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July 1, 2013

Status Update

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Whoosh!!!!

Due to a gazillion or so things I have been on a hiatus from AllEars.

I apologize for being away so long. The new job, long commute, and personal projects I have been involved with are starting to settle down to the point where I should be able to submit an occasional blog on all things Disney.

The operative word here is "occasional" and I don't know exactly what that will mean.

I want to thank everyone for their patience, including Deb Wills, as I have gone through some adjustments over the past year. I also want to thank those of you who have taken the time to write to me to see if I was okay and asking when I would be writing again.

Deb and I have put our heads together and we think it's best that for the time being we take the approach of an occasional "guest" blog and wanted to make sure that works in terms of my schedule and that of AllEars.

That seemed to be something that we both felt would be the way to go and so we will do so.

I have been holding in some thoughts that I want to share with everyone and soon you will see them.

Some of the topics in my head are:

- The New RFID Technology at Walt Disney World
- The New FantasyLand
- My thoughts on what Food and Wine 2013 should offer...it's really just around the
corner.
- New ideas on how to enjoy the parks.
- My own personal, way overdue, attraction and restaurant ratings.

These are just a few of the areas I plan on touching upon as I get back to what I enjoy most....writing about Walt Disney World and Disneyland.

And if there is something you are curious about and would like my take on it please let me know.

And from now on, you can find my blogs at http://land.allears.net/blogs/guestblog/guest_bloggers/mike_scopa/

See you real soon!


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December 15, 2012

The Wake-up Call

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It was a wake-up call.

As I write this it is the wee hours of the morning…the morning after the horrific tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere you certainly know what I am referring to and I’m not about to recap the events because, as it is, I am working hard to try and not let them overtake my mind, and my heart.

But I could not sleep all night, and when I did sleep, it was not peaceful. When I woke up I wanted to believe that it was a dream, a nightmare, a fabric woven by my fears, or as Charles Dickens once put it, ““…an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato.”

But it is real; the events did take place.

When I hear of things like this I think about how many people short sell themselves by not embracing all that is wonderful in this world; all that allows us to pamper ourselves and our loved ones.

I think about how many of us who “get it” are looked upon like we have a third eye when we tell our friends we are going back to Walt Disney World or Disneyland to see Mickey and friends…for the 10th time in the last three years…. or perhaps for the 50th time in our lives.

Oh sure, we hear the snickers…we catch a look at the eyes rolling…. but at the same time, instead of feeling angry…or embarrassed…. we feel a sense of sorrow for those who don't understand…who don't realize how fragile life is…. or how important it is to experience tears of joy…instead of the tears we all shed while we listened to news reports out of Connecticut. Or in my case, tears that continue to hit my keyboard as I write these thoughts.

We don’t have much time on this rock we call Earth…. our time is not enough to embrace all the wonders that life brings. But when we do embrace life; we fold into that embrace those we love, those we want to share those happy, carefree times with; and most importantly ourselves.

Those moments are all too few; all too precious.

You’ve heard the phrase that “Youth is wasted on the young.” That thought originated from a mature mind who realized late in life just how important it is to celebrate life whenever possible; to stop and smell the roses so to speak; and to ride Space Mountain as much as they can.

There will be a day when they won’t be able to ride Space Mountain; when they wont be able to cool their parched throat with a Dole Whip; when they won't be able to wonder at the colors of illuminations. Most importantly…not be able to hug their loved ones and tell them how much they love and appreciate them.

For those of us who “Get it” we understand how important it is for us to take time out from work, priorities, chores, and things that dominant our lives each and every day to work towards giving ourselves those special and precious moments with friends and family…. moments that warm our hearts, make us smile, and etch into our minds a pleasant memory that will last a lifetime.

During this holiday season I think it’s time to pray for so many people…for those who were touched by the events in that small town in Connecticut…and for those who don't get it. In both cases there is a loss…. in both cases we need to feel for these people…. in both cases we, those of us who do get it, are reminded of how fragile life is…while at the same time also remember how wonderful life can be.

Don't waste your time. Appreciate your family…. appreciate your life. Help those who are less fortunate than you…laugh as much as possible…. hug your loved ones every time you get a chance. Who knows what tomorrow may bring?

And if you are one of those who do “Get it” I am sure the next time you have an opportunity to visit a certain mouse, duck and other friends in Orlando or Anaheim it will mean a bit more to you to see your child hop a bit as she spots Mickey waving to her from his perch on a parade float, or you feel a sense of peace while sitting around a bench in World Showcase lagoon…or as I said earlier…enjoying that Dole Whip.

Like the latter, life is a treat that should not be ignored before it’s too late.
For those of you who “Get it”…congratulations and your journey through life will, I’m sure, continue with the sights and sounds that were made possible from a man who said, “It’s fun to do the impossible.”

For those who do not get it…maybe horrific events like what happened in Connecticut will bring to the surface the realization that they need to celebrate life each day…and to celebrate their loved ones and what they bring to their lives.

I should be happy during this Christmas season and I know that eventually the spirit of Christmas will serve as a medicine for what ails me…a heavy heart for those who unfortunately must now endure a holiday season that will be forever stained by memories that will overtake their minds and hearts for the rest of their lives.

