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Friday, November 21, 2014

D23 eliminates silver memberships, to offer Gold Family option in 2015

In an email to members today, D23, the official Disney fan club, announced they will no longer offer D23 Silver memberships as of today.  Current D23 Silver memberships will still be honored until renewal time when those members will be offered the opportunity to upgrade to a Gold or Gold Family account.  For those who may not recall, a D23 Silver membership included an official membership card, membership certificate, access to D23 special events and D23 special discounts and member access as well as extra special surprises.

In addition, D23 announced they will offer a new Gold Family membership, where a member can include up to three guests at various D23 events.

To read the entire email, click on the photo below.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Photo Friday: Farewell to a bear

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It's Friday and you know what that means!!! Photo time!

With the closing of Malestrom earlier this week, I wanted to say goodbye to one of my favorite parts of this attraction - the giant polar bear that you speed by as you go "back, back, over the falls..." and then stare at as you pass into the next show scene. 

We can only hope this big guy will find his way into Arendelle.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Another chance to win a Disney trip

As you know, I'm a fan of entering sweepstakes to win Disney trips -- and as some of you know, I did win one Disney trip back in 2009.

So when I run across opportunities for you to win a Disney vacation, I feel I need to share.  This one is presented by the rental car company, Alamo (which, by the way, offers discounts to annual passholders).  This contest is open until Nov. 2, so good luck!

Here's a news release from Alamo:

Alamo Rent A Car, the official rental car of Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort, is offering the chance to win vacations this fall with its “From Coast to Castle” sweepstakes. From now until November 2, 2014, participants can visit Alamo’s Facebook page or the From Coast to Castle website to enter daily for a chance to win their choice of one of the following three unique Disney vacations:

Disney Cruise Line Prize Package: Climb aboard the Disney Magic for a seven-night cruise vacation experience unlike any other. This package for four includes round-trip airfare, complimentary onboard dining experiences, pre-paid gratuities, a $500 Visa gift card, a $500 Disney Gift Card and more.

Walt Disney World Resort Prize Package: Enjoy a one-of-a-kind experience for four at the Walt Disney World Resort, complete with round-trip airfare, seven nights' accommodations at a Walt Disney World Resort deluxe hotel, four seven-day Magic Your Way tickets with Park Hopper Option, a Tour Guide for up to six hours, a $500 Visa gift card, a $500 Disney Gift Card and more.

Disneyland Resort Prize Package: Journey to Anaheim, Calif., for an adventure for four at the Disneyland Resort. The vacation package includes round-trip airfare, seven nights' accommodations at a Disneyland Resort deluxe hotel, four seven-day Park Hopper tickets, a Tour Guide for up to six hours, a $500 Visa gift card, a $500 Disney Gift Card and more.

“We know that many families want to experience the magic of a Disney vacation, but with so many great Disney destinations available, we wanted to give the winners a choice,” said Rob Connors, assistant vice president of brand marketing for Alamo. “So whether their dream vacation is aboard a Disney Cruise Line ship, or on a trip to Walt Disney World Resort or Disneyland Resort, we’re letting the lucky winners decide.”

The sweepstakes features eight weekly entry periods with one winner selected each week and runs September 8 – November 2, 2014.

Participants can enter the sweepstakes three times per day. Alamo Rent A Car is also offering three easy ways to earn bonus entries:

Design a Postcard: After registering for the sweepstakes, participants will be given the option of earning up to three additional entries per day by creating Disney-themed postcards. Registrants can follow the links and instructions to choose their vacation (Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort, or Disney Cruise Line), upload a photograph to the postcard frame, and decorate their postcard.
Tell A Friend Program: After finishing a postcard design, participants can submit the names and email addresses of up to three friends with whom to share their postcard and details about the “From Coast to Castle” sweepstakes. For each referral of up to three friends, participants earn one additional entry per weekly entry period.
Share on Twitter: Sweepstakes registrants will be given one bonus entry per weekly entry period for sharing the sweepstakes on Twitter.

For more information and a copy of the official rules, visit the Alamo Rent A Car “From Coast to Castle” sweepstakes website at

Friday, October 3, 2014

Photo Friday: Catastrophy Canyon no more

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It's time for another Photo Friday!

