Walt Disney World (FL)

Cast Member Chronicles: Chef Kevin Marshall

by on October 12, 2014

Photo Credit - Derek Burgan

Crystal Palace

I met Chef Kevin Marshall at a dinner party while visiting Orlando this past September. He is a friend of my Uncle Keith, and was gracious enough to share his culinary talents as our personal chef for the evening. As he prepared a scrumptious feast for us, I interviewed him about his diverse and fascinating career at Walt Disney World.

In June of 1989, he was a man fresh out of tech school. He applied at Walt Disney World, but soon learned there was a hiring freeze for positions he originally desired. Because he had previously managed a Wendy’s restaurant, he was offered a job in food and beverage at The Crystal Palace. As part of the culinary staff, he moved around to different positions, soon cooking alongside professional Disney chefs.

While working at the Crystal Palace, he and two other coworkers were asked to carve a 700 lb pumpkin for Halloween. They were told to carve and hand paint the ‘Blustery Day’ scene from Winnie the Pooh. It took two weeks of overtime and 90 man hours to complete this masterpiece. It was displayed outside the restaurant, surrounded by bales of hay to prevent guests from touching it. One day, a Cast Member saw a little boy ignoring the bales and and putting his hands on the carved image of Pooh. Originally thinking the boy was causing mischief, the Cast Member told the boy to refrain from touching the pumpkin. As it turns out, the little boy was blind. He never knew what Pooh and his friends looked like. From the carving, the boy was able to feel and learn the character shapes. It was his own personal braille pattern. Kevin said it made all his hard work truly worth it and is a memory that touches him to this day.

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Disney Offering One Day Memory Maker Option With Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

by on October 10, 2014

Disney PhotoPassFor those who love photographs, there is a great new option for you if you’ll be attending Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom. Disney is currently testing an option where guests can purchase a one-day Memory Maker that can be utilized during the evening’s events. This one day Memory Maker costs $39 and is added to a party ticket.

As a nice bonus, not only will guests be able to have any photo taken by Disney PhotoPass photographers during that evening’s party, but they will also be able to digitally download any photo taken that day – not just during the party hours. This includes photos taken at select dining establishments, as well as any on-ride attraction photos.

To purchase this one-day Memory Maker option, guests can visit a ticket booth at the Transportation and Ticket Center, and for those who’ve already purchased tickets but still would like to purchase this fun option, you can still add it on the evening of your party.

 

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Walt Disney World Newsworthy Notes – 10/10/14

by on October 10, 2014

Happy Friday! Who is ready for more Newsworthy Notes? If you’re visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom or wanting to visit Typhoon Lagoon, I’ve got some news you should definitely read!

  • The Affection Section petting zoo area at Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be closed for refurbishment until November 10, reopening on November 11. Guests will still be able experience the other animal encounters at Conservation Station. Also, at the Out of the Wild shop, they are now offering some food items, including things like fresh fruit cups, hummus, and apples with caramel, and ice cream treats. This is good news, considering Rafiki’s Planet Watch previously had no snack options at all.
  • For those who are unaware, currently all guests wishing to visit Typhoon Lagoon after 2:00 p.m. must go to Epcot and transfer to a bus which will take them to Typhoon Lagoon. (This is being done to accommodate Disney Springs construction.) This means that Magic Kingdom resort hotel guests who currently want to visit the water park must go to Epcot via monorail (transferring to the Epcot monorail at the Transportation and Ticket Center) and then transfer to the bus taking them to Typhoon Lagoon. However, from October 12-25, Disney will be offering a bus route that will give guests the option to be transported from the Magic Kingdom resorts, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, to Epcot. From there, the guests will be able to hop on another bus to transfer to Typhoon Lagoon. This route will only be in service daily from 2:00 p.m. until Typhoon Lagoon closes for the evening. Guests will also still be able to utilize the monorail to make the journey to Epcot and then transfer to the water park if they choose. Typhoon Lagoon will be closing for its annual refurbishment October 26, which will last until January 3, 2015.
  • Due to maintenance work, the Hess gas station located near Disney’s BoardWalk Inn will be temporarily closed beginning October 13. The project has no official end date, but it is expected to last approximately three weeks. The other Hess gas stations found on property will remain open.

That’s it for this installment. Thoughts?

 

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Friday Face Off – Aging Attractions

by on October 10, 2014

Running a theme park has to be a dicey experiment. The more a park works to stay current, the older the older attractions tend to look. While many attractions retain their charm throughout the years, many others tend to feel dated pretty quickly. Attendance drops, lines decline, and parks decide to refresh the attraction through refurbishment, rebuilding, or demolition. Today, let’s look at a few Disney and Universal attractions, and throw them down in a Friday Face Off – Aging Attractions. Universal’s Jurassic Park River Adventure vs. Disney World’s Dinosaur and the recently-deceased Maelstrom.

Here to save the World?

Here to save the World?

First, I’ll beat the dead horse that was Maelstrom. Relax, people. Relax. Don’t get me wrong: I’m disappointed that Maelstrom will be re-created into a Frozen attraction, but I don’t think it’s any great loss. Those crying over its demise will no doubt rue the day that Captain EO eventually is mercifully put out of its misery.

