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January 19, 2017

Disney Pin Quest at Magic Kingdom Park

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by J. Scott Lopes
Guest Blogger, AllEars.Net

I recently embarked on a quest at Magic Kingdom, a quest that took me to every corner of the park. It was the Disney Pin Quest, a scavenger hunt that leads you to acquiring a complete set of pins. (There's a Disneyland version of this Pin Quest, which is almost identical. You can read about it HERE.)

In order to start the journey, you need to purchase an adventure kit and clues. The starter kit, which costs $14.99, includes a lanyard, a decoder medal (more on this later), a pouch, and a map.

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This kit can be purchased at the following locations:

– Fantasy Faire, Fantasyland
– Big Top Souvenirs, Storybook Circus in Fantasyland
– Briar Patch, Frontierland
– Frontier Trading Post, Frontierland
– Curtain Call Collectibles, Main Street, U.S.A.
– Tomorrowland Light & Power Co, Tomorrowland

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I started at the Trading Post where I purchased my adventure kit and first clue. (Each clue costs $9.99, by the way.)

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You purchase the clue, and once you find the answer, your reward is a pin.

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When you first start out, or if you get stuck, friendly cast members are there to help you.

Once you are rewarded with the pin, you use the decoder medal to read the coordinates (a letter and number), which you then use to find the next location on the map. The map does show 10 locations, but only 6 are part of the quest. As you collect each pin, the NavigatEAR will stamp your map, and you can also write the letter from the back of the pin in the spot on the map that corresponds to the clue number (this will spell out a hidden message).

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Once you get the letter and number coordinate you will be able to find their intersection on the map to locate the next location. After collecting all six pins you return back to the Trading Post or Curtain Call CollectIbles to use the hidden message, so that you are able to purchase the final completer pin.

I had a lot of fun and recommend that everyone try this. It's also a great activity to do in a group -- I had family along for my journey, which was helpful at times.

One warning: there can be a lot of walking involved. In my journey, I used the Walt Disney World Railroad to travel between some locations, and most of the time the next location was on opposite ends of the park. I took my time completing the quest and took in a few attractions -- as well as a Dole Whip! -- in between collecting clues and pins, but the quest took me about four hours. If you focused on just completing the quest without interruption it probably would take closer to two hours.

The adventure kit is $14.99, each clue is $9.99, and the completer pin is $4.99. Altogether, this quest costs about $80 plus tax, not counting any applicable discounts.

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, especially in the Walt Disney Imagineering division and all of the work and detail that they put into everything that they engineer.


December 10, 2016

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

by Evan L. Weston
AllEars® Guest Blogger

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

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

FREE FOOD!

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

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

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

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

Holiday Wishes

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

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

Mickey & Minnie

October 29, 2016

Teen Talk: Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

by Kacie Brady
AllEars Guest Blogger

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As you probably know, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is a "spook-tacular" event held every year at Disney’s Magic Kingdom from mid-September through the end of October. This hard-ticket event includes trick-or-treating, riding rides, character dance parties, buying special treats, and more! Parents and children alike can dress up, have fun, and indulge their spooky side.

When attending any Halloween party, the first thing to consider is what costumes to wear. Most everyone is dressed in costumes, including adults, at Mickey’s-Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. My family has always been into matching costumes, and this year we went as Star Wars characters!

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We saw several cute costumes at the party, but my favorites were Becky and Gerald from Finding Dory. Get creative with your costumes, because in Disney World no one is too old to dress up like their favorite characters. If you are not into costumes, consider getting the family matching Halloween shirts. There are some cool photo ops at the party, and it is always fun to take pictures in costumes.

Another thing you need to decide before you get to the park is what things you would like to do at the party. The park is open to people going to the Halloween party from 4 o'clock to midnight, however the Halloween activities do not start until 7 p.m. It is good to plan ahead on how to spend your hours at the party, as it offers events for families of all ages. Trick-or-treating and meeting characters might be fun for younger kids and the parades and shows are fun for all ages (they were my favorite!).

Once you are in the park, there are several things your family can do. If your family would like to ride rides, the wait times are shorter than usual during the party. We did notice that the 7 Dwarfs Mine Train only had a 20-minute wait! So, if your family is full of ride enthusiasts, this would be a good time to ride them.

My family wanted to do more of the unique experiences than the rides, but we rode a few, which were welcome breaks from the walking.

There are 13 trick-or-treating locations around the park at which cast members pass out candy. Trick-or-treating is a lot of fun, especially for me since I am too old to trick-or-treat in the "real" world. At Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party, kids of all ages are able to join in the trick-or-treating fun! Disney does not skimp on the candy, as all four of us left with two bags of candy each! Also, there are two Allergy-Friendly Centers at the park, where you can get a special trick-or-treat bag that lets cast members know you have an allergy. You can then get allergy-friendly candy at the trick-or treat locations.

The unique character meet and greets at the party are also great. You can meet characters from Nightmare Before Christmas, Aladdin, Tarzan, and many more. You can also get your dance on with the Monsters Inc. characters in Tomorrowland at a fun Halloween dance party, an event that that only happens at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. They hand out candy during the dances, and you can dance with your favorite monsters to tunes like,“I Want Candy.”

Some more unique experiences of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party include Happy Hallowishes, Mickey’s Boo-to-You parade, and the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular. I feel like Happy Hallowishes, Mickey’s Boo-to-You parade, and the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular were the stars of the party! Happy Hallowishes had elaborate firework displays set to spine-tingling villainous songs. Mickey’s Boo-to-You parade was very entertaining, and the Boo-to-You song will stick in your head for hours. The parade floats, the synchronized dancing, and the special characters were all wow factors of the parade. The Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular was a wonderful stage show. It was humorous, had cool effects, and had many favorite villains.

There is also special merchandise and food for sale that is unique to the party. Some of the special foods available include candy corn soft-serve ice cream, pumpkin spice cupcakes, spider cupcakes and worms and dirt, and creepy ice cream cookie sandwiches. Some of the special merchandise includes event t-shirts, Magic Bands, and trading pins.

As I said, the park lets people in for the party at 4 o’clock, but the special Halloween attractions are not open that early, so my family and I went to grab a bite to eat and ride some rides. This ended up being a good decision, because during the party all of the dining was packed, and we were able to enjoy other things. While we were eating, we looked at the party map and planned our method of attacking all the fun. It helps to know what everyone wants to do, that way when it gets crowded you are not trying to decide where to go.

Once the party started at 7, we went to the trick-or-treat lines. Although the lines looked dauntingly long, we never waited long in them, because the cast members kept them moving quickly. I would recommend doing the trick-or-treat lines during a show or parade. We went through the lines during the first parade, and it was not that crowded at all. First stage shows are always more crowded than the later ones, so it may be wise to do trick-or-treating during the first show, and watch the later ones.

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After we hit all of the trick-or-treat locations, we decided to go to Tomorrowland, and dance with the Monsters Inc. characters. The dance party was lots of fun, and we got to see several monsters including Sully, Mike Wazowski, and George. The cast members also passed out candy during the song “I Want Candy”. They taught us different dances, and everyone made a conga line!

We then decided to ride some more rides before the Happy Hallowishes firework show started. The Happy Hallowishes fireworks were incredible! There were fireworks that surrounded the park, and the villains singing the songs made the whole thing feel spooky and magical. After Happy Hallowishes was over, we decided to watch the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular. Since the entertainment was one after the other, we were unable to get to see all three up close, so we decided to sit on the parade route to watch the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular, and Happy Hallowishes. However, even without a good view, it was a highly entertaining. The show featured the Sanderson Sisters from the movie Hocus Pocus, and it was a Broadway–caliber performance. The show included special lighting on the castle, fireworks, and some familiar villains including Oogie Boogie, Dr. Facilier, and Maleficent.

After the Villain Spelltacular, we watched Mickey’s Boo-to-You parade. Although we could not see the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular as well, it was good we got our spots for the parade early, because there was not even standing room available later on. The Boo-To-You parade was my favorite event of the whole night. We loved the dancing ghosts, the Pirates of the Caribbean float, and the villains. You could smell candy as the Wreck-It Ralph parade float went by, and the bears from the Country Bear Jamboree pretended I was choking them when I "used the force!" After we watched the parade, we had time to ride one more ride.

Around midnight we decided to call it a night and head back to the resort. We left the party happy and satisfied with our experience and also with several bags of candy! Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is a wonderful event that allows people of all ages to act like kids on Halloween. Every event that Disney puts on is spectacular, and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary did not disappoint -- we will definitely be going again!

October 16, 2016

The Utilidors at Magic Kingdom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of our first tours was the “Keys to the Kingdom” tour at the Magic Kingdom and it remains one of my favourite!

Why was it special? Because we got to go down into the Utilidors!

We weren’t there very long, but it was a real eye-opening experience.

There really is a tiny city down there that is totally invisible to guests just a few feet above!

Overhead are color-coded pipes, ducts, flues and conduits carrying all the necessary utilities to keep the theme park functioning. On the walls are signs and arrows providing directions to the many corners of the park which can be accessed underground.

Underfoot are tiled or polished concrete floors, some with directional stripes like in a hospital to help folks navigate. “Follow the purple stripe to the wardrobe department.”

It’s a hive of activity. People, equipment and merchandise are in constant motion.

There are forklifts moving inventory to the stores and restaurants above, there are cast members walking to work or heading to a break room or a meeting room. There are lockers and lunch rooms for the cast members, wardrobe, makeup and personnel departments. Cast members can even do their banking or get a hair cut in the Utilidors.

As our tour group walked through the main corridor beneath The Emporium we heard a very loud rumble overhead. It was so loud that our tour guide paused in her presentation and continued once the racket had died down. “That was the trash going to the recycling department.” she said.

There is a system of big pipes overhead that form a huge air-powered garbage chute, sort of like a giant central vacuum system. Cast members open hatches located in backstage areas around the park and toss in the trash. It all gets sucked to the central recycling area where it’s sorted for processing.
Not my idea of the world’s best job;
• “paper in dumpster A”
• “plastic in dumpster B”
• “food waste in dumpster C”
• “carefully wipe the sunglasses and cell phones then sent them to Lost and Found”

Magic Kingdom Utilidors

The diagram pictured above shows the extent of the system of tunnels. It extends south to Tony’s Town Square Restaurant, north to the Pinocchio Village Haus Restaurant, east to Tomorrowland and west to Frontierland and Adventureland.

Disney asks guests to refrain from taking pictures while backstage, so I have no pictures of the Utilidors to share with you. The two images I have included in this blog are used in many web sites with no source mentioned. Whoever originally provided the images, thanks for sharing!

There’s plenty more than the Utilidors included in the Keys to the Kingdom tour, but in my opinion the opportunity to walk down those stairs and navigate a bit of the tunnel system was worth the entire cost of the tour!

If you haven’t already done the tour, give it some thought for a future trip!

Details can be found HERE.

April 27, 2016

Review: Early Morning Magic at the Magic Kingdom

by Guest Blogger Kay Belin

My husband and I had a short Walt Disney World vacation planned when I noticed that Disney was offering something new called Early Morning Magic. I am always one to want to experience what is new in the World so I jumped on this opportunity and made reservations for the first date it was being offered, April 26.

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We were told to be at the Magic Kingdom queues around 7:30am to check-in and we would then enter the park to be escorted to Fantasyland at 7:45. Not knowing if early morning buses would be running we hopped in a taxi and arrived in plenty of time. We checked in and received a yellow paper band for our wrists and stood in line for the queues.

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It was soon apparent that everyone who had bought this experience was grouped with all those guests who had early morning dining reservations. It was a bit of a crowded experience and a lot of waiting. We waited to go through the queue and then waited again as a mass group right before the entrance tunnel. Then one more time we waited inside the tunnel as a group. I was never quite sure why we had to wait in all of these locations and why the Early Morning Magic guests were not separated from the others. It was confusing for everyone.

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When they let us loose it was around 7:45am and it was a calm walk down Main Street to Fantasyland. We did not stop for the castle photo but also did not rush. We were not escorted as the information had mentioned but it was nice to just enjoy an empty park and stroll at our own pace.

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The Early Morning Magic event offered three Fantasyland attractions for us to enjoy: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and Peter Pan's Flight. We headed to what we knew would be the most popular choice, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. We were met with no lines and no wait and hopped right on and enjoyed our first attraction of the day. When we exited you could go right back to the loading area without leaving the building which was nice.

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We opted to head to Peter Pan's Flight and do our next attraction. Again there was no line and no wait and we were on immediately to enjoy my husband's favorite ride. Next stop was the last attraction offered, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and again walked right on. I checked my watch and saw that we had done all three attractions and it was only 8:03am. My question to myself was now what were we going to do for another hour.

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My husband isn't a lover of roller coasters of any kind so I decided to head back to the Mine Train and do it again solo. I actually could have done it another ten times if I had wished to ride that many times. They were asking guests to get out of the cars after each trip but you literally could just walk back on.

One of the perks to getting this extra park event was that it included a full breakfast. So that is exactly where we headed next. Breakfast is served in Pinocchio Village Haus located right in the center of Fantasyland.

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Two identical buffet sides were set up and the offerings included scrambled eggs, vegetable frittata, two kinds of sausages, bacon, potatoes, fruits, assorted pastries, assorted cheeses and cold meats, and waffles. Two juice flavors were options as well as milk and water. They also had a coffee station offering regular coffee, decaf coffee, and assorted teas. We thought the food selections adequate and everything tasted great. We were not disappointed in the all you can eat buffet that was included in this special ticket. Breakfast was offered until 10am so if you wanted to ride the attractions for the full hour you could still come and enjoy this private dining event once the park opened.

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After breakfast I decided to do the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train one last time. It was now about 8:45 and with the park opening at 9am that morning it was good to get the most popular attraction under my belt once again before the crowds descended. What surprised me and disappointed me was the fact when we walked over we saw that the stand-by line was filling up. Why? Because th queue included some of the early dining guests. We had heard the announcement of the park opening show as we left breakfast so didn't think guests could all be there yet but wondered about the crowds building.

I walked through the FastPass line and was immediately stopped by a cast member who asked if I had a FastPass. I was stunned and said no but that I had bought the Early Morning Magic ticket and showed her my yellow wristband. She was hesitant but allowed me to join the line. Yes, I am saying the line now. They were allowing all the standby line guests to enjoy the attraction and I had to join into that line. Of course the wait was not long but I was just surprised that it was inferred that only those guests who paid for this special ticket would enjoy the three attractions until park opened at 9am.

My opinion of this event is mixed. Unless you have family members who are avid Seven Dwarfs Mine Train fans this will not appeal to older children who would rather be on Space Mountain. You will also have to be careful that your group can all enjoy the three attractions that are offered as I saw a few times that young children did not meet the height requirement for the Mine Train and they were very disappointed.

I personally felt that they certainly could have at least two more attractions open such as Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid and Its a Small World as they both are in the same area if they wanted to keep it compact. If not then Dumbo and Barnstormer would be great additions. But three attractions just didn't offer enough to do for the hour in the park. I appreciated not waiting in the long lines those attractions draw during the day but I found we had so much extra time on our hands and didn't know what to do.