With the recent closing of the Backlot Tour at Disney Hollywood Studios, I thought I'd share a photo of one of the great moments of this attraction.  While I'm eager to see what's next for the studios, I will miss this scene from the Backlot Tour where guests got an up-close experience of a major special effects shot.  I especially enjoyed seeing the shock on people's faces just after the moment you see here when tons of water appears to pour over the ride vehicle. 

Farewell Backlot Tour!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tip Tuesday: Finding Divine

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

This week, we're heading to Disney Animal Kingdom (Captains - this is for you!) to talk about one of my favorite hidden treasures - Divine!

If you've never seen Divine, and she can be easy to miss, you're missing out on one of the best examples of live character entertainment in all of Animal Kingdom.  As you can see from the photo above, Divine is a cast member on stilts dressed all in leaves and other foliage.  Her gangly shape is barely humanoid in form, so, I suspect that's why some people pass her by.

She often can be found along the pathway between Africa and Asia.  This photo was taken of Divine near the Africa side of this pathway.  She tends to hide in areas with a lot of foliage, so it's easier for her to blend in.  Her "appearances" often are listed in the Animal Kingdom times guides, so be sure to check that out so you know when to keep an eye out.  Don't think you're going to get a photo with Divine, she's not that kind of character and, obviously, she doesn't do autographs.

If you do run across Divine, be sure to stay and people watch for a bit.  You'll be surprised how many people will pass right by.  Also be sure to pay attention to how she moves.  The cast member really does go fully into character, making slow, vine-like movements.  You could almost imagine this really is a creature made of vines.

On your next visit to Animal Kingdom, take a few minutes and appreciate the incredible performance of Divine - she's one more example of how Disney takes the theme park experience to a whole new level.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tip Tuesday - dealing with changes at WDW

You are not the first to pass this way... but soon, you could be the last...

On this week's Tip Tuesday, I'm opening Pandora's Box.  Yep, I'm going to talk about the changes coming to Epcot.  There have been a lot of strong opinions about the recently announced Frozen attraction that will replace Malestrom in Epcot along with the new slate of live entertainment coming to World Showcase (replacing very popular attractions like Off Kilter).

So here's the deal:  Walt Disney World is always changing.  That shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, just look at all the changes that came to the Magic Kingdom with the expansion of Fantasyland (with great fanfare, I might add).  So why is there so much backlash about changes to Epcot and is that ire justified? 

Before you get your hackles up, hear me out.  Let me start by asking myself a few questions.

Me:  Are you in favor of the changes to the live entertainment acts in World Showcase?
Me:  I'm not sure yet.  I want to see what Disney brings in before I decide.
Me:  Are you in favor of the changes to Malestrom?
Me:  I'm not sure yet.  I want to see what Disney does before I decide.
Me:  Well do you think Magic Bands are a good idea?
Me:  I'm not sure yet.  I want to have more time to try them out before I decide.

Do you sense a theme here?  The point is that before we go and bash some of the new ideas proposed by Disney, I think we need to give things a chance.  To put it simply, I trust Disney to do what is best to make the parks as successful as they can be.  Remember, Disney is in the business to make money along with making guests happy.  Sometimes those two goals work hand in hand and sometimes they work against each other.

So while I may have some reservations about some of the proposed changes coming to Epcot, and I'll share them in a second, I also trust Disney to make sure that changes have the same level of quality and guest appeal as that which is being replaced.

So what are my reservations about these changes? 

Well, I'm fine with changing Malestrom to a Frozen attraction.  The Snow Queen story (Frozen is based on the Hans Christian Anderson story of the Snow Queen) has it's origins in Scandinavian culture, so it makes sense that the Norway pavilion would be home to a Frozen attraction.  I'm not as fine with the entire Norway pavilion being changed to become the city of Arendelle.  The Norway pavilion should, in my opinion, still tell the story of Norway.  I trust that Disney will keep the "spirit of Norway" alive in the pavilion.  As I said above, I want to see what Disney does before I decide if this is a good change or not.

