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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tip Tuesday: 999,999 at Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

This week's tip is pretty straightforward. How to get that max score (999,999) at Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom.

If you've never been on this attraction, first, you can't imagine what fun you're missing. It's one of my top 3 attractions at the Magic Kingdom and a DisneyDaddy must-do (again and again!). You get into a omnimover-style vehicle and go through a series of scenes trying to hit a bunch of "Z" targets that are all over the place. Many of these targets are worth a small amount of points per hit (100 to 1000 per hit). There are, however, some high point value targets (worth 10,000 to 100,000 per hit) that can help you achieve the maximum possible score of 999,999.

One such target is pictured above. The photo here is a second shot of the same set piece with the target in an easier place to see it. After you go through the first scene, you will come to a scene with Zurg in this orange ship. It isn't tilted like the picture shown above, it's level. It's also lower to the ground. That's what makes this such a hard to hit target.

See the Z at the base of the ship? That's a 100,000 per hit target. The hitch is that your blaster can't tilt down that far to hit it when you are right in front of the ship. You have to hit this target as you approach and leave this scene. If you're a good shot, you can get in 3-4 shots as you approach and 3-4 more as you turn around (facing backward) and shoot back at the target.

If you're really lucky, the ride will slow down (or stop) at just the right moment so you can blast away!

Some other high-point targets include a target on the back side of the orange robot's hand in the first scene. This supposedly is a 100,000 point target, though every time I've hit it, I only got 10,000 points.

In the scene with the volcano in the distance, there is a target at the top of the volcano. That's another 10,000 point target.

What other high-point targets do you know about? Post a comment!

Disney Cruise Line's "Wonder" to move to L.A.

From a Disney Cruise Line news release:

Disney Cruise Line announced today that it plans to reposition the Disney Wonder from its Florida base in Port Canaveral to the West Coast in 2011. The company is working with the Port of Los Angeles to finalize a two-year agreement with a three-year extension option. The contract will be considered by the Port of Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners on April 2, 2009.
If approved, the new Disney Wonder sailings could generate more than 250,000 guests passing through the Port of Los Angeles over a five-year period.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he is pleased to welcome the renowned family cruise line back to the Port of Los Angeles at San Pedro.

"Having Disney Cruise Line operating out of the Port of Los Angeles will provide a great boost to the local economy by generating business and tourism revenue in San Pedro and throughout the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area," Mayor Villaraigosa said. "The return of Disney Cruise Line to our port speaks volumes about our ability to attract world-class cruise lines to the area."
The addition of a new homeport for Disney Cruise Line is part of the overall expansion plan for The Walt Disney Company. Two new ships, Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, will arrive in Florida's Port Canaveral in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

"We are looking forward to returning to the Port of Los Angeles and offering our special brand of family cruises on the West Coast," said Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Jay Rasulo. "Having a Disney Cruise Line ship based in this region is something families on the West Coast have wanted for a long time, and we're pleased to bring the Disney Wonder to Southern California in 2011."

Disney Cruise Line has successfully tested the West Coast market with two summer seasons of Mexican Riviera itineraries from the Port of Los Angeles. The Disney Magic cruise ship first called on the West Coast during the summer of 2005 as part of Disneyland's 50th anniversary and returned again during the summer of 2008. Disney Cruise Line has not yet announced the details of its itineraries for 2011.

"The return of Disney Cruise Line to the Port of Los Angeles is just one more reason visitors will come to Los Angeles to help our city thrive," added Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Geraldine Knatz, Ph.d. "The LA area is already home to Disneyland – it's a natural fit."
The Port of Los Angeles continues to be one of the busiest cruise ports on the West Coast. Known for its proximity to area attractions, including Disneyland Resort, and ease of convenience for transportation and nearby airports, the Port of Los Angeles provides cruisers with a great experience.

Disney Cruise Line delivers a cruise experience that every member of the family feels was created for their own individual vacation wants and needs. Specifically designed areas and activities for each member of the family allows for both quality time together and wonderful individual experiences. The focus is to allow families to reconnect, adults to recharge their batteries and kids to immerse themselves in worlds of fantasy only Disney can create.
Known for establishing family travel in the cruise market Disney Cruise Line continues to be a leader in the industry.
The Disney Wonder was recently named the top large cruise ship experience by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler magazine in the 9th annual "Reader's Cruise Poll." The Disney Magic, which was also ranked in the top five cruise experiences in the poll, will embark on a season of limited itineraries exploring Northern Europe and the Mediterranean in 2010. Additionally, the line continues to move forward on the construction of its two new ocean liners at the Meyer Werft yard in Germany.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Free dining offer opened up to all

Last week I told you about a special offer for Disney VISA card holders. Now that offer has been opened up to the general public. Again, thanks to Beci Mankhen at MouseFanTravel for the heads up.

What am I talking about? Book a Walt Disney World Resort Magic Your Way package and get Free Dining too! This offer is for the standard dining plan and is available most nights 8/16/09 - 10/3/09. A 3 night minimum stay is required. The number of rooms allocated for this offer is limited. Savings based on the non-discounted price for the same package. Tickets are for one Theme Park per day and must be used within 14 days of first use. No group rates or other discounts apply. Note: You may book a minimum of 3 nights and a maximum of 10 nights at a variety of rates. Other restrictions may apply.

You can find more details at http://www.MouseFanTravel.com.

If you're thinking about going to Walt Disney World from mid-August to early October, you really need to look into this awesome deal.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Restaurant Review: Crystal Palace

It's been a while since I've done a restaurant review, so I thought I'd dive back into Disney dining. Up this time is a Magic Kingdom favorite: The Crystal Palace.

The Crystal Palace is located in the Magic Kingdom (as if you hadn't figured that out from the intro) on the west side of the hub on Main Street, just before the entrance to Adventureland.

Quick Facts:
This is a table-service character dining restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Characters featured usually are Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet. The restaurant serves all buffet-style meals. The Crystal Palace participates in the Disney Dining Plan and requires one table-service credit per person. Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR's) are highly recommended as this is one of the most popular (if not the most popular) restaurants in the Magic Kingdom.

The Crystal Palace (as the photo above suggests) is bright and open in it's Victorian design. There are windows everywhere, which afford a nice view of Cinderella's Castle (especially if you're sitting along the windows). There are plenty of flowers and other plants throughout the restaurant. It is generally divided into two segments (left and right) with a dual-line buffet in the middle (similar to the layout at Hollywood & Vine at Disney's Hollywood Studios).

