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December 25, 2014

Our Disney Christmas Tree

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Carol and I look forward to the Christmas season every year. She likes to decorate for the holidays and I really enjoy the results of her efforts. As you might expect, our love of all things Disney reflects in our Christmas décor!

In our living room we have a very traditional Christmas tree; decorated with lights, coloured balls and festive garland. It stands in front of the window and is visible to all who walk or drive past.

Living Room Tree

But downstairs in our family room, our sanctuary, where Carol and I spend a lot of our time, is our favourite symbol of the Christmas season, our Disney Christmas tree.

The Disney Tree

It is 100% Disney from top to bottom.

Tinker Bell Angel

Every ornament reflects our passion for Disney. Carol has been collecting Disney ornaments for years and years. Some are brand new and others are old and irreplaceable!

Oswald

Thumper and Miss Bunny

It takes Carol a long time to decorate the Disney tree. Most of the ornaments are in their original packaging to protect them from damage, and as she carefully unwraps them the memories from past trips to Walt Disney World come flooding back.

There's a lot of reminiscing as Carol carefully arranges them all. Each memento from those old Disney adventures has to be in just the right spot! Sometimes the result can be startling!

Dopey and Tinker Bell
Is Tinker Bell really longing for one of those free kisses? Would Snow White approve?

There are many different Disney characters on our tree, some of them have been around for decades, others are very recent additions to the Disney family!

Steamboat Willie

Olaf and Elsa

Dozens of classic animated feature films, cartoons and TV Specials are represented.

Jaq and Gus

Bambi and Thumper

101 Dalmatians family

Pinocchio

White Rabbit

Bob Crachett Mickey

Scrooge McDuck

Some ornaments depict Disney's most popular couples enjoying the Christmas season.

Mickey and Minnie

Donald and Daisy

Lady and the Tramp

Mickey and Minnie

Other ornaments are much more whimsical.

Mickey and Pluto

Mickey and Goofy

Gone Fishin' Goofy

Beaker

How cute can the ornaments be?

Santa Mickey

Snowman

Not a Creature was stirring
Yes, the book reads "Not a creature was stirring . . ."

Pluto reindeer

Rocking Horse Mickey

Tour Guide Minnie

Some of the ornaments are animated, some are musical and some are illuminated. It's quite dazzling when it's all done!

Mickeys House
Push a button and the lights on Mickey's house flash in time with the music it plays!

Mickey Mouse Club
The drum flashes with light and keeps time to the music as this ornament plays "M-I-C . . . K-E-Y . . . M-O-U-S-E"

Sorcerer Mickey
Mickey's sorcerer hat lights up on this little beauty!

Mickey and Goofy as astronauts
It must be a Space Walk! Astronaut Mickey is holding Goofy who is dangerously close to the rocket's exhaust nozzle. The exhauts pulses with light as Mickey struggles to save Goofy.

All the shiny balls adorning the tree are shaped like classic Mickey heads!

Disney ball and garland
And if you look closely at that garland you will spot plenty of Hidden Mickeys!

Our Disney Christmas Tree gives us a lot of pleasure every year and we hope that you have enjoyed this little glimpse of it.

Mickey and Pluto at Fireplace

At this jolly time of year Carol and I would like to pass along our Christmas wish for you. No matter what you celebrate during this festive season, we sincerely hope that each and every one of you are able to share joyful times with family, friends and those you love most.

Merry Christmas!

December 18, 2013

D23’s Holiday Splendor

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D23's Holiday Splendor Event Friday, December 6 and Saturday, December 7, 2013

What if you had an opportunity to view the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights with just a handful of others, all of you with special ears that blink in time with the lights and music? How about reserved seating for the Candlelight Processional and a private dessert party while you watch IllumiNations, Reflections of Earth? Are you interested in Disney history, and how the holidays have been celebrated at Disney Parks throughout the years? If so, D23's Holiday Splendor event may be for you! The schedule for the event starts with an evening viewing the Osborne Lights in the Hollywood Studios, then continues the next day with a full day of scheduled events in Epcot. (Please pardon the quality of the following photos. Somehow I got out of the house without a real camera on this trip, and only had my phone to snap pics with.)


Friday, December 6. Private viewing of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.

The event began with check in at 8:15 p.m. on Friday evening at the Premier Theater in Disney's Hollywood Studios (near the Lights, Motors, Action show at the back of the park). Guests who did not have park tickets were able to check in at the entrance to the Park, and were escorted to the Premier Theater. After checking in we were given a set of "Glow with the Show" ears,

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and a pair of special glasses, that we were instructed to bring with us the next day as well. (I wish that the cast members had actually let people know what the glasses were for, as I saw that some folks never put them on.)

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After getting the goods, we were instructed to meet at the Studio Catering Company at 8:50 p.m. to gather for our private viewing time. At 9 p.m., after the rest of the park guests exited, the Lights were turned back on just for us! We had 15 minutes as a group to wander around and see the lights. It was a pretty amazing sight, as everyone in the group (I'd guess about 100) had on the Glow with the Show ears, which were blinking in unison with the music. The glasses made the lights look like little Mickey's. I think I remember them being handed out to everyone as they entered the viewing area a few years ago, so these might have been leftovers from then. It was a great start to the event!

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Saturday, December 7. Breakfast, holiday presentations, The Scavenger Hunt, access to the Hospitality Suite in The American Adventure pavilion, reserved seating for The Candlelight Processional, dinner in the Rotunda in The American Adventure pavilion, Illuminations Dessert Party.

At 9:30 a.m., check-in started at the Odyssey pavilion in Epcot. Today, everyone attending the event needed to have valid park admission. If you had checked in already the night before, showing your lanyard to the cast member at the door gained you admission to the lobby of the pavilion, where a "light" breakfast buffet was spread. Guests who had not attended the Osborne Lights portion of the event the night before checked in and received their Glow with the Show ears and Mickey glasses.

I was pretty impressed with the "light" breakfast, having expected maybe some pastries and coffee. Offerings included a selection of mini muffins, a nice fruit salad and an egg, hash brown and sausage casserole. There was also coffee, tea, orange juice and water.

As guests entered the room to claim seats, there was a display of yummy holiday pastry treats to be oohed and aahed over, in addition to a display of some choral robes for the Candlelight Processional.

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After everyone sat down with their breakfast, Laura Sanchez, from D23 Events kicked things off with a welcome and an overview of the day.

Steve Vagnini, Disney Archivist, presented Walt at Christmastime, showing archival photographs of Christmases and Christmas traditions throughout Walt's lifetime, from wishing for a new pair of boots to keep him warm on his childhood paper route, to the lists he kept of presents that were given to the children of Disney Company staff, to the television Christmas specials of the early 1960s.

