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November 12, 2012

Cast Member Service Anniversary Event

Jack Spence Masthead


Today's blog is going to be a little different. Instead of highlighting some attraction, shop, or restaurant, I'm going to take a look at a "backstage" cast member event. Back in July, I wrote an article about getting a job at Walt Disney World and what to expect. In that article I described both the good and bad aspects of working at WDW and some of the perks received. This article will highlight one of the perks.

Once a year (usually in November), Disney honors all of their WDW cast members who have achieved 10, 15, 20, 25, etc. years of service with the company. It's their way of thanking their employees for the outstanding job they have done over the years. This last February, my friend Donald reached 20 years of service and invited me to be his guest at this year's event to be held on November 8th. After experiencing this gala night, I thought all of you might enjoy reliving it through my eyes. So here goes.

Several months before the event, all honorees received an invitation in the mail. Inside the trifold card were instructions, dress codes, driving directions, and more.


Cast Member Invitation

Cast Member Invitation


This year's event was held at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The park was closed that day to regular guests at 4pm. This would give the Special Events team two and half hours to transform the park from its normal appearance into a grand banquet and entertainment venue.

This year, those celebrating 20 years or more were to park at the Studio. Those celebrating 10 and 15 years were to park at Epcot where they would be bussed to the event. To make sure no one had misunderstood where to park, Disney placed electronic signboards on all the major roadways leading to the Studio with instructions. As Donald was celebrating 20 years of service, we parked at the Studio.

As guests approached the ticket booths, huge balloons welcomed everyone to the event. Large tables contained special nametags and illuminated lanyards for the honorees. After we picked up Donald's we proceeded to the turnstiles and waited for 6:30 to arrive.


Balloon

Table

Name Tag

Lanyard

Lanyard

Lanyard


Once the gates opened, everyone proceeded into the park. In the forecourt, searchlights were scanning the sky in true Hollywood fashion. A red carpet lined the entire length of Hollywood Boulevard. Cast members lined both sides of the street, applauding, cheering, and congratulating the honorees as they took the "walk of fame."


Walk of Fame


Other cast members were on hand passing out glasses of champagne. And if you couldn't find a cast member, there was a table full just waiting for the thirsty party-goers.


Champagne

Champagne


Almost every walkway and thoroughfare in the park had been lined with tables and chairs for guests to enjoy food and drink. It was truly magical to sit and relax at a table beneath the Osborne Christmas lights and not worry about fighting the throngs of guests that normally occupy this space. Here are pictures of Animation Courtyard, Sorcerer's Hat area, Pixar Place, Streets of America, and Sunset Boulevard.


Animation Courtyard

Sorcerer's Hat area

Pixar Place

Streets of America

Sunset Boulevard


Food and drink tables were everywhere. And lines were practically nonexistent as Disney had set up so many opportunities for indulging. Let me give you a rundown of the menu.

Shrimp & Dip with Cocktail Sauce and Key Lime Dip (These were the largest shrimp I have ever seen in my life - they were huge.)

Raw Vegetables with Avocado Dip

Roasted Ruskin Tomato Soup

Artisan Cheeses

Fisherman's Pie with Maine Lobster, Crab, and Calamari

Roasted Sustainable Mahi

Sea Salt Grilled Flatbread

Asian BBQ Chicken Breast

Chimichurri Roasted Beef Tenderloin

Seared Lamb Chops

Sushi

Lobster on a Stick (20 year service honorees and above)

Various pastas and cooked vegetables as side dishes

Dessert tables


Table of Food

Table of Food

Table of Food

Table of Food

Table of Food

Table of Food

Plate of Food


There was an abundance of food, even in the late hours of the event. Disney wasn't going to run out so you didn't need to stuff yourself at the beginning of the night. You could pace yourself. In addition, the food was delicious and top rate. As you can tell by the menu, they weren't serving chicken nuggets and mac-&-cheese. This was decent fare.

Beverages were also available throughout the park. A nice selection of beer and wine were served along with a special blue martini served in an illuminated glass. Soft drinks were also on hand.


Beverage Table

Illuminated Glasses

Martini Glass


A number of bands could be found around the park. Everything from Big Band to Rock 'N' Roll was on hand to entertain the honorees.


Bands

Bands

Bands


Photographers were everywhere as were characters. And downloading pictures was free once back home.


Characters

Characters


All of the marquees along Sunset Boulevard had been modified to recognize the honorees.


Marquee

Marquee


Disney also opened Star Tours, Tower of Terror, Rock 'N' Roller Coaster, and Toy Story Mania. We could literally walk onto all of these attractions. To give you an example, when Donald and I rode Tower of Terror, there were only four other people in the elevator with us.

At 9:30, Disney presented a special fireworks display. The show's narration was specifically recorded for the honorees and thanked them for their contributions and efforts. The display was first class. Disney did not skimp on this presentation.


Fireworks


The event ended at 11:30. From my point of view, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and felt Disney had done an outstanding job of recognizing their cast members.

Disney spent big bucks on this event - as they do every year to honor their cast members. In my opinion, it is money well spent. The cast members do an outstanding job, often under less than ideal conditions. It's nice to see Disney honor their valued, long-term employees in this way. I was grateful to be allowed to see this event first hand and thank my friend Donald for inviting me as his guest.



November 10, 2012

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party – 2012

Jack Masthead


This will be the fourth year I have covered Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP). However, I skipped last year because I needed a break from all the yuletide festivities. LOL. If you've read my previous blogs on the subject, you'll notice that the event doesn't change much from year to year. But that doesn't stop MVMCP from being a favorite of many people. This seasonal event is a "must do" for many families. They wouldn't dream of missing it.

MVMCP is held at the Magic Kingdom on selected nights between November and December. During these evenings, the park offers special theming and shows intended to entertain the entire family. But before I start with a detailed description of MVMCP, let's take care of some logistics and answer the inevitable questions.

MVMCP is a "hard ticketed" event. This means you must purchase a separate admission ticket to attend. Your super-duper, all inclusive, park-hopper, Magic Your Way Ticket is NOT good for MVMCP. You MUST buy a separate admission ticket. Tickets can be purchased online, at any guest relations window, or at the TTC ticket booths.

Here are this year's dates and prices:



Friday, November 9, 2012
Monday, November 12, 2012
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Sunday, November 25, 2012
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Sunday, December 2, 2012
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Sunday, December 9, 2012
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Thursday, December 13, 2012
Sunday, December 16, 2012
Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Advance Purchase age 10 and up: $58.95 + tax
Advance Purchase age 3 to 9: $53.95 + tax
Purchased on Event Day 10 and up: $64.95 + tax
Purchased on Event Day 3 to 9: $59.95 + tax



Friday, November 16, 2012
Friday, November 30, 2012
Friday, December 7, 2012
Friday, December 14, 2012
Thursday, December 20, 2012

Advance Purchase age 10 and up: $64.95 + tax
Advance Purchase age 3 to 9: $59.95 + tax
Purchased on Event Day 10 and up: $64.95 + tax
Purchased on Event Day 3 to 9: $59.95 + tax



Friday, December 21, 2012

Advance Purchase age 10 and up: $67.95 + tax
Advance Purchase age 3 to 9: $62.95 + tax
Purchased on Event Day 10 and up: $67.95 + tax
Purchased on Event Day 3 to 9: $62.95 + tax



Disney limits attendance at these parties so in theory, the Magic Kingdom should be less crowded than usual. However, I have heard from readers who claim that sell-out nights are busy and many attractions have significant lines. I experienced this myself on opening night as it was a sold-out party. To give you an example, people were lining up for the parade on Main Street two hours before the event. Note, the closer you get to Christmas, the busier the party will be. The above prices should give you a clue. The more expensive the ticket, the busier the night. The parties are identical every night so it really doesn't matter what day you attend. You might want to keep this in mind when scheduling.