It’s a wake-up call to everyone and that includes yours truly.

We need to appreciate everyone we love and care for each other each and every day…and of course, to appreciate the opportunity to visit that special place where talking mice and ducks live…a place that helps us smile, laugh, and forget our troubles.

So let me practice what I preach and say to all my relatives, friends, and especially you who have read me for so many years, I appreciate and love each and every one of you and wish you the best during this holiday season.

I also ask that you send your thoughts and prayers to a small town in Connecticut…I haven’t stopped.

I am reminded of one more quote from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It was, ““No space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunity misused.”

Let’s hope more people “Get it.”

Merry Christmas.

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November 27, 2012

The ABC’s of MVMCP (Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

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There are some things that are just necessary to revisit from time to time and one in particular is how to make the most out of Walt Disney World’s Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party held at the Magic Kingdom theme park on selected nights from early November up to a few days before Christmas.

With the opening of the new Fantasyland extension, it makes sense to review the touring essentials guests should keep in mind when attending this party. After all, we all know that the cost of the party ticket is significant and it’s important to get the best value for your time.

If you are fortunate enough to be in The Magic Kingdom a day or two before the party, visit Guest Relations at City Hall and request a party brochure. The brochure will offer you such information as the parade route, the cookies and cocoa locations (there are six (6)), and most importantly, the entertainment schedule for the party.

The last piece is important, as it will allow you to properly plan your touring plan for the night. The key is to invest time BEFORE the party and plan your evening, not while you are there. You have only so many hours in the park and you want to make the best of them.

The entertainment is scheduled as such so you can plan on one of several opportunities to watch this entertainment. Each offering gives you at least two options on when you can view this entertainment.

The exception is Holiday Wishes, the nighttime fireworks spectacular which is shown once, at 9:30.

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The other limitation is Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, which steps off at 8:15 and 10:30.

By the way, one privilege you have as a party guest is that you and all your fellow party guests will have access to the shops. Notice here a cast member guarding this entrance to the Main Street Emporium.

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Special merchandise is sold on party nights and my advice is for you to do your shopping early before that merchandise is gone.

So what is the best assortment of tips and tricks for attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party?

As someone who has been to over a dozen of these parties I have found a certain plan that seems to work well for me…it may work for you. But to be thorough, let’s look at two different plans. The first is for young families (with preteens) and the second will be for older families.

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Here it is in a Christmas chestnut…nutshell:

First for young families:

1. Arrive at the park no later than 6:30pm to get settled.
2. When the party starts take a stroll through the Emporium to check out the special
party merchandise.
3. Attend the 7:45pm Celebrate the Season performance at the castle.
4. After the show grab some cookies and cocoa.
5. Watch the 8:15pm Christmas Parade at your favorite parade spot.
6. Watch the 8:45pm “A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show” in Tomorrowland of
course.
7. Check out the character Dance Party in Tomorrowland
8. Attend the 9:30pm Holiday Wishes Fireworks.
9. You’ve done everything. From this point on do whatever you like, including
attractions.


For older families (teens and older):

1. Arrive at the park no later than 6:30pm
2. When the party starts take a stroll through the Emporium to check out the special
party merchandise
3. Check out the treats and the character Dance Parties and attractions
4. Attend the 9:30pm Holiday Wishes Fireworks.
5. Watch the 10:30pm Christmas Parade
6. Grab some more treats and do a few more attractions.
7. Attend the 11:20pm Celebrate the Season performance at the castle.
8. Watch the 11:45pm “Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show “ in Tomorrowland
while the throng heads for the exit.
9. Leave the park around 12:30am.

I would take the above schedule as a basic infrastructure and tweak it to your preference.

Remember, the priority should be the special entertainment provided during the party, and the treats. Attractions should be last on your list, if on your list at all.

Merry Christmas!

For more information on Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party visit our comprehensive guide on AllEars.net

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October 26, 2012

The Frost is barely on the Pumpkin but...

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Sure.

You're just now beginning to think, "Hmmmm, this coming week I should put candy and Halloween goodies on my grocery list because Halloween is right around the corner."

Well, the department store chains are way ahead of you. In fact you may notice that your favorite mall may be already showing signs that Christmas is right around the corner. In a very subtle manner that store footprint that has been allocated for the Halloween season is now, in a not so subtle move, being transitioned into that time of year where these stores look towards making their "numbers."

But they aren't the only ones looking ahead. So is Walt Disney World.

Of course the proof is in the Christmas pudding but allow me to submit the following.

Even though the Annual International Food and Wine Festival is at the halfway point and going strong in EPCOT there are signs that Christmas is right around the corner.

If you wander into Disney’s Hollywood Studies and make your way to the Streets of America you will see some signs that “Christmas is coming the goose is getting fat” as shown by the following photos beginning with a shot of the main thoroughfare.

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If you look closely at the buildings you can see the strings of lights already adorning them from top to bottom.

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As you walk down and look up you can see the various structures that will light up the sky come the time when the Osborne lights are in full mode.

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Here’s a closeup of what those lights look like.

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By the way...the most fun every year is locating the Halloween Cat...where will it be this year?