Disney pastry chefs, Jeff Barnes (the Contemporary) and Yoly Lazo Colon (Epcot), then talked about Holiday Sweets, particularly focusing on the processes involved in creating the amazing gingerbread houses, trees and other displays throughout the resort (they get started making the gingerbread in January!), but also including other yummy treats on offer.

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Here are some photos of several of the creations the chefs discussed that I took later in my trip:

The Mary Blair-inspired gingerbread tree at the Contemporary (which had to be specially anchored because of the vibrations of the monorail passing through)

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and the gingerbread installation in the Land Pavilion at Epcot, which has contributions from all of Disney World's head pastry chefs.

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(May I also say that the Linzer cookie that I bought at the Contemporary was just about the most amazing cookie that I have ever eaten! If you can, you should run right over there and buy one now!)

Next up was Forrest Bahruth, Show Director, Candlelight Processional, who gave a very interesting history of the event, starting with a group of a capella singers in Disneyland in 1955, continuing to the opening of the show in 1994 at Epcot. Bahruth also explained some of the changes made this year to the current show, including changing the backdrop, adding new "stained glass windows" on the sides of the stage, updating the choir robes, and changing the shape of the "tree" made of singers, and updating the narration to be more understandable for international guests.

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Behind the Magic of Glow with the Show was the topic of the next presentation, from Erin Catalano, Disney Park Merchandise. Swearing us to secrecy, Catalano gave us a basic explanation of the technology behind the operation of the ears, which light up and blink in sync with the music and visuals of several shows in Disney parks around the world. The special ears were first developed to be used in conjunction with The World of Color show at Disney's California Adventure, and were then adapted for the fireworks show at Disneyland Paris. At Walt Disney World, the ears can currently be used with Fantasmic! and the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at the Hollywood Studios, and Celebrate the Magic and Wishes at the Magic Kingdom. Tip: Batteries can be replaced free of charge at any shop that sells the ears.

Finally, Graham Allan, Historian, presented Seasons Past, a presentation of remembrances from seasonal presentations of the past thirty years in the parks. He showed clips of various Christmas parades in Disneyland and Walt Disney World, and a particularly interesting clip of a special Christmas water pageant at Tokyo DisneySea.

After the presentations, it was time for The Scavenger Hunt! (Alternatively, guests could take time to view the Holidays Around the World offerings, ride the rides or just hang out in the Hospitality Suite in the American Adventure Pavilion.) I opted to do the scavenger hunt, and spent a crazy four hours trying to track down all of the 100 items. (YOU try to count all of the red baubles on the main Epcot Christmas tree, it is not as easy as it sounds.) Next year I need a team!

At 5:45, we gathered in front of the American Adventure Pavilion to be escorted to our reserved seats for the Candlelight Processional, which was being narrated by Whoopi Goldberg that evening. I was a bit disappointed as our seats were way at the back on the side, and did not offer a very good view of the stage. Guests with dinner packages were seated in front of us. I did enjoy the show, however, and made special note of the changes that were pointed out earlier in the day by Forrest Bahruth.

After the Processional, we proceeded to dinner in the American Adventure Rotunda. As we entered the Rotunda, servers were waiting with, wait for it, trays of wine and beer. After the exhaustion of the scavenger hunt, I was ready for that adult beverage (and there was an open bar at the back, if anything other than wine or beer was desired).

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The dinner was served buffet-style and was really quite delicious.

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After dinner, the winner of the scavenger hunt (with a score of 91!) and the runners up (73, and 74, I believe) were announced, and we were directed to the back of the room, where two special guests were waiting to meet all of us!

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As we left the Rotunda, we picked up our goodie bags, which included special artwork prepared just for the event, and a yummy cookie among other fun items.

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The group was then escorted to the Terrace des Fleurs near the France Pavilion for a Dessert Party and IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth viewing. The desserts were yummy, and the view of Illuminations was amazing!

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So in the end, did I think that the Holiday Splendors event was worth the relatively steep purchase price of $205? Considering that the event allowed premium viewing opportunities for three of the major Disney World Holiday events (the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, the Candlelight Processional and the holiday version of IllumiNations), included two substantial meals (and alcoholic beverages!), the Glow with the Show ears, a bag full of goodies, in addition to the presentations, I actually do feel that it was a good value. I did wish that the event were run a bit more like a tour, however, as I felt that we were simply turned loose on the Osborne lights without any real welcome, and there were no introductory remarks for either the Candlelight Processional (also our reserved seats for this were pretty terrible) or IllumiNations, either. I understand that this was the second year for this event, and it would be great if they offered it again next year, as I REALLY would like to win that scavenger hunt!


ABOUT THE REVIEWER:

Alice McNutt Miller is a lifelong Disney fan whose fondest childhood memories include "The Wonderful World of Disney" on Sunday nights and her first trip to Disneyland when she was 10 years old. Alice and her family are Disney Vacation Club members, and have visited every one of the Disney parks throughout the world. They live in Vienna, Virginia.


December 8, 2013

Our Disney Christmas Village

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Many years ago my sister began creating a monster. She took a liking to Department 56 "Dickens Village" pieces and each year she gave us a new one as a Christmas gift.

The collection grew year by year and soon we had a complete intersection . . . then two . . . so they became part of our Christmas tradition. Each year we put up our Dickens Village for the holidays.

Of course, this sort of thing is right up Carol's alley . . . so she added accessories and her personal artistic touches! When there were so many pieces that they began to disappear, one behind the other, she called on me for help. I built a styrofoam base and styrofoam cutouts which elevate the houses in the back, making them more visible.

Dickens_Village

The Dickens Village comes out each autumn and throughout the holiday season it adorns the top of my roll-top desk.

You can only imagine Carol's glee when she discovered Department 56's North Pole Series. It has some Disney themed houses! She just had to have a few pieces to add to the Dickens Village . . . NO . . . WAIT . . . that doesn't work. Those North Pole pieces just don't work in a Dickens Village.

What to do? How about a second village?

So I started cutting more styrofoam while Carol collected houses and accessories.

Disney_Village

Now we have a Disney Village which takes over our kitchen hutch every fall. Some of the pieces are Department 56 and some she spotted on Disney shelves and couldn't resist!

Look very closely at all the accessories and you'll see plenty of Disney characters enjoying a holiday wonderland.

Disney_Village_1

As you wander through the village from left to right you will pass the M & M's Candy Factory, the Disneyland Fire Station, Mickey's House and Piglet's Treehouse.

Disney_Village_2

Further down the street you will find Geppetto's House, Goofy's House, Cratchit's Cottage and Scrooge McDuck & Marley's Counting House.

Disney_Village_3

The Reindeer Flying School is conveniently located in front of the Reindeer Feed Store and beside Mickey's Ear Factory.

