Friday, November 29, 2013

Guest Post: Before Autograph Books and FastPasses


In October 1971, decades before Fastpasses and autograph books, my dad became one of the very first visitors to Walt Disney’s iconic dream come true, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. My Father, then only 9 years old, was entranced in the world Walt built and fascinated with the magic that defines Disney. Stepping into Disney World was, and still is today, like stepping into the imagination of a truly brilliant and special man. My parents first took me in 1988 when I was 4 years old, and I met a mouse named Mickey on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom and I’ve been a believer ever since.

Autographs, Queues and Schedules, Oh My!

While I absolutely love the continuing evolution toward growth and innovation that makes Walt Disney World special, there are a few precious memories I'm sad future generations will never experience. The thing I miss most is characters casually wandering the streets. Nothing will beat walking toward Toon Town and turning to my right and suddenly noticing Little John strolling and ‘giggling’ in step with me, trying to get my attention. While I may be close to 30 years old, I still wouldn’t mind an unexpected photo op or two with that dang mouse who is nearly impossible to find. But alas, characters freely mingling with their pint-sized paparazzi has given way to organized queues, scheduled times for appearances and the very time consuming autograph book.

To Infinity and Beyond

Disney World is one big, constantly evolving project that is forever one-upping itself. While I once thought nothing could beat EPCOT’s Mission Space, something did – Fastpass: the ability to get to Mission Space even faster. Now if I could only tell Lieutenant Dan I’m well aware of how to fly the ship and bypass the cadet training, we’d be in business. Disney is the best in the industry for coming up with new ways to fascinate guests. Anyone remember the Honey I Shrunk the Audience show being all the rage in the 90s? Well despite the introduction of the movie-set playground, that attraction is part of Disney’s history and forever a fond memory of mine. I have a feeling the next generation will remember Soarin' Over California or Mickey's Philharmagic with the same fondness I have for Honey I Shrunk the Audience.

Cinderelli, Cinderelli, Night and Day it’s Cinderelli!

Next to Mickey Mouse himself, the next most recognizable thing in Disney World, is Cinderella’s Castle. Clearly iconic, both the same and continually different, the castle captures everyone's imagination. I distinctly remember going right up to it and walking the hall looking at the mosaic artwork. The castle is less approachable these days compared to the 80s and early 90s. Maybe fame is too much for Cinderella but the front entrance to the castle is blocked off more than it's open. Several shows a day, plus parades make this understandably necessary; but sometimes I miss easy access to the castle and would enjoy taking my time to gaze at the mosaics once again.

Mother’s Knows Best, Take It From Your Mumsy

Now I must throw in at least one, “when I was a kid…” When I was a kid, a t-shirt with Minnie Mouse or Tink seemed more than sufficient as a souvenir. These days, kids require nothing short of an all-out princess or pirate treatment. If Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique had existed in the 80's, I surely would have rocked it but is it just me or do those tight buns and braids on the heads of little girls look more painful than princess-like? But alas most little girls want it and when my three-year-old Goddaughter demanded it, I quickly discovered my Fairy Godmother skills were not as impressive as Cinderella’s. So I booked in the princess-treatment for both of us at the local hotel and off we went glittered and pampered.

There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow

Walt Disney was always looking toward progress. Progress to him meant innovation in everyday life, giving one the ability to be more productive at work and freeing up time for leisure with the family. Yet as the Dad in the Carousel of Progress attraction points out, "Some things never change."

The Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue Musical is a never changing must-see as well as the Country Bear Jamboree and Small World. That's exactly the way it is with Walt Disney World. Just enough stays the same providing classic happiness and a secure sense of familiarity; while progress is continually made toward new and exciting things to do, see and experience.

Dreams Really Do Come True…

For me, growing up Disney was almost like being in a secret club. When you arrive at your hotel and are greeted with a “Welcome Home” from the gate keeper, there’s something truly magical about that. Walt Disney World is a strong desire in the hearts of so many children and I got to experience it not once, but many times. It will always be a regular part of my life and the magic, while different and always in motion, is still as wondrous today as it was when I experienced it first as a 4 year old.

"Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination in the world." -Walt Disney

Leah Rise is a Florida native and proud Florida State Seminole fan and the truest of Disney Geeks. A passionate traveler, Leah has visited over 20 countries and currently is splitting her time between Florida and Sydney, Australia. Trying to put her Spanish and English degrees to good use, Leah enjoys blogging in her free time and taking her wolfdog, Simba, to the beach when she’s home. You can follow Leah @Leahrise on Twitter or on Google+ to keep up with her latest blogs.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving…A Challenge

If you are fortunate enough to go to Walt Disney World at this time of year (or ever for that matter,) please remember that you are truly blessed to have such an opportunity. There are many families in the communities we leave for the World who have to get by for a week on what you can spend in one good eat and drink session around World Showcase.

