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Disney World: Getting the Most of Cast Members

by on August 17, 2014 13 Comments

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What do the following three questions have in common?

Tinkerbell in a thoughtful moment. Photo by Thomas Cook

Tinkerbell in a thoughtful moment. Photo by Thomas Cook

  • Is the rain real?
  • Is Mickey Mouse a cat or a dog?
  • What time is the Three O’clock Parade?

Answer: They are all questions I was asked as a Walt Disney World cast member.

I hope it’s clear that these questions are not exactly the best questions to ask a cast member. I don’t mean to imply anything about the guests who asked these questions, especially since the parade question is one I got asked once a week or so over a number of years.

This article is not about questionable questions. It’s about how you should ask cast members about park information. It seems like a simple issue, but any longtime cast member will tell you their many stories of frustrating guests and their questions. Read the rest of this entry »

Favorite Park Series: Disney’s Magic Kingdom

by on August 17, 2014 4 Comments

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Magic Kingdom

We made it!

We did it. We made it to the end of my Favorite Park Series. To read my highlights on Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, here ya go!

Now, let’s see what puts the ‘Magic’ in Magic Kingdom.

Memorable Moments 

“Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy” – Walt Disney.

Indeed, these memorable words are embodied in the ambiance and attractions of Magic Kingdom. Main Street, U.S.A., is reminiscent of small town America, with Ma and Pa general stores full of delicious goodies and fun souvenirs. Adventureland creates exotic experiences such as boarding the Jungle Cruise and joining the crew on the fan favorite, Pirates of the Caribbean. Make your way over to Frontierland and enter the Wild West. Hold on to your cowboy hats Read the rest of this entry »

Magic Kingdom AtMousePhere: The Music of Liberty Square

by on August 16, 2014 9 Comments

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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:

Read the rest of this entry »

SATURDAY SIX: Six of Disney’s (Not So) Secret Plans for the Next 5 Years

by on August 16, 2014 21 Comments

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This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six of Disney’s (Not So) Secret Plans for the Next 5 Years. This past week The Unofficial Guide’s Disney Dish with Jim Hill podcast went over a lot of exciting possibilities for Walt Disney World’s near future.  The show was the talk of the theme park world, and while it was loaded with a metric ton of information, scintillating rumors, and insider scoops, we’re going to count down the six biggest takeaways of this audio starting with…

# 6 – The Sorcerer’s Hat ain’t going anywhere…

SATURDAY_SIX_DHSHAT

Haters gonna hate. (photo by Matt Cleary and Brandon Glover)

 

The era of nightmares doesn’t seem to be coming to an end anytime soon over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Jim Hill says that despite the fact that many guests see the giant Sorcerer’s hat sitting in the middle of the park as the biggest eyesore since Cinderella Castle was turned into a giant pink birthday cake, it serves an important purpose to the park. More to the point, the stage below the ugly hat plays a vital roll in allowing DHS to hold various live shows and draw the crowds away from popular attractions such as Tower of Terror and Toy Story Midway Mania.

Read the rest of this entry »

New Ultimate Day VIP Tour Introduced for Epcot Food and Wine Festival

by on August 15, 2014 2 Comments

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Epcot Food and Wine Festival

©Disney

Disney has been introducing a lot of these special and select VIP tours frequently lately and it looks like they aren’t stopping any time soon. You see, for those who would like the ultimate day at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, Disney announced that there is now a tour for that. “The Ultimate Day VIP Tour for the Epcot Food and Wine Festival” will allow you to do it all, thanks to your VIP tour guides.

The tour begins at a special VIP Lounge located at the Festival Center called the Wonder’s Retreat.  Here guests will start their day with a flute of champagne and small bites.  From there, they will get to experience popular attractions at Epcot, including Test Track, Soarin’, Spaceship Earth and The Seas with Nemo & Friends. After a brief break, guests will head back to the Wonder’s Retreat for a beverage tasting and a six-course tapas-style lunch.

Following lunch, guests will get private behind the scenes tour of the greenhouses at Living With The Land.  Guests will then head to World Showcase, where Disney Chefs will give them an introduction to the Marketplace Booths, as well as a three-course tasting.

Guests will also receive VIP seating for that evening’s Eat to the Beat concert, as well as a special reserved location for Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.

This tour will take place on Thursdays and Sundays, lasts for six hours, and costs $399 per person, plus tax for those ages 21 and over. (Theme park admission is required and not included in the price.) To schedule this tour, call (407) WDW-TOUR.

In Case You Missed It: Disney News and Rumors – Week of August 15, 2014

by on August 15, 2014 11 Comments

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In Case You Missed It!

In Case You Missed It!

This week, my own world (as well as many others) was rocked by the news of Robin Williams passing. I grew up with Robin, entertaining me, making me laugh. Robin was such a huge part in my Disney experience. Matter of fact, Aladdin was the first movie I remember seeing with my whole family together. (My family didn’t go to movies often growing up, especially not all together.)