I have had the opportunity to dine at The Crystal Palace for both breakfast and dinner (the lunch and dinner menus are the same). The breakfast menu offers your typical breakfast fare with scrabled eggs, bacon, sausage, sausage gravy, biscuits, pastries, fruit, Mickey waffles and pancakes. The quality of the food is pretty good and the service (as always) is outstanding. My children especially liked the Mickey waffles, while I was a fan of the sausage gravy and eggs.
The dinner buffet features a couple of salad options (including pasta salad), peel-and-eat shrimp, carved roast beef, carved roast turkey, various vegetables, mashed potatoes and gravy, and a wide selection of desserts. The buffet also has several children's selections such as cheese pizza, chicken strips (or nuggets), mac-n-cheese, green beans and more.
While I thought the breakfast options were good, they were similar to other offerings in Walt Disney World (see my review of Hollywood & Vine at DHS), I found the dinner menu to be oustanding. The carved roast turkey was amazing. I kept going back for more. We had dinner during MouseFest week (in early December 2008) at around 5, just before Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, and it wasn't all that crowded. Guests were able to move through the buffet fairly quickly. And you needed to be able to move through the buffet quickly because you never knew when the characters were coming to your table.
Speaking of characters, The Crystal Palace is a great place to meet some of your favorite friends from The Hundred Acre Wood. Both times I've dined at Crystal Palace, the characters spent a decent amount of time at each table, allowing guests to get autographs and pictures.
This is one of the Disney restaurants I highly recommend for guests with kids. The food is family-friendly and the characters are a delight to see.
So be sure to give The Crystal Palace a try on your next Disney trip.

Friday, March 27, 2009

"One Man's Dream" at DHS now brought to you by D23

According to the official D23 Web site, the "One Man's Dream" attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios has now been associated with the new D23 Official Community for Disney Fans.

As part of this new association, new D23 theming and a new display case featuring the room of a Disney fan (identity not given) have been added. Included in the new display case are items many Disney fans might find in their own homes such as an Ultimate Wall-E, pins, lithographs (including the new exclusive litho for D23 members), a D23 membership certificate, toys, Disney books and more.

Based on some photos included in the article, it appears that this new display case replaces the old Disney in the Digital World display which showed demos from the now-closed Virtual Magic Kingdom (VMK).

WDW Marathon Update: Goofy registration re-opened - for now

Disney yesterday posted the following on the WDW Marathon page:

"Due to unprecedented demand and increased Half Marathon course capacity in 2010, Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge has reopened for registration! Celebrate the 5th anniversary of Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge with 7500 of your closest friends!"

There's no word on how many slots are available, so if you're interested in running in the Goofy, you'll want to sign up right away.

In other WDW marathon-related news, the annual half-marathon is 80% full.

Pin update: Stretching portrait pin series sneak preview


The What's HapPINing? blog at Disneypins.com has a sneak preview of some of the pins that will be released at Disneyland this summer just in time for the 40th anniversary of The Haunted Mansion. This pin series will join the family of other pins in which classic Disney characters will take on roles in famous Disney movies and attractions. In another such series, Disney characters assume the roles of characters from "Mary Poppins."
This particular series is great! I especially like the pin with Daisy sitting on Donald's grave with the bust of Donald looking up in dismay. I also like the pin with Mickey, Donald and Goofy sinking into quicksand. The look on Donald's face is fantastic.
I may just have to find a way to get these, even though I'm not heading to Disneyland anytime soon.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Job ax is falling hard and fast at WDW

The Orlando Sentinel is reporting today that job layoffs at Walt Disney World have quickly increased as the second quarter comes to a close. Disney is the largest employer in central Florida with about 62,000 cast members. Some say about 450 have received the ax.

I ask all Disney fans to keep the folks who are suffering these layoffs in your thoughts.

Hopefully things will get better soon.

Free Dining is back

Beci Mahnken at Mouse Fan Travel has confirmed that Disney Rewards® Visa® cardholders can now book a Walt Disney World® vacation Magic Your Way package and get Free Dining too (standard dining plan)!

This offer requires a minimum 3 night stay with park admission and is valid for travel most nights 8/16/09 - 10/3/09.

The number of rooms is limited for this offer, so don't wait to long! You must book by 6/21/09. See http://www.mousefantravel.com for full details.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

D23 Update: Surprise gift is an exclusive lithograph

D23 fans are starting to see their "surprise" gift arrive in the mail.

And the big secret is... (drum roll please).... a very nice lithograph!

The following letter from Stephen Clark, head of D23, came with the lithograph:

"We are pleased to present you with this D23 member exclusive lithograph as your Charter Year gift from the new Walt Disney Archives Collection. Walt Disney Animation Studios Art Director Paul Felix created "Putting a Smile on the World" in celebration of Mickey's 80th anniversary last November, capturing Mickey's trademark charm, youthful exuberance and optimism."

"The entire D23 team hopes you'll enjoy and cherish this warm, wonderful addition to your collection and we once again thank you for being a part of D23 in its charter year."

Felix's print was selected as part of a portrait competition held among the different artists and animators at Disney. This tradition started with Walt Disney, himself, who held such a competition that was won by John Hench. He would continue to paint Mickey's official anniversary portraits until Hench died in 2004.

This is a very nice BIG print (original is oil on canvas). It measures 30" tall by 20" wide and is on archival #65 Cougar Natural Cover Stock with fade-resistant, oil-based process inks. A print of this size in the Art of Disney Store would run quite a pretty penny (like $50 or more!). Anyone waiting to see what the gift is before deciding to join D23 should give it serious consideration. The photo doesn't do it justice - it is a very nice print. For Disney art collectors, this is a nice piece (and it's helpful that it's a somewhat standard size so we can find pre-made frames).

If I had any doubts about becoming a D23 member, those doubts are gone. I'm quite glad and proud to say, yes I am 23!

If anyone from the D23 team is reading this: Thank you!

Tip Tuesday: Best way to get character autographs/photos

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

See if this sounds familiar. You're at the Magic Kingdom with your small children who are dying to meet as many characters as possible including Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, Cinderella, Jasmine, Alladin, Genie, Belle, Ariel, Snow White, Aurora, and on and on. Your children want autographs and photos with the characters.

Thinking that Mickey is at the top of the list, you head straight to the Judge's Tent in Toon Town (which opens at 10 a.m., a hour after the usual 9 a.m. park opening) only to encounter an hour wait just to meet the head cheese.

There's got to be a better way.

