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April 2014 Archives

April 1, 2014

Families: Don't miss these foods at Epcot's Flower & Garden Festival



Last year, after five years in the making, outdoor kitchens debuted at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. The kitchens are similar to the popular kiosks at Epcot's Food and Wine Festival, which serve up appetizer-size portions of dishes from around the world that normally are not available at Epcot.

For adults, the food and beverage set-up is a no-brainer. Who doesn't like to stroll, sip and sample? But for children, it can be more of a challenge to get them to give new foods a chance. In 2013, Flower and Garden Festival organizers offered younger guests a TRYit food or beverage at each outdoor kitchen, and Deb Wills and I took my kids, who were 8 and 10 years old at the time, on a food tour around World Showcase. You can see a video -- don't miss the bloopers at the end! -- and read about our experiences on last year's blog.

This year, we took a less formal approach and decided to just let the kids eat what appealed to them at each kitchen. As they have gotten older, my children look forward to the food component of the two Epcot festivals more and more. But I think even picky eaters can find foods that appeal to them in this setting, and it's fun to help decide what the family will try. In that spirit, here are some notes from what we enjoyed this past weekend:


** My favorite, hands down: Sweet Potato Cinnamon Waffle with Pineapple Soft Serve (Dole Whip!) at the Pineapple Promenade kitchen. I love Mickey waffles and Dole Whips, so this was a perfect pairing for me. I suspect I'm not the only adult -- or child -- who will visit this kitchen for seconds.


** At the Jardin de Fiestas outside the Mexico Pavilion, we tried the Taco al Pastor (Corn Tortilla filled with Achiote Marinated Pork garnished with Grilled Diced Pineapple, Onions and Cilantro) and the Quesadilla de Hongos con Queso (Flour Tortilla filled with Mushrooms and Cheese.) Although my son steered clear of the latter dish because of the mushrooms, which can be a common issue with kids, the rest of my family really liked it. The mild flavor and cheese appealed to my daughter. The first dish was a little spicier, but not so much as to deter her or my husband.


** My daughter was already talking about the Candied Strawberries at the Lotus House when we entered the theme park, so I knew she would enjoy them again this year. The large strawberries are very ripe and juicy, and the crunchy, sweet coating makes them even more delicious. While we were at the outdoor kitchen in front of China, we also tried the Spring Pancake with Grilled Chicken and Green Apple again, and it was surprisingly flavorful. We definitely liked it better this year. I think this dish is something that would appeal to even the pickiest of kids, who are used to eating the protein and fruit separately.


** Florida Fresh has brought back its much-talked-about Watermelon Salad with Pickled Onions, BW Farm Arugula, Feta Cheese and Balsamic Reduction. If you missed it last year, don't miss it this year! The combination of the feta cheese and the watermelon is amazing, and even my daughter enjoyed the salad (minus the onions). Both kids tried the Watermelon Passion Fruit Slush at this kitchen, but didn't care for the flavor.



** At the Smokehouse: Barbecue and Brews, we all got our hands messy and enjoyed the Pulled Pig Sliders. (My husband and I kept the Cole Slaw on the sandwich, while our kids had theirs "naked.") My son and husband also enjoyed the Smoked Turkey Rib. Both meats have a tangier taste than, for example, the pulled pork sliders at the Hawaii kiosk of the Food and Wine Festival. Afterward, we all split the "Piggylicious" Bacon Cupcake with Maple Frosting and Pretzel Crunch. I didn't expect to like this dessert, but I really did. My children liked the cake, but their palates were not used to the unusual frosting.

** Next stop: Hanami in front of Japan. My son fondly recalled the Frushi (Pineapple, Strawberries and Melon rolled with Coconut Rice, served with Raspberry Sauce, sprinkled with Toasted Cocounut and Whipped Cream) from last year. He actually ate seconds when it was a TRYit food.


** At Taste of Marrakesh near the Morocco pavilion, both kids sampled the Harissa Chicken Kebab with Couscous Salad. The chicken was similar to what was offered last year, and they both enjoyed the spicy flavor. They weren't as adventurous with the cold couscous salad.

By this point, we all were so full we couldn't eat another bite, and, unfortunately, there were several additional outdoor kitchens we had not visited. Still, we thought that starting around World Showcase in a counter-clockwise direction offered the most kid-friendly foods first.

