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Disney's Hollywood Studios Archives

June 18, 2017

The Architecture at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Gary Cruise banner

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grauman's Chinese Theatre

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

Grauman's Chinese Theatre 2006

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

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

The Darkroom

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

The Darkroom today

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

Max Factor

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

Max Factor today

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

Crossroads of the World

Here’s what it looks like today!

Crossroads ot the World today

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

Hollywoodland Gates

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

Hollywoodland Gates today

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

Hollywood Studios Entrance

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

Pan Pacific Auditorium

Once again the Imagineers created a remarkable likeness!

1600 Beverly Blvd today

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

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

Disney Magazine Spring 2005 page 63

Disney Magazine Spring 2005 page 64

Disney Magazine Spring 2005 page 65

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

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

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





December 17, 2015

Club Disney at the Sunset Showcase

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by
J. Scott Lopes
AllEars.Net Guest Blogger

Sunset Showcase, a new flex space (Disney speak for a multipurpose venue), was recently opened, and is currently hosting Club Disney, a club environment that has a DJ playing Radio Disney top 40 songs along with Disney characters to dance with. The space is located near Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. It is accessed by a gated entrance located to the right of the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster FastPass+ queue.

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Inside the space, there is a DJ booth along with a quick service food location for snacks:

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(We have the snack menu for Club Disney HERE.)

The center of the space has a dance floor complete with large screens around the room and a Mickey-eared disco ball:

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In addition to some comfortable seating around the room, there are also large touch screens that are set up for virtual finger painting:

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The outside area is also large and spacious and I can see a lot of potential for using this space for various events.

Starting mid-January, Sunset Showcase will host Club Villain, a special ticketed event that will feature Disney villains geared towards adults because of the DJ and alcohol being served. I was told the event will be family friendly, though -- preferably for children 10 and up.

Reservations are being taken for Club Villain now. You can read more about it HERE.

This is a great space to check out on your next trip!

About the Author:

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


November 16, 2015

REVIEW: Breakfast at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater

Sci Fi Breakfast Mickey Waffle

by David S. Abel
AllEars.Net Guest Blogger

Usually all the new things open or start just days after I return home from a trip to Walt Disney World. Therefore I was quite excited when I saw that the Sci-Fi Dine-In at Hollywood Studios was going to begin offering breakfast during my recent visit! And naturally I had to make reservations for the first day.

Sunday, November 1, my traveling party arrived at the Sci-Fi Dine-In about 10 minutes early for our 9:30 a.m. breakfast reservation. The four of us were promptly seated in a car that seats six towards the back of the drive-in and were given our road maps (menus).

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The breakfast is a fixed price of $23.99 per person, which seemed a bit high, but once we figured out exactly what was included, it didn’t really seem that bad.

Each person receives three pastries (a croissant, a double chocolate muffin and a cinnamon bun), choice of a yogurt parfait or fresh fruit, choice of entrée and a beverage.

Sci Fi Breakfast Pastries and Yogurt Parfait

Amongst our party we ordered the Steak and Eggs, Shrimp and Grits and Mickey Waffle. We all started with the yogurt parfait which included raspberry and vanilla yogurts with fresh berries and granola. My Steak and Eggs was very tasty, and the platter was served as you might expect at an expensive gourmet restaurant.

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sci-fi-shrimp-and-grits

There was a slight delay from ordering our beverages until they were delivered and our order taken. I chalked that up to the fact that it was the first day and they didn’t have everything running smoothly yet. Otherwise our server was good and really played up the drive-in/car themes.

The movie screen seemed to show the same sci-fi clips they usually show. I thought it would’ve been neat if they showed more [space-related] cartoons during breakfast.

I had read some speculative comparisons to the breakfast offered during Star Wars Weekends when this was first announced, unfortunately I’ve never experienced that breakfast so I can’t confirm any similarities.

I can say, though, that we all left full and happy, and that we had an enjoyable breakfast. I believe this could be a nice alternative to the sit-down breakfast at Hollywood & Vine.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Breakfast at Sci-Fi is being tested from November 1, 2015 to January 23, 2016. This is a fixed price breakfast. $23.99 plus tax adults, $12.99 plus tax ages 3-9.

December 18, 2014

Frozen Premium Package Review

by J. Scott Lopes
Guest Blogger

I recently experienced the VIP Frozen Premium package at Disney's Hollywood Studios. This package consists of two parts. The first part is reserved seating for the Frozen "First Time in Forever" Sing-along. The second component is a Frozen-themed dessert party, which includes a limited release Frozen pin and lithograph.

Once I arrived at the park I checked in at the MyMagic+ service center (the former location for Sid Cahuenga's near the front of the park), where I was able to select my show time for the Frozen sing-along, and also receive my lanyard.

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The First Time in Forever: A "Frozen" Sing-Along Celebration was held in the Premiere Theater, which had a special entrance on the Streets of America for this package.


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I went to this location at my selected time and was led into the theater to the section of reserved seats, located in the first few rows. The theater was perfectly themed -- no detail was left out. They even had icicles around the sound booth:


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The sing-along started with Anna, but was hosted by two royal historians of Arendelle, and they added a lot of comedic value to the show:


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During the show there were many opportunities to sing along, and if you didn't know the words (although almost everybody did!) they had multiple screens that showed the lyrics:

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Kristoff and Elsa also joined the show:

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The dessert party takes place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. and is held at the end of the Streets of America in an area that used to be part of the Backlot Tour. The entrance to the area is on the side that faces the restrooms near the Lights, Motors, Action show. A member of my party happened to be in an ECV, and we were having trouble getting to the entrance, so when we explained the situation to a cast member they accommodated us by letting us enter though the other side of the event. While we waited for the event I checked out the Wandering Oaken's Frozen Snowground, where kids could play in the "snow" and there was lots of Frozen merchandise for sale.

Once we were allowed into the party area, we found a wide variety of themed desserts, such as Anna and Elsa cupcakes:

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Olaf cake pops

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There were lots of other dessert items and drinks, including hot tea and coffee, hot chocolate, bottled water and soda, and specialty alcoholic beverages.

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Besides the desserts, the greatest benefit of attending the dessert party is that you get a terrific view of The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights without having to mingle with the crowds, unless you want to:

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As is common at Disney events, attendees receive a limited release Frozen pin and litho:

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This was the first time in"... well, this is actually the first time that I have ever attended a Disney dessert party. I think that Disney put together a great event that was well-themed, and also gave a great view of the Osborne lights.

I would recommend this event to anyone, especially people who want to view the lights in a less crowded area.

Tickets for this special Frozen Holiday Premium Package can be purchased for $89 per adult and $59 per child, from now until January 4, 2015. Park admission is required, but tax and gratuity are included.

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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 related to the Disney Parks, especially Walt Disney Imagineering and all of the work and detail that they put into everything that they engineer.


August 3, 2014

From the Tickle Trunk – Walt Disney World News 1990

Gary Cruise banner

The last WDW newsletter we looked at was from October 1982. Now Mr. Peabody has dialed his WABAC Machine forward eight years so we can take a look at the Summer 1990 edition.

1990_Front_Page

There's a new theme park, Disney-MGM Studios . . . and look at all that color on the front page! They are really pushing that 5-Day Plus Super Pass. Of course, with three theme parks you now need 5 days!

Hey, look - the Muppets have arrived! "Here Come the Muppets" was a live show that premiered on May 25, 1990 at Disney-MGM Studios. The pre-show area featured a video of Rowlf playing the piano and singing, with interruptions from Sam Eagle. The show, which featured walking Muppet characters, ran until September 2, 1991, and was replaced in that location by The Voyage of the Little Mermaid. Two weeks after the show closed, a second live Muppet show, "Muppets on Location: Days of Swine and Roses", opened in a different area of the park.

1990_Page_2

There was plenty of color on page two as well. And who are these strange characters? Dick Tracy? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? What's with that?

I had never seen or heard tell of these characters at any Disney park . . . so some research was called for!

Wow . . . here's what I found: Dick Tracy, Flattop, Mumbles and Tess Trueheart appeared live on stage at the Theatre of the Stars! The production, Diamond Double-Cross, didn't last too long - it opened May 21, 1990 and ran until February 16, 1991. There were even Dick Tracy characters in the troupe of roving "Streetmosphere" performers; they disappeared in February 1991 as well.

And those turtles? Carol remembers seeing them. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles appeared in the "New York Street" section of Disney-MGM Studios. Emerging from their Turtle Party Wagon, they would "ninja dance" across the stage while April performed the theme song to their show. After the main show was done they would pose for pictures and sign autographs. The Turtles also appeared in Disney's "Very Merry Christmas Parade" and sang their own rendition of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town". In the Easter parade they danced to their single "Pizza Power!" The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live shows and appearances came to an end in 1996.

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There was plenty of new information on Page 3.

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At EPCOT the Wonders of Life Pavilion had just opened in October 1989 and Body Wars was an exciting new attraction. Guests boarded Bravo 229, a "LGS 2050" probe vehicle and were miniaturized, ship and all, before being injected into a human body to observe a splinter and rescue Dr. Cynthia Lair. The LGS 2050 weighed approximately 26 tons but once miniaturized it weighed less than a drop of water, so it was easily able to navigate its way to the splinter and find the doctor. At the injury site she was taking a blood cell count when she was accidentally pulled into a capillary. Captain Braddock boldly followed her through the capillary and into a vein, even though it meant entering an unauthorized area. The captain steered Bravo 229 past the heart and into the right ventricle, then on into the lung where the doctor was being attacked by a white blood cell. Captain Braddock fired his lasers to free the doctor but by then the ship was very low on power. Dr. Lair suggested that they use the brain's energy to recharge the ship. Passing through the heart, the ship followed an artery all the way to the brain where a neuron touched the ship and re-powered the batteries. The Bravo 229 and all the guests were safely de-miniaturized outside of the body. Everyone returned home, safe and sound; funny how that always turns out! Body Wars ran for 18 years and closed on January 1, 2007.

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IllumiNations was still quite new in 1990; it premiered at World Showcase Lagoon on January 30, 1988. It had to go through several version changes before it became the "IlluniNations, Reflections of Earth" that we see today.

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Mickey's Starland originated as Mickey's Birthdayland which opened on June 18, 1988. It transformed into Mickey's Starland on May 26, 1990. The area was briefly renamed Mickey's Toyland in late 1995. The land closed in early 1996 for an extensive refurbishment, and on October 1, 1996, it reopened as Mickey's Toontown Fair for the park's 25th anniversary. The back-story portrayed the land as the holiday home for the characters who normally lived at Mickey's Toontown in California. Mickey's Toontown Fair was closed on February 11, 2011 in order to build the New Fantasyland. Some elements of Mickey's Toontown Fair have been demolished and others have been re-themed to the new Storybook Circus area.

