Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Minnie Moms: First Attractions

Amy: Tink's first attraction had to be "it's a small world."  I love that ride and yes, even the song that you just can't get out of your head.  I sing it to her occasionally at naptime.  This attraction is classic Disney and what little girl wouldn't love room after room full of dolls?  My husband, Dad, Chris, Audrey, and I rode "it's a small world" together after a late breakfast at 1900 Park Fare.  I guess the combination of a full tummy, being comfy in Daddy's arms, and the gentle boat ride was the perfect set-up for a nap.  She saw about 75% of it before falling asleep.  I really appreciated Audrey's Entourage on this trip.  When we emerged from the ride into the bright sunlight, Uncle Chris had retrieved the stroller and Granddaddy took her off for a nap behind the Christmas shop while the rest of us headed off for Haunted Mansion.

Disney.com has some great history on "it's a small world."

Corby: We took our son to Disney World for the first time in September 2007. He had recently turned 4 years old. In one word the thing that stands out most to me about this particular trip is…characters!!!!! I should have known since he had a love for all things plush that seeing real live stuffed animal looking characters would be his dream come true! The other word that comes to my mind that trip is…hot! It was in the middle of September and I’m pretty sure it was at least 120 degrees! He and I waited in line after line to meet the characters. We bought an autograph book and had each character sign it and I took a picture as well. He absolutely loved it! I’m pretty sure we met every character that trip from Mickey to Horace and Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum! We invested in the Disney fan that sprays water and drank many frozen drinks that trip. Seeing the joy on his face was absolutely priceless and worth every moment, no matter how hot and sweaty those moments were!

Heather: Our first family trip to Disney was last November around Veterans Day. We took our then 3 year-old after much planning and debating how to get the most out of 5 day trip via train from Raleigh, NC. The first night we arrived at we wanted to do Magic Kingdom and let Ben see the castle before any rides. Luckily we got there in time for the early showing of the SpectroMagic parade. We found our spot along the parade route and watched his eyes light up with joy at seeing all the characters he recognized from multiple viewings of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. He is partial to Daisy Duck so when she appeared in an array of light and waving to the crowd, his heart melted. My husband have both done Disney as kids and again as a married couple but this was a very special trip to be able to see Disney through the eyes of a preschooler. We are returning with our now 4 year old and 4 month old baby in late October in time for the Food and Wine festival as well as Mickey’s Halloween party. Our 4 year-old will be sporting a pink Daisy Duck lanyard for some pin trading with Dad.  We are excited for our family to experience the magic of Disney again.

Janine: What am I most looking forward to showing Felicity (F) at WDW? Well it’s a tough choice between visiting the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (BBB) at the Magic Kingdom (MK) or taking her on the Haunted Mansion (HM). I can’t even watch a video of BBB on YouTube without filling up with tears. Just the thought of my little Tink being made into a full-fledged princess for the day warms my heart beyond imagination. But I also can't wait to take her on Haunted Mansion as not only is it my favourite ride at MK (and of course MK has to be her first park), it was also my first ride. Thankfully Ddaddy’s first ride no longer exists (ExtraTerrorestrial) as there’s no way I would take her on that!

So it’s a choice between taking her into the castle to meet her fairy godmother and be made up to look even more beautiful than she already is (and making both mommy and daddy weep with joy) or riding though the HM with our ghost host hoping not to join the 999 spectres!

You may be thinking HM would be a little scary for a tot but you see I doubt we’ll be going to WDW until F is 4 and I think by then, being our kiddo, she’ll be more than ready. We love Halloween so she’ll have already seen a few ghouls and ghosties! I love the thought of sitting with her in the doom buggy and singing along as we make our way through the house. Id love to see her face when she realises we’ve picked up an extra passenger at the end!

But … no, the BBB has to win as the thing I am MOST looking forward to doing with her. Just the sight of F all dressed up with glitter in her hair and waving a wand … sniff, the keyboard is going to get damp in a minute as I sit here thinking about it! Her nursery is already decorated with princess and it will be the theme of her first birthday party. So although it isn’t actually a ride or attraction this is the thing I dream about doing with F when we get to WDW, except for her first steps on Main Street of course … but that’s a whole other story.

