Dec 26

EPCOT’s 30th Anniversary

October 1 was EPCOT’s 30th Anniversary, it was just luck that I was here for that since I planned this trip before I knew. The two days before I had kinda worn myself out a bit so I decided to sleep in this morning. Aside from the exhaustion I really wanted to be there for Illuminations.

When I got into the park I got my Fast Pass for Soarin and then went on line for limited edition merchandise, it was a 3 hour line. Thankfully, most of it was in the shade. At the end of the line were pins, t-shirts and that was pretty much it by the time I got there. The only thing I would have bought that I missed were the Vinylmations, thought it would have been a nice addition to my nephew’s collection, but he probably wouldn’t have appreciated since he’s 13.

In the afternoon I attended a 30th Anniversary talk with Marty Sklar it was a very interesting talk for even just a casual fan of Disney, he had a lot of great history on the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow and Disney in general. I’ll share two intersting facts. Some of the pavillions that didn’t happen were – Africa and Iran. Iran, that would have been akward, though the images looked really cool. The park entrance was almost in the middle of Future World and World Showcase, which actually kinda makes more sense. But ultimately it came down to the agreements they had made with the CEO’s of the future world pavilions that forced them to stick with the entrance where it is.

Illuminations had a a special 30th Anniversary tag at the end. It wasn’t like the Christmas tag where there is talking guiding it, it was just a FABULOUS fireworks display. Rumor before was that it was supposed to be better then the 4th of July tag, which I’ve never seen. I have to say, it had some neat features with fireworks going across the water, but the finale was possibly the best fireworks finale I’ve seen and I’ve seen the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks from right in front of the barge which was impressive.

Dec 05

The New Fantasyland

In November I was the lucky getter of a ticket to the Fantasyland Annual Passholder review.  I had tickets for Saturday night, November 10.

The admission started at 5:00 PM, but first you needed to get your wrist band at the Ticket and Transportation Center.  I found this to be a complete pain in the butt!  I was staying on property so took a bus to the Magic Kingdom and then had to take the Monorail to the T&TC to get a wrist band and then took the boat back to the Magic Kingdom.  Of course all of the transportation was running slow adding to the frustration.

But once there everything went smoothly.

My first order of business was to get a reservation for Be Our Guest.  While waiting for the bus I heard people talking and saying that had gotten same day reservations for the restaurant so once I saw the line at the entrance to the restaurant I jumped on it and got an 8:15 reservation.  I also did the walk through of the quick service ordering area, which was really cool.  You walk through a hallway with armor, and the “knights” talk to each other.  The room where you order is a room from Beast’s Castle, which is of course the whole theme of the restaurant.

Hey, she’s kinda cute!
The room where you order during lunch

After my walk through I went to Gastons Tavern and had the La Fou drink, very tasty, but it is sweet, more of a kids drink.  The souvenier cups were kinda cheap though.  In the front of Gaston’s was Gaston himself.  I did get my photo with him while he told me what I pleasure it was for me to get my picture with him.  Very nice job!  Inside the tavern there were animal heads and anything that Gaston could think of to promote himself, very fun.  I did think the seating here was limited though, I’m sure it will be insanely crowded when this area opens for the public.

After Gastons I partook in some Little Mermaid; first I rode the Voyage of the Little Mermaid ride, twice.  The queue was well themed but I thought there might be a little more interaciton in it.  But its fine for adults with iPhones as long as you get a signal, which I didn’t always have.  The ride has the same set up as the Finding Nemo ride in Epcot, including the clam shell ride vehicles.  On the ride you go “under the sea” and go through the story of the movie.  They use a bit of video, music, and mostly animatronics or as I think of them, moving action figures.  It’s a nice ride, particularly for kids.  Though I did get a bit sick of it after riding the 4th time.  There was no line so I figured I had to take advantage of the opportunity to ride it as much as possible.

Next I waited 20 minutes to get my photo with Ariel, another nice queue but with nothing interactive.  Ariel was quite nice and even hugged me.

Finally it was time to wait in line for Enchanted Tales with Belle.  This is a very different attraction, it was fun and interactive and I think will have VERY long lines when this section opens to the public.  After waiting 30 minutes you get to Belle’s house, which is decorated in the typically well themed style that you would expect from Disney, including lots of Belle’s books.  The pre-show has 2 stages.  The first stage you are you Maurice’s work room and get an introduction to the experience.  From there you go to another room with Wardrobe.  Here a Cast Member assigns roles to members of the audience, I would estimate about 1/3 of guests are assigned a role, such as Mrs. Potts, Chip, a guard, or the beast.  Mostly they use kids, but some adults were used too.  The benefit was that anyone who participated got a picture with Belle after the show (and any little kids who were in the audience.)

The theme of the show was a surpise to Belle of telling a story, incidently the story of Bell and Beast and is narrated by Lumiere.  The guest perforformers are prompted by cast members for their parts as Lumiere tells the story and Belle acts fascinated by the whole event.  It was actually a lot of fun and well done.  It’s also a completely unique experience at the parks.

