Sunday, September 4, 2016

Disney Deja Vu

One of the amazing things about the brand that is Disney is that it has been part of American pop culture for more than 4 generations. 

Because I'm a baby-boomer, Walt Disney, all his creations and continuing legacy have been part of my life since I was a kid. 

I have hundreds of childhood memories built on the foundation of Disney films, songs, and TV shows.  

One of the main sources of material for this blog are the Disney memories that continue to happen for me as an adult. Most of those come from my fascination with and visits to the Walt Disney World theme parks. 

One of the things I like the most is when something Disney related happens to me as an adult that brings back a vivid memory from when I was a kid. I call those "compound memories." That happened to me this weekend. It was very spontaneous and included two key elements. 

On Saturday, I rediscovered a benefit of modern technology that I really haven't ever really used. The process began when I added a couple of product codes to my Disney Movie Rewards account. 

When they were confirmed not only did I get rewards points but I was advised that a couple of movies had been added to my "Disney Movies Anywhere" collection. 

Although I have set up this account within the last year I haven't ever really used it. I just don't find myself watching movies from mobile devices. There's a reason why I have a 60 inch HDTV with a blu-ray player in my living room. I enjoy the big screen experience.   

These days I watch a Disney movies mostly when my granddaughter visits. It's always her choice because I own and enjoy them all. So its usually, Frozen, The Aristocats, or (as she would say it) "Co-co-hontas". 

But because my plans for this upcoming week may find me away from my living room in a place where watching a Disney movie would be entertaining, the ability to access DMA suddenly become relevant to me. 

The second element in this spontaneous compound memory was something that happen for, the first time this summer, Saturday night. Paula and I spent the evening in our back yard enjoying a fire in our small fire pit. 

We made grilled sandwiches in the fire, watched the colored flames and just enjoyed being outside together.

At one point I picked up my phone to change the music but decided on something different. I accessed the DMA app thinking it would be so cool to watch a movie from my backyard. I chose to "The Jungle Book". 

I moved my lawn chair a bit closer to my wife, she put her head on my shoulder, creating our own romantic little outdoor theater. 

As soon as the movie started streaming
the memory of the first time I saw it came back to me. 

I remembered that as a 6 year old I went to the drive-in with my parents to see this movie that I was so excited about. 

The quality of the audio that came from my phone was very reminiscent of the "tin can" like sound that came from hardwired drive-in speakers. 

The atmosphere transported me back to the night I saw The Jungle Book for the first time. As I told my wife,  the only thing that was missing was the echo of the sound throughout the outdoor theater and the popcorn. 

For the next 40 minutes with the Love of My Life next to me, I remembered exactly why the last movie Walt Disney supervised is my all-time favorite Disney movie. And now I have a new heartfelt moment to add to the collection of memories connected to it. 

The experience of this compound memory lasted until right after the scene where Balloo & Bagerra rescue Mogili from King Louis. But it came to an abrupt end when my phone's battery ran out. 

It was time to let the fire die out, put up the chairs and head back into the house for the night. 

Although I can't share the details with you now this upcoming week holds the promise of a plethora of unique Disney experiences and memories. I pledge to share them with you soon. 

But for now I am happy that I got to tell you about my Disney Deja Vu that I shared with my sweetheart in our backyard on a holiday weekend. 

Ever had a compound Disney memory of your own? I'd like to hear about it; especially those that have happened outside a Disney park.  

I love it when a great Disney moment comes together. 












Monday, August 29, 2016

My Top 5 From The Last Ten

It's been a long time since my last post and I thought I should get back into giving y'all something to enjoy. 

BTW, I am going to do a follow-up regarding my last post in the near future. I will let everyone know when I do. Now, on to this post. 

After watching a Disney movie on the Freeform (used to be ABC Family) channel, I made a comment on the WDW Today Podcast's Nashville group Facebook page.

Part of what I wrote proclaimed that the film is probably my favorite Disney movie of the last decade. (2006-2016).

After commenting on my post, one of the 3 podcast hosts, Logan Sekulow, suggested that everyone post their own list of their top 5 favorite Disney animated movies (including Pixar) from the last 10 years.  

I was going to post my answer in the FB group page but I wanted to add some explanation for why the list is what it is.

Before I do that let me mention that, although I considered them, there's no Pixar films on my list. I was as surprised about this, myself. There are Pixar movies that I like but they are not my favorites and didn't make the list. 

Now in a countdown format here's my list. 

5. Bolt: This film has several elements that makes it a very good Disney film. First of all it's a "dog story." Disney has a long list of main or supporting canine characters in it's films over the years. John Travolta's Bolt does the tradition proud.  There's also lessons in: friendship, love and loyalty and learning your place in the world. I really like it. 

4. The Winnie The Pooh Movie: This 2011 film is a triumphant return for everyone's favorite honey loving bear and his friends.

 The search for a legendary creature stalking the 100 acre woods, and Zoey Dechannel's really fun songs (the "good-bye" song that plays during the end credits is an earworm waiting to happen)puts it on my list. 

3. Frozen: The animated mega hit has the right combination of a great story, likeable characters, and an amazing soundtrack. 

