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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tip Tuesday: Quick exit out of the Haunted Mansion's stretching room

Haunted Mansion

Welcome foolish mortals, to another Tip Tuesday. I am your host, your ghost... ok. Enough with the Haunted Mansion bit. Besides, Master Gracey does it best.

I'm back from Walt Disney World with many new tips for you.

This tip is short, sweet and to the point - and will help your beat a few lines, especially during busy times (like now).

When you enter the stretching room - you are surrounded by a series of portraits. After you hear the ghost host's spiel about having no windows and no doors, etc. (actually there are two doors), you eventually empty out into the loading area for the doom buggies.

As you enter that load area from the stretching room, it can feel like a stampede of cattle. That is, unless you're first out of the gate. So where's the gate?

It's pretty simple -- look for the portrait of the young woman holding the parasol (seen above). As the photo stretches, she is seen standing on a wire above a snapping crocodile. If you stand directly UNDER this photo, you will be standing right at the door that will open at the conclusion of the stretching room scene. This applies for both stretching rooms in the Walt Disney World Haunted Mansion.

Just look for the portrait, stand under it (and away from the walls) and you can pretty much guarantee you will beat the throng trying to stampede to the load area.

Now for less crowded times, I always encourage guests to try to stick around after everyone has left to hear the eerie whispers. It's a neat effect. For peak times of the year -- don't bother. You won't hear it with all the gabble of talking guests. Just move on to the doom buggies.

One more bit of trivia. In Disneyland, the stretching rooms are actually cleverly disguised elevators transporting guests to a lower floor. In Walt Disney World, the floor doesn't move - the ceiling raises.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tip Tuesday: Watch the weather

Rain at Epcot

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

I decided to stick with the water theme and talk about a facet of trip to Walt Disney World that many of us hope not to see, but should expect, especially this time of year: rain.

It's safe to say that there will most likely be at least one rainy afternoon during a week-long trip to WDW in the summer. Florida sees more thunderstorms than most anywhere else in the nation. Now this doesn't mean your summer trip is a sure washout. Far from it. Florida rain is similar to tropical showers -- splash and dash. It will rain (sometimes VERY heavily) and then 15-30 minutes later the sun is out, jacking up the already humid weather to just plain muggy.

There are several tips to keep in mind when preparing for the rain. First is keeping dry. There are a few options here. The first is the good 'ol poncho. It's fairly easy to carry. It will keep your torso dry, but your shoes and lower legs will be soaked. The downsides are that ponchos don't breathe, so you will sweat up a storm until you can get it off and then you have to deal with a wet poncho after the sun returns.

The second option is an umbrella. You will stay pretty dry (aside from your shoes, maybe) and there's no worry about seating. The major downside is an umbrella is a pain to carry around all day, especially while riding attractions.

The third option is to run for it! Obviously you don't have to worry about keeping up with anything, but you're also running the risk of getting soaked to the bone. This is where the true theme park commandos display their skills at dash-and-cover. While this maneuver may have originated with the army (dash to a new spot to find cover and fire at the enemy), at WDW, this term takes on an entirely new meaning: Dash to a new place to find cover from the rain.

Whichever option you decide, it's best to know what's going to happen ahead of time. That means keeping up with the forecast and local radars.

These days most people have some sort of web enabled phone. Here are a few must-save links to have on hand while in the parks.

National Weather Service:
Weather Channel:

It's also important to check the forecast before you leave for your trip. You should most especially check the tropical forecast well ahead of time for any trips between June and November. I highly encourage visiting the National Hurricane Center (NHC) at least a week ahead of time to see if any tropical weather may affect your trip. If it does appear that tropical weather might impact your trip, you should consult your travel agent to see what your options are. Disney has posted a hurricane FAQ on their Web site. It's a very good idea to read this to see how Disney handles a hurricane and what their policies are for rebooking, should that become necessary.

