Archive for December, 2009

WDW Today Episode 662 – Listener Questions

by on December 30, 2009

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Episode 662 of WDW Today is now available for download here.

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Samland Goes to The Studios: Hollywood Boulevard

by on December 28, 2009

Samland is back with another quick look at a land within the parks. This week I feature Hollywood Boulevard at the Studios. An illustrated version of this story is available on Samland’s Disney Adventures.

In 1989, Michael Eisner proclaimed that Walt Disney World’s third gate would be dedicated to Hollywood “not a place on a map, but a state of mind” and “a Hollywood that never was – and always will be”. This would be a much smaller park then the Magic Kingdom or Epcot and the Imagineers wanted to capture Disneyland’s “human scale, warmth, and feeling”. The hub-and-spoke layout is like Disneyland and instead of a Castle at the end of the street; you get a full-size reproduction of Grauman’s Chinese Theater (1927) that’s blocked by giant hat.

 

Inspired by the early filmmakers who used Los Angeles as the background for their movies, the Imagineers use real building facades and billboards to tell the story of the mythical Hollywood of our collective consciousness. For the architecture, the Imagineers apply a design trick called “shrink and edit” that takes a real building for inspiration and then they can change the scale, color or detail to support the story. Hollywood Boulevard is filled with such examples.

 

Your adventure starts as you pass through a reproduction of the Streamline Moderne Pan-Pacific Auditorium, Hollywood’s primary convention center from 1935 to 1972. The entry plaza is at the intersection of Hollywood and Prospect Avenue. The central building is the Crossroad building (1936), which is a tribute to an early LA mini-mall. It is topped by a 5’3” Mickey whose ear is a lightning rod.

 

Sid Cahuenga’s One-of-a-Kind shop is an example of the California Bungalow and it is inspired by the true story of the Janes House in which a homeowner on Hollywood Boulevard held out and a mall developer just built around him. Other buildings include an electric substation (1907) from Culver City that is now a performance space, the Blaine Building (1926), a J.J. Newberry (1928), a bank on Wilshire Boulevard (1929), the Chapman Market (1929), Max Factor Building (1931), Owl Drug Store (1933), the Darkroom (1938), and many, many others. A highlight is The Hollywood Brown Derby (1929), which is a treasure inside and out.

 

The two billboards at the entrance establish the architectural timeframe for Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards as well as Echo Lake (1923-1945). The Hollywoodland billboard refers to a subdivision that opened in 1923, the same the year Walt Disney moved to Hollywood. Adjacent is a billboard for the 1945 Hollywood Canteen, a Hollywood oasis for soldiers fighting in World War II.

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WDW Today Episode 661 – WDWToday’s Excellent American Adventure (Pt. 2)

by on December 28, 2009

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Episode 661 of WDW Today is now available for download here.

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WDW Today Episode 660 – Listener Questions

by on December 23, 2009

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Episode 660 of WDW Today is now available for download here.

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Christmas Trip Report Part II

by on December 22, 2009

If you missed my ramblings about the first part of my trip you can check it out here! Plus I added pictures so check them out!  Today I’ll share the details on the second half of my trip.

subjects 205On Thursday our friend Don joined us for some fun at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  We met up with him after taking the boat from the Boardwalk and headed off to hit some of our favorite attractions around DHS.  In the afternoon we took a break to walk over to Boardwalk and try out the Big River Grill.  I’m sure I’ll write more about this restaurant in another post, but it was pretty good pub grub and the beer was lovely.  We decided to wander around the area to check out the Christmas decorations at the Yacht and Beach Clubs while we were close by.  Since I love all things nautical I really enjoyed our time wandering around these resorts.  After our break, it was back to the Studios to use our fastpasses for Toy Story Mania, hit a few other attractions, and see the Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights.  However, there had been some light rain that day and it apparently did a number on the lights.  A good number of them were out and after the first dance upon being switched on, it was announced that they would not dance again.  We’ve seen them several times before so we took it in stride and headed out of the park.  We had intentions of going to Jellyrolls, but never quite made it.

