Gary Cruise Archives

April 29, 2018

A Path Less Traveled

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Last week at Walt Disney World I spotted a family wearing matching t-shirts. Mom and the kids all had shirts that read ‘Best Day Ever’ but Dad’s shirt read ‘Most Expensive Day Ever’.

It’s sad, but true; Disney is an expensive vacation destination . . . but last week Carol and I enjoyed a real bargain at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. We went on the ‘A Path Less Traveled’ tour that is being offered for a limited time as part of the Animal Kingdom 20th Anniversary celebration.

The tour combined the best elements from a few ‘behind the scenes’ tours we’ve done in the past, so we knew from the moment we booked it that we were in for a good time.

Here’s how Disney described it on their web site:

Disney Web Site Description

That’s a whole lot of entertainment for $59.00; it really is a surprising bargain from Walt Disney World. There’s even a discount available for Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club members!

On Wednesday April 18th Carol and I stopped at the Curiosity Tours kiosk at 10:20 and checked in for the first part of the ‘A Path Less Travelled’ tour.

Curiosity Tours kiosk

The cast members on duty gave us our pre-printed lanyards and instructed us to meet at 10:30 near the entrance to Kilimanjaro Safaris. That was just a few minutes away so we hung out and chatted with our tour leader, Heather.

At 10:45 sharp our group was all assembled so Heather led us to the Rafiki’s Planet Watch train.

Heather at the train station

The Elephant barn


After our ride to the Conservation Station she took us backstage to food receiving and preparation area. We were not allowed to take any pictures while we were backstage.

Several cast members in the food preparation building enthusiastically described their jobs. They use three ring binders filled with menus as they prepare specific rations of food, often they have an individual menu for each animal. The daily diet is usually packed into Tupperware dishes and delivered to zookeepers who take it to the animals.

They took time to explain the foods they use as ‘enrichments’ to train the animals or reward them for good behaviour. The elephants really like peanut butter so it is used in their training; tigers like the scent of cinnamon so it is sometimes sprinkled on their food as a reward. Other ‘enrichments’ included Kellogg’s Mini Wheats, honey and a number of other surprising food products you probably have in your home.

When I spotted a box of tea bags I asked about them . . . Did you know that gorillas really enjoy a nice hot cup of tea? Yes, they drink it out of cups!

I immediately developed a mental image of a massive gorilla fist holding a delicate china cup, with the pinkie finger sticking out ever-so daintily! Wouldn’t that be a sight to see!

We left the food building and crossed the parking lot to hear about Disney’s Purple Martin Project. There were three tall posts along side of the cast parking area, each holding a pod of about twenty gourd-shaped nests for Purple Martins and dozens of the birds were swarming around the nests.

One of the posts had all the nests lowered and one of the project experts, Jason, explained the program to us as he passed around one of the gourds. It was a real nest from the lowered pod and it had some martin eggs in it.

As each of us looked at the nest and passed it on, Jason shared some interesting statistics about the Purple Martin project; it all began as part of the Flower & Garden Festival when people were urged to ‘make your home a habitat’ for martins.

Sample Purple Martin houses

The project took a huge step forward in 2005 when it moved to Animal Kingdom under the watchful eyes of the zoologists.

There are now eleven towers in five locations around Walt Disney World. There are Purple Martin houses backstage at Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, Port Orleans Riverside, Saratoga Springs and a new one in front of The Magic Kingdom. Each nest is examined regularly, all fledglings are banded and migratory patterns are carefully studied.

An astounding 50% of the Purple Martins born at WDW return there from the rainforests of South America to nest and, of those who return, 50% return to the same nest where they hatched. Jason was enthused by the resounding success of the project, and described how determined they are to expand it across Disney property.

From the martin nests we carried on, across the parking lot, to the Veterinary office, laboratories and clinic. Several of the animal care experts explained the animal’s medical care procedures, the species management projects and breeding programs, and we met a Flemish Giant Rabbit. His name was Fluffywick or Fuzzywig . . . Fluffy-or-Fuzzy something! Fuzzy was plagued with ear infections and his condition was resolved with surgery, his ear canal was removed, leaving him with one floppy and deaf ear. It doesn’t seem to have slowed Fuzzy down at all; he was a great performer, very well trained and cute as a button. Carol wanted to bring him home!

The first part of our tour ended at 12:10 p.m., we hung around talking with Heather for a few minutes then looked at a few of Rafiki’s displays in the Conservation Station.

Carol and a life-sized gorilla image

We met a lizard named Skittles!


After a nice lunch at Yak & Yeti we slowly wandered back to Harambe, Carol shopped a bit while I waited near the Curiosity Tours kiosk to check in for part two of our ‘A Path Less Traveled’ tour, the 3:00 p.m. Caring For Giants tour.

This was the third time on the Caring for Giants tour for Carol and the second time for me. Our guide once again whisked us backstage and we boarded a bus to the elephant berm where we met Mel, one of the elephant experts.

Mel explained the elephants habits to us

She told us all about the elephants, their names, traits, habits, personalities and quirks.


Lungelo from South Africa talked about the challenges faced by elephants in their home environment and the steps being taken to ensure their survival.

Caring for Giants.jpg

Caring for Giants

Caring for Giiants

We heard some fascinating information that we hadn’t heard on previous tours and our hour with the giants went by far too quickly. We caught the bus back to Harambe and picked up our treats, a cold drink, Mickey pretzels and cheese.

The third and final part of the package was VIP seating for the 8:00 p.m. Rivers of Light show. It’s a visual feast, an intriguing mix of color, water, animation, live action and music. The need for environmental responsibility is clearly and very powerfully presented in a highly entertaining way.

Rivers of Light

Rivers of Light

What a magnificent way to end a superb day at Disney!

The tour made our day very enjoyable, but we still had time to do a few of our favourite things! In the morning, before we first checked in, we wandered the trails around the Tree of Life to see the creatures that live there.

After our trip back to the Elephant berm we took a trip with Kilimanjaro Safaris, enjoyed a Yeti encounter at Expedition Everest and saw a launch from Cape Canaveral.

Expedition Everest

SpaceX Launch from Cape Canaveral

Yes, it was a very full day for us!

If you want to enjoy the ‘A Path Less Traveled’ tour you will have to act fast, it’s only offered until May 5th. If you’re an Annual Passholder or a Disney Vacation Club member be sure to ask about a discount!

Read about other 'Behind The Scenes' tours HERE.

April 15, 2018

Disney Magic Can Sometimes Span The Globe

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A few months ago I heard my computer sound a ding! When I looked to see what had caused the alert I discovered that a stranger from Brazil was trying to contact me on Facebook Messenger. “Hmm,” I thought, “I wonder what this is all about.”

Then I remembered a nice Brazilian couple Carol and I met at The Magic Kingdom November 6, 2016. It was about 9:30 in the evening; Carol and I were sitting at a table in front of Casey’s Corner waiting for the nightly “Wishes” fireworks which would begin at 10:00.

I noticed a young couple standing not far away – they were obviously looking for seats. I raised my arm, got the fellow’s attention, held up two fingers and then pointed at the two empty chairs at our table. They both had beaming smiles when they joined us.

Over the next half hour, in spite of their halting ability to speak English and our total inability to communicate in Portuguese, they told us about their amazing Disney romance. He proposed to her in 2012, in front of Cinderella Castle; they honeymooned at Walt Disney World in 2015 and were back celebrating their first anniversary in 2016. A real fairy book tale!

We enjoyed a delightful time with some complete strangers that night . . . so I wondered if they were the ones trying to connect on Facebook. I clicked on ‘Yes’ and accepted the friend request.

Nope, turned out it wasn’t them; it was an electrical engineer from Rio de Janeiro; his name is Victor. He attached the picture below and said, “Hello Gary, do you recognize this?”

Cast Appreciation Card

It was a ‘cast appreciation card’. Carol and I used to carry them with us at the parks and hand them to cast members who had gone above and beyond to give us special service or a taste of Disney magic.

So that simple picture told me that Victor and I had shared something special in the past . . . but I had no clue what it was.

When I asked Victor to elaborate he was quick to respond. Victor was a college student and had been working at Walt Disney World, as part of the Disney College Program, when our paths crossed briefly. Ten years after he went home from his year-long adventure at Walt Disney World he pulled out what he calls his ‘memory box’ and he found that cast appreciation card inside.

The story he told me took me back a full decade to Wednesday December 12, 2007. That was the day when Victor and I sang a duet in Casey’s Corner restaurant at the Magic Kingdom. Yes, you read that correctly, we sang a duet!

Casey's Statue

It’s one of those things that I remember very vaguely. I remember that it happened but, for the life of me, I cannot remember the details.

So, the version I’m about to describe is how I see it occurring in my minds eye . . . and it may bear very little resemblance to what actually happened!

That Wednesday was a bittersweet day for Carol and I. It was the last day of a 12-day stay at Walt Disney World; we were heading home the following morning. It had become a tradition for us to spend the last morning of our vacation at the Magic Kingdom, then head back to Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground to pack up the motor home for the 1,400 mile drive home. We had a great morning, we rode The Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan, Snow White, Space Mountain and visited the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, then it was time to go.

We stopped at Casey’s Corner for a hot dog, one of our favorite lunches at the Magic Kingdom.

Casey' Scoreboard

Carol waited at a table out in front while I went in to order our food. We’re always a bit blue when we leave the Magic Kingdom that last time, so I suppose that I was probably just overcome with emotion when I walked through Casey’s door.

I spontaneously burst into song and started belting out a stirring rendition of ‘Take Me Out To The Ball Game’. After a couple of bars Victor joined me and our voices combined in a melodious harmony that held all the other hungry vacationers in spellbound rapture.

By the time we got to ♫♪One, Two, Three strikes you’re out!♪♫ we had added choreography and we finished our performance with a flourish, ♫♪At the old BALL GAME!♫♪

As you might expect, in the version of the story that I choose to remember, the crowd went wild and gave Victor and I a resounding ovation!

That's Victor on the left.

What do you suppose actually happened to cause a curmudgeonly old Canadian to join in song with a Brazilian college student and sing an American sports anthem?

I don’t think it really matters why it happened. What’s important is that it did happen and it was magical.

When our song was over Victor gave me a complimentary bag of Cracker Jacks and I handed him that little card which he later tucked away in his memory box. We both carried on, unaware that our lives would briefly connect again ten years later.

Thank you Victor for reaching out across 5,000 miles, between continents, to remind me of that brief moment of Disney magic we shared years ago.

Thanks for showing us all that Disney magic really can span the globe!

February 25, 2018

Disney’s Wild Animal Kingdom

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park is going to celebrate its 20th birthday on Earth Day, April 22, 2018 and Carol and I are planning to be there to join in the festivities.

As Carol started making plans for the trip I spent a few minutes reflecting on our first visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It was in November 1999, about a year and a half after the park opened. Carol and I were both very excited to see the new theme park we had read so much about. We are both animal lovers and we were mesmerized by all we had read about the Tree of Life and those amazing animal carvings.

It was also our very first trip to Walt Disney World with each other. Carol was a seasoned Disney veteran; she had been to Walt Disney World fourteen times before we went together. I was a mere rookie with only four previous trips under my belt.

The brochures describing the new park really piqued our interest. The Tree of Life, the safari ride, the exotic lands, it all sounded so interesting! Here are a few panels I pulled from that old brochure; click on the image to see a larger version.

Brochure Highlites

From the time we first passed through the entrance gate we were captivated. Nothing disappointed us; Disney’s Animal Kingdom was everything we expected and more.

Carol and the Tree of Life

Joe Rohde, the Imagineer who was in charge of the design and construction of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, had done an amazing job!

Yes, back in those early years we heard all of the negative comments:

“It’s just a zoo; we have one of those at home. Why would I waste a day at Disney by going to a zoo?”

“It’s a half-day park; there’s not much there.”

I suppose that if your idea of enjoying a theme park is rushing from one thrill ride to the next . . . well maybe you’re right. There wasn’t much there for you in the earliest days.

But it was never like that for Carol and I. It became my ‘second-favourite’ park almost immediately. The Magic Kingdom will always hold the number one ranking for me, just because it was my first Disney Park, but Animal Kingdom is next in line. For Carol it’s different – Animal Kingdom is number one for her.

We love wandering the side trails on Discovery Island to spot the animals there.

Saddle Billed Stork

Kangaroo and deer on a Side Trail

It’s a treat when we can get a close-up view of the animal carvings on the Tree of Life.

Tree of Life 1999

Animal Carving

Animal Carving

If those otters across from Pizzafari are out playing I just lean on the railing and wait . . . Carol can watch those critters for hours!

“Miss our FastPass for Kilimanjaro Safaris? I don’t care, I’m watching otters!”

Did you notice the title of this blog? “Disney’s Wild Animal Kingdom”

That’s what the park was called throughout the design process and during construction. The original logo design looked like this.

Wild Animal Kingdom Logo

Shortly before the park opened ‘Wild’ was dropped from the name and the newly adopted logo was the one still in use today.

Animal Kingdom Logo

Hey . . . what the heck is that dragon doing in the logo?

At the official park opening ceremony on April 22nd 1998 Disney CEO Michael D. Eisner said, “Welcome to a kingdom of animals . . . real, ancient and imagined: a kingdom ruled by lions, dinosaurs and dragons; a kingdom of balance, harmony and survival; a kingdom we enter to share in the wonder, gaze at the beauty, thrill at the drama, and learn.”
Dragons again . . . Hmmm?

Let’s look back to an article from the Winter 1995 issue of The Magic Years Newsletter. Click on the image to see a larger version that you can read.

Magic Years Newsletter Winter 1995

When this article was published the Animal Kingdom Park had been under construction for several years and it was still referred to as ‘Wild Animal Kingdom’.

The description of the park talks about the Tree of Life as well as three ‘major sections’ dealing with real animals, mythical animals and extinct animals. The ‘real animals’ are the ones we see today all through the park and the ‘extinct animals’ are the ones we see in Dinoland, USA. Look back to the two logos . . . the triceratops represents the extinct animals.

The dragon in the logos was intended to represent Beastly Kingdom, a land which would pay tribute to ‘mythical animals’ such as dragons, unicorns and griffins. One of the planned attractions was a roller coaster named Dragon Tower and another was called Quest of the Unicorn, but alas, Beastly Kingdom was never built.

When the park opened in 1998 a hastily-built Camp Minnie-Mickey occupied the space which had been set aside for Beastly Kingdom and construction of the area devoted to ‘mythical animals’ was rumored to be part of an expansion planned for 2003.

Of course since Camp Minnie-Mickey has now been transformed into Pandora, it is unlikely we’ll ever see a Beastly Kingdom.

Here is the park map from our first trip in 1999. Click on the image to see a larger version.

1999 Animal Kingdom Map

Did you notice that the island where the Tree of Life stands was still called ‘Safari Village’ in 1999?

As I mentioned earlier, Carol and I were instant fans of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but for many others that wasn’t the case. Attendance didn’t meet the company’s forecasts or expectations and it wasn’t long before năhtăzū began to appear in ads for the park.


This series of terrific television adds was designed to convince Disney guests that Animal Kingdom was năhtăzū (Not A Zoo) but that it was much, much more than a zoo.

In our minds it was certainly more than a zoo! Carol and I enjoyed the animals . . . the Kilimanjaro Safari ride, the Pangani Forest Trail and the Maharajah Jungle Trek. But there was so much more than animals for us . . . the Festival of the Lion King Show, the Conservation Station, Tarzan Rocks, and the chance to see and hear about African and Asian cultures.

For Carol and I it was definitely năhtăzū!

Over the years a few new attractions were added and attendance slowly began to climb.

Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade made it’s debut October 1, 2001 as part of the 100 Years of Magic Celebration and ran until May 31, 2014 when it closed to make way for construction of Pandora and many new Avatar themed attractions.

Jammin Jungle Parade

Jammin Jungle Parade

Jammin' Jungle Parade

Expedition Everest officially opened on April 7, 2006. This thrilling roller coaster takes guests on a high speed trip through Disney’s tallest mountain, which of course is a replica of the world’s tallest mountain, Mount Everest.

Expedition Everest 2013

Expedition Everest

For some reason I cannot fathom, Carol loves Expedition Everest. She claims that she doesn’t like roller coasters and will not ride Rock ‘N Roller Coaster or Space Mountain. She does ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train but ‘Everest’ is her favorite!

Expedition Everest

She can only handle it once, so I usually ride with her, then take a second ride using the single rider line. It moves very quickly!

The Yak & Yeti Restaurant opened in Anandapur on November 14, 2007.

Yak and Yeti Exterior

2007 Yak and Yeti

It’s a terrific place for lunch or dinner. Carol and I often stop for lunch at Yak & Yeti’s quick service counter.

Egg Rolls

We each order egg rolls and share an order of fried rice. It’s just the right amount for the two of us and there’s always a shaded table available in the outdoor seating area behind the restaurant.

By 2016 plenty of folks had decided that Disney’s Animal Kingdom was more than a half-day park. Over 10 million guests visited during the year.

Carol and I took part in the 10th Anniversary Celebration on Earth Day, April 22, 2008. Stay tuned for a future blog where I’ll talk about those 10th Anniversary Celebrations and some of the newest attractions that have been added.

February 18, 2018

Do Hippos Like Country Music?

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In November 2003 Carol and I were exploring one of the little side trails that surround the Tree of Life on Discovery Island when we spotted a cast member tossing fish to one of the saddle-billed storks. Every time the stork stepped onto a small square of plywood on the ground inside the fence he was rewarded with a tasty herring.

Saddle-Billed Stork

As we watched, the keeper explained that this was a technique that made the stork comfortable with the plywood. Once a month, when it’s time to weigh the bird, they just place a scale under the board and stand by with some herring! Easy for the keeper and non-threatening for the stork!

Just a few days later we went on a Backstage Safari Tour. Our vehicle stopped briefly beside one of the elephant barns; as we watched an elephant play in the big outdoor enclosure beside the barn one of our guides explained how the animal experts use a similar reward and inducement process to train young elephants to lift their legs and push their feet through the fence so that the keepers could examine their soles. Elephants are big beasts and they are tough, but they are prone to foot problems so their feet are checked regularly. It's also a very good area to draw blood in case the veterinary staff need to run tests. Elephants are trained at an early age to present their feet so that regular examinations can be completed using behaviors which seem ‘natural’ to the animals. Sorry, I don’t have a picture, no photos are allowed when you’re backstage!

We heard plenty of other interesting stories as we toured the veterinary building. We watched as they x-rayed the wing of a fruit bat; they held the sedated bat and extended the wings . . . wow! Those bats are huge!

We visited the food preparation area where all of the meals are prepared for each animal, big or small. Cast members have binders full of menus, each page in the binder is the menu for one of the animals, and they carefully pack each item on the menu into a plastic container, or a bucket, or a box. There was an amazing variety of food being packed into those containers, grasses, meats, fish, worms, insects . . . we even watched as they prepared a bucket full of herring which would soon be lunch for that saddle-billed stork.

The guides told us some very interesting stories about the animals, and described a few little tricks they use to keep the animals out in areas where guests in the park can see them. Have you ever wondered why the lions spend so much time on top of those rocks they call the kopje?

Lioness on kopje rock

According to our guide there are two reasons, first there are a couple of ‘climate-controlled’ rocks to make the lions comfortable. If the weather is hot the rocks are cooled, if it’s a cool day the rocks are heated.

The second reason they stay on top – behind one of the rocks, where it cannot be seen by guests, there is a steel post driven into the ground. A frozen treat is chained to the post; as the treat melts the lions can wander over and enjoy a snack. I don’t know exactly what they use as a treat, but our guide referred to it as a ‘bunny-sicle’.

When we returned home after that trip the Winter 2003 issue of Disney Magazine was waiting in the mail. I was really surprised to read an article titled “All Creatures Great and Small” by Lisa Stiepack. I couldn’t believe the coincidental timing of the article, so soon after our tour! Lisa described her experiences as she spent an entire day with Disney Animal Behavior Specialist Chris Breder. The two ladies toured the entire park, interacting with the animals and their keepers and handlers. A lot of the ‘inside stories’ and animal behavior facts we heard on our tour are included in Lisa Stiepack’s article.

Let’s take a closer look. Click on each picture to see a larger version which you can read.

Disney Magazine Winter 2003-04 pg 36

Who would have guessed that the Okapi like their yams cooked with allspice?