I don't know why but the when I saw this film for the first time the turn of Prince Hans in the third act took me totally by surprise. That's something that doesn't usually happen to me with a Disney film. 

I must confess, there is a special reason that this movie is so high on my list. My granddaughter loves this movie. Sharing that enjoyment has allowed me to make lifelong memories with her for more than 2 years. That's why I love Frozen. 

2. Wreck It Ralph: The originality of this one and the video game universe it's set in just fascinates me. There is so much in this film that I discover something new almost every time I watch it. There are a couple of scenes that are absolutely funny on a genius level. The puns, both visual and spoken, are plentiful. Some make me laugh out loud every time I watch them. 

The adventure the title character goes on as part of his search for respect and acceptance is something I think everyone can identify with.  

1. Tangled: This film has all Disney touches that makes it a classic. It's based on a well known fairy tale and has an evil and manipulative villain. There's a terrific animal character, shows that there's good in all people no matter how they look. Last but not least, there's romance, magic, and, best of all, music.

This movie was the holiday release the year I turned 50 years old. I was obsessed with the soundtrack for more than 6 months afterwards. 

It is by far my favorite Disney animated movie of the past 10 years. 

 So there you have my top 5 animated Disney movies of the last 10 years. Like most lists it's personal and very subjective. Yours may be totally different for reasons special to you. Let me know what they are. 


Monday, July 25, 2016

Do You Wanna Build A Castle?

I am a fan of a lot of different things. Pop music from the 60s & 70s; game shows; The New York Yankees; the popular sit-com, The Big Bang Theory; and the US Apollo space program just to name a few. 

But this post is about, what are, without a doubt, my top two favorite things. Through, what I presume is an expansion of an already existing licensing agreement they are creating, for the second time this year, something I find very exciting. Let me explain. 

Cinderella's Castle in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom Park is one of the most photographed places in America. 

The emotion you feel when seeing it in the distance from the far end of Main Street USA as you start your day at Disney World's most popular park in the quintessential experience for any Disney fan. 

To put it simply, other than Mickey Mouse, Cinderella's Castle is the ultimate Disney icon. 

Millions of dollars in merchandise with some type of representation of the castle on it is sold every year.

Later this summer (Sept 1) what could very well be the ultimate take-home representation of Cinderella's Castle will be released to the public. But you won't find it in a Disney Park. You'll find it at your local Lego Store. 
This is the Lego Disney's Cinderella's Castle Set #71040. It has 4080 pieces and is 29 inches high, 17 inches wide, and 12 inches deep. It is amazing in it's detail. Here is a picture of it in front of the real thing. 
As you can see it is awesome. You can read all the details about this set by searching for it on Lego.com. 

To be honest, when I first saw this set announced in my news feed online, I thought it was a fan built model. But when I found out it would be available to the public, I lost my mind. 

There is only one thing about this set that has me second guessing my "I want it yesterday" reaction. That's the price. 

If you want to have this amazing Disney World icon in your collection you will have to part with $350. 

As a Lego fan and collector that price has me back on my heels a bit. My initial reaction to it was "no thanks, too much for me". 

In the past couple of years I have passed on Lego sets based on the TV show, The Simpsons, because they were priced at $200. 

But then I did some research. I discovered that Lego has a tendency to price exclusive sets at a higher price. In addition to the Simpsons sets, I have seen sets in the Star Wars, Super Heroes, Lego Movie, Technic, Architecture and Creator brands priced between $200 & $400. 

To the right fan these sets might very well be worth the price. Not for me though. I'm either not a fan or they're too high priced.  

While this Castle set seems to be at the upper end of the price range for Lego, it looks like a great set and promises to be very popular. 

In addition, I have found out that when this set becomes available, Lego will reissue their Series 1 Disney Mini-Figures first marketed earlier this year. So not only will you get the 5 mini-figs with the Castle set (the Tinkerbell is an exclusive) but you can get 16 others as well. 

While Lego has produced sets with castles based on a licensed Disney IP before; they were all in their Disney Princesses line. 

With the creation of Cinderella's Castle, Lego veers off the path of making sets based on Disney characters and stories and ventures into the world of Disney Parks.

I can't help but wonder if this is a one time thing or are there going to be other Lego kits based on other Disney Park attractions?

Think of the possibilities. What truly dedicated Disney Park fan wouldn't want a Lego model of the Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain or even a Fantasmic set with a replica of the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater?

You have my permission to dream up your own set idea but don't get too excited about it. I haven't heard or read about plans for any Park based sets other than this one. That's just me wishing upon a star.  

Now back to the price point for the Cinderella's Castle set. I had to do a little research to possibly justify the purchase for me. I looked on the Shop Disney app for Castle models or figurines available in Disney World or Disney Stores for comparison. I found this figurine.

It is about half the size of the Lego set but is also $395. So there you have a comparison. 

Because of all the comments and reactions I've seen on social media, I know that this set is going to sell fast. I have an advantage in regard to this. 

As I mentioned earlier, the kit will become available to the public on September 1. But as a Lego VIP rewards club member I can buy it at the Lego Store on August 17. That's a big advantage as far as I'm concerned. 

