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December 10, 2016

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party for Teens and Young Adults

by Evan L. Weston
AllEars® Guest Blogger

We're deep into the heart of Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party season, and that means the scramble is on to snatch up passes for the Magic Kingdom's premier specially ticketed event.

In my feature article in the November 15 edition of the AllEars® newsletter, I discussed how Magic Kingdom tends to be the most difficult park to convince the teen and young adult demographic to try, and the Christmas Party can exacerbate some of those perceptions. The event is built not around thrills or a club atmosphere, but around exclusive character meets and once-a-year shows and parades. But don't let the surface events fool you; there's plenty of fun to be found for our subset, including every young adult's absolute favorite thing in the world. Say it with me...

FREE FOOD!

MVMCP Food

Yes, there are not one, not two, but eight complimentary treats included with your Christmas Party admission! The offerings include four different cookies, three beverages, and what turned out to be my girlfriend's favorite, a blue raspberry snow cone that you should definitely have before it gets too cold! On the food side, the best offerings are the snickerdoodle cookies, on hand at Tortuga Tavern in Adventureland, and the peppermint bark cookies from Tomorrowland's Lunching Pad. If you're out on a cool Florida night, you can pick up hot chocolate at both of those locations, but I tended towards the spiced hot cider, located all the way in the back of the park at Pete's Silly Sideshow. It's worth the trek, if only to gawk at the sometimes three-hour line to meet the Seven Dwarves!

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party also includes a benefit you shouldn't discount: some of the shortest waits you'll ever see on the Magic Kingdom's flagship attractions.

MVMCP Lines

With capacity limited and most of the attention focused on the shows and parades, attractions that normally see wait times exceeding an hour often can be done in under 20 minutes. Space Mountain, for instance, never went higher than 25 minutes at any point during our Friday night visit to the Christmas Party. Line times plummet further after Holiday Wishes and especially after the final parade; just after 11 p.m., only the uber-popular Seven Dwarfs Mine Train had a wait higher than 20 minutes, sitting at a very doable half an hour.

Lastly, for those looking to get into the Christmas spirit, Holiday Wishes is well worth your time. Don't bother waiting forever in front of the castle for a premium view, though; instead catch it from the side of the castle (where plenty of the show is still visible) and stay near a hub exit, ready to break back for the rides before the crowd disperses. It's really not a bad view:

Holiday Wishes

For other entertainment, Tomorrowland features four performances a night from VoicePlay, a supremely talented, Orlando-based a cappella group that came to fame on NBC's "The Sing-Off." The shows are, for whatever reason, never particularly crowded, and offer a very cool theatrical experience. It's absolutely wild what these guys can do with just their voices!

Between free food, short waits, and a little bit of Christmas magic, be sure to remember that Magic Kingdom, even Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, has something for everyone in the family!

Mickey & Minnie

July 31, 2016

Dayton Disneyana 2016

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

Dayton Disneyana Guest Speakers

There’s something for everyone at Dayton Disneyana!

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

Map

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

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

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

Ohio State Line

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

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

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

Margaret Kerry
Margaret Kerry with Anita Schaengold the background

Tom and Janice Nabbe
Tom Nabbe and his wife Janice

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

Jim and Terri

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

Jim and Terri

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

What a great night!

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

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

Welcome Sign

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

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

Carol and Mickey

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

Bob and Latosha

An eager vendor

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

Disneyana treasures

Orange Bird collectibles

Hitchhiking Ghosts

Classic Board Games

Collector Plates

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

Erin Morehouse

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

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

Early birds

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

Mary and Mickey

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

Rush hour in Dayton

Rob with his goody bag

Happy shoppers

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

Tom and Janice Nabbe

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

Jim Hill

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

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

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

Pin trading

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

Tom Nabbe

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

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

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

Tom Nabbe

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

Margaret and Terri

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

Margaret Kerry

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

Terri Hardin

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

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

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

Cheryl as Mary Poppins

More costumes

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

Costume winners

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

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

After dinner speakers

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

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

Margaret Kerry

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

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

Terri and the Tsum-Tsum

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

The auction

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

Margaret and Rob

Tom Nabbe and Gary Cruise

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

Some quiet time with Tom Nabbe

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

This legend even has a window on Main Street!

We enjoyed a more leisurely start on Sunday morning.

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

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

Gary with Margaret Kerry

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

Sunday morning shoppers

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

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

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

Tom Nabbe with his book

Tom Nabbe with Walt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What did the two collectors bring home?

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

Free Stuff
Click on the image to see a larger version

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

Purchased by Rob
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.

May 13, 2014

D23's Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved

by
J. Scott Lopes
AllEars.Net Guest Blogger


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One of the great benefits of being a D23 member is having the opportunity to attend numerous special events that are held throughout the country each year. A few weeks ago, I read on the D23, The Official Disney Fan Club web page that there would be a special event in my area, so I made plans to attend.

On April 13, 2014, during the PAX East gaming festival located in Boston, Massachusetts, Disney Interactive and Harmonix hosted an exclusive event for D23 members to preview their new game, Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved. The event was held at the Trade restaurant in Boston.


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About 100 people turned up for the event. Guests were having an exciting time playing the game during the event on one of two gaming consoles, and Disney cast members were encouraging all guests to take a turn and try out the new game:


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During the event there was a great assortment of food and drinks, such as pizzas and sliders.

As with most Disney events, there were surprise giveaways. In total there were three prize packs: a wireless headset, a print signed by the development team, and a package that consisted of an engraved iPod Touch pre-loaded with music from the game and also a copy of the game at launch.


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Although there were only three prizes, all guests were able to get a Fantasia gift bag that contained a tee shirt, pin, and an unsigned copy of the print.


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Overall this was a great event. It was a lot of fun to be able to meet other fans and also play the latest Disney game. Being from New England, it's hard for me to make it to events in Florida or California, so it is nice to be able to go to local events.


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



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.


October 6, 2013

EPCOT Trade Celebration 2013 – Part 2

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To conclude my report on the annual EPCOT 2013 Trade Celebration I want to share some photos of the gifts and merchandise that I brought home from the event. If you missed Part 1, you can read it HERE.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, this year started last September with the first pin of the month being released at the 2012 event. I purchased the broken mirror pin that had the picture of Cruella in the background. At that time I was undecided whether I would keep the pin or trade it based on the fact that I didn't think I could get all 13 pins and I wasn't a particularly villainous fan. However, with the help of some friends, a few trades and purchases of my own I did end up with all 13-Refections of Evil pins. The last pin was made available on the event Random Selection Process. The "RSP" is a sort of lottery used to allocate Limited Edition pins which are sold in small edition sizes.

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I was lucky this year and got all the pins that I put on my Random Selection Process order.

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Every year there are mystery pins and this year was no different. Each attendee could purchase up to 6 boxes. Each box contained 2 mystery pins and if you were lucky one of those pins could be a chaser. The Villains are limited release and the chasers, bricks to go with each Villain, are all limited editions of 213. I got a chaser in every one of my boxes.

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Villains_and_Bricks

When you picked up your goods on registration day you also got the items from the Vinylmation Random Selection Process.

Evil_Queen_Vinylmation

Annual_Passholders_Cel

There were also registration gifts for each event.

Registration_Gift_Pin

Registration_Gift_Vinylmation

On Friday, the "Club 13" Day, I spent most of my time looking on the pin boards and in Vinylmation boxes for the event Vinylmation chasers and the event Mystery Pin mirror shards. I was able to find them all.

Vinylmation_Chasers

Broken_Mirror_Shards

There was a merchandise store with Limited Edition items specific to the event or items released early to event attendees. There were also a few items left over items from the Random Selection Process and a 13- Reflections of Evil completer pin, a Limited Edition of 500.

Completer_Pin

Madam_Mim_Vinylmation

During the event they brought in cases of the not yet released Nightmare Before Christmas 2 Vinylmation Series. Registered guests could purchase these before they went on sale to the public. I bought 2 boxes and I got the chaser . . . lucky me! This series is scheduled to be released at D Street in late October, just in time for Halloween.

Vinylmation_Chaser

We received our lunch in this nice insulated lunch bag.

Gift_Lunch_Bag

At the conclusion of the Club 13 Trade Day (Friday) we received a parting gift, the Reflection of Evil mirror and a pin.

Gift_Mirror

Club_13_Pin

The Saturday Villainous Breakfast gift pin.

Villainous_Breakfast_Pin

I purchased a mat from the merchandise store that I can display my pins on.

Countdown_Pins_and_Mirror

At then end of the pin trading event we were all given a boxed pin set that contained Villain prospects from Pixar.

Boxed_Set_of_Villain_Prospects

The Sunday morning Villainous Breakfast gift is one of my favourites, the Evil Daisy Duck.

Vinylmation_Daisy_Duck

I mentioned in my blog that I was able to make some good trades with the chasers I got from the blind box, this is my favourite. It is the chaser from the Vinylmations Classic Collection, released November 12, 2012.

Vinylmation_Oswald

That pretty much summarizes why my suitcase was almost overweight on my flight home!

September 29, 2013

Epcot Trade Celebration 2013

Carol Cruise

It was a beautiful day as I drove over the 1000 Island International Bridge; my destination was the Syracuse Airport where I had a 4 p.m. flight to Orlando. It was the start of my annual trip to Walt Disney World to partake in the Epcot Trade Celebration. I really enjoy this opportunity to spend time with friends who share my interests and I always enjoy the spoils of a Disney event.

Event_logo
The Event logo!

I had lots of time so I had lunch at the Destiny Mall and wandered through a couple of the shops. I then headed over to the airport, found a parking spot in the covered parking garage and proceeded to check in for my flight. Everything was on schedule and I arrived on time in Orlando. When I got to the main terminal I went directly to the car rental station and got my paper work done. There was no one in the line; everyone was still waiting for their luggage. I back-tracked to the baggage claim area just as my suitcase was coming down the belt. I was doing my best to save time since my friends were waiting for me at The Earl of Sandwich. The "Canadian Contingent" had all arrived at different times and this was our meet-up spot. I texted them as I was about to leave the airport. There was no traffic and I actually arrived at Earls just as they were about to reach the counter. We all enjoyed a delicious sandwich and got caught up. After dinner we wandered through some of the shops, I went to Guest Services to pick up my MNSSHP ticket and get my Premier AP fitted with the RFID technology. All went well so then Carrie, my roommate and I headed to our home for the week, Old Key West.

Since this blog is mainly to focus on the "Event" I will quickly summarize my activities for Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday we went to Typhoon Lagoon, Carrie had never been before so this was a first for her.

Typhoon_Lagoon

After we had enjoyed enough sun and surf we went to the Character Outlet, and later to the Magic Kingdom to meet up with the Canadian Contingent for dinner at The Plaza.

Dinner_at_the_Plaza

Carrie and I stopped at the Fire Station right at 4 p.m. and we were the first to receive the special MNSSHP Sorcerer Card.

Sorcerer_Cards

After dinner we got in line to buy the first release of the Halloween Party pins. Once we had our pins we rode Haunted Mansion (the only ride I rode the entire week). We watched the parade, the fireworks, the castle show and we got lots of candy.

The_Castle_Show

Hallowishes_fireworks

This year the popcorn bucket was a must have for me.

A_cool_popcorn_bucket

Wednesday was a lazy day relaxing at the resort until it was time to head over the Studios. We met up with a dozen or so of our pin trading friends and had a wonderfully fun dining experience at Prime Time Café. To finish the evening off we wandered through the Art of Animation and a few other shops.

Thursday was the day we hit the ground running, first up was the 3rd Annual Breakfast with the Artists.

Waiting_for_the_park_to_open
The Canadian Contingent waiting to go to Norway

This is a non-Disney event organized by our friends from Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders. John & Sheila Rick and Janis & David Lavender have, for the last three years, hosted a breakfast that includes a panel discussion with artists from the Disney Design Group. This year we met at 8:30 outside of Epcot, then we were escorted through the empty park to the private upstairs room over Norway. We enjoyed a hot breakfast and then spent an hour or so asking the artist's all kinds of questions.

The_organizers_and_the_artists
John, Sheila, Mike, David, Ron, Janis & Quynh

The panel included Ron Cohee, Mike Sullivan and Quynh Kimball. It was interesting to listen to them tell us how the pins and Vinylmations that we would be getting at the event were designed to tell the story of the 13-Reflections of Evil. The Evil Queen cast a spell and her mirror was the portal to evil; she summoned the Villains and the 13 of them gathered, then she broke the mirror into 13 pieces so there was no escape back through the portal. This plan was overheard by Figment and he went to Sorcerer Mickey; with the help of Mickey and his friends, the mirror pieces were found and good was restored.

After breakfast we immediately left Epcot and drove directly to Coronado Springs Resort, it was time for event registration.

Ready_for_registration

The line was very long and actually flowed into another room, but it move quickly. It is a very well organized process by Disney.

Registration_line

Once I got to the registration table I was given my credentials and event gifts. I also received the merchandise that I had ordered through the RSP. I had registered for all 3 days so all 3 days "stuff" was in my package. This included coupons for gifts at the event, gift cards for lunch on Saturday and Sunday and my breakfast coupons for Saturday and Sunday. Friday was a special limited event this year called Club 13 and included a lunch that we could preorder when we signed up.

After I signed off that everything was in order I went over to the other side of the room where the tables were set up for trading. This year there was another change, only registered guests could enter the trading room and it would close at 7 p.m. In previous years at 7 p.m. the room opened up to the general public and trading carried on until 10 p.m.

The_trading_room

Our group gathered at a table and started trading. On one trip out of the room I heard a voice ask, "Did you write a blog for AllEars?" I turned and introduced myself to Tricia and Erik from Cleveland. This was their first event and they told me that they had read my blog and it helped them decide to come.

Tricia_and_Erik

I looked for them later in the weekend to ask what they thought of the event but there were so many people I didn't find them. I sure hope they enjoyed themselves.

At 7 o'clock Carrie and I left and headed to Downtown Disney for ice cream, then back to our room so that we could get organized for the morning.

My_credentials_for_Friday

Friday the doors to the event didn't open until 9:30 so we didn't have to rush.

Tommy_sniffs_my_bag

We got to Epcot, had our bags sniffed by Tommy the sniffer dog and headed towards World ShowPlace; as we rounded the corner we could see that the line stretched all the way from Canada over to the bridge at International Gateway.

The_big_line

We got in line and when the doors opened proceeded into the fog-filled room where the Villains were waiting for us. The decorations and theming always amaze me and this time was no different. It was awesome!

The_smoke_filled_room

Some_decor

We_were_greeted_by_villains

More_decor

The day was labelled "Club 13" and admittance was limited compared to the other two days. Other differences with Friday's event were that it included a lunch that was delivered in a nice take home lunch bag. Some of the trading lines were for pins and some were for Vinylmations. There was a stage show with the 13 Villains and then the villains wandered through the venue for several hours posing for pictures and mingling with the crowd.

Villains_on_stage

Villians_mingled

Carrie_and_Jafar

The event store offered some select pieces of merchandise not available anywhere else. There was a silent auction and displays set up by the Disney Partners showing upcoming pins and Vinylmations that will be released from now until the end of the year.

Each year there is a mystery pin set and a chaser Vinylmation released that can only be found on the pin boards or in a Vinylmation trade box. This year there were six pins that, when put together like a puzzle, made a mirror. Each piece has a character holding a shard of the broken mirror. There was Chip & Dale, Donald, Mickey, Minnie, Figment, and Goofy. The chaser Vinylmation was black with the number 13 on its front. I was able to find all these items so that took the pressure off, now I could study the pin boards for limited edition or artist proof pins.

More_decor

At the end of the day we all received a fairly large box that contained a framed mirror that reflected the "13". I personally would have preferred a boxed pin set or jumbo pin. Having to find space in my luggage for such a large piece was a bit of a problem. Since this whole day was a change from any previous Epcot Pin Celebration my expectations were pretty high when I arrived. I really enjoyed the day and all, but I didn't find it to be a whole lot different than other year's events. Am I complaining? - maybe a little. Will I go back again next year? - you bet!

More_villains

We left the World Showplace at 5:30 with the plan to head over to the Studios for the Friday the 13th Limited Time Magic. As we made our way towards the Studios the traffic stopped and was backed up on every road. At first I thought there was an accident, then it sunk in, everyone was heading to the Studios. We were able to get out of the mob and decided to go to Downtown Disney then back to the resort for a relaxing swim. We made the right decision; we were able to get good nights sleep. We had to be back at Epcot early.

My_credentials_for_Saturday

Saturday started with the Villainous Breakfast at 8:00 a.m., of course there was a long line to get into this too, but once the doors opened it moved quickly.

Another_long_line

Everyone who purchased the limited breakfast did so, so they could get into the event an hour and half before the rest of the event participants. There was also a limited edition pin given to each of the breakfast attendee's. The lines for the pin trade boards filled quickly but you could get through them at least three times before the event opened at 9:30 a.m. There was a nice breakfast available for those that wanted to take the time to eat. Carrie and I did have a quick bite and it was very good.

