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December 2009 Archives

December 3, 2009

Disneyland Holiday Videos

Lee has put together several youtube videos of footage he shot during our visit to Disneyland recently - hope you enjoy these glimpses of the holiday offerings at Disneyland.

A Christmas Fantasy Parade - Part 1:


A Christmas Fantasy Parade - Part 2:


The castle lighting ceremony and most of the Believe....in Holiday Magic fireworks show:


December 6, 2009

The Princess and the Frog Studio Screening

Jeanine Yamanaka attended one of the special screenings of The Princess and the Frog at the Disney Studios in Burbank. I hope you'll enjoy reading about her experience as much as I did.

The Princess and the Frog, and The Ultimate Disney Experience

As part of their big promotional campaign for the opening of The Princess and the Frog, Disney created an event by which guests could (for a fairly substantial fee) not only see the movie in advance of the official opening date, but see it on the Disney Studio lot in Burbank. In addition, they were invited to stay afterward for a meet-and-greet with all the Disney Princesses, see props, swing on ropes, and take part in all manner of diversions.

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The pricing was tiered at $50 for reserved seating, and $30 for general admission. The reserved seating also included extras such as popcorn (with souvenir bucket,) soda, beads, commemorative lithograph, etc, however both groups had entry into the post-show event. Personally, I balked a little, both at the prices and at the prospect of facing the traffic up to Burbank during rush hour, however after Goldstar.com offered discount tickets around the $20 price-point, I capitulated.

On arriving at the studios, cheerful cast members swiftly directed cars into the Zorro parking lot and pointed out painted frog feet on the sidewalk, denoting the path to the check-in building.

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This was designated the Prop Room, and had a number of large props and set pieces from recent films such as Narnia and Pirates of the Caribbean. After checking in, people were exhorted to purchase food from the concession stand nearby and then leave in groups with various cast members who escorted them to the theater. They were fairly explicit that we were not allowed to have cameras, so I don't have photos of this room, not wanting to be suppressed with extreme prejudice by the camera police. I don't know if other people felt the same way, but it would explain why, when we approached the theater, Mickey Mouse was standing near a backdrop waving happily to us, and everyone in the group was all "oh, how cute--hurry up and get inside so we can get a seat." He seemed a little surprised that no one stopped to meet and greet him, but...that's Show Business.

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The Studio Theater was a relatively small affair which has apparently not been opened to the public since the opening of Fantasia. Consequently, there is a lot of Fantasia memorabilia displayed in the tiny lobby area. On the night I went it was probably about 3/4 full, with the middle half-a-dozen rows in the center reserved for the VIP seating.

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The movie was excellent, with songs it took me a good 3 days to get out of my head. Go see it.

After the showing, we were allowed to retrieve the cameras we had to check prior to entering the theater, and were guided to Stage 3 (originally built for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) where every princess under the sun was waiting to be met and greeted on personalized wagons.

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One of the first things that caught the eye on walking in however, was a cart offering studio tours. Since one was leaving just then, I tagged along.

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The tour was very much like the ones offered by D23, although a bit shorter, and without the time allotted for Dave Smith and the Archives. The first stop was the Animation Building, in which the 9 Old Men had offices, back in the day. The long hallway that runs the length of the building is covered on both sides with artwork from their many animated films depicting the different stages in animated film development.

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We then walked on to see the Team Disney Burbank building, designed by Michael Graves and also occasionally called "The Seven Dwarves Building" for the enormous statues supporting the roof of the building, as the proceeds from the film Snow White supported the whole building of the studio in the first place.

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This building faces Legends Plaza, which is a small courtyard dotted with plaques commemorating all the different personages who have been awarded the status of "Disney Legend," in the studio's annual ceremony. The three statues there are an enlarged version of the Legends award, the Partners statue, and the Sharing the Magic statue. After everyone had taken photos with all the statues ("it's the only time you're going to get your photo with them, without other people in the picture," our guide told us,) we entered the Frank Wells building, which houses the Archives. Although it was closed (apparently Dave Smith didn't want to wait up for us) we were able to see the lobby displays of famous Disney hats and costumes, and one of only a couple multiplane cameras.

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Eventually, we walked back to Stage 3, observing different landmarks such as the water tower and listening to stories and trivia about how the business was run in the early days.

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The whole tour took about 25 minutes, and we were accompanied at all times by security people, apparently placed to prevent people from just making a break for it and running wild over the studio grounds looking for cels.

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By the time we returned to the event, most of the attendees with children had left, leaving most of the princesses with little to do but stand on their platforms twirling and gracefully posing for the open air. If they were concerned that the floor would open up and drop all the collected Disney royalty into the bottom of the 60-foot water tank built underneath them, it certainly didn't show.

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On one side of the princess area was a character drawing class, run by an actual animator from the Princess and the Frog movie, teaching how to draw the Cajun lightning bug, Ray.

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Surrounding that corner, numerous examples of concept art from the film were hung on the walls, and various cases of memorabilia were displayed as well, dating from the Walt era of the studios, to the dress that the Princess Tiana reference model wore for the animators. There was also a craft table for youngsters, and a small store that seemed to stock mostly Princess Tiana dolls and large numbers of plush frogs.

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On the other side was a small playground with swings and ropes, and different carnival-like games, including a magnetic dart board. There was no charge for playing...but no prizes either. The last element was a small cupcake concession area which sold Princess and Frog cupcakes, decorated with various rings and toppers. They were not cheap, however I think by this time everyone's frame of price reference had been shifted up, where $3.00 no longer seemed unreasonable for a cupcake.

