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December 2008 Archives

December 9, 2008

Sleeping Beauty’s Walk-Through Awakens Again

Jeanine Yamanaka toured the newly reopened Sleeping Beauty Castle Walk-through and shares this description and photos.

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The Sleeping Beauty Castle Walk-Through, dormant since October 7, 2001, has reopened at Disneyland with some shiny new effects, and artwork more in keeping with the Eyvind Earle style of the movie.

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For those who remember the old walk-through, some things are fairly familiar, such as the storybook pages that narrate you through the Sleeping Beauty tale.

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These pages are essentially unchanged from the previous versions, although nice and vivid with newness.

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The bulk of the walk-through is basically passing through dimly-lit corridors and staircases to reach 10 different tableaus illustrating various scenes from the movie. While the last version had three-dimensional dolls enacting the parts (a little like Barbie Aurora!) this retooling opts for a more animation-cel-like appearance.

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The movement in most of the windows is largely due to an effect which seems similar to the Pepper's Ghost illusion used in the Haunted Mansion. Photos are a little tricky with the combination of the darkness and the reflective glass and the 100 people in back of you waiting impatiently to see what's going on.

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The passageways are pretty narrow and twisty, so people unable to navigate them or the couple of stairways are apparently able to view the whole thing from a special room on the ground floor of the Castle.

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A significant amount of excavation was done in restoring the attraction, which had been revised in the 1970's to include more movement and dimensionality, but which lacked the characteristic Earle "look" that permeated the film.

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One of the things found during the refurbishment was the original Corridor of Goons effect. Previously, for a short time, there were doors where you could look through the keyholes and see Maleficent's henchmen - henchthings - marching around. Unfortunately, the amount of time it encouraged people to spend there created a logjam that slowed down traffic through the attraction enough where the whole thing was eventually boarded over.

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In the new attraction, however, you may see something of them once more.

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This diorama has an impressive metamorphosis effect that takes a little while to cycle through-in general, each window requires stopping and watching for awhile to see all the changes that occur.

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But it all ends happily ever after...Or does it? A last intimation that the reports of Maleficent's death have been greatly exaggerated, may leave you with a mild "sense of foreboding".

The attraction, while certainly not an "E" ticket, or even a "C" ticket, is very well done and worth a look, even just for the fun of clambering around inside the Castle. Lines stretched around the side and almost to the front of the Castle on opening day, but moved fairly steadily. Once inside, it took approximately 30 minutes to complete.

December 10, 2008

Disneyland Holiday Activities

Now that the holidays are back at Disneyland there are many holiday activities available to guests at Disneyland Park - not so many at Disney's California Adventure, unfortunately. So I'll start with DCA first.

At the park entrance the "CALIFORNIA" letters have their seasonal candy cane stripes. And figures of Mickey and Goofy adorn the first and last letters, respectively. It's a very popular photo opportunity.

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No Santa's Beach Blast in Sunshine Plaza this year, but the characters in their holiday attire make frequent appearances there during the day.

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Other photo ops include the oversized ornaments and other decorations in Flik's Fun Fair, and the glittering Christmas tree just outside Paradise Pier.

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Over in Disneyland...

The huge Christmas tree dominates Town Square, and wreaths and garlands decorate all of Main Street. This is the best place to find the Disney characters in their holiday outfits, though you'll also find some of them back in Toontown, and the Pooh characters are usually back in Critter Country.

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There is a nightly tree lighting ceremony, usually at 5:00.

Sleeping Beauty Castle wears icicles and a dusting of snow during the day, and comes alive with a glittering covering of ice at night. There are at least two brief castle lighting shows where the lights are turned off and then gradually come on in shimmering animation - these are typically at 5:30 and 7:30.

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Santa's Reindeer Roundup has returned to Big Thunder Ranch, and there are a variety of activities for kids there. Craft tables are set up where kids can color using the crayons and coloring pages provided (no charge). Or, at Mrs Claus' Cookie Kitchen, boxed cookie kits, complete with frosting and decorations are available for $6. There are Christmas trees, snowmen and gingerbread me available.

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Entertainment, such as a magician, takes place on the stage about every hour. The audience is encouraged to participate.

The corral is home to Santa's reindeer - all eight of them. Guests may not go inside their corral, but from the outside can take photos and watch the reindeer peacefully eating their hay.

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Visits with Santa Claus are available in the cabin next to the reindeer corral - the line to see him is usually fairly lengthy, though.

New Orleans Square is festively decorated for the holidays, with lots of beads and lights and other glittery stuff. The major holiday attraction in that area, of course, is Haunted Mansion Holiday - this is the 8th year that Jack Skellington and the Nightmare Before Christmas gang have brought their own kind of magic and mayhem to the Haunted Mansion. It's one of my favorites every year!

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Over in Toontown the Disney characters have seemingly gone all out to decorate their homes. The decorations there feature lots of bright kid-friendly colors. I have seen Santa Goofy greeting guests in the gazebo.

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Perhaps one of Disneyland's most beloved holiday traditions is the holiday edition of "it's a small world". After taking a ride through there getting a glimpse of the holiday traditions celebrated by children in some of the rest of the world, I'm not sure how you can't be smiling at the end. The attraction just reopened at the end of November after an extensive rehab, and it looks better than ever. There are a few new things inside, though as far as the holiday decorations go one of the biggest changes I saw was outside, where the topiaries now feature colored lights at night in addition to the white ones.