More_decor

A_pin_trading_board

Since I had already found the six mystery pins on Friday I spent my time looking for pins to add to my collection at home. I was pleased with the pins I found and I even got some good ones to put in my trader bag.

A_Piece_of_Disney_Movies_pins
A Piece Of Disney Movies pins in the silent auction.

Another_villain
Carol and Madam Doomsday

The event offers you the opportunity to purchase a bagged lunch but Carrie and I opted to go across the way to the Rose and Crown for lunch. It is good to take a break from the event for an hour and a relief to sit down. Standing in lines for 12 hours takes its toll on my poor old legs. We didn't want to stay too long, at 1 p.m. Jeanne Lewis, Merchandiser Disney Pins, was going to be giving her presentation.

Jeanne_Lewis_slide

They requested that we not take pictures or videos so I can't show you what is in store, but there are some really awesome pins coming out in 2014.

No_pictures_please

There will be a "Nightmare Before Christmas in July" event at Disneyland and an Epcot Trade Celebration at Disney World, a date was not announced.

The rest of the day, for me, consisted of standing in lines for the pin boards, wandering around the back room looking at people's trade books and watching the stage shows and games.

More_decor

More_decor

The winners of the silent auction were announced and then it was time to pick up our event gift. This day's gift was a boxed set of potential villain prospects, all of which were Pixar characters. I was much happier with this gift than the mirror. At 6 p.m. they drew three names as winners of the three grand prizes, I didn't win. Before we knew it they were announcing that it was time to leave. It was another great day and I was very pleased with my pin finds.

Our group decided to walk over to The Land and have dinner at Sunshine Seasons; it was a great way to finish off the day. Good food and good friends. When we were finished Carrie and I dragged ourselves to the parking lot and headed back to Old Key West for a hot tub, swim and good nights sleep.

My_credentials_for_Sunday

Sunday was Vinylmation day. Just as the day before, we arrived at Epcot for the 8 a.m. Villainous Vinylmations breakfast.

Arriving_on_Sunday

More_decor

We stood in lines for the "blind box" and "open box" trades and ate some breakfast.

Trading_Vinylmations

We all received a very nice limited edition Vinylmation for attending, and all of this occurred before the event opened to regular attendees at 9:30 a.m. I got a couple of really good pulls from the blind box, two variants and a chaser. That meant I had a good opportunity to go in the back trading room and trade for some Vinylmations that I really wanted. I made some trades and then went back to the lines.

Carrie, Allison and I went for lunch at Rose and Crown and enjoyed a nice break.

Lunch_at_Rose_and_Crown

We returned just in time to listen to Thomas Scott, Team Leader for Disney Theme Parks Vinylmation line, tell us what was on the drawing boards for 2014.

Thomas_Scott

There are going to be some really great Vinylmations come out in 2014 and I was pretty excited about some of them.

A_display_of_Vinylmations

At the conclusion of Thomas Scott's presentation he announced the theme for next year's event, with dates not yet finalized.

Next_year's_theme

I find myself enjoying the Vinylmation scene more and more. That's not to say that I am shifting away from pin collecting, but I have become much more selective in what pins I buy and want than I was a few years ago.

The day seemed to fly by and I was very happy with my finds and trades. All too soon 7 o'clock rolled around and it was time to say goodbye to everyone. Carrie and I had to go and pack since we were flying home on Monday. We stopped at Downtown Disney for our last dinner at Wolfgang Pucks, and then drove back to the resort. We managed to get everything packed and then had one last soak in the hot tub and a swim before calling it a night.

I was worried that my luggage would be over weight and I had my carry-on so full that I was afraid the zipper would split. I went to the airline check in at Old Key West to check my luggage and get my boarding pass. My suitcase weighed in at 50.5 lbs, the attendant laughed and said it was OK. He printed my boarding pass and then off we went to the airport. We made a quick stop on the way for a breakfast sandwich at Earl's and a final walk through the Pin Store.

So that concludes another annual event. I had a wonderful time and enjoyed the venue immensely. As always, I had a great fun with friends I seldom get to see and came home with lots of new pins and Vinylmations.

Did I decide to keep the Pins of the Month - 13 Reflections of Evil? Of course I did!

P.S. - Stay tuned for more - I'll be preparing another blog to showcase some of the special gifts and merchandise I received at this event!

August 18, 2013

Getting ready for the Annual EPCOT Trade Celebration

Carol Cruise banner

This year the annual Disney Trade Celebration is called "13 - Reflections of Evil"
It starts on Friday the 13th (spooky) this September.

Event_Logo

There are several changes to the event and to event procedures this year that I will go in detail about below. But the one change that has put me in conflict is that one of the pin collections actually started at last year's event. In 2012, while we were lined up on Saturday morning waiting to enter World ShowPlace, a cast member came along and gave everyone a wristband. We didn't know what it was for but we were told to make sure we were in the building at 1 o'clock. As it turned out, when the Event organizers announced the 2013 event each wrist band recipient was allowed to purchase the first in a series of 13 pins. Each month from September 2012 to September 2013 a different pin would be released. Each monthly pin has a Villain on it and is limited to 750.

13-Cruella-pin

This is where the conflict for me comes in! Due to my CCD (Collector Compulsive Disorder) when there is a collection involved, I can't just go with a few of the series, I have to have all - or nothing. I left the event last year with my mind made up that I didn't want this set of pins; I am not a Villain fan; I don't collect bad guy pins; the Evil Queen scares me; it would be too hard to get every month's pin . . . and so on.

Well one thing led to another and with the help of friends who have either visited WDW, a friend who lives close by WDW, and my couple of trips down since the event, I have all the pins that have been released - with the exception of 2. My conflict is - 1) Do I really want them? or 2) Have I just collected them because I could? Should I take them with me to the event and try to complete the collection (I have 2 doubles to use as traders) or do I use them to trade for pins that I actually collect. Nice pins like Pluto and Daisy and Orange Bird, not the nasty mean villains.

Another change this year is in the event packages. In previous years you signed up and paid for the pin portion of the event that was held Friday and Saturday and you signed up for the Vinylmation portion that was held on Sunday. This year when they announced the event package information, the pin portion was split into two separate packages. If you read closely, the Friday event included "limited" in the wording. Registration for these packages opened up on the 13th hour of the 13th day of May. I had my alarm set; my calendar marked and had warned family and friends to stand clear when the time came to register. I got into the online registration system at about 1:15 p.m. and signed up for everything. I was in and I had confirmation numbers for all three days as well as the two special breakfasts. I have heard that the Friday "limited" Club 13 Event Package sold out in less than an hour, and since then all of the other packages, with the exception of the Sunday Vinylmation package, have sold out.

Friday_Event

Saturday_Event

Sunday_Event

Another big change from previous years is the closing time. The events always started at 9:30 a.m. but they were over at 6:00 p.m., this year the closing time has been extended to 7:00 p.m.

The RSP (Random Selection Process) had changed this year. Instead of submitting one RSP that included all of your merchandise selections, the merchandise is divided into 3 categories. "Pin Trading", "Art & Collection" and "Vinylmation Trading" are the categories and depending on what event package you have purchased, you have different selection options.

RSP_Options

New for this year is the "Purchase with Purchase" opportunity; this can be added to the end of your RSP form.

Purchase_with_Purchase

The 2013 event is shaping up to be a really villainous good time. I am so excited to be going! Many of my pins trading friends are going to be there and we have lots of interesting plans in the works. I have my flights booked, my pin bag organized and ready. My Vinylmation traders are sorted and my RSP has been submitted. The only thing left is the big decision, do I or do I not try to complete the 13 Evil Pins collection? I'll let you know the answer when I get back from the event!

While you wait for my blog about the 2013 event why don't you read a few of my previous trading blogs. Here are a few links:

Pin Trading University - 2008

The Museum of PIN-TIQUITIES - 2009

Trade City USA - 2010

Mickey's Circus - 2012

Vinylmations blog - 2012

Pin Trading Tips blog - 2008

See you again in September!

September 30, 2012

Disney Fun – With a Group

GaryCruisebanner.jpg

Have you ever been a part of "group activities" at Disney? We have, and it can be loads of fun! We have met some wonderful people and made some lasting friendships as a result of our involvement in group fun at Disney.

Back in 2004 Carol was planning our December trip to Walt Disney World. She had recently gotten involved with Tagrel.com, an internet fan community, and in one of the threads she had read about something called "MouseFest". It was a group of different internet communities who gathered at Walt Disney World for the first time in early December 2003. MouseFest #2 would be taking place while we were there. She wanted to check it out. A few folks she had "met" online were going to be there and they had some activities or "meets" planned.

We had some reservations - What if they're all geeks and weirdo's? So we approached the whole event with caution. We were extremely wary as we sidled toward the group who had assembled for our first meet . . . we were trying to sneak up without being seen. If they were really weird we could just walk away!

This first encounter was a group ride on Kilimanjaro Safari. The event was hosted by some people we had never met before, Deb Wills and her AllEars.net team. What do you know, these people were normal . . . well, maybe not normal . . . but they were just like us.

Meeting at Kilimanjaro Safaris

Deb was there to greet us and we were extremely excited when she handed us each an AllEars button! Soon we were off; about 200 of us joined the line and our group filled truck after truck to ride through Africa. Most of the folks knew the recorded script by heart and before long we were all reciting the radio banter along with Warden Wilson Matua. Our driver attempted to stick with his normal story but eventually he abandoned the script and roared with laughter as we took over the narration. It was a great ride . . . I'm sure we must have seen some animals, but that seemed secondary compared to all the other fun we were having.

Riding Kilimanjaro Safaris

As soon as we left Kilimanjaro we walked down the road to nearby Harambe Fort to begin a Hidden Mickey search. Dr. Steven Barrett, the famous Hidden Mickey hunter, was there handing out clue sheets and explaining the ground rules. There were subtle clues directing us to some not-so-obvious Hidden Mickeys. Soon we had teamed up with a couple of Tagrel.com "friends" we were meeting for the first time and off we went. What a blast we had, searching for elusive images of the mouse and snapping pictures of them. Back at Harambe Fort Steve told us a bit about the origin and history of Hidden Mickeys and then he drew for some door prizes. Wow! I won one of Steve's Hidden Mickey books and he autographed it for me.

Steve Barrett the king of Hidden-Mickeys

It was a great day! We met two well known personalities in the Disney fan universe, Deb Wills and Steve Barrett. We laughed a lot, we learned a little bit and we made some new friends and acquaintances. We were hooked! We never missed MouseFest after that! Each year it got bigger and better.

Alas, like many good things it ended too soon. The last MouseFest was held in December 2008. But don't despair . . . while MouseFest is a thing of the past, there are still plenty of groups who get together for Disney fun!

Tagrel.com Disney Fan community.jpg

Tagrel.com has regular gatherings at Walt Disney World we refer to as "Tag-O-Mania" and when we occasionally get together at Disneyland it's "Tag-A-Venture". The next Tag-A-Venture will be held in mid October 2012 and the next Tag-O-Mania will likely be in early December 2013.

Tagrel friends at Expedition Everest

What do we do? Plenty!
Do we have fun? YES!

Toy Soldiers at Toy Story Mania

Picture us heading to It's a Small World. Yes, I know, many of you don't like it. The music just won't quit . . . it's in your head all day. But when you ride with 50 or 60 friends it creates some new memories. It's kind of special to remember sailing through this old attraction when the two boats in front of yours, and the two boats behind it, are filled with your friends and everyone in all 5 boats is loudly singing along with that tiresome old tune!

Once, at the Tower of Terror we filled an entire elevator car with Tag-O-Maniacs. At the end of the ride when the elevator car rotated and the exit door slid open we all screamed at the top of our lungs. It was quite a surprise for the doorman who was poking his head in the door ready to startle us!

Tower of Terror

Group meals are fun too. When the server asks, "Where are you folks from?" it's nice to be able to say, "I'm from Canada, he's from Boston, those two are from Albuquerque, she's from Seattle, the old guy is from Scranton and the lady in the corner - I have no idea where she lives."

The most frenzied activity I've ever seen at Walt Disney World was a Tag-O-Mania event called "Capture the Magic". We formed teams of about six people and took off on a photo-scavenger hunt. Each team received a list of about 40 riddles which had to be solved to find cryptic clues. The clues sent you to places all around the Magic Kingdom where the team had to be photographed in some crazy activity.

We had to find strangers, two generations in the family, to "Walk like an Egyptian" with us on Main Street USA.

Walk like an Egyptian

We had to arrange the team in Liberty Square with the team's bodies (along with two total strangers) spelling out the word Mickey.

Spelling out M-I-C-K-E-Y

We had to find a cast member and have them join us as we performed a can-can dance in front of Country Bear Jamboree.

Can Can Dance

It was impossible to complete all of the tasks in the allotted 90 minutes but we sure had a blast trying!

One of the nice things about the Tagrel meets, and all the other groups too, is that you can pick and choose what you want to participate in. There is a published list of events and you select which ones to get involved in. There is no pressure and no one takes attendance! You can still have plenty of time to your self!

But of course Tagrel.com is not your only option if you're looking for group activities. There are plenty of other groups.

AllEars.net has regular meets in the parks throughout the year. You can find details here. There is a unique AllEars Trading Card created for each meet and these cards have become a very popular item with Disneyana collectors!

Last year we took part in "A December to Remember", the 15th Anniversary celebration for AllEars.net. It was magical - Mouse Fan Travel worked with Walt Disney World officials to dazzle us with some "extra magic"! As always they did a magnificent job. We enjoyed all of the events but one of the highlites for us was a session with noted Disney artist Don "Ducky" Williams.

Ducky Williams

Ducky has an amazing life story and he tells it very extremely well, all while drawing Disney characters on his easel.

Ducky Williams

Ducky Williams

There was some over-the-top pixie dust one night. Mouse Fan Travel arranged a private viewing of The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. After Hollywood Studios closed for the evening a group of about 150 of us were escorted back to enjoy the lights with no crowd! WOW! What a treat!

Osborne Lights

Osborne Lights

There are many other Disney fan communities who meet at the parks as well. Here are just a few of them:

Reunion, co-hosted by WDW Today & Mouse Fan Travel, takes place each year in early December. Details are here.

Lou Mongello of WDW Radio hosts a regular "Meet of the Month". Details are here.

RADP, the grand-daddy of all the internet groups, also meets each year in December. Details are here.

So if you are an avid Disney fan but you have not participated in any of the many group activities, what's holding you back? It's time you added this new dimension to your Disney experience! Find an Internet Fan Community that appeals to you and sign up for some fun. You'll be surprised how many new friends you will make!

If you have already taken part in some of the groups I've mentioned then you know how much fun it is when you get together with folks who share your addiction to Disney!

December 21, 2011

Tables in Wonderland Holiday Party

by John Bowers
Guest Blogger

This event was held Saturday December 17, 2011 in the Norway Lounge in Epcot.
Price: $115 per person, plus tax. Gratuity is included.

Let's pop the champagne, we have good reason!
The holidays are here and we're celebrating the season!

The cookies have been made, the wrapping is done.
It's time to sit back and have a little fun!

The decorations are up, the lights are aglow.
Let's celebrate with folks we know!

Five to ten o'clock on Saturday, the seventeenth of December
You are invited to the Tables in Wonderland Holiday Party for a night to remember.

Norway Lounge at Epcot is where we'll be,
So bring your Holiday Spirit and be ready to party!

Tables in Wonderland Norway Holiday Party

Please join us for a little bubbly and good cheer
to toast the Holidays and the coming New Year!

5:00pm - 5:30pm Reception
5:30pm - 7:45pm Dinner
8:15pm - 9:00pm Candlelight Processional with celebrity narrator Chita Rivera (entertainment subject to change without notice)
9:00pm - 10:00pm IllumiNations Viewing

Holidays Around the World Menu

Reception

Passed Selection of Chilled French Influenced Items
Tuna Nicoise Spoon
Wild Mushrooms with Fennel and Leeks
Grilled Poulet Rouge with Grape Pearls
Moët Impérial - France

Plated Dinner

New Zealand Influenced Salad Course
Baby Romaine Leaves with Roasted Kumara, Apple Radish Slaw and Lemon Vinaigrette
Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc - New Zealand

California Influenced Appetizer Course
Grilled Artichoke, Shaved Zucchini, Heirloom Tomato and Curry Coriander Smear with Pea Tendrils and Oven Dried Prosciutto
Chandon Pinot Meunier - California


Argentinean Influenced Entrée
Green Chile Barbeque Braised Beef Shortrib
Chimi Churi Roasted Yuca with Onions and Garlic served with Fresh Roasted Corn
Terrazas Afincado Single Vineyard Malbec - Argentina

French Influenced Dessert
Grapefruit Custard Brulee with Raspberries, Mint Chifonade and Grape Tuile
Moët Ice Impérial - France

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Tables in Wonderland hosted a Holiday Party on Saturday, December 17, 2011 at the Norway Lounge at Epcot. The Norway Lounge is a space mostly above the Maelstrom attraction.