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Page 4 had a detailed listing of park hours for the months of June, July and August. The two news articles took us outside the theme parks where there was also plenty of brand new excitement!

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Typhoon Lagoon opened less than a year prior, on June 1, 1989 and it was a very popular destination. It's my favourite Disney water park; I just love that wave pool!

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Pleasure Island was a new phenomenon as well. It had opened May 1, 1989 and drew huge crowds every night. There was a wide variety of venues; something to please everyone, and every night was New Year's Eve! Do you remember the Neon Armadillo? The Adventurer's Club? All those great old clubs are now closed and bulldozed as Pleasure Island, along with the rest of Downtown Disney, is being transformed into Disney Springs!

Isn't it funny . . . so many of the things which were so exciting, so revolutionary and daring in 1990 are merely distant memories as we look back 24 years from 2014.

The Muppets have relocated to a 3D Theatre, Dick Tracy is gone, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are gone, The Wonders of Life Pavilion is closed and Body Wars is shuttered. Mickey's Starland and Pleasure Island have both been levelled and redeveloped. There is always something new coming along to captivate us.

I suppose that's what Walt Disney meant when he spoke about Disneyland many years ago. He said, "Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world." I'm sure that Walt, if he had lived to see his Florida Project open, would have said the same thing about Walt Disney World; it will continuously evolve and grow.

That's just one of the things that makes our happy place so magical!

February 26, 2014

Jim's Attic: The Hidden Handprints of The Magic of Animation

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The Hidden Handprints of The Magic of Animation

On May 1, 1989, the Disney MGM Studios officially opened with a dedication ceremony led by then CEO Michael Eisner. However, not long afterwards on that same day, there was another dedication ceremony in front of The Magic of Disney Animation building.

Roy E. Disney talked at podium set up in the front of the attraction where he emphasized that hand drawn animation was really the focal point of the Disney Company. He continued that animation was the start of the Disney Company and that with the newly opened Disney Feature Animation Studio Florida "a new day for animation will be dawning".

The Little Mermaid would debut in November, just six months later, proving Roy absolutely correct.

Joining in the dedication were several Disney Legends who had made significant contributions to animation: Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Ward Kimball, Marc Davis, Ken O'Connor and Ken Anderson.

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The one snag in the ceremony was a literal snag as the cover over the elaborate animation film strip sculpture at the front of the building did indeed get caught on a pointy outcropping of the sculpture. Amid the fanfare, releasing of balloons and applause, several Disney executives struggled in a tug of war to release the red cover from it entanglement and eventually succeeded.

There was also a ceremony where these six animation legends put their handprints and autographs into cement blocks to be placed in an alcove of the animation courtyard inside the building.

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Originally, the attraction was configured so that guests could not see these three rectangular blocks placed in the ground. However, today, the area (head to the Meet and Greet section and the area is between the Animation Theatre Exit and the Character Department) is open for guests to discover them and take photographs.

While Ken Anderson, Marc Davis and Ward Kimball were Imagineers at the time, they got their starts in the world of animation. Davis was responsible for the design of characters like Tinker Bell and Princess Aurora. Kimball was the animator who designed Jiminy Cricket and the Cheshire Cat. Anderson was the designer of Shere Khan and Pete's Dragon, Elliot. All of them had contributed significantly to many of the Disney animated features.

Ken O'Connor was known as one of Disney's top layout artists and art directors. His work included the magical coach in "Cinderella," the marching cards in "Alice in Wonderland," and the dancing hippos in "Fantasia".

Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston stayed in animation their entire career but also collaborated on several books including the definitive book on Disney animation entitled "Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life". Their animation began with work on the dwarves in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and continued through The Fox and the Hound where both worked on the young Tod and Copper.

The original intention was that there were would two legends to one block as demonstrated on the one featuring Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, longtime friends as well as co-workers. Their hands and signatures are neatly and symmetrically imprinted, along with an impression of their pencils. This was how all the blocks were to look.

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However, another block features three handprints and signatures: Marc Davis, Ken Anderson and Ken O'Connor, once again with impressions of their drawing pencils. Yet, Anderson's signature seems crowded and his last name curves downward as if squeezed for space or an afterthought.

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The secret is clear on the final block knowing the behavior of the exuberant Ward Kimball, an extrovert known for being an unpredictable maverick. Not only did he make sure his pencil was broken before being imprinted unlike his fellow legends, he also spread his fingers wide so he could make a second impression and close examination will reveal that he has six fingers on each hand, something that most guests miss at a casual glance.

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Also, in a fit of high spirits, he filled the bottom half of the block with a quick drawing of Mickey Mouse's head in the space that was going to be filled by Ken Anderson. Who would be so bold as to wipe out a Mickey Mouse drawing by the legendary Kimball? Apparently, no one. So Anderson squeezed in to a space on another block.

Today, these hidden handprints are available for every DHS guest to enjoy and now, you know the secret behind them.

If you have earlier photos of these handprints to share, when they were much newer, please let us know!

RELATED INFORMATION AND LINKS
Disney Historian Jim Korkis goes up into his imaginary attic to rummage around his archives and often stumbles across an unusual story about Walt Disney World. Those who have met me know that I take real joy in talking about Walt Disney.

====================
Check out Jim's other "From the Attic" Blogs

Full features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives: http://allears.net/ae/archives.htm

Jim Korkis

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, his skills and historical knowledge were utilized by Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.

He is the author of three new books, available in both paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon.com:
The Book of Mouse: A Celebration of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse
Who's Afraid of the Song of the South
"The REVISED Vault of Walt":


July 22, 2012

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Disney Things

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What is your favourite park at Walt Disney World?

What are your "must-do" rides or activities?

What are the things you only do once in a while?

Main Gate

One of the greatest things about Walt Disney World is the diversity of experience you can enjoy there. With the four theme parks, two water parks, golf courses, hotels, campground, scores of restaurants and all the surrounding attractions there is virtually no limit to the things you can enjoy.

Many of our friends who, like Carol and I, are frequent visitors have established some favourite attractions and activities, things they "must-do" every time they visit Walt Disney World.

Here's my list of favourites. Let's start with my favourite park, the Magic Kingdom.

Magic Kingdom

Why does this park top my list? Well, it's the classic, the first Florida park. This is where I first took my children in 1977. It is chock-full of good memories and will probably always be my "special place"! I remember the huge grins on both my daughter Michelle and son Steve's faces as we rode Dumbo together all those years ago. They loved It's A Small World and Peter Pan's Flight.

Peter Pan

About two years ago my son Steve took his family and they stood in line for 90 minutes to see Peter Pan. His comment? "What a hokey ride . . . why did I stand in line an hour and a half for that?" It will never be hokey for me because I'll always remember Steve's reaction when we rode it together in 1977. Peter Pan is one that Carol and I ride every visit.

The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean are two more that we never miss.

Mansion

Pirates

These rides are not "hi-tech" like some of the newer attractions but they still transport me to another world or another time. As I ride I sing along with the 999 happy haunts and the scallywag pirates. "Yo-ho, Yo-ho, a pirates life for me!" As we pass through Adventureland we are always compelled to savour a cold treat. Carol heads to Sunshine Tree Terrace to pick up a Citrus Swirl while I scoot to Aloha Isle for a Pineapple Float. We meet in the middle somewhere and try to achieve simultaneous brain-freezes.

We take a spin with Buzz Lightyear almost every trip.

Buzz

This ride brings out the worst in us. We become ultra-competitive, each trying to outscore the other as we blast Emperor Zurg into the next galaxy! It's great fun!

We enjoy many of the other rides as well but we don't feel compelled to enjoy them every time we visit. Once in a while is good for most of them. Of course, Wishes, the fireworks spectacular, is a "must-do" as well. We try to position ourselves at the back of The Hub, near Casey's Corner to get the best view of the show with Cinderella Castle in the foreground. That leads me to the one other snack we always stop for . . . a Casey's hot dog. Yum!

Many will probably be surprised at my second place ranking. Disney's Animal Kingdom ranks second for me. Why? Well, it's all about the animals.

Tiger

Meercat

Both Carol and I love seeing the animals. We walk all the back trails around the Tree of Life to see and photograph things most visitors miss. Hint: If you walk these trails at noon you will often see cast members feeding the animals and the animals will be front and center for you. There are plenty of photo-ops around noon on the Tree of Life Trails.

Kilimanjaro Safaris is an irresistible draw for us. We sometimes ride it twice, once in early morning and then again just before the park closes. Hint: You can get better pictures from the back row of the truck, but be prepared for the bouncing! It's the bumpiest seat!

Lion at Coppies

Carol is not a fan of roller coasters; she does not like the upside-down experience, but for some reason she really enjoys Expedition Everest. I don't understand why, but I'm glad she does. We ride together once and that's enough for her. I sometimes go directly to the single-rider line and take another spin.

Expedition Everest

After coaxing for a while I finally convinced Carol that coasters are smoother and less stressful if you raise your arms and stop fighting against the rocking and shaking motion. Once she tried it she agreed with me and now she often rides with her arms in the air. The only problem is that she cannot stop giggling when her arms are up. So if you see a woman on Everest, arms in the air and giggling like crazy - that's Carol!

Flights of Wonder is another great show we always enjoy. It always surprises us how many people walk by and skip this awesome performance. The need for conservation is delivered in an entertaining and inspiring fashion. Carol has co-starred in the show four times.

Flights of Wonder

When they ask for volunteers in the owl segment she is always up and waving her hands. Another regular stop is at the gibbon habitat near Kali River Rapids; we love to watch them swinging around their island. If you ever hear them calling to each other you will never forget the experience!

Gibbons

If we have lunch at Animal Kingdom it is almost always egg rolls from the quick service counter at Yak & Yeti; try them - they're great!

Third for me is EPCOT. This park is all about education . . . but the learning at EPCOT is all bundled up in a package of fun so you really don't notice. Educators need to look into this to see how it's done . . . learning can be fun!

Our first "must-do" is the very first attraction, Spaceship Earth.

Spaceship Earth

History, communication and science in one easy lesson; we seldom miss it. Another regular is Soarin'.

Soarin

I like the hang-glider ride more than Carol does, but she humours me and rides along with me. It all evens out when I stifle my yawns as I wander through Germany's Der Teddybar shop with her.

We always look for Off Kilter, the celtic rock group who play beside the Canada pavilion, we both enjoy them.

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When I hear the Jamitors or The British Revolution I stop to listen while Carol dashes off to shop. Our interests aren't always the same but there are so many things to do that we can both enjoy ourselves at all times.

Dining at EPCOT is great, there are so many good restaurants, but our favourite is Canada's Le Cellier. We seldom miss having dinner at Le Cellier.

Last, but certainly not least is Disney's Hollywood Studios. This is also a wonderful park full of many terrific attractions, rides, sights and sounds. I love the "Streetmosphere", the many street entertainers who put on such entertaining shows.