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At night the "it's a small world" facade is lit up with thousands of colored lights - all of the lights come on nightly in a special lighting moment that takes place around 5:00. About 20 minutes later, and every 15 minutes after that, there's a special light show, where holiday-themed projections, choreographed to holiday music, are projected on the facade in a short show.

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And of course there's the A Christmas Fantasy parade, shown twice daily. The first parade runs from "it's a small world" to Town Square, the second one does the reverse. Where else can you see a toy soldier marching band, dancing reindeer, and skating snowflakes - not to mention Santa Claus himself! There's a new version of the Toy Factory float this year.

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To finish out the day Disneyland offers the nightly Believe...in Holiday Magic fireworks show. The show can be viewed from Main Street, New Orleans Square, and the "it's a small world" mall, and at the end "snow" falls in all of those areas. It's really quite lovely!

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If all that isn't enough, there's also holiday shopping (hats, shirts, Christmas tree ornaments, etc.) or trying out the variety of holiday treats (peppermint or eggnog fudge, tamales, various krispie treats and cookies, and so on). Yum!

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December 12, 2008

Holidaze at WDW - Day 1

So here I am, back at WDW for the holidays (which is my very favorite time of year to be here!). I'll be blogging about the various Mousefest and RADP Meet events that I'm attending, and whatever holiday stuff I do.

Lee stayed home this time (he needed some quality time with the cats :-) ), so it's just me - well, me and all of my RADP and AllEars friends!

I landed in Orlando at 4:15, and I was in my studio at Boardwalk Villas by 5:25. Not bad, huh?

I called my friends Ilene and Paul (if you recall, Paul is the Tables in Wonderland guy from our October trip). Tonight was their last night here, so it was the only chance we had to get together. They were in Epcot, so I quickly got myself together and met them at the International Gateway.

From there we grabbed a quick bite to eat at Sunshine Seasons in The Land and then monorailed over to the Grand Floridian.

My friend Kenny is in a bell choir, and they had two performances at the Grand Floridian tonight, so that's what I wanted to do, and fortunately Paul and Ilene liked the bell choir idea, too. We arrived about 10 minutes into the first set, but saw all of the second set. They had some instruments other than bells, and they also made different sounds on the bells by tapping on them or striking them gently on the table. Really interesting, and we enjoyed it.

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Kenny had his own set of groupies - there was a group of us from RADP (the rec.arts.disney.parks newsgroup) that came to watch him. He avoided looking up at us, though. :-)

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Here's a short video I shot of the choir playing Silent Night.

The Grand Floridian is beautifully decorated for the holidays, as usual, and we wandered around a bit between shows.

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Ilene pointed out to me that this is the 10th year that they have done the huge gingerbread house - there's also a sign to that effect on the house. It certainly smells good enough to eat! (But I don't recommend the gingerbread from there - I've tried it two different times and it was awful!!!)

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It had been a long day for Paul and Ilene so I said goodbye to them - but I'm still on west coast time, so it was only 5:30 for me.

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Deb Koma (one of Kenny's groupies!) and I decided to go to Epcot to see Illuminations, and took the monorail back over to Epcot. Since it starts at 9:30 this time of year we had plenty of time to get there and get all the way back to one of my favorite spots in front of Germany with about 5 minutes to spare.

So, you know the boring part of Illuminations, where the globe comes out and spins and shows all of the pictures of animals and people and balloons and art, etc? Well, the globe came out...but there were NO lights on it at all!!! And that part of Illuminations is even MORE boring when you can't see the globe. It came on very briefly, but then went dark again. At least we could see the Magic Kingdom's fireworks off in the distance during that part so there was something to look at...but we both felt badly for the people who had never seen the show before.

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The very best part about Illuminations at this time of year is the special holiday finale. All I can say is "WOW!!!" I've seen it a number of times now, and it still blows me away every time - they shoot off SO many shells!!! One of the launchers that shoots off the perimeter fireworks was just a few feet to the right of us, and that was quite a surprise the several times it went off during the regular show and the finale.

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It was a great way to end the evening. Deb and I said goodbye as she headed to the Beach Club and I went the other way to the Boardwalk - but I'll see her again tomorrow. Or later today, technically, since it's after midnight (still only 9:30 on the west coast!).

I stopped in the Boardwalk lobby to enjoy some of the holiday decorations - I think they have changed the trees and garlands since I was last here during the holidays, though they still feature all of those old-fashioned glass ornaments that I like so much.

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Stay tuned...there's lots more to come over the next few days! Animal Kingdom tomorrow...or later today, actually. :-)

December 13, 2008

Holidaze at WDW - Day 2

Today was Animal Kingdom day. And it was pretty chilly - only in the 50s at 9:00 in the morning - brrr!!! It was a brisk walk in from the parking lot. :-) It never did warm up very much (only about 63, and that's cold by California standards!), but at least the sun came out in the afternoon.

The AllEars Team was hosting a photo scavenger hunt back in Harambe Village, and had quite a good turnout! Lots of people came by to say hi and/or to participate - each person/team received a sheet of paper with five thumbnail photos on it - they were supposed to go out and find each image, and then take pictures of them on their own cameras and then return and show the photos to one of us. Each team received a prize for completing it successfully. Here DebK explains the procedure to one of the participants.