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The most interesting part of the evening for me, was to see how few people were there for experiences that are usually so sought-after. To be in a studio tour of about 5, after blood was practically spilt when the D23 studio tour tickets were released, seemed as odd as seeing Mickey and all the Princesses forlornly dancing around by themselves, minus the frantic families that usually stalk them down like Gaston hunts down elk. Given how popular all these things usually are, and how well everything was presented here, I'm at a loss as to why it was so sparsely attended that they had to start dumping tickets on discount websites.

Although the event had been advertised to go until 10:30pm, they announced it over around 10:00, probably because there were only a couple people wandering around by then. We then followed the frog feet on the pavement outside back out to Zorro, where the happy cast members cheerfully waved us home.

December 7, 2009

Disneyland Holiday Interviews

Lee and I attended a press event at Disneyland on Friday, where we had the opportunity to interview several Disneyland spokespersons about various elements of the holidays at Disneyland, including decorating the parks, special holiday events, holiday merchandise, and the upcoming Give a Day, Get a Disney Day program.

In this clip, David Caranci and Minnie Mouse discuss making your own themed Pirate or Princess tree.

Lee and Disneyland Resort Ambassador Danielle DuBois talk about the upcoming Give a Day, Get a Disney Day program. More information on signing up for the program is available HERE.

There's always new holiday merchandise - Marianne Sharpe shows some of the newest and most popular items for this year's holiday season, and also talks about upcoming merchandise for Disneyland's 55th birthday celebration, The Happiest Memories on Earth, coming up in 2010.

Lee and Eddy Collins talk about all of the special holiday events at Disneyland, including some trivia about the hearse in front of the Haunted Mansion, and how many lights decorate Holiday "it's a small world".

We're heading off to celebrate the holidays at Walt Disney World, so look for my live blogs this week!

December 8, 2009

Holidays at WDW - Day 1

We're back at Walt Disney World for our usual "see all of the holiday stuff" trip.

This day was a lot different than our usual first day at WDW though...for one thing, we are staying at Animal Kingdom Villas (Kidani Village) and not at Boardwalk Villas - it seemed really odd to drive past the entrance to the Boardwalk!

And instead of going to Epcot on our first night we had dinner at Mara, and then went to Fantasia Gardens to meet the RADP group for a round of mini-golf. We could hear (and see a little bit of) the Illuminations show from Epcot, though.

We arrived at Kidani and walked into the lobby - it's like a scaled-down version of Animal Kingdom Lodge, so it looks a little odd. The room numbering is also really odd - all of the room numbers here are four-digit numbers starting with "7". So you'd think our 4th floor room would be something like 74xx, right? Nope...it's 78xx.

Another odd thing about Kidani Village is that guest parking is *under* the building.
There are multiple elevators so you can park fairly close to your room - providing you know which section of the building to park under! They didn't actually tell us that, but we figured it out from the room map. Good thing, because we're at the far end of the building - had we parked at the entrance to the parking garage it would have been a loooong walk to our room. It was kind of spooky down there, though - there were some areas that had no cars in them at all, and even where we parked there weren't very many cars.

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The room is really nice, though it seems very dark - not helped by the fact that we arrived after dark, of course. And we had a terrible time finding the light switches in the dark. We have a view of the Pembe Savanna...which seems to be the smallest one, and there haven't been any animals out there yet, but hopefully tomorrow in the daylight we'll see some.

One of the nice touches in the room is the wall paintings in the tile in the tub and shower areas.

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There's no quick-service dining location here...we didn't have enough time to eat at the service restaurant, Sanaa, and still get to the mini golf meet, so we drove over to eat at Mara at the "old" Animal Kingdom Lodge instead. It was pretty busy - it took over 20 minutes to get our food!!! But it was good - I had the falafel pita with a side of couscous (which they forgot to give me, and I had to go back for), and Lee had the butternut squash soup and a vegetable flatbread pizza.

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We drove over to Fantasia Gardens where quite a crowd had already gathered for the mini-golf meet. I think we ended up with 24 or 25 people playing.

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We played with Tracy, Jack, and Kevin, and were the final group out. I think we all had at least one hole-in-one (mine was an assist from Kevin - thanks, Kevin!), and we had a good time.

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The course was not too tough and had some pretty interesting holes - I think the cavern with the "Night on Bald Mountain" theme was my favorite.

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After we'd finished our round we noticed a bunny rabbit in the shrubbery - it really didn't seem too concerned about all of the flashes going off as several of us took pictures of it!

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I'm sorry I missed out on most of the RADP fun over the weekend, but I'm glad we were able to join them for the final event of the weekend!

Not sure exactly what we're doing tomorrow morning...we'll be at Epcot tomorrow afternoon, though.

December 9, 2009

Holidays at WDW - Day 2

Still on west coast time, so went to bed about 1:30 a.m. and got up about 9:00 this morning. We still have a mostly animal-free savanna, but did catch a glimpse of these impala as they migrated across and out of view.

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We didn't really have any plans for the morning - Lee suggested going resort-hopping to see Christmas decorations, so that's what we did. We drove over to Wilderness Lodge first - that's one of our favorite resorts at Christmas time. On the road in we saw this topiary display.

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The tree in the lobby is always very impressive - it's so tall!

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And they use antlers in all of their decorating. :-)

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Whispering Canyon was surprisingly busy for 10:00 in the morning, but even without a reservation we were seated in less than 10 minutes. Luckily they put us in the back room by the fireplace which is a little quieter - and we knew better than to ask for ketchup! :-) Lee had the breakfast skillet which he enjoyed, and I had the standard 2 eggs, bacon, potatoes, and biscuit, which was fine.

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We thought about going to all of the monorail resorts, but we've been underwhelmed with the decorations at the Polynesian and the Contemporary in recent years, and haven't heard that there was anything new there this year, so we went straight to the Grand Floridian instead. There's always plenty of decorations at the Grand!!! Lots of beautiful wreaths and small trees and the big lobby tree - though of course the gingerbread house is one of the most outstanding things.