The cost for the Early Morning Magic ticket is $69 for adults and $59 for children 3-9. This is on top of the admission ticket you must have for the park that day. It does include a full breakfast and the opportunity to experience three attractions but I felt that was a bit steep. Characters were not out and if they wanted to make it a better value for their guests it would be nice to have one character meet and greet and at least two more attractions open to enjoy. It was difficult for me to find out how many Early Morning Magic tickets are sold for each date but I finally was told that it was around 200 so if this is something you wish to experience you will need to grab a reservation quickly.

Because of the cost of the ticket I hope they will encourage the three attractions that are included to stay open only for the ticketed guests until the published time of the park opening which is 9am. I understand that the Magic Kingdom will often open early if crowds become heavy at the entrance but it was disappointing that with my ticket I lost 15 minutes of private enjoyment of the attractions.

All in all we enjoyed our quiet time in the park but I doubt we will encourage our family to purchase this special event ticket if it is continued past June unless more is added to enjoy.

July 6, 2014

From the Tickle Trunk – Walt Disney World News 1981

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According to The Walt Disney Archives, the Magic Kingdom's first map wasn't a guide map as we know it today, but a multi-page newspaper called The Walt Disney World News. The first edition, with a huge headline "Vacation Kingdom Opens," celebrated the opening of the park with photos of company founder Walt Disney, Walt Disney World Ambassador Debby Dane, and the Windsor family, the first visitors to enter the park on Oct. 1, 1971. It also told the story of how, in order to be the first guests admitted, the entire Windsor family, mom, dad and sons slept overnight in their Volkswagen in a nearby parking lot.

Alas, we do not have a copy of that newspaper in the Tickle Trunk, but I was able to find a few pages from it on the Disney Parks Blog site. The park's first map appears on page 4 of the newspaper and is followed, on pages 4 and 5, with a listing of attractions, shops and restaurants in each themed land.

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It must have seemed comical when guests opened these 8-page tabloid-sized newspapers to find their way around the parks. It would have been quite a handful!

The Magic Kingdom Park Map, as we know it today, appeared in late 1972 but the production of the tabloid-style newspaper continued into the 1990's. Once the park map was introduced in 1972 the purpose of the newspaper seems to have changed. The content became more focused on things outside the Magic Kingdom. In my opinion, the entire purpose of the publication may have been to demonstrate to guests that Walt Disney World was more than just a theme park, a whole lot more! It promoted the many activities guests could enjoy in the resorts and in the shopping area at Lake Buena Vista.

The newspaper was printed monthly and included in the check-in package guests received when they arrived at Disney resorts. Copies were available to all other guests at City Hall in the Magic Kingdom. Carol and I have copies of ten different editions of the newspaper in the Tickle Trunk, spanning the years 1981 to 1992 and I'll share them with you over the next few months.

Let's start with the two issues from 1981, January and February. Carol received them both that year, while she was staying at Polynesian Village Resort.

Before we get started, let's look at the time frame . . . what was happening at our happy place?

There was still only one theme park, The Magic Kingdom, but EPCOT was nearing completion and would open in less than two years.

Disney resorts consisted of The Contemporary Resort, The Polynesian Village Resort, The Golf Resort (renamed The Disney Inn in 1986 and Shades of Green in 1994) and Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground.

The shopping area, opened in 1975, was known as The Village at Lake Buena Vista; in 1989 it was renamed Disney Village Marketplace and then in 1995 it became Downtown Disney.

Here is what the January 1981 issue looked like:

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Page 1 had an interesting article about music at the Magic Kingdom, in all it's venues. The Dapper Dans are jumping and clicking their heels in the lead photograph!

The second article on page 1 invites guests to shop at Walt Disney World Village. The photo shows the Empress Lily in the background. We now know her as Fulton's Crab House.

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Pages 2 through 4 focus on dining, entertainment, golf, tennis and fishing. Here are a few noteworthy articles:

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The first Character Meal - Dinner á la Disney at the Golf Resort.

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Fine dining at the Contemporary Resort's Gulf Coast Room!

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Even fishing - there was something for everyone her!

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Guests could enjoy some smooth jazz at the Village Lounge.

Let's take a look at the February 1981 issue which Carol picked up on the same trip.

The front page as well as page 4 were almost identical to the January edition, only the park hours section on page 1 had changed.

There were a few differences inside though.

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On page 2, The Fifth Dimension and Mickey Finn had finished their gigs at The Top of the World (today known as California Grill), Mel Tormé and Billy Eckstine now rounded out the list of entertainers.

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On Page three there was a terrific description of Discovery Island.

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A world of shopping awaited at The Village.

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Naturally there were some cute advertisments.

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You could arrange tennis lessons for the whole family at the Contemporary Resort.

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There was even a "wee links" course at the Golf Resort.

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Adventurous guests could taste exotic south seas treats at the Polynesian Village.

Even with only one theme park there was so much to see and enjoy at Walt Disney World in 1981. It was, and still is, a pretty amazing playground for kids of all ages!

And there's still plenty of good reading left in that old Tickle Trunk, this is just a small sampling. I hope you enjoyed it!

April 9, 2014

Jim’s Attic: The Story of Beacon Joe

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The Story of Beacon Joe
By Jim Korkis

Which original Disney character appears in three different attractions at Walt Disney World and was originally created for Disneyland?

I always hated it when teachers asked questions like that and they already knew the answer" and I was a public school teacher for several years after I graduated college so I always tried to help the students with the right answer.

The answer is in the title of this blog installment: Beacon Joe.

However, for many Disney fans that can still be a puzzling answer. When The Pirates of the Caribbean attraction opened in May 1967, it was the last Disney attraction personally overseen by Walt Disney himself.

It was Walt's idea to have the shallow boats drift leisurely through the Blue Bayou before plunging down a hidden waterfall to begin the pirate adventure. The musical chirp of unseen crickets and the faint glow of fireflies against the background of an indigo sky dotted with stars and slowly wafting clouds artistically frames this location to give it a false sense of calm.

The always innovative Walt Disney conceived of a quiet, upscale restaurant that would actually be inside an attraction. It was an idea that had never been done before and it was an instant hit with the many visitors to Disneyland. (My favorite treat at Disneyland is a Monte Cristo sandwich in the restaurant.)

There were discussions of including live entertainment in this quiet, restful environment but after a dress rehearsal during a trial dinner, Walt reportedly said, "In this restaurant, the food is going to be the show, along with the atmosphere".

Right across from the Blue Bayou restaurant and to the left of the guests in the boats is a shack where a bearded man wearing overalls leisurely rocks back and forth plucking out a tune on his banjo. That's Beacon Joe.

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Disney Legend Marc Davis designed both the character and the shack. In fact, the initial concept drawings came from his original designs for a Thieves Market that was going to be part of the attraction when it was planned to be a walk-through experience.

The Pirates of the Caribbean attraction was initially not going to be installed in Florida so to brighten up the steamboat voyage around the Rivers of America in Frontierland, Davis installed Beacon Joe and his shack just around an upper curve in the river.

Joe was not there at the opening in 1971 but made his appearance sometime in late 1972 just before the opening of Tom Sawyer's Island in 1973 along with other residents added to the river banks like the Native Americans in their village.

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Joe is the last outpost of civilization before guests drift into the frontier wilderness.

He sits on the porch of his shack in front of Alligator Swamp smoking his corncob pipe. He keeps track of the river's occasional course changes and marks the river accordingly for the river traffic.

His faithful dog intensely watches a jumping fish (that looks suspiciously like a repainted piranha from the Jungle Cruise) with his head turning from left to right.

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Beacon Joe also appears in Tokyo Disneyland. He can be seen fishing, surrounded by barrels and with his faithful dog on the nearby stairs, near the large trestle of the Western River Railroad as the steamboat maneuvers around the Western River.

However, I mentioned that Beacon Joe appears in three different attractions just at Walt Disney World. It is not unusual for the Disney Company to re-use audio-animatronics sculpted figures. For instance, President Thomas Jefferson shows up as a sheriff on a balcony in The Great Movie Ride, along with some Caribbean pirates re-used as gangsters earlier in the attraction.

The character sculpt of Beacon Joe is used in The Pirates of the Caribbean attraction as the standing pirate in the last jail cell at the end of the ride trying to coax a dog to give him the key to the door. He also shows up clean shaven and wearing a crown at the ballroom banquet table in The Haunted Mansion.

Just like a supporting character actor in a film, Beacon Joe quietly makes his appearances to help the storytelling but never feels the necessity to be the star of the show. However, now, you know where he is and why he is there so give him a wave or a shout on your next visit.

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":

March 12, 2014

Jim’s Attic: A Short History of Tony’s Town Square Restaurant

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A Short History of Tony's Town Square Restaurant By Jim Korkis

When Main Street U.S.A. opened at the Magic Kingdom in Florida in October 1971, right there in Town Square was the Town Square Café with an open air porch where patrons could watch the stream of guests rushing in and out of the park.

The food and beverage location offered breakfast, lunch and dinner and was themed to the elegant Victorian era. Originally, the venue was going to be sponsored by a coffee company but the proposed participant backed out.

It ended up being sponsored by Oscar Mayer from 1971-1981. Diminutive spokesman for the company, Little Oscar (actually affable George Molchan) in his white chef's hat, was there greeting guests and handing out the iconic wiener whistles to eager children.

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However, it was not a variety of Oscar Mayer hot dogs that were served at the location but upscale fare like a Monte Cristo sandwich and Crepes Jambalaya. Both Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola were available as well on the menu.

When Oscar Mayer declined to renew its sponsorship, the location was taken over by Hormel who handled the operation from 1981 to 1989. The menu was a large four page newspaper entitled "Town Square Times" with the first page devoted to the history of the Hormel company. The new sponsor still sold a Monte Cristo sandwich along with a Main Street Deli Plate and Fresh Catfish.

When Hormel decided not to continue sponsorship in 1989, the Disney Company did an extensive rehab of the restaurant converting it into Tony's Town Square Restaurant.

The restaurant references the Italian restaurant in the Disney animated feature classic Lady and the Tramp (1955) where two canines shared a romantic moment over a plate of spaghetti and meat balls.

The proprietor of the film's eatery is a larger-than-life, black-mustached, friendly character named Tony voiced by actor George Givot, known for his dialect comedy and fine singing voice, who passed away in 1984.

After a recent rehab, Tony's image is now smiling from a brand new overhead sign.

The waiting area has a television playing a clip from the film and the interior of the restaurant is decorated with Lady and the Tramp artwork as well as a sculpted fountain.

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For over thirty years, Don "Ducky" Williams has been a Senior Character Artist at Walt Disney World. During that time, he supplied artwork for memorable pieces of merchandise like the special limited edition lithographs for the Disney Cruise Line and the Disney Vacation Club.

Sometimes, his talents were tapped for unusual projects like Tony's Town Square Restaurant.

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"I did the artwork for all the china, signage, menus, etc. In fact, when it first opened, it had plates, saucers, creamers and more with my Lady and the Tramp artwork on it," commented Williams when I interviewed him. "They found the guests loved it so much that they kept stealing it so they replaced them with regular china. The remainder they had they sold at Disneyana conventions.

"Do you see all those framed paintings on the wall? There are twelve of them and I did them all. Those are the original paintings framed under glass, not prints or reproductions. If they ever change out that place, I would love to have those back to put up in my house."

Don Ducky Williams

Disney enthusiast Greg Ehrbar was responsible for writing the original two-sided kid's menu that was designed to resemble the comics section from the "Main Street Gazette". Besides the menu, it featured games and puzzles and an original comic strip. Unfortunately, this particular menu has been retired.

Some Disney fans are unimpressed with the menu offerings at Tony's but everyone is appreciative of the artistic "theming" of the space and how it captures the spirit of one of Disney's most beloved animated features. I wonder if there are any left over hot dogs in the back from Oscar Mayer for Tramp's many friends?

Deb's Note:
Ducky was a special guest of AllEars during our December to Remember Celebration in 2011. We designed a special AllEars Trading Card dedicated to his work at Tony's Town Square.

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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":


February 9, 2014

Liberty Tree Tavern: A "Revolutionary" Dining Experience

Andrew Rossi

As soon as you set foot in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom you feel as though you have been transported back to 1776. Although it is the smallest of any of the Magic Kingdom's lands, it may be the best themed of them all. From its replica of the Liberty Bell to its colonial architecture, wooden stockades, and even smaller details such as a window with two lanterns signifying the "two if by sea" of Paul Revere's midnight ride, Liberty Square provides a view into what life was like in the thirteen original colonies. If Walt Disney were around today, Liberty Square would probably be his favorite place in the Magic Kingdom as he was once noted as saying, "If you could see close in my eyes, there's an American flag waving in both of them."

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Liberty Square features a little bit of everything. It has two of the most classic Disney attractions in the Haunted Mansion and Hall of Presidents, various little shops such as Yankee Trader and Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe, as well as a number of dining experiences, such as Sleepy Hollow for snacks and the counter service restaurant Columbia Harbour House. Even though Magic Kingdom has a limited number of sit-down restaurants, Liberty Square's Liberty Tree Tavern still tends to be overlooked by many as they make their way past toward Frontierland. However, this restaurant provides Guests a tremendously themed dining experience that helps make it one of the best dining options at Magic Kingdom.

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Overview:
The Liberty Tree Tavern's very name is one filled with history and heritage befitting of Liberty Square. In 1765 the British government imposed a Stamp Act on the American colonies. It required all legal documents, permits, commercial contracts, newspapers, pamphlets, and playing cards in the American colonies to carry a tax stamp. In August 1765, a crowd gathered in Boston under a large elm tree to protest this hated tax. Patriots who later called themselves the Sons of Liberty hung an effigy of Andrew Oliver, the colonist chosen by King George III to impose the Stamp Act, in the branches of the tree. It was the first public show of defiance against the Crown and spawned the resistance that led to the American Revolution. A sign saying "Tree of Liberty" was later nailed to the trunk of the tree and soon other cities and towns across the thirteen colonies began creating their own Liberty Trees with lanterns hung amongst the branches. As resistance to the British grew, flags bearing a representation of the Liberty Tree were flown to symbolize the spirit of liberty. Liberty Square features its own Liberty Tree and the restaurant that bears its name pays homage to several of the Founding Fathers who played a major role in the creation of the nation.

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Atmosphere:
One of the most endearing characteristics of the Liberty Tree Tavern is how well it carries the overall theme of Liberty Square inside the restaurant. Every element of the restaurant, from the lighting to the furniture to the costumes worn by the servers, all contributes to the Colonial/Revolutionary Era feel. One of the first words that comes to mind to describe the feel of the restaurant is quaint, with a tremendous level of detail and authenticity that give it an old-world charm. The restaurant is divided into a series of smaller rooms, giving it a much more intimate feel. As you walk through the dining area you feel as though you are passing through different rooms in a house, each having a different look and feel in terms of décor, color, and architecture.

Each of these rooms, in fact, is specifically themed to one of the Founding Fathers and the architecture and décor of each reflect their different backgrounds and the roles they played in gaining American independence. Among the Founding Fathers honored are Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John Paul Jones, Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, as well as Betsy Ross.

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In addition to featuring their portraits, each room features various themed elements that help to tell the story about that particular person.

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It comes as no surprise that the John Paul Jones room has strong nautical influences with model ships, navigation equipment, and nautical knots. Both the Jefferson and Washington rooms on the other hand have a decidedly more upscale feel, reflecting their well-to-do Virginia lifestyle.

