled into a capillary. Captain Braddock boldly followed her through the capillary and into a vein, even though it meant entering an unauthorized area. The captain steered Bravo 229 past the heart and into the right ventricle, then on into the lung where the doctor was being attacked by a white blood cell. Captain Braddock fired his lasers to free the doctor but by then the ship was very low on power. Dr. Lair suggested that they use the brain's energy to recharge the ship. Passing through the heart, the ship followed an artery all the way to the brain where a neuron touched the ship and re-powered the batteries. The Bravo 229 and all the guests were safely de-miniaturized outside of the body. Everyone returned home, safe and sound; funny how that always turns out! Body Wars ran for 18 years and closed on January 1, 2007.

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IllumiNations was still quite new in 1990; it premiered at World Showcase Lagoon on January 30, 1988. It had to go through several version changes before it became the "IlluniNations, Reflections of Earth" that we see today.

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Mickey's Starland originated as Mickey's Birthdayland which opened on June 18, 1988. It transformed into Mickey's Starland on May 26, 1990. The area was briefly renamed Mickey's Toyland in late 1995. The land closed in early 1996 for an extensive refurbishment, and on October 1, 1996, it reopened as Mickey's Toontown Fair for the park's 25th anniversary. The back-story portrayed the land as the holiday home for the characters who normally lived at Mickey's Toontown in California. Mickey's Toontown Fair was closed on February 11, 2011 in order to build the New Fantasyland. Some elements of Mickey's Toontown Fair have been demolished and others have been re-themed to the new Storybook Circus area.

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Page 4 had a detailed listing of park hours for the months of June, July and August. The two news articles took us outside the theme parks where there was also plenty of brand new excitement!

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Typhoon Lagoon opened less than a year prior, on June 1, 1989 and it was a very popular destination. It's my favourite Disney water park; I just love that wave pool!

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Pleasure Island was a new phenomenon as well. It had opened May 1, 1989 and drew huge crowds every night. There was a wide variety of venues; something to please everyone, and every night was New Year's Eve! Do you remember the Neon Armadillo? The Adventurer's Club? All those great old clubs are now closed and bulldozed as Pleasure Island, along with the rest of Downtown Disney, is being transformed into Disney Springs!

Isn't it funny . . . so many of the things which were so exciting, so revolutionary and daring in 1990 are merely distant memories as we look back 24 years from 2014.

The Muppets have relocated to a 3D Theatre, Dick Tracy is gone, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are gone, The Wonders of Life Pavilion is closed and Body Wars is shuttered. Mickey's Starland and Pleasure Island have both been levelled and redeveloped. There is always something new coming along to captivate us.

I suppose that's what Walt Disney meant when he spoke about Disneyland many years ago. He said, "Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world." I'm sure that Walt, if he had lived to see his Florida Project open, would have said the same thing about Walt Disney World; it will continuously evolve and grow.

That's just one of the things that makes our happy place so magical!

July 20, 2014

From the Tickle Trunk - Disney Seminars

Gary Cruise banner

Great memories come out of the Tickle Trunk . . . but it also has a few surprises in it. Surprises for me that is! You see, Carol and I were not a couple during the years when she took her first fourteen trips to Walt Disney World and some of the things she pulls out of that magical pine box, from those early trips, are things I have never even imagined before.

This blog is about one of those things I never imagined - The Wonders of Walt Disney World seminar series.

In November 1985 Carol and her son Rob booked a 14-night stay at Disney's Polynesian Resort. Sharing the trip with them were Carol's very good friend Judy, and Judy's daughter Jenn.

Several months before they left a package arrived in the mail; it was confirmation of their resort reservation and the envelope included a very handy 16-page 8 ½" X 11" brochure filled with all sorts of handy information about Walt Disney World. Look at the picture of that brochure below, and check out the index in the lower right corner.

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Do you see that reference to Disney Learning Programs on page 9? Carol saw it too. Here's what it said.

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Sounds great doesn't it. What? You can't read it? Oh yeah, the print is pretty small in that picture . . . so here's what it says:

Wonders of Walt Disney World

"Wonders of Walt Disney World" is a nationally recognized educational program, now available to guests ages 10-15. State and local superintendents and commissioners of education from across the country have given approval to the program concepts and many school systems award education credits to program participants, enabling families to take an off-season vacation without disrupting learning.

Each program is accompanied by two Disney-illustrated books of interesting ideas and creative learning activities. Guests submitting a paid registration 45 days in advance receive the first book by mail and begin their Disney experiences at home. This "pre-trip" book encourages young people to explore the resources of their own world in preparation for their Walt Disney World visit.

Once they arrive, a 6 1/2-hour field trip through onstage and backstage areas allows them to see ideas from their books as practical solutions to the challenges of operating Walt Disney World Co. The second book, presented at the end of the day's activities, contains suggestions on putting new ideas and interests into practice. Students may choose any one of the following subjects.

Exploring Nature: A True-Life Adventure
From an 11-acre island refuge for near extinct wildlife to our 7,500 acre wilderness preserve, students experience first-hand lessons about man's responsibility to his environment. Ecology truly comes alive in a setting of natural beauty and wonder. Tuesdays or Thursdays.

The Energy That Runs Our World
The innovative, state-of-the-art technical systems that power Walt Disney World Resort are the focus here as students visit our power plant, investigate alternate energy sources and examine the Disney philosophy of energy management. Mondays or Wednesdays.

Disney Creative Arts
At Disney, "art" is more than just paintings on museum walls. In this special program, an instructor and a Disney character artist illustrate that art is, indeed, all around us. Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays.

The Walt Disney World of Entertainment
"Let's put on a show!" What really goes into entertaining millions of people every year? Students not only get to meet the performers who take center stage but also learn about the people behind the scenes who contribute to a "good show." Tuesday, Thursdays or Fridays.

Enrolling
Programs are conducted daily, except Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Cost for each program per person is $45 and includes both books, the 6 1/2-hour field trip (including lunch), all program materials and the use of a Kodamatic instant camera and film.

To enroll, just complete the attached registration form at the back of this section and enclose a check for $45 per participant or call (305) 828-2405. For additional registration materials and more information, write: "Wonders of Walt Disney World," P.O. Box 40, Lake Buena Vista, Florida 32830. If you must cancel, call (305) 828-2405 for information on re-scheduling and refunds.

It sounded good to Carol; she discussed it with Judy and then they asked Jenn and Rob, thirteen and fourteen years old at the time, if they'd like to participate. Naturally they were both die-hard Disney fans and they both said yes. Rob couldn't decide between Exploring Nature: A True-Life Adventure and The Walt Disney World of Entertainment, so he took them both. Carol thinks that Jenn signed up for the Disney Creative Arts session.

It wasn't long before Rob's pre-course material arrived in the mail - two 10" X 10" booklets and a covering letter.

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Rob got busy with his pre-course reading and completed a couple of exercises in the booklets before they headed south. A sample exercise from the pre-course book is pictured below.

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On the appointed days he struck off to meet the instructors and the other children who were participating. Each student was given a Polaroid camera to use for the day and record some of the things they learned. Soon they were off on their backstage adventure.

Rob is a little fuzzy on the details of each day (after all, it was 29 years ago) but he remembers that the seminars were very interactive. The instructors were fun to be with, and the kids had plenty of input. They shared lots of opinions and ideas over the course of each day.

The image below show's Rob's name badge and a few of the Polaroid pictures he took during the Walt Disney World of Entertainment seminar.

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I asked Rob what he liked best about the experience. He said, "We spent a lot of time in the swamp; Florida has a lot of wetlands and we talked a lot about the ecology of the swamp. Discovery Island was great fun. We watched as they fed many of the birds and the cast members explained their diet. I was pretty impressed that they tried so carefully to match what the birds would eat in the wild."

"Later in the day we were taken backstage to watch the horticulturalists make new topiaries. We watched as they built a new wire frame and then saw several partially grown plants, as the cast members explained how they trained the plants to coil around the frame, different textures and colors of plants for different parts of the body. It was painstaking work, but the finished topiaries sure looked good!"

"One of my favorite memories though, was seeing the boats used in the Electric Water Pageant. They took our group to the canal where the fourteen boats docked during the day and we got to see them up close. They looked huge . . . and there were so many light bulbs. What a job changing those bulbs! It was 1985, long before LED lights, and they told us how many bulbs they changed on an average day. I forget the number, but I remember thinking that it was a big job!"

Somewhere during the course of their roving seminar the group stopped to eat a box lunch . . . Rob remembers enjoying his PBJ sandwich. (I'll bet they don't serve PBJ any more)

At the end of the day each student was given a very nice hard covered text book created and produced by The Disney University. It covered all the principles and concepts they had "discovered" during the day. The image below shows a page from Rob's Exploring Nature: A True-Life Adventure text book.

Textbook_Discovery_Island

Carol remembers clearly how excited Rob was when he came back to the resort each evening to tell her all about his day. His school teachers probably wouldn't describe him as a model student, but Rob sure enjoyed his schooling at Walt Disney World!

Over the next few years Carol continued to get information about the education programs when she booked a vacation. The program changed a bit over the years. Here are some pages from a flyer she received in 1989.

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By that time they had dropped The Energy That Runs Our World seminar but the other three were still offered. There were even programs for adults. Of course, Rob was outside the target age group for the youth seminars by 1989 and that was the last flyer Carol received.

Gosh, wouldn't it be nice if Disney still offered educational programs like that?

But wait . . . they do! Yes! They do!

There are sessions at Disneyland and at Walt Disney World. You can select from a number of programs offered at each park.

To see what's available in the Youth Education Series click here.

There's even a Kingdom Keepers Quest, for details click here.

Browse around those links and take a look at the full menu of educational offerings. It looks like there's something there for everyone, even adults!

Want to add a new dimension to your Disney vacation? Try one of the seminars!

July 16, 2014

From the Tickle Trunk – Walt Disney World News October 1982

Gary Cruise banner

Let's pull another old newsletter out of the Tickle Trunk and look at a very exciting time in the history of Walt Disney World! The October 1982 issue describes the newest theme park, EPCOT Center which opened that month.

Oct_1982_Front_Page

Look, there's even color on the front page . . . and it's just buzzing with good words about all the new attractions. What sort of spin did the Disney marketing experts put on the newest park? The image above is small and hard to read so I'm going to quote all three of those front page articles for you. I know you won't want to miss a single word!

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Epcot Center: The Newest Wonder of the World
Twice the size of the Magic Kingdom and just under one billion dollars in the making, Epcot Center at last opens its wonders to the world this month.

After 15 years of planning, dreaming, and doing, the World's greatest adventure is ready: Walt Disney World Epcot Center.

Within this showplace of imagination, just 2 1/2 miles from the Magic Kingdom, adventures never before possible have been brought to life through the marvelous wizardry of Disney Imagineering. Epcot Center is as far advanced from the Magic Kingdom as the Magic Kingdom is from the old-fashioned amusement park.

Imagine time-traveling from the era of the dinosaurs to the age of the stars. Discovering the secrets of a Mayan pyramid. Dining beneath the Eiffel Tower. Spiraling through the universe inside an 18-story sphere. And discovering the wonders of 15 fantastic pavilions, each more incredible than the one before.

Epcot Center encompasses two distinct dimensions: Future World and World Showcase, each unique in theme and style. Future World celebrates the limitless potential of science, industry, and technology in helping to create a positive and viable world of tomorrow. World Showcase salutes the global community of nations joined in international fellowship. Together they invite people of all ages to become "Epcot travelers" bound on journeys as fantastic as Gulliver's and as futuristic as our dreams for better tomorrows.

Wow " that does sound exciting, doesn't it!

Oct_1982_Around_the_World

Around the World in One Day
It would take a lifetime of vacations to explore the diverse countries of the world, discovering within each its own special ambience, charm and mystique. For most people, such adventure lives only in a dream. For travelers to Epcot Center's World Showcase, it is a dream come true.

Here, amidst nations standing in friendship beside a broad lagoon, you'll live in one day what only weeks of world travel could surpass. You'll follow the roads leading to Rome. Lunch in a Bavarian Biergarten during Oktoberfest. Explore the interior of a Mayan pyramid. Cross the vast expanse of Canada and the Great Wall of China. Dine in gourmet splendor under a moonlit Eiffel Tower. Join Ben Franklin and Mark Twain for a soaring historical overview of America and her promising future. And more.

In World Showcase, Canada, Mexico, Japan, China, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Germany are brought to life through the creative magic that is the hallmark of Disney showmanship. Central among these nations stands the American Adventure, its position reinforcing America's uniqueness as a "nation of many nations." In a theatrical production unparalleled in Disney annals, the American Adventure combines large-screen projection, inspiring music and special effects with performances by the most lifelike Audio-Animatronics figures ever developed.

East and west of the American Adventure, along the promenade, you'll discover other exciting shows and attractions, plus restaurants and shops unique to each nation. Dine at Les Chefs de France and savor the gastronomic masterpieces of superstar chefs Paul Bocuse, Roger Verge, and Gaston Lenotre. Or dine as the Romans do " at L'Originale Alfredo Di Roma, where singing waiters serve such epicurean delights as the Maestro's own Fettuccine All'Alfredo. In Mexico, you'll enjoy the famed cuisine of Mexico City's incomparable San Angel Inn. In Japan's Mitsukoshi Restaurant, watch Japanese master chefs create culinary magic in spellbinding tableside presentations.

Wherever you go, World Showcase is alive with entertainment. Hundreds of performers - from Tyrolean yodelers to strolling troubadours - will keep you amused and enchanted. From France come white-faced mimes and street musicians ... from Italy, the farcical players of the Comedia Dell'Arte.

At the United Kingdom, you'll meet the Pearly Kings and Queens. From Japan, a Candy Man magically creates herons and unicorns from his treasure-trove of rice toffee. And Mariachi players serenade you at the cantina in Mexico.

In Canada and China, Circle-Vision cameras take you on a magic carpet ride through some of the most spectacular scenery ever filmed. At the Palais du Cinema, you'll journey to France's most famous locales accompanied by the music of its finest composers. In Mexico, you'll embark on a boat ride through Mexico's colorful past, discovering along the way the festival and dance of the great Mayan, Toltec, and Aztec civilizations.

Even shopping becomes its own form of entertainment. You'll find an extraordinary number of boutiques, like the biscuit, toy, and china shops of the United Kingdom and the Neapolitan leather and pottery shops of Italy. Japan's Grand Shishinden Hall houses a department store by the internationally-celebrated Mitsukoshi - a name synonymous with the finest in Japanese art and industry since 1672. Numerous artisans present their wares as well: The Hummel craftsmen of Germany, the Northwest Indians of Canada, calligraphers from China and Japan - and a World Showcase of other surprises.

Whether out for a stroll in the meditative Japanese garden or caught up in the merriment of Germany's Biergarten, you'll meet people whose native countries form the World Showcase community. Working together in a true family of man, these young adults are the binding spirit of Epcot Center - a spirit that calls for international fellowship for the present world and the future world ahead.

From my very first trip to EPCOT to my most recent, I have always enjoyed strolling around World Showcase. The architecture, the cast members, the music, the entertainers, they all impart just a bit of their foreign culture. It really does feel as though you have stepped into each of those countries. Today there are special events such as the Food & Wine Festival and the Flower & Garden Festival which add to the fun!

Oct_1982_Imagineering

Imagineering the future
In Future World, the first of two colossal showplaces that make up Epcot Center, Disney Imagineers have taken some potentially dry subjects, such as energy, communications, transportation, invention, and agriculture, and turned them into shows so thoroughly entertaining that visitors will be inspired to learn more. Walt Disney's maxim "I would rather entertain and hope that it teaches than teach and hope that it entertains" has never been more skillfully executed.

Each Future World show, of which there are presently five with more to come, combines a multitude of theatrical and motion picture techniques - some so far advanced of their field that they defy description. Yet the end result is overwhelmingly enchanting.

Spaceship Earth, presented by the Bell System. Epcot Center's glistening geosphere, Spaceship Earth, is the gateway to Future World. Towering 18 stories, it is the only structure of its kind anywhere. Inside, guests embark on a spiraling time Journey tracing the 40,000-year evolution of communication. The message - that man's ability to communicate, to metaphorically write the charts for navigating Spaceship Earth, has insured his survival. From the past, guests are suddenly propelled into the future, where they find themselves in an incredibly beautiful simulation of outer space, gazing back at Earth among a thousand stars.

Universe of Energy, presented by Exxon. The 300-foot-long mirrored pavilion, whose solar panels help power the show's ride, presents an energy story as dazzling and as captivating as the building itself. Guests journey through an exquisitely detailed re-creation of a prehistoric jungle. And they witness such startling motion pictures as one projected on a mosaic screen with hundreds of constantly rotating surfaces.

World of Motion, presented by General Motors. The wheel-shaped World of Motion employs Future World's largest and most colorful cast of Audio-Animatronics characters to chronicle man's age-old quest for ever-accelerating mobility. It's zany entertainment at its best. After the show, guests may visit the GM Transcenter for an intriguing look at concepts of the present and future of transportation.

Journey Into Imagination, presented by Kodak. The fantasyland of Future World, Journey Into Imagination takes visitors beyond the products of creativity for a fantastic Journey through the creative process itself. Then in a fun-packed electronic factory called Image Works, guests get to unlock their own creativity. The grand finale, in the Magic Eye Theatre, presents the largest " and perhaps most captivating " three-dimensional motion picture ever produced.

The Land, presented by Kraft. Covering six acres, The Land houses a boat ride through various climates of the world; greenhouses where plants grow in midair; a lively "Kitchen Kabaret" musical review; a provocative cinematic presentation; a "Farmers Market" for sandwiches and snacks; and the "Good Turn," a unique revolving restaurant specializing in regional dishes from across America.

Epcot Computer Central, presented by Sperry. Located among an inviting cluster of buildings known as CommuniCore, this exhibit brings people and technology together with an up-close and entertaining look at the computers that help run Walt Disney World and put more than a thousand Audio-Animatronics performers through their paces.

How does Disney do it? They entertain us so well, but they educate us at the same time. They make learning a fun experience! Nowhere is this more evident than it is in Future World. The trip through Spaceship earth shows us the history of communication and hints at the future. The World of Energy (now with Ellen) hammers home the need for responsible energy management in an amusing and engaging way. In the greenhouses of The Land we learn the importance of conservation and resource management. I always marvel at those hydroponic gardens!

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Page 2

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Page 3

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Page 4

I'm going to skip right past pages 2, 3 & 4 of the October 1982 newsletter. They are pictured above, but the content of those pages is almost identical to the November 1982 issue. I'll discuss it in a future blog.

Now, I'd like to leave the newsletter behind and turn to a few other things related to the opening of EPCOT. Some other little gems hidden away in the Tickle Trunk!

Carol spent ten days at Walt Disney World in November 1982. After she reserved her accommodations she received a nice surprise when her confirmation package arrived in the mail. This application for a commemorative EPCOT ticket was included.

1982_Ticket_Application

Naturally she had to have a couple!

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It wasn't long before the two tickets, measuring 8 ¾" X 3 ¾", arrived, nicely presented in the shiny, embossed silver envelope pictured below. The reverse side had instructions for redeeming tickets at the park. There was a perforated stub on the left side of each ticket which was torn off as you entered EPCOT. Alas, I have no image of the stub.

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The envelope containing those tickets held a surprise, a brand new brochure produced especially for the park opening.

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The brochure opened first to a birds-eye view map of the property.

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Two pages focused on Future World.

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The final two pages introduced World Showcase.

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Here's an added bonus, the worst park map Disney ever designed! The map guests received when they entered the park was sponsored by Kodak. It was big, rigid and bulky. It measured 6" X 6" when fully folded; it would not fit in your pocket! It was made with heavy cardstock and unfolded to display three pages. Do you see that little paper dial on the top? When you turned it it gave you specifications for Kodak cameras and films. The map was 6" X 18" when unfolded; it was huge and awkward . . . what were they thinking?

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Inside was information on park services and a wheel you turned to view information through cut-out holes (see the pink areas?). On this side you could dial to the countries of World Showcase. Dial Japan and one cut-out showed a small sketch of the pavilion while the other one suggested that you sample some taste treats and take a fresh, new look at an ancient culture.

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Thankfully this map design didn't last too long.

Autumn of 1982 was an exciting time for Disney fans and Carol was thrilled to be among the first to experience that brand new park. As I've told you before, every time we open the Tickle Trunk those great old memories come rolling out. For the last few days, as I put together this blog, Carol has had a great time reminiscing about that first trip to EPCOT.

I hope you have enjoyed the memories too!

July 6, 2014

From the Tickle Trunk – Walt Disney World News 1981

Gary Cruise banner

According to The Walt Disney Archives, the Magic Kingdom's first map wasn't a guide map as we know it today, but a multi-page newspaper called The Walt Disney World News. The first edition, with a huge headline "Vacation Kingdom Opens," celebrated the opening of the park with photos of company founder Walt Disney, Walt Disney World Ambassador Debby Dane, and the Windsor family, the first visitors to enter the park on Oct. 1, 1971. It also told the story of how, in order to be the first guests admitted, the entire Windsor family, mom, dad and sons slept overnight in their Volkswagen in a nearby parking lot.

Alas, we do not have a copy of that newspaper in the Tickle Trunk, but I was able to find a few pages from it on the Disney Parks Blog site. The park's first map appears on page 4 of the newspaper and is followed, on pages 4 and 5, with a listing of attractions, shops and restaurants in each themed land.

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It must have seemed comical when guests opened these 8-page tabloid-sized newspapers to find their way around the parks. It would have been quite a handful!

The Magic Kingdom Park Map, as we know it today, appeared in late 1972 but the production of the tabloid-style newspaper continued into the 1990's. Once the park map was introduced in 1972 the purpose of the newspaper seems to have changed. The content became more focused on things outside the Magic Kingdom. In my opinion, the entire purpose of the publication may have been to demonstrate to guests that Walt Disney World was more than just a theme park, a whole lot more! It promoted the many activities guests could enjoy in the resorts and in the shopping area at Lake Buena Vista.

The newspaper was printed monthly and included in the check-in package guests received when they arrived at Disney resorts. Copies were available to all other guests at City Hall in the Magic Kingdom. Carol and I have copies of ten different editions of the newspaper in the Tickle Trunk, spanning the years 1981 to 1992 and I'll share them with you over the next few months.

Let's start with the two issues from 1981, January and February. Carol received them both that year, while she was staying at Polynesian Village Resort.

Before we get started, let's look at the time frame . . . what was happening at our happy place?

There was still only one theme park, The Magic Kingdom, but EPCOT was nearing completion and would open in less than two years.

Disney resorts consisted of The Contemporary Resort, The Polynesian Village Resort, The Golf Resort (renamed The Disney Inn in 1986 and Shades of Green in 1994) and Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground.

The shopping area, opened in 1975, was known as The Village at Lake Buena Vista; in 1989 it was renamed Disney Village Marketplace and then in 1995 it became Downtown Disney.

Here is what the January 1981 issue looked like:

January_1981_Front_Page

Page 1 had an interesting article about music at the Magic Kingdom, in all it's venues. The Dapper Dans are jumping and clicking their heels in the lead photograph!

The second article on page 1 invites guests to shop at Walt Disney World Village. The photo shows the Empress Lily in the background. We now know her as Fulton's Crab House.

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Pages 2 through 4 focus on dining, entertainment, golf, tennis and fishing. Here are a few noteworthy articles:

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The first Character Meal - Dinner á la Disney at the Golf Resort.

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Fine dining at the Contemporary Resort's Gulf Coast Room!

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Even fishing - there was something for everyone her!

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Guests could enjoy some smooth jazz at the Village Lounge.

Let's take a look at the February 1981 issue which Carol picked up on the same trip.

The front page as well as page 4 were almost identical to the January edition, only the park hours section on page 1 had changed.

There were a few differences inside though.

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On page 2, The Fifth Dimension and Mickey Finn had finished their gigs at The Top of the World (today known as California Grill), Mel Tormé and Billy Eckstine now rounded out the list of entertainers.

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On Page three there was a terrific description of Discovery Island.

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A world of shopping awaited at The Village.

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Naturally there were some cute advertisments.

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You could arrange tennis lessons for the whole family at the Contemporary Resort.