My last mission in Fantasyland was to eat at Be Our Guest.  My waiter was Chris and other then the service being on the slow side for a single person dining alone, it was a great experience.  I was seated in the ballroom section of the restaurant, which was themed after the, you guessed it, the ballroom!  There is also a West Wing (the one Beast flips out in) and another room that I couldn’t place the themeing of, but looked very nice.  One of the waitresses there said that they weren’t going to use that room for dinner, only for lunch.  I had the grilled strip steak, which was delicious and the strawberry cream cheese cupcake which was good but had a weird wrapper.

Finally, I want to say that the overall themeing of Fantasyland was very Fantasyland like.  I expected the area to be a bit bigger, but when you consider the mine ride and the enchanted forest are not yet completed, and if you add in Storybook Circus the area is actually HUGE.  I think it will be a very crowded area when it opens for quite some time and for good reason.  If you can get into Be Our Guest, I think you’ll enjoy the experience, but again I think you’ll need to get there early for lunch and you’ll need to call first thing in the morning for a dinner reservation.

Enjoy!

Nov 30

Travel Tip for Disney World

Walt Disney World has added free wifi to their parks and resorts, which is a great benefit, I can remember complaining about overpriced wired internet a year ago.  But, I want to recommend that you turn off the wifi on your devices when not using it.

I found I was often getting bumped off, or was out of range or simply needed to reagree to the terms and conditions that Disney sets for the use of the internet.  I believe this made my battery die a LOT quicker then if I was just using my 3G connection.  So if you’re sleeping or busy on rides and stuff and don’t need the wifi, I suggest turning wireless off until you need it.

Happy Travels!

Nov 28

Swim To The Left

On my September trip to Walt Disney World I stayed at the new Art of Animation Resort.  This is the last post in a series on the resort. The first post was a general overview of the resort and the common areas. The second post is about the layout and function of the family suites, it is loaded with photos of the Lion King suites.  In this post I want to discuss the theming of the resort with an emphasis on the Cars and Little Mermaid sections.  I wont be covering the rooms at the Little Mermaid section, they are the same as at Pop Century and I didn’t get to see them to see the enhanced theming there.

After checking in to the resort the directions to my room were to swim to the left, it seems the Finding Nemo section is outside the lobby.  Disney really embraces the theming of the resort, even down to telling you to swim through the Nemo section and calling the buildings in the Cars section Garages.

Wheel Well Garage
Tow Mater Garage
Luigi’s Garage

As a Value resort Disney did stick with the larger then life icons that are used at the other value resorts, but they’ve stepped it up a notch here.  At each area the icons are to scale of one of the main characters in that theme and include more decorative items then at other value resorts.

Crush
King Triton
Ursala
Ariel

The exerior of the buildings are unique in this resort too, this is contingent on the fact that it is the only value resort with interior hallways.  On the sides facing out of the resort there are larger then life black and white animations.  On the sides facing in there are colored images representing the films, my room was placed right where a giraffe was drawn, it’s like someone called ahead and told them who I am.  The public places in each section of the resort are themed, in Cars the walkways are roads, in Lion King they are trails, similar to what they did in the Animal Kingdom.

Little Mermaid Exterior
Mermaid building end
Lion King Building end
Cars building end
Cars drawings
Exterior of a Finding Nemo building
Inside the buildings the carpets were special to the theme, in the Lion King it was a dirt trail with different animal prints.  There is also art work representing the films in the main entrance areas of the building and on each floor. The cars rooms have traffic cones and the hallway carpet has hubcaps and checkered flags.  The hubcaps are from the cars in Cars.
Lion King Hallway Carpet
Cars Room Carpet
Cars Hallway Carpet

Inside the rooms the layouts are exactly the same, but the furniture and fixtures are different for each theme.  Typically in a value resort there would be a picture, the comforter and maybe a few other little touches designed around the theme of the resort area.  However, at the Art of Animation, every piece is themed to the resort.  Lamps, mirrors, carpet, even the furniture and shower tile is specific to the theme.

Cars room number signs
Cars Living Room, notice the couch, Lamp and Coffee Table
Cars Shower Curtan
Cars bed, notice the headboard and lamp
Cars Bathroom
Cars Bathroom
Cars Kitchenette
Sleepy Mater
Cars Kitchen Table
Cars Hallway Lights
Lion King Living Room Lamp

There are some other nice touches at the resort.  One example is the license plate of Mater, it’a  reference to the Animation 101 course all Pixar animators must take.

This might be my new favorite resort.  Depending on my group size and prices, I would always put this resort on my list for my travel agent to look into.  I hope this resort sets a new standard for Disney for improved functionality and theming.

And for those of you who are wondering at the orignal plan for this resort as the second half of Pop Century, the Lion King would have been the 70’s and Mermaid the 40’s.

Nov 16

Walt Disney World for the Holidays

I thought I would provide a complete listing of all my posts about Christmas at Walt Disney World.  I wrote these last summer as a planning tool and thought I would provide a quick reference guide as you get ready to leave for your Christmas trips.

Epcot’s Holiday Storytellers

A Christmas Carol at Epcot’s UK Pavilion

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at the Hollywood Studios

Candlelight Processional at Epcot

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom

Happy Holidays!