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Friday, January 30, 2009

WDW 2009 Ambassadors lead new Magic Kingdom parade as Grand Marshals

Image copyright Disney, all rights reserved.

The new “Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade” debuted recently at Magic Kingdom with the 2009 Walt Disney World Ambassadors leading the way as the parade’s Grand Marshals.

The parade is part of Disney Parks’ new “What Will You Celebrate?” initiative, which invites guests to celebrate special milestones. The “Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade” features new songs, Disney characters, floats and a troop of dancers who encourage guests to celebrate with them.

Celebrating their own new roles, Walt Disney World Ambassadors Vanessa Rosas and Clay Shoemaker along with their families, led the parade in a specially designed open-roadster vehicle as the parade proceeded down Main Street. Over the years, Walt Disney World Ambassadors have assumed many different roles, but this is the first time an Ambassador Team has served as parade Grand Marshals.

“For our families to have been with us to experience the Disney Magic that our Cast Members create each day is very rewarding,” said Rosas. “This was absolutely a dream come true for me.”

“To be in the parade as Grand Marshal was an amazing experience." said Shoemaker. "This is a day I will never forget.”

While celebrating one of many magical moments they will share together over the next 12 months, Rosas and Shoemaker recalled their earliest memories of Walt Disney World.

At age 12, Rosas was captivated by Disney magic during her first visit. “As I watched the parade with my family, amazed by all the floats and dancers, Pinocchio came down the street, straight up to me, kissed my hand and stole my heart,” said Rosas.

Shoemaker also remembers the first time he fell for a Disney character. At age six, he fell in love with Cinderella. “My grandmother took me to Cinderella Castle where I met her. She bent down, spoke to me and then kissed me on the cheek,” he said. I guess you could say that my first kiss was from Cinderella.”

Disney releases American Idol Experience song list

Thinking about auditioning for the American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios? Well if you make it past the first couple of rounds, you'll be asked to select a song to sing for the next round of judges. Today, Disney released the song list. Now you'll be prepared if you try to go for the glory. Good luck!

Disney Songs
Best of Worlds
Bet On It
Breaking Free
Circle of Life
Colors of the Wind
Ever Ever After
Go The Distance
Part of Your World
Play My Music
Rock Star
This Is Me
You'll Be In My Heart

Achy Breaky Heart
All-American Girl
Boot Scootin' Boogie
Do You Believe Me Now
How Do I Live (Without You)
I Hope You Dance
I Like It, I Love It
I Told You So
Independence Day
It's Good to be Us
Life is a Highway
Man, I Feel Like A Woman
My Wish
Our Song
Sweet Home Alabama
This Kiss
Walkin' After Midnight
What Hurts The Most

Dance Best of My Love
Hot Stuff
I Will Survive
Knock On Wood
Last Dance
Never Can Say Goodbye
Turn Your Love Around
You're The First, The Last, My Everything

Just Another Day
La Bamba
Turn The Beat Around
Waiting for Tonight

Rock/Pop Up Tempo
Big Girls Don't Cry
Black Horse and a Cherry Tree
Bohemian Rhapsody
Don't Stop The Music
Express Yourself
Face Down
Hit Me With Your Best Shot
I Can See Clearly Now
I Feel The Earth Move
I Wanna Dance With Somebody
If Everyone Cared
No One
Old Time Rock and Roll
Over You
Rock With You
Since U Been Gone
Somebody to Love
Suspicious Minds
The Great Escape
Walk Away
Walking On Sunshine
You Really Got Me Now
You're My Best Friend

Rock/Pop Ballad
A Moment Like This
Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me
Drops of Jupiter
If It Makes You Happy
Just Once
Kiss From a Rose
Looks Like We Made It
Stand By Me
Unchained Melody
Walkin' In Memphis
What a Wonderful World
Your Song

100 Ways
Ain't No Mountain High Enough
Ain't Too Proud To Beg
For Once In My Life Meduim
Get Ready
I Heard It Through the Grapevine
I Want You Back
I Wish
I'll Be There
Midnight Train to Georgia
New Attitude
Reach Out, I'll Be There
Signed, Sealed, Delivered
Stop In The Name of Love
Then Came You
Vision of Love
You Are The Sunshine of My Life
You Keep Me Hangin' On
(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
You're All I Need To Get By

Disneyland to use recycled cooking oil to power railroad, riverboat

CNBC is reporting that Imagineers at Disneyland have come up with a way to recycle cooking oil to power the Disneyland Railroad and the Mark Twain Riverboat. In addition, the company is using compressed natural gas to fuel the guest trams. This is all part of Disneyland's innovative environmental initiatives to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Here's an excerpt from the article:

"These initiatives demonstrate Disneyland Resort's ongoing commitment to balancing environmental stewardship throughout our operations," said Michael O'Grattan, senior vice president of resort operations. "These are just a few steps in our ongoing journey to reduce Disneyland Resort's environmental footprint." Used Cooking Oil Fuels Disneyland Railroad Beginning this week, the Disneyland Railroad is being fueled by a special biodiesel made from recycled cooking oil used throughout the Resort. "We have been recycling our used kitchen grease for years, but this innovation takes recycling to another level," said Frank Dela Vara, Disneyland Resort's director of environmental affairs and conservation. "Now the oil used to cook French Fries and other foods is processed to power our Disneyland Railroad and our Mark Twain Riverboat. This move allows the Resort to save approximately 200,000 gallons of petroleum diesel per year." The Disneyland Railroad's five trains have been using a soy-based biodiesel since April 2007. The B99.9 used cooking oil-based biodiesel will continue to reduce emissions by up to 80 percent. Disneyland Resort's Mark Twain Riverboat also will begin using the new biodiesel within the next few weeks.

No word yet on when these initiatives may make their way over to Walt Disney World.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

FOX boards the "Dawn Treader"

Well it looks like the third film in the Narnia series will make it to the big screen after all. CNBC reports that FOX is partnering with Walden Media to produce the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the third movie in the Narnia series. As you may recall, Disney decided not to continue a partnership with Walden Media after the second Narnia film, Prince Caspian, didn't do quite as well as the initial Narnia movie, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Bear in mind that Caspian still made a profit and was in no way a box office bust. It just didn't make as much as LWW did.

This is one mistake I hope comes back to bite Disney hard. Dropping the option on Dawn Treader really was dropping the ball. I'll be the first to admit the Prince Caspian storyline was a tough one to turn into an action movie, but Disney added a few scenes to bring more action to the story. Dawn Treader is full of action almost from the first moment. We will see a new character (Eustace Scrubb) and won't see Peter or Susan Pevensie, only Lucy.

