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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Buy 4, get 3 free returns!

Today Disney officially announced the popular "Buy 4, Get 3 Free" offer has returned.

Here are the details: Buy 4-nights at a moderate, deluxe or villa resort and get 3 nights free (with minimum 5-day park ticket).

For value resorts, book a 5-night Magic Your Way Package with a minimum 6-day park ticket and get 2 nights free.

This offer is valid for travel most nights 11/1/09 - 12/24/09 and 1/3/10 - 3/27/10 (based on availability & some black out dates do apply).

The number of rooms is limited for this offer, so don't wait to long! Book by 12/20/2009.

Special thanks to my friends at MouseFanTravel for letting me know about this.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tip Tuesday: When to eat

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

In previous posts, I've talked about the need to make Advanced Dining Reservations (or ADR's) as part of your planning when taking a trip to Walt Disney World.

One part of the ADR process I haven't discussed as much is what time you should make your ADRs for.

The time of your reservation can have a significant impact on not only what you eat, but how much it might cost.

To start off, let's review a bit of background knowledge when it comes to table-service restaurants at Walt Disney World.
  • Breakfast generally is cheaper than lunch.
  • Lunch generally is cheaper than dinner.
  • For buffets, lunch usually starts around 11 a.m.
  • Lunch and dinner usually have similar (if not the same) menus.
With these basic thoughts in mind, let's examine how the time of your ADR can affect your dining experience.

If you happen to be an early riser, an early (pre-park opening) ADR at an in-park restaurant offers you a wonderful opportunity to have a few moments to stroll into a park before the rest of the crowd. I've done this at Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. It's a nice, relaxing stroll. No attractions are open, but it does make a great opportunity for unobstructed photos. If you happen to get a very early ADR (like 7:30 a.m. or so), you might be the first at the buffet, meaning the entrees will be fresh.

If you're a brunch kind of person, then you want to think about a 10:30 or 10:45 a.m. ADR at a buffet restaurant like Crystal Palace or Chef Mickeys. There are two benefits. First, you are paying the breakfast rate. Second, you stand a good chance of having "breakfast" choices for your first trip and "lunch" choices for your second (or third, or fourth...) trip.

If you're a late night person, but don't want to pay those dinner prices, then try to get an ADR at the very end of the lunch period. Restaurants vary a bit on the lunch to dinner switch, so it's a good idea to check some online menus, or check the restaurant page on the Disneyworld.com Web site. If you plan it right, you will get an early dinner at the cheaper lunch price, even though the lunch and dinner menus are similar or the same. This works very well when taking advantage of those late Extra Magic Hours or during special party nights (MNSSHP or MVMCP). Why waste "party" time eating? Get a late lunch and then enjoy a snack later that night.

A quick note -- Disney Dining Plan members are still charged a table-service credit, no matter whether it's breakfast, lunch or dinner, so there really isn't any cost savings by choosing breakfast over lunch or lunch over dinner. I still recommend thinking about your ADR times, though.

So before you start making those ADRs, give a little thought to when you want to eat. Depending on what time you choose, you may be giving yourself a little extra treat!

Disney announces new 2010 promotion -- Give a Day, Get a Disney Day


Disney has announced a new "free ticket" promotion for 2010 -- "Give a Day, Get a Disney Day." Starting January 1, 2010, Disney wants to inspire one million people to volunteer a day of service to a participating organization in their communities and celebrate their good works by giving each of them one day admission to a theme park at Disneyland® Resort or Walt Disney World® Resort, free.

According to an FAQ posted on Disney.com, the company with working with the HandsOn Network to facilitate guests' volunteering efforts. As the nation’s largest volunteer network, HandsOn Network has 250 on-the-ground volunteer action centers across the country and connects volunteers to more than 70,000 nonprofit agencies that need their help. Many of the opportunities will be projects that entire families can participate in together.

Guests can starting signing up to volunteer their time on January 1.

Children (age 6 and older) also can take part in this program, provided they are accompanied by an adult when volunteering.

Disney says tickets for this promotion are limited. The promotion ends Dec. 15, 2010 or whenever tickets run out.

For those guests with annual passes or other ticket passes, Disney is offering three alternative options:


  • Disney's Special FASTPASS® cards for certain attractions for you and up to 5 additional members of your party.

  • A collectible Ear Hat figurine with exclusive trading pins (limited availability).

  • Donate your free ticket to a non-profit organization designated by Disney Parks.
There are blackout dates for this promotion. At Walt Disney World, these dates include March 29 - April 8 and July 4, 2010. At Disneyland, these dates include February 13-14, March 21, June 21-22, July 4, November 21 and December 11-12, 2010.
Video:


More video:

Monday, September 28, 2009

Disney Parks to start their own blog

This afternoon, Disney Parks are expected to launch their own blog at http://www.disneyparks.com/blog.

Theme park experts, including writers at The Orlando Sentinel, think Disney is trying to take advantage of all the fan-based blog and message board sites (including this one!).

I'll be keeping an eye on this blog and will be sure to relay important posts. It will be interesting to see how Disney decides to use this new method of communication.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The biggest Disney fan

It’s not often that I become the news.

Oh sure, I write about myself all the time on this blog, but that’s to share my thoughts and experiences.

This is different. REALLY different.

Back in April 2009, United Vacations and Walt Disney World held the “Fairytale Vacation Giveaway” to find the “biggest Disney fan.” As part of the contest, those entering would briefly describe why they should be considered Disney's biggest fan.

As a news release issued in April stated:
In celebration of those who simply can't get enough of the most enchanting destination on earth comes a trip giveaway from United Vacations that is their biggest and most magical yet.

For the first time ever, the team at United Vacations has custom-designed a vacation giveaway in celebration of the Disney fan base from around the world. From the 70-year old who sports a Mickey Mouse watch to the first grader whose bedroom is decorated in pixie dust and Dalmatian spots, Disney fans are truly one of a kind.