We hope that some of our suggestions might help guide you and your family when you choose to sample what the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival has to offer. My children tended to gravitate toward many of the same foods they enjoyed last year, but, of course, every child has different food preferences. With the variety of choices, though, it shouldn't be difficult for everyone in the family to find something they like.

Kids TRYit! 2013 Style:


April 3, 2014

Disney movie review: "The Pirate Fairy"




Everyone familiar with the Disney film classic "Peter Pan" knows that fairies and pirates have a history with one another. Now a new Disney movie release adds a little back story to the swashbuckling adventures of both Captain Hook and the easily piqued pixie Tink.

Disney's Tinker Bell movie franchise is back this week with its fifth installment, "The Pirate Fairy," a direct-to-DVD release. My elementary-school-age children have been following the series since it first started in 2008, so they were excited about Tuesday's launch. And apparently, they were not the only ones: When I visited our local Target store at 10 a.m., the sales clerk already was restocking the shelf after the first round of buyers had emptied it.

With engaging stories, vivid animation and memorable songs, it's easy to see why the franchise is so popular with kids and families.

"The Pirate Fairy" introduces viewers to a new fairy, Zarina, a Dust Keeper who cannot resist the temptation to experiment with the fairy's all-important pixie dust. She is especially interested in the blue dust, which is the key ingredient in producing the massive quantities of pixie dust needed to allow all the fairies to fly. Fairy Gary, the pixie dust manager, cannot allow her tampering and puts a stop to her shenanigans, which leads Zarina to run away from Pixie Hollow.


She doesn't give up, though, and returns a year later to steal the blue dust. Tinker Bell, Rosetta, Vidia, Fawn, Silvermist and Iridessa pursue Zarina to Skull Rock, where they are surprised to find out she is the captain of the pirates. At this point, the story begins to encompass more elements of "Peter Pan," and we learn some of the back story of the series that introduced us to Tinker Bell. For example, it's revealed that James, the cabin boy who is Zarina's confidant, will become the infamous Captain Hook. They must possess the pixie dust to make their pirate ship fly around the world as they plunder whatever they can steal.

Of course, the good and evil sides clash, leading to some harrowing battles and even some humorous moments. As a Dust Keeper, Zarina is able to aim different shades of pixie dust at the band of fairies, which changes their talents. Rosetta, the garden fairy, suddenly becomes an animal fairy. Tick-Tock, the baby crocodile, recognizes this and showers her with his affection, which leaves viewers laughing.

Directed by Peggy Holmes, "The Pirate Fairy" stars the voices of Tom Hiddleston as Captain (James) Hook and Christina Hendricks as Zarina, and brings back Mae Whitman, Megan Hilty, Lucy Liu, Raven-SymonΓ©, and Anjelica Huston. The high-profile cast has been the subject of much anticipation since it was announced at D23 last summer. Hiddleston is a Disney film veteran who has starred as Marvel's Loki in the "Thor" movies and most recently played The Great Escapo in "Muppets Most Wanted." Hendricks is best known for her portrayal of Joan Harris on television's hit drama, "Mad Men."

The soundtrack for "The Pirate Fairy," which also went on sale digitally on April 1, also boasts the work of a well-known artist. Grammy-nominated Natasha Bedingfield performs an original song called "Who I Am," and the album will feature her previously released track, "Weightless," as well. Composer Joel McNeely created the original score for this movie, as he did the previous four films.

"The Pirate Fairy" moves the Tinker Bell franchise forward, giving families a fun and age-appropriate movie in the process. And, though the movie features plenty of antagonism between Zarina and the other fairies, this movie - like others in the franchise - also offers some entertaining lessons about how to overcome conflict and achieve reconciliation. It's a perfect animated adventure that sails toward that fabled second star to the right as long as we're willing to see it through the eyes of youngsters who know well the feeling of never wanting to grow up.


April 5, 2014

Tips for using your Walt Disney World MagicBand with Disney Infinity game



Disney Infinity fans have known since the game system launched that if they receive and use a MagicBand, they can unlock special theme park content once they get home. With the rollout this week of MagicBands to day guests -- meaning everyone has access to the RFID bracelets -- I thought it might be a good time to remind visitors about the hidden content.

