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Fear and Trembling: A Chicken’s Review of Big Thunder Mountain

by on August 23, 2014

“Sometimes there’s a man… I won’t say a hero, ’cause, what’s a hero? But sometimes, there’s a man . . . .. Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place.”

I am not that man.

big.thunder.4

Big Thunder, Big

As I moved resignedly toward the tumblin’ town of Tumbleweed, that sad fact was once again made painfully apparent. My time and place does not involve thrills. Although I’ve never been especially frightened by regular thunder, I have more than my fair share of reservations regarding Big Thunder, and not just of the FastPass+ persuasion. Coffee and creamed-colored crags cast troubled shadows at my feet as we inched closer; it was very clear to me I was in the wrong place. My wife, unfortunately, was not persuaded.

I’ve heard the claim before. Upon our return from a quick Christmastime visit to the Magic Kingdom with my immediate family, my wife and my brother both suggested that Big Thunder Mountain Railroad might actually be an attraction I would enjoy, as it lacked the typical large drops that so twist my stomach in knots—as well as not’s, as in “I’m not going on another of these rides, I’m not going to eat again, I’m not feeling especially manly . . .”, and so on. At this point, my faith in other people’s assessment of whether  or not I will enjoy/survive unscathed any thrill ride has been shaken, not to mention roughed-up and made queasy and more than a little cranky.

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Hidden Details of Animal Kingdom

by on August 23, 2014

There are many reasons why the Disney Parks stand apart from other theme parks around the world, but one of the biggest has to be Disney’s incredible attention to detail. You can see the extra mile in the form of details just about everywhere on Disney property, from attractions to parade costumes to resorts to transportation to even the bathrooms! Personally, I love the details. They are not only appealing to the eye and fun to find, but almost always meaningful to the history of an attraction or to the story the Imagineers are trying to tell. For today’s post, let’s take a look at the hidden details of Animal Kingdom!

Expedition Everest Height Measurement

Expedition Everest Height Measurement

Over at Asia’s Expedition Everest, be sure to notice the special height measurement for young riders. Only at Disney would the measurement be a giant, wooden Yeti foot! I’ve always thought that Expedition Everest has one of the most clever, detailed themed queues, and this fun detail just proves it!

Inside of the Dinosaur attraction, look up to see red, white, and yellow pipes running through the queue. Chemical combinations are printed on those pipes, which isn’t anything special, unless you realize the combinations are actually the chemical names for ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard! Weird, right?

Animal Kingdom Harambe Sign - A Glass Slipper Vacation

Animal Kingdom’s Harambe Village

Animal Kingdom’s Africa is meant to look and feel as if you have just walked into a real African village called Harambe. Disney Imagineers really went to new heights with the details here, as Harambe appears lived-in and authentic with thatched roofs, posters for the village’s Harambe Wildlife Preserve, handpainted signs on the sides of local businesses, and so much more. This particular sign welcoming you into Harambe features ads of the village’s establishments, and the lights above it are even rusted to show age.

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The Disney Dazzle: Meeting Mickey Mouse

by on August 22, 2014

©Disney

Ta-Dah!

My very favorite thing about visiting Disney World is the memories you take home with you. Amongst the celebrations and excitement at the parks, something even more amazing can happen. A magical moment occurs that makes the whole trip so much more meaningful – a personal story you will never forget. I call this the ‘Disney Dazzle.’

My husband and I make trips to Orlando 2-3 times a year as my husband’s aunt and uncle live there. Rewind back to February 2014, and we were on our very first trip with our newborn, Annie. Whenever we visit Disney World, my husband’s uncle, Keith, always has a surprise in store for us. This trip was no exception. Earlier in the day, Uncle Keith had mysteriously left our group for several minutes. He returned, said nothing about his disappearance and we continued about our day. That night, he told us he had a surprise but that we would have to wait a little longer. I walked up and down Main Street, U.S.A. with ants in my pants wondering what his secret could be. After what seemed like FOREVER (although in reality, it was no more than 20 minutes), he led us into the Town Square Theater. I really had NO idea what we were doing there, only remembering the little television playing cartoons and the Camera Center full of camera supplies and pins. While looking around, I saw the sign ‘Meet Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater’ and it hit me. Uncle Keith had gotten us a FastPass+ reservation to meet Mickey Mouse! Now, guests have had the opportunity to meet Mickey in the Town Square Theater since 2011, but it wasn’t until October of 2013 that a special magician Mickey would grace us with his presence. (I won’t give away all the surprises because every encounter with ‘the boss’ is unique!) As a Disney buff, I’m embarrassed to admit that I had no idea one could meet Mickey in such an exciting and intimate setting. I was in for a real treat!