No word yet on production timetables or a possible release date for Dawn Treader. It will be very interesting to see what happens to the current Prince Caspian attraction at DHS. I wonder what Disney will come up with next to fill that hole when they can no longer run the attraction (which I'm sure is coming pretty soon, with the dissolving of the partnership).

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tip Tuesday: Magical photos with Photopass

Folks who have read this blog may remember my very first Tip Tuesday post about taking full advantage of PhotoPass. After my December 2008 trip to WDW, I have a few more tips for you that will help you even more to make the most of PhotoPass (and that Photo CD).

Those of you who haven't been to WDW in a few years may not realize that Disney now is offering a few new unique photo opportunities. Photographers in certain locations in each park will have you pose in a certain way and take the shot. Later, when you are reviewing your photos, a little Disney magic has been added to these photos to make them even more magical.

Here are some of the places you can take those magical photos:

Magic Kingdom:
On Main Street (including the hub), have a person hold their hands in a cupped position (as if they were holding a tiny bird at their waist) and look at it fondly or with amazement - Tinker Bell will be standing in your hands when you see the picture (see sample above).

Also on Main Street, you can sit on a bench and Stitch will be "eating" some ice cream (well, sort of). This is apparently pretty limited, so be sure to ask.

In Adventureland, near POTC, pretend to be swordfighting with Captain Hook - when you see your picture, he will be there! This is not always available, so check with a PhotoPass photographer about available times.

At the Haunted Mansion, you can have a shot taken in front of the horseless carriage. In the photo are some hitchhiking ghosts. This is mostly available during Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, though I've heard some guests have been able to get this shot at other times, so I'd ask a PhotoPass photographer about availability.

In between the Fountain of Nations and World Showcase Plaza you can get a shot of Mickey and friends soaring (or rather Soarin') over your head in a Soarin' glider. This can be a tricky shot, depending on the position of the sun. I tried to get this shot in December, but it apparently didn't turn out.

The Stitch ice cream photo opportunity discussed in the Magic Kingdom is apparently offered here at times, so ask.

Hollywood Studios:
There are quite a few at DHS. The most common is available along Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards. You can take a shot pointing at the pavement in total surprise -- Stitch will be breaking out of the pavement to say hi!

In some parts of the park, you can have a shot of you sitting on a bench and Lilo, Stitch (the ice cream shot again), Mickey or Minnie will be sitting next to you. I understand these are offered on a very limited basis, so be sure to ask. I've never been able to get one of these.

I've heard of a magic photo opportunity where you can cross lightsabers with Darth Vader in between showtimes of the Jedi Training Academy near Star Tours. Again, this might be limited, so be sure to ask.

Animal Kingdom:
In and around Discovery Island, you can get a shot of you holding baby Simba in your arms. This is especially cute with kids.

That's all the magic PhotoPass locations I've either personally done or have heard about. If you know of another one, be sure to post a comment! I'd love to hear about it.

Oh, and remember those enhancements I talked about on the previous Tip Tuesday post on PhotoPass? Well you can still add those enhancements here! Of course, not every one will be appropriate, but you at least have some options to work with.

Have fun out there and happy picture taking!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Dreams Come True Parade opens at the Magic Kingdom

The Orlando Attractions Magazine Blog has some wonderful pictures from the new "Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade," which started this weekend at the Magic Kingdom. This replaces the Dreams Come True Parade that had been running for quite a while. Be sure to check out the photos over at Orlando Attractions Magazine -- they are really good!

This new parade includes a cast of Disney characters, stilt walkers and other performers that processes down Main Street, U.S.A. toward Cinderella Castle to high-energy tunes. Five floats decked out as gift-wrapped packages are part of the procession, and near the castle, Mad Hatter, Genie, Lumiere and Sebastian – the life and light of the party – pop out of four huge boxes. They join about a dozen other Disney characters headed by Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse to mix and mingle and dance in the street with Magic Kingdom guests during a 12-15-minute party scheduled to take place three times daily.

Disney pin blog releases sneak preview of new Hall of Presidents pin

The What's HapPINing? pin blog released a sneak preview of one of the new pins celebrating the re-opening of the Hall of Presidents including President Obama. This pin looks very nice and I hope I can find a way to get this pin later this summer. There are several great looking pins coming up in the next few months. You can see them all at

Friday, January 23, 2009

Buy 4 nights, get 3 free offer extended - again!

Disney's buy 4 nights, get 3 free offer has been extended - again. I confirmed this today with Beci Mehnkin of The new deadline for booking is March 29. This offer is good for most travel dates through June 27. Check with your travel agent for details.

So for any of your out there who were still considering taking advantage of this special offer - you still have time!

New details on buyout option for Disney execs

Some new details were released yesterday about the buyout for executives in a story from the Orlando Sentinel:

The Walt Disney Co. offered buyouts Wednesday to more than 600
executives at its U.S. resorts -- including 313 in Orlando -- as the company
struggles to cut costs amid a worsening recession.The company planned to
hand-deliver buyout packages to 619 executives, each of whom will have until
Feb. 6 to decide whether to accept.Disney said it will resort to layoffs if too
few employees voluntarily walk away.

"We hope to achieve our goals with the VSP [voluntary separation plan],
but an involuntary layoff with a lesser severance package will be required if
our goals are not met," Jayne Parker, senior vice president of human resources
for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, wrote in a letter to the affected executives.

In a written statement, Disney blamed the move on the country's hobbled
economy. The parks-and-resorts division is particularly vulnerable as consumer
spending is squeezed by sinking home values, rising unemployment and tightening

Analysts at Morgan Stanley estimate that combined attendance at Walt
Disney World and Disneyland will drop 7 percent this year."Given the continued
uncertainty of the economic environment, we must manage our business even more productively," Disney spokeswoman Leslie Goodman said in the statement. "This immediate action is designed to allow us to deliver an outstanding guest
experience and remain focused on achieving long-term growth."

Disney declined to reveal the savings it hopes to achieve through the
buyouts. It also would not provide details of the terms of the packages, though
individual offers depend on length of service and other factors, such as pension

The buyouts were offered to 313 executives in Orlando at Walt Disney
World, Disney Vacation Club and Disney Cruise Line.