Kelly: My son Shawn’s first attraction was Buzz Lightyear at the Magic Kingdom. He was 5 the first time we brought him to the House of Mouse for a two week vacation and we had a blast. My son already loved Buzz Lightyear the character so it was not to hard to get him on the ride, add in that he could shoot things and that was all he needed to hear. We must have ridden that ride a million times over the course of the next two weeks but it was worth it! As I think back and remember it now he had this silly look on his face and was so happy to go on it over and over. At the time he was an only child and was loving all the attention but little did he know his brother was on the way. I hate to admit it but even back then he beat me a few times and now that he is 11 he beats me even more. It has become a competitive sport with my sons and husband, with my husband usually winning. I pulled out my Disney Picture Album from that vacation and pulled out a couple of my favorite pics to share and I as went through them it brought back such fond memories for me.

Click here for more info on our Minnie Moms.  Please let us know if there is a topic you'd be interested in seeing or a trip planning question we can answer for you! 

If you have a first attraction story you'd like to share, we'd love to hear it.  Please leave a comment below.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Introducing the Minnie Moms

I am so excited to announce a new feature on Growing Up Disney. If you’ve been reading us for a while, you are familiar with our team posts where Ridge, DisneyDad and I discuss a particular topic. I’ve assembled a team of moms to give you multiple points of view and help answer your questions regarding planning your Walt Disney World vacation. The five of us are all from different places, with different numbers and ages of children, and different Disney experiences. These “mom” posts will run on one Tuesday each month, beginning tomorrow.

Meet the Moms!

Amy: I married my Prince Charming at Disney’s Wedding Pavilion in 2005 and my daughter, Audrey, celebrated her first birthday at WDW in April 2010. All her grandparents live far away so my kid is a road warrior. I am a stay-at-home mom and love it, although I miss my work friends. Outside of my Disney blog, I maintain a blog about Audrey for our family and close friends. I love travel in general and have visited 13 countries. I am a really good cook and make a great cup of coffee.

Corby: My name is Corby. I’m married with two children, a son Banks, who recently turned 6 and a daughter Henley, who is almost 3 months old. We reside in Atlanta, Georgia. As I mentioned on a previous post, I grew up going to Disney World since I was born and raised in South Florida. We took our first family trip in September 2007 and I guess you can say we got bit by the Disney bug. This November will be our 5th trip in three years. In my free time I love to sew, embroider, entertain, and most importantly spend time with family and friends. I love talking Disney and thoroughly enjoy planning our vacations there. I hope I can pass on some helpful information so that others will find their vacations as magical as I do! (Note: Corby is now working with Travel with the Magic and loves helping plan Disney vacations!)

Heather: I am a work at home mom to two wonderful boys and married for 14 years to Bill. Our son Bennett (Ben) is 4 and Ian is 4 months. My husband and I met in college and moved to the Raleigh area in 1999 where he works in IT and I teach high school Government and Economics online. I have kept a personal mommy blog entitled Pieces of Me since 2007 after a competition with another blogging friend to post our summer “to do” lists online. I love keeping a digital journal of mommyhood and am in the process of starting a freeze-ahead blog called Freeze Ahead Frenzy. I hope it will be a resource for other busy families looking for shortcut cooking strategies and a place to share your favorite freeze-ahead dishes. I am honored to join with Amy and other college friends on the Minnie Moms to bring tips and advice on how our family has enjoyed Disney.

Janine: My family consists of myself, my husband, and my daughter, Felicity, aged 7 months. We live in Swindon, England.  My husband and I have been to WDW 10 times between us, having been 3 times in the last 4 years. We both love WDW and Florida with my husband being a big Rays baseball fan too. My favourite park is Magic Kingdom and my favourite ride is Tower of Terror. We are hoping to return in 2014 with Felicity and will be staying onsite this time. We are really looking forward to Chef Mickey’s and getting all the autographs for her at the character meetings.

Kelly: Hi, I am Kelly H Russo and I am a married mom of two sons. My family and I live in Massachusetts and my sons are 11 and 6 and have been going to Disney for over 6 years. We are seasoned Disney travelers and I would love to share my knowledge and experiences to help others with traveling, planning and more. I am a Disney vacation planner with Travel with the Magic! I get to help people book magical vacations to Disney and make sure they get the best deal and help them make magical memories!

Please let us know what questions you'd like us to answer!  Are there any topics of discussion you'd be interested in?  Let us help you!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Weekly Round-up: 8/28/10

It's been a great week at Growing Up Disney.  Thanks for joining us! 
Click the links below to be taken to any of this week's articles.

Mommy Monday:  Amy asked for reader advice on choosing a toddler harness for traveling with her daughter.

Team Favorites: The Growing Up Disney family discussed their favorite non-character restaurants in the Walt Disney World theme parks.  This sparked some great feedback on the blog, Facebook and Twitter.

