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Observations at the Magic Kingdom: October 1

by on October 4, 2013

As October rolls into Central Florida, the Halloween season (because after all, it is a season here) is in full swing. And while there’s never a bad time to visit the Magic Kingdom, the changes taking place lately have made it particularly exciting. I started my evening at the Polynesian to take a few pictures and get a look at the new runDisney running path markers that are now in place at the Poly, Grand Floridian, Art of Animation, and Epcot Resorts. The signs give you route maps and distances, most helpful if you’re training for, say, the Tower of Terror 10-miler?

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With construction slated to begin soon on the newly announced Disney Vacation Club villas at the Poly, I wanted to get some photos around the resort just in case there were changes to my favorite sights. Depth testing has already begun out in the lagoon and construction walls are up near the beach at Sunset Pointe.

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Observations at Hollywood Studios: September 16

by on September 18, 2013

This week’s Limited Time Magic event was a walk-through tour of a ride at Hollywood Studios with the Disney Ambassadors. Guests sent in e-mails to enter to be chosen to attend a mini-tour of a ride with the magical representatives and, being fortunate enough to have been selected, I headed to Hollywood Studios yesterday for park opening.

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Lines at park open.

We met with the Disney Ambassadors, two Cast Members who go through a rigorous application process to be selected to represent  Walt Disney World. They gave us a little bit of history on the Studios and how the park came about before we were escorted to the Tower of Terror. At that point, we were given an expert bellhop, T.J., who has been with Disney for 29 years and opened the attraction. Fun fact: he’s the only Cast Member to have opened Star Tours both times that it debuted.

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Resident Evil: Escape From Raccoon City Announced as Eighth and Final House at Universal’s HHN 23

by on August 29, 2013

HHN23_REAt Midnight last night the official Universal Halloween Horror Nights 23 Twitter account (@HorrorNightsORL) revealed that the eighth and final haunted house at this year’s event would be based around the Resident Evil video game franchise. Resident Evil: Escape From Raccoon City joins The Walking Dead, The Cabin in the Woods, Evil DeadAn American Werewolf in London, After Life: Death’s Vengeance, La Llorona, and Havoc: Derailed as the official mazes that guests will be able to walk through and get their wits scared out of them.

Resident Evil is a long running video game series that began in 1996. The Resident Evil: Escape From Raccoon City  haunted house will be based around Resident Evil 2 and 3, games which were released in 1998 and 1999. Universal Creative Director Mike Aiello has confirmed that guests will encounter classic HHN23RE game elements such as dogs, Lickers (like from the artwork on the left hand side of the article, and Nemesis (the main baddie from RE 3). Universal has also teased that one room of the maze will also give guests the experience of the video game itself being paused. Pretty meta.

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We’re Hiring! Part-time Orlando-based Researcher

by on August 22, 2013

We’re hiring a part-time Orlando researcher for 15 to 30 hours of work per week, for September through November, 2013, and possibly longer.

Job Responsibilities

  • Update our collection of theme park and resort menus.  You’ll verify each menu item at each restaurant and update our site accordingly.
  • Write one or two blog posts per week.  Some of these will be on a short deadline of 1 to 2 hours.  If not on deadline, any day of the week is fine.  Most blog posts will cover what’s going on in the parks, such as restaurant and attraction updates, as well as general crowd conditions.
  • Take photos and writing descriptions of Disney resorts, such as the pools, shops, and other public areas.
  • Create and upload short videos of rides, restaurant reviews, and hotel rooms for our YouTube channel.
  • Use our products, such as Lines’ wait times, crowd calendar, and touring plans, in the parks and provide feedback to developers.
  • Attend our weekly staff meeting call (usually 7 pm Tuesdays) and provide updates on park activities.

Preference will be given to those with writing experience.  You should be at least 18, have reliable transportation, a cell phone, a relatively recent camera (a cellphone camera may be fine), and enough time to do the work.  Familiarity with a blogging platform such as WordPress is helpful but not necessary if you’re willing to learn quickly.  You should be able to work independently with minimal supervision.

