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November 1, 2016

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin delivers on its Food & Wine Classic seminars

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Although I often write about fun for families in Orlando, these next two blog posts are for adults. Parents need some time away from the kids to recharge, and we at AllEars.Net think the annual Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic is the perfect date night opportunity. Kids are welcome at the event, but it’s definitely the grown-ups who will have the most fun at it.

My husband and I attended the seventh annual Food & Wine Classic on Saturday night, and Deb Wills and Linda Eckwerth were there enjoying the offerings Friday night. There were 12 food stations, 42 beverage stops and three specialty areas. Plus, guests could choose to attend one of 10 food and beverage seminars before the main event opened. With so much to cover, I’m going to dedicate this first blog post to the amazing seminars the four of us attended. Then, I’ll move on to the causeway and specialty areas.

I had the opportunity to attend the Base to Bubbles champagne class with Deb, while Linda and my husband, Steven, went to the Craft Cocktails seminar.

Unlike Deb, I am a wine novice, so everything about the class was new to me. Our instructor was Olivier Zambaux, a certified sommelier, director of banquets at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin, and a native of France, which is, of course, also the birthplace of champagne. So, clearly, Mr. Zambaux was well-qualified to teach our seminar, but he also was entertaining, so our time together did not become a dry history lesson.

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He walked us through the steps of making champagne, which requires first making wine. We tasted three wines that are ideal and usually used for creating the best champagne:

Chardonnay: It provides a wine with floral and sometimes mineral aromas. Its slow development makes it ideal for aging.

Pinot Meunier: This variety is supple and fruity. Its bouquet is intense; it develops quickly over time and gives a certain roundness to a wine.

Pinot Noir: This noble variety imparts structure and power to the blend, as well as aromas of fruits.

And then we sipped three types of wine blends, otherwise known as champagne:

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Pommery: This label was crisp and aged in steel tanks rather than barrels to create that flavor.

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Veuve Clicquot, Rosé: Red grapes and sometimes their skins, which are left on for a short time, create this beautiful pink champagne that is sweet to taste.

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Moet & Chandon, Nectar Imperial: This champagne is very sweet, smooth and bubbly.

The taste of champagne changes with the food that it is paired with, so we were given different kinds of bread with fancy cheeses and spreads, as well as a large strawberry dipped in chocolate and a sweet biscuit, to experiment with.

The Base to Bubbles seminar cost $50 per person, which included the instruction, three wine tastings, three champagne tastings, the food samples, a glass of champagne to enjoy while we waited for the presentation to start, and a bottle of water.

Deb, who has attended many such wine seminars and is very knowledgeable about wines, said, “This seminar was excellent and provided lots of information about both the grape varietals in champagne but also explained how champagne is produced. I had never tasted the Pinot Meunier before so I enjoyed that aspect. The class was well-done, and I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about champagne.”

As a wine and champagne novice, I wondered if I would feel out of place among the connoisseurs at this class. I certainly did not. The instruction was appealing to attendees of all backgrounds, and I, too, would recommend this seminar if it is offered again next year.

While Deb and I were learning about champagne, Linda and Steven were shaking things up a bit in the popular Craft Cocktails seminar next door.

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Craft Cocktails was led by Aaron Simmons, general manager of Cabana Bar and Beach Club and Splash Grill and Terrace, and Ariel Bruckner, general manager of Garden Grove. Both were dressed in costumes to create the feeling that participants were in a speakeasy.

“The seminar is designed to give the home bartender more confidence in creating cocktails at home and enjoying their home parties,” Linda said. “I enjoyed so much about this seminar: Getting to use the "gadgets" bartenders use to learning about bitters and how they enhance a cocktail and even the different forms of ice used in a drink. At the end we were handed a flyer that included the recipes for our cocktails and how to make our own bitters.

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Cucumber Southside Fizz
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Whiskey Sour

“We were greeted with a St. George Street Punch. While it was tasty, it is not something I would drink regularly. I enjoyed both of the cocktails we made, the Whiskey Sour and Cucumber Southside Fizz. The Fizz had a slight advantage for my favorite because it was light and refreshing."

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The cocktails were served with traditional speakeasy snacks, such as cheese-flavored bread sticks, a deviled egg and a salmon-flavored cheese and cracker. The Craft Cocktails seminar also cost $50.

Linda and Steven both said the Craft Cocktails seminar was well worth the price. “This was a fun seminar and I would recommend it to anyone wanted to get a quick lesson on how easy it is to make a good cocktail at home,” Linda said.

DISCLAIMER: I was a guest of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin at its Food & Wine Classic events. This did not affect my review, and my opinions are my own. Deb and Linda purchased their own tickets to the events.



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November 3, 2016

Here's why you don't want to miss 2017 Food and Wine Classic at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin

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Yesterday, I told you about two of the entertaining and informative beverage seminars at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin’s Food & Wine Classic. Today, I’m describing the main attraction: the food and beverage stations lining the outdoor causeway and the specialty areas.

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For those not familiar with the event, the Food & Wine Classic is two evenings of sampling appetizer-size portions of food, wine and beer in an outdoor atmosphere with live entertainment. Each night has a different menu at the 12 food stations that represent restaurants and chefs that are part of the resort. Over the last seven years, the event has grown to also include two specialty areas: Carnival Corner and Chinatown.

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This year was the first year for Chinatown, which was located at the far end of the walkway between the beach and the main pool for the Dolphin. From the feedback we heard -- and our own tastings -- we found the new area to be quite successful. Guests entered through a pagoda-style arch, and the area was decorated with a Chinese sculpture, red lighting in the landscape, projections on the food kiosk and even Bruce Lee movies playing silently on a building facade. Patrons could sample the Shanghai Dumpling, a pan roasted duck dumpling in spicy sauce, and a portion of crispy duck served on a steamed bun with cucumber hoisin. Both were outstanding. The dishes were paired with the Happy Buddha and Tsingtao beers.

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Nearby, the Carnival Corner returned with food trucks serving the same specialty items as they did at their debut last year: Texas-Style Corn Dogs, Funnel Cakes, Nitro Kettle Corn, Cabot Creamery Mac & Cheese, and Wines. We had sampled each of the dishes last year, and we were happy to go back for our favorites this year. Three carnival-style games had been added to this area, one included in the cost of a wristband and the others charging a nominal fee, and each offered prizes, such as a bottle of wine ot a can of the resort’s own beer, Phins & Feathers Pale Ale. This area seemed to attract the younger crowd and was busy throughout the night.

