Saturday, November 3, 2012

Tangled Ever After

When Disney re-released "Beauty and the Beast" in 3-D they attached a sort of sequel to "Tangled" in front of it.  Over all, it's a fun cartoon short.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Princess Movies Are Either Dead Or Dying

At least, that's what some would have you believe.

But, let's get one thing straight right off the bat: princess movies are not going away.

We may be tired of being overwhelmed by them everywhere the Disney name can be found from movies to theme parks and everywhere in between, but just because we've grown tired and cynical doesn't mean that Disney is going to give up on one of their biggest money makers.

Disney World is in the final stages of it's biggest land expansion ever, which is heavily influenced by the princesses.  Cinderella, Snow White, Belle and Ariel are all playing major roles in New Fantasyland.

The princess movies are not only big money makers, they've also saved the Disney company multiple times over the years.

"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" or, "Disney's Folly" proved to be anything but as it was not only hugely successful fiscally, it was also the genesis of all feature length animation.

After World War II, the studios found themselves in a slump.  Because of the war and the animators strike, they hadn't been able to make a full length feature in years - having to settle for several "package films." What movie brought an end to the package films and was the first truly successful film since before the war?  "Cinderella."

In the 80's, Disney animation was once again in a slump.  Then, in 1989, "The Little Mermaid" not only brought them out of the slump, it also ushered in what is considered by most to be the greatest era in Disney animation history.

"The Princess and the Frog" heralded the return of 2-D animation and it's possible that "Tangled" will be the beginning of a new renaissance for Disney animation.

Yes, Disney has shoved these princesses down our throats it seems and it's not always necessary or palatable.  But, it's ridiculous to think that Disney will ignore an entire genre of stories.

After all,  genres don't go out of style - bad stories do.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Disney Animation

With Wreck-It Ralph opening tomorrow, I though it would be a great time to focus on Disney's animated movies.  With more than 70 years of movies under their belt, there are a ton of topics to be discussed.

This time around the topics will include:
- The end of the princess movie
- The "cheap-quels" of the 90's and 2000's
- A review of "Wreck-It Ralph"
- Another movie review or two
- Videos to enjoy
And that's not all...

I'd love to hear feedback from you guys as well.  First off, what's your favorite Disney animated movie and why?

Mine is Aladdin.  It was the first movie that I can remember seeing that had a strong male lead.  I wanted to be like Aladdin and yet, could relate to him at the same time.  I also love the character of Genie and the music is still some of my favorite.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

New Fantasyland Phase 2: Finally Some Thrills

This would be what I'm looking forward to the most.  The Seven Dwarf's Mine Train Coaster.

I love roller coasters.  I love thrill rides and I cannot wait for this ride to open!  Unfortunately, it's not opening with the rest of New Fantasyland in December.  We have to wait until next year sometime to ride the new coaster.

Not much has been released yet about the Dwarf's mine, but the most exciting part for me is going to be seeing how they tell a good story wile your mine carts are flying all over the track.

Snow White's Scary Adventures had the dubious distinction of being far to scary for some kids, but the mine coaster will bring screams and thrills in a whole new way.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Hump Day Break: Returning to Old Fantasyland

Taking a quick detour back inside the Castle walls you may notice that something is missing.  Snow White's Scary Adventure is being turned into a meet and greet location for your favorite princesses.

I like what Disney is doing with the new themed meet and greet areas.  Andy's room at the Studios, the Magic Show on Main Street and, especially, Pete's Silly Side show that just opened up in Storybook Circus are all great examples of turning what could very easily become something boring and tiresome into something fun that tells a story.

The princesses are a natural fit in Fantasyland and I look forward to taking my daughter there in a few years.

What are you most looking forward to after the Fantasyland expansion is over?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

New Fantasyland - Not Just A Poor Provential Town

Next on our tour of the forest is Belle's village.  With two restaurants and a story/meet and greet attraction, the town is bustling with activity.

The Be Our Guest restaurant and Gaston's Tavern will both be welcome additions to anyone who loves Disney food.  The big news about the Be Our Guest restaurant is that it will mark the first time in the parks 40+ year history that alcohol will be served inside the Magic Kingdom.

The downside for this area is that attraction - Storytime with Belle is very clearly directed toward a younger audience.  Don't get me wrong, I look forward to taking my daughter to the show in a few years, but until then, the only reason I would see the show/meet and greet is to experience the awesome audio animatronics of Lumiere and the Wardrobe come to life.

Monday, October 8, 2012

New Fantasyland - What's New Anyway?

New Fantasyland refers to what lies beyond the castle courtyard.  Once you've gone to the tea party, ridden the horses and gotten that darn song stuck in your head for the umpteenth time, it's time to explore the forest.
In the forest you'll wander between the worlds of Ariel, Belle and (eventually) Snow White.

First up, The Little Mermaid.  She's getting her own ride - very similar to the one that opened in California back in 2011.  It will be a dark ride along the lines of Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan.  We'll get to ride through the scenes and songs from the movie.

The movie may not be my all time favorite, but I am very much looking forward to this ride.  The technology used should make it one of the best dark rides in the parks.

And if the image below is any indication of the scenery, it will be breathtaking.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

New Fantasyland

Here's a teaser trailer of sorts that Disney released a few weeks ago.  The video begins revealing the backstory that the Imagineers have created for the new land.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dumbo the Flying Elephant

Dumbo has recently moved from his original home in Fantasyland to Storybook Circus.  In the process, the ride doubled in size and now has one of the most unique queue areas ever.

I think that this is going to be good for the park because Dumbo, for whatever reason, has been the must-do ride for children for years.  This led to crazy long lines for a ride that didn't last very long and, to be honest, wasn't that exciting.

The move to Storybook Circus saw the addition of a second Dumbo spinner that would spin in the opposite direction as the original.  This effectively doubled the ride capacity of Dumbo which will, hopefully, bring wait times down.

The other big change that occurred was in the queue area.  I keep calling it an "area" instead of a "line" because it's not a queue line in the traditional sense.

Instead of a line that you stand in for hours, a cast member will give you a pager-like device.  Then, you can enter the circus tent where they have a new play area for the kids while you wait for your pager to go off.

I haven't had the opportunity to see or ride the new Dumbo, but for the first time ever, I am actually looking forward to riding the flying elephant.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What is Storybook Circus?

The circus has come to Carolwood Park and has brought with it, updated versions of some old favorites and completely new attractions.

Storybook Circus is a place where classic movies, like Dumbo, meet classic cartoon shorts' characters, like the Fab Five in a setting taken out of the life of Walt Disney himself.

Carolwood was the name of the miniature railroad that Walt had set up in his backyard.  Carolwood Park is now buzzing with excitement after the arrival of Casey Jr. and his passengers.

The most well known of his passengers, and the main act found under the tent is, of course, Dumbo the Flying Elephant.

Next, we meet the Great Goofini, who has invited us to be a part of his next stunt.

Casey Jr. is calling the kids over to cool off and Pete has his side show up and running so you can meet some new (or old) friends.