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An American Werewolf in London Revealed as Seventh Haunted House at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights 23

by on August 16, 2013

Werewolf1981′s classic horror film An American Werewolf in London is the latest haunted house experience revealed by Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights twitter account (@HorrorNightsORL). Capping off a week of midnight announcements, Werewolf becomes the seventh official maze for  HHN 23 joining Evil Dead, The Cabin in the Woods, Walking Dead, La Llorona, After Life: Death’s Vengeance, and Havoc: Derailed.

An American Werewolf in London is a cult horror/comedy classic directed by John Landis that which revolutionized the industry of horror make-up effects. Led by Rick Baker, the team behind the groundbreaking transformation into the werewolf onscreen won the very first Academy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Make-up. Baker has gone on to win this award several times, and Universal fans may remember his incredible work on the original Men in Black (1998) and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2001.) Universal Studios Florida has some nice nods to Baker, and Werewolf the film, in the under-rated Horror Make-Up show.

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We’re Hiring Orlando-Area Writers!

by on July 24, 2013

This is your chance to get paid for visiting Disney World and writing about it.  We’re looking for people to blog about Disney World’s theme parks, restaurants, resorts and activities, in a concise, fact-based, way.  (A bit of wit would be great; we’ll accept wry insouciance too.)

Here’s what we’re after:

  • Three blog posts per week.  Any day of the week is fine.  Topics will be fact-based and should relate to Disney trip planning, including areas such as crowds, touring strategy, restaurant reviews, hotel reviews, and highlighting activities such as shopping, miniature golf and spas. The Disney Cruise Line is fair game, too – anything discussed in any of the Unofficial Guides is probably acceptable.  You’ll be responsible for developing blog ideas.  We’re not looking to publish personal stories.

Preference will be given to those with writing experience.  You should be at least 18, have valid Disney World theme park admission to start, as well as reliable transportation, a cell phone, a relatively recent camera (a cellphone camera may be fine), and enough time to do the writing.  Familiarity with a blogging platform such as WordPress is helpful but not necessary if you’re willing to learn quickly.  You should be able to work independently with minimal supervision.

Most blog posts pay between $10 and $25 each, depending on difficulty and length, plus expenses.  So if we ask you to review a restaurant or spa, we’ll pay for that, and then pay you for what you write.  Longer blog posts pay substantially more, including hourly compensation for research time.

Want to apply?  Send us an email with the items listed below, following the instructions to the letter.  Have questions? Send those to the same email address.

Writing

  • If you have previous writing experience, attach examples to your email as a separate attachment.  If it’s not obvious where or when the example was published, provide that information.
  • Send in two sample blog posts written in the Unofficial Guide style.  These sample posts can be about any topic you choose, but they should seem like they could run on TouringPlans.com.  Don’t make up facts or figures – if you need data, get data.  In the immortal words of Waka Flocka Flame: keep it real.  (We won’t use these articles on the site, we just want to see how you write.)
  • A list of your 3 favorite attractions and 3 restaurants in Walt Disney World, and why.
  • A list of 3 Orlando-area restaurants – not in a theme park – that everyone should visit, and why.

About You

  • A few words about yourself.
  • The city you live in, and your contact information.
  • The amount of time you have available for blogging.  Be realistic.
  • Any other experience you have which may be relevant.
  • Any questions you have for us.

And Then

  • Send all of this in one email (with attachments) to jobsATtouringplansDOTcom.  Use the subject line “Orlando-Area Writer”.

We may not be able to respond personally to every email.

Thanks!

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Pictures: Enchanted Tiki Room 50th Anniversary Exhibit Debuts At Disneyland

by on July 1, 2013

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A new exhibit opened today at the Disney Gallery on Disneyland’s Main Street U.S.A. “Tiki Tiki Tiki Realms: Celebrating 50 Years of Enchantment” opened to honor the 50th anniversary of the beloved original Enchanted Tiki Room.