Now what some people call as San Francisco Street, but what is really named Gillespie Street, is already set up with it’s famous canopy. Where is that darn cat?

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If you walk towards Lights, Motors, Action, you will see the huge display set up where Mickey meets Santa.

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And speaking of Santa…he, and his eight not so tiny reindeer will be riding across the nighttime sky among the skyscrapers.

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So as Disney's Hollywood Studios is already in full transition mode here's a thought. Take in and enjoy Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival and the Halloween atmosphere at The Magic Kingdom because before you know it...

...the Cranberry Bog in EPCOT will eventually be replaced by…well it won’t be the Lights of Winter but some type of Christmas Decoration....

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...the lampposts on Main Street USA will find these beauties…

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…replaced by perhaps “hidden Mickey” Christmas wreaths...

...and Magic Kingdom's Town Square…now bathed in orange and yellows and occupied with scarecrows...

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...will soon be replaced by red and greens, and sporting a rather large Christmas tree.

Remember decades ago when the urban legends spoke of how Walt Disney World would go from no Christmas decorations to full blown decorations in 24 hours?

"Hey Cindy and Tommy tomorrow morning when you wake up the lobby will have all the Christmas decorations up and a big tree all lit...and the parks will have garland and wreaths...and trees...and..."

No.

This isn’t a Dickens classic where the spirits do it "...all in one night!"

But you can hold your breath...because in less than three weeks Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party and The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights begin their 2012 engagement.

That's when this year's search for that Halloween Cat begins.

August 2, 2012

Fantasyland Expansion as of August 2, 2012

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So it's only fair that I return with an update regarding Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland expansion project. Even during the hot, hazy, humid days of the summer guests will see the imagineers frantically working towards making even more magic for the crown jewel of Walt Disney World.

As you walk from Prince Charming's Regal Carrousel the you cannot help but notice the work that has been accomplished to date and the huge crane working ever so diligently in the Fantasyland expansion area.


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For those of you who may not have recently visited Walt Disney World and the Magic Kingdom you may want to take note at the following photo which illustrates just how close the expansion area comes to the current landmarks in Fantasyland, notably Friars Nook.

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You can now see some of the infrastructure for The Seven Dwarfs' Mine Train.

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I noticed a concentrated effort being put forth to finish the new facade for the expanded area.

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One imagineer was really focusing on this particular spire.

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You can see from this wide angle shot of the snow capped mountain towards the rear of the area....part of the Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid attraction. Why the snow? Well, didn't the film take place in Norway? It gets cold there...and snows.

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You can see Belle's castle in the distance overlooking all the work being done.

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And while all this is being done everyone should be reminded that the Fast Pass Distribution Center for Winnie the Pooh and Dumbo is now in front of Mickey's Philharmagic.

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AllEars wil keep you posted as the Fantasyland Expansion continues to move forward.

July 9, 2012

Where Is Mike?

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I have been receiving many emails lately asking, "Where are you Mike?" and "Are you okay?" and I'd like to let everyone know that I will be returning soon.

I am working on a very specific project and within the next few weeks I will return to my regular blogging schedule with some exciting news.

Thanks to everyone for their patience and I am looking forward to returning to my regular schedule real soon.

Good things come to those who wait!!!


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April 21, 2012

One More Disney Day: Part II

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I need to apologize for the delay in getting Part II out there. I've been swamped with "stuff" and projects and family matters and needed to clear a few things, cross the t's and dot the i's...done.

So after a few weeks of reflection I now have an even better perspective on One More Disney
Day.

To Recap:
Preview

Part I

Now here is Part II.

Feb 29th, 5:45 PM

My alarm went off. I had slept four hours.

I was ready for part II of this marathon day.

I took a shower to dislodge any cobwebs and put on some fresh "touring clothes" on for the evening....and of course the following morning.

I prepared my backpack...an extra shirt, some water, batteries, some protein bars…ready....I would need it all.

Feb. 29th, 6:30 PM

As I drove through the Magic Kingdom Toll Plaza I noticed in the rear view mirror that there seemed to be quite a few sets of headlights following me. This caused me to think that the night would indeed be special...and it was.

As I left the toll plaza and made my way to the parking lot my thoughts were validated. There was a long line to get into the parking lot and for a minute I thought I might not get a parking space, especially when I noticed the line of cars in front of me was being directed into the Mulan lot, the LAST lot on the Heroes side...yikes.

This was a truly a harbinger of what was to be later in the night. Make no mistake about it, I had thoughts that this night would be crowded but traffic was a bit more than I expected. Getting to the parking lot was an experience. Guests trying to leave the TTC parking lot had a real challenge trying to weave their way around the cars coming into the TTC parking lot. It took almost ten minutes for me to get from the toll plaza to my eventual parking spot.

Again, I parked in the Heroes section of the TTC parking lot and in the Mulan portion. For those of you not familiar with the new parking arrangement at the TTC, Mulan is the absolute last portion in the Heroes section. And for the record, I was in the third row from the back so you can guess what word was running through my head…capacity.
Some 15 hours earlier I was parked in the first row of the Villains section…quite a difference.

Remember this photo....early morning parking for One More Disney Day.