So after much debate and consideration I believe I am going to invest in this special Lego Disney set. I know it's expensive but I think it will be worth the price. 

More than likely, I will be in front of the Lego store in Nashville at 10AM on August 17 to be one of the first to buy the Castle set. 

I am excited about this decision for a couple of reasons. I look forward to having it on display in my home to remind me of the Magic Kingdom all the time. But most of all I look forward to building the castle with my wife. We like to assemble kits together. Putting one that represents a place where we've made so many memories by ourselves and with our families will be a special experience. 

So what do you think? Are you excited about this Lego kit? Are you going to buy one? Let me know.  





Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Unique WDW Opportunity

Like most "over the top" Disney fans I am always looking for information to help me plan my next trip to Walt Disney World.

There are thousands of online websites and hundreds of podcasts, and lots of books available. It's just a matter of sorting them out to compose your "toolkit" that helps you with each trip to "The Vacation Kingdom."

The Touring Plans website (touringplans.com) is one of my favorites. Len Testa and his staff provide information that's very detailed. Being able to access a picture of the view from every hotel room on Walt Disney World property is just one example. You can subscribe for less than $15 a year. 

My favorite feature is the Crowd Calendar. It uses a formula (explained on the website) to estimate, on a scale of 1-10, how crowded each of the WDW parks will be on each and every day of the year. The higher the number the more people there will be in the parks that day. This is an important factor in planning and enjoyment of a Walt Disney World vacation. 

Back in the Spring, I learned that the estimate for September 9, my birthday, this year is a "1". This is very rare. In fact, that level is predicted only one other time in the next 365 days.  

A day in the Magic Kingdom with a relatively small crowd would be the ultimate in access to attractions and getting around. The fact that it would be on my birthday, to me, is more than a coincidence; its an opportunity. 

One of the things on my Walt Disney World bucket list is going a park by myself. Not that I don't enjoy going with my wife or my kids. But being in the Magic Kingdom with the option of doing only I want, at my pace, is very appealing to me.     

If it were not for such a compelling low crowd level forecast I wouldn't even think about going. But spending my birthday in a Disney Park for the second time (thanks to the generosity of my wife, in 2010, I got to spend my 50th birthday in the Magic Kingdom) would be something special. Crossing "solo trip" off my list would be cool too. 

If I do go it will be my 3rd visit to Walt Disney World in less than a year. This will mean that I've used up my bank of trips to Disney for at least a few years. 

What am I going to do? Keep checking back with this blog. I'll let you know very soon. 



 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Changes In Walt Disney World

It's been a couple of weeks since I finished my series about my March visit to Walt Disney World. That vacation was just a little over 100 days ago. 

I am still sharing memories of our days at Disney World with my granddaughter. We talk about it every time she comes for a visit. 

I am also still working on organizing the nearly 2000 pictures we took during our trip. Both of those things keep the spirit of our latest family Disney experience alive and makes my "heart grow fonder" in my absence from the parks.  

Then of course there's the Disney themed vidcasts and podcasts I watch and listen to each week that keep me in touch with what's happening in Disney World. There's also Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

This past week those social media outlets were bombarded with news and videos surrounding the opening of several major attractions and entertainment offerings around "The World." 

As I read all the posts this week, I started to think about all the other new things that have come to the resort in the 3 plus months since me and my family were there.  

Here are 10 significant changes that have taken place at Walt Disney World since March 10, the last day I was there. I will be counting them down in what I consider, order of significance and expounding on what I think of them. 

10. New Magic Band "Special Surprises" have been reported at Mission Space, Magic Mountain, and Rock N' Rollercoaster. 
The reason I listed this as the #10 change is because I am not a big "must stay on property" guy or fan of magic bands. 

But if, like my son, Michael, you are one who believes that staying on property is an essential part of the Disney World experience and always wear a magic band, this may "special surprise" perk may be something you will like. 

I believe it's aimed at families because it has a greater impact when its experienced with a group or by younger children who can read.
  
9. STK, D-Luxe Burgers, Aristo Crepes, BB Wolf Sausage Co. Amorettes Patissorie, Sprinkles and other food venues open at Disney Springs.
The project to transition Downtown Disney into Disney Springs started over 3 years ago. 

So it's good for the project that these new food venues are now open in the area. Unfortunately, for me, they are probably either too expensive or too "fancy". 

But I'm going to keep an open mind and at least check out some of them next time I'm at Disney Springs. 

8. There's A New Magic Kingdom Castle Show. 
"Dream Along with Mickey", the show that was there when we visited ended on April 3 after nearly a 10 year run. The new show, "Mickey's Royal Friendship Faire", debuted just this past week, on June 17.

I understand that it is a very good replacement. I haven't watched the video of the new show but I probably will before too long.

7. Toy Story Midway Mania Has a 3rd Track
During our trip we were lucky enough to score a Fast Pass for this ride and only waited 10-15 minutes in line. 

With the May 25 opening of the additional ride track the previously exceptionally long waits in the stand-by lines (as high as 90 minutes) have been lowered significantly. According to a June 25 article on the Orlando Sentinel's website waits have averaged less than an hour over the last month. This makes the wait a little more manageable for guests and worth the time investment. 