subjects 207On Friday we moved over to Pop Century.  Don was nice enough to pick us up at Boardwalk and bring us and our luggage over to Pop.  We grabbed some breakfast at Everything Pop before heading to Epcot.  We rode the usual attractions in Future World before heading to World Showcase for the rest of the day.  We returned to Le Cava del Tequila in the Mexico pavilion to sample some other goodies off their menu.  This time I went for the margarita flight which includes samplings of five of the bar’s margaritas.  I liked some better than others, but it was a great way to try most of their menu.  We saw other folks eating off of the tapas menu and it looked tasty, but we had lunch outside before coming into the bar.  After exploring WS for the afternoon, we watched the Candlelight Processional standing at the back of the theater.  The narrator that night was Whoopi Goldberg and she did a great job!  Shortly after it was time to check out Illuminations for the third time that week!  There were extra magic hours at Epcot that night, but we were all too tired to stay so we headed back to Pop Century.

Saturday morning started off with getting Julie transferred over to the Fort Wilderness Cabins.  Her family would be joining the group that day and they opted to try the cabins.  She reported several folks were begging to be able to stay an extra night or two so they wouldn’t have to drive their motor homes back in the snow storms hitting the Northeast.  After getting her settled in we headed toward Magic Kingdom.  Whoa was it crowded!  It was a mob scene at the Ticket and Transportation Center so we decided the buses running from TTC to the MK gate were the best option.  After getting through the long security lines and up a very crowded Main Street, we headed to Tomorrowland to grab fastpasses for Space Mountain.  We decided to take it easy that day and focus on doing attractions with high capacity and generally small queues.  I had never been there when it was this crowded and it was hard to handle for a first timer.

tta1The main reason we headed to Magic Kingdom that day was to see Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade and Holiday Wishes.  We staked out a spot for the parade early and watched in on the hub.  I’m glad I got to see it without paying for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party this year.  Shortly after the parade Julie’s family arrived and it was so nice to meet people I’ve heard about for the last few years!  We hung out with them the rest of the day and tried to take in as many attractions as possible.  When it came time to see Holiday Wishes it was so crowded we couldn’t get onto Main Street!  We opted to watch from the front of Chrystal Palace restaurant instead.  After the fireworks we hung out to let some of the congestion clear out before hitting a few more attractions and calling it a night.

On Sunday Tom and I got up and got packed up to make the journey home.  I have to say the folks working at the airline check in desk at Pop Century were very helpful to all of us weary northeastern travelers.  As you may have heard on the news, the northeast got hit hard by a snow storm on Saturday.  Many families were stranded in Florida after getting up to two feet of snow back home!  The woman who helped me made sure my flight was still scheduled and I heard several others explaining what would happen should a flight be canceled.  Kudos to those CMs!  After getting checked in we hopped on the bus to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  The traffic to get into the parking lot was crazy!  After we finally got into the park we met up with our friend Adam as well as Julie and her family.  They wanted to get fastpasses for Toy Story Mania, but Tom and I would be leaving for the airport during the reported return time so we opted out.  We wandered around the very crowded park for a little while and decided to try the single rider line at Rockin’ Roller Coaster.  We got in the queue, but after standing in it for a little while a cast member let us know it would be at least an hour long wait from where we were standing.  No thanks!  We hopped out of line and headed to Star Tours which had a posted 30 minute wait, but it was actually about 10 minutes.

After Star Tours it was time to head to Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge for lunch.  We had a lot of fun and the food was great as usual!  At this point we said our goodbyes to all of our friends we had dined with since they either headed back to the parks or home to get ready for the work week.  Tom and I decided not to head to a park after lunch since we would have to get on Disney’s Magical Express in a couple of hours.  One of our friends gave us a ride back to Pop Century to hang out for a little while before starting the very long journey home.