Photo Flashback!: Ridge shared a picture that proves you need to be aware at WDW.

Guest Post: Kelly Russo educated us on how a travel agent can make planning your Disney vacation much easier.

A Walk Around The World with Ridge: Three entertaining apps were highlighted by Ridge.

We're looking forward to next week and the launch of a new feature on Growing Up Disney.  Have a magical weekend!

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Walk Around The World With Ridge--Time Waster Apps

I have lots of apps for my iPhone but some of the best are time wasters that have no other purpose than to help me pass the time. Here are just a few of my favorites for entertainment while in line at Walt Disney World or really anytime you are waiting around.

Angry Birds: I don't know if you have played this game but it is a simple formula that proves to be highly addictive. The premise: you are birds who have your eggs stolen by a spherical, green pig-nosed creature. Naturally you being a bird, are angered by this theft. What are you to do about it? Well how about flinging your body at the enemy and destroying everything in your path? I know, fun right? With 165 levels active (30 more are coming soon) and at least 14 bonus levels you unlock from simple tasks and just pure Easter egg hunting, it is sure to keep you busy for quite a while. It is available for 99 cents for iPod/iPhone and $4.99 for iPad. If you just want to try it out, there is a free version available on iTunes.

Fantastic Contraption: Another game I am hooked on is Fantastic Contraption. It is $1.99 on iTunes and is a game made for those inquisitive people who love to solve puzzles and to build unique locomotion devices to move an object from a starting area to a designated finish. This one requires a little more concentration than some other games so I don't know that I would play this one while standing in line. This is more of a “take a break, sit down and rest the feet and frustrate yourself for a while” game. There are 45 levels to choose from and it you can even edit your own.

Hidden Mickeys: Now the last app I want to discuss is Steve Barrett's Hidden Mickey's. Yes, this one is only really good while you are in the parks. Now I say that, yes, you can use this app anywhere; however it has been designed, much like the book of the same name, to be used in the parks. I have traveled with the actual book before and really enjoyed the hunt. Now with the iPhone app and the use of location technology, it is a more interactive and immersive experience. You earn points for finding the hidden Mickeys. It comes in at $5.99 on iTunes. I like this app because it makes you examine the lands and attractions a little more closely than usual.

Regardless of your type of phone or handheld game, please use them wisely. Please step to the side if you feel the need to stare at your phone more than your surroundings. Just have a little decorum and try not to impede the flow of traffic. Disney is a busy place and I like to use my phone, almost too much, but I will always get to a stopping place before being lax about where I am going. You never know when the international double wide strollers of death will dart in front of you or knock your heels off.

Do you have a favorite time waster? What is it and where do you use it most?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Guest Post: Travel Agent 101

(Amy’s note:  I asked Kelly to write this as an educational piece about how a travel agent can help you plan your Walt Disney World vacation. I have to admit I didn’t know just how much they could offer so I figured others might benefit from this information as well.)

Are you thinking of planning a vacation to Walt Disney World, Disneyland or even sailing away on a Disney Cruise Line vacation? If so, you should considering using a travel agent. I know what you are thinking “Why should I pay for a travel agent?” Well you don’t have to! Planning a Disney Destination vacation can be overwhelming so why not use the free services of someone who knows all about Disney and loves it! At Travel with the Magic, we have experienced Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line and are College of Disney Knowledge graduates. We do not charge for our services.  We do more than just book your vacation; we offer personal concierge services such as:

• We offer itinerary planning
• We monitor the discounts so that you are getting the best deal even after you book your vacation
• We will make your Advance Dining Reservations
• We set up transfers through Disney, a private service or book your car rental
• We send out your documents USPS priority mail at no charge to you
• When you are away should there be an emergency we are here to help
• We have experience with Groups and Grand Gatherings
• We offer FREE onboard credits when you sail in the Disney Cruise Line
• We are always available to you even during your vacation by phone, email and fax
• We send out a Welcome to the Magic Packet once you are booked with information to help you begin planning

Rope Drop at Magic Kingdom
Now you still might think there is a catch but there isn’t! All of our services are free! If you book a Disney vacation package with us, Disney pays us after you travel and it doesn’t increase the cost of your package to use our services.