Disney Magazine Winter 2003-04 pg 37

Gorillas like oranges so they are used to help train the animals. When the gorilla goes to a designated spot the trainer tosses him an orange.

Don’t try this at home kids! Please don’t throw things at the gorillas!

Disney Magazine Winter 2003-04 pg 38

The elephant handler, Bruce, refers to the elephant’s food as browse. I had never heard browse used in that context so I checked the dictionary . . . sure enough . . . NOUN: tender shoots or twigs of shrubs and trees as food for cattle, deer,etc.

Disney Magazine Winter 2003-04 pg 39

Did you know that the Nile Monitor Lizard is named Barney and he loves to play in the waterfall?

Disney Magazine Winter 2003-04 pg 40

There’s that saddle-billed stork standing on his board while Kim tosses him his lunch. We saw those two just a few days ago!

Disney Magazine Winter 2003-04 pg 41

“What do you do for a living?” “I brush monkey’s teeth at Walt Disney World.” Yes, that really is a thing!

And the tigers . . . when they curl their lips and stick their tongues out in a very exaggerated fashion they are saying, “I really love your cheap perfume.”

Disney Magazine Winter 2003-04 pg 42

That cute and cuddly Marabou Stork is named Wallace.

Disney Magazine Winter 2003-04 pg 43

Giraffes don’t like paper clips. I did not know that!

Carol and I have taken many Disney tours over the years and we’ve never been disappointed. They always put a little bit of ‘extra magic’ in our vacations.

I’m not sure the Backstage Safari tour is still offered, I can’t find any reference to it on the Disney web site, but there are plenty of other tours available. Check online or stop at the Curiosity Animal Tours booth near the entrance to Kilimanjaro Safaris and book whatever tour appeals to you!

Curiosity Animal Tours

Oh yes . . . I almost forgot to answer that question. Do hippos like country music? I don’t know for sure, and I’ve never seen one at the Grand Ole Opry, but Jay, who manages Disney’s rhino and hippo barns, says definitively that they do. That’s good enough for me!

January 21, 2018

Caring For Giants At Disney's Animal Kingdom

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Last August Carol took her annual ‘solo’ trip to Walt Disney World to attend the yearly EPCOT Pin Event. When she got home she couldn’t stop raving about the backstage tour that she and her friend Carrie had taken. They signed up for the “Caring For Giants” tour at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and spent an hour getting up-close-and-personal with Disney’s elephant herd!

When she showed me the pictures I thought, “I can’t wait to do that myself.”

The Booking Desk

Carol and Carrie stopped at the booking desk pictured above to book their tour. It’s in Harambe Village, on the left as you approach the stand-by entrance for Kilimanjaro Safaris. The tour costs $30.00 but there are discounts for Annual Passholders and DVC Members. There may be other discounts available, be sure to ask when you book your tour.

The Booking Desk

List of tours available

At the appointed time everyone booked for the tour assembled beside the booking desk to begin their adventure. There was no one there but Carol and Carrie. The group is always small, fewer than a dozen people, but on that particular tour there were only two! Carol and Carrie had a private tour!

Carol's Name Badge

A host from the booking desk escorted the ladies through the gate next to Kilimanjaro Safaris and into a ‘backstage’ area. About a hundred yards away was a small passenger van where they were introduced to the driver who transported them through some backstage areas of the Animal Kingdom, along Perimeter Road. Sorry, no pictures were allowed while ‘backstage’.

As the driver took them to the elephant area the host explained the functions of all the buildings and facilities they passed. They enjoyed a quick glance at some of the animal care buildings and the barns many of the animals call home.

Have you ever taken a safari ride late in the afternoon and seen that magnificent sunset out on the savanna? On this backstage tour the driver took them very very close to the sun! Spoilerthat sunset is 100% Disney magic!

Soon they pulled over and parked. The driver and host introduced them to their guide, Ashley, who is a full-time Disney Animal Specialist. The Animal Specialists work with the animals on a daily basis and take turns acting as interpretive guides for the backstage tour.

Ashley escorted Carol and Carrie up a short flight of steps into their private viewing area. The area has been used by animal care workers for almost 20 years because it’s a great spot to observe the elephants. That was the sole purpose for the viewing area until the Caring For Giants tours began in March 2017.

WOW! What a view! It’s a small area but there were spots where the elephants were no more than 80 to 100 feet away. Amazing!




As Carol and Carrie watched and snapped pictures Ashley called all the elephants by name and talked about their unique personality traits.



Carol, Ashley and Carrie

The newest baby elephant, Stella, arrived with her mom and was immediately the centre of attention.

Baby Stella

Stella with her Mom




Stella with her Mom

Stella with her Mom

After a few minutes an African Cultural Representative joined the small group and talked about conservation in his native country.

Cultural Representative

These African employees rotate in and spend a year working at Disney as part of the Disney Cultural Representative Program. It’s a program designed for adult employees, but it’s similar to the Disney College Program that brings so many students to the International Pavilions at EPCOT.

Carol and Carrie listened to the Cultural Representative as they snapped pictures. He told how African nations are working together to fight poaching and restore natural habitat to help save endangered species. He described innovative programs which are helping to strengthen elephant herds, along with many other species that are threatened as we humans continue to expand our cities and reduce wildlife habitat.

Did you know that elephants are afraid of bees? African farmers used to trap or even shoot elephants to keep them away from valuable crops. There days those farmers have established bee hives which are a natural way to keep the giant beasts away. As an added bonus, the farmers now have some honey to sell!

Part of the fee that you pay for your Caring For Giants tour is contributed to the Disney Conservation Fund and helps support those conservation efforts in Africa!

This is Rafiki, the matriarch of the Disney elephant herd.

While the Animal Specialist and the African Culture Representative provided all that colourful background information Carol and Carrie were able to wander from one end of the viewing area to the other and follow the elephants as they moved.


It’s a much better venue for pictures than that bouncy old safari truck!

Carol and Carrie

All too soon the hour was up! The ladies headed back down that short flight of steps to the waiting van, which whisked them back to Harambe Village.

Needless to say, when Carol and I were back to Walt Disney World together, just a few months later, one of the first things we did was book another Caring For Giants tour.

We shared our backstage ride in the van with a family of four who had just noticed the tour as they walked past and booked it at the last minute.


Stella with her Mom
The people in the safari truck couldn't see Stella but we had a great view!

I have to say, I was as blown away by the tour as Carol had been. What a great way to spend an hour! It’s true Disney ‘edu-tainment’ . . . learning and having fun at the same time!


Elephants on parade

Our Animal Specialist, Amber, and our Cultural Representative, Denise were both excellent. They provided plenty of information about the elephants we were observing as we wandered the viewing area from end to end following the giants.


Denise was just beginning her year-long term in the Disney Cultural Representative Program. She was enjoying her time abroad but admitted that she was a bit homesick and was missing her family in Harare, Zimbabwe.


From our vantage point we could see some things which aren’t quite so evident from the safari trucks. One of those things we could see clearly was an area where the pachyderms pack away their dinner! There are a couple of areas where hay is spread out on the ground, behind trees and rocks so it is normally out of sight from the trucks.

Elephant and safari truck

Stella with her Mom

Two elephants

Amber told us that the elephants have to eat a lot of hay, grass and other vegetation every day because their digestive system is not very efficient. Elephant poop is filled with undigested hay, making it very fibrous. She proved her point by passing around a great big chunk of genuine elephant poop. Yes, you read that right – I got to hoist an enormous hunk of elephant poop!

Elephant poop

Naturally Carol wanted nothing to do with it!

That was when Amber asked Carol to pull her name-tag out of the plastic sleeve that was hanging around her neck.

“Turn it over and read the back.” Amber said.


Yup, like it or not, Carol was holding elephant poop!

About that time baby Stella came back to entertain us again. There were plenty of tree branches scattered about following an October hurricane and little Stella thought those branches made terrific toys.

Stella with a stick

She kept us entertained for several minutes as she carried one around and even tossed it a few times.


Stella with her Mom.jpg



As with all good things, our tour had to end so we boarded the van and were soon back in Harambe Village, just in time for our FastPass at Kilimanjaro Safaris.

As we stood in line I told Carol, “Once is not enough. I need to do that tour again.” She grinned and nodded. Twice was not enough for her either.

It’s a pretty safe bet that we’ll be repeating the Caring For Giants tour when we’re back at Walt Disney World in March 2018.

If you’re an elephant fan, if you’re looking for a change of pace, if you want to add a new wrinkle to your Disney vacation or if you just have an overwhelming urge to fondle a chunk of elephant poop, this is the tour for you!

You can find more information about Caring For Giants HERE

January 15, 2018

Touring Walt Disney’s Hollywood

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Last month, just before Christmas, Carol and I were in California enjoying ourselves at Disneyland. When the weekend rolled around we knew the parks would be very busy . . . much busier than we like! What else could we do Saturday and Sunday?

We had tickets for a D23 event at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank on Sunday so we decided to spend Saturday driving around the Los Angeles area looking at some of the places that would have been familiar to Walt Disney. Places where he worked, places where he lived, places where he played! We made a list of places we knew Walt would have seen, plotted them in our GPS and away we went!

Our first stop was only about two miles southwest of Disneyland; the Stanley Ranch Museum and Historical Village at 12174 Euclid Street. This historical village is operated by the Garden Grove Historical Society and is the home of Walt Disney's first animation studio. When Walt and Roy arrived in Los Angeles in 1923 cash was very tight! They roomed with their uncle, Robert Disney, at 4406 Kingswell Avenue and set up their tiny animation studio in his garage. In 1984 that historic old garage was donated to the Garden Grove Historical Society and moved from Kingswell Avenue to the village on Euclid Street.

The society does not have a web site, but when I did an Internet search the night before, told me that they opened at 9:00 a.m. We arrived at about 9:15 a.m., eager to kick off our 'Disney day'.

Stanley Ranch Museum

As we walked from the small parking area toward the entrance of the historical village we were stopped by a lady who was stretching a flag-draped rope across the entrance to block access to the village

"Are you here for a tour?" she asked.

"No," I replied, "we're looking for Robert Disney's garage."

"I don't know a Robert Drimbley." she said rather gruffly.

"No, Robert Disney, he was Walt Disney's uncle and Walt had his first animation studio in his uncle's garage."

"We're closed right now." she snapped, "This is private property you know! You'll have to book a tour and come back on the first or third Sunday of the month."

I quickly surmised that this lady must be either a volunteer or a highly skilled rope stretcher; she had certainly not been hired because of her people skills!

After her less-than-cheery greeting we slunk back to our car . . . hoping for a warmer reception at our next stop!

We drove north about 30 miles, through Los Angeles, to Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. We were trying to track down Walt's grave site near the Court of Freedom.

Forest Lawn Memorial Park

Forest Lawn is a huge cemetery, about 300 acres, and the receptionist who greeted us at the entrance gate was very helpful. She highlighted our route on a map of the grounds and gave us some very useful driving hints.

Within a few minutes we arrived at the Court of Freedom and began our brief search for Walt’s final resting place.

Court of Freedom

For a man who had such a profound impact on so many people, who left such a rich legacy behind, we were surprised at the humble family plot tucked off in a quiet corner.

The Disney family plot

Walt's headstone

We spent a few minutes paying our respects to this incredible man, then carried on to our next stop.

A quick 7 mile drive took us to Burbank, the current home of the Walt Disney Studios complex. It was a just a reconnaissance mission, we wanted to get the lay of the land before coming back the following day for a D23 event.

Walt Disney Studios

The complex houses the Disney Animation Building, the Team Disney Building, many of the movie studio stages, ABC Television Studios and Carol's favourite - the Walt Disney Studio Store.

Walt Disney Studios

After a quick peek at the Disney Studios property we took a 2 mile jaunt on the Ventura Freeway to Griffith Park. If you're a Disney fan you've probably seen that film clip of Walt, where he reminisces about sitting on a park bench dreaming of a park where parents could have fun along with their children.

That park bench, in Griffith Park, was where Walt was originally inspired to build Disneyland.

Today Griffith Park is the home of Walt Disney's Carolwood Barn. The barn was originally in Walt's backyard at 355 Carolwood Drive. Walt had a lavish model railroad in his yard; he named it the Carolwood Pacific Railroad and in 1998 when the Disney family sold the Holmby Hills estate the barn was dismantled and reconstructed as part of the Railroad Museum maintained in Griffith Park by the Los Angeles Live Steamers club.

Los Angeles Live Steamers

Like our stop at Walt Disney Studios, this was an investigative foray only. We knew that the museum is only open to the public on Sundays and that Walt's barn is only open on the third Sunday of each month. We planned to visit again tomorrow and, since it wasn't the third Sunday, we knew we would likely only be able to see Walt's barn from a distance.

Los Angeles Live Steamers

A quick 5-mile drive took us to our next stop at 2695 Lyric Avenue where we found the house Walt Disney built in 1926.

Walt's house

In fact, Walt and his brother Roy built identical homes side-by-side on Lyric Avenue.

Roy's house

Roy's home at 2697 Lyric was a mirror image of Walt's!

On our way to our next stop, about three miles from Walt's first house, we had a terrific view of the famous Hollywood sign.

Hollywood Sign

That's no co-incidence since our next destination was the stone gates built in 1923 to mark the entrance to the new real estate development known as Hollywoodland.

The sign originally read Hollywoodland, but it deteriorated over the years, and when it was refurbished in 1949 the last four letters were dropped, creating the iconic Hollywood sign we know today.

Do you see the bus in the picture above? It's the same bus as the one in the picture below. It's parked at a bus stop right beside the 1923 stone gates we were looking for.

Stone gates at Hollywoodland

Look carefully at the picture above. Do the gates look familiar?

Close your eyes and imaging that you're at Walt Disney World and you're approaching the Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios. On your left you should be imagining a stone building that used to house the FastPass dispensing machines. On the right you should be picturing a stone tower that houses restrooms.

Stone gates at Hollywoodland

That's right, those buildings in Florida are replicas of these old 1923 structures in Hollywood.

Next time you're at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida look around and you might just find a replica of this brass plaque that has marked the Hollywoodland entrance in California for almost a century!

Hollywoodland plaque

Our next stop was only two miles away at 1660 North Highland Avenue, just around the corner from Hollywood Boulevard. It is only steps from Disney's El Capitan Theatre, Disney's Soda Fountain, Grauman's Chinese Theatre and the Dolby Theatre, home of the Academy Awards.

Max Factor building

The building pictured above, at 1660 North Highland Ave., was purchased in 1928 by Max Factor who was the most sought-after cosmetologist in tinsel town! The building was totally transformed in Art Deco style and re-opened in 1935 as the Max Factor Makeup Studio. Today the taller portion, on the left, houses the Hollywood Museum and the shorter portion, on the right, is home to Mel's Drive-In Restaurant.

Does the building seem familiar to you? Next time you're at Disney's Hollywood Studios look very carefully at the buildings along Hollywood Boulevard as you walk toward Grauman's Theatre. In the midst of all those Art Deco facades on the left you will find a replica of the Max Factor building.

Around the corner from Max Factor was the stop Carol had been looking forward to!

El Capitan theatre

Disney's Soda Fountain, beside the El Capitan Theatre, has recently been renovated and is now operated under license by Ghirardelli's. We had stopped at the soda fountain several times before and always enjoyed their unique ice cream sundaes, and the special Disney pin that came with each sundae. They always had special Limited Edition pins that weren't available anywhere else. Carol was a big fan of the Soda Fountain pins and she really enjoys Ghirardelli chocolates . . . it sounded like a marriage made in heaven.

Unfortunately, the 'new and improved' soda fountain was a big disappointment. It had lost all of the 'Disney feel' and now it's just another chocolate shop. They didn't have any pins with their sundaes and Carol couldn't find a single pin she wanted to buy. She was done shopping very quickly . . . surprisingly quickly.

It's too bad that new is not always synonymous with improved!

We spent a few minutes walking up and down Hollywood Boulevard looking at the stars along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. These Disney-related stars are all within a block of the El Capitan Theatre and the Soda Fountain.

Disneyland's star

Tinker Bell's star

Donald Duck's star

Annette Funicello's star

Roy Disney's star

John Lasseter's star

Snow White's star

Sherman Brothers' star

Mickey Mouse's star

Directly across the street from the El Capitan Theatre is the Dolby Theatre, home of the Academy Awards, and beside the Dolby Theatre is the familiar building pictured below.

Grauman's Chinese Theatre

Grauman's Chinese Theatre has been a Hollywood landmark since it opened May 18, 1927. The handprints, footprints and autographs of nearly 200 Hollywood celebrities are pressed into the concrete of the theatre's forecourt.

The replica of Grauman's Theatre in Disney's Hollywood Studios has housed the Great Movie Ride since the park opened in 1989 but it closed in 2017 and is scheduled to re-open as Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway.

By early afternoon the colds Carol and I had been fighting for the last few days were really getting us down, so we decided to cut our tour short and pick up the bit we missed when we were back in the same area on Sunday.

On our way back to our hotel we did a quick drive-by at 5370 Wilshire Boulevard and Carol snapped the picture below as we slowly cruised past 'The Darkroom'.

The Darkroom

The building's facade features a 9-foot tall replica of a Minolta Camera and it has been a Hollywood landmark since it opened as a camera store in 1938. Today the building houses a restaurant, but if you want to see how it looked back in 1938 look for the replica at Disney's Hollywood Studios. It's a remarkably good reproduction!

We felt a bit better when we got underway again at about noon on Sunday. Our first stop was the one we skipped the day before, at 6671 West Sunset Boulevard, the Crossroads of the World.

The Crossroads of the World

This one should look familiar to every Disney fan. This is the first thing you see after you enter Disney's Hollywood Studios. The only difference is that the Florida version is a bit taller and Mickey Mouse stands on top of the globe.

The Crossroads opened in 1936 as a shopping mall and office complex. Today it is mostly offices, many of them associated with the entertainment industry.

From the Crossroads we drove around the western side of Griffith Park to visit the Los Angeles Live Steamers Club and see Walt's Carolwood Barn.

Live Steamers

As I mentioned earlier, we knew that we wouldn't be able to get close to the barn or see inside, but we were hoping to see it from a distance. As we walked through the entrance gate there were other guests buying $3.00 tickets for a ride through the property on one of the model trains.

Live Steamers model train

The picture shown above, from the Steamers web site, shows a model train similar to the one we rode.

We asked the two people in the ticket office if we would be able to get a glimpse of Walt's barn from the train ride, and they said that we would see it twice, once from the front and then again from the rear.

As we bought our tickets we explained that we were visiting from Canada and wouldn't be around to see the barn when it was open on the third Sunday but we'd be happy if we could get even a glimpse of the barn from a distance.

A few minutes later, as we waited in line to board the next train, the lady who sold us the tickets called to us through the ticket window. I went back, and as I leaned down to listen, she said, "If you go to the back of the office my partner Jack will walk with you back to Walt's barn."

Holy Cow! Yes, even though it wasn't open to the public we were going to get close to Walt's barn! We were flabbergasted! I don't know how many times we said thank you . . . but it was a lot!

I couldn't help but contrast our greeting today with the reception we got the day before at the Garden Grove Historical Society. The 'train folks' are sure a lot friendlier than those 'historical village folks’!

As we walked toward the barn our guide Jack, who is a fairly new member of the Steamers, explained about the trains and artifacts we passed by. He told us about Walt's barn. It's registered as an official museum and designated as an historic site so it will be preserved for eternity. The barn is administered by a special sub-group within the Steamers organization, sort of a 'club within a club'.

Carol and Jack at Walt's barn

We spent about 15 minutes with Jack, walking around Walt's barn, and taking in the sights and sounds of the surrounding area.

Plaque at Walt's barn

(Don't tell anyone, but Carol and I actually touched the barn!)

We even had the chance to talk to a few of the other railroad buffs who were busy tinkering with their trains. As we gazed around we got a sense of what a dedicated bunch they are.

The props and detailed scenery around their track network is wonderfully done. There are a lot of man-hours, no doubt all volunteer, wrapped up in the scenes alongside those tracks!

After thanking Jack for the fortieth or fiftieth time we lined up once again for our train ride. I think the circuit took us for three complete loops around the property which contains about 4 ½ miles of track in two different gauges.

A happy railroader!

The lady in that fuzzy picture above (shot from our moving train) had just finished decorating her train for Christmas and was taking it out for a joyride. Doesn't she look happy?

