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?