The key to collecting the Easter eggs in the game, which the Disney Infinity player will be able to save for future use, is patience. They are unlocked as you play the game over time.

To begin, you'll need to start the game in Toy Box mode with a character on the base. Then, touch your MagicBand to the spot where a game disc usually is placed. Within a couple minutes, a message will flash on the screen indicating that the MagicBand has been detected.

Spoiler alert: If you want to be surprised by the bonus content, you'll want to stop reading here.



In build mode, look for the first surprise, Dragon's Gate, which is the entry into the bonus content, and it also unlocks a flying, fire-breathing dragon. Dragons have a long history in The Walt Disney Co. -- from Maleficent's dragon form in 1959's "Sleeping Beauty" to "Pete's Dragon" to Epcot's Figment -- and most recently they were re-introduced during the launch of New Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom. On that day in December 2012, a dragon "flew" over the crowds, surprising everyone.
(You can see video here.)


The dragon in Disney Infinity releases green capsules that contain the other Easter eggs during game play. It may take 10 to 15 minutes between drop-offs for each capsule to appear. The player should open each capsule when he or she sees it and save the content. The collection includes:

** Dragon's Domain, which includes "surfaces and objects inspired by the Disney Dragon."

** Dragon's Flight Sky, which is a new, mountainous and cloudy sky, perfect for the dragon.


There is a fourth surprise, Dragon's Keep, that is not available on the Wii platform. You'll need Xbox 360, Playstation 3 or Wii U to access it. It's "a fantasy-filled Toy Box, for the Disney Dragon." This content gives the player a new, pre-built world to play in, and I have to say, it looks amazing. My family has a Wii, so we were unable to play in Dragon's Keep, but we have admired it in YouTube videos.

For those not familiar with Disney Infinity, here is a simple explanation of how the game works and what the pieces do. Beginning this month, the Phineas and Ferb Toy Box Pack is now available at retailers nationwide.

To read more about Disney Infinity, see my collection of blog posts here.


April 10, 2014

Nintendo to launch Disney Magical World video game


Beginning tomorrow, Nintendo is launching a new Disney video game -- "Disney Magical World" for its 2D and 3D handheld systems -- in North America. (A version of it was released in Japan last year under a different title, "Disney Magic Castle: My Happy Life.")

Like with many of its other video games, Disney relies on a stable of beloved characters to attract players to this new game. It's no secret that the brand has a built-in audience of fans who love the Disney stories, but the question is whether Disney Magical World also will attract gamers who are not uniquely Disney fans.


In this game, the player can interact with more than 60 Disney characters, visit Disney-themed worlds, customize his or her character with hundreds of Disney-themed clothes and accessories, plant and harvest crops in the 100-Acre Wood and collect rare Disney character cards. It's a dream come true for a Disney fan, right?

My 11-year-old Disney fan began playing this game, and it took a while for his enthusiasm to build. He did like the option to play as a preset character or his own Mii that was stored on his 3DS. And customizing the representation of himself with the Disney accessories was fun. It begins with the first of 16 quests, when the player is asked to "meet with Mickey and friends in Castleton." Once they do join up in the virtual city, the player receives his or her own iconic mouse-ear hat.

Soon afterward, the player is gifted a reopened cafe in Castleton and the opportunity to customize it. To do so, the cafe's owner can earn money from sales or as rewards for doing favors for others. The money then can be spent at McDuck's, which specializes in furniture and accessories for the cafe. To keep things fresh, the merchandise selection changes each day at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. local time for the player. My son has his eye on the line of Stitch-inspired goods, including chairs, tables, rugs, a counter and luau-themed wallpaper.

This part of the game reminds me a lot of Disney's Club Penguin, where players play games to earn coins that they can spend to decorate their virtual igloos. That game model is common, but the simplicity of it often attracts younger players. (My son "outgrew" Club Penguin more than a year ago.) In fact, Disney Magical World is rated E for everyone, although the 3D mode is only recommended for ages 7 and older.

So, that first hour of game play can be tedious for older kids who have long mastered the simple tasks. Still, if they hang on, older players will be rewarded with the ability to explore the worlds of various characters and complete more challenging quests by collecting stickers. Additionally, the StreetPass function allows gamers to access what other players have stored in their cafes, and AR cards expand play, as well.