Disney_Village_4

At the end of the block you will find the Mickey Mouse Watch Factory and Mickey's Playhouse which features a miniature version of the "Ear-full Tower".

Carol spends hours every year, arranging each building just so! Then the accessories are added with thoughtful care . . . there are bridges, fences, trees, garland, lights . . . and of course plenty of Disney figures. She even found a spot for the Grinch and some pink flamingos!

It's quite impressive once it's all finished.

After the holidays, Carol agonizes when it's time to take it down. One year it stayed up until the end of January!

I wonder how long it will stay up this year?

November 10, 2013

Disneyland’s Christmas Overlays

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I was pleased when I recently read on the Disney Parks Blog that there will be a special "Christmas Overlay" at The Jungle Cruise.

They explained it as follows: Beginning in early November, Jungle Cruise at both Disneyland Park and Magic Kingdom Park will temporarily transform into "Jingle Cruise" for the holiday season! In this new seasonal storyline of the attraction, the Skippers have grown homesick for the holidays, so they've added holiday cheer to the Jungle Cruise queue and boathouse with decorations that have been mailed to them from home (plus a few they've created themselves). The Skippers have also added a slew of new jokes to their tours that are the perfect way to get guests in the holiday spirit. Additionally, Jungle Cruise boats have been renamed with the holidays in mind, and if guests listen carefully, they may hear a holiday-themed radio broadcast playing in the background.

Great news! Carol and I will be visiting the Magic Kingdom for a few weeks in November/December and we will be sure to visit this classic old attraction to see the new holiday spin they put on it.

Do you suppose that overlays like those they do in California might follow at Florida attractions in years to come? I sure hope so! We used to really enjoy the Christmas Overlay at Country Bear Jamboree and we were very disappoinited when it was discontinued in 2005.

Carol and I have visited the Disney Parks in California several times during the holiday season and the overlays at It's A Small World and The Haunted Mansion have absolutely blown us away!

These are not just little cosmetic makeovers; each of the attractions is closed for a few weeks while the special holiday treats are added. The results are simply wonderful!

Let me show you what I mean . . . pictures tell the story much better than I can. First, a word about the pictures - some are not the best of quality since they were taken in a dark ride and we didn't use a flash. I never use a flash in a dark ride and I'm always annoyed when others do. 'Nuff said!

Both Carol and I prefer the Disneyland version of the It's A Small World attraction. You board your boat outside, in front of a three-dimensional façade with stylized cutout turrets, towers and minarets; look closely and you'll see some world landmarks. The 30 foot clock with that big smiling face rocks back and forth and every fifteen minutes colourful wooden dolls parade as the clock announces the time. It is quite captivating every time you approach.

Small_World_Exterior_Daytime

But at Christmas that façade is festooned with thousands of lights and it becomes a holiday wonderland of color. WOW!

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The lights put a magical glow on the topiaries you sail past before you enter the interior, but the holiday magic doesn't end there. In each of the rooms there are special holiday displays. Watch very carefully and you will see that some of the dolls are now dressed in holiday costumes. Cutaway snowmen with carrot noses welcome you to the Ho-Ho-Holidays"

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There is a mailbox for letters to Santa!

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Banners wish you Joyeuses Fetes, Feliz Navidad, Happy Holidays, Mele Kelikimaka, Happy Hanukah, Peace on Earth and many other holiday greetings.

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And wait . . . what is that I hear? Are those dolls singing Jingle Bells and Hark the Herald Angels Sing?

Yes they are . . . NICE!

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This year It's A Small World was scheduled to close from October 21st through November 7th while the overlay was installed. It will run until early January. If you're there, be sure to visit during the evening, but allow plenty of time. That area of the park is very busy over the holidays!

The Haunted Mansion is one of our absolute favourite attractions and once again, we prefer the California version. We especially enjoy it during October, November and December during the seasonal transformation! The seasonal magic begins as you approach; Jack Skellington is perched on the gate as you enter and hundreds of pumpkins adorn the mansion.

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Once you are in the "Stretching Room" you begin to see some differences . . . in fact nothing is the same. Jack Skellington and his Halloweentown cronies have taken over! Oogie Boogie and a huge cast of creepy spooks wait as you board your Doom Buggy.

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The entire sound track has been modified and everything you have always enjoyed in the mansion is different. It has always been spooky, but during the holidays it's creepy-spooky!

As you leave the library and your Doom Buggy turns to travel backwards your eyes drift upward to find a giant man-eating wreath singing a chilling song!

The attic where Constance Hatchaway, the bride with the hatchet, and her five husbands normally appear has been piled full of frightful gifts. Some are ticking, some are growling, wait . . . did that one just move?

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Jack Skellington and Zero have replaced the gravedigger and his dog to welcome you to the graveyard!

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(Confession - I used a flash for this picture - the ride was shut down, the lights were on and we were being walked out)

Those singing busts in the cemetery have a new, even more sinister look!

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Are those angels blowing their trumpets? I think not!

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There are no hitchhiking ghosts as you exit, instead Oogie Boogie spins a wheel which assigns you a trick or a treat . . . but don't be expecting any treats as you round that last corner.

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What a joy! Carol and I are both fans of Nightmare Before Christmas and it is a real pleasure to see two of our favourites combined this way! We ride it again and again!

It's A Small World and The Haunted Mansion in California have been overlaid for the holidays for the last 16 years and 12 years respectively. I sure hope that the recent announcement about The Jungle Cruise means we might be getting more seasonal overlays in Florida sometime in the near future!

November 25, 2012

Ft. Wilderness Christmas -- Dave “The Castle Guy”

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In December 2008 Carol and I spent a few weeks at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. We took part in a Disney fan meet known as "MouseFest". Carol and I, along with our friends John & Erin from New Jersey, co-hosted a walking tour of the campground to admire all the seasonal décor. About 45 of us wandered the campground admiring the lights, inflatables and the other imaginative displays. Someone we passed that evening said, "Be sure to check out site #551 - it's great." Alas, we didn't make it that night! It was the following night when Carol and I circled the 500 loop and saw Dave "The Castle Guy" for the first time.

Dave's Castle at night

Wow . . . we were in awe when we saw his creation! Carol took a short video which I later uploaded to YouTube. I sent some friends a link to the video and urged them to visit Site 551 before they went home.

We didn't return for the Christmas season again until 2011 when we were fortunate enough to camp just a few campsites down from Dave and his awesome display.

Dave's Castle at night

We visited back and forth with Dave many times during our stay and during our few weeks together he told me the story of "The Castle Project".

This is how he described it, "In December 2007 my wife Dee and I spent 10 days at Fort Wilderness Campground, Disney World. You would not believe what folks were doing to their campsites. The Christmas decorations were out of this world. The campers really put their imaginations in high gear. All the time and effort they spent decorating their sites was really impressive.""