“They span generations of every age, race and culture. Disney is known worldwide and is still to this day considered one of the most magical places a family can visit together,” said Rick Karnes, vice president and general manager of United Vacations. ‘It is for this reason that we have chosen to target this special group and seek out our own ‘biggest Disney fan.”

Well like thousands of others, I entered this contest. I wrote about my love for the parks and how Disney brings out the magic in all people and that’s part of my goal in life – to share the magic. While I may not be 70-years old (just yet), I do sport a Mickey Mouse watch.

Afterward, to be honest, I forgot about it. I enter many contests to win Disney vacations and have never had any luck.

This time, things were different.

In early September, on a Friday afternoon, I received a thick envelope from United Vacations.

You guessed it. I am the biggest Disney fan.

The letter from Disney says it best: “We are so happy to award you with an experience that is truly magical and fitting only for a Disney Fanatic.”

Yup. I think I fit the description of a Disney Fanatic.

I can think of many other people who are probably more deserving than me, but now that it’s sunk in, I’m proud to be a Disney Fanatic and to be considered the biggest Disney fan.

So what do you get out of this? I’m going to take part in some things most people don’t often do at Walt Disney World, and I’m going to bring you all kinds of reviews, photos (when I can take photos) and descriptions of some things my fellow Disney Fanatics might want to experience on their next WDW trip.

I also want to thank United Vacations and Walt Disney World for awarding this package to me and my family. You set out to create the most magical trip ever and I know you’ve succeeded. The people at United Vacations and Walt Disney World were so great to work with and to get schedules arranged.

It’s all going to happen sometime in 2010, so stay tuned! I know I can’t wait!

And in case you’re wondering… here’s what I sent in:

I am the biggest Disney fan! Why, you may ask?

I am the father of three children and married to Mickey (seriously, that's my wife's name!). We are a Disney family. No matter where you turn in our house you will see something related to Disney, be it figurines of Mickey Mouse to artwork to drawings.

When I am at work, I listen almost exclusively to Disney music (both park and movie music). When my family and I go to Walt Disney World, I end up taking nearly 2000 pictures each time. About half are of the family, the rest are of the park, fireworks, inside rides, you name it. When not in the parks, I'm creating my own Disney posters.

My kids and I are so into finding hidden Mickeys, that we will spot them all over the place outside of the parks. It's become a fun game between us.

I am so into Disney that I have created my own Disney blog (http://disneydaddy.blogspot.com) and have been featured several times on Walt Disney World-related podcasts.

And yes, I have a Mickey Mouse watch purchased on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom (what true Disney fan doesn't?).

In summary, I am the head of an entire Disney family. We appreciate the magic and joy that only Walt Disney World can bring out in all who visit the Happiest Place on Earth!

I often hear the phrase asked of my children, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I often counter with, "Do you want to grow up? - I haven't and don't plan to!" My goal is to stay a child at heart and I hope to spread that magic to others. Walt Disney World has helped me so much to stay young.

Friday, September 25, 2009

2009 Epcot Food and Wine Festival begins today

Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Epcot kitchens turn up the heat for a global tasting experience worthy of every palate Sept. 25-Nov. 8 at the 14th annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival at Walt Disney World Resort. During the six-week, entertainment-packed event, park guests can taste fine cuisine and wines from top “foodie” cities of the world.

Download the 2009 Festival Guide

Download the 2009 Festival Map

Festival guests can enjoy the flavors of more than 25 international marketplaces dotting the World Showcase promenade highlighting tastes from cities on six continents, including Bologna, Italy; Bangkok, Thailand; Wellington, New Zealand; Santiago, Chile; Marrakesh, Morocco; Shanghai, China; and, from the United States – New Orleans. Tapas-sized portions of regional specialties run $2 to $7 each, and recommended wines and beers make perfect pairings at each kiosk. Puglia, Italy, returns as a sponsor this year, presenting culinary demonstrations with regional chefs and showcasing Adventures of Pasta and Olive Oils.

Festival highlights include:
  • Daily wine and beer tastings.
  • A series of special culinary programs featuring a lineup of renowned winemakers, guest chefs and speakers participating in elegant dinners, luncheons, seminars and wine schools.
    New programs like Culinary Adventures in Signature Dining and Celebrating Family and Friends in the Kitchen.
  • Popular returning events such as French Regional Lunches at Bistro de Paris in the France pavilion, Epcot Wine Schools, Food and Wine Pairings and Sweet Sundays.
  • Some 250 chefs including Disney chefs and guest chefs from across the country. Guest chefs scheduled to appear are Warren Brown, Cat Cora, Jamie and Bobby Deen, Keegan Gerhard, Jeff Henderson, Robert Irvine, Art Smith, Jacques Torres, Alan Wong, Andrew Zimmern and many other culinary stars.
  • Weekly Party for the Senses grand tasting event with tempting bites from eminent chefs, more than 50 wines and beers and live entertainment – this year, for the first time, with a different theme each week.
  • Festival Welcome Center, with a Champagne and Wine Bar, educational wine seminars, celebrity chef book signings, and festival keepsakes including exclusive festival pins and an official festival cookbook.
Epcot’s live regional entertainment is scheduled throughout each day along the promenade and the festival’s signature Eat to the Beat! concert series kicks the party up a couple of notches – featuring acts from many musical genres including classic rock, jazz, R&B, funk and soul. Concerts are performed three times each evening at America Gardens Theatre along the World Showcase lagoon.

Scheduled to appear on the Eat to the Beat! stage this year are such hit makers as Richard Marx (“Hold On to the Nights”), Billy Ocean (“Caribbean Queen”), En Vogue (“Free Your Mind”) and Boyz II Men (“Motownphilly”). (Entertainment, performers, dates and times are subject to change.)

Included with Epcot Admission:
Samuel Adams beer seminars, Authentic Taste seminars and Authors without Borders programs with special book signings at the Festival Center, Eat to the Beat! concerts, culinary and cultural adventures, and all attractions and park entertainment are included with regular Epcot admission.