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I immediately texted and called a number of friends who I knew were intending to return to the park that evening and told them to head for the park ASAP.

The tram lines were so long that I decided to forego waiting for what would easily be 15 minutes just to have a shot at getting on one and decided to walk to the Ticket and Transportation Center, along with about 50 or 60 other guests.

Feb. 29th, 7:00 PM

As I approached the Magic Kingdom turnstiles again I got the feeling that the crown jewel of Walt Disney World would be experiencing a most unusual evening crowd level one what I was now calling One More Disney Day…the evening edition.

Feb, 29th, 7:15 PM

Well, I was right. There seemed to be a lot of energy along Main Street, USA. I noticed a long line to get into the Fire Station where guests would sign up for the new Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom experience. More on this later.

Before catching up with my colleagues, most of whom were not at the park for the evening push, I decided to just roam around the park and make some observations that appeared to be unique for this evening.

As I walked around the park I noticed that the quick-service and counter service eateries seemed to have longer lines than usual. My guess was that those who had planned ahead, had taken up all the sit-down restaurant reservations.

Another observation which would prove to be something I would notice all night long was the number of guests in line for the Sorcerors of the Magic Kingdom game. Every kisosk I came across had at least a dozen guests in line waiting to see how they would fare in this game.

I found myself texting, tweeting, emailing, posting on FaceBook, and taking photos more than I had originally planned. Within an hour or two I noticed my phone was really going through its battery real fast.

As I made my way to Tommorowland, I noticed just how crowded the park was. The park was so crowded that there were folks on the bridge to Tomorrowland waiting to see Wishes. The crowd surge was almost into Tomorrowland. In fact the edge of the crowd WAS in Tomorrowland.

I decided to take in Carrousel of Progress. There were only five other guests in the attraction with me...I almost fell asleep.

When I left CoP I ran into a few folks who told me of their escapades that day and how they were holding up. I had run into these folks when I first entered the park that morning and they seemed to be still energized and ready to go.

Feb. 29th, 9:15 PM

I checked with my colleagues and made arrangements to catch up them later in the night and I grabbed a quick bite at Pinocchio Village Haus. I could not find an outlet to charge my phone and made a mental note to do so.

Then I remembered earlier in the day, when I was with Mike Newell, how we found outlets at Columbia Harbour house.

I made my way there and, after a while, found a table near an outlet. Success! I plugged in my phone, did a little social media work, and wrote down some notes.

Some 10 minutes after sitting there I could hear screams building from some young children. Now usually young children can of course be expected to get tired and let their parents know it's time to go...but wow the volume on the screams I was hearing was more than I was used to.

I glanced at the time...it was approaching 10 PM. I then glanced at where the screams were coming from. There were two families sitting down and there was a total of five young children between the two families.

I noticed all the family members had the One More Disney Day mouse ears on. That told me that they were among the first 2000 guests to enter the park that morning at...

...wait for it...

...6 AM. I thought that maybe 16 hours in the park may be a bit too much for these kids.

My phone was all charged and I had two extra batteries so I was ready to get through the night.

Feb. 29th, 11:15 PM

I ran into Deb Wills and Deb Koma and we compared notes on what we had observed so far. We were at Adventureland and thought about going into Pirates but the line seemed fairly long.

The two Debs headed off to see what was going on in Fantasyland and I decided to have a Dole Whip.

I got into line at Aloha Isle at 11:40 PM. There were 35 people in line ahead of me...oh and there were two, or maybe three lines. The line I was in was well to the side of Aloha Isle and I could see in the side and see how busy the cast members were in serving the guests that night.

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When I got to the counter the Cast Member smiled and said, "How you doing tonight?"

I said, "Well, when I got into line it was February 29th and it looks like when I finally get my Dole Whip it will be March 1st." He laughed and said, "That's a good one...and I believe it, with how busy it is." For the record, my Dole Whip was in my hand at 12:04 AM...I was right in my prediction.

I ate my Dole Whip as I made my way to the Tomorrowland Terrace where Len Testa had decided to hold a cupcake meet. When I got there, I found most of my colleagues among the 200 folks who showed up.

I made some new friends and found some familiar faces and there was much to talk about...in fact I found myself talking until about 2:20 AM.

March 1st, 2:30 AM

Several of us made our way to Main Street USA and we found something we had never seen or would have never expected...a huge crowd...yes I'm going to use the word, throng of people were heading up Main Street.

To put this into perspective, it was very much like what you would see on a summer's day around 9 or 10 in the morning. It was a horde of people...at 2:30 AM.


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We said goodbye to a few friends as they were heading out...and some 20 minutes later they would text us saying that the line for the monorail was unbelievable.

There was a lot of activity in front of the castle and we went over there to find several hundred guests taking part in a dance party lead by a very energized DJ on top of a float. This party had been going on for a while and we saw folks ranging in ages from 5 to 75 dancing in the streets.

March 1st, 3:30 AM

Mike Newell and I headed toward Tomorrowland and decided to ride one of Mike's favorite attractions, the Wedway People Mover. So here is a good indication of just how crowded the park was, even at that time of the morning. The conveyer belt that guests stand on to ride up to the platform to get on the cars was STOPPED and there was a line of guests waiting to board the attraction. Remember, there is not much room at the top so, to avoid anyone getting hurt, the belt was stopped.

