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October 27, 2012

Save those Disney Dollars! New Fantasyland merchandise is in Magic Kingdom stores

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For many Walt Disney World visitors, shopping for souvenirs is an integral part of the vacation experience. Who doesn't like to have a reminder of a special trip, especially to the Most Magical Place on Earth?

The hunt for that perfect T-shirt, cap or photo frame can be as enjoyable as the product itself with all the beautiful and creative merchandise displays that engage shoppers. The window displays at The Emporium in the Magic Kingdom and at World of Disney at Downtown Disney are certainly worth a pause as you rush by to the main attractions.

Recently, new merchandise has arrived in the Magic Kingdom to coordinate with the "dress rehearsal" for New Fantasyland attractions and the opening of Storybook Circus. If you have Belle and Beast, Little Mermaid or Dumbo fans at your house, start saving your money!

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The new BonJour Village Gifts carries mostly Belle and Beast merchandise, which makes sense since it is located near Gaston's Tavern and Be Our Guest restaurant. There you'll find new Belle T-shirts for girls and women and Gaston's Tavern T-shirts for men, as you might expect.

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Some of the more unusual items for sale, though, are the light-up castle goblets; gargoyle frames and candle holders; a Jim Shore statue of Belle; and a collection of dishes and stemware and pillows inspired by the Be Our Guest restaurant.

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For younger guests, there are foam shields, swords and crowns -- in both girl and boy versions. So cute! Before the grand opening on Dec. 6, there is a limit of four per guest on some of the items, such as the dishes and frames. New merchandise continues to arrive in preparation for the big celebration.

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Need a dinglehopper? You can find one for sale -- seriously! -- at Sir Mickey's, which is located behind Cinderella Castle. That gift shop now carries Ariel merchandise themed to the New Fantasyland ride, Under the Sea -- Journey of The Little Mermaid. The Disney Parks Blog recently revealed the new line, which also includes T-shirts for kids and women, hoodies, cups, mugs, dolls and plush characters.

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Carla Lewandowski, senior franchise and brand manager with Disney Theme Park Merchandise, explained, "For this new assortment, we were inspired by the many colorful scenes found in the actual attraction. We really liked the scene with Sebastian and the undersea band, and you'll see many moments from that scene on the new items."

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Moving into Storybook Circus, guests will find colorful displays of Dumbo merchandise when they enter Big Top Souvenirs across from the namesake attraction. It's mostly T-shirts, mugs, plates and plush that are themed to the new area of the park, and they are located at the entrance.

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This store is huge and has a very wide assortment of merchandise. It even houses two embroidery stations for personalizing mouse ear hats and the center of the "tent" is a kitchen where delicious treats are made and sold.

Steven Miller, merchandise communications manager at Disney World, shared with me that some of the first items created for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which is set to open in 2014, will be pins in upcoming mystery pin sets.

August 23, 2012

What families need to know about free Wi-Fi at Disney World's Magic Kingdom

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Finally! Walt Disney World has responded to the requests of so many guests who, like me, are tethered to their electronic devices. Earlier this month, free Wi-Fi became available at the Magic Kingdom.

For those of us who rely on Internet service with our smart phones and tablets, this could mean a boost in the ability to upload photos, videos and other dense data. Who doesn't want to share their memories in the making while they're visiting the Mouse? It's hard to resist in this era of constant status updates and tweets.

Be aware, though, that the new Disney Wi-Fi is not a guarantee of better connectivity because the bandwidth that's available depends on the number of users in your corner of the theme park. It does seem to help, though. On a recent visit to Storybook Circus, my family found the upload speeds to be slow in the crowded Casey Jr. area. On past visits, though, we often couldn't connect at all with our cellular service until we walked away from the splash pad and closer to the Dumbo The Flying Elephant attraction.

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For my family, perhaps the best thing about the free Wi-Fi is that it allows my husband and I to better keep in touch with our kids by texting them on their iPods, which need Wi-Fi for texting. We don't think they need smart phones at their ages, but they are getting old enough to venture out from us in small ways, such as going to a nearby bathroom or kiosk, and it's comforting to have a way to contact them. (I realize many parents would not allow their children out of their sight at the busy Disney theme park, but my children have grown up there and know the lay of the land.)

Texting doesn't take a lot of bandwidth, of course, so its functionality is more reliable than than that of uploading photos or video chatting, for example. Being able to use the free Wi-Fi at the Magic Kingdom gives our family another communication tool and my husband and I some peace of mind.

Walt Disney World has said it expects to offer free Wi-Fi at Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Downtown Disney by early 2013. All Disney World hotels have been upgraded to offer the complimentary Internet service.

June 28, 2012

Dumbo interactive queue for kids soft-opens at Disney World

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As has been the recent trend at Walt Disney World, another attraction is set to reopen with an interactive queue. For parents like me, these are welcome additions to help break up the long waits for our impatient children. It's hard enough to wait in a long line when you're an adult, but when you're a child, it's just cruel and unusual punishment to see the magic and have to wait to experience it.