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Poor Lee...little does he realize what lurks above him, waiting to launch an attack...it'll be years before he goes near the Grand Floridian's tree again! :-)

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There were also many beautiful arrangements of fresh flowers - I thought this one was especially nice.

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As we were driving away from the Grand I noticed something along the edge of the golf course that I was very surprised to see...

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A flock of wild turkeys - either that, or the Thanksgiving rejects. There must have been at least a dozen of them. That was really a treat to see them!

On the way back to Kidani we stopped at Coronado Springs - they always have very nice Christmas decorations - nicer than some of the deluxe resorts, actually!

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The tree in the registration area was very pretty.

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And then there were these characters outside...

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Back at Kidani we checked out the lobby in the daytime...aren't these really cool chandeliers?

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And then our Kidani Village room search adventure began. Those of you familiar with the rec.arts.disney.parks (RADP) newsgroup will know who Keane is - Keane and his PiC (Partner in Crime) are also staying at Kidani, and we were going to his room to have a drink - also meeting Steve Russo there. We knew from Keane's room number that he was staying in the other half of the building, but what we didn't realize is that the only place that the two halves connect is on the second floor where the lobby is. So we had to go down to the second floor, walk across to the other part of the building and then take an elevator up. At least on his half of the building the room numbers make sense - 74xx is on the 4th floor, 75xx is on the fifth, rather than our side where the fourth floor is 78xx. We eventually found it, though - but not before Keane called us to find out where we were. :-)

Keane has a great view looking into the center of the big savanna - we saw giraffes and eland wandering around. I was jealous. :-)

It was nice to meet Steve for the first time, and good to spend more time with Keane - I'd only talked to him briefly at last year's RADP meet. Keane has taken some amazing panorama photos, and his ulterior motive was to get us up to his room to show us some of them. No, not at all like etchings. :-) They really are beautiful and he insisted that we choose one. Very generous of him, and a tough decision! You can see some of them (and see how big they are!) in this photo.

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And here's a photo of Steve, me, and Keane.

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By then it was after 3:00. We went back to our room briefly, where we found a few more animals on the savanna - there were several female waterbuck. They seem rather odd-looking to me - sort of donkey-like.

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I guess we'd put it off long enough...it was finally time to go to a theme park. :-) We were meeting Erin, one of my fellow AllEars teammates, in Epcot at 4:30. It was very strange to drive to the front of Epcot - we are so used to staying behind it and walking in from there! The walkway between Future World and World Showcase looks so strange without the Lights of Winter...they even got rid of the lighted dove decorations in the planter in front of it. Waaaaaa!!!

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Lee and I had had a late breakfast but nothing since then, and we wanted some food before we started drinking frozen margaritas. :-) The food booth that was in front of the Mexico pavilion during the Food and Wine Festival is still there, though now they have a different menu: beef taquitos, a chicken quesadilla, and guacamole and chips. We got the quesadilla and the chips, which were both pretty good.

I don't remember now how Erin and I decided that we needed to meet for margaritas in Mexico, but it's something we've been looking forward to for months and we had a lot of fun. After we got our Fiesta margaritas we wandered around World Showcase.

Erin had done several of the Kim Possible Adventures, but hadn't done the one in Germany. We wanted to show her one of the effects at the little train in Germany, but wouldn't you know it there wasn't any one doing the Kim Possible thing - normally people are practically tripping on top of each other! But finally a family showed up and triggered the effect - it still makes us laugh. You can see it in this photo if you know what to look for - I'm not going to spoil it for those who haven't done it, so instead you can enjoy this photo of the village all decorated for Christmas. I always enjoy seeing how they decorate the train area for different events, though I think Christmas is when they decorate it the most.

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We completed our circle around World Showcase and stopped to chat for a while near the entrance to World Showcase. I thought the sunset behind the Eiffel Tower was pretty nice.

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Erin walked out of Epcot with us and we said goodbye, though we will see her later this week. Our next stop was Old Key West, where we were invited to a Fish Fry at Charlotte and John's (more of our RADP friends - even though we missed most of the meets, between mini golf last night and the Fish Fry tonight we have been able to catch up with a lot of the people we would have seen, so that's been very nice). John had actually caught the fish, a saltwater trout, himself, so that was very special. He'd also fried up some hush puppies to go with it (yum!), and there was lots of other food as well. It was really a fun evening catching up and enjoying some really good food. Lee was really happy since he got to sample Jan's coconut cake and bread pudding, which are two of his favorite things.

Here Jack serves up some of that Southern home cooking!

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We have no plans for tomorrow until late afternoon, when we are doing the Holiday D-Lights tour. That goes from 4:45 until about 9:15, so we're going to eat a late lunch...based on Keane's and PiC's recommendation today, I think we'll try Sanaa. We may have to actually do an attraction tomorrow! :-)

December 10, 2009

Holidays at WDW - Day 3

It's been another long day (it's after midnight right now as I'm starting to write this!), so we'll see how much I get done tonight...you may get a "Part 2".

So...another morning...another animal-free savanna. Sigh.

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It was another beautiful day - except for a rain shower as we drove from the airport to the resort on Monday night the weather has been beautiful, with highs close to 80, and still warm in the evening, too.

We decided to take the bus to Animal Kingdom rather than drive...in hindsight that was a bad idea because between the wait for the bus (saw 2 MK buses and 3 Epcot buses in that time, though Studios was worse off, with no bus at all!), loading an ECV, and the extra stop at Jambo House, it was 45 minutes from the time we arrived at the bus stop until we were at Animal Kingdom. Yikes. But we saw my RADP friend Brian - he got on the bus at Jambo House, so we chatted with him on the ride to Animal Kingdom.