-- click on the link above to read the rest of the article --

I really hope most cast members will weather this economic storm safely. I also hope Disney will do everything it can to keep the magic as magical as it has been. While I'm not pleased about some of the reduced showings of Fantasmic!, I have to accept that Disney has got to do what it can to cut costs - everyone is doing that right now.

Disney stock has taken a massive hit. As of this post, Disney stock was trading just barely above $20/share, down $15/share from the one-year high of $35/share last March. Maybe now's the time to buy Disney stock - I can only hope it will go back up from here, but who knows.

Pins give sneak peek into changes at Small World in Disneyland

The L.A. Times has an article showing some pins that Disney inadvertently released which give a glimpse into some of the changes coming to It's a Small World in Disneyland (see image below, courtesy of The LA Times). Disney fans will recall that Imagineering planned to subtly insert classic Disney characters into different parts of the attraction. Purists were aghast and even Mary Blair, the original artist who created the IASW dolls, pleaded with Imagineering to cancel this idea.

Well Disney decided to move forward with the concept, and personally, I'm glad they did. Based on some of the pin designs, it seems that the Imagineers really did try to make these additions as subtle as possible - almost like a hidden Mickey. I think this will re-invigorate an old attraction. Sure, there is a certain amount of nostalgia when it comes to the originals (though IASW isn't an opening day attraction). But remember this, Walt always said that Disneyland (and Walt Disney World) are ever changing. Walt would have approved of something like this. He never would have wanted any attraction to become set in stone and unchanging.

I just hope these changes make their way to IASW at WDW. I, for one, would actually look forward to riding IASW instead of feeling like my daughter is dragging me onto the attraction.

What do you think? Should Disney update Walt Disney World's IASW like Disneyland's?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Disney to consolidate ABC units / Top execs asked to retire

CNBC is reporting that Disney has decided that the two halves of ABC should become one again. ABC Entertainment and the ABC Studios will merge and create the ABC Entertainment Group. No jobs will be affected by the move.

Also yesterday, Disney offered a buyout option to about 600 executives at the domestic theme parks (Disneyland/DCA and Walt Disney World) in order to cut costs. So far, there's no word how this will affect the parks. Let's hope the Disney magic stays as, well, magical as it always has been despite these cuts and staff reductions.

Hang in there folks, things will get better one day. Remember what Walt said, "Keep Moving Forward."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tip Tuesday: Leaving the Magic Kingdom for the GF or Poly at night

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday on this very historical day!

Before I get into today's tip, I wanted to give a bit of news concerning the next Audio Guide to Walt Disney World by Lou Mongello. I joined Lou (and more than 100 other fans) in a session of WDW Radio Live! last night (and into this morning), where we talked about a bunch of topics, Disney related and otherwise. We were close to getting Lou to sing but, alas, no joy.

This was a very fun time where Disney fans just got a chance to hang out virtually and watch Lou on his webcam. It was funny, there was one point where the chat posts were going so fast you couldn't even read them.

If you want to join in another session of WDW Radio Live!, be sure to follow Lou on Twitter and Facebook. He says he just decides to do these whenever he feels like it, so there's not much lead time.

OK, now for today's tip - and this is one the applies best for guests at the Grand Floridian and Polynesian (though guests headed to other resorts or even to the TTC could use this to some degree).

First, here's the scene: it's the end of the night at the Magic Kingdom. Wishes is done, there's no second Spectromagic or late EMH hours, so you're pretty much stuck with the throng heading out. You've tried to stall and walk through the park to see the evening sights (something I highly recommend) but now you've got to pay for it - you're at the back of the throng. You're staying at the Grand Floridian or Polynesian and the line for the resort monorail is HUGE. So what do you do?

(Image courtesy Microsoft Virtual Earth)

Skip the monorail -- head to the boat launch. What launch, you say? Walk back through the main bag check area and toward the ferry landing. As you get close to the ferryboat landing, hang a right toward the monorail station. To your left is a smaller boat dock. This is the launch to the GF and Poly. I'll bet there will be a much smaller line (if any) to get on this boat. The launch goes to the GF first and then the Poly. The ride is about 8-10 minutes (if that) and is very beautiful, especially at night. I recommend taking the launch most nights just to see the beautiful Grand Floridian at night from the water. I bet the launch to the Wilderness Lodge also is beautiful, though that launch gets crowded quick.

Now those guests NOT staying at either of these resorts, you do have an option. Take the launch to the GF and then get on the monorail. Odds are, it will be pretty empty at the GF station, as most people have left and won't be heading to the MK. You can then get on, go on to the Contemp or TTC (to catch the Epcot monorail).

I used this tip at the end of a sold out Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. The resort monorail line was backed up all the way down the walkway, while there were only 3-4 people waiting for the resort launch.

Give this a try next time - it might just save you some time and I know it's a pretty ride!

LA Times: Disney dumped Narnia because of feud

Well it appears some new details are emerging about why Disney really decided to drop their involvement in the next Narnia movie, "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader." According to the L.A. Times, the real reason for the breakup between Disney and Walden Media centers around big-time real estate broker, Phil Anschutz, who happens to own Walden Media.

Here's a portion of what the Times says:

According to multiple sources, the once-close relationship between Disney and Walden began to unravel when, after the first "Narnia" film cleaned up at the box office, Anschutz essentially put a gun to Disney's head and demanded that the studio renegotiate its deal with Walden. Anschutz insisted that Disney either give back a sizable chunk of the studio's lucrative distribution fee or Anschutz would distribute the "Narnia" series on his own. Believing the franchise was too good to give up, Disney reluctantly changed the terms of its Walden deal, but the renegotiation poisoned relations between the two behemoths. When the second film faltered, there was so little goodwill left over that Disney had far fewer qualms about cutting its ties with the franchise.

To be fair, Walden wasn't all that happy with the way Disney handled the film. The first movie had been released at Christmas, which seemed a logical slot for a family-oriented picture. But when Disney saw that "Prince Caspian" was an edgier, more youth-oriented film, it decided to go after teenagers as well as family filmgoers. That decision led to what, in hindsight, appears to be a huge blunder, releasing "Prince Caspian" in May, at the start of summer. Sandwiched between "Iron Man" and "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," "Prince Caspian" not only failed to attract many teenagers, it also lost a large piece of its family following, which was turned off by the edgier, not especially well-focused marketing materials.