Streetmosphere

I can sit and watch them again and again, which works out well because Carol can shop again and again!

Studios is home to the newest ride at Walt Disney World, Toy Story Midway Mania. Similar to Buzz Lightyear it's a giant video game that places you in the middle of the action. We try to ride Toy Story several times each trip if we can.

Toy Story Potato Head

We don our 3D glasses and turn into shooting demons, each of us once again striving to totally annihilate our beloved spouse. "I am not your mother . . . break those plates!"

We both enjoy the Tower of Terror and after riding it Carol generally heads down Sunset Boulevard to explore the Villains in Vogue shop while I head to the single-rider line for a spin on Rock 'n Roller Coaster.

Another "must-do" at Studios is a trip to the Animation Courtyard and a visit with David Rippberger, the Disney Ink and Paint artist who works in the Animation Gift Shop. David creates the hand painted animation cels which Carol collects and we like to visit with him to keep abreast of what's coming up next.

Our final irresistible lure at Studios is a relatively new discovery for us. Italian sausage in a bun at Min & Bill's Dockside Diner. We shared our first sausage in a bun about a year ago . . . as soon we bit into it we agreed we would never share one again. They are just too good to share! Don't miss this delicious lunch treat.

Of course no vacation would be complete without a trip to Downtown Disney. I always take my book along and find a spot to sit while Carol shops.

Days of Christmas Store

I read and people-watch while she scours through the Art of Disney Shop, the Disney Days of Christmas Shop and of course Disney's Pin Traders. Once she has worked up a good appetite she joins me and we head directly to the Earl of Sandwich.

Earl of Sandwich

This place has elevated the simple sandwich to an art form. Wow they're good! We often get back to "Earl's" several times during our stay!

There is so much to do outside the parks that I may make that the subject of another blog sometime. For now I will just mention two more of our favourite "non-park" things. First is dinner at 'Ohana in the Polynesian Resort . . . we never miss it. Great food, great location, great value! If you time it right and get a window table you can watch the Wishes fireworks extravaganza from your table. They pipe in the soundtrack too!

Second is a camping favourite, if we're staying in our RV at Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground we head to the beach at the campground a few evenings during our stay. There is a nice little patio beside the dock and we relax at a patio table as we watch Wishes. They pipe in the soundtrack here as well and as an added treat the fireworks are reflected on the waters of Bay Lake. It's a terrific place to watch the show with no crowds! Shortly after Wishes is over the Electrical Water Pageant sails past . . . what a great way to end a day!

So those are a few of my favourite things! There are so many things to do at Walt Disney World that it just never gets stale for us and I doubt that it ever will!

What are your favourite things?

July 1, 2012

Disney Animation Cels

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The next time you visit Disney's Hollywood Studios be sure to visit The Magic of Disney Animation in the Animation Courtyard. There is a terrific ten-minute show where Mushu provides some comic relief while you learn about the animation process. After you are entertained by Mushu and have enjoyed some interesting interactive galleries you make your way toward the exit. Watch closely as you pass through the last few galleries on your way toward the gift shop. There are some wonderful animation cels on display. Cels similar to these used to be an integral part of animated film production.

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Until recently animated films were produced by photographing a series of hand painted sheets of cellulose acetate; these were referred to as cels. In 1933 Walt Disney Studios developed a unique "multi-plane" camera. This invention dramatically improved the animation process by holding multiple cels in layers and adding three dimensional depth to the animated film. One of these revolutionary cameras is on display in the "One Man's Dream" exhibit at Disney's Hollywood Studios. It's worth a visit to have a look at this interesting device.

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Did you know that a traditional animated film used 24 frames per second and most frames were comprised of a background image and four cels which were mounted in the multi-plane camera? An 80 minute animated feature would use 460,800 cels. The outlines of the images were drawn on the front of the cels while colors were painted on the back of the acetate to eliminate brushstrokes and give a clean image. Animators worked in teams comprised of a "lead animator", up to three "in between animators" and several "clean-up animators". The lead animator was responsible for a specific character and would draw about one of every four drawings of that character. The in between animators would produce cells to fill the gaps between the cels created by the lead animator and finally the clean-up animators would touch up the cels wherever necessary to ensure clean lines and smooth motion.

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Of course the animators didn't just sit down and churn out finished cels. They made several sketches before deciding on the best and then based the cel on that sketch. They created an average of five sketches for every finished cel so that 80 minute feature I mentioned earlier would require up to 2.5 million sketches. That's a lot of work and it required a highly talented work force. In 1941 when Disney Studios were producing Dumbo they employed over 1,200 people and several hundred of them would have been animators.

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After a movie was completed the "production cels" were often sold to collectors. More popular shows and movies demanded higher prices for the cels, with some selling for thousands of dollars. A cel depicting several characters from the finale of Who Framed Roger Rabbit sold for $50,600 at Sotheby's in 1989.

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The last Disney movie created using traditional hand-painted cels was 1989's The Little Mermaid. Disney Stores sold production cels from The Little Mermaid at prices from $2,500 to $3,500.

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Computers have now taken over the animation process. Today there are only five animation artists who continue to hand paint animation cels, created purely for sale to collectors. These five talented folks work for the Walt Disney Ink and Paint Department and you can often see one of them at work just before you exit the Animation Gallery gift shop. His name is David Rippberger. He's been painting animation cels since 1993 and has plied his art and interacted with guests in the Animation Gallery gift shop for the past sixteen years. Stop and say hello to David; he is always happy to talk about his work and to show you how it is done. He is a wonderful ambassador for Disney and we look for him every time we visit Disney's Hollywood Studios.

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Since the Ink and Paint Department was established in 1995 they have created 52 different cels. Some are limited to a specific number of pieces produced while others are produced for a period of time and then "retired".

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There is always a new cel in the planning stages and there are enough Disney characters to ensure that there will always be something to appeal to all tastes. You are bound to see something you like.

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Cels can be purchased in several different formats. The cels are the same but the framing and accessories are different. At the time of writing (May 2012) the purchase options are:
1) an unframed cel for $125
2) a cel matted in a black frame for $215
3) a cel matted in a black frame with a pin for $240
4) a cel matted in a black frame with a pin and an autographed postcard for $265
5) a cel matted in a gold frame for $290

Carol usually prefers option #4, the "three-way" with cel, pin and a postcard bearing an image of the cel. The postcard is signed by all of the Ink and Paint artists. She has collected fourteen cels - so far! Naturally not every cel appeals to her, but when one does . . . well, she just has to have it! The cels pictured all come from Carol's collection.

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So next time you are at Disney's Hollywood Studios be sure to visit The Magic of Disney Animation and say hello to David Rippberger. He provided much of the information included in this blog and he's always happy to show guests how he adds the "magic" to Disney animation cels!

May 26, 2012

Be aware of changes at Disney's Hollywood Studios during Star Wars Weekends

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So, you're planning a visit to Disney's Hollywood Studios during the month that includes Star Wars Weekends (through June 10 this year) and you have your entire day planned out, based on past experiences. Be aware that there are some minor changes within the park that might influence how you experience the day.

First, the Disney Channel Rocks! street show is set up a little differently. The float that normally rolls down Hollywood Boulevard with the performers is absent because there is not room for it to turn and park in front of the temporary Sorcerer Hat Stage. Performers instead enter from the side and use the stage. This really doesn't significantly alter the quality of the experience.

What it does affect, however, is your ability to get a good seat, and this format cuts down on confusion. Guests can stake out their spots on the concrete on any of the three sides whenever it's convenient for them. When the float is in the picture, guests who want to sit in the center section must line up on the right-hand side until it passes.

As you would expect, some of the other changes occur back in the area around the Star Tours -- The Adventures Continue attraction because that's where many of the Star Wars events are located. This section of Hollywood Studios is obviously more crowded, and there are a lot of roped off lanes to direct moving traffic away from guests waiting for the ride, character meet-and-greets and the Jedi Training Academy. (Too bad the smoking section hasn't been moved away from the crowds at this event!) Cast members enforce a one-way traffic pattern for guests exiting Tatooine Traders by directing them down the ramp toward the Streets of America. From there, guests can continue to the back of the park or circle around past the ABC Commissary to head toward the front. Give yourself some extra time to move through this section if you're trying to catch the end of a FastPass window or get to a show.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the stand-by wait for Star Tours to be less than an hour most of the day last Saturday, the first of the Star Wars Weekends. This is good news for guests who want to ride more than once and are juggling show schedules and FastPass tickets. When Star Tours reopened in 2011, it wasn't uncommon to see two-hour waits -- or longer -- and the queue was roped off all the way down the Streets of America.

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The nearby Jedi Training Academy is available year-round and is always popular, but never more so than during Star Wars Weekends. If your child has his or her heart set on battling Darth Vader, be sure to sign up in front of Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! when you first enter the park. Even with extra show times added each day during Star Wars Weekends, the slots fill up quickly in the morning.

Finally, don't underestimate the popularity of Star Wars Weekends and the effect the crowds will have on your ability to enter Hollywood Studios. By noon last Saturday, the parking lot was completely full. Cast members were directing guests to park at Epcot for free and use a special ticket to board a bus back to the Studios. This process could add hours to the start and end of your day, so plan accordingly.

For additional information about Star Wars Weekends, see my post about fun things for kids to do HERE and tips for securing celebrity autographs HERE.

May 24, 2012

Tips for securing celebrity autographs at Disney's Star Wars Weekends

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Last weekend's crowds again proved the popularity of Star Wars Weekends at Walt Disney World. And one of the biggest draws for park guests is the opportunity to meet Star Wars celebrities and get photos and autographs.

At many fan conventions, those privileges don't come cheap, let alone free. Consequently, guests line up early for the limited slots to meet their favorite Star Wars actors and personalities at Disney's Hollywood Studios. And when I say early, I mean before dawn.

Years ago, my young son wanted to meet Jake Lloyd (young Anakin Skywalker), so my husband and I tried to make it happen. We arrived at Disney's Hollywood Studios about 30 minutes before it opened. While Stormtroopers stood guard from atop the entrance, a small crowd waited for the turnstiles to open. When they did, guests raced back to Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! to get FastPasses and ensure a spot to meet a celebrity.

The stampede among guests was so out of character for an event at Disney World, where organized queues are the company's specialty. Since that day, we've been to plenty of crowded passholder events through the years - including concerts featuring Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus - and none surprised us more than that experience.

Disney clearly has learned from those days and has implemented a FastPass system that doesn't involve putting on your track shoes. Guests are asked to line up along the right side of the main entrance to Hollywood Studios and the tickets are distributed to the queue. There is no need to rush past your neighbors when you get inside because you must have one of the tickets to receive a celebrity FastPass.