As someone who was underwhelmed by Toontown Fair, I cannot wait to go down and experience Storybook Circus.

Monday, October 1, 2012

This Day In Disney History

 October 1, 1971 is a significant date to all Disney World fans.  On this day 41 years ago, the Magic Kingdom opened its gates for the first time and the East Coast would never be the same.

This month, I want to focus on the Magic Kingdom, specifically on the recent additions to the park.  Also, as the month winds down to All Hallows Eve, we'll look at Liberty Square and its connections to the story of Sleepy Hollow.

And, of course, talking about the Magic Kingdom and Halloween wouldn't be complete without looking at the Haunted mansion.

But first, I'll leave you with this:


Monday, September 17, 2012

Where Have I Been?

It's been a while and for that I apologize.  Life has gotten the better of me lately and my writing has suffered because of it.  I hope to get back to posting regularly very soon.

I've been thinking about ways to retool and retheme this blog - hopefully in ways that will encourage more writing and discussion.  What I'm working through now is taking each month and giving a theme to it.  For example, Disney's new animated movie "Wreck-It Ralph" opens in November so I think that will be a great time to focus on Disney's animated features.  Probably every other month will be focused on the parks, but, there is so much more to Disney than the parks - and much more that I am interested in and want to share with others (I can't wait to talk about Disney's role in comics for example).  I think expanding the content of the blog will allow me to do that.  I'm excited about what's in store.  I hope you'll stick with me.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Characters Welcome: Donald Duck

I just finished reading a collection of old Donald Duck comics and it served as a reminder of why he is one of my favorite characters.

Of the Fab Five, he is easily my favorite.  Minnie is a girl, Pluto is a pet, Goofy is okay and, let's be honest, Mickey has zero personality these days.

I like what they did with Goofy in the 90's with Goof Troop and A Goofy Movie but I've always been drawn back to the duck.

Like I said, between Mickey and Donald, Donald actually has a personality.  Mickey has become a caricature of what he once was, and maybe Donald has to in some ways, but he still retains what made him Donald - namely his temper and his rivalry with Mickey.

I think my love of Donald also stems from my love for the Disney Ducks in general as well.  Ducktales and Darkwing Duck were huge parts of my childhood, more so than any other of the aforementioned characters (I liked Goof Troop, but I like Ducktales and Darkwing a lot more).

As I've become more interested in both comic book history and Disney history, Donald has continued to grow my affections thanks to Carl Barks who wrote many of the famous duck comic stories.  In fact, he is the creator of Scrooge McDuck.

Who is your favorite Fab Five character?

Donald in the parks, through the years

Monday, July 9, 2012

Disney Parks with a baby

On our honeymoon, my wife and I scoffed at the parents who brought kids that seemed to be too young to comprehend where they where, much less get enjoyment out of it.  By our second trip, we were scheming ways we could make that situation work for us.

Well, this past trip was our first attempt at seeing how this would play out.  It was good is some ways, hard in others.

My first piece of advice is to take it slow.  It was not possible for us to keep the same pace we used to (much to my frustration at some points).

Also, take full advantage of the Baby Care Centers.  There's one in each park and, while I don't know where they are in the other parks, in Epcot, it's located conveniently in the middle of the park, right between Future World and World Showcase on the Mexico side.  My wife will have a more detailed review of the Baby Care Center soon, but I will leave you with this: it was probably the best tool we had in our arsenal that day.

One of the things we did was buy her an autograph book that had a place for pictures.  We would get a character to sign one page and then we will print off a photo of us with said character and put it on the page next to the signature. It will be a fun memento to put in her baby box.  Of course, she was more interested in the pen than seeing the characters, but she did really well.  The only time she freaked out was when she thought my wife was about to hand her over to Daisy (really, my wife was just leaning in for the picture).

On the rides: We were lucky enough to have my parents down there with us and my mom isn't a big fan of the rides anymore, she just loves being at Disney with her family.  She watched our daughter while we rode the rides.  If you're not as lucky as we were, you can always use the baby swap system.  You both stand in line, when you get to the front, one of you rides while the other stays with the kid, when your spouse returns, you swap.

The other part we thought would be an issue was the fireworks.  At the end of a long day, the baby was tired and fussy and we had already decided that we would leave the fireworks early if she couldn't handle it.  Turns out, she loved them.  Her giggling and laughing brought the attention to everyone around us.

One thing I wouldn't suggest is park hopping.  Stick to one park for the whole day.  If you leave, go back to your room, not another park.  That was probably the hardest part of the day for us.

Over all, the day was a lot of fun - but we definitely learned how to do things a little differently next time.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Movie Review: The Bear and the Bow...I mean, Brave

Let's talk about Pixar's first attempt at a princess movie - the genre that put their parent company on the map and has more than once pulled Disney out of animated slumps.

I haven't met a Pixar movie that I didn't like, and Brave is no exception.  That said, it didn't blow me away like I was expecting.  Maybe I've placed Pixar on too high a pedestal - I don't know.  It was by no means a bad movie, I would recommend it to anyone.

It was visually beautiful, the story was good, the music was phenomenal (I bought the soundtrack).

But there was something about the movie that left me a little wanting and I can't quite put my finger on it.  My wife suggests that perhaps it's because the movie is a story mother-daughter coming together story and that doesn't resonate with me.  True enough.

The story is not geared solely towards girls though, there is plenty there to appeal to boys as well.

At the end of the day a bad Pixar movie is still a good movie and, while it may not be Pixar's best, it's far from being bad.

What did you think of the movie? Have you experienced either of the Brave related attractions in the parks (the story and meet and greet at the MK or the Highland Games Tournament at Epcot)?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

On Epcot

I said before that the reason I wanted to visit Epcot this summer is to gain a better appreciation for the park.

At the end of a very long day, with a very fussy baby I came away having a slightly better appreciation for the Epcot, but still not feeling like I was able to give it a completely fair shot.

A combination of a lot of factors led us to not be able to experience the park as wholly as I would have liked.

We got to spend a good amount of time in Future World, but even so, we didn't get to do everything that I wanted to do.  And by the time we got to the World Showcase, we didn't have much time to explore.

All of that said, as a day in a Disney park, it was a lot of fun.  Mission: Space is still one of my favorite rides and watching my daughter enjoy Illuminations that night was great.

I'll be expounding on my thoughts throughout the summer, I just wanted to get down my first impressions and general thoughts on the day.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

WDW Trip Report 2 or I Got Lost At Disney World

And not in a "It's so magical, I lose myself" kind of way.  More like "I don't know how to get out of here" lost.

Here's the thing: I know my way around the parks.  I don't usually need a map in order to get around.  Once I'm outside the parks though, it's a completely different story.  I have to follow the signs, but I am determined to figure out my way around - especially my way out of the resort.

I'm beginning to learn a few things.  First, I don't always have to head towards I-4.  In fact, where we are staying is not near I-4 at all.  Now that I know this, I've been better able to find my way out.  And paying closer attention to the roads themselves, instead of just looking for signs has been helpful as well.

Also, TomTom has been useful (most of the time).