Our train had an 'engineer' up front operating the locomotive and a 'conductor' at the rear who explained the sights and exhibits as we passed them.

Walt's barn
Walt's barn, as seen from the train.

A ghost town

A tunnel

There were bridges, tunnels, trestles, turntables, water towers, ghost towns and so much more . . . all built by dedicated train fanatics.

Burma Shave

Approaching a trestle

If you have a few hours to spare in Los Angeles some Sunday afternoon, take a trip to Griffith Park and enjoy a train ride. We had a blast!

Oh yeah - Jack, thanks again!

From Griffith Park we took a short drive to Walt Disney Studios at 500 South Buena Vista Street in Burbank.

Team Disney Building

Walt Disney Studios

It was time to 'Light Up The Season' with some other members of D23 so our tour of ‘Walt’s Hollywood’ was over.

Our mission to "walk in Walt's footsteps" was certainly time well spent. We had a great time and I’m sure we only scratched the surface. There's so much more to see!

I think the next time we visit Disneyland we’ll try to find a few new spots to visit. Perhaps we can time it so that we’re there for the third weekend of the month. That way we can see Walt’s barn in Griffith Park while it’s open and maybe that rope-stretching lady in Garden Grove will allow us to see Uncle Robert’s garage!

October 15, 2017

EPCOT Food & Wine Festival – A Timeline

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Last year at the annual EPCOT Food & Wine Festival Carol and I discovered a little hidden treat, a pictorial timeline of the Festival.

Food and Wine Timeline

It was tucked away in a corner of Innoventions East, beside the merchandise area where they were distributing commemorative wine glasses for Annual Passholders.

Neither Carol nor I are wine drinkers, so we avoided the Food & Wine Festival for many years. We thought it was all about the wines, and pairings, and that there would be little there for us.

Our friends kept saying, “No, it’s about the food too, you would really enjoy the food.” After hearing that same message from several friends we decided to give it a try. Our first brief foray into the world of food and wine at EPCOT was on November 9th 2009. After stopping at no more than two kiosks we knew that our friends were right! We only made it to about half the food kiosks that first day but we enjoyed a wonderful lunch.

Although we’ve never hoisted a glass of wine there, we really enjoy the Food & Wine Festival. In fact, we haven’t missed a year since 2009.

Australia Kiosk

We typically arrive at the park in late morning and sometimes circle the World ShowCase Lagoon in a clockwise direction, other years we’ll head counter-clockwise. We read the menu at each food station along the way and order whatever sounds appealing.

Australia Menu

Australia Shrimp

When we have quenched our appetites and start to feel full we end our culinary tour, then return to EPCOT a few days later and pick up our roving lunch where we left off. For many years it took us three days to circle the lagoon but the festival is growing; last year it took four days.

There are special Guide Maps and Times Guides available during the festival.

Guide Map and Times Guide
Click on the image to see a larger version

Carol always picks up a Festival Passport. Inside the passport is a description of all the dishes served at each kiosk.

Festival Passport
Click on the image to see a larger version

She carefully checks off each selection we sample, then when we get home the Guide Map, Time Guide and Passport find a permanent home in Carol's Tickle Trunk!

I was surprised and delighted last year when we found that pictorial history of the festival. I’m always fascinated by the little gems, like that timeline, that the Imagineers dream up and install in out-of-the-way corners. I’m not sure how long it has been around, since we just “discovered” it last year.

Let’s take a closer look; click on each of the images below to see a larger version.

Food and Wine 1996-1998

It was 1996 when the Walt Disney World Village Wine Festival moved to EPCOT and transformed into the festival we enjoy today. In 1997 famed chef Julia Child was an honoured guest.

Food and Wine 1999-2001

The plaques beneath the pictures describe the many exhibits and seminars that interested wine-lovers can enjoy.

Food and Wine 2002-2004

The Party for the Senses and the Eat to the Beat Concert series made their debut in 2002.

Food and Wine 2005-2007

In 2005 the Odyssey Cooking School offered interactive cooking experiences.

Food and Wine 2008-2010

Is that Little Richard playing the piano in 2008? Cirque du Soleil hosted the Party for the Senses in 2010 and the 10K race was replaced with a half-marathon.

Food and Wine 2011-2013

Do you remember the cranberry bog that first appeared in 2011?

Food and Wine 2014-2015

In 2014 the festival was extended from 46 days to 53 days and in 2015 the popular ABC show The Chew established two new kiosks near the rose garden.

As you can see from following that pictorial history, the festival is continuing to evolve and grow. There’s always something new!

This year there are no wineglasses for Annual Passholders; they have been replaced by a special series of collectible buttons. If you have an Annual Pass you can pick up your button at the Festival Center, behind the former Universe of Energy building.

Festival Center

Carol and I won’t make it to the festival until November this year, so I don’t know if the timeline has been moved to the Festival Center or if it’s still over in Innoventions East . . . but if you happen to see it stop and take a look. There is some interesting history there!

October 1, 2017

The Disneyland Pancake Race

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Six decades ago Disneyland was brand new!

The Disney Corporation had invested heavily in its construction and they were rumored to be overextended. The senior management team was constantly trying new ways to attract guests to the park and increase revenues. That big pile of debt had to be repaid!

Fortunately, Disney Studios had several very popular television series in production during those early years and the stars of those shows made regular appearances at the park.

The Mickey Mouse Club was a huge hit with children in the 1950’s and the Mouseketeers were frequent performers at Disneyland!

Mouseketeers at Disneyland

Mouseketeers at Disneyland

Mouseketeers at Disneyland

Mouseketeer Annette Funicello even appeared and signed autographs with David Stollery and Tim Considine who starred in the popular Spin & Marty series.

David Stollery Annette Funicello Tim Considine

Zorro was another hit television show produced by the Disney Studios. Guy Williams portrayed the hero Don Diego de la Vega. Williams would don the Zorro costume and thrill guests as he rode and duelled his way through Frontierland.

Zorro at Disneyland 1958

Zorro at Frontierland 1958

Zorro at Frontierland 1958

Another popular series of the era was Davy Crockett starring Fess Parker and Buddy Ebsen. They also made a number of guest appearances at Disneyland. Fess Parker is pictured below, riding with Walt Disney.

Fess Parker and Walt Disney

But the wackiest ploy to attract guests had to be the Shrove Tuesday Pancake Races held on Main Street, USA from 1957 to 1964.

Pancake Race

One of Disney’s partner companies in the early days was the Quaker Oats Company which opened Aunt Jemima’s Old South Kitchen in Frontierland on August 17, 1955.

Aunt Jemima's Kitchen

Somehow Disney and Quaker Oats concocted the wacky idea of pancake races in the park! Housewives from across the Golden State competed in local and regional pancake races and the regional winners met on Shrove Tuesday for the state championship at Disneyland.

Pancake Race

Disney Archivist Rebecca Cline wrote about the races in an article for Disney Magazine in the Spring of 2004. She described the event like this:

“Rose Pitman is running as fast as she can down Disneyland’s Main Street, USA. Her hair tucked underneath a scarf, she is wearing saddle shoes and an apron wrapped around her plaid skirt. She is also carrying a nine-inch skillet in her right hand. Looking out for the thick ribbons stretching eight feet overhead across the race path, she deftly avoids the streetcar tracks beneath her feet. Out of the corner of her eye, she watches out for the other five women who are trying to beat her to the finish line. As Pitman nears the first ribbon, she springs a couple of feet off the ground, and with a practiced snap of the wrist, flips the pancake lying in her skillet up over the ribbon, then catches it on the way down.”

Pancake Race

“On she runs toward another ribbon. Again she flips the pancake up, turning it end over end until it comes down in her pan. After snapping her pancake over a third ribbon, she races toward the finish line. The crowd roars its encouragement; Pitman is a mere few feet ahead of her nearest challenger. She leans into the ribbon and it breaks free, floating across her body. It is Tuesday, March 5, 1957; Rose Pitman of Visalia, California, has just placed first in the finals of the California State Pancake Races sponsored by the Quaker Oats Company and Disneyland.”

“Along with the $100 presented by Aunt Jemima (a woman named Palmere Jackson played the character), Pitman wins a number of prizes, including a plaque signed by Walt Disney, an enormous Disneyland food basket with items like Aunt Jemima Pancake Flour and Swift canned meats, an Aunt Jemima cigarette lighter, an umbrella, and a fish knife in a sheath.”

Race Winner 1962

Those crazy races were run each year, on Shrove Tuesday, from 1957 until 1964. The 2004 Disney Magazine article has plenty of additional information on the origins of pancake races and the Disney races in particular. Click on the two images below if you would like to read the article in detail.

Disney Magazine Spring 2004 pg 60
That's Rose Pitman wearing #9 in the picture above.

Disney Magazine Spring 2004 pg 61

With the crowded conditions in Disney Parks these days I doubt that they would ever consider reinstating the Pancake Races . . . but if they do, I'm pretty sure I would make the trip west to witness the spectacle!

August 27, 2017

Pin Trading – The Early Years

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Over the last few weeks Carol has been eagerly preparing for the annual Pin Event at EPCOT. As I watched her getting ready I began to reminisce a bit about the early days of Pin Trading.

There weren’t many Disney Pins around before the year 2000. Although the first pins began to appear in the 1950’s, they were only created as keepsakes to commemorate special events or as gifts handed out by Disney’s sponsors like Kodak or American Express.

The first series of pins “official” trading pins issued by Disney was the Countdown To The Millennium series. The set consisted of 101 pins sold in Disney Stores, 7 or 8 each week, from October 1999 to December 2000. That was when pin trading began!

Here’s an article from the Spring 2000 issue of Disney Magazine that describes those very early days of pin trading.

Disney Magazine Spring 2000
Click on the image to see a larger version

There was even a set of 15 photomosaic images you could buy for $3,000.00

Disney Magazine Spring 2000
Click on the image

Somehow it seems that Carol didn’t get the memo and she didn’t buy any Millennium pins, or those expensive photomosaics.

It all started for us a little later, about 16 years ago. At the time Carol’s Disney pin collection consisted of two or three items. There was a pin showing Mickey Mouse skiing that we picked up while enjoying the slopes at Smuggler’s Notch Vermont and a pin from the 2000 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.

Then one fateful day in the autumn of 2001 she read on the Internet that a new series of pins, 100 Years of Magic, were being sold at Disney Stores, a new batch of pins released each Saturday from September 15th to December 15th. “Let’s go take a look,” she said. If only I had known . . .

We walked into the Disney Store at Limeridge Mall in Hamilton Ontario about noon on October 8th, the very next Saturday. Carol asked a cast member about the pins and she was told, “You’re a couple of hours too late.” The pins were all sold out; they sold out minutes after the store opened!

The following week we arrived five minutes before the store opened and joined a long line of about 30 avid pin collectors!

October 2001

When the doors opened everyone filed in and lined up at the counter to buy the 7 or 8 pins released that week. Each collector was allowed to buy 2 of each pin; Carol bought a single set.

As the weeks went by the pins became more popular and the lines grew week by week. By December we were lining up at 7:30 a.m., a full 2 hours before the store opened and each collector was limited to 1 of each pin. By then I had been conscripted to stand in line as well; Carol had decided that she needed a second set of pins to use as traders.

As we stood in line week after week with the same group of traders a funny thing happened . . . we made some new friends. Before long we were meeting at one of the friend’s homes for “trading nights” and a few of the cast members from the Disney Store joined in the fun.

Carol was busy trading with our new-found friends and buying pins on e-Bay . . . before long she had all the pins from the first few weeks of the 100 Years of Magic series. She was a happy trader!

Two more Disney Store series followed in rapid succession, Magical Musical Moments and 12 Months of Magic. She bought them all.

Before cast members began wearing lanyards with pins to trade there were “Super Traders”. Amy Johnstone, one of five Super Traders at EPCOT described her job in a Fall 2001 article in Disney Magazine.

Disney Magazine Fall 2001
Click on the image

Trading was soon so popular that many cast members at Disney parks began to wear lanyards full of pins to trade and our Disney vacations suddenly had a brand new element added! I didn’t do any trading but I was a “spotter” – it was my job to make sure Carol didn’t miss any lanyards.

A Spring 2002 article from Disney Magazine gave some tips for aspiring collectors.

Disney Magazine Spring 2002
Click on the image

In 2005 Carol went to the annual EPCOT Pin Event for the first time. This is the premiere event in the life of a pin trader. Disney decorates EPCOT’s World ShowPlace Auditorium, located between Canada and Great Britain, with lavish displays that match the special pins created for each year’s theme. Carol was simply blown away by the décor, the pins and the opportunity to meet so many other avid traders.

Over the past 16 years, since Carol started collecting, there have been tens of thousands of new pins created. Needless to say her approach to pin trading has changed; in the early stages Carol wanted every new pin . . . she had to have them all. These days she’s much more focused and much more selective. Her collection of over 4,000 pins is sorted by theme or subject and most of the pins are stored in binders that fill a closet. There are boxed sets and framed sets displayed around the house . . . there are about a hundred “traders” in a bag that travels with Carol to all Disney events!

As you read this Carol has just wrapped up her 13th consecutive trip to EPCOT for the annual pin event. The 2017 theme was “Love is an Adventure”. She’ll be blogging about the event before long – stay tuned for details!

(If you just can't wait for Carol's 2017 EPCOT Pin Event blog, why don't you re-read some of her previous reports! You can find them all HERE

August 13, 2017

Who's Who in Duckburg

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Do you remember when Mickey’s Birthdayland first opened at Walt Disney World? It was June 18th 1988 and Mickey Mouse’s 60th birthday celebrations were in full swing!

Duckburg Sign

Mickey’s Birthdayland was set in the mythical town of Duckburg, in the equally mythical State of Calisota. Duckburg boasted that it was “A town that’s everything it’s quacked up to be?”

Duckburg and Calisota both sprang from the vivid imagination of Carl Barks who drew and wrote Donald Duck comic books for Western Publishing from 1943 until he retired from drawing in 1966.

Years after Mr. Bark retired Don Rosa drew and wrote more comics based on the Duckburg characters for Gladstone Publishing who were licensed to use Disney characters in those later years. Over the years both Barks and Rosa created a host of new characters for the comics and a rich history and backstory of Duckburg developed.

Have you ever wondered how Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck were related? What about Huey, Dewey and Louie? How are they connected in the family tree?

Carl Barks Duck family portrait

Let’s take a look back to the origins of Duckburg. It was originally founded in the 16th century by British explorer Sir Francis Drake who named it Fort Drake Borough. In the 19th century Cornelius Coot purchased the Fort from the departing British, he changed Drake to Duck and Borough to Burg and Duckburg was created. The rest, as they say, is history!

One of the central features in Mickey’s Birthdayland was a statue of Cornelius Coot, located in front of the Cornelius Coot’s County Bounty shop!

Cornelius Coot Statue

Cornelius Coot Plaque

Duckburg is rumored to be the largest city in Calisota and its skyline is dominated by Scrooge McDuck’s Money Bin which sits high on a hill at the edge of the city!

Duckburg Skyline

There were three principal families in Duckburg, the Coots, the Ducks and the McDucks. Donald Duck is the son of Quackmore Duck and Hortense McDuck.

Donald’s mother Hortense is the sister of Scrooge McDuck, making Scrooge Donald’s uncle.

Donald has a sister Della (sometimes called Dumbella) who married an unnamed Duck and had three sons, Donald’s identical triplet nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie.

A family tree, drawn by Don Rosa lays out many of the characters who appeared in the comics over the years and places them in an understandable order.

Donald Duck Family Tree
Click on the family tree to see a larger image.

If you follow that tree you can see how Donald traces his lineage back to Duckburg founder Cornelius Coot. Donald's father was Quackmore Duck, the son of Humperdink Duck and Elvira Coot (often referred to as Grandma Duck). Elvira was the daughter of Clinton Coot and Gertrude Gadwall. Clinton Coot was the son of Cornelius Coot. That means that Cornelius was Donald’s paternal great-great-grandfather.

On his mother’s side Donald can trace his family back to the McDuck clan from Glasgow Scotland. His mother Hortense McDuck was the daughter of Fergus McDuck and Downy O’Drake. Grandfather Fergus was the son of Dirty Dingus McDuck and Molly Mallard.

McDuck Castle
McDuck Castle near Glasgow

If you follow the chart carefully you can see how Donald is related to his cousin Gladstone Gander, his second-cousin Gus Goose and his great-great-uncle Quagmire McDuck.

There are a few salty characters from the past, like Sir Roast McDuck, Hugh “Seafoam” McDuck, Pintail Duck and Sir Eider McDuck included on the chart drawn by Mr. Rosa.

Sir Roast McDuck (1159-1205) succeeded his father Stuft McDuck, as clan chief. Clan McDuck was one of the richest clans in Scotland, but in 1189 Roast offered much of the clan's wealth to the king of Scotland, William the Lion, after William asked for his help in paying tribute to Richard I, King of England. This act of patriotism led to financial ruin for the clan.

Hugh “Seafoam” McDuck made a fortune sailing his “Golden Goose” on the trade route to the West Indies. Unfortunately, in 1753, Swindle McSue tricked Seafoam with a contract to deliver horseradish to Jamaica, and then scuttled the Goose.

Pintail Duck was a British sailor in the Caribbean. Once Pintail and officer Malcolm "Matey" McDuck buried a treasure of potatoes. Their ship the Falcon Rover sunk with its crew on December 9th 1564 in conflict with the Spanish.

Sir Eider McDuck (880-946) was the chief of Clan McDuck during an Anglo-Saxon invasion in 946. Eider was killed during the Anglo-Saxons' siege of McDuck Castle after his serfs abandoned him. He had refused to buy them arrows because they were too expensive.

Alas, the comics have never provided enough biographical detail to fit all of these colourful characters into the proper spot in the tree.

A number of characters, like Gyro Gearloose and Kildeer Coot, are not included at all, but according to the comic book series they are related to Donald in one way or another.

Glasgow 1877 by Don Rosa
Fergus McDuck seated, surrounded by his family.

Naturally Donald’s long time girlfriend Daisy is missing from the tree and that means that her family history is somewhat of a mystery. All is not lost though; the Duckburg rumour mill can help us out a little bit with Daisy’s family. According to Duckburg lore and legend Daisy had an unnamed sister who may have married a brother of that unknown Duck who married Donald’s sister Della. Those two anonymous ducks were the parents of Daisy’s triplet nieces April, May and June. That makes Daisy’s nieces the first cousins of Donald’s nephews.

Sometimes family trees can be very complex!

Isn’t it interesting how something as simple as a series of children’s comic books can weave such an interesting and complicated history?

July 30, 2017

The Happiest Horses on Earth

Gary Cruise banner

When you walk along Main Street USA and you hear that familiar tune start to play,

♫♪Clang Clang Clang Went the Trolley♪♫

you know exactly what’s coming!

Clang Clang

If you’re like Carol and I you always stop beside that horse-drawn trolley for a few minutes to watch those talented dancers perform . . . and you probably always get a picture of that magnificent horse!

Have you seen those six little ponies that pull Cinderella’s Carriage during parades and wedding ceremonies?

Cinderella Carriage

Have you ever wondered, “Where do the Disney horses live?”

“Where do they kick back with a flake of hay and a few gallons of cold water after a long hard day at work?”

The answer to both of those questions is Disney’s Tri-Circle-D Ranch.


Have you ever wanted to get up-close and personal with some Disney horses?

Up close

Up Close

Then come on over to the Tri-Circle-D for a visit. It’s located in Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, just a few steps from Pioneer Hall.

Carol and Dan

Take a boat from the Magic Kingdom or ride a Disney bus to the campground and make your way to the Pioneer Hall area; you can’t miss the horse barns.

The barns are open during normal working hours and you are welcome to explore the public areas and read about the magnificent animals who live at the ranch and work in the Disney parks and resorts.

Heading to work

The cast members who work at Tri-Circle-D are all experts in equestrian care and are always happy to meet visitors and share their knowledge.

Coastal hay


Please do not touch the horses or try to feed them . . . but feel free to take pictures and tell them how beautiful they are!



You can read a bit about each horse, the jobs they do and the food they eat.



You can see the elaborate livery the horses wear for special performances.


You might see one of Cinderella's ponies being groomed!

Trimming a pony

You can even watch the horses have a shower as they prepare to go to work.