Special Programming by Reservation:
The Party for the Senses grand tasting events, Food and Wine Pairings at select Epcot restaurants, Signature Dining, Epcot Wine Schools, Sweet Sundays, and other special wine and culinary programs require reservations and separate event admission.
Guests can call 407/WDW-FEST (939-3378) for information and to make reservations for special events and programs. Festival details are available at disneyworld.com/foodandwine.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

DisneyDaddy - one year later

It's hard to believe that one year ago I started the DisneyDaddy blog on a whim.

Literally.

On the night of September 23, 2008 I was reading about Disney's newest campaign - "What Will You Celebrate?" I had been wanting to become more involved in the online Disney community and, on the spur of the moment, decided to start a blog. About 60 seconds later, I was writing my first blog post. Before I knew it, I was a Disney blogger.

The next day, I determined I had to have a weekly "thing" that readers would want to enjoy. I came up with "Tip Tuesday" and the rest is history.

But this past year has seen so much more than nearly 300 blog posts. I have been to WDW twice, made hundreds of friends at MouseFest and MagicMeets, have been featured five times on Lou Mongello's WDW Radio Show and have had one article already published in Celebrations Magazine.

Beyond these incredible experiences, I have become a part of a larger Disney family. A classic example of this was the recent D23 Expo. While I could not attend personally, I was able to be one of "Lou's Box People" and experience the Expo virtually. During those four days, I felt like I was taking part in an eight-hour long conversation with hundreds of friends (which really was the case).

What will the next year hold?

Well, there will be a few surprises, more trips to Walt Disney World and many, many more posts and tips to share.

Most of all, I look forward to more opportunities to talk and share my experiences with my bigger Disney family.

To all of you who read this blog, I thank you for taking the time to enjoy what I have to say. I hope this blog lives up to your expectations. I'm enjoying writing this blog and hope to keep going for a long time.

With that, let's keep moving forward...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tip Tuesday: Waking up Tinkerbell

Tinkerbells treasures

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

It is a common sight each morning at the Magic Kingdom. Hundreds of guests line up just outside the entrance eagerly awaiting the gates to open so they can hurry to their first stop in the park. The ropes drop and, they're off!

Guests are streaming toward all the major attractions, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Dumbo, Tinkerbell's Treasures, ... huh? Tinkerbell's Treasures?!?!?

That's right. One of the most unique experiences in the Magic Kingdom is to wake up Tinkerbell at her store, Tinkerbell's Treasures, located adjacent to Cinderella's Fountain (near Cinderella's Royal Table). For the lucky guest (usually a small girl) who is first to request it, that person can have the honor of waking up Tinkerbell. This is a once-per-day privilege, and it comes to the first person who asks.

If you happen to miss out on waking Tinkerbell, cheer up, you're not completely out of luck. Throughout the day, kids can call Tink and meet her. How? It's pretty simple, just ring a special bell and call out for Tink and you'll see her flitter around the store and appear in a special window behind the main cash register.

This is a pretty neat experience, especially for younger girls (and Tink fans).

Sprinkling pixie dust

But why stop there? While you're in the store, you too can get a sprinkling of pixie dust -- and it won't cost you a thing (save a little imagination and/or good humor).

The cast members who work at Tinkerbell's Treasures help make the interactions with Tinkerbell and her pixie dust all that more magical.

Cinderellas magical dress

While you're at Tinkerbell's Treasures, be sure to swing next door to see a little battle of colors between Flora and Merryweather, the red and blue fairies from Sleeping Beauty. Watch as Aurora's dress will magically turn from pink to light blue and back again.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dick Cook resigns as head of Walt Disney Pictures


Less than a week after announcing the new slate of upcoming films at the D23 Expo, Dick Cook, the chairman of the Walt Disney Studios has announced he is resigning.

In a statement released today, Cook said:

"I am stepping down from my role as chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, effective immediately.

I have loved every minute of my 38 years that I have worked at Disney…from the beginning as a ride operator on Disneyland’s steam train and monorail to my position as chairman of The Walt Disney Studios. To wrap up my Disney experience in a neatly bundled statement is close to impossible. But what I will say is, during my time at the Studio, we have achieved many industry and Company milestones. Our talent roster is simply the best in the business. I believe our slate of upcoming motion pictures is the best in our history. But most of all, I love the people, my colleagues, my teammates, who are the most talented, dedicated and loyal folks in the world. I know that I leave the Studio in their exceptional hands.

I have been contemplating this for some time now and feel it’s the right time for me to move on to new adventures…and in the words of one of my baseball heroes, Yogi Berra, "If you come to a fork in the road, take it."

Disney CEO Bob Iger released a statement today as well in response to Cook's resignation announcement:
“Throughout his distinguished 38-year Disney career, Dick Cook’s outstanding creative instincts and incomparable showmanship have truly enriched this company and significantly impacted Disney’s great legacy,” said Disney CEO Bob Iger. “We thank Dick for his tremendous passion for Disney, and his many accomplishments and contributions to The Walt Disney Studios, including a very promising upcoming film slate. On behalf of everyone at Disney, we wish him the best with all the future has to offer.”
Under Cook's leadership, the Studio has been one of the leading domestic distributors for 12 of the last 15 years with box office receipts in excess of one billion dollars each. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International passed the one billion dollar mark for 14 consecutive years, the only distribution company to have achieved this milestone.

During his tenure, Cook has overseen such box-office successes as the 3-D record breaking "Miley Cyrus & Hannah Montana: Best of Both Worlds Concert," "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," which broke industry wide records with the highest global opening at over $404 million, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," the highest grossing film in Disney history with over a billion dollars at the worldwide box office, "Ratatouille," "Cars," "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe," 'National Treasure," "National Treasure: Book of Secrets," "The Incredibles," "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," "Finding Nemo," "Lilo & Stitch, " "Remember the Titans," "Signs," "Armageddon," "Prince Diaries," "Pearl Harbor," among many others.