This next piece of information is very important.

MVMCP and all of the special events, shows, and parades run from 7pm till midnight. However, you may enter the Magic Kingdom at 4pm with your MVMCP ticket. If you call Disney and try to verify this, they will be evasive. All they will tell you is the "official" hours are 7pm till midnight. But trust me; you can enter as early as 4pm. I've entered at 4pm every year and I did it again this year on opening night.

Disney allows early entrance for a reason. Since the party is only five hours in length, they know that if they didn't stagger the opening, they would be inundated with everyone arriving at the same time. They could not handle this onslaught of people in an efficient manner. By allowing guest admission starting at 4pm, it balances out the arriving crowd.

When you pass through the turnstiles, you will be given a wristband. This will distinguish you from the "daytime" guests. The Magic Kingdom will cease its normal operating hours at 7pm. At that time, the cast members will restrict access to the various lands. Only those with wristbands will be allowed on rides, in shops, and in restaurants. Those without wristbands will be asked to leave the park. Note, the wristbands change color from party to party to discourage gate crashers.


Wrist Band

Wrist Band


In past years, I have received a number of letters from readers complaining that Disney does not remove all of the "day" guests from the park -- and I'm at a loss on how to respond to your comments. All I can tell you is that Disney does the best they can. As far as I'm concerned, the cast members get a great big "A" in my grade book. At this year's event, I saw several cast members checking for wristbands on those waiting for the parade and shows. Guests without were asked to leave.

Is it fair that the couple waiting next to you for the Mickey's Once Upon A Christmastime Parade didn't pay to see it? Of course not. But you have a choice. You can either let these cheaters irritate you and allow them to ruin your night, or you can forget about it and have a good time. However, if you're not able to release on this, then complain at City Hall. I cannot help you with this situation. Please note, if you send me a comment that contains references to this situation, I will either delete the reference or not publish your comment at all.

Some people want to spend the entire day at the Magic Kingdom, including MVMCP in the evening - and that's fantastic. Of course, you will need two tickets to do this - your general admission ticket and your MVMCP ticket. Sometime after 4pm, you will need to get a wristband. To do this, you can either return to the main entrance or visit the FastPass area at Stitch's Great Escape in Tomorrowland. The cast members here will process your party ticket and give you a wristband.


Wrist Band

Wrist Band

Wrist Band


If you find you're in the park on a party night and don't have a MVMCP ticket, but want to honestly partake in the events, you can purchase a ticket at City Hall if the party is not sold out.


City Hall


Most, but not all of the rides and restaurants will be up and running during MVMCP. Be sure to pick up a guide map when you arrive. It will contain all sorts of needed information. Here is a list of what will be available:

Adventureland

Swiss Family Treehouse
Pirates of the Caribbean
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin

Frontierland

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Splash Mountain

Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Café
Westward Ho
Frontierland Turkey Leg Cart
Frontierland Churro Wagon

Liberty Square

Haunted Mansion

Sleepy Hollow

Tomorrowland

Astro Orbiter
Buzz Lightyear's Ranger Spin
Monster's Inc. Laugh Floor
Space Mountain
Stitch's Great Escape
Tomorrowland Speedway
Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover

Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café
The Lunching Pad

Fantasyland

"it's a small world"
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
Mad Tea Party
Mickey's PhilharMagic
Peter Pan's Flight
Prince Charming Royal Carousel
The Barnstormer
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Storybook Treats Ice Cream
Pinocchio Village Haus (open until 8pm)

New Fantasyland

It is Disney's intention to have portions of the New Fantasyland open to guests during MVMCP. HOWEVER, this area is still in "Dress Rehearsal" mode and there are no guarantees it will be open on the night you visit. In addition, the "Be Our Guest" restaurant MAY be open for dinner. Online reservations are NOT available. Guest wishing to eat here must check in at the counter located in front of the restaurant to see if tables are available.


Dress Rehersal Sign

Be Our Guest Podium


Okay. Now that we have the logistics out of the way, let's have some fun.

The merriment begins at the TTC where signs welcome us to the event (or not).


TTC Signs

TTC Signs

TTC Signs


Upon arriving at the Magic Kingdom, more signs and poinsettia trees greet us as we approach Bag Check.


Poinsettia Trees


Disney has come up with a special cast member costume just for this party. Here we have two of Santa's helpers sporting the latest in Christmas fashion.


Cast Member Holiday Costume


Main Street is where you find the bulk of the holiday decorations. Its Victorian architecture lends itself perfectly to this time of year. And don't forget to check out the windows. Many of them have been made over for the holidays. You might even discover snow falling from the sky as you walk this famous thoroughfare.


Holiday Decorations

Holiday Decorations

Holiday Decorations

Holiday Decorations

Holiday Decorations

Holiday Decorations

Holiday Decorations

Holiday Decorations

Holiday Decorations


Note, the Christmas tree is not placed in Town Square until after the Christmas Parade has been filmed sometime in early December.

Although Christmas merchandise is available at WDW year round, you'll find even more holiday decorations than normal in many of the shops.


Christmas Merchandise

Christmas Merchandise

Christmas Merchandise

Christmas Merchandise


On The Hub you'll discover a number of poinsettias trees and in Adventureland, lights add a snowflake design to the pavement.


Poinsettias Trees

Sidewalk Snowflakes


At 6:15 each night, the Castle Lighting Ceremony takes place. On the castle stage, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy argue how to best decorate this imposing structure. When an impasse seems certain, Cinderella's Fairy Godmother appears and leaves the decision up to Cinderella who wishes it to be covered in ice. The Fairy Godmother then waves her magic wand and the castle comes to life in thousands of sparkling lights.

Since this show takes place before MVMCP officially begins, it is available for all guests to enjoy.


Castle Lighting Ceremony

Castle Lighting Ceremony

Castle Lighting Ceremony


At 7pm, a park-wide announcement is made informing everyone that the party has begun. At this time, the regular background music is discontinued and Christmas music is played throughout the park. Of course, it's all themed accordingly. The holiday tunes in Frontierland have a western tone while the music in Adventureland is tropical in nature.

MVMCP features two Character Dance Parties. The first takes place at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café in Tomorrowland and is called "Club Tinsel." At precisely 7pm, Sonny Eclipse ascends to the heavens and an energized DJ and a sparkling stage appear from the depths below. The DJ is quite animated and leads Goofy, Pluto, kids, and their parents in an easy to follow line-dance.


Club Tinsel

Club Tinsel

Club Tinsel

Club Tinsel


The other Character Dance Party takes place at the Diamond Horseshoe in Liberty Square. At "Woody's Hootin' Holiday Open House," Woody, Jessie, and Bullseye kick up their heels as a western DJ keeps things moving.