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There was even a "wee links" course at the Golf Resort.

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Adventurous guests could taste exotic south seas treats at the Polynesian Village.

Even with only one theme park there was so much to see and enjoy at Walt Disney World in 1981. It was, and still is, a pretty amazing playground for kids of all ages!

And there's still plenty of good reading left in that old Tickle Trunk, this is just a small sampling. I hope you enjoyed it!

June 29, 2014

The Fort Wilderness Book

Gary Cruise banner

If you were to ask me, "Which Disney resort is your favorite?" I would immediately answer, "Fort Wilderness Campground."

We have stayed at many of the other resorts, including Port Orleans French Quarter, All Star Music, POP Century, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Wilderness Lodge, The Polynesian Resort and the Disneyland Hotel. Carol has made a few trips without me, and stayed at All Star Movies, All Star Sports, Port Orleans Riverside, The Contemporary Resort, The Grand Floridian Hotel, The Golf Resort, The Boardwalk, Old Key West and The Caribbean Beach Resort. While lots of other Disney fans may disagree, for me Fort Wilderness stands head and shoulders above any of those other resorts.

Carol says that her "dream trip" would involve either The Disneyland Hotel or The Polynesian Resort but Fort Wilderness is not far behind!

It will probably come as no surprise to you that Carol, a compulsive collector, has saved some keepsakes, mementos and souvenirs from a resort which ranks high on her list of favorites. They were scattered throughout our home, some in her pin collection, some in the Tickle Trunk, some in scrapbooks and others in book cases or file folders.

About two years ago she decided to put them all together in her new Fort Wilderness Book. Once she had it all assembled in a large 3-ring binder, we were both pleasantly surprised by some of the treasures she had picked up over the years.

Here is a look at a few of the highlights from the Fort Wilderness Book.

1981_Fort_Wilderness_Brochure_1

This 1981 Fort Wilderness brochure, sponsored by RV manufacturer, Fleetwood Enterprises, Inc., gives us a nostalgic look at the campground in its earliest days. Notice the advertisement for Fleetwood, who billed themselves as "The Official Recreational Vehicles of Fort Wilderness". Those are some classic old motor homes and travel trailers!

1981_Fort_Wilderness_Brochure_2

On the pages of the brochure are a few sights you won't see around Walt Disney World today. You will not find Musket Mickey! In today's politically correct world the coonskin-capped Mickey carries a walking stick rather than a firearm.

Do you see that sailboat in front of Cinderella Castle? There used to be sailboats, pedal boats and even those tricycle boats with the giant flotation tires available for rent at Fort Wilderness. They have been gone for years, but you can still rent SeaRaycers and pontoon boats.

The other sight from yesteryear that you no longer see is people swimming in Bay Lake or the Seven Seas Lagoon. In the early years the beaches at each of the Magic Kingdom area resorts were busy, but since swimming was banned many years ago the beaches have become lonely tracts of clean white sand. Why was swimming banned? There were some safety concerns centered around alligators, copperhead snakes and a rather nasty little amoeba, Naegleria Fowleri, more commonly called the "brain-eating amoeba". Take my advice . . . stay out of the water!

1981_Fort_Wilderness_Brochure_3

Trail rides, fishing and cycling are still very popular at "The Fort" and if you are there on the right day you might still see that blacksmith at work on his forge, beside the horse barns, at Tri-Circle D Ranch.

Two neighbouring destinations, Discovery Island and River Country are included in the brochure. Alas, they're both long gone now! Carol has some great mementos from each of them; I may write about both closed attractions in a future blog.

The 1981 Fort Wilderness brochure ends with "Food 'N Fun". The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue has been running continuously since 1974 and is often referred to as "one of the longest continuously running musicals in American theatre history". It may even be the longest!

1982_Hoop_Dee_Doo_Showbill

This handbill from the grand old Hoop-Dee-Doo show at Pioneer Hall dates back to about 1982. Today's version is almost exactly the same . . . the menu has changed slightly; seasonal vegetables have now replaced that "corn-right-on-the-cob". But you'll be pleased to hear that the corny old jokes have not changed a bit! It's still a toe-tappin', foot-stompin' good time!

1982_Fort_Wilderness_Postcard
A postcard from 1982

1982_Fort_Wilderness_Check-In_Brochure_front

1982_Fort_Wilderness_Check-in_Brochure_reverse

Those two images above are the front and back of a brochure guests received at check-in in 1982. All the rules and regulations, together with some suggestions are there, if you can read the fine print!

1986_Pioneer_Hall_Breakfast_Show

In March 1986 Carol received this letter announcing an exciting new meal at Pioneer Hall, the "Rise and Shine, Get Up and Go Breakfast Show" featuring Melvin the Moose, Chip and Dale and other characters. The breakfast show ran for about five years, until 1991 . . . don't worry about Melvin the Moose, he returned to his regular gig in Frontierland, at Country Bear Jamboree!

1988_Fort_Wilderness_Brochure_1

1988_Fort_Wilderness_Brochure_2

A 1988 brochure, pictured in the two images above, referred to "trailer homes" from Fleetwood. They were sometimes called "Wilderness Homes" and in 1997 they were all replaced by the cabins we know today!

2010_Fort_Wilderness_Resort_Map

Let's look at a few more recent items, starting with this resort map from 2010. From the Outpost (the check-in area at the bottom right of the map) to Pioneer Hall (near the marina and dock at the top left) is a distance of just over a mile. The roads marked with yellow, orange and purple lines denote the three routes run by the campground's internal bus system. When Fort Wilderness opened in November 1971 trams, similar to the parking lot trams used at the theme parks, transported guests around the campground. In the early 1990's the trams were replaced by buses.

2010_Fort_Wilderness_Gazette_pg_1_2

2010_Fort_Wilderness_Gazette_pg_3_4

For many years a four page Gazette newsletter was included in check-in packages. The copy above, from 2010, provides a wealth of information about the campground and the many services and recreation facilities available. The Gazette has now been replaced by a smaller booklet which contains the same information in a more modern format.

2010_Fort_Wilderness_Halloween_Schedule

Campers take great delight in decorating their sites for the holidays and Management at "The Fort" take an active role in organizing many fun-filled holiday activities. Here is a sample, a flyer from Halloween 2010.

2010_Tri_Circle_D_Brochure_front

2010_Tri_Circle_D_Brochure_inside

When you get to the campground, be sure to visit the horses at Tri-Circle-D Ranch. This 2010 brochure says it all about "The Happiest Horses on Earth". All of those horses you see working in the Magic Kingdom live at the ranch in Fort Wilderness. Stop by the barns and meet them sometime!

Bumper_Sticker_Soap_Decal_Shoulder_Patch

Here are a few other little odds and ends, a Fort Wilderness decal, an embroidered shoulder patch, a bumper sticker and bar of Fort Wilderness soap.

What's that? You were wondering about pins? Yes, of course Carol has pins; Fort Wilderness pins and River Country pins.

Pin_Frame_1

Pin_Frame_2

Pin_Frame_3

Did you know that the campground once had a railroad? There was a 3.5 mile track which looped through the campground from the Outpost to the Settlement. The cars were built to 4/5 scale and ran on a 30" track. There were four steam-powered engines and each pulled five passenger cars. Each of the four trains had could transport 90 passengers and they operated on a regular schedule from 1973 to 1977. They ran sporadically for a few years after that and in early 1980's the trains stopped altogether and the tracks were removed. Carol bought this pin commemorating the Fort Wilderness Railroad at the 2011 EPCOT Trade Celebration.

2011_Fort_Wilderness_Railroad

When Carol began pulling all of her collection together, were both surprised at the volume of stuff she had assembled . . . there are lots of good memories there! That magical binder keeps Fort Wilderness alive for us even when we're at home!

And it's still a work in progress; she's always on the lookout for new items to add to one of her prized possessions, her Fort Wilderness Book.

June 22, 2014

Disney Buttons

Gary Cruise banner

A long, long time ago a young mother named Carol took her six-year-old son Rob to Walt Disney World. She bought a three day park pass . . . then the problem became apparent! How do you ensure that a very active youngster doesn't lose a valuable ticket? Hmmm . . . what to do?

It was then that she spotted some Disney buttons on a nearby counter and the problem was solved. She grabbed a Mickey Mouse button, pinned the ticket to the little scamp's shirt and pointed him at the rides. Zoom - he was gone in a cloud of dust and the ticket was secure! After three days it was still secure; what a great idea!

Rob_with_button

The "pin-the-ticket" trick continued for a few years and she had acquired a small bag full of buttons by the time Rob was old enough to be trusted to take care of his own ticket. Pictured below are the buttons that secured his tickets in 1977. That red Mickey Mouse button was holding his ticket in the picture above.

Pin_The_Ticket_Buttons

Here is eight year old "Rebel" Rob. He had a Goofy button holding his ticket in 1979!

Rob_and_Orange_Bird

Have I mentioned that Carol is a compulsive collector? Could she stop picking up buttons just because there was no longer a need for them! No, of course not!

Rob collected buttons for several years as well; Carol inherited his collection when he moved on to new interests!

Naturally Disney is very helpful when it comes to Carol's affliction. They are always issuing new buttons. Every time they release a new movie, open a new ride or attraction, celebrate the birthday of a theme park, there is a new button to commemorate the occasion.

Carol now has a collection of 340 Disney buttons, all different shapes, sizes and colors. Beyond her 340 "keeper" buttons she has a big bag of "traders".

The buttons are all sorted and categorized into groups:

- Carsland
- D23
- Disney Cruise Line
- Disney Movies
- Disney Vacation Club
- Disney's Animal Kingdom
- Disneyana
- Disneyland
- EPCOT
- Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party
- Theme Park Birthdays
- Walt Disney Classic Collection
- Walt Disney World
- Everything else - oddities which don't fit the categories above.

Let's take a look at a few of the EPCOT buttons.

EPCOT_Buttons

There were some very unique buttons when EPCOT first opened.

EPCOT_Countries_Buttons

It seems that every time we travel Carol finds a bin or basket full of buttons and she always stops to search through them for hidden Disney treasure. More often than not she finds some!

There are always new buttons when a Disney video is released!

Video_Buttons

She tries to collect all of the Earth Day buttons and all of the Disney Conservation Fund buttons and there are only a few of each she is missing. Special occasion buttons are fun too!

Special_Occasion_Buttons

There are plenty of birthday and anniversary buttons.

Happy_Birthday_Buttons

Every time a theme park, character or movie hits a milestone year it's an opportunity for a new button . . . and Carol has plenty of them.

Walt_Disney_World_Birthday_Buttons

Every button tells a story and many of the buttons in Carol's collection bring back fond memories of happy times. Can you see the happy memories in the buttons pictured below?

Assorted_Buttons

Interesting_Old_Buttons

Here's one final picture for you, the button on the left is the first one Rob ever wore at Walt Disney World. It held his ticket on his t-shirt in 1977 when he was six years old. The button on the right is one he wore on his latest trip, just a few months ago.

Robs_First_and_Last_Button

Do you have any Disney buttons? What sort of memories do they evoke for you?

June 15, 2014

Money Saving Tips

Gary Cruise banner

There are plenty of people who bemoan, "Walt Disney World is an expensive place to vacation." While those people are correct in some ways, in my opinion they are way off-base in other ways.

Yes, there are many places where you can vacation for less money than a Disney park or resort . . . but, in my opinion, there are very few places where you will find the value for your dollar that you will find at my happy place.

Of course that doesn't mean that you shouldn't try to economize whenever you can, and there are some very simple and reliable ways to do that. I am not an expert on saving money; I'm actually far more experienced at frivolously wasting money than saving it. That's why Carol does almost all of our vacation planning. Here are a few very simple things I've picked up over the years by listening to Carol!

Money Saving Tip #1 - Do your homework!
Plan your trip well in advance and do plenty of research. That AllEars.net Weekly Newsletter you receive by e-mail every Tuesday has some terrific ideas in the "Tip of the Week" section - some of them will help you save your hard-earned cash. There are some very well written guide books available online and in almost all book stores and they all contain some helpful pointers! Don't overlook the online resources such as the AllEars.net Tip Archive, Mousesavers.com and Mouseplanet.com. For a more complete look at online resources available check out the full AllEars.net list of Disney related links here.

Money Saving Tip #2 - Take advantage of the Disney Dining Program (when it's free)
During some slower times of the year Disney will offer the dining package, free of charge, to guests at select Disney resorts. This is a good deal! Carol and I have used the Disney Dining Program several times; we even paid for it once. Our most consistent complaint has always been, "It's too much to eat!" Of course, that's just another way of saying, "It's great value for the money." When it's free, why would you not take it?

There was only one version of the dining plan the last time we used it; now there are several options to choose from. Here are a couple of our suggestions to help you make the best of the dining package, regardless of what option you choose.
1) Share meals: Carol doesn't eat breakfast but I do so I use a counter service meal for breakfast and then later in the day we share another counter service meal for lunch. There is always enough to satisfy us both!
2) Use snack credits to buy take-home treats. Carol and I always had trouble using up all the snack credits. We would often use one to pick up a cold bottle of water or a Mickey Ice Cream Bar in the heat of the day, but when the trip was winding down we always had some left over. Solution? Why not use them to buy candy and treats to take home for children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews?

Money Saving Tip #3 - Look for the Bounce-back Program
From time to time Disney resorts will advertise a "Bounce-Back offer". If you book your next stay at a resort before the end of your current vacation you can sometimes get free dining during your next visit, other times they may offer substantial discounts on the room rate. These are always good deals! Look for a brochure or flyer in your room, or in your check-in package!

Money Saving Tip #4 - Buy an Annual Pass
Yes, I know, you're thinking, "But Gary, an Annual Pass is too expensive. I only go once a year and a seven day park-hopper is all I need." I understand your thought process, I thought the same thing . . . but I was wrong! Even before Carol and I retired, back when we only visited once a year, we always bought Annual Passes. We would buy an AP one year, then the following year we would plan our vacation one or two weeks earlier, while our AP was still in force! We squeezed two annual vacations out of one Annual Pass. Here's how the math worked out for us. Instead of each of us buying two 7-day Park Hoppers (2 X $408.96 incl. taxes = $817.92) we bought one base level annual pass ($675.21 incl. taxes) and we saved $142.71 each. That's $10.00 a day per person!

I'm going to impersonate one of those slick TV salesmen when I say, "But wait . . . there's more."

An annual pass does more than just get you into the theme parks. It gives you free parking at the theme parks. It gives you 10% off merchandise at all Disney owned and operated stores. That's almost every store on Disney property folks!

Isn't that amazing? "But wait . . . there's more."

How would you like 15% off a fishing tour? Or 50% off miniature golf? Or 30% off the rental of a boat, bicycle or surrey bike? Or 20% off the cost of bowling at Splitsville? You get all of that and more with an Annual Pass.

"Tables In Wonderland" Cards are only available for purchase by Florida Residents, Disney Vacation Club Members and Annual/Seasonal Passholders. This card can save you a bundle if you like to dine at Disney restaurants. You will save 20% at most "table service" restaurants.

And another very important perk for AP holders? Magic Bands! Resort guests and Annual Passholders are the only groups who receive Magic Bands in advance and can use the My Disney Experience system to make those oh-so-important FastPass+ bookings in advance, before their vacations!

I'll say it one final time - if you visit once a year you really should consider buying an annual pass. Use it for two vacations then let it lapse. Buy another AP at the beginning of vacation #3 and it will also cover vacation #4.

Money Saving Tip #5 - Use a Travel Agent
This is the most important tip I can give you. Find a travel agent who really knows Disney and rely on them to make all of your resort bookings. There is no charge for their services and a good agent will save you a pile of cash.

Friends kept telling Carol and I to use an agent . . . but we didn't listen! Carol always took care of our bookings. She enjoyed it; she was sure that she was getting the best deals; she was sure that she was always on top of things. She followed all the Internet sites and was quick to call Disney whenever there was a discount available.

We decided to let an agent from Mouse Fan Travel book a trip for us and see how it worked out. Carol talked to the agent, outlined the details and soon the confirmation arrived by e-mail. Carol looked at it and said, "That's about the same as I would have done". What was nice was that, just a few weeks later, another e-mail arrived. It said, "AAA rates have come out and I was able to apply them to your February reservation." A revised invoice was attached to the e-mail. When we compared the prices on the old and new invoices we were very pleased; we were going to save $185.75 on a 12 night stay. WOW! We were impressed . . . Carol didn't have to prowl those Internet sites and phone to amend the booking every time a new "deal" came up. She had more time for other things, such as dining reservations! And that e-mail was not a "one-off" thing. We get a message like that quite regularly. We enjoy that kind of savings on the majority of our bookings. Why would we not use an agent?

But . . . you have to find the right one. The travel agents who really know Disney are the ones who graduated from Disney's own agent training programs; they have mortarboards with Mickey ears attached! Not only will these experts know what discounts are currently available, they will have a pretty clear idea of what will be coming next. These specialized agents will proactively apply new discounts for their existing client bookings whenever they can.

The best money-saving tip I can give you is to find one of these travel agents and let them take care of your resort bookings. If you know an agent who specializes in Disney, give them a try. If you don't know anyone, ask a friend to recommend someone, or ask me. I'd be happy to give you a suggestion!

So there you have it, my two cents worth on saving money at Walt Disney World.

Do you have any money saving tips? Why not share them with us? Send your best tip to AllEars by clicking here and completing the Feedback form.

May 16, 2014

2014 AllEars Group Cruise - Day 7

Gary Cruise banner

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

Nearing_Castaway_Cay

Nearing_Castaway_Cay

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

Turning_the_ship

Backing_in

Backing_in

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

Castaway_Cay

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

Castaway_Cay

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

Brenda_and_Daisy

The_Airstrip

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

Relaxing_on_the_shore

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

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

Line_for_lunch

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

Janice_and_Randy

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

Flowers

Flowers

Flowers

Of course we had to stop at Mount Rustmore.

Mount_Rustmore

The_Fantasy

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

Bling

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

Olaf

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

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

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

Pluto

Pluto

Then we found Daisy.

Daisy

Daisy

Chip and Dale were an unexpected bonus!

Chip_and_Dale

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

AllEars_Farewell_Reception

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

Prize_table

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

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

Deb_and_Melanie

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

The_Mouse_Fan_Travel_Team

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

Animator's_Palate

Animator's_Palate

Animator's_Palate

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

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

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

May 15, 2014

2014 AllEars Group Cruise - Day 6

Gary Cruise banner

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

Container_ship

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

Cawfee_tawk

Cawfee_tawk

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

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

Cabanas

Cabanas

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

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

Satellite_Falls

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

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

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

Barrie_directs_traffic

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

The_Pin_board

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

Trading_pins

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

Trading_cards

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

Trading_Cards

Trading_Cards

Trading_Cards

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

With_Goofy

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

Royal_Court_dinner

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

Towel_art

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

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

La_Piazza

La_Piazza

La_Piazza

La_Piazza

La_Piazza

La_Piazza

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

Buckets_'N_Boards

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

Tom_and_Margaret

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

Buckets_'N_Boards

Buckets_'N_Boards

Buckets_'N_Boards

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

2014 AllEars Group Cruise - Day 5

Gary Cruise banner

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

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

Falmouth_Jamaica

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

Routine_maintenance

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

Falmouth_Jamaica

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

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

The_port_at_Falmouth

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

The_bus_ride

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

Good_Hope

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

Carriage_ride

Zip_line

We toured the property, dodging brief rain showers.

Flowers

Veranda

Drawing_room

Blue_room

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

Good_Hope_buildings

Sitting_for_tea

Having_tea

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

Beautiful_vista

Hummingbird

Hummingbird

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

Tours_this_way

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

Back_at_the_port

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

Red_Stripe

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

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

First_braids

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

Braiding_is_finished

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

Chocolate_Soufle

Panna_cota

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

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

Masayo_and_Gail

Deck_12

Captain_Jack_Sparrow

2014_May_Fireworks

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

May 14, 2014

2014 AllEars Group Cruise - Day 4

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

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

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

Here's what I saw:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aqua_Lab
The Aqua Lab splash zone on Deck 12.

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

Atrium_chandelier
The chandelier highlights the peacock theme.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carol_at_the_Rail

Grand_Cayman_on_the_horizon

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

Anchored_beside_us

Grand_Cayman

Grand_Cayman

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

Tenders

Tender

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

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

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

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

Mulan_on_Tunnel_Vision

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

Aqua_Duck

Aqua_Duck

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

Royalty

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

Enchanted_Garden

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

Carol_and_Gary_with_Donald

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

Dave_and_Brenda_with_Donald

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

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

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

May 12, 2014

2014 AllEars Group Cruise - Day 3

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

Cozumel_in_the_distance

Nearing_the_Cozumel_wharf

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

The_Fantasy

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

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

Satellite_Falls

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

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

Senses

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

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

Aqua_Duck

Aqua_Duck

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

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

Sailing_away

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

Carol_and_Gary_with_Minnie

The characters from Finding Nemo performed during our dinner.

Dinner_at_Animator's_Palate

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

Dory

Crush

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

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

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

2014 AllEars Group Cruise - Day 2

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

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

The_Cove_Cafe

The_Cove_Cafe

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

Castaway_Club_Reception

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

Carol_and_I_with_Mickey

Masayo_with_Mickey

Milton_and_Michelle_with_Mickey

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

Minnie

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

At_Palo

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

Nancy_and_Mary_Jean_with_ice_cream

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

Trading_AllEars_cards

Trading_AllEars_cards

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

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

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

Two_Goofy_guys

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

Photo-bombed_by_Deb

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

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

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

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

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

May 11, 2014

2014 AllEars Group Cruise - Day 1

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

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

Port_Canaveral_Road_Sign

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

Disney_Fantasy

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

Mickey_Clock

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

Meeting_goof_friends

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

The_embarkation_door

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

Olaf

Captain_Mickey

Minnie

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

Carol_Masayo_and_Gail

Lunch_group

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

Linda_and_Melanie

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

On_the_verandah

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

Carol_waves_the_AllEars_sign

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

Singing_and_dancing

James_and_Linda

Deck_party

Richard_Colin_and_Beci

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

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

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

Kristen


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

Dinner_group

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

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

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

May 10, 2014

2014 AllEars Group Cruise - The Prequel

Gary Cruise banner

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

2014_AllEars_Cruise

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

2014_May_Cruise_Itinerary

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

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

Flower_&_Garden

Boat_to_Fort_Wilderness

Buzz_Lightyear

Malificent

Mother_Nature

Kermit_&_Miss_Piggy

Sunset_at_EPCOT

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

April 27, 2014

The Tickle Trunk – Memories of Disney

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Carol has a Tickle Trunk. It's filled with wonderful Disney memories!

Most Canadian readers will remember Mr. Dressup, Casey, Finnigan and the Tickle Trunk . . . but for others, I will explain. Mr. Dressup was the star of a children's show which ran on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation network from 1967 to 1996. His sidekicks were two hand puppets, Casey and Finnegan, a child and a dog who lived in a treehouse in Mr. Dressup's back yard.

Mr_Dressup

In most episodes Mr. Dressup would get a costume from a big, brightly painted steamer trunk which he called his Tickle Trunk. The costume might be for an animal, policeman or fireman. Donning the costume (after all, he was Mr. Dressup), he would play the role suggested by the outfit. The Tickle Trunk appeared to be charmed - it always had the right costumes, in the right sizes, neatly folded at the top. That simple steamer trunk really was magical; it transported Canadian children to some very imaginative places for three decades!

Tickle_Trunk

Mr. Rogers Neighborhood aired in Canada too, but if you ask any Canadian kid of that era they will assure you, "Mr. Dressup was waay more fun!"

I've mentioned before that Carol saves every piece of paper from each Disney trip, tickets, park maps, resort check-in packages, brochures, flyers, napkins . . . you name it, she probably has it! When she gets home all of that material finds a permanent spot in a big wooden trunk - for years now we've called it Carol's Tickle Trunk!

Carols_Tickle_Trunk

Of course, Carol's Tickle Trunk is magical too. Whenever she opens the lid we are instantly transported to our happy place! The best of memories come floating out!

Carols_Tickle_Trunk

As you might expect, the trunk has been full for years. It takes some management! When we get home from a trip some new treasures go in and some older treasures get culled and placed in new homes.