Wouldn’t be nice to have someone handle it all for you? We call Disney so you do not have to wait on hold when that new deal comes out and we will call Disney dining for you as well. Have you tried to call Disney at 7am to get that Princess breakfast only to be told it is sold out? We can help with that! Want to plan a special meal, order a cake, or book a tour? We can do all of that as well. Maybe you just want advice but like to book your own dining, then that is fine as well. You are in control and tell us what you need help with. We are here to help make sure you get the best deal and have a magical vacation. We love Disney and helping others so it’s a win-win for everyone. We work for you, if there is an issue after you arrice then contact us and we will advocate for you so that you can go and enjoy your vacation. If you have already booked your vacation with Disney we can still help you. We can takeover your existing reservation and you can still use our FREE services. So choose us and let us add some Magic to your vacation! If you have any questions please contact us toll free at 1-800-670-4312 or email us at info@travelwiththemagic.com.   We look forward to helping you!

Contributed by Kelly H. Russo,

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Photo Flashback!

On a trip back in 2007, big sis and I were hanging out at Animal Kingdom having some ice cream in Africa from Tamu Tamu refreshments. As you can see you never know what you will see hanging out in Africa or rather "not" see (Amy) at the Animal Kingdom. I was too busy laughing at the absurdity of the moment to bother to tell her that Baloo and King Louie were right behind her.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Team Favorites--In-Park, Non-Character Dining

Ridge: My favorite in-park yet non-character meal spot is The Hollywood Brown Derby. It would have to be one of the best in-park places to get a steak, other than Le Cellier. The steak pictured is no longer on the menu but it was fantastic. It was served with a wasabi emulsion, soy reduction and a reduced pan sauce. The large yellow object was a fried plantain and the steak was cut on the bias and plated with smashed potatoes to hold them in their positions. But enough about those delicious morsels...if you're into that sort of thing.

The Brown Derby is designed after the famous holder of that moniker, which is actually a chain in Hollywood, CA. The Brown Derby restaurants became synonymous with the golden age of Hollywood in the 1920s-1940s. Everyone who was anyone in show business went there. So at the Hollywood Studios the recreation of the original seemed only natural, back when it was a working studio, to bring a bit of class to the park.

Lunch is served from 11:30-3:30pm and dinner is from 3:30- until park closing. One of the eye-catching new items on the menu is the Duck Two Ways: duck with a vanilla-white balsamic melon pear salad and a braised leg with a ginger-carrot puree and natural reduction. Loch Daurt Salmon sounds intriguing: glazed with Scotch whisky over arugula, watercress, local peaches, blue affine, walnuts and a fig and orange blossom honey dressing. Don't forget the signature desert, Grapefruit cake, yellow cake with layers of grapefruit cream icing. It is really good if you are into little morsels of deliciousness exploding in your mouth.

DisneyDad: Over the years my wife and I have had some wonderful and not so wonderful experiences at restaurants in the parks at WDW. My favorite place to dine is always the next place we have reservations. As menus are always changing, I'm always a little disappointed that my favorite dish from my last visit isn't on the menu this trip but then again there is always something new to try. On our last trip we had a very good experience at the Coral Reef Restaurant at the Living Seas Pavilion at EPCOT. We had a table for two next to one of the expansive windows that overlooks the aquarium. We dined on seafood as fish, sharks, turtles, and an occasional diver swam past our table.

Another EPCOT restaurant we enjoy is Le Cellier Steakhouse at the Canadian Pavilion. The steaks here have always been excellent. Apparently I'm not the only one that thinks so as it can be difficult to get reservations here as it is a very popular place to dine. At the Studios I enjoy the food and ambiance of The Hollywood Brown Derby. The drawings on the walls are fascinating, taking you back to an earlier era of Hollywood. The last time we were here a pianist accompanied your meal with some old standards and Disney classics to help make your dining experience more enjoyable. At the Magic Kingdom Cinderella's Royal Table (aka King Stephan's Banquet Hall) use to be a wonderful place to dine. The atmosphere was wonderful and if you had late reservations, it was a fun place to watch the fireworks. It has been changed from a dining experience to just another character meal.

Amy: I got my husband involved in brain-storming for this question and we came up with the following list: Tusker House, Mama Melrose, SciFi, Coral Reef, and Le Cellier.

Tusker House: We went here for lunch last April. Other than date night at Jiko, this was our best meal of the trip. We’re big fans of Boma and this is pretty similar cuisine. My little girl ate better here than anywhere else. The grown-ups enjoyed the seafood stew, salmon, curry dishes, and the carving station with unique sauces for the meat.

