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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tip Tuesday: Pressed Pennies (part 2)

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday! Yeah, I know it's Wednesday - ever had one of those days where you were behind from the first moment? Sigh.

Anyway, to business. In the last Tip Tuesday post, I told you about pressed pennies all across Walt Disney World and where you could find a list. I had a question for you -- would any old penny work? The answer is both yes and no. Sure you could use a shiny new 2008 penny and it would look good, but the best pennies are those made before 1982. Why? Well according to PennyCollector.com, pennies dated 1982 and newer create silver streaks when they are pressed. This is because newer pennies are mostly made of zinc with only a copper coating. Older pennies (pre 1982) are made mostly of copper with a little bit of zinc. Also newer pennies apparently don't polish as well.

I tried this myself and they're right.

OK, so there's a catch. A lot of times old pennies LOOK like old pennies - they're tarnished and dirty. What's the best way to clean them and get them into shiny shape before they're pressed?

The folks at PennyCollector have listed several cleaning methods. Personally, I use the vinegar/salt and baking soda method. It's a bit messy -- alright, it's very messy and the vinegar stinks, but those pennies come out really shiny!!

As for finding old pennies - isn't that what piggy banks are all about? We all have jars of coins around the house - start going through them and look for those pre-1982 coins. You'll be surprised how many you'll find. If you're going to get into collecting pressed pennies, it's a good idea to check your pennies you get as change a few times a week as you're emptying your pockets. I keep my "pressable" pennies in a baggie in a drawer - that way I know they're not for regular use. It saves time later on.

One other tip I found from the folks at PennyCollector.com, if you want to use a special year (i.e. birth year) and have that year remain on the pressed penny, place the "heads" side of the penny away from the quarters when you put them in the slots.

Have fun with your collection and check back for next week's Tip Tuesday!

Good luck and happy pressing!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ever wonder where those turkeys pardoned at the White House go?

Every Thanksgiving, two turkeys are given "pardons" by the President.

Did you ever wonder where they went next? Well for a turkey, I guess being pardoned by the President (and, thus, not being eaten) is akin to winning the Super Bowl. And where do Super Bowl winners go? You guessed it, Walt Disney World (or Disneyland)!!!

This new tradition started a few years ago at Disneyland and later Walt Disney World. Last year's turkeys are alive and well at Animal Kingdom. The turkeys to be pardoned in a month from now will go to Disneyland.

Find out much more on this interesting and unusual Thanksgiving tradition from this CNBC article.

Gobble, Gobble!!!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

WDW at the Holidays: Epcot


Time for another installment of what I'm looking forward to when I return to WDW in December. In a previous post, I talked about some of the holiday events I'm eager to see at the Magic Kingdom. Next up is my favorite park, Epcot.

(Image copyright Disney, all rights reserved)


Of course the big Epcot holiday event is the nightly Candlelight Processional. This event features a choir of castmembers from all across Walt Disney World. In her latest Disney holiday special, Samantha Brown interviewed a family of five who all work at WDW (none in entertainment) and all sing in the choir. Based on some of the video I've seen, it's a fantastic concert. There are three shows each night and a special celebrity reader. Since this is not a hard-ticketed event, I may have to catch this a few times.

Beyond the candlelight processional, there is Holidays Around the World. In nearly each pavilion in World Showcase, guests can meet each country's version of Santa Claus and learn more about that country's holiday traditions. As Christmas is my favorite time of year (and I play Santa for a school during the seasons -- SHHH don't tell anyone!), I really get into Santa stories and legends.
Epcot has it's share of lights, and the walkway between Future World and World Showcase is where Epcot shines best. That along with the daily lighting of the Epcot tree should be a great experience.

Epcot is known for it's music and the holidays are no different - a great Christmas music track will be a joy to listen as we walk around this park.