Woody's Hootin' Holiday Open House

Woody's Hootin' Holiday Open House

Woody's Hootin' Holiday Open House

Woody's Hootin' Holiday Open House

Woody's Hootin' Holiday Open House


Throughout the park, a number of character meet-&-greet areas can be found.


Character Meet-&-Greet

Character Meet-&-Greet

Character Meet-&-Greet


Of course, the most popular meet-&-greet spot is located next to City Hall. At Candy Cane Garden you can meet ol' Saint Nick and let him know exactly what you want for Christmas.


Candy Cane Garden

Santa Clause


Throughout the park, cookies and cocoa are handed out by Santa's helpers. These locations are marked by large, lit balloons. This is an all-you-can-eat proposition and there is no additional charge. Note, the hours vary from spot to spot. This information is available on your guide map, but I'll repeat it here.

The Crystal Palace: 9pm - 11pm
Sunshine Tree Terrace - 7pm - midnight
Columbia Harbour House: 7pm - midnight
Pinocchio Village Haus: 7pm - 10:30pm
Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café: 8pm - midnight
Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant: 7pm - 12:30am


Cookies & Cocoa

Cookies & Cocoa

Cookies & Cocoa


MVMCP features two stage shows. "Celebrate the Season" takes place on the Castle Stage and features Mickey and the gang along with a few high-steppin' dancers performing to some of your favorite Christmas tunes. This show is presented at 7:45pm, 10:05pm, and 11:20pm. Arrive early as this is a popular production.


Celebrate the Season

Celebrate the Season

Celebrate the Season

Celebrate the Season

Celebrate the Season

Celebrate the Season


Over on the Tomorrowland Stage, "A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show" is presented at 7:45pm, 8:45pm, 9:55pm, 10:50pm, and 11:45pm. This cosmic encounter stars Buzz Lightyear, Mike Wazowski, and Stitch. Once again, an energetic group of singers and dancers help out with the festivities.


A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show

A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show

A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show

A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show

A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show

A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show


The highlight for most folks attending MVMCP is "Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade" and "Holiday Wishes - Celebrate the Spirit of the Season" fireworks display. The parade is presented twice nightly at 8:15pm and 10:30pm and is 20 minutes in length. I can't stress enough, attend the second showing. During the first parade, the attraction lines are significantly shorter. In addition, you can usually snag a good spot to view the parade in Liberty Square or Frontierland just minutes before the second parade begins.


Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade

Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade

Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade

Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade


The fireworks show is presented at 9:30pm. Holiday music and pyrotechnics are synchronized into a dazzling holiday treat that always coaxes a few ooos and aaaws from the audience. This show is best viewed from The Hub or on Main Street.


Holiday Wishes - Celebrate the Spirit of the Season

Holiday Wishes - Celebrate the Spirit of the Season


I have filmed the parade and the fireworks display for you and they can be viewed below.

Parade



Fireworks



To view this year's guide map, click here.

That's it for my overview of Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. This is a holiday tradition for many and party nights often sell out. If attending is something you're thinking about, plan accordingly.

Check out the AllEars Holidays Around the World pages for all that is happening this holiday season!


September 15, 2010

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party 2010

Hi all,

Before I discuss Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, I need to let you know of a change in the way you will be posting comments. Because we have been getting a lot of junk email, we have had to implement a new procedure. After sharing your thoughts, there is one more box that needs to be completed before you press "Post." At the moment, you need to write the word "blog" (without quotes) in this field (this word could change periodically). This will let the computer know that a real person is writing us and not some automated program that generates spam. If you don't complete this field correctly, your comment will end up in a "junk" folder.

Thanks for your help and understanding.

Jack



This is my third year in a row to blog about Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP). I always attend on the first night (this year, September 14) so I can let you know what's new and what's changed. But the reality of the situation is this; MNSSHP does not vary too much from year to year. This makes it difficult for me to present you with new, earth-shattering information. It's always my objective to make my blogs as entertaining as possible - and hopefully you will find this article enjoyable. But if you're a regular reader of mine, you might notice that much of what I present here is very similar to my previous year's posts. So if you've been to this event before and are familiar with my work, think of this blog as a walk down memory lane. However, if you've never been to MNSSHP, then this blog will be chock-full of useful information.

For many years, Universal Studios featured Halloween Horror Nights. This was a separate, ticketed event and the park was transformed each evening from its regular theming into a frightening ghost town. It was marketed toward teenagers and young adults and the idea was to truly scare their guests with monsters, vampires, werewolves, and other terrifying surprises.


Universal Advertisement


In response, Disney started their own Halloween party. But since they cater to a more diverse age group, Disney realized that their gathering would need to be more tame than Universal's. Thus was born, Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. All you have to do is look at Universal's advertisement (above) and compare it to Disney's (below) to realize these two very popular events are marketed toward different audiences.


Disney Advertisement


On given nights during the months of September and October, extra theming is added to the Magic Kingdom and it is transformed into a playful Halloween experience, suitable for ALL ages. This is a separate, ticketed event and admission can be purchased at any of the Guest Relations windows, theme park ticket booths, or online.


Mickey as a Ghost


Here are the dates for this year's event:

September 14, 18, 21, 23, 25, 28, 30
October 1, 3, 7, 8, 11, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21, 22, 24, 26, 28, 29, and 31
November 1

Note, these parties have a cap on how many people may attend each night. On most evenings, you'll be able to experience a relatively hassle free party. However, the closer you get to Halloween, and especially on the big night itself, the park can be busier than you might expect for a "private party."

Prices for MNSSHP are as follows (all prices listed include tax):

Advance Purchase: $57.46 for adults 10 and older / $51.07 for ages 3-9*

Passholder and DVC Member Discounts: $53.20 / $46.81*

Day of Event (if still available): $63.85 /$57.46

*Not available October 29 and 31. Those two dates are priced at a premium: $69.17 (ages 10 and up) and $62.78 (ages 3-9), tax included.


Party Sign at the TTC


This year, the monorails get into the spirit with new holiday decorations.


Monorail


The party officially runs from 7pm - 12 midnight, however, guests can enter the Magic Kingdom at 4pm with their MNSSHP ticket. Upon entering, you will be given a wrist band and a trick-or-treat bag.


Wrist Band

Trick-Or-Treat Bag


If for some reason you didn't receive a wristband and/or trick-or-treat bag when you entered the park, these can be picked up at Stitch's Great Escape located in Tomorrowland. Here, a number of Halloween clad cast members will be happy to help you.


Stitch's Great Escape

Halloween Clad Cast Members


At precisely 7pm, cast members make a sweep of the entire park and politely, but firmly ask anyone not wearing a wrist band to leave the park.

For the last two years, I have received a number of letters from readers complaining that Disney does not remove all of the "day" guests from the park -- and I'm at a loss on how to respond to your comments. All I can tell you is that Disney does the best they can. If people want to cheat the system, they're going to cheat the system. My only suggestion is to complain at City Hall if this is truly interfering with your enjoyment of the events. I cannot help you with is situation. Please note, if you send me a comment that contains references to this situation, I will either delete the reference or not publish your comment at all.

If you find you're in the park on a party night and don't have a ticket to MNSSHP, but want to honestly partake in the events, you can buy a ticket at City Hall if the party is not sold out.