So this Autumn, let's all enjoy our vacations and be thankful for the opportunity to go on such a trip. I challenge you to share your blessings with others. Why not send a check to your local food bank or homeless shelter?  You could help your church provide food for children who don't have much to eat other than the free school meals. A donation of your time (or money) at Give Kids the World helps children and their parents enjoy a brief and magical break from severe medical problems.

Many thanks!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Photo Flashback! I Am Thankful

As we stop tomorrow to gather with family to remember all the things for which we are thankful, I want to share a few photos from our recent Walt Disney World vacation.  I am certainly thankful for these people and for the blessed lives that allow us to get together at our favorite place.

Growing Up Disney, Ohana breakfast
The Growing Up Disney family awaiting breakfast with Lilo and Stitch

growing up disney, grandparents and children at Disney's Old Key West
Granny and Granddaddy with Minnie and Tink at Old Key West

Growing Up Disney, Osborne Lights
Me and baby brother, Ridge, enjoying some dancing lights

Growing Up Disney, Osborne Lights
Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours! ~Amy

Monday, November 25, 2013

Five Photos: Mickey Meets Part 2

Growing Up Disney Five Photos

Last month, I posted a series of photos showing Growing Up Disney family members with our favorite mouse and highlighted his fabulous wardrobe. This month, I'd like to share images from our recent Walt Disney World vacation. Mickey was a big part of it, as you can see. 

Mickey Mouse in yellow bow tie, Mickey getting a kiss
Tink giving Mickey a smooch at the Disney Visa cardholders meet and greet. 

Talking Mickey with two little girls
Magician Mickey (I thought I shot video of this experience but didn't get it. Oh well, talking Mickey is interesting.)

Mickey Mouse at 'Ohana Breakfast
DisneyDad and Mickey were photobombed by an enthusiastic fan. 

Mickey ice cream bar
I wouldn't hug this version of Mickey, but it certainly makes me happy.

Safari Mickey Mouse in processional at Tusker House
Minnie helped Mickey lead the procession at Tusker House. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Walt Disney World: Epcot and Granddaughters

We just got back from a week at Walt Disney World.  This was a family trip.  DisneyDad and Mom with our adult kids, son-in-law, and granddaughters.  We stayed at our home-away-from-home Disney's Old Key West Resort and had a wonderful time.  Old Key West at dusk is absolutely beautiful as you can see below.  We love going this time of year for the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.

Growing Up Disney
Disney's Old Key West Resort
We tried out the new Magic Bands.  They seemed to work real well.  Door key, Annual Pass, Fast Pass, and room charge all on one "fashionable" bracelet with a Mouse Icon on it.  I didn't try to charge anything on it but it worked great for everything else.  No more trying to find the ID Card/door key when you get back late to the room.  Just touch the Magic Band to the door and open.  It was just as efficient entering the parks and going though the fast pass line.  (Amy had chosen our fast pass selections before we started our vacation on line.)

The Food & Wine Festival didn't work out like I had hoped. I didn't get to try much in the way of food.  It's hard to have a late breakfast with Princesses at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall and still "eat your way around the world".  Or have a late lunch at   LeCellier Steakhouse and have room for almost anything else.  But both meals were unforgettable.  I don't think I missed out on anything.

Amy had booked breakfast for our little princesses to visit with the Princesses at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway at Epcot.  It's an all you care to eat breakfast with  breads, fruit and smoked fish on the buffet and breakfast brought to the table, served family style.  The food was pretty good, but the "stars" were the pretty Princesses.

growing up disney

growing up disney
Amy had dressed the girls in matching Snow White dresses.  Both of them looked cute enough to eat.  Of course as Granddaddy, I may be just a bit prejudice.  :-)  The girls ate more than I expected and never missed a beat when one of the Princess came by the table.  They jumped up and down and couldn't wait to get a hug and autograph from them.  Akershus features a rotating list of princesses.  We saw Belle, Ariel, Aurora, Cinderella, and Snow White walking through the dining room.  We had reservations for 10:30 and were seated promptly after the girls had a PhotoPass picture (included in the price of breakfast) with Belle.

 Spherical Photo Akershus Royal Banquet Hall

Click on the photo above (or the restaurant name) to see a spherical photo of our table at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.  You can look around and see the dining room in an interactive 360 deg photo.

growing up disney
Three Snow Whites

The girls loved seeing all the Princesses but I think the seeing them dressed in their Snow White dresses with Snow White was extra special.  As much as I enjoy the Food & Wine Festival.  None of what they have could compare with seeing the girls with their favorite Princesses.  We finished up breakfast just after noon.  Mom and I walked around for a while and visited the Chase VIP Lounge.  It took all the way around to Canada before we fell like we could eat anything.  A Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup each and a shared beef filet was all we could manage. (Both were delicious.)