6. Frozen Princesses Meet & Greet Moves To Epcot.
This change is linked directly to another that will be closer to the top of the list.

Princess Fairytale Hall was where Aria met Anna & Elsa during our trip. We got there rather early in the day and our wait was minimal. 

But throughout the time of their residency there the wait time for this Meet & Greet has been up to 2 or 3 hours. But that's changed now.  

As of June 21st the royal family of Arendelle have left that venue and are now in the Norway Pavilion in Epcot. 

While it may be directly linked to the popularity of the other new Norway attraction, the wait times that I've seen for the Royal Sommerhaus, the new M&G location, have been a lot shorter.  

5. "Soarin" Reopens With A New Film and a 3rd Theater
I have only ridden "Soarin" once during my 50th birthday trip in September 2010. I didn't ride it again because of the long wait time. It's historically been a high as 3 hours. 

Over the last couple of years the quality of this ride, especially the film, had deteriorated. 
Now after a lengthy rehab and the addition of a 3rd theater the wait times have come down significantly.  


4. Town Center Opens In Disney Springs
One of the biggest pieces to the Disney Springs puzzle, Town Center, opened on May 15 with 21 stores; with more coming this summer. 

From what I've seen and heard it has the place feels more like an outlet mall than anything else. Perhaps the best thing about this area opening is that the Lime parking garage is now open too.  
3. New Star Wars Fireworks Show Debuts 
At Disney Hollywood Studios
"Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular" a new and exciting fireworks show proves even more that Disney is aggressively looking to drawl Star Wars fans to the studios sooner than later. 

The projections on the Chinese Theater brings the Studio's closing event into the same league with those at the Magic Kingdom. I can't wait to see this one.

2. "Frozen Ever After" Opens In Norway Pavilion
After two years of construction, the Frozen themed ride opened in World Showcase on June 21. 

On opening day the stand-by line waiting time was as long as 5 hours. As I write this on the weekend after the opening it's currently 2 1/2 hours.

There have also been reports of delays due to the ride not working right as well.  

This attraction means a different dynamic for the entire World Showcase. Just how that happens and what the new "norm" for visiting Epcot will be is going to be interesting to watch.  

1. The Way Fast Pass Plus Works In My Disney Experience. 
The limits and perimeters of booking Fast Pass Plus reservations through the My Disney Experience App at the time of our March vacation was very limiting. But I learned how to work the system and made the best of it. 

A couple of weeks after we were back home changes and a new freedom for booking FP+ times on the app was announced. 

You can now book for times for one, two, or three attractions at a time. Changing those times is easier too. 

But best of all, is the change that allows a guest to book additional Fast Passes from the app instead of having to visit a kiosk in the park. 

These changes aren't very useful to me now but they will be when it comes time to plan my next trip. As of now I have no idea when that will be. 

So there you have, what I consider to be the to the 10 most important changes at or in Walt Disney World since my last visit. If you want information or details about any of these changes, there are plenty of resources online. You can read news, articles and reviews, as well as watch videos and more.  

As I mentioned, at this point I have no idea when my next visit to Disney World, or even Florida for that matter, will be. 

That means the way I access, gather, and use news and information about Disney will take a different perspective for a while but I'll explain that in a little more detail in my next post. 


















Wednesday, June 8, 2016

WDW Trip 2016-Part 13: Shopping & Heading Home

It took 6 days, 4 Parks, and the anticipation of the 13 hour drive back to Kentucky to get one of our 5 "survivors" to drop out of the Disney Vacation game. Let me explain. 

Once we got back to our vacation home from our last day at the Magic Kingdom, James and Brandi realized that they hadn't done a lot of the souvenir shopping they needed to do. Of course the best place for that is Disney Springs. 

They decided that they were going there to get the things they needed to take home to friends and family. 

Paula said she was going to stay at the house because she was just too tired to face walking that much again. I totally understood. 

After spending a day of our December vacation in the newly rethemed shopping district, I was pretty familiar with this area of Disney World. So I decided to go along with the kids as a guide. I also wanted a specific type of souvenir that could only be purchased at a Disney Springs specialty shop. 

We parked in the orange parking garage near the section of Disney Springs called "The West Side" and headed east toward the Landing Dock area. 

Now in hindsight, I should have gotten us to the Marketplace area the same way Paula & I got there back in December; by way of the water taxi but I didn't. The reason being, I thought walking there would give them the chance to see as much of Disney Springs as they could. That turned out not to be the best of ideas. Sorry Brandi & James. 

The first order of business was to find a place to get something to eat. But all the places that offered something for everyone were all the way over in the Marketplace area.  

It was almost half a mile walk to get there. The first couple of restaurants we went to were really crowded with a long wait to get in. We even went to the T-Rex restaurant but the wait was just as long. 

We ended up waiting in line for about 20 minutes at Wolfgang Puck's Express. Paula and I ate there back in December and we really liked it. 

I had the mac & cheese, 
Brandi had the rotisserie chicken,
I don't remember what James or Aria had. 

After we ate it was time to go shopping. The places I knew they would find what they were looking for were back in the direction we came from. The  store that sold the souvenir I specifically came for was in the opposite directon at the east end of the Market Place. 