City Hall


Although some decorations and exhibits are not displayed until the party begins, others are on exhibit for all of September and October. In Town Square you'll find some of your old friends waiting to delight you.


Town Square Scare-A-Crow

Town Square Scare-A-Crow

Town Square Scare-A-Crow

Town Square Scare-A-Crow

Town Square Scare-A-Crow

Town Square Scare-A-Crow

Town Square Scare-A-Crow

Town Square Scare-A-Crow


In years past, I have highlighted some of the theme-specific pumpkins associated with shops like Casey's Corner and the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor. And you should definitely check these out. But this year I'm going to show you some of the silly and scary pumpkins that line the balconies and window sills of Main Street.


Carved Pumpkins

Carved Pumpkins

Carved Pumpkins

Carved Pumpkins


Don't forget to check out the Mickey adorned light posts.


Mickey Lamppost


During the first few hours after 4pm, a number of cast members line Main Street with clever signs, welcoming you to the night.


Welcome Signs


Around the Hub are a few more Halloween favorites and after the sun sets, lights may play tricks on your eyes.


2010MNSSHP19.jpg

The Hub Decorations

The Hub Decorations

The Hub Decorations

Lights

Lights


Normally, guests over the age of nine are not allowed to wear costumes in the Magic Kingdom, but this rule is waved for this event. Many children and a fair number of adults dress for the occasion. Here are a few simple rules to follow when designing your costume:

Costumes should be child-friendly and not obtrusive or offensive.

Adult guests may wear masks, but the masks must not obstruct vision (you need to be able to see where you're going).

Guest who dress like Disney characters are not to pose for pictures or sign autographs for other guests.

Do not bring large or dangerous props with you.


Guests in Costume

Guests in Costume

Guests in Costume

Guests in Costume

Guests in Costume

Guests in Costume

Guests in Costume

Guests in Costume


This fan of Disney and Halloween decorated her ECV as her favorite Magic Kingdom attraction, a Jungle Cruise boat.


Jungle Cruise EVC


Since dressing in costume is a big part of the event, you might want to consider making reservations at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or The Pirates League for a child makeover. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique accepts their last reservation at 7:30pm and The Pirates League is open until 8pm. However, I would suggest making an earlier reservation so your child can thoroughly enjoy the party in princess or pirate garb.


Pirates League

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique


Halloween merchandise is readily available at many stores.


Halloween merchandise


Candy is generously distributed at a number of locations throughout the park. Just look for the Goofy's Candy Co. sign. Besides some inexpensive lollypops, name-brand treats are also dispensed like, Oh Henry, Snickers, Tootsie Roll, Skittles, and SweetTarts. Note, these are the miniature versions, like the ones you'd buy to give out from your own home. The selection of candy is similar at all locations.


Goofy's Candy Company

Candy Distribution

Halloween Candy


The cast members working the Haunted Mansion also get a makeover. Besides their regular, somber costume, their faces are made up to look ghoulish. Also, a "spirit from beyond" takes center stage on the lawn of the mansion and entertains guests with wonderful stories of her life, both living and dead. Many let others pass them in line so they can stand longer and listen to her tales. To add to the creepiness, the gravestones are given a spooky look with the addition of low lying fog.


Haunted Mansion Costume

Haunted Mansion Spirit


There are a couple of Character Dance Parties held during MNSSHP. One at the Diamond Horseshoe in Frontierland and another at Stitch's Club 626 in Tomorrowland. These venues do not offer the standard photo op. Here, the kids can actually dance and mingle with some of their favorite characters.


Stitch

Pluto

Jessie

Woody


Character Meet-and-Greets are numerous so it's easy to get pictures with some of your favorite Disney friends as you've never seen them before. In Fantasyland, you can have your picture taken in front of Cinderella's glass coach. I even succumbed to the festivities and allowed myself to be photographed with Alice.


Alice and Jack

Donald and Daisy

Baloo and Guest

Timon

Wicked Witch

Seven Dwarfs

Cinderella's Coach


Presented on the Castle stage is the Villain's Mix and Mingle show. Here, some of Disney's greatest bad-guys and gals dance and rant and try to impress you with their evilness. This show is presented at 7:45, 8:50, 10:05, and 11:15. I shot a seven minute video of a portion of this show.



I think most people would agree that Mickey's "Boo-to-You" Halloween Parade is the highlight of the evening. Shown twice each night (8:15 & 10:30), this spectacle is a hoot. Be sure to find your viewing spot by the announced beginning time as the Headless Horseman makes a mad dash along the parade route to the cheers of the crowd. If you're not there in time, you miss him. Also note, the second parade is significantly less crowded. If you're planning on staying late, skip the first parade and enjoy the park.

The beginning of the parade starts off tame enough with some of the not-so-scary characters, but then the villains take over for a haunting good time. Toward the end of the parade, several Goofy's Candy Company carts stroll by and a number of his minions pass out treats to the crowd. I filmed the entire parade and it can be seen here.



At 9:30, a special fireworks show called Happy HalloWishes is presented. A Ghost Host introduces villain after villain and the castle is illuminated appropriately while color coordinated fireworks burst overhead. Once again, I filmed the entire show for your enjoyment.



Not all of the rides and restaurants are open for this event. But since Disney caps the attendance at a reasonable number, it is rarely crowded and lines are usually short to non-existent. Here is a list of the OPEN rides and attractions for MNSSHP:

Swiss Family Treehouse
Pirates of the Caribbean
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
Splash Mountain
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
The Haunted Mansion
Hall of Presidents
Peter Pan's Flight
Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
Mickey's PhilharMagic
Snow White's Scary Adventures
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Tomorrowland Speedway
Astro Orbiter
Space Mountain
Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin
Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover
Stitch's Great Escape
Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor (closes at 10pm)
The Barnstormer at Goofy's Wiseacre Farm

To see the MNSSHP handout front cover, click here.
To see the MNSSHP handout back cover, click here.
To see the MNSSHP map, click here.

I enjoyed MNSSHP. However, I am an annual pass-holder and visit the Magic Kingdom often. Before I purchased my ticket, I had to ask myself if I really wanted to spend $50+ to see a special parade and fireworks show, because that's what it really boils down to. Yes, Disney has added some holiday theming, candy, and special entertainment, but is that really enough to justify the money. Obviously, many people think so as this event is extremely popular. But you need to consider this before you attend so you won't be disappointed.

Addendum:

For some reason, Disney is telling people that they cannot enter the Magic Kingdom using their MNSSHP ticket until the official opening time of 7pm.

I entered the Magic Kingdom yesterday using my MNSSHP at 4:02pm and the park was already set up to accommodate early arrivals. The east tunnel under the train station was for "party" guests entering the park and the west tunnel was for "day" guests leaving the park.

Technically, Disney doesn't have to let anyone in until the official time, but it's in their best interest to accommodate early arrivals. They couldn't handle the crowds if all 10,000 party goers arrived at the same time.

I cannot definitively tell you that you'll be granted early entrance, but I seriously doubt that Disney will keep you out without extenuating circumstances.


Addendum 2:

One of my readers wrote with the following message:

I just spoke with member services, the first person was adamant that the MNSSHP tickets would not be honored until 7pm, then I asked to speak to someone else. That person called Magic Kingdom and confirmed that they would allow MNSSHP ticket holders in after 4 like you observed. I then had him call Magic Kingdom back and check on the status of Space Mountain for the MNSSHP. They said it will be open! I'll still ride it with my family as soon as we enter the park that day just in case.