Shower time


Have you seen the Headless Horseman lead the parade at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party? That huge black horse he rides is a Percheron named Khan.



Most days, if the work schedule permits, there is a special 30 minute guided tour of the stables. One of the cast members will meet guests at the barn entrance and share their intimate knowledge of the horses with you. Look for this sign in front of the barn.


Just across from the stables is the blacksmith shop. Usually every Thursday a farrier drops in to give some of the horses a mani-pedi. These highly skilled tradesmen trim the horse’s hooves, check for irritation or disease, and often put on new shoes. It’s a real treat to watch the farriers work.



If you’re looking for something unique to do at Disney; if you want to add a new wrinkle to your vacation experience; take a trip over to the Tri-Circle-D Ranch and get to know some Disney horses!

This brochure from 2010 adds a bit of extra information including travel instructions.

Tri-Circle-D Brochure
Click on the image to see a readable copy of the brochure

It also describes some of the adventures that are available at Tri-Cricle-D Ranch. Be sure to telephone and confirm that the activities in this 7-year-old brochure are still being offered!

Tri-Circle-D Brochure
Click on the image to see a readable copy of the brochure

So what are you waiting for?
Go and meet some Disney horses.

They're the Happiest Horses on Earth!

July 16, 2017

Dayton Disneyana 2017

Gary Cruise banner

What is it that motivates a couple of normal, rational Canadian Disney fans to drive 656 miles to Dayton Ohio for a one-and-a-half day stay, then drive 656 miles home again? The answer is Dayton Disneyana.

Dayton Disneyana 2017

It's a gathering of Disney fans from across the continent who meet in Dayton once a year to buy and sell Disneyana collectibles, trade Disney pins, attend interesting seminars presented by well-known Disney personalities and hang out with people who share our Disney obsession. If we can find any spare time we have also been known to sit around, over adult beverages, swapping Disney stories and tips.

Dayton Disneyana 2017

This was our fifth trip to Dayton in as many years. As usual, our son Rob came along; like Carol, he's a hoarder a pack rat an avid Disney collector. I'm not a collector; it's the seminars that I enjoy!

On Friday June 9th we were on the road bright and early and arrived at the Thousand Islands border crossing, about 25 miles from our home, just after dawn. There wasn't a single car ahead of us.

Thousand Island Bridge

The US Border Patrol Officer spotted the two big boxes full of acrylic globes in the back of the vehicle and asked what they were. When I told him they were Mickey Mouse lamp posts he raised an arched eyebrow, then waved us on through. I'm not sure if he was amused or bewildered!

Our journey took us from Ontario through New York, Pennsylvania and finally to Ohio.



The weather was good, traffic was light and we made great time. We made one fuel stop and took one rest area break before pulling off the highway in Erie, Pennsylvania, for a bite. We don't have Chik-Fil-A restaurants in Canada and it was the unanimous choice for lunch!

We were back on the road in no time and carried on westbound across the southern shores of the Great Lakes. At Cleveland we turned south and passed through Columbus on our way to Dayton.

Our route to Dayton

We pulled into the Holiday Inn, Fairborn Ohio at 4:30 and, after sitting in the car all day, enjoyed a few minutes of stretching as we settled into our rooms.

We didn't have long to rest though; I quickly assembled the Mickey Mouse lamp post we were donating for the charity raffle and we tracked down the event organizer, Anita Schaengold, to deliver it. She was busy in the grand ballroom where 29 vendors were setting up a whopping 74 tables full of Disney collectibles. Carol was vibrating with anticipation as we walked past the closed doors of the ballroom.

The first official function was a 6:00 p.m. dinner, held in a meeting room near the grand ballroom, and this was our first opportunity to meet Disney artists and animators Mike and Patty Peraza who were featured guests for the weekend.

2017 Dayton Poster

After we enjoyed a nice dinner, the emcee for the evening, Disney historian Jim Hill, introduced the husband and wife animation team to the audience of 100 to 120 people. It was a small crowd and there was plenty of interaction between the speakers and those of us in the audience.

Patty Mike and Jim

Each of them gave us a brief description of their life-long careers with Disney and briefly mentioned a few of the films and features they worked on. The Fox and the Hound, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, The Black Cauldron, Dragon’s Lair, Space Ace, The Great Mouse Detective, TRON, The Little Mermaid, Return to OZ, Ducktales, Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers, Talespin, Goof Troop, Darkwing Duck, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast are a few of the projects they talked about.

Both Patty and Mike are graduates of the prestigious California Institute for the Arts, a university that Walt Disney himself established. Mike entertained us with a few unusual stories from his days at "CalArts" when his roommate was Tim Burton. I think it's a given that any story that includes Tim Burton has to be a bit unusual.

Patty put a different spin on her CalArts story. She was a Graphic Design major at University of Delaware when the dean approached her to recommend the Disney Animation program at CalArts. She knew that CalArts was a bit beyond her family's financial means so she respectfully declined. Just a few weeks later the dean returned, this time with the offer of a full scholarship. Patty quickly applied and was accepted.

She was the first female graduate from CalArts hired by the Disney Corporation and during her long career with the company she picked up some pretty strong "vibes" about her scholarship. She was never able to confirm it, but she is pretty sure that it funded by Walt Disney's wife Lillian.

Mike and Patty kept our interest for a full hour and left us all wanting to hear more. I was looking forward to their seminar the next afternoon.


The last performance of the evening featured Anita and Randy as they drew some fabulous, one-of-a-kind door prizes.


Randy claimed to be Vanna White's younger brother and he did a wonderful job presenting, modeling and demonstrating each of the prizes!

After the official events wrapped up a few of adjourned to the bar beside the hotel lobby for a comforting adult beverage. Rob and I joined in the imbibing crowd while Carol dashed back to the room, gathered up her bag of pins and headed off to the training tables.

By 10:00 that evening my long day behind the wheel had caught up to me; I headed back to the room. Carol was tired, too; she was back by 11:00 p.m.

Saturday Jun 10, 2017

We were up bright and early. Carol and Rob were two of the 75 people who paid $30 each to be "early-birds". Early-birds are allowed to enter the ballroom and shop for 90 minutes before the doors open for everyone else. They are also eligible to win door prizes provided by each of the vendors and they get a goody bag full of interesting Disney "stuff"! Carol assures me that she get's more than her money's worth... but I think she'd pay the Early-Bird fee even if she didn't get the goody bag or the chance at the door prizes. She'd be happy just to get the extra shopping time!

The early-birds

Just after 8 a.m. Carol and Rob joined the line of eager early-birds in the hall outside the ballroom.

I snuck into the ballroom to get a few pictures before those avid shoppers arrived!


I think the vendors enjoy Dayton Disneyana as much as the collectors do; many of them travel long distances to get there. This year there were four vendors from Florida and one from Southern California.

I’m pretty sure the vendors were just as excited as the crowd waiting in the hall for those doors to swing open!

You want thingamabobs? I got twenty!

Gary and Gary

Gary and Gary from Ozark Missouri had several tables full of wonderful Disney items, including this great Scrooge McDuck figurine!





There were popcorn buckets, figurines, snow globes, watches, glasses, mugs, plates, movie posters, magazines, telephones, pins, Vinylmations, and so much more. No matter what you collect, you are sure to find it at Dayton Disneyana.



Need a talking alarm clock? Two to choose from!

How about a Goofy phone? There were two of them as well!

A Mickey Mouse corn popper. The first one I've seen!

This year Dayton Disneyana had a bit of International flavour... and it was not just because of the four car-loads of avid Canadian shoppers who made the long drive! The first Canadian vendor was there; our friend Cheryl from the Toronto area. Her hand-crafted Mouse Ears and EPCOT Passports have been selling like hotcakes through her "LetsMakeSomeMagic" ETSY store so she brought some along to Dayton.


Cheryl's Minnie Ears
One of Cheryl's unique creations!

If you have a favourite Disney character, a princess or a villain, Cheryl can customize some ears just for you!


The passports are a great activity for kids. Children can have them stamped at all of the KidCot activity stations. Most of the cast members will also add a personal greeting in their native language. It's a fun way for kids to learn about foreign cultures and customs!



The passports can be personalized with your children's names, the date of your trip, etc.

There are even honeymoon passports so newlyweds can collect some unique wedding wishes in a variety of languages!

What a great idea!

Some unique figurines!

Band Concert Phone
I wonder what the ringtone sounds like on this phone?



By 8:15 the vendors were all set and there were plenty of early-birds waiting impatiently in the hall. Anita decided to let the shoppers in early... there was a round of cheering in the hall as she made the announcement!

In come the early-birds

Carol's goody bag

Carol was about 20th in line this year. She paused for just a brief second to show me her bag of free early-bird goodies, then scurried off to shop!

Happy shoppers

The happiest shopper

Carries Kermit Phone

Our friend Carrie couldn't wait to get back to her room and make a call on her brand new Kermit phone. Isn't it a beauty?!

Mike and Rob
Mike Peraza with Rob

By 10:00 both Carol and Rob had been around the ballroom a couple of times and they had picked up about half of what they would purchase over the weekend.

Carol Eric and Trisha

Carol with friends Eric and Trisha from Ohio. She sees them every year at the annual Epcot pin event. This was their first time at Dayton Disneyana.

The rest of the crowd enters

At 10 a.m. the doors opened for the rest of the shoppers. In less than a minute the crowd in the ballroom doubled as everyone rushed in to join the early-birds.

More shoppers



Fortunately there was plenty of merchandise to go around!

Before long Carol and Rob dropped their new-found treasures off in their rooms and adjourned to the pin trading room.

Pin Trading room

There were plenty of traders who had pin books, pin binders, Disney buttons, boxes full of Vinylmations, Sorcerer Cards, Transportation Cards, all sorts of Disney collectibles to trade!


Traders of all ages joined in the fun!

Carol would pop back into the ballroom once in a while to do a quick lap... when things on the tables sell the vendors reach into boxes stacked under the tables and pull out more merchandise.

She found a few unique treasures because she kept going back to the ballroom for another look!


There were several different games organized in the trading room throughout the day. That happy crowd in picture above are playing Pingo. It's similar to Bingo, but the entry fee is a pin and the prizes are pins!

I picked up some fast food for lunch and we enjoyed it in the trading room before Rob and I headed off to the seminars and Carol continued trading.

Seminar room

The seminars were held in a meeting room directly across from the ballroom.

Before the speakers began their presentation Anita introduced us to Joe Cox, the president of Pirate Packs, a local charity which provides food for needy children in the area.

Anita and Joe Cox

All of the money raised over the course of the weekend was donated to Pirate Packs.

There are school programs which give hungry children access to three meals a day, but for some children there is no food in the home on days when they don't go to school.

That's where Pirate Packs comes in!

When those kids go home for the weekend they take a backpack that contains three meals a day for each day they'll be away.

Pirate Packs

It's a great program and the assembled Disney fans were happy to support it. Over the course of the event there were silent auctions, live auctions and a bicycle raffle. The 402 Disney fans in attendance helped Dayton Disneyana raise almost $3,000.00 for Pirate Packs! Well done folks!

At 1 p.m. Jim Hill introduced the featured speakers, Mike and Patty Peraza. They kept us spellbound for an hour and a half. They used audio-video images and clips to describe their Disney careers and told us some very interesting "inside stories" about the many movies, cartoons, park attractions and other projects they worked on.

Mike and Patty

They worked on The Muppet Movie

I think every Disney fan gets a special kind of chill, or goose bumps, when they are part of a very small audience and share a room with people like Mike and Patty who have worked directly with Walt Disney, Jim Henson, the Nine Old Men, even Lillian Disney. Our 90 minutes passed in a flash, none of us wanted it to end.

Mike and Patty

Words cannot describe how much I enjoy the seminars, you'll just have to come to Dayton and experience them for yourself!

The second seminar of the afternoon featured well-known Disney Historian Jim Hill. Jim is not a cast member, he never has been, but he has a wide network of contacts in the organization and an encyclopedic repertoire of the history and lore of the organization.

Jim Hill

He talked about the original design of the Disneyland Paris park and the new challenges the Imagineers faced with their first foray into an international location. Imagine that as you stand in line at an attraction the people standing near you could speak as many as five different languages and none of them speak English or French.

You can't put five languages on a sign; it was interesting to hear some of the innovative solutions those talented Imagineers came up with!

Immediately after the second seminar it was time for the costume contest. Naturally Disney costumes dominated.



After the judging was done all the competitors paraded through the ballroom so the vendors could share in some of the fun too!

Saturday evening there was a sort of "impromptu" dinner. It wasn't part of the original schedule, all the planning was done late Friday afternoon. There were only 33 seats available in the small dining room we shared with Mike and Patty Peraza and Jim Hill. The hotel donated the space and all the hors d'oeuvres we ate! Each of us paid $30.00 to attend and it all went to Pirate Packs!

Jim Hill

After we enjoyed a bite to eat Jim Hill introduced Mike and Patty who shared some more stories and experiences with us. Each of them showed a few of their favourite creations on the large TV screen.

Mike Peraza


Kermit and Jim Henson.jpg

One of Mike's favourite pieces. He created this painting of Kermit holding a Jim Henson puppet just after Mr. Henson's death. It now hangs in the Henson home.


Chatting with the artists

We were seated at the table right next to the Disney artists and were able to chat one-on-one with them throughout dinner. After their presentation was finished we resumed the chatter while we waited for the charity auction to begin!

Terence and Sarah

Our friend Sarah was the successful bidder for a Minnie Mouse sketch Patty Peraza donated for the auction. Patty spent a few minutes personalizing the sketch for Sarah, and while Patty was doing that her husband Mike created a matching sketch of Mickey. Wasn't that a nice gesture?

Nice things like that happen quite often at Dayton Disneyana!

The Mickey Lamp

The final auction item was the Mickey Mouse lamp post I donated. The lamp was surprisingly popular and the bidding was intense. It sold for $220 and all of the money went to Pirate Packs!

After dinner a few of us gathered in the bar for some refreshments. Rob and I joined the saloon crowd while Carol did some more pin trading!

Sunday Jun 11, 2017

We had a more leisurely start on Sunday. The ballroom full of vendors didn't open until 10:00 a.m. Naturally Carol, Rob and I were there when the doors opened.



I chatted with a few friends and took some more pictures while they scoured the vendor's tables one last time.

Bob and Latosha


Jay and Chantal

All too soon it was time to think about that long drive home. I always regret missing the Sunday afternoon seminars, but with a 10-hour drive in store we always try to pull away by noon.

We said our goodbyes and thanked the organizers, Anita and her committee, for another wonderful event. We began our northeastward trip home at 11:30 a.m.

Traffic flowed well, there were no accidents or other tie-ups and we arrived home safe and sound at 10:30 p.m.

You might think that our 656 mile drive to Dayton was the furthest that anyone traveled... but it wasn't.

JoAnn and Abby

Joann flew from Hartford, Connecticut, to Ohio and met friend Abby from Norton, Ohio, for the trip to Dayton. That's about 775 miles! There sure are some dedicated Disney fans around!

I didn't buy anything all weekend, but I came home with some wonderful memories and a few new Disney stories that I picked up from the speakers.

You're probably wondering what Carol and Rob brought home after their many hours of determined shopping. Here are a few pictures of the booty they collected.

Free Stuff
Raffle prizes and early entry gifts - all this stuff was free!

Rob's Treasures
Rob's new treasures.

Rob's favourites
I asked Rob to select his favourite - he couldn't decide between these two.

Rob's Fan Page
Rob's fan page - signed by Kathryn Beaumont who was
the voice actor in the 1951 Alice in Wonderland movie.

Carol's treasures
Carol's new treasures.

Carol's plates
Carol's new plates.

Carol's favourite
Carol's favourite.

Carol's pins
Pins Carol found in Dayton.

In 2018 Dayton Disneyana will be held at the Hope Hotel and the adjoining Richard C. Holbrooke Conference Center on June 8th, 9th and 10th. They are located at 10823 Chidlaw Road, less than two miles from the site of the 2017 event.

The new venue will provide much more room for vendors and that has Carol very excited!
I don't care about the vendors... I'm already wondering who the speakers will be!

We hope to see you there!

Follow for more details on Dayton Disneyana 2018 on their Web Site HERE or on their Facebook page HERE

July 2, 2017

Mickey and Friends Gardening

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A few weeks ago a package arrived in the mail from Disney Movie Club. Carol opened it up and much to my surprise pulled out a packet of Disney themed garden seeds.

Bambi Daisies
Click on the image to see a larger copy

Bambi is apparently a big fan of the Gloriosa Daisy.

I said, “I’ve never seen Disney seeds before!”

Carol immediately led me to her Disney Room and pulled a package down from one of the shelves. It was a Disney planting kit in a blister pack. The kit contains a packet of Pluto’s Pumpkin Seeds and a row marker for your garden.

Pluto Seed Kit

Carol found it a few years ago in a local thrift store.

I was doubly surprised because the Pluto Pumpkin Seed kit was produced by McKenzie Seeds, a Canadian company headquartered in Brandon Manitoba. We’re not used to seeing Canadian-made Disney products!

I did a bit of research online and found that McKenzie began producing licensed Disney seed kits aimed at young gardeners in 1996.

They produced Disney’s Mickey & Friends Deluxe Gardening Kits, Pocahontas Sunflower Growing Kits, Mickey & Friends Single Variety Packs and Pocahontas Flit Hummingbird Garden Kits. All were designed to teach children aged five years and older to respect the environment and love nature.

Some of the kits included things like growing medium, a watering can, garden trowel and fork, a gardening guide, seeds, and Disney character row markers.

Our son Rob stopped by for a visit just a few days after the Movie Club seeds arrived, and gave Carol a new Disney treasure he had picked up for her in another thrift store the previous day.

You guessed it – seeds!

Daisy Daisies
Click on each seed packet to see a larger image

Goofy Sunflowers

Minnie Marigolds

Mickey Peas

There were six different varieties of seeds offered and Carol has five of them. She's now on the lookout for some Donald Duck Carrot Seeds!

The kit that Rob picked up was still in the original box but the package was ripped, torn, faded and discoloured. It was beyond repair. There was also a small plastic pot to plant the seeds in and a tiny plastic trowel. Just what an ittsy-bittsy gardener needs!

The best part, of course, was the seed packets and also the cute set of row markers for the garden.

Row Markers
Click to see a larger image

Aren’t they special?

And how about the fold-out Mickey & Friends Gardening Story Guide.

Gardening Guide

The 4¼” X 4½” pamphlet folds out to display six cartoon style panels of gardening tips for tiny green thumbs.

Fold out pamphlet
Click to see a larger image

How cool is that?

I have no idea how long the Disney licensed seeds were distributed in Canada, but they are no longer available. So Rob’s latest Disney gifts for his mother will be prized additions to her Disney Room.

I imagine that one of the big seed companies in the USA had a similar licensing arrangement.

Here's a question for all of my fellow readers:

Do you have similar seed packets and gardening kits in your Disney collections?

June 18, 2017

The Architecture at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

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I’m a big fan of Disney’s talented corps of Imagineers!

When they design the theme parks we all enjoy so completely they do a masterful job. Every aspect of the product they create is realistic and immersive.

The Hollywood Studios park is a prime example. When they began laying out the concepts for the new destination, led by Marty Sklar, they had one overriding goal, to create something that showed “tinsel-town” in its glory days.

Rod Serling says it well in his introduction at the Hollywood Tower of Terror: “Hollywood, 1939. Amid the glitz and the glitter of a bustling, young movie town at the height of its golden age . . . “. That was what the Imagineers were striving to build in Florida . . . a way for us to experience exactly how Hollywood felt during that “golden age”.

They began by scouring modern day Hollywood for iconic examples of architecture and began planning the streetscapes around some of their favourites. An article in the Spring 2005 issue of Disney Magazine focuses on five of the buildings they incorporated in their final design. In the words of Imagineer Eric Jacobson, “Ninety percent of what you see on Hollywood Boulevard is inspired by, a modification of, or a copy of a real building in Los Angeles.”

The first building the article describes is Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, located on Hollywood Boulevard beside the Dolby Theatre and across from Disney’s El Capitan Theatre.

Grauman's Chinese Theatre

The Florida reproduction of that famous Hollywood building houses The Great Movie Ride.

Grauman's Chinese Theatre 2006

Compare the picture from the article with a picture of the original building I snapped during a 2006 trip to Hollywood.