I split up with them. They went to do their shopping and I went to Disney Design-A-Tee shop. There I used one of their ordering kiosks to make my own customized Disney t-shirt.  The order would take about an hour to process so I headed back down to meet up with James & Brandi.     

I found them at the "Once Upon A Toy" Store.
It was this stop that gave me a couple of last minute memorable Disney vacation moments with my granddaughter. 

While James & Brandi shopped I volunteered to entertain Aria. Even though she had a busy day at the Magic Kingdom, she was still full of energy. I couldn't get her to focus on any of the toys. Because she was in such a strange place all she wanted was her mommy & daddy. 

I took her outside the store where there was a fountain with streams of water that came out of the ground. Here's a picture to show you what it looks like. 

I just wanted to sit and watch the water. She immediately wanted to go running through it. 
I didn't know if Brandi would be upset if I let her get wet. 

Certainly, I couldn't make her just sit there with me. So I came up with an alternative. I told her I would take a video of her running as fast as she could to the edge of the fountain and back. I would record a video on my phone that she could show her Nana. She bought into that. 
video

Soon Brandi came out and joined us. I told her that I had to discourage Aria from getting into the fountain cause it was getting cooler. 

She had no problem with her getting wet. So once her mommy told her it was okay, off Aria went into the fountain. The intermittent timing of the water streams eventually got her. 
  video

Well, as anyone who has a four year old knows, whatever you let them do what they want, they eventually want to "kick it up a notch". So Aria got the great idea that it would be more fun with her and me to go through the fountain together. "Come on Papa" she said.

I really didn't want to get wet but I couldn't deny the chance to make this memory. So I devised a plan to have fun with my granddaughter but not end up soaked. 
        video
As you can see I was successful. What a lot of fun it was. Aria had a ball and I have a memory to add to my vacation collection. 

If there is a "Mecca" for shopping for Disney merchandise, it was our next destination; the World of Disney store. 

If there's something you want that has anything to do with almost any Disney character this is the place. It is a huge store. 
Here's a link to a You Tube video tour of the store, compliments of "Everything Disney Shopping". World Of Disney Tour

The first thing on our agenda was to get a towel so my granddaughter could dry off and keep warm. Once that was done we browsed around looking for other things. 

I bought some things but to tell you the truth I don't remember all of it. I know I picked up a snow globe with 2016 on it. 

But the two things I really wanted in World of Disney I didn't buy...at least right then. 
I thought these two character night lights were very cool. Paula would love the Tinkerbell...

...And Of course Lumier is one of my favorite Disney friends. 

I wanted to get them but they were kind of on the expensive side. At the end of a week of spending "mucho deniro" I just couldn't justify it. Even the inner monologue that whispered "you're in Disney, just go for it" couldn't over ride my concern for the "when all is said and done" bank account balance. 

But it really wasn't a "get or forget it" decision. The pictures I took would help me remember to revisit these souvenirs by way of the Disney Merchandise phone app from home later on. Both are now part of our Disney collection.    

Next we stopped by the Wetzel's Pretzels adjacent to the Waterside Stage. There was some kind of dance contest being hosted by a couple of DJs on stage and the crowd was having a very good time. We sat and watched them for a while.  

Once we finished our snacks it was off to the Lego Store. 
We walked around the entire store and Aria got something to take home. Believe it or not, I didn't find anything I wanted or didn't have already. 

Having been to all the shopping destinations on our list it was now time to think about going back to the house. But first I had to go pick up my special t-shirt. 

Along the way, Aria spotted a train ride near "Once Upon A Toy". She wanted to ride it but insisted that James go it with her. It provides the second daddy/daughter moment of the day. 

Unfortunately, because of the file size limitations on blogspot I can't upload the video here. But it is now on my You Tube channel. Click on this Link: 
Aria's Disney Springs Train Ride

Once we were back in the Market Place area, we split up again. I went to get my t-shirt. My first customized Goofy t-shirt, which I got back in December, was grey, had a picture of Goofy in the center and had the phrase: When They Say I'm a Goofy Guy... They're Right In Several Ways. 

This time I decided to go with the same type of message but approach it from a different direction. Here's my new Goofy t-shirt. 


 I'm particularly proud of this shirt and it's printing for several reasons:

  • It's a phrase with a double meaning
  • It's a pun on a popular adage
  • It explains that a lot of my admiration for Goofy is most likely the reason why I sometimes don't act my age. (sometimes?)
  • It has a reminder of when & where I got it

 I once again reunited with the kids at the Goofy's Candy Co. store.
What a sugar filled wonderland this place is. As far as sweets are concerned, you name it they have. I took advantage of the opportunity to stock up on some of  my favorite flavor Jelly Belly Beans: Dr. Pepper.
Of course, I also got a bag of Paula's favorite flavors for her too.

Well, the time had come to go home. I think we all had hit the wall of exhaustion. So I suggested that we do something going to get back to the car that would be easier and faster for all of us.

We left the Market Place and headed down the dock walkway near the DVC property, Saratoga Springs. 