Out on the causeway, popular food stations included those of celebrity chef Todd English, Kimonos, Cib's Smoke Shop, Shula's Steakhouse and Il Mulino. Lines appeared long at times -- especially at the start of the event at 5:30 p.m. -- but we’ve learned over the years that they ebb and flow. There’s no need to stand in a long line. If you do choose to wait, though, know that the lines move quickly, and people seem to be enjoying the time chatting.

Here are some of the dishes we sampled this year:

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Cib’s Smokehouse: Hand-crafted Bacon with Sweet Corn Puree, Fried Brussel Sprouts and Compressed Heirloom Apple

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Fresh: Thai Chicken Salad – Organic Greens, Green Papaya and Tamarind-Ginger Dressing

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BlueZoo: Shrimp Cocktail Steamroller

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Chef Laurent Branlard’s Desserts: Caramel Sea Salt Éclair with Vanilla Whipped Cream and Comfit Ginger Pears; Lemon Meringue Cup with Lemon Gelee and Frangipan; and Chocolate Fondant with Orange Pate de Fruit Milk, Chocolate Cremeux and Orange Cream. Plus, a Chocolate cake and Vinalla Sundae with Caramelized Banana, Peanuts and Whipped Cream.

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Fountain: Southern Pulled Pork, Apple Fennel Slaw, Smoked Tomato BBQ Sauce and Pullman Bun

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Il Mulino: Arancini – Braised Osso Buco, Carnaroli Risoto, Sauce Fra Diavolo

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Shula’s Steakhouse: Salt Roasted Prime New York Strip, Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Sauce Bordelaise

As the name indicates, the Food & Wine Classic is also all about the beverages. In fact, there are 42 beverage stations along the causeway.

Deb Wills and Linda Eckwerth attended the event on Friday, and because they are more wine aficionados than me, I asked their thoughts about the offerings. Here’s what they had to say:

“The causeway provides a great opportunity to taste new wines and learn more about what you like or may not like,” Deb said. “One of my favorites, Justin winery, was back, and I enjoyed tasting their newest Cabernet. I found the St. Francis kiosk and it had been a while since I tasted those and enjoyed the old vines Zinfandel. I am learning more about Pinot Grigio and was happy to find a few on the causeway I could try.”

Linda also found some old favorites and a new wine she liked.

“I enjoyed one of my favorite Chardonnays from Cambria. I learned that the Katharine brand will be elevated in cost and grapes. The current Katharine has been renamed to Benchbreak,” she said. “I also found a new Chianti I liked: Rocca della Macie. The original wine I wanted to taste from St Francis had a long line, and there wasn't line at the Chianti table. I tried something new and I liked it.”

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Guests who prefer beer to wine had plenty of beverage options, as well, on the causeway and especially if they chose to upgrade their Food & Wine Classic tickets to include the Beer Garden for an additional $25. The Beer Garden was located on the Crescent Terrace near the canal with a view of the nearby Boardwalk. The area, under a canopy of shade trees, was populated with various beer and food vendors. My husband enjoyed some familiar beers from brewers such as Sam Adams, Highland Brewing, Swamp Head, MIA Brewing and more. Along with the great-tasting beer offerings were warm pretzels and various mustards, and vendors offering German Style sausage and Wiener Schnitzel, too, for a perfect beer-pairing snack.

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The offerings from Winter Garden-based Crooked Can Brewing Co. included the High Stepper American IPA, the McSwagger’s Own amber ale and the Cloud Chaser, which is a Hefeweizen, or wheat, beer. My husband had the IPA and the amber and enjoyed both. He’s an IPA fan but doesn’t always enjoy the American-style variety as much as the real thing. Still, he had praise for it and the McSwagger’s Own.

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The beer he liked the most, though was the Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale that, like its name implies, is aged in bourbon barrels to give it a distinctive flavor. It was a good sipping beer for many of the dishes sampled at the event, my husband said. Plus, the full-flavored brew can stand alone on cooler days and nights, too.

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This was my fourth year covering the Food & Wine Classic for AllEars.Net, and it’s an event I look forward to every year. It’s a great value for your money with the event lasting for three and a half hours, and it does not feel rushed. If you haven’t tried this event, I recommend putting it on your calendar for next year. It’s a great date night! Official dates for 2017 have not yet been announced, but it typically is held the last weekend in October.

DISCLAMER: I was a guest of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin at its Food & Wine Classic. This did not affect my review, and my opinions are my own.



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November 4, 2016

UPDATED: runDisney debuts its partnership with Misfit at 2016 Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend

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Thursday marks the beginning of runDisney’s 2016 Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World, and as participants know, there have been a lot of changes to this weekend’s races. But perhaps less well-known is the new relationship runDisney has formed with this weekend’s sponsor, Misfit.

Misfit is a manufacturer of wearable activity trackers. One of the hallmarks of its products is that they do not need to be charged; owners simply replace the batteries when necessary. Another popular feature is that the sleek devices are water resistant and some are waterproof.

As part of the new agreement with Disney, Misfit has been named the official activity tracker of runDisney and ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort. In addition to becoming the presenting sponsor at this year’s Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend, Misfit will be an official sponsor of the seven other runDisney events held at Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort.

Misfit brand products include the Ray, Shine, Shine 2, Flash and Link.

My family became familiar with Misfit products over the summer when my teenage son, who swims competitively, was looking for an activity tracker to use both at his daily practices and for his training runs. In June, the company launched its second version of the Shine device: Misfit Shine 2 Swimmer’s Edition, powered by Speedo. The Misfit Shine 2 uses Speedo’s proprietary lap-counting algorithms to track a swimmer’s lap count as well as provide user feedback, such as progress and activity reminders. Those features are what prompted us to purchase a Misfit Shine 2, and we have no regrets.

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The Misfit Shine 2 is meant to be worn both in and out of the water, and so it also tracks walking, running, cycling, and light and deep sleep. And it does well with the runners.

Wareable.com named the Misfit Shine 2 one of the best fitness trackers in 2016. Here’s the tech website’s mini review:

“When the Misfit launched the [original] Shine back in 2012, it proved that you can count your steps from a fitness tracker that didn't look like an ugly piece of plastic around your wrist. The Shine 2 remains faithful to its original features and now adds a redesigned action clip, smartphone notifications and vibration alerts. Also, the battery life pretty much kicks the *** of any of the trackers. ... Where it really impresses though is data accuracy. When we put the Shine 2 up against a GPS running watch recently, there was 0.1km difference in the readings. If reliable data is your priority, then this is the one to go for.”