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Meanwhile, the Paul Revere room has a much more simple appearance reflecting his humble occupation as a silversmith.

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The level of detail found throughout the entire restaurant is outstanding and there are probably many elements that go unnoticed by most Guests. While larger objects such as the faux fireplaces, portraits and paintings of the Founding Fathers, and colonial-era muskets all contribute to the overall theme of the restaurant, it is really the smaller items which greatly add authenticity to the dining experience.

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Everywhere you look throughout the restaurant your eye always seems to pick out some new detail, with many of the items looking as though they could belong in a museum. Some of the more interesting items included ceramic pipes, a copper tea kettle, maps of the thirteen colonies, an old-fashioned flat iron, a butter churner, and an alphabetical list of members of the Sons of Liberty.

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Whether it be maps, lanterns, blankets and quilts, cooking utensils, or pewter dishes, all these little details complete immerse you in the overall theme of Liberty Square and make you feel as though you are dining in a colonial-era home. This level of detail and theming found in the Liberty Tree Tavern is definitely Disney Imagineering and storytelling at its best.

The Menu:
The Liberty Tree Tavern is a restaurant that gives you a totally different dining experience depending on whether you go for lunch or dinner. Lunch offers an al a carte menu featuring an array of classic Americana cuisine. Meanwhile, dinner is an all-you-care-to-eat meal served family style that includes roast turkey breast, carved beef, smoked pork loin, mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables, herb bread stuffing, and macaroni and cheese. Given the choice between the two, I prefer lunch over dinner because the lunch menu has a number of interesting choices and at a cheaper price than the family-style dinner. While the menu features nothing overly exotic or elegant, it does offer many traditional Americana favorites.

For lunch, the appetizer offerings include the Crab and Spinach Dip for Two ($10.99) featuring blue crab combined with spinach and cream cheese served with warm flatbread, Declaration Salad ($5.49) combining field greens and vegetables tossed with your choice of tavern-made dressing or roasted garlic buttermilk dressing, Tavern Fried Cheese ($5.99) served with marinara sauce, New England Clam Chowder ($7.49), and Today's Soup Kettle ($5.99), which happened to be chicken noodle on the day I was dining there.

The menu also features a good array of entrée offerings ranging from New England Pot Roast ($18.99) with braised beef in a cabernet wine and mushroom sauce served with mashed potatoes and garden vegetables to Freedom Pasta ($19.99) featuring fusilli pasta with sauteed chicken, seasonal vegetables, and mushrooms tossed in a cream sauce, The Liberty Boys BLT ($13.99) topped with slow roasted pork, fresh greens, and tomatoes on house-made bread with caramelized shallots and a mushroom-mayonnaise spread, the Pilgrims' Feast ($15.99) which combines traditional roast turkey with herb bread stuffing, mashed potatoes, and garden vegetables, the Colony Salad ($14.49) featuring apples, sweet pecans, applewood smoked cheddar, dried cranberry craisins, and grilled chicken tossed with field greens in a honey shallot vinaigrette, an Angus Chuck Cheeseburger ($13.99) topped with bacon and cheddar or mushrooms and provolone, and the Vegetarian Burger ($11.49).

There are also several delectable desserts available. Among these are the Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake ($7.49) featuring a vanilla cake with a toffee filling, caramel sauce, and vanilla ice cream, Martha Washington's Cake ($7.99) which is a slice of rich chocolate cake, layered with a chocolate coffee icing, Fruit Crisp ($5.49) combining baked seasonal fruits with a crisp streusel topping and homemade ice cream, and Johnny Appleseed's Cake ($7.49) filled with apples and craisins and topped with ice cream.

For my entrée I decided upon the New England Pot Roast, which happens to be one of the restaurant's most popular dishes. After sampling just a few bites I could see why this dish came so highly recommended by my server. The braised beef was cooked to perfection and so tender that it fell apart at the touch of my fork. Alongside the beef were a generous portion of carrots, celery, mushrooms, and onions all atop a heaping helping of mashed potatoes, which had a smooth and fluffy consistency. Topping it all off was a rich cabernet wine and mushroom sauce that provided a tremendous flavor that soaked into the beef and potatoes. This is the type of home-style comfort food that you can expect at the Liberty Tree Tavern and was the perfect meal to warm up on a cool January afternoon.

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For dessert I chose the Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake, which has become one of my favorite desserts in all of Disney World. One of the things I like most about this dessert is the mixing of so many different flavors. The chocolate, caramel, toffee pieces, and vanilla ice cream all have their own distinct flavors, but combine together deliciously. The cake itself was served warm with the appearance and taste of a big, thick chocolate chip cookie. Topping the cake is a large scoop of vanilla ice cream whose refreshingly light taste provides a nice compliment to the more rich and heavy cake. The toffee pieces that top the dessert give added flavor and texture along with a healthy amount of chocolate and caramel sauce. It is certainly a filling dessert and can easily be split by two people, but it is so good that you might want to eat the whole thing yourself.

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Service:
I was very impressed by the efficiency of the service at Liberty Tree Tavern. Even though the restaurant was a little crowded during the lunchtime rush, I was still seated very quickly and, upon placing my order, the food was brought out in a very timely manner. However, the meal did not progress so fast that I felt like I was being rushed. I also noticed that the restaurant had good number of servers, which gave each a smaller number of tables to wait upon and allowed them to offer more attentive service to their Guests. My server frequently checked in on me to make sure that I was enjoying everything and to see if he could get me anything else that I might have needed. In fact, he was so attentive that never once did my glass of water get more than halfway empty before he came around to fill it back up. My server was also very helpful in pointing out several of his favorite items on the menu, which dishes were the more popular choices, and provided a little description of each.

Dining on a Budget:
If you are looking to save a little bit of money, then lunch at Liberty Tree Tavern is definitely the way to go rather than dinner. Not only are the lunch prices more reasonable, but you also get a fairly wide selection of choices on the menu and portion sizes that are generous. One of the best values on the menu is probably the Pilgrims' Feast, which gives you a full Thanksgiving dinner for just $15.99. Other economical options would be the Colony Salad for just $14.49 or the Liberty Boys BLT that costs $13.99. Seeing other people get these I noticed that the portions are likewise a very good size, but if you still wanted a little something more you could always split an appetizer or dessert. Speaking of appetizers, the Tavern Fried Cheese is a great value at just $5.99.

The Liberty Tree Tavern is on the Disney Dining Plan and worth one table service credit for both lunch and dinner. Thus, if you are on the Dining Plan, you would actually get a better value for your money by going here for dinner, which regularly costs $34.00. While the restaurant does participate in Tables in Wonderland, there are no further discounts for either Annual Passholders or Disney Vacation Club members.

The Overall Experience:
While Magic Kingdom may not have many sit-down restaurants, this lack of quantity does not necessarily mean a lack of quality. I highly recommend the Liberty Tree Tavern because it is truly the type of dining experience that you expect to get from Disney. It all starts with a great theme which is carried throughout the restaurant in the tiniest of details and creates a fully immersive dining atmosphere. This combines with food that may be simple and traditional, but is also extremely tasty and generously portioned. Along with efficient service and reasonable prices, this all helps to create a memorable dining experience that can be enjoyed by the entire family. Next time you are at the Magic Kingdom and are looking for a little break from all the hustle and bustle, lunch (or dinner) at the Liberty Tree Tavern is a great way to relax, refresh, and get reenergized for the rest of your day.

See past restaurant reviews by guest blogger Andrew Rossi.

Check out Reader Reviews of Liberty Tree Tavern and post your own too!

September 24, 2013

An Alien Tale

by Keith Gluck
Guest Blogger

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October 11, 2013, marks 10 years since the closure of the Magic Kingdom's ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. While we all know the story told during the ride, which featured a diverse cast of big-screen veterans, I wanted to delve into the story behind the infamous attraction. So I sat down recently with Jerry Rees -- creative genius, storyteller in all media, and the man who was involved in almost every aspect of the project's creation.

In August 1993, work began on a $100 million makeover of the Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland. The land's appearance had become somewhat dated, thanks in part to "one designer back in the '70s predicting the future of architecture," according to Imagineer Eric Jacobson. In charge of design for the entire park, Jacobson set out to give the land a fresh look (the new theme was "yesterday's future"), as well as update or replace many attractions. Mission to Mars was on the chopping block, and Disney decided to replace it with an attraction called ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter.


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Alien Encounter would be like no attraction Disney had ever done. There was a time when the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland was thought of as legitimately scary, but it was toned down and infused with more gags. The Phantom Manor in Disneyland Paris opened in 1992, and scored slightly higher on the scare scale than its American cousins. However, none of Disney's mansions could ever produce the same reactions as the centerpiece of the Magic Kingdom's 1995 "New Tomorrowland" did.

The official line on Alien Encounter tagged it as, "A sensory thriller from Disney and George Lucas." It featured performances from Tyra Banks, Jeffrey Jones, Kathy Najimy, Kevin Pollak and, initially, Phil Hartman.

The show was designed to utilize a variety of mediums in which to tell guests its story, including audio-animatronics, video screens, and advanced audio effects. Enter Jerry Rees, the man who orchestrated the multi-faceted show "Cranium Command" for Disney just a few years earlier.

"Since Imagineering had gotten used to me as a 'film plus' director, meaning that I was comfortable merging film aspects with in-theater animatronics, effects, lighting, etc.," Jerry remarked, "they cast me with the 'everything plus the kitchen sink' Alien Encounter attraction."

At first, Jerry was only asked to direct the attraction's main media aspects, such as the pre-show promo for XS-Tech, the voice performance of the XS-Tech spokesbot S.I.R. (Simulated Intelligence Robotics), and the main theater "live" broadcast footage.

"I was not initially asked to direct all of the non-media in-theater storytelling aspects," Jerry said. "So after finishing the assigned aspects, I wished the project well and felt rather sad to see it go off for installation in the park without me."

That would change, however, after Michael Eisner reviewed the installed attraction. Eisner, along with a few others (including Marty Sklar), felt that the overall story wasn't being communicated dynamically enough. Jerry was called back in.

"Michael gave the 'bring Jerry in' instruction, and for the first time I was invited to direct the full experience soup-to-nuts," Jerry recalled. "I was delighted, since I'd been drooling to be involved with all aspects all the way to the finish line!"

Rick Rothschild was assigned to be Jerry's producer. The two met up in Florida and went through the entire attraction together, so they could assess what it needed and where. According to Jerry, they were "bubbling with ideas" upon exiting the ride. They put their ideas to paper almost immediately, and ultimately those notes became the foundation for all of the improvements they would make over the following six months.

"During that time Rick and I lived and breathed, ate and slept Alien Encounter!" Jerry declared. "It was all-consuming and very exciting."

One noticeable change completely altered the mood of the attraction's pre-show. S.I.R., voiced by Phil Hartman, would no longer be a friendly spokesbot who sang to himself while the audience filed into the pre-show area. English actor Tim Curry was brought on as the new voice of S.I.R., and he managed to add an underscore of menace to the narration.

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"I loved working with Phil on the first pass of the S.I.R. voice," Jerry remarked. "But ultimately, after listening back to the tracks, I felt that a more edgy 'tech evangelist' would be more effective. Tim nailed it!"

Jerry came up with some clever motivation for Tim, asking him to picture himself as a southern evangelical preacher who was delivering the message of X-S to his congregation. Jerry also worked with S.I.R.'s audio-animatronic animator, helping to ensure that the appropriately grandiose body language would be implemented.

Like Cranium Command, Jerry had to juggle several different elements that would all ultimately have to come together in order to tell one cohesive story. Never an easy task, I asked him which aspect of this production he found the most challenging. He responded, "The most challenging aspect -- and also the most fun aspect -- was coordinating all the elements so that it was completely believable that a giant alien creature had escaped and was on the loose in the broken theater. This involved film, normal and binaural audio in bizarre speaker arrays, animatronics, live actors, hidden actuators, vapor, wind fans, and much, much, much more. Each audience member was even splattered by 'bug bits' (water) at the end when the creature was exploded. The myriad of cooperative storytelling elements was staggering. And super fun!" Jerry's unique ability to visualize multiple yet separate show components made him the perfect choice for an attraction of this nature.

Extraterrorestrial Alien Encounter enjoyed an 8-year run terrorizing guests in the Magic Kingdom. The level of terror, however, might also have been the reason for its eventual demise.

"So far as I know, there was never an official reason given for its closure," Jerry remarked. "It was very popular. My best guess -- and the guess from other insiders I've chatted with -- is that it was closed because it was located in the Magic Kingdom, where parents have an expectation that they can let their kids run free and all rides will be appropriate. There is no such expectation at Disney's Hollywood Studios, where Tower of Terror scares the heck out of people all day long. My firm belief is this -- if the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter had been built at Disney's Hollywood Studios rather than the Magic Kingdom, it would still be playing today."


Keith Gluck has been a Disney fan his entire life. While Disneyland is his 'home park,' he has been to and adores Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris. He runs thedisneyproject.com, and also volunteers at The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. If you were to ask him his favorite thing about Disney, his answer would always be, "Walt."


August 27, 2013

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

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Fifteen years ago September, the beloved Magic Kingdom attraction
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride permanently closed its doors.

by Keith Gluck
Guest Blogger

During early planning for Walt Disney World, Chief Operations Officer of WED Enterprises Richard Irvine tapped Imagineer (and future Disney Legend) Rolly Crump to spearhead all of the Fantasyland attractions.

Thrilled with the assignment, Rolly immediately began formulating ways to improve upon the existing dark rides from Disneyland. One of the rides Disney decided to carry over was Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, which was extremely popular in Anaheim. In fact it was so popular, Vice President of Operations Dick Nunis advised Rolly that they should build two identical Toad rides, one right next to the other. Rolly did not share his vision. "I thought that was a dumb idea," Rolly said. "I told him to let me think about it for a while, and I'd come up with something better." And come up with something better, he did.

Rolly designed a two-track ride system that was housed in the same show building, giving riders two noticeably different ride experiences. On track one, passengers traveled through Toad Hall's library, over a farm, through Town Square, in and out of jail, past a shootout between cops and weasels, down the wrong way of a railroad tunnel, and ultimately, to Hell.

Track two also started riders out in Toad Hall, but through the Trophy Room instead of the library. The journey continued through a gypsy camp, Town Square, Winky's Tavern, the countryside at night, and their own Hell, also by way of the wrong way of a railroad tunnel.

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The design was brilliant. Rolly even had the two tracks nearly intersect at points, giving the illusion of an impending head-on collision. Not only did having a second track double ride capacity, but in the 90s they started using motorcars that carried four passengers compared to Disneyland's two.

The ride was a huge hit, and a perennial guest-favorite from Opening Day.

In fall of 1997, however, rumors of its closure began to circulate. On October 22, the Orlando Sentinel addressed the rumor, reporting that Disney was considering replacing Toad with a ride based on Winnie the Pooh. Toad fans came out in earnest, devising ways to keep their beloved attraction open.

On October 23, Steve Guttenberg and Kirsten Dunst (stars of the soon-to-be-aired television movie Tower of Terror) were asked their thoughts on the report while at Walt Disney World. 'That's one of my favorite rides,' cried Dunst. 'Save Mr. Toad!' That same day, a Save Toad website debuted.