We got on board a water taxi and rode it across the to the West Side. The cast member piloting the boat was very friendly. I asked him a question about Seven Seas Lagoon (don't remember what it was). He answered it and went on to give me a very informative oral history of the lake. 

We got off the boat at the West Side dock next to the House of Blues. We headed to the orange garage, found our cars, and headed back to the house. Thus ended the last day of our Walt Disney World vacation. 

On Friday morning we got up finished packing, loaded up the cars and left the vacation home. Brandi and James left before us. They were just a bit ahead of us about half way home but we caught up with them around Atlanta. 

Speaking of Atlanta, We hit the city about rush hour; not a good time on a Friday afternoon. I decided to try and take the by pass around the city. But it was not a good idea. With the traffic and the construction detours it took us about an hour to get through the area. 

The rest of the drive home was uneventful but very long. Finally after about a 13 hour drive we pulled into our home driveway at 10:45 PM. So glad to be home. 

The trip odometer on the Kia displayed the final total distance we had traveled. 
If you add that to the miles of our December 2015 trip it means we've traveled just under 3400 miles between Kentucky and Florida in a span of 3 months. 

I know this 13 part series has been rather detailed (understatement?). I've also shared a lot of personal insights as well. I'm glad that now have a written record of Aria's first trip to Disney World. Something I'm hoping one day she can read and remember for herself. 

I am glad that I was able to plan as much of the trip as I did. It wasn't the perfect plan but it did work for the most part and made it a better trip. It also got me familiar with the My Disney Experience app and using Fast Pass Plus; technology I had been avoiding since it was introduced. Now I know it can be helpful. 

Regrettably, even after 4 trips to Disney World, I have yet to discover a way to balance things enough so that it is not totally exhausting.

I know it's possible because I've listened to lots of people on lots of podcasts who have done it. But I've yet to find that "sweet spot" for myself and my fellow travelers. I could go on but that's a discussion for another post. 

This trip was the first time we'd ever been to Disney with a young child. When James went with us for the first time he was a teenager. Having Aria along made it totally different from any of the other 3 and by far the most sentimental. 

I guess the appeal of Walt Disney World is that there are so many things to do and experience that each and every visit holds the potential to be unique. The place is constantly evolving but that's also being accompanied by cost and price increases. The price point for those unique experiences makes it more and more difficult to feel like you've gotten your value for your dollar. Again, that's another post.  

Because of the diversity of all my Disney trips I am optimistic about future trips with both of my grandchildren. I'm thinking maybe in about 5 years.  

Thank you for being a part of this reliving of what will be my favorite vacation for a long time to come. Hope you enjoyed it. If you have any comments, questions, or things you want to share about your Disney experience get in touch with me on Facebook (facebook.com/ron.havens.50), Twitter(@RHFactors909), or email (RHavenw1423@aol.com).
I'm looking foward to hearing from you. For now this is Goofy Guy 909 wishing you a magical day.   
















Saturday, June 4, 2016

WDW Trip 2016-Part 12: One More Day In The Kingdom

Blogger's note: Since I'm writing this post nearly 2 months after our trip, I must admit something. While I do remember what we did in Fantasyland during this visit, I'm not sure if I recall the exact order. If anyone who was with me remembers it differently, I apologize. This is the way I believe it happened. 

After 6 days in Florida and a long night in Epcot we had one last park admission left on our tickets. Where we would go on our last day? That had been decided even before we left Kentucky. 
Back before Paula & I decided to go along Brandi had started making trip plans on her own. She got lucky enough to get advanced dinning reservations in New Fantasyland  for an11AM lunch at the Be Our Guest restaurant. 

We arrived at the TTC a little behind schedule. By the time we passed through the train station tunnel it was already 10:45. There was only 15 minutes to get to the restaurant. 

Brandi & James got into the park ahead of us so they headed straight for the Beast's Castle.

Speaking of "castles", let me take this opportunity to show you something that really bothered us during our two visits to the Magic Kingdom. 
No Cinderella's Castle did not grow an extra spire on the right side. That's a construction crane towering above the popular park icon. It's not really that big a deal but it does kind of take away from the magic of the pictures a bit. 

Now back to the start of our day. 

Although the original reservation was made just for 3 people; Paula and I could have probably gone with Brandi, James and Aria and gotten into eat with them. But we decided not to go. We had something else on our agenda.  More on that coming up. 

Here are some of the pictures Brandi took during their BOG experience. 





While Brandi and James were having their lunch, Paula and I headed to Adventureland. 
Our destination was not an attraction or a restaurant, it was a snack. 

All week long Paula had been wanting a Dole Whip.  She had her first one when we were visiting the Polynesian resort during our anniversary trip last December. She got hooked right away. I had promised her that we'd get one before we left for home. 

It was a very warm sunny day in the Magic Kingdom and Paula wanted to get a hat to protect her from the sun. We stopped at the Agrabah Bazaar souvenir shop where she picked up a yellow hat that had a light aqua colored ribbon around it. 
Now, this may seem like an ordinary hat but let assure you this is a sun shade with a story. One that gave our day in the MK just a bit more excitement. 

You see, the hat is rather light weight and has no means to secure it to your head. No ribbon or string to go under the chin or anything. 