It was amazing to see the crowds, especially near the Sorcerers game kiosks.

We decided to give Haunted Mansion a try and rode the attraction sometime around 4:15 in the morning. You know the part of the ride where you come out of the attic and your doom buggy turns around and you find yourself flat on your back? Well when that happened both Mike and I said, "Oh no!" Fatigue was setting in.

From there we walked to Adventureland and sat down jujst outside the TIki Room and texted folks...people were still going strong.

At around 5:00 AM Len Testa strolled by and said he had several cups of coffee...needed to be awake for an early morning radio interview. It made me think about all those were not not here and what kind of connections they were using to find out how things were going.

So it's getting close to 5:00 AM and the Sorcerers kiosk near the PoC had 17 people in line, at 5:00 AM. Crazy. Check this photo out...notice the time on the clock.

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As we got closer to 5:15 AM Mike Newell and I decided that perhaps it would be a good idea to try and do some live streaming and "bring it home" so to speak.

We made our way towards the Partner's Statue because The Memories, The Magic, and You was scheduled to be shown at 5:30. My plan was to do a live video streaming of this presentation for those who had never seen it and to narrate during the show.

When you go through an experience like spending overnight in The Magic Kingdom and you find yourself somewhat fatigued, there is another phenomenon that befalls you...and that is that you discover that some emotional "layers" are peeled off and this results in a short fuse to anger, laughter, or any sort of emotion.

Well, the fatigue, the atmosphere, the setting, the memories of that night, and the "Tangled" (I See the Light) segment of The Memories, The Magic, and You had quite an effect upon me. I found myself choking up a bit during the narration and decided that what was best for my audience from me...was silence.

As the 6:00 AM hour approached we all wondered if "Kiss Goodnight" would wrap up our amazing, once in a lifetime experience. Mike and I waited and waited and decided it was not going to happen and so we signed off with our audience.

Of course, no fewer than five minutes after we went off the air, the music started and "Kiss Goodnight" had begun.

It was an eerie and surreal moment in my life.

I have been to Walt Disney World many times. I have been privileged and very lucky to see and experience much of what the Walt Disney Company has offered to its guests.

During the showing of "Kiss Goodnight" I struggled to take my eyes off the castle, but I realized that this was a special moment, and I had to do whatever I could to capture the images, the feeling, the uniqueness of this moment.

I was standing some ten feet in front of the Partners Statue and looked around and counted some several hundred guests, who, along with me, were wrapping up there One More Disney Day.


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Noone was moving...noone was talking...even the cast members were caught up in the moment. There were a few young children there, and they too were frozen, mesmerized by the music and lights.

We were all experiencing something that none else had ever experienced before.

As the very short presentation (about three minutes) carried on, all my fellow guests continued to stare at the castle. My guess is that they too were caught in the moment and realized how special, how unique, and how "Disney" this moment was.

As the show ended with its signature covering of the castle, I noticed everyone took a collective sigh, and we all slowly turned and made our way down Main Street, USA.

It was approaching 6:30 AM, but it felt very much like it was night.

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I found myself walking slowly down Main Street USA....I felt like mores than ever before that I had formed a new relationship with The Magic Kingdom.

It's hard to explain how this area, this place, can have such an effect on the many who continue to visit every day, every week, every year.

We keep coming back...returning to escape from what life deals to us every day...to smile, to laugh, and to cry.

Disney's One More Day experience did not meet my expectations...it truly went beyond that and reminded me as to what draws us to this little theme park in Central Florida.

After close to 40 years of visiting Disney theme parks I finally truly understand what is meant when I am told visiting Walt Disney World, and especially The Magic Kingdom is where "Dreams come true."

For an entire night, through so many experiences, one dream came through for so many guests and that dream was to leave their cares outside the turnstiles...never to step foot inside this place where, for some reason, allows us to put the stresses of life on hold.

That's what we all dream for and that's what Disney delivers.

One More Disney Day allowed thousands to dream for 24 straight hours...but those thousands, including me, did not realize that until...until the 6:00 AM hour...when it was all over.

Will there be another One More Disney Day? I hope so...because when it happens...sign me up...I can't get enough of that dream.

Oh and remember the photo I showed you earlier of where I had parked my car around 4:00 AM the previous morning? Well, some 26 plus hours later I was parked some four rows from the very rear of the last Heroes Parking lot, Mulan. My car is that little spec on the left side.


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One More Disney Day was over...but the memories will linger.

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March 7, 2012

One More Disney Day: Part I

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So now that I have fully recovered from "One More Disney Day", it's time to reflect on the event.

Feb. 29th, 2:45 am

I had set my alarm to go off at 3:00 am, but was worried so much that I would oversleep that I beat the alarm, just as I do on the morning of a race.

I took a quick shower, made sure all my essential were in my backpack, most importantly extra batteries, and took off for The Magic Kingdom. Wow, it was quite foggy on this morning.

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Feb. 29th, 3:45 am

I parked in the first row at the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) Parking Lot and walked over to the TTC. I found about 150 people already there, waiting for the monorail.