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The Disney College Program

by on August 20, 2014

For over 30 years, Disney has had a college internship program (currently called the Disney College Program). Active college students who have taken at least one semester of college courses are eligible to apply for the 5 to 7 month internship (international students with no restrictions for working in the U.S. can also apply). I spoke with two College Program alumni (Courtney and Ethan) about their experiences in the program at Disney World three years ago.

First, a little history. In 1981, Disney began an internship program. At its inception, there were 200 positions available at Magic Kingdom for these interns. Of course, the program grew along with the resort, and today there are internships available at both Disneyland and Disney World, across all theme parks and resorts. About 8,000 students participate each year.

The College Program is a paid internship. In addition to providing affordable housing and free transportation (Disney World only), participants receive a full-time working position as part of the internship. They receive an hourly wage dependent upon their role.

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Some of Courtney’s costumes while working at different Quick Service locations. Do you recognize any of them?

There are 19 different roles in which to be placed. Some of the positions available include custodial, merchandise, food & beverage, PhotoPass photography, character performer and attraction operator. Courtney and Ethan were placed in quick service food & beverage based on their previous experience working in restaurants. They held positions at Studio Catering Company in Hollywood Studios, where they rotated between positions (food prep, drink servers, cashiers, etc.) They were also deployed to other counter service restaurants and food carts as needed, and they were able to pick up extra shifts if they wanted as well.

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Menu Monday: The Best Recurring Items at Epcot Food and Wine Festival

by on August 18, 2014

The Hawai'i kiosk at Epcot Food and Wine Festival.

Copyright – Disney

Walt Disney World’s Epcot Food and Wine Festival is a wonderful thing. Do you remember that episode of The Simpsons where Homer frolicked through a land made entirely of chocolate? That’s essentially the Food and Wine Festival in a nutshell, only with less cruelty-to-confectionaries and more damage to your wallet. All around the World Showcase you’ll find new kiosks set up celebrating food and drink from across the globe, with dozens of shareable sized dishes of everything you could ever hope to try available for purchase. While each year they offer a wide variety of new menu items, there are always some that are so popular they keep coming back. Here are some of the best items that will be back this year you should be reserving valuable tummy space for… and make sure to check out the official Food and Wine Festival 2014 menus for all the rest! (Food item prices range from $3.00 to $8.00 USD per.)

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Magic Kingdom AtMousePhere: The Music of Liberty Square

by on August 16, 2014

Music has the ability to take us back through time. So much music has been preserved
from the past 500+ years that whole concerts can be LScentered around one time period. I just got back from a music conference which had an entire Vespers service that could
have taken place in 1724!

Music can also remind us of a feeling. For example, when I hear “The Victors,” I am automatically transported to my Dad’s seats in Michigan Stadium, cheering the team on the field.

Liberty Square has two kinds of music surrounding it. On one side, the music reflects the time. Various pieces played in the area are taken straight from the late-1700s and played on period instruments. (One of many hidden details in the Liberty Square!)

Other pieces in Liberty Square reflect the spirit. The colonial and Revolutionary time periods were full of patriotic and independent thought. There was an energy needed to create a United States out of thirteen small colonies, all of whom had very unique beginnings. Thusly, there is music that was composed later in America’s history, but still reflect that spirit of America.

Let’s break both of them down:

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Hitting the Trail: Taking on the Disney World Walking Paths

by on August 13, 2014

I know what you’re thinking. Why would anyone want to take a walking path when it seems like all you do at Walt Disney World is walk? Well, just hear me out, I do have a few good reasons! You see, walking paths allow you two big luxuries that are hard to come by at Disney World: no lines or crowds and the ability to make your own time.

Hollywood Studios Walking Path

Hollywood Studios Walking Path to the BoardWalk

Nobody likes fighting the long lines for buses, boats, and monorails, especially at closing time. It’s not unusual to have to wait for several of your own resort buses to fill up before you can board yourself following Magic Kingdom’s Wishes, which is hard to bear when your feet hurt and the kids are crying, right? Although, there can be lines or standing room only on buses, boats, and Monorail during the day too. However, the walking paths are never crowded, offering you and yours a reprieve from the shuffling lines and seas of strollers. Also, many are in open, beautiful settings that are well-lit, paved, and serve as great decompression zones from all the hustle and bustle.