Good news! There is! Actually there are several ways to maximize your approach.

Option 1: Character dining
Here's where a little bit of planning can (again) make all the difference. Determine which characters are most important and schedule a character breakfast (or lunch, depending on the restaurant) at a restaurant featuring those characters. Why? In the space of time it would take to get one photo and autograph (Mickey), you can get several characters (up to five), plus have a fun meal. Best of all, for breakfasts, you can get an early reservation and be done just as the park opens, leaving time to try to get some of those other characters.

Consider these restaurants and characters featured (characters can vary sometimes):
  • Chef Mickey's (Contemporary): Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto (all day)
  • Crystal Palace (Magic Kingdom): Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet (all day)
  • Cinderella's Royal Table (Magic Kingdom): Cinderella, Belle, Aurora, Jasmine, Snow White (breakfast only) / Cinderella, Fairy Godmother (Lunch, Dinner only)
  • 1900 Park Fare (Grand Floridian): Alice, Mad Hatter, Pooh, Tigger, Mary Poppins (breakfast) / Alice, Mad Hatter, Cinderella, Prince Charming, evil stepsisters and stepmother (lunch/dinner only)
  • O'hana (Polynesian): Mickey, Pluto, Lilo, Stitch (breakfast only)
  • Akershus (Epcot-Norway): Ariel, Cinderella, Jasmine, Snow White, Aurora, Alice (all day)
  • Cape May (Beach Club): Minnie, Goofy, Chip and Dale (breakfast only)
  • Garden Grill (Epcot-Land): Mickey, Pluto, Chip, Dale (dinner only)
  • Hollywood & Vine (Hollywood Studios): Jo-Jo, Goliath, June, Leo (all day)
  • Tusker House (Animal Kingdom): Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy (breakfast only)

    There is one considerable downside to this plan. As mentioned in some previous Tip Tuesday posts, I'm a big fan of using PhotoPass. At the regular in-park character meet and greets, PhotoPass photographers are there to capture the moments. At the restaurants, you're on your own.

  • So this leads me to:

    Option 2: Epcot is best
    The other way to get character autographs and photos is to NOT try to get them at the Magic Kingdom. Did you know that you can find nearly every character that's in the Magic Kingdom at other parks? Yet the Magic Kingdom is where most guests go to find characters (based on the huge lines for each character meet-n-greet). So use your time at the Magic Kingdom for attractions and save the autographs and photos for other parks.

    If you're looking for the fab 5 (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto) then you need to go to two places in Epcot. The first is the Character Spot. Here guests line up in one line to meet the following characters: Mickey, Minnie, Chip, Dale, Goofy and Pluto. All in one shot. You (usually) first meet Mickey and then go right down the line to each group. Boom! Six characters in one sweep,and all with PhotoPass. For Donald, just go to the tree-covered walkway to the right of the Mexico pavilion (check a times guide or ask a castmember for times when Donald's out). You might encounter a moderate line, but it won't be an hour!

    For the princesses and other characters, catch them at the different pavilions in World Showcase.

    Mexico: Donald and the Three Caballeros
    China: Mulan and/or Mushu
    Morroco: Alladin and Jasmine
    France: Belle and Beast
    England: Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, Mary Poppins

    I've seen additional characters around at different times, so it's a very good idea to get a daily times guide and to check with a castmember if you're looking for a specific character.

    If you combine both options you can end up getting autographs and photos with a LOT of characters, so good luck!

    Characters also can be found in Animal Kingdom (see Camp Minnie-Mickey) and all over the place in Hollywood Studios (again, check the times guide).

    Happy character hunting! Wait, that didn't sound right. Please don't hunt the characters. Disney wouldn't like it and you would ruin the magic for everyone else.

    Uhh, how about happy character meeting!

    Toy Story Mania coming to Wii

    BURBANK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Disney Interactive Studios today announced Toy Story Mania!, inspired by the Disney/Pixar animated feature “Toy Story,” will be released exclusively for the Wii™ home video game console this fall. Toy Story Mania! showcases an array of entertaining games based on the new Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort attractions, while featuring the iconic characters and humor from the popular Disney/Pixar “Toy Story” franchise.

    “The ‘Toy Story’ franchise is a fun, dynamic and heart-warming series containing characters and themes that connect with every age group,” said Craig Relyea, senior vice president of global marketing, Disney Interactive Studios. “Toy Story Mania! combines those popular elements with the unique antics of the new theme park attraction for the ultimate in family entertainment.”
    In Toy Story Mania!, players experience the fast-paced, zany fun of the Toy Story Mania! theme park attraction, which is an interactive experience requiring 3D glasses and involving rapid or quick-firing shooting galleries. In addition to galleries adapted from the attraction, the game includes new and original galleries and a series of mini games, all hosted by beloved characters from the movies. The thematically-connected levels are designed for up to four players of all ages with competitive and co-operative multiplayer options. Toy Story Mania! also includes bonus 3D features, transforming the game experience with eye-popping visuals.

    The Pixar-created “Toy Story” and ”Toy Story 2” have both had successful box office and DVD sales. The Disney Digital 3D™ theatrical re-release of “Toy Story” is in the works and will open in theatres on October 2, 2009, followed by the 3D re-release of “Toy Story 2” opening on February 12, 2010, leading up to the premiere of “Toy Story 3” in 3D summer 2010. Toy Story Mania! is the first video game to place characters from these films into a carnival game setting and is expected to resonate with fans of the films and the attraction, as well as gamers who like pick-up-and-play party games.

    Developed by Papaya Studio, Toy Story Mania! will be available this fall exclusively for Wii.

    Sunday, March 22, 2009

    2010 WDW Marathon update: Goofy sold out

    If you were thinking about running Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge during the 2010 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend and hadn't registered yet, then, I'm sorry, but you're out of luck. The race is now officially SOLD OUT.

    For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, allow me to explain. The "Goofy," as it's called, is one of the events that takes place during the annual Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, usually in early January (in 2010 it will be Jan 7-10).

    The entire weekend consists of several running events including the Family Fun Run 5K on Friday, the Half-Marathon on Saturday and the Full Marathon on Sunday. Runners in the "Goofy" run in BOTH the half- and full-marathons. That's 39.3 miles in all!

    Speaking of the half-marathon, it is 70% full. So if you were thinking of running in the half, you'll want to get officially registered soon!