Petitions were signed, Save Toad t-shirts and buttons were worn, and letters to Disney executives were written, all in a concerted effort to rescue the rambunctious amphibian known to some as J. Thaddeus.

On December 7, 1997, a peaceful protest labeled a "Toad In" was held outside of the attraction. Many more Toad Ins would follow, and Rolly later recalled, "They would walk around in front of the ride and chant and cheer. I was really touched by that." As the months went on, support for the Toadies' plight grew as various news outlets across the country picked up the story. Aside from surprising a few executives at Disney, the valiant efforts to save Mr. Toad went unrewarded. After nearly a year filled with rumors, petitions, and uncertainty, Disney finally made the official announcement on September 2, 1998.

Five days later, Mr. Toad took guests on one last wild ride, to nowhere in particular.

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Photo Credit: http://www.math.miami.edu/~jam/toad/

Keith Gluck has been a Disney fan his entire life. While Disneyland is his 'home park,' he has been to and adores Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris. He runs thedisneyproject.com, and also volunteers at The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. If you were to ask him his favorite thing about Disney, his answer would always be, "Walt."

June 17, 2013

Jim’s Attic: Missing Merlin

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Jim's Attic: Missing Merlin
By Jim Korkis

Every two weeks, 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.

"Allow me to introduce myself. I am Merlin, adviser to King Arthur and right now it is my job to discover which one among you is qualified to be temporary royal ruler. Since the responsibilities are so great, I will be selecting several people throughout the day to share these burdens of leadership. So, have no fear! If you get selected, it is just a part time job!"

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Not only do I personally miss the Sword in the Stone Ceremony with Merlin in the Magic Kingdom, but the walk-around Merlin has been missing since 2006 even though he is the star of the popular Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom interactive experience.

What a missed opportunity not to have Merlin personally welcoming new apprentice sorcerers or dedicating the New Fantasyland!

Disneyland, as part of the Limited Time Magic promotion, temporarily brought back a truncated version (no comic performer) of the beloved Golden Horseshoe Revue from January 10, 2012 through February 4, 2012 to packed houses.

However, reportedly, a handful of guest complaints about the raciness of the can-can dancers and Miss Lilly going out into the audience to harmlessly flirt help doom the show being temporarily revived at WDW's Diamond Horseshoe.

If Walt Disney World would really like to do a Limited Time Magic entertainment promotion, then I would cheer for a return of Merlin, especially since the mechanics of the sword still work fine and several "friends" of Merlin are still employed by the company, as well as director Chris Oyen, who shepherded the original show for over a decade as well as doing writing on the script.

"Walt [Disney], the wizard, never knew that I patterned Merlin the magician after him when I wrote the script," remembered storyman Bill Peet who gets sole credit for scripting the 1963 animated feature "Sword in the Stone". "In his book, T.H. White describes the wizard as a crusty old curmudgeon, argumentative and temperamental, playful at times and extremely intelligent. Walt was not quite a curmudgeon and he had no beard, but he was a grandfather and much more a character, and in my drawings of Merlin, I even borrowed Walt's nose."

The beloved live action show where Merlin selects a young guest from the audience to attempt to pull the sword from an anvil to become the new temporary ruler of Fantasyland (until the next show in a half hour) premiered at Disneyland in the Summer of 1983 after the opening of the New Fantasyland so this year marks Merlin's 30th anniversary as a park character.

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At Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, the show opened in 1993 (though other sources claim 1994) and delighted guests until its final performance on August 15, 2006.

I clearly remember the August 15th date because that is my birthday and in the Fall of 1995, I assisted in the portrayal of Merlin. When I was a "friend" of Merlin, people could clearly see what Disney costumers called "Santa Claus cheeks" and the animated black eyebrows barely hidden by glued on white eyebrows.

The costume was heavy, the props cumbersome and eager autograph seekers often thought the character was Father Time or Pagemaster from the 1994 film but it was a delightful little show that gathered substantial crowds.

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My personal feeling is that Fantasyland could use a little more magic and the man for the job is a return of Merlin.

RELATED LINKS
====================
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":


January 25, 2013

Be Our Guest Restaurant - the Music

By Guest Blogger Patrick Mann

My family and I had the pleasure of eating dinner at the new Be Our Guest restaurant. The experience was completely immersive and from the top of the castle turret to the Ballroom and the West Wing, one of the best experiences my family had dining at WDW. Here is an example of the amazing imagineering that Disney did in the castle waiting area.

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During the medieval ages music notation was formed beginning with one red line, then musical notes called Neumes were added above and below the line. These forms were just a pattern, or a basic idea, for the melodic flow of the music. Using this form of notation allowed for church musicians to perform a wider variety of music, no longer having to memorize music for each week of the church calendar as well as holy days. This basic notation developed into today's modern five line staff and musical notes.

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Hidden as the screen saver in the kiosks and in a decorative window in the sitting -room of Be Our Guest restaurant is an exquisite copy of a thirteenth Century French plainchant. The early Gregorian example used four red lines and square neumes only. I am currently a music educator in Texas, and it only took seconds for me to realize that these were copies of Alan Menken's song, Be Our Guest. The imagineers had created this beautiful piece of music in the style of early Gregorian chant just for the restaurant lobby! This blew me away! I had to have a copy of this!

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My wife and I asked several employees if the music was available for purchase, we even gave our email address to a few "big wigs" but as of now, no news on if you can purchase this beautiful example of a classic Disney song or not. I encourage you to take a good look at this on your visit to Be Our Guest in the New Fantasyland.

January 19, 2013

The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour

by Scott Lopes
AllEars.Net Guest Blogger


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On December 6, I had the opportunity to go on The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains tour. This was a fun tour and probably one of the few that allow you to take pictures in a backstage area.

The tour starts much earlier than any of the others -- the official start time is 7:30 a.m. with a meet time of 7:15. (Be sure to double-check the meet location.Unfortunately, I missed part of the beginning of the tour because I was in the wrong spot. I was told later by the tour department that the correct meet location is just outside the turnstiles.)

For me, the tour started in the train station. Our tour guide Gary began by explaining some of the photos that were in the lower level of the train station, as well as some of the facts and history of the trains used at Walt Disney World.


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After the official park opening we went up to the upper level of the train station and boarded the show train. The show train has cars similar to the ones normally used for guest transportation, however they do not have the safety panels installed.


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We then proceeded toward the Storybook Circus area of Fantasyland, and then backed up onto a spur line that goes back to the train and monorail barn. While we were traveling, our guide explained some of the safety procedures and signals used.

Once we were near the barn we stepped off of the train and were able to watch it back up the rest of the way.

Gary then explained a few more facts and details regarding the trains, and also told a few stories, such as the origin of some common phrases like "the Real McCoy." (Elijah McCoy invented a device to lubricate moving parts on a train, so when engineers would have their trains serviced they would ask for "The Real McCoy".)


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Next, in small groups we were brought up into the cab of the locomotive so that Gary could explain some of the controls and safety devices that are on the train.

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After a tour of the cab, they fired up the boiler.

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And, although not normally part of the tour, they demonstrated the use of a fire extinguisher as well:


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We then boarded the train and departed the maintenance area and headed back to the Main Street station. Once there, we were able to take pictures with the engineer, and concluded the tour with a further discussion of Walt Disney and his love of trains.


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At the conclusion of the tour we received this exclusive pin.


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Overall, this was a great tour that was well worth the cost. The cast member was cheerful and informative, and even spent some additional time talking with us after the tour ended. I definitely look forward to taking this tour again!

See what other readers think about the Magic Behind the Steam Trains Tour and write your review too!

Learn about other tours at Walt Disney World!


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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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I like the hang-glider ride one more than Carol 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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

May 31, 2012

Say goodbye to Snow White's Scary Adventures at Disney's Magic Kingdom

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Another one of the Magic Kingdom's original attractions closes today, May 31. After 40-plus years, Snow White's Scary Adventures will be shut down and the space reconfigured as part of the multi-year Fantasyland expansion project.

For many, today will be a day of fond farewells. For others, it's out with the old and in with the new.

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When Snow White's Scary Adventures first opened in 1971, Snow White did not appear in any scenes within the attraction. Instead, guests were supposed to be experiencing the story, based on the 1937 Disney animated film, from the princess's perspective. In addition, the Queen-turned-witch popped up more often and the Dwarfs were seen less. Consequently, that version was considered by many parents to be scarier.

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A refurbishment in 1994 toned down the witch's dominance of the attraction by adding Snow White to several scenes, including the classic Happily Ever After ending in which the Prince awakens Snow White from her spell. The Dwarfs also are more prominently seen alongside the ride, too. (Want to read more about Snow White's history with The Walt Disney Co.? See Jack's blog HERE.)

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Although I always have a sense of deja vu when riding Snow White's Scary Adventures, I don't have specific memories of the attraction from my first childhood visit to the Magic Kingdom in 1979. I can recall a vague sense of adventure circling the wishing well and heading into the mines, but I do not remember being overly afraid.

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By the same token, Snow White's Scary Adventures was not a ride that I begged to go on repeatedly, and neither do my elementary-school-age children today. My 7-year-old daughter would much rather be interacting with the Disney Princesses than just zipping by murals of them. For our family, spending 30 minutes in a queue for a meet-and-greet has more value than the same amount of time in this old-school ride. I can imagine we are not alone.

And so, although I am sad to see another bit of Disney World history disappear, I am excited about the new Princess Fairytale Hall, which will be built in the building that now houses Snow White's Scary Adventures. Set to open late in 2013, this location will be the new home for princess meet-and-greets.

Disney describes it this way: "The castle-like entrance will feature walls of stone and stained glass windows. The entrance will open into a large gallery -- an airy space with a high ceiling and portraits of Disney Princesses. When it's time for their audience with a princess, guests will proceed to an elegantly finished room to meet her."

In the meantime, guests can continue to meet the Disney Princesses, including Snow White, at the Town Square Theater at the front of the park. There, you can even get a FastPass and avoid a long wait. (A tip: The princesses rotate appearances in the theater. If Snow White is a must-see for your little girl and she is not there when your audience occurs, ask a cast member when she is scheduled to return.)

Snow White usually appears for meet-and-greets with all her Dwarfs at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.

One of the last parts of the Fantasyland expansion to open will be the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster in 2014. This gentle ride is expected to use new technology to create a swaying train on a course that includes the Dwarfs' cottage and mine.

Are you among the fans eager for something new? Or would you have preferred that Disney preserve Snow White's Scary Adventures?

April 21, 2012

Tips for celebrating National Princess Week at Walt Disney World

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Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway star in "The Princess Diaries" and "The Princess Diaries: Royal Engagement."


The first National Princess Week begins tomorrow, April 22, and its founders want to invite children "to celebrate the sparkle and wonder of every princess -- real, aspiring or imagined."

Academy Award-winning actress, singer and best-selling children's book author Julie Andrews is the face of the campaign. She starred with Anne Hathaway in two "The Princess Diaries" movies, which are being re-released on their 10th anniversary, and has co-authored with her daughter the popular "The Very Fairy Princess" series.

This collaboration between Target and The Walt Disney Company aims to allow children to create their own princess activities in their home towns. But if you're lucky enough to be visiting Walt Disney World, the home of the Disney Princesses, there are many experiences to be found, both large and small.

Here are some suggestions, based on my own family's experiences and ideas adapted from Andrews' ideas at http://julieandrewscollection.com/30-ways-to-celebrate-national-princess-week/

1. Start your day by wearing a tiara and keep it on everywhere you go. Bring your own from home, or you can purchase one in just about every gift store on Disney World property.

2. Build your own castle. If you are staying at a Disney World resort or planning to visit one of the water parks, find the sandy area and get to work designing a palace for royalty. A fun way to build the foundation is with the castle mold sold in most gift shops for about $6, and it makes a great inexpensive souvenir afterward. (For tips on visiting the Disney water parks, see my newsletter article at http://allears.net/ae/issue651.htm)

3. Take a carriage ride and learn how to step into a carriage with grace and practice your royal wave. Andrews offers these suggestions:
** To enter a carriage, turn your body slightly sideways, and step in with the foot closet to the carriage. Bend forward slightly and lower yourself onto the seat. Draw your outside leg in after you. You can also keep both legs together and sit first, then draw them up and in after you. Do the reverse when exiting.
** To perform a royal wave, hold your arm out straight, bend it at the elbow, then with a relaxed, open palm, rotate your wrist side-to-side lightly, as you would if you were screwing in a light bulb.
Carriages leave from Port Orleans Riverside and Fort Wilderness resorts and cost $45 per group. (For details, see http://land.allears.net/blogs/guestblog/2012/04/disney_worlds_fort_wilderness.html)

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Girls can choose from three Princess hairstyles at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.

4. Make a reservation for the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at Downtown Disney or inside the Magic Kingdom. At these salons, Fairy Godmothers-in-training will transform each girl into the princess she's always dreamed of being. Choose your royal treatments -- from hair, makeup, nails and an outfit. Prices start at $54.95. My daughter was transformed into Ariel when she was 4 and Belle when she was 7, and she was so excited about the experiences. (You can read more, plus see photos and video, at http://land.allears.net/blogs/guestblog/2012/03/magical_makeovers_at_disney_wo.html)

5. Visit the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa for the My Disney Girl's Perfectly Princess Tea. "Rose Petal," a magical rose, hosts this event with Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) for children ages 3 to 11 daily (except Tuesdays and Saturdays) from 10:30 to noon. The party includes a sing-along, stories and traditional foods served with tea or apple juice. Girls receive "My Disney Girl" 18-inch doll dressed in a Princess Aurora gown with accessories, a tiara, Princess link bracelet, princess scrapbook page, a rose, and a "Best Friend" certificate. (Boys receive a Duffy the Disney Bear instead of the doll.) The price is $250 plus tax (includes gratuity) for one adult and one child. (Read guest reviews of this experience on AllEars.net at http://allears.net/din/girlstea.htm)

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Topiaries featuring royal couples are showcased at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.

6. At the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival (through May 20), look for the princess-shaped topiaries in World Showcase. Classic Disney couples can be found between the United Kingdom and France pavilions, and characters from "Beauty and the Beast" are located in the fresh-cut flower gardens of France. In Germany, you'll find Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in topiary. (AllEars has explored every nook and cranny of the festival and you can find details at http://allears.net/tp/ep/fg12/epcot-flower-and-garden-festival-2012.htm)

7. See your favorite princesses in live performances at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Belle appears in her own 30-minute Broadway-style show daily at the Theater of the Stars, and Ariel tells her story during a 17-minute show at The Voyage of the Little Mermaid. On select nights, several of the Disney Princesses take part in Fantasmic!, a 25-minute show using water sprays as a backdrop for animation combined with live-action characters. (Get the lay of the land with this DHS page: http://allears.net/tp/mgm/mgm.htm)

8. Take a ride on Snow White's Scary Adventures at the Magic Kingdom before it closes on May 31. It is one of the original rides from when the theme park opened 1971, though it was reworked in 1994 to make it less frightening. When the Fantasyland expansion construction is finished next year, there will be a new Dwarfs' cottage and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster. (You can stay up-to-date on the new Fantasyland rides and attractions at http://allears.net/tp/mk/fant_expansion.htm)

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Guests can meet Cinderella before their meal in her castle at Magic Kingdom.