When Carol started collecting pins in earnest in 2001 she scoured the Tickle Trunk and pulled out some classic old pins. They now have a special place of honor in her pin collection.

Her collection of Disney buttons, acquired over the decades, now live in a button bucket!

The resort registration packages from each Disney trip, along with park maps, timetables, and plenty of other paper now fill a filing cabinet drawer. Each trip is in its own folder.

But there's still plenty of treasure in that magical wooden trunk!

Just a week or two ago I was writing a blog about Disney park tickets, so naturally we had to go to the Tickle Trunk to find a few old ones. On the way to the bottom of that trunk, where those tickets from 1977 live, we uncovered some buried treasure!

What did we find? Here's a small sampling:

Ten old copies of the "Walt Disney World News"
This four-page newsletter was produced by Disney, a fresh copy each month in the early years, and included in check-in packages at all Disney resorts. The tabloid sized papers are full of fascinating information!

WDW_News_Jan_1981
1981

WDW_News_1990
1990

Magic Kingdom Club/Disney Club Membership packages
Who knew Disney had so many clubs . . . The Magic Kingdom Club, the Magic Years Club and the Disney Club. Carol has old membership cards, brochures and magazines for all of them!

Club_Memberships

Magic_Years_Magazine_Winter_1993
1993

Disney_Club_News_January_2003
2003

Dinner á la Disney & Breakfast á la Disney Tickets
Before there were character meals there was Dinner á la Disney! Dinner was served in the Trophy Room at the Golf Resort, now known as Shades of Green. Breakfast á la Disney was served aboard the Empress Lily, now known as Fulton's Crab House. There were no character meals in the Magic Kingdom in the early years!

Dinner_a_la_Disney

River Country / Discovery Island Tickets
River Country was the original Disney water park, located beside Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. Two slides dropped guests into a man-made pool. The rest of the slides and water adventures took place in the natural waters of Bay Lake.

River_Country_Tickets

River_Country_Postcard

Just across the water from River Country was Discovery Island, a tropical paradise filled with exotic birds and blossoms.

Discovery_Island_Tickets

Disney Matchbook covers
In days of yore cigarette smoking was allowed in most areas at Walt Disney World and most resorts and restaurants had matches available for guests. Carol's collection lives in a pretty metal box in the Tickle Trunk.

Match_Tin.jpg

Children's "Wonders of Walt Disney World" Books
This program of day-long seminars was offered by Disney for children from 10 to 15 years of age. Son Rob went on two of the four seminars they offered in the mid 80's and Carol has the proof!

Wonders_Brochure

Wonders_Text_Book


Disney Post Cards
Yes, there are postcards. Lots and lots of postcards.

Postcards_1

Postcards_2

Postcards_3

But there's something all those things have in common. All of that stuff, all those oddities and curios which remain in that trunk; they are all filled with fond memories of happy days. Sweet recollections from magical Disney trips!

Stay tuned, once in a while I'll pull something out of the Tickle Trunk and tell you a little bit more about it in a new blog.

April 13, 2014

The Evolution of Disney Tickets

Gary Cruise banner

Walt Disney World tickets have certainly changed over the years!

No, I'm not going to rant about the price of tickets; other folks have that very well covered! I think that Disney tickets have always represented great value, so I'm going to talk about the tickets themselves. Let's look at the form of the tickets; are they paper or plastic? What they will buy for you? How have they changed through the years?

1971_Ticket_Card

In the beginning there were E-Tickets. Yes, I know . . . there are at least two generations of folks out there who don't know what old geezers like me are talking about when we refer to an E-Ticket. So, let me explain!

In 1971 when Walt Disney World opened they used the same ticketing system that had worked successfully at Disneyland since 1959. Guests paid a small General Admission fee ($3.50 for an adult) and then paid an additional fee for each attraction they visited. The attraction fees were paid using pre-packaged booklets of tickets which guests could purchase at the Ticket and Transportation Centre or at several booths in the park.

1971_A_Ticket

1971_B_to_E_Tickets

The most popular attractions were referred to as "E-Ticket Rides" since they required an E-Ticket from your book. The mildest or least popular attractions required an A-Ticket. All rides and attractions were marked with the type of ticket required!

1971_Ticket_Table

In those early years there were several "Adventure Magic Key Ticket Books" with tickets for 7, 9 or 11 adventures. The 11 Adventure Magic Key Ticket Book cost $5.75 in 1971 and contained one A-Ticket, one B-Ticket, two C-Tickets, three D-Tickets and four E-Tickets. Additional tickets could be purchased individually if you needed them.

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1972_8_Attraction_Magic_Key_Adult

1972_8_Attraction_Magic_Key_Child

At each attraction guests would tear the appropriate ticket out of their booklet and present it to the cast member. It sounds cumbersome by today's standards, but that's the way things worked 40 years ago and it worked well.

1973_Magic_Key_Books

Prices slowly increased during the 70's and the ticket booklets changed as well. By 1976 there was a 2 day 18 Adventure Book.

When I first visited the Magic Kingdom in 1977 things were a bit different; they were still selling books of tickets, but guests could now purchase a 2-Day Magic Kingdom Passport which covered Magic Kingdom admission for 2 days, all rides and attractions, two days transportation to Magic Kingdom and the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Center. This was my first Disney ticket; although the Adventure books continued until 1982 - I never used an E-Ticket!

1977_2_Day_Magic_Kingdom

1977_2_Day_Resort_Guest

1978_2_Day_Magic_Kingdom_Club

Things changed in late 1982 when EPCOT opened. The ticket booklets were phased out in June of that year and guests could only purchase one day passports for either park or multi-day World Passports which included both parks and allowed access to all attractions. These paper tickets were stamped with the date as guests entered the park. Re-entry was permitted with a hand-stamp. (The "Park-Hopper" was born! However, it wasn't until 1994 that the term "Park-Hopper" was coined by Disney and added as a ticket option.)

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1982_6_Day_Child

1986_6_Day_Resort_Guest

The first Annual Passport was introduced in 1982; what a bargain at $100.00. Alas, I have no picture of one of those original passports. Today Annual Passports entitle holders to discounts in many Disney shopping and dining venues as well as periodic discounts at some Disney resorts. I have been unable to determine if these discounts were available in the 80's.

1987_Annual_Passport

The Annual Passport pictured below, purchased in November 1989, was the first of many Annual Passports for my wife Carol. In addition to unlimited entry at the theme parks, it also provided free parking and a discount at Disney resort hotels.

1990_Annual_Passport

1991_Annual_Passport_Information

Disney-MGM Studios opened May 1, 1989 and that brought some more changes. The one-day ticket now cost $28.00 and covered any one of the three parks, with a re-entry privilege, but no park-hopping.

1990_1_Day

1991_1_Day

The three, four or five-day World Passports did allow park-hopping.

1990_4_Day_Package

1993_All_3_Parks

The 1990's brought a multitude of changes. In 1990 a 5-Day Plus Super Pass was introduced. It covered all three theme parks, plus Pleasure Island, Typhoon Lagoon, River Country and Discovery Island. Wow - that's a lot of park hopping for $110.00

What could possibly be better than 5-Day Plus Super Pass? I'm so glad you asked! In 1991 along came the 5-Day Super Duper Pass - it included unlimited admission to the Disney-MGM Studios, Magic Kingdom and EPCOT Center any five days with no expiration date, plus unlimited admission for seven days to Typhoon Lagoon, River Country, Discovery Island and Pleasure Island. Naturally it included unlimited use of the transportation system linking the parks.

1993_5_Day_Super_Duper

In 1992 technology began to creep into the ticketing process. Disney switched from all hand stamped tickets to turnstiles that automatically read the ticket's bar code, stamped the admission tickets and punched out a number from the lower left corner of the ticket each time an admission was used. At the same time, 4-Day All Three Parks Passports were replaced by a 4-Day Super Pass and a 4-Day Super Duper Pass.

In 1994 they discontinued sales of the Super Pass and Super Duper Pass and coined a new term, Park Hopper, when they introduced the 4-day Park Hopper and the 5-day World Hopper. Disney introduced the first Premium Annual Passport this year, to the best of my knowledge this was the first plastic card, credit card sized. The Premium Annual Passport included unlimited access to the three theme parks, two water parks, Pleasure Island and Discovery Island.

I haven't been able to determine when Walt Disney World began adding guest pictures to Annual Passports, but it was 1989 or earlier since Carol's picture is on that 1989-90 passport pictured above. Those guest photos were discontinued in 1996, the same year that mylar paper tickets with a magnetic strip on the back replaced the previous paper tickets with bar codes.

For the first time, different categories of ticket displayed the same image on the face of the ticket. A 5-day ticket and a 10-day ticket might look identical on the surface; the magnetic strip contained information on the guest's entitlements and privileges. Biometric finger scanners were added in conjunction with the new magnetic strip tickets.

1996_Value

Both Disney's Animal Kingdom and DisneyQuest opened in 1998. Admission to the Animal Kingdom park was included in all multi-day Park Hopper passports and admission to DisneyQuest was included in the Premium Annual Passport.

The next significant change in tickets took place in 2005 when the "Magic Your Way" ticket was introduced. This ticket plan has changed a bit but remains in effect today. Guests could purchase a one, two, three or four day Magic Your Way Base Ticket which gave access to any one park each day of the term - there was no Park Hopping with the base tickets. There were also five, six, seven, eight, nine and ten day Magic Your Way tickets which gave guests the option of purchasing a Park Hopper feature and a Water Park Fun & More feature.

2009_Goofy

In March 2010 the new Premier Passport was offered. This ultimate passport includes all the features of the Premium Annual Passport, unlimited access to the four Florida theme parks, the two Florida water parks and DisneyQuest but it also includes unlimited entry at both Disney theme parks in Anaheim California. Sounds like a "must-have" for every true Disney fan! Carol and I used Premier Passports in 2010 and again in 2013. We really enjoyed the 20% discount on merchandise and food purchases and were disappointed when Walt Disney World reduced it to 10% in 2013. The discount is still 20% at Disneyland Resort in California.

2013_Premier_Passport

This brings us to the most significant ticketing change in Disney history - Magic Bands.

Magic_Bands

Disney is spending about a billion dollars (that's right - billion - with a "B") to take advantage of RFID technology. The program started trials in September 2013 with selected resort guests and was very recently expanded to include Annual Passholders. These guests now receive a wrist band which contains an RFID chip.

Magic_Band_on_Wrist

The ticketing structure and pricing remains unchanged and guests still receive a plastic ticket in the form of a Key To The World Card or Annual Passport, but all of their entitlement data is programmed on the RFID chip. There is no need to show your ticket when you enter a park, just hold your Magic Band up to a scanner, place your finger in a biometric reader, and away you go.

Magic_Band-Scanner

The band also unlocks the door to your room in a Disney resort and it will open the entry gate when you drive into the resort. If you have a credit card on file with Disney and have elected to have charging privileges, the band even acts as your credit card - just scan it and enter your PIN.

What else can the bands do? Well, some pretty amazing stuff! You can use them with the "My Disney Experience" program to manage FastPass+. Up to 60 days before your trip to Walt Disney World, from the comfort of your own home, you can go online and book up to three FastPass+'s for each day of your trip.

On the appointed day, during the pre-determined one-hour time window you simply head to the FastPass Return line, scan your Magic Band and away you go! There is no need to get to the park early and rush off to pick up a FastPass. How cool is that! Alas, you can only get FastPass+'s for one park per day - no Park Hopping. I hope that option comes along soon.

A quick word of advice - be sure to use My Disney Experience to book your FastPass+'s in advance. All the old FastPass distribution machines have been removed from the parks. There are a few FastPass+ kiosks in the parks but at this point in time the lines are long. Very long!

So, in 43 years Disney has moved from little booklets of tear-out tickets to the amazing RFID technology of today's Magic Bands. I don't know about you, but I have certainly enjoyed the journey!

I wonder what the next step in the evolution will be?

P.S. AllEars.net Archivist Jack Marshall has compiled a very detailed list of prices for specific tickets, year by year, and pictures of hundreds of vintage old tickets. Click this link to see more: WDW Ticket History

March 23, 2014

The Imagineers - Doing It Right!

Gary Cruise banner

I am a big fan of the Imagineers! I am constantly awed and impressed by the way they design and build all of those components that make up the Disney Parks and Disney Cruise Line ships.

Of course, Walt Disney was the first Imagineer . . . even before he invented that job title. Walt was an artist and animator - he honed his skills in the days before 3D, computer generated graphics and digital images. He created hours and hours of engaging entertainment using nothing more than a pencil, paper and his amazing imagination.

In the earliest days of his career Walt devised some unique drawing and photographic techniques and used them in his animations in such a subtle way that viewers were unaware that their eyes were playing tricks on their minds. When Disney Studios began producing live-action movies they acquired another set of skills - creating backdrops and background scenery, using creative camera angles to control what the viewer sees.

I guess it was only natural that when Walt set out, over 60 years ago, to create a theme park he would employ all those skills and techniques he had perfected over the years. He surrounded himself with creative people, who he dubbed Imagineers, and motivated them to follow a consistent approach to their work.

Walt's approach was quite simple . . . just like his animated cartoons or live-action movies; everything began with a story board. Every building, every thrill ride, every attraction began with a highly detailed story board. First and foremost there had to be a "back-story" and then every detail of the building, ride or attraction had to be consistent with that back-story.

This has resulted in an amazingly immersive experience. Disney parks are like no other parks I have ever seen. They are designed to totally engage you in the time or place which surrounds you. Tomorrowland feels like the future . . . Frontierland puts you in the Wild West . . . Main Street USA takes you back over 100 years to the early 1900's.

When I first visited the Magic Kingdom 36 years ago I was instantly impressed by the consistent attention to detail and quality throughout the parks. Since that time I have traveled to some of the places that are recreated on Disney property and those travels have done nothing but heighten my respect for the Imagineers and the way they replicate these worlds for our enjoyment.

Let me give you a few examples.

Our favourite Moderate Resort is Port Orleans French Quarter and we had stayed there several times before we visited New Orleans. When we arrived in the original French Quarter my eyes just popped . . . Wow! The Imagineers did a terrific job recreating the building style - but they somehow cloned the exciting atmosphere of the French Quarter as well.

New_Orleans_French_Quarter
The French Quarter in New Orleans

Then just a few years later we made our first trek west to Disneyland. Once again my eyes popped as we strolled through New Orleans Square. Awesome - a jazz band was playing and it felt just like being in New Orleans at Jackson Square. The galleries draped with beads . . . perfect!

Disneland_New_Orleans_Square
Disneyland's New Orleans Square

During one of our California trips we headed to San Diego and stopped at the beachfront Del Coronado Hotel. The Grand Floridian Hotel was modeled after the Del Coronado. How do you think the Imagineers did with the project?

Del_Coronado_Hotel
Hotel Del Coronado

Grand_Floridian_Hotel
Grand Floridian Hotel

Last summer Carol and I took our motor home and toured the Jersey Shore. Miles and miles of beautiful sandy beaches and all those boardwalks. Of course we were drawn to compare the Atlantic City Boardwalk with the Disney version - another great replication.

Atlantic_City_Boardwalk
Atlantic City Boardwalk

Disney_Boardwalk
Disney's Boardwalk

Since I'm Canadian I naturally have to look for some Canadian icons to compare. Let's focus for a minute on the Canadian Pavilion at EPCOT. The pavilion itself is modeled after the Chateau Laurier Hotel, on the banks of the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, our national capital.

EPCOT_Canada_Pavilion
EPCOT's Canada Pavilion

Chateau_Laurier_Hotel
Chateau Laurier Hotel

The gardens at the Canada Pavilion are meant to duplicate the magnificent Butchart Gardens in Victoria British Columbia. What do you think of the copy?

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Gardens at the Canada Pavilion

Butchart_Gardens
Butchart Gardens

The Imagineers do so many creative things to engage, amuse and even educate us. Think of the time you spend waiting in line at Toy Story Midway Mania, Expedition Everest or Kali River Rapids. If you are like me, you are seldom bored waiting in line. Those queues are filled with artefacts, memorabilia and oddities, many of them gathered by Imagineers as they travelled the world researching the Himalayas or some other exotic locale to develop their back-story. There's always something interesting that catches my attention. If you have ever been in a queue and a fat old man with a white moustache waved you past while he looked at some little trinket - that was probably me!

Do you always see what the Imagineers do? No, of course not, and neither do I. But once in a while we all need to stop rushing from one thrill ride to the next and take a minute to just look around and savour our surroundings. Look for the little things; try to focus on the things the Imagineers didn't really have to do - but they did them anyway!

Try this: Next time you are leaving Splash Mountain, stop for a few minutes in the Briar Patch, the little shop on the right as you climb the steps. There are rocking chairs in the shop - sit down in one, stretch out and relax, then look up at the ceiling. What do you see? Briars and roots - you really are in the bottom of the briar patch! That's what I mean - they didn't have to do that but what a great idea!

Do you have a favourite Imagineering idea? Something the Imagineers created that really adds to your Disney experience?

March 18, 2014

No RV? No Problem! Fort Wilderness Rentals

Gary Cruise banner

If you have read some of my previous blogs, you know how much Carol and I enjoy staying at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground in our motor home. It's our favourite Disney resort. As you were reading, did you ever think, "That sounds like fun! I'd sure like to give it a try, but I don't own a camper."

Don't give up on the idea! If you really like the prospect of camping at Walt Disney World, why not rent a camper and try it out before you pay out the money to buy your own RV? There are quite a few companies who rent campers . . . and they make it very easy for you. They deliver the unit to Fort Wilderness and set it up; once you arrive all you have to do is move in!

If you do an internet search using "Walt Disney World camper rental" you will find a number of rental options, including all different shapes and sizes of trailers. There's a solution for every family!

Carol's 84 year-old parents, John and Sybil, have listened to our tales of Fort Wilderness for several years and just last month they were able to experience first hand what we had been describing. We decided almost a year ago to take them along on a trip with us and set them up in a rented trailer at a camp site near ours. Once the decision was made, Carol got to work analyzing all the options. She did an online search, narrowed the list of rental companies down to a short-list of about a half-dozen companies who had pet-friendly units and started looking at dates and specific trailers.

She was able to find a very roomy 5th Wheel Trailer quite quickly through a small, family owned-business and before you could say "It was all started by a mouse" she had the two camp sites reserved and the trailer booked for a two-week stay. Carol used our reliable travel agency, Mouse Fan Travel, to book the camp site and worked closely with Rod, the owner of the camper rental company, to ensure that we ended up in side-by-side sites at the campground. We had given Disney agents our permission to share our information with Rod so he was able to text us the campsite numbers Disney had assigned before we arrived. They were exactly where we had hoped to be so we gave him the go-ahead to set up before we pulled in.

Florida Welcome Sign

We arrived on Valentine's Day and there was John and Sybil's little Shangri-La, fully equipped and ready for occupancy. It had been delivered to the campground that morning, set up on the site and all the utilities were connected. The patio mat was in place in front, four lawn chairs had been arranged on the mat, the electric golf cart (included in our rental package) was fully charged and ready to go! How easy was that?

The Trailer

Here's a YouTube video showing a typical trailer being set up!

Naturally we added a few little touches of our own, a Mickey Mouse lamp post and some Mickey rope lights - then it was perfect!

Now it's perfect

The trailer was wonderful; a 35-foot-long, 5th wheel model with three slide-out rooms, two in the living area and one in the upstairs bedroom. John, Sybil and our son Rob were very comfortable and had plenty of elbow room.

When they entered the RV, the kitchen, dining area and living room were on their left and the bathroom and bedroom were up a few steps to the right. The unit was fully equipped with dishes, pots, pans, utensils, toaster and coffee maker. Even the coffee filters were included - nothing was overlooked.

All the linens were supplied; the bed was made and the towels were hung when we arrived. It could not have been simpler; the only thing we had to do was pull out the hide-a-bed couch at the end of the day - that's where Rob slept.

The Living Room

The living room had a couch, two very comfortable recliner chairs and a large entertainment centre with television, stereo and DVD player.

The Living Room

The kitchen contained a large refrigerator, microwave oven, three burner gas range, double sink, toaster, coffee maker and all the pots, pans, utensils and cleaning products you need. All we had to add were some groceries!

The Kitchen

Opposite the kitchen was the dining area, a table and four chairs, which also doubled as Sybil's computer desk!

The Dining Area

Up a few steps from the living area, behind a solid privacy door, was the three-piece bathroom. There was a full adult-sized shower, a porcelain toilet and a sink and vanity.

The Vanity

Past the bathroom was the bedroom which offered a very comfortable queen sized bed, plenty of closet space and loads of drawers for storage.

The Bedroom

Before long John, Sybil and Rob were all settled in their new home and it was time for them to discover what makes a Fort Wilderness vacation so much different than staying at any other Disney resort.

It is very difficult to explain how comfortable a Fort Wilderness vacation is . . . it's probably due to the distinct absence of any "hustle and bustle". No one there is in a hurry, everyone is laid back.

People stroll at Fort Wilderness; they ride bicycles; they take nature walks and they walk their dogs. Total strangers will say hello as they walk past, often they will stop and chat. It's like stepping back 50 years in time to those good old days when we smiled at our neighbours and they smiled back.

The campground is filled with wildlife; there are thousands of squirrels but there's so much more than that to see. The folks in the camp site next to us were from Maine and they spent a great deal of time sitting out in lawn chairs behind their RV. Every day they spotted deer and wild turkeys as they waited to see that hard-to-spot pileated woodpecker we often heard rapping in a nearby tree. As I sat reading under the awning of our RV I often heard, and occasionally saw, the cardinals which were nesting in the palmetto bush just a few feet away.

Don't get me wrong, it's not like being away out in the wild, not by a long shot. There are plenty of activities for all ages at the campground . . . but it's also very easy to just "mellow out" there.

Waiting for the boat

What a treat to wake up in the morning hearing the boat whistles in the background! The boat ride to the Magic Kingdom is a wonderfully scenic way to start your day. And every night you can hear both Wishes and Illuminations - you can even see them through the trees from some camp sites! The Fort Wilderness beach is a terrific spot to watch the Wishes fireworks show as the starbursts reflect off the waters of Bay Lake. The sound track is piped in, so you don't miss a thing! Then at 9:45 every night the Electric Water Pageant sails by.

Even our dogs love Fort Wilderness Resort; they looked forward to their golf cart rides to the off-leash dog park!

Trip to the dog park

There are so many things we love about Fort Wilderness; I've barely scratched the surface.

Was our rental experience perfect? The 5th wheel trailer was very nice but we did have a little plumbing issue. A call to the company brought an immediate resolution. Rod was there in no time; the issue was fixed and all was working again in just a few hours. He was very easy to work with and very responsive whenever we called or texted him, before our arrival and after. We were really impressed with the service and definitely recommend the company to others.

You might be wondering how John and Sybil enjoyed their stay. We quickly settled into a routine; after breakfast at our individual campers we all hopped in the car and headed to one of the theme parks for a few hours. Lunch was sometimes a quick counter-service meal as we left the park to head home for the afternoon; other times we had sandwiches at the campground. Everyone relaxed for the afternoon. Some of us went to the pool, some to the off-leash dog park, some napped or sat in the sun reading. Ahhh! Nice! Most evenings we returned to one of the parks for dinner and a few more attractions. We had plenty of fun with no "hustle and bustle."

On the trip home John said, "That was worth every penny we spent. We had a wonderful time!"

Would they do it again? Oh yeah - in a heartbeat.

So if you think you would like to give Disney camping a try, why don't you get busy with that search, rent a camper, book a camp site and make it happen!

December 8, 2013

Our Disney Christmas Village

Gary Cruise banner

Many years ago my sister began creating a monster. She took a liking to Department 56 "Dickens Village" pieces and each year she gave us a new one as a Christmas gift.

The collection grew year by year and soon we had a complete intersection . . . then two . . . so they became part of our Christmas tradition. Each year we put up our Dickens Village for the holidays.

Of course, this sort of thing is right up Carol's alley . . . so she added accessories and her personal artistic touches! When there were so many pieces that they began to disappear, one behind the other, she called on me for help. I built a styrofoam base and styrofoam cutouts which elevate the houses in the back, making them more visible.