The Misfit Shine 2 also is compatible with Misfit Link, the software that turns the activity tracker into a remote to connect with the world around the wearer: Communicate with friends, turn on lights, change music, take a selfie, and more.

Wareable.com also gives the Misfit Ray a nod, naming it “Best for Simplicity” among the Best Fitness Trackers of 2016.

“Stylish and sleek, Misfit broke from the traditional design of its circular Shine tracker to offer something a little more discreet. The Misfit Ray offers steps and sleep tracking, all within Misfit's sleek and clean app. It will also alert users to messages and calls from a paired smartphone. There are now decent strap options now from Misfit, and it can be worn as a pendent. Decent customization mixed with strong (if no frills) fitness tracking and a good price mean you can't go wrong with the Ray.”

Misfit has begun its rollout of runDisney-branded accessories for the Ray. At the Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend Expo, the first 100 customers who purchased a Ray device received the box of three bands, including one race-specific band, pictured below. At the expo, runners could purchase the Misfit Ray for 30 percent off its regular price of $99.99.

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My son has had his Misfit Shine 2 Swimmer’s Edition device for about four months now, and when we had an issue with one of the interchangeable bands, the Misfit customer service department was responsive to our complaint. The company definitely stands behind its products.

“Misfit aims to motivate individuals and families everywhere to stay active and have fun doing it,” Preston Moxcey, general manager of Misfit, said in a press release. “Our relationship with runDisney and ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex provides incredible opportunities to share fitness inspiration with friends and loved ones, and we’re so excited to be a part of it.”

Misfit is celebrating its fifth anniversary with a 30 percent discount on its fitness trackers, gear and accessories if they are ordered on the company website through Oct. 31. Use the code MISFITBDAY.



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November 5, 2016

Disney movie review: Marvel Studios' Doctor Strange

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I didn’t expect to like Doctor Strange as much as I did mainly because I don’t feel a personal connection to the Marvel Studios’ superheroes the way many comics fans do. But that was precisely what made the movie so good: a filmgoer like myself could get caught up in the story – and the thrilling way it was translated from a comic book -- without needing a lot of detailed background for it to make sense and be enjoyable.

We are introduced to Stephen Strange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) in the operating room, not as a patient, but as a cocky, brash surgeon. He’s at the top of his game and doesn’t hesitate to let everyone around him know that. He lives life in the fast lane, quite literally, which results in a devastating accident that robs the doctor of his profession when his hands are crushed beyond repair.

He hasn’t lost everything, though, because his former love interest, Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), sticks around and is determined to help him accept his new reality. Strange, however, is not complacent and is looking for any way he can to return to the operating room. And he eventually finds it in the unlikely hands of the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), her sorcerer Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and the librarian and guardian of ancient spells Wong (Benedict Wong).

But things are not always as they seem, and Strange is introduced to a world of mystic arts and struggles behind the scenes –- aspects of reality that he never knew existed. He must learn quickly and put his photographic mind to good use to combat the powers of evil as he tries to protect the physical world from renegade sorcerers.

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The battle scenes and those when Strange is learning to harness his power give the audience amazing visual effects. Among them is the characters’ ability to bend matter and time, which appears on screen as if the audience is looking through a kaleidoscope. Watching objects that we perceive as immobile folding in on themselves is a feat that is difficult to tear your eyes away from. Director Scott Derrickson deftly handles the CGI work that makes Doctor Strange stand out. Be sure to see this movie in 3D because it’s worth it.

Although Doctor Strange is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat, stay alert so you don’t miss the cameo by creator Stan Lee, who appears in all the Marvel movies. Also, for a couple clues about what the future holds for Doctor Strange, you’ll want to stay in theater for two stingers that appear during the credits.

"Doctor Strange," a Walt Disney Studios release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for "sci-fi violence and action throughout, and an intense crash sequence." Running time: 115 minutes.

Note to parents: My 12-year-old daughter reminded me that characters in this movie liberally use the word “a**hole.” There are no F-bombs, but if such coarse language is a concern for you, beware. The violence is not overly gory, but just a natural part of the battles between good and evil. On the other hand, the movie does address positive themes, as well, such as refusing to give up and learning to accept something you didn’t previously believe in.

DISCLAIMER: I viewed “Doctor Strange” at a media screening before its official release. This did not affect my review; my opinions are my own.



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November 8, 2016

Celebrity performances for Disney Christmas specials expected to tape at Walt Disney World this week

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This year, The Walt Disney Co. is giving fans two extra holiday television specials in November in addition to its traditional Christmas morning show – and taping begins this week at Walt Disney World.

Filming will take place beginning tomorrow (Nov. 9) through Sunday (Nov. 13) at all four Walt Disney World theme parks, according to multiple media outlets. The Christmas parade will be taped only at Disneyland in California, which means only musical performances and other segments will be recorded in Orlando. No dates for taping on the West Coast have been announced so far.

For about a decade now I have attended – and written about -- tapings of musical performances Walt Disney World that are seen in the Disney Parks special that airs on Christmas morning. Typically, performances take place in front of Cinderella Castle or on a stage set up in Town Square at the Magic Kingdom.

Walt Disney World used to invite various groups, such as passholders, sports volunteers and even the general public, to apply for free tickets to the tapings. In exchange, ticketholders agreed to be in the audience for a block of time. For the last several years, however, only cast members were eligible for the tickets, and that is the case again this year.

But even if you don't have one of the complimentary production tickets, you still may be able to take part in the tapings -- or at least see some of the acts. The Magic Kingdom, where many tapings take place, opens to the public at 8 a.m. on Nov. 9 to 13. Passholders and guests who pay admission may enter the park, and if there is room in the roped-off areas for the pre-selected audience -- which usually happens later in the afternoon -- they may be allowed to join cast members.

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Last year, my son and I arrived when the park opened and easily were able to join the crowd in front of Cinderella Castle to see a few performers, including Jason Derulo and Ariana Grande.

A word of warning: This is an actual television production, which means that songs are sung multiple times to get the desired images from the correct camera angle. For example, on one of Ariana’s takes, her mouse ears fell off, so the crowd got to see her perform the song again. We weren’t complaining, especially because it was a song from her new album. Know that you most likely will spend more time waiting than viewing the events, and you shouldn't expect to see a seamless concert. I speak from experience when I say this can be a tedious process. Still, it can be a worthwhile experience if you know what to expect.

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So, who are the celebrity performers for 2016? Here’s what we know so far, courtesy of the Disney Parks Blog. No word on which stars are taping in California or Florida. More performers are expected to be announced in the days ahead.