Check back for more of my thoughts and anticipations as the Disney holiday's approach!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Disney releases "Most Wanted" holiday gift list

From Disney Consumer Products:

According to a DCP news release, "Disney is ringing in the holidays with a dazzling selection of award-winning toys and electronics that are topping hot industry holiday lists and already generating a buzz with retailers, toy experts and parents alike. Disney's holiday toys and electronics are available at a variety of retailers nationwide, Disney Store locations throughout the U.S., and DisneyShopping.com. "

Much of the emphasis this holiday season is on (no surprises here) High School Musical 3, TinkerBell and Pixie Hollow and Hannah Montana.

So if you're looking for some Disney-related holiday ideas, check out the "most wanted" gift list.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

CNBC: Anaylists fear park slowdown at Disney

From the "This isn't good news" department:

CNBC is reporting that some analysts think a slowdown is coming for the Disney parks. Due to all the current economic mess (I will leave out of this post my own thoughts on how this happened), though they did admit there is no evidence yet of a slowdown.

Personally, I don't buy it. I have a feeling park attendance is going to slightly increase or stay flat at the worst, especially from guests in the south and along the East Coast. Why? People will want to get away from all the stress in their lives and Disney is the first place that comes to mind. Trips to Europe and Hawaii are out, the airfare is too much. If they're within a decent drive time, I think Disney is a solid option, especially with gas prices continuing to drop (knock on wood that this trend will continue).

I may be an optomist - but there you are. You can decide for yourself.

Tip Tuesday: Pressed Pennies

What's flat, oval-shaped, stamped with Disney artwork and makes a wonderful and unique Disney collectible? A pressed coin! All across Walt Disney World (and Disneyland) there are hundreds and hundreds of penny press machines where guests can insert a coin and two quarters and get a unique Disney design pressed into the penny (the quarters are just for payment). They're in the parks, the resorts, the restaurants, the stores - just about anywhere on Disney property.


Here's a great example of a pressed penny, thanks to Presscoins.com.


Each penny press usually has three designs to choose from. These are great items for kids to collect - they only cost 51-cents a piece (unless the price goes up) and you can only get them at a Disney location (parks, resorts or World of Disney). Nearly every machine has a unique design, so you aren't likely to come across the same one in two different locations.

These are fun to collect and make a very good souvenir. Everytime I talk to someone who's going to WDW for the first time, I suggest they bring pennies and quarters to have on hand for the penny presses. Like I said, my kids love collecting them and it's a great excuse to go visit other locations - especially the resorts.

I can hear you saying it now: "If there are hundreds, where in the (Walt Disney) World do you find them all?" I'm glad you asked (or kept reading).

Presscoins.com has a great checklist of penny presses that they keep updating from time-to-time. Some designs have been retired to make way for new ones. If you really going to get into collecting penny presses, I highly suggest printing this list to help you keep track of which pennies you already have and which ones you want to get. Oh, and don't think you're going to get to all of them in one trip - just can't happen. There are WAAAAY too many of them.

Parents, take a tip from the DisneyDaddy - this is a great way to keep your kids engaged while at Disney and a fun way to make some memories.

Now I can hear you asking another question: "Will any old penny do?" For the answer to that, check back for next week's Tip Tuesday (and get ready to get your hands messy)!!

Monday, October 20, 2008

High School Musical 3 opens Friday

CNBC is reporting that advance ticket sales for High School Musical 3 are very strong in England, where the movie opens Wednesday, as well as in the U.S. in advance of Friday's opening day.

This is one film my kids can't wait to see. To be honest, I can't either. It's refreshing to see the musical format once again take center stage, or screen, in this case. The HSM series tells the story of a high school friendship and romance (yes through rose-colored glasses), and doesnt' have one ounce of sex, drugs violence or language. Yet it has an enormous appeal. HSM is proof that a good story really does make all the difference and that a film doesn't have to be sex, drugs and rock-and-roll to appeal to tweens and teens.

As one song in the movie states, "this is the last chance" to enjoy a good family-friendly movie.