On a side note, I truly believe that Disney Cast Members are punitively placed to work there. I mean, how COULD this be such an epic failure? Spielberg? Coppola? Space? Michael Jackson? Dancing? Puppets? I can remember being there in 1986 – sporting the mullet, most certainly, and seeing the preview posters for the upcoming Captain EO film, and being disappointed that Captain EO didn’t premiere until that fall. We were out of the Disney World environment until 2009, when we saw Honey, I Shrunk the Audience. Then we returned in 2013 for our visit to the Return of Captain EO. Let me tell you how that trip went.

When we entered the queue area, we encountered the most seriously working – and for the most part completely clueless – Cast Member employed at the Disney World property.

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Unexpected Disney Souvenir: Shoes

by on October 10, 2014

photo_2

When you think about Disney parks souvenirs, the products that typically come top of mind include t-shirts, ear hats, and plush toys. While these are certainly all easy-to-find items, another surprisingly prevalent product in the parks is shoes. These range from inexpensive flip-flops to performance athletic equipment, and everything in between.

In addition to being a fun souvenir, many of the shoes sold in the parks can fill the gap if emergency strikes and your luggage is lost or if Little Billy decides that your vacation sneakers are the perfect place to store the leftover half of his Mickey bar.

Here’s a sample of what was available in the parks and resorts in early autumn 2014. The exact designs do change from time to time, but the range of styles and price points generally remains consistent.

BASIC FLIP FLOPS

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Daisy Lauren’s Best Week Ever: October 9, 2014

by on October 9, 2014

1Hi, Everyone! Welcome to the Best Week Ever here at Walt Disney World! This week we’re visiting Epcot to say goodbye to Maelstrom and have more fun at Food & Wine Festival. Then we’re heading over to the Magic Kingdom to see what’s new there and ending with a view of Happy HalloWishes from the ferry boat dock. Sounds like fun, right? Let’s go! :)

Walking up to Maelstrom this weekend it was very obvious that a cult following had shown up to see the final days of this classic ride. I didn’t try getting near the ride on Sunday but we stopped by Saturday and found the line already 60 minutes long! Luckily I had planned ahead with FastPass+ or I don’t think we would have ridden one last time.  If you’d like to ride one last time along with me then please click to read more! :)

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Disney World Crowd Report – September 28 to October 4, 2014

by on October 8, 2014

Last week was a great week for low crowds across Walt Disney World, especially Monday through Friday. Magic Kingdom Crowds stayed relatively low and were particularly low on days when that park hosted an evening Halloween Party.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week:

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Be Our Guest Restaurant Lunch Currently FastPass+ Only

by on October 8, 2014

Be Our Guest Restaurant FastPass+ sign

Looks like currently the Stand-by Entrance is no more.

If you not staying at a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel and want to dine at the Magic Kingdom’s Be Our Guest Restaurant for lunch, it appears that you are out of luck for the time being. The extremely popular New Fantasyland restaurant is currently only seating guests who have made a FastPass+ reservation during lunch hours, when the restaurant functions as a counter service location. These reservations are only available to guests staying at a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel. Walk-ups will not be allowed for the restaurant until further notice, with no end date in sight.

Previously Disney tested handing out paper “return tickets” to standby guests. This test left many guests out of luck, as tickets were often snatched up quickly first thing in the morning.

Be Our Guest Restaurant is still a table service location at dinner and absolutely requires guests to make Advanced Dining Reservations in order to dine during the evening hours.

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Observations from Disney’s Hollywood Studios Toy Story Midway Mania FastPass+ Only Testing

by on October 8, 2014

Toy Story Mania FastPass+ only test

This week’s Toy Story Midway Mania FastPass+ Only testing means you may sees this sign at DHS.

If you want to toss some virtual rings this week at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you’d better head to My Disney Experience right now, because for the first time Walt Disney World is experimenting with eliminating all standby options at this headlining attraction. As Rickki Nibblet reported, a Toy Story Midway Mania FastPass+ Only test means that from October 6-9, 2014, you must have a FastPass+ reservation — booked in advance online or day-of at an in-park kiosk — in order to ride the popular Pixar-themed shooting gallery. The standard standby line will not be available at all during the testing period, and once all FastPass+ reservations are claimed for the day, you will not have the option of waiting in line the old-fashioned way.

Having previously experienced Epcot’s short-lived experiment with using paper FastPasses for the Soarin’ standby line, I wanted to see how this FastPass+ Only test operated at Toy Story Midway Mania (TSMM). Monday, Oct. 6, was a moderate 5 on our Crowd Calendar, but now that the Studio Backlot Tour is closed, TSMM is (along with The Great Movie Ride) the only all-ages ride in the park. Since guests seem willing to wait an hour or more in standby for TSMM even on off-peak days, I was curious to observe their reaction to this temoprary change.

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Memento Mori: A Hauntingly Good Time

by on October 7, 2014

IMG_0196Hello all you guys and ghouls! Just in time for Halloween, a new gift shop has opened right in front of The Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom. To be precise Mementi Mori, opened on October 6, and we were there to check out all the new goodies so we could share them with you.

If you plan on stopping by, be aware that you might encounter a line just to enter the newest store in the Magic Kingdom! At roughly 7pm the line stretched nearly to Fantasyland and took just shy of 20 minutes to wait through. Once inside, the tiny shop was crammed wall to wall with people. Luckily, everyone inside was a fellow fan of the ride, and everyone was pretty civil. 

 

So want to see what horrors are inside this creepy shop? You’ll have to read more to see! :)

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