As we walked around the park that afternoon the South Florida breeze picked up. A couple of times while we were walking along the wind got underneath the brim of Paula's hat blowing it off her head. Sending it scurrying along the ground behind her.

Here's where my limitations became an asset. Because of my bum left leg, I walked a lot slower than anyone else who was with me. I usually found myself behind the rest. Making sure I didn't too far behind them, Paula occasionally dropped back to make sure I was okay; walking with me a lot of the time. 

So when the wind tried to take her rather expensive hat (after all it was purchased in a Disney gift shop)by blowing it off her head and shuttling it along the ground, luckily, I was a couple of paces behind. 

I reacted with lightening quick reflexes (come, give me this one, ok?) and stepped on the brim of the hat, saving it from ending up in the park's lost & found collection. 

This sequence happened about 3 times during the day. The hat was still with Paula when we left the park. Needless to say when it came to her hat, I was her hero.  

On our way through Adventureland to get our treat, I decided that we'd stop and see the show at Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room. 

We had visited this attraction on our first trip back in 2004. But since then a fire had damaged the building. After the refurbishment the "Under New Management" show featuring Yago from Aladdin was replaced by the original show as it had been when the attraction opened in 1971. 

I had seen the video of the show and listened to the soundtrack, many times and I wanted to experience it for myself. 

We went in and found seats the last row close to the exit and got ready to enjoy the show that features 225 autoanimatronics. I really liked Jose', Pierre, and Fritz and Michael, the four Macaws, the main characters.  
There were also Birds of Paradise...
And chanting Tiki statues.
I totally enjoyed the show. Paula, who was not familiar with this version said she liked the show with Yago better. 

I can understand that but for those of us Baby Boomers who grew up seeing "Uncle Walt" on TV talking about Disneyland and all its attractions this was a time warp back to our childhood. 

After 10 minutes of jokes, singing, and special effects the show was over. Paula immediately change gears and got into her "I want my Dole Whip" mode. 

Fortunately, the one place in the Magic Kingdom to get a Dole Whip, The Aloha Island counter service restaurant is right outside the Tiki Room building. The Dole Whip is an extremely popular, almost legendary, pineapple flavored frozen dessert treat at Walt Disney World. It is delicious. 
While we were enjoying our treat we got a call from Brandi & James. They were finished with their lunch at BOG and wanted to meet up in Fantasyland. We finished our Dole Whips and headed that way. 

When we found the Conner family they were on their way to The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh ride. But just as they went to get in line the attraction broke down. The cast member at the turnstiles told them to come back in an hour. 

I checked my Lines app on my phone and saw that "It's A Small World" only had a short wait time. I really wanted Aria and Brandi to see this iconic attraction.  

We walked back into Fantasyland to into the stand line of Small World. Less than 10 minutes later we were getting in our boats. Paula and I sat in back of the kids and it was fun to watch Aria's reaction to each and every room that we floated into. 

But it was the last room where signs with word for "good-bye" in many languages are on display that made this ride a memorable one. 

This was the first day that video monitors, which had replaced the signs, were displaying personalized departure greetings to guests wearing Magic Bands as they passed by. 

I won't get into a lengthy explanation as to how this happens. Just let me say that it involves information shared by a guest on their Disney account which is linked to their Magic Bands.  

It may not seem like much but its the first step in Disney's effort to make the guest's visit more personal; increase the value of their vacation.

After riding "Small World" I saw that there was almost no wait for Mickey's Philharmagic. We went inside and chilled for a while. 

After the show, Paula and I went off on our own again, but I don't remember why. I think it was to use the rest room. 

We headed back to the Winnie The Pooh ride but it was still down. We found Brandi sitting on a wall next to the Mad Tea Party attraction. 

Aria decided she wanted to ride the "spinning cups" so James was in the Mad Tea Party line with her. I decided to go on too. But I couldn't get cut the line to ride with them. But I did get a picture of their ride and one of the best "daddy/daughter" moments of the trip. 
Here's a couple of selfies I took proving I was also on the ride and that Disney cast members love photo bombing guests. 


Once our adventures on the tea cups were finished the 3 of us rejoined Brandi & Paula who were still sitting on the wall right outside the attraction. 

James went off to find Brandi something to drink so she could settle her stomach. 

As 4 year old has a tendency to do, Aria was exploring her surroundings while we waited. 

As she entertained herself along the top of the wall out from underneath the plants behind us came a little tiny lizard. 

My granddaughter, who loves almost any kind of animal, was fascinated. 
I sat right next to her and helped her "play" with the tiny reptile; encouraging her to be quite and still so it would stick around. Soon after a few minutes something "spooked" the critter and it raced away back into the plants. 

Aria was a little disappointed that her new friend was gone but it didn't last long. Soon she was on to something else. I think it was the specialty frozen drink her daddy brought back for her mom.  

Finally, we headed back to the Winnie The Pooh ride. The experience with this ride was memorable for me because I got to spend most of it with or near Aria. Now I know that seems a bit strange because I'd been with her all week. But I mean "with her" in the same way we interacted on Tuesday afternoon in the pool. 