    As was announced earlier this year, I'm running in the half-marathon in January. Training is underway, though it's going slowly. Fortunately I've got some time. I did go out and get some good running shoes and some moisture-wiking socks, which I'm told are a big help, especially when I get into some longer runs (10+ miles). I'll have more posts in the future as training continues.

    Oh, those of you on Facebook who are WDWRadio.com fans and are running in either the half- or full-marathon, be sure to join the new "Team WDW Radio" group page!

    Friday, March 20, 2009

    "Up" to open Cannes, a first

    Disney Pixar's latest 3-D animated folm, "Up" will be the opening movie for the Cannes Film Festival May 13-14. This is especially significant as no other animated movie ever has been selected to open the world's biggest film competition. Animated movies have been shown, but none have ever opened the event.

    "Up" will hit theaters nationwide Memorial Day weekend.

    Thursday, March 19, 2009

    D23 items starting to sell out

    I was just on Disneyshopping and I saw, much to my dismay, that the gold Tinker Bell D23 Charter Member pin has already SOLD OUT! The airplane pin also has sold out.

    All you 23'ers out there -- get those pins while you can because they're going fast!

    16th Annual Flower and Garden Festival begins at Epcot

    With new, vibrant gardens, popular Disney character topiaries and colorful celebrations, it’s time to party during the 16th annual Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, presented by Disneynature, March 18-May 31 at Walt Disney World Resort.

    I attended last year's Flower and Garden Festival and it was a blast. There are topiaries everywhere (like Snow White and the gang seen above) and the butterfly garden is neat (so long as you're ok with butterflies landing on you!). I saw Paul Revere and the Raiders at one of the Flower Power concerts - they still know how to put on a good show. Even though it was Easter week, the park wasn't packed to capacity. It was busier than normal, but not so packed that you couldn't do anything. FastPasses were a must, though.

    If you have the chance to go to the Flower and Garden Festival, I highly recommend it. The topiaries alone are worth it!

    Here are some fun facts about this year's Flower and Garden Festival:

    30 million blooms dress the park throughout the festival, which runs 75 colorful days.

    As part of this year’s Celebration theme, guests can enjoy a commemoration of Cinderella’s coronation day as a “Cinderellabration” featuring royal guests including Prince Charming, Sleeping Beauty and Belle – all as intricately designed topiaries. Other topiary merriment includes: Simba’s Birthday Celebration in a classic scene based on the Disney animated film “The Lion King” and Be Our Guest featuring the entertaining characters from “Beauty and the Beast.”

    More than 50 Disney character topiaries include Aladdin, Lady and the Tramp, and Snow White and the seven dwarfs. Classic Disney characters Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto and Goofy strike topiary poses doing their favorite outdoor activities in the new, garden-themed playground Let’s Get Moving.

    Little princesses can come dressed up and show off their costumes in the all-new daily Fairy & Princess Procession in the new Pixie Hollow-themed play area.

    More than 500 native butterflies representing up to 10 species reside in Minnie’s Magnificent Butterfly Garden, a gazebo-type enclosure filled with lush plants and measuring more than 40 feet in diameter. Guests can stroll through the screened habitat to view the colorful butterflies. Among the garden’s two dozen nectar plants are Cape Royal plumbago, passion flower, coral honeysuckle, blazing star, butterfly bush, scarlet milkweed and canna lily.

    300,000 bedding plants are installed for the festival.

    Two butterfly topiaries are on display. Also, Doc, Grumpy and the rest of the seven dwarfs appear at the Epcot entrance with intricate topiary detail that includes beards of palm fiber. Perfume bottle topiaries represent Guerlain perfumes in the Fragrance Garden at the France pavilion.

    At least 25 different plants, grasses and mosses of various colors, including pink and red begonias, dusty miller, palm fiber, palm seeds, ficus and lichen, are used to create and define features of the festival topiaries. More color has been added to the topiaries than in any previous topiary presentation.

    More than 15 floral, herbal and spice ingredients of 10 popular perfumes are revealed in the Fragrance Garden presented by Guerlain at the France pavilion. Guests can sniff the enduring fragrance Shalimar to discover botanical notes that include lemon, Arabian jasmine and vanilla. Some components of nine other Guerlain fragrances include mimosa, magnolia, rose, nutmeg and vetivergrass. At the Green Garden exhibit, guests can learn tips on how to create their own environmentally safe garden, including information about low-water-use, native plants and recycling.

    Forty-five “flower towers” of impatiens line Innoventions Plaza.

    100 floating mini-gardens, each three feet in diameter, of multi-hued impatiens provide splashes of color on two ponds that border the walkway between Future World and World Showcase. There are also 15 large gardens, each eight feet in diameter.

    750 container gardens of flowers, herbs, plants and vegetables in clay pots, barrels and urns enhance the landscape throughout Epcot.

    300 Walt Disney World horticulturists are needed to install the festival landscape, topiaries and many exhibits; 100 Epcot horticulturists maintain topiaries and other festival displays.

    It takes more than one full year to prepare for the annual festival.

    The festival’s Flower Power is bolstered by weekend appearances of musical hit makers of the 1960s and '70s including Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes, Davy Jones, Paul Revere & The Raiders (pictured, right), Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone, and Jose Feliciano – a total of 11 acts this year.

    Tuesday, March 17, 2009

    Fairfax Fries at Hollywood Studios to get new menu?

    I was searching through the Orange County Eagle Web and came across a few interesting items. The first is a notice of commencement dealing with the Fairfax Fries shop on Sunset Blvd. in Disney's Hollywood Studios.

    The document indicated the fryers and hoods were going to be removed and electric warming ovens were to be installed. In addition, graphics and menu boards were to be changed. This is all to support what the document called a "menu change."

    So far, I've not seen any word on what the new menu would be. Fairfax Fries used to sell McDonald's fries and various drinks.

    In a similar notice of commencement document, the Refreshment Port at Epcot's World Showcase will see some changes as well. The existing cooking equipment and hood will be replaced with similar equipment. Also, new graphics will be installed on the building. I can only guess that this might mean another menu change may be in order. The Refreshment Port is another McDonald's location that sells fries, chicken nuggets and drinks.

    I have heard that some other McDonald's offerings in the parks have changed to other items that are not associated with the golden arches. I guess these items are just the latest in this trend.

    In a separate notice of commencement document, the carpet in the lobby of the Grand Floridian Resort (see photo) will be removed and apparently replaced with marble flooring (nice!). The only downside here is that the carpet design has TONS of hidden mickey's that just might be gone for good. This same design can be found in other buildings, so hopefully the hidden mickey's will survive.