Dickens_Village

The Dickens Village comes out each autumn and throughout the holiday season it adorns the top of my roll-top desk.

You can only imagine Carol's glee when she discovered Department 56's North Pole Series. It has some Disney themed houses! She just had to have a few pieces to add to the Dickens Village . . . NO . . . WAIT . . . that doesn't work. Those North Pole pieces just don't work in a Dickens Village.

What to do? How about a second village?

So I started cutting more styrofoam while Carol collected houses and accessories.

Disney_Village

Now we have a Disney Village which takes over our kitchen hutch every fall. Some of the pieces are Department 56 and some she spotted on Disney shelves and couldn't resist!

Look very closely at all the accessories and you'll see plenty of Disney characters enjoying a holiday wonderland.

Disney_Village_1

As you wander through the village from left to right you will pass the M & M's Candy Factory, the Disneyland Fire Station, Mickey's House and Piglet's Treehouse.

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Further down the street you will find Geppetto's House, Goofy's House, Cratchit's Cottage and Scrooge McDuck & Marley's Counting House.

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The Reindeer Flying School is conveniently located in front of the Reindeer Feed Store and beside Mickey's Ear Factory.

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At the end of the block you will find the Mickey Mouse Watch Factory and Mickey's Playhouse which features a miniature version of the "Ear-full Tower".

Carol spends hours every year, arranging each building just so! Then the accessories are added with thoughtful care . . . there are bridges, fences, trees, garland, lights . . . and of course plenty of Disney figures. She even found a spot for the Grinch and some pink flamingos!

It's quite impressive once it's all finished.

After the holidays, Carol agonizes when it's time to take it down. One year it stayed up until the end of January!

I wonder how long it will stay up this year?

November 15, 2013

The Billies – I’m Sure Going To Miss Them

Gary Cruise banner

I was shocked and very disappointed when I read recently on the Disney Parks Blog that Disneyland was "retiring" Billy Hill & the Hillbillies after a very successful 21 year run. The show - and the players in the show - are all being retired after their last performance on Monday, January 6, 2014.

Carol and I stumbled onto "The Billies" quite by accident during our first visit to Disneyland in 2005. We wandered into the Golden Horseshoe Tavern for a snack and had no idea what was in store for us when the four Billies appeared on stage as we ate. Within seconds we were laughing so hard it was impossible to eat. Our chicken tenders and fries were soggy from all those tears of laughter.

The_Billies

They perform a short, but high-energy show featuring rousing country, rock and bluegrass music combined with corny jokes and hilarious sight gags. It appeals to Disney fans of all ages. WOW - what a treat.

I immediately wondered why there wasn't a similar show at the Diamond Horseshoe Tavern in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

In the years since 2005 we have taken the 2,500 mile flight west to Disneyland another eight times and in our nine Disneyland trips we have never missed The Billies! We try to get there early to get the best seats in the house!

Best_Seats_In_The_House

The cast seems to be comprised of a couple of teams of players who rotate through their schedule of shows, but no matter who is performing, their show always leaves us rolling on the floor - convulsing with laughter.

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The_Billies

The_Billies

I suspect that I enjoy The Billies a tiny bit more than Carol . . . but she humors me and sits through the show several times during each of our trips to the west coast. We have seen the boys perform as many as four times in a week-long trip. Yes, I do enjoy them that much!

The_Billies

The_Billies

From the moment in the show where the lead Billy, Kirk Wall, puts in the false set of buck teeth he calls his "pros-TEETH-is" I begin to giggle and I don't stop until long after the show is over. Those teeth transform Billy (Kirk) from a classical violin virtuoso into a redneck lunatic.

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Redneck_Lunatic

Redneck_Lunatic

Redneck_Lunatic

Billy (Kirk) interacts with the audience in a way which captivates adults and children alike. Everyone in the building is singing, tapping, clapping and laughing.

The_Billies

Over the years we've howled through a Beatles tribute . . .

Beatles_Tribute

Beatles_Tribute

An Elvis tribute . . .

Elvis_Tribute

Elvis_Tribute

Billy (Dennis Fetchet) doing his "train thang" and an almost impossibly fast version of Orange Blossom Special . . .

And a Riverdance spoof they call "Puddle Prance" . . .

Puddle_Prance

Who can forget the awesome performance Kirk Wall and Dennis Fetchet always deliver with their version of "The Devil Went Down To Georgia". Awesome!

Devil_Went_Down_To_Georgia

Devil_Went_Down_To_Georgia_2.jpg

In December 2012 we saw their show at Big Thunder Ranch but the last time we saw them, May 17, 2013, the troupe was back in the Golden Horseshoe. It was good that we saw them "back home" that final time!

Big_Thunder_Ranch

Big_Thunder_Ranch

I understand that the parks need to change things up from time to time - things have to stay current and fresh - but I sure wasn't ready to say goodbye to The Billies. I'm going to miss them a lot! They were one of my major sources of joy at Disneyland and when they are gone they will leave a very large hole in my Disneyland experience.

Gary_with_The_Billies

I cannot make a trip west before the boys "retire", but if you can make it to Disneyland before January 6th do not miss Billy Hill & the Hillbillies. The guys put on a fantastic show and you will be glad you took the time to see it. If you make it in time, please pass on my personal thanks for all those years of quality entertainment and wish them all the best, wherever they land in the future!

Ladies and gentlemen, The Billies have left the building!

November 10, 2013

Disneyland’s Christmas Overlays

Gary Cruise banner

I was pleased when I recently read on the Disney Parks Blog that there will be a special "Christmas Overlay" at The Jungle Cruise.

They explained it as follows: Beginning in early November, Jungle Cruise at both Disneyland Park and Magic Kingdom Park will temporarily transform into "Jingle Cruise" for the holiday season! In this new seasonal storyline of the attraction, the Skippers have grown homesick for the holidays, so they've added holiday cheer to the Jungle Cruise queue and boathouse with decorations that have been mailed to them from home (plus a few they've created themselves). The Skippers have also added a slew of new jokes to their tours that are the perfect way to get guests in the holiday spirit. Additionally, Jungle Cruise boats have been renamed with the holidays in mind, and if guests listen carefully, they may hear a holiday-themed radio broadcast playing in the background.

Great news! Carol and I will be visiting the Magic Kingdom for a few weeks in November/December and we will be sure to visit this classic old attraction to see the new holiday spin they put on it.

Do you suppose that overlays like those they do in California might follow at Florida attractions in years to come? I sure hope so! We used to really enjoy the Christmas Overlay at Country Bear Jamboree and we were very disappoinited when it was discontinued in 2005.

Carol and I have visited the Disney Parks in California several times during the holiday season and the overlays at It's A Small World and The Haunted Mansion have absolutely blown us away!

These are not just little cosmetic makeovers; each of the attractions is closed for a few weeks while the special holiday treats are added. The results are simply wonderful!

Let me show you what I mean . . . pictures tell the story much better than I can. First, a word about the pictures - some are not the best of quality since they were taken in a dark ride and we didn't use a flash. I never use a flash in a dark ride and I'm always annoyed when others do. 'Nuff said!

Both Carol and I prefer the Disneyland version of the It's A Small World attraction. You board your boat outside, in front of a three-dimensional façade with stylized cutout turrets, towers and minarets; look closely and you'll see some world landmarks. The 30 foot clock with that big smiling face rocks back and forth and every fifteen minutes colourful wooden dolls parade as the clock announces the time. It is quite captivating every time you approach.

Small_World_Exterior_Daytime

But at Christmas that façade is festooned with thousands of lights and it becomes a holiday wonderland of color. WOW!

Small_World_Exterior_Nightime

The lights put a magical glow on the topiaries you sail past before you enter the interior, but the holiday magic doesn't end there. In each of the rooms there are special holiday displays. Watch very carefully and you will see that some of the dolls are now dressed in holiday costumes. Cutaway snowmen with carrot noses welcome you to the Ho-Ho-Holidays"

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There is a mailbox for letters to Santa!

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Banners wish you Joyeuses Fetes, Feliz Navidad, Happy Holidays, Mele Kelikimaka, Happy Hanukah, Peace on Earth and many other holiday greetings.

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And wait . . . what is that I hear? Are those dolls singing Jingle Bells and Hark the Herald Angels Sing?

Yes they are . . . NICE!

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This year It's A Small World was scheduled to close from October 21st through November 7th while the overlay was installed. It will run until early January. If you're there, be sure to visit during the evening, but allow plenty of time. That area of the park is very busy over the holidays!

The Haunted Mansion is one of our absolute favourite attractions and once again, we prefer the California version. We especially enjoy it during October, November and December during the seasonal transformation! The seasonal magic begins as you approach; Jack Skellington is perched on the gate as you enter and hundreds of pumpkins adorn the mansion.

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Haunted_Mansion_Exterior

Haunted_Mansion_Exterior

Once you are in the "Stretching Room" you begin to see some differences . . . in fact nothing is the same. Jack Skellington and his Halloweentown cronies have taken over! Oogie Boogie and a huge cast of creepy spooks wait as you board your Doom Buggy.

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Haunted_Mansion_Entry_with_Oogie_Boogie_and_friends

The entire sound track has been modified and everything you have always enjoyed in the mansion is different. It has always been spooky, but during the holidays it's creepy-spooky!

As you leave the library and your Doom Buggy turns to travel backwards your eyes drift upward to find a giant man-eating wreath singing a chilling song!

The attic where Constance Hatchaway, the bride with the hatchet, and her five husbands normally appear has been piled full of frightful gifts. Some are ticking, some are growling, wait . . . did that one just move?

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Jack Skellington and Zero have replaced the gravedigger and his dog to welcome you to the graveyard!

Haunted_Mansion_Jack_and_Zero
(Confession - I used a flash for this picture - the ride was shut down, the lights were on and we were being walked out)

Those singing busts in the cemetery have a new, even more sinister look!

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Are those angels blowing their trumpets? I think not!

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There are no hitchhiking ghosts as you exit, instead Oogie Boogie spins a wheel which assigns you a trick or a treat . . . but don't be expecting any treats as you round that last corner.

Haunted_Mansion_Oogie_Boogie

What a joy! Carol and I are both fans of Nightmare Before Christmas and it is a real pleasure to see two of our favourites combined this way! We ride it again and again!

It's A Small World and The Haunted Mansion in California have been overlaid for the holidays for the last 16 years and 12 years respectively. I sure hope that the recent announcement about The Jungle Cruise means we might be getting more seasonal overlays in Florida sometime in the near future!

October 27, 2013

People You Meet In Line

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One thing you can count on at Walt Disney World or at Disneyland . . . you will spend plenty of time in lines.

The Imagineers do a terrific job designing the queues; they build in plenty of things to grab your attention and keep you occupied while you wait. Think of your time in line at Toy Story Midway Mania. Have you heard someone say, "I had the Candyland game when I was a kid." or, "I had a ViewMaster."

Toy_Story_Decor

Toy_Story_Decor

Have you read all the barrels and signs in the queue at The Jungle Cruise?

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Jungle_Cruise_Sign

Have you examined all the crates, steamer trunks and suitcases in the pre-show room at MuppetVision 3D?

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MuppetVision_Decor

But after twenty or thirty times through the line you have probably seen it all . . . what do you do now? I tend to fill my wait time talking with my neighbours. I'm a chatterbox and I find it easy to talk with fellow Disney fans. That's another good thing about those lines - they are full of people who share my Disney mania. They're usually very easy to chat with.

While yakking with folks in line we've been able to give a number of people some helpful hints - and we've received some great suggestions too. I remember a couple waiting in line at Toy Story Midway Mania. Their son, four or five years old, didn't want to be there. He didn't want to ride . . . and he was making quite a fuss about it. I leaned down and asked him, "Do you like video games?" Naturally he did, so I told him that he was lined up to go through a giant video game. The car he was going to ride in had a gun and he could shoot all kinds of stuff. Wow, did that change his attitude - he was suddenly eager to ride!

We have given some surplus FastPasses to the folks next to us and we've received some FastPasses too. Sometimes we just keep bumping into the same people again and again. The folks I chatted with yesterday at the Magic Kingdom just might turn up across the aisle from us at lunch in EPCOT today. Occasionally we encounter people so often that we begin making jokes about it!

Carol was in line at the annual EPCOT Trading Event last September when the fellow behind her struck up a conversation. He asked, "Do you write the Pin Trading blogs for AllEars.net?" When she nodded and said yes he replied, "You're the reason I'm here!" He was from England, had read her blogs about previous events and felt he just had to cross the Atlantic to check it out.

Often it really is a small world!

We have even struck up some lasting friendships in line. A few years ago, it was my birthday May 1st 2010, we were at EPCOT waiting in line for Soarin'. When we reached the load area I told the cast member, "We'd like to ride in row B1." (You end up in the middle, on top, with no feet dangling in front of you.) The cast member said, "Wait with that couple over there and I'll get you all on the next ride." So we joined another couple along the back wall. I nodded to the man and said, "You obviously know the best row to ride." He grinned and said, "Yes, we love Soarin' and B1 is the best seat in the house." One thing led to another and before long he asked, "Where are you staying?" When he heard we were at Fort Wilderness in our RV his reaction was immediate, "We have to talk! I'm planning to retire within the next year and we've been talking about travelling in a motor home."

After the ride we all went to Sunshine Seasons and spent 45 minutes chatting over coffee. Al and Jane, from a suburb of Kansas City Missouri, had all sorts of questions and we answered all that we could. We exchanged names and e-mail addresses and urged them to come and tour the campground.

A few days later they pulled up to our campsite in a golf cart. They were touring Fort Wilderness and they really liked what they were seeing!

Once we got home the e-mails started coming - fast and furious. Al and Jane were serious about this RV purchase and they were full of questions. How do the utility hook-ups work? What kind of GPS do we use? Does your motor home have a washer/dryer? How do you like this floorplan? Etc., etc., etc. We e-mailed back and forth for almost a year. It was really a lot of fun helping them spend a bundle of money!

After what seemed like a hundred e-mails they had decided on their "dream machine", a brand new 37 foot 2011 Winnebago Itasca Suncruiser. They call him Alf and he's a beauty!

Alf's maiden voyage was in April 2011; Al and Jane loaded up their two cocker spaniels, Nico and Smudge and struck out for Fort Wilderness! The dogs pronounced the experience a howling success and they have now enjoyed six leisurely vacations at "The Fort".

Alf_and_the_dogs

Carol and I have been camped within a few campsites of Al and Jane on three of those six occasions and we are looking forward to seeing them again in December 2013.

Nico_and_Smudge

We enjoy hanging out with them. We've spent time walking dogs with them; we've shared a few meals and lots of laughs with them. The ladies even shop for each other . . . Jane has scored some great pins and Sorcerer cards for Carol!

When we aren't there at the same time as Al and Jane, we always follow along on their blog site. A nice friendship has developed. You can find their blog here.

You often meet some of the nicest people in line, if you take the time to say hello. So the next time you find yourself standing in line, just a trifle bored, say "Hi" to someone.

You might be pleasantly surprised at what develops.


October 13, 2013

The Cabins at Fort Wilderness

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If you have read some of my previous blogs, you will know that Carol and I are huge fans of Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. We just love spending time there in our RV . . . but I've often wondered what it would be like staying in one of the cabins. Carol stayed there many years ago, but I've never had the pleasure.

I follow a couple of online communities which are focused on camping at "The Fort" and I was delighted to read a trip report posted by Shelly E. from Minnesota. She and her family took their first trip to Walt Disney World last year and stayed in the cabins. I strongly suspect that there will be many more trips to Fort Wilderness in Shelly's future.

Here's how Shelly described the experience in her trip report:

This was our family's first trip to Walt Disney World. Actually it was our family's first and only trip ANYWHERE for more than two nights in all our time together as a family! It was February of 2012- we chose to stay in the cabins because with six of us it seemed the cheapest way to go. At that time we had NO idea how much we would fall in love with the Fort. This first picture is arriving at the Fort . . .

Arrival

Here is another . . .

Check-in

The kids totally fell in love with the pool (of course!) . . .

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The_water_slide

We did the penny machines in front of Pioneer Hall and the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue!

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We had no idea what to expect when we made our reservations. We made them there simply because we wanted to qualify for free dining, and it was one of the few ways we could all stay in one room. After staying there for 10 days, we completely fell in love with the Fort.

There is just something special about it there. I think for every family, it's probably different things that make it special. For us, I'll tell you what some of the things were.

Getting up in the morning and being surrounded by nature. Beautiful trees all around us, chipmunks, little lizards, birds, sunshine, flowers and most of all peacefulness. There is so much peacefulness at the Fort. Driving a golf cart to the laundry facility, passing people who are out walking dogs or biking - everyone is friendly and happy to be there. It's just such a "welcome home" kind of feeling.

Fort_Wilderness_flowers
The gardens at "The Outpost" (check-in) are designed to attract butterflies.

The boat ride to the Magic Kingdom is simply amazing. We never got tired of it! Compared to riding a bus, the boat is magic in itself.

Being able to sit on the beach at night, with not too many people around, and watch the Wishes fireworks and the Electrical Water Pageant. I know so many people say there's nothing like watching it from Main Street, but I feel there is nothing like watching it from a beautiful sandy beach, laying in a lounge chair, holding your husband's hand in the quiet of the moonlit night, watching and listening to the magic all around us.

Being able to walk in the barns, and actually see the working horses at Disney in their home environment - it was so cool! Of course, we own a horse boarding and training facility in Minnesota, so this was right up our alley! But even for others, this seemed like a beautiful and interesting place to visit.

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Those are just a few of the things.

The cabins themselves were wonderful - we loved them! The kids all slept in the back bedroom, and we had the pull down bed, which we both thought was REALLY comfortable. It's not super big, but it was soft and nice! The dishes were clean, the housekeeping was wonderful, and it was just nice to be able to come back each day to a place that felt like a "home" and not just a "room".

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Cabin_interior

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The kids couldn't wait to get back each day to see what Arnold (our Mousekeeper) had created.

A reader from the United Kingdom who is planning to stay in the cabins posted a few questions. She asking if Shelly's family had rented a golf cart and whether there were good places to eat at Fort Wilderness. Here is Shelly's reply:

We are a family of six. My husband, myself and two sets of twins ages eight and eleven. For us, having a golf cart was wonderful. We used it each time we went to Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom or Downtown Disney. We took the golf cart up to the area where all the buses come for the other parks, and then later on it was waiting for us when we came back.

At_the_Bus_Stop

It saved a lot of time waiting for the internal buses, which is nice when you have younger kids. We also used the golf cart when we went to the pools or the campfire sing-a-long and movie. It was especially handy when it was time to do laundry. And this year when we go at Christmas, we are actually renting TWO golf carts, just because our kids are a little bigger, and instead of a 6-seater, we reserved two 4-seaters. It will allow us a little more freedom; we won't all have to be ready at the same time to go anywhere. And we're really excited about just exploring the whole Fort - we didn't have enough time to do that our first trip.

As for eating - we were VERY lucky in having free dining and we tried so many wonderful restaurants all over the parks. But there were a few times we did eat at the Fort - we got pizza once and ate it down by the lake - there were tables set up down there. I think they were actually on part of the dock, but I could be wrong. We got chicken there once too, and they had some other choices there, but we didn't get a chance to try a lot of them. There seemed to be enough things that everyone should be able to have a nice meal there. And we actually had a few things at the Meadows Pool snack bar - they had a chicken sandwich there that was really good! There were a few other sandwiches that I thought sounded good too! Another thing I remember about eating at either place was the people working there; they were always so NICE!! Sometimes, to me, that's more important than how big or how many choices a place has.

Since returning home the family's love of Fort Wilderness has not diminished a bit. In fact, they bought a motor home and will be driving "The Beast" over 1,700 miles, arriving at The Fort December 22, 2013 to spend a magical family Christmas in their new favourite place. Then they drive another 1,700 miles home! WOW!

The_New_Motor_Home

How about you? If you're looking for an economical vacation option and a very laid back, rustic, homey environment - the cabins at Fort Wilderness might be for you.

You can find more details about Fort Wilderness cabins and plenty of pictures from the campground here.

September 15, 2013

Fondest Disney Memories

Gary Cruise banner

Whenever I hear the word "Disney" I get a comfy, warm feeling. I have so many memories of wonderful times at the parks that the mere mention of "the D word" evokes a smile.

What is the best memory? My fondest memory? Wow - that's a tough question. It took me quite a while to filter through all those wonderful trips I have enjoyed over the last 36 years. Each and every trip has unique memories . . . but I finally settled on my favourite. The one I'll always cherish - it was my first trip - October 1977. My children, Michelle and Stephen, were 6 and 5 years old and we were all in awe as we enjoyed the magic of Disney that very first time. The kids really liked The Astro Orbiter - we rode it again and again; probably a half dozen times. How could I ever forget smiles like the one Steve had in the picture below?

Steve_on_Astro_Orbiter

My second best? November 1999 - my first trip to Walt Disney World with Carol. I hadn't been there in about 13 years but Carol was a seasoned veteran. She whisked me around and introduced me to three Disney parks I had never seen before. That was when she converted me from a Disney Fan to a Disney Fanatic!

Carol's favourite memory? After 48 trips to Walt Disney World she cannot narrow it down to just one . . . there are just so many special memories.

Carol's father John's fondest memory? I didn't actually ask him, but I'm going to go out on a limb and guess. I am reasonably sure it was in November 2000, when he saw the MuppetVision 3D movie for the first time. John giggled through the entire show. Thirteen years and about eight trips later . . . he still chuckles the whole time!

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Jeff from Florida, New York shared his fondest memory: On our September 2006 trip, we experienced some Disney Magic. It started when I couldn't find our reservations for our two character meals. When I called Disney Dining to confirm and get the numbers for the ADR's the Cast Member asked, "So how are things in Paramus?" I was dumfounded, I hadn't even given him my name! I grew up and worked in Paramus, NJ and when we moved to NY State, I had my old home phone number transferred to my cell phone, which I was calling from. He explained that he also grew up in Bergen County NJ, a few towns from Paramus and recognized the phone exchange. We chatted a bit about "home" and I got the needed info. Later that day we headed to 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian for our dinner at Cinderella's Gala character dinner. We arrived before the doors to the dining room opened and checked in. While we were waiting in the foyer, a cast member approached our daughter Isabel and asked her if she would like to help Cinderella and Prince Charming open the restaurant and start the Gala. When she said yes (and we approved) the Cast Member asked her name and where she was from. We were so surprised. Five to ten minutes later, Cinderella and the Prince entered the waiting area and approached Isabel. As the crowd gathered around they each took one of Isabel's arms. At this point a Cast Member took out a scroll and announced to the crowd that "Princess Isabel of the Kingdom of New York" would be assisting Cinderella & Prince Charming in opening the restaurant. Their highnesses escorted her to the door which had a Red Ribbon beautifully tied around it's handles and asked Isabel to pull the ribbon to untie the doors. Then they escorted her, still arm in arm, to our table and posed for pictures and autographs. Now that's Disney Magic! To this day I am convinced that Isabel being chosen for the "Royal Treatment" was arranged by the Dining Cast Member I had spoken to earlier in the day, which makes it even more magical.

Kameo from El Mirage Arizona says: There are so many wonderful memories. I think my fondest dates back to my first trip. It was a year or so after my husband and I got married. We stayed at the All Star Sports and had a blast! When we first arrived, we were welcomed by the cast members at the hotel like family. We had a towel shaped Mickey waiting in our room to welcome us. I had no idea how big Disney World was; we had only been to Disneyland. The first time we stepped through the gates at Magic Kingdom, it was overwhelming and I was in sensory overload. Wow! That castle is huge! We grabbed a park map, which we never do at Disneyland. I have to say it was somewhat difficult to orient myself with Magic Kingdom, I kept mentally going to Disneyland. There's no New Orleans Square, there's no Critter Country, and what is this Liberty Square? It was so much fun though, I'll never forget it.

As always, different things make a big impression on different people. Fortunately there is a never-ending supply of great Disney memories and there's always a new one waiting around the corner.

What is your fondest Disney memory?

September 8, 2013

The Disney Room

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Do you have a Disney Room?

I think every Disney fan should have one. If you are an obsessive Disney collector, like Carol, a Disney Room is imperative!