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Everyone seemed to have a good time doing it, and it was nice to meet a lot of new people.

Lisa chose an elevated vantage point to take pictures of the proceedings (coming soon to a photo blog near you, I'm sure!)

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After everyone had finished scavenging, JackM and I headed off to Dinoland to join the RADP crowd at their meets. There were quite a few people there that I hadn't seen in several years, and I had a great time talking to old friends. And I met several new people who were also from California! Kevin was there with Leonard the Leopardasaurus, which he had won earlier at one of the games in Dino-rama. It was decreed that Leonard must attend all RADP meets this weekend (I suppose that means Kevin has to come along, too. ;-) ).

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We got in line for Dinosaur - it was kind of interesting keeping a group of twenty-odd (and I do mean odd) people together, but Charlotte, the meet host, managed to do it. We were in three different jeeps. For the ride photo we were all asked to do the "Home Alone" pose (hands on either side of face with a look of terror). The photos turned out pretty well!

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Quite a few of us went to Flame Tree Barbecue for lunch after that. Somehow Jack apparently managed to offend all of his tablemates, because they suddenly got up and left - Jan, Sean, Pamela and I were at a different table and are not quite sure what happened. :-)

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Next on the agenda was a group photo with Mickey at Camp Minnie-Mickey. The people behind us in line were quite relieved to learn that we were one large group. When we met up with Mickey, we all sang Happy Birthday to Charlotte and Laurie, who have birthdays coming up soon.

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It was kind of funny to watch the CM juggle six cameras as she took our photos, but the photo turned out well, don't you think? (There's a larger version of it here.)

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Most of us went to Festival of the Lion King after that. We were in the elephant section. It was a great show - but it always is.

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Our group got a smaller after that, but 12 of us went back to Harambe to do the Safari. Several of us had gotten Fastpasses earlier in the day that we hadn't had time to use yet. The CMs were just closing down the FP machines when we got there, but they gave us enough for the rest of our group and we were able to all go right away. The CM at the Fastpass line told us her mom was a big AllEars fan.

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The CM we had on the safari was just ok - but the running commentary we got from Kevin, who was sitting behind me, was a lot more entertaining. :-) We saw a fair number of animals, and I even was able to take a decent photo of two cheetahs!

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Some people headed for Everest, some were staying for the parade, but JackM, Kim and I left the park at that point - it was about 3:30 by then. I really had a great day with all my RADP friends - and it wasn't over yet! :-)

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I had time to come back to my room and take a first pass through my photos from today before going to Old Key West, where I'd been invited to Charlotte and Jan's Open House. They have been doing this for a number of years, but I've never managed to be here for it - I've heard what a good time it is, though. So I was really happy that it worked out for me to attend this year! They went to a lot of work and prepared a whole bunch of food and invited many of us to come over and eat and hang out. I was able to see even more folks that I haven't seen in a while. It was a really nice party, and fun to see everyone outside of the parks for a change.

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Jan takes her homemade bread puddings out the oven (they were terrific, especially the one with pecans and coconut!)

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Jack signs the guest book (he even said something nice!).

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So that was my very full day. I had a wonderful time, though - it was so much fun catching up with all of the people that I haven't seen in a long time.

Megamouse Meet and RADP Meets at Epcot tomorrow!

December 14, 2008

Holidaze at WDW - Day 3

Saturday - the day of the Mega Mouse Meet, and lots of other meets too. It was a long and very busy day, but fun, too!

The Mousefest Mega Mouse Meet (MMM) was held in the Yacht and Beach Convention Center this year. This is the first time I've been to Mousefest, so it was also my first MMM. Deb had asked that any AllEars team members who were available come over early to help set up our tables - I was fortunate enough to not arrive TOO early, because things were almost all set up by the time I got there. :-)

Once everything was set up, but before the doors opened, we took an AllEars Team Photo. There will be better versions of this which were taken with much better cameras than mine, but here's a first look at it. Don't we all look neat and pretty? :-)

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As I said, I've never been to a MMM before, so I was not quite prepared for what happened when the doors opened and everyone started pouring into the room. Over the course of the next 3 hours there must have been well over 1000 people who came through the room to chat and visit with all of the various web site and travel agency representatives, authors, Disney fan communities, etc.

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At the AllEars table we had a very nice selection of giveaways, if I do say so myself (and I don't know why I shouldn't, having had nothing to do with the procurement of said items. :-) ) There were lanyards, pens, sewing kits, zippered pouches, buttons, postcards, etc. My favorite, though, was the "Emergency First Aid Kit" in the small plastic box. It actually does have a number of useful items in it (like Tylenol and band-aids) but the reason it was my favorite was because of our wonderful AllEars teammate Erin, who was explaining to people what was in the box. (It was sealed inside a plastic wrapper.) It was like watching an infomercial, only more entertaining. "But wait, you also get..." That girl could sell ice to Eskimos. :-)

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MEI Travel and Mousefan Travel sponsored a "scavenger" hunt where they gave out a list of things people had done (like going on an Adventure by Disney, staying in all of the monorail resorts, etc.), and they were supposed to get a signature from someone who had done each of those things - but you could only have a person sign for one thing. Some of them were not too uncommon in a room full of Disney fans, but a few of them were harder to find, so we had fun pointing people in the right direction when they needed help with various things. I think Deb and Linda Lou had done *everything* on the list - I think they signed an awful lot of the "Panama Canal cruise" and "5 or more Disney cruises" boxes. :-)

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Thank you to all of you who stopped by to tell us how much you enjoy AllEars, and who thanked us for our contributions to the site. We do this because we love it, but it's always wonderful to hear that our work is appreciated.