Have you noticed the building shaped like a camera on Hollywood Boulevard? It’s on your right as you walk toward Grauman’s Theatre. The picture in the magazine article shows the original building, on Wilshire Boulevard, as it appeared in 1938 and compares it to the reproduction that appears in the theme park.

The Darkroom

Here’s a picture of that same Los Angeles building as it appears today. I captured the image on Google Earth, check it out, it’s at 5370 Wilshire. These days the building houses a restaurant, but that unique camera façade will be with us for a very long time; it’s protected by the Los Angeles Conservancy!

The Darkroom today

Next on the list is the Max Factor Building on North Highland Avenue. Once again the illustration in the article compares the original building to the reproduction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s a remarkable likeness! Check it out when you visit the park; it’s across the street from The Darkroom.

Max Factor

Thanks to Google Earth and their Street View function I was able to get a picture of the building as it looks today. It looks like Max Factor has gone and this building is also now home to a restaurant.

Max Factor today

That building just inside the Hollywood Studios gate, the one with Mickey on top of the tower, it is a reproduction of another Hollywood icon, the Crossroads of the World building on Sunset Boulevard.

Crossroads of the World

Here’s what it looks like today!

Crossroads ot the World today

The last buildings the article looks at are the two stone building on either side of the entrance to The Hollywood Tower of Terror. In the theme park version the tall tower houses restrooms and the shorter building opposite it used to be home for the FastPass dispensers. They are modelled after The Hollywoodland Gates which in 1923 were at the end of Beachwood Drive. Hollywoodland was a new real estate development being built in the 1920’s and there was a huge sign erected up in the hills behind the gate. The “land” portion of the sign fell down, leaving the iconic Hollywood sign we all recognize today.

Hollywoodland Gates

Of course Hollywoodland is fully developed these days, but those old stone gates remain. You can find them near the corner of North Beachwood Drive and Belden Drive.

Hollywoodland Gates today

One last structure I’d like to look at is the entrance to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. That magnificent structure that first greets you, built in the Streamline Moderne style.

Hollywood Studios Entrance

It is also based on a Los Angeles building, The Pan Pacific Auditorium at 7600 West Beverly Boulevard.

Pan Pacific Auditorium

Once again the Imagineers created a remarkable likeness!

1600 Beverly Blvd today

Unfortunately, the auditorium no longer exists, it was consumed in a fire in 1989. Today the property is home to a sports field!

If you want to read more, the entire article from 2005 is included below. Click on each of the three images to read many fascinating details about each of the five buildings.

Disney Magazine Spring 2005 page 63

Disney Magazine Spring 2005 page 64

Disney Magazine Spring 2005 page 65

The Hollywood Studios park is currently transforming in a big way with the addition of new areas based on the Star Wars movies and the Toy Story movies.

While I’m very much looking forward to enjoying each of these new lands, I hope that we never lose that feeling of “glitz and glitter” the Imagineers created along Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard. When some of the talented “streetmosphere” performers appear among those classic buildings it makes me want to sing "Hooray for Hollywood".

I really enjoy the “golden age of Hollywood” feeling I get when I visit the park!

April 9, 2017

Disney Fun Around The Country - 2017

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A few years ago I wrote a blog describing several Disney fan events that take place around the country. Carol and I really enjoy this sort of fan get-together. For us, they are an easy way to keep the magic alive without making that long trek south!

The response to that first blog was immediate. People said things like:
“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, people who share your Disney addiction, here is an update just for you! It’s a list of a few of those “non-theme park events” coming up in 2017.

These local events can help you put the maximum “Disney Magic” in your life!

1. Southern Ontario “Canadian Disney Addicts” – April 23 2017 – Whitby Ontario
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.

Canadian Fans

We spent a wonderful afternoon talking about our happy place, sharing ideas, trading Disney pins and Vinylmations and most importantly, making new friends. You can read about the first event in an AllEars blog HERE.

That first meet was so much fun that we have continued to get together about every three months since then. As many as 60 die-hard Disney fans have joined us! If you live in Southern Ontario please come out and be part of the fun.

Canadian Fans

The next meet will be held Sunday, Apr 23rd at Blue Sea Restaurant, 836 Brock Street North, Whitby Ontario from noon to 5:00 p.m.

There are similar Ontario groups which have recently held meets in Niagara Falls and Ottawa. If you live in those areas please post a comment below and I'll send you further details.

2. Trade ‘til You Fade – Apr 28 - 30 2017 – 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 Meeting Room

There are games, raffles and even an optional gift exchange which can be hilarious!

CJDPT Name That Toon

Full details are available on the Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders web site HERE.

Read a blog about the 2012 event HERE.

3. Dayton Disneyana – Jun 10 - 11, 2017 – Dayton Ohio

Plane Crazy Logo

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.

Dayton Disneyana 2015

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. Carol always finds some unique treasures to take home with us!

Carol and Mickey

An eager vendor

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

This year’s event will feature some well known guests:
Mike Peraza, a Disney artist, designer and animator for over 35 years. Mike has used his range of talents on projects as varied as the animated Mickey’s Christmas Carol and the real-life Carsland at Disney’s California Adventure Park. I’m sure he’ll have some interesting stories to tell!

Mike Peraza

Patty Peraza, another Disney artist with years of experience across a broad spectrum of projects. Patty was the first female hired by Disney from the prestigious CalArts program and was the first female effects artist at Walt Disney Studios. Early in her Disney career Patty worked with her husband Mike on Mickey’s Christmas Carol and later was a project leader for the animated feature Beauty and the Beast.

Patty Peraza

Jim Hill, who has become a wonderfully entertaining regular at the Dayton event. Jim is a well known Disney blogger and historian and a very engaging speaker who shares plenty of insider knowledge.

Listening to speakers like Mike, Patty and Jim is what I like most at Dayton Disneyana. When you talk with them one-on-one it’s like having a back door into Disney lore and legend.

Tables line the halls outside the ballroom where attendees can mix and mingle; there is even a room set aside for Disney pin and Vinylmation traders.

Busy trading

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

Read about last year’s event in this blogs: Dayton Disneyana 2016

4. Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet – Aug 12, 2017 – Lynnwood Washington

Pacific Northwest Logo

Carol and I have not attended this annual 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. There are always some top-notch speakers and interesting activities.

Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet - Bob Gurr

Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet - Marty Sklar

Fellow AllEars blogger Jeanine Yamanaka wrote about last year’s event, you can read about it HERE.

Arrangements for the 2017 meet are not yet finalized, but you can read more details on their web site HERE:

5. Indy Disney Meet – Aug 26, 2017 - Hamilton County 4H Fairgrounds Noblesville Indiana

Indy Meet Pin


This is another event Carol and I have not attended but it sounds wonderful.


It’s family oriented, it’s free and they have raised a lot of money to support Give Kids The World.

INDY Meet donation

It sounds like a great way to have fun and support a worthy cause, all at the same time. This year Yehaa Bob from Port Orleans Riverside will be a featured guest!

YeHaa Bob

Check out their web site HERE:

6. Swap ‘til You Drop – Oct 20-22, 2017 – 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 26, 2017

The History of EPCOT - A Timeline

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I’m a big fan of Disney’s Imagineers! They do a terrific job.

One of the things that continually impresses me is the little details that they build into the theme parks, sometimes in the most unusual places. Some of them are right in the middle of high traffic areas yet people walk right past and never notice. As an example, remember the blog titled “Science at your Feet” I wrote few months ago? There it is, right under your feet as you walk toward Soarin’, yet very few people ever notice it!

Today we’ll look at an interesting feature that the Imagineers built in an out-of-the-way place. It’s a history of EPCOT; a pictorial timeline of the theme park.

This timeline isn’t the least bit obvious, in fact it’s just the opposite . . . you have to go looking for it. But it’s worth the time you spend tracking it down!

As you walk south from the park entrance, heading toward World Showcase, keep your eyes pointed to the right. Between the Fountain View Restaurant and Club Cool you will see the doors pictured below. They're way in the back, behind that umbrella.

EPCOT Timeline Entrance

Walk through those doors and look around. You will find this interesting timeline on one of the walls. Carol is standing at the beginning, on the extreme right.

EPCOT Timeline

The first date, beside her shoulder, is 1965, when Walt first announced “The Florida Project” As you move toward the left you move forward in time, with 2016 on the extreme left.

Here’s a closer look at the earliest years. Click on each of the next four images to see a larger version.

EPCOT Timeline 1965 to 1982

There was a lot happening in 1982. The park opened October 1st and a number of pavilions were dedicated during that first month!

EPCOT Timeline 1982

From 1988 to 2003 the park continued to change, as new attractions were added and older ones were updated. Do you remember Food Rocks, The Wonders of Life and Communicore?

EPCOT Timeline 1988 to 2003

The pictorial time line currently ends with the 2016 addition of “Soarin’ Around the World” and “Frozen Ever After”, but of course there’s plenty of wall space available in those back corridors to add more and more as the park continues to change and grow.

EPCOT Timeline 2012 to 2016

Stop by some time and check it out! It’s a great place to hide out during a Central Florida thunderstorm, and a great place to cool down on a sweltering summer day!

March 18, 2017

Yo Ho Yo Ho – 50 Years of Piracy

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Today is a special day in Disney history!

It was 50 years ago today that one of Disney’s most popular attractions opened! On March 18, 1967 guests at Disneyland were able to take their first ride on Pirates of the Caribbean.

Pirates entry sign
♫ ♪ Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me! ♫ ♪

At the time of its opening 50 years ago Time Magazine heralded it as “the costliest and most technologically sophisticated adventure ever conceived as a permanent entertainment attraction, within or beyond the Disney gates!”

It opened to rave reviews and for a half century Pirates of the Caribbean has retained that popularity. It’s a ride Carol and I never miss, between Florida and California I’m sure we’ve ridden it more than a hundred times! That’s probably nowhere near a record though; I wouldn’t be surprised if there are avid Disney fans out there who have ridden thousands of times!

How popular is it? The Pirates attraction has been replicated in Disney parks in Florida, Tokyo, Paris and Shanghai and it has spawned a series of five live action movies.

One other notable thing . . . Pirates of the Caribbean was the last attraction Walt Disney worked on before his death. He passed away just a few months before it opened to the public.

Walt at work

Walt and a pirate

While I was looking for information on the Pirates ride I took a look in Carol’s Tickle Trunk and found a terrific article published in the Fall 1992 issue of Disney News. The article takes a look back after 25 years and gives a fascinating perspective, from the eyes of those talented Imagineers who brought the pirates to life.

Imagineer Marc Davis, one of Walt's "nine old men", was the principal designer and it’s interesting to hear him disclose his initial doubts about the Pirates project. “I thought, none of this is Disney. When I started reading everything I could find on pirates, I found that few of them were ever killed in sea battles like we’d always heard. Most of them lost their lives by venereal disease picked up in brothels.”

The article is pictured below. Click on each image to read the full text.

Disney News Fall 1992 page 23

Walt Disney assigned the Pirates project to Marc Davis in the early 1960’s and Davis began conceptualizing a walk-through show. He produced some wonderful concept art and storyboards, but when he reviewed them with Walt there was no enthusiasm. The project couldn't seem to get any traction!

Marc Davis

It wasn’t until after the 1964 World’s Fair that Pirates of the Caribbean found the spark that it needed. Davis added the boat system from Pepsi Cola’s It’s A Small World attraction and some Audio-Animatronics like those used in the State of Illinois Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln exhibit. Suddenly Walt was enthused and things began to happen very quickly!

Disney News Fall 1992 pg 24

Can you try to visualize the scene Imagineer Xavier Atencio described in that 1992 article? “We mocked up the auction scene in a warehouse at WED with all the figures working and the dialogue. We rigged up a dolly and pushed Walt through at the estimated time the boats would be going through.”

I wish I could have been a fly on the wall watching as Walt sat on a dolly being pushed by his most trusted Imagineers!

Marc Davis Walt Disney and Blaine Gibson
Marc Davis, Walt Disney and Blaine Gibson

I suspect that almost everyone who rides Pirates of the Caribbean comes out singing or humming, Yo Ho, Yo Ho . . .

Who do you think wrote that song? The Sherman Brothers? That was my guess too, but I was wrong. It was written by Imagineer Xavier Atencio and it was his first attempt at song lyrics. George Bruns wrote the music to accompany Atencio’s lyrics and between them they swatted a musical home run.


Let’s look at some of the amazing concept art Marc Davis produced as he developed and fine-tuned his designs!



“Strike your colors, ya brazen wench. No need to expose your superstructure!”

Many of his original pieces were displayed in Disneyland’s “Disney Gallery” in 2003. At he time the Gallery was located in New Orleans Square, directly above the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, in the space that is now occupied by the Dream Suite.

Disney Club News Spring 2003
Click to see a larger image

Disney Club_News Spring 2003

Carol and I didn’t get the chance to see Davis’ art while it was featured in the gallery, but we did see it a decade later. In May 2013 some very thoughtful friends arranged a special treat for the two of us. We had dinner at Disneyland’s exclusive Club 33. Wow! After dinner Cast Member Garrett took us on a private tour of the club and pointed out many of the historically significant artifacts that graced the walls. Several of Marc Davis’ original pieces of Pirates concept art were reverently displayed.

Club 33 May 2013
A Marc Davis Pirate sketch hangs behind Lillian Disney's harpsichord at Club 33

Our timing couldn't have been better; Club 33 closed for a major renovation and expansion just after our visit, and the Marc Davis concept art was returned to the Disney Vault.

In that 1992 article Marc Davis is quoted, “You always hope that anything you build will be a big hit. And I think we had a feeling that this one would be a success. But to be as popular now as when it opened? That was too much to hope for back then.”

Another 25 years have gone by since 1992 and the Pirates ride has lost none of its appeal. It is every bit as popular now as it was in 1992; it is every bit as popular now as it was in 1967.

That’s just astounding when you consider the changes we have seen in the past 50 years. The technology used in the attraction is now very old, but it is still as effective as it was half a century ago.

Yes, there have been a few minor changes, Jack Sparrow and Barbossa have been added to incorporate the new movies into the story, but these new characters have been done in a way that is totally consistent with the original designs mapped out by those talented Imagineers over 50 years ago. They fit very well and add to the original story rather than diminish it.

Happy 50th Birthday Pirates of the Caribbean! You don’t look a day over 25!

Now, let’s all celebrate together by singing that wonderful song . . .

Yo Ho, Yo Ho, a pirate's life for me.
We pillage plunder, we rifle and loot.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
We kidnap and ravage and don't give a hoot.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.

Yo Ho, Yo Ho, a pirate's life for me.
We extort and pilfer, we filch and sack.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
Maraud and embezzle and even hijack.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.

Yo Ho, Yo Ho, a pirate's life for me.
We kindle and char and inflame and ignite.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
We burn up the city, we're really a fright.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.

We're rascals and scoundrels, we're villains and knaves.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
We're devils and black sheep, we're really bad eggs.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.

We're beggars and blighters and ne'er do-well cads,
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
Aye, but we're loved by our mommies and dads,
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.


** Pirates of the Caribbean Magic Kingdom

** Pirates of the Caribbean Disneyland

** Pirates of the Caribbean Disneyland Paris

** Pirates of the Caribbean Tokyo Disneyland

** Pirates of the Caribbean Disney Pic of the Week

March 12, 2017


Gary Cruise banner

About a month ago Carol and I enjoyed a Canadian delicacy at FebFest, a winter carnival that takes place in our city every year.


Our downtown transforms into a winter wonderland as residents enjoy the outdoor skating rink behind City Hall.

FebFest Hockey

There are hockey and curling games to watch.

FebFest Ice Sculpture

FebFest Ice Sculpture

There are ice sculptures to enjoy.

But the best thing of all – there are BeaverTails!

FebFest BeaverTail Kiosk

FebFest BeaverTail

Do you remember when they sold BeaverTails at EPCOT? Weren’t they delicious?

No, no . . . I’m not talking about the big flat tail from that large toothy rodent! I’m talking about a tasty deep fried pastry which originated in Canada! A piece of dough, about the same size and shape as a beaver’s tail, is deep fried to a golden brown then either dredged in sugar and cinnamon or topped with something gooey and sweet!

BeaverTails products

They are always fresh, never pre-cooked. Your BeaverTail will be in your hand about 20 seconds after it leaves the fryer! Hot and delicious!

FebFest Menu

There are similar pastries sold in other areas, referred to by such names as fried dough or elephant ears, but somehow none of them sound as appetizing to me as a BeaverTail! It’s another uniquely Canadian food!

We unusually eat them outdoors and in the winter so I suspect that the contrast, cold weather and a hot snack, really enhances our enjoyment. I prefer the original BeaverTail, dredged in sugar and cinnamon. That's probably a good thing because I'm a very sloppy eater and Carol would never allow me to try one covered with all that runny, gooey stuff!

BeaverTails were first sold in Killaloe, a small Ontario town about 100 miles north of the city Carol and I call home.


It was 1978 when Grant and Pam Hooker sold their first pastries at the Killaloe Craft and Community Fair. They were an instant hit! It wasn’t long before the Hookers were busy every weekend, traveling all over eastern Ontario selling their delicious hot pastries at festivals and county fairs.

Two years later, the Hookers opened up the first BeaverTails store at the Byward Market in nearby Ottawa.

BeaverTails Byward Market Store

It was an instant success!

President Obama at the Byward Market

President Obama stopped at the Byward Market for a BeaverTail in February 2009.

Soon BeaverTails were selling like crazy along the world’s longest skating rink. Every winter Canadians enjoy skating along a 7.8 kilometre (4.8 mile) stretch of the historic Rideau Canal as it winds its way through downtown Ottawa.

Rideau Canal Skateway

Usually it is frozen by early January and ploughs and zambonis are used to keep it clean and fresh for skaters until the end of February. Food trucks and refreshment kiosks are a common sight on the ice along the sides of the canal and the BeaverTail stand always has the longest line of skaters waiting for a delicious treat!

Rideau Canal BeaverTail Kiosk

Today there are more than a hundred BeaverTail outlets across Canada; most of the permanent stores are in high traffic tourist areas.

BeaverTail Mobile Kiosk

BeaverTail Truck

There are mobile units and food trucks that travel to festivals and events, like the one Carol and I bought our pastries from a few weeks ago at FebFest!

You can find BeaverTails at most ski resorts in Canada.

BeaverTails at Mont Tremblant
Mont Tremblant in Quebec

Grouse Mountain
Grouse Mountain, Vancouver BC

You can buy BeaverTails at Niagara Falls.

BeaverTails Niagara Falls

You can buy BeaverTails in Dubai, Tokyo and South Korea.

BeaverTails Japan

BeaverTails Japan Menu

But you can’t buy a BeaverTail at EPCOT. What’s with that?

What do you think folks? Does Disney need to bring back the BeaverTail?

February 26, 2017

The Big Red Boat

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Way back in the mists of time, in the long lost days of yore, before there was a Disney Cruise Line, avid Disney fans sailed with a cast of Disney characters on The Big Red Boat!

The Big Red Boat

Premier Cruise Lines, which operated the Big Red Boat, was formed in 1983 by two veterans in the cruise industry. These two men were mavericks who had a vision; they wanted to create a new niche market – Family Cruising. Until that time cruise ships had been opulent floating palaces catering to well-heeled older patrons who wanted a luxurious vacation experience. The two entrepreneurs behind Premier Cruise Lines thought that some of these patrons might like to bring children or grandchildren along with them and that was the niche market they were hoping to capture.

They raised more than a few eyebrows in the rather stodgy cruise industry when they bought the Oceanic and refurbished it in a “not-so-luxurious” fashion to accommodate the needs of cruising families.

At the same time the Walt Disney Corporation was looking for ways to add some variety to their theme park vacations. It wasn’t long before Premier and Disney signed an agreement and began jointly marketing Disney vacations with a “land and sea” option. When it was re-launched after refurbishment the Oceanic was christened by none other than Minnie Mouse!

Big Red Boat Ad 1990
Click on the image above to see a larger version

In 1985 Disney characters began appearing on the Big Red Boat; special Disney themed ship-board activities were offered for children and on-board entertainment was family oriented. The ship had a staff of more than 30 youth counselors on-board and programs for the children were divided by age group. They even had a special menu for children and provided free onboard babysitting. This approach to family cruising was an instant success!