We spent one other day at Epcot.  Ridge took Andy, Mom and me to LeCellier for lunch to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary while Amy occupied the girls elsewhere.  The food was fabulous.  I had the best ever filet mignon, but that is for another post.

Epcot and Granddaughters.  A wonderful combination!


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Photo Flashback! Diane Disney Miller

 Diane Disney Miller
December 18, 1933 - November 19, 2013

If Mickey Mouse was Walt Disney's child, then Diane Disney Miller was his sister.  

Growing Up Disney would like to offer our condolences to Mrs. Miller's family.

Growing Up Disney
Diane Disney Miller

While all of us can only imagine, she truly did experience Growing Up Disney.


The Disney Letter "Q"
Quiet Rememberance

Focused on the Magic

Friday, November 15, 2013

Magical Blogorail: What to Do on Arrival Day at Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World arrival day tips

Welcome to the first stop aboard Magical Blogorail Red. Enjoy the ride as we share what we do on the day we arrive at the Disney parks.
Walt Disney World arrival day tips

We've tried various things over the years but my favorite thing to do on our arrival day at Walt Disney World is NOT MUCH! I know, I know. You are excited to be at WDW and want to hit the ground running but I suggest a slow start is the way to go.
Walt Disney World arrival day tips, Downtown Disney Lego Store

My family just got back on Sunday from 8 days at Walt Disney World. Our first day went quite well so let's walk through it. Our reservation at Old Key West (OKW) began on Sunday, November 3. We decided to break up the 650 mile drive and left on Saturday morning. We met my brother, Chris, near Savannah and caravanned to Jacksonville, FL for the night, using business travel points for the room. The girls got a chance, albeit brief, to play in the hotel pool in the evening and started Sunday with a good breakfast. My husband and brother cruised with the top down on Chris' Mustang and the girls enjoyed Disney movies while I drove the minivan. My parents had stayed in Kissimmee on Saturday night so they had already completed check-in at Old Key West and were doing some shopping. We all decided lunch at Olivia's Cafe was the way to go. I love their po boy, the guys are fans of the Duval Street burger, and the girls love the make-your-own ice cream sundae.

taking children to Walt Disney World
Ready to go to Walt Disney World!

driving a convertible to Disney World

make your own ice cream sundae at Olivia's Cafe, Old Key West, Disney World

After lunch, our room wasn't yet ready so we boarded a boat for Downtown Disney (DTD). Dad and Chris went to Guest Relations to buy Tables in Wonderland cards and the rest of us did some browsing. We let the girls ride the kiddie train and then my parents went back to OKW while the children played at the Lego Store. Minnie fell asleep on the bus and Tink voluntarily went to bed as soon as we got in the villa. Dad and Chris went grocery shopping for us all and brought home deli pizzas for dinner. Since the villas at OKW have full kitchens, it was easy to cook this simple meal. After dinner, my husband took the girls to the playground while I worked on a MagicBand issue with the front desk.

ferry boat from Old Key West to Downtown Disney

kids train at Downtown Disney

Fall at Downtown Disney, Pumpkin Mickey
Taking photos of a toddler is an unpredictable thing
Mr. Potato Head at Downtown Disney, Once Upon a Toy
Woody totally photobombed this shot
Movies by the pool at Old Key West, Disney World, Monsters University
Monsters University was playing near the pool and playground
We've tried hitting a park on the first night or making reservations for a character meal or shopping later than we should at DTD, but simply relaxing and getting settled in seems to work best. Allowing this time for the kids to not be strapped into a car seat and not waiting in line anywhere is helpful. Letting everyone chat and catch up is nice. Getting a bit of extra sleep before a tiring week is awesome.

Please leave a comment below and let me know what your family likes to do on your arrival day at Walt Disney World.

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is My Dreams of Disney.

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:

1st Stop ~ Growing Up Disney
2nd Stop ~ My Dreams of Disney
3rd Stop ~ Disney Donna Kay
4th Stop ~ Heidi's Head
Final Stop ~ A World View

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Photo Flashback! Three Snows

Snow White at Akershus, Norway, Epcot

We just returned on Sunday from a week's vacation at Walt Disney World.  I am totally that mom who dresses her girls alike.  I know it's cheesy but my time to do so is limited, it's easier to keep up with them in the parks, and hey, it's cute!  The girls were thrilled to meet Snow White at Akershus while wearing their Snow White dresses.

Focused on the Magic

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Photo Flashback! Main Street USA 360

Today's Flashback goes all the way back to yesterday.  A 360 view of Main Street.

Click HERE to view the 360 degree interactive photo!
You can look down Main Street in both directions - and all around!!

Focused on the Magic