For me, it was inspiring. If you haven't been to Fort Wilderness at Christmas, you should stop by. It is well worth the trip. All the campers are in a wonderfully good mood and the sights and sounds of Christmas fill the air. It's truly a magical place to be during the holiday season."

"When we returned home to Titusville, Florida I started thinking about making something for our own campsite. I thought, 'What would be the coolest thing I could have on our campsite?' The answer immediately came to mind 'Cinderella Castle'. So, in April of 2008 I started on The Castle Project."

Dave's Castle at night

Dave's labour of love took eight months to complete. He started with a six foot by four foot piece of three quarter inch thick Medium Density Overlay (MDO), a resin-coated plywood which is very weather resistant. Dave took a picture of Cinderella Castle, blew it up to the correct six foot by four foot proportions and printed it out on 26 sheets of photo paper.

Adding the picture to the background

He described the decoupage as the most difficult task in the entire project; he applied the photo sheets to the MDO and then covered them with six coats of clear acrylic sealer.

Then he cut the castle out, beginning with a precision jig saw for the rough cut and then finishing the finer features with a Dremel hand-held tool.

Cutting out the castle with a jigsaw

Rough cut of the castle

Next step, Dave drilled some holes. There are 427 lights on the castle.

Drilling front holes for the lights

Each hole was drilled from the front and then countersunk on the back to accommodate the light socket. That's 854 holes to drill! I'm exhausted just thinking about it!

Countersinking rear holes

Dee took charge of the trees which flank the castle. The first year there were 16 trees, now there are 26. Dee securely fastened each and every light so that they will survive the packing and repacking that is required every year. Everything about the castle is designed to be durable yet portable!

When Dave starts talking about the electronics my eyes start to glaze over. I can appreciate how The Big Bang Theory's Penny feels when she's talking to Dr. Sheldon Cooper. Since I don't understand any of the technical stuff I'm going to quote Dave again, "The castle is controlled by 16 channels of lighting. It is surrounded by 16 Christmas trees so that adds another 16 channels of lighting. Above the trees are 3 lighted snowflakes, each representing a Disney character. All this has been put to beautiful Disney music, "When You Wish upon a Star" and Disney's "Wishes", with fireworks added in for the grand finale. It ended up being 48 channels of lighting that first year. Everything is controlled through my laptop!"

Adding the wiring

Wiring up the castle

The Software that runs the show is "ShowTime Software Suite S3" from a company named "Light O Rama". Much of the hardware is from the same company, Dave currently uses 5 Light O Rama (LOR) 16 channel controllers, 3 LOR Cosmic Color Ribbons with 150 channels each and 1 LOR Cosmic Color Pixel with 100 channels. Just imagine how glassy my eyes were as I typed this paragraph!

From the start Dave knew the first song he had to sequence would be "Wish Upon A Star". It's his favourite Disney song and it touches a spot in the hearts of all Disney fans. He selected the Eric Kunzel version, it's beautiful. Then he used 4 tracks from Disney's "Wishes" to finish it off. The grande finale is made up of 5 audio tracks of fireworks. Wow . . . when you see and hear it I think you will agree that it's amazing!

Ready for dry runs

After all the lights were installed on the castle, the Christmas trees were prepared, the lights and soundtracks were sequenced it was time for a test.

It works

Dave set it all up in his garage, crossed his fingers and started the show. It was perfect - it ran like a charm. Next stop - Fort Wilderness!

Dave and Dee transport the Castle in their 40 ft motor home. The MDO castle lays on the bed while they are underway. Everything else is stored below in the cargo bays. One rule Dave has is that EVERYTHING has to fit in the motor home. He doesn't want to tow a trailer so he keeps it all pretty compact. It takes him around ten hours to set everything up and around four hours to break everything down and pack it away for transport.

The castle in daylight

When Dave returned with his completed castle in 2008 he was a bit nervous. As he puts it, "We returned to Fort Wilderness Campground on December 7th, 2008. As I was putting put up the castle show, I thought to myself, "People are going to think I am crazy, this guy has gone off the deep end." Boy, was I wrong! It was a total blockbuster hit. It was the talk of the campground. The reservation office folks were telling people checking in to "make sure you see the castle show in the 500 loop". I have never met so many great people. It was a total blast!

Dave has improved and enhanced the castle show each year since then. "In 2009 we returned to Fort Wilderness with 64 channels, 10 more Christmas trees and a VERY special appearance by "Tinker Bell" (Tink is really hard to book during the holidays, you know). It's the latest in lighting technology."

"In 2010 I decided to light up the whole motor home in the show. That was fun. I also added another musical sequence, Disney's Holiday Wishes."

"In 2011 I added another musical sequence, Disney's "Remember the Magic". They used to play it at Disneyland years ago. It's a great song."

"This year, 2012, I am introducing a new musical sequence. It's a mix of Disney favourites. I have also done a lot of fine tuning to all the other Disney songs. I have added a new "Tinker Bell" effect that I'm trying out. There are also a couple of surprises that I'm keeping a secret. The Castle show is now at 80+ channels and has 7000+ lights."

"The Castle show starts automatically and runs continuously from 6:00 p.m. every evening. It shuts itself down at 10:00 p.m. Quiet time at the Fort starts at 10:00 pm."

Dave's Castle at night

Dave's castle show has been featured in Orlando Attractions magazine and on a local television station but if you haven't seen it live . . . you really haven't seen it!

The thing Dave most enjoys about his castle show is the opportunity it gives him to meet all the Fort Wilderness campers and Disney fans. He puts it like this, "Every night you can find me at my campsite meeting folks and talking about the castle and all the other wonderful decorations at the Fort. Last year a group of about 120 AllEars fans stopped by to see the Castle show; what a great group of people."

"Another thing I really enjoy is giving out glow sticks to all the kids who stop by; kids young and old. Last year I gave out several hundred! I am really stocking up on them this year."

The horse-drawn sleigh rides and wagon rides which tour the campground do not make any stops, except at Christmas when they all pause for a few minutes at Dave's castle. Golf carts and pedestrians stop too! In fact, there's often a traffic jam in front of Dave and Dee's campsite . . . but it's the happiest traffic jam you have ever seen. Dave hasn't just built a castle . . . he's made magic! I'm sure Walt looks down occasionally on Dave's castle - and Walt smiles!


Click on the arrow to see a 15 minute sequence from of the 2010 Castle Show.

This year Dave and Dee will be at Fort Wilderness from December 5th through December 26th. The castle should be up and running by December 8th and the last show will be on Christmas Day.

If you are planning to visit Walt Disney World in December a trip to Fort Wilderness is a must. Set aside an evening to tour the campground and enjoy the amazing Christmas décor.