Big Red Boat Ad 1992
Click to see a larger image

Disney fans just loved the idea of three or four days at sea followed by three or four days at the theme parks! By 1988 family cruising was so popular that two more ships, the Majestic and the Atlantic, joined the Premier Cruise Lines fleet. The hulls were painted bright red and all three were marketed as “The Big Red Boat”

Magic Kingdom Club Membership Guide 1993
Click to see a larger image

The three and four day cruises sailed from Port Canaveral and offered several different itineraries. Ports of call included Freeport, Nassau and Salt Cay, a small island just a few miles from Nassau.

Carol and I didn’t sail with Disney until 2007, but a few people have shared their experiences on the Big Red Boat with us.

Karen O. from Illinois told me, “We took a cruise in March 1992. My husband Rudy, son Greg and I boarded the Majestic in Port Canaveral. We really enjoyed the package that included a three day cruise followed by four days at Walt Disney World. One of the highlights was anchoring off of Abaco Island in the Bahamas. It's almost hard to say what was our favourite thing because everything was great. Of course we loved the food, the service, and the activities; but we especially loved the snorkeling. Our son Greg even got to swim with the dolphins. He was a year-round swim competitor, and at the time was eight years old. It was a very special trip and vacation for us.”

Greg and the Server

Greg at Abacos

Rob R. from Virginia described his experience for me; “My wife Kathy and I honeymooned on the Big Red Boat in September 1993. We boarded about 2:00 p.m. and sailed away from Port Canaveral at about 5:30. There was a Bon Voyage party on the main pool deck; we were all given streamers and confetti to throw, there was a live band playing and Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto were interacting with guests as we left port. That was the last time I remember seeing the characters on board but I'm sure they were around for later functions. The movie theater was showing Disney movies.”

“Our ports of call were Nassau and Freeport. At Nassau we could go to the straw market, take an excursion to Atlantis to go to the casino, take an excursion to Salt Cay, a nearby private island to snorkel or rest on net hammocks. Salt Cay was used in the opening credit shots for Gilligan's Island . . . that was neat. Kathy and I enjoyed the snorkeling and then walked around the straw market”

“In Freeport Kathy and I went parasailing. It was fantastic! Flying high above the crystal clear water was wonderful. From up that high, you could see the coral reef, some of the colourful fish and the ocean bottom. I wish I had taken a camera up with me to take pictures of how clear things were.”

Rob and Kathy must have sailed on one of the last of the Disney themed cruises since the deal between Premier and Disney ended in late 1993 and was not renewed. Disney reportedly had discussions with both Carnival and Royal Caribbean lines, hoping they could replace Premier, but neither seemed to be interested. On May 3, 1994 Disney announced that they would be starting their own cruise line.

Premier soon negotiated a deal with Warner Brothers and before long Bugs Bunny and many of the other Looney Tunes characters were interacting with vacationers on the Big Red Boats.

Looney Tunes Party Animals

It was during the Looney Tunes era that Photo Blogger Scott Thomas and his family sailed. “We sailed just after Disney had announced they were building their own ships and pulled out of the Big Red Boat. All the Looney Tunes characters were on the ship. The weather during our cruise was terrible, so bad that we didn’t go on a single excursion. The kid’s programs were very strange; they allowed our daughters, aged 6 and 9 at the time, to leave unescorted and roam the ship looking for us. We didn't like that at all; the girls found us each time but it certainly did not give us a good feeling!”

“The boat was old and small, everything seemed very cramped. The food and the service were okay. They only had one dining hall which I believe was the norm on ships back then, but nothing about the cruise was as well done as we have since experienced on Disney Cruise Line.”

Most of you know the rest of the story. In 1996 Disney purchased Gorda Cay and spent 25 million dollars transforming it into Castaway Cay. The Disney Magic began sailing July 30, 1998 and was joined by the Disney Wonder about a year later. The Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy followed in 2011 and 2012. Two new ships are now under construction and both should join the Disney fleet within 6 years.

As for Premier, they struggled after Disney pulled out. Their fleet was old and the smaller ships had a hard time meeting the needs of more demanding consumers. The company was bankrupt by September 2000 and almost all of their ships have since been sold for scrap.


It’s a sad ending for Premier Cruise Lines, a company that helped incubate the Disney Cruise Line. There is no doubt in my mind that those 8 years when Disney fans sailed on the Big Red Boat gave the Imagineers a wonderful model to use when they began to design the ships, the children’s programs, the ship-board entertainment and the shore excursions that we all enjoy today.

How about you? Do you have any fond memories of the Big Red Boat?

February 12, 2017

That’s Not Poutine!

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Every time I pass by the Canadian Pavilion at EPCOT I find myself marvelling at the amazing job the Imagineers did in capturing the essence of Canada!

How did those gifted designers figure out that we all enjoy wearing checkered lumberjack shirts? Who could have told them that after a long, tiring work-week we Canucks just can’t wait to grab an axe and chop down a tree . . . or enter a log rolling competition? How could they know that every Canadian rock band has a lead singer who plays the bagpipes?

I often find myself looking around in wonder, shaking my head, and thinking, “Boy, they sure do understand Canadians. They nailed it, EH?”

So imagine my delight when I sat down at Le Cellier several years ago and cracked open the menu. There, part way down the listing of side dishes, was a classic Canadian dish . . . poutine! “Wow” I thought, “I love poutine, this just has to be good!”

Le Cellier

Now, I know that most of you reading this are not Canadian so you are probably thinking, “Poutine? Poutine? What the heck is poutine?”

Poutine is classic Canadian cuisine! It’s Canadian comfort food. There are four basic food groups in Canada, maple syrup, beaver tails, butter tarts and poutine!

Poutine originated in the Province of Quebec in the 1950’s and quickly became a national favourite! Quebec is predominantly French-speaking and the French pronounce it “pooh-tin”. The English populace pronounce it “pooh-teen”. But no matter how they say the word, all Canadians agree that poutine is delicious!

There are several theories that try to explain how poutine came to be. My favourite version involves a Montreal cardiologist whose medical practice was floundering. He wasn’t sure how he was going to make the next payment on his Ferrari . . . so he whipped up a batch of poutine and let a local restaurateur have a taste. He started with some crispy French-fried potatoes, covered them with fresh cheddar cheese curds, then smothered it all with steaming-hot brown gravy. The restaurateur just loved the gooey mess and immediately began selling it in his restaurant. Before you could say “quadruple bypass” poutine sales were booming, arteries were hardening and the cardiologist’s practice was thriving!


So that’s what poutine is. It’s a very simple recipe, crispy hot fries, cheddar cheese curds and piping-hot brown gravy. Carol and I have sampled a few unique variations over the years. Some chefs have added pulled pork or smoked brisket. We’ve even had a delicious version that was topped off with chunks of smoked meatloaf, but they all contained the three basic ingredients, fries, cheddar cheese curds and brown gravy.

Imagine my shock when I read the description on the Le Cellier menu! Fries, gruyère and a red wine reduction. What? Gruyère? Does gruyère even have curds? And wine reduction? Where’s the gravy?

It sounded nothing like poutine, in fact both Carol and I thought it sounded disgusting. We were skeptical but we decided to trust the chef. We cast common sense to the wind and ordered up a batch of “poutine”. Yuck! It was worse than disgusting. It was embarrassing. Not a proud moment for this Canadian!

I swore I would never order poutine again at Le Cellier, but as I wrote this blog, I checked the Le Cellier menu again. The poutine is now described as “fresh-cut fries, Gruyère, caramelized onions, French onion gravy $10”. I’m torn, the gruyère is still there, but at least there’s gravy. It might be worthy of a second chance someday! Maybe . . .

Last fall, as Carol and I explored a new area at Disney Springs, behind the Lego Store, a sign caught my eye.

The Daily Poutine

Could it be? Real authentic poutine?

I checked the ingredients . . . the “Classic Poutine” sounded good. The ingredients were correct.

Poutine Menu

All the others . . . they sounded nasty – just nasty. There is no place in poutine for Bolognese Sauce or Mushroom Cream Sauce. And fried yucca? Nope – that’s just all wrong!

Those variations are just pretentious imposters foisted on the public by snooty chefs who know nothing about poutine! To my untrained palate they sound about as appetizing as a Brussels Sprout Smoothie, Roasted Red Pepper Ice Cream or Pumpkin Pie Spiced Mashed Potatoes!

But once again Carol and I decided to give the “Classic Poutine” a try.

Big mistake . . . it was disappointing! Very disappointing.

The curds should melt in the gravy and make a gooey mixture that clings to the fries. That didn’t happen; the curds we had were cold in the middle. I don’t mean that they were cool – they were almost frozen. They were hard and chewy and just totally wrong.

Disney Springs Poutine

We tried to like the poutine, we really did, but we threw out more than half of the order they served us! Ugh!

So here’s my advice folks!

If you want to try genuine poutine, if you want to sample a real Canadian delicacy, skip the stuff they serve at Le Cellier . . . when you see that kiosk behind the Lego Store, just walk on by!

Come to Canada instead . . . then go to any McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, DQ, KFC, A & W, New York Fries or any of the Canadian fast food chains. They all serve great poutine.

Burger King


A & W_Poutine

So do all street vendors and food trucks from coast to coast. And none of them use Bolognese Sauce, Mushroom Cream Sauce or fried yucca. That’s just WRONG. That’s not poutine!

I hope to see you up here in the Great White North real soon!

January 29, 2017

A Disney-fied Golf Cart

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On May 1, 2010 Carol and I were celebrating my birthday at EPCOT. Naturally we had to take a ride on Soarin’

As we waited in line we struck up a conversation with another couple who seemed to be avid Disney fans, just like us. When they heard that we were staying at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground in our motor home they were suddenly full of questions. Retirement was on the horizon for both of them and a motor home was something that they had talked about. They thought it might be a nice way to spend their golden years!

When we finished our glider ride over California the four of us chatted about motor homes and Disney camping as we enjoyed coffee and a snack at Sunshine Seasons. Who knew that a chance meeting in a queue almost seven years ago would lead to the friendship we now enjoy with Al and Jane from Blue Springs, Missouri.

We swapped e-mail addresses that day and over the next few months Carol and I answered all sorts of RV related questions. About a year later they bought their first rig, a brand new 37-foot Winnebago. They’re now retired and enjoy dividing their year in two halves; the warmest six months they spend at their home near Kansas City and the coldest six months they spend in their new 43-foot Winnebago motor coach at Fort Wilderness.

We have camped beside Al and Jane, or across the road from them, about a half dozen times and we always enjoy hanging out with them. Even our dogs have become friends; they look forward to going to the Halloween Pet Parade together every year!

Last October we were camped across from our friends when they took delivery of their newest toy, a beautiful customized golf cart.

Custom Disney Golf Cart front

Custom Disney Golf Cart rear

It’s a Star Roadster 2+2 made by the Star EV Company of Greenville South Carolina. It’s electric powered and street legal.

Custom Disney Golf Cart driver side

Custom Disney Golf Cart passenger side

While they were considering buying a cart they spotted a used EZ-GO that had some nice Disney themed art painted along each side. They didn’t buy that cart, but when they did decide it was time to buy they went to the same dealership in Indiana who had arranged for the customized air-brush painting on the used cart.

I asked Al, "You live in Missouri and bought a golf cart made in South Carolina that you will be using in Florida. Why did you go with a dealer in Indiana?" "Well," he replied, "I really liked the work that the Indiana air-brush artist did on that EZ-GO cart, so I bought from the same dealer. I'm glad I did, they were great to deal with!"

Once Al and Jane had picked out the retro roadster and worked out the purchase details they began selecting the art which would adorn the cart. With so many Disney characters to choose from I am sure this was not an easy process.

Custom Disney Golf Cart hood

An image of Cinderella Castle covers the hood and the banner reads “A dream is a wish your heart makes”

Custom Disney Golf Cart Lady and Tramp

Lady and the Tramp appear on a front fender. Al and Jane are “dog people”. Their three cocker spaniels travel with them, and in their working lives one of their businesses was a dog training and obedience school in Blue Springs.

Custom Disney Golf Cart Tinker Bell

Tinker Bell graces the other front fender; she’s one of Jane’s favourite characters!

Custom Disney Golf Cart Mickey and Pluto

Mickey and Pluto on the driver’s side; Mickey because he’s the big cheese and Pluto because they’re dog people!

Custom Disney Golf Cart Cruella

Jane’s favourite villain, Cruella De Vil on the driver’s side.

Custom Disney Golf Cart Dalmatian puppy

One of the Dalmatian puppies hides just around the corner from Cruella, under the driver’s seat.

Custom Disney Golf Cart Mickey

Mickey Mouse on a rear fender.

Custom Disney Golf Cart Minnie

Minnie Mouse on the other rear fender.

Started with a mouse

Across the back, “Never forget, it all started with a mouse”

Custom Disney Golf Cart Boo

One of Al and Jane’s cocker spaniels is named Boo, so this character is a natural!

Custom Disney Golf Cart Chip and Dale

Chip and Dale are another pair of favourite characters, but they’re also park icons at Fort Wilderness. Those pesky chipmunks are featured on a lot of campground merchandise!

I think that Al and Jane picked the art very wisely and the air brush artist did a great job applying it to the cart. The results are stunning!

Custom Disney Golf Cart Upholstery

Custom Disney Golf Cart Upholstery

The dealer even arranged for the custom upholstery, Mickey’s colours and a smiling Mickey icon! Beautiful!

Custom Disney Golf Cart Wheel

Why not include custom wheels?

Custom Disney Golf Cart Headlight

And teardrop headlights?

Here are Al and Jane driving their cart in the annual Halloween Golf Cart Parade at Fort Wilderness!

Custom Disney Golf Cart in parade

You can find Al and Jane (and their cart) in the 700 loop during that colder half of the year. If you see them around the campground be sure to say hello! They like to talk about their new toy.

Al recently told me, “We can't go anywhere without some one wanting to take pictures of it. I think it is probably in hundreds of people's vacation pictures.”

Somehow that doesn’t surprise me. It really is a cool ride!

January 15, 2017

Classic Boats at the Dockside Bar

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Last fall Carol and I enjoyed our first dinner at the Boathouse Restaurant in Disney Springs. On our way to the check-in desk we paused to watch the Amphicars come and go at the launch ramp directly beside the restaurant entrance.

Amphicar Landing

Our meal was a wonderful experience; we savoured delightful food as we sat overlooking the waters of the lagoon. I was mesmerized by the Amphicars which sailed past throughout our dinner. The old classic cars . . . or boats . . . or whatever they are, were shining brightly in the long rays of the setting sun.



I was so wrapped up watching the Amphicars that I didn’t even notice the other classic boats until it was almost dark. A wooden dock runs from south end of the Boathouse Restaurant out to the Dockside Bar, built on posts in the middle of the lagoon. The dock carries on past the bar and at the opposite end reconnects with the Boathouse Restaurant at its northern end. The outer portion of the dock is lined, on both sides, with some amazing old boats.

Dockside Bar
The Dockside Bar is directly under the balloon. The classic boats are to the right.

After dinner we wandered out along the dock and took our time admiring an astounding array of teak, mahogany, fiberglass, brass, steel and chrome.

It took me back to my youth. I grew up in a small village on the north shore of Lake Erie and as far back as I can remember we had a power boat docked along the river right behind our home.

I tried to capture a few pictures, but there just wasn’t enough light for our little point and shoot camera. Here are the best shots I got that night.

Cadillac Sea Lark

Cadillac Sea Lark

Look at those tail fins on the 1956 Cadillac Sea Lark! Wow!

I just had to see some more of those boats, so just a few days later we drove back over to Disney Springs. We walked past the Boathouse check-in podium, through the restaurant and out onto the dock leading toward the Dockside Bar.

The flashbacks began almost immediately! The mahogany boats reminded me of the first boat I remember, our 1954 18’ SeaBird Runabout. It was built in Ontario by the Port Carling Boat Works and was powered by a 4 cylinder Buchanan engine which put out a whopping 60 horsepower! I don’t have a picture of our old boat, but here is a SeaBird from the same era!


This beautiful old Chris Craft sure reminded me of our SeaBird!

Chris Craft

The wooden and fiberglass gems line the dock, and each one has a plaque describing its history and background. Take time to read the messages, each of the boats has a story to tell!

Classic Boats

Gods Time

God's Time was one of my favourites, I love those gull-wing doors in the top!

Gods Time

Gods Time

Walts Dream
Walt's Dream is a 1947 Chris Craft Runabout, beautifully restored.

If speedboats are more to your liking, here are a couple of beauties!

U22 Alter Ego
Alter Ego is a 32' Hydroplane powered by a 1500 horsepower Allison V12

G-99 Miss Belle Isle
G-99 Miss Belle Isle

Do you like fiberglass and fins?

Here's a daylight picture of that 1956 Cadillac Sea Lark.

Sea Lark

1950s Fins

There are lots of other 1950's fins to see!

Marilyns Meteor Mate

Even the big Mercury outboard engine is pink on Marilyn's Meteor Mate.

Marilyns Meteor Mate

Marilyns Meteor Mate


Keep an eye out for Gadget, a teeny weeny tug boat and the beautifuly restored steam powered boat pictured below.

Steam Power

The Boathouse

Next time you visit Disney Springs take a stroll along the dock beside The Boathouse and enjoy some nautical history!

December 15, 2016

Remembering Walt

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Fifty years ago today, December 15, 1966, the world lost a great man!

His life story has been well documented and I’m sure that those of you reading this are as familiar with his background and his achievements as I am. But on this special day, let’s pause briefly and reflect on the life of Walt Disney and the rich legacy he left for all of us to enjoy.

Walt Disney said “If you can dream it you can do it” and during his life he proved that he was both a dreamer and a doer. He conceived new ideas, daring and wonderful ideas, and then he made them reality.

Yes, he had some significant setbacks over the years but he always rose to the occasion and he overcame them all.

Time Magazine Dec 27 1954

I consider myself very fortunate; I am part of the “Baby Boom Generation” which means that I had the opportunity to see Walt on television every Sunday evening. My entire family watched; Walt was like an uncle, he was warm, caring and always had an interesting or exciting tale to tell us. We seldom missed an episode.

From his humble beginnings he rose to fame and fortune. Walt Disney created an entertainment empire the likes of which the world has never seen. Yet through it all he retained his humility and his focus. To paraphrase one of Walt’s famous quotations, he never forgot that it was all started by a mouse!

Early last summer I had the opportunity to chat with Disney Legend Tom Nabbe who was hired by Walt himself to play Tom Sawyer at Disneyland. As I sat with Tom, enjoying a cocktail in Dayton Ohio, he described his conversations with Walt in the fall of 1955. He was a newsboy at the time; every day after school he sold copies of The Disneyland News in the new theme park. When Tom heard that Walt was planning to build Tom Sawyer’s Island he thought he would be perfect for the role of Tom Sawyer, so he stopped Walt and told him so. That’s the sort of man Walt was, he stopped and listened to a young newsboy. Walt didn’t hire him after that first suggestion, but young Tom was persistent. Over the next six months he would stop Walt almost every time he saw him in the park and ask, “Are you ready to hire me yet Mr. Disney?” Walt would always smile and say, “Not yet, but I’m still thinking about it.”

Then came the pivotal day in May 1956 when Dick Nunis, at that time a manager at Disneyland, led twelve-year-old Tom to the newly built raft landing near Tom Sawyer’s Island. Walt Disney was waiting there and asked, “Do you still want to be Tom Sawyer?” “Yes Mr. Disney, I absolutely do.” Tom replied. His 48 year Disney career began that day.

The reverence Tom Nabbe feels for Walt Disney shone in his eyes throughout our conversation.

Let’s look at the words of a few others who knew Walt personally and worked with him. About 27 years ago the Disney News magazine ran a series of articles, titled “Remembering Walt”, in which some of those people looked back and shared their memories. Click on each image to see a larger, easily readable version.

In the Fall 1989 issue Margaret Kerry, who was the live-action model for Tinker Bell, was featured.

Disney News Fall 1989 page 39

In the Summer 1990 edition Wally Boag, the traveling salesman in the original Golden Horseshoe Revue shared his memories.

Disney News Summer 1990 page 31

In the Fall of 1992 Marc Davis, one of Walt’s “nine old men reflected on the many years he spent working closely with Walt.

Disney News Fall 1992 page 26

The last “Remembering Walt” article, at least the last one in our magazine collection, featured Paul Carlson who had the dubious honour of directing “the Boss” in his first television introductions way back in the mid 1950’s.