Cook has enjoyed success in the area of Home Entertainment as well. He spearheaded the highly successful launch of the "Disney DVD" brand, and has consistently broke industry records with DVD and Blu-ray releases.

A 38-year Disney veteran, Cook began his career in 1970 at Disneyland in Anaheim, where he was a ride operator on the park's steam locomotives and monorail. Within a year, he became a representative in the Disneyland sales department and three years later was promoted to department manager.
In 1977, Cook moved to The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank to serve as manager of pay television and non-theatrical releases. In this capacity, he was responsible for Disney's first entry into the burgeoning world of cable television, developing what would become The Disney Channel.

Cook entered the motion picture business at Disney in 1980 as assistant domestic sales manager for the Buena Vista Distribution Company. He quickly moved up through the ranks, becoming vice president and general sales manager, then senior vice president of domestic distribution. In 1988, he was promoted to president of Buena Vista Pictures Distribution. At that time, he supervised the release of numerous hit films, including "Down and Out in Beverly Hills," "Three Men and a Baby" (the first Disney film to break the $100 million mark), "Good Morning, Vietnam," "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids," "Pretty Woman," "Father of the Bride" and "Sister Act." Cook's tenure in distribution also placed him on the front lines of Disney's animation renaissance and the revitalization of the animation genre as a whole, releasing animated blockbusters including "The Little Mermaid," Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin," "The Lion King" and "Pocahontas."

In 1994, Cook assumed the additional responsibility of film marketing when he was promoted to president of Buena Vista Pictures Distribution and Marketing. In this position, he oversaw the marketing and distribution strategies for hit films such as "The Santa Clause," "Crimson Tide," "Toy Story," "The Rock," and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." Two years later, Cook was promoted to chairman of The Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Group, and then assumed his current role in 2002 as chairman of The Walt Disney Studios.
So far, there has been no announcement about who will head up the Studios.

Kouzzina officially opens

Chef Cat Cora and Disney today celebrated the grand opening of Kouzzina by Cat Cora, an exciting new family dining restaurant at Disney’s BoardWalk at Walt Disney World Resort.

This is the first table-service restaurant for the celebrity chef, featuring a menu of Mediterranean-style cuisine that pays tribute to the Cora family’s Greek roots.

Owned and operated by Disney and open daily for breakfast and dinner with seating for about 200 guests, the new restaurant features “time-honored recipes passed down from my ancestors, as well as my favorite Greek and Mediterranean dishes that my family loves,” Cora says.

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”) showcases Mediterranean cuisine and Chef Cora’s philosophy to create simple yet sensational meals.

The restaurant’s spacious interior features an open kitchen, wooden tables and chairs and a walk-up pizza window for casual dining at outdoor tables on the boardwalk. Breakfast specialties include Kouzzina’s signature blend of press-pot coffee and an icy Greek frappé with coffee, milk and natural sugar. Sweet choices include steel-cut cinnamon oatmeal, blueberry orange granola pancakes and Greek-style yogurt with fresh fruit and house-made granola. Savory breakfast creations include turkey-sweet potato hash with two eggs and arugula salad; the stacked Kouzzina breakfast with two poached eggs, kalamata olive toast, artichoke spread, sweet potato hash and bacon or chicken sausage; and spinach-tomato-feta scrambled eggs.

For dinner, Cora’s hand-selected beverage menu includes “Cat’s Ouzo-tini,” Mediterranean sangria and her own wine label, Coranation, featuring California wines. Starters include crisp calamari, goat cheese-stuffed grape leaves, spinach pie and Spiro’s Greek Salad. Entrées range from cinnamon stewed chicken to traditional whole fish and a char-grilled lamb burger, with sides such as chilled salt-roasted beets, smashed garlic-fried potatoes, sautéed brussel sprouts and herbed orzo with Greek olive oil and Kasseri cheese. A traditional baklava and dense, rich, chocolate budino are dessert favorites.

Cora 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. 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.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Some lingering questions following the Fantasyland expansion announcement

Artists rendering of the new Fantasyland - image copyright Disney.

Now that's it's been several days since Disney's stunning announcement of the major expansion of Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom, I was starting to consider some of the side effects of this project.

What will become of Cinderella's Royal Table?
With the new "Be Our Guest" restaurant coming to Belle and the Beast's castle, I figure this will become the new princess character dining location. The princesses can't be in two restaurants at once, so I guess Disney's leading ladies will leave the restaurant in the castle. Perhaps Cinderella and her friends will be the only ones to remain at CRT? Will Disney convert the space into a more adult-oriented upscale eatery? Many good questions.

Will Storytime with Belle stay in the same place? Will it move? Will it be closed?
In a similar manner to Cinderella's Royal Table, Disney faces a continuity problem if Belle is both at her castle in her attraction/meet-and-greet and at the old Storytime with Belle location between Cinderella's Castle and the Mad Hatter's Tea Party. If I had to take a guess, I'd say Storytime with Belle is on its last few chapters. Although it is one of the best places for some one-on-one interaction with a character, I can see Disney deciding to close the book on this show.

Most importantly, what's happening with Mickey and Minnie?
The one major draw for Toon Town are the meet-and-greets with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. These are Disney's top twosome and queues for picture and autograph time can easily exceed one hour each day. With the eventual demise of Toon Town in favor of a greatly expanded Pixie Hollow (something many Disney fans greeted with cheers when it was announced at the D23 Expo), Mickey and Minnie will become homeless. During a news conference at the D23 Expo, an Imagineer was asked this very question. The response was that Mickey and Minnie will have a new home. No further details were available. Could Disney's big couple be moving to Main Street? Perhaps in the Exposition Hall? Maybe Disney will (finally) remove the smoking location where the old swan boats were located and turn that into a meet-and-greet area?

What about the rest of the Fab 5?
While we're on the subject of Disney major characters, where will meet-and-greets for Donald, Goofy and Pluto go? Currently, Donald and Pluto can be found in Western garb at times in Frontierland.