    Tip Tuesday: Getting the most out of Extra Magic Hours

    Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

    For those of you new to the DisneyDaddy blog, this is a weekly feature in which I offer a tip to help make your next visit to Walt Disney World a little better.

    Anyone heading to Walt Disney World should know about a little perk Disney gives guests for staying on-property: Extra Magic Hours. While this is no big secret, there is some debate about the benefits of Extra Magic Hours (or EMH) and how to best use them.

    For those that don't know what Extra Magic Hours are, I'll give you the quick rundown. WDW pros can feel free to skip this part. With Extra Magic Hours, a Disney park will either open an hour early or stay open up to three hours late. Only guests who are staying on-property (and have a Key to the World Card) can take advantage of EMH. Most times, two parks offer EMH each day (one early, one late).

    There are some sites and books out there that suggest that guests should generally avoid parks that have EMH hours for that day. For instance, if the Magic Kingdom has early EMH, and Disney's Hollywood Studios has late EMH, guests should avoid both parks and go to either Epcot or Disney's Animal Kingdom.

    I understand the thought process behind this suggestion. It has been proven (through monitoring of wait times at key attractions) that the crowds at a particular park will be heavier on EMH days than regular days. OK, fine, I accept that fact.

    But here's where the tip comes in: Ignore that advice. Take advantage of Extra Magic Hours - especially early EMH! Otherwise, you're just short-changing yourself.

    Yes, you might experience a little extra crowding, but it won't be disastrous. Besides, isn't it better to deal with a little extra crowding and enjoy the parks instead of sitting back in your hotel room? That seems like a no-brainer to me.

    As for which EMH are better -- I'll take early EMH over late any day of the week. During MouseFest weekend back in December, I was able to use early EMH at Epcot and rode Soarin' and Test Track (via standby lines) before the rest of the park opened (and had a later FastPass for Soarin' in hand as well). Not bad for only one hour. Similarly last Easter (one of the busiest times of the year), I used early EMH to catch a few attractions at the Magic Kingdom and grab some FastPasses before park opening.

    That doesn't mean late EMH are bad. Generally people tend to prefer using the later hours as opposed to the early ones (I guess it's tough for some to get up early while on vacation), that's why I like to use early EMH. That being said, I do enjoy staying very late at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot - the best parks at night. There are some great photo opportunities (I'll have to talk about these in a future Tip Tuesday post) and the crowds tend to dwindle down especially during the final hour.

    So be sure to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours - it's a perk for staying on property and one you'll appreciate!

    Spoodles closing at Boardwark - Cat Cora to open new restaurant


    Chef Cat Cora and Disney are joining together to open an exciting new family dining restaurant at Disney’s BoardWalk Resort. Kouzzina by Cat Cora will feature a menu of Mediterranean-style cuisine that pays tribute to the chef’s Greek roots.
    The restaurant, to be owned and operated by Disney, is scheduled to open by fall 2009 in the space currently occupied by Spoodles.

    “I am pleased to welcome Cat Cora and her engaging new concept for Kouzzina to the Walt Disney World Resort,” said Jay Rasulo, chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “This collaboration between Cat and Disney represents a significant step in our ongoing commitment to offer unique culinary experiences and choices for our guests.”

    As a Mississippi native born to a family of Greek restaurateurs, Cora grew up immersed in two different and flavorful cultures , and has taken from that unique background the kitchen “know-how” handed down through generations. The cuisine at Kouzzina (Greek for “kitchen” and pronounced “koo-zee-nah”) will showcase Mediterranean cuisine and Chef Cora’s philosophy to create simple yet sensational meals.

    Cora said that the new restaurant will feature “time-honored recipes passed down from my ancestors, as well as my favorite Greek and Mediterranean dishes that my family loves.”

    She began working with Disney in 2008 by creating a Disney Video on Demand series to showcase ways to help families develop more healthy eating habits. “I’m extremely excited about this latest extension of my relationship with Disney,” she said. “Together, we’re going to develop a truly amazing contemporary Mediterranean restaurant.”

    The first and only female Iron Chef on Food Network's hit show “Iron Chef America,” Cora is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York. She also is Executive Chef for Bon Appétit magazine. In addition to hosting the instructional cooking demonstrations for Disney Video on Demand, Cora has been a featured chef at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival and at Disney’s California Food & Wine Festival at Disneyland Resort.

    Sunday, March 15, 2009

    Disney Movie Rewards offers D23 merchandise

    As was mentioned in the news conference about D23 following the official announcement, Disney Movie Rewards (DMR) would be offering D23-related items as part of its rewards program. The first two items are now available for Disney Movie Rewards members.

    The first is a DMR-exclusive pin (see photo). Collectors can receive this pin by redeeming 500 points. There are only 2300 of these pins.

    The other D23-related item is a D23 Silver and Swarovski Crystal Necklace . This necklace presents the D23 logo accented with a clear Swarovski Crystal. Collectors can receive this necklace by redeeming 1000 points.

    My thanks to April at ScrappingtheMagic for letting me know about these new items on DMR.

    DisneyDaddy joins in D23 Roundtable on WDWRadio

    I had the pleasure of joining Ryan Wilson of the Main Street Gazette on Lou Mongello's WDW Radio Show to talk about the launch of D23 - the Official Community for Disney Fans. Together we discussed the elements of D23, the telephone news conference that took place shortly after the D23 announcement was made at Disney's annual shareholders meeting on March 10 and our thoughts about where D23 could go in the future.

    It was a great conversation and I encourage both fans and critics of D23 to hear our talk as we get into the good and bad of D23.

    My thanks to Lou Mongello and Ryan Wilson for having me on the show!

    Friday, March 13, 2009

    D23 - is it worth it? Depends on your interests

    It's been a few days since the big announcement about D23 - the Official Community for Disney Fans. Since the announcement came out, I, like countless other Disney fans, have pondered the merits of this new group. Membership in D23 comes with a big price tag: $75 each year.

    Almost from the very moment Disney CEO Bob Iger made the D23 announcement, Disney fans asked themselves and others the million dollar question: "Is it worth it?"

    The answer, I have come to believe, really depends on your interests in what D23 has to offer.