They only serve breakfast at Pizzafari until 10:30, and we thought we were out of luck since a cast member was taking the breakfast sign inside when we got there, but the nice ladies at the cash register said "oh, no, come right ahead!" Whew. And as a bonus we got a coupon on our receipt good for 20% off merchandise at Island Mercantile until 12:00 p.m. It was good at places in other parks, too, like MouseGear, and the Emporium, but there was no way we were getting to any of those by noon! We took a quick shopping trip - I found a shirt I liked, but Lee didn't see anything. LOTS of people had those coupons, because Island Mercantile was busier than I have ever seen it.

Animal Kingdom itself seemed very busy to us - the standby lines weren't bad, but it seemed very congested - lots of people around.

We stopped to see the otters on our way back to the Safari ride - there were two of them out. One was swimming laps, and I guess the other one was coaching from the island - he was certainly sitting up there doing a lot of chirping! So cute...I love otters.

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We had gotten Fastpasses for the safari ride before breakfast, so we got through the line pretty quickly, though the standby was listed as less than 30 minutes. Saw a fair number of animals - quite a few on the savanna, and mostly on the near side rather than the far side, which is unusual in my experience. They called these white rhinos...but they looked red to me. :-)

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Normally we walk the Pangani Forest Trail after our safari, but there were tons of people headed there so we passed it by and went over to Asia to the Maharajah Jungle Trek instead. We expected that the tigers would all be sleeping, but several of them were up and active - that was a very nice surprise! We knew that there were six, all females, but learned that they are 12 years old, and some of them don't get along very well. Which isn't really surprising in a family of six females...We saw two of them over in the viewing area that you see from the suspension bridge - I've never been able to see them from the bridge (not that close, at least) before. I could inundate you with tiger pictures, but I'll just share this one: My, what big teeth you have!!!

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We wandered over to Dino-Rama (20-minute standby for Primeval Whirl). I'd never noticed the way that this brontosaurus(?) looms over the area...good thing it looks friendly!

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There was a character greeting area there that I don't remember seeing before, so I don't know if it's just for the holidays or not.

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Over at the Tree of Life we discovered a path that I don't think we've ever been on before! Some very nice views of the Tree looking up, but there's an awful lot of scary big-toothed critters carved into the roots in that area.

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At the end of the path (which came out behind the tattoo stand) there was this strange-looking fish - it's called a Paroon Shark-Catfish - I think you can see why. It's pretty big - close to 3 feet long, I think.

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It was about 1:30 and we headed out of the park - we had a late lunch scheduled at Sanaa. Fortunately the bus ride back was quick and efficient - Kidani Village was the first stop. It sure is a looooong way from the bus stop to our room, though.

We had the last lunch seating at Sanaa. The restaurant wasn't full, but there were a pretty good number of parties there. We got a window table which was great, because the windows in Sanaa look right out onto the savanna, and the animals come to within 10-15 feet of the restaurant! We saw giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, and Ankole cattle while were were eating - two of the zebras were in view most of the time, and the giraffes went by two or three times. It was really cool! Of course, it helps that they feed them in front of the restaurant - a keeper came by and dropped off some hay and most of a banana tree while we were there.

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Lunch was really good - I'll write up more of a review eventually, but we both really enjoyed what we had, and I'm sure we'll be back here again in the future. We had an excellent server, also. She performs in the Cast choir for the Candlelight Processional, and we talked about that a little bit, since we would be seeing it later in the evening.

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Made a brief stop back in our room, and in all fairness I have to say that there was an okapi and several waterbuck on our savanna. And when we returned tonight there was the herd of impala and a couple of waterbuck. Of course you couldn't really see them in the dark, but they were there. Though it was interesting that it was so quiet that we could hear them as they wandered around and chewed on grass.

Then it was off to Epcot, where we were doing the new Holiday D-Lights tour. Mike Bachand has already written a terrific blog about it which you can read HERE, so I'm not going to go into much detail, except where our tour differed from his.

We also had Mark as one of our tour guides, and he was really good - very knowledgeable about a lot of the techy stuff that we like. Our other guide was Dena, who also did a fine job, but not so technical.

As Mike stated, we started off by visiting the Decorating Support building which is over near the Magic Kingdom. I thought our next stop would be Magic Kingdom, but instead we went over to the Studios to see the Osborne Lights. When I asked Dena about that she said that the Studios was closing early, at 7:00 (the tour actually got underway a little after 5:00), and so they had to take us there early.

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They pointed out the "black cat" that's in a different place in the lights each year - it was a Halloween decoration that somehow got thrown in with all of the Christmas lights (there are about 5 million of them now, most of them LEDs), but the Imagineers decided to put it up anyways. :-) I guess last year it was an alley cat...this year it's a cat on a hot LED roof. :-)

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I felt we were rushed getting through the lights, though - we only got to see one performance of the dancing lights - they were starting Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Christmas in Sarajevo (which is one of the musical number we use with our lights at home) as we had to leave. :-(

Our early stop at the Studios unfortunately meant that we missed the lighting ceremony for Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom - it was already fully lit by the time we got back there. I was disappointed in that. We also got caught by the SpectroMagic parade, so that was going on in the background when we were trying to listen to what Mark had to say - even with our earphones that was a little difficult. The castle was this funky orange color for most of the time we had a really good view of it (which seemed much more appropriate to Halloween than Christmas!).

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Of course after we had to get out of the way of the parade it started changing colors again...

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Lee picked up a few lighting tips that he wants to try on our roof "ice" lights at home, though.

As Mike talked about, we finished up the tour at Epcot with the Candlelight Processional. I think we had better seats than he did, though - our tour was only 26 (full capacity is 40), so they put us closer to the stage, and not so blocked by trees. Andy Garcia was the narrator, and he was pretty good. His favorite song is also one of my favorites - They Rejoiced with Exceeding Great Joy. He tried to get them to perform it a second time. :-)

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We really enjoyed the tour, though I felt gypped because we did not get to see the castle lighting. Seeing it already lit wasn't really that special. But we both felt that for the price ($179/person!) the experiences should have been a little more exclusive/special - we were pushing through the crowds at the Osborne lights with everyone else, though at least we had reserved seating for the Processional.