9. Meet your favorite Disney Princesses in person for photos and autographs. Epcot and Magic Kingdom are the places to go for these encounters. Most of the princesses can be found inside the Town Square Theater at Magic Kingdom's entrance, though a few, such as Tiana, Ariel and Jasmine, are out in the park. Rapunzel moved last week from the Fairytale Courtyard to the Town Square Courtyard to make room for Brave's Merida in mid-May. At Epcot, the Disney Princesses can be seen outside various World Showcase pavilions, including Mulan in China. Check the daily guide for specific locations and times. (Plus, here are tips for finding your favorite princess: http://allears.net/tp/fur.htm)

10. Dine with the Disney Princesses. Cinderella hosts a breakfast, lunch and dinner in her castle at the Magic Kingdom with her Fairy Godmother and other princesses. My son and daughter really enjoyed this experience, both for the characters and the location. Reservations go quickly, so be prepared to book these meals exactly 180 days out. At Epcot, share a meal with royalty at Akershus Castle Royal Banquet Hall in the Norway Pavilion. At the Grand Floridian, guests can join Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremain (her stepmother), Drucilla and Anastasia (her stepsisters) at Cinderella's Happily Ever After Dinner. This buffet is one of the tastiest character meals, and the banter between the stepsisters and their mother is hilarious. Plus, little girls have a rare opportunity to dance with Prince Charming. (Find out how to plan your character meal at http://allears.net/din/cb.htm)

Finally, at the end of your day, let your little princess snuggle in bed with some princess pajamas and a princess storybook before she dreams of all the fun she had celebrating the Disney princesses. Andrews suggests foregoing any peas under the mattress.


March 1, 2012

Piloting Walt Disney World paddleboat a magical moment for my son

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Recently, my 9-year-old son had a magical experience at the Magic Kingdom that he can't stop talking about. Now, before you ask, "Well, aren't most experiences at Walt Disney World magical?" let me say this was an unexpected surprise. I'm sure you know what I mean -- when a cast member goes the extra mile to do something unscheduled or unplanned just to add a little pixie dust to a guest's day.

It began when my daughter and I went to meet with Rapunzel and my husband and son, seeking a little something more adventuresome, joined the queue to ride onboard the Liberty Belle, the Magic Kingdom's iconic riverboat. Like many boys, my son is fascinated by the different modes of transportation at Disney. So as he and my husband were chatting with a cast member about various aspects of the triple-deck paddleboat, my husband asked if guests were allowed to ride in the wheelhouse.

To my son's great joy, the answer was "yes." Not only that, but he was allowed to pilot the boat on its 17-minute journey on the Rivers of America around Tom Sawyer Island. (Before you fear for your life the next time you step on the Liberty Belle, know that it runs on a track and the "steering" is all part of the "story.") On the way up to the helm, my son passed through the captain's quarters, modeled after a cabin on a 19th century paddleboat. It was a unique site that many passengers might not readily notice behind the wooden doors that lead to the wheelhouse atop the Liberty Belle. (See AllEars photos of the captain's quarters with this feature.)

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Once up top, he had the best view on the ship, almost eye level with many of the adjacent attractions, such as the tallest hill on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The pilothouse isn't large, but there was plenty of room for the cast member and my son to man the open-window helm while my husband watched. There even was an elevated platform behind the wheel that allowed my son to stand a little higher and see out over the wheel and across the bow.

My son was encouraged to ring the bell and blow the horn at the halfway point of the journey. He had a unique vantage point for seeing all the familiar sites along the river: the Native American encampment, the white river markers, the wooden fort on the island. Perhaps the best part of the journey, though, was hearing about the pilot's experiences on the Liberty Belle. Luckily for him, the cast member who provided the tour was someone who had been manning the helm of the boat for some time, so he had lots of stories to share.

At the end of the trip, my son received a special pilot's license, good for one year at Walt Disney World. He was thrilled. We're just happy it specifies where he is allowed to pilot boats.

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You can read more about the Liberty Square Riverboat on AllEars: History of the Liberty Belle and taking a Ride on the Liberty Belle (includes video)!

November 13, 2011

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2011

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

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

A few things before we begin:

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

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

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

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

-- Christmas Party Map Side 1 (large .jpg 436K)

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

On to the fun...

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

Sign

Banners are hung across the tunnels leading to Main Street.

Banners

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

Main Street

The logo was visible in Tomorrowland.

Tomorrowland

The stage was decorated for a Totally Tomorrowland Christmas.

Stage

Space Mountain was decked out for the event.

Space Mountain

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

Phineas and Ferb

Snowflakes were projected onto the pavement in Tomorrowland.

Snowflakes

Stations were set up for complimentary hot chocolate and cookies.

Cookies

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

Cinderella

Main Street looked beautiful.

Main Street

The soldiers are around the flagpole.

Soldiers

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

Santa

These trees were near Santa.

Trees

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

Parade

Duffy joined Mickey and Minnie in the parade.

Mickey and Minnie

The skiers were also new this year.

Skiers

Chip and Dale

Dwarves

Carriage

Cinderella

Princesses

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

Jasmine

Toy Soldiers

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

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

Reindeer

Santa

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

Gingerbread

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

Fireworks

Fireworks

Here's a brief video of the fireworks:

Fireworks

Fireworks

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

Depot

A few more notes:

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

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

*Tinker Bell and her friends were greeting in Adventureland.

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

*The party we attended was sold out.


September 18, 2011

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party 2011

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Disclosure: As an invited media guest, AllEars.Net's ticket to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party was paid by the Disney company.

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) is an annual tradition at the Magic Kingdom. We (my mom and I) attended the party on Friday, September 16, 2011. We got to Magic Kingdom early decided to walk around before dinner and the party started.

The areas under the monorail beams are decorated for the fall and the event.

MNSSHP

Signs are posted that show you where to head if you have a party ticket.

Signs

Main Street is decorated for fall and Halloween. For more of the fall decorations, keep an eye out for a new "What's New, What's Next" blog.

Main Street

Treat stations, like Max's Pit Stop in Tomorrowland, are set up around the park.

Max's Pit Stop

Max's Pit Stop

Cast Members are on hand to help direct guests with and without party tickets.

Cast Members

A great photo-op of Cinderella Castle surrounded by pumpkins has been set up at the flag pole.

Castle

Pumpkins

The Liberty Belle was decorated for the party. It hosts a treat station.

Liberty Belle

One of the most popular photo-ops is with Cinderella's carriage.

Cinderella's carriage

The party began at 7 PM. We decided to see the princesses (and their princes!) first at the Town Square Theater. The princesses and princes begin greeting at 7 PM and you must have a wrist band to enter the queue. This was VERY popular throughout the evening.

Rapunzel

Snow White

Cinderella.JPG

Duffy is greeting guests next to City Hall.

Duffy

We caught the first Villains Mix & Mingle. The show is very different this year -- it has new music, new costumes and a new character. Dr. Facilier (from the film, The Princess and the Frog) starts off the show and brings his villain friends along.

Dancers

Dr. Facilier

Here's a snippet of Dr. Facillier's song.

The villains arrive after his song.

Villains

Here's a short video of the villains.

We decided to skip the first parade and see the second so we headed over to Haunted Mansion. There is a storyteller (for lack of a better word) who sits outside the mansion and interacts with guests.

Storyteller

There are projections around the park.

Pumpkin

Space Mountain

Tomorrowland

Spider.JPG

In Tomorrowland, Stitch's Club 626 hosts a character dance party.

Stitch's Club 626

Around the hub, there are a lot of villain character meet-and-greets. I saw Gaston, Lady Tremaine and the stepsisters and Lots-O-Huggin' Bear. It was too dark and crowded for me to get pictures of Gaston and Lady Tremaine but I did manage to get one of Lotso.

Lotso

Tarzan, Jane and Turk greeted guests just over the Adventureland bridge.

Tarzan

Captain Jack Sparrow was greeting guests near Pirates of the Caribbean.

Captain Jack

There's a treat station near Splash Mountain. We were going to have a look at it and see the Seven Dwarves near Big Thunder but it was very crowded back there we needed to start making our way back to Main Street to see the fireworks.

Treats

The fireworks show is called Happy HalloWishes. It's Halloween themed and Master Gracey from the Haunted Mansion is the host (the ghost host, of course).

Fireworks

Fireworks

Fireworks

Fireworks

After the fireworks, we went back to Town Square Theater to see Mickey and Minnie.

Mickey and Minnie

After that, we got a spot for Mickey's Boo-to-You Halloween parade. The Headless Horseman rides just before the parade kicks off. If you've never seen it before, it's awesome.

Boo to You

Characters

Mickey

Pirates

My favorite performance of the parade is the Haunted Mansion grave diggers. Here's a short video of their performance (I didn't want to spoil it all!).

Pain and Panic

Goofy's

We called it a night after the parade. We really enjoyed spending the evening at the party! The atmosphere was great and it was a great way to kick off the fall season.

Additional notes:

Tinker Bell and friends were greeting guests during the party. The lines for her, and most of the characters, were rather long and we decided to walk around instead of waiting.

Cast Members hand out bags for treats as you enter the park.

There are maps for the party. The maps list the attractions that remain open for the party, character locations, etc.

2011 Guide Map 1 (large .jpg about 300K)

2011 Guide Map 2 (large .jpg about 300K)

Finding Disney in Unexpected Places: Jim Thorpe, PA

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Over the Labor Day weekend, I went to visit some of my wonderful friends (or family, depending on how you look at it) in the northeast. One of the places they took me to visit was Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. I have to be honest and say that before this trip, I had never heard of Jim Thorpe, PA but I knew something was up when they told me I couldn't Google the town to find out more about it...

I thought we were there to roam around and enjoy the town. While that's what we did, come to find out, this gorgeous town has a connection to our beloved Disney World- it's home to the mansion that inspired the exterior of Disney World's Haunted Mansion.

A Bit of History

In 1833, Asa Packer settled in Mauch Chunk ("Bear Mountain" in the Lenape's language/present day Jim Thorpe), located in the Lehigh Valley. Packer was a very successful business man and ultimately gained control of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. He also founded Lehigh University. In 1861, his mansion was completed and sits near the bottom of Packer Hill.

When his son, Harry Packer, got married, Asa built another mansion up the hill for his son. It was completed in 1874. About 20 years ago, the mansion became a bed & breakfast.

The town and its neighbor eventually merged were renamed Jim Thorpe, in honor of the world renowned Olympic athlete who died in 1953. The town was hoping to boost tourism and struck a deal with Thorpe's wife to rename the town.

Finding the Inspiration for Disney World's Haunted Mansion

In the early 1970s, the Imagineers were looking for a concept for the Haunted Mansion that best suited Liberty Square in the upcoming Magic Kingdom in Florida. Imagineers traveled to Jim Thorpe and found what they were looking for in the Harry Packer mansion. I tried to find out what led the Imagineers to Jim Thorpe and/or how they found out about the mansion but I wasn't able to find specifics or dates beyond the early 1970s.

Like I said earlier, Asa Packer's mansion is at the bottom of the hill.

Asa Packer Mansion

Just up the very steep hill (and I do mean steep hill) is the Harry Packer mansion. The exterior, not the interior, was the basis for the attraction.

Harry Packer Mansion

Harry Packer mansion

Mansion exterior

Mansion exterior

Mansion exterior

Disney World's Haunted Mansion

Haunted Mansion

Haunted Mansion

Haunted Mansion

We did not go inside the mansion but we spent a good bit of time walking around the exterior. We compared and contrasted the mansion and could definitely see the resemblance, especially looking at it from the middle. It was a very unexpected surprise to find "Disney" there, so far from "home". HUGE thanks to my friends for taking me there. :)

August 8, 2011

Disney World: What's New, What's Next August 5, 2011

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Things have changed quite a bit since my last visit in early July.

The exterior of the tunnel on the right side of the train station is under scrims.

Tunnel

Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room (formerly Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Management) is still being worked on.

Tiki Room

The new sign for the attraction is out.

New Tiki Room sign

In Frontierland, Pecos Bill's is under scrims.

Pecos Bill's

The Frontierland Shootin' Arcade is also under scrims.

Frontierland Shootin' Arcade

The Fantasyland Skyway station is gone and walls are up.

Skyway station

The rock work around Maurice's cottage is progressing quickly.

Rock work

The rock work is also progressing quickly on the Little Mermaid attraction's building.

Little Mermaid rock work

The top of the building is looking great.

Top

Building

In Fantasyland, Enchanted Grove is behind scrims.

Enchanted Grove

The Tangled meet-and-greet features Rapunzel only now.

Tangled

There's been a lot of progress on Storybook Circus.

Storybook Circus

Storybook Circus

The Firehouse has closed.

Firehouse

We met friends for lunch at Downtown Disney. We had every intention of walking around but the heat and humidity drove us out after lunch. We did see, though, that the Harley Davidson store has moved into the space formerly occupied by Little Miss Matched on the West Side.

Harley

Harley

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


August 7, 2011

Tinker Bell's Magical Nook

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Recently, Tinker Bell and her friends moved to the Adventureland Veranda at Magic Kingdom. Just after you come over the Adventureland bridge from Main Street, it's to the right (next to Aloha Isle).

A sign "marks the spot" and gives the current wait time.

Sign

Some pictures have been hung on the walls.

Pictures

Pictures

Pictures

There's even an enchanted picture.

Before we made the turn to meet Tinker Bell and her friend, a Cast Member asked that we have our leaf books (autograph books), light boxes (cameras) and Pixie Passes (PhotoPasses) ready. He told us when we went through the portal, we would become 5 inches tall.

Portal

The meet-and-greet area is a visual treat- everything is very large because, remember, you're 5 inches tall now.

Flowers

Pearls

Room

When we were there, Vidia was the first fairy we met. She was a hoot!

Vidia

Area

Tinker Bell was next.

Tinker Bell

Tink spent a couple of minutes showing me her lovely lamps and explaining how she sometimes catches fireflies for them so she can work at night.

Lamps

Here's a last look at the room before we headed out.

Area

Room

July 31, 2011

Walt Disney: Marceline to Magic Kingdom Tour

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In March, Disney World began offering a new tour called Marceline to Magic Kingdom. We had a chance to go on this tour recently and we really enjoyed it.

We went on a Friday morning. Check in is in the building to the left of City Hall. We were given our headsets and name badges. Once everyone was ready, we walked up Main Street. As we went, our guide told us how Walt Disney wanted a place he could take his daughters to have fun. One thing lead to another and the idea for Disneyland was born. Walt wanted more land and from that, the concept for Disney World was born.

As we approached the castle, he called our attention to the coat of arms over the archway. It's the Disney family coat of arms.

Disney family coat of arms

We stopped at the gorgeous mosaics inside the castle. I've seen them countless times but I've never noticed the artists' names are included.

IMG_3164.JPG

He also pointed out that Disney Legend Herb Ryman (he created the original sketches for Disneyland as well as the concept drawings for numerous attractions) was depicted in this scene.

Herb Ryman

We crossed in to Fantasyland and rode Snow White's Scary Adventures. After the ride, he asked us to think about how some of the effects were created. Some of the realistic effects are actually created through black lighting. Some of the eyes that watch you on the ride are actually Christmas lights.