The published rules on the Star Wars Weekends map state that each guest may receive one FastPass -- and you have to be present to receive the special ticket. In other words, one person cannot get celebrity autograph FastPasses for everyone in his or her group. After all the FastPasses are distributed for the day, a limited number of stand-by tickets will be issued. These tickets do not guarantee autographs, but they are offered in case a celebrity has time after the FastPass holders have had their turns.

So, how early do you have to hit the concrete for the golden tickets? Several cast members I spoke with advised guests to be in line between 5 and 6 a.m. for the park opening at 8 a.m. Earlier is better, they emphasized. They recalled one guest who camped out 44 hours before the first day of Star Wars Weekends. That certainly guaranteed the guest a FastPass, but it's not necessary, they said.

Ray Park, who plays Darth Maul, was the most popular ticket for the first Star Wars Weekend this year, the cast members said. He was very personable and chatty, though, and only got to a few guests with stand-by tickets before he had to get to his presentation in the park.

If you've joined the fans waiting for celebrity autographs, we want to hear about your experience in the comments.


May 21, 2012

Disney's Star Wars Weekends offer galaxy of fun for kids

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Star Wars fans will, of course, be in their element at Disney's Hollywood Studios during Star Wars Weekends. But even if your kids cannot tell Luke Skywalker from Anakin Skywalker, they still can have a great time celebrating The Force.

First, get in a Star Wars mindset by riding Star Tours -- The Adventures Continue. The re-imagined ride opened last year with a 3D experience that takes riders through one of 54 sequences -- and you never know which journey you'll get.

The Star Tours ride empties into the Tatooine Traders gift shop and it's impossible to miss the roped off line for the latest Star Wars toys. New this year is the Droid Factory in the center of the store. There, the young and the young-at-heart can build their own droids with multiple color combinations, in R2-D2's likeness, and topped with Disney Parks' signature mouse ears hat.

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A complete droid consists of a body, a dome, a left leg, a middle leg, a right leg and a novelty hat. Single droids cost $11.95 plus tax and a double package is $18.95 plus tax. (Walt Disney World passholder discounts are honored at Tatooine Traders.) The packaging includes a sticker sheet of letters and symbols so guests can name their creations.

When I checked at various times on Saturday, the line for the Droid Factory remained steady at 30 minutes. That didn't deter my kids or seem to bother them much when we waited. The Droid Factory debuted this past weekend, the first of four Star Wars Weekends, and there is only the one location at Disney World.

Several cast members said that the standard R2-D2 look was the most popular for those making droids. A close second during the opening weekend were the clear domes with red and purple trim. Coming in August: different color body parts and Indiana Jones fedoras, a cast member said.

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If your child enjoyed the concept of putting together a toy, the store also offers guests the opportunity to build their own ultimate lightsabers. And kids ages 4 to 12 can test their lightsaber skills next door at the Jedi Training Academy.

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Jedi hopefuls have the opportunity to do battle against The Empire after a bit of training from a master Jedi. The young rebels are provided with brown robes and lightsabers for the show, and they set out to learn some signature moves before Darth Vader appears. (Read more about the story behind the show on Jack Spence's blog.)

Jedi Training Academy started out as an event offered only during Star Wars Weekends, but it was so popular that Disney built a permanent stage so young guests could do battle every day. There are limited spots each day, so registering first thing when you arrive at the Studios is necessary. Even with 16 shows each day, the slots fill up quickly. Sign-ups are in front of Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!

(Years ago, when my nephew was really into Star Wars, children were chosen to participate in the Jedi Training Academy from the audience. That meant camping out by the stage for parents of kids whose top priority was the interactive Star Wars experience. This registration format certainly is a welcome change.)

Young guests won't want to miss the Star Wars Celebrity Motorcade that travels down Hollywood Boulevard and concludes with a short show at the Sorcerer Hat stage. In addition to the weekend's famous actors and personalities, the parade includes Jedi Mickey and many, many characters from the George Lucas films. The parade route is packed, so find a spot early if you want to take photos or have a decent vantage point. If you're a casual observer, grab a seat in front of the American Idol Experience and you'll see most of the characters go by, though not the celebrities.

Want more time with the characters? Photo opportunities with Disney characters dressed in their Star Wars costumes can be a fun experience. Look for Jedi Mickey, Stormtrooper Donald, R2-MK and Darth Goofy near the ABC Commissary. Star Wars characters from the movies and other Star Wars spinoffs also are stationed around Hollywood Studios for meet-and-greets.

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You also can visit Darth's Mall, the main location for event merchandise, where there is a backdrop set up for photos with Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and other perennial favorites. Just as my daughter walked up to meet Princess Leia, C-3PO stepped out to join them. She was thrilled with that surprise! And afterward R2-D2 joined the party behind us.

Finally, what child can resist a special Star Wars snack container for a themed treat? Most food locations sell a kids' power pack in a plastic R2-D2 container. It includes string cheese, carrots and ranch dip, yogurt, goldfish, a cookie and a drink for $10.99. If it's time for dessert, there are Darth Vader cupcakes for $4.99 or chocolate or strawberry mousse in a smaller R2-D2 container for $8.99. And may The Force be with you after all that yummy sugar!

July 16, 2011

New Character Meet-and-Greets at Disney's Hollywood Studios

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In late May, the new Phineas and Ferb meet-and -play and the Winnie the Pooh meet-and-greet opened. I was able to check out these new meet-and-greets recently.

Phineas and Ferb Meet-and-Play

The Phineas and Ferb meet-and-play is located near Mama Melrose's and the exit to the Muppet Vision 3D.

Meet and play set


Set

Set

The concept of the meet-and-play is that Phineas and Ferb are making a movie called "We're Making a Movie- the Movie." The director comes out just before the meet-and-play begins and says that they need some more crowd shots for the movie. He asked that everyone act really excited and got the "shots" he needed.

Director

When Phineas and Ferb come out to the set, they play their guitars for a minute.

Phineas and Ferb guitars

Once the director is sure he's gotten the scene he wanted, he announces that Phineas and Ferb have a little bit of time between scenes and can meet some of their fans. The crowd was, naturally, very happy about this news.

Phineas and Ferb

Phineas and Ferb

Winnie the Pooh Meet-and-Greet

The new Winnie the Pooh meet-and-greet is located in the Magic of Disney Animation building. It's in the same spot where Lots-O' Huggin' Bear was.

The queue is set up to resemble pages from a storybook.

Queue

Poor Piglet is stuck in a beehive near Pooh Bear. Every so often, the hive shakes and Piglet tries to escape and you can hear the bees buzzing around him.

Piglet

There's a directional sign to help you navigate the Hundred Acre Wood.

Directional sign

Pooh's backdrop is absolutely charming. It's straight out of the storybooks. For me, it was like watching my childhood come to life.

Pooh


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.

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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!")

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intro

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

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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. :)

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

May 17, 2011

Star Tours Soft Opening

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On Monday, May 16, I was lucky enough to be at Studios while they were testing, or soft opening, Star Tours. This was huge for me. I loved the original attraction and it's among some of my first Disney memories.

I won't spoil anything but I'll provide some generic details.

The new signs look fantastic.

Signs

Sign

The attraction poster looked great from the queue.

Attraction poster

The safety sign remains much the same.

Safety sign

Inside the attraction, there was a very strict no photography policy until the attraction officially opens.

The "hot set" theme of Star Tours is gone. From the moment you enter the attraction, you're in Star Tours' port, ready to begin your travels to any of their destinations. If you haven't already chosen a destination, there is an arrival and departure guide to help you. Additional information is shown on this screen as well. The layout of the inside is largely the same. Only, now, it's the new Starspeeder 1000 is waiting for you. C-3PO has been polished until he absolutely shines.

When you turn the corner, you enter Star Tours security. You are "scanned" and a droid shows the contents of "someone's" luggage. Be sure to watch the screen. You never know what you'll see. To the left are some droids. Look closely and you should spot some very familiar faces.

Once you get up the ramp, you're into the boarding area. The gates are now A-F instead of 1-6. You are directed to a gate and asked to pick up a pair of 3D glasses. The glasses are very nice looking (they are black and resemble eye glasses) and very comfortable to wear. They are not like the PhilharMagic or Toy Story Midway Mania 3D glasses at all.

You're still sorted into rows much like the original Star Tours. The new pre-boarding loading video has several humorous moments so be sure to watch it.

The ride itself is very smooth. The graphics are top-notch and crystal clear. The effects, like going into hyperspace and such, felt more realistic but it didn't throw you around as much as the original Star Tours did. The 3D is incredibly realistic and not at all hokey. The 3D effects are used to show depth more than to have things randomly pop out at you. That's not to say, however, that there may not be a few things that pop...

The new Star Tours is a randomized experience. There are 54 possible combinations of the beginning, first destination, middle and end. At the Destination D event, they told us that you would have to ride for six continuous hours in order to experience them all.

We were able to ride Star Tours a total of 5 times in a row. The first three times were essentially walk-ons. FastPasses were being distributed since it was a full test.

FastPasses

Since the ride does not officially open until May 20, testing can be stopped at any time.

Testing sign

To sum up how I felt about the new Star Tours: WOW!!!!!! I went into the ride for the first time with no expectations and just... WOW!!! Every time we rode, our speeder clapped and cheered at the end. Disney and Lucasfilm should be very, very proud of this ride. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did when you get to experience it.

Keep an eye on AllEars on and around May 20 for more Star Tours coverage. :)

May the Force be with you!

April 3, 2011

Disney World: What's New, What's Next April 1-2, 2011

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On April 1, I spent the afternoon at the Magic Kingdom. A lot had changed since my last visit less than a week before.

Part of City Hall is still behind a wall:

City Hall

The new Mickey Mouse and Princesses meet-and-greet was open. Click here to see pictures of the new area.

Sign

Part of the Tony's patio is now open. A smaller part is still behind the scrims:

Tony's

This sign was new to me:

Sign

Sidewalk had been added along the side of the Confectionery:

Sidewalk

The Confectionery is still behind scrims:

Confectionery

Magic Kingdom was very crowded and Tortuga Tavern and the Tomorrowland Terrace were serving meals:

Dining

The Haunted Mansion interactive queue was open on April 1. The ride had a very long wait to we decided to bypass the Haunted Mansion in favor of doing it early one morning soon.

Lots of progress has been made on the buildings for the Fantasyland expansion. The parts in the pictures were the most visible. You could see the rest but they had propped the trees higher up so it was hard to get pictures of it.