“The Wonderful World of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration” on ABC on Nov. 24, from 8-10 p.m. EST. Emmy Award-winners Julianne and Derek Hough will serve as hosts for this two-hour special from the Walt Disney World Resort, which will also feature “Descendants 2” star Sofia Carson, a duet by Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks, and a performance by Kelly Clarkson.

“Disney Parks Presents: A Descendants Magical Holiday Celebration” on Disney Channel on Nov. 25 from 8-9 p.m. EST. Musical performers include Dove Cameron, Cameron Boyce, Sofia Carson and Booboo Stewart, “Descendants 2” star China Anne McClain, Trisha Yearwood with Garth Brooks, and Kelly Clarkson. ABC stars and Disney Channel stars will also surprise philanthropic families around the country with once-in-a-lifetime experiences at the Walt Disney World Resort.

“The Disney Parks’ Magical Christmas Celebration” on ABC on Dec. 25, from 9-11 a.m. EST. Join holiday hosts Julianne and Derek Hough for a magical ride down Main Street and beyond for a celebration that brings together the beloved Christmas day parade with magical musical performances, surprise celebrity guests and heart-warming family stories. Musical performers on tap are Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks, Kelly Clarkson, Sofia Carson and Jordan Fisher.



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November 10, 2016

5 new Disney Dooney and Bourke handbag prints to debut in November 2016

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Disney Dooney & Bourke fans, get your wallets ready! In November, the high-end purse company is releasing not just one, but five new patterns on a variety of handbags. And one of the patterns has a Christmas theme, which is a much-sought-after first.

Beginning tomorrow (Nov. 11), shoppers will be able to purchase the Disney Woodland Christmas Dooney & Bourke bags at Disneyland, Walt Disney World and on the Shop Disney Parks app. The holiday bags feature a retro pattern with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse characters in green and red participating in several traditional Christmas and winter activities, such as exchanging presents, kissing under the mistletoe and sledding on a cream-color background. There also are images of a Disney castle and a mouse-ear Santa hat. The Disney Woodland Christmas pattern will be available on the Tote ($248), the Crossbody ($198) and the Wristlet ($98) pictured from left to right below.

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Tip: At Walt Disney World, the Disney Dooney & Bourke Holiday bags will be on sale at the Marketplace Co-Op at Disney Springs Marketplace. The store opens at 10 a.m. Friday (and daily), but shoppers are expected to line up early.

On Monday, Nov. 14, the new Princess Keys pattern will be released only on the Disney Parks app. The pattern is a pale pink background with a collection of keys inspired by Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Rapunzel and Snow White. The available bags are the Zip Zip Satchel ($268), the Tote ($248) and the Large Letter Carrier ($198).

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On Friday, Nov. 18, there will be a Disney Dooney & Bourke release party at Cherry Tree Lane inside the Marketplace Co-Op at Disney Springs Marketplace where two new collections will make their debut. The Retro Sticker Collage pattern features images of park attractions and icons, which are always popular. This collection includes three silhouettes -- a Tote ($248), a Large Letter Carrier ($198) and a Wristlet ($98). The Walt Disney World Toile collection also depicts favorite sites at Walt Disney World interpreted in a classic pattern. The Toile collection will have a Hobo Satchel ($248), a Tote ($248) and a Large Letter Carrier ($198).

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During this special event, guests will have an opportunity to meet Ian Ray, creative director for Dooney & Bourke, from 10:30 a.m. to noon.

The Retro Sticker Collage collection also will be released on Nov. 18 at Disneyland.

Finally, on Monday, Nov. 28, a Disney cat-themed collection will be introduced only on the Shop Disney Parks app. The pattern has a pale blue background with colorful Disney characters, such as the Cheshire Cat and Marie from Aristocats. It will be available as a Zip Zip Satchel ($268), a Letter Carrier ($178) and a Pouchette ($158).

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Will you be shopping for a new Disney Dooney bag?



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November 12, 2016

New Balance unveils its 2017 runDisney collection of running shoes

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Shoemaker New Balance unveiled its much-anticipated designs for its 2017 runDisney collection on Thursday. Typically, the reveal comes during the week before the first running event of the year, which is the series of races at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in January.

In past years, the color and design of each shoe was intended to recall a specific Disney character. This year, for the first time, the shoes are patterned after attractions at Walt Disney World: Toy Story Mania, Mad Tea Party, Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain.

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Haunted Mansion
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Space Mountain

The Toy Story Mania and Mad Tea Party shoes are the 880V6 style running shoe, which cost $139.95 for adult sizes and $79.95 for children’s sizes in 2016. The Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain designs are the Vazee Pace v2 style running shoe, which cost $124.95 in 2016. Prices for the 2017 runDisney collection have not yet been announced.

The shoes are on display at the runDisney Health and Fitness Expo for the Disneyland Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend, which is taking place now. Runners attending the Expo reported online that they were told by cast members that the new shoes would first be available at the Expo for Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. That Expo will take place Jan. 4 through 7, 2017. They also will be available at the Expo at the Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend – The Light Side from Jan 12 through 14, 2017. After the first race weekends on each coast, the Limited Edition shoes will continue to be sold exclusively at the runDisney expos throughout the year.

Because of the popularity of the runDisney shoes, New Balance typically operates a virtual queue for its Expo customers. Guests who would like to try on -- and possibly purchase -- the running shoes must make an appointment online. Sign-ups at NBvirtualqueue.com for the first day of the Expo usually are reserved for runners, and appointments cannot be made without a bib number. Other days are open to all Expo attendees.

New Balance's rules last year stated that customers could reserve one pair of running shoes per reservation. They would be able to choose up to five more pairs in the booth and could purchase a total of six pairs of runDisney Collection footwear per event weekend. Rules for 2017 have not yet been posted.

When it's close to a guest's reserved time, he or she receives a text and then must return within an hour or risk losing the shoes that were saved for that appointment. If the reserved shoes do not fit, the sales associate will check for other sizes. Customers can keep an eye on general inventory levels at NBVirtualQueue.com.

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New Balance first released Limited Edition runDisney shoes in 2013. The 860v3 sneakers were designed in the bright red, yellow, black and white traditional colors of modern Mickey and Minnie. They have since been retired. In 2014, the styles were designed to recall Sorcerer Mickey and Goofy (men's) and Cinderella and Minnie Mouse (women's). Due to popular demand, a limited number of the four New Balance 860v4 shoes were made available in 2015. New in 2015, runDisney and New Balance introduced Retro Mickey and Minnie 990v3 sneakers in black, gray and white that paid homage to Steamboat Willie. Plus, Tinker Bell and Donald Duck Fresh Foam Boracay shoes debuted later in the year. In 2016, the Dumbo Vazee Pace, Ariel Vazee Pace and the Red Carpet Mickey and Minnie 860v6s joined the lineup.