MMM was over at 1:00, and JackM and I left soon after to go to our first RADP event of the day, which was the RADP Big Meet and Greet. This is the 13th year for that - it started as a small meet near the Epcot Fountain back in 1996. We met outside the International Gateway at Epcot. It wasn't as big as it has been in the past, but it was good to see everyone. I think we all thought about our RADP friend Randy Berbaum, who passed away suddenly earlier this year. Randy always took the meet photo by taking pictures of small groups, and then compositing them into one large photo - sometimes putting us in a place we hadn't been, like in front of the Main Street Train Station. :-)

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A larger version of the photo is here.

For those of you reading this who are familiar with the RADP newsgroup, Keane was able to attend the big meet - he's on the left in this next photo.

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And pretty much all of the usual suspects were there, too.

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I guess I haven't mentioned it, but it was another brisk and chilly day - only 40 at 8:30 in the morning, and it didn't get much above 60 the rest of the day. The sun was out in the morning but disappeared by early afternoon. Gee, I'm so glad I brought that selection of my Disney holiday t-shirts that no one has actually been able to see yet...I *have* gotten way more use out of my Tigger holiday hat than I ever have in the past, though - normally it's just too hot to wear it!

DebK arrived in time to be in the group photo, and eventually the two of us went off to Japan to have a very late lunch before going to the next RADP meet - "What's Your Problem" in Innoventions west.

This is a comedy/game show about the wonders of Velcro. Our group comprised about 80% of the audience, so it wasn't too surprising when Chad and Kerry were chosen for the "packing" game. Kerry had to put items in bags and then stick them onto Chad who was wearing a Velcro cape. They did very well! Jack was selected to play the "Bringing up Babies" game because the host thought he looked like Colonel Sanders, and had come up with all sorts of chicken jokes to tell, but he refused to play (c'mon Jack, you had to know that was going to end up in the blog!), so instead they chose a guy who looked like Santa Claus but without the beard. I hadn't seen the show before but it was fun.

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Deb and I walked over to the Studios after that because we wanted to see the Osborne Lights. Deb hadn't seen them since they started doing the dancing lights, and I hadn't been there in two years. It was pretty crowded, and we were doing the usual "Osborne Shuffle" in getting through there. They are using a lot more LED lights than they were the last time I saw this - they are much brighter and more vibrant. We heard 4 different songs - two by Trans-Siberian Orchestra that I had heard two years ago, and also March of the Toys and Feliz Navidad, which is not one of my favorites.

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We ran into Mike Scopa and Michelle Scribner-MacLean several times, as they were enjoying the lights, too. I *finally* saw Mike wearing a jacket there - we'd seen him earlier and he was still in short sleeves while I was bundled up in my fleece sweatshirt and Tigger hat. Ahhh, the difference between the hardy New Hampshire native and the thin-blooded Californian! :-)

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Deb and I went back over to Epcot (I must admit by that time we both thought that taking the boat back looked pretty good, but the line was too long) and had dinner at Tangierine Cafe. That's always one of my favorites. Though we were sitting "inside" the doors were open and it felt like a wind tunnel, so we were kind of chilled after we finished. Deb suggested going some place warm and we went into the Tin Toy exhibit in Japan. I love those old tin toys!

Our friend Kenny was in the Cast Choir of the 8:15 Candelight Processional performance, so we went to watch him. The theater was packed, but we were able to stand at the back. It took awhile, but we finally spotted him in the choir. Monique Coleman (who I'd never heard of, but Deb told me she was in High School Musical) was the guest narrator - she did a nice job with it. The music was wonderful and even standing at the back we could hear it just fine. It seemed like there were an awful lot of choir members that had to be escorted off-stage during the show, though. :-(

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We went inside the American Adventure to sit and rest our feet after standing for almost an hour - it was nice and quiet (and warm!) in there.

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We'd talked about seeing Illuminations and the Lights of Winter, but it had been a very long day and we both decided we were just too tired. As we were walking back by Morocco we noticed Kenny walking in front of us, so we caught up to him and told him we'd been able to see his performance (he was also in the 6:45 show). We saw enough of Illuminations to determine that yes, the globe WAS working tonight, and then said goodbye to Kenny when we went out the International Gateway. We watched the finale of Illuminations AND the special Holiday finale from the bridge, and then Deb and I had to say goodbye since we won't have a chance to see each other before she leaves tomorrow. She's my oldest and dearest RADP/AllEars friend (sorry Jack! ;-) ), and I was so glad that we were able to spend so much time together this weekend - she has a lot of AllEars commitments to work around.

This has been quite a commando pace for me the last few days, and I have to admit that I am looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow, since the first RADP meet I'm attending doesn't start at the Magic Kingdom until 10:30.