I don't think "Dawn Treader" is sunk. It just may have a different engine. Word is that Fox is seriously looking at picking up the franchise, though they should be wary of dealing with Walden. If you know the story of the third book in the Narnia series, then you know it's much more suited for an action movie. "Prince Caspian" had a problem from the beginning - the story is a good read, but not so exciting to watch. In fact the big invasion of Miraz' castle doesn't even exist in the book - screenwriters added it to get more action in the movie.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

New Princess and Frog image in 2008 Disney Annual Report

Disney has released the 2008 Annual Report (available for download or viewing here). Included in the annual report is this new image from the upcoming film, The Princess and the Frog. Below is a description of the film from the annual report.
Also on the 2009 release schedule is Disney’s newest animated fairy tale, The Princess and the Frog. John Musker and Ron Clements, the directors of The Little Mermaid and Aladdin, join creative forces with Oscar®-winning songwriter Randy Newman to serve up a classic-style Disney tale set in New Orleans. Complete with romance, adventure, frogs and a singing alligator, this fantastic new film showcases the art of Disney animation at its best with the return of hand-drawn animation.

So far, no specific release date is available. I'm really looking forward to this film. Disney finally is returning to what Disney does best - 2D hand drawn animation. Some of Disney's most recent films are good, but there's nothing like the 2D that Disney does. Leave the 3D to Pixar, they do it best.

The next question is when we'll see this new princess in the parks.

Iger earns $51 million in 2008 has a report by the Associated Press stating that Disney CEO Bog Iger made $51 million in 2008. Most of that $51 million was in stock options that have little value right now because of when he received the stock (Disney stock's current value is less than the value when Iger received it). Iger's actual salary was about $2 million and he did receive a performance bonus of nearly $14 million.

Iger has done a good job getting the company back on track after Eisner started to get a little out of hand. I can only hope Iger will continue the emphasis on improving and expanding the theme parks and continuing to produce quality animated movies.

However, I don't know about the reported effort to build Shanghai Disneyland. Is the market that rich over there to make a third park in Asia worth it? Do you realize that once Shanghai Disneyland is completed, Asia will have more Disneyland/Magic Kingdom parks than any other continent in the world (total of 3 - North America only has 2)? Now, if you count all Disney parks, the numbers stand thus:
  • North America: 8 (DL, DCA, MK, Epcot, DHS, DAK, 2 water parks)
  • Asia: 4 (HKDL, TDL, TDS, SDL)
  • Europe: 2 (DLP, Studios)
  • Africa: 0
  • Australia: 0
  • South America: 0
I can only hope Iger will stay the course and stick to Walt's original vision - productions and parks.

Friday, January 16, 2009

20,000 Leagues to return to the big screen?

While searching for Disney news, I ran across a Jan. 7 story from Entertainment Tonight that caught my eye. It's pretty short, so I'll just give you the entire article:

"ET confirms that Jules Verne's infamous Captain Nemo will make a return to the big screen in an update of '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,' to be helmed by 'Terminator Salvation' director McG.

The Disney family film '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Captain Nemo' will chronicle the origins of Nemo as he builds his Nautilus submarine, with characters based on the 1870 Jules Verne novel.

Although '20,000 Leagues' has been put on film as far back as 1916 and as recently as 1997 on TV, James Mason most famously portrayed Captain Nemo in Walt Disney's first live-action film in 1954. Kirk Douglas and Peter Lorre also starred in the Oscar-winning film, perhaps best remembered for its exciting battle with a giant squid.

No cast has been announced for the project. "

With a return of 20K to the theaters, might we see a return of something related to 20K in the parks?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

American Idol in soft previews

Ryan Secrest outside the American Idol attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios
(Image copyright Disney. All rights reserved.)

In just a few short weeks, guests at Disney's Hollywood Studios will be some of the first to try for those Dream Tickets being offered by the American Idol Experience. Here's how it works: guests who wish to perform on stage will go through a series of auditions with Disney cast members. If the guest makes it through the initial auditions, they will be given a performance time for a preliminary show and will come back to perform in that particular show. There will be several preliminary shows each day. At each preliminary show, the audience will select the winner for that show. Each of the preliminary winners will come back for a finale show at the end of the day. The winner, again chosen by the audience, will get a Dream Ticket, which works much like a FastPass for the next regional American Idol auditions. That person will automatically go before Simon and the gang without having to go through any pre-auditions. There are a few strings with the Dream Ticket - most importantly guests have to meet the American Idol age requirements.

In the meantime, guests who just want to watch a show can just enter the main queue and watch a show without the need to go through the audition process.

This is a simplified description of the process. For more detailed information, see a news release from

Disney overview video courtesy of Orlando Attractions Magazine:

American Idol David Cook talks about the American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios (again courtesy Orlando Attractions Magazine):

So now that you get the gist of how this works, here's my question for you. Will you actually watch a show? Will you try to audition?

I guess the answer to this is based largely on whether or not you're a fan of the TV show. I am not. I never have cared about American Idol and, based on comments from a few Disney message boards, so are many serious Disney fans. What really gets me is that Disney is cutting back on shows for Fantasmic! in order to encourage guests to attend the finale show of American Idol Experience.

The next time I'm at Disney's Hollywood Studios, I probably will catch one show, just to say I did and to see it for myself. I have a strong suspicion, however, that this will be a "one and done" kind of attraction for me and several other fans. My other great concern is the longevity for the American Idol TV show - it is getting old. How much longer can it last? What will happen to this attraction if Idol folds? Many good questions. I guess we will only know in time. What are your thoughts? Post a comment!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

WDW Dec. 2008 Trip Report - Day 8

The morning of Day 8 was a morning I wished would never come, but come it did.

After a morning of packing, we checked out of the Grand Floridian and drove our car to Epcot. I had never actually driven to a park before, having used Disney transportation exclusively up to this point. It wasn't bad at all, especially since I had a AAA preferred parking pass. We parked very close to the entrance - no need for trams.

This day (well, half-day) would be very similar to yesterday - much of my time would be taken up by Mousefest, specifically the Mega Mouse Meet.

But first things first. I wanted to hit a few attractions before trekking to the Yacht Club Convention area for the Mega meet. We got into Epcot just after rope drop, so we were able to catch another run on Test Track without needing a Fastpass. My daughter who said she wouldn't go on Test Track again after her first ride, was eager to go again. One more trip on Spaceship Earth and it was time for me to head over to the Mega Mouse Meet.