Mama Melrose: This was one of my husband’s picks. We went here for lunch in 2006 and were on the Disney Dining plan. He remembered a pleasant atmosphere, good iced tea, and solid Italian food. At the time, DDP gave us each an appetizer, entrée, and dessert. DisneyDad, Mom, Andy, and I each got something different and then we’d all try it. We haven’t been back but I also remember it fondly.

Sci-Fi: I love this place. The menu is never quite what I expect but this is a case where the atmosphere trumps all else. It’s so much fun to go sit in the old cars and watch the cheesy science fiction B-movie clips. It’s usually my top pick at the Studios and I look forward to taking my daughter here. If you’re looking for a foodie experience, go to Brown Derby, but go to Sci-Fi for some unique fun.

Coral Reef: This place has been hit or miss over the years. This was our last meal before heading for the airport on the 2006 trip and that time was marvelous. There were six of us and we had one of the large curved booths overlooking the ginormous aquarium. I still remember the lobster bisque, blackened fish served over grits, and the chocolate wave. The food was wonderful, the service was good, and the atmosphere was fun but refined and relaxing. Fast forward one year. My in-laws joined us for the annual October trip. I had planned everything as was so excited to take them to Coral Reef. The service was incredibly rushed, the food was not good, and it was too noisy for us all to talk. I was so embarrassed that I wanted to crawl under the table. I sincerely hope that was just a bad night since our first trip there was phenomenal.

Le Cellier: My husband lit up when he added this one to the list. This was another Disney Dining plan experience and Andy and Chris were trying to see how much they could “spend” if we had been actually paying for the meal. They both had a great time and a truly delicious meal. I’ve been 3 or 4 times and I really enjoy Le Cellier as well but I feel that it is a little over-hyped in the Disney community.

So that’s what the Growing Up Disney family recommends. What about you? What’s your favorite restaurant in the parks, excluding character dining?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Toddler Harnesses for Travel

I have a very curious and confident little girl. She and I will be flying to Walt Disney World alone in a couple of months to meet up with the rest of the Growing Up Disney family. There is no way I am going through multiple airports with her without a safety harness. I know some people don't like baby "leashes" but I see it as a way to give her a little freedom while keeping her safe (and keeping my own sanity.)

I'm looking at a several different models/styles and would love to hear from you regarding what you've used and whether or not you liked it.  I've added some Amazon links so you can see examples of the different types.

1. The backpack/buddy style:
These harnesses add a tether to a small backpack. Some are in the shape of cuddly animals or favorite Disney characters. Basic animals are available at the local superstore, while more exotic animals and Disney characters are sold online and cost a bit more.  Others in this style have a backpack similar to the older kids, as shown in the second image. In most cases, the tether (tail) is removable and the backpack can be used separately. 

2.  Harness only style:
These consist of a harness that fits on the child's upper torso and a tether.  These are inexpensive and take up the least space in a diaper bag.  However, they do look the most like the dreaded "baby leash."

3.  Wrist to wrist style: More geared to older children, this type of safety tether attaches parent and child with a strap that is worn on the wrist by both.

4.  Convertible:  I found one safety product that claims to work in 5 ways depending on your needs.  The child's end can be looped around the chest, the wrist, clipped to the child's belt loop, or looped up for the child to hold on to.  Yes, that's 4.  The photos on Amazon only show those options and that's all I think of as well.  Still a potentially more flexible product.

I am leaning toward a backpack buddy.  I'd like to get a Disney one, of course, but the Mickey looks huge and I'm not sure the Disney name is worth the extra cost.  Tink likes to play with some of my small purses so I think she'd like the bag.  Regardless of what option we go with, I'd like to get it early so we both have a chance to get accustomed to it.

What have you used on your travels?  What did you like or dislike?  Thanks so much for your help!

Thanks to Elizabeth for sharing this harness.  http://www.childharness.ca/
If you need a harness suitable for older children with special needs, check into this one.

Update 9/20/10:  Reader Cody and I are each testing out Kinderkords with our kids.  Me with the one kiddo and Cody with triplets.  We both love the concept but the quality is just not there.  I've spoken with the inventor/owner and the product is being licensed out and a new version should be available soon.  If the kinks can be worked out, this is a great product.  The child won't trip over the retractable cord, it's versatile, comfortable and easy to use.  It's also small enough to toss into your diaper bag to use any time.  I'll do a full review after my October trip to WDW.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Walk Around The World With Ridge--iPhone apps part 2...Lines

Now honestly, who among us doesn't like to spend thousands of dollars to stand in line all day wasting valuable park time and losing that special park mojo that comes when you're on a roll? Enter Lines and TouringPlans.com *ding*.

