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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tip Tuesday: Lunch with an Imagineer

Chuck Lionberger and Alex Caruthers

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

This week, I'm dipping into the back file to talk about something I experienced in December 2008. It's known as the Lunch with an Imagineer program.

This is one of those "must do" opportunities for any Disney fan. You (and about 6-7 others) actually get to sit down and have lunch with an actual Imagineer. I had the great pleasure to talk with Alex Caruthers (see photo above). Mr. Caruthers is (or was at the time we met) the art director for the Magic Kingdom.

We talked about projects he worked on, like the updates to the Haunted Mansion, the Hall of Presidents update and more. It was fascinating to hear about how the Imagineers consider story in absolutely everything they do. For instance (I can talk about this now that it's open -- at the time it wasn't), Mr. Caruthers worked on the design for Golden Oak Outpost near Pecos Bills. His role was to make sure the design and look of the structure blended with both Frontierland and, to a lesser extent, Adventureland (since it was so close to Pirates of the Caribbean).

Oh, and did I mention where you get to have lunch? At the best restaurant in all of Disney's Hollywood Studios -- the Hollywood Brown Derby!

When you first arrive, you are greeted at the entrance and given a special Disney cast member-like red name badge - a great keepsake in itself! You're then escorted to the exclusive back room at the Brown Derby. Disney uses this space for visiting celebrities so they can enjoy lunch without staring fans. The next time you're at the courtyard in front of Starring Rolls, the windows on the wall connect to this special room.

Lunch is a special four-course meal, starting with a fantastic lobster and sweet corn bisque. Your salad is none other than the world-famous Brown Derby Cobb salad. You have a choice of entrees including New York strip steak, pan-fired grouper or a Thai noodle bowl. I had the steak, which was prepared to perfection. For desert, we had the famous Brown Derby grapefruit cake (though I understand the desert option may have changed since).

To top it off, each guest receives a special glass plate that is signed and personalized by the Imagineer. This is one of my most treasured Disney collector items. I won't post a photo to spoil the surprise of how beautiful and unique this plate is. You'll just have to book this experience for yourself.

Speaking of booking -- that's the real trick. The Lunch with an Imagineer program is available only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (though these days could change - it's best to call Disney in advance to verify dates before booking). Reservations can be made 60 days in advance by phone at 1-800-WDW-DINE (and it's a good idea to be ready at 7 a.m. exactly 60 days in advance of the date you want to book).

Now you're probably thinking this all comes with a hefty price tag, and you're somewhat right. As of this posting, Lunch with an Imagineer runs $60.99 a person. If you stop and think about it though, this is not a bad price at all. If you consider the four-course meal (which itself would run somewhere around $50 a person), the personal name tag and the personalized plate, the $61 price tag is a pretty good deal.

If you have the opportunity to have lunch with an Imagineer, I highly recommend it. It's an experience any Disney fan will cherish and treasure.

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