We had a nice (short) reception, with the three delicious passed tidbits (tuna nicoise,
wild mushrooms, and the poulet rouge) and an open bar featuring a chardonnay, a merlot and a champagne.

About 5:30, we were seated, eight people to a table, for dinner. I believe there were about
8 tables.

Since the theme was 'Holidays Around the World,' the food was themed around different countries. The reception treats had been French-influenced, and our salad course was New Zealand-influenced. An unusual component of the salad was roasted kumara. Kumara, it turns out, is what the Kiwis call a sweet potato. What else to pair with a light New Zealand-influenced salad, but a crisp New Zealand sauvignon blanc, of course. Cloudy Bay, which burst onto the scene with outstanding sauvignon blanc in about the mid-1990s, was the winery.


Tables in Wonderland Norway Holiday Party

Our next course was a California-influenced appetizer. Grilled artichoke, with some zucchini, tomato, and a nicely spicy curry coriander smear. Exotic and tasty. And a Chandon Pinot Meunier, a red wine that compares to pinot noir, to sip with it. Pinot meunier, if you haven't had it, is a real surprise.

Tables in Wonderland Norway Holiday Party

Down to Argentina for the main course. Green Chile Barbeque Braised Beef Shortrib, along with roasted yuca. Yuca is also called cassava, it's similar to a potato. Unique, and very good. The shortrib, wow, they must have slow braised it for days. Rich and (as they say) so tender you could cut it with a fork. And with Argentinian-influenced beef, what else? An Argentinian malbec, specifically a Terrazas Afincado malbec. Similar to a cabernet or maybe a bordeaux-blend, malbec has really taken off in Argentina, and is an excellent value in red wine that pairs well with beef.

Tables in Wonderland Norway Holiday Party

For dessert, we headed back to France for creme brulee and raspberries. Interesting base for the creme brulee: grapefruit. It was more like a flan than a brulee, but I didn't hear any complaints about the rich taste. The dessert wine was the most interesting part of the dinner: Moet Ice Imperial Champagne. A champagne you drink over ice. Seriously! Google it, you'll see. Serve it for your holiday party, you'll be the talk of the town, I promise.

Tables in Wonderland Norway Holiday Party

As we departed the Norway Lounge to go to the Candlelight Processional, we were each given a beautiful potted white poinsettia. A very thoughtful gift from Disney, and quite a surprise. Imagine what about 65 people looked like, all walking from Norway over to the America Gardens theater, each one carrying a potted poinsettia.

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We had reserved seating for the Candlelight Processional, and our celebrity narrator
was the Broadway theater legend Chita Rivera. If you've seen the Processional, I don't need to tell you how beautiful and truly moving it is. If you haven't seen it, see it. There are very few dry eyes in the house at the end of that show.

Tables in Wonderland Norway Holiday Party

Tables in Wonderland Norway Holiday Party

Finally, we gathered our poinsettias and were led over to the terraced area in front of the Italy pavilion, for our own little private spot to watch Illuminations. After the regular Illuminations show ended, Disney nailed a big exclamation point on the holiday evening with a spectacular display of fireworks and lasers that left us all wide-eyed. No matter how many times you've seen fireworks displays out there, you always walk away impressed.

A very special evening, with all the usual Disney hospitality touches. Happy Holidays!

November 4, 2011

A Little Taste of Food & Wine

Andrew Rossi

Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival is one of my favorite times of year at Disney World; there is so much to do, so much to see, and so much good food to taste. One of the things I enjoy most about the Festival is that it allows you to sample the cuisines of so many different countries that you do not normally get to experience. The Festival is a dream come true for the adventurous eater, allowing one to encounter new ingredients, flavors, and dishes both exotic and unique. Epcot is always my go-to park when it comes to great food and this is all the more heightened during the Food & Wine Festival.

Festival Signage

This year's Festival features twenty-nine international marketplaces ranging from Singapore to Portugal to the Caribbean Islands and with so much good food to be found it can sometimes be very difficult to decide which dishes to try. As you walk around World Showcase and look at various menus you quickly find yourself wanting to try everything, the pleasant aromas filling the air only adding to the temptation. Of course, it would cost far too much money to try every single item that the Festival has to offer and so here I present a few of my favorites in the hope it will help you decide which dishes might interest you most.

We will start with Morocco. Although the Moroccan pavilion features both a full service restaurant and quick service eatery, the country's Food & Wine marketplace presents some different offerings.

Morocco Marketplace

Here I decided to try the Kefta Pocket which was described on the menu as ground seasoned beef in a pita pocket. I likened the beef to a spicy hamburger. While the beef did have a very distinct spiciness to it I did not find its flavor to be overwhelming and, even though the beef was a little on the dry side, this did not take away from the flavor. Accompanying the beef in the pita was a type of cole slaw that provided a light and refreshing accompaniment that paired very well with the stronger flavored beef. For $5.00 this is one of the more expensive items throughout the marketplaces, but the size of the dish makes it a good value.

Kefta Pocket

The Hops and Barley marketplace features foods and beers from the United States. Although I like to use the Food & Wine Festival as a way of sampling the cuisines of distant countries that I may not be as familiar with, I could not resist trying a new item on the menu here this year.

Hops and Barley Marketplace

The Pumpkin Mousse with Ocean Spray Craisins and Orange Sauce immediately jumped out at me because I am a huge fan of all things pumpkin and I am happy to say that it certainly lived up to my expectations. The pumpkin mousse was very smooth and creamy and had a flavor similar to that of a pumpkin pie only a little more on the sweet side. To be honest, the only flavor that I really noticed was that of the pumpkin and could not really pick out the orange sauce (which I was glad because the combination of pumpkin and orange seemed a little odd to me). The mousse came topped with chopped nuts and craisins that added a nice contrast in texture to that of the mousse. For $1.50 this is one of the best valued items in the entire Festival.

Pumpkin Mousse

Scandinavia makes its return this year after a brief hiatus and may have one of the best themed exteriors of any of the marketplaces.

Scandanavia Marketplace

Here I chose the Swedish Meatballs with Lingonberries. While this may not be the most visually appealing dish at the Festival, it certainly has great taste and flavor. The meatballs themselves were very moist and tender and were somewhat different in consistency than the meatballs you would get if dining out at an Italian restaurant. Accompanying the meatballs was a lingonberry sauce, which to me tasted very similar to cranberry sauce. I found the lingonberries to be very strong in flavor, and while they did provide some sweetness to the dish and a nice contrast to the flavor of the meatballs, they were a little too overpowering. The meatballs were just as good without the sauce as they were with it on them (and without the sauce you could actually appreciate the flavor of the meatballs more). For $3.50 I found this to be a good sized portion and a good value.

Swedish Meatballs

Argentina is a marketplace that always stands out, not only because of its bright yellow color, but also because of the tremendous aromas wafting from the food being cooked inside.

Argentina Marketplace

I had heard great things about the Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Purée last year and this year decided to give it a try. The chimichurri sauce gave the dish a very strong and distinctive flavor, but it really made the dish what it is. I can best describe the chimichurri sauce as being a slightly spicy pesto and its taste was the dominant flavor in the dish. This is definitely a dish with a kick to it and not for the faint of heart. The boniato puree had the texture and flavor of mashed potatoes that was really enhanced by the chimichurri sauce. The beef itself was tender and juicy and while its $5.00 cost makes it one of the more expensive items it is most definitely worth the price. This is a very high quality and great tasting dish and I would not hesitate to say it is my favorite among the dishes I have sampled so far.

Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce

Hawaii is a new addition to the Festival this year, helping to draw attention to Disney's new Aulani resort which just recently opened.

Hawaii Marketplace

Here I ordered the Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise. I did not expect the slider to be as spicy as it actually was. The mayonnaise provided a definite kick to the dish and even the pineapple chutney was more on the spicy side than the sweet side. That being said, the pineapples did provide a sweeter, refreshing accompaniment to the flavor of the pork. Overall, I thought that all the varying flavors of the dish blended together very nicely. The pork came served on a soft roll, although I wish the roll had been more crusty because it would have made an already good dish even better. For $3.00 this was a very good value in terms of both portion size and quality and one of the better new items at the Festival this year.

Pork Slider

No trip to the Food & Wine Festival for me can be complete without a stop at the Ireland marketplace because it features my favorite dessert.

Ireland Marketplace

The Warm Chocolate Lava Cake with Bailey's Irish Cream Ganache is something that I order every year and keep wishing that there was someplace at Disney that served it all year round. This is definitely a sweet, rich, decadent dessert and, even though it is small, it is still very filling. The chocolate cake comes served warm and is extremely moist, but what truly makes the dessert is the Bailey's ganache that is served on top. While the sauce does have a distinct Bailey's flavor, I did not find this to be too overpowering. Rather, there was just enough taste of Bailey's to give the dessert a little bit of a kick. I was disappointed to find that the price had increased from $2.75 last year to $3.00 this year, but it is still a good value even though the portion size is exactly the same as it was last year.

Lava Cake

Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival continues through November 13.

You can further examine all the marketplaces and menus this year's Festival has to offer here.

See how others are rating the various Festival marketplace offerings here.

If you have been to the Food & Wine Festival this year, you can take part in the survey as well by clicking here.

See past restaurant reviews by guest blogger Andrew Rossi.

October 30, 2011

What's New, What's Next: Epcot - October 27, 2011

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On October 27, we spent some time at Epcot. My last visit to Epcot was at the beginning of the month.

At The Land pavilion, there is a pumpkin patch set up next to the Garden Grill.

Pumpkin patch

Pumpkin patch

Part of the Canada pavilion is still under scrims.

Canada

Work continues on the Japan pavilion.

Japan

When I last visited Epcot, I forgot to check out the train village. Villagers are having their own Food & Wine Festival.

Train village

Train Village 2

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

October 18, 2011

Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic at Walt Disney World

by Laura Wickell
AllEars Guest Blogger

The 41st Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic will be taking place this week, October 20-23, at Walt Disney World's Palm and Magnolia Courses. Among the featured golfers playing this year are the PGA TOUR's top players, Luke Donald and Webb Simpson. I'm volunteering at the golf course this week, as we're getting ready for the tournament, so I thought I'd share some photos.

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Here's a map to help you find your way around
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Mickey and Minnie will greet you at the 18th green
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And here's the 18th green Hospitality Tent:
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As in years past, the Wine & Dine Walk will be offered -- this year around the putting green of Disney's Magnolia Golf Course. Inspired by the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, specialty locations will offer culinary pairings of tapas-sized appetizers, entrees, desserts and wines especially for the event. Here's an idea of how they'll be set up.

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The leaderboard will be broadcasting football during the event:
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Finally, the 7 Dwarfs put in an appearance:
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As do some other topiary friends!
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The two-day pro-am field, which will compete Thursday and Friday of tournament week on both the Palm and Magnolia courses, is set to be headlined by Head Coach of the Boston Celtics Doc Rivers, former Super Bowl star Jerome "The Bus" Bettis (Pittsburgh Steelers), ex-NBA player Alonzo Mourning (Miami Heat), Celtics' sharp-shooter Ray Allen, Tampa Bay Rays star Johnny Damon, future NFL Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks (Tampa Bay Bucs) and popular MLB player Brian Wilson (SF Giants).

Read more about the tournament HERE.



October 4, 2011

Five Tips for Food & Wine for First Timers

Andrew Rossi

The International Food and Wine Festival is now underway at Epcot thru November 13. This is the festival's 16th anniversary and it seems to become more and more popular each year. This is definitely one of my most favorite times of year at Epcot because there is so much going on, so much to see, and so much good food to taste. The festival is a lot of fun but, as with everything at Disney World, it is not something that should be jumped into without first doing some planning in advance. Here are some tips to help maximize your time, money, and enjoyment of all the festival has to offer:

Food & Wine Signage

1. Avoid the Weekends:
Saturdays and Sundays are the busiest days of the week at the Food and Wine Festival because this is when all the locals come to enjoy the event. This results in greater crowds and congestion along the World Showcase promenade, much longer lines at the food stands, and also a higher number of guests who have had a little too much to drink (if you go on a weekend you will notice many groups sporting "drinking around the world" t-shirts). The best days of the week to attend the festival are Monday thru Thursday. Lighter crowds makes the festival much more enjoyable, especially when you do not have to wait in a crazy line to get your food and can actually find a table or bench to sit at.

2. Start Early in the Day:
World Showcase opens at eleven o'clock and this is definitely the best time to head over to sample the various festival marketplaces. Most guests tend to spend the morning in Future World and then make their way to the back of the park in the afternoon. As a result, there are fairly short lines at all of the various food stands for the first few hours after World Showcase opens (even on weekends). The later in the day it gets, however, the more crowded it becomes.

3. Pace Yourself:
Although the portion sizes of the food you receive at the various international marketplaces may seem small, they can be filling. After having just three or four different dishes you can easily find yourself starting to get full. Do not rush and get a lot of food from the first few stands you visit because you will not have room to try anything else as you make your way around World Showcase. I like to try one dish, walk around for a little bit, and then try something else from another stand. If traveling with someone else you may want to consider splitting the food, which also allows you to sample a greater variety of dishes.

4. Plan Ahead:
If you just walk up to every booth and order what sounds good you will end up spending way too much money. Almost every dish offered at the Food and Wine Festival sounds, smells, and looks really good, but there will be some dishes that stand out to you more than others. Just like everything else at Disney World, it pays to do research. I find it best to see what every stand has to offer and then decide on the dishes you want to try most. This will really help you to budget your money. Also, if on the Disney Dining Plan, try saving your snack credits to use at the festival's marketplaces. See which items are most expensive and use your snack credits on those. This will offer you the greatest value for your money.

5. Take Your Time:
You could spend an entire day enjoying everything involved with the Food and Wine Festival. If you can, rather than trying to cram all of the festival into a single day, take a few days to enjoy all the events, demonstrations, and various foods and beverages the festival has to offer. I like to treat the festival's food offerings as snacks rather than trying to make a whole meal of them. Instead of spending a lot of money all at once, I prefer to sample one or two different things each time I go to the festival (note that this is easier if you are a Florida resident rather than visiting on vacation). Attending the festival on multiple days can let you sample an even greater variety of foods, spread your money out over a series of days rather than spending it all at once, and allows you to really take your time and enjoy all of the festivities.

May 24, 2011

Star Tours Midnight Meetup

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Star Tours closed on September 7, 2010 to be converted to what has affectionately been called Star Tours 2.0, or Star Tours: The Adventures Continue. To celebrate its reopening, Disney hosted a midnight meet up on Friday, May 20 at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The event was announced on May 5 and you had to RSVP via email. There were approximately 500 people invited (250 people + 1 guest apiece). A friend who was in town from Chicago was my guest for the event.

We had to go to Blizzard Beach to park, check-in and take a bus to Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Bus

We entered Studios backstage near Star Tours. The red carpet had been rolled out for the evening.

Red carpet

As we made our way to Star Tours, the Hyperspace Hoopla hosts welcomed us to the event and said that Star Tours was now open. I was very excited about being able to ride again... but I was even more excited because we were allowed to take pictures. No photos were allowed during soft openings (click here to read my soft opening report).

The "hot set" theme of Star Tours is gone. You are now in Star Tours' terminal getting ready for your departure to one of their destinations. The first thing you see when you walk in is the Mon Calamari still keeping watch over C-3PO and R2-D2.

Mon Calamari

As your turn the corner, you see the departures and arrivals board. The board is first shown in Aurebesh and then translated to English. Star Tours commercials, weather forecasts and other important Star Tours information is also shown on this board. I was told that this board has over one hour's worth of footage that is shown on it.

Departures and arrivals

The Starspeeder 1000's color scheme is red. The speeders are all brand new for their port on planet Earth. R2-D2 is still our faithful astromech droid for the journey. The flight number for Star Tours is now 1401. 1401 is the street number for Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) in California.

Starspeeder 1000

Speeder and R2-D2

C-3PO has been polished until he shines.

C-3PO

Speeder

The space port theme is enhanced by signs like these throughout the queue.

Signs

Sign

After you pass through the "scanning" station, look to the left. An old friend, RX-24 (or Rex) is seen. Rex isn't quite ready for piloting a Star Tours speeder. Perhaps when the Starspeeder 3000* model is ready for flights...

Rex

Near Rex, you will also see the mechanical 'birds' that used to sit near the top of the queue line. Also, in the far back, look for a reference to TK-421, the trooper who wasn't at his post in A New Hope.

Just up the ramp from Rex is the luggage scanner droid. He can get a little... preoccupied talking to guests. He has also been known to mistakenly 'zap' items like Mickey ears from people's luggage. He also wonders why people would take something called a camera on vacation.

Luggage Scanner

Before you make the turn to go to the top of the queue, watch the 'door' for some familiar characters to walk by.

Door

At the top of the queue, there is a 'heat signature' scanner. He can identify 14,000 life forms but everyone he sees is human so he's perturbed.

Scanner

Just before you are sent to your gate, a schematic of the Starspeeder 1000 can be seen on the wall.