Lines is a very easy to use app for ride queue estimation. Now I don't want to make Lines sound like it is the only app out there that handles wait times. There are many and I have used a number of them on my last several trips. Some were good, some weren't, and it all depends on the honesty of the end users to make sure everything is on the up and up. Unlike other apps of its ilk, Lines does not depend upon the participation of its users to update the wait times. It combines user input with years of historical data to predict waits. The Lines app itself is free, however the service is part of a subscription to www.TouringPlans.com. Seeing as I was a member of TouringPlans.com before Lines existed, this isn't a problem for me. So to tell you about Lines, I need to back up and quickly tell you about TouringPlans.com.

TouringPlans.com is a site dedicated to providing trip planning resources, crowd calendars, ticket calculators, and massive amounts of data on the parks and resorts. This is all done to save you money, time and frustration. These good people have been writing one of the best books about the parks since 1985: The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World 2010 (Unofficial Guides) *ding*. It offers tips on hotels, restaurants, activities and plenty of examples of ways to make your stay at Walt Disney World even better. So back to Lines.

Lines, like many other apps, tends to be intuitive. The home screen (after logging in) immediately shows park operating hours, if a park has extra magic hours and the crowd estimates. The below image is the home page scrolled from top to bottom. Getting more information on any of the listed items is as easy as tapping one of the selections.

When we select the Magic Kingdom, for example, a list of all the attractions comes up with current wait times and FASTPASS times displayed. (Continue to scroll for complete list of attractions.) If you select a particular attraction, detailed information about the wait times and forecasts of future times are shown.

To report a time, look to the top right hand corner to the + Time button, select the ride you want to submit and then enter the time on the standard scroll wheel that we all know so well from Apple.

This is a fun app that does exactly as advertised. When I used it on my last trips in October 2009 and April 2010, it was right on time. Also an innovative feature is the built-in chat. You can post a question and get responses from other knowledgeable Disney goers.

Other information from TouringPlans.com is available to you through the Lines app, such as crowd calendar, park hours, and refurbishments.

Don’t have an iPhone? You’re not left out of the fun. Lines is also available for Android, Palm Pre/Pixi, and BlackBerry phones.

Have you used Lines? What did you think?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Gone but not Forgotten - The Mickey Mouse Revue

Photo from LIFE magazine October 15, 1971
(click on photo for larger view)

One of the original “E-Ticket” attractions at Walt Disney World was The Mickey Mouse Revue in Fantasy Land. It opened as one of the original park attractions on opening day in 1971. Since I “grew up” (I still don’t admit to being grown up. Like Jimmy Buffet sings: “I’m growing older but not up.”) with the Mickey Mouse Club on TV, Mickey has always been my favorite and The Mickey Mouse Revue put him in the spotlight.

The Mickey Mouse Revue consisted of a pre-show and the main show like so many of the attractions at WDW. The pre-show was an 8 minute movie highlighting Mickey’s career and the use of sound. It was narrated by an animated sound oscilloscope line. From here you went into the main theater where an all audio-animatronics show was presented. Mickey, dressed in his finest white tie and tails, conducts an all character 23 piece orchestra. The expansive stage had a total of 73 different Disney characters where vignettes from Disney’s animated movies brought to life a medley of songs from your favorite movies. Songs included: “Heigh Ho”, “When you wish upon a star”, “So this is Love”, "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo”, "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah” and of course “The Mickey Mouse Club March.”

I read an interview Bill Justice, the Imagineer who designed The Mickey Mouse Revue, gave with MousePlanet’s Wade Sampson. When he designed the attraction a large model was built to show Roy O. Disney. Bill Justice described when Roy saw the model:

“Roy looked the model over, then paid me the best compliment I ever had in my career: ‘This is the kind of show we should spend our money on.’ That’s how ‘The Mickey Mouse Revue’ was born.”

I loved seeing the Mickey Mouse Revue. It closed down 9 years later due to not playing to a full house - Justice continued:

“As the show’s theater in the Magic Kingdom of Walt Disney World was being constructed, someone came up with the idea of having a pre-show. They designed an area just outside the main theater where guests could watch a film on Mickey while they were waiting to enter. Good idea, except there was a glitch. The theater seated 504 people, but the space available for the pre-show could only accommodate 300. Unfortunately, there was no time left to make further changes.
“The Mickey Mouse Revue was always very popular. It came as a shock when I was told my pride and joy was being moved to Tokyo Disneyland. Why? ‘Because it never played to full capacity’. Of course not! How can you fill 504 seats with 300 people? Management!”