When Carol and I first started dating she proudly showed me a small cabinet containing her collection of Disney music boxes. They were displayed in a bookcase, about three shelves, with glass doors. Nice! She also showed me her Disney themed Collector Plates and some very nice porcelain Mickey Mouse Figurines.

Little did I realize that I was just seeing the tip of the iceberg that the "Disney collection" would become!

Over the years we took quite a few trips to our Happy Place . . . and the collection grew. There were Disney Classic Collection figurines, Jim Shore pieces, plush toys, snow globes, boxed sets of Disney Pins, and so much more.

Carol combed the nearby thrift shops and garage sales, always on the look-out for new Disney treasures. And, of course, each year we made at least one trip to Walt Disney World, home to all those wonderful stores!

By 2004 things began to look a bit cluttered! What could we do? We (she) decided that my nifty little office and den in the basement, my "man cave", would make a terrific Disney Room. We could concentrate the collection in one area and organize it. I began to put up more shelving and she began arranging her treasures.

I must admit that I enjoyed the end result!

Gary's_workstation
Gary's workstation - 2004

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Carol's craft table - 2004

Figurines

Snow_globes

By 2006 both Carol and I had retired. The good news - we could head south several times a year! The bad news - more shopping! With all those trips to Walt Disney World and Disneyland, plus a few Disney cruises, her Disney collection kept growing at an astonishing rate! Our Disney Room was becoming a bit cluttered.

Fortunately, shortly after retiring, we moved to Carol's home town where we had a new home built. It wasn't long before I was at work in the basement. Our elevated bungalow has big, bright windows in the basement and within a few months our brand new Disney Room was done! We had 650 square feet - that should be enough to showcase our collection beautifully! Soon it was furnished and all those cartons full of Disney treasures were unpacked. Carol was a happy collector!

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Disney_collectibles

The_Disney_Room

Wow . . . in 2007 we were thrilled to have all that space . . . it should last us forever! But of course seven years have gone by since the Disney Room was finished . . . and we have taken 24 Disney vacations in those seven years! The room is full!

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A shadowbox full of Vinylmations

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More Vinylmations

I've added plate rails so the plates could be relocated - this freed up some wall space for new prints by Larry Dotson and Ducky Williams.

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Halloweentown
Halloweentown

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Pooh Corner

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A bookcase full of Disneyana

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Two bookcases crowned with antenna toppers

More_Disneyana

More_Disneyana

Try as we might though, we just can't make it all fit . . . the Animation cels have spilled out to the walls of the Family Room. The Disney Classic Collection pieces and the Jim Shore figures are in curio cabinets in the Living Room.

Animation_cels

Disney_Classics_and_Jim_Shore

We are running out of space . . . and there's no room to expand! Looks like we'll just have to get more creative in the way we display things!

How about you? Do you have a Disney Room? How do you display your Disney treasures?



August 25, 2013

It’s All In How You See It

Gary Cruise banner

It's an odd quirk of human nature that we can all look at exactly the same thing yet we might actually see something totally different. Our experiences and our memories shape our perceptions in some very different ways!

Here's an example - that park bench with the Goofy statue in Magic Kingdom's Town Square. I used to sit in the rocking chairs behind that bench. Families would come along and sit to pose for pictures with Goofy while I sat unnoticed in the background making funny faces. So when you look at that bench you might visualize a loved one sitting there. When I see it I imagine people getting home, looking at their photographs and saying, "Who is that goofy guy in the back?"

Another example . . . our son Steve came back from Walt Disney World a few years ago after a vacation there with his young family. He lamented their wait for Peter Pan's Flight . . . "I can't believe we had to stand in line 90 minutes for such a lame ride." So when he looks at the Peter Pan sign he sees a "tired old ride". And in some ways he's right - Peter Pan's Flight pales in comparison to today's newer and often interactive rides like Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin and Toy Story Midway Mania - but to me it's a classic. It's a ride Carol and I seldom miss (but we always get a FastPass).

Peter_Pan_sign

When I look at that Peter Pan's Flight sign I see something totally different; I see my son Steve as a five year old, sitting beside me in 1977, eyes filled with wonder and a smile a mile wide, as we both rode Peter Pan's Flight for the very first time. I hope they never change it!

Lou, a Walt Disney World Cast Member read my recent AllEars.net blog about the Electrical Water Pageant and started a thread on a popular Disney Camping forum which I visit regularly. He titled it "Oh no, a EWP Blog" and said: "I'm just tired of it, and here's why. When I was a front office Cast Member at a couple of Magic Kingdom resorts, I would see it or hear it every night. After a few hundred times, it gets a little old. After having experienced it so many times, you start noticing its weakness, and there are many. The main one being that it's unchanged for as long as I've seen it, which to me, comes across as it being hokey and amateurish."

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Dave from Tennessee, a frequent camper at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, responded to that same Electrical Water Pageant thread: "The EWP is simply magical to me. Especially hearing the music on our first night at the Fort, when I'm usually tired from the drive and relaxing or even in bed by the time it starts. Hearing that music fire up makes me smile. Although, I remember vividly our first trip to the Fort with our girls in March 2007, which was the first time I had camped there in 30 years. We were in the 500 loop and had had a very tiring trip, so all of us were in bed by 9:30. It was chilly and no need for A/C, so the windows in the motor home were open. INC and I were laying in bed and it was very quiet, and then all of a sudden the EWP music started. As you know it can be quite loud in the loops closest to the marina. We both said "What the heck is that?" Had no idea at that point. We still laugh about that."

Hmmmm . . . strange how different our perspectives can be!

Some other AllEars readers shared a few of their favorite Disney sights with me. Do you see the same thing or feel the same thing when you look at these familiar scenes?

From Kameo C of El Mirage, AZ: My favorite sight at Walt Disney World is when you are at the Ticket and Transportation Centre walking down the ramp to take a ferry to Magic Kingdom. Seeing the train station and Cinderella Castle across the water, it's amazing. Walt Disney World is an escape, a magic place where all of your normal worries are left behind and you can focus on being a family or a couple. It is like walking in a dream. Wishes come true there.

From Allison J. of Deland FL: I think my favourite sight at Disney is the front entrance of the Magic Kingdom when it is decorated for autumn. I'm pretty sure Disney is the only place in Florida that can make it feel like it's fall. Even in 90 degree weather, the Disney autumn decorations just put you in the mood for sweaters and hot chocolate, football games and bonfires . . . all those quintessential autumn activities that we don't really get to experience here.

From Hilary S. of St. Louis, MO: My favourite sight at WDW has to be the Magic Kingdom at night from the California Grill. It is just gorgeous and I feel so relaxed and carefree admiring it with a glass of wine and good company. It was almost a tie -- another favourite is Spaceship Earth. My first glimpse of that always make me smile, take a deep breath and think "I'm here"!

From Cheryl J. of Mechanicsville, VA: The Partners statue is my favourite sight at Disney. It reminds me of holding my children's hands and looking bravely into the unknown. It makes me want to cry every time I see it.

Walt Disney World is packed full of many different and unique lands and attractions; there is a never ending variety of sights and scenes for each of us to enjoy. Both the old and the new . . . they are all "magical" to me and they are among the many reasons why I keep coming back "home".

I am sure that you and I could stand side by side looking at any Disney scene and see something quite different from each other . . . after the scene is filtered through our unique memories and experiences. I find it fascinating when I hear how differently people feel after looking at exactly the same thing.

What's your favourite sight or scene at Walt Disney World? What memories and emotions does it stir in you? Why is it so special for you?

August 4, 2013

Disney Rituals

Gary Cruise banner

When Carol and I visit Walt Disney World there are plenty of little rituals during the trip, quirky things which add to the fantasy and add to our enjoyment!

If we are travelling south in our motor home we are always vigilant, looking to spot our first palm tree - a sign that we are truly in the south. We always stop at the Florida Welcome Centre for a complimentary orange juice, a taste of Florida sunshine. One day we arrived very early and we were so disappointed to discover that they don't open until 8:00 a.m.

We try to arrive at Fort Wilderness before noon. This allows us to register before the 1:00 p.m. check-in time and then head to Downtown Disney for lunch at Earl of Sandwich. Yum! Usually our camp site is ready by the time lunch is over. Little things like this are all part of the magic we experience every trip.

The most meaningful ritual for us, the time the magic truly begins, is when we take that first walk down Main Street USA. Carol normally likes to shop her way along one side of the street as we enter the park, and then shop the other side as we leave. But on our first visit to the Magic Kingdom it's always different. There's no shopping. We take a slow walk right down the middle of the street, just soaking up the sights and sounds. The flags in Town Square, the vendors with all those balloons, the clang clang of the trolley, the turn of the century architecture, the store windows, the aroma from the Bakery, the smell of Casey's hot dogs and so much more. It's sensory overload for us. By the time we get to the Partners statue, with Cinderella Castle in the background, we have left reality behind. We are in our happy place!

Our_Happy_Place

Those are just a few of our rituals . . .

A few weeks ago I sent an e-mail, posing several questions, to a number of people who have commented on my previous AllEars blogs and to people who have added comments to the guest book on our personal blog site. One of the questions was, "Do you have a Disney ritual or tradition?"

There were some very interesting responses. Here are a few:

From Penny W. of Vermont: When I first arrive, I always go to the Magic Kingdom first. Just that walk down Main Street gets me in the magical mood. I must do Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Tiki Room (I love the rainstorm) and have a Dole Whip. There . . . now I can enjoy the rest of my trip.

From Pam T. of Lansdale, PA: When we get into Magic Kingdom, on the first day we arrive, we head straight back to It's a Small World as our first ride, every time we go. Of course, Mommy has to stop crying for us to get on the ride! I cry every time we see Cinderella Castle when we first get there, I start bawling like those old videos of when people would see Elvis for the first time!

From Kelley G. of Staunton VA: Our first ritual really begins before we even cross onto WDW property! When we can see the archway that goes over the highway that welcomes us to Disney, we start a countdown. It gets louder and louder . . . 10, 9, 8 . . . until we are under the sign and then the screaming begins!

Begin_the_countdown

My husband just closes his ears as we scream and laugh!

We camp at Fort Wilderness with an occasional stay at a hotel on-property. When we camp it is our tradition to get pizza that first night and then head to the beach and watch the water parade. Just a good way to wind down after a travel day and setting up camp.

From Allison J. of Deland FL: I think the closest thing we have that is a tradition is getting a "Mickey Ice Cream" a.k.a. a Mickey Premium Bar. The funny thing is, my happy memory tied to this ice cream really doesn't have anything to do with the theme parks. I grew up in Virginia and I remember one summer when my Mom bought a box of ice cream bars shaped like Mickey. They were vanilla ice cream with chocolate ice cream making up the ears, eyes, and mouth, so they were not even the traditional Mickey Bars that they sell in the parks now. Even so, getting a Mickey Ice Cream in the parks always takes me back to that summer - running around in the backyard with my friends, catching fireflies when the sun went down . . . all those small little childhood memories that, looking back, mean even more than they did in the moment. I guess it makes sense - Disney makes you feel like a kid again, it seems fitting to have a snack that makes me feel the same way.

From Kameo C. of El Mirage AZ: When we go to Walt Disney World, our tradition is ALWAYS to go see fireworks at Magic Kingdom the first night. They always put us in the Disney spirit and we never miss them. There is something so magical about hearing those amazing songs we grew up with and seeing Tinker Bell soar high across the sky. There is nothing in this world like it! We have teenagers so magic can sometimes be limited in their eyes but Walt Disney World helps bring out the joy and spirit they had as children and now mask.

From Jeff B. of Florida NY: We have a little ritual that we've done the past four trips to Walt Disney World in 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2012. It's something that started out just as a nice picture in 2006 when my daughter, Isabel, 7 years old at the time, and I posed for a picture in front of the sign at the Carousel of Progress.

Jeff_and_Isabel_2006

When we returned in 2009, I had my wife take a picture of Isabel and I in the same place.

Jeff_and_Isabel_2009

In 2010, as we neared the end of our vacation it dawned on us we hadn't taken this visit's picture. We made a special trip to the Magic Kingdom just to take the shot so in 2012 we made sure we took the picture the first time we were in Tomorrowland.

Jeff_and_Isabel_2010

Jeff_and_Isabel_2012

Having my wife take this picture of our daughter and me is special to us since I'm usually the one taking the pictures, so . . . it's great to watch her grow up through the trips/years (though seeing less of my hair is no fun!). It's a shame that Disney stopped putting the year on the Carousel sign - it definitely added to the pictures.

Jeff's story reminded me of our good friend Dave C. from Green Island, NY (some of you know him as Tagrel) who has a similar ritual: Here's the story in Dave's words: We started taking a special series of pictures completely by accident with our daughter Brinn. After returning from our first two trips (1998 & 2000) I found I had taken two pictures of Brinn in the same place and pose. Now a SMART Disney fan would have chosen a Disney icon for this, but luckily that little green Rainforest Café frog has been there every year waiting for us! In 2001 our second daughter Maddy became part of the ritual. Every year we would pose in front of that Rainforest Café frog - it's been a great tradition. It just so happens that when Gary asked me about the pictures, the girls were at Disney for a couple weeks and took this year's picture - sadly - without me. But I was definitely there in spirit and very glad the tradition lives on.

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Dave and Brinn - 1998

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Dave and Maddy - 2001

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Dave and Brinn 2005

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Dave and Maddy 2006

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Dave and Maddy 2010

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Dave and Brinn 2011

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Brinn 2013

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Maddy 2013

From Hilary S. of St. Louis, MO: I have a few Walt Disney World traditions, most of which I do every single time I am there. The most near and dear to my heart is to stop for just a moment outside the entrance to the Magic Kingdom, preferably after dark, and take it all in. When I graduated high school in 1991, my parents asked where I wanted to go that summer. I immediately said Walt Disney World, we'd been twice before but had never stayed onsite and had never tried to do it all. Well, this trip we did -- and more! We stayed at the Disney Inn and loved it. I'm so glad we got to experience it before it became Shades of Green. Especially my Dad and I, we were just in awe and loved every minute of our time at Walt Disney World. I specifically remember standing next to him outside the MK one night and just being totally and completely happy. I have never forgotten that moment. Dad passed away unexpectedly in 2005 and every single time I'm there I recreate the moment and think of him. It makes me appreciate the magic that is Walt Disney World, makes me feel connected to Dad and makes me so thankful for our wonderful relationship.

Those are just a few highlights from the e-mails I received. It seems to me that we all have unique little rituals that play out when we arrive at our happy place . . . traditions that have a very special meaning to us and our families. But in spite of the wide diversity in our individual rituals, they all have one thing in common. Each and every one of these rituals makes our vacations memorable and magical. Just as Walt would have wanted it!

What is your Disney ritual?

July 22, 2013

Disney’s Oldest Parade - Electrical Water Pageant

Gary Cruise banner

Walt Disney World has plenty of parades. The Magic Kingdom currently has the "Celebrate A Dream Come True" parade every afternoon at 3:00 and the "Main Street Electrical Parade" at 9:00 and 11:00. Disney's Animal Kingdom features the "Jammin' Jungle Parade" at 3:45

Over the years there have been many themed parades at each of the Disney parks but the undisputed grand-daddy of all parades is the Electrical Water Pageant which sails the waters of Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon. It has been running every night (weather permitting) since October 26, 1971. There have been a few subtle changes over the past 42 years, but it is still as captivating as it was the first time I watched it in 1977.

One of our favourite ways to end our day at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground is to head to the beach and watch the nightly performance of the Electrical Water Pageant.

We try to arrive a bit early, find a comfy seat on the patio beside the marina and wait until those tell-tale green lights begin to appear. The 14 barges which provide the show run very quietly. They are nearly invisible, with only their running lights to reveal their approach. Then once they are in position the show begins with a fanfare of techno music and all those wonderful lights reflecting off Bay Lake.

The first four barges all light up their 40 foot long and 25 foot high displays at once and portray the image of a sea serpent accompanied by "Boo Bop Bopbop Bop (I Love You Too)" from Pete's Dragon.

Sea_Serpent

Soon the next float comes alive with the image of a spouting whale as you listen to "Whale of a Tale" from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Whale_and_Turtle

Floats six and seven feature a turtle bobbing its head under water and an octopus, also accompanied by lively music generated by the 800 watt sound system.

Soon the first three floats in the second string light up to reveal three jumping dolphins, followed in turn by a Brachiosaurus, a crocodile, four seahorses and finally King Triton. By the time all 14 floats are illuminated there are over 50,000 lights involved in the animated panorama. WOW!

Dolphins

King_Triton

Then, just when you think it's all over, the grand finale begins. It's an inspirational salute to America, with Flags and Stars set to a patriotic musical medley of God Bless America, Yankee Doodle, and You're a Grand Old Flag.

Stars_and_Flags

You don't even have to spend money on park admission to enjoy the Electrical Water Pageant.

It sails past the beach at every Disney resort on Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon. The normal schedule is:
• 9:00 p.m. - Polynesian Resort
• 9:15 p.m. - Grand Floridian
• 9:35 p.m. - Wilderness Lodge
• 9:45 p.m. - Fort Wilderness
• 10:05 p.m. - Contemporary Resort
• 10:20 p.m. - Magic Kingdom (only when MK is open past 10:00 p.m.)

The Electrical Water Pageant is an often overlooked feature at Walt Disney World and it truly is a hidden gem. Plan to watch it from the beach at one of the resorts soon. With a little planning you might even see the Wishes fireworks spectacular reflecting off the water before or after the pageant. Check with Guest Services at your resort to confirm exact show times.

If you watch it from the Polynesian Resort I recommend a stop at Captain Cook's on the way. Pick up a cool Dole Whip to enjoy as you sit on the beach enjoying the show. If you watch from Fort Wilderness, take a look around, you may just see Carol and I on the patio beside the marina!

July 6, 2013

Dayton Disneyana - 2013

Gary Cruise banner

A few of our Canadian pin-trader friends have attended Dayton Disneyana several times and they always describe it in glowing detail. It has always sounded like something Carol would really enjoy; so for several years we have hoped to head to Dayton for this annual event. Alas, too many other things always seemed to intervene. This year we decided early that nothing else should stand in our way.

The Dayton "Plane Crazy" Chapter of the Disneyana Fan Club, who host the event annually, describe it as "a Show & Sale of Disneyana Collectibles and Disney Pin Trading Event" but it is actually much more than that. It's more like a convention for Disney fans!

This year's event included two well known speakers; 1) Jim Hill, an award-winning entertainment writer from Boston who written extensively about The Walt Disney Company. 2) Jim Korkis, an internationally respected Disney historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for over three decades.

Carol and our son Rob both delight in scouring Thrift Shops, Flea Markets, Second Hand Stores and Garage Sales for Disney treasures and they had been looking forward to this trip for months.

I don't share their mania for collectibles, but I'd been hoping for a somewhat different outcome. You see, my sweet, wonderful and loving wife would be celebrating her birthday just a few days after the event. I had been hoping that she could point to an item sometime over the weekend and say, "That's it - that's exactly what I want for my birthday." Actually, there was no doubt in my mind that that particular scene would play out . . . I only wondered how many times it would happen.

We live about two hours east of Toronto, almost exactly mid-way between Toronto and Montreal. The trip to the Wyndham Garden Hotel at Miamisburg Ohio, just south of Dayton, is 606 miles. We would be on the road for at least 9 ½ hours, plus any time we needed for fuel and rest breaks so an early start was mandatory!

Friday June 28, 2013
We were up at zero-dark-thirty and pulled away from home at 5:52 a.m., eight minutes ahead of schedule!

We crossed the Ambassador Bridge from Windsor Ontario into Detroit Michigan at 12:10 p.m. and headed south on Interstate 75.

Ohio_State_Line

At about 12:50 we crossed the Ohio State line and Carol shouted out, "Holy Toledo, I haven't been shopping yet!" We stopped in Toledo and had a quick bite of lunch before Carol and Rob invaded the Disney Store. I waited in the car and read for about a half hour before they returned. We resumed our southward trek on I-75.

We pulled off at Exit 44 in Miamisburg Ohio at 5:30. Aside from a few heavy rain showers the trip was uneventful. We had no traffic troubles.

After stretching our legs for a bit, we unpacked and settled in to our home for the next two nights. Rob's room is just across the courtyard from ours. Soon we hopped back in the car to head out for dinner. We were back "home" by 8:45 and Carol spent some time visiting with friends Susan and Carrie while the chauffeur took a soothing dip in the "not-hot but merely tepid" tub. Aaahh! Even though it was only moderately warm it still felt good. There were no pin traders trading in the lobby so before long Carol joined me for a soak. At about 10:00 we headed back to the room where we read and played on the computer for a while before bed.

Saturday June 29, 2013
The downside to that whole "Early to bed, early to rise" thing is the early rising part. Carol and I were both wide awake before 7:00 a.m. We sat around and wasted an hour before calling friends Susan and Carrie. They met us for breakfast in the hotel at about 8:15.

On the way back to our rooms we picked up tickets for the event which opened at 10:00 a.m. Some people had prepaid an "Early Bird Fee" of $15.00 and were allowed to enter the ballroom at 8:30 and enjoy 90 minutes of shopping before the rest of us were admitted.

Cutting_the_Ribbon

At 10:00 the president of the Dayton Chapter of the Disneyana Fan Club cut the ribbon to officially open the show and we rushed through the door and into the ballroom. As we filed in our friend Gabe, who took advantage of early entry, marched out with a huge smile and several large bags! He was obviously a happy collector!

Carol and Rob just didn't know where to start! They were in some sort of Disney heaven and they had difficulty figuring out how to attack the huge mound of treasure facing them.

I wandered up and down the aisles taking pictures of the wide array of Disney merchandise and collectibles. There really was everything from soup to nuts. Wow!

Carol_is_overwhelmed

There were plates and spoons, cups and glasses, clocks and watches. There were comic books, magazines, coloring books, toys, framed pictures, cels, figurines, games and collectibles in varieties too many to mention.

Merchandise

More_Merchandise

A_Goofy_Telephone

Books_and_magazines

Naturally there were pins and vinylmations!

There were movies and movie posters, VHS and DVD videos, LP's, CD's and video games.

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Avid_pin_traders

There were brand new items and there were some dating back to the 1930's. It's really hard to comprehend the variety and diversity of goods on sale. The pictures tell the story though!

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Collector_plates

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Disneyana Fan Club originated as The National Fantasy Fan Club (NFFC) in 1984 and now has over 25 chapters across the country & around the world.

The Plane Crazy Chapter in Dayton, who host this show, began about 10 years ago as "Pin Trading By The Pond" when a few friends gathered to trade pins beside one of the trader's backyard koi ponds. The next year it grew so much that they had to book a room to house the event. Since then it has grown into a wonderful two day extravaganza for Disney collectors and traders. Last year they hosted over 400 guests.

By the time I had made my first circuit of the room snapping pictures Carol had filled a couple of bags. She and Rob, who also had a bag full, were sporting big smiles. I took the bags to our room and dropped them off, freeing up their hands for more shopping!

Carol_is_an_avid_shopper

I continued to wander, this time taking fewer pictures and allowing plenty of time to admire the merchandise. It was even more amazing when I took time to actually consider what my eyes were seeing. I was nowhere near as excited as Carol and Rob, but I could understand why they were so enthusiastic.

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A_view_of_the_ballroom

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An_Alice_in_Wonderland_nurse_kit

Mickey_and_Kermit_telephones

The next time I crossed paths with Carol she took my arm and dragged me to a nearby table. Those words I had been expecting rolled off her lips, "That's it - that's exactly what I want for my birthday." I bought the three Disney Classic Collection figurines she pointed out, packed them in the big bag she had partly filled while I was gone, wished her Happy Birthday, and took another big load to the room.

Carol_and_Rob_are_happy_shoppers

When I returned at about 12:30 the pin traders were starting to take their positions at tables in the hallway outside the ballroom. Carrie and I hopped in the car and made a mad dash to a nearby Wendy's restaurant. We were back with lunch for all in our group and I wolfed mine down then ran down the hall (OK . . . it was more of a quick limping shuffle) to listen to the speakers who were beginning their presentations in the atrium at 1:15 p.m.

I arrived just as Jim Korkis was beginning. Jim is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. He is a former Walt Disney World cast member and is now a regular guest blogger on AllEars.