Remember to share YOUR experience at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party too!


December 6, 2009

World Showcase Garland

As we know, the Disney Imagineers are masters when it comes to detailing their parks and hotels. And the holiday decorations they display at this time of year are no exception. Each November, Holiday Services decorates 24 resorts including Disney's Vero Beach and Disney's Hilton Head Island, 4 theme parks, 2 cruise ships, the Disney Cruise Line terminal and Castaway Cay, the Disney Reservation Centers, Downtown Disney Marketplace, and more than 400 merchandise shops.

I couldn't possibly cover all of this so I won't even try. And instead of focusing my attention on some of the more obvious decorations, I'm going to discuss an often overlooked, yet important part of the Christmas adornments, garland. Specifically, the garlands of Epcot's World Showcase.

Let's start in Canada. If you take a closer look at this yuletide tradition you'll find snow shoes, antlers, trout, and geese mingled into the evergreen.


Canada Garland.jpg

Canada Garland


In the United Kingdom, traditional ornaments are mixed in among plaid ribbons, mistletoe, and holly.


United Kingdom Garland

United Kingdom Garland


Eifel Tower ornaments can be found in the France Pavilion garland along with wine bottle ribbons and bows.


France Garland

France Garland


Since Morocco is essentially a Muslim nation, it does not receive any Christmas decorations.

Japan too is not a Christian country, but limited decorations can be found here -- for instance this garland in the Yakitori House. Here we find Japanese lanterns and fans mixed in with evergreens and pinecones.


Japan Garland

Japan Garland


In the American Adventure we find garland laden with a plentiful bounty. Patriotic ribbons and stars also complement the strands.


American Adventure Garland

American Adventure Garland


Elaborate masks adorn the garland in Italy as well as ornaments and ribbons displaying wine grapes.


Italy Garland

Italy Garland


In Germany, cuckoo clocks and teddy bears add a playful touch to the greenery.


Germany Garland

Germany Garland


Like Morocco and Japan, China is not a Christian nation so the decorations here are sparse. But in the Nine Dragons Restaurant you can find garland featuring flower blossoms, ornaments with Chinese lettering, and ribbon with an Asian design.


China Garland


In Norway you'll find cold-weather favorites like ice skates and snowflakes. Also keep an eye out for Santa and Christmas stockings.


Norway Garland

Norway Garland


Since it's perpetually nighttime in the Mexico Pavilion, the garland here is festively lit with multi-colored lights. In addition, Mexican handicrafts can be found nestled among the greens.


Mexico Garland

Mexico Garland


Here are a few interesting facts about what goes into decorating Walt Disney World and a description of some of the Christmas trees found around property.

The Holiday Services warehouse, which houses the decorations when not in use, covers approximately 50,000 square feet of space.

Decorating takes place on the graveyard shift. Most guests are asleep at this time and the resorts and parks are magically transformed overnight.

Holiday Services transports nearly 150 semi-trailers of decorations each November to various points around Walt Disney World and beyond.

Almost 8.5 million lights are used.

15 miles of garland are hung -- a lot of it in World Showcase.

1,314 wreaths are hung ranging in size from 12-inches to 84-inches (and 25-feet).

300,000 yards of ribbon are made into bows each year.

98% of the lighting used for the holiday décor is LED (Light Emitting Diode). LED's use 1/10 of the power of a traditional incandescent bulb and has a lifespan of 100,000 hours versus 1,000 hours.

2% of the lights used are compact fluorescents which are 21% more efficient in power conversion than incandescent bulbs. These also have a lifespan of 15,000 hours versus 1,000 hours.

Icon trees (large centerpiece trees) used in the parks and resorts range in height from 45 to 70-feet. These trees weigh from 28,000 to 32,000 pounds.

More than 5,500 lights twinkle from the branches of some of these trees.

Each of the trees at the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and the Disney's Hollywood Studios are 65 feet tall. The tree at Disney's Animal Kingdom is 55-feet tall.

The tree in front of the Contemporary Resort is 70-feet tall and is decorated with about 35,800 white LED lights and the ornaments are illuminated with compact florescent bulbs.

The newest decoration at Walt Disney World is a 25-foot wide Mickey icon with 18 foot elliptical ears. It is mounted on the north side of the Contemporary Resort and is decorated in boxwood foliage and lit with 11,400 white LEDs.

The largest base section of an icon tree weighs 18,000 pounds and is 26-feet wide. It can be found in Town Square at the Magic Kingdom.

Icon trees are transported to their locations on flatbed trucks and are lifted into place with a 70-ton crane.

Downtown Disney Marketplace has a playful 45-foot exterior tree located near the Once Upon a Toy store decorated with oversized toys such as Mr. Potato Head, Barrel of Monkeys, and Scrabble pieces to name a few.

In the lobby of the Grand Floridian Resort is a special attraction, a 40-foot tree glowing with 45,000 LED lights, elegant ornamentation and Victorian bouquets.

The tree in the lobby of the Wilderness Lodge reaches 45-feet high and is adorned in a rustic motif of canoes, moccasins, sleds, teepees that are aglow with flicker flame bulbs.

In the lobby of the Jambo House at Animal Kingdom Lodge you'll find a 45-foot tree adorned with authentic African décor of handmade baskets and reproductions of traditional African masks cascading down to the floor.

Kidani Village at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge is decorated with handmade ornaments from villages throughout Africa.

The tree at the Beach Club Villas is trimmed with beach cottage flair, beach balls, sand toys and shells.

Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort uses a color pallet of sky blue, coppers, and browns, and adorned with smoke glass and crystal. Its tree topper is a one of a kind hand crafted crystal star.

October 2, 2009

Buzz Lightyear Returns - Magic Kingdom Parade

Buzz Lightyear

On May 31, 2008, the space shuttle Discovery rocketed from earth to rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS). Besides it seven human crew members, a galactic hero was onboard for the mission. Buzz Lightyear journeyed "to infinity and beyond" once again. But this time, instead of doing battle with the infamous Emperor Zurg, Buzz was working with his pals at Disney and NASA to help encourage students to pursue studies in science, technology, and mathematics.


Buzz and the Space Shuttle


Here we see his friend Woody waving goodbye as Buzz begins his important mission.


Woody waving goodbye to Buzz


Buzz, NASA, and Disney have created an online program known as Space Ranger Education Series. Here, kids can find educational games and teachers can download classroom curriculum. Buzz's adventures aboard the ISS were invaluable in creating this program.

Buzz's 467 days in space beats the former record set by Russian cosmonaut Valery Polyakov set in 1995 by a month.

After fulfilling his duties on board the ISS, Buzz returned home on the space shuttle Discovery on September 11th of this year.

On October 2nd, Buzz Lightyear and astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Mike Fincke kicked off the "Celebrate a Dream Come True" parade in a ticker-tape procession through the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.