Disney News Fall 1993 page 15

Let’s look back at one comment from each of those articles:

Margaret Kerry told us about Walt arriving at a meeting and as someone rose to give him a chair he said, “No, no, no, I’m the one who was late. Sit down.”

Paul Carlson commented, “He told us once that when he gave a guy the responsibility of a director, he also gave him the authority. Whenever I saw him work he would always show respect to the guy he worked with.”

Mark Davis, who worked very closely with Walt for over 30 years told us, “He was a fascinating guy with a lot of ideas, there’s never been anyone like him.”

Wally Boag said, “His mind was brilliant and all of a sudden he was gone. There’s so much more I’d like to have talked to him about.”

Yes Wally, I think we’d all like to talk just a bit more with Walt Disney!

December 11, 2016

Science At Your Feet

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When you rush through EPCOT’s Future World early in the morning, part of that mad dash toward the standby line at Soarin’, do you ever notice the big circle on the ground?

Most of us don’t see it; we’re all so focused on getting to our next attraction, the next thrill ride, that we totally miss some pretty interesting stuff Disney’s Imagineers have built into the theme parks.

That’s it in the picture below, right in the middle of that big, open concourse.

Ring of Discoveries

That big circle is one of the things that most people walk right over without seeing, but for the few who stop and look, it’s pretty interesting. That odd piece of architecture is a history of scientific discoveries . . . arranged in a series of concentric circles. It’s a round timeline.

At the center are a few quotations from some well known scientists.




Stones marking the most significant discoveries are arranged all around the circle; the oldest discoveries are closest to the center and the most recent are at the outer edge.

Here are a few examples from the Prehistoric Era:

Prehistoric Era Stone Tools

Prehistoric Era Fire

Prehistoric Era Wheel

That first ring, the Prehistoric Era covers a span of about 2 million years, discoveries were slow to develop back at the dawn of civilization. But things accelerated as the centuries passed. By the time of the Renaissance humanity was making great strides. Here are some samples from the Renaissance Period:

Renaissance Period Astronomical Telescope

Renaissance Period Scientific Method

There was another dramatic increase in the rate of change during the period historians refer to as The Industrial Revolution. There were lots of discoveries during the Industrial Revolution:

Industrial Revolution Steam Engine

Industrial Revolution Electric Generator

Industrial Revolution Genetics

Industrial Revolution Electric Light

Industrial Revolution Radio Waves

And the rate at which important discoveries were made increased even more in the 20th Century:

20th Century Quantum Theory

20th Century Airplane

20th Century Television

20th Century Computer

20th Century Nuclear Reactor

20th Century DNA

20th Century World Wide Web

So, the next time you’re rushing off to Soarin’ be sure to take a quick look down to see where that big ring of concentric circles is.

Then once you’ve enjoyed your ride stroll back to that concourse and have a closer look at the visual treat the Imagineers put there for you to enjoy!

November 27, 2016

Try the Beverly

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Club Cool sign

Do you remember your first sip of Beverly at EPCOT’s Club Cool?

Have you ever watched someone else take their first taste?

If you answered yes to these two questions then I’m sure you will agree with me; when it comes to Beverly it’s more fun watching than it is tasting!

Have you ever taken a friend into Club Cool and urged them to try the Beverly?

Me too! It’s so much fun watching their faces get all twisted and puckered-up as the flavour sensation sinks in! It just never gets old!

Club Cool is located on the west side of the fountain, on your right as you head from Spaceship Earth toward the World Showcase Lagoon. It is sponsored by the Coca Cola Company and offers free samples of Coke beverages from around the world.

Club Cool interior

There are several dispensing stations inside, just pull out one of the little paper cups and help yourself.

Club Cool Dispenser

Club Cool Dispenser

You can even spend a few minutes shopping for Coke merchandise.

Club Cool Merchandise

On a hot Florida afternoon Club Cool can be a real oasis! A cool, air-conditioned haven offering free cold drinks! What could be wrong with that?

Beverly, that’s what could be wrong! It may be popular in Italy, but I’ve never spoken with a North American who enjoyed it.

Most of the other flavours are quite tasty and refreshing, but Beverly is definitely an OMG experience for me!

Club Cool Dispenser

Here's how Coca Cola describes the flavours they offer at Club Cool:

• From Brazil: Guarana Kuat - Guarana Kuat is a guarana berry flavored soft drink first launched in Brazil in 1997. The word guanara comes from the Guarani word guara-ná, which translates to “fruit like the eyes of the people.”

• From Greece: Fanta Pineapple – Fanta has more than 90 distinct flavors available in more than 180 countries. It made it’s European debut in the 1940’s and was introduced to the USA in 1960. Fanta Pineapple is caffeine-free and features a sweet pineapple taste.

• From Japan: VegitaBeta – Originally launched in Japan in 1992, VegitaBeta is a non-carbonated beverage with apricot and passion fruit flavors and is rich in beta-carotene that contributes to its unique yellowish-orange color.

• From Peru: Inca Kola – Known as “The Taste of Peru,” this soda has an unusually sweet fruity flavor that many compare to the taste of liquid bubblegum. The name “Inca Kola” refers to the Quechua words for king and queen.

• From South Africa: Bibo – Originally created in 1998, Bibo is a fruit flavored line of juice drinks popular in South Africa. The brand features fun characters such as Johnny Orange, Taka Strawberry and Paolo Peach.

• From Thailand: Fanta Lemon Frosty – Fanta is the number one soft drink of Thailand. With a fun melon flavor, this carbonated beverage is beloved in Thailand’s sunny, tropical climate.

• From Zimbabwe: Spar-letta Sparberry – A raspberry flavored cream soda, Sparberry launched in Africa in 1955. It is exclusively available in several countries in southeast Africa.

And finally, the pièce de résistance, the pucker producer itself:

• From Italy: Beverly – Beverly, with its bitter flavor, is a popular non-alcoholic apéritif that is a traditional part of Italian refreshment culture.

Bitter flavor? I’ll say! To my uneducated palate Beverly tastes like vinegar mixed with alum . . . but of course that’s the beauty of it! It always produces exactly the same reaction in everyone who tastes it. Suddenly they look like Jim Carrey; their faces twisted in impossible contortions and their lips all puckered. It’s a beautiful thing!

Try this experiment with your friends . . .

Take them into Club Cool and say, “Try the Beverly; I think you’ll like it.”

Be sure to have your camera ready to capture a “Magical Disney Moment!”

November 13, 2016

Chess Men at the Haunted Mansion

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Here’s another little tidbit of Disney lore that Carol and I were told by a cast member during a behind the scenes tour . . . it explains those odd objects on the roof of the Haunted Mansion in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

The story the guide told us began in California back in the late 1960’s. Disney had just purchased the land needed for “The Florida Project” and all hands in the Imagineering Department were busy designing attractions for the new park.

Imagineer Marc Davis, one of Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men, was not only a gifted artist; he was also a skilled draftsman. He had designed the Haunted Mansion which opened to rave reviews at Disneyland in August 1969. It was only logical that he design another version, adapted to the geography and climate of central Florida.

So in the late 1960’s Davis was hard at work generating sketch after sketch of the Florida mansion. Before long he was drafting specific plans and had a number of small scale models built to test his plans and experiment with materials, textures and color schemes.

Marc Davis was also an avid chess player and always had a chess board set up in his office. He would often use the chess board to clear his mind during stressful times, playing a game against himself or replaying a classic game played by a chess master.

Often, while Davis and some of his fellow Imagineers were out having lunch an unknown prankster would sneak into his office, pick up a few of the chess men and put them on the model of the Haunted Mansion. A pawn on the corner of a gable, a rook on a chimney, etc. Of course, Marc had a keen memory and was able to put every piece back into the proper place on the board. A few days later the pieces would migrate back to the model during lunch . . . it happened again and again! And Marc Davis always put them back in place on the chess board.

After many months of work the design was nearing completion, the process was almost complete. But Davis couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing . . . something was wrong.

Rather than go back to the drawing board, he went back to the chess board. He put some chess men back in the places where the prankster had left them, switched them around a few times and soon found the perfect look. His work was done!

Haunted Mansion Chess Men
Click on the image to see a larger version

I snapped the picture above in November 2013. Can you spot the chess men? You should see Pawns, Bishops, Rooks and Queens.

November 2, 2016

From Black Lake to Disney Springs

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A long, long time ago there was a quiet, tranquil pond outside the sleepy little Florida village of Vineland. The pond was called Black Lake; it was surrounded by struggling vineyards which gave the nearby village its name, some mature orange groves, a few old cherry orchards and swamps. Lots and lots of swamps!

Farming was always a struggle in central Florida so it must have seemed like a miracle when a mysterious buyer started optioning and buying large tracts of swamp, grove and orchard in 1964. I’m sure that most of those hard working farmers were thrilled to have the opportunity to retire in comfort!

On November 15, 1965 Florida Governor Haydon Burns made the big announcement; the Disney Corporation had bought up over 30,000 acres of land, about 48 square miles, and planned to build “the greatest attraction in the history of Florida."

Walt Disney press conference 1965

Construction began in 1967 and the sleepy area around Black Lake has never been the same! Bulldozers, back-hoes and cranes were busy everywhere. New canals were dug and soon did their jobs draining the swamps. New roads and highways were built, new hotels sprung up, new stores and shopping centers took shape, all in anticipation of the tourism boom that Disney’s new Magic Kingdom would create.

And it certainly was a boom. The Magic Kingdom opened on October 1, 1971 and only 8 years later, on October 22, 1979 they welcomed their 100 millionth guest. It was still only one theme park, but it was already the most popular tourist destination in the world!

But let’s skip back to Black Lake, and let’s take a look at the area within a mile of the lake. One of the first things Disney management did was rename the lake, they called it Lake Buena Vista, in honour of Buena Vista Street where Disney’s Burbank studios and headquarters are located. And Lake Buena Vista is still there, not far from Hotel Plaza Boulevard, just behind the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Hotel. It is connected by canal to its man-made sister lake, Village Lake, which is now the focal point for Disney’s shopping and entertainment district.

It didn’t take long after the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971 for the world’s richest mouse to realize that many of his guests were leaving the Disney resort area to shop, dine or be entertained somewhere else. Mickey took quick action to plug that financial leak!

The new Disney shopping area, Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village, opened March 22, 1975. Guests at Walt Disney World could stay in the 133 town homes or the 60 tree house villas at the nearby Buena Vista Club.

Two years later, in 1977 Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village was renamed Walt Disney World Village.

The earliest printed information I have is an article from the February 1981 issue of Walt Disney World News pictured below. It gives some examples of the shopping and dining that was available in those early days.

Walt Disney World News February 1981
Click on the image to see a larger, easier to read version.

My earliest recollection of the area dates back to a trip in about 1979 when we enjoyed dinner and Monday Night Football in the upper deck bar in the Empress Lily, which we now know as Fulton’s Crab House. My memories of the shopping are a bit vague, but that evening was my first experience with Florida’s “love-bugs” and I remember them quite vividly!

Here are a few brochures that will give you a sampling of what guests could enjoy back in those early days. (Don't forget to click on the images)

1982 Walt Disney World Village Brochure

1982 Walt Disney World Village Brochure

1984 Walt Disney World Village Brochure

1987 Walt Disney World Village Brochure

1987 Walt Disney World Village Brochure


In 1989 there were some big changes. The area was renamed once again; it became Disney Village Marketplace and a newly developed area called Pleasure Island opened May 1, 1989. Pleasure Island featured night clubs, restaurants, a dance hall and a variety of other entertainment geared toward adults.

Walt Disney World News 1990 Pleasure Island

Did you ever dance the night away at Mannequins or stomp your feet at Neon Armadillo?

Every night was New Year’s Eve at Pleasure Island! Frankie and the West End Boys played most nights on the outdoor Waterfront Stage and revelers danced the night away!

1990 Pleasure Island brochure

Two of the most popular venues in the new area were The Adventurer’s Club and The Comedy Warehouse, both of which developed groups of extremely loyal followers.

1991 Walt Disney World Village and Pleasure Island

1991 Walt Disney World Village and Pleasure Island

1992 Disney Village Marketplace

1992 Disney Village Marketplace

1992 Disney Village Marketplace

1993 Disney Village Marketplace and_Pleasure Island

1993 Disney Village Marketplace and_Pleasure Island

I wish I could pick up a few of the cels that they used to sell in the early '90's at Suspended Animation!

In June 1995 a further round of enhancements was announced. Disney Village Marketplace and Pleasure Island would be joined by a third entertainment zone to be known as West Side. The three areas would be known collectively as Downtown Disney. West Side officially opened September 15, 1997 and included a new theatre built specifically for the Cirque du Soleil show La Nouba, a Virgin Megastore, Rainforest Café, Planet Hollywood and Disney Quest. The House of Blues followed just a few months later.

2000 Christmas Brochure
Christmas 2000

Downtown Disney was a vibrant area during the first few years of the 21st century, on the east side the Marketplace shops were busy each and every day then Pleasure Island and the West End would come to life at night!

Sunday mornings were, and still are, a busy time at The House of Blues; their Gospel Brunch is a hand-clappin' toe-tappin' good time!

2001 Downtown Disney

2001 Downtown Disney

2001 Downtown Disney

Then after a few years things began to falter a bit in Pleasure Island. It seemed that the adult-themed area was having difficulty sustaining itself in the middle of a family-themed vacation area. One by one the restaurants and bars grew quiet and shut down.

2005 Downtown Disney

2005 Downtown Disney

2005 Downtown Disney

The Adventurers Club and The Comedy Warehouse carried on the longest, but eventually they too closed permanently, on September 27, 2008. Disney announced the complete shut-down of Pleasure Island “to make room for additional family-oriented entertainment”.

And then Pleasure Island sat dormant for a long time. A very long time! It took almost 5 years for new plans to materialize. During that 5 year period the only signs of life on Pleasure Island were at Fulton’s Crab House and Raglan Road.

2012 Downtown Disney

2012 Downtown Disney

The guide maps of the era designated a large portion of Pleasure Island "For future enjoyment"

Finally, on March 14, 2013 “Disney Springs” was announced, to include 2 multi-level parking garages and 150 new tenants in four distinct districts:
• The Marketplace
• The Landing (formerly Pleasure Island)
• Town Center
• West Side

Work on the areas being redeveloped for Disney Springs has been ongoing since 2013 and most of the venues in those newly developed areas are now open . . . but I have yet to see them! My wife Carol was there about a month ago and she has assured me that I will like what I see.

So that’s a brief history of how that quiet, tranquil little pond known 52 years ago as Black Lake has become surrounded by hotels, restaurants, theaters, night clubs and all the other infrastructure needed to sustain the largest and busiest tourist destination in the world. Buses, cars and trucks speed past, moving people and merchandise on new highways; boats transport tourists through the rivers and canals that lace the resort area; planes and helicopters pass constantly overhead; there’s even a balloon for sightseeing. Black Lake has seen a lot of change in those five decades!

Carol and I will be pointing our motor home south and heading back to our happy place in just a few weeks. I plan to spend some quality time exploring Disney Springs while we’re there. Once we get back home I’ll be sure to share my impressions and some pictures with you.

October 30, 2016

Make a Mickey Lamp Post

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Have you ever visited Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground and admired those wonderful lamp posts with the Mickey Mouse ears?

Mickey Lamp decorated for Christmas

Me too!

Many of the campers at Fort Wilderness proudly display them at their campsites.

When I first saw one I was so taken with it that I asked the camper, “Where do you buy them?” I was disappointed when he replied, “You can’t buy them; you have to make them.”

But my wife Carol was determined to have one so she did a bit of online exploring and soon found a rudimentary parts list. I assembled the parts and started to build one. I was surprised at how easy it was!

That first one turned out quite well, so well in fact that several friends wanted me to make them one too. By the time I had made a few dozen lamps I had refined my technique.

Here are some instructions which you can use to make your own. Keep in mind I am not a certified electrician and am simply offering the "how to" that worked for me. Your mileage may vary; use caution, always, when building electrical lamps. Seek professional advice as needed.

After all, no true Disney fan should be without one! All of your friends and neighbors already think that you’re a crazy Disney nut . . . why not prove it to them by building one of these beauties!

All the parts you need are available at Home Depot. If your local store doesn’t carry all the parts you can easily order them online.

Mickey Lamp Parts

The parts to build a complete lamp (including the base and smaller lights to illuminate the ears) will cost you about $150.00 - $160.00

The lamps are weatherproof; we have had one on our backyard patio, fully exposed to the elements, for about 6 years. It has endured summer sun, heat and humidity as well as Canadian winter winds, ice and snow and it continues to shine brightly every night!

The key parts to build the head are:
Mickey Lamp Parts List

Step 1: Build Mickey’s head
To do this you simply drill two 3 ¼ inch holes in the 12 inch globe and glue the 6 inch globes into these holes. Begin with the 12 inch globe. Apply masking tape across the top of the globe along the center line in order to mark the centers for the holes needed to mount the smaller globes. Draw a line at the “top dead center” of the lamp and then measure down 4 inches on each side and make another mark. This will mark the centers for each ear hole; the centers should be 8 inches apart.

Mickey Lamp 12 inch globe

Drill a small lead hole for each ear and then use your electric drill and a 3 ¼ inch hole saw to cut the ear holes. (If you don’t have a 3 ¼” hole saw you can buy one [$15.97 at Home Depot] and the arbor needed to attach it to your electric drill. Any employee at Home Depot can find these tools for you.)

When you use the hole saw, keep it flat to the surface of the globe and keep it moving at all times. If you stop the saw in the middle of the cut it may jam and crack the globe. Use light pressure, don't press too hard.

Mickey Lamp 12 inch globe with holes

I have found that the hole saw melts it's way through as much as it cuts it's way through. Just rub around the edges with a file or sandpaper to remove any beads of melted acrylic and you're ready to glue!

Remove the tape and glue the smaller globes into these holes, clamp until the glue is set.

Mickey Lamp 12 inch globe with ear

I use LePage’s Flexible Plastic adhesive which is sold in Home Depot in Canada. In the USA look for Loctite, it’s the same product.

Mickey Lamp Glue

The Globe Fitter attaches to the bottom of the 12” globe and holds the light bulb. It is designed to clamp onto a standard 3 inch metal lamp post also sold at Home Depot.

Mickey Lamp Globe Fitter

Step 2: Illuminate the Ears
After building my first few lamps I decided to add smaller bulbs to illuminate the ears as well as the larger globe.

Begin with a piece of metal strapping, about 4 inches long. Bend about ¼ inch on each end so that the ends will create a “friction grip” on the flange of the 6” globe. That flange is now visible inside the 12” globe.

Make 2 of these pieces, one for each of Mickey’s ears.

Cut a length of outdoor Christmas lights so that you have 2 socket and enough cord on one end to attach a plug. Use pop-rivets or hot glue or tape to attach each socket to one of the metal straps you just made. Attach a plug which will plug into the new white socket (pictured below) inside the globe.

Mickey Lamp Ear lights
Your assembly should look like this.

Here is a detailed look at the light socket riveted to the strap.

Mickey Lamp Ear lights close up

Note the 90 degree bends in the ends of the strap which provide that “friction grip” on the flanges of Mickey’s ears, inside the larger globe. Bend them to provide a snug fit and just press them on.

Mickey Lamp 12 inch globe with fitter

Mickey Lamp 12 inch globe inside

Step 3: Attach Mickey’s head to a lamp post
You can order a 3 inch lamp post online from Home Depot (search #501817) for $58.90 but your local store probably carries them, along with the mounting bracket (search #502211) for $14.36.

If you are going to permanently mount your lamp on a patio or deck, these items are what you need. The globe fitter was designed to clamp directly onto that 3" post. Just wire it up, install it on your patio or deck and you are all done!

Congratulations, you have just built a Mickey Lamp – don’t you feel proud?

Step 4: Need a portable lamp?
If you are like me, and prefer to have your lamp more portable, the rest of these instructions are for you!

I need to have one that comes apart easily to store in the hatches underneath our RV. I use standard 2 inch ABS pipe for the post but PVC pipe is very similar and works well too. ABS or PVC is the pipe used by plumbers for household drains and it’s available in any building products store. It’s light, easy to work with and it doesn’t rattle in the RV. You need one piece of 2” ABS pipe about 5 feet long and one coupler (that is the piece plumbers us to glue two pieces of ABS pipe together). NOTE: You do not need any glue!