For some tips on how to get to Fort Wilderness and a few suggestions for your tour of the campground read the last few paragraphs a recent blog here.

So come on over and join the happiest traffic jam on earth! Don't forget, Dave will be waiting to meet you . . . and he just might have a glow stick for you! Go check out his castle . . . you will be amazed!

November 4, 2012

Christmas at Fort Wilderness

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As you read this blog big changes are taking place at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. The campers are getting ready for Christmas!

All of those fabulous Halloween decorations are coming down; the campers are setting up their campsites for the most wonderful time of the year. "The Fort" is being transformed into a Christmas spectacle!

November 1st the change begins . . . spooky is out, winter wonderland is in!

If you are going to be at Walt Disney World between Halloween and Christmas a visit to Fort Wilderness should be on your "Must-Do" list. Visit during November and you will be truly impressed; visit during December and you will be blown away.

If you haven't been to Fort Wilderness during the holiday season you have no idea how lavish the decorations are - it is truly amazing what the campers do!

Perhaps a few pictures will give you some idea . . .

Fort Wilderness Tree

Fort Wilderness Christmas Campsite

The campground is ablaze with lights. Trees are wrapped and festooned with strings of lights.

Fort Wilderness Christmas Campsite

Fort Wilderness Christmas Campsite

Inflatables of all sizes light up the campground loops with festive cheer.

Fort Wilderness Christmas Campsite

Fort Wilderness Christmas Campsite

Fort Wilderness Christmas Campsite

Trains and monorails circle through several displays.

Fort Wilderness Christmas Campsite

Fort Wilderness Christmas Campsite

Disney movies are played on outdoor screens.

Fort Wilderness Christmas Campsite

You will see palm trees draped with Christmas ornaments.

Fort Wilderness Christmas

You will see Minnie Mouse relaxing in a bubble bath.

Minnie Mouse in a Bubble Bath

Golf carts are decorated for the season too, some are disguised as Disney characters, some are sleighs and a few are pulled by reindeer.

Golf Cart Sleigh

Minnie Mouse Golf Cart with Reindeer

Golf Cart Sleigh with Reindeer

Dave "The Castle Guy" Lovett is usually there for the first two weeks of December. You really must see his castle; this year he plans to have it dazzling visitors from December 8th until Christmas Day. Here's a video of Dave's castle - click on the arrow to start the video and watch it until the end - Awesome!

The best ways to get to Fort Wilderness are by Disney bus or by boat. Unless you are camped in the resort you will not be allowed to enter with your car and parking is very limited. You can catch a bus to The Fort at any theme park or at Downtown Disney. Once you arrive just transfer to any internal bus (the campground has its own bus system) and travel to The Settlement. For the most scenic option, you can catch a boat to the campground from the Magic Kingdom, Wilderness Lodge or the Contemporary Resort. The boats all dock at the Marina beside the Settlement.

Fort Wilderness Christmas Campsite

Fort Wilderness Christmas Campsite

Once you are at the Settlement it's an easy walk to the camping loops. The pathways are all paved and the terrain is flat. A leisurely walk of about 1 ½ to 2 miles will cover most of the loops. Let the magic begin!

Fort Wilderness Christmas Campsite

Fort Wilderness Christmas Campsite

If you prefer an easier tour, head to Pioneer Hall. Just across from the hall you can board a horse-drawn wagon or a horse-drawn carriage for a guided tour . . . they cover all of the best decorated sites! Last year at Christmas there was a carriage or wagon travelling past our campsite every 15 or 20 minutes all evening! Details on the cost of wagon and carriage rides can be found here.

Sleigh Ride Sign

Fort Wilderness Christmas Campsite

Fort Wilderness Christmas Campsite

You can start your evening with dinner at Trail's End Restaurant beside Pioneer Hall. It's an all-you-can-eat buffet, details are here. Try to time your dinner so that you finish just after dusk; then the lights will be at their best! Head toward the Settlement Trading Post and follow the glow of lights to the right of the store. A walkway will lead you into the 100 camping loop. Just stroll through the loops as you make your way around the campground and savour the sights and sounds. Take time to talk to the campers, they are always happy to chat about their décor. Some will even be out with candy or glow sticks for the children!

Fort Wilderness Christmas Campsite

Fort Wilderness Christmas Campsite

When you've seen the sights don't forget to head to the Marina. The Wishes fireworks display at the Magic Kingdom can be seen from the beach and dock and they pipe in the sound track. Once Wishes is over, if the timing is right, wait just a few minutes; the Electrical Water Pageant sails past the dock every night at 9:45.

What a wonderful way to end your day at the Most Magical Place on Earth!


March 13, 2012

Light-up toys at Walt Disney World light up young faces

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Vendors sell the latest light-up lanyards at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

It's a recurring sight at Walt Disney World: As evening arrives, vendors begin walking the streets, selling an assortment of light-up toys and souvenirs. Kids, of course, plead for parents to buy the colorful, lighted items. The choices of laser-like swords, necklaces, spinners, wands and mohawk headware are tempting, especially to those waiting for night-time parades or shows.

When my son was a toddler, he chose a light-up Sorcerer Mickey spinner, and it became a fixture in his diaper bag for years. His fascination with that toy made it one of the longest-lasting souvenirs we have purchased at Disney World. We certainly got more use out of the light-up spinner than each balloon that we bought in the parks over the years. Typically, the light-up toys cost between $10 and $20 apiece, which is also the case for the giant helium balloons sold on Main Street, USA, in the Magic Kingdom.

Last fall, my more-grown-up 9-year-old son really wanted to buy one of the multi-colored light-up mohawks to wear for Crazy Hair Day at school. They were so popular that it took us several park visits to find a vendor that was wasn't sold out.

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How cute are these bunny light-ups?

Now, there is a new fascination for those who love the light-up toys in the parks -- lanyards with a seasonal message and small light-up icon. So far, Disney has sold ghosts for Halloween and snowmen for winter holidays. Spotted in the Disney parks now -- shamrocks for St. Patrick's Day and bunnies for Easter. Each holiday icon has multiple settings for its lights; users can choose from a solid color, strobe lights, fading colors and blinking colors.

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Less than a week left to purchase these shamrocks.

I would think these lanyards will have widespread appeal, and not just with kids. Because they are not Disney-branded items, the price is less at $7 each. With a lower price tag and changing design, repeat guests and passholders may see them as collectibles. My kids already do. Plus, unlike spinner toys that must find a home in a bag or stroller when not in use, these light-ups are meant to be worn and keep your hands free.

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Ghost or snowman, anyone?

A bonus: If your family collects enough light-up toys, over time you'll have another souvenir that any Disney fan can appreciate -- the ability to create your own Main Street Electrical Parade at home. Just pass out the light-up toys to the kids, turn out the lights and you'll have your very own "spectacular festival pageant of nighttime magic and imagination in thousands of sparkling lights."

