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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! August 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on August 31, 2016

MMM positiveWelcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando.

The Disney Outlets: the true final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Testa, beginning year four of our five-year mission: to explore strange old stores, to seek out weird merchandise and ugly vinylmation, to boldly buy what no MagicBand has bought before.

We actually have a big surprise this month at the end of this fine blog, but we do have to start off with a little theme park news. Universal soft opened an E-Ticket restaurant – the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen (imagine a T-Rex Cafe for adults except the food is actually good) – and was promptly sued by someone claiming the restaurant was their idea. Some are claiming this is the most frivolous lawsuit against Universal since 2013, when the landmark case of Burgan vs. Comcast unjustly ruled that just because I said, “they should build more Harry Potter” after visiting Hogsmeade Village, I wasn’t responsible for the creation of Diagon Alley. I blame my lawyer.

Now while all of you were tweeting your thoughts on Disney changing the “obscene hand gesture” in Rock n Roller Coaster (warning, NSFW!) Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo and I were hard at work to bring you the quality Outlet coverage you expect deserve!

Enough jibber jabber! Who is ready to hit the Outlets? Remember that clicking on any picture will open a full size version of it (don’t say we didn’t warn you.)

Prices were SLASHED this month on Tsum Tsums, marking them down to an unheard of $0.99. This of course brought out the merch jerks in droves, filling up their baskets with Tsums to flip.

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The infamous Mother Gothel Tsum Tsum (I think.)

I honestly thought we had seen every single piece of merchandise made for the Disneyland 60th Anniversary and yet more and more just keep coming to Outlets. Here is a Dapper Mickey photo clip Frame. Originally $14.95, now $7.99.

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Thank you Disneyland annual passholders, for not buying a single piece of merchandise and making me go through it all. Yes, I’m looking in your direction Tom Bricker, Guy Selga, and Matt Gottula.

Disneyland 60th iPhone 6 case on left. Originally $39.95, now $14.99. On the right is a Minnie Mouse one where the character is stuck on the case. Has a lot of thickness. Originally $39.95, now just $7.99.

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iPhone cases.

Some houses have “fine china” but we theme park fans know what our favorite dinnerware is. The smaller Disneyland 60th plate was originally $17.95, now $7.99. The larger one was originally $21.95, now $9.99.

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If author extraordinaire Seth Kubersky ever gets married, I volunteer for the Ashkenazi tradition to break these plates (and as many more as they’ll let me.)

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Adding Extra Disney Magic: Tinker Bell Gifts

by on August 24, 2016

Tinker Bell Gifts

Tinker Bell Gifts

Imagine with me, if you will, a parent’s paradise in Walt Disney World. No, not that one where you ditch the kids and head over to the Adventurers Club at Pleasure Island (RIP). The other one. The one where the kids wake up bright and early, brimming with excitement to start their day. No whining about getting up early for rope drop, no nagging for that $16 autograph pen from the gift shop, and absolutely no fighting between siblings. Sound too good to be true? Maybe. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to aim high! So let’s talk about how Tinker Bell gifts can not only encourage good behavior but also add an extra touch of Disney magic while simultaneously helping you save money on souvenirs.

Note from Tinker Bell

Note from Tinker Bell

What are they?

For those who haven’t heard of them, Tinker Bell gifts are small presents you leave in the room for the kids in your group. They can be left overnight for discovery in the morning (like a Disney version of Santa), or if you can find a way to sneak back into the room without the kids noticing, you can leave them as a surprise for when they return from the parks. Typically, the gifts are accompanied by a note explaining the gift and who gave it.

Though they are called Tinker Bell gifts by most people, if you think the child(ren) in your party would be more excited about a letter from Rey (Star Wars) thanking them for their help with the Resistance than a note from Tinker Bell, then this is the time to get creative. Personally, I like to leave a note that includes four things: a quick mention of the fun from the prior day, an itinerary for the current day, an explanation of the gift, and a reminder to be well behaved. On a recent trip with younger relatives of mine, each note was written by a different character and tied into whatever the kids would be doing at the parks that day.