Jim_Korkis

Jim focussed on the classic old Disney movie The Song Of The South which has been removed from the US and Canadian markets for many years. He told a number of interesting and amusing stories about the movie and about his interaction with many of the actors who appeared in it. Jim is passionate about Disney and his zeal is infectious. When he speaks, he grabs your attention and he doesn't let go. If you get a chance to hear Jim speak, do not pass it up!

Jim_Korkis_is_passionate_about_Disney

Next up to the podium was Jim Hill, an award-winning entertainment writer from Boston who written extensively about The Walt Disney Company. He is a very captivating speaker as well.

Jim_Hill

Jim Hill's focus was more "future oriented"; he began by telling us how Disney "dropped the ball" during negotiations with J.K. Rowling. As a result of a fumble by Disney Imagineers The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was built at Universal rather than at Walt Disney World. What a shame!

In Jim's opinion that faux pas led to the big changes and improvements we have seen in Fantasyland. He spoke at length describing the changes will we see at Walt Disney World in years to come.

Jim_Hill

Will Star Wars Land be coming to Florida? Yes! Jim gave us some interesting glimpses of what current plans include.

Will Avatar Land be coming to Florida? Yes! It may take some time to get done, but it is included in current plans.

Will Cars Land be coming to Florida? Yes! It will not include Luigi's Flying Tires - they cannot dig deep enough to install the underground fans needed for the attraction. The water table in Florida is simply too high to allow the necessary excavation.

The two Jims spent over a half hour answering questions from the audience; it was a lively and humorous Q & A session.

Carol and all her pin trading buddies were firmly settled in the hallway outside the ballroom when I returned. I said a quick hello as I passed by, on my way to talk some more with the pair of Jims. They had set up in the ballroom where Jim Korkis was selling copies of his two books. I bought a copy of each and Jim signed (and illustrated) them for me.

Jim_Korkis_and_Jim_Hill

Throughout the day there were silent auctions, door prize draws, children's games and a charity draw for beautiful Disney themed quilt. There was always something interesting going on!

Carol, Rob and the gang continued to trade until almost 6:00 p.m. then took a break for dinner. We had a nice meal at the little restaurant in the hotel; then they went back to the trade tables. They had a good day trading, there were plenty of pins, vinylmations, buttons and even a few Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom cards changing hands. Everyone seemed happy with their trades when they finally called it quits at 9:45 p.m. These traders sure have a lot of stamina!

Pin_trading

Trading_buttons

Before bed Carol confided that there are still a few more collectibles she has her eye on. I anticipate a few more purchases tomorrow. The doors open at 10:00 a.m. and we plan to get away by about noon to begin our trip home. It's a holiday weekend in Canada and we want to be home for Canada Day celebrations on Monday.

Sunday June 30, 2013
The Sunday schedule was almost an exact duplicate of the Saturday programme. The ballroom full of vendors opened at 10:00 a.m. and the two Jims each made another presentation, with fresh topics, beginning at 1:15 p.m. I thoroughly enjoyed both their presentations on Saturday and I was disappointed that I could not stay to enjoy the second session.

We met Susan and Carrie for breakfast and all of us were waiting outside the ballroom when the doors opened. We had all walked around the tables at least a dozen times on Saturday . . . there shouldn't have been anything new to see . . . but there was! There was just so much merchandise on display that you could not take it all in.

A_Mickey_Mouse_gumball_machine

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Disney_watches

While Carol and Rob shopped, I spent some time chatting with Disneyana Fan Club Dayton Chapter President Gary DesCombes, Disney Fan Club National President Gary Schaengold and his wife Anita who is part of the team of about 18 volunteers who make this great, family friendly event happen year after year.

They passed on some interesting facts. I thought our 606 mile trip from Kingston (500 miles as the crow flies) was a long journey, but it is nothing compared to some others. This year there were guests from as far away as Chicago and North Carolina, as the crow flies they are 225 miles and 500 miles distant respectively. We are about tied with the North Carolina folks for this year's distance record! But we pale in comparison with the group of 12 who attended from California last year and the lady who has flown in from Japan to attend, not once but twice!

Some of the vendors travel long distances to the show as well. Theme Park Connection of Winter Garden Florida hauled a truckload of goods about 775 miles from their store just north of Walt Disney World.

Carol had planned to take a quick lap of the ballroom to pick up those last few items she mentioned the previous night, then settle in for some trading in the hallway. Two hours later she and Rob were still in the ballroom. Some of the merchandise had been marked down . . . I suppose it's easier to sell it than it is to pack it up and take it back home.

There was plenty of haggling going on; prices seemed to be more flexible as the end of the weekend drew nearer!

Rob_makes_a_final_purchase

Vinylmations

Two representatives from PinPics.com, Anthony and Samantha Medina, arrived about noon and spent the rest of the afternoon chatting with the many avid pin traders in the crowd. I spent a few minutes yakking with Samantha and then began the difficult task of dragging Carol and Rob away from the vendor's tables.

Samantha_from_PinPics

Carol made a few very quick pin trades before we hopped in the car to begin our trek home. We pulled onto northbound Interstate 75 at 12:40 p.m. Traffic was moving very well, there was hardly a slowdown, even in Detroit. We crossed the Ambassador Bridge and returned to "Our Home And Native Land" at 5:00 p.m.

Back_home_in_Canada

Traffic in Canada was also lighter than we anticipated and we made great time. There were a few very quick stops for fuel and coffee and we arrived home at 10:30, about 90 minutes earlier than we had expected. We were tired after a long day on the road but Carol and Rob were still all pumped up about the event and the treasures they found!

They agreed that it's an event we will definitely return to. Because of the distance it may not be an annual event, but we will definitely attend periodically.

Here are the treasures Carol brought home.

Carol's_treasures

Her most cherished "find" is this Olszewski figurine which Rob picked up in the silent auction.

A_valuable_Olszewski_figurine

Rob had a pretty nice pile of loot too!

Rob's_loot

His favourite is this Fantasia themed Mickey Mouse clock. We added a fresh battery and it's ticking away!

A_Fantasia_clock

If you are an avid Disney fan and a collector of Disneyana then Dayton Disneyana should be on your to-do list. Next year's event is tentatively planned for Father's Day weekend, June 14 - 15, 2014. These dates are not yet firm, check the Disneyana Fan Club web site before finalizing your plans.

The National web site is HERE.

The Plane Crazy Chapter site is HERE.

Like them on Facebook HERE.

What will you find if you attend? We were pleasantly surprised by the attractive hotel rates, $81.00 a night in 2013. The event registration was a mere $5.00 for a 2 day adult pass, or $3.00 for a 1 day pass. The merchandise was varied, plentiful and good quality. This is not a flea market and the vendors are not selling junk and trinkets.

The vendors are friendly, approachable and most are die-hard Disney fans just like you and I. Of course all of the other attendees are kindred Disney spirits too. It's a totally immersive experience and you will feel right at home, we sure did!

Maybe Carol and I will see you there some day?


May 31, 2013

Cruising to Vancouver on the Disney Wonder - Day 7

Gary Cruise banner
May 26, 2013

We were up bright and early this morning. We were nearing Victoria so we watched from the balcony for a while.

Victoria

Victoria

Temperatures were cool, skies were overcast and a constant drizzle was falling. By the time the room service coffee arrived at 7:00 a.m. I was already showered and ready to hit the road. We watched the ship dock in Victoria and at 7:30 we made our way to Deck 9 for breakfast at Beach Blanket Buffet.

Our excursion group met in Wave Bands at 8:15. The check-in process was efficient, as usual, and by 8:30 the Disney Port Adventures staff were leading us down the gangway to the waiting bus for our tour and tea at Butchart Gardens.

The bus driver/tour guide, Rolland, did an amazingly good job. We told us very informative and humorous tales about the city and its history. He related the origins of the Butchart family and how they came to develop their old and depleted limestone quarry into world famous gardens.

We debarked from the bus at 9:30 and began by exploring the sunken garden located in the former quarry. It is simply awesome.

Butchart_Gardens

Butchart_Gardens

Butchart_Gardens

When people think of Canada they think of ice and snow . . . but these gardens are located in a temperate rainforest. Everything is lush and green. I'll let the pictures do the talking!

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Butchart_Gardens

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Butchart_Gardens

Butchart_Gardens

Butchart_Gardens

We moved on past the Ross Fountain and toured the rose garden. Very few roses were in bloom this early in the season, but in a month it will be glorious.

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Butchart_Gardens

Butchart_Gardens

Butchart_Gardens

Butchart_Gardens

Butchart_Gardens

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Butchart_Gardens

Our tea was scheduled for 10:45 so we ran out of touring time much too soon. We had to bypass the Japanese and Italian Gardens. The tea was excellent, a nice variety of scones, sandwiches and sweets along with a pot of hot tea. It sure hit the spot after a few hours out in the cold drizzle.

Butchart_Gardens

Butchart_Gardens

We took a few more pictures as we approached the exit. A greenhouse beside the gift shop had a vivid display of orchids and begonias so we stopped for some shots of those specimens.

Butchart_Gardens

Butchart_Gardens

Butchart_Gardens

Butchart_Gardens

Naturally Carol had to detour through the gift shop and to my surprise, she came out empty handed. Wow!

We boarded our bus at 12:15 and only had to wait five minutes for the inevitable stragglers.

Rolland entertained us again on the way home, pointing out many points of interest and using amusing tales to put them all in historical perspective. All in all it was a terrific excursion - the gardens were breathtaking and Rolland brought the journey there and back to life with his enthusiastic stories. We tipped him generously; I hope everyone else did too!

We were back aboard by 1:30 and wandered the deck for a while enjoying a break in the showers. It was a real surprise, and a treat, to see the Disney Wonder flying our Canadian flag!

Victoria

We admired the Victoria skyline and watched the boats and float planes navigate the harbor. There was even a floating bus, the Hippo!

Victoria

Victoria

Victoria

We stopped at Beach Blanket Buffet for a light snack about 2:00 p.m. and then returned to the stateroom where Carol did some more packing. Alas, it all comes to an end for us tomorrow and our bags must be out in the hall for pick-up by 10:30 tonight.

Our last dinner was in Animator's Palate at 5:45. The servers put on a show, parading around the dining room waving flags of their native countries. For some strange reason our server, Sedat from Turkey, was waving the Canadian flag.

We said goodbye to our tablemates and exchanged e-mail addresses, then headed back to the stateroom to finish the last minute things and put our bags out in the hall.

I headed out for a last stroll around Deck 10, soaking in the scenery as we sailed up the Haro Straight past San Juan Island. The sun was setting over Vancouver Island.

Vancouver_Island_Sunset

Tomorrow we disembark in Vancouver and catch a noon flight to Toronto then drive 2 hours to our home in Kingston. If all goes well we should be able to pick up our dogs and be home by 10:00 p.m. tomorrow night.

This is the first time we have cruised on our own in about six years. Since then we have always sailed with friends or as part of a group. Before this cruise we had wondered what sort of group we would have at our table and how we would all get along. It worked out very well. There was always plenty of lively and interesting dinner conversation and we even met by chance for a few lunches.

We had a terrific time. Yes, I know what you're thinking, "But Gary, you didn't get to the pool or hot tub once during the trip." You are absolutely correct, the cruise would have been more enjoyable had the weather been a bit warmer but overall we had a wonderful time.

We hope you have enjoyed travelling along with us!

We'll sail again in October, aboard the Disney Fantasy on a 7 day Western Caribbean itinerary. Then in May 2014 we will take our 10th Disney cruise when join in the fun of the AllEars.net group cruise. To see more about that cruise follow this link.

May 30, 2013

Cruising to Vancouver on the Disney Wonder - Day 6

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May 25, 2013

Today we were finally able to sleep in . . . and it was a bad thing! Carol screeched as her bleary eyes found the clock and read 8:00 a.m. We had to be at Parrot Cay for an 8:15 character breakfast. We leaped out of bed and hit the floor running.

We made it down to Deck 3 just in time to join the line waiting to enter the restaurant. As we gazed out the Deck 3 portholes we noticed that the skies were still very overcast but the seas had calmed down a great deal. There was just a slight roll, not more than a few feet. Winds had dropped off significantly during the night.

We had a pleasant breakfast with most of our dinner tablemates and the characters dropped by our table to pose for pictures. Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Chip and Dale made sure to visit every table and took time to pose with adults and interact with the children.

Character_Breakfast

Character_Breakfast

After breakfast I picked up the computer and headed to the Internet Café to upload to our web site. Carol roamed around Deck 3 killing time until I was done. It was raining so we picked up coffee and headed to the Outlook Café where she kept an eye peeled for whales while I read my book.

Outlook_cafe

At 12:15 we headed back to Parrot Cay for lunch. It was a seafood buffet and it was great. Unfortunately it was poor timing for us; we both ate sparingly because we are having dinner at Palo tonight.

It was a lazy afternoon; we had the showers we missed this morning, relaxed in the stateroom, kept our eyes open for whales and had a nice relaxing nap. I took my book to the Outlook Café and read for a while. When I returned at 5:00 p.m. Carol was all dressed for dinner so I quickly changed and we headed down to Deck 3 to get some character pictures.

Carol_Gary_and_Pluto

Then it was time for our dinner at Palo. We were celebrating our 12th wedding anniversary three days early . . . and what a magnificent place to celebrate it. It is always a delightful dining experience. Felice was our server once again and he entertained us while providing exceptional service.

Palo

Palo

We savored our dinner until about 7:45 then headed back to our stateroom. Carol dashed off for some pin trading at Mickey's Mates. Soon she called to tell me that the mountains to the east of us were looking magnificent. We are approaching the Straight of Juan de Fuca and the setting sun, when it peeks through the odd patch of blue in the sky, is lighting up Washington's Olympic Mountains. I took my camera to the Promenade Deck but it was a bit too hazy to get good pictures. The setting sun looked great, but the mountain shots didn't capture the beauty I saw with the naked eye.

Carol returned from pin trading and we went down to the Promenade Deck once again to watch the sunset. After a few pictures there we decided to head up to Deck 9 and the balcony behind Beach Blanket Buffet. It was sheltered from the wind there and we got some glorious shots. The sun was setting behind the ship as we sailed into a cloud bank dropping a fine misty rain. The result was a glorious rainbow which reflected off the water. Then a brilliant red sunset lit up the western sky. Our only clear sunset on this cruise and it was spectacular.

Rainbow

Pacific_Sunset

After warming up in our stateroom for a few minutes we struck out to Wave Bands to see the 10:30 show by ventriloquist/comic Michael Harrison. His adult show was just as funny as the family show we saw a few nights ago.

We were back to our stateroom by 11:15 and sleep followed quickly. We have an early start tomorrow . . . we meet our tour group at 8:15. We're off to Victoria's Butchart Gardens for the day!

May 29, 2013

Cruising to Vancouver on the Disney Wonder - Day 5

Gary Cruise banner
May 24, 2013

We were confident we could sleep in this morning so Carol requested room service coffee at 7:30. Unfortunately Martin, who has delivered our coffee every morning at 7:00 a.m. didn't notice the change. We both awoke with his gentle rap on the door at 7:00. As always, the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft a'gley. We leaped out of bed and had our coffee.

It was bright and sunny at 7:00 a.m. with 10 foot waves rolling. By the time we decided to head up to Beach Blanket Buffet for breakfast at 8:30 it had clouded over and skies remained overcast all day. It was a cool and dreary day at sea!

After breakfast we headed to the Outlook Café on Deck 10. I took the laptop and did some work on our trip report while Carol did some people watching. There were waves sloshing in the pool below us but the sun deck was empty. There were a few hearty swimmers and a steady procession of folks in and out of the hot tub, but no one stayed to bask, they all dried off and scurried away.

I almost finished preparing four days worth of trip report updates when the laptop battery ran down. I headed back to our stateroom and plugged it in to finish the last little bit and at 11:30 I headed down to the Internet Café on Deck 3. We have not been able to get a reliable connection in our stateroom this trip. Would you believe that there is nowhere in the Internet Café to plug in a laptop? Yup, it surprised me too. I dragged a table and chair from the Promenade Lounge over to a receptacle near the portholes across from the lounge and managed to get everything uploaded by noon. The folks back home must be getting frantic, some of them get quite cranky when I'm late with updates!

Outlook_Cafe

Shortly after noon we headed down to Parrot Cay and lined up for lunch. As we waited our dinner tablemates Loren and Linda, from California, came along and joined us. Our buddy Frano was assigning tables so he made sure we had a nice window seat looking out toward the Pacific. We had a nice leisurely lunch and a few laughs with Loren and Linda. As we were eating dessert Carol spotted a whale spouting and we were all able to turn in time to see it breach. Soon several more followed suit.

Carol dashed off to the Vista Spa where she enjoyed the Pamper Package and I took my book to the Outlook Café where I sat reading for over an hour. Soon the sandman was overpowering me so I headed back for a nap.

Carol arrived back, totally relaxed, at 3:30. She really enjoyed her spa time!

We headed to the Promenade Lounge for a trivia competition. We scored a respectable 21 out of 25 but the winner had 23.

Trivia

Trivia

It was a fun half hour and an interesting way to waste time until we had to dress for dinner.

Tonight's dinner was a brand new menu and this was the first night it was served. They cannot set off fireworks on the Alaska cruise so they will have a Pixar Pals Party rather than the traditional Pirates in the Caribbean Party. Tonight we sampled the new "Toy Story Dinner" menu and then dashed off to the Atrium to join the Pixar Party.

Ariel_Gary_and_Carol

The Atrium was a madhouse. People were standing 10 or 12 rows deep and many adults had children sitting on their shoulders. The Pixar characters paraded down the staircase from the 4th floor into the 3rd floor atrium, danced in pairs near the Ariel statue in front of Triton's. Once their dance segment was over they walked into the audience and danced with the children while another Pixar pair took their place on stage.

Pixar_Party

Pixar_Party

Pixar_Party

Pixar_Party

It was so crowded and so chaotic that I went off to a corner and sat on a couch while the music rattled my grey matter. Carol fought the crowd long enough to get a few pictures, then we fled for the quiet of the Deck 4 foyer outside the Walt Disney Theatre. Carol traded a few pins while we tried to decide whether we wanted to see Michael Holly perform again.

We decided to skip the show so we headed to the stateroom, changed into our comfy clothes and went to the Promenade Deck to watch the sunset. It looked a few minutes earlier like a gap in the clouds might give us a peek at the setting sun but by the time we got to the Promenade the gap had closed - no sunset tonight! We stood out enjoying some fresh air until the chill drove us back inside.

We returned to the stateroom and Carol took advantage of a few minutes downtime to pack up one of our suitcases.

Soon we headed up to Deck 10 for the 10:15 fireworks show and dance party, the last one for a few months.

Deck_Party

Deck_Party

Deck_Party

Tomorrow will be another laid-back at-sea day.

May 28, 2013

Cruising to Vancouver on the Disney Wonder - Day 4

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May 23, 2013

Carol slept much better while we were docked . . . the engines were shut down and the ship wasn't rocking. We were up at 7:00 and started the day slowly with coffee in the stateroom. By 8:00 we headed up to Beach Blanket Buffet for a light breakfast. Then it was time to meet for our tour.

We assembled in the Diversions Lounge on Deck 3 and at 9:15 the cruise staff led us off the ship to our waiting bus. It was about 60 degrees with sunny skies as the bus took us through San Francisco on our way to Sausalito. The tour guide pointed out highlights and points of interest as we passed and then we climbed the ramp and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and entered Marin County.

Golden_Gate_Bridge

Wow, it's a big bridge! When it was built it was the world's longest suspension bridge. It has since been surpassed but it's still an engineering marvel. We stopped for a few minutes at a scenic outlook point on the north side of the bridge so everyone could snap some pictures from that perspective.

Golden_Gate_Bridge

Then we were off again, heading to our morning destination, Sausalito. It's a pretty little town with a sheltered harbor on Richardson Bay and it seems to be a very exclusive suburb of San Francisco. The tour guide cracked a few jokes about Sausalito . . . apparently if you dial 911 a Porsche mechanic answers your call. Up there in Marin County BMW stands for Basic Marin Wheels.

Sausalito

The bus dropped us in the centre of town with an hour and a quarter to shop. I walked the shore and snapped a few pictures while Carol poked around in a few shops but after about 15 minutes we were both wishing we were on our way to Alcatraz. Sausalito was not a highlight for us!

Sausalito

Sausalito

By 11:45 we had boarded the bus again and were on our way to our second crossing of the bridge. We had another short tour of San Francisco on our way back to the pier where we boarded a ferry for our 1:30 ride across to Alcatraz. The ferry ride gave us a new perspective of the skyline and we snapped a few more photos.

Alcatraz_Tour

After landing on the island we had a short presentation by a National Parks Guide who described the history of the island which first served as a fortress during the Civil War, then served as a military prison until the 1930's when it was transformed to a Maximum Security Federal Prison, finally closing in 1963.

After the presentation we began our upward trek. The road is a steep incline which switches back and forth several times as we climbed from the dock level to the cell block. It's equivalent to a 13 story rise between the two levels; as you ascend the rugged roadway you cross broken concrete and pavement. My new knees found it to be a challenging trek but we certainly enjoyed the tour once we arrived at the top.

Alcatraz_Tour

Alcatraz_Tour

Alcatraz_Tour

Alcatraz_Tour

It is a narrated walking tour. A headset directs you from point to point and the commentary, recorded by former guards and former inmates, describes prison life from both perspectives.

Alcatraz_Tour

Alcatraz_Tour

Alcatraz_Tour

Alcatraz_Tour

It was a fascinating afternoon, we both wished we had more time to walk the grounds and explore the gardens. Before the Civil War the island was a barren roosting area for shore birds. Over the intervening years a variety of non-indigenous plants have been introduced by soldiers, guards and prisoners. Portions of the island are now lush with colorful flowers.

Alcatraz_Tour

Alcatraz_Tour

We were back to the ship by 4:00 p.m. and sat soaking up some sun on Deck 9 until the ship pulled away from the dock at about 5:35. We watched the Golden Gate Bridge pass overhead from the aft overlook on Deck 7 and then rushed off for our 5:45 dinner at Animator's Palette.

Sail_Away

Sail_Away

Sail_Away

Sail_Away

Sail_Away

Sail_Away

Our servers, Sedat and Yukiko are doing a great job . . . we have good servers, amiable table-mates and, as always, the food is excellent.

Sedat_and_Yukiko

After dinner Carol went down to the shops on Deck 4 to do some pin trading, I went back to the stateroom. It 8:15 we met outside the Walt Disney Theatre and enjoyed the comedy show of Michael Harrison.

Michael_Harrison

He is a ventriloquist with a twist. He brings some unusual items to life, starting with a tennis ball, then a tennis racquet and later a simple face he draws on a page with a Sharpie pen. For his grand finale he finds a volunteer, a child from the audience, then converts them to a dummy and puts some hilarious words in their mouths. We roared with laughter!

After resting our aching ribs in the cabin for a few minutes we wandered down to the 10:30 show in the Wavebands Lounge on Deck 4. This time it was juggler Michael Holly. Like the earlier ventriloquist, the juggler was also a comic. His non-stop patter as he juggled once again kept us laughing insanely. At one point I was afraid Carol was going to pass out; she was laughing so hard that she didn't breathe for several minutes. Michael put a few twists in his juggling show too. Lots of performers eat the apple they are juggling, but Michael eats the apple while he juggles two 14 pound bowling balls along with it. Then he juggled the two bowling balls along with a peanut M & M's. Quite a difference in weight but he made it look effortless. Then he announced, while juggling, that he would eat the M & M. There was a very high risk factor since the M & M was the same color as one of the bowling balls. He managed to elude certain death and swallowed the right one! Another great show!

We wandered over to the Diversions Lounge, next to Wavebands, picked a few light snacks from the buffet and settled in at a table for a few minutes before heading off to bed. After just a few minutes some people from the Facebook group, Jamiee & Derek, Mimi & Vik all from Arizona, came in and joined us. We sat chatting until after midnight . . . way past our bed time! We tore ourselves away about 12:15 and headed off to bed.

Tomorrow will be another glorious day at sea. We have absolutely nothing to do and we want to be well rested for it!