Schematic

The loading area for the speeder is very nice. You will pick up your flight glasses (3D glasses) when you reach your gate. The gates are labeled A-F and and the numbers on the doors are also written in Aurebesh.

Loading area

There are two different pre-show videos that I've seen. Both convey the same information but are presented in slightly different ways.

The interior of the Starspeeder 1000 is largely the same as before. The biggest difference is the seats are now blue.

There are 54 possible experiences on Star Tours flight. There are two openings, three first scenes, three middle scenes and three endings (2*3*3*3 = 54). I was going to give you a list of the scenes but I had a blast figuring it out for myself so I thought I would let you have fun with it, too. You can keep track of your destinations by using your Star Tours passport.

The posters at the end of your flight have been updated. They look great.

Bespin

Otoh Gunga

Naboo

Coruscant

Imagineers were on hand to discuss Star Tours and answer questions from guests. They did say that we were a long way off from having a 3D attraction without needing 3D glasses.

Imagineers

The area around Star Tours was set up very nicely. Beverages were provided as was an ice cream bar. Tables were set up for everyone to use, which was very nice. Near Indiana Jones, this probe droid was set up. It was transmitting the message it sent in The Empire Strikes Back. It's hard to hear on the video below but it gives you an idea of what it was doing.

Probe droid

Characters were roaming around and posing for photos as well. It was a fun event. We got to ride Star Tours 4 times and had the queue virtually to ourselves for a bit to take pictures. I'm really glad I was able to do this event.

*The Starspeeder 3000 was the speeder for the original version of Star Tours.

May 23, 2011

Star Wars Weekends: James Arnold Taylor's One Man Show

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I didn't get to see James Arnold Taylor's one man show at Star Wars Weekends but my friend J.W. did. She was kind enough to write up a review of the show. Here's what she says:

The show starts with your typical announcer voice telling you how great James Arnold Taylor is - then the curtain parts to show James Arnold Taylor doing the voice himself. That really set the tone (laugh out loud funny). There were two screen on either side of the stage in addition to the two mounted on either wall (used for intros in Stars of the Saga, etc). All four screens were used, most notably so "Obi-Wan" could make an appearance from time to time ("Between you and Anakin I don't know why I bother!")

logo

intro

First, he talked about his backstory, including this adorable pic of him as a kid. He also did some radio voices.

kid

This clip was part of his show:

Next, he talked about how his career evolved (commercials, etc) and demonstrated the life of a voice actor (you spend a lot of time in a padded room talking to yourself, etc.) Then he demonstrated the "vocal highway." This video is similar:

He ended on an inspirational message (best part of the show, if you ask me). He explained how, just when his dreams started coming together (he'd landed Obi-Wan, was working on Johnny Test, etc.), he got sick and was told his voice may never return to its full capacity. He explained how faith got him through this and urged everyone present to have faith in THEIR dreams. :)

inspiring

All in all, a GREAT show. I'd highly recommend it!

May 22, 2011

Star Wars Weekends 2011

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Star Wars Weekends (SWW) began in 1997. However, the SWW did not become a regular, annual event until 2003. Since then, each year has had exclusive merchandise and a logo, a motorcade and other events. The Weekends feature celebrity guests who are on hand to sign autographs (FastPasses are a MUST if you want an autograph... more on this later), participate in a motorcade and be part of an interview session. Since the Clone Wars series started, there is now a Behind the Force show where the voice talents of the Clone Wars discuss the show and demonstrate how the scenes are acted out.

This year for SWW, Jedi Training Academy is performed much more often during the day. Numerous shows have been added to the schedule.

SWW 2011 began on Friday, May 20. Most of my day was spent on the Star Tours events on the 20th. I caught the opening ceremony (see Deb Koma's pictures here), rode Star Tours a few times (it's just as awesome the 20th time as it is/was the first) and a few other things and then the heat ran me out of the park. The event got started much later in the day because of the opening ceremony and by the time everything was underway, I was done for the day.

On Saturday the 21st, I got to the Studios just before park opening. There is an information booth set up just inside the main gate.

Info booth

The stage was still set up for use for the Hyperspace Hoopla each evening during SWW.

Stage

There was a sign near the tip board pointing the way to the SWW store, appropriately called Jabba's Hutt.

Sign for store

To get to the store, go to the Rock 'N Roller Coaster courtyard and keep right. There is a gate open and the store is behind that gate. You'll have a fantastic view of Tower of Terror and the store is in the big white tent. It's very spacious and air conditioned. As of 8 AM Saturday, the only thing that was sold out was the opening day Star Tours pin.

Store

Artist signing
Artist Signing Station

Store

Star Tours shirts
Star Tours shirts

Luke and Leia
Luke and/or Leia meet-and-greet

Photo station
Photo station

Maquette
Maquettes

Maquette
Maquettes

Boxed pin set
Unframed, boxed pin set. This has the completer pin in it.

Pin set
Framed pin set

Jumbo pin
Jumbo pin.

Travel poster pin set
Travel poster pin set

Star Tours opening day shirt
Star Tours opening day t-shirt

Stitch
Stitch as Yoda

Mimbots
Star Wars Mimbots

Poster card
Silver poster card

Lights Box
Olszewski Gallery of Lights Box - Star Wars Mickey and Donald

Watches
Watches

Paper art
Paper art poster

Passholder shirt
Passholder t-shirt

Since the store is called Jabba's Hutt, it is only fitting that Salacious Crumb and Boba Fett keep watch over things.

Salacious Crumb

Boba

Outside the store, this stand has been set up.

Stand

We loved this kid's costume.

Costume

Banners were set up around the Star Tours area.

Banners1

Banners2

Banners3

Banners

Banners

Directional signs were out around the park to show guests where they could meet their favorite characters.

Direction signs

Sign

Sign

Queen Amidala's backdrop was lovely.

Queen Amidala

FastPasses are currently being distributed outside the main gate. When you approach the main gate, look to the right, near the big sign (it currently has the Star Tours logo on it). The queues begin in that area. All theme park tickets are being scanned prior to a FastPass being handed to the guest. They are also handing out wristbands with the FastPasses. You *cannot* receive an autograph without a wristband AND a FastPass. Each member of your party must be present to receive the wristband and FastPass.

Anthony Daniels' autograph station is inside Sounds Dangerous. Only the FastPass holder is permitted inside. The Cast Members inside will use your camera to take a photo of you and Anthony.

Anthony Daniels

Sunshades were up on Streets of America and a queue was in place for Star Tours if they needed it. The queue also extended to the San Francisco portion of the street. The sunshades were very effective. They used this queue on Friday but I don't know if they did on Saturday.

Sunshades

The rest of the autograph stations are at the Lights, Motors Action! end of Streets of America. Daniel Logan was very popular.

Daniel Logan

Daniel Logan

James Arnold Taylor is very friendly.

James Arnold Taylor

Just around the corner, near San Francisco, Anakin was greeting guests. Jedi Masters Mace Windu, Shaak Ti and Kit Fisto also greet guests at this location.

Anakin

My friends and I caught the Behind the Force show. Host James Arnold Taylor introduced Ashley Eckstein (voice of Ahsoka Tano). She spoke to Supervising Director Dave Filoni about his work on the Clone Wars. They went through how a scene is created and did a voice demonstration. They also selected someone from the audience to try it out.

Behind the Force

James Arnold Taylor

James and Ashley

Ashley and Dave

Scene

Asajj Ventress and other Clone Wars characters were greeting guests near the Premier Theater.

Ventress

The Legends of the Force Motorcade is now happening at 12:40 PM. We were able to catch it near the beginning of the parade route.

Mickey

501st stormtroopers

Rebel Legion

Chewbacca

R2-D2

Daniel Logan
Daniel Logan

Anthony Daniels
Anthony Daniels

Dave Filoni
Dave Filoni

Ahsoka

Ashley Eckstein
Ashley Eckstein

bounty hunters

James Arnold Taylor
James Arnold Taylor

Darth Vader

The motorcade stopped at the hat and the characters and celebrities took the stage.

Stage

Boba Fett was greeting guests on Pixar Place when I went by.

Boba Fett

Darth Vader was greeting guests near Studio Catering Company.

Darth Vader

The booth was set up for Dave Filoni when we went by and we noticed this sign for the Disney Racers.

Racers

We saw the Stars of the Saga show at 3:15. Note that the schedule says 3:15 but the celebrities don't take the stage until 3:30.

Stage

The stormtroopers do a 15 minute pre-show. Their dialog was updated to include Star Tours. They were amusing, as always. This trooper and his Mickey ice cream bar was a crowd favorite.

Mickey bar

Stormtrooper

The troopers had captured Chewbacca. Hopefully they know now that it's always wise to let the Wookiee win. :)

Chewie

Host James Arnold Taylor introduced and interviewed the two guests, Daniel Logan and Anthony Daniels.

James

Daniel

Daniel

Anthony

Ears

Unfortunately, the heat had gotten to me after Stars of the Saga and I didn't stay for Anthony Daniels' show or James Arnold Taylor's show. I hear that James Arnold Taylor's show is fantastic.

SWW is better than ever this year. I had a great time, especially because I was with family and friends.

May the Force be with you!

May 21, 2011

D23's Great Disney Scavenger Hunt

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Before the Destination D event began on May 14, D23 hosted the Great Disney Scavenger Hunt. We had never participated in any of the scavenger hunts so we didn't know what to expect. We were assigned a park to start at. Ours was Epcot. After the first park, we could go to any of the other three that we chose to.

At Epcot, you had four hours to complete the hunt. At the other parks, you had three hours.

Check-in was outside the turnstiles near Guest Relations. They checked our name off (we were Team Goof Troop) and gave us our badges before the official start time at 10 AM.

Line

Badge

Sign

Check in

The worst part of the hunt was getting organized and figuring out a plan of action. The clues were all over the parks and it was interesting to see the details that they had picked out for us to find.

For example, on this sign, we had to identify the third letter of the fourth word (or something like that) and several others to create another word to unscramble. We would end up with CPTAEOINA and unscrambled, that would be Captain EO.

Sign

All of the questions weren't that difficult. There were some like "How many sea turtles are on the mural at The Seas?" There were varying levels of difficulty.

At the train station at Magic Kingdom, we were directed to look at the box of pins in the railroad station. There was one railroad that was represented twice.

Train

The guidebooks were a good size and actually quite cute.

Booklet

The results were announced at the Contemporary at 8:30 Friday evening. We could also register for the Destination D event that evening.

Destination D registration

They announced the top 20 teams. Tigger was on hand to help. The grand prize was a cruise on the Fantasy, the upcoming boat for Disney Cruise Line.

Registration

We had a really good time on the hunt, despite the heat and the crowds. However, it was HOT!!!! We would love to do this again... just maybe not in May. :) We learned a lot about the parks and saw a lot of things we had never seen before. All in all, it really was fun.

March 5, 2011

ESPN The Weekend

Andrew Rossi

I'm having a great time at ESPN the Weekend right now. I spent most of yesterday at the event and my photos are already in the ESPN Weekend Photo Gallery.

Here are a few tips based on my experience yesterday!

1. Be sure to get an event times guide as soon as you enter the park. There are often multiple things going on at the same time at different locations throughout the park so it helps to plan in advance what you are most interested in seeing.

2. If you want to be close to the stage, especially for the taping of live shows, it helps to show up about a half an hour ahead of time.

3. If you are looking for autographs, be sure to head to the ESPN Sports Zone (located near Rock n' Roller Coaster). Athletes make appearances there throughout the day, although there is no set times for when they will be there.

4. The athlete motorcades process up Hollywood Boulevard toward the Hat Stage. It is actually fairly easy to find a spot along the route to view the motorcade, so you only need to get there a couple of minutes before it starts.

Please post your reviews of ESPN the Weekend in the AllEars Rate and Review Section!

October 4, 2009

Annual Passholder Preview of Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure

On Sunday, September 27, 2009, I attended one of the Passholder previews of the new Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure movie -- a month before its Oct. 27th release on Disney DVD and Blu-ray; there were five of these preview held over the weekend.

The Passholder previews were held at the Town Square Theatre at the Exposition Hall on Main Street U.S.A., Magic Kingdom -- the same place the Wishes! fireworks presentation was held earlier this year. The building donned Halloween/Fall decorations:

Magic Kingdom Expo Hall

As a 28-year old bachelor without kids, who honestly didn't care too much for the first Tinker Bell installment, I went into the preview more interested in the "event" than the movie. Going in, I didn't know what to expect, but I'll say right now that I ended up very pleasantly surprised on both accounts.

Welcome Sign

Upon check-in, guests were given a small ticket to exchange at their concession stand for our choice of snack: a bag of popcorn, a candy bar, or as a healthy option, a piece of fruit -- I opted for a banana:

Food

Fruit


There was also water available:

Water

Food in hand, I entered through a set of doors and entered their Pixie Hollow of sorts (I was accompanied by Kermit for this trip):

Entering

Photo Op

I had gotten there early (always a good idea), and at about half-an-hour before the presentation was scheduled to start, Jen, a WDW Passholder Events cast member, who had previously hosted many of these Passholder events, welcomed everyone to the preview then shared with us a couple of sneak peeks.

We watched one of the bonus features from the upcoming DVD/Blu-ray disc: "Pixie Hollow Comes to Walt Disney World", a behind-the-scenes look at what went into designing and planning the Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden for last year's Flower & Garden Festival.

We were then shown a slide with the layout for next year's Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden -- it will be three times as large and will feature two new fairy topiaries, Terence & Vidia. Next, we saw the music video for Demi Lovato's "The Gift of a Friend" -- which can be found on YouTube, but seeing it on the big screen was pretty cool.

By then, everyone was in a "fairy" good mood and ready to watch the movie, which we did... after a brief reminder that any recording (video or otherwise) was prohibited and after we were introduced to Jerome, a security guard there to be sure that everyone behaved, which we did. :)

That said, I thought the movie was a lot better than the first. I really enjoyed it. By not having to re-introduce every type of fairy or re-explain the fairy world, the movie was able to focus on telling a good story, which it did.

Here's my attempt at a synopsis ofthe movie:

"Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure opens as the fairies are preparing for the upcoming Autumn Revelry. Tinker Bell has been chosen to create the septor for the special occasion, which is extra special this year because it coincides with a blue harvest moon.

For this task, Tinker Bell receives some help from her friend Terence, a dust keeper, but of course, things do not go as smoothly as planned and an adventure ensues. Along the way, she meets some new characters including an adorable firefly/lightning bug named Blaze, who everyone will love, and a pair of out-of-practice trolls."

After the screening, Justin Muchoney Disney's first CMO (Chief Magical Officer), had the microphone and encouraged the audience to stay in their seats because there were more surprises.

Justin introduced Michael Rola, from Walt Disney Studios, who presented us with an exclusive sneak peek of the trailer for the next movie in the series, Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue (currently slated for an October 2010 release on Disney DVD/Blu-ray). Michael then announced the names of the other two Tinker Bell movies in works -- Tinker Bell: A Winter's Tale, and Tinker Bell: Race Through the Seasons.

Next, the audience was introduced to the the newest member of Pixie Hollow at the parks, Terence, who should be showing up at the Meet & Greets by late October. It was a photo moment if I knew one, but since the start of the movie, I had been sitting on my hands not to take any pictures. So, once I saw another person in the audience take out her camera (and saw that Jerome didn't tackle her), my camera was out and back in commission:

Tinker Bell and Terence

:)

Well, as mentioned, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure introduces some new characters, including a couple of trolls, of which there were life-sized cut-outs of on the stage.

A little girl from the audience was given the opportunity to ask Grimsley, one of the trolls, some questions. He replied, and we learned that he and the other troll have been friends for 348 years, that the worst name he has been called was "Dobby", and that he is friends with Brad Pitt, Mylie Cyrus, and of course, Tinker Bell.

At this point, Justin introduced Rob Paulsen, the voice actor for Grimsley and Bobble in the Tinker Bell movies. Among Rob's other voice credits are Jose Carioca (from The Three Amingos), Experiment 625 (from Lilo & Stitch: The Series), Pinky (from Pinky And The Brain), and Yakko Warner (from Animaniacs). And it was as Yakko that Rob Paulsen sang the "Nations of the World" song -- I remember watching that on television growing up. So cool.

After that, Justin instructed us of how the rest of the event would go: row-by-row, we would have the opportunity to have our picture taken with the Trolls, then with Tinkerbell and Terence, and then Rob Paulsen would be available for pictures and to sign autographs.

Justin Muchoney

And for those who were waiting, Justin had some Tinker Bell Trivia. Here are a couple examples:

"Who is Tink's adorable mouse helper?"

Cheese

and "Who is this?"

Another Helper

Anyways, Justin and Jen (and Jerome) were great, along with all of the special guests. They looked like they were having as much fun as we were.

Justin Muchoney

And it was in no time that it was my turn for pictures!

Trolls (not to be confused, I'm the one in the center)

Cedric and the Trolls

with Terence and Tinker Bell

Cedric and the Fairies

and Rob Paulsen

Cedric and Rob Paulsen

As I exited the theatre, a Castmember was there, ready to hand guests a parting gift -- a Tinker Bell cup with a couple trinkets. It was a nice, unexpected touch.