Next, we headed to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. We went through the new interactive queue and judging by the laughter, everyone enjoyed it.

Pooh queue

After the ride, he asked us to compare Snow White's Scary Adventures and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The Many Adventures has more white lighting and has more figures and movement.

We made our way to Tomorrowland and to the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover. He told us about the name changes over the years, the different sponsors the attraction has had and the different attractions it has passed through.

After the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, we walked over to Carousel of Progress. We waited so that we could have our own theater. He talked about the sponsorship of this attraction and how things have changed since it was at the 1964 New York World's Fair. Throughout the show, our guide would point out some of the details. I won't share them all but here are a couple of my favorites-

This robin in the first scene of the attraction is the same robin used in Mary Poppins.

Robin

Herb Ryman's name is included on this mural.

Herb Ryman

These were not the only detailed pointed out but they were two of my favorites.

After Carousel of Progress, the tour wrapped up. We turned in our headsets outside of Carousel of Progress. The tour was a little over 2.5 hours.

We really enjoyed the tour. It was a great way to spend a summer morning. I really enjoyed hearing some familiar stories and hearing new ones. I would recommend it to others but it wouldn't be on my "do again" list unless I was with someone who wanted to go.

The cost is $32/person. Discounts may be available for this tour. Call (407) WDW-TOUR to book.

July 10, 2011

Magic Kingdom: What's New, What's Next Early July 2011

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All of the work at Magic Kingdom is coming along nicely!

The work on the exterior of the Confectionery has been completed and the scrims are down.

Confectionery

Patriotic bunting was up on some of the shops in celebration of the Fourth of July.

Patriotic bunting

A lot of progress has been made on the Beast's castle and Maurice's cottage.

Beast's Castle

Some construction work was visible just behind the wall near Dumbo.

Construction equipment

The exterior of the Little Mermaid ride is getting more and more detailed.

Rock work

The Little Mermaid

The Fantasyland Skyway Station has been completely demolished.

Skyway station

The walkway behind the Mad Tea Party has been walled off due to construction.

Construction

The Little Mermaid's building is visible from the path next to the Tomorrowland Speedway.

The Little Mermaid

Storybook Circus is coming along quickly. The Winnie the Pooh and friends meet-and-greet has been moved in front of this wall. It's on the path next to the Tomorrowland Speedway.

Storybook Circus

Storybook Circus

Pooh and friends meet-and-greet

Blackbeard now makes an appearance at the beginning of Pirates of the Caribbean instead of Davy Jones.

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

April 22, 2011

Disney World: What's New, What's Next April 21, 2011

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On April 21, we went to Magic Kingdom and Downtown Disney. A lot of changes had been made in since we were at Disney World the last time.

These banners had been added to Town Square Theater:

Banners

The scrims on the Confectionery had been partially rolled up and it's looking great! Easter displays were in the windows.

Confectionery

Easter display

The back of the castle is still being worked on:

Back of the castle

Through the trees, we were able to see the exterior work of Beast's castle. I was very excited. :)

Beast's castle

My brother and I rode Dumbo and got a look at what's going on in the expansion area.

Expansion

Expansion

More progress has been made on the 'wall' in Storybook Circus:

Storybook Circus

I had heard that Beast's castle was visible from the Astro Orbiter. I had never ridden the Astro Orbiter so I figured now was a good time to do so. It was a gorgeous view from the platform!

Beast's Castle

We went back to the Haunted Mansion and finally got to see the new interactive queue. Click here to see the image gallery of the queue. Disney really did a great job with it.

When you first enter the interactive queue, there is a set of busts of a family. Beginning with Uncle Jacob (middle bust), read the epitaphs to figure out who killed who.

Busts

The bride's engagement ring is in the pavement. It's been thrown to the ground like it was trash .

Ring

Be sure to touch the cat on the Decomposing Composer's Crypt.

Crypt

The Hitchhiking Ghosts' effects were back. The video is a little dark but it should give you the general idea of what goes on. We liked the new effect and heard other guests saying they did too.

We made our way over to Pirates of the Caribbean and some 'On Stranger Tides' pictures can been seen near the ride's exit:

Blackbeard

Jack Sparrow

We noticed there is a new sign out at Tortuga Tavern with Angelica, the new character from 'On Stranger Tides', on it:

Tortuga Tavern

Angelica was greeting guests just over the Adventureland bridge:

Angelica

Angelica

The temporary bridge to Adventureland had been removed:

Bridge removal

Mr. and Mrs. Easter Bunny were greeting guests near City Hall. This area had been under scrims the last time I was there so I was glad to see it was open.

Easter Bunny

Mr. and Mrs. Easter Bunny

We went in Curtain Call Collectibles (in Town Square Theater) to have a look around. The Mary Poppins dress being sewn together was new:

Mary Poppins dress

Mary Poppins dress

The work on the porch for Tony's has been completed:

Tony's

After lunch, we went to Downtown Disney. The renovated Lego Store is open and the displays on the exterior of the store are awesome.

Family

Prince Phillip

Buzz and Woody

Snow White and Dopey

Dwarves

The interior of the Lego Store was more spacious but had less displays than they used to.

Lego Store

Lego Store

Lego Store

The temporary tent for the Lego Store is still up near Once Upon a Toy but it is closed:

Tent

Marketplace Fun Finds is now open. It's not entirely a discount shop- there are some items there that have been discounted/deals but there are some current merchandise items there that are under $10, under $20, etc. It's more of a bargain store. It's all well marked.

Marketplace Fun Finds

Marketplace Fun Finds

LittleMissMatched is now in its new location:

LittleMissMatched

LittleMissMatched

LittleMissMatched

The Pooh and friends photo-op has been moved back to its original spot:

Pooh and friends

Outside Pin Traders, chalk artists were drawing Simba and Nala:

Chalk artists

The Harley Davidson store is still open in its spot on Pleasure Island:

Harley Davidson

Harley Davidson will be moving to LittleMissMatched's old location on the West Side this summer:

Harley Davidson

The walls were down around the exterior of the AMC Theatre's Dine-In area but it doesn't open until May.

Dine-In

Dine-In

The Times Guides have a coupon for 25% off dining at select locations attached to them:

Coupon

The Times Guides also have information on how to receive real-time updates while you're at the parks. I signed up for the text messages at 11 AM this morning and my first update didn't come in until 7:30 PM.

Real-time

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

April 9, 2011

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat Ceremony

by Guest Blogger
"Uncle" Bob Elsie

While one of my granddaughters and I were checking a recent issue of AllEars® and we saw a blurb about something called "Flag Retreat" that veterans could participate in.

I remembered that years ago you published something that the Wilderness Lodge did with a flag raising but you had to be staying at Wilderness Lodge to do it. My granddaughter said "Pop, you should try to do this one because your a veteran!" So we planned to see about it when we got there.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

On Monday, Aug. 30, my granddaughter and I went into City Hall and asked about "Flag Retreat?" The cast member explained that from the first day "Magic Kingdom" opened to the present they performed a flag lowering ceremony called "Flag Retreat." She then asked if I was a veteran, to which I replied, "Yes. a Viet Nam veteran." She then asked if I would like to participate, to which I replied "Yes!' She told me to wait for a cast member who would explain what would go on. A few minutes later the cast member came, took my name, rank and branch of service and told me to meet with another cast member by the flag pole at about 4:45. That person would explain what would go on.

My 3 granddaughters, son, daughter-in-law and I were soooooo excited. We didn't know what we were in for but knowing Disney we knew it had to be good. All day long we kept checking our watches to be sure we didn't miss it.

At 4:40 we arrived at the flag pole and met with the cast member. He also asked for my name, rank and branch of service and introduced me to a member of "The Dapper Dans."

Dapper Dans

He asked if my granddaughter would like to lead the Pledge of Allegiance, she said NO (she was afraid she would make a mistake). He also introduced me to a PhotoPass photographer who was going to take pictures of the whole thing (you get one 8X10 free).

The "Dapper Dan" explained that the "Dapper Dans" would sing a few songs, "The Main Street Philharmonic" would play some tunes, everyone would recite the Pledge of Allegiance, the flag would be lowered and that one of the security detail would show me what to do.

GAWRSH!! As Goofy would say, I just thought they would lower the flag, WRONG!! The security detail came out and one of them explained and showed me what was going to happen. Here's how it goes, as best as I can remember:


Cast members form 2 lines facing each other between the station and flag pole.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

The Main Street Philharmonic is positioned at the railroad station, both upstairs and down.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

The security detail (3 members) and the veteran are at the end of the line closest the flag pole.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

The the Dapper Dans and the veterans family are on the City Hall ramp of the flag circle.

The ceremony opens with the band playing America The Beautiful.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

The band then march through the lines of cast members followed by the veteran and security team, the band circles the flag pole, the veteran and security stop in front of the flag, facing the castle.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

The Dapper Dans lead everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

A single trumpet player sounds retreat.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat


The flag is lowered while the band plays the Star Spangled Banner and everyone sings along.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

Security folds the flag while the Dapper Dans lead everyone in God Bless America.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

The flag is presented to the veteran with the announcer stating the veterans name & home town.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

The band then plays a medley of armed forces songs.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

The band then walks toward City Hall followed by the veteran, holding the flag, security, the Dapper Dans, the veterans family and the cast members. The procession makes a wheel right, go to the beginning of Main Street, wheel left, and proceeded up Main Street. The band was playing the Semper Fidelis March (I think).

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

They make the first right and the band, Dapper Dans and cast members exit through the back gate (many of them thanked me for my service as they passed. How nice was that! ).

The security detail, veteran & veterans family stay for the final part.

The security leader then announces, "Ladies and gentlemen, the Magic Kingdom would like to proudly recognize United States Army specialist Bob Elsie as our honorary Veteran of the Day, this the 30th day of August, 2010.

Let's hear it for him."

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

He then presented me with a certificate stating that info and a Magic Kingdom "Veteran of the Day" pin .

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

You may not be aware of the the climate of the country for returning veterans during the Viet Nam war era. There were no parades, ceremonies or acknowledgments. Most veterans wouldn't even say that the served over there, say what they did, or even wear their uniforms when on leave. Many had very bad experiences when they did say they served. It wasn't a pleasant time for veterans.

Gradually, it became less of a stigma to say you were there. I was very fortunate to have a family that supported me and was proud of my service. I have attended many veteran ceremonies and was proud to be a part of them but, as good as they were, they didn't compare to what happened to me at Walt Disney World on Aug 30,2010. Thanks to you and your team, I finally got to march in what I considered a "Welcome Home" parade!

But not only was I honored but "MY FAMILY" as well! And the icing on the cake was that it happened at Disney World , right on Main Street, truly the place where Magic Happens and Dreams Come True!

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

Later on at least 6 people also came up to me, in the park,and thanked me for my service, one veteran also gave me the greeting veterans give each other, a shake of the hands, hug, and "Welcome Home". I can't begin to tell you how much the day meant to me and my family.


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!

April 2, 2011

Magician Mickey Mouse and Princesses Meet and Greets

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On April 1, the new Magician Mickey Mouse and Princess meet-and-greet areas opened up in the newly renovated Town Square Theater (formerly Exposition Hall). See the press release here.

This sign points guests to the new meet-and-greet:

Sign

Wait times for the Princesses and Mickey are posted outside:

Princess wait time

Mickey wait time

There are separate queues for the Princesses and Mickey:

Queue

The inside sign shows which Princesses are greeting guests in the theater that day:

Princesses

There are separate lines for stand-bys and FastPass holders:

FastPass and standby

Posters like this one line Mickey's queue:

Poster

The queue is very nice and spacious:

Queue

The story of the Mickey meet-and-greet is that you are his guest at a backstage meet-and-greet before his magic show. You go through the theater office to get to the meet-and-greet area:

Theater office

Mickey has his own letter box:

Mickey letter box

I have to be honest and say I wasn't wowed by what I had seen... until I stepped into the actual meet and greet area and noticed the details they had worked into the room. It was a treat to see. I won't show you every little detail because I had so much fun finding them. Fans of 'The Sword in the Stone' and 'Mary Poppins' will spot several references to the movies throughout the area. When I looked through my pictures, I saw several things I didn't notice earlier.

The rehearsal schedule is posted near the door:

Rehearsal

This hat rests on top of the trunk. Be sure to listen for his "nibbling" noises. I only heard them because I was the last person in the group they let in so it got quiet when I was looking at everything.

Hat

There is a poster for Mickey's show:

Mickey's poster

Mickey has been quite the traveler. Here are a couple of the stickers on his trunk:

Club 33 sticker

Castaway Cay sticker

Right before you see Mickey, you see this banner on the wall:

Banner

I was expecting just Mickey so seeing Minnie was a pleasant surprise. I did not hear whether Minnie will always be with him or if it will be an occasional appearance:

Mickey and Minnie

Details of Mickey's costume trunk:

Costume trunk

Costume

Trunk

Hidden Mickey

Leota's Crystal:

Leota's Crystal

Mickey's sorcerer hat:

Sorcerer hat

Mickey's vanity:

Mickey's vanity

The meet-and-greet exits at the new store. The details in the store are just as awesome as the details in the meet-and-greet.

Store

Store

Mickey's house

While I met Mickey and Minnie, my mom had grabbed a FastPass for us to meet the Princesses. The queue was very plain:

Princess queue

Princess Aurora, Belle and Cinderella were greeting guests. Their backdrops were lovely:

Princess Aurora

Belle

Cinderella

When we left the Princess area, we noticed this 'box':

Box

The FastPass distribution it located to the left of Tony's- walk all the way down you'll see it tucked behind the hat shop:

FastPass distribution

The machines have hats on them that let you know which machine is for which character(s):

FastPass machines

I thought the new meet-and-greet area was very well done and creative. I enjoyed looking at the details. It was not very crowded when I was there but I expect it will be as more guests become aware of it.

The Princess area is not their permanent home - they will move to Fantasyland when their areas in the expansion is complete. Snow White is greeting guests outside of Tony's.

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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March 8, 2011

Magic Kingdom: What's New, What's Next 3/5/11

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We visited Magic Kingdom on Saturday, March 5. We had reservations for the Tables in Wonderland event that evening so we took advantage of the time to enjoy the park. The park opened at 8 and it was not an Extra Magic Hour morning. We were very grateful for the extra hour, especially because it was getting very crowded when we left to go back to the resort to rest. The weather was about perfect- it was slightly overcast and very comfortable outside.