May 27, 2013

Cruising to Vancouver on the Disney Wonder - Day 3

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May 22, 2013

Our plans to get up early and watch our approach to the Golden Gate Bridge didn't work out. The ship was rocking and rolling all night long and Carol didn't sleep well. Apparently the relentless drone of my snoring didn't lull her back to sleep. So this morning we were already under the bridge when Carol headed to our balcony at 6:30 and started taking pictures.

Golden_Gate_Bridge

As we sailed past Pier 39 we could hear the barking of the sea lions over the rumble of the ships engines as we maneuvered into our slip at Pier 35.

We had a bite of breakfast at Beach Blanket Buffet and left the ship before 9:00 a.m. We strolled along the Embarcadero to Pier 39.

Alcatraz

On_the_Embarcadero

We wandered to the end of the pier for a close-up look at the sea lion colony which lives there. There were hundreds of them and they put on quite a performance.

Sea_Lions

Sea_Lions

Sea_Lions

After watching the playful creatures for almost a half hour we returned to the Embarcadero and hailed a cab to take us to the Presidio. We arrived there just a few minutes early and bought an annual membership. The membership allowed us to view the new exhibit honoring Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are. It was a special member's preview and this was the first day of the exhibit. So not only were we the newest members at the Walt Disney Family Museum, we were the first members to visit the sneak preview of the exhibit.

Walt_Disney_Family_Museum

Walt_Disney_Family_Museum

Walt_Disney_Family_Museum

After a quick walk-through of the Sendak exhibit we returned to the main museum building and began exploring in earnest. This place is like Mecca for a Disney fan. The exhibits are arranged in galleries and each gallery represents a phase in the life of this amazing man. Our last trip through the exhibits, two years ago, was simply too rushed. Today we planned to take our time and enjoy every aspect of the displays.

Walt_Disney_Family_Museum

Walt_Disney_Family_Museum

The place is full of interactive displays, video clips, historic documents with detailed descriptions of their provenance and importance. We did our best to push every button, flip every switch and read every placard.

Walt_Disney_Family_Museum

Walt_Disney_Family_Museum

Since our last visit two years ago they have relaxed the "No Photographs" rule a bit. You may now take pictures anywhere in the museum, but flash photography is prohibited. It sure is nice to be able to take home permanent mementos of our visit.

One of the interesting displays involves sound synchronization. Visitors don headphones and a video clip, a short scene from Steamboat Willie, plays on a large monitor. The bottom of the monitor has a second display which prompts the guests to tap on drums, bang on a xylophone, crank a clicking noisemaker or pull a rope to make a cat yowl. These actions add the sound track to a cartoon, in much the same way animators used to do. Our effort resulted in some hilarious results which would have been left on the cutting room floor.

Walt_Disney_Family_Museum

We had made it about half way through the museum by noon so we stopped for a quick bite in the café. Carol took a few minutes to pre-scout the gift shop . . . she wanted to devise a plan of attack for her visit later in the day!

We were back to the exhibits by 12:30 and continued our walk through the life of a truly amazing man. By 2:30 we had pushed all the buttons and flipped all the switches.

Walt_Disney_Family_Museum

Walt_Disney_Family_Museum

Walt_Disney_Family_Museum

Walt_Disney_Family_Museum

It was time to move on! Carol's pre-planning paid off; she was able to zip through the gift shop in record time and we were soon in a cab on our way to the cable car station. Along the way our driver took us down Lombard Street, that famous crooked street which appears in so many movies!

Lombard_Street

When we arrived at end of the cable car line, the turntable where they flip the cars around, there was a huge line of people waiting to board the cars. There was a homeless entrepreneur there, he handed us a guide map and explained that if we walked one block up the hill we could hop on the first cable car to come along. We said thanks and turned to leave - he demanded a tip - neither of us had anything but $20 bills so we declined. He followed across the street and finally Carol dug into her purse and gave him all the coin she had, about 76 cents. He was not happy as we carried on up the hill.

We arrived at the stop and joined the other dozen people he had sent to the same spot. After about 15 minutes a cable car arrived and took four people from our line. We waited another 15 minutes with no sign of a car. Then a Lincoln Town Car pulled up and offered a ride to Union Square for $5.00 per person. We jumped in. The driver dropped us off about a block from the Disney Store. We must have looked lost because suddenly a man with a map appeared. He pointed out where the Disney Store was and wanted a tip . . . we walked away, no tip this time. Carol remarked, "He looked just like the guy at the cable car station." I think they were probably identical cousins or something!

Carol did some shopping in the Disney Store and then we walked back to the Union Square end of the cable car line . . . once again there was a long line. We walked a block up the hill and were able to board the first car to come along. It arrived at the same time we did, no wait at all.

Cable_car

Cable_car

We were back aboard the ship just in time to freshen up for dinner. Our rotation took us back to Triton's for the second night in a row.

After dinner we took the laptop to the Outlook Café looking for a good internet connection . . . wireless internet service has been very spotty during this cruise. In fact, the service has been terrible. We could not get a connection in the Outlook Café so we headed to the Internet Café located beside the Promenade Lounge. We were finally able to get a better connection there, still very slow but at least it didn't keep cutting out.

Chip

We were back to the stateroom by 9:00 and settled in for the night. Tomorrow we meet at 9:15 for our tour of Sausalito and Alcatraz.

May 26, 2013

Cruising to Vancouver on the Disney Wonder - Day 2

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May 21, 2013

What a wonderful day at sea . . . it was everything we hoped for, and less! After all those days racing around the parks it was soooo nice to veg-out!

It was overcast and the ship was rocking noticeably when we woke at 6:30 a.m. I headed to Deck 9 to pick up coffee and was shocked by the wind when I opened the door near the coffee and soft drink station. The winds across the deck were about 45 miles per hour and they stayed all day.

Deck_10_in_the_morning

Later in the day the skies cleared and the sun shone brightly but it never warmed up because of the high winds. The ship rolled through 15 - 18 foot waves all day.

Rought_seas

Room service arrived at 7:30 with more coffee, juice and a bagel. I had a very light breakfast - saving room for our 11:30 brunch at Palo.

We took advantage of some early morning quiet time to drop off some items in fish extenders for members of a Facebook group Carol was involved in. What's a fish extender you ask? In the ships hallways, beside each cabin door is an ornamental metal fish. It is actually a mail slot, whenever cast members or ship management need to leave a message, they put it in an envelope and stand it up in that metal fish, where it is obvious when you enter your room.

Years ago some imaginative cruisers started hanging small bags from the fish and leaving little gifts in the bags. Voila - the fish extender was born!

Fish_extender

Cruisers who are part of a group can volunteer to be part of a fish extender gift exchange, leaving little gifts for others in the group and receiving gifts in your own extender. It's always fun to return to your cabin to see what has arrived; there are some very creative and imaginative gifts!

After weaving our way up and down the halls "feeding the fishes" we decided to look for a sheltered spot on Deck 9 to sit and enjoy some fresh air. Alas, there was nowhere to escape the strong winds so we sat indoors at the Outlook Café overlooking the Quiet Cove Pool. We occasionally waved at frantic people as the wind hurtled them past the windows. Carol sipped a latté while I read my book.

We left the Café by 11:00 and returned to our stateroom to dress for brunch. Palo is an upscale adult only dining venue at the rear of the ship on Deck 10. All meals aboard are included in the price you pay for your cruise but if you book a brunch or dinner at Palo you are charged a premium of $20.00 per person. It's a bargain.

Palo

Palo

The food is wonderful and the service is impeccable. We try to dine at Palo during each cruise.

Palo

Palo

Palo

Today our server was Felice from Italy and he took excellent care of us. Before we left we made sure the Felice would be our server when we return Saturday evening for dinner.

Ariel

Our afternoon was also quite relaxing. We both enjoyed a nap, then took another wind-blown walk on Deck 9. Once again the winds forced us indoors, first in the Overlook Café and later in the Promenade Lounge where we chatted with a few acquaintances from the Facebook group.

Route_66

It was formal night, so we changed for dinner and headed to the Atrium on Deck 3 where Mickey Mouse was posing for pictures from 5:15 to 5:45.

Mickey

There was a long line but we made it just under the wire, had our picture taken and entered Triton's for dinner just five minutes after the appointed 5:45 dinner hour!

Table_mates.jpg

The evening show was The Golden Mickey's which we've seen several times, so we decided to skip it. Instead we headed to our stateroom, changed into casual clothes and made our way to the Buena Vista Theatre for the 8:00 showing of Wreck It Ralph. We had missed it in the theatres so we didn't want to pass up the chance to see it while we were here. It was cute and funny; not one of Disney's best, but a nice diversion for a few hours.

I was back in the stateroom by 10:00 p.m. but Carol had some shopping to do! She picked up a nice Disney Cruise Line charm for her Pandora bracelet.

We were both settled in the room by 10:30. Tomorrow we plan to be up bright and early so we can enjoy the view from the upper decks as we sail under the Golden Gate Bridge at about 6:30 a.m.

Then we will hail a cab and spend much of the day at the Walt Disney Family Museum.

May 25, 2013

Cruising to Vancouver on the Disney Wonder - Day 1

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May 20, 2013

This will be our second time on the repositioning cruise from Los Angeles to Vancouver. We enjoyed the trip two years ago so much that we just had to repeat it.

If you have been following along on our personal web site you know that we just enjoyed a 5 night stay at the beautiful Candy Cane Inn and 5 days of almost non-stop fun at the Disneyland Resort. If you have just joined us on AllEars you can read about our Disneyland adventures by clicking on this link.

Carol booked an SUV to take us from the Candy Cane Inn to nearby San Pedro where we boarded the Disney Wonder. We shared the ride with Charlene and Brittney, a mother and daughter from Louisiana who Carol connected with online.

The limousine company Carol booked, So Cal Limousine Service, did not show up for the 10:00 a.m. pick-up time and didn't answer the phone when Carol called to ask where they were. After a half hour of waiting we spoke to James who has always taken great care of us at the Candy Cane Inn front desk. He tried to contact SoCal and they still didn't answer. Within five minutes he had a van from Grand Transportation booked. They arrived in under ten minutes and whisked us to the port. Thanks James . . . you're a lifesaver!

The boarding process went very smoothly. Our baggage went directly from the Grand Transportation van to the porter's cart and within seconds we entered the terminal building. The biggest delay was waiting for Carol as she snapped a few pictures.

Disney_Cruise_Line_Welcome_Banner

Disney_Cruise_Line_Welcome_Pluto

There was a very short line in the terminal; we were issued our "Key to the World" cards within five minutes of stepping out of the van. We were in boarding group number 7 so we sat and relaxed in the terminal for about a half hour until our group was called and then walked directly aboard, entering the grand foyer at Deck 3 Mid Ship. What a treat to hear them announce our arrival and welcome the Cruise family aboard.

Disney_Cruise_Line_Entrance

Disney_Cruise_Line_Welcome_Minnie

Lunch was being served in two locations, Parrot Cay on Deck 3 and Beach Blanket Buffet on Deck 9. We opted for Parrot Cay and were soon seated with a couple from Victoria, BC as well as a couple and a solo traveler, all three from the San Francisco area. Seems like everyone but us booked a cruise so they can enjoy a port adventure in their home town!

We had a nice chat with everyone over lunch and then set off to reacquaint ourselves with the ship. We strolled around Deck 9 and Deck 10 snapping a few pictures of the surrounding port area and some shots of provisions being loaded on the ship. Naturally Carol had to stop for an ice cream as we passed the self-serve station!

Carol_getting_ice_cream

By 1:15 our stateroom was ready and our luggage had arrived so Carol unpacked and we were soon all settled in for the next week.

Carol_on_deck

Gary_on_the_balcony

At 3:00 p.m. there was a "meet and greet" session in the Promenade Lounge for a Facebook group Carol had been involved in. We said hello to some new acquaintances and recognized quite a few faces from previous cruises.

Soon it was time for the mandatory life boat drill so we mustered at Animator's Palate with the rest of our group to hear safety instructions and review emergency procedures.

By 4:20 we were on Deck 10 watching the Adventures Away party. The cruise entertainment staff and several Disney characters put on a spirited show. It was a high energy song and dance spectacular which had me sweating, even though I was sitting in a deck chair.

Sail_away_party

Sail_away_party

The ship cast off just a few minutes after 5:00 and we sailed slowly out of the Port of Los Angeles. Along the way we passed the USS Iowa, a decommissioned battleship. It sure was a powerful looking vessel!

We elected early dining for this cruise so by 5:45 we were entering the Parrot Cay Restaurant to meet our servers and our tablemates. Our service team consists of Head Server Sedat from Turkey and Assistant Server Yukiko from Japan. They will follow us from dining room to dining room as we rotate around the ship for the rest of the cruise. At our table were nine passengers, Carol and I, three American couples and Donna, a surprise Disney Cruise Line Celebrity.

Donna is a fellow Canadian, from Brampton Ontario and is currently on her 49th Disney Cruise. She boarded the Wonder a few weeks ago in Miami, transited the Panama Canal, stayed on for this cruise and once we reach Vancouver she will stay aboard again and enjoy the Alaska Cruise the following week. By the time she is done the Alaska voyage in early June she will have completed 51 Disney cruises, with another 5 already booked for 2014.

During the Panama Canal crossing she celebrated her 365th night aboard a Disney ship and to celebrate the occasion Captain Thord and his senior crew surprised her with a party and a very special cake in the Cove Café. Tonight at dinner Donna enjoyed the last piece of that cake. Here is a picture of Donna and the beautifully hand crafted chocolate Donald which decorated the cake. It almost feels like we're dining with royalty!

Donna


After dinner we visited the Future Cruise desk where Tai from Australia booked our stateroom for the 2014 AllEars group cruise sailing May 10, 2014 on the Fantasy. Hooray . . . we're booked on another. It will be our 10th Disney cruise and we thought we were doing well until we met Donna!

Carol had a few minutes to spare before the evening show in the Walt Disney Theatre so she headed to the Mickey's Mates shop where she purchased a few pins and a vinylmation. By 8:30 we were seated for the show, "Let the Magic Begin". The final act in the show was Magic Dave who conscripted four children from the audience and put on a hilarious performance of magic and ad-lib comedy. It was a great time.

On our way back to our stateroom we spotted Frano in Triton's dining room. Frano was our server when Carol and I sailed the Panama Canal crossing with friends John & Cathy, Mike & Pam in 2011. Here is a gratuitous picture of Frano.

Frano.jpg

We headed to Wavebands at 10:30 for the Buckets N Boards percussion comedy show. They were hilarious . . . they played plastic barrels and buckets as drums, strummed on guitars and ukuleles, tap danced and sang classic country and bluegrass tunes such as, "If my nose was runnin' money, I'd blow it all on you." Very high-class stuff, and very funny!

Buckets_N_Boards

Buckets_N_Boards

We were back in our stateroom by 11:15, tired out after a long but very enjoyable day.

We are looking forward to a relaxing day at sea tomorrow, with a brunch booked at Palo. It's our favourite dining venue on the Wonder. We'll post some pictures from Palo tomorrow.

February 17, 2013

Nicholas – The King of Expedition Everest

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Have you ever received an e-mail that just warmed your heart?

Have you ever read an e-mail and thought, "That's what I mean! That's what Disney Magic is all about."

I got one of those e-mails just a few weeks ago. It came from my friend John Ames who is a Travel Agent/Vacation Planner with Mouse Fan Travel. John received it from one of his fellow Mouse Fan Travel agents, Nancy Swope, and Nancy received it from her client Trena.

Trena was telling Nancy the story of her son Nicholas and his amazing feat at Expedition Everest.

There's just no way I could tell the story as well as Trena did, so here is the story in her words, the same words that made me think, "That's what I mean! That's what Disney Magic is all about."

QUOTE

When we visited Walt Disney World in January 2011 for Nicholas' 12th birthday, he ended up riding Expedition Everest 33 times in one day. It took him from park opening at 9:00 a.m. until about 2:00 p.m. He mainly worked the single rider line, with a few fast passes thrown in for good measure.

As soon as we told Nicholas we were headed to Disney for his 14th birthday, he said, "I'm going to beat my record. I'm going to ride Expedition Everest 50 times!" I tried to convince him that 34 times would beat his record and be good enough, but he was having none of that!

So, on the morning of January 21, 2013, Animal Kingdom had Extra Magic hours and opened at 8:00 a.m. and, yep, we were at Expedition Everest ready to help him achieve his goal of 50 times in one day.

Nicholas_on_the_train

Eventually the cast members working the ride realized he wasn't joking about riding it 50 times in one day as they saw him again and again (as they rotated through their positions). I was keeping a time log of every time Nicholas got off a ride so we would not get confused.

Everest_Time_Tracker

We were getting fast passes as quickly as we were allowed and really had to rely on those this time around as the single rider line was at a 20 - 30 minute wait time by mid-morning.

Helpful_FastPasses

The morning manager on duty, Holly, heard about what Nicholas was doing and came out and gave us four anytime fast passes to use. Later a few of the cast members gave us swap passes to use as fast passes. Then a Season Passholder family of four saw my time tracker and asked what I was doing. When they heard the story, they said if we were still at the ride when they came by on their way out of the park, they would get us 4 fast passes to use. So, 45 minutes later we had 4 more fast passes for Nicholas to use.

A_Collection_of_FastPasses

When Holly went off-shift, she came to tell us good-bye and assured us she would let the next manager know about Nicholas. Actually, everyone knew Nicholas by name at this point :-)

Nicholas was making great time, averaging 8 - 12 minutes per wait/ride. Then we ran out of fast passes and his wait/ride time was more like 25 - 30 minutes.

It was about 2:45 p.m. - he had just completed ride #42 and was waiting in line to get on the next train, when the ride shut down. We later learned that two of the monitoring computers disagreed, which brought the ride to a screeching halt. They even had to walk folks down off the mountain.

We waited around for a bit hoping for some news when Michelle (the afternoon manager on duty) came to get us. She, along with Bill (the afternoon supervisor), explained that they were going to get the ride back up and going, and when they did, they were going to personally make sure that Nicholas made his goal of 50 rides in one day. The four mechanics on duty came out to have their picture taken with Nicholas and promised they were doing everything they could to get the ride back up and going.

The_Mechanics

Just before 4:00 p.m., Expedition Everest was back up and running. Bill (a supervisor) and Don (a cast member) personally escorted Nicholas to the last train car (his choice) each time he finished a ride.

Personal_escort_from_Bill

Several of the cast members stayed after their shift ended because they wanted to ride #50 with Nicholas. As Nicholas was waiting to take his seat for ride #50, Bill announced to all those within hearing that Nicholas had been riding Expedition Everest all day long and was now going to take his 50th ride of the day. Folks started cheering and clapping for him and even taking his picture!!!! And, as you can see from the photo below, Nicholas had three cast members ride with him to celebrate his 50th ride in one day!!

The_50th_ride

When he got off the ride, everyone was cheering.

Ride_50_is_complete

The cast members, supervisor and managers gave him a T-shirt and they all signed it. They also gave us the picture of his 50th ride.

The_t-shirt


AMAZING DAY!!!

The next day, we headed back to Everest because Nicholas wanted to get a few of the early morning cast members to sign his T-shirt. He was like a celebrity! All the "new" cast members had already heard about him and made a huge deal over him.

Only at Disney!

END QUOTE

Isn't that a great story!

That's the kind of story I like to tell when my friends ask, "Why do you keep going back to Walt Disney World?"

Nicholas met a lot of very caring cast members that day. So many different people pitched in to help him live his dream; to help him achieve his goal . . . the cast members loading the ride cars, their supervisors and even the mechanics!

It is that kind of caring cast members that sets Disney apart from other theme parks. And it's infectious; The wonderful attitude of the cast members often brings out the best in park guests too. This is what keeps so many of us coming back again and again.

Aaah - that's Disney Magic!

Special thanks to Trena and Nancy for sharing this wonderful story. Congratulations to Nicholas on an amazing achievement. In my opinion he's the newest Disney super-hero!

Nicholas, if you and I should ever meet at the park I would be honored to ride Expedition Everest with you . . . but only once!
That's my limit.

January 20, 2013

Revved up at Cars Land

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During our last few treks to Disneyland Carol and I have eagerly watched Cars Land take shape. We were excited and anxious to see it since the very first day the new project was announced. Our friends who visited since it opened in June 2012 have given it nothing but rave reviews . . . so our appetites were well whetted before our arrival in mid December.

Cars_Land_Entrance

We knew the parks would be crowded at that time of year so we decided to focus on just a few of our favorite attractions and spend plenty of time at Cars Land. WOW! We were anticipating big things at the new 12 acre site but what we found far exceeded our expectations. It is simply overwhelming.

We were astounded by the transformation that had taken place in a former parking lot. As we turned into Cars Land and walked down Route 66 we felt like we were actually in Radiator Springs . . . "Look, it's Flo's V/8 Diner . . . over there is the Cozy Cone Motel." Our eyes were drawn in every direction at once.

Yes, it's that good!

The Imagineers captured all the color and excitement of the two Cars movies and reproduced it in stunning detail. You will see Sarge's Surplus Hut, a gift shop housed in an Army Quonset hut.

Sarges

Next door is Fillmore's Taste-In, a snack shop with some surprisingly healthy food options. Fillmore's is set in and around a tie-died, psychedelic-hued geodesic dome.

Fillmores

The automobile theme is consistent throughout; even the flowers in the planters have a distinct automotive flair.

Cars_Land_Decor

Cars_Land_Decor

Cars_Land_Decor

Cars_Land_Decor

Cars_Land_Decor

Mater's Junkyard Jamboree is one of the three new rides located in Cars Land. You sit in a small wagon pulled by a tractor as it travels around a double figure eight track. It looks and sounds pretty tame but it does give a pretty good "whip" effect as you whirl around the track. We really enjoyed it! Of course our favorite Cars character, Tow Mater, is joking and singing throughout . . . it's no wonder we liked it as much as the children.

Maters_Junkyard_Jamboree

Maters_Junkyard_Jamboree

Maters_Junkyard_Jamboree

Maters_Junkyard_Jamboree

Sally's Cozy Cone Motel is a series of five snack bars, each housed in one of the cones. Everything they serve is presented to you in a cone. There are some creative dishes such as the churro cone (churro bits served in a cone), chili cone-queso served in an edible bread cone, pop-cone (pop corn in a cone), cone coctions (pretzel bites in a cone) and of course ice cream cones.

Cozy_Cone_Motel

Cozy_Cone_Motel

There are regular meet & greet sessions with Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater in front of Sally's Cozy Cone!

At the end of Route 66 is Luigi's Casa Della Tires which serves as the entrance to the new Luigi's Flying Tires ride.

Luigis Casa Della Tires

You sit two or three abreast in the middle of a huge tire. The ride operates like a giant air hockey game; air blows up from below the surface and "inflates" your tire which becomes a hovercraft. You lean left, right, forward or back in order to move in that direction.

Luigis_Flying_Tires

Luigis_Flying_Tires

It's like a bumper car ride which operates in super slow motion. It's interesting technology but one ride was enough for us. We rode Mater's Junkyard Jamboree several times but at Luigi's it was "once and done".

Also at the end of Route 66, across from Luigi's, is Flo's V/8 Café. Step back into the early 60's when you enter Flo's. The décor is vintage 60's with plenty of neon and chrome.

Flos_V8_Cafe

Flos_V8_Cafe

There is indoor seating but the outdoor tables offer some amazing views. Sit out front among the gas pumps and watch people parade past on Route 66.

Flos_V8_Cafe

Or take your chow out the side doors to a seating area which overlooks Ornament Valley. We just loved the French toast we had for breakfast at Flo's as we soaked in the scenery of Ornament Valley . . . then as an added bonus Lightning McQueen drove past.

Flos_V8_Cafe

Lightning McQueen

Just past Flo's is Radiator Springs Racers . . . the real focal point in Cars Land.

Radiator_Springs

The Imagineers did an amazing job re-creating all that awesome desert scenery from the movies. The Cadillac Range Mountains form the backdrop for beautiful Ornament Valley. Do you see those tail fins in the skyline?