Do you know your way around the Disney property?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

WDW Trip Report 1

One of the things that I was really looking forward to was going to the Polynesian Resort the first night we arrived in Orlando and watching the Wishes fireworks from the Magic Kingdom followed by the Electrical Water Pageant on the Seven Seas Lagoon.

We grabbed some beach chairs and got our places on the beach.  The Magic Kingdom was farther away than I expected, but the fireworks show was great.  Wishes is still better right in front of the castle, but the show, the beach, the weather all made for a wonderful start to our vacation - except for one thing: we didn't get to see the water pageant.  Well, we got to see it sort of.  We waited about 15 minutes after the fireworks before we saw it off in the distance.  Unfortunately, it never came any closer to us.

After we got back to the resort, I quickly got on the Internet to see what we did wrong.  I found this website that has a general schedule for the water pageant.  Turns out, we were about 45 minutes late for it.  If Debby let's us, we'll try again later this week.

Overall, again, a great way to start our vacation. ( Here is a link to a video I shot of Wishes).

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Budgeting For Our Trip

We've been given a $1,000 budget for our trip to Disney next week.  That may not sound like a lot when talking about a trip to the most expensive happiest place on Earth and in some sense that's true.

We are only planning on spending one day in a theme park, but, fortunately for us, Disney World is more than just the theme parks.

Our list of things to do includes:
Epcot ($90 per person, though we're considering a Park Hopper so that would increase the price some)
Fantasia Gardens Mini Golf ($12 per person)
Downtown Disney (free)
Watching the Wishes fireworks from the Polynesian Resort (free)
Visiting Disney's Wildlife Preserve ($3 per person)
Seeing Brave on opening weekend ($10 per person)
Resort hopping (including, but not limited to, the Boardwalk and the new Art of Animation Resort) ( free)

 That is less than $700 right now.  I haven't included things like food or gas in the budget but we shouldn't spend too much on those because we won't eat out more than once (if that) and once we get on Disney property we can go anywhere using their transportation instead of ours.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Book Review: The Imagineering Field Guide to Epcot

The Imagineers have written an entire series of guide books, each one highlighting a different park.  In light of my impending trip to Epcot, I decided it was time to re-read that one in particular.

I really enjoy this series as a whole.  The concept art, the history, the fun facts all come together to create a very interesting history of the parks.  I also like that the books are small.  You can bring them with you into the parks without out them taking up too much space in your pack or weighing it down.

The Epcot book will hopefully help me to gain a better appreciation for the park.  It has such a rich history that goes all the way back to Walt himself, though the final product looks very different than Walt's vision.

Fun fact: Epcot was planned to be in the exact center of the resort property (hence the original name, EPCOT Center).  It's actually a few hundred yards off center due to the discovery of an endangered species during construction.

Fun fact #2: In the Gran Fiesta Tour in the Mexico Pavilion, one of the building facades takes its inspiration from "it's a small world."

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Countdown Begins - 14 days

Apologies for being slack in posting this week.  Life got the better of me this week for the most part.  The other part is that I've started preparing myself for my first trip to Disney this year.

I thought that I would take some time to let you know how I'm preparing.  First of all, my family has been to Disney multiple times so we don't feel the need to spend our entire vacation there (also, finances don't allow for such shenanigans).  We want to spend one day at a Disney park (my choice is Epcot), try out the Fantasia Gardens Mini Golf, explore the Wildlife Preserve and possibly spend a day at a non-Disney park (heresy I know, but they have a Marvel themed island, so that counts right?)

My desire to go to Epcot stems from the fact that I've never really given it a fair shot.  When I go to an amusement park, I want to be amused.  "Edu-tainment" doesn't cut it for me (and, to be perfectly honest, I don't completely buy the message that Disney is trying to sell).  So, when we have to choose only one park to visit, Epcot is not high on my list.  But I want that to change.

I'm still more on the "amuse me" side of things, but I have learned a lot about the history of Epcot over the past few years and have become intrigued with the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.

So, how am I preparing for my trip to Epcot?

First the movies.  I'm taking the list of movies that I made for both Future World and World Showcase and watching some of them.  Obviously, I can't watch all of them, but I started watching Tron the other day and am really looking forward to watching Walt and El Grupo followed by the other Spanish themed movies.

I'm also reading a few books, or parts of books.  The Imagineers Guide to Epcot is very interesting and I plan on reviewing it soon along with sharing some of the fun facts that I learned about the park.  I also want to reread the parts of the Hidden Magic of WDW and Mousejunkies that apply to the park.

We leave on the 23rd and I plan on having trip related posts over the next couple of weeks as the days wind down.


What is your favorite park to visit?  How do you prepare?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Dinosaur!



Three things that I love:

1) Disney
2) Thrill Rides
3) Dinosaurs

Put them together and you've got one of my favorite rides in all of Disney World.

To say that this ride is based on the movie of the same name is a bit of misnomer.  The ride came first and was originally called "Countdown to Extinction."  But, because of the inclusion of the Iguanadon, Carnator and the impending asteroid collision in both the movie and the ride, they decided to rename the ride after the movie.

The story is that you've come the the Dino Institute for a tour, but one of the employees (Grant Seeker, get it?) has other plans for you.  He recruits you to go back in time and retrieve an Iguanadon to bring back to the present.

You jump in your Time Rover and, though not as classy as a Delorean, you head back in time to the very end of the Cretaceous Period.  As we learned from a certain other famous Dino-story, chaos has a way of getting the better of you.  Between the unknown terrain, the predator that is on your tail and the impending collision, your ride is anything but smooth.  But, oh, is it fun!

This is a ride that I rarely miss and if you've got a thrill junkie in your house, this is ride for them as well.

Fun Fact:  In queue line, if you look up at one point, you'll see red, white and yellow pipes running across the ceiling.  Each pipe has a different chemical formula - on the red is the formula for ketchup, the yellow is mustard and the white is, of course, mayonnaise. This is a fun nod to the ride's original sponsor - McDonald's.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Finding The Magic At Home - Online Radio

There are many things that Disney is known for and one of them is memorable music.  Music has always played an important role in Disney's storytelling, from the movies to the theme parks (even video games).

I love Disney movie soundtracks, but there is something about the theme parks music that is just a little bit more magical.  I think it's the fact that I can't experience it whenever I want to.  If I want to listen to the Aladdin soundtrack, I could listen to the CD, but I could also watch the movie.  I can't own the Flying Carpets of Aladdin (though that would be awesome!).

Disney has realized this untapped market over the past few years and has finally begun releasing CDs of their theme park music.  A quick glance at the Disney store online shows about seven that are related to the parks (five are in a box set, the others are part of a 2-disc collection).  These don't include some of the ones that you can get in the park like the Finding Nemo: The Musical soundtrack and the Fantasmic! soundtrack.

But the CDs are for another post.  This post is about online radio.  Places like Sorcerer Radio and MouseWorld Radio play not only those songs that get stuck in your head (I'm looking at you "it's a small world") but also the background music that you hear as you wander the parks.