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Are you excited about the 2017 collection of runDisney New Balance running shoes? Tell us about it in the comments.



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November 15, 2016

What’s new for 2016 at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

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Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party has returned to the Magic Kingdom for select nights in November and December, bringing Christmas cheer to visitors and locals alike. Deb Wills and Linda Eckwerth attended one of the parties last week, and my family and I will be going in December. I will have several reports about what you can expect. First, here’s what’s new this year at the Christmas party:

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I met Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde at a media event earlier this year, but now all Christmas partygoers can meet the Zootopia pair.

** Rare and new character meet-and-greets are a hallmark of Walt Disney World’s Christmas and Halloween parties, and the 2016 hard-ticket events are no exception. Zootopia’s Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde will meet guests for the first time at Walt Disney World during the parties. (They can be seen daily in the Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Parade, but they do not get down off their float.) Look for the line to meet them near the Carousel of Progress in Tomorrowland.

Tip: Get in line before the party officially starts at 7 p.m. Reports from the first week of the parties say the pair began greeting guests early as long as you have your party wristband. At the very least, you’ll save party time by getting what are sure to be long lines out of the way before most holiday entertainment starts.

** A new stage show, Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration, takes the place of the long-running Celebrate the Season on the Castle Forecourt stage. The show features classic and contemporary carols and characters from all over Walt Disney World. It is presented four times each party: 7:40, 9:25, 10:30 p.m. and midnight.

Tip: If you’re going to stay until the end of the party anyway, make this the last thing you do. It will be less crowded, you’ll spend less time waiting and all the other entertainment ends at midnight.

** One of the treats of the five-hour Christmas party has been unlimited hot chocolate and snickernoodle cookies. This year, for the first time, the party will offer four different kinds of cookies and drinks. Here’s where you can find the complimentary treats:

Hot Chocolate and Snickerdoodle cookie -- Tortuga Tavern, Adventureland

Eggnog and Gingersnap Molasses Cookie -- Heritage House in Liberty Square

Snow Cone and Snowman Sugar Cookie -- Friar’s Nook in Fantasyland

Spiced Apple Cider and Snowman Sugar Cookie -- Pete’s Silly Sideshow Storybook Circus in Fantasyland

Hot Chocolate and Peppermint Bark Cookie -- The Lunching Pad in Tomorrowland

Tip: The Magic Kingdom continues to offer allergy-friendly and healthy snack alternatives to those who prefer to skip the cookies. In the past, individual packets of apple slices and apple juice were available at each station upon request.

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** As has been the tradition since the interactive Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game debuted in 2012, a new holiday card will be given to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party guests. It’s free, like other Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom cards, and available at the Fire House on Main Street, U.S.A., and behind the Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe in Liberty Square. This year’s design is called Goofy’s Festive Fiasco and is only available at the party.

Tip: Guests can collect their cards beginning at 4 p.m. if they have their party wristbands. Get this done early so you don’t forget and then save it for another day at the Magic Kingdom when you’re not trying to get to all the party entertainment.

** Club Tinsel, a dance party that is led by a DJ inside Cosmic Rays Starlight Café in Tomorrowland, is not new, but its characters are. Look for North Pole inhabitants (reindeer, polar bears and elves) to join guests on the dance floor. (In the past, party-goers could dance with Phineas and Ferb._

Tip: Club Tinsel typically does not get very crowded, so it’s the perfect place to take a break from crowds or from waiting for other entertainment. You could even pick up hot chocolate and peppermint bark cookies at the nearby Lunching Pad and sit at one of the many tables in the restaurant.

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** Of course, there is new exclusive merchandise for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, including trading pins, a graphic MagicBand, an ornament, a cell-phone case and T-shirts. There also is a passholder-only T-shirt and trading pin.

Here’s where to do your shopping:

Main Street, U.S.A. – Emporium (apparel, retail MagicBand, pins, ornament)

Storybook Circus – Big Top Souvenirs (apparel, retail MagicBand, pins)

Liberty Square – Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe (apparel, logo pin, ornament)

Tomorrowland – Mickey’s Star Traders (apparel and logo pin) and Tomorrowland
Light & Power Co. (D-Tech on Demand case)

Tip: All merchandise can be purchased beginning at 4 p.m. if you have your party wristband. I really like that event organizers have made the merchandise available before the party starts at 7 p.m. Not only does this disperse the crowds a bit, but it also allows families like mine to take care of purchases without sacrificing precious party time.

Check back for tips and tricks for maximzing your time at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party so you can make it to all your must-do experiences. What are you most looking forward to at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party? Tell us in the comments!



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November 17, 2016

Best bets for 2016 Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

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My family and I have attended Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Walt Disney World for more than a decade, witnessing the changes through the years. Here, I offer our best tips for making the most of your party night. (In my last blog post, I explained what is new this year for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and offered tips for those attractions and purchases.)

The Christmas party only lasts for five hours – from 7 p.m. to midnight – so you’ll need a strategy in order to do most everything that’s important to your group. It’s unlikely that one family can do everything during that time. Our family focuses on the entertainment that is unique to the party because we can choose to experience other things at Magic Kingdom another day.

Know that your party ticket allows you to enter the Magic Kingdom at 4 p.m., even though most party activities do not start until 7 p.m. You can use those three hours to experience other holiday entertainment, ride attractions, eat dinner and get in line for rare characters.

Before the party starts, you might want to check out:

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** A Frozen Holiday Wish. This short stage show takes place in front of Cinderella Castle during which the folks from Arendelle light up the 200,000 "icicles" adorning the castle. It takes place at 6:30 and 8:15 p.m. daily, which means day guests can see the first show. In our experience at the 2014 and 2015 parties, both shows are super crowded in the hub because that’s where you need to be if you want to see the “Frozen” characters on stage. However, you can see the castle being lit up from anywhere on Main Street. Next time I view this show, I think I would prefer a little more breathing room.

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** The Jungle Cruise. This classic attraction has been transformed into the Jingle Cruise for the fourth year. The "world-famous" holiday overlay can be experienced during regular park hours, too, but if you have some time to kill, it's a fun way to get in the Christmas spirit before the party. Plus, you’ll see all the little holiday touches better in the daylight.