Kick-off Banner


Buzz Aldrin


Buzz Aldrin

Buzz Aldrin


Mike Fincke


Mike Fincke

Mike Fincke


Buzz Lightyear


Buzz Lightyear

Buzz Lightyear

Buzz Lightyear


Main Street Philharmonic


Walt Disney World Band


Here's a little bit of Buzz Lightyear trivia for you. As you know from the movie "Toy Story," Buzz learns he's a toy halfway through the film. So in essence, he has two personalities, galactic hero and Andy's plaything. Keeping this in mind, these personalities are kept separate at Walt Disney World. Any encounter you have with Buzz at the Magic Kingdom, albeit it an attraction, parade, or meet-&-greet, he still thinks he's a champion of justice. But if you interact with Buzz at Disney's Hollywood Studios, he realizes he's a toy. It's a subtle difference, but an important detail.

May 22, 2009

Star Wars Weekends 2009

Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars Guide Map - Very large file

Star Wars Weekend Tips

Additional Star Wars Weekend Information


I went to Disney's Hollywood Studios today to check out the opening of Star Wars Weekends. I arrived at 8:30am and the lines to get into the park were already long. This picture was taken five minutes later. I was standing at the ticket booths and as you can see, the lines extend all the way to the security check point.


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To keep the crowd entertained, Storm Troopers were on hand taunting and threatening us.


Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios


While waiting for the park to open, I struck up a conversation with some folks in line. I learned that if you want an autograph and/or photo opportunity with the "celebrity of the day," you need a FastPass. These are handed out on a first come, first issued basis at the far right side of the ticket booths (outside the park) starting at around 8:15am. The people I was speaking with told me they were in the FastPass line at 5:30am and they were definitely not the first to arrive.

A limited number of these "celebrity" FastPasses are available, but if you're lucky enough to secure one, you're guaranteed the opportunity to see your favorite Star Wars hero. Just show up at the designated location during your 15 minute window. After all of the initial FastPasses have been distributed, a limited number of Stand-by FastPasses will be handed out. However, these "secondary" tickets do not guarantee you an autograph or photo session - but it's worth a try.


Celebrity FastPass Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios


The celebrity of the day will autograph their photograph and any merchandise you bring with you. A number of people brought in posters to be signed.


Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios


Also handed out early in the morning outside the park are color coded wrist bands. These allow shoppers priority entrance into Wicket's Warehouse where you can buy limited edition and collectable Star Wars merchandise.


Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios


Located through out the park are various Star Wars character meet-and-greet locations. Unlike the celebrity sessions, you do not need a FastPass for these photo ops. But be warned, within minutes of the park opening, every one of these venues had a long line.


Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios


Star Wars T-shirts are seen everywhere and some folks pull out all the stops and dressed to the nines.


Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios


Here is yours truly as a Storm Trooper. Not to menacing, am I?


Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios


Always a favorite, but especially during Star Wars Weekend, is the Jedi Training Academy. Here kids can find out if they have what it takes to become a Jedi Warrior. Children are selected at random and it's best to arrive early (at least 30 minutes during Star Wars Weekend) if you want your little one selected.


Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars Weekend 2009 Disney's Hollywood Studios


Some of the other activities include the "Padawan Mind Challenge." Here, Younglings use their "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" knowledge to pass the trivia trials and become an official Padawan learner. This event is for children 11 and under and registration begins at the Star Wars Information Desk beginning at 9am.

At the Premiere Theater you can see host Ashley Eckstein in "Clone Wars: Behind the Force" - a show that explores the excitement of "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" with a fascinating look behind the scenes led by the voice behind "Ahsoka" and other guest celebrities.


Since this blog is all about Star Wars, I thought I'd share some Star Tours trivia with you.

When you enter the building, the queue makes a switchback or backwards "S." You know why?


Star%20Wars%20Weekend%202009%2024.jpg


Because this section of the queue was loosely based on the Star Tours attraction at Disneyland in California.

But do you know why the queue follows this configuration at Disneyland?

It's because the Disneyland building originally housed Adventures Thru Inner Space. When the attraction was retired to make room for Star Tours, there was no reason to rip out this perfectly good walkway so the Imagineers just did some retooling with the props that surrounded it.


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And while were on the subject of Adventures Thru Inner Space, did you know you can see a section of the Mighty Microscope from that attraction on Star Tours?


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When Disney replaces an older ride with a new attraction, they try to leave some sort of legacy behind. In other words, gone, but not forgotten. For example, in the Winnie the Pooh attraction at Walt Disney World, there is a picture of Mr. Toad handing over the deed to the property to Owl. And at Mission: Space in Epcot, the old Horizon logo can be seen on the rotating space station in the queue area. The same is true for Star Tours. This attraction pays homage to Adventures Thru Inner Space. Here's what to look for:

As you begin your Star Tours adventure, you unexpectedly take a wrong turn. Then your vehicle drops off the edge of a platform and plunges downward. As Captain Rex regains control of the craft, he pulls you out of your freefall. At that moment, if you look to the right-hand side of the screen, you can see the Mighty Microscope. You must look quickly, but once you know what you're looking for, there is no mistaking it.


Star%20Wars%20Weekend%202009%2022.jpg


And here's a bit of personal trivia for you. I went to school with Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) in Yokohama, Japan. We were even in a school play together. It's not a very good picture, but I'm on the left and Mark is on the right.


Star%20Wars%20Weekend%202009%2025.jpg


Star Wars Weekend is very popular. If you're visiting Disney World over the next several weeks and you're a Star Wars fan, then you should definitely visit Disney's Hollywood Studios during one of these days. But if you're not a Star Wars fan, visit other parks on the weekend and save the Studio for a Monday through Thursday.

May the force be with you.

March 23, 2009

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival 2009 – Part 2

The first topiaries you'll encounter when leaving Future World for World Showcase are Mrs. Pots, Chip, Cogsworth, and Lumiere from "Beauty and the Beast." I have to admit, Anita Answer and I were both somewhat perplexed by Chips lips. It looks like he borrowed a pair of Mrs. Potato Head's. Hmmmm.


2009 Flower and Garden Festival - Beauty and the Beast Characters


In keeping with the "Celebrate Springtime" theme, we find characters from the Lion King rejoicing in Simba's birth at the entrance to World Showcase.


2009 Flower and Garden Festival Lion King

2009 Flower and Garden Festival Lion King

2009 Flower and Garden Festival Lion


This year, the traditional arch that guests are accustomed to seeing in this area, is missing. According to Eric Darden, Horticulture Manager of Epcot's International Flower and Garden Festival, Disney tries to rotate and change certain features of the event each year to keep things fresh and new. He told me that a particular design or topiary is used for 2-4 years before it is retired or reworked.

A number of shopping venues are available around World Showcase and feature both Disney and non-Disney merchandise with a gardening theme. Two favorites are the Mickey gnomes and the do-it-yourself Mickey topiary.


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2009%20Flower%20%26%20Garden%20-%20Shopping%205.jpg


I'm going to start in Canada and circle the World Showcase Lagoon. The first characters we find are Bambi, Thumper, and Flower.


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Even though they're always beautiful and difficult to improve upon, don't forget to take a stroll through Victoria Gardens.


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2009%20Flower%20%26%20Garden%2033b.jpg


In the United Kingdom Twinings Tea has a number of teacups filled with various kinds of foliage.

Guided tours through the tea garden are presented on Monday thru Thursdays at 3:30 and 6:30 and Friday and Saturdays at 2:30, 3:30, 5:00, and 6:30. You can sign up at the Tea Caddy to learn the history and art of tea blending.