I really enjoy listening the online radio stations, especially if I want music, but not lyrics.  When I listen, I can picture the places in the World and remember different trips and stories.

Do you listen to the online radio stations? What is your favorite music from the parks?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Finding Nemo: The Musical

Confession: I have never fully understood the phenomenon that is Finding Nemo.  Don't get me wrong, I like the movie.  It's a beautiful movie and I can't wait to see it in 3D next year, but people went crazy over this movie and I don't know why.

That said, I love Finding Nemo: The Musical at Animal Kingdom which is something I didn't think I would say.  I thought that since I didn't have a strong opinion about the movie, or musicals in general for that matter, that I wouldn't like it.  I wasn't even sure how they were going to turn the movie into a musical.

But, I was happily proved wrong.  The music is so good that I ended up getting the soundtrack.  Beyond the music, I love how they used puppets to tell the story.

Watching the story unfold is so beautiful that after awhile you forget that there are people on stage controlling the characters.

If you find yourself in Animal Kingdom, this show is not to be missed.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Preparing For Your Trip - Walking

Here's a potentially unexpected tip for you as you prepare for you trip to Disney: walk.

I know, right?  Not expected, and yet, completely logical.  Think about it, you will be doing more walking in one day at the parks than you probably do in a normal week - and you're visiting for how many days again?

I'm not suggesting a rigorous routine, really just an evening stroll through the neighborhood a couple of times a week about a month before you trip would be great.  This is a great time to spend with your family, good exercise and decreases the quickness in which you will get tired and grumpy while in the parks.

Put some Disney music on your mp3 player of choice and I'd say it's a win all around.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Top 10 Thrill Rides

I'm starting a new, on-going series today listing my top 10's at WDW.

Since the Disney Mountains have been on my mind recently and because I love thrill rides, I decided to start with my Top 10 Thrill Rides (in no particular order):

1) Expedition Everest
~ This is one of my favorite rides in all of the World
2) Tower of Terror
~ As if a drop tower ride isn't thrilling enough, Disney decided to set it inside of a haunted hotel
3) Rockin' Roller Coaster
~ Probably the most thrilling ride in the Parks, based on speed and adrenaline alone
4) Dinosaur!
~ Another of my all time favorite rides, especially because I've had an interest in dinosaurs since I was young
5) Space Mountain
~ I bet, if this ride were lit up, it wouldn't be nearly as thrilling, but in the dark, thrills abound
6) Thunder Mountain
~ This is the epitome of a classic thrill.  Nothing hair-raising, but thrilling none-the-less
7) Misson: Space
~ To be honest, I've never experienced the intensity that other people claim to feel, but I still enjoy it
8) Star Tours
~ I love the new Star Tours, especially the fact that this ride changes every time you ride it.
9) Kali River Rapids
~ This is your standard "get soaked" ride but the rapids do bring some fun thrills to the ride.
10) Primeval Whirl
~ A roller coaster with a new twist, literally.  Again, not hair-raising, but still a lot of fun.

Honorable mentions:
~ Splash Mountain
I love this ride, but really, the only thrill is the drop at the end, the rest of the ride is rather tame and relaxing.
~ Stitch's Great Escape
Maybe this isn't thrilling to you, but to your younger kids, it might be
~ Test Track
I wanted to put this on the list, but since it's closed for refurbishment and since I clearly haven't ridden the updated ride, I couldn't justify it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

On the Fantasyland Expansion

I've mentioned the Fantasyland Expansion a couple of times on this blog, but it occurs to me that I haven't done a good job of explaining what the expansion is.

On the most basic level, it is exactly what it says it is - an expansion of the Fantasyland area of the Magic Kingdom.  On a more significant level, it is the largest expansion project that Disney World has ever seen.

We've seen the opening of Storybook Circus area recently with both the new and improved Dumbo ride and Barnstormer.  Soon, we will see the Casey Jr. play area.

By 2014, Fantasyland will look completely different.  It will be split into two smaller sections: Fanstasyland proper - which is the Fantasyland that we know (it's a small world, Peter Pan's Flight, etc...) and the Fantasyland forest which is what is being built now.  The forest will house a new Little Mermaid dark ride, a Beauty and the Beast themed restaurant and, what I'm looking forward to the most, a Seven Dwarves Mine Train roller coaster.

Also, Snow White's Scary Adventures is closing to make way for a permanent princess meet and greet area.

I am really excited about the new expansion in general.  My one criticism is that the new land is going to overwhelmingly become Princessland.  The vast majority of the rides and attractions are themed around the Disney princess franchise.  There's not much coming that will entice young boys.

What are your thoughts on the Fantasyland Expansion?  What are you most excited about?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Book Review: The Disney Mountains

The Disney Mountains: Disney Imagineering At Its Peak by Jason Surrell is one of my favorite Disney books.  The Disney mountain range represents so many of my favorite rides: Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Expedition Everest, Big Thunder Mountain.  These are the rides that I look forward to every trip.

I really enjoyed reading the history of these rides.  Surrell does a great job of giving us a history lesson (and sometimes even an engineering lesson) and making it interesting.  The flow of the book is roughly chronological which gives its readers a great look at how the technology has grown and developed over the years.

He also talks about the Matterhorn and Grizzly Peak in California as well as the never built Candy Mountain.

The other part of the book that I was impressed with was the comparison between the mountains that have duplicates in other parks around the world. (As an aside, his chapter on Mt. Prometheus in Disney ToykoSea was the catalyst for my growing desire to visit that park)

Anyone who loves Disney Parks history, the Disney mountains or imagineering needs to own this book.  Personally, I can't wait to read his other two books where he takes in depth looks at both The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean.


Which is your favorite Disney Mountain?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Fantasmic!

One of the things that Disney does best is their nighttime entertainment.  From the classic, Spectromagic parade to the new The Magic, The Memories and You show using incredible projection technology, Disney has no shortage of shows that will entertain you until the very end of the day.

My favorite nighttime show that Disney puts on is Fantasmic! at Hollywood Studios.

Fantasmic! tells the story of Mickey as he drifts off to dream world.  We get to see his dreams, many of which are scenes from classic Disney movies like The Lion King and Pocahontas.  All is well in dream world until the evil queen from Snow White makes her way into Mickey's dreams.  All of his dreams are good and have happy endings and the queen can't have that, so she enlists the help of the rest of the Disney villains in an attempt to turn Mickey's dreams into a "nightmare fantasmic."

Will good triumph over evil?  I'm sure you know the answer (it is Disney after all) but it is a lot of fun to watch.  The setting is a mountain surrounded by water and the combination of characters, water effects and fire effects (including, but not limited to, fireworks) makes this show a must see.

Even though this show has been around since 1998, its popularity is still so great that it is encourage in all the guide books to be in line at least an hour and a half early in order to get good seats.

Also of note, you can buy the soundtrack in the parks as well which has the complete score for both the Disneyland version and the Disney World version.

Have you seen Fantasmic? What did you think?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Star Wars Weekends

Disney began hosting Star Wars Weekend in 1997, but it became a yearly event in 2003.