December 15, 2008

Holidaze at WDW - Day 4

Sunday - Magic Kingdom Day for RADP/Mousefest.

It was a very late night for me, so I wasn't up very early - 8:30. Left the room about 9:30 and waited less than 5 minutes for the bus to the Magic Kingdom. It went straight to the MK without stopping at the Swan and Dolphin, which was nice, and there were only about a dozen passengers.

I hadn't been to the MK yet on this trip - it is (as usual) very festively decorated for the holidays - I took a few photos on Main Street. As I was going down Main Street I ran into Charlotte, John, and the other Laura who were also going back to Frontierland for the first RADP meet of the day (the first in the park - a number of them had already had a breakfast meet at Trails End at Ft. Wilderness). It was the start of the RADP Mountain Meets - we got Fastpasses for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (BTMR) and then took a trip to the Laughing Place at Splash Mountain. There were 24 of us - three logs full. There was no wait - we walked through the queue and onto the logs. Jack was my ride partner.

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The temperature was a lot warmer today than it had been - in the low 70s. But fortunately they still hadn't turned on the water cannons on Splash Mountain so we didn't get too wet.

For the BTMR portion of the meet we picked up some more participants - 37, I think? Enough to fill a train and then some. The line was short enough that we really didn't need our Fastpasses. I rode with Steve, who is in the Disfriends community.

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Then it was on to the Haunted Mansion where we filled up much of the stretching room. I don't think we got a count for that meet. Again there was almost no line even though it was after noon by then. Kevin and Leonard the Leopardasaurus (who has been dutifully attending all of the meets!) were my ride buddies. I have to say that it was strange seeing the Haunted Mansion not decorated for Christmas - I'm so used to seeing it that way at Disneyland at this time of year!

I don't think we left anyone behind to become the 1000th Happy Haunt...

I had to leave the RADP group to go meet some of my AllEars team mates for a photo scavenger hunt sponsored by Tagrel.

There were 6 on our team - DebW, Linda Lou, Andrea, Glo, Lisa, and me. Each team had a designated photographer (which, not surprisingly, was Lisa for our team). We all received the same list of photos that we were supposed to take around the park of our team (and occasional other innocent bystanders - but no models were harmed in the taking of the photographs). Most were specific to a "land" but there were some general ones, too, like taking a picture with a Dream Team member, or taking pictures of all team members wearing some kind of Mickey ears. Some of the other assignments were taking a picture with a character in Fantasyland, getting CMs and/or guests to do a chorus line in front of Country Bear Jamboree or getting a Fastpass for Space Mountain. We also had to find a CM who had the same name as one of our team members - fortunately early on we found a Laura!

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Linda Lou was our score keeper (for lack of a better word) and she did a great job keeping us organized and focused.

Our team had its own paparazzi since Mike and Michelle were following us around and taking even more pictures than Lisa did. :-)

It was really a lot of fun to be silly and run around all over the park. We didn't win (we didn't have time to get to Toontown) but we had a very good time. Thanks very much to the people who organized it!

Afterwards we had a late team lunch at the Plaza Restaurant (not the Plaza Inn as Lisa and I kept calling it, since we're more familiar with the Disneyland restaurant that is similarly named). I had the vegetable sandwich - mozzarella, pesto, lettuce, tomatoes, red peppers and cucumber on foccacia. It was good but not exceptional. But it was very good in that it was the first meal on this entire trip that I have eaten at a table service restaurant - it was nice to have someone bring it to me! Deb and Linda treated us - thanks, ladies. :-)

After lunch Andrea and I went to find the RADP group - via cell phone we learned they had split into two groups so Andrea went one way and I went to Toontown to find the ones that were in line to get their photo taken with Mickey. They are doing that in each park this year. Jack and I missed the one at Epcot yesterday since we were at the MMM. I wasn't quite sure where they were but I called Jack (how did we do RADP meets before there were cell phones?) and he directed me into where they were waiting in line.

There were 15 of us and probably 6-7 cameras, in addition to PhotoPass cards. We lucked out and found that both Mickey AND Minnie were posing for photos - and in fact Mickey and Minnie were helping the two photographers to pose our group. They all did a great job in handling our party, and we all got hugs and kisses from Mickey and Minnie (ok, the men didn't get kisses from Mickey!)

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The group dispersed in various directions after that. Steve and I were both planning to stay in the park to see the Castle Lighting ceremony (which wasn't until 6:30), so we wandered around the park together until I decided to go on Pirates of the Caribbean, which he'd visited with the group earlier in the day, so we said goodbye. It was nice to meet him - I hope he comes to RADP events in the future!

I wandered around rather aimlessly - ran into Chad, Kerry, Kevin, and Andrea in Adventureland, and was able to give goodbye hugs to Chad and Kerry, who were going back home tonight. Took some holiday photos and hung around until the Castle Lighting Ceremony, which I watched from the hub.

I wasn't at WDW last year, so I hadn't seen the lights on Cinderella Castle except in a couple of youtube videos. Wow....it's so pretty. I could do without the rather silly show that precedes it (where the characters try to decide how to decorate the castle, and the Fairy Godmother tells them they should ask Cinderella, and she wants it to sparkle like her glass slippers), but the lighting itself is awesome.