The tour ended not long after the Processional - they took us out of the theater and took back our headsets and gave us our pins (limited edition of only about 250!), and then strongly encouraged us to watch Illuminations - especially the holiday finale. Though Mark wouldn't give us exact numbers, he said that there are as many fireworks in the four-minute finale as they are in the rest of the show!!! I believe it, though...that last 30 seconds is insane.

Anyway...we found a decent spot to watch it. Both Lee and I noticed that the images on the globe seem a lot more clear and distinct than we've ever seen them - and we were here at the end of October, so I'm not sure what's changed since then.

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The holiday finale...WOW. That's really all I can say. I think that is my very favorite thing about the holidays at WDW. It blows me away every time I see it - and I have seen it a number of times over the years. I can't believe the number of fireworks they shoot into the air - as I said before, it's just insane. As we've often said: "Nothing says 'peace on earth' like shooting off a bunch of explosives!"

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Wow...I actually did finish this - and it's still only about 10:00 - west coast time, that is.

Tomorrow we're moving from Kidani Village to Boardwalk Villas - it'll be nice to get back there again. I think we'll try to see the Osborne Lights again without feeling so rushed, and definitely will be seeing Illuminations again!!!

By the way...for those of you who have submitted comments - thank you, I'm sorry that I haven't replied and gotten them published yet, but I'll get to it as soon as I can. I'm glad you are enjoying the blogs!

December 11, 2009

Holidays at WDW - Day 4

We get up this morning...the morning that we are LEAVING Kidani Village...and of course all of the animals have suddenly found our savanna. Sheesh...they are as uncooperative as cats! The nyala (which we had not seen at all until this morning) were out grazing:

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And a pair of waterbuck were camouflaged in the brush:

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And we had one of the okapis, though it was about as far away as it could be and still be in view. The impalas were out there, too. What was going on - "Laura and Lee are leaving - time to move back to the savanna!" :-)

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Or maybe it was the weather...black, black clouds out there, and it started raining about 10:30. Oh great...the day we are switching resorts and have no "home" to hang out in, and it rains. Sigh. Hard to plan based on weather when you make reservations 11 months in advance! Though I remember the last time I scheduled a trip where we had to change resorts in the middle - and I said to myself: "Self, this is really not a very good idea - what were you *thinking*?" And then I went ahead and did it again this year. Seemed like a good idea at the time, but I think in the future I will limit myself to one resort per trip - it's just such a hassle to move.

After we'd loaded our bags in the car we went to the lobby to hang out in the library for a while in hopes of better weather. And I wanted to take a video of the moving butterfly ornaments on the tree - I received a message from the Baines Family asking me to video it. So this is for you! :-)

I didn't count the number of butterflies on the tree but there were more than this. Many of them apparently had "damaged" wings and weren't moving very much - these two were still doing pretty well, though.

The rain had apparently stopped, so we headed out to the Boardwalk - but it started up again - not hard, just steady. We arrived at the Boardwalk about 12:15, and, wonder of wonders, our room was actually ready!!! Even the Cast Member who checked us in was surprised. We have a one bedroom with a Boardwalk view up on the 5th floor. Ahhh. You know, I liked Kidani Village, but coming back to the Boardwalk really DOES feel like coming home. One of the first things I noticed is how much lighter and brighter the room is compared to Kidani. Of course the decor also isn't as exotic, and it doesn't have two full bathrooms like Kidani, but still, it's comfortable and familiar and feels like home.

By about 12:45 it had stopped raining, so we went into Epcot - I wanted to see the Voices of Liberty doing some of their Christmas sets. We took umbrella and rain jackets, though. The weather had *really* cooled off - it was almost 75 at 10:00 in the morning, but all it did was get cooler after that. I'd changed into long pants and even with a light jacket I was sometimes chilly.

On our way in from the International Gateway we passed the Kim Possible station and discovered they were still recruiting, so we volunteered to be agents - we had time to see the Voices of Liberty before saving the world, though. :-)

We saw the 1:15, 2:40, and 3:10 performances of Voices of Liberty - they are really incredible. We even heard a couple of songs that were new (or new arrangements). Here's a couple of them...the first is one of my favorites, Joy to the World, and second one is one of the few numbers I've seen them really do for fun - I don't know the name of it, but it talks about "What a merry Christmas tree", so that's what I call it.

In between Voices of Liberty sets we dealt with killer robots, monkey ninjas, and secret rocket bases on our Team Possible missions. The park was not very crowded, but there were a lot of other people doing them, too - we had to wait behind three other parties before we could trigger the final effect in China!

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We were also in Mexico and Japan. I think that Germany, which we did back in March, is still my favorite, though. It is really a lot of fun to see what the Imagineers have come up with as interactive bits in the various pavilions - there are a number of pretty clever things. The robot "bebe" in Japan was pretty good - a robot brat who needed to be burped, apparently!

We also tried something that Erin had recommended - the hot spiced wine in Germany. That tasted really good on a chilly day!

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While we drank our wine we sat on a bench and listened to the Holiday Storyteller in Germany, and saw the giant nutcracker come out and join her - that seems like the kind of thing that would give children nightmares!

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It was after 3:00 and we hadn't had anything other than spiced wine since our (late) breakfast, so we stopped by the UK to get an order of fish and chips - with plenty of malt vinegar, of course! It's really nice that they have moved the ordering station away from the pick-up window - I think that makes things go a lot faster. Though there really wasn't a line today - just two other parties in front of us.