DSC00657One of the centerpieces of the gallery is the original Barker Bird that appeared above the attractions entrance for the first few years after it opened.

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Why Tiana is My Favorite Princess

by on May 14, 2013

Tiana

As you probably heard, Merida from Disney/Pixar’s movie Brave was recently inducted as an official Disney Princess. This “event” got me thinking about Disney’s Princesses as a whole and how I feel about them.

Most of my life I was a typical, self-centered, middle class American. I have never been prone to idol worship: sure I had Michael Jordan posters on my wall as a teen, but despite the advertising I never really wanted to be like Mike, just play basketball like him (yeah, that didn’t work either).  Even as an adult, I never really thought about celebrity role models or their effects. Then I had kids.

Having kids changes a lot, but mostly what it changed for me was that I suddenly had to try to guide another human and prepare them to make future important life choices. That’s pretty heavy. While I still believe parents play the most crucial role in a child’s development, it would feel foolish for me to think that popular culture does not have any influence.

As the Disney fans that we are, my 4 year old daughter is heavily invested in the Disney Princesses. We have seen all of their movies, met them all at the parks, and have a bedroom dedicated to them (my daughter’s…not mine…really). She has even become interested in the mediocre Sofia the First Disney Junior television series.

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New Disney Dish Podcast w/ Jim Hill: Limited Time Magic and Disney’s Next Gen Project

by on April 25, 2013

The funny thing about this episode is that we didn’t plan it.  I’d called Jim to record the Tokyo Disneyland show and we were just catching up on what we saw in WDW on our latest trips.  Luckily, I possess a Nixonian habit of recording everything Jim and I discuss.  You know, for posterity (read: “Grand Jury indictment.”  As David Lee Roth once said, “You know you’ve made it when you can spell ‘subpoena’ without a dictionary.” ).

We ended up talking for almost an hour about Limited Time Magic and Disney’s Next Gen project.  Hope you enjoy the show.

Here’s the link to listen in iTunesHere’s the direct MP3 file.

Please rate us on iTunes and let us know what you’d like to hear next.

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10 Ways to Get Ready for Your Disneyland Vacation

by on April 19, 2013

You’re going to Disneyland!! And unlike the latest Super Bowl MVP, you probably have more than one evening to plan. So what should you do to get ready? Disneyland isn’t really a show-up-with-no-plan kind of a place. You certainly can do that, and I know people who have, but trust me, it’s better to have some idea of what you’re getting into. Let’s adopt the Boy Scout motto! Be prepared! Prepared is good!

1. Get Your Unofficial GuideThe absolute first thing you need to do is to get a copy of the Unofficial Guide! There’s a reason the series has sold millions of books. It is the perfect planning guide for Disneyland. It’s not a sugar coated view of Disney. It will help you appreciate the highs, and avoid the lows. Do you want to know which rides are going to scare the pants off your kids? The Unofficial Guide will tell you. Do you want to know the best restaurants? The best hotels? Or, more importantly maybe, the worst hotels? Again – the Unofficial Guide. And get it quick! Have you seen them recently? They’re behemoths! Not a quick read! A great read, maybe even an essential one for planning, but not a quick one.

2. Exercise – My husband may or may not have just busted his gut laughing when he saw that I was recommending exercise, but it’s (sadly) true. The amount of walking you do at a Disney park is not for the faint of heart. You can easily walk more than 10 miles in one day. Yep. 10 miles. If exercise is a dirty word to you, that number may scare you a little. It does me! But it doesn’t have to. We’re not talking about running a half marathon here. We’re talking about walking. Walking a lot! But walking. You don’t have to go into serious training. A few weeks of some evening walks with the family will help immensely! Oh yeah, and wear comfortable, worn-in shoes! There’s nothing worse at Disney than realizing your shoes are burning blisters into your feet.

3. Order the Vacation Planning DVD – This one is mostly for fun if you’re a frequent visitor, but if you’re a newbie, the DVD can give you a good overview of Disneyland and what it has to offer. Your kids will probably love it by the way!

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