Maybe Disney will find a space and create something like the Epcot Character Spot where guests can queue up in one line and get the entire Fab 5 in one series. That would be helpful.

What other questions are still unanswered in connection with the new Fantasyland? Post a comment!

Disney bus system halted due to suspicious device

Different Orlando media outlets are reporting that the entire Walt Disney World bus system was pulled out of service today after a suspicious package was seen underneath one of the buses. As a precaution, every bus was pulled off the road and inspected.

According to the sheriff's office, a Disney maintenance worker discovered the suspicious device around 3 p.m. this afternoon and contacted authorities.

This afternoon, the Orange County Sheriff's Office released a statement indicating the device that was found earlier in the day was not explosive or hazardous. The investigation continues to determine who, how and why the device was placed under a Disney bus.

A Disney spokesperson told local news agencies that the company inspected hundreds of buses. The spokesperson expected bus service to begin to resume later this evening.

Naturally, having the entire Disney bus system offline for several hours caused transportation chaos through the parks, especially at Animal Kingdom, where bus services is the only means of transportation for Disney resort guests. Animal Kingdom extended its operating hours to 7 p.m. to compensate for resort guests' transportation difficulties.

Additional taxis were present at different Disney properties to help ease problems associated with the lack of bus service.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Force is strong with these...


2009 © Lucasfilm Ltd.TM and Disney © All Rights Reserved. Photo by Greg Grusby.

I happened to run across this photo today on the Disney Web site and had to pass it along!

Caption:
Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Executive Tom Fitzgerald joins Industrial Light & Magic Visual Effects Supervisor Bill George and Star Wars creator George Lucas to review show concepts for the new Star Tours adventure.

Tip Tuesday: Tables in Wonderland


Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

In a continuation of last week's tip about the Annual Pass, I wanted to talk about another savings opportunity that goes hand-in-hand with the Annual Pass, the Tables in Wonderland card.

For those who frequently dine at the many table-service restaurants around Walt Disney World, Disney offers a program where annual passholders and Florida residents can save 20% off their entire bill at any table-service restaurant on-property. This is different from the Disney Dining Plan (DDP). With the standard DDP, guests receive one table-service credit, one counter-service credit and one snack, per person, per day. The DDP table-service credit includes an entree, dessert and non-alcoholic drink. Appetizers and alcoholic drinks are NOT included in the DDP.

Tables in Wonderland is different. It doesn't matter what your order or how much, you get 20% off. Better yet, you can apply your Tables in Wonderland savings for up to 10 people at your table, provided you're paying the bill.

But wait, it gets better.

As part of the Tables in Wonderland card, guests get free valet parking at any Disney resort where they are dining. Just show your Tables in Wonderland card to the attendant when you pull up. I've personally done this a few times already and it's VERY nice!!!

Now, there is a cost to purchase the Tables in Wonderland card. For Annual Passholders, the cost is $75 per year. For non-AP Florida Residents, the cost is $100 per year. Additional cards may be purchased for $50 and a replacement card is $50 (so don't lose it!!).

There are a few restrictions to the Tables in Wonderland card. Discounts are not available during major holidays like Christmas Eve/Christmas Day, Thanksgiving, New Year's Eve/New Year's Day, Easter, Mother's Day and Fourth of July. Additional restrictions are possible.

At first glance, you might not think the Tables in Wonderland card is worth the price, and you may be right. It really depends on how much you use it. In my case, every time we dine at a resort restaurant, I have five people. Basically with the Tables in Wonderland card, one person eats for free (again 20% off the total bill).

Given that most restaurants we tend to eat at run around $18 a person, we need to use the card at least 4 times to break even ($18 x 4 = $72). After that, we're saving money. We've already used our Tables in Wonderland card three times, and we've got more ADR's coming up before the card runs out, so in the long run, the Tables in Wonderland card will save us money.

Like the Annual Pass, you need to do the math before you decide if the Tables in Wonderland card is worth it. And, like the Annual Pass, the more you play (well, the more you eat), the more you can save.

So as you plan your next trip(s) to Walt Disney World, think about how much dining you plan to do at on-property restaurants. It may be that the Tables in Wonderland card is a smart choice!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Magic Kingdom Fantasyland Expansion is CONFIRMED!!!

Jay Rasulo, head of Disney Parks and Resorts gave his much-anticipated presentation today at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, CA.

He didn't waste any time with surprise announcements!

The rumored Fantasyland Expansion at the Magic Kingdom is TRUE!!! The area will double in size!! It all starts in 2010 and should be ready by 2012.

Pictures (click for larger version):
Fantasyland concept art:


Ariel's Adventure:


New Dumbos Attraction:



Basically the leaked blueprints are genuine!
Here they are:


Overlay to current Fantasyland:


This news spells the end of ToonTown. In a news conference Disney confirmed that ToonTown would be no more.

But wait, there's MORE!!!

Star Tours 2.0 in 3-D is CONFIRMED!!! It will close in 2010 to begin the refurb. Apparently Disneyland will be first. The Disneyland version will re-open in 2011. DHS also will be updated!



Video:


News Release from Disney Parks:
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Jay Rasulo detailed plans for future lands, attractions and adventures that will be delighting Disney guests for years to come, at the first D23 Expo.

Most notable among the announcements were the confirmation of an all-new Star Tours attraction and the largest expansion in the history of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World."Storytelling is the DNA of Disney dreams and we're always exploring new ways to tell new stories in new places," Rasulo told a crowd at the Anaheim Convention Center in California before taking them on a "behind-the-magic" tour of their favorite Disney destinations.Rasulo announced that a new 3-D version of the tremendously-popular "Star Tours" attraction will debut at the Disneyland Resort and Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2011.

Based on the iconic Lucasfilm "Star Wars" films, the attraction will include immersive new elements that will take guests to many familiar places in the Star Wars galaxy.

For Walt Disney World in Florida, Rasulo outlined plans for the largest expansion in the history of the Magic Kingdom, vastly increasing the size of Fantasyland by 2013.