To honor his memory today, I share videos of both “Back To Neverland” which was shown at Disney-MGM Studios and Timekeeper, which could be found in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom.

I would just like to put out there a simple thanks to him for being the bright, shining star that he was, but unfortunately couldn’t always see himself.  I believe The Academy put it best on their social media: “Genie, you are free.”

In Case You Missed It – Disney and Universal Orlando News and Rumors

 

To honor Robin Williams, the cast of “Aladdin” on Broadway, led by James Iglehart, who portrays the Genie in the show, invited the audience to participate in a sing-along of “Friend Like Me.” Here is that touching video.

Have you ever played The Great Piggy Bank Adventure found in Innoventions at Epcot and wished you could have your very own cute piggy bank?  Well, now you can finally purchase your own! He’s so adorable! Read the rest of this entry »

American Idol Experience to Close at the End of August

by on August 15, 2014 13 Comments

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American Idol Experience

©Disney

A few months ago, we learned that after five years, the American Idol Experience at Disney’s Hollywood Studios would be closing. The original indication was the attraction would have its final performances in January. That is not the case. It has been announced that the last shows will take place on Saturday, August 30, 2014.

The attraction, which is based on the real life hit Fox television show, has guests performing in front of a live audience. The audience then, much like on the show, votes on which performer was the best in their eyes. During the final performance of the evening, the winners from every prior show that day come back and perform in the finale. The finale winner receives a Golden Ticket, allowing special front-of-the-line access at any American Idol audition (if their age fell within the television show’s age restriction.)

Guests who have previously received a Dream Ticket will still have the ability to use those, as long as the American Idol TV show is still being produced and auditions are taking place.

The American Idol Experience debuted in 2009, and many of the performers on the American Idol TV show have actually previously auditioned and performed first on The American Idol Experience stage.

Disney has not announced its plans for the theater.

For those of you who will be down in Walt Disney World and who love this attraction, make sure you make a visit before the end of the month.

Review of Loews Loves Pets at Universal Orlando Resort

by on August 15, 2014 2 Comments

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Loews loves pets goody bag

The goods. Photo – Laurel Stewart

Fact: I travel. A lot.

Fact: I like my pets more than I like most people.

Fact: Until my pets get opposable thumbs and learn to Face Time me while I travel, I will miss them terribly when I’m on the road.

With this mind, I decided on my last trip to Orlando that it was time to bring the dog along. Lucky for me, Loews Hotels, the company that runs the four onsite resorts at Universal, is pet friendly – a program called Loews Loves Pets. And, as this trip was especially to visit Universal and Diagon Alley, it seemed a natural fit to take advantage of this policy.

Read the rest of this entry »

Google Glass as Your Disney World Vacation Companion

by on August 15, 2014 15 Comments

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We’ve seen a plethora of enhancements in technology at the Walt Disney World parks over the last few years. From physical media like MagicBands to apps like My Disney Experience, Disney has been implementing new technologies to make every guest’s experiences more seamless and enjoyable.

Of course, there’s technology that we can bring ourselves to make our trips better. Smart phones have become indispensable tools for a smooth and well organized vacation. With apps like Touring Plans’ mobile Lines app, not to mention the ability to Google nearly anything you could need to know about the parks, our smart phones give us access to whatever information we may need during our trips.

Beyond the necessary information like FastPass+ times and restaurant locations, there’s a lot somebody might wonder while wandering through the parks. When did Mission: Space open? What used to be where Stitch’s Great Escape now stands? When did Kilimanjaro Safaris remove the poacher story from the attraction?

Read the rest of this entry »

Universal Orlando Offers Celebration of Harry Potter in 2015

by on August 14, 2014 1 Comment

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Hogwarts Express

Hogwarts Express ©Universal

Universal Orlando announced a three day Harry Potter themed event today, the Celebration of Harry Potter, for January 30 to February 1, 2015. The fan event will offer appearances from actors of the Harry Potter films and an expo in addition to exclusive access to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley for ticket holders.

Guests may choose from a package that includes:

  • Three nights in a Universal or Universal partner hotel
  • Three day park-to-park admission to Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure
  • An evening dessert party in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley
  • Reserved seating for actor appearances and discussions
  • Early park admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (one hour)
  • Breakfast at Three Broomsticks
  • A welcome pack and commemorative merchandise

Annual Passholders may opt for a package that does not include park admission (but does include the hotel stay). The minimum stay for either package is three nights.

Guests who don’t wish to book the full packages may choose admission only, which will include actor appearances and the expo.

The event package for two adults starts at $555 for the partner hotel ($357 AP), $657 for Cabana Bay ($465 AP), and $855 for Royal Pacific Resort ($657 AP). Packages must be booked by phone at 1-888-343-8991 starting Thursday, August 21 at noon Eastern time.

The Universal Crowd Calendar has not yet been updated for this event. This year’s celebration of Harry Potter in late January had low overall park crowd levels, but many fans in the Wizarding World areas.