OK, maybe not a thousand. But you get the point.

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Minnie Mouse's skirt twirls on this spinner toy in motion.

Tips:

** If you purchase the toys from a moving vendor, know that you'll need cash to pay for them. Some versions are available in gift stores, however, which take other forms of payment.

** If your light-up toy is defective and stops working shortly after purchase, a cast member will be happy to replace it if you show your receipt. This happened to my daughter with a Tinker Bell wand and to my son with a Christmas lights necklace.

** If you pack the toys in suitcases for your return home, be aware that the Transportation Security Administration may unscrew the battery panel. Be sure to check and reattach the panel to avoid a hazard to small children.

November 14, 2011

What's New, What's Next: Disney World - November 10-11, 2011

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There's a lot going on at Disney World! The holidays have arrived.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The entrance to Epcot has garland up.

Epcot

The tree is up at the entrance to World Showcase.

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Tree

The Canada pavilion is still being worked on.

Canada

France is decorated for the holidays.

France

Work is still ongoing at Yakitori House at Japan.

Yakitori

The American pavilion has their tree up.

Tree

Some turnstiles at the entrance at Epcot were walled off.

Turnstiles

The tree at Disney's Hollywood Studios is up.

Tree

The light poles at the entrance at Studios were also decorated.

Light poles

The stars are out on Sunset Boulevard.

Sunset Blvd

There's a sign up for the Osborne Lights near the Great Movie Ride.

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Santa is arriving near Pizza Planet.

Santa

We went over to the Streets of America to see the Osborne Lights display during the day.

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Signs like this one are up and down the street with fun facts and trivia about the Osborne Lights.

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The library has their tree out.

Library tree

The Voyage of the Little Mermaid has some decorations up as well.

Voyage of the Little Mermaid

After dinner, we made our way to the Streets of America so we could watch the Osborne Lights be turned on for the first time this year. The lights are turned on at dusk -- the ceremony started at approximately 6:10 the night we were there.

Dusk

The Lights were, and always are, gorgeous. They have switched out a lot of the strands for LED strands and they were much brighter than last year. Also, they shimmer this year which I don't remember them doing last year.

The Lights danced immediately after being turned on. Later in the evening, there was a song dedicated to Jennings Osborne who passed away this year. I thought the song they chose was very appropriate.

Also, the Halloween cat is very well hidden this year. If you're unfamiliar with the story: When the Osbornes donated the Lights to Disney World, they accidentally included their black Halloween cat. The Imagineers hide the cat every year in the display. It's become a tradition for many to try to find it.

There's a window near the New York facade that shows some of the history of the Osborne Lights. Here's a quick video:

Enough talk and on with the pictures! :)

Lights

Osborne

Mickey and Goofy posed for pictures with the family selected to help turn the lights on for the evening.

Mickey and Goofy

Globe

Canopy

The Osborne family has stockings in the display.

Stockings

Street

The windows on this building are screens for the Osborne Lights. The images that go across are very neat to watch. We spent quite a bit of time standing off to the side to watch them.

Windows

Tree

Santa and Mickey

Canopy

The Minnie window is up at the Celebrity 5 and 10.

Minnie window

The Studios tree is very pretty at night.

Studios

Friday, November 11, 2011

Downtown Disney has a new tree this year.

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Festival of the Masters was going on at Downtown Disney. Check out Jack Spence's blog on it here.

The walls were down around the exterior of World of Disney and the Lego Store.

World of Disney

Lego Store

This tree near Portobello's is new (or new to me):

Tree

The tennis courts at the Grand Floridian have been completely torn up.

Tennis courts

Signs are out near the monorail beams for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.

MVMCP

The train station has been decorated for the holidays.

Train station

Some work is being done on the top of the Newsstand.

Newsstand

Main Street looks beautiful.

Main Street

Light pole

Main Street

The side of Crystal Arts is being worked on.

Crystal Arts

Main Street

Every time I see the progress on Storybook Circus, I'm amazed at how quickly it's coming together.

Storybook

Storybook

Enchanted Grove has been renamed Cheshire Cafe. I knew something was different, but didn't realize they had painted it until I got home and looked at my pictures.

New sign

Work on the rest of the expansion is also coming along nicely.

Little Mermaid

Beauty and the Beast

A photo-op with the soldiers and the castle has been set up near the flagpole.

Photo op

Emporium

Candy Cane Garden

We saw Cinderella's Holiday Wish from Main Street. It was difficult to get pictures of the characters so I concentrated on the castle.

Holiday Wish

Castle

The castle does change colors periodically.

Castle

That's all for this update. Have a great day. :)

November 13, 2011

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2011

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Disclaimer: As an invited media guest, AllEars.Net's tickets to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party were provided by the Walt Disney Company.

We were able to attend Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP) on November 11, 2011 (click the link for dates and ticket prices). The event is an annual "hard-ticket" event (a separate ticket must be purchased to attend the event) at the Magic Kingdom.

A few things before we begin:

*You MUST have a ticket and a wristband to enjoy any of the party events. The park closes at 7 PM to day guests.

*You may enter the park beginning at 4 PM with your party ticket. If you are at Magic Kingdom before 4 PM, keep an eye out for wristband stations. They will scan your ticket and give you your wristband.

*Magic Kingdom's Christmas tree was not up on November 11. I wasn't able to find out when it would be going up.

*Here's the Christmas Party Guide Map, showing which attractions are open and where various special treats are located:

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-- Christmas Party Map Side 2 (large .jpg 390K)

On to the fun...

When you approach security at Magic Kingdom, there are signs out for the party.

Sign

Banners are hung across the tunnels leading to Main Street.

Banners

Main Street looked gorgeous at dusk. (Keep an eye out for a new "What's New, What's Next" blog that will have more pictures of the holiday decorations around the parks.)

Main Street

The logo was visible in Tomorrowland.

Tomorrowland

The stage was decorated for a Totally Tomorrowland Christmas.

Stage

Space Mountain was decked out for the event.

Space Mountain

Phineas and Ferb greeted guests in Tomorrowland. They are where Buzz Lightyear is during the day (between Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin and Carousel of Progress).

Phineas and Ferb

Snowflakes were projected onto the pavement in Tomorrowland.

Snowflakes

Stations were set up for complimentary hot chocolate and cookies.

Cookies

In Fantasyland, Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine, Anastasia and Drizella greeted guests.

Cinderella

Main Street looked beautiful.

Main Street

The soldiers are around the flagpole.

Soldiers

Santa is greeting guests at the flagpole this year. Duffy the Disney Bear was supposed to be at his old location near City Hall, but I never saw Duffy greeting guests.

Santa

These trees were near Santa.