For four or five weekends sometime between May and July (depending on the year) Disney's Hollywood Studios are transformed into a galaxy far, far away.  There are special shows and events, parades, celebrities, character meet and greets and, of course, the hyperspace hoopla - the evening show not to be missed.

I'm not a Star Wars geek and neither is my wife, but we do enjoy the movies and when I found out that our honeymoon would correspond with one of the weekends, I knew when we would be visiting the Studios.

If you have plans to be in Disney World from May 18 through June 10 and you enjoy the movies or the Clone Wars TV show, this is an event not to be missed.

Star Wars celebrities are there to sign autographs (We got to meet the man behind the fur - Peter Mayhew) and there is plenty of exclusive merchandise.  There is a special parade in the morning and behind the scenes shows.  There are a lot of things to do and see during the weekend but instead of giving you a bunch of tips and tour guides, I'll link to a recent podcast that I listen to with that information.

Have you been/are you planning on going to a Star Wars Weekend?  If you've been, what did you think?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Movie Review: The Avengers

If the 200 million that this movie racked up in three days doesn't tell you anything, then allow me - this movie is one of the best movies that I've seen in a while.

Back in 2008, Marvel surprised audiences by teasing them with what Nick Fury called "The Avengers Initiative.". For the next four years, Marvel slowly began building upon this world that they had created with movies like The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America.

All of this has been leading up to this past weekend when we finally got to see all of our favorite characters together for the first time on the big screen. The actors are very familiar with their characters at this point (even the new comer, Ruffalo) and the clashing of egos and personalities is well done.

The action is very intense but not gruesome. And, overall, the movie is funny. The Avengers is by no means a comedy, but I've had multiple people tell me that they missed some of the dialogue because the entire theater was laughing.

The acting was great, the special effects were great, the story was great. I have to agree with many other reviewers out there who can't find a fault I this movie (well, ok, I can find a fault, but I can't tell you what it is because it would be a big spoiler).

 Have you seen the movie yet? What did you think? How can The Avengers be incorporated I to the Disney Parks?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Two Best Ways to Save Money at Disney

The way I see it, there are really two ways to save money when you go to Disney World.

The first way is by directly finding sales, discounts, etc...One of the goals of this blog is to help you find the best ways to spend you money.  For example, splitting up rooms by gender instead of family unit is a way that my friends and I are going to save some money during our trip in September.  As I hear about and find deal and discounts as well as tricks and tips I will be sure to let you know.

However, Disney isn't one to give out many discounts (and the ones they do aren't terribly significant most of the time), which leads me to the other way to save money at Disney - making the most of your time there.

It is a little more indirect in your money saving, but the more you can see and do, the more you are getting for your money.  Not to mention that the imagineers have put in all of those details to be enjoyed by the guests anyway.  That's why I encourage you to slow down in the parks and take in your surroundings.  You can see things like the Cinderella Fountain or the Street Performers on Main St.  These things aren't in the guide maps, but are definitely worth stopping to check out and experience.

What tips do you have for saving money, both directly or indirectly?

Monday, April 30, 2012

Test Track

Disney has recently released concept art for the new Test Track that will open up after a long refurbishment and down time sometime in the late Fall.

I loved the old Test Track.  I think that Epcot needed a thrill ride in order to stay on par with its theme park brothers.  And, in true Disney style, they didn't just make a thrill ride for the sake of making a thrill ride.  The theme was great and it fit perfectly into Future World.

The ride took you through the world of car testing.  The queue let you see various tests that cars go through during various testing phases and the ride itself put you in the place of crash test dummies as you put your car through a series of tests including a brake test, a hot air test, a cold air test and a swerving test.  All of this was leading up to the barrier test that you see in all of the car commercials.  Don't worry though, at the last moment, the barrier opened up and your vehicle flew out into a turn around the outside of the pavilion at over 60 miles per hour.

That said, I am looking forward to seeing what's next for this ride.  One of the issues that I hope they tackle is the fact that this ride is notorious for breaking down.  I remember the first year that I was down there when it opened.  We waited two hours in the queue line only to get front of the line passes for later because of the thunder storm.  It seems the ride is either too dangerous or doesn't function correctly if there is a lot of lightning around.

We went back to Epcot on our last day so we could ride Test Track.  We used our passes and got into our car.  We went up the first embankment and stopped.  They shut the ride down again and we were given more front of the line passes.

Did you like Test Track?  Are you looking forward to riding the new Test Track?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Disney and The Avengers

With the premiere of The Avengers only a week away, my wife and I are hosting a movie marathon this weekend.  We are going to watch all of the movies leading up to The Avengers (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America).

As we have been preparing I began thinking about the connections that these movies have with Disney.

For example, Howard Stark is very clearly modeled after both Howard Hughes and Walt Disney.  The scenes with him explaining the Stark Expo are definite call backs to "Uncle Walt" when he was describing his vision for the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.

Another connection between Disney and the Avengers movies is the Stark Expo itself, both in Iron Man 2 and in Captain America.  The Stark Expo is Marvel's version of the World's Fair in which Disney had a major presence with new technologies and rides, many of which eventually ended up in the parks (like It's A Small World).  Those of us who weren't around for the fair may be reminded of something else though.

Future World in Epcot is also modeled after the World's Fair.

Richard Sherman, who, with his brother Robert, wrote a ton of songs for both Disney movies (The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book) and park attractions (you can thank them for "It's A Small World").  For the Iron Man 2 soundtrack he wrote a song called "Tomorrow's Coming Today" which has allusions to another song he wrote for Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress called "There's A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow."

Incidently, the Carousel of Progress made its debut at the World's Fair in 1964.

Are there any connections that I missed?  What about The Avengers are you looking forward to the most?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Movie Review: Chimpanzee

My wife and I have made it a tradition the past few years of going to see the new Disneynature movie during opening week since Earth came out in 2009.

Overall, we really enjoy the series, but Chimpanzee is by far the best one to date.

The cinematography is beautiful (I could watch the shots of lightning all day) as is the music.  And Tim Allen is the best narrator that I've heard from this series (and I love James Earl Jones).  I enjoyed his commentary and the fact that he wasn't dry - his humor came through but he wasn't silly (and his reference to his Tool Time days was great).

What I find most intriguing about the movie is the story itself.  I realize that the movie was edited and crafted in ways to make certain points and make the story flow, but at it's core, this is not a story Disney made up.  They happened upon it, by accident.  They didn't know when they first started keeping tabs on this group of chimps that a unique bond between Oscar and Freddie would develop.

The story of the leader (in this case, the alpha male) adopting the outcast orphan is a story written by the original storyteller and it is played out beautifully on screen.

If you haven't seen it yet, check it out before the week is up.  During opening week some of the proceeds go towards the Jane Goodall Foundation.


How can this movie get you excited about going to the Disney Parks?  When I think about the Disneynature movies, I think of Animal Kingdom.  Rafiki's Planet Watch and the Africa land would be great places to bring Chimpanzee in.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Photopass +

Disney announced recently a new, updated version to their Photopass system.