One of the features my son liked best was the use of a daily and seasonal time elements. McDuck's is not the only place to use local time in game play. From 8:30 to 9 p.m. each night, a fireworks show takes place over the castle in Disney Magical World, much like the actual Disney Parks presentations. The game recognizes upcoming holidays, and it currently is decked out for Easter.

Disney Magical World is available on store shelves April 11 with a list price of $29.99 and also in Nintendo's eShop. A special 3DS XL with a Disney Magical World logo and a Mickey Mouse icon design on the cover is available exclusively at Walmart for $199.96. (The game is not included with the 3DS XL.)

DISCLAIMER: I was provided with a review copy of Disney Magical World. This did not affect my story, and my opinions are my own.


April 12, 2014

Deadline nears for Central Florida students to apply to be Disney Dreamers and Doers



Elementary, middle- and high-school students in Central Florida have a shot at winning a day's admission -- or even annual passes -- to Walt Disney World. But they have to get moving because the first deadline is only days away. The prizes are given out next month when Disney bestows its Dreamers and Doers awards.

For more than three decades, this award program has recognized local students who have inspired others and made the world a better place. In return, The Walt Disney Co. hopes to inspire and reward the area's student leaders with the theme-park tickets and Disney-themed keepsakes.

Disney relies on each school in Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Lake and Polk counties (plus the Florida Virtual School) to nominate one child for the honor of being named a Disney Dreamer and Doer. In total, there are about 400 students chosen to receive the one-day park-hopper tickets and certificates.

The process begins when students are asked to nominate themselves by writing a 300-word paragraph describing their achievements. These achievements don't necessarily have to be academic. The official rules give these examples of student contributions: "strengthening their families; conservation/environmental projects; helping others; safety; school achievement in spite of barriers; improving their schools; serving as a role model for siblings/friends; or other positive actions."

Then, the student asks a teacher to champion his or her application by writing a 75-word endorsement. The two essays are turned into the school's principal by the school's announced deadline, and a school winner is chosen based on the strength of the essay. (Grammatical accuracy is not a factor.)

Once a school's Disney Dreamer and Doer is chosen, he or she is entered in a larger competition, Disney's Shining Stars. April 25 is the deadline for schools to submit these applications. The awards are given to 18 students -- one elementary, middle and high school student in Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Lake and Polk counties and from the Florida Virtual School. Shining Stars receive Disney World annual passes for their immediate families for one year, Mousecar statues (Disney's version of the "Oscar" featuring Mickey Mouse), and certificates noting their accomplishments.

"Students may be comfortable in the spotlight, or shy away from it. Some take positive action that is visible; some actions may not be visible to many," the Disney press release states. "We believe all students do good things and have the potential to be a Disney Dreamer and Doer. We look forward to hearing about students in each of these categories."

Among last year's winners are a student who started a pajama drive for those in need, a student who dedicates his life to his autistic brother and a student who focuses on volunteering.

Schools will be notified on May 12 if their students are among this year's Shining Stars.


April 14, 2014

How to create customized Easter baskets at Walt Disney World


Guests visiting Walt Disney World for Easter this year have even more options than before for putting together gift baskets for their loved ones.

Disney Floral & Gifts has launched a Custom Gift Builder service this year that allows guests to create personalized Easter baskets -- and there are so many adorable choices! Each customer has the ability to select a container and all of the contents to tailor-make a gift.

Guests who like the look of traditional Easter baskets can choose a white basket with a handle or colorful felt baskets decorated with Mickey Mouse hands and the child's name. For those who prefer a container they can reuse, there are tote bags, backpack coolers, cinch sacks and Mickey Mouse-shaped trays. (You can see all the choices here.) Prices for the containers range from about $18 to $56.


Next comes the best part -- picking out the treats, toys and plush Disney characters to fill the containers. There are more than 100 items that guests can add to their containers, and they are offered at a range of prices. Don't worry: the must-have chocolate bunnies, Peeps marshmallow chicks and various flavors of jelly beans are front and center! (You can peruse the basket goodies here.)

Not sure what to put in an Easter basket to make it look irresistible? You can choose from one of the pre-arranged baskets for boys and girls and personalize it by adding the child's name. (View those options here.) Prices range from $63 to $83.