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Took awhile to make it out of the park since there was a Christmas party tonight, and a lot of people were also coming *into* the park. My bus to the Boardwalk was just about to pull away when I got about 30 feet from it, but I waved my arms and started running and the bus driver kindly waited for me. I was really happy to make that bus, especially since it came straight back to the Boardwalk, and that gave me a little more time back here in my room before tonight's events.

Tonight's events which I have now returned from. I was invited to attend the AllEars Illuminations Dessert Party event in Epcot - which had another extra-special surprise event tacked onto the end of it.

I was happy to see a number of people that I knew there - several of my AllEars team mates, some of my RADP friends, my friend Masayo from Japan, and Jeanine from California who has written blogs and helped me with other Disneyland info.

There was a nice selection of yummy-but-not-too-messy desserts set out on tables for us. I wish they would sell those chocolate drizzled chocolate chip cookies in the parks - those were incredibly good. (Maybe it's a good thing they don't - I would eat waay too many!)

We were down in the waterside area right behind the fish and chips shop in the UK - I think that's got to be just about the best location to watch Illuminations. Towards the end of the show I heard a lot of giggling behind me, and turned to find this unruly crew passing around a pair of the 3-D glasses from the Osborne Lights which they were watching the fireworks through. :-)

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Not long after Illuminations ended came our special surprise - once they started walking us towards the World Showplace I was pretty sure I knew where we were going, since I'd read Deb's blog about this event last year...and as it turned out the event lanyard, which I hadn't really looked at because it was dark, was a dead giveaway. :-)

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They walked us backstage for a while (I'd been on that road before during the marathon and half marathon - when it was also dark!!!), and then took us through a rather non-descript door - which brought us right into the loading area for Soarin'! So we got our own private ride on that attraction. I'm not sure how they managed to make that happen for us - but thank you to whoever was responsible!!!

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Since I'm from California, I have to say that it's a little strange for me to be flying over California (especially the San Diego and Disneyland scenes) when I'm in Florida. :-)

They had CMs to walk us out of the park to either the main entrance or the International Gateway. I said goodbye to Deb and Linda at the IG, since they will be leaving tomorrow and I won't see them again for a while. It was really nice to have not just one but two fun events with them today!

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I think Mousefest is pretty much over at this point, but RADP still has one more day tomorrow in the Studios.

December 16, 2008

Holidaze at WDW - Day 5

Monday - Studios Day for the RADP group - most of my AllEars team mates have left or are going home today. Jack's still around though, since he's very involved in the RADP community, too.

I actually got a full night's sleep (which I really needed!) last night and got up around 8:00. Had a quick breakfast in the room (granola bar, tangerine, and tea that I brought with me from home), and then walked the half mile or so to the Studios. There's some advantage at least to being on this end of the Boardwalk Villas. :-)

There was quite a long line to get into the Studios, but the streets didn't seem as crowded as when I was here at park opening in October. I went back to Toy Story Mania to get a Fastpass to use later - the return time was 10:25 when I got in line and 10:50 when I got my Fastpass! I found Kevin (and Leonard) there and we walked over to Rock'N'Roller Coaster for the first RADP meet of the day.

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It took a while to get all of us assembled - the 9:30 start time became more like 10:00. Our new friend Steve came back to join us again today...when he saw the events on today's schedule he decided he really wasn't feeling well enough to go to work. :-) When it came time for the group photos there was a wonderful Photopass photographer there who arranged us all and took pictures with her camera, and then with about 7 of ours.

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There were 28 of us that went on RnRC - the "limo" holds 24 so 4 went in a separate car. It was a fun ride, though we had a premature stop before the end, and then we got held for several minutes before we finally pulled into the unloading area. During the wait you could hear shouts of "Are we there yet?", "I have to go...", "Well, you should've done that before we left!" and other such things. :-) The delay meant that our photos were no longer up on the monitor, but we could go to the counter and view them. Jack was my ride partner again. (Judy, I kept much better tabs on him today than I did yesterday! :-) )

It was a good thing we rode that when we did because the line was 50 minutes by the time we got done.

From there we went over to the Tower of Terror where we had about as short a wait as possible - pretty much walked right in the Library (Leonard Loves Libraries), and then right onto the elevator! There were 21 of us riding, so we had a whole elevator to ourselves. I'd forgotten how much fun it is to ride ToT with an elevator full of RADPers...it's a blast. Kevin and I were both sitting on the aisle in the front row, and we each held one of Leonard's arms during the ride - Leonard did a lot of levitating. :-) After the ride ended, but just before the doors opened someone said "scream!", and so we all screamed at the CM as the doors opened. She didn't seem too perturbed by it, though.

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Next on the agenda was a picture of the group with Mickey Mouse. Unfortunately this hadn't been on the meet schedule so a lot of people who would have participated had gone elsewhere. There were 9 of us who went to meet Sorcerer Mickey in the Animation Building, though.

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It was lunch time by then. I went to the 50s Prime Time Cafe with Sean, Pamela, our new friend Steve, Jack, Bruce, Marta, Catherine, Carol, and a friend of Carol's. I'd never eaten there before, believe it or not. We had a pretty good server - she quickly realized that Catherine (who couldn't seem to keep her elbows off the table) was going to be a troublemaker.