Event Giveaways

I thought that the WDW Passholder Team did a superb job with this event. It was well-organized and immersive with lots of special touches. The movie was also very good. I can't wait until next year when they'll hopefully have a Passholder preview for Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue.

And if you are interested in any of the Tinker Bell DVDs, visit the AllEars Amazon.com Store!

July 12, 2009

The Museum of PIN-TIQUITIES: Disney Pin Celebration 2009

Guest Blogger Carol Cruise returns with a report from this year's Pin Celebration at Walt Disney World!

The Museum of PIN-TIQUITIES: Disney Pin Celebration 2009

June 26th - June 29th

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This was my 5th Disney Pin Celebration; I was by now a seasoned attendee however this year I was traveling solo, sort of. Gary had decided that since he was not a pin trader and did not want to endure the heat and humidity of Florida in June, he would stay home. The event has traditionally been held in September but this year, due to several other events being held in September, Disney changed the pin event to June. I flew out of Syracuse and met up with my fellow Canadian pin trader and friend Susan at Walt Disney World. We shared a room at Disney's All Star Movies Resort and spent the week enjoying the event and pin trading together. We also decided that since it was so hot and we had so much stuff to tote around we would rent a car, which was a real benefit for this trip.

The event was managed the same as previous years, it was announced on the Disney events site, registration opened February 25th and if you registered early you were entitled to a $15 discount off the registration fee and a early bird pin. Your RSP (Random Selection Process) request was due May 25th; this is when you list the pins you want from the merchandise catalogue and hope that you get lucky when they run your choices through the random selection process. There were more low edition pins this year than previous years and for the first time I did not get everything I wanted.

Thursday was registration day. It was held at the Yacht & Beach Club Convention Centre from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. We arrived just at noon and the line up was through the queue across the main room and out the door. I turned to Susan and said that we would be standing in lines all weekend, lets pass on this one and get some lunch. She agreed so we went to Beaches & Cream and enjoyed a leisurely lunch before returning to the hall. When we got back the line had dissipated and we picked up our packages. The registration package included:

The product/pins you were awarded on your RSP

A 4th RSP request for items that are left over

2 Disney gift cards $15 each

A "Partners" pin from the other Disney Resorts

Early Bird Pin

A voucher for a snack valid on Saturday

A voucher for your gift package valid on Saturday

A list of the new Hidden Mickey pins being released at the event only

The Early Bird Pin

After we had picked up our package we went around to the other side of the room where there were table's set up for people to sit at and trade pins or just have a conversation. We joined some of the friends we have met over the years and before we knew it we were getting hungry, it was dinnertime. Disney had announced that the pin trading room would remain open until 10 p.m. and it would be open to the public at 7 p.m. Rather than lose our spot, Susan stayed at the table and I went to get some take-out from the Market Place in the Beach Club.

Trading after pre-registration.

The evening of trading concluded at 10 p.m. and we had good intentions of returning to the room to get good nights sleep, but as we exited the parking lot we both decided that it was too early so we went to Downtown Disney. This was to be the first of many evenings spent at Downtown Disney, wandering the shops and sitting along the ledge enjoying an ice cream from Ghirardelli's. 

Friday morning we were off and running; we arrived at EPCOT with our bags of pins along with several other participants. Disney was ready for us, they had a private entrance set up for the pin attendees and sniffer dog Taz was doing his job. Once through the security check we proceeded to World Show Place. I love walking into this building for the event, you never know what to expect but you know it will be awesome. Disney does not lack when decorating for this event, I am always so impressed.

Taz is sniffing the pin bags.


Bobby Pinback welcomed Susan and I to World ShowPlac

Disney decorates to match the theme of the event and the pins that they have released for the event. I am a collector of Pluto pins, my first choice of pin for my RSP was a Pluto pin, when I walked through the doors of World ShowPlace the first thing I saw was the display of Pluto with the dinosaur matching the pin I had ordered. The dinosaur was so big I had trouble capturing it in a picture.

T-Rex must have been 15 feet tall

Once inside World ShowPlace there was a queue to the tables manned by several cast members. This area was called the store and you could purchase pins that did not sell out. On the other side of the room there were several glass display cases that housed the items for the silent auction. This year was the first year they did not have a live auction. I wandered around to look at the items, and would have been thrilled to own any one of them, but the bids were way out of my price range.

Moving on through the building to the left were the "partners", this year there were displays from Walt Disney World, Disneyland Resort, Disney Soda Fountain & Studio Shop and Disney Cruise Line. There were also displays from Vinylmation, Kooky Klickers and Mickey Monsters, something else to catch the collector's eye! There was also a guest services area for guests with items to return.

_Pin_Partners


To the right of this part of the building were the pin trading boards, each board had a theme behind it similar to one of the pins that was available for the event. Each board had a queue that on average took 45 minutes to get through. The rules were simple, you gave the cast member two of your pins and you got to take two pins off the board. The catch, you had one minute to make you choice and there are hundreds of pins on the board.

The full sized art on display was replicated in special pins available only at this event.

The full sized art on display was replicated in special pins available only at this event.


My eyes immediately look for Hidden Mickey's, I can't help it, I collect them and this year the completer pins for last years Hidden Mickey's were only going to be available at the event. Lots of people do look for other goodies, such as limited editions pins or AP (Artist Proof) pins. Apparently this year there were lots of them there, but I pretty much stuck to collecting my Hidden Mickey's.

There was also a large stage set up in the middle of the pin board area and there were numerous activities going on throughout the day. Off to the left of the room there was also a kid's area supervised by a couple of cast members. The kids had their own trading board but mostly I saw them colouring and doing other crafty activities.


Digger and Lovey


During the day there were visits from some of the Disney elite pin people such as Digger and Lovey, a wonderful couple who entertained us. Scoop Sanderson was present and joined Steven Miller (project manager for pin trading) on stage to conduct a pin trading 101 session for all the newcomers. Later in the day a couple of Disney Design Group Artists, Alex Maher and Monty Maldovan, signed pins for the guests.

Scoop Sanderson and Steven Miller


There were several Disney Trivia games held on stage and the winners were awarded pins as prizes. At one point they called up a young lady to play one of the games, Crystal was asked to draw a name from a hat for the next contestant. When she drew the name it was Shelby, her boyfriend! Well, they made a fuss about that and then handed the microphone over to Shelby. He got down on his knees and said, " I may not be Prince Charming but you are my Princess, will you marry me?" Well, there wasn't a dry eye in the place. She of course said yes and everyone applauded and Disney presented them with some wonderful gifts.

At the back of the building, in a room the size of a convention centre ballroom was the pin trading area. There were rows and rows of tables and chairs and they were all filled within an hour of opening. Some traders had bins and suitcases full of pins, but me, I travel light, I had one pin-trading bag that fits in my backpack. I did however enjoy walking around looking at all the pins and was able to make a couple of great trades.

The Pin Trading area was always busy - I made some good trades there!

Friday was also the deadline to return any unwanted pins and hand in a final RSP, it's a chance to pick up any of the sold out items that had been returned. There was one pin I wanted but didn't get so I completed the form.

At 6 p.m. they announced the event was closed for the day and everyone shuffled out, tired but excited by the days events. Susan and myself and two friends from PA, Ann and Mike stopped at the Electric Umbrella for dinner on our way out of the park. Our next stop was Port Orleans Riverside.

Our good friend John Rick, founder of the Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders and co-host of the Disney Pincast had organized a pin-trading gathering from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the food court at the resort. When we walked in there were many traders and a lot of familiar faces. It was a great evening and I made a great trade so I was happy.

We left POR at 10 p.m., dropped Mike and Ann off at their resort, then looked at each and Susan said, "It's too early to go back." so we went to Downtown Disney for an hour or so. When we got back to All Star Movies we sorted through the pins we had traded for, organized our pin bags for the next day and turned out the lights.

Mickey is a pin trader . . . so naturally he was there!


Saturday was pretty much the same routine in the morning until we arrived at the Show Place. When we entered on Saturday we went to one of the tables and picked up our final RSP to see if we had won any additional pins. We were given a sheet of paper telling us how many Event Exclusive promotion pins we were each eligible for. These pins were limited to one per person, based on how much you spent. There were six different pins in total and you were allowed to purchase one pin for every $75 you have spent at a bargain price of $3.00 each. We went directly to the Event Store to buy our pins. After the event any remaining Event Exclusive pins are destroyed.

During the day, in addition to the pin trading boards and back room trading there were several Disney Trivia and other games. There was a 1 o'clock Pin Chat with Scoop Sanderson and various announcements about upcoming pin activities and events. At 4 p.m. there were Snacks distributed, consisting of a drink and a rice krispie Mickey head dipped in chocolate. The Auction winners were announced and the Grand Prize Winners were announced. Information was announced about next year's event which will be held in August and the theme is Trade City USA. It will celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Pin Trading. They said it would be a cross between Radiator Springs and Main Street USA.

The logo for next year's event.


The event closed at 6 p.m. and once again we dragged ourselves out of the building. This evening we decided to eat at the Land in Sunshine Seasons, there was Susan, Mike, Ann and myself. It was nice to just sit and talk and the evening seemed to fly by. Mike and Ann were walking back to their resort so Susan and I headed to the parking lot, found the car and what else, went to Downtown Disney. We hadn't thought about it being Saturday night and all, but it was crazy busy so we got our ice cream and just sat and people watched for a bit, then headed back to All Star Movies.

Sunday morning the event was open to the public at 11 a.m., so we quickly got in the lines for the boards to get some more Hidden Mickey pins before the doors opened. Once the public is allowed in they change the boards and the new and special pins are no longer available. Even after the building opened up we decided to stay and do a couple more boards. I am glad we did, it was a chance to meet some new pin traders. They were full of questions and between us we were able to help them out understanding just what they were getting themselves into. They didn't seem to mind and were having a blast as we left the building for the final time.

There were five of us heading over to the Magic Kingdom, Susan, Ann, Mike and Gabe, another Canadian pin trader and me. Our mission was lunch and the Annual Passholder preview of the Hall of Presidents. It was a great way to cap off the weekend; we also got to do a couple of rides before we all said our good byes. Susan and I had to take the car back to the Dolphin and then it was time to pack, I was leaving first thing in the morning.

Gabe, Carol, Mike, Ann and Susan at the Hall of Presidents Passholder Preview


It's hard to say what next year will bring but I do hope that I can manage to make it to the event in August. I not only enjoy the pin trading and activities, I look forward to seeing the many wonderful people I have met over the years.


Read Carol's Blogs on the 2008 Pin Event:
Part 1
Part 2


March 11, 2009

The Muppets Passholder Speaker Event

Saturday, March 7
by Guest Blogger Sue Van Vleet

On March 7, 2009, Disney's Hollywood Studios held an exclusive Passholder event featuring the Muppets. The original session was scheduled for 3:00pm, but they added an 11:00am event. I attended the 11:00am session. We all met near the entrance to the Backlot Tour and were lead in groups backstage to a theatre. Prior to the speakers we watched a pre-show starring Rowlf and Sam Eagle (I think this was the original pre-show for Muppet*Vision 3D).

The Muppets Passholder Speaker Event

A cast member who specializes in Passholder perks introduced the first guest: Craig Shemin. Mr. Shemin is on the board of directors of the Jim Henson Legacy and was a writer for the Muppet Show (among other things). He began by telling us about the early days of Jim Henson and the Muppets. Then he showed us clips of "Sam and Friends," the first Muppet show, as well as the first national TV appearance by Muppets on the Today Show with Dave Garroway. More clips shown were eight second commercials and the Muppet version of "Glow Worm" through the years.

Mr. Shemin then introduced Dave Goelz, the Muppeteer for Gonzo the Great. He continued with the Muppet stories and showed more clips. One of the clips was from a documentary done during the last season of The Muppet Show that showed the logistics of shooting one number ("In The Navy" starring pigs on a Viking ship). We also saw a blooper reel from a 1990 show shot at Walt Disney World.

Mr. Shemin and Mr. Goelz then took questions from the audience. While I like the Muppets and truly enjoy The Muppet Show - there were some true Muppet fanatics in the audience who were thrilled to be asking questions of Mr. Goelz.

After a few questions from the audience Mr. Goelz brought out the real star of the event - Gonzo. And then Gonzo took some questions as well. We learned a bit about Camilla, his chicken girlfriend and how he travels, among other things.

Another highlight of the event was the introduction of Heather Jenson, one of Jim Henson's daughters. The funniest story she told was about wearing Miss Piggy's clothes during The Muppet Show years.

At the end of the event we were each allowed to have a picture taken with Gonzo and Mr. Goelz. This was another wonderful Passholder event and I'm so glad I was able to attend.

Sue and Gonzo

Sue Van Vleet
St. Augustine, FL
I've been visiting WDW since 1972 and have moved from Iowa to Florida in 1993. Since then I'm able to visit almost whenever I want. I'm an Annual Passholder, DVC member, and I love all things Disney!!

December 22, 2008

BBC Radio 2's “The Music of Disney” - A Review

A special review from Carl Bayliss - England.

In the midst of the very frosty British winter, so many miles from the sunshine of Florida, what do two London-based Disney fanatics do to escape the cold and ward off the "when are we going back to WDW" blues? Well, there are photos, of course, and even some souvenirs from our previous trips, but sometimes those don't quite cut it, do they? So, if we can't get ourselves to WDW, then a little bit of that magic will just have to come to London.

On this occasion, the magic took the form of a performance of some classic and very favourite Disney tunes performed by a wonderful 70-piece orchestra and an amazing array of talented singers in one of London's finest theatres.

A few weeks ago, and a few months since we returned from our last trip to the World, an email pops up in my inbox from my DW (Lynn), informing me that tickets had just gone on sale to BBC Radio 2's "The Music of Disney" concert. "Look at this, can we go please?" was her plea and, well, I don't need much persuading so...

...on Monday December 8th we made our way to the Lyceum Theatre (the current home of Disney's "The Lion King" in London's West End), for an evening celebrating over 65 years of Disney music from stage and screen. Hosted by international recording artist, Josh Groban, the concert featured a galaxy of Broadway and West End stars and the BBC Concert Orchestra.

The concert opened with an overture of Disney favourites. From the very first notes of "When You Wish Upon a Star" and for the next two and a half hours we could forget the freezing weather outside and let the music of Disney whisk us away to another place.

After the overture, Josh introduced the resident Company of "The Lion King" - if the opening bars of "The Circle of Life", performed live with a full orchestra and two percussionists up high in the theatre's boxes doesn't get the hairs on the back of your next rising, then nothing will.

From then on there was delight after delight, including all-time favourites from The Jungle Book, Lady and the Tramp, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Aladdin, Cinderella, Snow White, Tarzan, Sleeping Beauty, Enchanted and High School Musical. Our personal favourites included a moving performance of "When She Loved Me" from Toy Story 2 and a medley of songs from Mary Poppins, which had the whole theatre out of their seats singing and clapping along to "Chim Chim Cher-ee", "Step In Time" and "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious"!

However, the highlight of the evening, and a real treat, was kept for the finale when our wonderful host performed "When You Wish Upon a Star" from Pinocchio. The score for this has only recently been discovered in the Disney archives, indeed, this was the first time that the original arrangement had been performed in full outside of the recording for the film back in 1939.

In all, a truly amazing evening, and if you find yourself in need of a little Disney Magic over the holidays, and have access to international radio stations, then the BBC will be broadcasting the event on December 26th on BBC Radio 2 at 7:30pm BST or 2:30pm EST
Happy Holidays!


Carl Bayliss lives in London, England. Both him and his wife, Lynn, are huge fans of all things Disney and have been lucky enough to visit WDW, Disneyland, Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneyland together over the past 6 years. Their last trip to the World was in August 2008.

March 5, 2008

A Different Disney Experience

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Alex Koma, son of AllEars Senior Editor Deb Koma, and an occasional contributor to the newsletter himself, recently attended ESPN The Weekend at Disney's Hollywood Studios. He shares his unique experience:

As a huge sports fan, Disney World's annual event ESPN The Weekend has always seemed like the ultimate dream. Disney World is my favorite place on Earth, and sports are my favorite thing to do, so naturally the event sounded great to me. However, it has always seemed far off, like the dream that I thought it was. It appeared to be too tough to organize, with the pressures of school and work making things difficult. I could only watch the commercials wistfully and hope.

Well, this year, my dream was realized. My mom, Deb Koma, came to me in late December 2007, saying that maybe she would have to go to the World that weekend, and that I might be able to come along for the ride. I was ecstatic. After looking at schedules and making reservations, things finally came together and on Friday, February 29, I was able to go to ESPN The Weekend. And what a weekend it was.