Disney Floral & Gifts delivers throughout Walt Disney World and also to many locations off property. Visitors can call 407-827-GIFT for more information regarding the delivery service area, and orders can be placed up to 2 p.m. for same-day delivery.

Disney Floral & Gifts is an online and phone service. In addition to it, beginning this week, Walt Disney World guests have another option for creating Easter baskets while on property, as well. In almost all the hotel gift shops, cast members will help guests assemble baskets. Customized baskets start with a white basket, green grass, shrink wrap and the choice of a bow -- pink, yellow, blue, purple -- for $7 plus tax. The rest of the price is determined by the toys and treats added to the basket. There is no charge for labor.




So what are some of the more creative baskets cast members have seen over the years? A water-themed basket that featured goggles, beach toys and a swimsuit for the pool-loving child and a basket with a Disney Dooney & Bourke bag as its centerpiece for one lucky wife.

The Easter basket service will be available through Saturday, April 19, and gift shops also will store the baskets, if guests prefer.


April 17, 2014

'Ever After High' books target tweens with spinoff on princess fairy tales



Tween girls who know the Disney Princess stories by heart and are looking to extend those fairy tales may be excited to discover the spinoff stories about the women's children. The "Ever After High" book series by author Shannon Hale debuted last summer and has quickly become popular with girls ages 8 to 12, including my own 9-year-old daughter.

The book jacket describes the trilogy this way: "At Ever After High, an enchanting boarding school, the children of fairytale legends prepare themselves to fulfill their destinies as the next generation of Snow Whites, Prince Charmings and Evil Queens ... whether they want to or not. Each year on Legacy Day, students sign the Storybook of Legends to seal their scripted fates. For generations, the Village of Book End has whispered that refusing to sign means The End -- both for a story and for a life."

The newest Ever After High book, "The Unfairest of Them All," was just released a few weeks ago, and it picks up after Legacy Day. Decisions made that day pit the Royals, who believe in fulfilling their destinies, against the Rebels, who want to write their own stories.


The main characters are from the "Snow White" story: Apple White, daughter of the Fairest of Them All, and Raven Queen, daughter of the Evil Queen. Through separate novellas, readers are introduced to others, such as Madeline Hatter, daughter of the Mad Hatter of Wonderland; Briar Beauty, daughter of Sleeping Beauty; Ashlynn Ella, daughter of Cinderella; and Hunter Huntsman, son of the heroic Huntsman.

Parents and young readers are likely to compare the wildly popular "Monster High" series to the new "Ever After High" books. After all, both are based on merchandise lines that feature dolls and other licensed products, and it's easy to see the promotions in the stories. Still, Hale's sense of humor keeps the books from feeling like one giant advertisement. For example, the students in Hale's books use MirrorPods and MirrorPhones and listen to Tailor Quick and One Reflection. In addition, the focus stays on the relationships between female characters, rather than veering off into romance territory.

Hale is the New York Times best-selling author of nine children's and young adult novels. She won the Newberry Honor for "Princess Academy" and wrote the critically acclaimed "The Goose Girl."

The "Ever After High" series provides girls who aren't ready to give up their beloved princesses a fun way to delve into the stories again. And if these clever characters help cement an interest in reading, this is one parent who won't complain.


April 19, 2014

Registration is open for SeaWorld Orlando's hands-on summer camps



Registration is now open for SeaWorld Orlando's summer camps. The theme park offers two types of camps -- day and sleep-away programs -- that are designed to allow children to interact with the marine animals as well as learn about the animal residents.

Day camps are organized by grade level for children going into preschool through eighth grade. Campers will focus on a different animal each day -- including whales, dolphins, penguins and sea lions -- and learn about them through songs, take-home arts and crafts, as well as by talking with zoological staff. Lunch, snacks, a camp T-shirt and water bottle are included in the price of camp.

Children entering preschool in the fall can experience SeaFari from 9 a.m. to noon each day. The price is $250, and this is the only camp planned for a parent and child to experience together. That price is for the pair.

Camps for children in grades 1 through 8 take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day and cost $325 per week. (SeaWorld pass members can save $35 per camp by registering through the website or by calling 1-866-479-2267.) Participants who meet the height requirements also will have the opportunity to experience rides together.