I'll probably do another post specifically about hurricanes at WDW, so look for that in a future Tip Tuesday.

Also, a bit of a programming note: There will not be a Tip Tuesday next week.

Until next time, keep the magic in your heart and hope that the sun is shining!

Friday, June 11, 2010

World of Color should replace Fantasmic at DHS

World of Color

Last night (or early this morning depending on where you live), Disney held a special live premiere for the new World of Color show at Disney's California Adventure.

I joined about 9,700 people in watching the live premiere via Ustream.

I have to admit, I had my doubts about World of Color. I thought it was a souped-up version of the Fountain of Nations at Epcot. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

I haven't seen something so visually stunning since the opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Yes, World of Color was that amazing. I have to admit it, World of Color is Disney's best nighttime spectacular, even over Illuminations. I know some of you will disagree, but I have to tell you, I'm that impressed with World of Color.

The combination of colored dancing water (that is far superior to anything else I've ever seen, especially given that the water can be projected in varying directions and intensities), stunning music and familiar scenes from Disney movies helps World of Color set the bar very high.

As I watched the live show (which I could watch again and again), I kept thinking, "Oh, we have GOT to get this to Florida!" I then thought about where World of Color could be located. I kept coming back to the Fantasmic theater at DHS. I know there are some die-hard Fantasmic fans out there, who will disagree, but I think it's time Disney scrapped Fantasmic at DHS and bring in World of Color.

Think about it, the DHS version of Fantasmic already is widely considered to be inferior to the Disneyland version. Further, it's clear Disney isn't as enamored with the show since it's not running every night anymore.

I personally, would rather see Fantasmic be retired or sent to a foreign park and World of Color come to DHS. Frankly, DHS has a much better venue than DCA for the show. With that huge theatre, more people could get a good view and not have to stand all over the place creating traffic flow problems.

I'm not sure what the viewing capacity is for World of Color at DCA, but it can't be as big as the DHS Fantasmic theater.

What are your thoughts? Did you see the World of Color premiere? Should World of Color replace Fantasmic at DHS? Is there a better place for World of Color?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tip Tuesday: The Fountain of Nations

Fountain of Nations

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

This week, let's head back to Epcot for another installment of "take your time."

There is so much to see and do at Epcot, that sometimes the most obvious things can be overlooked, especially by guests racing to grab a FastPass for Soarin' or Test Track.

Some of the more impressive presentations at Epcot don't have a FastPass machine, a big standby line or even a queue for that matter.

With this in mind, let's take a look at one of the more impressive performances that takes place every 15 minutes right in front of Spaceship Earth.

I'm talking about the Fountain of Nations, which has a long history that embodies the spirit of Epcot from day one. It's also the largest fountain at Walt Disney World, holding more than 150,000 gallons of water.

With the new World of Color water show about to officially debut over at Disney's California Adventure, I thought I'd take a look at one of the attractions that pioneered water shows.

Of course, Epcot (actually EPCOT Center back then) was dedicated in October 1982. Near the end of that month, cast members from each of the World Showcase pavilions (and representing their host country) brought a one-gallon container of water from their host country and poured it into the then-called Communicore Fountain.

Over the years the fountain at the center of Innoventions Plaza has been known as the Communicore Fountain, the World Fellowship Fountain, the Fountain of World Friendship and more. Today it is most commonly referred to as the Fountain of Nations.

As I mentioned before, every 15 minutes, there is a special water show set to music. You'll probably recognize a few tunes including clips from the Rocketeer soundtrack. The fountain is made up of more than 200 nozzles that can shoot more than 50 gallons of water as high as 150 feet. The computer controlled water ballet has water dancing all over the fountain area, timed and choreographed to the music.

On some days, the water doesn't get quite as high, especially windy days. Even so, you'll want to see how the wind is blowing so you don't get wet while watching this presentation.

I encourage you to see the show both during the day and at night. There are more than 1,000 lights to illuminate the water show at night. It's a great sight and well worth watching.