** Attractions. If you think you might want to go on some rides before the party starts, be sure to book FastPasses. Although FastPass+ is not available during party hours, it is included with your ticket for rides scheduled between 4 and 7 p.m. If you forget to do this, you can stop by the kiosks in the Magic Kingdom, but know that many attractions may not have availability at the last minute.

** Dinner. My family and I usually choose to have a quick-service dinner before the party starts so as not to use a lot of the time we could be spending on the holiday activities. This is a matter of personal preference, though, because a table-service meal might be more important to other guests.

** Rare characters. Finally, if you are interested in meeting any of the characters with long lines, it makes sense to do your waiting before the Christmas party starts so you’ll have more time to enjoy the entertainment that only takes place after 7 p.m. Plus, some of the characters have come out early for guests with party wristbands.

New this year are Zootopia’s Judy Hoppes and Nick Wilde, who are meeting in Tomorrowland.

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For the third year, guests can meet Jack Skellington dressed as Sandy Claws and Sally Stitches in the gazebo in Liberty Square.

Look for Scrooge McDuck, Santa Goofy, and Daisy Duck, Donald Duck and Minnie Mouse in their holiday finest in Storybook Circus in Fantasyland.

Cinderella with Prince Charming and Rapunzel with Flynn Rider greet guests during the party at Princess Fairytale Hall. Prince Philip joins Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) and Snow White and her prince in the castle courtyard. These are rare appearances by the princes.

All Seven Dwarfs pose for photos across from the circus tent and the splash pad in Storybook Circus in Fantasyland.

Santa Claus hears children’s wishes in the garden adjacent to City Hall on Main Street, U.S.A.

Talking Mickey Mouse is dressed in his Christmas clothes in his usual spot inside Town Square Theater.

Aladdin and Abu alternate with Jasmine and Genie at the set across from the Magic Carpet ride.

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Once the party starts, you won’t want to miss Mickey's Once Upon A Christmastime Parade, which includes beloved Disney characters, everyone's favorite toy soldiers and a certain Jolly Old Elf. The parade is presented twice -- at 8:30 and 11 p.m. -- bookending the Holiday Wishes fireworks. The first parade is always much busier than the second, so if you can wait, I'd recommend it. If the second parade is past little ones' bedtimes, plan on securing a spot along the parade route an hour in advance. Know that it’s almost always less crowded in Frontierland, which is where the parade starts, so you usually can grab a decent seat with much less waiting.

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Holiday Wishes: Celebrate the Spirit of the Season starts at 10 p.m. and also is another must-see. For this display, however, you can step onto Main Street U.S.A. or around the perimeter a few minutes before the start time. When the fireworks end 20 minutes later, we usually grab a spot on the curb for the second parade. You’ll notice that is “snows” on Main Street during each parade. It also “snows” at the end of the evening, so if you stay until the last half hour of the party, you can step right into the “snow” and take some fun photos.

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During the party hours, there also are two stage shows -- A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas and the new Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration -- that are presented multiple times throughout the night. Both are fun and festive shows if you have time to catch them.

In between, be sure to sample all-you-care-to-eat cookies and hot chocolate and other drinks throughout the park. This year, guests have choices of four sweets and four beverages. See the list and where to find them in my previous blog.

No matter how many times my family and I have seen Holiday Wishes: Celebrate the Spirit of the Season and Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, they still amaze us! It’s not the Christmas season until we’ve seen the fireworks over Cinderella Castle and toy soldiers march in precision formations down Main Street, U.S.A.

Tickets still are available for select dates in November and December. See pricing information and discounts on the AllEars.Net resource page.



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November 19, 2016

Shop for SeaWorld Orlando's 2016 Blue Friday deals from home

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SeaWorld Orlando is preparing to celebrate "Blue Friday" (its version of Black Friday) and is offering quite a few deals to save you some green. There are a number of Buy One, Get One offers, and new for the first this year, shoppers can give the gift of Discovery Cove with discounted admission packages that allow the gift recipient to choose their own reservation date. The offers are available online beginning at 12:00 a.m. Friday, Nov. 25.


To take advantage of the Blue Friday deals, guests must register to receive SeaWorld Orlando's e-mail updates or already be subscribed at http://seaworldparks.com/en/seaworld-orlando/ Fans can subscribe any time between now and Nov. 25 to participate. The deals are available through 11:59 p.m. EST on Monday, Nov. 28.

New this year for Blue Friday:

** Save up to $110 on gifted Discovery Cove admission packages

** SeaWorld/Aquatica Dining Plan for pass members (Must use by March 6, 2017.)

** BOGO SeaWorld All-Day Dining Deal

** 30 percent off your total purchase at SeaWorldShop.com

** 50 percent off 1 Year PhotoKey

Other offers include:

** SeaWorld & Aquatica Orlando 1 Year Annual Pass Buy One Get One 50% Off Ticket (First visit must occur by Jan. 31, 2017.)

** SeaWorld Orlando Buy One Get One 50% Off Ticket (Must use by Jan. 31, 2017.)

** Aquatica Orlando Buy One Get One 50% Off Ticket (Must use by June 30, 2017; some blockout dates apply.)

** BOGO Quick Queue Unlimited (Must use by March 6, 2017.)

** BOGO Any Animal Up-Close Tour (Must use by Dec. 31, 2016.)

** BOGO 50 percent off Large Shamu Plush

Some of the new offers look great for Orlando visitors, but I’m a little disappointed by the admission offers that would appeal to locals and repeat visitors. The annual pass deals just are not as good as the past two years. There is no offer for BOGO annual passes to SeaWorld Orlando only. And the combination SeaWorld and Aquatica annual passes are being offered at a Buy One, Get One 50 percent off rather than just Buy One, Get One as they were in the past.


If the Blue Friday offers don’t meet your group’s needs, there are two other admission deals that are good until the beginning of January. Visitors who purchase a Fun Card or annual pass through Jan. 3, 2017, will receive an extra three months free. So, a 15-month Fun Card costs $99.99 plus tax for adults. A SeaWorld Orlando annual pass – with three months free – costs $168 plus tax for an adult. Fun Cards and annual passes do not have blackout dates. However, the Fun Pass must be redeemed with a first visit by Jan. 31, 2017. Both offers must be paid in full at the time of purchase and are not eligible for monthly EZpay service.

Sesame Place Christmas Ticket + Meal - Furry Friday offer

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Annual Pass + 3 Months Free

Finally, guests who visit SeaWorld on select days through Dec. 31 also can experience SeaWorld's Christmas Celebration for the price of regular admission. This is a wonderful value, especially when you consider that other area theme parks require separate tickets for holiday events. Holiday events take place Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays Nov. 25 through Dec. 11 and then run daily Dec. 16 through 31. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and friends are new to SeaWorld properties this Christmas season.