Programs for upcoming kindergarten and first-graders include: Sea Hideaway (learn how animals find the best hiding places and explore animal camouflage); Do You See What I Sea (find out how your senses compare to sharks, whales, dolphins and much more); and Secrets of the Sea (uncover the secrets of killer whales, polar bears, and other sea critters).

Kids going into second and third grade can pick from these topics: What's For Lunch (find out what types of food the animals eat and then help feed dolphins, flamingos and sting rays); Ocean Odyssey (discover why some animals migrate and where they go); and Animal Addresses (learn how killer whales, sea lions, penguins and other animals adapt to their surroundings).


Campers entering fourth and fifth grades in the fall have their choice of Animal Antics (explore the world of animal behavior and training with up-close encounters); Walk on the Wild Side (learn about a variety of animals with hands-on experiences); and Feeding Frenzy (learn how SeaWorld prepares food for over 60,000 animals and feed some of the residents).

The oldest campers, upcoming sixth- to eighth-graders, will focus on careers related to animal care: Wild Careers (go behind the scenes to see what it's like to work with the animals and help construct toys for them); Marine Biology 101 (discover what it's like to be a real marine biologist and conduct hands-on experiments); and Animal Sciences (learn how biology, geography and other sciences all play a role in studying marine animals and visit the park's research facilities). During these three camps, the participants will spend one day at Aquatica, SeaWorld's nearby water park.

For day camps, a same-day after-camp admission to SeaWorld is available at a discounted rate.


Students going into seventh through twelfth grades can attend resident "sleep-away" camps. These campers experience what it takes to train and work with marine animals and have the opportunity to touch a penguin, snorkel in a shark cage, work with the animal care staff and create an enriching environment for our animals. Plus, participants spend a day at Discovery Cove swimming with dolphins, snorkeling with tropical fish and rays and feeding exotic birds in a free-flight aviary. They also will visit Aquatica.

Resident camps cost $1,200, which includes all camp activities, lodging onsite at SeaWorld and at our partner hotel for five nights, plus all meals and snacks. Supervision and guidance is provided 24 hours a day for the entire duration.

SeaWorld camps are accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA), a nationally recognized association focused on health, safety and program quality.

All SeaWorld camps begin the week of June 9. The last camp starts on Aug. 4. For more information, visit SeaWorldCamps.com/Orlando or call 1-800-406-2244.

Check out my other SeaWorld Orlando Blogs!


April 21, 2014

Celebrate Earth Day 2014 with Party for the Planet at Walt Disney World


To celebrate Earth Day, Walt Disney World is bringing back popular activities from past years -- and adding a few surprises -- at the resort on Tuesday.

The biggest celebration, Party for the Planet, takes place at Animal Kingdom, and the activities are included with regular admission to the theme park. As guests enter the park, they will again see displays of wildlife-friendly backyard habitats and be encouraged to collect a free postcard. The postcards are a visual reminder of where to find the Earth Day activities and, in years past, guests were invited to mail them for free at several special mailboxes located throughout Animal Kingdom.


This year, most of the activities are concentrated at Rafiki's Planet Watch, instead of extending into the Asia and Africa sections. The supermarket game has moved to this area of the park, which is accessible by a short train ride. Kids are invited to "shop" at a store and asked to find the items that are most Earth-friendly. At the end of the activity, cast members explain how to choose "green" products to make a difference for wildlife and nature.


The other stations will allow participants "to discover new ways to spend time in nature, talk to cast members who work on conservation projects around the world, participate in a variety of nature activities - including activities focused on brown bears - and find out more about the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund," wrote Dr. Jackie Ogden, Vice President of Animals, Science and Environment.

In addition to the hands-on activities focused on brown bears -- which are the subject of Disneynature's new film, "Bears," that opened April 18 -- the animals will be represented in the designs offered by face painters and caricature artists that will be at Rafiki's Planet Watch on April 22.


There will, of course, be special merchandise to mark the occasion, but perhaps the most-sought-after will be the safari-costumed Duffy the Disney Bear sold only at Animal Kingdom through April 30. One dollar from each sale will be donated to the National Park Foundation through Disney's Worldwide Conservation Fund to celebrate "Bears." (If you see the movie during its opening week, Disneynature makes a donation to the National Park Foundation through Disney's Worldwide Conservation Fund.)