As for the entertainment changes coming to World Showcase, I am cautiously optimistic that the new acts will be at least as good as the ones departing, especially Off Kilter.  I think the reason so many hardcore fans are upset about this change is that these acts have been in World Showcase for so long that people have developed a deep loyalty for these acts.  I can understand that there are plenty of reasons for acts to leave and new ones to come in.  To be honest, there is a time where it's time for fresh content.  How many of you are starting to say it's time for Wishes to end and a new fireworks show to come to the Magic Kingdom?  Same thing applies here.  New isn't always bad.  Yes, I had the same reaction many of you did when I read that Off Kilter is being replaced by some sort of "lumberjack" show.  Many of you immediately thought of the "I'm a Lumberjack and that's OK" song from Monty Python.  It's ok to admit it - I did.  I trust that Disney will ensure that the new shows will be just as high quality. 

So when the next announcement comes from Disney, and I expect some whoppers at the D23 Expo in August, let's all take a deep breath and give these new ideas a chance before we rush to judgement.

Alright, I've had my say -- I'm sure some of you are dying to throw in your comments so now's the time -- go for it!  Post your comments below!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tip Tuesday: The "intimate" details of race planning

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Welcome back to another Tip Tuesday. 

This week I'm continuing my series of tips about the pre-race area during RunDisney events at Walt Disney World.

Ok, so it's time to get intimate - and I do mean intimate.  We're going to talk about pee, poop and private parts, so if you'd rather not go there, now's your time to move to another page.

I won't mind.


It's ok.

If you're reading this, then you're probably ok with this week's topics, so off we go!

One of the most important things to do at the pre-race area is to make sure you use a bathroom (porta-pottie in most cases) before you get into your corral.  Now here's a really big tip for you.  DON'T bother lining up for the first porta-potties that you see once you pass through the runners only zone.  Take a look at the map above.  Those areas in red generally are where Disney places porta-potties.  Notice that there is a big group just after you enter the runners only area.  This is where most runners will line up (I've seen 20 people or more in a line for a single porta-pottie).  There is a smaller second area as you turn to the left and head down the path toward the corrals.  These porta-potties are usually far less crowded.  So skip the first set and venture on a bit. 

Speaking of pee and poop -- you'll probably need to do so while you're out on the course, especially for the longer races.  While there are porta-potties along the race, it's much less stressful to have access to a real bathroom.  There are a few opportunities during the race, usually in the parks, where runners can go off the course briefly to hit a regular bathroom.  There are three good places to do so in the Magic Kingdom.  The first is as you're passing Mickey's Star Traders - there is a bathroom within steps of the course.  The second is as you're passing through Frontierland, there is a bathroom located in one of the two corridors that connect Frontierland and Adventureland.  The third is just before heading out of Frontierland.  Take the back path from Frontierland to the restrooms located at Pirates of the Caribbean - it's not far away. 

In Animal Kingdom, there are two opportunities - the first is as you pass Kali River Rapids and the second is as you pass Finding Nemo:  The Musical.  In Hollywood Studios, there is a bathroom as you pass behind what was the American Idol Experience.  A second easy-to-reach bathroom is located to the left as you get to the Crossroads before exiting the park.

By the time you get to Epcot, you're very near the end, but the good news is that you're running along World Showcase from the UK pavilion all the way around to the entrance, so there are a bunch of restrooms along the way - just about one in each pavilion.

One last note about pee.  During those pit stops, do be sure to keep an eye on the color of your pee.  I know this sounds gross, but it is important.  If your urine is gold or even light orange in color, you are getting seriously dehydrated and you need to drink a lot right away.  Dehydration is no fun at all - ask Len Testa sometime.

Ok, enough with the bathroom stuff.  Now it's time to talk about your private parts (see, I said we were getting intimate).  The fact is, running is a sport where parts of your body are moving all the time.  Webster defines "chafing" as "to cause soreness or damage by rubbing against something."  When you're running, your skin is rubbing against things like clothes and other parts of your skin.  So it's very important to guard against severe chafing, which can bleed (trust me on this one).

It's important to use some sort of anti-chafing product, such as Glide.  Men and women should use this on the butt crack, on the chest/breasts and nipples and on the underarms and perhaps inside each thigh (if not wearing running tights).  Women also should use Glide on the cleavage area, especially for women with larger breasts.  I have heard of some people actually taping down their nipples and/or using bandages to avoid severe chafing.  Use whatever works for you.