    Membership in D23 includes the following:
    • Four high quality coffee-table style magazines (one every quarter). These are on sale at Barnes & Noble for $15.95 per issue (total of about $64 per year).
    • A surprise collectible gift (so far there's no word what this is)
    • Membership card and certificate suitable for framing. The certificate features many of Disney's most beloved characters drawn by Disney Master Artist David Pacheco.
    • Access to purchase exclusive merchandise (including shirts, pins, artwork and other items)
    • Subscription to the new D23 Fanfare e-newsletter distributed bi-weekly.
    • Discounted admission to the new D23 Expo, held (at least for the first four years) in Anaheim. This expo is a huge Disney-fest - the first Expo, this September, may offer the first screenings of Disney/Pixar's new film Up.
    So now that we've listed what you get for $75 a year, it's time to pick this apart. If you are interested in the magazines, they're $16 a piece. At four a year, that ads up to $64 a year. While I don't know what the surprise collectible will be, I'll bet it's retail value probably is more than $11 (which is all that's left from that $75 after deducting the retail magazine price). The rest of the benefits are gravy. Don't forget the exclusive merchandise - the pins are very nice looking (for those of you into pins).

    All this being said, D23 isn't for everybody - nor should it be. Those not interested in the magazines might not be as inclined to join D23 if all they really want is the option to purchase exclusive merchandise given that D23 members don't get any sort of discount... just access. Also, if you can't make it to the D23 Expos in California (like me), that might make D23 less attractive.

    It was with all this in mind that I considered whether or not to join D23. In the end, I decided to give D23 a one-year trial, despite the fact that I won't be able to go to the D23 Expo (much as I wish I could).

    Remember this, D23 is an OPTION. You are not forced to join D23 to get Disney news. There will still be all the same fan podcasts, message boards, Web sites and blogs (like the DisneyDaddy!) that will continue to provide Disney news and entertainment. So it all goes back to what I said in the beginning - what are your interests and does D23 meet those interests? If so, then you might want to give D23 a try, if not, then sit back and don't worry about it.

    I'm sure we'll be hearing more and more about D23 and all it has to offer in the coming weeks. Remember anyone can go to the D23 Web site to read the news and other content - that's free to anyone.

    Tuesday, March 10, 2009

    Tip Tuesday: The benefit of early ADR's

    Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

    As we start to get into Spring (and the more crowded park season), I thought I'd share a little tip to help you enjoy a little non-crowded time in the parks (sort of).

    I'll start with a question: Can you get into a park before it opens (aside from extra magic hours)?

    The answer is YES.

    The trick is to make an Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR) for breakfast at a table-service restaurant for a time before a park opens. For instance, you could make a reservation for breakfast at Tusker House at the Animal Kingdom for 8:15 a.m. even though the entire park doesn't open until 9 a.m. You can arrive at the park before 8 and get in.

    At each park entrance, Disney cast members will verify your ADR and let you in the park. You then have access to a limited area of the park (no attractions are open), but you do have the opportunity to enjoy the sights and sounds of that park (Animal Kingdom in the example above). It's as if you have a piece of the park all to yourself. There are very few people around. This is a great time to get some good pictures, especially at the Magic Kingdom.

    If you time it right, you can finish your breakfast and be in the park just as the ropes go down, putting you first in line heading to the most popular attraction.

    Which restaurants should you consider when taking advantage of this tip?
    • Crystal Palace and Cinderella's Royal Table - Magic Kingdom (BEST choice!)
    • Hollywood & Vine - Hollywood Studios
    • Tusker House - Animal Kingdom
    I've done this for the past two trips and it's a fantastic time to get in early into each park. This is another DisneyDaddy must do!! Keep an eye on your 90 day window - some of these ADR's can book up quickly (depending on the time of year).

    It's official: D23 is a fan club

    Disney announced today in their annual meeting the launch of "D23" an offical community for Disney fans. This exclusive fan club, costs about $75 a year. With that membership fee, fans receive the new "Disney Twenty Three" magazine, produced quarterly. I picked up the premier issue of this magazine today at my local bookstore and it is very nice (it's the black and white cover shown above).

    Charter members (those who join this year) also will receive what Disney is calling a "surprise collectible gift," a membership certificate suitable for framing, access to exclusive special merchandise and discounts on the D23 Expo (to be held at Disneyland Sept. 10-13).

    I've had a chance to check out some of the exclusive merchandise and it is PRICEY. For instance, you can purchase the "Limited Edition Walt Disney Executive Collection Pen" for the low price of only $850. That's right, $850 for a writing utensil. Other items include exclusive shirts (which aren't too bad on price) to limited edition artwork (which is a bit expensive, but comparable to nice artwork at Art of Disney stores in the parks and Downtown Disney).

    Also during today's annual meeting, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced the names of the two Disney Cruise Line ships currently under construction. They will be called the Dream and the Fantasy.

    Monday, March 9, 2009

    Disney announces significant long-term environmental goals

    BURBANK, Calif., March 9, 2009 -- The Walt Disney Company today announced a landmark set of strategic environmental goals and challenging 3 to 5 year targets to reduce emissions, waste, electricity and fuel use, and its impact on water and ecosystems.

    The goals are part of Disney's 2008 Corporate Responsibility Report, which details the company's approach to critical corporate responsibility issues ranging from charitable giving to
    nutrition and from online safety for kids to workplace diversity.

    "Disney's enhanced corporate responsibility efforts make our brands and products more attractive, strengthen our bonds with consumers, make the company a more desirable place to work and build goodwill in the communities we operate," said Disney president and CEO Robert A. Iger. "All of this contributes to shareholder value."

    The interactive multimedia report, now available online only at http://disney.go.com/crreport/home.html, provides a detailed snapshot of the company's philosophy and activities in five areas; children and family, content and products, environment, community and workplaces. Details include the company's first comprehensive greenhouse gas inventory and updates on Disney's pioneering policies on healthy food guidelines and smoking in films.

    Building on 20 years of work by Disney's environmental affairs department, the new goals and targets were formulated over the last two years by an Environmental Council of senior executives from across the company. Charged with developing and implementing sustainable strategies for Disney's impact on the environment, as well as ways to use the company's media reach to encourage positive action, the Council has taken a measured, scientific approach in analyzing company operations and crafting strategic objectives.


    "While Disney has always been a leader in environmental stewardship, we are taking ambitious steps to help preserve our planet for future generations," said Disney Senior Executive Vice President and CFO Thomas O. Staggs.
    The long-term environmental goals outlined in the report are:

  • Zero waste
  • Zero net direct greenhouse gas emissions from fuels
  • Reduce indirect greenhouse gas emissions from electricity consumption
  • Net positive impact on ecosystems
  • Minimize water use
  • Minimize product footprint
  • Inform, empower and activate positive action for the environment

    For additional details and medium–term targets visit www.disney.com/crreport
    "We applaud Disney for its leadership in adopting these goals, especially at such a challenging time in the global economy," said Peter Seligmann, Chairman and CEO of Conservation International. "Disney's vision underscores the continued interest in the environment among people worldwide and the growing recognition that environmental leadership can help revitalize the economy." Conservation International provided advice to Disney on its new goals and targets.