I had one of the famous chocolate milk shakes - it was huge and I couldn't finish it. Since I had started with that, I opted for a salad and a side of mashed potatoes for lunch, though the pot pies and fried chicken and grilled chicken sandwiches that my tablemates were having looked good, too. We were doing good on time until it was time to pay the bill...which we wanted to split in multiple ways. And even though a Tables in Wonderland card is good for 10 people, it's not good across multiple bills. It took a long time to get that straightened out, but I must say I felt rather sorry for the server in having to deal with that - I wish everyone had come prepared to pay cash!

Jack was very nice and bought my lunch for me - he can be very sweet - at times. :-) It was very funny listening to the banter between him and Catherine - they seem to bring out the worst in each other. :-)

Next up was the Great Movie Ride meet at 2:00. The half of our group who went to Mama Melrose ended up being 15-20 minutes late - shame on them! While we were waiting we looked around at the various foot and hand prints - and Leonard had to pose with the one of Leonard Nimoy. :-)

We shanghaied one of the "doormen" to take our group photo - I think we might have set a camera record for this one. And then we went on the ride. There were hmm...30 of us for this one, I think? We had a short wait - I had a very nice chat with Lindsey while we were in line. This was her first Mousefest and her first experience with RADP - she enjoyed our group, too. (And who wouldn't? We're a lot of fun!)

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For the Great Movie Ride we got the cowboy side - yay!!!! In all the times I've ridden this, I think it's only the third time I've gotten the cowboy side. Our narrator was Kayla, and we had her laughing so hard that she forgot her lines. :-) When we went into the mummy room, where she is the robed figure standing there we started chanting: "Kayla, Kayla, Kayla" and she started shaking with laughter. The short break from us had helped were regain her composure, though, and she was fine for the rest of the ride. It was a lot of fun.

Next up was the "Betty White Bash". I don't know what inspired Kevin to come up with this one. I think the main idea was to watch the Block Party Bash from the Hall of Fame area (where the busts of various actors are), but it took on a life of its own. Catherine had made a mask with Betty White's face on both sides and put it on a stick, and Kevin wanted pictures of each of us posing with the bust of Betty White and the mask. Which of course some people hammed up a lot more than others. As the parade passed by a lot of the Cast Members saw the mask that Catherine was holding up and a number of them made fun comments about it. It was probably one of those "you had to be there" things, but it was really a lot of fun.

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After the parade passed we got a CM to take a group photo of us around Betty's statue.

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And then we did *another* photo under the arch that says "Disney's Hollywood Studios". This one was like herding cats, though - people kept disappearing and then coming back, but in the meantime one or two others had disappeared. We had a really fun Fastpass photographer named Gary who helped us with this one - he was a riot.

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It was time for the Toy Story Mania Meet - all those of us who had gotten Fastpasses earlier in the day were ready to use them. I think there were 27 of us this time. Jack and I rode together and I beat him (he told me that I was going to put that in the blog) but not by that much. I really like that ride, but my arm is so tired by the end!!!

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I headed to Epcot after that since I wanted to see a few of the holiday storytellers plus sit and enjoy the Lights of Winter.

First was the Tres Reyes Magos in Mexico - their story hasn't changed much since the last time I saw them.

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Next was one of my favorites - Norway. It was a little different this year, though - instead of just Julenissen, it was called Sigrid and Julenissen. A girl in a lovely Norwegian costume came out and started to tell us about holiday customs in Norway, but she was soon joined by a mischievous gnome - a gnome that she couldn't see since she didn't believe in gnomes. But he had the power to freeze her in place and perform small acts of mischief like placing a bell in her hand or getting us to do something when she "woke" up. And of course by the end she had become a believer and could see him, too. It was cute, though I thought Julenissen by himself has put on a fine show in the past.

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Next was Helga in Germany - this one also seemed updated to me. She talked about the Christmas Market and spiced wine and the history of the Christmas tree and the nutcracker - and then she was joined on stage by a giant nutcracker.

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I went towards the front of the park to sit and watch the Lights of Winter for awhile - it's one of my very favorite things at WDW during the holidays, and this is the first chance I've had to do that. In addition to the lights dancing to music, the fountain was dancing constantly as well, instead of every 15 minutes like it usually does. The music repeats after about 20 minutes - I heard pretty close to a full set, I think.

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Walked back to the Boardwalk with a stop at the Bakery to pick up a sandwich for dinner, and then work on this blog entry for a while before I went to the final RADP Meet - the Winter/Summerland Mini Golf event.

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There were 25 of us playing - quite a good turnout! Normally they send out foursomes, but we went in groups of 5. We all played the Snow course. Kenny, Jack, Catherine, Marta and I were one group, and we had a very good time. Jack kicked our butts - he scored 39 on the par 56 course. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves - but Tiger Woods has nothing to worry about. :-)

There were a lot of places to take some fun photos on the course.

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It was hard saying goodbye to everyone - I had so much fun playing with them these last few days! And I probably won't see some of them for a couple of years - though I keep trying to convince them that we need to have a meet at DisneyLAND. :-)

I'll have a little bit of park time tomorrow before I have to go to the airport.

December 20, 2008

Holidaze at WDW - Day 6

Tuesday - departure day for me. No Mousefest or RADP events on the schedule, either.

I packed and did a little email and got my boarding passes at Lobby Concierge on my way out to the car. I left for Animal Kingdom around 10:00.