Fabulous!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

New Disney Legends

Mickey and Minnie are Disney Legends -- and so are the people who provide their voices. Wayne Allwine and his wife Russi Taylor became Disney Legends at a ceremony Monday. Allwine and Taylor met while they were doing the voices for the two most popular mice in the world.

Even though Mickey and Minnie may never get married, the two voices did - and now they're Disney Legends. Also inducted were Frank Gifford, Barbara Walters and several others.

More from the official Disney news release.

WDW at the Holidays: Magic Kingdom

In this first posting about my upcoming trip to WDW for the holidays, I wanted to talk about my thoughts on the main event when it comes to holiday happenings: Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.

(Image copyright Disney, all rights reserved)

There's so much going on at Very Merry, from the parade to the fireworks to hot chocolate and gingerbread cookies to special shows. And then there's the castle itself, that's what I'm looking most forward to seeing in person. The pictures and video online look amazing, but I can only imagine what a true spectacle Cinderella's Castle looks like in person with all those lights. Mickey's Twas the Night Before Christmas show sounds interesting. That is one of my favorite holiday stories, along with Mickey's Christmas Carol. I also can't wait to see it snow on Main Street. Being from the mid-Atlantic, I've seen my share of snow, but there's just something about snow at Walt Disney World that is just amazing.


(Image copyright Disney, all rights reserved.)

In the midst of all these events is another element - short lines! It's a tough choice, see the parade, stage shows, fireworks and all that, or take advantage of the opportunity to hit attractions with little wait times. Given when I'm going (early Dec.), I'll take the events, since the daytime lines are expected to be fairly short. Another element that I'm looking forward to is my kids visiting with Santa. They're getting older, so they're not as eager to sit with Santa as they used to, but I have a feeling this time they might be more eager. Besides, it's a great picture.


Speaking of pictures, anyone know what enhancements PhotoPass will have for the holidays? I know that for the Halloween season, you can add some of the Haunted Mansion ghosts to your shots.

Well, I'm sure there's so much more for me to discover at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. More thoughts on other holiday events to come!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tip Tuesday: "Tripods"

OK, so you want to get good pictures of those great fireworks during Wishes or Reflections of Earth. You have a standard point-and-shoot camera, but didn't want to lug a tripod around the parks. Mission impossible? Not really. First, think about what a tripod does: it is a steady platform on which you can take pictures with little or no motion blur. This is needed during night shots because the shutter is open for a significantly longer time than during a normal shot during the day or even with a flash. Taking fireworks pictures most times come out blurry not because the shot was out of focus, rather is was because the camera was moving while the image was being exposed. This is known as motion blur. The best way to avoid motion blur is to use a tripod... or something like a tripod.


Now think about this, a trash can is a tripod. A fence railing is a tripod. A lightpole can be a tripod (sort of). Anything solid and not moving can serve as a tripod. Just set your camera on something and take your picture trying not to move the camera at all. Best to use the timer function if you can, that way nothing is moving the camera.


Oh, one more bit -- don't use a flash. There's no way your flash can do anything at all, so don't use it. Set your camera to the night setting and make sure the flash is off. That way your camera won't think it has the flash to depend on and will expose the shot a little longer, allowing for a better shot.

The photo you see here was taken with a Sony Cybershot. I firmly gripped the camera to the side of a lightpost and used that to anchor the camera. This takes practice, but the good pictures are worth it! So happy photo taking out there!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Holidays are just around the corner

While Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party is underway these days, it won't be long before Mickey changes party invitations. No more ghosts and goblins, instead there will be snow, trees, presents and holiday cheer. I'm talking about Christmas at Walt Disney World. While the signature event of the holiday season has to be Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, there are so many other holiday events inside and outside the park. Over the next few weeks, I'll share some thoughts about each. I've never been to Walt Disney World during Christmastime, but am going in early December, so I will discuss what I'm looking forward to most.