ESPN The Weekend included just about every imaginable feature a sports fan's fantasy could have. It had live broadcasts of popular ESPN shows like "NFL Live" and "1st and 10," appearances by many famous athletes and ESPN personalities, live ESPN Radio broadcasts, and interactive game shows for fans to take part in. Over the course of the three days I was there, I got to experience all of these things. I was able to see legendary players like John Stockton, Scottie Pippen, Darryl Dawkins, Bill Laimbeer, Mercury Morris, Jim Palmer, and Herschel Walker. Stockton has always been an idol of mine, with his ability to compete at a Hall of Fame level despite his lack of size compared to other basketball players, and it was great to see him in person. There were also current players making appearances, like Shaun Alexander, Travis Hafner, Brandon Jacobs, Maurice Jones-Drew, Donovan McNabb, Charles Tillman, Adam Vinatieri and Roy Williams. Seeing people in real life that I had normally only seen on TV underneath helmets was really cool, and now every time I see them on TV I will think of my memories from there.

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John Stockton
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Jim Palmer

Meeting the ESPN staff I had gotten to know through the network's various shows was really special as well. I got to meet Neil Everett, the SportsCenter anchor, and get his autograph, as well as Baseball Tonight personalities Karl Ravech, John Kruk, Peter Gammons, Eric Young and Steve Phillips, and NFL Live hosts Trey Wingo, Mark Schlereth and Sal Paolantonio.

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Alex with Jay Crawford

My most personal experience came when meeting the host of the show "1st and 10," Jay Crawford. My mom had the opportunity to interview Mr. Crawford, and because she is not exactly the most diligent follower of sports, she took me along to help. Getting to talk to a person who I watch regularly on TV was a really unique experience and Mr. Crawford was a very enjoyable person to speak with. As an aspiring sportswriter or broadcaster, I asked him how he got into this line of work and his response, telling me to work to get involved in any and all journalistic activities, even if they are volunteer work, will certainly help me down the road. I greatly appreciated him taking the time to talk with me. The whole thing was a great experience and was certainly one of the highlights of the weekend.

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As is the case with many things, ESPN The Weekend saved the best for me for last. On Sunday, my last day there, I chose to go to see the "Dream Job" experience at the Sounds Dangerous theater. The premise of "Dream Job" was that three audience members would be chosen to narrate some of the past year's best sports highlights, much like they were on an ESPN show like SportsCenter, and then be judged by Al Jaffe, ESPN talent coordinator, and two celebrity judges. I thought that this sounded like something I would at least like to watch, so my family and I headed over.

While standing in line, about 10 minutes before the show was to begin, a cast member started talking to all of the people assembled there. He said that if any one of us wanted to try to be one of the contestants, then we should think of our best 20-second sports highlight to deliver to him, and the best would be chosen. He went through the line and heard several people speak before coming to me. He asked my name and then I delivered my best impression of Myron Cope (a well-known Pittsburgh sportscaster who just recently passed away) calling the 1972 Steelers playoff game featuring the legendary Immaculate Reception: "Bradshaw drops backs, passes to Fuqua, and the pass falls incomplete - but wait! Franco's got it! Go Franco! He's at the 20, 15, 10, 5 -- TOUCHDOWN! Steelers win their first playoff game in franchise history and there's pandemonium in Pittsburgh!" He seemed like he liked it and moved down the line. About five minutes later, he came over the P.A. system and announced that I was one of the lucky three chosen! Connor, an 11-year-old Red Sox fan, and Marla, a Chicago Bears fan, were also chosen and we were quickly hurried backstage.

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We got to meet our judges, NFL wide receiver Roy Williams and cornerback Charles Tillman, and got miked up. A production assistant then explained to us that we had our choice of a basketball, football, or baseball highlight to call. Connor chose baseball, and was to call Game 4 of the 2007 World Series, and Marla chose football, and was to call Super Bowl XLII. I chose basketball, and was to call Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals, where Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James scored an incredible 48 points and 29 of his team's final 30 points, carrying his team within one game of the NBA Finals. I knew I would be able to call it well.

After getting everything set up, we were then taken to the post show area at the theater, where the various sound booths and activities were set up. Each one of us were assigned a booth with a DVD player and given a disc featuring the highlight we had chosen. We were also given a "shot sheet" telling us the sequence of events in the highlight and any helpful notes regarding it. We each then had about 10 minutes to prepare before show time.

I was up first. I was escorted onto the stage and, after making some small talk with our host, Jake, I was ready.

I was seated at a desk with a plasma TV so I could see the highlight being played, and then it was show time. I read the scripted dialog: "Welcome to SportCenter, I'm Alex Koma, and this is today's top highlight!" And then was on my own.

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The best way to express what I did next is to say that I went completely insane. I screamed my lungs out over every big dunk, every big three-pointer hit and jumped out of my chair by the finish. I'm told the crowd loved it, but I didn't hear anything but myself. I guess I had other things on my mind at the time.

The judges then told me what they thought. Mr. Jaffe commented, "You must have forgotten to take your meds today." Mr. Williams said he thought I was very good and Mr. Tillman called my performance a perfect 10. I was then taken to a seat at the back of the theater and got to watch the others perform. Connor did a very good job calling his highlight, especially considering his age, and Marla delivered a nice call of the Super Bowl, although she was a little nervous.

After they were finished they brought us up to the stage. Jake then asked the audience to applaud for the performance they liked best. Marla and Connor both received a fair amount of applause, but when Jake asked the audience to applaud for me, the noise was deafening. Apparently, I was the winner!

I took home an ESPN The Weekend shirt, a gift card to Dick's Sporting Goods, grilling tools and... a full-size gas grill! I also got to get autographs from Mr. Williams and Mr. Tillman, which was really special. It was an amazing experience, and the best part of my weekend. I even had people coming up and congratulating me afterward, after we had left the theater.

It was the perfect way to end a great weekend and I will remember it for a long, long time. ESPN the Weekend was everything I thought it could be and I would do it again in a heartbeat (if you're listening, Mom). It was a great time. Next year, I can watch commercials for the weekend, and instead of feeling regret about not being able to go, I can remember the great times I had in 2008 and look forward to going again.

(Editor's Note: If you want to see a portion of Alex's prize-winning
performance, click on the youtube video below!)

February 16, 2008

Dreams Do Come True - A Night in Cinderella's Castle - Part 3

All Ears reader Kim Howe had the "dream of a lifetime" in December, when the Walt Disney World Dream Team awarded her a night's stay in Cinderella's Castle.

Part 1 - Steppin Off Soarin'

Part 2 - Who Will Join Me?

This is Part 3 - Logistics, Epcot, Dream Squads, and MouseFest, oh my!

We left the conference room and the CMs in the office area congratulated us. Then Elton, Jackie and Kathryn walked with us out into the park and spotted another Dream Squad handing out dreams and encouraged us to go to them. We felt that would be greedy but they really encouraged us. We did and got FastPasses for Epcot only and for that day only. Kathryn waved to us and asked what we got.

Later I learned that at this point Elton when right to Paul to tell him and have him fill out his paperwork. He was still so excited.

At this point, I could barely think straight and, I think, Lisa felt the same way.

It was 11 a.m. and we'd missed the 10 a.m. MouseFest meet, Stroll in Card's Footsteps. We were disappointed but a stay in Cindy's castle was worth it. It seemed we had a lot of time before 1:30 p.m. when we needed to be at the Grand Floridian. I'd planned on attending the Pin Trading meet at 11 a.m. but now we had the FastPasses. We decided to use them and went to Test Track.

As we walked, I checked my phone messages and my mother had called so I called her back. She had also left a message which I didn't listen to until the next day. She was crying with joy for my good fortune. As a girl she watched the Mickey Mouse show and sang the Mousekateer songs so she "gets it" too. Bill's mom also left a message saying that this couldn't have happed to a bigger Disney fan.

I also called Marge and left a message for her to also bring my camera and phone chargers. I thought she didn't answer because she was busy packing. Later she said that she'd probably already left the house. At the time I called the first time, she was ironing and had laundry in the washer and drying. She pulled the plug on the iron and stopped both machines. She ran around like a crazy woman and threw all of her and Paul's clothes in my suitcases and was glad there was enough room because their suitcases were in their attic.

Between our walk to Test Track and the time we spent in the FastPass line, Lisa and I had an opportunity to think and determined that we really did not have has much time as we thought especially since we still wanted to go to the Mega Mouse Meet.

We were glad we pre-registered and had the extra magic hour to get in at noon instead of 1 p.m. During our ride on Test Track my mind was wandering, going a million miles an hour, forget 65MPH, trying to sort things out and put together the afternoon's plan. We agreed we could not use the FastPasses and we should just give them away since they were only good that day. On our way off Test Track there were two young girls, probably sisters, in front of us and we gave the FastPasses to them. They thanked us as did their mother who was waiting for them and saw the exchange. It made us feel really, really good to do that and it gave me goosebumps.


Next we had to finish thinking about our afternoon logistics.
Lisa had to get her overnight bag ready and get to the Grand Floridian by 1:30 p.m. Luckily, she was staying at the Boardwalk. We decided the most efficient use of our time was for her to go to her room after the Mega Mouse Meet then wait for me to pick her up with my car out front at the Boardwalk. While she was getting her bag together, I would continue on to Epcot through the International Gateway and out the front entrance, get in my car and drive around to pick her up.

The day was quite warm. We were making our way from Future World to World Showcase and remembered our ice cream voucher. We couldn't recall any carts in World Showcase so we turned around and headed to the cart outside of the Imagination Pavilion.

On our way we saw another Dream Squad handing out the blue and white with silver Mickey ear hats. Boy were we on a roll so we went over and each got one. Jackie was one of the Dream Squad members and we told her we gave away the FastPasses. She said that she and Kathryn agreed that we were so nice that that was probably what we would do with them.

Next we got two Mickey Premium bars. Yum! I was hungry and it was quite warm out. Marge had called and left me a message. She said that she had filled out and signed her paperwork and wanted to know what to do next. I assumed the CM who went over her release form would give her instructions but he didn't.

As I was walking, eating a melting chocolate ice cream pop with a white shirt on, I was also calling and talking to Marge. No time to waste. I told her we had to be at the Grand Floridian by 1:30 p.m. and to meet us there. Later she told me she then went to get a sandwich for lunch to share with Paul. She was finally able to reach Paul to tell him what was going on but learned that Elton had already found him at the front gate and told him.

After learning that Marge was given no further instructions after filling out her paperwork, I wondered if someone would tell Paula or not and was waiting to hear from her asking me the same as Marge did.

Lisa and I continued our fast pace out the International Gateway and decided that walking to the Dolphin and the Mega Mouse Meet would be quicker than the Friendships. We also figured that walking on the Boardwalk side might be quicker than the Yacht and Beach Club side since the sidewalk at the Dolphin snakes in and out close to the building and is not very direct. Besides, the Boardwalk side was currently in the shade. Have I mentioned is was considerably warn out (at least 85 degrees) and we were power walking.

We couldn't believe we waited for MouseFest and especially the Mega Mouse Meet for a year, and now we were going to miss the day's meets (especially Disney Music with Greg Ehrbar, Hidden Mickey's at Epcot with Steve Barrett, Turtle Talk, Magic in the Pixels") and blow through the Mega Mouse Meet. But there were no questions which we chose over the other--the castle won.

Once at the Dolphin, we were glad to find the ballroom was right off the lobby and not through the labyrinth of hallways like the last two years. We put on our wristbands with our raffle number as we walked. I don't know why we even put them on. In order to win any of the prizes you needed to be present and we wouldn't be present. We obviously just weren't thinking clearly. We were handed "swag bags" as we approached the registration area. Since we pre-registered and had our lanyards on, we didn't even need to stop and just got on the escalator down to the ballroom.

The tables near the entrance were busy with people. It was just after 12 p.m. and there were already lots of MouseFesters there. We both thought walking across the room and beginning at empty tables was a good strategy. We only had less than half an hour before we had to leave in order to give us an hour to get to the Grand Floridian. We quickly made our way, individually for the most part, around the room keeping our eye on one another as we went along so as not to lose each other. We picked up literature and swag and talked briefly with "personalities behind the tables" (to quote Mike Scopa). We'd have to visit the websites of the personalities at home-no time now.

At the Allears.net table we told everyone our "news" to a reply of shrieks and congratulations. It's so nice to be among fellow Disney fans who "get it" and appreciate the significance of it all. That's why we attend MouseFest. We continued to share our news and received congratulations as we continued around the room. Mark Goldhaber and Brian Bennett of MousePlanet gave us big hugs. By 12:40 p.m. we'd made a complete circle.

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There were snacks available during this extra magic hour and that was a good thing. I picked up a water and granola bar which turned out to be my lunch for the day - besides the Mickey ice cream bar.

Soon it was time to leave.

To be continued....

February 14, 2008

Dreams Do Come True - A Night in Cinderella's Castle - Part 2

All Ears reader Kim Howe had the "dream of a lifetime" in December, when the Walt Disney World Dream Team awarded her a night's stay in Cinderella's Castle.


Part 1 - Stepping off of Soarin


This is Part 2 - Who Shall Join Me?

I had four more people to invite. As we were walking I called my friend Paula to invite her and her 16 year old son, Dylan. I lost my calm feeling as I spoke with her and started to cry.

A few weeks before MouseFest, I applied to Allears.net to attend the VIP IllumiNations Dessert Party and was selected. When I invited Paula to join me, her reply was that I was the luckiest person she knew when it came to winning things. My reply was that, no, the REALLY lucky people get to stay in Cinderella Castle. We had lunch together earlier in the week and we talked about that conversation again. I told that I was going to call her if I won, never really thinking it would.

Now I've actually won and I'm on the phone to tell her that we were also going to be Grand Marshals in the Share a Dream Come True Parade and have dinner at Cinderella's Royal Table so pack her bags and be at the Epcot Guest Relations by 12 noon.

I started by saying as best I could through tears, "Remember when you told me I was lucky and I said that the lucky people get to stay in the castle? Well, I'm going to stay in the castle tonight and I want you and Dylan to come!"

Then things got a little crazy with Elton asking me how old her son was and him telling me that minors, 16 and under, could not participate unless they were my children. I had to tell Paula that Dylan couldn't come and ask her if she still wanted to. She paused and said yes but needed to find a place for him to go for the night since her husband was out of town. I gave her the instructions to bring an overnight bag, her ID and to be at Epcot by 12 noon to fill out release forms and hung up.

Elton made a call and worked some "magic" and got approval for Dylan to be able to go. I called Paula back to tell her and we were both very happy about that. I asked if anybody had any tissues. Luckily, somebody did and handed me one.

Next I just had to call the couple who I was staying with, Marge and Paul. Marge answered right away like Paula did. I was SO lucky I was able to reach both of them right away because the clock was ticking.

Later when I was telling Marge how calm I felt, she told me that I did not sound calm to her when I called. She said I said her name very loudly into the phone, "Marge, Marge! I won a night in Cinderella Castle and want you and Paul to come too!" I did that because it was hard to hear her when she answered and I wanted to make sure - well, okay, so I wasn't so calm anymore.

I filled her in on what was going on and gave her the same instructions I gave Paula and also asked her to zip up my two suitcases and bring my toiletry bag too. I was so glad I kept all my clothes in my suitcases. I couldn't think what to tell her to bring so I just said to bring it all. Oh, and I told her to call Paul and let him know too.

I mentioned Elton's name and she asked me if Elton was there now. I told her he was and asked if she knew him. She did so I handed him my phone. I could not believe it. HE couldn't believe it. Marge's husband, Paul, had trained Elton on the Epcot front gate. Elton was very happy, as were Jackie and Kathryn, that I was inviting three cast members but when he realized he knew two of them, he was ecstatic. I told him Paul was working at the gate that very moment. Elton was concerned that Paul wouldn't be off work in time but I was sure he'd be done in time because I knew he went in around 5 a.m. this morning to open.

In fact this feeling was shared by all the CMs we ran into who learned that Marge, Paul and Paula were CMs. They were all very excited to hear fellow CMs were getting a chance to stay in the castle. The chances of CMs being able to do so are slim since they can't win themselves, someone they live with or who are related to them also cannot win. Pretty much, the only way they could go is if a friend won and invited them.

By now we were standing outside a door at the Imagination Pavilion and the five of us went inside to take care of the necessary paperwork. Until that was completed, I was still a "potential" winner. It was an office area that consisted of a large room with lots of cubicles along the two walls. There were only a couple people working but it was a Saturday. I said to Lisa, "Hey, we are backstage." We were taken into a conference room and Elton was in and out, I guess, getting the paperwork together and making phone calls.

I finally called my husband, Bill. I started to cry again. My poor tissue was soaked. Jackie or Kathryn brought us cups of water which I was grateful for. Bill was afraid that something bad had happened until I could explain what was happening. Bill was very happy for me and wished he was with me. He doesn't always go with me when I visit WDW. As he says, he "gets it" but also gets enough of it quicker than I do. So, my trips to MouseFest are solo that way I have the freedom to open and close parks everyday and not worry about his happiness. I told him to call everybody and he replied that nobody would "get it," meaning understand the significance of it all. He did say he would call my mother, though. He also called his mother.