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The France Pavilion features a number of topiary in the shape of perfume bottles.


2009%20Flower%20%26%20Garden%20-%20France%201.jpg


Also in this area is the Fragrance Garden. The Guerlain Company sponsors this exhibit which allows guest to learn about the connection between plants and fragrances. A Guerlain representative conducts 20-minute informative tours of this area daily at 2, 4, and 6pm.

Ten different Guerlain fragrances can be sampled at the Lift & Sniff kiosks in this garden. An informative sign helps you understand the odor's complex blending.


2009%20Flower%20%26%20Garden%20-%20France%202.jpg


Located between the France and Morocco Pavilions is the Nature Conservancy display. While your kids enjoy themselves in the nearby playground, you can learn how to create an environmentally friendly garden in your own backyard.


2009%20Flower%20%26%20Garden%20-%20Nature%20Conservancy%201.jpg

2009%20Flower%20%26%20Garden%20-%20Nature%20Conservancy%202.jpg

2009%20Flower%20%26%20Garden%20-%20Nature%20Conservancy%203.jpg


In Morocco you can see topiary Aladdin flying on his carpet.


2009%20Flower%20%26%20Garden%20-%20Morocco.jpg


A perennial favorite are the bonsai trees found in the Japan Pavilion. But don't forget, besides the obvious collection near the tori gate, there are additional treasures behind the pagoda.


2009%20Flower%20%26%20Garden%20-%20Japan.jpg


I'm going to skip the American Pavilion for the time being.

In the Italy Pavilion you can find a large array of container plants. According to Epcot Horticulturalist, Eric Darden, all of the container plants throughout the park must be watered by hand - a task that takes endless hours. Also, his staff plans for a 70% - 100% replacement of all bedding and container plants during the festival.


2009%20Flower%20%26%20Garden%20-%20Italy%201.jpg


The other highlight at the Italy Pavilion is the Lady and the Tramp topiary. Who could resist getting their picture taken in front of this romantic spot?


2009%20Flower%20%26%20Garden%20-%20Italy%202.jpg


The Germany Pavilion did not have any special landscaping this year, so I'll share a bit of trivia with you. The large LBG train layout next to Germany was once a part of the Flower & Garden Festival. Each year this elaborate layout was assembled just for the event. But due to its popularity, and the expense involved with its construction and deconstruction, it was decided to make it a permanent part of the Germany Pavilion.


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Between Germany and Refreshment Outpost is the Pirate Adventure Zone.


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This is another beautifully landscaped area designed especially for the kids. Captain Hook, treasure chests, and a rickety boat are on hand for them to explore.


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2009%20Flower%20%26%20Garden%20-%20Pirate%20Zone%203.jpg

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A ferocious dragon and a decorative cow are on exhibit at the China Pavilion.


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Over twenty trolls have escaped from the Puffin's Roost and are hiding in the Norway Garden waiting for you to find them.


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The Mexico Pavilion did not offer any additional landscaping for this year's event.

As part of the press event, I was invited to attend a reception on the third floor of the American Adventure.


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This area was once a corporate lounge for American Express when it sponsored this attraction. It is now used for special events and parties.

As we stepped off of the elevator and into the lounge, we were offered white sangria cocktails adorned with flowers. Appetizers of cheese, fruit, eggrolls and crab-cakes were beautifully displayed on a table in the lounge. In the two corners of the dining area, chefs were waiting to dish up various pastas or carve slices of prime rib and turkey.


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2009%20Flower%20%26%20Garden%20-%20American%20Adventure%202.jpg


For dessert we dined on chocolate flower pots with Oreo dirt and gummy-worms. How appropriate for the Flower & Garden Festival.


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Dan Cockerell, Epcot VP spoke briefly then turned the microphone over to Eric Darden who explain what goes into creating the Flower & Garden Festival each year.

Here is a photo I was excited to be given the opportunity to take - a picture of Spaceship Earth taken from the third floor of the American Pavilion.


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At 4:45 we were escorted to the American Gardens Theatre for reserved seating to see the Davy Jones concert as part of the Flower Power concert series that takes place during the event.


Davy%20Jones.gif


Davy put on a great show. Although only 35 minutes in length, he packed a lot of memorable tunes into this concert. Most of the audience was made up of my generation - those old enough to remember seeing the Monkees' TV show when it first aired. A number of fans brought old record albums for Davy to sign. And even though he picked up several of them and showed them to the audience, he did not sign any as there simply wasn't time during this abridged concert.

For a 63 year old, Davy still can shake it and move it. Although he made numerous jokes about his age, there was no sign of him slowing down. And since the audience had memorized all of his songs when they were teenagers, much of the gang sang along with Davy, which he didn't seem to mind and even encouraged at one point.

When ending the concert, Davy let everyone know that he's putting on three shows a day with different numbers in each. He encouraged everyone to come back for a later performance - which I'm sure many did.

After the concert, I was tired and decided to call it quits for the day. When I got home I downloaded the 470 pictures I had taken and started to whittle them down to the few I will share with you.

Unlike the Food & Wine Festival, which cost extra if you wish to enjoy its benefits, the Flower & Garden Festival costs nothing more than your price of admission. It's a wonderfully beautiful event that everyone can enjoy and marvel at. I would highly recommend planning your next trip to Disney World around this occasion. I realize that Spring Break coincides with much of this event, but if you're into gardening, you won't be disappointed.

February 12, 2009

VIP Tour at Walt Disney World

My friend Linda Mac and I were invited to participate in a training session intended to help VIP Tour Guides learn the ropes. Before these knowledgeable cast members can escort paying guests through the various parks, they must first practice on a test audience. We were lucky enough to be a part of this two hour session and be "guinea pigs" on a Magic Kingdom tour.

For the most part, VIP tours are intended for first-time visitors who wish to have a Disney expert accompany them through the various parks and customize the experience to their specific needs. Prices range from $175 to $315 per hour with a six hour minimum. The price differential is determined by whether or not you're staying at a Disney resort, the time of year you visit, and the level of service you request. Tour groups can be from one individual to a maximum of ten. Park admission is not included in this price.

Since I'm probably as knowledgeable as any of these tour guides when it comes to Disney theme parks, there was little our guide could tell me that I didn't already know. So, I spent much of the training session asking our guide questions about VIP Tours so I could share the information with you. Here's what I learned.

A VIP Tour can be reserved 180 days in advance. At that time, you'll discuss what you're looking for in a tour and arrange for reservations at your favorite restaurants. If you wish to wait and book a tour after you arrive, you can. But you run the risk that no tour guide or restaurant reservations will be available.

You meet up with your tour guide at whatever location you desire. If you want to be escorted from your hotel, that can be arranged. But probably, you'll meet at Guest Relations at the park of your choice. At that time, you'll commence with introductions. I was surprised at how quickly our guide learned everyone's name and used it throughout the day. I can see that after just a short time, your guide would become part of the family. Each member of your party will be given a business card with the tour guide's pager number printed on it in case someone gets separated from the group.

The VIP Tours do not utilize the new wireless headphones that are being used on other tours. Although wonderful when traveling in a big group, the VIP Tour is a more intimate experience and a headphone would detract from this.