Guests who will be at Epcot on Tuesday also will find an Earth Day celebration at The Seas with Nemo & Friends. Displays throughout the pavilion -- many of which also can be seen on World Oceans Day on June 8 -- help children learn how turtle excluder devices protect sea turtles and how conservation efforts save coral reefs, manatees and sharks.

At one booth inside The Seas, a cast member will explain how The Walt Disney Co. is helping to protect coral reefs near Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line's private island in the Bahamas, by relocating sea urchins that help control the algae there.


At another, guests will learn that they can contribute to the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund's sea turtle conservation efforts through the Adopt-A-Nest Program. They can do so at the gift shop at Epcot's The Seas with Nemo & Friends; the Out of the Wild shop at Animal Kingdom; and at Disney's Vero Beach Resort.


The adoption program, which launched on July 5, 2007, offers guests adoption packages for $50 that include a Disney Worldwide Conservation Hero Button, a "Finding Nemo" themed keychain, and an adoption certificate that lists the species of turtle and the date the eggs were laid in the nest. Guests can use their certificate numbers to track online their nest's success and possible hatchings at http://www.nestingturtles.com/adoptanest/

Proceeds from the program benefit turtle and beach conservation efforts throughout the state of Florida.


April 24, 2014

How do you feel about line jumping at Walt Disney World?


With one of the busiest weeks of the year at Walt Disney World fresh in our minds - and the crowded summer season knocking on our door -- I'd like to discuss an issue that evokes strong feelings among visitors to Orlando's theme parks.

Few things anger out-of-town and local guests as much as watching others cut ahead of them in a queue they have invested a significant amount of time waiting in. Most people would, of course, agree that this behavior is unacceptable. After all, it forces the honest guests to wait in line longer and, consequently, experience fewer attractions per day. However, the line is a little blurred when it comes to defining what is line jumping and what is not.

When a guest blatantly disregards the queue system or pushes his or her way to the front out of some misguided sense of entitlement, it's pretty clear that they have line-jumped. Unfortunately, this sort of abuse is what led Walt Disney World to change the way it accommodates disabled guests. In the past, those guests and up to five other people in their parties were allowed front-of-line access at any ride at any time. Now, disabled guests are asked to use the FastPass+ system to guarantee they will not have long waits. The new system does require that disabled guests plan out their days, like others using FastPass+, and it (hopefully) slows the dishonest use of disability access.

But what about the everyday line jumping that most theme-park-goers experience?

Here is a scenario: A family wants to meet the Anna and Elsa characters from "Frozen."οΏ½ As we all know, the wait to see the sisters in the stand-by queue is anywhere from two to five hours every single day - despite their recent move to the Magic Kingdom. Most parents would agree that a wait of that length is impossible for children to endure and not a good use of the family's time and money.

So, the parents decide that one will stay in the long line to hold their place while the other parent takes the kids out to enjoy the park in the meantime. It's more pleasant for everyone involved, and the waiting parent is happy that his or her children are having other experiences.

My family of four used this strategy when we waited three hours to meet Jack Skellington at last year's Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.

But some say that this is considered line jumping. They believe that if you get out of line for any reason, you lose your spot, regardless of whether the rest of your party remained in line. I had no idea!

There are so many variables that go along with guests splitting up from their parties and rejoining them in line. Families with young children may need bathroom breaks, and families with older adults may not be able to withstand the sun for long periods. Visitors also could have medical reasons that are not readily visible. In any case, I have never seen cast members intervene when guests are rejoining their parties in line.

Still, when it was brought to my attention recently that some guests consider this behavior to be cutting in line, it made me curious to know what other Walt Disney World guests think. I'd love to get a conversation started in the comments. What do you consider to be line jumping?


April 26, 2014

Walt Disney World hosts 2014 summer Junior Golf Camp


As an Orlando resident with children who love Walt Disney World, I have wished every year that the resort would offer summer camps. Until recently, though, the theme-park giant hasn't gotten into the business of educating and entertaining kids in a camp setting the way some other Central Florida themed attractions have.


However, there is one popular section of the resort that has taken a swing at offering a summer camp experience. Walt Disney World Golf is offering its Junior Golf Camp for the second year after a successful debut in 2013.