The Mickey Mouse Review became the first Magic Kingdom attraction to be removed. It showed continuously until September 1980 when the entire show was transferred to Tokyo Disneyland where it was an opening day attraction in 1983. It showed continuously at Tokyo Disneyland until it was closed in 2009 to be replaced by Mickey’s PhilharMagic. The Mickey Mouse Review was located in Fantasyland at WDW in the theater where you now find the 3-D attraction Mickey’s PhilharMagic.

The show ended with Mickey saying:

Thank you folks, that concludes our show. We hope you enjoyed it!”

I enjoyed it. Hope you did too. Do you have memories of The Mickey Mouse Revue? Share them with us using the link below.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Photo Flashback! Pixie Hollow

These beautiful topiaries of Tinkerbell and her friends were featured in the Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden at the 2010 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Team Favorites--Thrill Rides

The view from the top of Tower of Terror.  Look quickly!

Amy:  I am a thrill ride junkie.  I have yet to find one I won't queue up for.  What I love about the Walt Disney World thrill rides is the combination of a well-developed storyline with a 'take your breath away' experience.  

Tower of Terror is impeccably themed.  From the time you enter the area, everything feeds into the story of this once-grand hotel.  From the small signs naming the varieties of the trees to the personal possessions in the lobby, you can sense the energy that once filled the space and the eerie stillness that has now taken hold.   I'd love to go on a tour of all the details in this attraction.  I tend to linger where I can to take it all in.  And on the thrill side, you can't beat the multiple drop sequence!  

Space Mountain was one of my early coaster experiences.  I love that you ride in the dark and can't really see what you are in for until it's too late.  It's got plenty of speed and drops that always surprise.  The long walkway in the cool darkness builds the excitement and is a great transition from the heat of the Florida sun.  I'm a little disappointed that the peek into Space Mountain is now gone from the TTA.  It was fun to see in a bit from the tame ride.

Expedition Everest's Fastpass line makes me a little sad.  This has to be one of the most detailed queues ever and most people just blow right past it.  Walk just a smidgen slower through this area and take in the displays around you and let the story build.  And then... Everest is a fast-moving, "I dare you to keep your hands up" ride.  I love the section where you go backward.  Such a well-themed and exciting ride, too bad the yeti doesn't move anymore.  But I think lots of people miss him anyway--it's hard to see even a huge creature when you have your eyes closed and you are holding on for dear life.

Thank you, Imagineers, for Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and its inversions.  That is all.

I have to give an honorable mention to Splash Mountain.  It's a fabulous attraction that is well themed to its story.  I just don't like walking around in wet pants so it's a must do every 5 years for me.

Splash Mountain

DisneyDad:  When Space Mountain opened in 1975, I got my wife on to ride it - ONCE! It took twenty years to get her to ride again.  She's due to ride it again in 2015.  For her, once every twenty years is enough.  One thrill ride she does enjoy is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Frontierland at the Magic Kingdom.  Disney describes it as a "mild but wild" coaster.  It may be tamer than the other "mountain" rides but this is no kiddie ride.  You are warned to "hold on to your hat" as you enter the gold mine ore trains that run through the town of Tumbleweed.  It provides some "air time" as well as a nice spiral as you make your way from the mountain to the town.  Lookout for a few animals around town and Cousin Ed in his long-johns sitting in a bathtub after the flood.

Expedition Everest:  Even the photo ops are well-themed!
Ridge:  Thrill rides.  

Well, what to say about thrill rides at Disney?  The most obvious are the roller coasters: Space Mountain, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and Expedition Everest.  Space Mountain is the classic ride at Disney: fast, dark and fun.  Part of the fun of this one is the queue's build up.  A dark cool tunnel underground with ominous sounds and lighting.  Once on the ride, more dark, more ominous sounds and a ride that drops you into the darkness for the duration of our journey. 

Rock 'n' Roller Coaster is just a new and smoother take on the dark rides at Disney.  It isn't creepy or ominous inside at all, unless you are unsettled by the music industry.  The ride is faster and smoother than Space Mountain.  Think fighter jet vs. biplane or rock and roll vs. Gregorian chant.  OK, that last one is a bit harsh but you get the point. 

Expedition Everest is an outstanding mix of these two rides.  Fast and in the dark with the feeling of an old coaster in terms of ride smoothness or as one might expect an escape from a mountain yeti would be.  The queue is a great part of this ride walking through the mountain shop or the museum showing the aftermath of dealing with the elusive yeti.  Fun times. 