This was my first ever Mega Mouse Meet. At yesterday's Podfest, I had talked with Beci Mehnkin from MEI/MouseFan Travel about how amazed I was with how many people were at Mousefest (this being my first one). She said "Wait until you see the crowd at the Mega Mouse Meet." Now that I was at the Mega Mouse Meet (MMM for short), I can see she was right. There were a ton of people there. I quickly gained a new perspective for just how many serious Disney fans are out there. The line just to meet Steve Barrett and Lou Mongello were huge! I also meet Ricky Brigante from the Inside The Magic podcast as well as the folks from WDWToday, and so many more. I had a chance to speak with Fred Block from the
MagicMeets event planned for later this summer. It was while at the MMM that I convinced myself that I need to go to MagicMeets. More to come on that later.

After waiting for two sessions of the door prize raffle (in which I think three times as many no-show numbers were called than actual people), I had to tear myself away from the crowd and catch up with the family in France.
I hustled back through the International Gateway and made my way across the bridge. I knew my family was planning to see Pierre Noel's talk at the France pavilion and, sure enough, as I crossed the bridge, I saw my wife and kids right up front. I quickly whipped out my camera and started shooting, glad I made it in time.

We walked over to the American Adventure pavilion and had our final meal at Walt Disney World at the Liberty Tree Inn. We also happened to catch some great holiday sales that started that morning -- 50% off all holiday items. We snagged several ornaments and then made our way back to the front of the park, slowing making our way around the far side of World Showcase for one last time.

After a quick stop inside MouseGears for some last minute Christmas items and a stop at a snack stand to cash in some remaining snack credits, our time at Walt Disney World had come to a close.

I turned, as I had done in my last two trips and said a silent farewell to Spaceship Earth. "I will be back," I whispered to myself.

And I mean it.

With that, we walked out of the park, climbed in the van and began the long trek back to Virginia (with an overnight stop in Savannah, Ga.).

Right now, I don't know when I will return "home" to Walt Disney World. I can tell you it will be as soon as I can manage it, perhaps for Mousefest 2009.

I hope you've enjoyed this look back at my week at Walt Disney World in December 2o08. I know I've really enjoyed telling you this story.

In the meantime, I hope you will keep checking back as I bring you more from this and previous trips including tips, restaurant and resort reviews, news and whatever else I come up with.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tip Tuesday: Making Soarin' magical for kids

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

If you've been following my trip reports from my Dec. 2008 Walt Disney World trip, then you may have read on Day 6 about a little tip a Dream Squad cast member (at least I think he was a Dream Squad cast member) gave me to bring a little more magic to Soarin' for younger kids.

I'm going to let you in on the secret, just don't tell my kids!

Soarin' veterans will know about the golf ball that flies right over your head at one point halfway through the attraction. If you look carefully, there's a hidden Mickey on the ball. Here's where the magic comes.

Before you go to the parks, find a golf ball (real or plastic, doesn't matter) and draw a black three-circle Mickey icon on it. On the day you plan to ride Soarin', bring the ball with you, but keep this out of sight. While standing in the queue, talk to your kids about the golf ball that will fly just over your head and challenge them to find the hidden Mickey. Then, in a quiet voice, tell them that there's a bit of magic in the attraction. You can try to CATCH the ball!

As you take your seat on the bench, slip the golf ball out of your pocket and keep it hidden in your hand - DON'T DROP IT!!

As the golf ball scene comes, remind your kids to try to catch the ball. As you hear the golfer hit the ball reach out with the hand that DOES NOT have the ball and "catch" it. Wait until the attraction is done. As you glide back down to the platform, show the ball to your kids - they will go nuts!

This also works if a big brother or sister "catches" the ball. They just have to be in on the magic.
So the next time you're on Soarin', you never know if you might be the one to catch the golf ball!

Disney to add AED's at major thrill attractions

The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that Disney is adding additional Automated External Defibrillators (AED) at major thrill attractions across Walt Disney World. This is the latest phase in Disney's plans to add life-saving equipment closer to locations were guests with medical issues may experience medical emergencies.

In Dec. 2007, a man died of a heart attack while riding Expedition Everest. According to the report, doctors said that there's no way to know if an AED would have saved the man's life - he apparently suffered from an enlarged heart. At the time of the incident, only four AED's were located at Animal Kingdom. Now there are 16. These things aren't cheap - they cost about $1,500 - $2,000 a piece.

While it's great that Disney is doing all it can to help keep guests safe, guests themselves must remember their own limitations. If you have a heart condition, or other medical problem, it might be a good idea not to go on an attraction that has several warning signs saying that anyone with certain medical conditions should not ride. I know my limitations - that's why the Mad Hatter's Tea Party and especially Primeval Whirl are out.

In the meantime, let's hope these AED's just gather dust and are never needed. Stay safe and be responsible, everyone!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

WDW Dec. 2008 Trip Report - Day 7

Our final full day at Walt Disney World was a cold one at first (well cold by Florida standards, just a bit chilly by Virginia standards). We caught an early bus to Animal Kingdom and got into the park early to enjoy Donald's Breakfast Safari at the Tusker House.

Like Hollywood and Vine, we were able to walk through a portion of the park (Oasis to Discovery Island to Africa) before the park opened. It was quite nice to stroll along and enjoy some of the sights without all the crowds.

This was my first visit to the Tusker House, and I really didn't know what to expect. When we entered the main buffet area (shown above), I was totally blown away with the intricate detail put into the theming. The food offered was very similar to many other character breakfasts, but the theming of this place put it at number one for character breakfasts in my book (even above Cinderella's Royal Table). Donald, Daisy, Mickey, Minnie and Goofy are here decked out in Safari outfits. We especially had a great server, Neal, who played along with our kids and even took a few pictures for us. He was an experienced photographer and helped me get some lighting settings fixed on my camera. That was a plus!

After the Tusker House, we went back to the entrance and caught a bus to Hollywood Studios (we were just about the only ones on the bus). We had to get to the studios so early because I had a very special lunch engagement, which I'll get to in a minute.

We managed to find a fairly short standby line for Toy Story Mania (about 30-40 minutes), which gave us a chance to see the Mr. Potato Head animatronic. This is a very good and very realistic character that actually interacts with guests using Don Rickle's voice. This also leads to my one major criticism of Toy Story Mania. If you happen to get FastPasses, you don't even get to SEE Mr. Potato Head. The FastPass line doesn't go anywhere near this outstanding character.
From TSM, we quickly crossed the park and took one more flight to Endor on Star Tours and then it was time for me to go my own way. My family booked something special for me for Christmas -- lunch with an Imagineer at the Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant.