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! July 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on July 31, 2016

MMM positiveWelcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. How long? Today marks the THREE YEAR ANNIVERSARY! What started out as a simple $1 bet between Len Testa and Laurel Stewart to see if they could take a simple Florida blogger and turn him into a two time runDisney medal winner/PizzaMania champion, has transformed into what many would consider the 9th Wonder of the Modern World (in terms of “people wonder why we keep writing it.”) The best rags-to-riches story this side of Cinderella, our monthly treks into Orlando’s Disney Outlet Stores have provided highs and lows (and then even more lows) in order to deliver you, Dear Reader, a glimpse into a world which very few have lived long enough to tell about. A sincere thank you to each and every one of you for taking the time to read this little article. Except Tom Bricker, of course.

Also, in an unbelievable gesture, we have been swamped with “congratulations” messages and telegrams from people around the globe and we’re going to print some of them here, so keep your eye out!

Now while all of you were saying goodbye to Dateline Disneyland (we’ll miss you Andy!) Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo and I were hard at work to bring you the quality Outlet coverage you expect deserve!

Enough jibber jabber! Who is ready to hit the Outlets? Remember that clicking on any picture will open a full size version of it (don’t say we didn’t warn you.)

As always we start off with any new Tsum Tsums and this month we only had one. I spent a couple seconds trying to figure out which Star Wars character it might be until realizing it was Black Widow from The Avengers. All Tsums have been reduced to $2.99.

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Black Widow Tsum Tsum, but doesn’t that look like a lightsaber on her side?!

This is interesting. Last month I made a slight “faux pas” and identified the Mother Gothel Tsum Tsum as MULAN. All of a sudden, for the first time ever, a TSUM TSUM GUIDE FOR DUMMIES appeared showing people who each Tsum Tsum was and what movie they were from. I’m not 100% sure you can all blame my accidental racism for this chart, but I’m also too old to believe in coincidences.

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Tsum Tsum For Dummies.

Speaking of things I don’t understand…

POKEMON AT THE DISNEY OUTLET STORE!

We wrote about Pokemon Go this week in the SATURDAY SIX (go ahead and read that masterpiece, don’t worry, we’ll be here when you get back) and honestly, the game makes absolutely no sense to me. Then again neither did “on fleek,”  gluten free desserts, or Universal’s Straight Outta Food Truck. For those of you who do play Pokemon Go, you’ll be glad to know you can catch various Pokemon at the Disney Outlets!

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Pokemon Go! at the Disney Outlet Store. Reports are that people are going all around the globe to catch Pokemon but many are just catching the Zika virus. (photo by Julia Mascardo)

Was a little surprised to see these Magic Kingdom salt and pepper trashcans make their way to the Outlets. Originally $9.99, now $3.99 and I picked up the Frontierland and Fantasyland ones. This is one of those 50% bonkers/50% absolutely awesome items. Going to try to slip these into the rotation for our next dinner party and wait for one of my non-Disney neighbors to ask which garbage can has the salt.

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Would have paid extra for the “Talking Push” variant.

Pretty sure this is the first appearance of a SHELLIE MAY item at the Outlets. This pillow pet was originally $29.95, now $9.99 and yes, I bought one. My secret shame.

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WE WANT GELATONI ITEMS!!

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We LOVE Disney’s Hollywood Studios

by on July 9, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Reasons We LOVE Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This July we’re celebrating Walt Disney World here on the SATURDAY SIX. While we looked at Animal Kingdom last week, today we’re going to turn our gaze over to the park which many insiders agree was created solely as a preemptive strike against the upcoming Universal Studios Florida, the one and only Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

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Disney’s Hollywood Studios. (photo by Brian Carey)

Right now Hollywood Studios is in the middle of a transition stage, as two mammoth properties in Star Wars and Pixar’s Toy Story have begun their major expansion inside the park. However, Hollywood Studios still contains some of the most unique dining experiences in any Disney park, amazing streetmosphere, several of WDW’s most thrilling attractions, and two of the best nighttime spectaculars in Florida. In short, we love Hollywood Studios. But what do we love most about this park? Well, sit back, grab a carrot cake cookie , and let’s start our countdown with…