We made it to the park around 8:15 AM. Part of City Hall is still under scrims:

City Hall

Exposition Hall is still partially under scrims as well:

Exposition Hall

The Confectionery is still being worked on:

Confectionery

Confectionery

The new princess windows along Main Street/outside the Emporium were awesome:

Princess window

Princess window

Cinderella Castle looked majestic despite the crane:

Cinderella Castle

We were able to walk through the castle to get to Fantasyland. When we came out of the castle, they were moving something into place behind the walls:

Crane

Crane

Snow White's Scary Adventures is still open (it does not close until some time in 2012):

Snow White's Scary Adventures

Dumbo the Flying Elephant had a 10 minute wait so my brother and I decided to get in line. It's been years since we had ridden it so off we went. We had a blast. We were able to see a bit more of the Fantasyland expansion work from the ride:

Fantasyland expansion

We had never ridden the Liberty Belle around Tom Sawyer Island. Since it was about to depart when we were walking by, we hopped on. It was a leisurely ride and we had unique views of Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain. We were able to get a peak at the work going on at the Haunted Mansion queue line from the Liberty Belle:

Haunted Mansion queue line work

Haunted Mansion queue line work

Haunted Mansion queue line work

After we got off the Liberty Belle, we rode Haunted Mansion. The walls are still around the queue line:

Haunted Mansion queue

We all agreed that it they had added some new sounds to the Haunted Mansion and enhanced others. It was nice to hear. At the end of the ride, the Hitchhiking Ghosts' area was covered. They were projecting the ghosts onto a screen (these pictures were taken without flash and my LCD screen on my camera was turned off):

Hitchhiking Ghosts

Hitchhiking Ghosts

After Haunted Mansion, we walked back over to Fantasyland. We noticed this sign at Pinnochio's Village Haus:

Pinnochio's Village Haus

Maurice's cart was open and I thought it was cool how they had ears of corn set up to look like they were being fed into the machine to make popcorn:

Maurice's cart

Lady Tremaine, Anastasia and Drizella were greeting near Castle Couture:

Lady Tremaine, Anastasia and Drizella

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

Cinderella's Royal Table

Disney has put up signs for Storybook Circus where ToonTown used to be:

Storybook Circus

They are still working on the Tomorrowland Speedway:

Tomorrowland Speedway

Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy (and the dancers) were in new costumes for Dream Along with Mickey:

Mickey and Minnie

Goofy and Donald

Work is still ongoing for the Adventureland bridge:

Adventureland bridge

The Enchanted Tiki Room - Under New Management is still closed:

Enchanted Tiki Room - Under New Management

Tortuga Tavern has a new sign:

Tortuga Tavern sign

Tortuga Tavern was serving lunch and it was busy:

Tortuga Tavern

Pirate Goofy was greeting guests on the far right side of the Pirates of the Caribbean queue:

Pirate Goofy

Uptown Jewelers had new Dooney + Bourke bags:

New Dooney + Bourke

We went back to the park around 4 PM. The crane we had seen earlier had been lowered:

Magic Kingdom

Work is still being done on the Pecos Bill's exterior. The restaurant is open, though.

Pecos Bill's

Have a MAGICAL day! :)


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January 27, 2011

A Saturday Trip to the World

by John Bowers
Guest Blogger

I wanted to take a spin on Snow White's Scary Adventures, since it's going to be closing soon because of the renovation in Fantasyland. So on Saturday, January 22, I went out to see how easy that would be to accomplish.

I like to explore different ways of getting around the 'World' when I'm out there, so I took the bus to the Magic Kingdom. It's fun to watch the families who are on the bus -- the kids are always pretty charged up. Plus there's nothing like not having to drive, you can sit back and chillax (as the kids say).

The bus got me to the Magic Kingdom at about 10 a.m. Kind of crowded at the 'bag search' lines, which I guess we'll have to deal with forever. It was kind of chilly, so people had extra coats and bags, and that probably contributed to the slowdown. Some people you see going into a park look like they're prepared to be there for a week. All I had was my camera, so I cruised through the 'guests with no bags' line, and got ahead of about 500 people.

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Once inside the park, it was a little crowded on Main Street, but by the time I got to Cinderella Castle, it wasn't crowded at all. The wait for Snow White was only about 5 minutes. My camera can take video footage, which I did so I could keep it as a memory of the ride (attraction, sorry), but it's so dark in there that it was pretty useless. Black screen, but the sound track came out nice!

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After Snow White, I walked around toward the venerable Grand Prix Raceway, and then headed back to the front of the Castle. By now, it was nearly 11 a.m., and Main Street was a zoo. I bolted.

Back to the bus stop, got on a bus that was headed to the Epcot resorts. I was the only one on the bus, so I got to chat with Charlie, the bus driver. Great guy. Once he found out I was a local, we talked about goings-on around Orlando.

We stopped at the Swan, the Dolphin, the Yacht Club and the Beach Club, picking up people who were headed to the Magic Kingdom. Lots of excited kids. I disembarked at the Boardwalk and drove over to Olivia's Cafe at the Old Key West Resort.

When I told the guard at the gate that I was there to eat at Olivia's, he said, "How do you know about Olivia's?" I said, "Dude, I live here!" He said, "This is the best kept secret in town!"

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Olivia's was nearly empty about this time (noon), and I had a fried shrimp po' boy. It was OK, nothing really special. (I had seen Emeril Lagasse make a po' boy somewhere in New Orleans on TV last week, that's why I wanted one. Not as good as getting one in the Big Easy, trust me.)

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One thing I didn't pay attention to, and I should have, was the gratuity. When the server first brought my check, I pulled out my Tables in Wonderland card, and he went back to take the 20% off. An 18% gratuity was added to the check when he brought it back. I didn't notice that, I should have. I added another 20% tip myself. I'm sure there was not a gratuity added initially, only after the TiW discount. Probably an oversight on their part, but little things like that can leave a bit of a bad taste in your mouth.

Especially when your mouth is a local mouth, and you've driven 30 miles out there to eat lunch and support Disney. And you're also a member of TiW. And a passholder.

But Olivia's is certainly a lovely little place to eat. Jimmy Buffett on the sound system. Quite peaceful, far from the madding crowd, as they say.

That was it for the Snow White adventure. Short and sweet. Except for feeling like they sneaked one by me on the gratuity. Gotta be more vigilant. I think that's the first time I have seen an automatic gratuity for a party of one.

November 12, 2010

Play & Greet with Rapunzel and Flynn Rider

By Guest Blogger Michele Lindsay

It was a magical Monday indeed. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the rope drop crowds were engaged in the Dumbo Dash while my family and I took a turn toward the Enchanted Garden to catch a peek at the new Play and Greet set for Rapunzel and Flynn Rider from the upcoming Disney movie "Tangled". That day, October 25th, was the first day Rapunzel and Flynn were meeting guests in the Magic Kingdom. Previously, they had been meeting guests in Epcot while their set was being completed.

Flynn and Rapunzel Play and Greet

The Garden, formerly the site of Storytime with Belle, has now been transformed into a stone castle-like setting. Accents of purple and sunbursts abound in the set. The guests are transported back to an almost medieval time. A time when damsels in distress waited for their prince to come.

But not for the Disney incarnation of Rapunzel. Her savior is a new take on the male hero, different from the Prince in the classic Grimm Brothers version of the fairy tale. Flynn Rider comes across as a very Robin Hood-esque figure (his costume looks like it came straight out of Sherwood Forrest). He is not a prince, but more of a scoundrel. More Han Solo than Prince Charming.

As for our heroine, Rapunzel presents herself as a lovely addition to the Princess franchise. She is sweet, with a high-pitched voice and a delicate air about her. Rapunzel has let down her golden hair, adorned with flowers and braids. Dressed in a purple and pink, with trim of lace, she looks the part of a princess. I was anticipating that she would be a bit less proper, as the character appears to be more strong-willed and independent in the movie trailers.

Two cast members are there to assist with the children, helping them color pictures of Rapunzel, as they await her arrival. The kids know that she is coming, so there wasn't a true surprise (the doors are clearly in the center of the staging area).

Flynn and Rapunzel Play and Greet

Rapunzel and Flynn join hands with the children (or in our case Flynn holds hands with one mom and a young boy as several of the girls didn't want to hold his hand) and they do a dance around the table. The children were young enough that this entertained them, but it wasn't a very interactive experience. Playing a game of some sort, or singing a song would be more engaging. The coloring and dance seem to target the under five age group.

Flynn and Rapunzel Play and Greet

Flynn and Rapunzel Play and Greet

While waiting to meet the characters, cast members walk thru the line introducing Pascal, Rapunzel's faithful companion during her term in the tower. They play a game with the children of "Pass Pascal", much like Hot Potato. He's passed down the line as quickly as possible. "Pass Pascal" kept the children entertained for a few minutes.

Flynn and Rapunzel Play and Greet

The next attempt to distract the children in line was the cast members asking the kids to make their scariest faces for the PhotoPass photographer. My younger daughter broke out crying. She is typically a pretty ferocious kid, but someone made a scowl that scared her silly for a few moments. The cast members saw this and toned it down so no other kids would have to meet Rapunzel in tears.

A PhotoPass photographer was on hand during the Greet and took photos of the kids coloring, while in line passing Pascal, and then with the characters. The availability of PhotoPass photographers with character greets is something I wish Disney would do more of. It allows for the parents to enjoy watching their children interact with the characters and not worry about being a shutterbug. My girls had a very animated conversation with Rapunzel about their shoes (my little one had Mickey crocs on, and Rapunzel asked if we had met him and what was he like).

Flynn and Rapunzel Play and Greet

The girls focused their attention on Rapunzel and didn't give Flynn very much time. I think that many of the children had no idea who Flynn was, but could easily identify Rapunzel. Even if the children were not familiar with the fairy tale, they certainly recognized her as a princess, making her more approachable.

Flynn and Rapunzel Play and Greet

Flynn and Rapunzel Play and Greet

If you plan on meeting Rapunzel and Flynn, arrive 10-15 minutes early to the staging area. The meets are set on the hour, but we found that the cast members let children in earlier than that. Once the area was at capacity, cast members roped it off.

Overall, we were thrilled to have been among the first people to meet Rapunzel and Flynn. The staging area is lovely, the costumes are great, and the characters are wonderful with the children. I think the "play" aspect of this experience could be improved, especially for older children, but that should improve over time. And hopefully once "Tangled" hits the theaters more children will know who Flynn Rider is and someone will dance with him!

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Check out Michele's first blog - A Special Preview Princess and the Frog - Zeigfeld Theatre

About Michele: Michele Lindsay is a Connecticut Yankee who recently moved to Metro Detroit. A stay-at-home-mom to two active girls, she's never truly "at home." This was Michele's eighth visit to Disney over the last 35 years, and certainly not her last.

November 6, 2010

Holiday Decorations at the Magic Kingdom

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Guest Blogger Ashley Livingston visited the Magic Kingdom today and found it already being transformed into a Winter Wonderland!

Magic Kingdom Holiday Decorations


Magic Kingdom Holiday Decorations


Magic Kingdom Holiday Decorations


Magic Kingdom Holiday Decorations


Magic Kingdom Holiday Decorations


Magic Kingdom Holiday Decorations


Magic Kingdom Holiday Decorations


Magic Kingdom Holiday Decorations


Magic Kingdom Holiday Decorations

Magic Kingdom Holiday Decorations

October 17, 2010

The First Family of the Magic Kingdom

by Guest Blogger Rick Schneider

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Millions of guests pass through the gates of the Magic Kingdom every year, but only 365 families a year get chosen to open the park. Many arrive early enough to enjoy the opening ceremony and watch with envy as that one family gets to be the official "First Family." They get to open the park with the help of Mickey and many of his friends. I have been one of the envious millions since my first trip to the MK more than 35 years ago. After dozens of trips to the MK, my family and I were bestowed the honor of being the "First Family" and opened the MK on September, 16, 2010.

It was an early opening Extra Magic Hour and we arrived by bus at about 7:15 am. I was with my wife and our 8-year-old son. Our 15-year-old son couldn't miss more time from school (or JV football) and chose not to come. While waiting around I had a friendly conversation with a cast member. I mentioned it was my wife's birthday and how it would be great if I could surprise her with being the First Family. The conversation ended and two minutes later two cast members tapped me on the shoulder and asked if we wanted to be the First Family and open up the park.

We obviously said yes and we were escorted to a bench near the tunnel under the Train Station. There we were met by Barbara who took us into the park and onto Main Street. We boarded an antique fire engine and slowly drove down Main Street with our son cranking the old fashioned siren.

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It was a strange feeling to be almost alone on Main Street in the middle of the MK. There were a few maintenance people putting the final touches on the park for its opening. One worker was nice enough to take my camera and take some photos of us as we drove toward the Castle. At the hub we made a right and headed for Mickey's Toontown Fair. On the way we passed the Tomorrowland Speedway where we saw many cast members enjoy a quick ride around the track. Barbara told us the cast members have a ball racing against each other while testing the cars.

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We finally reached Mickey's Country House where we were greeted by the head mouse himself along with Daisy Duck, Snow White, Stitch, Mary Poppins and her co-star Bert. Needless to say, many photos were taken.

Snow White then escorted our son to the train that was awaiting us at the Toontown Station.

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It was several minutes before we left the station. During that time Snow White and our son became great friends. Mickey sat in the row behind us and continually offered high-fives, pats on the shoulder or claps of approval as Snow White and our son spoke of the 7 Dwarfs, favorite rides, even sports. She was incredible as she made him feel more comfortable and at ease.


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Once we pulled into the music filled station we were met by the Mayor who welcomed us and guided us to the front rail, overlooking the anxious crowd below. We joined in the backwards countdown and set off streamers and party favors as we reached zero. We waved to the crowd and were escorted off the platform by Mickey Mouse.


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At the bottom of the ramp we were met by a Disney photographer who took pictures of us with Mickey and handed me a Disney Photopass card. I commented to my wife that I wish we knew someone in the crowd who could have taken our photo. Silly me...This is The Magic Kingdom. A dozen photos of us were on the the photo card and we got to pick one for a free 8x10.

That was our magical morning as First Family of the Magic Kingdom. It took about 30 minutes, felt like 30 seconds but will be remembered forever. So now you know what happens to that lucky family. Maybe it will be you. Only 365 families chosen. You never know...


September 28, 2009

Town Square Exposition Hall - Magic Kingdom

Town Square Exposition Hall

by

Emily Owens Pickle

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One of the greatest characteristics of Disney is an immense sense of vision. For me, it is the cause of the 'Disney waterworks' that Mike Scopa recently wrote about and the reason that walking down Main Street USA never seems to lose its luster; it keeps the magic of Disney fresh and emerging year after year for all loyal mice.

Recently while flipping through a family photo album I happened upon some pictures taken in a Steamboat Willie scene about fifteen years ago with my sisters. I couldn't for the life of me remember where these pictures could have been taken in Disney. They looked very Magic Kingdom-esque but I couldn't quite place them.

Then I had a head-smacking moment while reading All Ears! With the glitz and light of Main Street and the castle pulling you forward, it is sometimes easy to get lost in the big picture and overlook hidden gems. Main Street USA is designed as the opening credits of the Magic Kingdom Park and nothing here is a coincidence. Think about the 'movie posters' that line the tunnel as you enter the park, the design of the cast member outfits, and the smell of fresh popped corn as Main Street finally comes into your view. Doesn't this remind you of the beginning of a highly-anticipated feature presentation? Well of course that is exactly what it is! This vision and construction from Walt and his Imagineers is why we feel a part of the magic at Walt Disney World.

The 'room' I found in the pictures with my family is actually an exhibit within the Town Square Exposition Hall. The Hall is in fact one of the only full-size buildings on Main Street USA as part of the 'forced perspective design'. This optical illusion is the reason a modestly tall Cinderella Castle (189 ft) feels so large-as you move down Main Street, the buildings are actually getting smaller.