Kids ages 7 to 17 can learn from PGA professionals on the resort's championship golf courses. They will practice putting at a Magnolia course green, improve their short games and full swings near the Palm course, and play the Oak Trail course on three separate days. There is a ratio of one instructor for every six junior golfers, and each session can accommodate up to 24 campers.


"We really want to give kids the chance to be introduced to the game or to polish their skills while giving them the 'Disney Experience' with the program," Michael Schlager, director of instruction for Walt Disney World Golf, told me.


Each weeklong session is more than just a golf clinic, he said. The "Disney Experience" means that lessons are themed to Disney characters, plus there are games and prizes. At the end of the week, junior golfers even are awarded medals for their teams' standings in the ongoing competition.


Lunch also is included in the cost of the camp, which is $350 per week. (Each additional child in the same family receives a discount of $50 off the tuition.) On Monday through Thursday, students are served a boxed lunch with items such as a sandwich, apple, chips and a drink. On Friday, they celebrate the week with a pizza party. Each lunch hour also features a Disney movie.


Walt Disney World's Junior Golf Camp runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. The weeklong sessions begin on June 9, 16, 23; July 7, 21, 28; and August 4 and 11. To register, call 407-WDW-GOLF or go online to www.golfwdw.com. If your child doesn't have golf clubs, a set will be provided.

"We put a focus a fun, and we give [the junior golfers] better skills," Schlager said. "They have a lot more fun if they continue to improve."

Arnold Palmer Golf Management operates Walt Disney World Golf courses.


April 29, 2014

Disney Channel announces 'Teen Beach Movie' sequel for 2015


Disney Channel fans got a splash of good news this weekend when the network announced that a sequel to "Teen Beach Movie" will begin production in July. "Teen Beach Movie 2" will have its television premiere in 2015.


Actors Ross Lynch, Maia Mitchell, Grace Phipps, Garrett Clayton and John DeLuca will return for the sequel. Lynch and Mitchell portray Brady and McKenzie, respectively, a couple of surfers who are magically transported inside the classic '60s beach party flick, "Wet Side Story," where a rivalry between bikers and surfers threatens to erupt. Brady and Mack accidentally change the musical's storyline, and the film's hero, Tanner (Clayton), and heroine, Lela (Phipps), fall for them instead of for each other.

"Teen Beach Movie" ends with Brady and McKenzie returning from their adventure and being surprised by a visit from Lela, Tanner, Butchy (DeLuca) and the other surfers and bikers. Clearly, the writers were setting up the plot for a continuation.

And the original movie's numbers helped greenlight the sequel. According to The Hollywood Reporter, "[Teen Beach Movie] ranks as cable television's No. 2 movie in total viewers with a giant 13.53 million. The original soundtrack also peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart and was No. 1 on the soundtrack chart."

The news of the sequel was announced Saturday before the Radio Disney Music Awards were filmed. The "Teen Beach Movie" cast reunited during the show, which was televised Sunday night.


Last spring, actors Clayon, Kent Boyd (Rascal) and Chrissie Fit (Cheechee) visited Walt Disney World to kick off a summer beach party at the Typhoon Lagoon water park, and I had the opportunity to interview them. I was especially curious about their time filming in Puerto Rico, since I had lived there as a child and visited several times as an adult. The beach scenes were filmed at the governor's beach in Fajardo on the east side of the island, and the interiors were built and shot in a studio in San Juan. Presumably, the cast will be returning to the tropical paradise, where they spent two months filming the first movie.



"I'm Cuban, so I speak Spanish and that's what I love -- to get lost in the island, the food, the music, the people, the beaches," Fit told me. "I saw El Morro [the fortress] when I was in Old San Juan. "¦ We also went to El Yunque. I hiked up the waterfall twice -- beautiful -- and saw the bioluminescent bay. That was unreal. I had never been to Puerto Rico before, but I'd always wanted to go."


Boyd added, "The best part was the beaches. The water was really like a postcard and the sand was so white."

To read more from my interviews, see my previous "Teen Beach Movie" blog post here.

And while we waiting for the new soundtrack, here's a look back at Clayon, Boyd and Fit doing their choreographed dance to "Surf's Up" at Typhoon Lagoon:


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About April 2014

This page contains all entries posted to A Mom and The Magic in April 2014. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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