  • The 2008 Corporate Responsibility Report represents the latest phase in Disney's longstanding heritage of corporate social responsibility and reflects a company-wide effort to build an integrated, transparent strategy focused on serving the needs of the company's primary stakeholders; consumers, employees, shareholders, business partners and the communities in which it works.
    The report is organized as follows:

  • Children and Family – guiding principles, kids' health and nutrition, creative practices, programming philosophies and marketing policies
  • Content and Products – standards and practices, content diversity, product safety policies and parks accessibility and safety
  • Environment – environmental initiatives, progress and long-term goals
  • Community – charitable giving, VoluntEAR and community outreach updates
  • Workplaces – employee diversity, benefits and international labor standards

  • The report anchors a broader suite of publications being issued today. Six additional reports provide information specifically on Disney's Parks & Resorts segment and the following operations: Disney Cruise Lines, Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland. The suite of reports highlights issues of importance to local communities at some of the company's largest sites.

    Are you 23 secret will be let out of the bag tomorrow

    While there are plenty of reports circulating around the net, including a post here on DisneyDaddy, there has been no official information from Disney about the much talked-about "Are You 23?" buzz campaign that has been running for a few months. Well the wait is almost over. Disney is expected to make the announcement about D23 during their annual shareholders meeting.

    You can listen to the meeting via an audio webcast at http://www.disney.com/investors starting at 10 a.m. PDT (1 p.m EDT) I'm sure I won't be the only one tuning in to hear the news. Look for more updates on DisneyDaddy tomorrow.

    EDIT: I think this is the direct page. - http://corporate.disney.go.com/investors/presentations.html

    DisneyDaddy returns again to WDW Radio Show

    Be sure to catch show #109 of Lou Mongello's WDW Radio Show as Lou and I discuss another Tip Tuesday topic: Pin trading the family fun way. I would like to again thank Lou for the opportunity to be on his podcast. He always is a great person to talk with. I hope you enjoy the segment!

    Friday, March 6, 2009

    Distant Creations/Stitch Kingdom blogs have more on D23

    Ricky Brigante's Distant Creations blog has some new revelations about the new D23 plan Disney is to officially announce March 10.

    In short, there will be a new magazine released that day with more details about the club and some of the membership benefits.

    For more, check out the Distant Creations blog.

    The folks over at StitchKingdom managed to get a copy of the magazine and have some photos available for viewing -- SPOILER ALERT --
    Check those out at the StitchKingdom blog.

    Disney's Hawaii resort moving ahead


    Preliminary site work has begun as part of the construction of Disney's new resort located at the Ko Olina Resort and Marina development on the west side of the island of O'ahu. The preliminary work includes establishing where foundations will be placed and installing underground utilities.

    Scheduled to open in 2011, the new family friendly destination will overlook breathtaking crystal blue lagoons and white sand beaches and is planned to include 350 hotel rooms and 480 Disney Vacation Club timeshare villas.

    Daft Punk to write score for "Tron" sequel

    From CNBC:

    Daft Punk, the French electronica duo known for their robot personas, will compose the score for "TR2N," Walt Disney Pictures' update of its 1982 science fiction classic "Tron."
    The film, currently in production, is tentatively scheduled for a 2011 release.
    The "TR2N" score marks Daft Punk's first foray into the studio since 2005's "Human After All." After an extended hiatus, the duo reemerged in 2007 for an extensive world tour, spawning the Grammy-wining live set "Alive 2007." The group's 2001 track "Harder Better Faster Stronger" was adapted by Kanye West for his single "Stronger," and the pair appeared at the 2008 Grammy Awards with the rapper.


    Something I noted was the use again of "TR2N" as the name of the new film. There was some doubt that the new movie would be called "TR2N" or "Tron 2."

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009

    Pearson says "Kingdom Keepers" series to be at least 5 books


    Get ready, fans of the Kingdom Keepers series, because you're in for many more adventures with the DHI's!

    For those of you who have no idea what any of this means, I'll give you a snapshot description. Those in the know, feel free to skip this bit. "Kingdom Keepers" is the overall name for a series of books about a group of tweens (known as the Kingdom Keepers) who are the source models for different DHI's, or Disney Host Interactives (basically holograms), throughout Walt Disney World (mostly the parks). But there's a hitch: a group of evil characters called the Overtakers, led (sort of) by Maleficent (remember the evil green-skinned woman in "Sleeping Beauty?") is bent on taking control of all the parks. So it's up to the Kingdom Keepers to stop the Overtakers' evil plans. So far two books in the series have been published. Up to speed now?

    In his blog, author Ridley Pearson announced that he's completed writing Kingdom Keepers 3, but is planning Kingdom Keepers 4 AND 5 (with 5 possibly being the final book in the series). Past blog posts indicate the third book will take place at Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot.

    Pearson also has asked blog readers to give their thoughts on where the fourth installment should take place (he has even hinted about taking this concept outside Walt Disney World) and is looking for thoughts on the fifth (and possibly final) book in the series.

    If you haven't had a chance to read (or better yet, listen to) either of the Kingdom Keepers novels, I suggest you give them a try. By no means are they "War and Peace," nor are they meant to be. Each is a light read, fun to enjoy, but not bogged down with tons of meaning. The story lines are shallow and quick, making this a book you can go through and enjoy quickly, leaving you wanting more (especially the second book). So get ready for more crossovers and beware of "Sleeping Beauty Syndrome!"

    GM to jump off the Test Track?


    The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that General Motors may consider pulling out as the sponsor of the wildly popular Test Track attraction at Epcot. According to the article, Disney and GM are still in talks, though there doesn't appear to be much progress.

    Of course, GM is in a disastrous financial situation right now, so it no wonder they're looking to cut costs where they can. GM reportedly pays about $5 million a year to sponsor Test Track. Though, they get their money's worth -- you can't go 10 feet without seeing a GM logo and/or GM product.
    If GM does pull out of Test Track, the article says Toyota may be looking at sponsorship opportunities. I guess this is another one of those wait and see issues.