Elton gave us big blue, white and gray buttons with the castle on them that said:

WHERE MY DREAM CAME TRUE

The Year of a Million Dreams

Walt Disney World

He told us to put them on as they signified that we'd won a tier 1 or 2 prize, which were the highest ones.

The castle stay was considered a tier 2 and winning a trip around the world visiting all the Disney parks or a DVC membership was the Tier 1 level.

He gave me four more for Paula, Dylan, Marge and Paul. Then he started going over 10 pages of forms with me giving me clear and thorough instructions to insure it would be done correctly and completely explaining what they were for and what areas I had to fill out so I wouldn't be disqualified.

The forms were to accept the prize, an affidavit/declaration of my eligibility/liability and a publicity release. I said let's get started filling them out! I also had to provide my driver's license for a background check. Elton, Kathryn and Jackie had to witness the forms.

Lisa had to just fill out a guest liability/publicity release and show her ID. Elton asked me to write down all my guests' names with their ages. He arranged with the concierge at the Grand Floridian for all of our cars to be parked there. He also told Lisa and I to be at the Grand Floridian by 1:30 p.m. - 2 p.m. at the latest.

Kathryn wanted to give us a FastPass in compensation for taking up so much our park time. We really weren't planning on riding anything and didn't accept her offer. When she suggested ice creams, however, we changed our minds! She filled out a little form on a pad and gave it to us to redeem for an ice cream from a cart. With all the formalities aside, we took pictures with Elton, Jackie and Kathryn.

To be continued....

February 12, 2008

Dreams Do Come True - A Night in Cinderella's Castle - Part 1

All Ears reader Kim Howe had the "dream of a lifetime" in December, when the Walt Disney World Dream Team awarded her a night's stay in Cinderella's Castle. She shares her magical story with All Ears.

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I look back now to my every step and action of the morning that put me in the right place at the right time for the Year of a Million Dreams Dream Squad to find me.

There are many "what ifs" that came to mind:

If I didn't take a few extra minutes to look at Marge and Paul's Disney cruise pictures before I left their house that morning.

If my annual pass had worked in the turnstile and I hadn't had to wait for a CM to get me a new one.

If I hadn't taken the time to sit down and write the number of my new AP down so if I lost it, it could be reprinted.

If Lisa and I had waited to ride Soarin' with the MouseFest meet instead of going ahead so not to miss the Walk in Cards Footsteps meet at 10 a.m.

If the three FastPass guests had gone down the Concourse 2 like they were suppose to instead of going down Concourse 1.

If I tried to sit in a better seat instead of deciding to sit where I was suppose to while thinking to myself this is the worst seat on this ride. Little did I know it would turn out to be the BEST seat that morning!

If any of those things when differently, I wouldn't have this story to tell because I wouldn't have been the one on Soarin', concourse 2, hang glider C, row 3, in seat 1 at around 9:50 a.m. on Saturday, December 8 where Dream Squad members Elton, Jackie and Kathryn greeted me after the ride.

Soarin'

Thinking back I was aware there were people outside the exit door "as I gathered my belongings" but it didn't hit me until I walked through the door that they were Dream Squad members.

I thought that we were going to get FastPasses. I was calm. Lisa told me later, she wasn't. They asked me if I was familiar with the Year of a Million Dreams and told me I was a "potential" winner of a great prize. They asked me if I'd like come with them and Lisa too. They started asking me a battery of questions: Where are you from? Do you know any cast members? Who are they? Are you related? Do you live with them? There were probably others I don't recall now. We walked along the exit hallway as we talked. They kept telling me I could be the "potential" winner of a great prize every time stressing "potential."

When we came to an area where the standby line and exit line meet and there were lots of other guest around to witness what was going to happen next, we stopped. A portable DVD player was placed on the railing and it began to play a commercial for the Year of a Million Dreams and the prizes offered.

The sound didn't work very well at first but it was fixed. I playfully said that I'd take the cruise as a picture of one of the ships appeared on the screen. Next thing I know the words "Cinderella Castle Suite" are on the screen. Still, feeling calm I recall thinking that it would probably be good to act surprised and happy, so I did. The Dream Squad certainly made a big fuss over it! It hadn't really sunk in yet what had happened.

Kim Howe and the Dream Team


We walked together out the rest of the Soarin' exit and past the FastPass distribution area where the Dream Squad continued to make a big fuss which brought attention to us by other guests. I told them that they must LOVE their jobs making people happy all day and they said they did. As we walked out of the Land and to the Imagination Pavilion, they explained that I could invite five guests to join me. Lisa was a given since she was with me.

Let me back up a bit.....
Lisa and I met at MouseFest 2005 and again in 2006. The first year we communicated via e-mail a few times after MouseFest but in the last year we really didn't keep in touch at all. I didn't even know if she was attending MouseFest this year. I met Mark Goldhaber from MousePlanet at the airport and while we were boarding the plane to FL for MouseFest, he asked me if Lisa was attending. My answer was that I didn't know because we didn't keep in touch at all in the last year. He found that hard to believe since during MouseFest we attend many of the same meets together and even toured together between meets. As in the past two years, sure enough, I was at my first meet, MouseFest 101 and I looked to my right and there she was in her Pooh Santa hat.

Ok, back to the day of dreams!

I had four more people to invite!!

As we were walking I called my friend Paula to invite her and her 16 year old son, Dylan. I lost my calm feeling as I spoke with her and started to cry.

To Be Continued....

November 29, 2007

Super Soap Weekend at the Disney MGM Studios Day 2

Super Soap Weekend Day #2:

For the second day of Super Soap Weekend, I like to do things a bit different. As this was my third time to SSW, I am starting to understand the schedule and have developed my own little routine.

DRESSING FOR SUPER SOAP
Example: The first day of the weekend, we wear our most recent shirts from the event (so like, last year, we wore our shirts from 1998, the last time I had gone, and this year, we wore last year's shirts).

On the second day, because it is press day, I like to make up a shirt, to show the writers and execs just how I am currently feeling about the show. Last year, I made up blue shirts with black writing that said, on the front "Dr. Hayward's (a character on our show at the time) CURE for All My Children: Bring Back Vincent Irizarry (that was the actor who played him) and on the back it said "Fans for Quality Soap Writing, Supporting the Actors since 1970". It got a lot of buzz.

So, this year, I made a new shirt: it was pink and on the front, it said: "AMC Fan Jeopardy! Answer: Suspense, Veterans, Quality writing, classic characters, Love" and on the back it said, "AMC Fan Jeopardy! Question: Name five things currently missing on All My Children".

AMC Fan Jeopardy T Shirt


And again, it got some good feedback and everyone liked that I was speaking out about how dismal our beloved soap has become (I should tell you all, my mom has watched AMC since it began, January 5, 1970 and I have been following it for the past 16 years. I'm 24, so you can see it has been a huge part of my life!).

PARK ENTRANCE CHANGES

Anyway, back to the weekend. So, we wore our shirts that I made and headed out at about the same time as we did on Saturday. This time, however, we were in for a rude surprise. As I mentioned in the previous post, Disney is always looking for ways to solve the problem of the FASTPASSs and how to regulate the line.

While my mom and I thought they had done a good job on Saturday, it turned out that they had cut the line shortly after we got there and held those people back until 8am. This meant that the general public had the same advantage of getting FASTPASSs as those who woke up for them early. I guess some of them missed out on the stars they wanted (once you go through the line once, the cast members really don't have control if you go through again, so first timers to the line saw us repeaters as cheats, trying to cut in front of them).

Well, on Sunday, we became the unfortunate ones, as they cut the line probably minutes before we arrived. They told us we had to stand in the regular lines that contained both soap fans and regular visitors to the park. Well, I was not happy, and so I asked Disney cast member Jeff why he was doing this. He said this was a good solution, because it kept the main line shorter and led to a more positive response overall. Well, I knew it would end bad, and sure enough, when they opened up a few more turnstiles for us to stand behind, it became a free-for-all, with everone pushing and shoving and running to get close to the front (Jeff claimed this sort of thing didn't happen-poor guy, how'd he know we're all crazy soap fans).

Despite the cast members trying to brighten the mood by singing happy birthday to two people, we were all a bit ticked off as we watched the main lines go into the park and head towards the kiosks. Finally, at maybe 7:30, they began to let us in, but there was still some discontent as no one wanted to let me and my mom (in her wheelchair) through the turnstiles.

We got onto Hollywood Boulevard where the cast members used a rope to walk us down the street. Overall, people were staying in their respective lines. But, once we got to the Sorcerer's Hat stage, everyone started to walk in front of use. So, I found an area of open space, and wheeled my mom past some people until I was behind the people who we had originally been behind. But, thankfully for me, my mom and everyone in the park, everything worked out in the end (doesn't it always?)

FASTPASS ROULETTE DAY 2

We got over to Lights, Motors, Action again and it wasn't even 8am, so they hadn't started letting people through yet. We were able to join the regular line and I immediately began to relax.

Note to everyone: if you go in the future, take light of the situation and really take in everything that is done and said...if I had looked at my watch and seen that we were going in before 8, I probably would have been less upset. Also, I encourage you to look at all the cast members as your friends and not as your enemies...I can't imagine they really like this weekend, but they can and will be helpful and friendly if you are equally calm and courteous.

When we got up to the front of the line, all of the soap stars were still available with regular passes...Aiden Turner, who plays Aidan Devane was the only one who went on standby, but it was right when we were up there and so we got real passes for Bobbie Eakes and standbys 9 and 10 for Aiden.

We didn't get back in line or try for anyone else, because our other goal that day was to see the motorcades for AMC (all 3 of them) so we decided to grab a quick breakfast (we got muffins from the hotel both days, so we just got juice and milk at the commissary) and find a spot for the motorcade.

We also didn't get any other stars because Cameron was in fact gone already (we knew this because his name was not up by the kiosks) and we had met the other stars last year (not Melissa Egan, but we're not huge fans of her character on the show, so we just figured we'd go to her last session, wait by the railing and see if she would be able to give us a quick photo and autograph in my book.)

AMC STARS MOTORCADE

The first motorcade was great! We had a great spot and each star turned around for us-including Alicia who was there on Sunday and really looked great (either she was feeling better, or her makeup team is amazing because her color looked good, and normally you don't look so hot after being in the hospital). Thorsten Kaye, who plays her husband Zach, Bobbie Eakes and David Canary were also in the motorcade and each turned toward me for some wonderful photos (well, David not so much, but we got plenty others of him!).

Remember, during the motorcades and at any events these stars attend, please please learn their actual names. It will mean so much more to them that you took the time to learn their real name because they only play their character on tv-they are not actually their character (even Aiden! hehe). By using their real name, they will be more likely to turn toward you for a photo or be more likely to smile at you or even better, remember you in years to come (some of them really do remember and that is extra special!)

SOUPNET'S I WANT TO BE A SOAP STAR LIVE SHOW

After the motorcade, we wanted to do Soap Star Live again, not only to watch Michael E. Knight and Aiden, but to see who would replace Cam (Cam hosts the Soap Star show). Turns out, they got former Bachelor Bob Guiney to take over (Bob hosts all the talk shows throughout the weekend, while John Paul Lavosier of OLTL hosts the game show called Triple Play).

This made the show even funnier than usual because Bob is not an actor and boy it showed! He had to play Aiden, while each woman was Greenlee (this worked out real well since in real life Bob is married to former Greenlee Rebecca Budig!). Things got slightly hot and heavy when Michael was the surprise twist and it was revealed that "Greenlee" and "Tad" had an affair behind poor "Aiden's" back! The lucky lady got to smooch MEK and then the winner of that show got to make out with both MEK and Aiden!! (MEK didn't want Bob to feel left out, so he made out with him for a little while too, which made us all just crack up laughing!!) It was a great show and made me practically forget the events of the morning.

AIDEN TURNER AUTOGRAPH SESSION

After seeing Aiden onstage, it was time to finally meet him in person. We were hopeful that we'd be able to because we have been trying to meet him for 4 years (we did SSW in California back in 2003 and got cut off from meeting him with just 15 people in front of us!). So, we got in line, got all the standbys organized and waited, watching the regulars go up to meet him.

Luckily, there weren't a lot of people in his regular line (it was like 10 people in front of us constantly for about a half hour, so maybe only one or two kept trickling in at a time). There was never anyone in the holding pen, so we were all very excited that we would finally get to meet the British heart throb. And we did!! He gave us both hugs (small ones, as he is married) and signed headshots, took photos and signed my book (true, Jacob, Aiden and Bobbie aren't part of the actual book-it only goes up to 1994) but I found creative places for them to sign). He is quite soft spoken and that accent...well, you get my point :)

Robyn and Aiden

AMC MOTORCADES

After seeing Aiden, we grabbed some snacks and found spots again on Hollywood Blvd for the last two AMC motorcades, which took place back to back.

First up, the grande dame of daytime, Susan Lucci! Escorted by Mickey Mouse himself.

Susan Lucci and Mickey Mouse


Susan made her way toward the Sorcerer's Hat stage, where she was interviewed by Sherri Sheperd of the View. Unfortunately, we were unable to hear most of her answers, because we kept our spots on the street for the next motorcade. Which turned out to be a good thing, because Susan came back in her car after her interview was done and we got a great picture of her!

Next came Jacob Young, Aiden and Melissa Claire Egan (Cam was part of this motorcade on Saturday and MEK was so busy that he wasn't scheduled for motorcades). We got good pictures of each of them and then decided to watch their interview on stage, which was also fun because I got a great picture of the 3 of them. We also were in a great spot as they headed back down Hollywood Blvd in their cars.

Jacob Young, Aiden and Melissa Claire Egan

BOBBIE EAKES AUTOGRAPH SESSION

We then headed to see Bobbie Eakes, but not before we took in the Muppet 3-D show. I love this show and knew we could do it without missing Bobbie, and it was just as cute as I remember it 7 years ago!! I know people have said they need to update the movie, but I disagree-what's wrong with a little nostalgia? (Plus the jokes are still just as funny!)

Now, we had heard Bobbie was the best about signing for everyone and boy they weren't kidding!! When we got to her booth, for a 3:15 signing, she had already arrived and was signing for people at the railings.

The cast members were a bit thrown by this but we all got ourselves organized and they immediately were ushering us into the line (our time was for 3:25, and she took all the 3:15s and 3:20s right away!). And she didn't rush us along or anything, but took the time to wish my mom a happy birthday (my mom is a Bobbie too!) and she signed her headshots and my book (actually, she had to sign a headshot for me twice, because she spelled my name wrong, but was gracious enough to sign a new one for me-what a doll!). We also had her sign her CD for my uncle, who likes her country music. It was so great to meet her that all the issues of the morning were washed away!

Robyn's Mom and Bobbie Eakes


MELISSA CLAIRE EGAN AUTOGRAPH SESSION

Our last stop before dinner was Melissa Claire Egan. We got a great spot at the railing and were able to watch her pose with all her fans. She even got to some of her standbys. However, she didn't sign our book, because again, those cast members all of a sudden quit the signings and started directing her to the exit, without any chance for her to sign much of anything. It was weird; because she had time, but I think it was because she was performing in the street jam and had to go rehearse. Still, it was nice to see her and we felt that overall, it was a successful weekend.

We finished the night with a lovely dinner at the Brown Derby, where my mom got a special birthday dessert and she was sung Happy Birthday to (her birthday, if you're all wondering was Monday the 12th).

STREET JAM

We then did things a bit differently for the street jam. Since they do pretty much the same show each night, we weren't too concerned if we could see it or not. It was still very crowded by the stage, so we found seats by Echo Lake, by the picnic tables. This turned out to be a blessing. We could actually see the stage better than on Saturday and I was able to sit down next to my mom (on Saturday I stood the whole time and was so tired by the end it was amazing I could walk!).

The people around us were much friendlier too (Saturday we kept trying to get people to not block my mom, who had a regular wheelchair with nothing to make her taller, but I think she missed a lot of it because people wouldn't move). The fireworks made for a great ending to the weekend and a great launch into my mom's birthday.

GENERAL SUPER SOAP TIPS

Don't get me wrong, this is a really fun event. You just need a thick skin, some planning and some understanding. If you must meet the stars and are not satisfied with seeing them from afar, you have to get up early.

Disney transportation does not run until 7am, so walk, take a cab, or rent a car and drive there. People this year spent the night camped out in front of the turnstiles. I don't recommend this and I doubt Disney will do it again, but any time from 2-6:30am should be good.

Bring a book, put on a sweater, and wear a happy face. Everyone is in the same boat all weekend long and you will get farther with friends than enemies.

Also, I stress the importance of planning ahead.

Get the schedule of who will be there and what they are doing the week before (it is available...Soaps in Depth has the full schedule and it goes on sale that Tuesday).

Have a few different options because you have to remember that the FASTPASS system is just like how it is for the rides. If you are counting on a star's second session, you may be there early enough for their first and the cast members will only honor your pass at the time it lists.

Standbys are the exception: you can use them at either autograph time for the star listed, but only on the day you get it.