Trees

The parade begins in Frontierland and makes its way to Main Street.

Parade

Duffy joined Mickey and Minnie in the parade.

Mickey and Minnie

The skiers were also new this year.

Skiers

Chip and Dale

Dwarves

Carriage

Cinderella

Princesses

New to the parade (or new to me, at least, since it's been a couple of years since I've been) are Princess Jasmine and Aladdin.

Jasmine

Toy Soldiers

Here's a quick video of the Toy Soldiers marching down Main Street.

Santa's reindeer have slightly different costumes this year. Apologies if this picture is too dark -- my attempts to lighten it weren't very successful.

Reindeer

Santa

Just before the fireworks, The Magic, the Memories and You is shown. It has a special holiday segment. The castle turns into a gingerbread castle briefly (and I mean BRIEFLY -- have your cameras ready! I missed getting a picture of the candy cane overlay) and a present and... well, you'll have to see it, but I think you'll like the segment.

Gingerbread

Holiday Wishes was incredible, as always. There's one segment that always makes me tear up.

Fireworks

Fireworks

Here's a brief video of the fireworks:

Fireworks

Fireworks

Unfortunately, the cold and crowd drove us out after the fireworks. We had a great time.

Depot

A few more notes:

*The princesses and the princes as well as Mickey and Minnie were greeting in the Town Square Theater.

*Donald and Pooh and friends were greeting guests in Fantasyland. The pictures were too dark and I couldn't lighten them up at all.

*Tinker Bell and her friends were greeting in Adventureland.

*The character meets were very, very busy, especially the indoor locations.

*The party we attended was sold out.


October 19, 2011

What's New, What's Next: Downtown Disney October 17, 2011

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Near Earl of Sandwich and Once Upon a Toy, a giant Mickey pumpkin has been set up.

Giant pumpkin

Halloween decorations are set up outside of Pin Traders.

Decorations

Walls are up around a portion of the exterior of World of Disney as they work on the pavement.

Walls

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Outside of World of Disney, there is a Halloween display set up.

Display

The pavement work has been completed outside part of World of Disney.

Pavement

Walls are up around a portion of the Lego Store as well.

Lego Store

Some of the pavement work has been completed outside the Lego Store. The Lego sculptures have been moved around somewhat.

Pavement

Buzz and Woody

Sculptures

Over on the West Side, signs are up for the new stores.

Something Silver

Sunglass Icon

Blink

Halloween displays have also been set up on the West Side, across from D-Street.

Halloween

Halloween

Click here to see my September Update which included Downtown Disney.

That's all for this update. Have a great day!

October 15, 2011

Halloween Howls at Fort Wilderness

By Guest Bloggers Carol and Gary Cruise

Ghosts and goblins are everywhere! Spooky golf carts and costumed dogs are the order of the day. It's a trick-or-treaters delight!

If you are at Walt Disney World during the month before Halloween be sure to set aside an evening to visit Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. You'll be very glad you did!

The campers at Fort Wilderness take great delight in decorating their campsites for every season and the Halloween season is absolutely packed full of fun at "the Fort". Halloween decorating began about seven years ago when one camper decided to re-do his site in a spooky way! The next year more joined in, and the next year still more, all trying to out-do their neighbors. After a few years it had developed into a major event and Disney decided to join in the fun with a site decorating contest, golf cart parade and plenty of other activities. There's fun for the whole family!

Here's the 2010 Schedule:

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The campsites are just amazing. You will see a vast array of Disney themed inflatables, often mingled with some downright scary animated mannequins. There are ghosts flying between trees in eerie foggy cemeteries, zombies crawling up from under the ground; there's even a skeleton eating a Mickey Bar. Unless you've seen it you cannot imagine how creative the campers can be. Some people have spent thousands to create a magnificent show. One site this year had a few dozen inflatables, countless strings of Halloween lights, animated Halloween characters and illuminated jack-o-lanterns, all flashing in perfectly multiplexed time to Michael Jackson's "Thriller". It was awesome! He won third prize in Disney's site decorating competition.

It's hard to describe how well it is done, so I'll let some pictures do the talking! Here are a few samples of what you will see:

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Some sites are decorated as early as September but the activity really accelerates in October. The last two weeks before Halloween are exciting times as campers race to get ready for the big day!

The first official Disney activity is the Mummy Wrap-Up which takes place in the morning the day before Halloween. It's held in the playing field beside the Meadows Swimmin' Hole. The campground Activities Cast Members wheel in hundreds of rolls of toilet tissue and families have a few minutes to wrap their children. It's a race against the clock! Once the cast members have called "Time" the children line up. At the count of three they all race to the far side of the field, turn around and race back. The wrapping (or what's left of it) is judged once they return. What a comical event; when it's over the field looks like a toilet paper cyclone went through!

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There are Halloween themed games in the Meadows Swimmin' Hole and creepy-crawly crafts at the pool-side pavilion.

The highlight of the day before Halloween is always the golf cart parade. You just cannot imagine what folks can do with a golf cart if you have not been there. All sorts of lights and Halloween inflatables festoon the carts. I can't imagine how they manage to power all the accessories they creatively to attach to the carts! Giant spiders and cats lurked on top of them. Several carts were transformed into pirate ships, two were Flintstones cars, one was a Disney Monorail car, one was a Kilimanjaro Safari truck and another was the hearse with the invisible horse from the Haunted Mansion. There were over two hundred carts in the parade. All were unique and some were simply amazing. My personal favorite was the two carts which were transformed into the Slinky Dog from the Toy Story movies. How do you rent two carts from Disney in the morning and transform them into the Slinky Dog in time for a 5:45 parade? That takes work and lots of ingenuity!

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Hundreds of people line the parade route to enjoy the fun while costumed drivers and riders on these outlandish carts toss candies to waiting children.

Halloween morning starts with the Pet Costume Parade. It begins at the Dog Park beside the 300 loop. There were about seventy five dogs and two very wary cats! Pets parade past the judges then promenade all the way around the 300 loop before returning to the Dog Park where the prizes are presented. Many of the owners also dress up for this event and many are themed to match their pets. One dog was dressed as Zero from the Nightmare Before Christmas movie. Of course his Dad and Mom were Jack Skellington and Sally. Another dog was in a Dumbo costume and Mom was also dressed as Dumbo while Dad was Timothy Mouse. There were many dogs dressed as Disney characters and even a tooth fairy.

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There are more activities throughout the day; you can create a tie-dyed t-shirt at the Bike Barn and get a temporary tattoo at the afternoon pool party before trick-or-treating begins at 5:00 p.m.