    Tuesday, March 3, 2009

    WBHS players bring home the Disney bling

    It's not often I get to mix work and my Disney-mania. But this is one of those times...

    The William Byrd High School Players returned to Roanoke, Virginia with the highest number of medals and trophies from the 2009 National Performing Arts Festival-Orlando (held at Walt Disney World) -- more than any other group. The troupe brought home 13 medals ranging from vocal performance to choreography and most outstanding performance. They also brought home two trophies—one in excellence, and one in outstanding male performance. Two youth groups were selected to showcase—Off Broadway Kids of Georgia (a private musical theatre training group) and William Byrd High School.

    The WB Players’ male ensemble showcased on the Disney outdoor Waterside stage at Downtown Disney with “Rollin’/Searching.” In addition, several WB Players were asked by Disney officials to audition for performance roles. Finally, the WB Players worked with Disney vocal coaches and choreographers in workshops, and a professional New York acting coach who not only performs, but also is used by acting professionals and Disney professionals with audition preparation.

    At the awards banquet at Planet Hollywood, the team found out that two groups were selected to showcase by Disney. The first group did a cutting from “Once upon an Island,” and Disney selected the male ensemble work of “Rollin’/Searching.” The WB Players brought home a trophy in excellence.

    As National Champions, the WB Players were invited to bring the school’s choral department to open the festival with a medley from “Footloose,” and “Grease.” The school’s traveling choral members were joined by the cast and crew of “Smokey Joe’s Café,” to create a showchoir of approximately 30 members. The group performed on the Saratoga Springs Resort Stage before an enthusiastic crowd of participants, guests, and Disney executives.

    As two year National Performing Arts Festival winners, the WB Players have earned a reputation of excellence in the arts in the areas of acting, vocal, and dance. The next production for this troupe is Disney's "High School Musical," opening in late April.

    Way to go gang!!!

    High School Musical 4 to debut in 2010

    From CNBC:

    Coming to the Disney Channel in 2010: High School Musical 4. Disney Channel said in a statement the story would feature a music- and dance-filled love triangle set against cross-town rivalry between fictional high schools in Albuquerque, N.M. It will introduce a new cast of characters after the fictional "graduation" of the original stars Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Tisdale in "High School Musical 3: Senior Year".

    My take: It might surprise you, but I enjoyed HSM 1,2,3. I have great concerns for HSM 4 with an all-new cast. Anyone remember "Grease 2?" It was an unqualified disaster. I would hate for the HSM franchise to suffer the same. I think Disney might want to re-think this one and let the HSM series go off into the sunset on a high note.

    Tip Tuesday: Extending the Year of a Million Dreams - sort of

    Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

    In last week's post, I talked about Disney park etiquette. This week, I'd like to carry this thought forward a bit further. As you all know the Year of a Million Dreams (that really was two years) ended in 2008. Just because the YOMD is officially over, doesn't mean it has to end completely - with a little bit of magic.

    Here is where you can help make a guest's dreams come true. Go get FastPasses for some popular attraction (Peter Pan, Space Mountain, Toy Story Mania, etc.) and then search for a family who appears like they could use a little boost. Approach and ask if they like the attraction you have FP's for and then give those passes to the family. I did this for a few of our trips and it was amazing the magic I created. All of the sudden a family that was having a bit of a rough time is smiling and enjoying the magic once again.

    This is especially magical when the parks are crowded and those FastPasses run out by mid-day (if not sooner). Remember, you can have two FastPasses at once, depending on certain circumstances (see my previous Tip Tuesday post about this).

    What other ways can you help pay it forward by being kind to other guests? Post a comment with your ideas!

    Monday, March 2, 2009

    Jo Bro's 3-D film disappoints at box office

    According to a CNBC article, the new movie, "Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience" wasn't as much of an experience as Disney might have hoped. The film brought in a disappointing $12.7 million in its opening weekend (as opposed to the $30 million raked in by the Hannah Montana 3-D movie).

    Critics panned the film as being lackluster and unimaginative. According to the article linked above, the movie doesn't take real advantage of the 3-D setting. I can only guess the director didn't want to overdo the 3-D gags and, in turn, went too far and didn't do enough.

    I guess Disney is pinning its hopes of success for this project on upcoming DVD and soundtrack CD sales.

    Sunday, March 1, 2009

    Restaurant Review: Hollywood & Vine - breakfast

    It's time for another restaurant review. This time, I'll take a look at the Hollywood & Vine restaurant at Disney's Hollywood Studios (DHS).
    This is a character breakfast and lunch, featuring characters from Playhouse Disney. You can meet Jo-Jo and Goliath from "Jo-Jo's Circus," as well as Leo and June from "Little Einsteins. Hollywood & Vine does participate in the Disney Dining Plan. This restaurant requires one table service credit per person.

    For us, this was another "before the park opens" reservation, which I highly recommend. As you approach the entrance to DHS, a cast member will be at a special gate for those with dining reservations. Once you confirm your reservation with this cast member, you may enter the park (with a valid ticket, of course).

    The beauty of these early reservations is you have time to leisurely stroll up a portion of Hollywood Boulevard with very few people in the way (you can't go past Hollywood & Vine). This also gives you some great photo opportunities with the Sorcerer's Hat in the distance.

    This restaurant is situated very similarly to the Crystal Palace at the Magic Kingdom. There are two identical buffet lines that begin at the outside edges and come together in the center where you can get some made-to-order items, such as omelets. The food was pretty good - it is the same you would find at the Crystal Palace or Tusker House (various pastries, scrambled eggs, link sausage, bacon, biscuits, sausage gravy, fruit, cereals, etc.).

    At times during the morning (and lunch), two hosts will come out and invite younger guests to come to the middle for a little bit Playhouse Disney fun (one host plays to the left side, while the other plays to the right). This gives kids an opportunity to sing different Playhouse Disney dongs (i.e. songs from the "Wiggles," "Mickey Mouse Playhouse," "Jo-Jo's Circus" and more) and dance with the different characters who also come to the center to dance with the host. This happens about every 30-45 minutes.

    We had a wonderful cast member for a waiter who had a lot of fun playing with the different kids and was very attentive to our needs with refills, clearing plates, etc.
    As character meals go, this was pretty nice. It certainly is tailored to younger kids, though adults will appreciate the dining fare if they're looking for a nice breakfast before heading into the main areas of the park.
    If you're at DHS with little kids, this is a must, especially if the kids are fans of the Playhouse Disney shows. Have fun and remember: "Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggity dog!"