We were happy to see that the ride was now up and running. There was about a 20 minute wait in the standby line. Brandi explained to the cast member why we were back and he let us go in through the Fast Pass line. 

We did have a wait in to get on but only a few minutes. I didn't mind. I got to stand next to Aria and play with her a little bit in the queue. 

This is one of my favorite Aria pictures of the whole vacation. Not only did she find a place to sit while waiting for her trip through the Hundred Acre Wood, it shows the outfit she wore to the park that day. I bought it for her specifically for her first trip to visit Mickey. 

When it came time to climb into our Hunny Pots, Aria climbed onto my lap to ride with her Papa. It would be the only ride she shared with me and Paula during our trip and I'll always remember it. 

It was about this time of day that I realized we needed to head toward the front of the park. We were going to try to return to our spot in Town Square to watch the afternoon parade. 

We were leaving Fantasyland for the last time when we all agreed that it was about time for us to have something to eat. 

Since we were on the north side of Tomorrow-land I suggested that we stop at Ray's Starlight Cafe. I wanted Aria to see Sonny Eclipse. 

Unfortunately the restaurant was rather crowded and we couldn't find a table down in the area where you could see the singing wise-cracking autoanimatronic. We ended up with a table in the section just inside the north end of the building. 

Our lunch was good but nothing special or unusual.

After we finished eating, as had become a very beneficial habit, I checked the wait times on the Lines app just to see if there was anything we could catch or do on the way to the front of the park. I saw that there was a less than 15 minute wait to meet Tinkerbell down at the Town Hall. 

The Neverland fairy was the only character on Aria's list that she had not yet met. I suggested that I go find us a spot to watch the parade and they go take Aria to meet Tink. 

Somewhere along the walk down Main Street USA, Aria got herself a helium balloon featuring a classic Mickey head inside a clear balloon. 

James went to off to get coffee, the girls went to the meet & greet, and I went to find a parade watching spot. More on that last one in a bit. 

Inside Town Hall, Aria was getting her autograph book signed,... 
...posing with a Disney character,...
...and smiling with happiness one last time.  

I was a little surprised that the Town Square and train station area were as crowded as they were for the afternoon parade. 

I had to get us a spot before they were all taken. I finally managed to get a place just to the right of the entrance tunnel walk way. It was behind a trash can, between a snack cart and a white line of tape on the ground marking a parade specific boundary. If you are familiar with the Magic Kingdom, look at the picture below. You may be able to get a perspective as to where I was.  
I made a little small talk with the cast member directing guests away from the "keep clear" area beyond the white line. It was an emergency exit way into the tunnel.   

Soon the area where I was started filling in as well. I was getting nervous about being able to save the spot. But then James showed up with the 3 girls close behind. 

The Festival Of Fantasy is one of the most popular parades to be introduced into the Magic Kingdom in quite a few years. It is a spectacular show with floats featuring characters from some of Disney's most popular and classic stories. 

Because of where we were standing we couldn't take very good pictures. But here are a few of the better ones.





Just from the pictures taken with our phone cameras you can see how magnificent the elements of this parade are. 

For me the outstanding thing was the Maleficent dragon. It's a 53 feet long, 26 feet high articulated sculpture that breathes fire; extremely impressive. 

There is nothing that is not colorful and full of whimsy in this parade. Even the dancers and entertainers in between the floats have amazingly vivid colorful costumes.

I have to share with you some of the pictures of the Festival of Fantasy participants that I got as part of our Memory Maker photo package from Disney. 

                         













Once the parade floats were all safely tucked away back stage after exiting the park by way of the gate next to the fire station, it was time for us to say "good-bye" to the Magic Kingdom. 

Ironically, I didn't get emotional about leaving the place "where unforgettable happens." Well, at least I didn't get as sentimental as I usually do. I guess I was too tired to be. But what great memories we had made over our 2 days there. 

Once we were through the exit gates we decided to get back to the TTC by boat rather than monorail. We got aboard the Admiral Joe Fowler riverboat. 

It was about a 10 minute ride across Seven Seas Lagoon passing all the Magic Kingdom resorts. 

Soon we were past the Grand Floridian and the Polynesian. I looked back and in the distance I saw the train station where, just 5 days earlier we started out watching the Kingdom's opening ceremony, and the spires of Cinderella's Castle. I've already shared all the magic and memories that happen there.
Soon we were docking at the TTC and it was time to head back to the car. As I looked back at the dock, the riverboat, the lake, and the panoramic view of the heart of Walt Disney World, that's when the sentimentality kicked in.    
I couldn't help but be happy about what we had done, a little sad that it was over, glad that we were heading home, and optimistic. 

The optimism stemming from the hope that perhaps in another 5 years or so, we can come back and have a new type of vacation with Aria when she's older and another "first visit" with our new grandchild. 

While our time at the parks was over and our minds had started to switch over into "its a long drive home" mode, we still had one more place in Walt Disney World left to visit. We were going to a place that Paula fell in love with during our December 2015 anniversary trip. Yes, we were going shopping. Make sure you check back for the details. 

Coming up in the final chapter: Return to Puck's, Papa in the fountain, a stroll through the "World of Disney" and the road to the Grove.