Guests will soon be able to:

Visit their favorite Disney Princess in her castle, cottage, or chateau to share a dance with Cinderella; celebrate Sleeping Beauty's birthday with the Good Fairies; or join Belle in an enchanting story performance in the Beast's castle library.

Be Our Guest and dine in one of three enchanted rooms inside the Beast's castle.Fly with Dumbo high above brand new circus grounds, twice the size of the existing attraction with a new interactive, three-ring circus tent.

Journey under the sea with Ariel, The Little Mermaid, in her very own attraction - also opening at Disney's California Adventure in Anaheim in 2011.Meet Tinker Bell and her friends in the magical world of Pixie Hollow.

Rasulo provided updates on the multi-year expansion of Disney's California Adventure including the new "World of Color" attraction slated to open in the spring of 2010 and the addition of the 12-acre Cars Land scheduled to open in 2012 where guests will literally step into the town of Radiator Springs and its six acres of hand-carved rockwork.

Rasulo noted the progress of several other recently-announced projects including the three new lands coming to Hong Kong Disneyland by 2014; the Disney Dream, the new ship being built by Disney Cruise Line; the many diverse itineraries being offered by Adventures by Disney that take guests on 19 unique, once-in-a-lifetime guided vacation experiences; and Disney's first family destination resort on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.

Rasulo's keynote presentation was only part of the D23 EXPO experience.

Guests were able to discover:

  • Never-before-seen models of upcoming Disney attractions.
  • Up close and personal visits with Lucky the Dinosaur and Wall-E.
  • A preview of the most advanced Audio-Animatronics figures ever created by Walt Disney Imagineering.
  • Displays showcasing cutting-edge effects technologies that are being developed for Disney attractions, shows and venues.

More coverage from the D23 Web site.

Video from Disney's HUGE announcements yesterday

Video courtesy Stitch Kingdom:

D23 Update: Imagineering Legends come together to talk about the parks

It's not very often that six of Disney's most legendary Imagineers sit down together to share some of their most personal memories with fans. But when they did on the first day of the D23 Expo, it was pure magic. Moderated by Disney Legend Marty Sklar, who retired this year on July 17 after 53 years of Imagineering brilliance — on the 54th anniversary of Disneyland — X Atencio, Alice Davis, Blaine Gibson, Bob Gurr and Don Iwerks spent two hours recounting some of their favorite Disney memories for an audience of a few hundred avid Disney aficionados.

Read more at the D23 Web site!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Depp announces Pirates 4 at D23 Expo

From MSNBC:

Avast! Disney says a new “Pirates of the Caribbean” film is on yonder horizon.
Johnny Depp sailed onstage Friday on a pirate ship at the Anaheim Convention Center to help announce the forthcoming installment of Disney’s blockbuster film franchise. He was welcomed with a rousing standing ovation.

Depp will reprise his role as Capt. Jack Sparrow in “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” slated for summer of 2011. It’s the fourth in a series.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32803347/ns/entertainment/

Disney Cruise Line announces new destination -- Alaska

Disney Cruise Line President Karl Holz, in front of a boisterous crowd at the Storytellers Theater at the D23 Expo, announced on September 11 that Disney Cruise Line (DCL) will offer Alaskan cruises during a four-month season of seven-night sailings aboard Disney Wonder in 2011. The cruise ship will depart Vancouver, British Columbia, and weigh anchor in such popular ports as Juneau, Ketchikan and Skagway. The new itinerararies will be offered after the Disney Wonder is repositioned on the West Coast in 2011, departing from Los Angeles harbor in addition to Vancouver.
More from the D23 Web site!

More from D23 -- the Treasures Collection

The D23 Web site has a few pictures from the Disney Treasures collection at the D23 Expo.

Check it out!

http://d23.disney.go.com/articles/091109_NF_BN_BlogDay2.html

TTA reopens today

The Tomorrowland Transit Authority has reopened today.

Dewayne Bevil from the Orlando Sentinel's Theme Park Rangers has pictures.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Epcot's Illuminations named best outdoor night show

Amusement Today has announced their 2009 Golden Ticket Awards, honoring the best of the best in amusement/theme parks.

In the outdoor night show production category, Epcot's Illuminations: Reflections of Earth was named the best production. The Disney parks took four of the top five spots in this category (Disneyland 2nd, Disney's Hollywood Studios 4th and Magic Kingdom 5th).

Also, The Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios earned second place for the best dark ride, while Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye at Disneyland placed 4th.

As for indoor roller coasters, Disney earned several honors. Rock N' Roller Coaster at Disney's Hollywood Studios was named 2nd while Space Mountain earned double honors (Disneyland's version placed 3rd while WDW's version placed 5th).

Disney parks, however, didn't fare quite as well in many of the other categories including best park and best new ride. Cedar Point took the top honors in the best park category. Disneyland and WDW's Magic Kingdom were the only Disney parks represented at 3rd place and 8th place respectively. Disney didn't make the best new ride list. Blizzard Beach earned a 3rd place spot in the best waterpark category.

Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom did place 4th and 5th in the cleanest park category, but, interestingly enough, no Disney park made the list in the friendliest park staff category.

Disney's Hollywood Studios came in 4th place in the best shows category, while Epcot came in 3rd place for best food. Epcot and Animal Kingdom came in 3rd and 4th place respectively for best landscaping while Spash Mountain was named 3rd place in best water ride at an amusement/theme park. As for best waterpark ride, Summit Plummet at Blizzard Beach came in 5th place.

When it comes to the holidays, no Disney park made the list for best Halloween event, while Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom came in 3rd and 4th place for their Christmas events.

Finally, Amusement Today also released the top 50 steel and wooden roller coasters. Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom was ranked 36th and Disneyland's Space Mountain ranked 49th. Disney doesn't have any wooden coasters.

D23 Expo Update: Iger opens up first ever Expo

http://d23.disney.go.com/articles/091009_NF_FS_D23BobIgerPres.html

The D23 Expo kicked off with a presentation by Disney CEO Bob Iger.