Fantasyland

Fantasyland

This area near Dumbo has been walled off:

Walls

The back of the castle is still being worked on:

Castle

This wall, for lack of a better term, was being built in the Storybook Circus area:

Wall in Storybook Circus

The Confectionery had springtime treats:

Treats

Treats

Treats

Tomorrowland Terrace was open for dinner when we went by:

Tomorrowland Terrace

We spent the evening at Downtown Disney. Work continues on the area for the dining area at the AMC Theater:

Amc Theater

LittleMissMatched is still open on the West Side:

LittleMissMatched

A new pin cart was set up near Bongos:

Pin cart

The Lego Store is still under construction:

Lego Store

Lego Store

The temporary tent near Once Upon a Toy is still open:

Lego Store temporary location

Work on the exterior of the former Mickey's Mart has begun:

Exterior work

The wall is still up on Pleasure Island:

Wall

On April 2, we spent some time at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Sounds Dangerous was operating:

Sounds Dangerous

Walls are now up around the entrance area to Star Tours:

Star Tours

The walls are down around the speederbike photo-op area:

Speederbike

A Winnie the Pooh poster is up outside of the Magic of Disney Animation:

Pooh poster

Pooh artwork is now being displayed at the Magic of Disney Animation:

Pooh artwork

On the other side of the case, Cars 2 artwork is displayed:

Cars 2

Some scaffolding is still on Tower of Terror. It has been getting an eco-friendly repainting- click here to read more about the new paint.

Tower of Terror

Have a great day!

March 21, 2011

Walk Around Walt Disney World - What's New, What's Next: March 19-20

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We were able to spend the weekend at Disney. We stayed on-property and since it was Extra Magic Hours at Disney's Hollywood Studios on Saturday morning, we took advantage of the extra time in the park.

'Let the Memories Begin' banners were up near the main gates:

Banners

Work on the Tower of Terror exterior is still be done:

Tower of Terror

One of the things I love most about Extra Magic Hours is that's it's not overly crowded yet and you can wander a bit. It had been a while since we had been nto the Tower of Terror courtyard and store so it was nice to wander around and see some details that I'd never seen before.

We went over to the Animation Courtyard to look around. I had never seen the sketches of the princesses above the costumes- I love this kind of detail!

Jasmine sketch

I heard a lot of families talking about seeing the new Disney Junior show once the park opened for the day.

Disney Junior

It had been at least five years since my brother had seen the Voyage of the Little Mermaid show so we decided to catch the first show (pun intended). I had seen it a couple of years ago but missed the detail of the trident lighting up!

Unlit trident

Lit trident

One Man's Dream is one of my favorite attractions. I was hoping the back section might be finished but the walls still say 'coming soon.'

One Man's Dream

I'm a Star Wars fan so I knew I had to see what was going on around Star Tours. The area where the speederbike photo-op was/is is currently behind a very large wall:

Speederbike wall

Speederbike wall

Behind the Jedi Training Academy is a character meet-and-greet location:

Meet and greet location

[Star Wars side note: In the lobby of Mama Melrose's, there is a picture of Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker). It's near the bathrooms. Also, in the dining room, there is an Italian version of The Empire Strikes Back movie poster.]

My brother and I rode Rock 'n Roller Coaster and noticed that they have put up these gates at the exit area of the ride:

Gates

I wandered through the watch shop and noticed an animator drawing Jedi Stitch:

Jedi Stitch

Friends from Chicago were in town and we met them at Epcot after lunch. On our way to meet up with them, we noticed this flamingo. It made us smile:

Flamingo

Our friends' son was absolutely enchanted with the train village at the Germany pavilion. I'm so glad he was- the village was hosting its own Flower & Garden Festival and I hadn't noticed it when I was there previously:

Train Village

The Lightning McQueen topiary was out at the World Showcase entrance:

Cars 2

Cars 2

Cars 2

For dinner, we decided to go to the Animal Kingdom Rainforest Cafe. On the way in, we noticed they had two lines:

Rainforest Cafe

The 'extreme supermoon' was visible Saturday night. My mom got a kick out of me leaving the room every 15 minutes to see if it was visible yet.

Supermoon

I went out to the parking lot around 7 AM to see if I could still see the supermoon. I definitely could! It was a great view:

Supermoon morning

Supermoon morning

Magic Kingdom opened at 8 AM Sunday morning so I wandered around to see what was new or had changed.

City Hall is still being worked on:

City Hall

The walls were down around Exposition Hall- the new sign says Town Square Theater. The doors are very ornate. The far right side of the building is open for PhotoPass viewing and camera accessories. Otherwise, the windows are still covered.

Town Square Theater

Town Square Theater

The exterior of Tony's is being worked on:

Tony's exterior

The Confectionery is also being worked on:

Confectionery

There is a wall up on the right side of the castle (if you're facing the back of the castle):

Castle wall

The exterior of Cinderella's Royal Table is still being worked on:

Cinderella's Royal Table

The tops of some of the buildings behind the Fantasyland walls are now visible over the walls:

Fantasyland

Fantasyland

The walls around the construction area had been moved back so there was a lot more room to walk around.

Fantasyland walls

A solid wall has gone up between the Tomorrowland Speedway and ToonTown:

ToonTown wall

The Tomorrowland Speedway was back to four lanes:

Tomorrowland Speedway

Only Minnie remains on the ToonTown sign:

ToonTown sign

I went to the Haunted Mansion to see if the new queue line was being tested. I knew it was a long shot since it was around 9 AM when I got there. It was not being tested but I could see a good bit of it.

Entrance to the new queue:

Queue entrance

This is clearly visible above the shrubs:

Queue line

The walls around the queue line are down and have been replaced with thick green screens:

Queue line

The walls around the Adventureland bridge were down. The new bridge is flat- there is not a hill anymore. The bridge they had set up for guests to use is also still there:

Adventureland bridge

Adventureland bridge

Adventureland bridge

After I had finished my Magic Kingdom 'walk', Mom and I went over to Downtown Disney. The AMC Theater now has automated ticket machines outside the theater.

Automated ticket machines

Walls were up where one of the Pleasure Island clubs used to be. A sign showed the concept art for the store going in its place.

Pleasure Island construction

Concept art

The Lego Store is being worked on. Temporarily, they have a tent set up near Once Upon a Toy.

Lego Store construction

At World of Disney, they have a new section of D-Tech merchandise. It's got mouse pads, laptop bags, iPad and iPhone cases and other assorted 'tech' goodies.

D-Tech

The Winnie the Pooh and friends photo-op has been moved to the Guest Relations area since Pooh Corner has closed.

Pooh photo-op

The temporary Lego Store is in a big yellow tent between Once Upon a Toy and Earl of Sandwich. It was very busy inside... and very yellow because of the tent!

Temporary Lego Store

Tempoary Lego Store

Outside of the tent, they had a little display set up for Flower & Garden at Epcot.

Flower & Garden display

Pooh Corner, unfortunately, has closed.

Pooh Corner

Goofy's Candy Company has started letting guests their own treat.

Create your own treat

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

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January 17, 2011

Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun Parade Debuts at Disney's Hollywood Studios

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The new Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun parade, the successor to Block Party Bash, debuted today at Disney's Hollywood Studios. It follows the same parade route as Block Party Bash did.

Disney's Hollywood Studios Times Guide

Disney's Hollywood Studios Map

The Cast Members seemed excited that this parade was starting. I had several tell me to be sure to check it out this afternoon.

Prior to the parade, they were asking about celebrations and reminding everyone that the parade was going to be coming. We decided to catch it at the very beginning of the parade route. It began promptly at 3 PM.

The parade starts off with several characters from "The Incredibles" on scooters. If you're at the beginning of the parade route, they zip by very fast so have your camera(s) ready.

Incredibles

Incredibles

They were followed by Mr. Incredible on a float with a countdown to fun on the side.

Mr. Incredible


After that, characters from "A Bug's Life" danced their way (or rolled their way on a float) by.

A Bug's Life

A Bug's Life

A Bug's Life

Remy from "Ratatouille" was on hand to help celebrate as well.

Remy

My personal favorite part of the parade as the "Monsters, Inc." portion. I love that movie and the float was a work of art!

Boo and George

Monsters, Inc.

Sully

Monster's, Inc.

Monsters, Inc. - back

Characters from "Up!" followed the "Monster's, Inc." float.

Up!

Up!

The "Toy Story" segment was very cool. Jessie and Bullseye were adorable dancing. The float that Woody, Buzz and Lotso were on was absolutely incredible. There were toys and such all over it. It was a visual treat.

Jessie and Bullseye

Woody

Buzz

Lotso

The cones brought up the rear of the parade, followed by two Cast Members holding a jump rope.

Cones

Cast Members

The parade is very high energy. However, it is short! My mom was with me today and she timed it at 6 minutes from start to finish. It did look like the parade made a show stop on Hollywood Boulevard. It wasn't my favorite thing I've ever seen at Disney World but it wasn't my least favorite, either. In all honesty, it felt sort of like the "Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Street Party" at Magic Kingdom only with Pixar characters. For what it was, it was cute. I wouldn't make a special trip back to Disney's Hollywood Studios just to see it, though.

Have a MAGICAL day! TTFN, ta ta for now!

December 28, 2010

Italy Meets Hollywood at Mama Melrose’s Risotrante Italiano

Andrew Rossi

Andrew Rossi returns with a review of Mama Melrose located in Disney's Hollywood Studios.

When it comes to Italian food, Disney World certainly offers a wide variety of options, from Tutto Italia and Via Napoli at Epcot to Tony's Town Square at Magic Kingdom, Portobello at Downtown Disney, or Il Mulino at the Swan. Each of these restaurants features something a little different in terms of menu choices and atmosphere that allow them to deliver completely unique dining experiences.

Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano at the Hollywood Studios is another one of these Italian options. While Mama Melrose's may not be the most authentic nor the most elegant of Disney's Italian restaurants, it still delivers a wide selection of good Italian food combined with an atmosphere that is far from what you would expect from a typical Italian restaurant.

Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Overview:

Every Disney dining location has its own theme or story, and this is very true of Mama Melrose's even though it may not be as immediately evident as in other restaurants. Mama Melrose's is a restaurant where "Italy meets California in the heart of the Backlot," but even knowing this one may be confused by the strange décor found inside; it certainly does not look like any other Italian restaurant you have seen before. Everything becomes more clear, however, when you learn the restaurant's back-story, but even this is something passed down more through word-of-mouth rather than anything official within the restaurant. The story, as I have heard it, is that Mama Melrose moved from Italy to California to pursue a career in acting, but instead decided to open a restaurant. In her restaurant Mama Melrose displayed numerous items she had brought over from Italy as well as various movie memorabilia she had collected during her time in California. This blend of Italy and Hollywood is seen throughout the restaurant and gives it a very unique feel.

Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Atmosphere:

As soon as you walk through the door of Mama Melrose's you can tell that this is not your typical Italian restaurant. Upon entering the restaurant you are greeted by walls covered with pictures not of famous Italians, but rather Hollywood celebrities. These "Legends of Disney's Hollywood Studios" are a nice way of paying tribute to the history of the park while also tying in perfectly with the theme of the restaurant.

Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano at Disney's Hollywood Studios

The interior of the restaurant is fairly dark, with only a few small windows letting in natural light from the outside. The dining room has the feel of an aged, re-purposed warehouse with industrial-looking light fixtures, high ceilings where the wood-beam supports and air ducts are visible, brick walls covered with graffiti, and worn floor boards. All this gives the sense that Mama Melrose's location is much older than it actually is, lending a sense of authenticity and depth to the restaurant's theme.

Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano at Disney's Hollywood Studios

The real attraction of the restaurant's decor, however, is all the memorabilia that litters the walls. In fact, there is very little free wall space available. The level of detail is so great that I am always noticing new things every time I return to eat here. Among the items adorning the walls are numerous Italian references: black and white photographs of famous Italian landmarks, Italian paintings (with the Mona Lisa making several appearances), records by famous Italian singers, Italian soccer flags, Italian movie posters, a wide variety of bottles of wine, and even cooking utensils and garlic cloves handing from the ceiling.

Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano at Disney's Hollywood Studios

At the same time, there are many other items that are distinctly Californian, such as pennants of California sports teams, posters of the Hollywood sign and other landmarks, photographs of famous movie stars and singers (with Mickey Mouse appearing quite frequently), Los Angeles street signs such as Melrose Ave. and Vine St., and license plates from several states.

Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Another alluring part of the Mama Melrose's atmosphere is the open kitchen, which is clearly visible as soon as you enter the restaurant. The most prominent feature of this kitchen is the large brick oven in which the pizzas are cooked. Not only does the open kitchen allow you to see the food be prepared, but it also gives the restaurant a tremendous aroma as the smell of the cooking food spreads throughout the entire dining area. All the activity and noise of the kitchen also lend a sense of action and excitement to the restaurant.

Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Overall, Mama Melrose's is a restaurant that is very laid-back and relaxing, making it great for families traveling with children. The atmosphere has a certain degree of whimsy and a lot of fun little touches, whether it be the grape vines and Christmas lights hanging all over the ceiling and walls, the big fish with sunglasses, or the huge oil drums of olive oil and marinara sauce. It is all these details that help make the restaurant uniquely Disney.

Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano at Disney's Hollywood Studios

The Menu:

Mama Melrose's features a menu of many traditional Italian favorites as well as some other less conventional items. It is a menu that offers a lot of variety, whether you are in the mood for seafood, pasta, pizza, or steak. Mama Melrose's did recently undergo a menu change and as a result some long-time menu items have been updated or replaced, but the new menu does include some intriguing new items as well as many of the old menu's favorites.

Among the appetizer selections are Italian classics such as Crispy Calamari ($12.99) served with marinara sauce, Caesar Salad ($5.99), Minestrone Soup ($5.49), and an Antipasto for Two ($14.99) featuring Italian meats, cheeses, and marinated vegetables. One different appetizer is the Clams Oreganatta ($10.99), which features oak-fired clams cooked in butter and served with Italian sausage over foccacia bread.

Like any Italian restaurant, pastas are prominently featured entrees on the menu. One new item is the Spaghetti con Vongole ($19.99) that comes with sauteed clams tossed with spaghetti and a white clam sauce. On the heavier side there are the Penne alla Vodka ($16.99) with a tomato-basil, cream, and vodka sauce and the Chicken Pipette ($17.99) with wood-grilled chicken, artichokes, peas, roasted peppers, and sweet onions in a four-cheese cream sauce (or you can substitute shrimp for $19.99). A For something a little different there is the Goat-Cheese Filled Ravioli ($16.99) that presents a little twist on a classic Italian dish.

If you are not in the mood for pasta, there are a variety of other options available. One traditional Italian favorite is Chicken Parmesan ($16.99), but the menu also features a Charred Strip Steak ($28.99) that comes with Italian roasted potatoes, aged balsamic-shallot butter, and a Chianti wine reduction, as well as a Wood-Grilled Tuna ($22.99) over a seasonal vegetable risotto.

The menu also includes a wide array of flatbread pizzas. The Carne D' Italia ($12.99) is topped with pepperoni, Italian sausage, pancetta, and a spicy marinara sauce. For vegetarians there are the Vine-Ripened Tomato ($11.99) and Four-Cheese ($11.99) flatbreads. One of the more popular flatbreads is the Grilled Chicken ($12.99), which comes with sun-dried tomato pesto, pancetta, and asiago cheese. There is also the Grilled Shrimp and Arugula Flatbread ($13.99), with pesto goat cheese, artichokes, and tomatoes.

Dessert selections at Mama Melrose's include Italian favorites with a twist. There is Mama's Tiramisu ($5.99), which is actually a tiramisu-flavored gelato, Chocolate Cannoli Cake ($5.99), Chocolate Amarettini Cheesecake ($5.99), Crema Limone ($6.99), and various flavors of Gelato ($4.49).

For my meal I decided on something a little different that I would not normally order at an Italian restaurant, the Oak-Grilled Pork Chop ($21.99). The pork chop was cooked absolutely perfectly so that it was still nice and moist but also charred just enough to add a little extra flavor. The pork came served in an onion broth and was topped with tomato jam. Personally, I did not really notice too much of an onion flavor and the "jam" was basically just a light tomato sauce. The tomato sauce paired very well with the pork and also had a definitive garlic flavor, although this was not too overpowering. There was a lot of ground black pepper used in this dish and, while it did add some extra flavor, if you are not a fan of black pepper you might want to ask for them to hold off on adding it on top.

Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano at Disney's Hollywood Studios

The pork was accompanied by broccoli, but this had very little flavor, as well as garlic bread pudding. This was unlike anything I have ever seen or tasted before. As a word of warning, if you are not a fan of garlic you will probably not like it because it has a very strong flavor. The bread pudding was very soft and moist and it presented a definite contrast to the more mild flavored tomato sauce served over the pork. While its flavor did not overwhelm that of the pork, it had a very distinct taste and texture that added a real kick to the dish.

I was dining with a group and we decided to split several desserts. The desserts were served all together on one large plate that made for a very nice presentation.

Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano at Disney's Hollywood Studios

First was Mama's Tiramisu ($5.99) and I was extremely disappointed with this. Mama Melrose's used to have delicious tiramisu, but with the new menu came a change to this classic Italian dessert. Rather than your traditional tiramisu, this dessert is tiramisu flavored gelato served over freshly brewed espresso and topped with amaretto and ladyfingers. The gelato itself did not really have too much flavor and the ladyfingers were made soggy by the espresso. There are many other versions of tiramisu at Disney World that I would rather have than getting the one here again.

Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Next was the Chocolate Cannoli Cake ($5.99), which is a chocolate cake with a cannoli filling, topped with nutella, and garnished a hazelnut florentine (we decided to order two of these). The chocolate cake was very rich but a little on the dry side. The cannoli filling presented a nice contrast with its light, creamy flavor complimenting the heavier cake. The nutella on top provided additional richness to the dessert and just a slight hint of hazelnut that added just a little extra flavor.

Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano at Disney's Hollywood Studios

My favorite of all the desserts was the Chocolate Amarettini Cheesecake ($5.49), which is a chocolate-flavored cheesecake with a cookie crust and topped with Italian amarettini cookies. The cheesecake was very light, soft, and creamy with just a hint of chocolate flavor. The crust had the taste and texture of crushed oreo cookies and provided a heavier, richer contrast to the lightness of the cheesecake. The amarettini cookies that topped the dessert were light and fluffy and added a little extra flavor of amaretto without overpowering the cheesecake.

Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Service:

My server did not speak very good English, which really inhibited communication. This language barrier meant that the server was not too personable and did not really try to strike up any type of conversation. That being said, I could clearly tell that the server was trying her best to make sure we were enjoying our meal. Actually, as a server she was very efficient in taking our order, bringing out the food and drinks, and clearing the table of dishes when we were finished. The meal progressed at a good pace, not too slow but not too fast. It should be noted that there were other servers that appeared to be very friendly and personable, with one actually coming to our table when we were deciding on desserts to give us a little explanation of each and telling us which ones were her favorites.

Dining on a Budget:

Compared with some of the other Italian restaurants on Disney property, such as Tutto Italia or Via Napoli, Mama Melrose's is an affordable option. If you are looking for a good meal at a reasonable price, Mama Melrose's various flatbreads are a great choice. Ranging from $11.99 to $13.99, not only are the portion sizes very large but they are also very tasty. By comparison, an individual size pizza from Via Napoli costs $16. While the flatbreads at Mama Melrose's may not be as authentic as Via Napoli, it does present a cheaper alternative. The Chicken Parmesan is another option that is cheaper at Mama Melrose and is one of my favorite items on the menu. The same dish at Via Napoli costs $22.

Mama Melrose's is one of the restaurants at the Hollywood Studios that offers the Fantasmic dining package. The price is $32.99 for adults and $11.99 for children (not including tax and gratuity) and includes appetizer, entrée, dessert, and a non-alcoholic beverage as well as priority seating to the first showing of that night's Fantasmic. If you are not the type of person who will want to wait an hour (and sometimes more) to get a seat for Fantasmic, then the dining package will be worth it regardless of price. With the dining package you can get to the theater about a half an hour before the show starts and, without having to wait in line, still get a decent seat.

If you decide to go with the Fantasmic dining package at Mama Melrose's, certain combinations of appetizers, entrees, and desserts will make for better values than others. If you do not necessarily mind waiting in line to get a seat for Fantasmic, I would suggest looking at the menu ahead of time to see if what you would potentially order would make the dining package a good deal for you.

For example, if you were to order the Minestrone Soup ($5.49) for an appetizer, the Vine-Ripened Tomato Flatbread ($11.99) for an entrée, and Gelato ($4.49) for dessert your total would be $21.97. At the same time, however, if you were to order a Caesar Salad ($5.99), the Charred Strip Steak ($28.99), and the Chocolate Cannoli Cake ($5.99) your total would be $40.97. My best advice is to do the math to see if the Fantasmic dining package is worth it for you and allowing you to get the most for your money.

The Overall Experience:

Mama Melrose's is the type of restaurant that is a lot of fun to dine at. From its walls covered with Hollywood memorabilia and Italian knick knacks to the Christmas lights hanging from the ceiling and the combination of California surf tunes and classic Italian music playing in the background, the restaurant creates an atmosphere that is laid back and inviting. It is a great place to enjoy a meal with the entire family. The food may not be as authentic or elegant as some of the other Italian restaurants in Disney World, but it still features many tasty Italian favorites that come in large portion sizes for a reasonable price. If you are looking for a traditional, classic Italian restaurant, this may not necessarily be the place for you, but if you are looking for Italian in a way that only Disney could dream of then Mama Melrose's is definitely worth a visit.

Check out Reader Reviews of Mama Melrose's and post your own too!