As you watch, just remember what this fountain represents -- how all nations of the world can come together to be one.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Could Disney "benefit" from the oil spill?

No doubt, you're aware of the gigantic oil spill currently running rampant in the Gulf of Mexico. As I write this post, oil is washing ashore along the Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama coasts. The oil is expected to make it to the western beaches of Florida any day now. There already are some reports of oil washing ashore along the Florida panhandle beaches.

As I was reading some news coverage about the oil spill, I happened to read one quote from a vacationer who said he was leaving Pensacola Beach and heading for Orlando.

This led me to wonder if this was going to become a common occurrence; people originally planning to go to the beach instead head for the Orlando parks (including Walt Disney World) because they don't want to deal with the oil on the shore and in the water.

I think it's a distinct possibility, especially as the summer progresses and as more reports come in of oil washing onto Florida beaches. Further, if some long-range projections end up coming true, the east coast beaches also could be affected, possibly driving even more vacationers inland to Florida's theme park capital.

If this holds true, Disney and other Orlando-area theme parks could see an extra bump in summer attendance thanks to the oil spill.

What does this mean for Disney fans already planning to experience Summer Nightastic and, maybe, take a trip to Hogwarts as well?

Be ready for even larger crowds.

What do you think? Will the oil spill's impact on Florida beaches mean more business for Disney?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tip Tuesday: Fantasmic

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

This week, let's head over to Disney's Hollywood Studios for a little bit of nighttime entertainment. If it's night and it's the Studios, then, of course, I'm talking about Fantasmic!

If you haven't seen Fantasmic!, you're missing out. It's an incredible eye-candy production complete with pyrotechnical displays, water projections and just a tad bit of Disney magic.

The 25-minute spectacular "Fantasmic!" features 50 performers and combines dazzling special effects, colorful pyrotechnic explosions, well-known Disney characters, animation and dancing waters synchronized to the melodies of timeless Disney classics. The presentation lights up the sky on select nights above the 6,900-seat amphitheater behind The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror off Sunset Boulevard. The specially designed amphitheater also can accommodate 3,000 standing guests.

In addition to all the flames, Disney also uses three massive water projection systems to show clips from different Disney movies. The water screens work as a perfect curtain behind which, the set is changed for the next scene.

Fantasmic! tells an interesting story -- it's all about Mickey's dreams and how they can go awry.

It all starts with... well, I don't want to spoil it for you.

However, if you are planning on catching Fantasmic!, you need to keep a few points in mind. First, Fantasmic! isn't shown every night (like Wishes or Illuminations), so you'll want to check ahead to see when the show is playing. During the summer months, Fantasmic! often is shown twice a night (9 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.). On nights where there are two showings, you stand a much better chance of getting a good seat by attending the 10:30 p.m. showing, which usually has a much smaller crowd.

If you are thinking about the 9 p.m. show, or there's only one show for that day, then you need to be at the Fantasmic! entrance between the Tower of Terror and Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage at least 30 minutes in advance. If you want to get a center seat - be at the entrance at least an hour early (90 minutes during peak times of the year).

So where do you want to sit? The best locations are in the center. In fact, for guests with VIP guides, Disney has a reserved seating area - no need to wait in line (it's really handy!). The other way to get a reserved seating area is to purchase a Fantasmic! dinner package. This includes dinner at a Hollywood Studios restaurant (Mamma Melrose's, Hollywood and Vine and the Brown Derby) and special seating. I've heard that some guests haven't been particularly thrilled with the reserved seating for the dinner package - it's apparently off to the side. I personally have never booked the dinner package, so I'm not sure what vantage point is offered.

Fantasmic! is a show that I recommend everyone see at least once. Is it a show that's a must do every trip to WDW? Not really. Now if you're talking about Wishes or Illuminations, then it's a different story.

Be sure to check out Fantasmic! on your next trip -- and remember the power of dreams!