# 6 – The Citizens of Hollywood

The dedication plaque for Hollywood Studios (originally known as Disney-MGM Studios) includes a line from former Disney CEO Michael Eisner that reads: “We welcome you to a Hollywood that never was – and always will be.” The dedication also refers to the park channeling classic Hollywood as a state of mind, rather than trying to pinpoint a specific time and place. Nowhere is this more evident than the incredible Citizens of Hollywood who roam the thoroughfare of the park. Completely committed to their particular character, the Citizens of Hollywood are an improvisational comedy troupe who have a lot of fun with guests and every interaction is unique. You’ll find policemen writing tickets, aspiring starlets auditioning for their big role, maintenance crews stumbling around a job, and much more. The Citizens, along with the evocative theming of both Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard, combine to wonderfully recreate the Tinseltown none of us ever knew but always imagined. Quality streetsmosphere such as the Dapper Dans at the Magic Kingdom or The Citizens in Hollywood Studios separate Disney from all their competitors, as no one else can even approach this high level of show.

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Citizen of Hollywood, Evie Starlight. (photo by Brian Carey)

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Ben Appetit and Dara Vamp. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Dining values at Walt Disney World

by on July 5, 2016

As much as we all enjoy eating at Walt Disney World, you can find yourself feeling sticker shock when the wait staff brings your bill (unless you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, where the sticker shock comes well before your trip).

But, don’t fret. I’m here to help and to tell you that, yes, dining values can still be found on Disney property. Here are a few of my picks for great meals, snacks and drinks on a budget. This doesn’t mean that these are necessarily the least expensive items, but rather the best items and experience for the price. If you’re on the dining plan, you’ll likely want to go for the most expensive item you can get with your credit, but if you’re paying out-of-pocket for food, this list is for you.

Share your thoughts in the comments, along with your picks for dining values.

Table Service Appetizer: Bread Service with all 9 Accompaniments at Sanaa, $13.99

Sanaa Bread Service with all 9 Accompaniments

Sanaa Bread Service with all 9 Accompaniments

This one lives up to its reputation as a unique, filling appetizer that will satisfy multiple people. First, Sanaa, the table service restaurant at Animal Kingdom Villas Kidani Village, is an outstanding value overall with unique cuisine, beautiful decor and animals wandering just outside the restaurant. The bread service is simple in concept, but complex in flavor. You get a variety of freshly made naan bread to enjoy with dipping sauces arranged in order of spiciness. One version of the bread service comes with three sauces, but we recommend getting the full nine, which is a mere $2.50 upcharge. This is also one dish where the restaurant actually increased the portion. In 2014, when the photo above was taken, we were given three pieces of naan, but when we returned a year later, it came with five pieces of naan, which makes this an appetizer that can be comfortably shared among a table of four.

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! June 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on June 30, 2016

MMM positiveWelcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. We’re now officially into the Summer season here in Orlando and that usually means a whole bunch of new stuff  is available to satisfy the hordes of families coming from around the world. Universal soft opened its Skull Island: Reign of Kong  attraction. How to describe Kong? Well, think of your favorite family friendly attraction. Now think of what the complete opposite of that would be. However Skull Island wasn’t the only queue that brought grown adults to tears as Frozen Ever After officially opened in Epcot and had 300 minute waits. Now, 300 minutes doesn’t sound that bad until you work out how many hours that actually is. Five hours. FIVE HOURS.  In five hours you could fly from Orlando to Anaheim, start and almost finish a runDisney marathon, or build two meth labs at Disney’s Pop Century Resort.

The new Frozen attraction wasn’t the only thing new at Epcot as the Royal Sommerhus meet and greet with Anna and Elsa opened with a wonderful tribute to Maelstrom, and we also had the new Soarin’ Around the World to replace the old Soarin’ Around Scratch Marks and Dust Bunnies. Many guests are raving about the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular fireworks show at DHS, and SeaWorld opened the first ever hyper coaster in Orlando with Mako. With a staggering height of 200 feet and speeds up to 73 mph, you could ride Mako approximately 32,000 times while waiting in line for Frozen Ever After.

Now while all of you were reading the Shanghai Disneyland etiquette guide – reminding guests, among other things, not to use the landscaping as an outhouse – Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo and I were hard at work to bring you the quality Outlet coverage you expect deserve!