Radiator_Springs

Ornament Valley covers about 6 acres or about half of the total area of Cars Land and it is truly breathtaking. Our jaws dropped as we took a high speed tour and soaked in the grandeur of the desert scenery. We enjoyed this attraction so much that we rode it seven times during our short stay in California! On one ride I sat next to a young lady who commented, "Wow, this is amazing. I'm from Utah and this scenery is so realistic it really reminds me of Monument Valley." High praise indeed!

The standby queue for Radiator Springs Racers takes you past the spring (shaped like a radiator) which Stanley Steamer discovered before he established the town of Radiator Springs. As you continue on in the line you pass through some typical Route 66 buildings such as the "Bottle House" before you board your car and begin your tour.

Radiator_Springs

Radiator_Springs

The ride itself is terrific. I won't spoil it for you but, you meet some of your favorite characters along the way. You get a chance to do some tractor tipping with Tow Mater and then the ride finishes with a high-speed race to the finish line!

Radiator_Springs_Racers

Red the Fire Truck

Lightning McQueen and Mater

Radiator_Springs_Racers

Radiator_Springs

Radiator_Springs

Radiator_Springs_Racers

Amazing . . . we cannot wait to get back in May and ride it again!

Cars Land Tips
This is the most popular area in the newly refurbished California Adventure park and it is almost always crowded. The lines, particularly for Radiator Springs Racers are long. Here are a few pointers, based on our experience, to help you get the most out of Cars Land.

1. Guests at Disney Resorts are able to enter one of the two theme parks an hour early on select days. If you are not at a Disney Resort, check the schedule and plan to visit Cars Land when the "Early Entry" day is at Disneyland. The California Adventure park will be much quieter that morning since many folks will go to Disneyland.

2. Get there early. We arrived about ten minutes before rope-drop on our first day and were amazed when we saw two separate lines near the Carthay Circle Theatre. One line was a general line to enter the park but there were already several hundred people standing in the second queue to get FastPasses for Radiator Springs Racers. Yikes! We stood in the general line and went to the standby line for Radiator Springs Racers at rope-drop. We waited 35 minutes for our ride. Then we went to pick up a FastPass, the big line at the distribution machines was much shorter after the park had been open for a while.

3. Use the "Single Rider Line". I can't stress this enough! The cars at Radiator Springs Racers hold 6 passengers and most groups in line are 2 or 4 people. They pull from the Single Rider Line to fill each vehicle. Even at the busiest times, when the standby line was 150 minutes, we were never more than 35 minutes in the Single Rider Line.

4. See Cars Land at night. It is very different after dark, the neon lights shine everywhere and the accent lighting brings out the red in the sandstone formations at Ornament Valley. It is a totally different atmosphere at night!

Cars Land at night

Ornament Valley at night

Radiator_Springs

Radiator_Springs

5. Here's a tip our friend Beci at Mouse Fan Travel gave us. It was great advice so I'm passing it on to you. Be sure to enter Cars Land from the back end. Walk past the main entrance which is across from the Wine Country Trattoria. Just before you get to the bridge to Pacific Pier you will see a smaller bridge to your left. Take that bridge to the Pacific Wharf area and head straight across, past the Pacific Wharf Café and the Lucky Fortune Cookery. As you pass under that big stone arch you will see an amazing vista of Ornament Valley. Take this route in daylight and after dark, it's very pretty!

Flos_V8_Cafe

Red

Tow_Mater

Enjoy this video of the Holidays at Disney California Adventure!

So that's a brief glimpse of Cars Land. If you haven't seen it for yourself yet you need to drop everything and head there right now. I know you'll enjoy it . . . we sure did! We can't wait until we're there again in about four months.

December 9, 2012

Stay on Property

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A few months ago Carol and I were out riding our bicycles around our neighbourhood and I overheard a mother as we passed. She told her young son, "Those are the people who live in the Mickey Mouse house."

People know that we are Disney fans! When we decorate for Halloween or Christmas there are always Disney themed inflatables involved! It's always a treat to see children stop to enjoy our display . . . and the adults seem to like it too! We make no secret of our mania for all things Disney!

Christmas_Decoration

As a result friends, family and neighbours often ask us for advice before they visit the Disney parks and we are happy to oblige. One of the bits of advice we give is "Stay on Property" - stay in a Disney resort. Walt Disney World offers a wide variety of resorts to accommodate all budgets and each resort is designed, finished and furnished in typical Disney fashion. Their attention to detail is astounding. Are you looking for a luxurious tropical isle feeling? Disney has it at the Polynesian Resort!

Polynesian_Resort

Would you prefer a rustic Mississippi Delta or New Orleans atmosphere? Disney has them both at Port Orleans Riverside and Port Orleans French Quarter.

Port_Orleans_Riverside

Port_Orleans_French_Quarter

Do you need a larger space with room for up to six people? Try the cabins at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground or consider the newest Disney addition, The Art of Animation Resort.

Fort_Wilderness_Cabin

Art_of_Animation

The variety to be found in Disney resorts is just too wide to cover in a blog . . . you can find complete details and prices here:

What about the "off-site" resorts? Walt Disney World is surrounded by some excellent hotels and resorts. There are some good values for families who are looking for multiple bedrooms and are willing to drive a few miles to get them . . . BUT!

In my mind that is a very big BUT! I firmly believe that those who stay "off-property" are missing out on some very important perks!

What are those perks?

First and foremost in my personal ranking is "the magic". When you stay at a Disney resort that magic which you feel at the parks follows you home. Disney properties are not only immaculately clean, well landscaped and secure, but they are also are all uniquely themed. When you stay at a Disney resort you become immersed in the theme . . . you actually feel as though you are living in the time and place the designers had in mind. The cast members in the Disney resorts, like their counterparts in the parks, strive to give guests the best possible vacation experience. I think the added magic when you "stay on property" adds a whole new dimension to your vacation.

My second important perk is the Disney Transportation system. Resort guests have unlimited access to all those Disney buses, boats and monorails! There is no need to rent a car, no hassle finding parking, no need to pay for parking. You will never get lost on your way to a park and at the end of a long day, when you're dog-tired, just sit back and relax as Disney transportation takes you back to your magical resort!

A perk which compliments the Disney Transportation system is Disney's Magical Express which offers free airport shuttle service, luggage delivery and airline check-in (with certain airlines) for Disney resort guests. You really don't need a car to enjoy a Disney vacation!

If you do have a car and prefer to drive to the theme parks there's another perk too! All guests at Disney resorts are entitled to free parking at the parks, a savings of $15.00 per day.

Let's not forget Extra Magic Hours. Guests at Disney resorts are given special access to selected parks for an extra hour in the morning before the park opens to the general public or for two hours in the evening after regular closing hours. These Extra Magic Hours feature much smaller crowds and offer easier access to the most popular rides and attractions. If you are trying to cram as much fun as you can into a short vacation Extra Magic Hours can be a great perk!

Disney resort guests are eligible for several unique Magic Your Way packages. These packages offer a number of discounts around Walt Disney World and can also include a pre-paid dining option. You can save a great deal of money with a Magic Your Way package. Sometimes during slower seasons the Magic Your Way package is offered as a free perk - that means your dining at the parks is free! It's a huge saving when it's free! Complete details can be found here! http://allears.net/pl/packages.htm

Disney offers free shipping back to your Disney resort on all purchases. Looking at a bulky item . . . or simply one you don't want to carry around all day? No problem, it will be available for pick-up at your resort the following afternoon!

When you stay at a Disney resort and you request a wake-up call it will be a Disney character who prompts you to "rise and shine!" How much fun is that?

There are plenty of other advantages to Disney resorts, such as souvenir mugs which can be refilled at no charge for the duration of your stay. Look here to see even more perks and also some advice to help you select the resort which is best for you and your family.

But aren't Disney resorts more expensive than those other hotels nearby? No, in my opinion they are not! The "on property" resorts are priced competitively and compare quite well to other nearby hotels. If you want luxury Disney has it in their Deluxe resorts; if you want economy Disney has it in their Value Resorts. If you are looking for something in between take a look at the Moderate resorts.

Another tip we always give to friends and family to help keep costs down, "Use a Travel Agent." It really will save you money! Carol just loves the time she spends planning our trips and for years she booked all our accommodations on her own. She shopped for good deals and always found some bargains but other Disney fans kept telling us to try an agent . . . so finally she relented and gave Mouse Fan Travel a call. WOW! We have saved thousands of dollars because of our terrific travel agent/vacation planner! She is amazing! She doesn't stop once the booking is made; she continues to monitor new deals and special pricing offers. Almost every time we book a vacation we receive a surprise e-mail from her saying something like, "I just applied a AAA discount, you will save $205.00." I really like that kind of mail!

So let's do a quick recap. Disney has almost 20 unique resorts offering a wide variety of unique themes at various price levels; there's something to suit every family. Disney resorts are closer to the theme parks than the "off-property" hotels. Disney resorts come with many unique perks which are not available anywhere else.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with staying off property. There are some beautiful resorts nearby and many of them offer good value, but when you add in all the benefits that come with a Disney resort it's an easy decision for me . . . Stay on property!

December 2, 2012

Disney Magic – “The Other Kind”

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Disney is Magical . . . we all know that!

If you are a real Disney fan, and I know you are, you understand what Disney magic is . . . it's that wonderful feeling that comes over you as you drive through the Main Gate and enter Walt Disney World. It's that sense of magic you feel as you walk down Disneyland's Main Street USA and see Sleeping Beauty Castle. Sometimes a sound, like the Disney steam train pulling into the station, can bring on the magic . . . sometimes a smell, like the lobby at the Polynesian Resort, brings it on!

But in this blog I want to talk about a different kind of Magic. The kind of magic that happens when a Disney Cast Member goes way beyond expectations and creates a moment of pure magic! A moment of magic that is personal and unique, crafted only for you!

This "other kind" of magic has happened to me and it may have happened to you.

Let me give you an example of what I mean:

In December 2000 Carol and I were at Walt Disney World with her parents John and Sybil, celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. During the trip Sybil bought a wooden cane at EPCOT's China pavilion. It only cost $5.00 but it was worth a fortune since it helped her a great deal as we toured all the parks. Soon our trip was over and it was time to go home. After spending the morning at a theme park we returned to Port Orleans French Quarter where we retrieved our luggage from the Bell Captain and sat on a park bench in front of the hotel waiting for the Town Car which was taking us to the airport. When it arrived we hurriedly loaded the luggage in the trunk, took our seats and left Disney behind. No one noticed the $5.00 cane, still leaning on the park bench. For two weeks no one even thought about that cane. Then one day the doorbell rang - it was FedEx with a long slender package! Yup - the cane!

French_Quarter_Bench

I don't know exactly what happened, but let's speculate a bit . . . Someone noticed the cane and turned it into a Cast Member. That CM must have gone to Bell Services and asked, "Who was sitting on the bench?" They looked up our baggage check records, added two plus two and came up with four. Then they must have gone to Registration to get our home address. Then they spent over $25.00 to ship a $5.00 cane to our home in Canada. WOW!

It is a well know fact that Disney trains their employees extremely well and stresses at all times that Cast Members are more than employees; they are performers acting out a role. Those of us visiting the theme parks are not seen as customers, we are not seen simply as folks who paid a bit of money to enjoy some thrill rides. Cast Members see us as guests who are there to enjoy their performance.

Cast Members seldom ever break character; they are always "on-stage". Disney Cast are so consistent in treating guests extremely well that we often become complacent about it. Then, every once in a while, a Cast Member does something so extra-special that it's magical. They step so far out-of-bounds to give you great service that you just have to stop and say WOW!

Carol and I have had a few special "magical moments", here's another example: Carol and I were at Disneyland in 2008 celebrating our anniversary. The Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage had just opened. The lines were huge . . . often over 90 minutes long. We walked past several times, always hoping to return later and find a shorter wait-time.

Nemo_Submarine

Finally our vacation was drawing to a close; we were running out of time. We bit the bullet and entered the back end of a 70 minute line. A cast member walking by, Christina, must have noticed our anniversary buttons. She stopped and said "Happy Anniversary, I have a gift for you. Follow me." She took us to the front of the line and walked us directly up to the boarding area for the first available boat. WOW!

Christina

Just a few years ago Carol's parents were staying at POP Century and had a dinner reservation at Boma. They caught a Disney bus from POP Century to Animal Kingdom where they planned to switch to an Animal Kingdom Lodge bus to head off for dinner at Boma. Unfortunately they misread the sign on the front of the bus and boarded one heading to Wilderness Lodge not Animal Kingdom Lodge. It was close to the time for their ADR so they asked the driver if he knew the fastest way to get to AKL from WL. After they explained the situation he said, "Go have a seat." He called dispatch to get an OK and then drove them directly from Wilderness Lodge to Animal Kingdom Lodge - there was no one else on the bus. Along the way he called Boma and let them know John and Sybil were on the way but would be a few minutes late. WOW!

Boma

Friend John from New Jersey tells about the time, years ago, when he and his family were staying at the Contemporary Resort. They were heading out for the Hoop-Dee-Doo dinner show at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground but when they arrived at the dock to catch the boat to Fort Wilderness they discovered that it so windy all the boats on Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon had been cancelled. They were really pressed for time so they went to the information desk in the lobby to explain their predicament and ask about the quickest way to get to Pioneer Hall. The Cast Member called for a Disney van and they were quickly chauffeured to their destination. The van didn't drop them at the Settlement bus stop; it drove them all the way to the bus stop adjacent to Pioneer Hall. In John's words, "We felt pretty special." WOW!

Hoop-Dee-Doo

Denita from South Dakota tells this story from November 2012: "Our last night at Walt Disney World there were Extra Magic Hours at Disney Hollywood Studios so of course we finished our vacation there. At 10:45 p.m., 15 minutes before park closing, my husband, son and three nephews and I sprinted to Rock 'n Roller Coaster. Our daughter was tired so she sat on a bench to wait. We waltzed right on the coaster; there was no line at all! We still had a few minutes before the park closed so we raced to the Tower Of Terror. While in the queue, close to the loading area, we wondered if we would have the elevator all to ourselves. Alas, it did not happen . . . BUT . . . the ride froze after the first part. The soundtrack continued after the lightning and ghost movie segment, but the elevator just sat there and didn't move. After a delay of about 3 minutes the ride started again. We continued on and finished the "up and down" part of the ride."

"I know how Disney likes to please, and we just couldn't finish our vacation on a botched up ride. So, when the doors opened, I explained to the Cast Member what had happened on the ride, then followed it up with the fact that were leaving the next morning and it would be two years before we could return. We just couldn't end our amazing vacation on a botched trip on our favourite ride. Of course, she agreed with me, picked up the phone and made a call. Soon another Cast Member arrived. He was not a typical Tower Of Terror worker; he was dressed in a suit. He came out of a side door and took us "backstage", up the back way to the loading area.

In the end....we not only got the entire elevator to ourselves . . . BUT . . . by the time we were done with our final ride, the park had completely emptied out! We were the only people walking from Tower Of Terror to the park exit. What a great opportunity for photos! WOW!

Tower_of_Terror

Hollywood_Studios

How do you say thank you when this kind of magic happens? How can you repay magic? Wow, that's a tough question! But there are some things you can do.

Carol and I always carry "Cast Appreciation Cards" which we hand out when we've received "special" service. They are available for download (and customization) from the Tagrel.com Disney fan community. You can see some sample cards here. The Cast Members we've given them to are really appreciative. Disney has a great recognition program for Cast Members and I suspect that a Cast Appreciation Card would draw a smile from the person's supervisor.

Cast_Appreciation_Cards

But, while the Cast Appreciation Cards are well received, are they really enough for that real "WOW" level of service? . . . the kind of experience that carries the accompanying magic? Nope, I don't think so.

That kind of "WOW" moment should be pointed out to senior management!

When the "WOW" moment happens try to get the Cast Member's full name. At least remember the name on their name tag. As soon as possible after the "magical experience" you should write down what happened and describe how wonderful it made you feel. Be sure to include complete details - don't forget to mention the date, time, location and the Cast Member's name. Then send the information by mail to: Walt Disney World Guest Communications, P.O. Box 10040, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-0040 or by e-mail to: WDW.Guest.Communications@disneyworld.com

How about you? Have you experienced any of "The Other Kind" of Disney magic? Have you said "WOW"?

November 25, 2012

Ft. Wilderness Christmas -- Dave “The Castle Guy”

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In December 2008 Carol and I spent a few weeks at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. We took part in a Disney fan meet known as "MouseFest". Carol and I, along with our friends John & Erin from New Jersey, co-hosted a walking tour of the campground to admire all the seasonal décor. About 45 of us wandered the campground admiring the lights, inflatables and the other imaginative displays. Someone we passed that evening said, "Be sure to check out site #551 - it's great." Alas, we didn't make it that night! It was the following night when Carol and I circled the 500 loop and saw Dave "The Castle Guy" for the first time.

Dave's Castle at night

Wow . . . we were in awe when we saw his creation! Carol took a short video which I later uploaded to YouTube. I sent some friends a link to the video and urged them to visit Site 551 before they went home.

We didn't return for the Christmas season again until 2011 when we were fortunate enough to camp just a few campsites down from Dave and his awesome display.

Dave's Castle at night

We visited back and forth with Dave many times during our stay and during our few weeks together he told me the story of "The Castle Project".

This is how he described it, "In December 2007 my wife Dee and I spent 10 days at Fort Wilderness Campground, Disney World. You would not believe what folks were doing to their campsites. The Christmas decorations were out of this world. The campers really put their imaginations in high gear. All the time and effort they spent decorating their sites was really impressive.""

For me, it was inspiring. If you haven't been to Fort Wilderness at Christmas, you should stop by. It is well worth the trip. All the campers are in a wonderfully good mood and the sights and sounds of Christmas fill the air. It's truly a magical place to be during the holiday season."

"When we returned home to Titusville, Florida I started thinking about making something for our own campsite. I thought, 'What would be the coolest thing I could have on our campsite?' The answer immediately came to mind 'Cinderella Castle'. So, in April of 2008 I started on The Castle Project."

Dave's Castle at night

Dave's labour of love took eight months to complete. He started with a six foot by four foot piece of three quarter inch thick Medium Density Overlay (MDO), a resin-coated plywood which is very weather resistant. Dave took a picture of Cinderella Castle, blew it up to the correct six foot by four foot proportions and printed it out on 26 sheets of photo paper.

Adding the picture to the background

He described the decoupage as the most difficult task in the entire project; he applied the photo sheets to the MDO and then covered them with six coats of clear acrylic sealer.

Then he cut the castle out, beginning with a precision jig saw for the rough cut and then finishing the finer features with a Dremel hand-held tool.

Cutting out the castle with a jigsaw

Rough cut of the castle

Next step, Dave drilled some holes. There are 427 lights on the castle.

Drilling front holes for the lights

Each hole was drilled from the front and then countersunk on the back to accommodate the light socket. That's 854 holes to drill! I'm exhausted just thinking about it!

Countersinking rear holes

Dee took charge of the trees which flank the castle. The first year there were 16 trees, now there are 26. Dee securely fastened each and every light so that they will survive the packing and repacking that is required every year. Everything about the castle is designed to be durable yet portable!

When Dave starts talking about the electronics my eyes start to glaze over. I can appreciate how The Big Bang Theory's Penny feels when she's talking to Dr. Sheldon Cooper. Since I don't understand any of the technical stuff I'm going to quote Dave again, "The castle is controlled by 16 channels of lighting. It is surrounded by 16 Christmas trees so that adds another 16 channels of lighting. Above the trees are 3 lighted snowflakes, each representing a Disney character. All this has been put to beautiful Disney music, "When You Wish upon a Star" and Disney's "Wishes", with fireworks added in for the grand finale. It ended up being 48 channels of lighting that first year. Everything is controlled through my laptop!"

Adding the wiring

Wiring up the castle

The Software that runs the show is "ShowTime Software Suite S3" from a company named "Light O Rama". Much of the hardware is from the same company, Dave currently uses 5 Light O Rama (LOR) 16 channel controllers, 3 LOR Cosmic Color Ribbons with 150 channels each and 1 LOR Cosmic Color Pixel with 100 channels. Just imagine how glassy my eyes were as I typed this paragraph!

From the start Dave knew the first song he had to sequence would be "Wish Upon A Star". It's his favourite Disney song and it touches a spot in the hearts of all Disney fans. He selected the Eric Kunzel version, it's beautiful. Then he used 4 tracks from Disney's "Wishes" to finish it off. The grande finale is made up of 5 audio tracks of fireworks. Wow . . . when you see and hear it I think you will agree that it's amazing!

Ready for dry runs

After all the lights were installed on the castle, the Christmas trees were prepared, the lights and soundtracks were sequenced it was time for a test.

It works

Dave set it all up in his garage, crossed his fingers and started the show. It was perfect - it ran like a charm. Next stop - Fort Wilderness!

Dave and Dee transport the Castle in their 40 ft motor home. The MDO castle lays on the bed while they are underway. Everything else is stored below in the cargo bays. One rule Dave has is that EVERYTHING has to fit in the motor home. He doesn't want to tow a trailer so he keeps it all pretty compact. It takes him around ten hours to set everything up and around four hours to break everything down and pack it away for transport.

The castle in daylight

When Dave returned with his completed castle in 2008 he was a bit nervous. As he puts it, "We returned to Fort Wilderness Campground on December 7th, 2008. As I was putting put up the castle show, I thought to myself, "People are going to think I am crazy, this guy has gone off the deep end." Boy, was I wrong! It was a total blockbuster hit. It was the talk of the campground. The reservation office folks were telling people checking in to "make sure you see the castle show in the 500 loop". I have never met so many great people. It was a total blast!

Dave has improved and enhanced the castle show each year since then. "In 2009 we returned to Fort Wilderness with 64 channels, 10 more Christmas trees and a VERY special appearance by "Tinker Bell" (Tink is really hard to book during the holidays, you know). It's the latest in lighting technology."

"In 2010 I decided to light up the whole motor home in the show. That was fun. I also added another musical sequence, Disney's Holiday Wishes."

"In 2011 I added another musical sequence, Disney's "Remember the Magic". They used to play it at Disneyland years ago. It's a great song."

"This year, 2012, I am introducing a new musical sequence. It's a mix of Disney favourites. I have also done a lot of fine tuning to all the other Disney songs. I have added a new "Tinker Bell" effect that I'm trying out. There are also a couple of surprises that I'm keeping a secret. The Castle show is now at 80+ channels and has 7000+ lights."

"The Castle show starts automatically and runs continuously from 6:00 p.m. every evening. It shuts itself down at 10:00 p.m. Quiet time at the Fort starts at 10:00 pm."

Dave's Castle at night

Dave's castle show has been featured in Orlando Attractions magazine and on a local television station but if you haven't seen it live . . . you really haven't seen it!

The thing Dave most enjoys about his castle show is the opportunity it gives him to meet all the Fort Wilderness campers and Disney fans. He puts it like this, "Every night you can find me at my campsite meeting folks and talking about the castle and all the other wonderful decorations at the Fort. Last year a group of about 120 AllEars fans stopped by to see the Castle show; what a great group of people."

"Another thing I really enjoy is giving out glow sticks to all the kids who stop by; kids young and old. Last year I gave out several hundred! I am really stocking up on them this year."

The horse-drawn sleigh rides and wagon rides which tour the campground do not make any stops, except at Christmas when they all pause for a few minutes at Dave's castle. Golf carts and pedestrians stop too! In fact, there's often a traffic jam in front of Dave and Dee's campsite . . . but it's the happiest traffic jam you have ever seen. Dave hasn't just built a castle . . . he's made magic! I'm sure Walt looks down occasionally on Dave's castle - and Walt smiles!


Click on the arrow to see a 15 minute sequence from of the 2010 Castle Show.

This year Dave and Dee will be at Fort Wilderness from December 5th through December 26th. The castle should be up and running by December 8th and the last show will be on Christmas Day.

If you are planning to visit Walt Disney World in December a trip to Fort Wilderness is a must. Set aside an evening to tour the campground and enjoy the amazing Christmas décor.

For some tips on how to get to Fort Wilderness and a few suggestions for your tour of the campground read the last few paragraphs a recent blog here.

So come on over and join the happiest traffic jam on earth! Don't forget, Dave will be waiting to meet you . . . and he just might have a glow stick for you! Go check out his castle . . . you will be amazed!

November 4, 2012