Once all the FASTPASSs are gone, relax and have fun! If you are waiting for a motorcade, don't hog a whole bench, let people in-everyone wants the same thing-a chance to see their stars. Bond over your love of the show-make friends-you will see these people throughout the weekend and again. It's better to be polite and friendly than rude. This can get you better seats for a motorcade, a better position during the street jam and just makes for a better weekend overall.

Bottom line, Super Soap Weekend is a huge event and it can be tiring and frustrating, but only if you let it get that way. If you go in with a relaxed attitude and are just happy to be there, it can be a lot of fun and give you plenty of memorable experiences to share with others for years to come.

November 27, 2007

Super Soap Weekend at the Disney MGM Studios Day 1

Robyn Kaplan (accompanied by her mom) attended the 2007 Super Soap Weekend (SSW) at Disney's MGM Studios. This was Robyn's third Super Soap weekend. Her report is full of tips and information so you can enjoy a weekend with the stars!

Super Soap Weekend Day 1

We awoke at 5:30 am, put on last year's Super Soap shirts and headed down to make the trek (yes we walked) from the Dolphin over to the Studios. I like doing it this way, because the time you get to the park is in your control, not a cab, boat or bus, plus it is actually rather invigorating. And we made it to the park by about 6:30.

Once there, we saw that the line wasn't too bad. They started checking bags and moving the line forward at maybe just a bit after 7, so we got excited that we would see all the stars we wanted to see that day.

SUPER SOAP FASTPASS ROULETTE

Now, just a tip for anyone who wants to go to SSW in the future: Plan ahead!! You will be rewarded! The earlier you can make it to the park the better. Also keep your eyes and ears open all morning for any announcements, as the list of stars attending can change instantly (believe me, we found this out fast!).

Also, it is better to be nice to the cast members and state any concerns without shouting - they will try their best to be helpful. Keep in mind that some Disney cast members have been taken away from their actual responsibilities and many are performing tasks for the first time.
In fact its almost like you're at two different parks-the soap areas and the regular park.

We had a very nice time waiting in line with a friendly guy who told us stories from his past soap weekends (he's been almost every year the event has occurred) and a mother and daughter who were there for the first time.

As with last year and again they year, once we past the turnstiles, the cast members brought us into the park through the cast entrance for Fantasmic and Beauty & the Beast. But, since the lines were so short, they didn't have to weave the line around, but instead took us right onto Sunset Boulevard. They kept us in our lines and walked us all the way towards our respective kiosks.

Now, I was unsure how they would get the All My Children line (our line) to the FASTPASS kiosks, because last year, we went through Mickey Ave, which was closed this year due to Toy Story Mania. But, they found a way that worked, by walking us past the ABC Soap Commissary and down towards the Streets of America. We got to Lights, Motors, Action (that was where our kiosks were located) and at 8am on the dot, they started letting us through.

Bottom line: there is no easy solution to the FASTPASS and getting the stars you want.

20,000 people come to the park each day for the Super Soap weekend and there are only 8,000 passes available. Everyone has to remember the event is designed for all to see some, not some to see all. As you will read in the blog for Day 2 of the weekend, it is a tough pill for everyone to swallow, but it should not ruin the weekend or take away from the fun, because there are plenty of other ways to see the stars. If you are cool with not getting the chance to physically touch each and every star, you will have a much better time).

The soap stars we really wanted to meet were David Canary and Michael E. Knight, who play Adam Chandler and Tad Martin respectively. This is because these two are some of the greats of the show, both have been on for more than 20 years, and both are masters of their craft. Plus, both are sweethearts and just adore their fans.

When it was our turn, we walked up to David Canary's kiosk, where we were instantly handed standbys (it was maybe 8:15am, so yes, he was that popular!). We thanked the cast member for our passes and got in Michael E. Knight's line, walking away with 2 real passes for his second autograph session . He did 3 that day. Doing three autograph sessions is a new thing Disney has started doing-last year. They did 3 for Michael Easton in 2006 and it seemed to work. They must have seen how popular MEK was this year, so that is why they did 3 for him

We then got back in line to try for one more star. Here's where things got interesting:

First, we heard that Alicia Minshew, who plays Kendall Hart Slater, was sick and probably would not be attending the first day. Unfortunately, not everyone heard this announcement and several people got a FASTPASS for her, only to learn later that she would in fact be gone all day. Luckily for those people, the cast members said Alicia would honor any FASTPASS from Saturday on Sunday and not to feel down.

The other rumor we began hearing was that Cameron Mathison, who plays Ryan Lavery, but who is also on Dancing with the Stars (or was that weekend) was only going to be in the park on Saturday, as he had to take the red eye back to Hollywood for the show on Sunday. Well, there was never a cast member confirmation of this, but it did in fact turn out to be true, and since Cameron only did one autograph session, it made him even more popular.

My mom really wanted to meet him again and tell him she was hoping he'd win DWTS (we met him last year and he is super nice!), but announcements as to whether he was sold out were confusing, so we ended up getting standby passes for Jacob Young, who plays JR Chandler (and who has been rumored to be leaving the show for months now).

Fortunately, I knew we could go over to Cam's session once we finished with Jacob, so we were happy that we got everyone we wanted the first day. I knew we weren't going to get to meet Cam at his session, just watch him sign for others, since you need some type of FASTpass to meet the stars. I just figured we could stand by the railings, something lots of fans do throughout the day.

We left the kiosk area and got some breakfast at the ABC Commissary: cinnamon rolls because they no longer serve pancakes (boo!). After breakfast, we decided to check out Soapnet's I want to be a Soap Star Live. Previously it had been in the ABC Theatre and this year it moved to the theater over by Rock n Roller Coaster.

SOAPNET'S I WANT TO BE A SOAP STAR LIVE

Cam was hosting and also David Canary and Jacob Young were the two stars doing the show. And it was fun as always! 3 women were chosen (not us, but eh, it's all good) and the first one got to do a scene with Cam (lucky!). Then, the second lady did the same scene with Cam, but they brought David out as a surprise twist! Finally, the third lady, who ended up winning, did a monologue with Cam and David, but then did her final scene with Jacob! We (hopefully) got some great pictures of all 3 of them and as we headed out, we were handed large goody bags of Colgate Total products! (a full bottle of Softsoap, a full tube of toothpaste, a small bottle of body wash and a toothbrush!)

David Canary


Since we still had some time before our first autograph session, I decided to finally check out Rock n Roller Coaster. I did the single rider line and it was awesome! The loops were great and the launch was just incredible!! Didn't have time to look at the picture (had to get back to mom) but the people I was in line with made the whole experience really fun!

DAVID CANARY AUTOGRAPH SESSION

Then we headed over to David Canary's autograph session. We were standbys 10 and 11, and, like last year, I decided to nicely get all of us standbys organized by number so that, when called, we would all be ready and it would go that much faster. Cast Members do not organize the standbys or even the regular pass holders, they just call you when it's your time or your number.

Now, David did his session right. He stayed seated, smiling for the fans by the railings, but focusing on the fans in the line that had gotten a FASTPASS (which is how it should be). The line went fairly fast, but because the stars are really only given one hour to sign, we began to get slightly nervous that he wouldn't have time to take any of the standbys (standby passes don't guarantee an autograph).

And, unlike last year, when the cast members left it up to the stars to decide if they could continue signing or not, this year, they controlled the sessions a lot more and cut off the sessions much sooner than last year. In their defense, a lot of the stars did run late, but there were some sessions that could have run longer than the cast members allowed them to, but more on that later.

Robyn, her mom and David Canary


Luckily, we had an ally on our side: David's lovely wife Maureen was there watching the proceedings and she ended up letting David stay and sign about 25 standbys! We thanked Maureen, and went to up to David, where he not only signed his headshot, but my copy of the AMC 25th Anniversary scrapbook! He was so nice and wished my mom a happy birthday and gave both of us hugs (well, okay, we gave him hugs, but still!). We left his booth feeling so happy and we knew the happiness would continue because we had real passes for Michael E. Knight, and he was next.

MICHAEL E. KNIGHT AUTOGRAPH SESSION

Now, we knew things would be good with Michael, because each star is required to take all the actual FASTPASS holders, so we were guaranteed time with our MEK (that's his initials). Last year, we weren't as lucky-we had standbys and only got quick photos with him because the cast members tried to cut the line, but we wouldn't let them.

MEK is such a swell guy that he signs for everyone - and I do mean everyone, including those on the railings. So this time, we knew we'd get face time with our guy. And again, such a sweetheart, giving my mom a hug and a kiss and giving me a hug as well and he too signed my book. Again, this was a great autograph session, which gave us positive vibes as we headed towards our last session with Jacob Young.

JACOB YOUNG AUTOGRAPH SESSION

Sadly, this session did not go so well. Again, we were standbys (11 and 12) and got everyone organized by number. But this session was a bit more chaotic, with people who just wanted photos standing in the standby area and everyone calling out for Jacob every second he wasn't with a FASTPASS fan.

However, all of us standbys had hope that he would get to us, because he didn't have any appointments until 5:30 and there wasn't anyone at the booth after him. So, at 4pm (his session started at 3:15) we still had hope that he would take all of us. Sadly, that didn't happen quite as planned.

The cast members let the first standby person go, but then they told the rest of us to line up. Jacob greeted all those by the railing and then they ushered him down to the end of the standby line. As we were no longer in numerical order, he just went down the row, signing and quickly snapping photos. I took one of him and my mom, and he did sign my book, but I didn't get a photo with him. At least I got to tell him how much we love him on AMC and we wished him all the best of luck in the future (since, like I said earlier, there is a good chance he is leaving the show).

CAMERON MATHISON AUTOGRAPH SESSION


We then headed over to catch the end of Cameron's session. Well, this one was even more chaotic than Jacob's. We weren't the only ones who wanted to get a quick pic or an autograph of our dancing heartthrob, so we asked a cast member (a Disney security guard) where we could stand to see Cam and try to meet him as he exited the session. We were told to stand along the back railing and that he would be brought right past us. And for the whole time that he finished signing, we had a good shot of him.

However, when it was time for him to go, a different security guard told us we had to move. We lost our plum spot, and had to hope that the handlers would still bring him by us. And they did, sort of. He signed my book, but couldn't take any photos with either of us, as the cast members continued to try and move him to the exit. And us fans don't take no for an answer as they continued to try and get him to pose for photos. I am not that desperate, so we decided to pass". We headed over to the 50s Prime Time Cafe.

PRIME TIME DINNER

This was not our best experience with Prime Time. Instead of a warm friendly "mom", we had Aunt Carole, who, while she could be nice, was also a stickler for cleaning your plate and elbows off the table. And the whole place was so crowded; we feared it would be impossible to watch the grand motorcade and the street jam following dinner. The only good thing was we told Aunt Carole we were in a hurry, so she got us our dessert fast and we were able to head out a bit after 6.

GRAND MOTORCADE AND STREETJAM

Unfortunately, we had lousy seats for the Grand Motorcade and Street Jam. The handicap section was closed when we got there. So, we were along the right side of the stage (the actor's right) and were lucky if we saw the screen, let alone the stage. But, we made do and were somewhat able to see each star on the motorcade and then watch them take their bows.

Luckily, the musical performances were good and even luckier for the AMC fans like us, only 4 of our stars were featured in the street jam. Bobbie Eakes, who plays Krystal Carey is also a singer and she sang two numbers (and she was introduced by David Canary). While not her own songs, they were still real pretty and nice to listen to.

Then, a bit later, girls from AMC and One Life to Live, including Bobbie Eakes and Melissa Claire Egan, who plays Annie Lavery, all came out and did the Cell Block Tango, a number my mom and I first saw in New York at the Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS event. It was just as good this time, with Bobbie (as Krystal) singing about her hatred of Adam and Melissa (as Annie) singing about her hatred of her brother Ritchie. Again, a fun number!

Finally, the moment everyone was waiting for: Cameron and Edyta came out and performed their 27-winning jive they had performed the previous week on DWTS. It was wonderful to see Cam and Edyta dance and gave all of us even more reason to vote for him (though I knew he would get voted off this week, what with all his fans still down in Florida and not home by their phones and computers...but eh. His Viennese waltz this week was beautiful so it was good we got to see him do that).

Cameron and Edyta


The night ended with a performance of "We're All in This Together" from the cast of High School Musical as a tribute to us soap fans, complete with fireworks. We left the park tired, but happy and crazy enough to get up and do it all again the next day!


Stay Tune for Part 2

August 23, 2007

New Stamps Unveiled at Epcot

Trooper Bill sends us a report from the Disney stamp unveiling ceremony that was held at Epcot on 8/16/07:

The stamp unveiling ceremony was held at 1 p.m. in the America Gardens Theatre. It began with the Fife & Drum Corps, and a female singer named Jackie Stressman, who performed the National Anthem.

stamp3.jpg

Following that, the MC, Holland Hayes, who bore a remarkable resemblance to Scoop Sanderson of the Magic Kingdom, welcomed the guests, and introduced Senior VP of WDW Erin Wallace. She gave a brief speech about the collaboration between Disney and the Post Office in the series of stamps, culminating in today's new release. Erin was followed by Linda Kingsley, Senior VP of the USPS who also spoke about the partnership between Disney and the USPS over the years. At the end of her remarks, the Fairy Godmother came down the center aisle, and took over, singing Bibbidi Bobiddi Boo, and introducing Peter Pan, Dumbo, Genie, and finally Mickey, the four subjects of the new series of stamps.

stamp5.jpg

After that, the official unveiling took place, with a typical Disney flourish. The finale was the introduction of the three artists who developed the series: David Pacheco, Peter Emmerich, and Terry McCaffrey.

stamp4.jpg

Following the ceremony, which lasted about 20 minutes, the three artists sat and signed the merchandise in front of the American Adventure shop for a couple of hours. They were very gracious and I was able to get my framed set signed by all three, with a nice Mickey ears flourish added to the 2007.

stamp1.jpg

There was a merchandise display area set up outside of the American pavilion, under the covered area to the right. The merchandise consisted of stamps with first-day cancellations, postcards, and other items related to the release of the next four stamps in the USPS series of Disney stamps. The four stamps include Sorcerer Mickey, Dumbo with Timothy Mouse, Aladdin & Genie, and Peter Pan & Tink. The theme of the new series is "Magic".

The merchandise area ran smoothly, and there were no real lines to purchase items. There was also limited merchandise available inside the American Adventure store. The outdoor merchandise was under the auspices of the USPS, while the merchandise inside was sold by Disney. Inside the main item was a Limited Edition (LE) 50 framed pin set, with all four pins from the release, with a first-day cancellation envelope with all four stamps, and a Sorcerer Mickey envelope. This was in a matted background, with a small plaque that read, "The Art of Disney Magic," and "Limited Edition of 50." It retailed for $150, and as of 3 p.m. they only had one left. (They would have had two, but yours truly decided to spring for one.)

Also, while at Epcot, I happened to notice they are selling several retro design Epcot Center t-shirts in MouseGear. I have not seen these before, and took a few pictures of them.

retro-t-2.JPG

I also got a pic of the wand removal progress.

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July 14, 2007

MagicMeets Guest Memories

Just walked around the Ballroom during a quiet period and got some comments to share:

Tacey: St Catherines ON
The pixie dust is flying and it was well worth the 7 hour drive.

Carolyn "Crazy Lady 1" - Bedford, PA. The magic here is amazing!!! Having a great time and can't wait to win more prizes! The VIP gathering was a lot of fun, and I always love meeting with Deb!


Jill "Crazy Lady 2" - Osterburg, PA. Amazing time here!!! The magic is certainly flowing. Pixie Dust all around!! Meeting lots and lots of other Disney fanatics!! Can't wait to see what the afternoon brings!

Michelle Scribner-MacLean - Nashua, NH. Wow! What great experience. The ballroom looks so beautiful with the gorgeous Mickey and Minnie balloons. All my Disney-geek idols are here - Deb Wills, Mike Scopa and the WDW gang. The food is fantastic, too! My favorite part of the day has been meeting all the really nice people at my table - everyone is very friendly and we all love Disney. See you next year!


Tim Foster-Chester Springs, PA Had a wonderful time introducing our new Guide to the Magic for Kids book, and particularly enjoyed Lou's Trivia Challenge! And yes, I got a bit weepy during Mike Scopa's presentation. Looking forward to next year and more magic!!

Matt Hochberg og MGMStudios.Org: Another fantastic event and it was great to see all of my friends and other Disney internet fans out there. It's one of these events that is impossible to describe and you just had to be here so if you haven't come yet, be sure to mark your calendars for 2008.

Jeff Pepper - 2719 Hyperion. My first MagicMeets and what a terrific, wonderful experience. Super friendly people, great events and activities and that incredible Disney Magic!


Fred's Opening Remarks

Everyone is seated in the main ballroom. Fred is going over his welcome remarks and the crowd is cheering.


Claire rozzi/Cinderella from Pennsylvania stopp by to say: "Great site great meet. We'd love to be on a cruise, how do I get my husband to go. Hello to all the Taginators back home..;.. having a great time. "

Mike Scopa's talk will start soon.

Here's the ballroom before the doors opened.


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

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