So why am I discussing this in a post about the pre-race area? These are some of the things you may need to do while you're in the pre-race area and don't be surprised to see people lubing up before the race.

Well, I think that just about covers everything for the pre-race area.  I'll talk more about some tips during the start and during the race in future posts.  Until then, keep up the training!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Photo Friday: Off Kilter about changes to Epcot

Time for another Photo Friday!

With the recent announcement that several live attractions in Epcot will be leaving in September, I wanted to share a shot of what I think is, and soon will be "was." the best live attraction in World Showcase - Off Kilter.  Back in November, 2011 (show# 249), I joined Lou Mongello on the WDW Radio Show to talk about the best live music in World Showcase.

So if you have a chance to get out to Epcot in the next few weeks, I'd recommend catching one more show of Off Kilter and several other World Showcase live acts, because they will be gone soon.

What's coming next?  Well, Disney isn't saying much right now, other than to say that Off Kilter will be replaced by a "lumberjack show."  Not sure what that really means, so we'll just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tip Tuesday: The morning of the race - part 2 - the pre-race area

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Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!  Last week, I talked about transportation to the pre-race area (seen in yellow on the map above).  This week, we're going to talk more about the pre-race area and some ways to avoid some common headaches and some of the planning decisions that need to be made ahead of time.

There are several activities taking place during the pre-race area.  The biggest activity is the race retreat (half and full marathons only).  This is an optional hard-ticketed event that starts at 3 a.m. and sells out nearly as quickly as the races themselves.  The race retreat offers runners some useful pre-race benefits, most importantly a heated environment so runners don't have to stand out in the cold morning air (and those pre-dawn mornings can get quite chilly in early January).  Other features of the race retreat include bagels, fruit, coffee and sports drinks, private restrooms, padded stretching area, Disney character meet and greets and a separate first aid station.

The race retreat can by a bit pricey.  For the 2015 marathon weekend, the cost is $120 for each race (or $225 for Goofy or Dopey runners).  It is a very popular option and can be a bit crowded.  After each event the race retreat offers brunch and internet access to check results.

The race retreat isn't the only thing going on at the pre-race area - there are DJ's playing music and lots and lots of groups all meeting up before the race.  The major difference here is the weather - you're out in it.  If it's especially cold and/or raining (or snowing - it's happened!) then it can be an uncomfortable and unpleasant wait until the time comes to walk to the corrals.

This is where you need to do some planning.  Do you think the race retreat will be worth it?  Will having some food and a warm tent be worth the price?  Are you willing to run the risk with the weather?  These are all questions you need to consider as you're planning your pre-race.  Also, if you are going to skip the race retreat and wait outside, do you need to bring extra clothing or blankets to stay warm while you wait (knowing that you'll have to do something with them once the race starts - either get rid of them or hand off to a waiting spectator down the road).  Again, this is where runners have to do some planning in order to be prepared.

What do I do?  I personally don't go to the race retreats.  Instead, I join the WDW Radio Running Team as we meet up before each race.  Depending on the weather conditions and temperature, I'll bring an extra old or cheap sweatshirt and sweatpants to wear until just before the start of the race.  I'll then toss those to the side once I start running.  But, I'm getting ahead of myself.  I'll talk more about how the corrals work in a future post.

Next time - I'll discuss the walk and a very important potty break!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Photo Friday: A photographic comparison of Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid

Welcome to another Photo Friday!

This week it's 2 for 1 day!  Well, sort of.

During my May trip to Disneyland, I noted a change to the main cavern portion of the Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid attraction at Disney California Adventure.  The lighting was drastically different than the Magic Kingdom version.  Later, I found out Disney was testing a different lighting level to see if it improved the attraction.  The main reason, as I understand it, was to eliminate guests seeing production elements such as light instruments, projectors, etc.

So see for yourself - which do you like better?

Here is the Magic Kingdom version (this shot is from June, 2013):
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and this is a similar shot from the California Adventure version (this shot is from May, 2014):
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So which version do you like better?  Post your thoughts in the comments section below!