After we walked out back out the International Gateway we did something we have never done - attended the DVC "Merry Mixer". It's a holiday event that DVC puts on several times during December for members - there's entertainment, characters, the opportunity to buy exclusive merchandise (the line for that was HUGE), refreshments, and of course you could learn more about DVC and buying more points if you wanted to, though they really didn't push that at all. We didn't stay long, but we did get this holiday photo taken!

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It was oh, 4:30 or so when we came back to our room to rest, work on photos and video, and that sort of thing - it was nice to have a short break today! This evening we decided to go to the Dolphin Fountain for dinner - they have good soups, sandwiches, burgers, and flatbreads. They are better known for their ice cream but neither of us felt much like having ice cream tonight!!! Even Lee was cold as we walked over there - the wind blowing over the water made it seem a lot colder than it really is.

The place was busier than I've ever seen it and pretty noisy - next time I think we should just get take-out and eat in our own room! But it was good - I had the turkey burger, which I think was a handmade patty and not a pre-made frozen thing, and Lee had the Cuban Pork Fladen (flatbread), which was basically a big open-faced ham and cheese sandwich. We both enjoyed our dinners, and were both members of the clean plate club!

It was after 7:00 but we decided to walk over to see the Osborne Lights - this time at our OWN pace, unlike last night. The park was open until 8:00, since that's when Fantasmic! started, but we knew the lights would be on for quite a while after F! got out. We weren't sure how crowded it would be back there but it was VERY nice - the least crowded I have ever seen it, except maybe for one night I was there when it was raining and a lot of the lights were out. But tonight was dry and almost everything was working (the big globe wasn't spinning).

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We were there for at least half an hour and saw/heard three of the "dancing" numbers: Jingle Bells by Barbra Streisand, and Nutcracker Suite and Christmas Eve/Sarajevo, both by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Sarajevo is one that we really love - it was the first song that Lee choreographed for our Lights of Winter at home (and we used it several years before Disney did!). Lee also took some time to see how the Disney people did the connections on some of their lights...

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Quick stop back at the room to pick up Lee's video camera (the room is pretty much on the way to Epcot anyway!), and then we went into Epcot to see Illuminations again, though we probably could have seen most of it from our room. We went to Germany for a little dessert, though - one of their gingerbread cookies with chocolate Mickey ears. That's one of my favorite holiday treats, and it was good.

And then we saw Illuminations again. The holiday finale is still spectacular, and I am always grinning like a fool at the end when all of those shells go off and light up the sky!! It is just amazing.

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I can't believe that tomorrow is our last full day!!! We want to do a few more things in Epcot tomorrow, and will be going to the Magic Kingdom tomorrow afternoon for a tour that Erin is doing - which concludes by watching the castle lighting ceremony that we didn't see last night.

December 12, 2009

Holidays at WDW - Day 5

Got up (at about 8:45 again) to a cloudy and chilly day - no sun expected, and high was only supposed to be about 67 - and I'm not sure it ever got even that warm.

We decided to have breakfast at Kouzzina - we'd had dinner there back in October with the Koma family and really enjoyed it. There were a surprising number of people having breakfast at 10:00, but we waited less than 10 minutes for a table.

There were a number of items on the breakfast menu that looked good - we could definitely eat here again, and I'm sure we will in the future. Lee really wanted waffles, so he had the Classic Golden Waffle which came with a large spoonful of whipped mascarpone cheese, honey, and chopped pecans. He also got a side of the sweet potato hash.

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I was torn between the Spinach, Tomato, and Feta Scrambled Eggs and the Create Your Own Yogurt and Granola, but I finally chose the latter. It came with Greek yogurt (which I really like) and granola, and then with some fruit and sugared nuts and honey. I was disappointed in how little fruit there was...for $10.49 I expected a little more, but it was good.

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Just about the time our food arrived Linda and Deb came by our table - they had just finished their breakfast. But they joined us while we ate and we had a great time talking to them and catching up a little bit. They are a couple of special ladies, that's for sure!

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We'd gotten some Kouzzina pastries to have for breakfast tomorrow, when we know we'll be rather rushed in getting out of here, so we dropped those back in our room and then headed out to do a little more Christmas decoration resort hopping. First stop was the Yacht Club. They have the usual tree decorated with nautically-themed ornaments (like ships!) in the lobby as well as the alpine village train set, which has all kinds of things going on around it.

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Over at the Beach Club it is the 10th anniversary of the gingerbread carousel.

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They had a rotating gingerbread castle on one corner, with Snow White on one side and Belle on the other:

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And an the opposite corner was a rotating version of Chip and Dale's treehouse - they seem to be the "mascot" of the carousel, though I don't really understand why. There's also a special carousel 10th anniversary pin that has Chip and Dale on it.

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This is the first time I remember them selling gingerbread in a shop in the lobby. One of the pastry chefs was hard at work decorating Mickey-faced gingerbread cookies.

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Then we were off to Epcot for Mike and Masayo's Kaki-Gori meet. The temperature really wasn't very conducive to ordering a kaki-gori, but I saw a number of people who are apparently far more hardy than I am, and ordered them anyways.

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Masayo brought bags of origami cranes and swans that she had made - I think she said there were about 200! Wow...I can't even imagine how much time that took to do...they were both pretty intricate.

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Here are all of the AllEars team members who attended (except Mike, who had to leave early for his podcast, and Barrie, who arrived after we took the picture) - Linda, Jack, me, Erin, Deb, Michelle, and Fred.

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And here's Jack, Lori, Kevin and John - they were trying to keep Lori warm, I think!

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After people had mostly dispersed several of us who were more the RADP folks hung around visiting, and eventually decided to go have lunch at Yakitori House. One of the things I enjoy most about RADP meets is the small groups that break off after a larger meet, and go off and do something like eat, or get our picture taken with Mickey, or some other activity where we get the chance to just visit for a while. We were with Jack, Julie, and Kevin, and we had a really good time just being together. Luckily we were able to sit inside and eat, since it was still quite chilly outside, and the wind had come up a little bit.