There lots more rides that can be called thrill rides.  Tower of Terror, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Universe of Energy, Mission Space... Yeah one of those things is not like the others.  Attractions are thrilling for lots of reasons, speed, lighting, education factors...no on that last one? Well then just overall experience, if it gets your heart pumping then it's thrilling.

What is your favorite thrill ride at Walt Disney World?  We definitely didn't include them all.  Anyone for Test Track or Mission Space?  Or maybe Barnstormer?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Special Dietary Needs at Walt Disney World

I've gotten a few questions this week about Walt Disney World and allergies or special diets so I thought I would address it here on the blog.  Disney is very happy to work with you to provide an enjoyable and  healthy experience.  Essentially, be sure your needs are clear on your reservation, contact WDW about two weeks in advance, follow up when you arrive for your meal, and allow some extra time.

Below is Disney's official statement regarding special dietary needs from Disney's website.

"The Walt Disney World food and beverage team is committed to offering a wide range of choices to accommodate Guests who require lifestyle dining options, as well as most specific requests from Guests with food allergies or intolerances. Note that in many cases, advance notice is required—usually at the time of your reservation.
Whether dining at a table service restaurant or at a quick service restaurant, your desired dining requests will be addressed. Please call the Disney's Dining Reservation Center at (407) WDW-DINE or (407) 939-3463 to speak with a Cast Member. Guests under age 18 must have parent or guardian permission to call.
General information
The Walt Disney Company will use reasonable efforts to prevent the introduction of the allergen of concern into the food through close attention during our sourcing, preparation and handling processes. However, it is ultimately always up the Guest to use his or her individual discretion to make an informed choice regarding whether to order any particular items, since the Walt Disney Company cannot guarantee that allergens may not have been introduced during another stage of the food chain process—or even inadvertently—by us.
Food Allergies and Intolerances
Walt Disney World Resort table service restaurants that accept reservations can accommodate most food allergies and food intolerances—such as gluten or wheat, shellfish, soy, lactose or milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish or eggs. Please contact one of our representatives by email at SpecialDiets@DisneyWorld.com once you have booked your dining reservations, at least 14 days in advance.
If you have multiple allergies, please contact one of our representatives before you finalize your trip to Walt Disney World Resort to discuss your allergies, as we cannot guarantee we will be able to meet your requests. Please note we do not have separate kitchens to prepare allergen free items or separate dining areas for Guests with allergies to dine.
Making a Special Dietary Request for Table Service Locations
To make a special dietary request, call the Disney's Dining Reservation Center at (407) WDW-DINE or (407) 939-3463. Guests under age 18 must have parent or guardian permission to call.
  • Indicate to the Cast Member at Disney's Dining Reservation Center your special dietary requests.
  • Know that your special dietary request will be noted by the Cast Member on your reservation.
  • Write down the dining location phone number(s) that the Cast Member provides you, as well as your reservation number and the day and time of your reservation.
  • Please contact one of our representatives by email at SpecialDiets@DisneyWorld.com, at least 14 days in advance.
  • Please feel welcome to speak to the chef or manager on duty when you arrive at your dining location.

Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park – Special Dietary Information for Quick Service and Counter Service Locations
The locations listed below have menu items or products that may meet many dietary requests:

Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park – Special Dietary Information for Quick Service and Counter Service Locations
The locations listed below have menu items or products that may meet many dietary requests:

Epcot theme park – Special Dietary Information for Quick Service and Counter Service Locations
The locations listed below have menu items or products that may meet many dietary requests:

Magic Kingdom Theme – Special Dietary Information for Quick Service and Counter Service Locations
The locations listed below have menu items or products that may meet many dietary requests:

Additional Information for Special Dietary Requests
If you need additional information regarding your special dietary requests you are welcome to contact us by email atSpecialDiets@DisneyWorld.com or by telephone at (407) 824-5967. Guests under age 18 must have parent or guardian permission to call.
Kosher Meals
Most Walt Disney World Resort table service restaurants that accept reservations can accommodate Kosher needs if requested at least two business days in advance by calling (407) WDW-DINE or (407) 939-3463. Guests under age 18 must have parent or guardian permission to call.
We do require a credit card to guarantee this order, but we will not charge the card unless the reservation is canceled within 24 hours or the party is a no-show.
Kosher Meals are available at the following Walt Disney World Resort quick service locations with no advance notice needed: