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!

Nov 14

Art of Animation Resort Family Suites

This is the second post in a series of posts about the Art of Animation Resort, there really is that much to say. The first post was an introduction to the resort and covered public areas.  The last post will cover the theming of the resort.

Here are some of the basics of this resort: it’s a value resort on the opposite side of Hourglass Lake from the Pop Century Resort.  The resort has traditional value resort guest rooms and family suite guest rooms.  There are 4 themed areas of the resort: Cars, Lion King, Finding Nemo and the Little Mermaid (traditional value resort rooms).

On my trip I stayed in a Lion King suite, it was about 640 square feet and had 2 bathrooms, a bedroom, kitchen, living room and can sleep up to 6 people.  The buildings that house the suites all have interior hallways and you require a room card to the building to gain entry via RFID, a very nice security feature.

When you walk in to the room (my room at least) on the left is a full bathroom and the living room with the kitchenette.  On the right side is the kitchen table, and bedroom with full bathroom.

The first bathroom has a pocket door leading to the sink area, then there is another door separating the toilet and tub with shower head.  I love this set up as it allows multiple people to use the bathroom at the same time.

Sink Area
Shower Curtain
I LOVE the tile work

The living room has a kitchenette, it has a small refrigerator, small sink coffee maker, microwave, and some plastic and paper goods.  It’s nothing fancy, but enough to warm up bottles or make a quick breakfast.  Next to that is the couch, which folds out into a bed and will sleep 2 people.  There is an additional chair, coffee table, TV on a TV stand/dresser and a rack for hanging clothes.  Under the rack is a box you could use the top of the box for storage, or sitting on.  The box opens from the front (not the top) and is storage for the pull out coach bedding.

Coffee Table
Kitchenette
Living Room fixtures
The reason I picked Lion King

Opposite the bathroom is the kitchen table, it seats 4 and has night tables on either side.  The table folds down creating another bed, a full size bed for sleeping 2 people.  This bed has a regular mattress, the same as they use at Pop Century Resort.  I was going to sleep on it, but couldn’t be bothered with moving all my stuff from the bedroom.

It’s a table
and a bed!

In the bedroom there is a queen sized bed with night stands on each side as well as a dresser/TV stand.  There is a full bathroom off of the bedroom, it has a sink, toilet and shower, but no bathtub.  It’s large and spacious with ample hooks for your towels.  But the sink is not separated from the toilet and shower.

Bedroom
Master Bath

Overall the rooms were well laid out and spacious.  I’m not sure I would put 6 adults in here, but 2 adults and 4 children would work, assuming you don’t require too much counter space.  I will talk about theming in a future post and about the tour of the resort in yet a third post.

Hallway Artwork

But who do I recommend the resort to other then everyone?  Obviously families, but I would also suggest it to young woman or woman traveling alone.  With the number of families at the resort the potential for a creepy person seems like it could be lower, but more importantly the card access to the buildings and the interior hallways adds a layer of security you’ll only get at deluxe resorts and for the price, this is a better deal.

Oct 31

The Art of Animation Resort

On my September trip to Walt Disney World I stayed at the new Art of Animation Resort. This is the first is a series of 3 posts about the resort. I stayed in a Lion King family suite, a lot of room for one person, but worth it.  Disney has set a new bar for value resorts.

Lobby Animation
An Early Lightening McQueen
When you walk into the lobby the first thing you’ll notice is color. The floors, walls and furniture are colored to match an animators set of colors. It starts and grey and transitions from greens to pinks. Even the small tiles are meant to represent the pixels in the new generation of computerized animation.  This design holds true for the whole lobby except one wall, which is covered in copies of actual animations from the Lion King, Finding Nemo, Cars and Little Mermaid. These animations also represent a transition, starting at the entrance with basic black and white sketches and transitioning to colored final drawings. Even the shop uses bottle designs on the walls with colors that were actually used in films.
Lobby
Lobby floor with pixeled colors
Game Room off the Lobby, spot with the best wifi

While I stayed at the resort I also did a tour, which started in the lobby and lasted about an hour.  Our guide told a little history about the resort.  It was originally supposed to be the second half of the Pop Century Resort, but they weren’t quite feeling it and then 9/11 happened, halting the project.  A few years ago they decided to move ahead with the project, but as the Art of Animation instead of the depressing first half of the century.  So how were the themes chosen?  Little Mermaid, Lion King and Finding Nemo were all the top grossing films of their eras.  Cars was chosen because it’s the number 2 top merchandise seller, second only to the Princesses.

The lobby has a ton of great features, I’ll leave a few for you to learn on your own.  But the last one I’ll tease with is the chandelier in the lobby that has images depicting the story arch of the 4 films.  This is done by posting an animation on each of the prongs, there are 14 each for Little Mermaid, Cars and Finding Nemo and 13 for the Lion King.

From the lobby we moved on to Landscapes of Flavor, the quick service dining option for the resort.  There area  couple unique things here, it is the first food court with an all tile floor, they’ve used the landscape art and lower ceilings to reduce the noise level.  It’s still a bit noisy, but not unbearable.  This is also the first resort to use real plates and silverware in an effort to be earth friendly, paper is available if you choose to take your food back to your room.

Food Court Area
Tables
Landscapes
Lighting
Landscapes of Flavor is open all day for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner and it was almost always busy and it is never empty.  The menu had a great variety, I never ate anything twice there.

Outside the lobby and Landscapes of Flavor is the Finding Nemo section, complete with the Big Blue Pool.  It’s the largest pool on property.  It has a salt water filtration system, combined with a bit of chlorine.  I did swim in the pool and the water does have a slightly different taste then the typical pool.

Big Blue Pool

The pool has speakers under the water so you can hear music and also the sounds of Nemo and his friends.  Seriously, it sounds like there are fish in the pool, fortunately it’s a fake enough sound that you don’t think there is an actual fish.

There is no slide at the pool, but there is a water play area and a dryish play area. There are also smaller pools in the Little Mermaid and Cars section.  The Lion King section has another play area.

Water Play Area
Water Play Area
Water Play Area

Each section of the resort is highly themed, I would put it on the level of a moderate resort, and that will be a topic of another post itself.  Additionally, the rooms are unique.  While the Little Mermaid section has typical value resort rooms, the family suites are 640 square feet, sleep 6, have 2 bathrooms and a kitchenette.  I will talk about the actual rooms in another post, but they are quite spacious and well designed.  In case you wonder where 6 people sleep, 1 queen bed in the bedroom, 1 pull out couch and the table converts into a full size bed (with a real mattress!)

The only rooms to have hidden mickeys are in the Lion King Suites

Oct 17

It’s Really Not So Scary

I had attended the Not So Scary Halloween party once before in 2002 when I think it was Minnie’s party.  I don’t remember too much of it and I didn’t know what I was doing back then, it my first trip as an adult then, I didn’t know much.  But after enjoying the Christmas party last December I thought I would try this, plus I wanted to get some candy and pictures of HalloWishes.

Here is what the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party offers: Candy and lots of it, HalloWishes, Boo To You Parade, a castle show and some villain dances.

Boo To You Parade was really good.  The song, Boo To You is annoyingly infectious, it’s really not so scary…  The song could stand for another verse in it, but I couldn’t get it out of my head after the parade.  The general advice is to attend the second parade if you can since it’s less crowded.  But, it had started to rain before the first parade so I was able to snag a good spot and I wouldn’t have waited long if it wasn’t for the delay of the parade.  Although the parade does have all the usual characters like Mickey and Minni, this parade has all the villains highlighted and some grave diggers too!  What more could you want?

After the parade it was time for HalloWishes, I have to say I wasn’t overly impressed with this fireworks display.  The music wasn’t exciting, I guess that’s the issue with not so scary…  And the fireworks were a little weak, not as exciting or as explosive as other fireworks displays at Disney World.

Candy, did I mention there was a lot of candy?  There were one or two candy stations in each land, early in the party they are a bit stingy with candy, giving one or two pieces, buy the end the amount is limited by size of the hand giving you candy.  My bag was overflowing by the end of the party.  For this reason, I suggest attending the party early in your trip, then you’ll be covered in the candy department for the remainder of your trip.

CANDY!

The Villains’ Dance Mix &Mingle at the castle was fun, it featured, well, villains.  A fun little show, definitely worth stopping to see while at the party. I did not attend the Character Dance parties.

I enjoyed the Halloween party, it was fun, candy filled and entertaining.  Plus I was able to squeeze in a few rides due to the lack of lines.  I’m not sure I would go every year, but I think it’s fun for every few years or for first time visitors.

Jun 27

The Ghost of Christmas Present

One of the many things I enjoy at Disney World are the Streetmospheres, the “actors” who go around parks and do impromptu (though I’m sure they’re planned, they are impromptu for most guests) shows.

Guest Scrooge

Last December while shopping in the United Kingdom the Streetmospheres started a show called, A Christmas Carol.  It was hysterical.

Instead of featuring Bob Cratchit, they featured Bob Skratchit, I think he was allergic to something too.  And typical of streetmospheres, they did not have enough people in their crew and borrowed some from the crowd.

The Skratchit Family

The story was pretty much the same, though the ghosts may have been switched out to help with the pop culture aspect of the show.

Ghost of Christmas Past 
Ghost of Christmas Future

 I can’t give away the humor, in part because that’s mean and in part because I know it can change a bit from show to show.  But I do highly recommend watching this one if you see it.