This was an awesome experience!! I had lunch with Alex Caruthers (he's on the right in the photo above), the art director for the Magic Kingdom. We sat in a special side room of the Brown Derby reserved for visiting dignitaries and celebrities. There were seven guests and Mr. Caruthers - and that was it. The eight of us slowly made our way through a four-course meal (including the infamous Cobb salad!) while we talked about all things Disney.
Mr. Caruthers told some wonderful stories about his time with Disney, including his work on the refurbishment of the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean and more. I was fascinated with his role as the art director for the Magic Kingdom. I thought an art director was like a head "artist," like in drawing or painting, but I couldn't have been further from the truth. Mr. Caruther's background is in photography (like me) and his primary purpose is to review the visual look and feel of anything in the Magic Kingdom, from attractions to restaurants to stores to even signs. I realized that in many of my jobs, I had been doing the same thing, I just never knew it. We talked for about two hours. This is another one of those DisneyDaddy must do's (if you can).

But my encounters with celebrities wouldn't end there. I had the afternoon to myself at the Studios, thanks to several Mousefest events. I took the opportunity to go on the Studio Backlot Tour, which was very interesting. I saw several props I instantly recognized from movies including Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean 2, both Narnia films and much more.

After the tour, I hustled across the park to the Backlot Express restaurant for Lou Mongello's PodFest meet. I met Lou the day before at the Mousefest kickoff event and it was good to see him and so many other podcasters. The place was totally packed!
As evening came on, it was time to again catch up with the family. Little did I know that I would be getting quite the workout (though some of it was my choice). As I got to the bus stops, the lines for the Grand Floridian and TTC were bonkers! Every guest at the MK resorts must have been at the Studios this day. I decided I would try to hoof it through Epcot and catch the monorail (of course snapping more photos along the way - like I said, it was partly my choice). I did take a moment and stop inside the Boardwalk lobby to get a shot of some of their holiday decorations, which were similar to those at the Beach Club.
About 30 minutes later, I caught the monorail and was back at the Grand Floridian shortly afterward. Who knows if my way was faster (probably not) but it was much more fun (though tiring). We changed into some more dressy clothes and went back to the Grand Floridian lobby for a PhotoPass photo shoot. This is something Disney does for any guests, with no sitting fees. They had a full photography suite (lights and all) set up in front of the beautiful tree. We had a series of shots taken - and they looked great!
The boys and I walked over to the marina to watch one last round of fireworks at the Magic Kingdom before going to bed. Our final night at Walt Disney World was coming to a close.
But the adventures weren't over just yet. Tomorrow -- Mousefest galore!

Disney looks to Shanghai for new park

CNBC is reporting that Disney has submitted plans to the Chinese government to build a theme park in Shanghai. The project would be a joint venture with the Chinese government.

"Discussions have been ongoing about the feasibility of a theme park project in
China," said Leslie Goodman, a spokeswoman for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, in
the statement.
"As part of this lengthy process, we worked on a joint application report with the Shanghai government which will be submitted to the central government for review. No deal has been signed, no project has been approved."

The Wall Street Journal cites unnamed sources saying the new Shanghai Disneyland will be open by 2013.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

WDW Dec. 2008 Trip Report - Day 6

Day 6 began with an pretty early breakfast at Chef Mickey's. This is a great place for breakfast. The buffet offers a fairly wide variety of options, and having fun with the characters always is a treat. Afterward, we took a moment to admire the Pinnochio gingerbread sculpture near the escalators. Take a close look and you might see several hidden mickeys. For a closer look (with some help) see this larger view.

The weather was looking terrible, but we decided to give the Magic Kingdom a try. This would be a real adventure. About half way down Main Street, the skies opened up - big time! It started to absolutely POUR! We made our way through the Emporium and other stores all the way to Casey's until we were out of cover. We looked at each other. My wife said she wanted to shop a bit more (what a perfect time to get Christmas presents), so the kids and I made a mad dash to Cinderella Castle. As luck would have it, the castle tunnel was open, so we were able to find a brief bit of shelter before sprinting again to Cinderella's Golden Carousel. Even with the rain, we were laughing our heads off. It was funny. We were soaked, but we had a great time. Even my daughter, who hates getting wet in the rain, was laughing in the end.

My wife caught up with us outside Philharmagic and we made a second dash to the Haunted Mansion. I happened to have a chance to get a very good look at Madam Leota's tombstone. It's pretty cool the way it subtly moves.

As always, the Haunted Mansion is a great attraction. The new staircase scene is great and the new floating Leota ball is just awesome.
After the Haunted Mansion, the rain started to let up a bit and it was time for me to head over to Mousefest opening event. This was the first day of Mousefest, so I wanted to catch at least part of the opening events. My wife and the kids went back to the Grand Floridian, while I went over to the Contemporary. Even monorails have problems sometimes, so I got there late. I did manage to meet a few folks, including Lou Mongello of the WDW Radio Show. It was really great to finally meet in person someone I'd been listening to for more than a year.

After the meet, I met up with the family back at the Grand Floridian. By this time the rain had blown over, so we decided to head to Epcot. We managed to snag a couple of late day Fastpasses for Soarin'. In the meantime, we rode Spaceship Earth, enjoyed a bit of Innoventions and did a little Living withe Land. I don't know what it is about Living with the Land, but I find this attraction very relaxing. I also love the intro music.

As we were waiting for our Soarin' Fastpass window to open up, I struck up a conversation with a cast member who I think was a Dream Squad member. While I didn't win anything, he did give me an awesome tip for riding Soarin' with kids. As always, Soarin' is incredible, though I did notice that the projector was getting a bit dirty, like the film had a LOT of dust on it.

After Soarin, we again split up (boys and girls). I took their boys on their first ever trip on Mission: Space. My oldest was very apprehensive about this. We went on the green team and afterward my oldest absolutely loved it!! He really got into the attraction abot half way through.

We met up with the girls in the United Kingdom pavilion and together we waited for Father Christmas to arrive. He began his presentation talking about how the English ring a bell for every year since Christ's birth. He then selected my younger son to help ring the bells. My son was beside himself, he was so excited. Afterward, Father Christmas gave my son a small bell for him to keep as a momento.

There was a beautiful full moon out as we walked back toward the Epcot Christmas tree to enjoy the lighting ceremony once again. With a full moon just in the right place, I just had to stop and take a few million pictures of the tree with the moon in the background. We then strolled to the front of the park, enjoying the lights and the holiday music. What a way to end the evening.
Coming up - day 7 - our last full day in the park.