Enough jibber jabber! Who is ready to hit the Outlets? Remember that clicking on any picture will open a full size version of it (don’t say we didn’t warn yo

It has been a long time but new Tsum Tsums finally showed up, including these three from the Tangled line. Here are Maximus, Pascal, and Rapunzel.  All Tsums are $2.99 and I always buy one of each.

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Tangled Tsums.

Also new was this Mulan Tsum Tsum. EDIT: The comments section suggests this is Mother Gothel from Tangled, which much more sense

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Got me.

I was this close to buying this really long gator plush. At least I think it’s a gator. Originally $26.95, now $14.99.

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Reptile 2695 1499

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! April 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on April 30, 2016

MMM positiveWelcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. Because the last day of April this year ends on a Saturday, the rarest of all birds at the TouringPlans blog can be seen: a daily double of the SATURDAY SIX and the Outlet Report! This week’s SATURDAY SIX is on the Walt Disney World locations used in Hulk Hogan’s Thunder in Paradise TV show is one Your Humble Author has wanted to write for a long, loooooong time, so I hope you enjoy it.

So what happened in the theme park world this past month? Disney started the After Hours event at the Magic Kingdom and sold so few tickets that the movie Mars Needs Moms was heard laughing. Disney has already cut the price of After Hours tickets in half for Annual Passholders and DVC members, and the party is a true value when compared to the $1700 photo shoot available out in Cars Land. Unfortunately The Earful Tower, one of my all time favorite WDW park icons, has made it’s way to the Disney Dump joining about out half of DHS. Goodbye Earful Tower, you will be missed, and we’ll see you later this year in our special In Memoriam article.

Now while all of you were out yelling at American Airlines’ gate agents about missing your Disney Cruise, Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo and I were hard at work to bring you the quality Outlet coverage you expect deserve!

Enough jibber jabber! Who is ready to hit the Outlets? Remember that clicking on any picture will open a full size version of it (don’t say we didn’t warn you).

The first item I’ve been waiting for ever since they showed up at the regular Disney stores just about two years ago. These hats where you look like you are wearing the carcass of a dead Disney character on your head are next level bananas. Apparently these bonkers hats are huge over at the Tokyo parks, but to be fair they also line up for hours just for popcorn. Popcorn!  To be be even more fair, if I were out there I’d be in line with them. Originally $21.95, these were reduced to $5.99 and you better believe I bought one.

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Goofy hat.

The next item also made my day. Disney has recently started putting out a line of t-shirts featuring these AMAZING Star Wars/Disney Attraction Poster mashups. They actually started selling these designs a while back on dog tags, but let’s get real, who buys dog tags? No offense to any weirdos out there, but that’s a weird thing to collect. A real dog tag for someone who served in the military? Couldn’t respect more. A dog tag featuring Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker in a homage to the Haunted Mansion? That’s weird. However, now that the dog tags had their price in half I bought all three designs. There’s one more design featuring Luke’s Landspeeder in a mashup with an Autopia attraction poster, but that wasn’t available. Originally $19.95, reduced to $9.99.

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Given me a break, how FANTASTIC is that design using the space slug from Empire Strikes Back as MONSTRO?!

If you are dating a woman who doesn’t mind carrying around what looks like a decapitated head of an Ewok as her purse, PUT A RING ON THAT FINGER. Originally $60 (Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!), reduced to “just” $29.99.

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Yub nub.

This is a first for me at the Outlets. One thing Disney sells in almost all of their resort gift shops are these large and colorful cookies featuring characters. They are cookies in only the most abstract version of the word. I actually use them as roof shingles. They are originally $5.95, but this one featuring Boba Fett was marked down to $1.99. I was there at almost 10 o’clock at night and the cashier said I was the first person who bought a cookie. Apparently word is out.

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“You want a cookie?!” – Chris Rock

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Purchasing DVC resale vs. direct: the new math

by on April 29, 2016

For anyone considering a purchase of a Disney Vacation Club contract, a major curveball was thrown when DVC changed the way that contracts bought on the resale market would be treated when it comes to membership perks.

As the email that went out to members read: “Now, effective April 4, 2016, Members who do not
purchase their ownership interest directly from Disney Vacation Club will not have access to other
Membership Extras, such as exclusive Member experiences and discounts. Please know that as a
current Disney Vacation Club Member (regardless of when or where you bought your membership),
your access to Disney Differences and these additional Membership Extras will not be affected by this
policy change.”