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I was there no less than five minutes when a large contingent of guests arrived, which prompted the cast members to make use of the rope queues. I ended up in the right rope queue which moved me about 20 people back from the monorail ramp. It was now about 4:30 am.


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Feb. 29th, 4:45 am

I managed to squeeze onto not the first, but the second monorail car headed for The Magic Kingdom. When the announcement came over that we would be among the first to enter the park that day the car erupted with cheers. It was at that moment that the child in me was stirred to excitement...imagine being a child on this day and how excited you would be to go to The Magic Kingdom? That's how it felt.

Feb 29th, 5:00 am

I checked in at the media table to the far left of the turnstiles, received my special wristband, and had my Annual Pass scanned. As I entered the park I received my One More Disney Day Mickey Ears...


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...and my special One More Disney Day Button, both of which by now as you read this blog, have already made their presence felt on eBay.


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I then waited with some other lucky folks for rope drop. We were on the left side of the Train Station area. The right side turnstiles had hundreds of guests ready to head for their favorite attraction. I snapped this photo of the Train Station to capture the moment.

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Now, if you were standing in my shoes and turned about 125 degrees to your right you would have seen Mickey and Minnie in pajamas in front of several media cameras covering this event.

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There were several local television stations covering this event and, in fact, there was one right behind me talking to a family and I may have been on local television...or at least my back was on local television.

Feb. 29th, 5:55 am

The Magic Kingdom’s Family of the Day and the Mayor proudly welcomed everyone to The Magic Kingdom and we are allowed to enter. One point worth noting, this opening was very much like any other park day opening as there was no special fireworks or music.

Feb. 29, 6:15 am

Once inside the Magic Kingdom I headed over to the hospitality station at Tony’s where I received my gift…another hat and a OMDD shirt, and enjoyed breakfast with my AllEars colleagues Deb Wills and Deb Koma and my WDWTODAY colleague Mike Newell of MouseWorldRadio.

Feb. 29th, 7:00-9:00 am

After a pleasant breakfast, at which we tried to map out exactly how we would navigate through the day, Mike Newell and I decided to try and do a live stream cast from The Magic Kingdom. With fingers crossed we started at 7:00 am and we were off.

We walked up Main Street, USA and interviewed a few folks and basically took our audience on a tour of the Magic Kingdom on this very special day.

Many of those we talked to said they planned to stay for the entire 24 hours and in many cases had huge backpacks with supplies to help them make it through the day and the night ahead.

We noticed that for the first few hours the park's guests were very dispersed throughout, much unlike Extra Magic Hour Mornings where only certain attractions were open.

We walked around to all the lands and even took out viewers on the Walt Disney Railroad and the Tomorrowland People Mover. It was great knowing that we were helping those who could not be there see what was going on.

As we walked into Adventureland and came across Aloha Isle, several of our viewers suggested that we have a Dole Whip...at 7:20 am. I had a Dole Whip and Mike had cold caffeine to give him a boost.

As I had mentioned, since practically all attractions were up and running at 6:00 am, most of the guests were looking at no more than a 15 minute queue lines. Of course this would change as the day wore on.

This day was certainly a novelty for the Cast Members as well and they seemed to have an extra spark of magic in their step.

Broadcasting and talking for two straight hours can be quite challenging, but on this particular day it was more of a novelty than a challenge. We closed the broadcast just after 9:00 am and headed over to the AllEars Meet at Pinocchio Haus. We told everyone we would try to broadcast later on that day and evening.

Feb. 29th 9:30 am – 11:30 am

We attended the AllEars meet at Pinocchio Haus and with that came visits from old friends and also visits from new friends.

We ran into a couple of guests who planned to eat at every restaurant and counter and experience every attraction and parade during the 24 hours the park would be open. I never saw them again after that meet so I don’t know if they were successful. As I ran down the list of park restaurants and asked if they had ADRs, they nodded their heads "Yes!"

But there is more. They also planned to experience every attraction, every parade, the nighttime fireworks, and every other component of The Magic Kingdom. They picked the right day to try and do this.

I had also heard second hand that there was a contingent of hardcore fans who were determined to experience "100 attractions" that day. I guess that meant attending 100 attraction events as The Magic Kingdom falls short of 100 attractions...slightly.

Feb. 29th 11:30 am

After the meet we seemed to be quite happy just sitting down and watching the crowd. As it was approaching Noon we realized we had been up for at least nine hours already and had 18 hours to go. We were getting tired and discussed leaving the park to rest and get recharged for the big overnight marathon. Before leaving we decided to check the Haunted Mansion. It was then that we realized that the crowds were beginning to build and that wait times would begin to grow. The 15-minute wait for Haunted Mansion at 7:30 am was now approaching 45 minutes at mid-day. Yikes.

I had a concern that the park would hit capacity later in the day and early evening when the other three parks closed.

Feb. 29th, 12:30 pm

I left the Magic Kingdom and headed back to my room. I had parked so close to the TTC I walked to my rental car. The following photo shows how close I actually parked.


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Along the way back to my room I stopped for lunch and jotted down some notes regarding what I wanted to accomplish when I returned later on in the day.

My first goal was to make sure I got into The Magic Kingdom.