"The stories, characters and experiences we've created over the last 86 years are loved by millions of people like you — and me — all over the world. There are so many things that are wonderful about Disney: unforgettable music… beloved characters… thrilling theme park attractions. But the excitement that keeps us going year after year and generation after generation comes from you — the fans. It's your passion for Disney, your respect for our legacy, your fond nostalgia for our past and your anticipation of more fun in our future that make all of this work — that keeps the magic alive," said Iger.

After Iger's welcome, the Disney Company formally announced and recognized the 2009 Disney Legends.

Keep watching for more D23 Expo Updates!

Applications now accepted for 2010 Disney World Mom's Panel

If you're interested in becoming a Disney World Mom (or Dad) and joining the 2010 Disney World Mom's Panel, now's the time to submit your application.

http://disneyworldmoms.com/2010

Good luck!!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tip Tuesday: To AP or not to AP...

Welcome to another...

Oh, who am I kidding? It's WEDNESDAY!!! Why am I just now getting to Tip Tuesday?!?!?

Mea Culpa, my friends.

Anyway, on with the show and this week's tip...

When friends and co-workers hear that my family and I are WDW annual passholders, they often ask me, "Why?" or "Is it worth all that money?"

The answer really depends on how much you plan to visit Walt Disney World in a 12-month period.

Take my family for example. My wife and I have three children. In Disney's eyes, we are three adults and two children (under 10). We knew that we were going to WDW in January 2010 for the half-marathon and we knew we wanted to take another family trip in the spring/early summer to experience both Disney and (dare I say it!) Universal's new Wizarding World of Harry Potter. As we looked at the ticket costs for those two trips alone we started thinking about the usefulness of an annual pass.

Let's look at this in a bit more depth.

In January, we were planning to get a four-day park hopper pass (per person). The cost for three adult and two child hoppers is $1,319 (at $69.25 per adult and $61 per child).

This spring/summer, we are planning at least seven days at Disney (maybe more, but we'll go with seven for now). The cost of five seven-day park hopper passes is $1,364 (at $40.86 per adult and $36.14 per child).

Adding these together, we get a total ticket cost of $2,683.

Now let's look at the cost of annual passes.

Annual passes (for this year) are $489 per adult and $432 per child. For my family, annual passes cost $2,331 -- a savings of more than $300.

As you can see, it was readily apparent that we should consider the annual pass (which we did).

But wait, there's more.

We quickly realized that we had tickets for an ENTIRE YEAR! So the question was when to start that year. Originally we weren't considering a WDW trip for the summer of 2009. With the annual pass, all of the sudden, that summer trip was possible. We had to shoulder the financial hit of the passes, but knew we were saving in the long run.

The next thing we know, we're heading down to WDW every chance we can get!

For less than the cost of our two originally planned trips, we've already taken one WDW trip and are planning three more. That's four trips for the original price of two.

But wait, there's more.

WDW annual passholders also enjoy some serious discounts. How about 10% off all purchases at the World of Disney in Downtown Disney, discounts at certain Epcot restaurants, discounts on tours, discounts on theme park tickets (for friends or family), and HUGE discounts on room-only rates at many of the Disney resorts. The room-only savings can be as much as 40% off the rack rate.

So before you head down to Walt Disney World on your next trip -- think ahead. If you might be going more than once in a calendar year or going for longer than 10 days, you might want to think about getting an annual pass. The savings could be well worth the investigation. Do the math.

For more about annual passes, see the official Disney Web site.

Report: Marvel characters not likely at WDW

Don't look for Marvel characters to show up at any of the Florida-based Disney parks anytime soon.

Walt Disney Co. Chief Financial Officer Tom Scaggs told analysts today that the company will focus on the use of Marvel characters at other theme parks instead of Walt Disney World because of the existing licensing deal between Marvel and Universal Orlando. That deal gives Universal exclusive rights, east of the Mississippi River for several Marvel characters including Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Hulk.

More on this story from The Orlando Sentinel.

D23 - previews and LIVE coverage!!!

The D23 Web site just released a few previews from the D23 Expo.

Check here!

Also, Lou Mongello of the WDW Radio Show is going to be broadcasting LIVE from the D23 Expo at times. Keep an eye on http://wdwradiolive.com/ or http://www.ustream.tv/channel/wdw-radio-your-walt-disney-world-info-station to watch Lou's live updates.

If you want to join in the chat on WDW Radio LIVE, here are a few tips:

Go to http://www.ustream.tv/

At the top of the page, beside the green "Broadcast Now" button, is a Log In / Sign Up section.

Click "Sign Up"

A screen pops up. Fill out the New Account section (Login is your username; continue through the entire form, including the verification text, and you must agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Make sure you write down your Login and Password; you will need it to sign in and chat with Lou live!)Click "Submit".

Fill out your profile information (name, gender, country, postal code) and "submit"
the next step, (Importing Contacts and Send Twitter to Followers) you may skip (click the link at the bottom of the page) You're taken to a page to start setting up your first show. At this point, you can close the window from Ustream and go back to the chat window for Lou's live broadcast. Click in the chat bar at the bottom of the chat area and a screen pops up. Type in your Login and your Password from Ustream, submit, and you should be good to go. (thanks to Sandy McGowan for these instructions!)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Disney finds new voice for Mickey Mouse

With the passing of Disney Legend Wayne Allwine earlier this year, Disney conducted a search to find the new voice for the most central character in the Disney genre - Mickey Mouse.

That search apparently is over. Bret Iwan has been named the new voice for the head cheese, according to a recording house in Kansas City. Iwan has done some previous recordings used at the Disney Cruise Line.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The master of Hidden Mickeys releases 4th edition

Steve Barrett’s day job as an Orlando-area emergency room physician is deadly serious. But on his days off, he heads to Walt Disney World Resort on a merry mission: to track down, authenticate, and document those elusive creatures known as “Hidden Mickeys.” He’s even written a book on the topic.