Some details emerge about Space Mountain refurb

An Orlando Sentinel report about the coming refurbishment of Space Mountain included some new details about what the refurbishment will entail.

According to the report, a new track will be installed, though the track will follow the same layout as before. Some changes to the queue are in the works as well as a new inside ceiling.

While this might not appear to be as major a renovation as some may have hoped, it's nice to see Space Mountain getting some TLC at last. It all starts April 19 and hopefully will be complete by sometime late this year, though Disney has not announced anything more specific about a completion date.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

In the news: Dispute over Mission: Space settled and an unknown is picked for Tron 2.0 lead character

Two stories on caught my eye today.

The first is a story about a settlement between Disney and Environmental Tectonics Corporation over the design and implementation of Mission: Space at Epcot. This is a pretty complicated story, so I won't try to muck it up with a summary other than to say the settlement appears to be amicable.

The other story is about a Disney movie I can't wait to see: Tron, Tron 2.0, or TR2N or whatever it will finally be called. It seems Murtaugh (played by Garrett Hedlund) from the Eragon movie will become the lead character. Also noteworthy in this article is that shooting will start this spring. I just hope Disney will someday release that awesome teaser trailer they showed at the San Diego Comic-con last year.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tip Tuesday: Can you only have one FastPass at a time? Not necessarily!

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday! For those of you new to the DisneyDaddy blog, each Tuesday, I offer a tip I've either developed or heard of. You can always go back and read past Tip Tuesday posts by clicking on the "Tip Tuesday" link on the right side of this page.

Now to business.

FastPass is no big secret to anyone who even knows a slight bit about Disney. You slip your park ticket into a FastPass machine and get a FastPass listing a time window for you to return to the attraction and go into a special entrance where you have little or no wait to ride that attraction. You only can have one FastPass at at time - usually.

So here's the scene: You're dying to ride Toy Story Mania at Disney's Hollywood Studios (and who isn't). You get to the park just after rope drop and rush over to the FastPass machines for TSM. Of course, the line to get a FastPass seems nearly as long as the standby line itself (this frequently happens). By the time you get your FastPass, the return time window is for late that afternoon, say 4-5 p.m. Are you then stuck with no more FastPasses until 4pm? Nope.

The limitation of one FastPass at a time only works for about as much as a two hour window beginning when you get your pass, meaning that if you got that TSM FastPass at, say, 9:30 a.m., you can get another FastPass probably sometime around 11 a.m. while still holding your original FastPasses for 4 p.m. Be sure to check the bottom of your FastPass ticket to see when you can next get a FastPass (see the red box in the example to the right).

So be sure to check those FastPasses - you may just have a chance to get more than one at a time. Oh, and be sure to check out last week's tip for a great way to carry your FastPass (as well as tickets, etc.). Thanks to for the base image I modified.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Space Mountain update: April refurb confirmed!

The operational updates page of now has confirmed Space Mountain AND the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (TTA) will both be down for refurbishment starting April 19. So far, the operational updates page only lists closures through July 2009. The Space Mountain refurbishment is expected to last until sometime in late 2009, though a more specific completion date is not known, which is no surprise.

What I find most interesting is the length of time for this refurbishment. At only about 8 months, I'm not sure the Imagineers have the time to make huge modification as had been hoped for - modifications that might make the WDW Space Mountain more like the Disneyland version. Keep in mind that the Haunted Mansion was down for three months, and in that time essentially only one new scene, enhanced audio and some fresh paint were added. Nothing too major, yet that took three months. IF some major overhaul of the interior ride system were planned, I'm not sure eight months is enough time. Maybe the Imagineers will have crews going 24/7 to complete such a major refurb in a short amount of time -- Space Mountain is an anchor attraction after all and I can't imagine Disney wants to have it down any longer than they absolutely have to.

For now, anyone headed to Walt Disney World after April 19 will only have two Magic Kingdom mountains to scale - Splash and Big Thunder. Trips into Space have been grounded.

I'm sure we'll start to hear more about the nature of this refurbishment in the months to come, so stay tuned!

Disney asks: "Are you 23?" Find out March 10

A new mysterious page has popped up on The Are you 23? teaser page appears to be promoting some event/movie/whatever to take place on March 10, though there is much speculation as to just what it is.

Check it out for yourself:

What do you think it is? Post a comment with your thoughts.

Also, here are some other Disney blogs pondering the same thing:
Distant Creations Blog

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Disney Dining update: ADR window shortened to 90 days

A few weeks ago, Disney officially shortened the ADR, or Advanced Dining Reservation, window to 90 days from 180 days. This means that if you're thinking of booking those hard-to-get dining reservations, such as Cinderella's Royal Table, you need to only book 90 days in advance instead of 180 days.

Anyone with questions can contact their travel agent, or call Disney Dining at 404-WDW-DINE.

Friday, January 2, 2009

WDW Dec. 2008 Trip Report - Day 5

After a long night at a crowded Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (I didn't leave until midnight), we rose early and took advantage of the early extra magic hours at the Magic Kingdom. Once we got into the park, the boys and I went one way, while my wife and daughter went another. We walked onto Space Mountain, while the girls went to the Mad Tea Party (have fun there - that's one ride I do NOT enjoy). From Space Mountain, we hopped over for a quick turn again on Buzz Lightyear and then a ride on the Tomorrowland Speedway. This was my first time on the Speedway, and, afterward, I'm convinced that this is wasted space. I've been on better drive-your-own car rides. If nothing else, give it a Cars overlay. I have to admit, this was a bit of a letdown - the only letdown of the day.

After the speedway, we caught up with the girls in line to enter Pixie Hollow. This, also, was something I wanted to see. The new Tinker Bell meet and greet had just opened up a few months prior. Even with the extra magic hours, the line was about 45 minutes long -- but it was worth every second. The Imagineers did a wonderful job of converting a princess meet and greet into a different world entirely. As you enter the "pre-show" corridor, you are taken by a cast member who acts as a tour guide helping your make the transition to Pixie Hollow. The Imagineers carefully designed the corridor so that the vegetation appears to get larger as you get smaller. Then, once your're pixie sized, you enter another room that is themed top-to-bottom like Pixie Hollow. Inside are three faries, two of which change, but Tink is always there. Oh, and we were the only family in the room -- so we had all three fairies to ourselves.