Now it’s always rough to leave WDW, but this particular trip home was made worse by airport delays and angry passengers aboard my flight.  Although the runways in Newark had been cleared of the ice and snow, air traffic was backed up all over the Mid-Atlantic and New England.   My flight was listed as being on time for most of the day and then shortly before I boarded the Magical Express bus, it was pushed back an hour and a half.  I was sort of expecting this to happen, so I wasn’t too upset.  Luckily Tom was headed to the airport at the same time for his flight back to England so we could keep each other company.  While we were hanging out my flight got further delayed and was now slated to leave at 9:15 pm.  The situation was bit annoying, but understandable given the conditions.  The time to board rolled around, and the flight crew did not call upon us to get on the plane.  There was no announcement about what was happening until almost an hour later!  It appeared our first officer (co-pilot) for the flight was among the missing.  Jet Blue had no idea where he was and no idea when we’d be able to leave.  After telling us they would update us every 15 minutes, another 45 minutes went by before they announced they had called in a replacement first officer.  However, he had a two hour window in which to show up and no one knew when that would be.  Needless to say, at this point people were getting pretty upset (us Jersians can be a tough crowd).  Eventually a replacement arrived with applause and cheering.  We finally got on the plan around 11 p.m. and didn’t land back in Newark until about 2 a.m.  I spent about 11 hours in transit.  I have to thank my dad for never complaining about having to come get me at the airport at 2 in the morning!  I suppose I should count myself lucky since the same flight on Saturday was canceled all together, but it was still a long night.

This entry is going to do it for me for this year.  I’m going to take the next week and a half or to off the enjoy the Christmas season with my family and friends and catch up on everything I put off while I was in WDW!  I want to take this opportunity to wish all of the touringplans.com readers and staff the happiest of holidays and a wonderful new year!   I also want to say thank you for reading and leaving such great comments in my first year of blogging!  See you in 2010!

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WDW Today Episode 659 – WDWToday’s Excellent American Adventure

by on December 21, 2009

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Episode 659 of WDW Today is now available for download here.

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Crowds Larger Than Expected This Pre-Christmas

by on December 21, 2009

Maybe Santa brought a few families an early Christmas vacation.

Crowds this week have been higher than expected, much more than the 7s we predicted on the Crowd Calendar.  We’re seeing some posted wait times at popular attractions like Space Mountain and Toy Story Midway Mania in the mid-hundreds. If you are in the parks and experiencing these types of crowds let us know. Are these peak wait times the result of massive crowds or conditions with the attractions themselves? We’d like to hear.

It may be that the holiday festivities (Holiday Wishes, Holiday Parades, etc.) are bringing out the locals in large numbers. We historically don’t see a spike in wait times until the 24th of December so this week’s wait times have caught us off guard. We’re in the process of updating the Crowd Calendar and so it will be likely that the estimates for the next few days will go up.

Stay tuned…

 

Crowd Calendar updated December 21st. Crowds in the parks are stable but shut downs at Space Mountain are driving wait times artificially high.  Our advice is to use Fastpass whenever possible for Spac Mountain since it is shutting down an average of 1-2 times a day.

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Two Guys, 55 Attractions, 11 Hours and 38 Minutes

by on December 19, 2009

On Monday Dec. 14th, Fred and me managed to break the Ultimate Magic Kingdom Touring Plan record and experience 55 unique attractions in the Magic Kingdom in one day.

Here are the stats: it took us 11 hours and 38 minutes to hit 55 attractions in the Magic Kingdom, including every operating ride, show, parade, and live performance. To put this in perspective, according to our reader surveys, average families experience 12 to 16 attractions on a given day. We averaged one attraction every 12.7 minutes, with our average wait time less than 2 minutes and average time between attractions less than 3 minutes.

The day included, but was not limited to, a 15 minute stay on Tom Sawyer’s Island (complete with visit to Fort Langhorn), meeting one Princess (Aurora), a chat with a talking trashcan, a rousing rendition of Jingle Bells on a horse drawn carriage, two Dole Whips, three parades, two sprints through the Main St. shops to avoid parade traffic, two shows with fireworks (Wishes, Dream Along with Mickey castle show), three arcade games (Frontierland Shootin’ Gallery, Shrunken Ned’s Junior Jungle Boats, and a fiercely competitive game of 25 cent Junior Hoops at the Tomorrowland Arcade), two grown men in one Indy Speedway car, and five FASTPASSes.