I was still able to park in the last row of Unicorn - and the park didn't seem very crowded at all. Back at Everest my friend Kenny was working the Fastpass distribution area - it was very interesting to see the kinds of things that he deals with. And I learned some things I didn't know about Fastpasses - though not the kinds of things that will let me circumvent the system. :-)

I took an expedition on Everest after that - the backwards-in-the-dark didn't disorient me as much this time, so maybe I'm getting more used to it. Is the animatronic Yeti ever working these days? I think in my three trips this year I've seen it in the strobe effect every time.

It was another beautiful day - sunny and in the low 70s. Pretty much perfect weather in my book! I wandered around the park and I noticed a lot of holiday decorations in Dinoland that I hadn't seen before.

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Caught a little bit of the Village Beatniks doing their holiday set. They are very entertaining, and they performed Carol of the Bells, which is one of my favorites.

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I went to visit the otters - they had found a nice grassy sunny spot and they were napping and doing a little grooming. Otters are just way too cute!

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Back to the Boardwalk where I parked the car and went to Epcot to start my World Showcase Holiday Marathon. Don't try this at home. :-)

I saw the 11:55 Pere Noel storyteller in France. Looked to be the same actor I saw two years ago - though with the beard it's hard to tell!

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Then I hot-footed it over to China to see the Monkey King at 12:10. He has a new stage in front of the rock (which he uses).

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At 12:30 it was time for the first performance of the Voices of Liberty, which is always one of my favorites. This was the first chance I'd had to see them this trip, since I haven't been in Epcot very much during the day.

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After that it was over to Japan (though at least that's the next pavilion!) for the 12:50 Daruma seller. This is the first time I have ever seen a man performing the role - every other time I've seen it it has been a woman.

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I was starving by then so I had lunch at the Tangierine Cafe - a chicken wrap. I ate the whole thing plus the lentil salad and couscous, too - though it seems like those side servings have gotten a lot smaller.

At 1:30 I saw Papa Noel in Canada - he came out dressed more as a lumberjack and introduced himself as "Noel", and then he started putting on this Santa garb - the fur-lined boots, gloves, and long red coat. I felt sorry him having to wear all that on a warm day!

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There was a break in the storyteller action while I went to the front of the park to see the decorations at the entrance. I very rarely get to the front entrance of Epcot these days since we stay at the Boardwalk - in fact I never got to the front at all when we were here in October!

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I wanted to send some Internet postcards to people from the IBM kiosk in Innoventions but that area is closed for refurbishment!

It was about 8 minutes before 2:00 by then and I wanted to see the Italian storyteller, La Befana, at 2:00. Ok, so not even *I* can get from Innoventions to Italy in 8 minutes (by my GPS watch it was almost 3/4 of a mile). :-) But I only missed a couple minutes of her show. It hasn't really changed.

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Last on my agenda for the day were the almost back-to-back performances of the Voices of Liberty at 2:40 and 3:10.

I made the mistake of sitting down on one of the benches in the rotunda at 2:15 and suddenly everything caught up with me and I got really tired. That's what happens when you stop moving!

I actually wrote some of this blog on my Palm Pilot while I was waiting for the Hanukkah storyteller at 2:25. She was pretty young, and seemed like she had some World Showcase Player experience from some of the things she said. (I never managed to see them at all on this trip!)

The Voices of Liberty were great and I heard a lot of songs over the three sets. Though they all started with Christmas in the Air and ended with We Wish You a Merry Christmas and included the same old Hanukkah medley (can't they find any other Hanukkah songs???)

After that it was time to say goodbye to Epcot and walk back to the Boardwalk parking lot. Sigh.

At the Orlando airport they were really scrutinizing the x-rays for liquids - or at least the lane I was in did that, because it was moving very slowly. I'd dutifully separated all my stuff and they still ran my daypack and my ziplock bag through twice.

When I arrived in Atlanta for my connecting flight I discovered we were playing musical gates - they initially told us our flight was departing from B21, then B29, then B27, and then back to B21 again. When they finally started boarding the plane they only got to Zone 2 before announcing there was a maintenance issue, and then offloading everyone. The pilot came out and made an announcement that there was an issue with the pressurization system, and he wouldn't sign off on the plane. Hey, if the pilot doesn't want to fly it, I certainly don't want to be on board!!! So then they had to find us a new plane. We waited another hour and the pilot came back on to say the mechanics had fixed the problem and we were good to go. We ended up leaving over 90 minutes late, so of course it was almost midnight (11:55 to be exact) when we landed in San Diego. Where it was rainy and cold! I think this is the first time I've ever returned from Orlando when the weather has been way better there than in San Diego. Normally returning to San Diego isn't much of a hardship. :-)

I had a wonderful, wonderful trip, though 5 days was not enough time. As you can tell if you've been reading these blogs, I had a great time with all of my RADP friends (old and new!), and on the scavenger hunt with my AllEars team, and spending quality time with my friend Deb, and a nice but all-too-brief visit with Ilene and Paul.

Our next trip will be the end of January - Lee and I will spend a couple of nights at WDW before we go on our Disney Magic cruise to the western Caribbean.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

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About December 2008

This page contains all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in December 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

November 2008 is the previous archive.

January 2009 is the next archive.

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