Feb. 29th, 1:45 pm

I arrived at my room and realized I had been up for almost 12 hours. That plus the fact that I had slept only a few hours the night before in anticipation of this day, made it easy for me to quickly nod off for a very important nap.

Feb 29th, 5:45 pm

No sooner did I fall asleep when my alarm went off. Holy cow, I slept for four hours but it seemed like four minutes. I took a refreshing shower, checked on my supplies, which included an extra shirt, extra batteries, and an assortment of protein bars and water for the long haul.

I was ready for part II of this marathon day.

February 25, 2012

One More Disney Day: A Preview

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Starting at 6:00 a.m. on February 29th, for the first time ever, in what is being called “One More Disney Day,” both Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park and Disneyland Park will be open for 24 hours.

When I first heard this announcement I wasn’t sure how to react. Maybe this was because I had no plans of being in Orlando that day or visiting The Magic Kingdom. However, over the last few weeks I’ve become curious about a number of things. I have been in the Magic Kingdom countless times and, thanks to an extended Extra Magic Hour evening, have even been in the park until 3:30 a.m.

However, unlike that Extra Magic Hour evening, this upcoming last day in February is receiving a bit of a promotion and has caused me to wonder quite a bit and think about some questions that perhaps others may be wondering as well.


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So let’s go through the questions one by one and I’ll be happy to stick my neck out and toss out an opinion on what the answers may be:

Q. Will the park reach capacity that day/evening and if so, when?

A. That was the first question that crossed my mind. I don’t expect that the park will see Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Fourth of July level crowds because it’s not a holiday, it’s in the middle of the week (Wednesday), and I’m sure moms and dads with young children won’t be out all night with the family. If the park were to exceed capacity, my guess would be that it would happen late afternoon or early evening. I would like to know just how long the park will admit guests through the turnstiles…4:00 a.m.? 5:00 a.m.?


Q. Will there be any special parades or fireworks or special events?

A. Well, like Oct. 1, 2011 sometimes we as guests get caught up in promotions and our expectations go through the roof. There have been no announcements regarding any special events for that 24-hour period so we’ll see. The 24-hour period is celebrating leap year so I would not expect much.

Q. Which attractions will be open all night long?

A. If you visit our Extra Magic Hours page http://allears.net/tp/emhour.htm#ev you can find a list of what normally is operating during extra magic hour evenings.
My guess is that is the list for the night with some adjustments. We know that the Liberty Square Riverboat, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Dumbo are closed for a while for refurbishments.

Secondly, it remains to be seen if all these attractions will be run the entire 24 hours. If it’s a cold night there may not be many takers for Splash Mountain.

Q. Will there be both sit-down and quick service available?

A. Actually, that is a very important question. Guests will need fuel to help them navigate through the park all night. Normally during Extra Magic Evening hours the Magic Kingdom offers guests Casey's Corner, Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe, and Pecos Bill Café for places to eat. Thus the feeling is that there will not be any sit-down restaurants open…besides, when would you start serving breakfast?

I would hope that there would be consideration to add Columbia Harbor House and Pinocchio Village Haus to the list I’ve mentioned above, especially if the crowd levels exceed the estimated 25,000 or so guests that attend such events as Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.

Q. Will guests be able to shop from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.?

A. This is an interesting question. If I were the decision maker regarding which shops to keep open and for how long I think I would seriously think about keeping all shops open until Midnight and then just keep the Emporium open until 3:00 a.m.

The reason for this is to allow the cast members to tidy up the shops and get them stocked and ready for the next day…plus, don’t you think most shoppers will have completed their shopping by 3:00 a.m.?

Q. What attractions will be the most popular during this time?

A. I think that Space Mountain and Splash Mountain will be vying for those honors. although Splash’s popularity may be dictated by the evening temperatures. I’m sure Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Fantasyland dark rides will be visited quite frequently as well.

Q. What would be the best way to tour the park?

A. Let’s assume you arrive at 9:00 p.m. and intend upon staying until 6 a.m. With five lands to tour I would take my time and spend one to two hours in each land. I would either do consecutive visits to an attraction until I was tired of it and go on to the next attraction or mix it up and jump from attraction to attraction. I would NOT jump from one land to another and backtrack. I would get my fill of a land and move on to the next one. I would probably start in Tomorrowland and work my way counterclockwise around the park.

Q. Will there be any character Meet 'N' Greets between Midnight and 5:00 a.m.?

A. I think it’s best to say that as the clock strikes twelve the odds of a photo opportunity with a character begin to tumble. If there are any Meet ‘n’ Greets, I would guess they would occur in the early evening and BEFORE the last parade performance.

Q. Will there be special merchandise available like they do for MNSSHP and MVMCP?

A. If this was an event that happened every year or several times a year I would say yes but I’m not expecting there will be. Here’s another question, if you were in charge what kind of merchandise would you offer and how many items would you expect to sell? It’s a gamble and that’s why I don’t expect there will be any special merchandise.

Q. If the park is to see large crowds that evening, will FastPass be in operation?

A. That sounds like a silly question, but, assuming the park may see high attendance that day, the thought has crossed my mind that the FastPass distribution areas could possibly stay open for an extra hour or two….but that would be a long shot.