Next you will be asked if there are any attractions that you absolutely must experience so that your guide can plan the day accordingly. Often, families with small children will want to make Fantasyland a priority while those with teenagers will want to experience all of the thrill rides.

VIP Tour guides must work in other areas of Guest Relations before transferring into this position. Then they must take a two week training course to familiarize themselves with EVERYTHING at Walt Disney World. It's Disney's intention to cast knowledgeable people into this role. Once the tour begins, it's their job to maximize your time and enhance your experience. They know the shortest route between "A" and "B" from just about anywhere. They know the best places to watch the parades. They know the show times so you won't be caught in line five minutes before a performance starts. And they know how the crowds ebb and flow so they can avoid bottlenecks.

On my particular tour, we all said we wanted to ride on the Jungle Cruise. When we reached the attraction, our guide got us into line and gave us instructions on where to meet him at its conclusion. Later we discovered that while we were enjoying the African Elephant Bathing Pool, our guide had raced across the park and secured Fast Passes for Space Mountain.

These tours do not offer "back door" entrance onto the rides. You must stand in line like everyone else. But your tour guide knows the best order in which to experience them with as little wait as possible.

For an extra $100 per hour, you can order the "Premium" package. This gives your group unlimited Fast Pass admission. At any attraction that uses Fast Pass, your tour guide can flash their "magic" card and admit your group into this line - as many times as you like. So if you're a Space Mountain junky, you can re-queue over and over again in the Fast Pass line. This even applies to attractions that aren't utilizing Fast Pass on a particular day.

It's your decision whether or not the tour guides eat with you. Their feelings won't be hurt if you need some private time without them. If you do decide to include them, Disney picks up the tab for their portion of the meal.

Our tour guide told us that if it's your desire to see Illuminations at Epcot, Fantasmic at the Studio, and Wishes at the Magic Kingdom, all in ONE night. Disney can arrange this. Of course, this is dependent on the times of all three shows being spaced accordingly. But the point of the story is this, if you're willing to pay, Disney is willing to accommodate.

Is it worth the money? Not to me it isn't. But like I said at the beginning of this blog, I know my Disney theme parks. In fact, I shared more trivia with our guide than he did with us. But that's just me.

Is this service worth it to the average guest? Only if the average guest is rich. The cheapest day would cost $1,050 for six hours - not including admission. I experienced this tour in February when the park is typically slow. We were literally walking onto all of the attractions with no lines. A guest would hardly need to pay someone else to help them cut corners when there are no corners to cut. The tour would only make sense if the parks were busy.

If you're a first-time visitor to Disney World, I would suggest reading the Allears.net website and newsletters (blatant plug) before your visit. We provide a wealth of information - for free. If you're a regular reader of our site, you know a constant theme of ours is to learn as much as you can about Disney World before arriving. You simply cannot show up at the gates unprepared. If you do, you'll miss a lot. But if you don't have the time or desire to "study" before a vacation, a VIP Tour might be the answer.

Okay, what if you are rich; is it worth it? Maybe. I have to admit, if I could have afforded a private tour on my first trip to Tokyo DisneySea, it would have been nice. Disney parks are so full of interesting facts and bits of trivia, that a private guide would be fun to have around and fill my brain with this information. But unless you've got money to burn, I'd have a hard time recommending this tour. After experiencing a two-hour session, I decided that I could hire myself out at half the price and offer an excellent tour. Just kidding.

If you are interested in booking, call 407-560-4033.

July 5, 2007

July 4th, 2007 Walt Disney World Naturalization Ceremony Part 2

July 4th, 2007 Walt Disney World Naturalization Ceremony

Yesterday, I had the honor and privilege to witness more than one thousand immigrants become United States citizens. The event took place in the Magic Kingdom in front of Cinderella Castle, where people from more than a hundred nations raised their right hand and swore allegiance to this great country.

The event started with Meg Crofton, President of Walt Disney World, welcoming guests. During her comments she remarked how wonderful it was that one of these peoples' greatest dreams was coming true during Disney's "Year of a Million Dreams" celebration.

Following her welcoming speech, the 6th Air Mobility Wing Honor Guard appeared on stage and raised the Stars and Stripes with all the pomp and spender one would expect. A slight breeze caught the flag and it bellowed beautifully in the wind. With the flag flying high, Gloria Estefan sang the Star Spangled Banner.

A loud speaker announcement followed and a roll call of all the nations being represented by this group of people was read. I wasn't amazed to hear nations like Cuba, Bangladesh, and Haiti mentioned. These are poor or oppressed countries. It's easy for me to understand why someone would want to leave these places for a better life. But when I heard names like Australia, the United Kingdom, and Germany mentioned, I was surprised. These countries enjoy prosperity and freedom. I realized that America still holds a strong allure to people all over the world.

Dr. Emilio Gonzales, Director of the USCIS and also a naturalized citizen gave the Oath of Allegiance. With a thousand right hands raised high in the air, strong voices pledged to support and defend the Constitution. It was at this point I became a little teary myself.

With an audience of new citizens watching, Senator Mel Martinez (Fl) took the stage. Like his onlookers, he too is a naturalized citizen. It was at this time the Florida skies could hold back no longer and it began to rain. Disney, being Disney, had thought of everything and everyone had been given a poncho in advance. Interrupting his prepared speech, Senator Martinez remarked that after all these years of work to become a U.S. citizen they weren't going to let a little rain dampen their spirits. The crowd cheered enthusiastically.

The Pledge of Allegiance was then said by all and then a pre-recorded message from President Bush was played. The Voices of Liberty appeared soon after with umbrellas in hand and sang "Golden Dream."

When Dr. Gonzales returned to the podium the rain began to let up. He was joined by Gloria Estefan and her husband Emilio. The famous couple was presented with the "American By Choice" award for their contribution to others less fortunate and for the restoration work they are doing in south Florida to bring back neglected neighborhoods.

Lee Greenwood was next to take the stage and he sang "God Bless the U.S.A." while everyone waved small American flags.

With the conclusion of his song, Meg Crofton thanked everyone for participating is this historic event and then asked that the new citizens fall in behind the Walt Disney World Marching Band. A group of flag waving smiling faces then proceeded down Main Street to the cheers of onlookers along the way. The event was topped off by two F-15 jets streaking across the sky above Main Street. U.S.A.

I would like to offer my special thanks to Deb Wills. Disney had invited her to cover this event as part of the official press corps. Unable to make it, she asked me to fill in for her. I was honored that she trusted me with the responsibility and excited that an old, patriotic softy like myself would get to witness this event from such a prime viewing vantage that the press is provided. Thanks a million, Deb!

Jack's Photos of the Event

July 4, 2007

July 4th, 2007 Walt Disney World Naturalization Ceremony Part 1

AllEars® Team Member Jack Spence attended the special ceremony and sends these photos. His writeup will follow later.

Naturalization Ceremony Program

Complete Program

Welcome Remarks - Meg Crofton, President Walt Disney World

Meg Crofton

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I Do Solemnly Swear

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Celebratory Fireworks

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Key Note Address

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National Anthem - Gloria Estefan

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Presentation of Outstanding American by Choice Certificates

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God Bless the USA

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Parade of New Citizens

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Jack's written report filed 7/5/07

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About Special Events

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The “World” According to Jack in the Special Events category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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