November 21, 2010

One Man's Dream Reopens Disney's Hollywood Studios

by Guest Blogger John Kurowski

Before Mickey Mouse squared off with Pegleg Pete at the helm of a steamboat, to after a group of plane crash survivors squared off with a smoke monster, the tradition of history and entertainment by the Walt Disney Company spans many generations.


One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios

For an up-close look at this legacy, Disney's Hollywood Studios recently reopened its One Man's Dream attraction after a three-month rehab. Our friends at D23, Disney's Official Fan Club, welcome guests to this exhibit that Walt Disney World introduced in 2001 as part of its 100 Years of Magic celebration that celebrated the 100th birthday of company founder, Walt Disney.

One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios

One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios

One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios

When the attraction first opened, guests could trace the life and times of Walt Disney and the influence he had on the company in the years after his death. Light-up placards gave a brief history on various topics that meant a lot to Walt.

One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios


One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios

"Transportation" for example, in the old exhibit, started with Walt Disney's enthusiasm for steam locomotives, followed by his building a model train in his backyard, to the construction of the Disneyland Railroad, and then finally, the introduction of linear induction motors with Walt Disney World's WEDWay PeopleMover in 1975.

One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios


With an exhibit covering the history, present, and future of an ever-changing company like the Walt Disney Company, challenges usually arise when trying to keep your content fresh. As a result, many artifacts and assets throughout the years have been replaced. Nothing usually too major -- maybe by replacing a small poster highlighting 2003's The Lizzie McGuire Movie to some promotional materials showcasing 2008's High School Musical 3.

One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Other elements of the exhibit have disappeared due to being on loan from various owners. For example, the special Academy Award Walt Disney received from Shirley Temple honoring Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs belongs to the Disney family. They loaned the statuettes to Walt Disney World for a short period of time as the attraction was only scheduled to be open for the 100 Years of Celebration. As the exhibit remained popular, Disney kept it open and the time came for Walt Disney World to return its borrowed goods. A portrait of the award with a picture of Walt and Shirley Temple is still on display.

One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Some cosmetic changes to the set-up occurred during the downtime. The color palate at the entrance went from blues to a wood panel and wall-to-wall carpet replaces the different tiles and themed floors that reflect each decade on display.

When the attraction first opened, guests would meander through the the first four decades of Walt's life then encounter a series of doors with a mural of Imagineer Herb Ryman's concept art of Disneyland. After an announcement the doors would open and invite guests to take part in Disney's legacy from the 1950s to the present. The opening of the doors effect has been abandoned for a few years but now a castle stone facade replaces the doors with a smaller version of the concept art of the castle next to the panel of televisions playing the opening of Walt Disney's Disneyland series.

One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios

The small lighted panels of history have changed as well. Each highlighted text now falls in a category that seems to reflect a milestone in the Walt Disney Company's history, as opposed to the man, Walt Disney. "Mickey's Milestones," for example, depicts four key moments within Mickey's career, his debut in Steamboat Willie, his first color appearance in The Band Concert, his memorable role in The Sorcerer's Apprentice, the premiere of The Mickey Mouse Club, and, finally, the release of the video game Epic Mickey. Other categories include "New Media, New Magic" which highlights Disney acquisitions like ABC/Capitol Cities and the New Amsterdam Theatre in New York City.

One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios

One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios

One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios

One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios


Some notable changes throughout the display include Julie Andrews' white dress from Mary Poppins has been replaced with Fred MacMurray's suit from the little seen Disney film Bon Voyage.

One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Guy Williams' mask and cape that he wore as Zorro have been replaced with a suit he wore as Zorro's alter ego, Don Diego de la Vega, accompanied by a suit worn by his silent companion, Bernardo, played by Gene Sheldon. Disney Legend, Betty Taylor, known for her years of playing Slue Foot Sue at Disneyland's Golden Horseshoe is now represented in the form of a beautiful dress worn as the hostess of a beloved Disneyland classic.

One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios


The display featuring the controls of Audio Animatronics now can be seen behind glass. A model bust along with rubber and hair depiction of Abraham Lincoln can be seen over a bare animatronic body, as well as a scale model of Disneyland's "it's a small world" facade. The Tower of the Four Winds model from the 1964 New York World's Fair moved from its previous home at Disney's Contemporary Resort to One Man's Dream, as did models of Figment, Horizons' Robot Butler, and plush characters from Epcot's extinct Kitchen Kabaret.

One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios

One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios

One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios

One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios

A wall promises that in the Fall 2010 the legacy will continue with more exhibits as a wall that looks temporary surrounds the entire conclusion of the display. Various Disney pictures from all areas of the company are given their due from ESPN's SportsCenter to Buena Vista's syndicated television talk show Live! with Regis and Kelly to various Disney and Pixar animated films.

One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios

The glass containers devoted to the 20th Anniversary of Disney's Hollywood Studios have been replaced with a model of Disney California Adventure's Paradise Pier, complete with a model of the World of Color fountains. Guests with eagle eyes will spot the model Mr. Potato Head within the display and concept art and models for The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast additions coming to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in 2012.

One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios

One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios

One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Many people claim that Walt Disney always said that Disneyland is not a museum but a living breathing place that will constantly change. In short, One Man's Dream serves as somewhat of a museum, but with such a vast past and ever-changing present and future new additions and replacements make it a treat to stop in for many repeat viewings. While taking the time to stroll through Disney's memory lane it gets easy to find a connection with a certain Disney decade or element that brings a sense of history and nostalgia that you can not find anywhere else in the park. As time goes on, One Man's Dream becomes more a valuable resource to allow us all to thank the Walt Disney Company for giving us the opportunity to remember the magic.

One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios

One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios

One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios


One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios

One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios


One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios


One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios


One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios


November 7, 2010

Holiday Decorations at Disney's Hollywood Studios

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

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

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August 17, 2010

Tower of Terror Passholder Event

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by Coleen Bolton

Wow! Summer flew by way too fast! It seems like only yesterday I was at the Passholder preview for Disney's Electrical Parade and new Summer Nightastic! Fireworks in the Magic Kingdom. Now it's already time for the Summer Nightastic! to come to an end.

For us here in Central Florida is was fitting that this weekend was the last weekend for Summer Nightastic! since school started Monday. Lucky Passholders like me who were in the area on Friday the 13th were treated to some extra time to enjoy the special effects added to the Tower of Terror before they disappeared.

From 7 to 10 p.m. on Friday the 13th, Hollywood Studios was open just for Passholders to enjoy both Tower of Terror and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. It did sort of feel like I had stepped into the Twilight Zone to be able to go back and forth between both attractions with no wait. I really enjoyed this Passholder event since you did get the feeling that you were being treated special, having the park to yourself. I hope that Disney will do more Passholder events like this one.

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Thank you to all the Cast Members who put in the extra hours so that we Passholders could say goodbye to summer in such a wonderful way!

P.S. For anyone who wasn't able to get to the Magic Kingdom this summer to catch Disney's Electrical Parade, don't worry! That part of the Summer Nightastic! has been extended!

March 1, 2009

The "American Idol Experience" Experience!

by
Jennifer Badcock
AllEars® Guest Blogger

The American Idol Experience is AWESOME!

My husband and I were there the Friday before the Super Bowl. Our plan was to visit three parks that day and we hit the Studios late morning. There was a cast member at the tip board passing out time cards for auditions for the new American Idol Experience, so I took one.

We rode Tower of Terror and Rock'n' Roller Coaster first and actually missed my audition time, but they took me when I returned anyway.

First, you are taken into a small area with a few audition rooms, and the "red room." I auditioned for a "producer" with a song of my choice, a cappella, and was a little surprised when she said she'd like for me to move on to the next audition. I was escorted to the "red room" where the whole experience was explained (it was actually the second or third cast member to explain the process, but it's new and they want to cover the bases).

I signed a couple of forms -- releases, etc. -- and was given a song list and an iPod. The iPod had all the songs from the list with and without vocals so you could choose two songs and practice.

My husband sat with me, offering advice until the room began to fill up with "contestants." It got too loud to hear yourself think with all of us belting out songs, trying to see if we could actually hit all the notes!

In the red room there is a board that lists any songs not available. My guess is that those are the songs the winners of earlier shows are singing so that two people aren't singing the same song at the finale. When you're happy with your two songs (they encourage you along if you spend too much time making your song choices), you wait outside the next audition room until it's your turn. You can hear through the door pretty well, which makes you a little nervous! (The first producer explained that they are only selecting people who will do well in competition. It is not their intent for anyone to be laughed at.)

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In the second audition I was asked to sing my first song choice with the music (and the words on a screen behind the producer, karaoke-style). He then asked me to sing the second song, then bits of the first song again. As I went through part of the first song again he began typing on his computer, and when he turned off the music he switched on a video of Ryan Seacrest who said he couldn't tell me I was going to Hollywood, but I was going to the show. Actually, I don't remember exactly what he said because I was completely shocked to be going anywhere besides on to Epcot (our third planned park of the day)! How many 45-year-old moms get this chance?

So then I was given a return time (about an hour and a half later), which would give me and the two other contestants chosen for that show (an adorable 20-year-old young man touring the country performing at veteran's hospitals, a 30-year-old mom of a 2-year-old, and me) 10 minutes for a makeup person to clean us up a little, 10 minutes with a great "voice coach" who worked on making bits of the song better and on showmanship, and 10 minutes to practice on our own with the iPod again.

We also did a complete run through of the show. It is sooooo much like being on American Idol! The crew is great and make you feel completely comfortable. You sit backstage in an area that feels like you are truly backstage in Hollywood.

We had the female host, and she's not Ryan Seacrest, but it's not really American Idol either. She was great.

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Each contestant had a different intro before his or her performance. Mine was an interview with the host and a clip of my "supporters" -- my husband in the audience and folks in the queue who didn't even know me! One contestant had a video of tips from a true American Idol contestant and the other had video clips of his audition process.

The judges are caricatures of the real judges. Their comments to all three of us were very typical of what Randy, Paula and Simon would say.

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What a ham I am! But being on that stage was so realistic! And... I was dressed for the park -- not a performance!

The Simon-like judge agreed with Paula's comments when responding to my performance, but reminded me that I'm a bit "mature" for this -- duu uuhhh!

The adorable 20-year-old won our round of competition and had the chance to compete in the finale for the chance at an audition for the REAL American Idol.

After a long day of patience on my husband's part and the number 3 best experience of my life (behind marrying him and having my two children) we made it to Epcot for a lovely evening -- all as it should be.