Q. If I am visiting Walt Disney World that week should visit The Magic Kingdom during “One More Disney Day?”

A. I think the question is really, “Should I visit the Magic Kingdom that day and stay all night?” To that question I say that it depends upon what you want to get out of the experience. Are you there hoping to get in as many attractions as you possibly can? Are you going to just say you did it? Are you anticipating some special event and don’t want to miss it? Are you curious about the crowds, the attractions that will be open, which restaurants will be operating, etc?

Q. Mike, would you experience “One More Disney Day” if you can?

A. Well, full disclosure...the answer is yes. I am curious about so many aspects of this promotion that I caved and decided I had to see what is going to happen first-hand, so I plan to be at The Magic Kingdom that day....and am planning to be at the theme park well before sunrise. If you're interested in what may be happening that day, and to see how these questions will be answered, be sure to follow me on Face Book and on Twitter.

After all, depending upon how things go, we may be doing this all over again in 2016.

February 4, 2012

Introducing the "New" AAR System at Disney

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Over the last several years I have noticed a few things and kept reminding myself to mention them to friends and colleagues who also frequent both Walt Disney world and Disneyland.

I'm speaking about the FastPass system that has been in existence for sometime now. You know how it works...you bring your admission media to an attraction FastPass Distribution Box and after inserting it, you are then rewarded with a FastPass that tells you when you can report to the attraction later on that day, and not have to wait in line.

The funny thing about this system, now that I think about it, is that as the years have gone by and the crowds have grown, that the system is not so fast.

In fact, I am hear to suggest that for 2012 we rename FastPass to a more appropriate name, similar to the Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR) system and name it the Advanced Attraction Reservation System or the AAR.

Why? Well, in many of the most popular headliner attractions, it has gotten to the point that getting a FastPass that has a return time that works with your schedule is like getting a winning Publisher's Clearinghouse number....it never happens.

Okay, maybe I'm overstating it a bit, but when guests find themselves getting to the Toy Story Mania FastPass distribution boxes mid day and find that all the FastPasses are gone for the day, they aren't happy.

I myself have grabbed a FastPass around 10:30 am or so for that attraction and was surprised to see that my return time was 4:15 pm. Well that doesn't work if I have a 4:00 pm ADR at Le Cellier in EPCOT.

I recall one time flying into Orlando around 10:30 in the morning and after getting off the plane, grabbing my luggage, picking up my rental car, driving to my resort, checking in, unpacking, eating lunch, and then finally heading over to EPCOT for a few hours, and was kind of shocked to see a 70 minute wait for Soarin' and, at 1:45 in the afternoon mind you, would have to settle for a 7:35-7:45 pm return time on a FastPass.

That's not going to work when I have a 7:00 pm ADR at Kona in the Polynesian before heading to Magic Kingdom to see Wishes.

Have you noticed this problem lately? Have you figured out what to do?

The obvious response is, "Well Mike we both know that once you start getting into the late morning and early afternoon hours that it becomes more of a challenge to find those favorite attractions with short queues and decent FastPass return times."

Good. You're paying attention.

This all goes back to healthy park touring habits, especially during those crowded times during the year.

Keep the following points in mind:

- Even though you're on vacation , if you want to get the most out of your theme park visits then be there when the turnstiles open. The first two hours following theme park opening are the best two hours of the day...use them wisely.

- FastPasses can work well if you know how to use them. When you get into the park early think about which attraction you would like to secure a FastPass to and get that FastPass before doing anything else. If you can, get in the stand-by line and squeeze in an extra ride.

- Regarding Extra Magic hours, it still holds true that Extra Magic Hour mornings will always be your best friend. Note that parks which have Extra Magic Hour mornings will draw a lot of resort guests and so you can expect that theme park to perhaps be a little more busy during late and early afternoon.

- Extra Magic Hour evenings can be your friend too, but not how you think. I'm not telling you to be sure and go to a park that has Extra Magic Evening Hours. I'm telling you to AVOID that park because the crowds will be somewhat heavy because of EMH evenings. More people sleep in than get up with the chickens. But what you can do is take note of which park is conducting EMH evenings and make it a point to hit that park's turnstiles early on the morning afterwards. You see, the night before will have high crowds...guests who won't be looking to go to that park early the next morning. Trust me. this works.

- I'm a little hesitant to give you this last piece of advice so it comes with a caveat that it may not work. I have tried it and it has worked for me in the past. One day I made it a point to arrive at one of the theme parks just before park opening. During the day I loaded up on Fast Passes. I would grab a FP and not use it, visit some of the less popular attractions, and then when I was allowed, grabbed another FP. On this particular day I think I had accumulated four or five FPs and used them when I wanted to. Sure, the return times on the ticket may have passed but they were honored. Came the afternoon when crowds were high, I found myself using my FastPass at my convenience and....here's the best part....in many cases the FP line was quite short. Will that work today? Don't know....but if it's worth mentioning then it's worth a try.

There is rumbling that sometime over the next year or two we may, and I emphasize the word "may," see an adjustment in the FastPass system. It may involve some perks for those guests staying in certain, read that Deluxe resorts. We'll see.


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