Kevin, Julie and I all had the Shrimp Tempura Udon, which I enjoyed very much. Kevin and Julie ate it with chopsticks - I'm afraid I am not that accomplished. :-)

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Jack had the teriyaki chicken, I think, and Lee had the Japanese Curry - it doesn't look very appealing in the photo, but fortunately it tastes a LOT better than it looks!

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After lunch (it was after 3:00 by then) Lee and I headed over to Magic Kingdom via monorail, though we stopped at the entrance to Epcot to take a few pictures of the holiday topiaries.

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At Magic Kingdom we went back to see the Hall of Presidents - our timing was great because a show was just a couple of minutes away. This is the first time we'd seen it since they changed it and added the new President Obama figure. It focuses much more on the presidents and how even someone from humble beginnings (like Abraham Lincoln, and Andrew Jackson, who was labeled a "barbarian") can become president. I enjoyed it, though I didn't think the Obama figure was that realistic. But I liked how he looked back at his "notes" (or maybe it was a teleprompter) before making his speech. I have to say that during his speech I thought back to the D23 presentation I saw on the making of the Hall of Presidents, and how the Imagineers who went to talk to Obama and record his speech sort of ran wild on their tour of the White House - sounded like they had a lot of fun! :-)

We got out just in time to make it to Erin's "Remembering Walt Disney" meet at 4:30 - we were meeting out by the floral Mickey.

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Erin did a great job with this - she had lots of stories to tell us about Walt and Roy Disney and other things that went on as they tried to build the Disney Studios, and then of course Disneyland and Walt Disney World. I don't know how she remembered everything she did since I never caught her consulting any notes!

She'd originally planned for us to wander around the park as she spoke about various topics but because the weather was so chilly we went to Pinocchio's Village Haus and co-opted several table and she talked there. That was very considerate of her - a cup of hot chocolate tasted pretty good by then!

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The meet ended just in time for us to get to the front of the castle for the Cinderella's Holiday Wish show (aka the castle lighting ceremony) at 6:15. It would be nice if they did this more than once each evening like they do at Disneyland...but at Disneyland there's no characters involved, just the soundtrack and the lighting effects. Still, it's awfully pretty as it lights up!

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The park was getting ready to close since there was a Christmas party tonight, so we joined the hordes of people exiting the park. But instead of going back to the Epcot area we took the boat to Ft. Wilderness, because we wanted to see some of the Christmas displays over there that we had heard so much about. There are quite a few really large ones that are not too far from the Settlement House which is where the boat dropped us off. Some of these have lots and lots of different inflatable figures, as well as lights and other decorations.

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I thought this one was nice - not as cluttered as some of them were:

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And this one had both a monorail and a train set!

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We managed to make our way out of Ft. Wilderness and our timing was great because when we got to the Outpost an Epcot bus was waiting - it ended up being pretty full, too - but I'm sure that's because it was Extra Magic Hours at Epcot that evening, and Magic Kingdom had closed early because of the party. It was a little after 8:00 when we arrived at Epcot, and our first order of business was FOOD!!! We went to Seasons in the Land mainly because it was indoors. Though we also enjoy the food there. It was still fairly busy, and that is never a quiet place to eat. I had a bowl of vegetable soup and a salad, and Lee had the cashew chicken and chow mein, which came with a big side of steamed broccoli - I helped him eat that. :-)

We'd originally planned to stay for Illuminations but that was still almost 45 minutes away, and we didn't feel like standing out in the cold for that long, so we decided to get some hot spiced wine and then head back to the Boardwalk and watch Illuminations from our balcony. That decision was reinforced when we walked out of the Land only to find that it was raining lightly. Hmm. So instead of getting glasses of wine we got a whole bottle - two glasses was $12, and an entire bottle was $13-something - and there's a lot more than two glasses in it - I wish we'd gotten one before this. Oh well, we'll remember for next year. (By the way - it warms up just fine in the microwave!!!)

It had mostly stopped raining by the time we had bought the wine, but we still were anxious to get "home". And as we had thought, we had a pretty good view of the fireworks from our balcony - they were going off right over the ESPN Club. It's still a terrific show, even from 1/2 mile away!

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We fly home tomorrow evening, but we have a busy morning since we have to finish packing before we head off to Animal Kingdom for the AllEars meet that starts at 9:30. That means we have to get moving earlier than we have any other day this week...but hey, I'm done with this blog and it's not even midnight (but close!), so I'm ahead already. :-)

I probably will not have a blog on tomorrow's events ready to publish on Sunday morning since we don't get home until late Saturday night. But who knows, maybe I'll be able to take advantage of free internet access on our layover in Houston and get it done then...but probably not.

Thanks to all of you who have been reading and letting me know that you are enjoying the blogs!

December 14, 2009

Holidays at WDW - Day 6

Our last day - I can hardly believe it! As usual, it's gone way too fast, and we're left with a list of things that we *didn't* have time to do.

But we got most of a full day today - instead of having a flight in the very early afternoon it wasn't until 6:00, so we had time to go to two theme parks before leaving for the airport.

We actually got up EARLY (for us, at least) - it wasn't even 8:00 yet! We enjoyed the pastries that we got at Kouzzina yesterday morning - the coffeecake was especially good, and there were actually two pieces of that! We also had a "sweet bread" cupcake, a mini-croissant, a small blueberry muffin and some dried fruit.

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And what a difference a few hours makes - by 8:00 it was already about 10 degrees warmer than it got all day yesterday!!! There was rain in the forecast for the afternoon, but we had blue sky and sunshine for most of the morning - it was a lovely, comfortable, beautiful day!