(Image copyright Disney, all rights reserved)

Think it's not too soon for the holidays? Think again as the Disney folks have been hard at work getting ready for the Christmas season since the beginning of August.


It's going to be a magical time to be at Disney. More to come in future postings!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

In the Blogosphere: Disney puts improvements to Fantasyland on hold

According to Jim Hill, Disney has apparently put on hold a fairly major renovation and expansion of Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Take this news for what it is -- unconfirmed reports.

Still, it sounds plausible. I wouldn't be surprised if Disney did have some plans on the board to give some major attention to Fantasyland, which is looking rather stale. Given all the economic mess going on right now, I also wouldn't be surprised if any or all of those possible plans were put on hold.

The next few years are going to be interesting for Disney. With a mega-renovation project getting ready to start at Disney's California Adventure (DCA) and with a slew of new movie projects underway, Disney probably doesn't have all that much capital to play around with to plan projects at WDW. Toss in the falling stock prices and it's anybody's guess what could happen next.

Like the stock market, Disney fans should adopt a "wait and see" attitude.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tip Tuesday: Using a click-sharpie

It's Tuesday, and that means it's time for another WDW tip. For anyone whose been at WDW and worked to get character autographs, you have encountered some general truths about the process.
  1. Standard pens don't work well - characters can't see what they're writing
  2. Regular sharpies mark all over the place

When the Sharpie folks came out with the click-sharpie, I knew this was the perfect writing tool for getting character autographs. Many characters have large hands (Mickey and Minnie are great examples), so they have a hard time signing books. With a sharpie, the line is thicker and bolder, so characters can more easily see what they are writing. But sharpies by themselves can leave marks where you (and the characters) don't want them. With the click-sharpie, a character can easily have it ready to use and then retract afterward. No lid to worry about - no fuss.

One note -- DON'T get the ultra fine point - the line it draws is too thin. The fine point is what you need.

Try this the next time you're getting character autographs. Trust me, you'll be glad you did.

Come back next week for another Tuesday Tip!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Calling all Disney pinheads!

Ok, time to give you a bit more about myself and my wife. In a nutshell, we're Disney pinheads. We love collecting Disney pins. We have a VERY hard time controlling ourselves when we're at WDW. If we had our way, we'd buy every pin in sight!

With this in mind, my wife was browing the official Disney pin trading Web site, when she came across two pin events that caught her eye.


The first is the Museum of Pin-Tiquities event in the summer of 2009 at Epcot. According to the Web site, the event is "presented in conjunction with the Epcot® Committee For Celebrating Disney Pins, The Department of Tradeology and Fellowship of Happy Traders, this event will feature unique Disney pins created for the Museum's opening, Disney pin trading activities, a silent and live auction of artifacts direct from the Museum's vault and much more."


The second is the Haunted Mansion Opin House at Disneyland next summer. This is in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. This looks interesting, though I don't know that we'll be able to go out to Disneyland for this event. I know some real Haunted Mansion fans, who I'm sure will try to get out there.
So for you Disney pinheads out there -- here are two events you may be interested in!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Simba's going to Vegas!

CNBC says Disney's "The Lion King" is coming to Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, starting next May. The show replaces "Mamma Mia." This is the first Disney stage show to appear in Vegas.

Just remember Simba -- what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas! If you see a lion sitting at the slots, don't be too alarmed.

HKDL clears loans - makes room for expansions

CNBC is reporting that Hong Kong Disneyland (HKDL) has cleared their commercial loans of about $425 million, thanks to some help from the Walt Disney company. HKDL is a joint venture between Disney and the Chinese government, which handled most of the construction costs (estimated at $3.5 billion).

According to a spokesperson, this means HKDL can now focus on expanding the park, which currently only has four lands (Main Street, Adventureland, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland).

I guess this is good news for them. HKDL is a pretty small park, so whatever they can do to expand should help out.