How — and why? — did we do this? Well, in planning we combined experience gained from previous attempts (I’m crazy enough to have done this twice before) with Fred’s well known statistical prowess. Our main strategy was to focus on shows that run continuously with no set schedule (WDW Railroad, Country Bear Jamboree, Hall of Presidents, etc) while relying on FASTPASS to experience headliners (Space, Splash, Big Thunder Mountain, Jungle Cruise, and Buzz Lightyear). This strategy enabled us to see continuous shows early and only when they were about to start. We also dedicated our first hour to getting through particularly problematic attractions: Dumbo, Peter Pan’s Flight, Astro Orbiter, and the Main St. Vehicles (never underestimate the Main St. Vehicles).

Here is a spreadsheet with our exact list and times. And here’s the order of attractions we completed:

  1. Magic Kingdom Welcome
  2. Dumbo
  3. Peter Pan’s Flight
  4. Astro Orbiter
  5. Main Street Vehicles
  6. Toontown Hall of Fame
  7. Barnstormer
  8. Winnie the Pooh
  9. Haunted Mansion
  10. WDW Railroad – Frontierland
  11. Hall of Presidents
  12. Tom Sawyer Island
  13. Fort Langhorn
  14. Shooting Gallery
  15. Storytime with Belle
  16. Country Bear Jamboree
  17. Jungle Boats
  18. Swiss Family Treehouse
  19. Liberty Belle Riverboat
  20. Monsters Inc Comedy Club
  21. Glassblowing Demonstration
  22. Tiana’s Showboat Jubilee
  23. Big Thunder
  24. Splash Mountain
  25. Tiki Birds Under New Management
  26. Celebrate A Dream Come True Parade
  27. Pirate Tutorial
  28. Push the Trash Can
  29. Space Mountain
  30. Tomorrowland Arcade
  31. Stitch’s Great Escape
  32. Carousel of Progress
  33. Exposition Hall
  34. Flag Retreat
  35. Buzz Lightyear
  36. Dream Along With Mickey
  37. Snow White
  38. Street Party
  39. Cinderella’s Carrousel
  40. Ariel’s Grotto
  41. Pooh’s Playful Spot
  42. Minnie’s House
  43. Mickey’s House
  44. Donald’s Boat
  45. Cinderella’s Holiday Wish
  46. Mad Tea Party
  47. Philharmagic
  48. It’s a Small World
  49. SpectroMagic
  50. Pirates of the Caribbean
  51. Jungle Cruise
  52. Tomorrowland Transit Authority
  53. Wishes
  54. Tomorrowland Indy Speedway
  55. Kiss Goodnight

And here’s a slideshow of the day’s photos, including a picture of Fred and I on every single attraction. Click here to view on Flickr with captions.

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WDW Today Episode 658 – Reunion Recap

by on December 18, 2009

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Episode 658 of WDW Today is now available for download here.

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Updated: Yes, Virginia, There Is A New Discount Coming Out on December 21

by on December 17, 2009

DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
“Some of my little friends say there is no new discount coming out on December 21.
“Papa says, ‘If you see it in TouringPlans.com it’s so.’
“Please tell me the truth; is there a new discount coming out on the 21st?

- Virginia

Yes, Virginia, there is a new discount coming out on December 21. It exists as certainly as Buzz and Woody and Belle exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no discounts! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no Splash Mountain, no Tower of Terror to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in discounts! You might as well not believe in fairies!

[Note: In keeping with Bob Iger's recent statements about 2010 discounts we don't expect this discount to be as steep as Buy-4-Get-3-Free or Buy-5-Get-2-Free.

Update: We hear there's a five-day minimum. Travel dates are January 3 through June 3, 2010. Those who stay at value resorts will get a $300 gift card. Moderate resorts get a $500 gift card. Deluxes get a $750 gift card. Blackout dates are March 28 through April 10, 2010. There's limited availability.]

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