In the latest (4th) edition of his Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide To Walt Disney World’s Best Kept Secrets (Intrepid Traveler, $12.95), he has added some 100 previously unknown Mickeys for a grand total of nearly 900.

Barrett’s interest in writing a Hidden Mickeys guide was piqued when he noticed groups of Mickey hunters carrying loose sheaves of printed lists, passed from fan to fan, arguing over whether a particular Hidden Mickey was actually there or not, and wishing aloud that they had a book to make the whole task easier.
Hidden Mickeys filled the void. Based on his own obsessive searching and tips supplied by a growing number of fans, each Mickey is personally verified by Barrett, who then tests his observations against those of friends and family members. To add to the fun, Barrett has arranged the book as a series of six scavenger hunts, complete with clues, hints, and points to be scored.

In the Walt Disney World theme parks, it’s not unusual these days to see families and groups of friends, Barrett’s book in hand, fanning out to compete in spotting the most Hidden Mickeys. Many of them spot new Hidden Mickeys, which they report to Barrett, who meticulously records and verifies their sightings, separating the merely “wishful thinking” from the genuine article. The new edition of his book, in true scholarly fashion, acknowledges more than 900 fellow hunters for their contributions to the effort.

“Hidden Mickey mania is contagious,” says Barrett. “Searching for them has escalated into a bona fide vacation mission for many Walt Disney World fans, and even beginners have happened upon a new, unreported Mickey or two.”

Hidden Mickeys is available in the Walt Disney World theme parks and at bookstores everywhere. Barrett maintains a site where visitors can report sightings of new or suspected Hidden Mickeys. The address is http://www.hiddenmickeysguide.com/.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Disney Magic rescues overboard passenger from another ship

http://www.clickorlando.com/news/20700998/detail.html
According to Orlando's Local 6, a 34 year old man fell overboard from the Carnival Sensation and treaded water for over an hour before being rescued by the Disney Wonder at around 12:30 a.m. this morning. This happened about 28 nautical miles off the coast of Port St. Lucie.

How the man fell overboard is not known. It is believed he fell off the stern of the ship.

"This gentleman is very lucky he was found alive and well in a reasonable amount of time. We're just very pleased that this story has a happy ending," U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Nick Ameen told Local 6.

Click here for video.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tip Tuesday: KidCot

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

I can't tell you how many times I hear from people with younger children saying that "Epcot isn't for kids," or "there's nothing at Epcot for kids to do." I've even heard this from people in my own family.

Sigh. How wrong they are.

Epcot (full disclosure -- it's my favorite park) has so much for kids that I'll bet kids can't get to it all in one day!

From the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure (my own three kids absolutely LOVE this!), to the different character meet-and-greet opportunities to attractions aimed at younger guests (think Nemo and Figment), kids will have a fantastic time at Epcot.

One activity at Epcot that has been very popular with kids (and doesn't cost anything) are the KidCot stations located all around FutureWorld and World Showcase.

What is a KidCot station? Well, I'll just talk about the World Showcase KidCots (the FutureWorld ones have a different theme). A KidCot station is a place where kids can work on crafts related to each host country. Every country in World Showcase has a KidCot station.

Here's how it works:

Pick a country, any country, to begin your KidCot adventure. At the first country (for most it's either Mexico or Canada), younger guests will get a blank, white paper mask on a stick (very similar to those old Italian Venetian masks, which you can get in Italy -- but I digress). Kids then can decorate their mask any way they wish. At the KidCot station in each country, a cast member will stamp the mask with a symbol representing that country and attach a paper die-cut image that represents that country to the top of the mask.

As kids move from country to county, more stamps and paper symbols are added to the mask until the final country. If younger guests manage to visit all 11 KidCot stations, they usually get an additional bit of recognition -- sometimes it's a certificate, sometimes it's a special Epcot mini-poster.

Part of the charm of the KidCot program is that it requires kids to explore the different pavilions in order to find the KidCot station. At each station cast members native to the host country talk with kids about their respective homelands. This makes KidCot a great way for kids to become exposed to people of different lands and learn about different cultures, which is the whole reason for World Showcase to begin with.

Quick tip for parents: The KidCot stations are (at least as of this post) sponsored by Sharpie, which means kids will be using Sharpie permanent markers to decorate their masks. It might be a good idea to put younger kids into a shirt that can withstand a bit of mess or one that can be sacrificed, because there is a good chance clothes might get a bit messed up.

2009 Disney Legends announced

The D23 Web site today announced the 2009 Disney Legends, and some very big names will earn Legend status this year:


  • Robin Williams, who has played in several Disney movies, most notably as the Genie in Alladin and Professor Brainard in Flubber, also was the Timekeeper in Tomorrowland, along with other roles in park attractions.

  • Golden Girls stars Estelle Getty, Rue McClannahan, Beatrice Arthur and Betty White. (posthumous for Getty, and Arthur).

  • Tony Anselmo, current voice of Donald Duck and a Disney animator.

  • Bill Farmer, current voice of Goofy and Pluto.

  • Don Iwerks, son of Ub Iwerks, who created revolutionary film systems for projects like Mary Poppins, Circlevision 360 and Star Tours.

  • Leota Toombs Thomas, who was the model for Madame Leota in The Haunted Mansion. (posthumous)

  • Harry Archinal, former president of Buena Vista International.


Each honoree receives a two-foot-tall bronze Disney Legends sculpture that signifies the imagination, creativity and magic they have brought to the Company. Disney Legends Award recipients also participate in a hand-print ceremony, and their bronzed prints will be displayed in the Disney Legends Plaza at the Company's Burbank headquarters.

The first Disney Legend was actor Fred MacMurray, named in 1987. Since then Disney has named 237 Legends. For a complete list of all Disney Legends, visit the Disney Legends Web site at http://legends.disney.go.com/legends/index.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post indicated the Legend award was posthumous for Rue McClannahan. This was an error. My sincere apologies to Mrs. McClannahan for the error.