If you're not familiar with Photopass, basically, whenever a Cast Member takes a picture of your group (in front of Cinderella Castle for example) they will give you a card that they scanned with that photo's information on it.  You can then hand your card to any other Cast Member photographers that you see throughout the day and add to your Photopass album.

I'm don't fully understand the difference between the old Photopass and Photopass +, but it seems to be that the plus includes certain ride photos and dinner photos.  Again, I don't fully understand it because on our honeymoon, my wife and I were able to get our Test Track photo on the Photopass card, but maybe they were testing it out at the time.

After I heard about the new system and how it includes not only photos by Cast Members, but rides and dinners as well, I thought about how this could be beneficial to the trip that we're taking in the Fall with our friends.

The cost for the new Photopass is roughly $200 and since we have somewhere between 8 and 10 people going on the trip, that means somewhere between $20 and $25 a person.  This seems like a pretty good deal.  We'd be able to get a lot of group shots (instead of either a)somebody standing behind the camera and not in the photo or b)giving our camera to a stranger) as well as all of the ride photos.

Instead of having to pick and choose which ones we want, we could get them all on a CD for a relatively good price.

If it was just my wife and I, or if we were just planning on visiting one park, I don't think this would be worth the money, but because of the size of the group and because we plan on visiting all four parks - I think this is worth looking into.

What do you think about the new Photopass +?  Would you use it?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Game Review: Animal Kingdom Explorers


Disney has had a rough time in the video game industry. With a few notable exceptions (the Kingdom Hearts series, Epic Mickey and Where's My Water? for example) they tend to miss the mark.

Recently, Disney released a new game on Facebook called Animal Kingdom Explorers. The point of the game is to build your own wildlife reserve, complete with your own Tree of Life. In order to get the funds and experience needed to build your reserve, you have to find and re-find hidden objects in different scenes.

I really want to like this game, but I find myself quickly bored and not fully buying into it.

I enjoy building my own reserve. It reminds me of Roller Coaster Tycoon, a favorite game of mine as a kid. There are also several references to DAK, which I also enjoy finding.

The problem comes from the slow pace of the game. Earning money and experience either require you to wait while you, in essence, recharge or, you can pay Facebook to recharge you quicker.

I refuse to do the latter and the former takes too long that I get bored too quickly.

Overall, it's a good place for Disney to start with this type of video game, but there is definite room for improvement.

Have you played Animal Kingdom Explorers? What do you think?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Night Rider


You may think that it doesn't matter what time of day you ride the rides at Disney. That the ride stays the same morning, noon and night.

My 10-year-old self would tell you differently. As we approached the Haunted Mansion, I told my dad, "I don't want to ride this ride when it's dark. We'll be back tomorrow, we can ride it then."

After dark - everything changes.

Well, maybe not everything, but for certain rides, the experience changes dramatically from day to night. How much more intimidating is that haunted hotel looming in the distance surrounded by darkness?

That final drop on Splash Mountain can seem to last forever when you can't see the briar patch you're plummeting towards.

Next door, at Big Thunder Mountain, there is a completely new scene that you pass by at night. Seems the sleepy little town livens up after the sun goes down.

Both the Astro Orbiter and Dumbo give you beautiful views of the park during the day - how much more so at night?

And a leisurely ride on the TTA at sunset affords a wonderful view of Tomorrowland.

What other rides or attractions seem to change from day to night?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Video Saturdays - Flag Ceremony

I wanted to wrap up this weeks look at Main St. with a video of an often overlooked event that happens everyday. Usually, a veteran gets chosen to be a part of the flag lowering ceremony. Every afternoon, around 5, there is a small ceremony that takes place in the courtyard of Main St. in which the big flag gets lowered by the veteran(s) while the Disney World Band plays songs like the Star Spangled Banner. But enough talking, here's a video of the ceremony:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Music Review: Walt Disney World Band


Disney, as a company, is known for memorable music and the theme parks are no exception.

I can't even mention "It's A Small World" to you without it getting stuck in your head for the rest of the day (Sorry about that, by the way).

In recent years, Disney has realized that many of us would love to have these songs at home where we can listen to them and relive those memories whenever we want. The WDW Band CD is one of those realizations.

It is an interesting CD to release because a large portion of the songs are not Disney related and the ones that are related to Disney are older, less well known songs like the Mickey Mouse March and 'Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?"

As someone who didn't grow up with the Mickey Mouse Club or the Three Little Pigs and was never in the band, I wasn't sure that I would enjoy this CD.

Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised overall. The most important thing, I think, is that it transported me back to Main St. The style itself, but also the song selection were big factors in taking me back in time. Had the songs been from the more contemporary movies like Aladdin or Enchanted, I wouldn't get the feeling of being in a small town at the turn of the century.

If you enjoy older Disney classics, marching bands or you just want to go back in time and revisit Main St., this is a CD worth listening to.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Street Performers

I was watching a Disney World special on The Travel Channel one day where they followed a family around the parks throughout the day.

One morning at the Magic Kingdom they were stopped by some of the citizens of Main St. There's many of them walking around - from a singing quartet to the mayor himself.

My first thought was, "I would be so anxious if we got stopped by these guys. If we don't get to Splash Mountain now, we'll have to wait, like, four hours in line to ride it. Move along people."

But, as I thought about it more, I realized that these characters are an attraction in and of themselves and an experience not worth rushing past.

In reality, Splash Mountain will be open all day long and there are other ways and times you can ride it without waiting that long.

Yes, there is a huge castle at the end of Main St. pulling us towards it as if it had some magnetic ability, but I want to learn not to hurry so much. It is a vacation after all, and who knows what memories I could be missing out on by rushing from ride to ride.

Friday, April 6, 2012

On Souvenirs


Let's be honest, souvenirs can be a huge budget breaker. There is so much to choose from and, honestly, a lot of it is not that impressive or cheap.

One of the souvenirs that I have collected for years is the squashed penny (also quarters, dimes, I'm not picky). For .51 cents you can get a penny that has been pressed, elongated and imprinted with a design.

My dad has never been a big fan of them, I guess because they seem not very impressive. In his words, "Give me two quarters and a penny and I'll give you your penny back." My response has always been, "If you can do what those machines do with my penny, then sure, you can have two quarters."

I have over a hundred pennies from all over the country that I've been collecting for at least 15 years. That's just over $50 that I've spent on these souvenirs. So, instead of spending $5o per trip, I've spent that much since I was 10 years old. Which is another positive aspect to this particular collection - kids can afford it, literally, out of their pocket.

Part of the fun in collecting them is the hunt for penny machines, but if you want a general list of where they can be found at WDW you can check here and here.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Book Review: The Kingdom Keepers Series


The fifth installment of Ridley Pearson's Kingdom Keepers series came out yesterday so I thought this would be a good opportunity to bring them up.

The series follows a group of kids who, through the use of special technology, can enter the Disney parks at night.

They realize that the characters and attractions come alive at night (a la "Night at the Museum") which is all fun and games until they discover that the Disney villians, led by Maleficent, are trying to take over the parks.