The trick-or-treating is one of our favorite parts of Halloween. Carol and I just love to see the kids in their costumes and the costumes at Fort Wilderness are often very creative. Many of the parents don costumes to accompany the kids, and some of those decorated golf carts chauffeur them around. It's a very busy night, we had over 600 trick-or-treaters, but it was oh-so-much fun! Our friends Lisa from Massachusetts and Terri from Louisiana came to join in the fun this year. We were visited by princesses, pirates, robots, all varieties of Disney characters, monsters, ghouls and even one youngster disguised as a Walt Disney World Monorail Car! We are so thankful that Lisa and Terri brought some extra candy . . . or we would have run out much earlier!

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There are all sorts of special Halloween activities such as the "Haunted Halloween Carriage Ride" which takes place every night during October. This half hour carriage ride passes through woods and trails along the shores of Bay Lake. Your driver tells the spooky story of the "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and your trip ends with a frightening face-to-face encounter with the headless horseman. This ride sells out quickly, so be sure to book early. There is also a nightly 45 minute horse drawn wagon ride which tours the campground and gives riders some wonderful views of the Halloween decor.

During the Halloween season Chip & Dale's nightly campfire, sing-along and outdoor movie takes on ghostly air with eerie songs and spooky movies.

So be sure to plan a trip to Fort Wilderness during the Halloween season. Disney campers would be happy to see you and we always like to talk about our decor ideas. Come in the evening to see the campground illuminated with all things spooky!

If you come by car you will be asked to park at The Outpost (campground entrance) and catch an internal campground bus to The Settlement, where Pioneer Hall and the Trail's End Restaurant are located. If you come by boat it is a very short walk to The Settlement. From The Settlement you can easily walk around the 100, 200, 300, 400, 500 and 700 loops to enjoy the spectacle. It's about two miles in total and you will see some amazing sights! If walking two miles is a problem, don't worry; you can see the many of the displays very well without getting of the bus!

Once you're finished your tour you might want to sit in a rocking chair on the Trail's End veranda and watch the world go by. Or perhaps you would like to pick up your favorite adult beverage from Crockett's Tavern and take it to the beach. There you can sit in a comfy chair on the patio or a lounge chair on the beach and enjoy a terrific view of the Wishes fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom. It's spectacular to see it reflected off the waters of Bay Lake! They even pipe in the sound track to add to your enjoyment. After Wishes is over wait just a few minutes and the Electrical Water Pageant will sail by as it does every night at 9:45. It's a terrific way to end your day at Disney!

So come on over to Fort Wilderness and enjoy Halloween!

Thanks to John Ames, Will Garmer and TCD who agreed to share their photos with us.

December 11, 2010

Candlelight Processional Part I - Candlelight Processional

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On December 7, we went to the Candlelight Processional as part of the dinner package. Yesterday I blogged about the Dinner portion at Tutto Italia. Now, onto the Candlelight Processional itself!

Epcot's Candlelight Processional Jodi Benson


They let us in the theater just before 6:30.

Epcot's Candlelight Processional Jodi Benson

We found seats in the third row. We huddled up and got the blankets out (yes, it was THAT cold that evening). We had a wonderful view of the stage and I even found a sort-of hidden Mickey.

Epcot's Candlelight Processional Jodi Benson


When the Processional begins, I promise it will give you chills. Many in the audience were moved to tears at various times throughout the event, The orchestra is phenomenal and when the Voices of Liberty join them, well, that just can't be put into words. The Cast Member choir files up the stage to form the living tree. Then, the high school choirs file down the sides and center of the theater, singing as they go.

Epcot's Candlelight Processional Jodi Benson

Epcot's Candlelight Processional Jodi Benson

After a few songs, the celebrity narrator joins them on stage. As I mentioned earlier, that particular evening's narrator was Jodi Benson. She was dressed in a formal red gown and looked stunning.

Epcot's Candlelight Processional Jodi Benson

She began reading and Jack grabbed my hand and whispered, "Oh my gosh! It's Ariel reading to us!" She was absolutely magical because she was so happy to be there and put so much emotion into her reading.

I'm not going to lie- the tears flowed freely from all of us that evening. We were all so moved- not just by the story but also by the fact that we were able to share the evening together.

Epcot's Candlelight Processional Jodi Benson

Epcot's Candlelight Processional Jodi Benson

If you have a chance to book the dinner package, or even to see the show without the dinner package, please take the opportunity. You will be so glad you did.

Epcot's Candlelight Processional Jodi Benson

Before I let you go, I have a confession to make: I'm seeing the show again when Trace Adkins narrates because, like he says, "ladies love country boys." :)

Have a MAGICAL day!

December 10, 2010

Candlelight Processional Part I - Dinner Package

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The Candlelight Processional at Epcot is something that we knew we wanted to do this year. Very, very dear friends were coming to WDW to visit and we decided we needed to go together. We looked at the narrator list and saw Jodi Benson (voice of Ariel in "The Little Mermaid") for the evening of December 7. We were completely sold that that was the night we were going to go. I called and was able to get us a reservation at Tutto Italia.

Tutto Italia Epcot


None of us had eaten at Tutto Italia before. We were a little nervous because we had heard some so-so things regarding the restaurant but our fears were for nothing! Dinner was WONDERFUL. The restaurant was gorgeous and they had a holiday display set up in the lobby.

Tutto Italia Epcot


As part of the Candlelight Processional package, you get an appetizer, entrée, dessert and soda. I had the Caesar salad, Cannelloni al Forno and the tiramisu. Mom had the Caesar salad, Farfalle and the Copette Sotto Bosco. Jack had the Melanzana Ala Parmigana, Farfalle, and dessert trio. Erik had the calamari, Lasagna al Forno, and the Copette Sotto Bosco. Christy had the Caesar salad, Brasato Di Manzo Al Vino Rosso, and the dessert trio. We all were very happy with our selections and would have licked the plate if it had been socially acceptable to do so.

The only negative from our dinner was the fact that as soon as we placed the forks down, our plates were being taken. It made us feel rushed but, in their defense, they had a LOT of people waiting out in the lobby. Though, our drinks were never empty and we had everything we needed. We would definitely eat there again with the knowledge it is not a place to linger.

We wandered around World Showcase for a bit until the 5:00 show started. We decided to go ahead and get in line because it was just too cold to do much else and the line was sort of protected from the wind.

The line for parties who have the dinner package tickets is, if you're facing the theater, on the far left. The standby line is on the far right. We had a great time talking to the Cast Members.

Up next... the Candlelight Processional!

November 7, 2010

Holiday Decorations at Disney's Hollywood Studios

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Guest Blogger Ashley Livingston paid a visit to Disney's Hollywood Studios this weekend, and discovered the holiday decorations already appearing. As she notes, they are "lovely!"

Reminder: The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights begins November 8!

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About Holidays

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

Guest Bloggers is the previous category.

Kilimanjaro Safaris is the next category.

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