But the lack of chaos isn’t the only reason to take on a walking path. Guests who have visited Disney World before know that getting from one place to another can be time consuming! Disney even recommends those with dining reservations to allow at least an hour for transportation time. Why? Well, for example, if you were to have a reservation at one of Epcot’s World Showcase restaurants, a lot of time can be wasted in waiting for transportation, actual travel time, going through security and the turnstiles, and then actually walking across the park to your restaurant. Whew! That can really take awhile and there are a lot of variables to contend with! That’s why, when I can, I prefer to take a walking path so that I can make my own time without checking my watch in nervous frustration for the umpteenth time at a resort bus stop.

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Observations from Downtown Disney Part 1 (Parking Garage, West Side shopping, Food Truck Park)

by on August 11, 2014

It has been a while since I have done a photo tour of Downtown Disney, and it was time to head back into what might be the construction capital of the world. There are major projects going on in every single section of Downtown Disney, making a day trip there a potentially stressful challenge. However, it seems as though the area has finally turned a corner, and we are starting to see developments that make Downtown Disney a place worth checking out rather than avoiding because of the construction hassle. Looking at my previous Downtown Disney article from April shows some rather significant changes, so here is what is going on now….

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Status of parking garage on West Side of Downtown Disney near Cirque du Soleil

 

The parking garage is looking massive, and the map of the area says it should be completed “Early 2015.” Busch Gardens should have done that for its long delayed Falcon’s Fury ride that is “Opening Sometime in 2014.” As ugly as Downtown Disney is right now because of the overall construction, far and away the biggest problem is parking. It was bad enough before huge sections of parking spaces were completely shut down to make way for a much-needed parking garage, and now it can be maddening. For the Guardians of the Galaxy showings this past weekend, the AMC movie theater at Downtown Disney was advising guests to arrive an hour early to give themselves time to find a parking space, with many guests being directed to the overflow areas across the street at Team Disney and Casting.

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Hidden Details of Hollywood Studios

by on August 8, 2014

There are many reasons why the Disney Parks stand apart from other theme parks around the world, but one of the biggest has to be Disney’s incredible attention to detail. You can see the extra mile in the form of details just about everywhere on Disney property, from attractions to parade costumes to resorts to transportation to even the bathrooms! Personally, I love the details. They are not only appealing to the eye and fun to find, but almost always meaningful to the history of an attraction or to the story the Imagineers are trying to tell. For today’s post, let’s take a look at the hidden details of Hollywood Studios!

Casablanca Crate at Hollywood Studios

Casablanca Crate at Hollywood Studios

Near Min and Bill’s Dockside Diner at Hollywood Studios, look for a stack of wooden crates near the water. If you take a closer look, you may recognize who the crates are being shipped to and where they have been shipped from! This crate is being sent to Rick Blaine at Rick’s Cafe Americain in Casablanca, Morocco! Sound familiar? We also found crates being sent to a Scarlett O’Hara at Tara and even one belonging to a Charles Foster Kane! Few guests know about these particular hidden details and it’s really easy to walk right past them, so keep your eyes open.

Details around Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular

Details around Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular

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Favorite Park Series: Disney’s Epcot

by on August 3, 2014

Hello again! Welcome to Epcot. If you haven’t read my highlights on Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, please do so now.

Epcot scenery

Take in the beautiful scenery.

*Twiddles thumbs. Checks Twitter. Reads a blog post.*

Done? Okay, let’s ‘soar’ right in!

Memorable Moments

Pick your mode of transportation! Soarin’ is a popular ride that allows you to hang-glide over California, feeling the wind in your face whilst smelling the fragrance of zesty orange trees. (Fun Fact: The first model for Soarin’ was made out of an erector set!) Once you land on solid ground, hop in a Chevy at Test Track. Strap yourself in and brace yourself for the ride of your life! Put on your space suit, join the NASA team and shoot for the stars as you travel to Mars in your rocket via Mission: Space. To ease back into Earth’s gravity, swim underwater to the ‘clamobile’ where The Seas with Nemo & Friends take you “under the sea.” Finally, use those feet and travel indoors to Innoventions where you’ll find interactive and educational games the whole family will enjoy.

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