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November 22, 2016

LeSportsac introduces Wave Reader bag collection based on Disney's Moana

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As a fan of collaborations between The Walt Disney Co. and designer bag manufacturers, I was excited to see the newest line from LeSportsac. The Wave Reader Collection features Moana from the animated movie of the same name that will be released this week. But you can get the LeSportsac bags now.

LeSportsac is known for its lightweight, durable bags. The brand features lines not just of handbags, but also backpacks, baby essentials and travel systems. They all are convenient for packing because they can be folded up inside each other, or a suitcase, and brought out as needed. I love that idea for travel that might include souvenir shopping!

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The new Moana collection Wave Reader is a store exclusive, meaning that it must be purchased at a LeSportsac store rather than online, and some pieces are exclusive to Hawaii retail locations. However, you can call the Santa Monica, Calif., store, which is the only store in the continental United States to carry the collection, at 310-899-6876 to place an order for the items that are not Hawaii exclusives. Products can be shipped within the continental United States and Alaska. Plus, LeSportsac is offering free ground shipping for the rest of November.

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The Wave Reader collection includes the following sihouettes: Rectangular Cosmetic ($28), 3-zip Cosmetic ($28), Travel Cosmetic ($29), Lily Wallet ($65), Basic Backpack ($118), Medium Weekender ($138) and Large Weekender ($144). In addition, the Mini Crossbody Picture Tote in Bold Adventure features Moana ($78). The Hawaii exclusives include a Small Cleo Crossbody, Mini Basic Backpack, Classic Hobo, Deluxe Everyday Bag and EveryGirl Tote. In addition, the Hawaii stores carry a Rectangular Cosmetic bag in Ocean Spirit, which also feature a single image of Moana.

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Moana is not the first Disney character that has inspired a collaboration with LeSportsac. It’s not even the first Polynesian print! One of the most popular collections was one based on Mary Blair’s it’s a small world attraction at Disney Parks that came in many different prints, including Polynesian Paradise.

Currently, the LeSportsac Minnie Mouse prints Vacation Paradise, Sing and Sway, Minnie’s Paradise, Love in Paradise, Hula Hibiscus and Minnie Hula, Mickey Loves Minnie, Love Check, Springtime Outing and Love at First Sight are on sale.

Already intrigued by Moana? Check back tomorrow for my movie review.



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November 23, 2016

Disney movie review: Moana takes audience on entertaining voyage

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Disney’s “Moana” was worth the wait.

My 12-year-old daughter had been anticipating this animated movie from Walt Disney Animation Studios since she heard about it more than a year ago. Not only does she like the Disney princesses but she also loves all things related to Hawaii. This seemed like the perfect marriage of her favorites.

But you don’t have to have an interest in either, as in the case of my 14-year-old son, to thoroughly enjoy “Moana.” That’s because the story is engrossing and the animation breath-taking. Plus, much of the original music has been developed in collaboration with “Hamilton” composer and actor Lin-Manual Miranda.

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The story fully develops the growth of a Hawaiian princess (voiced by Auli'i Cravalho) –- though not yet an official Disney Princess – who resists her role as a leader expected to do what her predecessors have always done. When her people are in danger because their Hawaiian island of Motunui is not able to produce enough food, Moana must set out to break her father’s rule of “not going beyond the reef” in order to save them.

We see early in the movie that Moana has a mind of her own, and indeed she is a strong female role model throughout the movie. Moana is determined and courageous. She may be a princess, but Moana sure doesn’t want to be treated like one. She very much takes offense when Maui (voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), the demigod and shapeshifter she must confront, says, “If you wear a dress and have an animal sidekick, you’re a Princess.” But perhaps what I like best about the example Moana sets is that her character is one that does not need a prince (or romance) to be successful. Writer Jared Bush crafted her from the same mold as the plucky Merida in “Brave.”

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One of things that sets Moana apart, though, is her special bond with the ocean, and it’s those scenes in which the animation really shines, thanks to directors Ron Clements and John Musker. To say the ocean is an actual character in the movie would not be an overstatement. It certainly has a sparkling personality of its own. And, we discover, Moana comes from a long line of sea-voyaging navigators who all have had an ongoing relationship with the ocean, though perhaps not as special as hers.

The previously mentioned Maui is a central character because he inadvertently caused Motunui’s food shortage, which was the revenge of the lava monster Te Ka. About 1,000 years ago the demigod stole a magical object, and Moana needs his assistance – and that of his fishhook that allows him to shapeshift – to return it and restore balance to her island.

This movie has a lot of funny moments, many of which are brought about by Pua the pig and Hei Hei the unbelievably dumb chicken. At our screening, adults and children alike laughed frequently throughout the movie.

“Moana” is rated PG for “peril, some scary images and brief thematic elements.” The images in question involve the reappearance of the lava monster, but they really are not that frightening, in this parent’s opinion.

By the way, make sure to stay in your seat through the credits or you will miss out.

Disney has attached the short “Inner Workings” to “Moana.” The official description is that this “is the story of the internal struggle between a man’s pragmatic, logical side and his free-spirited, adventurous half.” Of course, those of us who have seen Pixar’s “Inside Out” immediately will make comparisons. Although the short is mildly entertaining, it doesn’t compare to “Inside Out” or other recent shorts, for that matter. “Inner Workings” blends computer-generated and traditional hand-drawn animation.

DISCLAIMER: I viewed “Inner Workings” and “Moana” at a media screening before its official release. This did not affect my review; my opinions are my own.



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November 26, 2016

16 easy Disney-themed ideas for your Elf on the Shelf

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16 easy Disney-themed ideas for your Elf on a Shelf | AllEars.net
16 easy Disney-themed ideas for your Elf on a Shelf | AllEars.net
16 easy Disney-themed ideas for your Elf on a Shelf | AllEars.net

This week is a week that many of us parents have been simultaneously dreading and looking forward to since Christmas Day 2015: It’s the return of the Elf on the Shelf shenanigans. Yesterday marked the start of Elf Scout Return Week, the time when most families welcome back their scout elves or adopt new North Pole helpers. Our elves, Sugar Plum and Blizzard, usually arrive the day after Thanksgiving and true to form, they showed up for our North Pole Breakfast yesterday. You’re never too old to have the elves help kick off the start of the Christmas season!