We got our bags packed and were out of the room by about 9:00 for the drive to Animal Kingdom. After we parked and were walking up the aisle we saw Chad, Kerry, and Kevin ahead of us, so we walked in with them. Unfortunately that meant that we were both distracted and neither of us noticed which row we were parked in! Oops. (But when we came back later we did actually go down the correct row.)

Back at Harambe Fort the AllEars meet was already in full force - there was a Hidden Mickey seminar, conducted by Steve Barrett, going on, and a lot of other people were standing around chatting. I had the chance to chat for a while with Kitty (who writes about vegan and vegetarian dining for AllEars) and Rocky and I really enjoyed that - I had been hoping that I would get to see them. We all love cats and Disney, and we're also Crescent Lake Snobs - we just needed Steve Russo there for a "Crescent Lake Snob" photo. (That's kind of an inside RADP joke.)

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Somehow Rocky got designated to take a photo of those of us who were still around at the time we decided to take a group photo - and then people kept handing him cameras. :-) He must have taken 7-8 at least!

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And we posed for an AllEars team photo as well - I think there were almost more people taking pictures of us than there were people in the photo, LOL!

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After that it was time to do the videoing for the AllEars Holiday video that Lee will be putting together - Coming Soon to a Youtube Channel near you. :-) Some of us did it in one take, some weren't happy with the first and wanted to do it again...and of course those of us watching weren't helping matters. It was really a lot of fun.

We had a Team lunch at Tusker House, where 13(gasp!) of us descended upon the place. Fortunately that was not an unlucky number and we had an excellent meal with a great server. I think I like Tusker House even more than Boma, though I think Boma has better desserts.

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We laughed and shared stories - most of us live quite far apart from each other so the chances we have to get together and socialize as a group are rare. And we missed all of you who weren't there with us!!!

Lee and I had to say our goodbyes to everyone after that since we were starting to head home. :-(

But we still had a couple hours, so we went back to Epcot to do a few things that we had missed, with a stop in the lobby of the Boardwalk to get our boarding passes printed - something we hadn't had time for in the morning.

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All week we'd been planning to see Joyful, the gospel singing group that is performing at the stage behind the Epcot fountain, but the timing had never worked out. We missed the first 10 minutes of their 2:15 show but were able to hear them perform several songs - they were pretty good, and brought a nice energy to the stage.

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We had time to catch one more set of the Voices of Liberty - this time they performed two songs we hadn't heard - Angels We Have Heard on High and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

While we were there we went into the Liberty Inn to see the life-size gingerbread house they have in there. I like the "glass" on this one.

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And the very last thing we did was to see the World Showcase Players perform their version of A Christmas Carol. We thought Lee was going to get selected to play Bob Scratchit, but at the last second they selected the guy standing next to Lee instead. Both of the audience "volunteers" were pretty good, though, and we enjoyed the show.

Now it was time to say goodbye...we had an uneventful trip to the airport, and I think we encountered the shortest lines at security that I've ever seen there.

We're cruising at 36,000 feet as I write this - should be an on-time arrival in San Diego.

It was a good trip, but looking back on it I think we did the fewest attractions that we have ever done - just two! Kilimanjaro Safari on Tuesday and Hall of Presidents on Friday. LOL! Some people would probably interpret that to mean we had a really bad trip, but it's not at all about the attractions for us. We actually spent a lot of time in the parks but we were wandering around doing things other than riding rides. And we spent a lot of time hanging out with friends both in and out of the parks - and that was really the best part.

Thanks to everyone for reading - I'll have some final thoughts about things I didn't have a chance to write about coming soon.

December 19, 2009

Disneyland's Candlelight Processional

Alpha Gollihugh attended Disneyland's Candlelight Processional on December 4 and brings us this guest blog.

"Beautiful, Outstanding, and just plain Awesome!"

These are some of the words we heard after the first performance of the 2009 Candlelight Processional at Disneyland, last night. The first weekend in December each year, the train station steps at Disneyland are transformed into a stage for a huge choir, orchestra, trumpeters, and a select few soloists and speakers. Choir members are drawn from local high schools, colleges and Disney cast members. At 5:30 and 8:00 each evening the lights are dimmed and the choir comes down Main Street in only candlelight, and files onto the huge structure fixed for them each year by Disney magicians. Those with dinner packages and other groups like D23 are given seats in the area from the base of the stage and extending into the central park. The rest of us are left to stand in all the rest of the park area,side walks and extending down Main Street. Some wait as long as 3 hours before the performance, standing, so they can be the first behind the seating area. But it IS worth it !!!!

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Here is some of the crowd waiting and the empty stage 1 hour prior to performance. Then the orchestra begins to play and from the far end of Main Street you begin to hear voices singing:

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It takes a while, for there are probably 1000 voices. At least it looked that way to me. When everyone is finally in, the Disneyland Herald Trumpets hails the beginning of the music. The special speaker this year was Jon Voight. He was wonderful and added much to the evening.

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In the center of the stage is the Living Christmas tree, formed by Disney Cast Members, willing to give many extra hours to present this wonderful gift.

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The speaker reads the Christmas story from the Bible and each section is interspersed with Christmas songs, in wonderful harmony and power.

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The performance is a bit over an hour, but the time flies! A few well chosen soloists add to the show as do 2 wonderful bell choirs.

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When the story is complete, and most of the music, the speaker reads "One Solitary Life" which tells more about the life of the Christmas babe. Finally the Choir, orchestra and other specialists perform the Hallelujah Chorus. The last song is all the voices, and those watching, joining in singing,"Silent Night". You are just lifted to heaven! I have seen and enjoyed this performance at WDW too, but there is nothing like seeing it where it has been done for 54 years, Disneyland.

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About December 2009

This page contains all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in December 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

November 2009 is the previous archive.

January 2010 is the next archive.

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