December 2, 2008

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

"A person should set his goals as early as he can and devote all his energy and talent to getting there. With enough effort, he may achieve it. Or he may find something that is even more rewarding. But in the end, no matter what the outcome, he will know he has been alive." ~ Walt Disney

Like a lot of big stories do, this one has a humble beginning. In the mid-1980s a shy little girl in the Midwest US asked her father if they could put up some Christmas lights. This little girl was the family 'miracle'; she had arrived after five miscarriages and her Daddy could not resist his only child's request.

The father and businessman, Jennings Osborne, recalls a scene from his childhood when he began working for his father as a 6-year-old. "I'd sit for hours staring out that window of my father's automotive electric business, contemplating what I was going to make of my life. One thing my father taught me early is that if I worked harder than anybody else, I would achieve my dreams. Today my life's a fantasy land." (photos below)

Osborne, who had never had any lights on his home as a child, purchased a modest display of 1000 lights for their Arkansas home. Each year the family's lights display would grow and subsequently draw more and more spectators. By the mid-90s the estimated 3 millions lights display could be seen from up to 80 miles away!

Unfortunately, some of the Osborne's neighbors could not understand the benevolence behind his Christmas decorations. To appease his neighbors, Osborne tried to compromise; he shortened the time his lights were turned on and even hired four off-duty policemen to assist neighbors leaving and returning to their home. Still, his gift to the community was cited as a nuisance and a law suit was filed that eventually made it to the Arkansas Supreme Court. The family was ordered to immediately stop their Christmas lights display.

"It tears my heart out to this day,' Jennings says. "They don't get it. Our lights were Christmas for a lot of people.'

Enter the Dream-Makers at the Walt Disney Company. The WDW Company heard about the Christmas display and in 1995 the Osborne family was invited to bring their display to Disney's Hollywood Studios.

"As it turned out,' Jennings muses, "it's the greatest thing that ever happened. Now, millions get to see it. I get to share my gift with the world.' In addition to the lavish Orlando-based display, the family 'Osborne-izes' 32 additional Christmas displays throughout the state of Arkansas.

The Disney display sets stage on the Streets of America and everything stationary is dressed with twinkling holiday cheer. Lights drape everything from 'homes' to basketball goals to trees-much like the Osborne display which Jennings expanded bigger and better each year. Why did this family take a modest request from a small child and turn it into the incredible 4 million light (and counting) display it is today?

"We just like to make people happy," Jennings simply replies. In his home state Osborne is known as Little Rock's own version of Elvis; he is an ardent philanthropist whose gifts exceeds millions annually.

The crowds who have been serenaded under snow flurries and dancing lights at Disney know Osborne as the creator of millions of family holiday memories. Through his warmth and generosity Osborne has lit the faces and hearts of many during the holidays and we appreciate this quiet man who has touched many through his willingness to make a spectacle of himself"�

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights


Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights


Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights


Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights


Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights


Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights


Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights


Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights


Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights


Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights


Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights


Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Information from the Osborne Family Website

Photos by Emily Owens

June 14, 2008

Toy Story Mania - Comparing Disneyland and Disney World!

All Ears® Guest blogger JeanineY is back! You may recall she chronicled the NFFC trip to Tokyo Disneyland a few months ago.

This time she compares the brand new Toy Story Mania attractions at Walt Disney World and Disneyland!

Ride "Spoilers" Ahead. This comparison offers detailed descriptions and photos of the two attractions!

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Recently I spent a few days over at WDW, a not-inconsiderable-portion of which I spent playing their newly-opened Toy Story Midway Mania ride at the Hollywood Studios.

The day after I returned, I attended the annual passholder preview of Disneyland's Toy Story Midway Mania where we were able to ride with minimal waits for designated 6-hour time slots. With luck, I won't spend next week getting treated for repetitive motion injury.

Toy Story Mania Disney's Hollywood Studios Walt Disney World

Toy Story in Disney's Hollywood Studios is outwardly themed around the Pixar Studio buildings in order to better fit with the generalized show-business theme.


Toy Story Mania Disney's California Adventure Disneyland

Toy Story at Disney's California Adventure is designed to fit in more with the boardwalk games that pepper the Paradise Pier area. The ride building is much more attractive and detailed than the other cardboardy-structures around there.

Mr. Potato Head Toy Story Mania Disney's Hollywood Studios Walt Disney World

The multi-million dollar Mr. Potato Head is up and singing in WDW, but was boarded off and not visible in the Disneyland cue.

Toy Story Mania Disney's Hollywood Studios Walt Disney World

Probably the most noticable difference between the two versions is the queue. In WDW the queue is indoors and the concept that the rider has shrunk to toy size is much more developed. Additionally there's air conditioning, which is a huge plus.

Toy Story Mania Disney's Hollywood Studios Walt Disney World

In WDW they have a standby line, and a separate fastpass/single rider line, although the single rider line does not always run, and is not always a time saver. Disneyland will have a single rider line, but will apparently not have fastpass, similar to the Finding Nemo Submarine ride.

Toy Story Mania Disney's California Adventure Disneyland

The Disneyland Toy Story queue is all outdoors, with most of it similar to the outdoor Muppetvision queue, decorated with attraction posters. One can only assume the difference may be due to the more inclement weather Orlando has over Anaheim.

Additionally, the WDW queue is multi-leveled, whereas the DL queue is all on ground level (limited by California Screamin', which runs overhead.)

Frankly, the Disneyland queue looks markedly short, for the number of people you might expect to be waiting for it this summer. One CM stated that he thought the line held a little over an hour's worth of people, and that they were expecting the line to cross the walkway and extend over the bridge all the way to Golden Dreams, on the other side of the lagoon! Given that I saw the wait times at WDW reach around 190 minutes occasionally throughout the weekend, it seems likely.

Toy Story Mania Disney's California Adventure Disneyland

As far as the actual rides go, they're fairly similar. The areas between the shooting screens seemed longer at Disneyland, but the cannons and targets were all identical clones.

On the way out at Disneyland, you pass by this odd little room that, I suppose, is designed to clue you in to the whole "entering the Midway Games toy set" storyline, if you missed it earlier. I am sure some blogger out there knows the significance of the little dog figurines and the bust and the iced tea, but it would not be me.

Toy Story Mania Disney's California Adventure Disneyland

A curious thing is that at WDW, where the ride has been open to the public for some time, they still have no specific shop or merchandise for the ride, with the exception of one Mr. Potato Head t-shirt going for $40.

At Disneyland, where the ride was only in previews, a whole shop was open, with a multitude of purchasables. One cute item was the cannon-replica keychain that had a pull-string triggering a sound similar to the ride sound effect, and projecting a light image of a hoop from the ring-toss screen.

Toy Story Mania Disney's California Adventure Disneyland

As other blogs have gleefully noted the low wait times they've experienced at the press opening of the WDW Toy Story, I include the wait time we had at our AP preview out here.

It does seem likely that, without fastpass, the waits will be considerably longer than this in the near future as it is a great ride in either park.

Have fun, and remember--keep that fox out of the henhouse!

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!)

December 13, 2007

MouseFest 2007

by AllEars Guest Blogger: Michelle Scribner-MacLean

MouseFest 2007 is over and I am left with one question: How can it be possible to pack so much into a few days?

As I waited at the airport, ready to leave the cold New Hampshire weather, I ran into my AllEars® buddy, Mike Scopa, who, of course, was also off to MouseFest.

We spent the day visiting EPCOT and listening to storytellers from around the world. One of the things I really enjoyed about this was watching the way many of the performers really tried to make special connections with the children in the audience by asking them questions, involving them in the skits, and by displaying artifacts from their lands.

Illuminations at EPCOT is one of my "can't miss" experiences when I visit, but I'd never seen the "holiday tag" before. At the end of the regular Illuminations during the holiday season there about seven minutes of additional show featuring narration by Walter Cronkite and music by the Harlem Boys' Choir. The ending is a blend of spectacular fireworks, lasers, and holiday music".The only thing I can say is that I was speechless. So I had to see it again two nights later".

Being a MouseFest veteran, Mike was able to make suggestions about how to get the most of out my experience. The next day Mike and his co-presenter, Mark Goldhaber, later shared many of his suggestions with a crowd of nearly 300 at the highly-successful MouseFest 101.

During the meet, I also got to meet Masayo and her husband, Marumu, from Japan. We were surprised with Scopa Towers sweatshirts - Masayo for coming the furthest to MouseFest, and me for helping out a teeny bit with the development of MouseFest 101.

Masayo, Mike and Michelle


The view from my balcony at the Boardwalk on Saturday morning provided a terrific view of the site of the Mega Mouse Meet on Saturday - The Dolphin.

Walt Disney Worldl Dolphin


What a thrilling experience to be surrounded by so many webmasters, podcasters, writers, photographers, and fans who all love the mouse! In addition to meeting many of the other AllEars team members, I had the opportunity to meet dozens and dozens of AllEars readers from all over the country.

On Saturday night I attended the Fantasmic Dessert meet hosted by Matt Hotchberg of StudiosCentral.com. As we waited in the courtyard to go backstage to join the party, I got a nighttime glimpse of my favorite ride at MGM - but with a 70 minute wait, I opted to forgo a ride until my next trip. During this meet with had the opportunity to chat and visit with friends as we ate dessert and watched Fantasmic. Very fun!

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Although this isn't really MouseFest news, I just have to mention that I was lucky enough to get a chance to ride SpaceShip Earth during one of the infrequent soft-openings. I didn't get to hear the entire audio program because it broke down toward the end (which, of course, is probably the point of a soft-opening - to fix those things). However, with Dame Judi Dench narrating a new script, several difference scenes, and personalized touch-screens (which very much reminded me of the ending of the extinct Horizons), it is significantly different than the last version.

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So ...now I've participated in two MouseFests.

I met so many interesting people from all over the country and around the world. There were families with children, people traveling on their own, senior citizens, and grade school kids. I'm not sure I would call myself a MouseFest veteran (I made "rookie" mistakes like forgetting to eat"and sleep), but I do know that I'm thrilled to be part of the Disney committee and can't wait until next year.

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Michelle Scribner-MacLean is a college professor by day and a Disney fanatic in every other bit of free time. She first visited WDW when she was a teenager and now is a DVC owner who visits Walt Disney World two or three times per year. Michelle lives in New Hampshire with her husband and two boys and loves roller coasters, the fantastic food at Disney, and always cries when she sees IllumiNations. She is also a Disney podcast addict and adores WDW Today.

Michelle is a guest columnist for the AllEars® newsletter. Here are links to other articles by MIchelle:

MouseFest Primer: http://allearsnet.com/btp/issue421.htm

Tune In to a Disney Podcast (or Podcasts 101): http://allearsnet.com/ae/issue417.htm

Vero Beach with Kids: http://allearsnet.com/ae/issue403.htm

Navigating WDW with a Picky Eater: http://allearsnet.com/ae/issue395.htm

Science in the Parks: http://allearsnet.com/ae/issue390.htm


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

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