Now they, with the help of the last imagineer to work with Walt himself, must find a way to stop them.

Overall, these books are wonderful. My biggest criticism of the books is that sometimes they can get repetitive. The kids repeat themselves often, reciting various rules or boundaries over and over. There is even a repetitive nature at the beginning of the books going back and explaining the who's and how's of what's going on. This is only a small criticism because I think this technique works well for kids books (of which this series qualifies) - but I'm not a kid, so the repetition becomes tedious after awhile.

That aside, these books are very well written and researched. Having been to the parks multiple times over the years, I can see, in my mind, where the Kingdom Keepers are throughout the parks. And I love that he brings in other Disney related topics, like the movies, the Disney Channel, even the old Virtual Magic Kingdom game.

I need to catch up (I'm reading number three right now), but I love how the characters are interacting with each other and growing.

I also love how this series can serve as a bookend to a Disney trip - at the beginning to get you and/or your kids excited about the trip or at the end to help you remember your time there. Finding creative ways to extend your vacation in either direction can be a really good way to experience more without paying more.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Avengorail

I am a big comic book/superhero fan and I cannot wait for May 4th when the Avengers opens. I was also really excited when I heard that WDW was going to wrap one of their monorails to promote the movie is the same way they did with Tron: Legacy.

If you're down there over the summer, be sure to check it out. Also, you can see it on the video below

Fun Fact: Because Universal has the rights to Marvel themed attractions east of the Mississippi for the next few years, Disney had to wrap one of the monorails that doesn't go through Epcot so that there wouldn't be any Marvel in the parks.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Video Saturdays - Dumbo the Flying Elephant at night

Here is a video of the new Dumbo ride in Storybook Circus. The colors are fantastic. I actually want to ride this ride now.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fastpass 101

I tried to explain the Fastpass system to my wife before we went to Disney, I really did. But she didn't buy it. For whatever reason, she didn't buy it until we were there utilizing the system. Then she became a believer.

Here is my attempt to do a better job of explaining what Fastpass is and how to use it.

Various rides throughout the theme parks (and now Character queues) have a Fastpass system attached to them. This means that, for those rides, you have the opportunity to basically cut in line and get on the rides quicker.

Go up to the designated kiosk, put your ticket in the slot and out comes your Fastpass. Your Fastpass will tell you what time you can return to ride. Disney has recently cracked down on sticking to that time slot. You have an hour available so it shouldn't be an issue but it is something to be aware of.

Quick Hits:
- Certain rides are best ridden with the use of a Fastpass (Soarin' and Toy Story Mania are two that come to mind)
- The other option for getting on a ride quicker is using the single rider line (currently, there are three rides that officially offer the single rider option: Expedition Everest, Rockin' Roller Coaster and Test Track)

Monday, March 26, 2012

On Flexibility and Planning Ahead

At our first meeting, I asked my friends which rides and attractions they most wanted to experience. I wanted to get a plan ready for our trip so we didn't waste time deciding what to do next.

One of the responses I got was, "Isn't part of the magic slowing down and not rushing around?"

My response: "If we're standing around admiring some details or hidden magic, that's one thing, but if we're standing around because we can't decide what to do next, we're wasting time."

We all know that Disney isn't cheap and I want you (and myself) to make the most of the short time we have in the parks.

So, I want to make a plan for us, especially because most in the group haven't been to the World ever, or for a long time.

I'm not going to give you my plan for two reasons: 1) I'm still working on it (our trip is planned for the Fall) and 2) My situation may different than yours. I'm encouraging you to plan ahead, not to do what I do.

I'm also encouraging you to be flexible. Something may catch someone in your party's eye that isn't on your schedule. Go with it. On our honeymoon, we walked by Peter Pan's Flights and my wife asked if we could ride it. When we talked about the trip before our wedding, it wasn't one she was interested in, but in the moment, she changed her mind.

So, we rode it. We still got to do everything we wanted to do that day, so it didn't really take anything away from our trip - it only enhanced it.

Do you plan ahead for your trips or do you go with the flow?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Video Saturday - Here Come the Muppets

In honor of the movie, The Muppets, being released this week (which, if you haven't seen yet, you should), I want to show the video of the first Muppet related attraction at Disney World.

Enjoy!


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Book Review: The Vault of Walt


This book is a weighty tome, both physically and with regards to the content. Coming in at over450 pages, this isn't a book you would want adding weight to the backpack you're carrying around the parks all day.

This is the book that you read in your hotel/resort room or by the pool or beach.

As far as the content goes, you'll be hard pressed to find a better collection of long lost stories and anecdotes ranging from Disney movies, to the parks, to Walt himself.

*Fun Fact: Contrary to popular belief, Cinderella doesn't actually have a horse on the prince's carrousel. That urban legend was probably created by cast members looking to make some kid's day more magical.

That's only the tip of the iceberg that Jim Korkis has to offer the Disney enthusiast.

The book's biggest draw is also it's biggest draw back. The sheer size and amount of information is not only slightly intimidating, it also makes for slow reading. You won't be breezing through this book.

The other positive about this book is how it is broken up into sections, with each chapter in the sections separate from each other. This allows you can pick and choose what you want to read about, instead of just reading from cover to cover.

Overall, I recommend this book, but be for-warned, neither this man nor his book are short winded. They have stories that need to be told and, by golly, they are going to tell them.

Monday, March 19, 2012

This Just In:


Agent P to replace Kim Possible as World Showcase resident secret agent.

Rumors were confirmed last week that a changing of the guard is happening this summer at Epcot. Teen secret agent, Kim Possible is soon to retire and in her place the semi-aquatic egg-laying mammal of action known as Agent P.

Possible began her role as protector in 2009, well after news of her previous exploits were becoming less frequent (a.k.a. the T.V. show was off the air and kids were already becoming unfamiliar with her)

Sources say that technology was another factor in the decision to replace Kim Possible with Agent P. Because technology is constantly changing and improving, bringing in a new agent allows the imagineers opportunities for better tech.

I'm sure that kids of all ages will be excited about the upcoming changes. I look forward to seeing them myself.

For further information check out the official announcement from Disney Parks.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Where I've Been plus a Review of John Carter


My wife and I have taken a short break from blogging while we focus on unpacking our stuff from our recent move. Hopefully we will be back online in a week or so, but I wanted to give everyone an update.

I also wanted to share my thoughts on the movie John Carter. Let's be honest, based on what we saw leading up to the movie, we were promised another generic Sci-Fi movie. Nothing in the promotional material (trailers, posters, etc...) let us in on what was actually taking place - both on and off screen.

Off screen - Don't let anyone tell you that John Carter is ripping off popular Sci-Fi franchises like Star Wars or Avatar. John Carter is based on a series of novels written in the early nineteen hundreds and is considered the grandfather of Sci-Fi. If anything, these popular franchises are ripping off John Carter.
*Fun Fact: 2012 actually marks the 100th anniversary of when the first John Carter story was published.