For those who have somehow missed this very popular recent Christmas tradition, allow me to give you a brief explanation. The plush elves are sent by Santa to keep an eye on the children of the family and to report back each night whether they should be on the Naughty or Nice list by the time Christmas arrives. But the elves like to have a little fun, too, so when they return in the morning from their trip to the North Pole, they move to a different spot in the house. Often, they get into some mischief, which surprises the kids when they wake up.

The official rules: “First, a scout elf cannot be touched; Christmas magic is very fragile and if a scout elf is touched it may lose that magic and be unable to fly back to the North Pole. Second, a scout elf cannot speak or move while anyone in the house is awake! A scout elf's job is to watch and listen.” The only exception to this rule is that children may gently play with their elves on Christmas Eve because they do not need magic to get back to the North Pole that night; they ride with Santa on his sleigh.

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I love seeing photos of the elves’ endeavors at different houses! When I was perusing recently, it occurred to me that our Sugar Plum and Blizzard have not shown their Disney Side enough. That seems unforgiveable given our family’s love of Disney!

There are so many clever Disney-themed ideas on Pintrest, Etsy and other online sites. Here are some of my favorite Disney-themed ideas that the elves set up:

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** Elves like to recreate attractions from the Disney Parks.

** Mickey Mouse hat ornaments make great elf hats.

** An elf might want to dress up as a Disney Princess.

** Give a new elf a “My First Visit” button from one of the Disney Parks.

** A plush Olaf might pose with Snowgees made of two big and two little marshmallows. (Faces can be drawn with markers.)

** Elves can announce or count down a trip to Walt Disney World, Disneyland or Disney Cruise Line.

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** Set up a meet-and-greet with a Disney plush character complete with an autograph book.

** Elves like to draw red reindeer noses or mustaches with a dry-erase marker on the glass of a framed photo of your family at Disneyland or Walt Disney World.

** Allow Elf to sit on the couch to play Disney Infinity.

** An elf might leave a message on an extra cheer card from a runDisney event.

** Even elves like to go on Disney vacations. Sometimes they snap photos of themselves on attractions or by Disney icons.

** Elves like to play Disney board games, too.

** A Disney bedtime story might be just what an Elf needs to get to sleep in the morning.

** Elves love to bring small gifts, like a Disney sweet or a Disney ornament.

** You could find your family’s elf sitting on the couch with Disney plush and popcorn buckets with a note explaining there is to be a Disney movie night at your house.

** Sometimes Hidden Mickeys are formed when an elf spills something in the house, such as M&Ms, Legos or some other small household object.

Has your elf shown his or her Disney Side? Tell us about it in the comments!


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November 29, 2016

SeaWorld's 2016 Christmas Celebration sparkles with Rudolph, expanded Sea of Trees and return of Clyde and Seamore

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SeaWorld Orlando kicked off its Christmas Celebration this past weekend with new characters Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and friends, new features added to its Sea of Trees light show and the return of Clyde and Seamore’s Countdown to Christmas show. My children and I were ready to get in the holiday spirit and leave the decorating to someone else, so off we went to check out the opening weekend decorations and entertainment.

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Rudolph and his friends from the beloved Christmas classic are making their debut this year at SeaWorld in its new ChristmasTown area, which is accessible from the Christmas Market located along the Bayside Pathway. Once inside ChristmasTown, visitors can choose to meet Rudolph and Clarice together in one area or go to another spot that alternately hosts Yukon Cornelius and the Abominable Snowman. On the day we attended, we found the line for the reindeer pair consistently to be about 45 minutes from the time the area opened at 5 p.m. until it closed at 10 p.m. By contrast, the wait for Yukon Cornelius and the Abominable Snowman was only about 10 minutes, though the snowman did seem a bit more popular than the arctic prospector.

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Tip: Both spots do have professional PhotoKey photographers, but you also can use your own camera or cell phone for pictures.

In addition to the character meet-and-greets inside ChristmasTown, visitors will find games of chance (for a nominal fee) that have Rudolph-themed prizes, a gift shop dedicated to Rudolph souvenirs and a holiday snack shop.

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Back out in the Christmas Market, guests can take advantage of some of the best views of SeaWorld’s Sea of Trees light show, which takes place on the nearby water. The trees light up in various color schemes, which is synchronized to music. This year, the Sea of Trees show has been expanded to include a 70-foot Christmas tree that serves as a canvas for various images of Rudolph while songs from the classic television show are heard. The Sea of Trees “dance” at multiple times each night, so be sure to check the printed show schedule or SeaWorld Orlando website for times each day.

Tip: Each Sea of Trees show only lasts a few minutes and is visible from the perimeter of the lake. There are so many good viewing spots that it is not necessary to line up way ahead of time. However, most of the shows are preceded by snow flurries near the Shops at Waterfront if you choose to watch from that vantage point.

With the departure of the Polar Express overlay at the Wild Arctic attraction, Santa Claus has moved from that simulation of the North Pole to a new location in the park. Santa’s Workshop presented by Coca-Cola is located near the Pass Member Lounge not far from Shamu Stadium. Santa’s Workshop is open from 11 a.m. to park closing through Dec. 24 during SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration.

Tip: Santa and Mrs. Claus also greet guests at Santa’s Fireside Feast. My son and I enjoyed that experience several years ago. You can read all about it here. (For current pricing, visit the SeaWorld Orlando website.)

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Finally, the popular show, Clyde and Seamore's Countdown to Christmas, returns after a two-year hiatus during which Sea Lion & Otter Stadium was being renovated and a new year-round show developed.

Clyde and Seamore's Countdown to Christmas is, like all their other themed shows, filled with plenty of laugh-out-loud theatrics as the loveable sea lions, their human friends, otters and even a walrus get ready for Santa's visit. The jokes are corny, and the pratfalls and physical humor are really just a variation of what the characters do in other shows -- yet the audiences love it as always, and for good reason. It's a show that doesn't take itself -- or, in this case, any holiday tradition -- too seriously.

Tip: Be sure to arrive at Sea Lion & Otter Stadium at least 15 minutes before the start of each show to get a good seat and to see the return of a fan-favorite mime before each show. The mimes don’t have a role in the regular sea lion and otter show, so this is a limited-time engagement.

SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration takes place Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays November 25 through December 11 and then runs daily December 16 through 31. To read more about the many other events that are part of the Christmas Celebration, see my previous blogs here and here. (Remember that The Polar Express has traveled away from SeaWorld and been replaced with the Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer franchise.)



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About November 2016

This page contains all entries posted to A Mom and The Magic in November 2016. They are listed from oldest to newest.

October 2016 is the previous archive.

December 2016 is the next archive.

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