©Disney

©Disney

What that means is that anyone purchasing a DVC contract on the resale market will not have access to membership extras such as member parties and access to the Top of The World Lounge or the soon-to-be-open members lounge in Epcot’s Imagination Pavilion. It also means new resale members won’t get the dining, merchandise and, most significantly, annual pass discounts current members enjoy.

So when you’re making the decision whether to purchase resale or direct, you’re going to have to factor in these changes. If you don’t plan on purchasing annual passes, the savings in the resale market are significant enough to continue to tilt in the favor of that option.

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! February 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on February 29, 2016

MMM positiveWelcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. February during a leap year, is there a better month on the calendar? We think not! Yes, Disney did introduce tiered pricing of tickets, but Your Humble Author did provide Tiered Payment Options. Thanks to the Disneyland 60 special (which surprisingly didn’t have much to do with Disneyland), we finally got some details on Star Wars Land. Speaking of Disneyland, it was rumored that DL guru Guy Selga immediately ripped up his annual pass after stepping through Hogsmeade Village during the Wizarding World’s soft openWe in Florida got news that the Dream Along With Mickey stage show, which ran for an amazingly long 68 years at the Magic Kingdom, is going to be replaced by Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire this summer. Just a whole bunch of win, and thanks to Leap Year we get an extra day to bask in it!

Now while all of you were out taking your kids to see Deadpool, Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo and I were hard at work to bring you the quality Outlet coverage you expect deserve!

Enough jibber jabber! Who is ready to hit the Outlets? Remember that clicking on any picture will open a full size version of it (don’t say we didn’t warn you).

First up, the newest Tsum Tsums to hit the store were from the Lilo and Stitch line, including this one featuring Lilo herself.

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Lilo Tsum Tsum.

A little backstory on this next one. Two years ago this very month, I was finally brave enough to do my first “live tweeting” from the main TouringPlans twitter account. Everything went well until I went to a gift shop in Tomorrowland and commented on a Pink Stitch plush. Apparently I’m the only human being on Earth who didn’t know that was Stitch’s girlfriend Angel. That may actually be the last day I live tweeted from the TouringPlans account as well. Anyway, here is the Pink Stitch Angel Tsum Tsum.

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Pink Stitch Tsum Tsum.

I teased it last month, but now it is finally time for the grand debut of my first ever…

TSUM TSUM UNBOXING VIDEO!

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The Basics: A Cost Analysis of the Disney World Dining Plan

by on February 26, 2016

This is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to find links to our other Basics posts.

The first thing to understand about the Disney World Dining Plan is the transformation it has undergone since its introduction in 2005. At one time, the promotional material for the dining plan emphasized value, trumpeting savings of up to 40 percent. Today, the emphasis is on convenience. That’s because the potential savings of the Dining Plan is very dependent on how you use it. In fact, it’s fairly easy to lose money on the Dining Plan.

Disney Dining PlanDuring its debut, the Standard Dining Plan cost about $35 per day for adults and $10 for children. For this price, visitors would get the familiar offering of one table-service meal, one counter-service meal and one snack. The big difference from the original offering to today is in the table-service meal, which no longer includes appetizer or gratuity in the cost.

And, of course, that cost has gone up markedly as well. In 2016, the price per day of the Standard Dining Plan is $61.82 per adult and $20.98 per child (tax included). In addition to the table-service meal, counter-service meal and single snack per day, guests using this plan will get a refillable drink mug, valid for the length of stay.

The other dining plan options include the Quick-Service Plan, which includes two counter-service meals and one snack per day, along with the refillable drink mug. Per day, this package will run you $42.84 for adults and $17.47 for children (tax included). Then there’s the Deluxe Dining Plan, which offers a choice of 3 table- or counter-service meals per day at any participating restaurant. In addition to the three meals a day, the plan also includes two snacks per day and a refillable drink mug. Both child and adult credits can be used for adult meals, if desired, on the Deluxe Dining Plan. The cost per day is $111.73 for adults and $32.56 for children (tax included).

Read on to find out where you can find value in the Dining Plan and where you can fall short.

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