The newest interactive queue is for the relocated Dumbo The Flying Elephant attraction at Magic Kingdom, and it features many firsts. We all can appreciate that the standby line enters an air conditioned building that is themed as a tent. Ahhhh. If you choose to ride Dumbo with a FastPass -- unheard of before the ride moved to the Storybook Circus area -- you will bypass the interactive part of the queue. FastPass users still enter the front of the tent, though, and see the attraction and experience the air conditioning, if only briefly. (FastPasses currently are distributed near Mickey's PhilharMagic.)

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So, how does this queue entertain Disney's younger guests? It's essentially a cleverly-themed play area with seating for parents and a pager to alert each family when it's their turn return to the queue before boarding the ride. Guests are seemingly walking into the circus tent that Dumbo experienced in the classic movie.

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First, they will be met by a cast member and asked about how many members are in their party. Then they will be given a pager that looks like a circus ticket. Once entering, they will see a center ring with toys playground equipment appropriate for toddlers. Overhead, Dumbo flies in circles around the center ring.

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Outside that ring is a large, elevated play structure covered in nets. Kids can enter and perform as acrobats by climbing the ladder to a pretend high-dive, hopping up steps that look like trampolines or moving through the "burning" building, which is a replica of what Dumbo faced during his circus performances under the big top. Once inside the play structure, there are plenty of opportunities to run, jump and swivel. When kids are ready to come down, they can exit through two small slides that are fast enough to keep older children interested. Plus, they make various circus noises each time a guest slides. Parents will appreciate that the grandstand bleacher seating allows for clear sight lines of their busy children.

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One of the most interesting aspects of this interactive area is the use of light. Spotlights are used to highlight the kids' movements. For example, when a child pops out of the Human Cannonball slide, a light appears at the bottom. When another child climbs the trampoline-shaped steps or the ladder to the high-dive, each footfall is lighted. Children can even press a button to light up the pretend fire in the burning building. Be aware that ambient lighting is used overall, so it may be a little darker than you're used to -- especially coming inside from the glare of the Florida sun. The mood lighting, if you will, is continually changing during your brief respite in the tent.

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My husband really liked that the pagers are shaped like circus tickets. Timothy Q. Mouse, the rodent that befriended Dumbo, announces your time to leave the play area and get back in line and ready for your ride with Dumbo. The pager system works well and guests apparently are funneled to the least crowded of two Dumbo rides. (You don't pick which Dumbo to ride.) Then, take your seat and experience the dueling elephant carousels fly high over the Magic Kingdom.

Dumbo's interactive queue is in the soft-opening phase, being open to guests at various times as cast members test different aspects. It's expected to be be open full-time in July.

June 16, 2012

Casey Jr. splash pad cool addition to Disney World's Fantasyland

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Casey Jr. Splash 'N' Soak Station in the Storybook Circus section of Fantasyland opened Friday (June 15) to little fanfare, but families have a lot to be excited about. This new water play area in the Magic Kingdom offers a great respite from the Florida heat, and its design is a welcome improvement on the old Donald's Boat.

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Casey Jr. is the steam engine that brings the circus to town in the movie "Dumbo," and that theming continues at Walt Disney World. The engine and tender appear to have pulled onto the turntable with four boxcars, each carrying a different animal -- giraffes, elephants (of course!), monkeys and camels. Guests will notice the subtle evidence of train tracks between the water play area and the nearby bathrooms, which are located in a building modeled after a roundhouse.

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The soaking station brings the circus to life with its many sounds and the bustling activity of the water jets coming from the moving animals (and other sources). My kids are certain that the elephants shoot more water than the other animals because their trunks have multiple streams -- or so they say. About every 10 minutes, Casey Jr. begins his stationary journey, and guests will notice the locomotive sounds and the misting from the engine increase as he reaches his destination.

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As we've come to expect with The Walt Disney Co., there is an incredible attention to detail in Casey Jr. Splash 'N' Soak Station. Casey Jr. opens and closes his eyes. One of the monkeys is wearing a hat that is actually a white Mickey Mouse glove. The elephant car has baskets of lettuce and bananas attaching for feedings. The detached boxcars even have aged chains trailing from the bottom, presumably where the cars would have been attached to one another. There is a lot to appreciate about this next step in the Fantasyland expansion project.

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The most important thing to know about this attraction: You WILL get wet. And I do not mean just the kids frolicking in the splash pad. Parents sitting around the perimeter might be surprised to find themselves doused by a stream of water or mist blowing in the wind. Certainly, parents who are chasing after toddlers can expect to be just as wet as the little ones are because of the water shooting from so many angles and locations.

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So, my best advice is to plan ahead and bring swimsuits and towels or an extra change of clothes for anyone who might be venturing near Casey Jr. Splash 'N' Soak Station. Also, be sure to pack sunscreen because there is not a lot of shade near the attraction. For those who find they don't have everything their little ones need, a nearby merchandise cart sells towels, water shoes, hats, sunscreen and more.

After spending more than an hour in the water, my almost-8-year-old daughter proclaimed that we have to visit Casey Jr. every time we go into the Magic Kingdom.

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About Storybook Circus

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to A Mom and The Magic in the Storybook Circus category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Sir Mickey's is the previous category.

Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid is the next category.

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