Let’s start by getting the globe fitter ready to attach to the ABS pipe. First step: Attach a standard plug to the globe fitter.

Mickey Lamp Globe Fitter with plug

Now you need to attach the ABS coupler to the globe fitter. Remove the three clamp screws from the fitter:

Mickey Lamp Globe Fitter remove screws

Insert the ABS coupler in the hole on the bottom of the globe fitter (it’s a very loose fit) and drill small lead holes through the holes where you removed the clamp screws.

Use 1 inch screws to attach the coupler to the globe fitter. You have simply swapped the small retaining screws for 1 inch screws which hold the ABS coupler tightly in place.

Mickey Lamp Globe Fitter with coupler

This piece will now slide on and off the ABS drain pipe which will be your post. This makes it easy to take the lamp apart and move it. Do not use glue!

Now drill a ½ inch hole about a foot from the bottom of the ABS pipe and feed a length of power cord up through the pole. Add a female receptacle to the top end of the cord and a male plug to the bottom.

Mickey Lamp post assembly

Plug the fitter into the female receptacle you just added to the top; slide the globe fitter onto your post and install a 25 watt frosted light bulb. Place the globe on the fitter and enjoy your lamp.

You will need to devise a base for the lamp. I use patio umbrella bases I buy at Wal-Mart or Christmas Tree Shops for about $25.00. You simply use a chisel or hacksaw to knock off the nut which holds the retaining bolt and the ABS post slides over the post on the umbrella base. I paint it black to match the post and secure it with two or more screws.

Mickey Lamp base

Be sure that your base is wide enough and heavy enough to prevent your lamp from blowing over. I would not use a base weighing less than 30 pounds! The cast metal or composite umbrella base has worked very well for me. Christmas tree bases, or those plastic umbrella bases you fill with water or sand are not very reliable. If your lamp blows over it will shatter!

Mickey Lamp Better Base
This is the base I have been using recently. It's composite material,
weighs 30 pounds and is available at Wal-Mart or Christmas Tree Shops.

Would you like to add a cross-bar to the post? A place to hang a flag, pennant or sign? That's very easy to do . . . just cut a length of 3/4" dowel to the length you want and drill a 3/4" hole through the ABS post. Be very careful to keep the holes exactly even so that your cross-bar will be level. Use a drill press if you can, or measure very carefully!

Slide the dowel through the two holes and add some decorative end caps. I use wooden drawer pulls from Home Depot, the kind you find on the drawers in your kitchen cupboards. Just screw one on each end of the dowel to add the finishing touch to your cross-bar.

Some ingenious folks have used unique things to make a heavy base for their lamps. My favorite so far is an old farmer’s milk can painted in Mickey’s colors, red, black and yellow. It looks great!

Our friend Al made a pair of decorative Mickey coloured boxes to support his two Mickey lamps. This box represents Mickey, the other has smaller polka-dots and more of them. It holds the Minnie lamp. The boxes are a nice personal touch to make his lamps very elegant and distinctive!

Al's Mickey Lamp With Custom  Base

Building your own Mickey lamp is fun but you will soon find that your fun has just begun. Think of the great times you're going to have decorating Mickey for the seasons!




Use different coloured bulbs, use strings of lights, add pennants and banners, masks, hats, ribbons . . .

So what are you waiting for? Get busy building your very own Mickey lamp!

October 16, 2016

The Utilidors at Magic Kingdom

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Did you know that as you walk along Main Street USA at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom you are walking on the second floor of the park?

Yes, it’s true! As you walk through the Magic Kingdom there is a whole unseen world just below your feet. It’s a series of service tunnels which cast members call Utilidors. The name is a mash-up of Utilities and Corridors.

Florida is very flat and it’s mostly made of sand. If you dig a hole almost anywhere in Florida you will find water just a few feet down! That’s why very few homes in Florida have basements; most are built on concrete pads which lay directly on the sand.

Back in the mid 60’s when Disney began construction in Florida the Utilidors were the first thing they built! They didn’t excavate the tunnel system; they built it on top of the ground. Then as soon as the network of tunnels and service areas was completed they began dredging sand to create the Seven Seas Lagoon. All the sand they dredged was piled around the Utilidors and raised the ground level throughout the Magic Kingdom by 10 to 12 feet. Just like that the Utilidors were underground!

Here’s an experiment for you! The next time you are entering the Magic Kingdom, after you’ve gone through the bag-check area, stop for a minute and look ahead toward the Main Street Train Station. Do you see that gentle but steady upward slope? Now turn 180° and face the Seven Seas Lagoon. Do you see the downward slope?

That’s where all the sand went when they created the lake. As you walk up that slope you are walking from ground level to the second floor!

Magic Kingdom Utilidor construction

The picture above shows the construction of the Utilidors. Click on the image to see a larger version. Those cars and trucks in the foreground, at the very bottom of the picture are parked in the Utilidor, in the area that we now know as The New Fantasyland. In the background you can see Cinderella Castle taking shape, and at the very top of the picture are the buildings at the top end of Main Street USA. The Plaza Ice Cream Parlor on the left and Casey’s Corner on the right. The Utilidors run under all of it!

Over the years Carol and I have enjoyed a number of tours at Walt Disney World. I really enjoy getting behind the scenes to get a glimpse of the “backstage” areas and listen to some of the insider information that the guides share with guests.

One of our first tours was the “Keys to the Kingdom” tour at the Magic Kingdom and it remains one of my favourite!

Why was it special? Because we got to go down into the Utilidors!

We weren’t there very long, but it was a real eye-opening experience.

There really is a tiny city down there that is totally invisible to guests just a few feet above!

Overhead are color-coded pipes, ducts, flues and conduits carrying all the necessary utilities to keep the theme park functioning. On the walls are signs and arrows providing directions to the many corners of the park which can be accessed underground.

Underfoot are tiled or polished concrete floors, some with directional stripes like in a hospital to help folks navigate. “Follow the purple stripe to the wardrobe department.”

It’s a hive of activity. People, equipment and merchandise are in constant motion.

There are forklifts moving inventory to the stores and restaurants above, there are cast members walking to work or heading to a break room or a meeting room. There are lockers and lunch rooms for the cast members, wardrobe, makeup and personnel departments. Cast members can even do their banking or get a hair cut in the Utilidors.

As our tour group walked through the main corridor beneath The Emporium we heard a very loud rumble overhead. It was so loud that our tour guide paused in her presentation and continued once the racket had died down. “That was the trash going to the recycling department.” she said.

There is a system of big pipes overhead that form a huge air-powered garbage chute, sort of like a giant central vacuum system. Cast members open hatches located in backstage areas around the park and toss in the trash. It all gets sucked to the central recycling area where it’s sorted for processing.
Not my idea of the world’s best job;
• “paper in dumpster A”
• “plastic in dumpster B”
• “food waste in dumpster C”
• “carefully wipe the sunglasses and cell phones then sent them to Lost and Found”

Magic Kingdom Utilidors

The diagram pictured above shows the extent of the system of tunnels. It extends south to Tony’s Town Square Restaurant, north to the Pinocchio Village Haus Restaurant, east to Tomorrowland and west to Frontierland and Adventureland.

Disney asks guests to refrain from taking pictures while backstage, so I have no pictures of the Utilidors to share with you. The two images I have included in this blog are used in many web sites with no source mentioned. Whoever originally provided the images, thanks for sharing!

There’s plenty more than the Utilidors included in the Keys to the Kingdom tour, but in my opinion the opportunity to walk down those stairs and navigate a bit of the tunnel system was worth the entire cost of the tour!

If you haven’t already done the tour, give it some thought for a future trip!

Details can be found HERE.

September 4, 2016

Growing Up With Disney

Gary Cruise banner

♪♫ Who’s the leader of the club that’s made for you and me? ♫♪
♫♪ M   I   C   K   E   Y        M   O   U   S   E ♪♫

As I look back on my childhood, it seems to me that I may have been born at a perfect time and in a perfect place!

I’m not suggesting that I was a perfect kid, but it sure was an ideal time to be a child, and I grew up in a terrific location. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure both the time and the place helped to foster my love of all things Disney!

I grew up in a small Canadian village on the north shore of Lake Erie, about 50 miles due north of Erie Pennsylvania and 80 miles west of Buffalo New York. Television was a very new phenomenon in most households in the mid 1950’s and families would crowd around small TV sets to watch faint, usually snowy, black and white pictures. Their faces were often filled with expressions of awe and wonder as they enjoyed this incredible new technology. I’m sure I was one of the most awe-struck!

Mickey Mouse Club Poster

When the Mickey Mouse Club show first aired on the ABC Network, October 3, 1955, the timing was perfect; I was 7 years old.

Mickey Mouse Club Pin

Because my home in Canada was so close to the American border we could almost always pick up all three of the US television networks. Our strongest signals normally came from the ABC affiliate just across the lake in Erie, but sometimes weather conditions would hamper that signal. When the picture was bad I would quickly run outside, half way around the house, and turn that big tall steel antenna until it pointed east toward Buffalo. Normally we could tune in one station or the other, unless there was a really bad storm!

Every day I rushed home from school to be entertained for a full hour by my new friends, Jimmy Dodd, Roy Williams and all those Mouseketeers!


They sang, they danced, they played games and shared adventures with us. Sometimes they took us to a far-away, new and magical place called Disneyland!

Mouseketeers Sing

Mousketeers Dancing

Fun With Music

Yes, I admit it, like every other boy of my generation I had a huge crush on Annette!


The Mickey Mouse Club often included a newsreel showing current events from a kid’s perspective, but for me the real highlight was the daily episode of the latest serial adventure. Every day there was an exciting 15 minute episode featuring the ongoing exploits of young action heroes like Spin and Marty or the Hardy Boys. It was heady stuff for a 7 year-old boy! I didn’t want to miss a single installment!

Spin and Marty

Spin and Marty magazine cover

Spin and Marty starred Tim Considine as Spin and David Stollery as Marty. They galloped through a seemingly never-ending series of adventures on the Triple R Ranch.

Spin and Marty scene

Spin and Marty scene

Tim Considine also appeared as Frank Hardy in the Mickey Mouse Club’s Hardy Boys serial, his brother Joe was portrayed by Tommy Kirk.

Hardy Boys

Hardy Boys

Hardy Boys comic

I was so engrossed with the Hardy Boys that I made regular trips to the local library and read the entire series of books. Over 60 years later I am still an avid reader of mystery and suspense novels.

Of course there was more Disney on television in the evenings. The whole family joined me in front of the TV set for the Davy Crockett series which aired as a serial on the weekly “Disneyland” show. Davy Crockett (Fess Parker) and George Russell (Buddy Ebsen) negotiated peace with Indians, went to Congress, fought at The Alamo and raced keel boats. Yes, the whole family watched . . . but I was the only one wearing a coonskin cap!

Davy Crockett

Thursday nights were extra special; I was allowed to stay up a half-hour past my usual bedtime to watch Zorro.

Zorro introduction

He was a dashing and gallant hero played by Guy Williams. Somehow Zorro was able to carve his initial into Sergeant Garcia’s uniform week after week, but he never drew a drop of blood!


My little home town (population 3,200) had one small movie theatre with a single screen. My sister and I never missed a Disney movie. My weekly allowance of 25¢ would cover both my admission to the Saturday afternoon matinee and a 10 ounce bottle of pop. That’s what we call soda here in Canada!

Saturday night we always watched “Hockey Night In Canada”; men and boys all across the nation huddled in front to the television to watch our NHL hockey heroes, but Sunday nights were always family nights in front of the TV . . . “Disneyland” at 7:00 p.m.

Disneyland TV introduction

From its first airing in 1954 the Disneyland show acted as a preview for the new theme park taking shape in Anaheim. The opening sequence referred to the original themed lands of the park, Adventureland, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland and Frontierland.

The Lands

Each week Walt Disney acted as host. He came into our home and introduced the featured show; Walt seemed like a kindly uncle as he explained how that evening’s episode related to one of the themed lands in his new park.

Host Walt Disney

The Davy Crockett adventures I mentioned earlier were set in Frontierland, the movie 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was serialized and Walt explained how those episodes related to Adventureland. There were True Life Adventures, serialized animated features, and cartoons featuring all the favourite Disney Characters.

The Sunday night show changed titles over the years, becoming “Walt Disney Presents” in 1958. Then in 1961 with the advent of colour broadcasts it became “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color”.

Wonderful World of Color

There were several more changes in name during the program’s 40 year run, but one thing never changed, the high quality of family entertainment. Walt continued to act as host each week until his death in December 1966.

By the time Walt Disney died I was almost ready to leave the nest, I started my first full-time job in February 1967 and that career lasted almost 40 years!

But throughout my formative years, from 1954 to 1967, Walt Disney was there with me, week after week!

Yes, Canada’s south coast was a great place to be a kid, and a Disney fan, in the 1950’s and 60’s!

°o°   °o°   °o°   °o°   °o°   °o°   °o°   °o°

OK folks, this blog was supposed to end right there . . . but here's a very special postscript.
It's "ADDED BONUS" time!

As often happens, I asked my wife Carol to proof-read this blog for me. She had read about half way through the text when she stopped and asked me, "So, where's your coonskin cap?"

In typical male fashion I said, "I dunno, I probably threw it out years ago."

"Men," she muttered, "What's wrong with them!"

She dropped the papers, walked over to her Tickle Trunk and started rummaging through it.

After a few minutes she cried, "Aha, here it is!" and handed me a big envelope.

It's pictured below, front and back. Click on each image to see a larger version of the picture.

Record Envelope Front

Record Envelope Back
How cool is that? Her very own Mickey Mouse Club phonograph records from 60 years ago!

Carol grew up about 225 miles east of my home but she was also close to the American border and picked up US television signals just like my family did. She was hundreds of miles away watching the same shows I was. Probably about the same time my mother bought me a coonskin cap, Carol's mother picked up these records for her!

I carefully opened up that old envelope and here's what I pulled out!

Map Folder
(Click on the image to see a larger version)

Wow! It was a folding map - six panels with Disney images.

Carol told me the rest of the story. The folder had originally been twice as tall as what appears in the picture above. Beneath each of the five panels to Roy Williams' right was a phonograph record. The recordings were on panels of clear vinyl, containing the recording tracks, glued to the printed card stock paper on the bottom of the folder. Carol very carefully cut each of those records off the folder and then had hours and hours of fun playing them on the families gigantic old HiFi record player.

Here's what the records look like!

(Click on the image to see a larger version)

Why is it that Carol kept a full trunk full of cool old stuff and I threw out my coonskin cap? It was probably the best Disney keepsake I've ever owned!

I'd like to give Carol's records a spin and see how they sound, but we packed up our turntable years ago. I'm not even sure it will play 78 RPM platters . . . but I may have to pull it out of storage and give it a try!

And that, as it's said, is the rest of the story!

It seems to me that both Carol and I grew up in a very special time and a very special place!

July 31, 2016

Dayton Disneyana 2016

Gary Cruise banner

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.


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
Click on the image to see a larger version

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.


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.


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


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!


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.


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!



Toy Story

Tow Mater

Haunted Mansion

Evil Queen

Some have non-Disney characters.

Hulk, Wonder Woman and Superman



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

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.


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


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

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


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 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 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

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
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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 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!


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

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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 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

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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 recipe page HERE!

October 11, 2015

Epcot Food & Wine Festivals Gone By

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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.


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.


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. pages with detailed information can be found HERE

There are also 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 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

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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.”


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.


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.


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!


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


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!


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.


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 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 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

Gary Cruise banner

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.


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.




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!


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!


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!

Gary Cruise banner

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

Gary Cruise banner

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 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 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 planning page HERE. It's updated regularly with the latest information available . . . and it's free!

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If you haven't already subscribed to the 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 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 site HERE.

Here's a cute Disney Savings Jar from 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 HERE.

We all enjoy counting down the days until our next Disney vacation. Here's a project from 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 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

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 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,, 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"

"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

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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 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 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 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 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.


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

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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 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 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


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



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.

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.



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.


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!

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.



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!


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!


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


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


How cute can the ornaments be?

Santa Mickey


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 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.


December 7, 2014

Memories of Discovery Island

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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

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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

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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



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

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."


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

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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.


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.


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.


There are many ways to say Disney Magic!



Here's a proud Disney Vacation Club owner!


Is this Steve Barrett's plate? I thought he lived in Florida, not Ohio!


His and hers plates from Pennsylvania!



Here's a wistful comment from someone who is longing to be elsewhere!


Tinker Bell has bestowed good fortune on this family from the Granite State!


How else can you tell people that you "Love Disney"? Here are a few options!





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

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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

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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"


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.


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.


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!


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 and The Nature Conservancy.



Giant 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.



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

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.



Key flowers include the fall-flowering ixia, Catesby's lily and terrestrial orchids.

Rose Rush

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!


Read about the Disney Wilderness Preserve HERE.


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 and The Nature Conservancy for agreeing to share their photos!

September 14, 2014

Dayton Disneyana 2014

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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.


We crossed the US border at Detroit and pulled off at Monroe Michigan for lunch.




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".



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!





At 8:30 Carol, Rob and the rest of the 50 "Early-birds" charged through the door.


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!


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!"



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.



As you might expect, there were pins and Vinylmations! Very important to Carol!




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.



Brian from Theme Park Connections brought a truckload of interesting Disney merchandise from their Orlando store, near the Florida Mall, a 937 mile trip.


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!


How about those signs from the Polynesian Resort? They were very popular!




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!


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.


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.


Next to speak was Jim Hill, a noted Disney historian.


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.





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.



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.







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!


Here Rob chats with Gary Smith from Missouri. He is a partner in Gary & Gary Collectibles.








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.


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'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.


Check the Dayton Disneyana web site for more details HERE

Like them on Facebook HERE.

August 31, 2014

Be A Conservation Hero

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Are you a Conservation Hero?

Do you own any of these?




If your answer was "Yes" - you are a Conservation Hero!

Do you own any of these?



If your answer was "Yes" - you are a Conservation Hero!

Have you ever tossed a coin in here?


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.


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!


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!


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.


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!


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.




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

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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!





The first few cards contained scenes from Walt Disney World and some photography tips from the Photoblog Team.



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.



Each member of the AllEars Team has their own personal card, which you can only get from them. How's that for exclusive?


The back of each card displays the AllEars logo and the Photoblog web address.


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.




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

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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.


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.


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.


There was plenty of new information on Page 3.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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!


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

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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.


Do you see that reference to Disney Learning Programs on page 9? Carol saw it too. Here's what it said.


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.

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.




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.


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.


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.


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.






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

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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.


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!


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!


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!


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!

Page 2

Page 3

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.


Naturally she had to have a couple!


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.


The envelope containing those tickets held a surprise, a brand new brochure produced especially for the park opening.


The brochure opened first to a birds-eye view map of the property.


Two pages focused on Future World.



The final two pages introduced World Showcase.



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?


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.


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

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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.



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:


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.




Pages 2 through 4 focus on dining, entertainment, golf, tennis and fishing. Here are a few noteworthy articles:

The first Character Meal - Dinner á la Disney at the Golf Resort.

Fine dining at the Contemporary Resort's Gulf Coast Room!

Even fishing - there was something for everyone her!

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.

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.

On Page three there was a terrific description of Discovery Island.

A world of shopping awaited at The Village.

Naturally there were some cute advertisments.

You could arrange tennis lessons for the whole family at the Contemporary Resort.

There was even a "wee links" course at the Golf Resort.

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

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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.


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!


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!


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!


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!

A postcard from 1982



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!


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!



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!


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.



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.


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.



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!


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.




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.


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

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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!


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.


Here is eight year old "Rebel" Rob. He had a Goofy button holding his ticket in 1979!


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
- 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.


There were some very unique buttons when EPCOT first opened.


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!


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!


There are plenty of birthday and anniversary 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.


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?



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.


Do you have any Disney buttons? What sort of memories do they evoke for you?

June 15, 2014

Money Saving Tips

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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 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 Tip Archive, and For a more complete look at online resources available check out the full 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

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



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.




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


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?


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.



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


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 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.


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.


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!




Of course we had to stop at Mount Rustmore.



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!


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


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.



Then we found Daisy.



Chip and Dale were an unexpected bonus!


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.


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!


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.


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 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.




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

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


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.



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.



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.


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.


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


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


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


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.




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!


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.


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


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!







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.


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


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!




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