The next time our clan stepped into the Magic Kingdom I steered us towards Exposition Hall. Note that the Hall does not exist in the same form at Disneyland-at the Happiest Place on Earth this structure is named the 'Opera House'. We skipped the front entrance of the Hall, opting for the secondary entrance on the far right side, underneath the lattice walkway.

This attraction is sponsored by Kodak and in the gift shop you can purchase many film and camera related products and services. The Walt Disney World website also says 'Guests with digital cameras can download their images and other media information from a digital media card and burn these images onto a CD at this photo location.'" -- nice!

Being sponsored by Kodak, the Hall features display cases full of camera memorabilia and time points throughout American history.

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As you move further into the Hall, you will find a small movie theater surrounded by photo opportunities. The theater plays continuous Disney classics that can be enjoyed in classic comfy-style.

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The photo ops include Steamboat Willie, Toy Story, 101 Dalmatians, and Snow White scenes. These are fun for the reluctant and not so reluctant models.

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A long and detailed timeline along the back wall of the theater presents Disney-history. This is a leftover from the time when the Exposition Hall was a showcase for upcoming Disney world parks and attractions.

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From my limited research, the Hall has been host to many exhibits over the years pre-Kodak sponsorship. Once called the Gulf Hospitality House, the Exposition Hall has been a mini-Disney museum, venue for upcoming Disney parks and expansions, and more (see Lou Mongello's All Ears article for a great overview of the Hall's history).

Even if you decide not to venture into the theater, this small sitting area towards the back of the hall provides a cool and quiet moment for over-exerted mouseketeers.

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So, if it is at all possible, tear your eyes away from the castle sometime and hang a right towards the Town Square Exposition Hall. And if you can, spend a few extra moments looking through the Disney timeline so that we never forget all of the laughter, memories, and magic started with a dream and mouse.

February 16, 2009

Magic Kingdom Updates - DizneyMike's World

Magic Kingdom Construction Update

This week I went to the Magic Kingdom to enjoy a beautiful, sunny and warm Florida February day. (Sorry to those of you not in so beautiful, sunny and warm climates; I'm only being honest.) Anyway, while there I took some pictures of construction that's underway. Most of it is in Tomorrowland.

Between Space Mountain and The Carousel of Progress they are building what will become the home of a Stitch Stage Show. As you'll see from the pictures the construction is moving along quite nicely. By the way, many of these pictures were taken while riding the Tomorrowland Transit Authority attraction.

Stitch Stage Show Construction Magic Kingdom

Stitch Stage Show Construction Magic Kingdom

Stitch Stage Show Construction Magic Kingdom

Stitch Stage Show Construction Magic Kingdom

Stitch Stage Show Construction Magic Kingdom

Stitch Stage Show Construction Magic Kingdom

Stitch Stage Show Construction Magic Kingdom

The Galaxy Palace Theater is undergoing a major renovation. Here are a few pictures of that construction.

Galaxy Palace Theater Construction Magic Kingdom

Galaxy Palace Theater Construction Magic Kingdom

Also, next to the Merchant of Venus shop there is more construction. I'm not sure what it is but I'm working on getting more information.

Magic Kingdom

The rehabbing of The Hall of Presidents continues.

Hall of Presidents Magic Kingdom

Hall of Presidents Magic Kingdom

Finally, as with each trip to the Magic Kingdom I check on my brick. It's located right in front of the left side entrance to the Magic Kingdom. I'm one of the fortunate folks to have their brick so close to the Magic Kingdom entrance. As you can see from the picture my brick is pretty worn.

Magic Kingdom

Well, that's all for now. As my good friend says "see ya real soon" -- DizneyMike

Mike Bachand (aka DizneyMike) is a long time Disney Enthusiasts. Over the years Mike and family made numerous trips down to WDW from their home in Massachusetts. Now Mike and his wife live year round in the Orlando area. He is a Florida Annual Passholder who visits WDW on an average of once a week. Besides his love for WDW, Mike has a large collection of Disney books, figurines and ornaments and is a former Disney Cast Member working as a Concierge at the Contemporary Resort.

October 28, 2008

Pixie Hollow Opens in the Magic Kingdom

Guest Blogger Amy Bedore visits the new Pixie Hollow in the Magic Kingdom's Toontown Fair. She files this report and shares her photos.

I spent the afternoon (10/27/08) at the Magic Kingdom to see the new Pixie Hollow and Tinker Bell Meet and Greet.

I got to the park about 11am and took the Train from Main St to Toontown Fair . The Pixies are meeting in the Country Fair tent and have taken over the room where Goofy, Pluto and Donald used to meet guests.

Magic Kingdom's Pixie Hollow and Tinker Bell Meet and Greet

Magic Kingdom's Pixie Hollow and Tinker Bell Meet and Greet


The area is now half princess and half fairy. The princess line was over 60 minutes long at noon. The Fairies had a 90 minute wait time showing but it took about double that to get into the room with Tinker Bell and her Fairy Friends.

Magic Kingdom's Pixie Hallow and Tinker Bell Meet and Greet

Once through the door you are led into a hallway where "pixie dust" and "fairies" are born. Everyone "shrinks" to be the same size as Tinker Bell (you are given a photopass card on a stretch cord similar to the food and wine gift card or Waterpark Photopass).

Magic Kingdom's Pixie Hollow and Tinker Bell Meet and Greet

You wait in the hallway until you are led into Pixie Hollow, three groups are allowed in at a time.

Magic Kingdom's Pixie Hollow and Tinker Bell Meet and Greet

Magic Kingdom's Pixie Hollow and Tinker Bell Meet and Greet

Magic Kingdom's Pixie Hollow and Tinker Bell Meet and Greet


Each fairy takes you to their station. They are true to character and very nice. They take photo's and sign autographs for everyone.

Rosetta


Magic Kingdom's Pixie Hollow and Tinker Bell Meet and Greet


Iridessa

Magic Kingdom's Pixie Hollow and Tinker Bell Meet and Greet

Tinker Bell

Magic Kingdom's Pixie Hollow and Tinker Bell Meet and Greet


At that point you are shown out to the hall to "follow the magic" out to the park.

Magic Kingdom's Pixie Hollow and Tinker Bell Meet and Greet


It was a great experience but the wait times will be long.

Magic Kingdom's Pixie Hollow and Tinker Bell Meet and Greet

Those who may have mobility issues may find it to be difficult to wait that long. I use a cane or a scooter and it was too much for me but I didn't want to leave since I had already waited so long. 3 hours was way too long and for me I wouldn't have gone out of my way for this but since it is new I just had to see what it was like.

October 22, 2008

The Sun Sets on Main Street USA Magic Kingdom

Amy Bedore just sent this beautiful photo of Main Street USA.

Main Street USA


August 29, 2008

Michael Phelps Honored at the Magic Kingdom

Olympian Michael Phelps had a parade in his honor at the Magic Kingdom today. Thanks to Tim Smith for these photos.

Olympian Michael Phelps

Olympian Michael Phelps


Olympian Michael Phelps

Olympian Michael Phelps

Olympian Michael Phelps

Olympian Michael Phelps


Also see LindaMac's Blog on the Parade.

April 26, 2008

Walt Disney World as a Teen!!! Grad Night - Part 7

Wow Grad Night was a blast!

Caitlin at Grad Night


I don't recommend going on Space Mountain when you get there because everyone wants to go on it and it ends up being really crowded!

Big Thunder Mountain was the shortest wait I had all night so I recommend going on that plus the view of the park at night is beautiful!

Be sure to go and dance a little bit the music is great and it gets you pumped for graduation!

The Haunted Mansion had a long wait but it's worth it to see everything at night.

I ended up near the front of the concert stage and the fireworks show was amazing! Not as good as the ones at the Pirate and Princess party but close! These were set to the biggest songs of this year and everyone was singing along it was really cool.

I watched The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus; they were ok but had really good stage presence that got everyone else in the crowd pumped!

I loved seeing all of the Disney characters in their caps and gowns and my picture with Grad Mickey is going to be the picture on my graduation party invites!

Caitlin and Minnie


I totally recommend Grad Night so if you are a high school senior or going to be one talk your class into going!

Caitlin and Mickey


Now I need some sleep ttyl!

Read my Entire Trip Blog

April 19, 2008

Walt Disney World as a Teen!!! Part 3

Ok so the Pirate and Princess party was amazing!

The highlight of my night had to be meeting Captain Jack Sparrow though! Wow just looking at him is worth the price of admission! I seriously almost fainted!

Caitlin and Jack Sparrow


The parade was spectacular! The pirates float was probably my favorite because it was full of excitement and got your blood pumping. The cannons on the boat actually worked too! Of course it didn't explode with a cannonball but the light and smoke coming out of it was cool!

The fireworks are probably the best set of fireworks I have ever seen at the Magic Kingdom, which is actually saying a lot since Wishes is so amazing. I would explain more but it's something you have to see for yourself and my words wouldn't do the show justice.

Caitlin Tip: You should be in front of the castle if you want to have the best seat in the house for the fireworks.

For teens I would recommend skipping the treasure hunt, all you get are some bead necklaces and since there are so many rides to go on and characters to see you won't regret missing it.

It was also cool walking around with my Happy Birthday pin on. I was told happy birthday countless time and the River Roulette band sang me happy birthday!

I definitely recommend the Pirate and Princess party to anyone who has a chance to go!

April 18, 2008

Walt Disney World as a Teen!!! Part 2

Nothing says "Disney" like the Magic Kingdom!

Today was so much fun! We got there early to see the rope drop and then went straight to Fantasyland, where we basically walked onto to every ride! We also got to see Ariel in her grotto which is something I have never been able to do because it's usually so busy.

The Haunted Mansions updates are so cool! You have to be a huge fan of the ride to know that it has been changed because only little bits and pieces have been added. Let's just say the woman of the house is not very friendly!

The only ride at Magic Kingdom I didn't really enjoy was the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. We ended up getting stuck on it at three different points and on the third one the ride got officially closed! I mean the free fast passes for any ride was an added bonus but getting stuck made me very claustrophobic!

Caitlin Timon and Rafiki


I really enjoyed the train ride which is something I don't remember doing. It's cool just sitting back and relaxing and seeing the Magic Kingdom from a different point of view.

The longest line today was Splash Mountain and we had fast passes. I love that ride and usually when it's as warm as it is today you can expect long lines.

I loved Casey's Corner though. The food was soooo good! I loved their French fries!

I can't wait until the Pirate and Princess Party tonight! Until then I will be lounging by the pool! Ttyl!

April 17, 2008

Walt Disney World as a Teen!!! Part 1

Hello from very warm (for us Michigan folk) Florida!

I"m Caitlin Burns blogging live from Walt Disney World!

In case you missed yesterday's post, here's my intro!

I really don't think that there is a better sound than that of your pilot saying," We are touching down in Orlando Florida!" It's then that you realize, wow I am awake and I am actually going to Disney World!

My parents and I rode the Disney Magical Express to Port Orleans Riverside. I highly recommend taking the Magical Express no matter how old you are because they show a video of Disney World on the way to your hotel and it gets you really pumped for how much fun you are going to be having, plus driving through the Walt Disney World welcome sign is very cool!

When we got to our hotel, check in was easy and our room was ready even though we showed up earlier than we were scheduled. Our room is awesome! It's in Oak Manor and having never stayed in the mansions at Port Orleans it's very cool! We even have a fridge and outside of the mansions you have to ask for one. We are also right near one of the relaxing pools. I am looking forward to getting some sun out there!

Oak Manor at Port Orleans Riverside

After we got settled in we left to have lunch at the Crystal Palace. My parents went to the restaurant to check in while I went to Philharmagic to get Fast Passes. The last time we went I bought a My Pal Mickey, I recommend it because all of his corny jokes and singing will have you rolling with laughter, and he has some very interesting facts about the park so listening to his take on Fantasyland was fun.

Caitlin


I always love character dining! You get to sit down enjoy your food and let the characters come to you! Plus you get to watch all the little kids interacting with the characters. I am an only child so it was nice watching the younger kids meet the characters

My parents had on their happy anniversary buttons and the Crystal Palace cast members noticed it right away. They had us wait a few minutes while they made a heart made out of confetti on the table. Later they also got a certificate signed by Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet and Tigger! I didn't really enjoy the food at the Crystal Palace this time around though, unless you like more exotic foods (the broccoli had lime sauce on it!) then I wouldn't recommend it but it's nice to meet the characters.

On our way to Philharmagic we ran into Cinderella's ugly stepsisters! They were so much fun! I love getting my pictures taken with the characters and I think villains are more fun for teens.

They started singing "Do the Bustle" which would go right over little kids heads but for us older people it's funny. The stepsisters improvise a lot (they started screaming when my family walked up because Mickey was hooked on my purse and they don't like mice), and as I said, the villains are more fun.

Then we went over to Philharmagic which is one of my absolute favorite attractions! It's funny, has your favorite Disney songs in it and is 3D! I don't think you could do any better than that lol.

When we walked out of Philharmagic the parade was just starting.

Caitlin tip: Get in line right behind the taped walkway and stand there until the parade starts, once it starts and the walkway is closed you can be right on the curb!

I always love the parade and no matter how many times you see it, it's still amazing!

I got a couple more pictures with characters and then we left to get our rental car. I recommend getting a rental car because I am not a fan of having to wait for buses if you leave one of the parks late at night. That and a rental car gives you a little more freedom if you feel like going out to explore.

My family and I decided to go to Downtown Disney's Market Place. I love shopping so this is one of the places I have to go to whenever we visit! Downtown Disney is really made for older people because they have a movie theater, Disney Quest and of course shopping. This is somewhere your family can split up for a while and do their own thing then meet back up later.

I tried a caramel apple at Goofy's Candy Co. "WOW" is the best word to describe how good it tasted lol.

I can't wait for tomorrow! Ttyl!

Read my Entire Trip Blog!

February 16, 2008

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

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

Part 1 - Steppin Off Soarin'

Part 2 - Who Will Join Me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

kim4.jpg

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

Soon it was time to leave.

To be continued....

February 14, 2008

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

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


Part 1 - Stepping off of Soarin


This is Part 2 - Who Shall Join Me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHERE MY DREAM CAME TRUE

The Year of a Million Dreams

Walt Disney World

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued....

February 12, 2008

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

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

kim4.jpg


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soarin'

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

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

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

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

Kim Howe and the Dream Team


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

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

Ok, back to the day of dreams!

I had four more people to invite!!

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

To Be Continued....

September 7, 2007

New ECVs at Magic Kingdom

Guest blogger Trooper Bill writes:

I stopped by the Magic Kingdom in hopes that the Haunted Mansion might be opening a bit early, no such luck. The construction walls are still up, and there was a large amount of work going on on the exterior of the building. It doesn't like like it will be open much earlier than announced at this point.

I did notice that the Magic Kingdom has a whole new fleet of brand new ECV's. The prices are the same.

ADDED: 9/7/07pm
Jerry Garfinkel writes: We were at the Magic Kindgom on Monday, September 4th. I rented one of the new EVC's. In comparison to the old one which I rented two weeks earlier, the new models are really great. They move faster. I hope that the Animal Kingdom gets their new models soon. You are driving on very old tires and the tread has reallllly worn down.

New ECVs at Magic Kingdom


New ECVs at Magic Kingdom

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About Magic Kingdom

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

Epcot is the previous category.

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