First we met with Iridessa, who kept giving me a hard time about my "cannon" (meaning Canon, as in camera), though I didn't catch the joke at first. Sometimes the world around me can end while I'm taking pictures. Tink followed, and then Rosetta. The best part about this was all the time each character gave my children. This was no "in-and-out" meet and greet. Each fairy took the time to speak with my entire family. With no one else in the room (aside from the cast member guide), we started to really get into the idea that we really were in Pixie Hollow.

As we left the meet and greet, my daughter turned to my wife and exclaimed, "I want a Tinker Bell party for my birthday!!!"

From there, we split up again (boys and girls). The boys and I grabbed a FastPass for Big Thunder and waited in a fairly short standby line for Splash Mountain. My middle son isn't a huge fan of water rides, but he was a trooper. After Splash Mountain, my wife called me on the cell and asked us to meet her at Pirates of the Caribbean. I knew the girls were planning on riding Pirates, as my daughter had never been on POTC before. When we met up with the girls, they were just coming off Pirates and were heading right back in (it was a walk-on). As you guessed, my daughter loved it!

By the time we got off Pirates, the Fastpass window for Big Thunder had opened, so I took the boys over to Big Thunder. Here's the strange thing about crowds at WDW. The wait in the Fastpass line at Big Thunder was longer than the normal (no FastPass) line at Pirates. Go figure.

Anyway, after Big Thunder, we skipped back over to Adventureland. The girls were just coming off Alladin's Magic Carpets when I saw Mac from the Pirate Tutorial setting up. I called my wife and she hustled over to Pirates just in time for the show to start. The cast member playing Jack was bang-on. He had every mannerism down cold. While I wish one of my kids was selected to join Jack's crew, we enjoyed the show all the same.

After the Pirate Tutorial show, we went for a ride on the Jungle Cruise. While we were waiting, we searched for and found the hidden Mickey located above the hut across the river from the docks. There are a few more hidden Mickeys in the standby queue, but this was one I hadn't found before.

Once we got on our boat, our skipper, Rob, was from Holland. He really put a lot of umph into his spiel. He hit those jokes pretty hard and laughed along with us all. But what made it REALLY funny were the group from Italy who spoke very little English, so they would be looking around at everyone else wondering what was so funny. That got us all laughing as Rob tried to get across his spiel using gestures and slow speech. The whole thing was hilarious.

To top it off, Rob selected my daughter as the junior skipper for the voyage. This was especially great as my eldest son was the junior skipper during our March trip.

A little later, we went over to the Exposition Hall in Town Square for the AAA Story Time. This is a perk for guests who use AAA to book their Disney vacations. It's nice because there is a very small audience (like under 30) and the kids get some exclusive time with the character. In March, Alladin came to read a story, while this day, we got to see Peter Pan, which was really great - the kids hadn't met Peter Pan before. "Peter" did a wonderful job handling questions from the kids. I recall one child asked, "why doesn't Tinker Bell fly all over the park?" Peter replied, "Well, Walt Disney World is a no-fly zone for fairies, except for the Wishes fireworks show, that's why."

After the story time, we toured the Exposition Hall until our ADR time came up for Tony's. We had not been to this restaurant before, and I found the food quite good and the portion size absolutely huge. I'll have a full review in a future post.

After dinner, we wrapped up our day in the Magic Kingdom with a bit more shopping along Main Street. I'll tell you what, this is one place I could really go nuts. I have to exercise a great deal of caution, otherwise, I'll buy everything I see!!

We caught the beginning of Spectromagic as we walked back to the resort monorail and made our way around the Seven Seas Lagoon back to the Grand Floridian.

Ahh, another gorgeous night at Walt Disney World. What else could be better.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

It's 2009! Time to Celebrate!

The Years of a Million Dreams have ended. Now it's time to celebrate!

Today begins the year-long "What will you Celebrate?" promotion at the Disney Parks. Did anyone catch how much promotion Disney Parks ran last night during all the New Year's Eve shows? They were the primary sponsor of Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve on ABC (no surprise), but they also sponsored several hours of shows on the Travel Channel, including a special fireworks show (with castle lights) from the Magic Kingdom that aired right at midnight. I wish I'd run a capture on it - I caught the tail end, and it looked awesome.

On top of that, the Travel Channel ran a consant crawl where people could text in their New Year's wishes -- specifically aimed at Disney. There were several messages related to the parks.

If this is any indication of what 2009 will bring, it looks like the Disney Parks are going to do some heavy advertising this year.

So what's on the Disney horizon this year?
-- It's pretty much a given that Space Mountain will be going down sometime this year for what is expected to be a MAJOR refurbishment. I spoke with one Imagineer who confirmed that a 2009 refurb was in the planning - no specific dates, of course. As of this post, Disney has yet to announce an official date, but anyone planning to go to WDW in 2009 should know that there is a possibility that Space Mountain may be down for refurb.

-- New to the Hall of Presidents: President Barack Obama. The scheduled opening is July 1, though soft openings are likely, probably in May. Look for George Washington to have a speaking role that he didn't have before.

-- The Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary is set to open in 2009. This is a huge DVC tower, which, I hear already is about 50% sold. As I've said many times before, if I had $30,000 is spare change, I'd grab one of these in a heartbeat. But that's a story for another time. Also under reconstruction are the Treehouse Villas near the Saratoga Springs resort. These were is use at one point until they were heavily damaged by a hurricane. Now Disney's working to bring these back up to snuff.

-- The American Idol Experience is set to open in just a few weeks at the Hollywood Studios. The WDW Radio Show had a great interview a few weeks ago with one of the designers, so check that out.

-- A new parade is coming to the Magic Kingdom some time in February. The "Move It, Shake It, Celebrate It Street Party" was announced during the Christmas Day Parade from Walt Disney World on ABC. This is in coordination with the "What Will You Celebrate?" promotion.

-- Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure goes online in just a few weeks. This is a fantastic enhancement to World Showcase and I highly encourage it! See my previous post for a sneak peek when I took part in some beta testing.

-- Look for some new things to start popping up in the former Pleasure Island. Who knows, maybe the Adventurer's Club could resurface, much to the hopes of many fans.

-- Something else that's already started is a shortened ADR window. Now you can make your dining ADR's only 90 days in advance. There are some exceptions to this, but for the most part, 90 days is the new window.

As for me, the DisneyDaddy will continue to bring you news, tips and my thoughts about the Happiest Place on Earth. I wish each and every one of you a very happy, safe and magical 2009!

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