On screen - First of all, the movie is beautiful. The settings and characters wonderfully created. I'm not a music person so I can't speak to that aspect except to say that it never distracts from what's happening on screen. The characters are intriguing. They have found a happy medium between being overly complex and simple archetypes.

The story is very well developed. Any time I sit through a movie and don't look at my watch at some point I count as a success. I won't give anything a way, but the twist at the end was well done.

Disney dropped the ball when getting the word out on the movie, but if it fails at the box office, it won't be because it is a bad movie.

Hopefully, I be back blogging soon, but until then, go see John Carter and tell me what you think.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Movies to Watch - World Showcase

Continuing my series for movies that can enhance your experiences in the parks, as well as preparing for my trip to Epcot this summer, here are some movies that are, in some way, related to the World Showcase

Working clockwise around the lagoon starting with Mexico:
Saludos Amigos
The Three Caballeros
Walt and El Grupo (This one is a documentary on the trip to Latin America that spawned the above two films.)
The Emperor's New Groove

Norway:
Thor

China:
Mulan

Germany:
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Italy:
Pinocchio
Cars 2 (This movie can work for multiple countries - i.e. the U.K. and Japan)

The American Adventure:
National Treasure (1 & 2)
Captain America
Pocahontas

Japan:
Any of the Studio Ghibli (Ponyo, Tales from Earthsea, The Secret World of Arrietty, etc..)

Morocco:
Aladdin

France:
Beauty and the Beast
Ratatouille
The Aristocats

The United Kingdom:
101 Dalmations
Mary Poppins
The Great Mouse Detective
Peter Pan
The Sword and the Stone
The Chronicles of Narnia
Alice in Wonderland
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Winnie the Pooh

Are there any movies that you would add?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Retro Videos - "Raiders of the Lost Temple of Doom"

In 2010, Disney celebrated both Celebration V and the Last Tour to Endor by doing a crossover event with their Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular and Star Wars. This video is the end result. Enjoy...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Characters Welcome

For everyone who brings their kids to Disney (and for some of those who don’t) getting photos and/or autographs from your favorite Disney characters is a must. There are so many ways to meet these guys that it can get overwhelming or you end up spending your entire afternoon standing in line for one character.

I’m here to help.

A character meal is a more intimate way of meeting the characters. The characters make sure to spend quality time with each table so you don’t feel rushed. The downside is the expense. Meals at Disney aren’t cheap to begin with and you will pay even more than that to eat it with a princess or a mouse.

I won’t give you a list of the many character meal options here (instead I’ll give you a link) but I will tell you my suggestion would be to check out the meals outside of the parks as they will probably be less crowded (again, this is Disney so “less crowded” is a relative concept).

Another fun way to meet characters is to go to one of the meet and greet areas. More and more, Disney is just using a space for a meet and greet, but creating a meet and greet area. Meeting Buzz and Woody in Pixar Place at the Studios is a good example of this. The Town Square Theater where you can meet Mickey and Minnie is another example. A less extravagant example is the Phineas and Ferb meet and greet area at the Studios.

The Studios is also a great place to meet characters from the latest Disney movies. The Magic of Disney Animation has an area especially for new characters. On our honeymoon, my wife and I went to see Up in theaters on opening night. The next day at Hollywood Studios we stumbled upon this area and were able to get pictures with Carl and Dug.

There is also a great place to meet Mickey in this place too. Also, because this is kind of out of the way and because The Magic of Disney Animation isn’t a gate buster attraction, the lines don’t get too long, even the one for Mickey.

The last piece of advice is to not underestimate Epcot as a great place to meet your favorite characters. Innoventions West is home to the Epcot Character Spot is a great place to meet the Fab Five plus a few more classic characters like Chip N’ Dale. World Showcase is another hidden gem when searching for characters. On our honeymoon, we stumbled upon Pooh and his friends in a back room in the UK.


What stories do you have in your searching for various characters? Where have you seen that one that you couldn’t wait to meet?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Movie Review - Meet the Robinsons


"Meet the Robinsons" came out during the era when Disney erroneously thought that computer-generated movies were the way of the future. They concluded, based on Pixar's growing popularity and Disney's 2-D ventures losing numbers, that audiences didn't want tradition 2-D animation anymore (in reality, audiences didn't want bad stories and "cheap-quels" anymore, but that's a rant for another post).

Disney's CG movies didn't fair much better than their previous 2-D brethren. None of them are bad, but there are no classic movies from that era.

What does this have to do with Disney Parks? I'm glad you asked.

While is doesn't hold a candle to movies like "Aladdin" or "The Lion King", "Meet the Robinsons" is one of the better movies that Disney came out with during this time. And, as an added bonus, it almost perfectly reflects the theme and feel of Tomorrowland. I almost expected to hear "There's A Great, Big, Beautiful Tomorrow" somewhere in the movie.

The whimsical and hopeful side of looking toward the future is present in both the movie and the land (Also, the overt reference to Tomorrowland only increases my thoughts on this).

The movie had wonderful characters and a twist ending that leaves you with that aforementioned hopeful feeling for the future.

Integrating this story into Tomorrowland should have been a no-brainer, but I guess, lack of response from the audience killed any hope for seeing these two entities merge together.

What do you think? Did you like “Meet the Robinsons”? Do you agree with my connection to Tomorrowland? How could the movie and the characters have been integrated into the land?

Friday, February 10, 2012

It's All In The Details - Cinderella's Fountain

There is a magical moment in Fantasyland that can be easily missed.

As you pass through the castle from Main St. and emerge into Fantasyland you will see a water fountain right in front of a statue of Cinderella.


It's a hot day in Florida so go on over and refresh yourself. As you meander over, notice the decorations on the wall behind Cindy. Do you see the crown floating over her head?

As you are bending over ("bowing down" in front of the princess) to get your drink, look up again. The crown is now on Cinderella's head!


*Fun Fact* - It may be hard to get your kids to see this trick as they are already on the level to see the crowned princess. They don't need to "bow down" because, of course, children don't have to bow down to royalty.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Movies to Watch - Future World

The trip with my friends in the fall will actually be the second trip to Disney that my wife and I have planned. The first trip is this summer with my parents and brother.

We are planning on spending some time at Epcot so I figured that I would take some time to make a list of the movies that relate (both directly and indirectly) to the park.

First up: Future World

Animated Movies -
Finding Nemo (This is fairly obvious since there is a pavilion called "The Seas with Nemo and Friends")

Live Action Movies -
Iron Man
Iron Man 2
Captain America (These movies, especially the second two, make reference to "Stark Expo" which is a clear reference to the World's Fair, of which Future World takes its inspiration from as well.)*

The Cat From Outer Space (My wife suggested this one because of its Sci-Fi nature and because it was one of her favorites as a kid)
Tron
Tron: Legacy (Again, no direct correlation to Future World except for its Sci-Fi nature. However, *Fun Fact* - There were plans for a Flynn's Arcade to open in Future World at one point)

*(The Avengers movies aren't technically Disney in that they weren't made by Disney, but they are technically Disney in that Marvel Studios is owned by Disney)