Monday, May 31, 2010

Dear Disney

Dear Disney Channel,

Um, you know that there are demographics other than 8- 12 year-old girls, right?


Flipping through the channels the other night, I had a “those were the days” moment.  Feeling a little nostalgic for some Disney programming, I decided to see what was coming up on the Disney Channel.  Here’s what I found:

From 4:30 A.M. – 11:30 A.M. is the preschool programming, Handy Manny’s, Little Einsteins, Imagination Movers, etc.

From 12:00 P.M.  – 4:00 A.M. is a pre-teen girl’s heaven: Sonny With a Chance, Wizards of Waverly Place, Hannah Montana, and the like. 

First of all, who is letting their kids watch Suite Life on Deck at 2:30 in the morning?

More importantly however, I think it would be lovely if Disney would consider returning the Disney Channel to family programming, instead of using it as a marketing machine for whatever young “talent” they are hoping to promote.  I realize that I probably sound like a crotchety “get off my lawn” old man, but I remember when the Disney Channel appealed to adults as well as children. 

Do you recall when they used to do a featured artist of the month?  I personally lived for Hayley Mills month!  Or how about the series “Walt Disney World Inside Out”?  While I never really understood why George Foreman was a host, I still loved getting a regular peek at the parks.  And let’s not forget “Vault Disney”, an entire block of time dedicated each day to Disney classics.

What really kills me about the Disney Channel programming is that it just seems like a waste.  Disney has all of these fabulous properties sitting around unused, but instead of airing them, they’d rather show five episodes of Good Luck Charlie in a 24-hour period (I am not exaggerating).   I’m not saying Disney has to get rid of their current programs.  Just don’t show the same episodes of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody three times a day.  Use some of those blocks of time to insert the following:

The original Mickey Mouse Club – Baby Boomers are about the biggest demographic ever.  Re-airing the original MMC could bring you a huge viewing audience!

Classic Disney Films – It is a sin and a shame that I have a way better chance of catching these on the Hallmark Channel than the Disney Channel.  And Disney has an enormous cache of them, many all but forgotten.  Why not use your own channel as a vehicle to reintroduce these to the market?

Behind the scenes looks at the Disney Parks – Come on, Disney.  You know you have a huge base of theme park fans clamoring for this.  We order the vacation planning DVDs just for viewing entertainment.  We watch the specials on the Travel Channel dedicated to the Disney parks and hotels so often that we can quote them verbatim, all the while wishing that they would actually tell us something we don’t already know. Do you have any idea how insanely popular a show that gave us honest-to-goodness backstage information could be?

But enough about what I want.  What would you like to see aired on the Disney Channel?  Let me know over at!  

Friday, May 28, 2010

Backstory: The Wildest Ride in the Wilderness

No one emphasizes story as well as Disney does.  If you think otherwise, you’re reading the wrong blog.  But there are times that story is going on all around you, and you may not realize it.  A great example of this is Walt Disney World’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a thrilling ride on a runaway mine train. This is "the wildest ride in the wilderness," as the passenger-laden train dashes in and out of mysterious desert caverns, and then shoots through what must be a haunted gold mine. Among the fleeting sights along the way is Tumbleweed, an 1880s boomtown smack in the middle of the Wild, Wild West. The surrounding landscape has a Southwestern flavor, reminiscent of the rugged and wind swept spires, gorges and natural arches that dominate Arizona's strikingly beautiful Monument Valley.  But there’s so much more to it than that.

You see, Disney legend has it that the story of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and the BTM Mining Company date from the early days of America's first major Gold Rush. In 1848, gold was discovered near John A. Sutter's Mill in California. News quickly spread back to the east coast, and by 1849, many thousands of first time miners, boomers, gamblers, tinhorns and scofflaws rushed westward to strike it rich in the gold and silver fields. A handful of these rough and tumble prospectors became millionaires almost overnight, but most just ended up going bust. When glitter was discovered in the Big Thunder region during the 1850s, it was thought to be one of the richest strikes west of the Mississippi. A mining company was quickly established, taking its name from that given to the local outcropping of red and orange-colored rock formations. However, dreams of gold rarely come without cost. Big Thunder Mountain had stood sentinel for centuries over a desolate land that the nearby residents believed to be sacred. Local lore spoke of a protective supernatural force that dwelt deep within the mountain. Those who ventured too close were doomed to feel its wraith. Mining work near Big Thunder went without incident at first. But, as the easy pickings began to pan out, the miners were forced to dig deeper and deeper into the mountainside. In their quest for ever more gold, they began using highly volatile explosives to blast ragged holes into the hard rock. Huffing and puffing mine trains began to add to the rumble and vibration exploding across the landscape. Then the inexplicable began to happen. Strange, eerie noises echoed through newly opened shafts.

Greenhorn miners began to hear Tommy knockers, the spirits of long dead miners, tapping from inside the boarded walls of abandoned tunnels. Cave-ins became frequent. Equipment failed. And then the narrow-gauge engines began rolling out of the makeshift station with no human hand at the control. Entire trains, most times packed with unsuspecting passengers, would race driverless, at break-neck speed, along the spiraling steel and wooden track. Ghost trains! The miners began whispering that maybe the locals were right. Maybe the mountain was inhabited by a spirit of its own. Maybe the mine was haunted. They left in droves, returning to their former occupations as soldiers, sailors, sodbusters and cowhands. The operation went bust and Big Thunder became just another ghost town. Thirty years drifted by and the local myths and legends about Big Thunder were swept from the memory of all but a few who could still recall why the area had been abandoned. A new gold rush took hold in the 1880s, and the boomtown of Tumbleweed was established in Dry Gulch at the foot of Big Thunder Mountain. Although the little settlement suffered from bouts of arid weather, the arrival of Professor Cumulus Isobar, "Rainmaker Extraordinaire and Purveyor of Magical Elixirs," always guaranteed that his customers would not go dry for long. Sometimes it even chanced to rain while he was in town, enhancing his reputation, and usually resulting in a flash flood, if the ground refused to absorb the rainfall because it had baked too long and hard in the sun. A new batch of boomers, drillers and prospectors re-outfitted the BTM Mining Company office. They started grubstake operations up again, blasting and drilling once more into the untapped veins of Big Thunder Mountain. But, as visitors to the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad soon experienced for themselves, sometimes folklore turns out to be more than myth, and those who ignore the past are doomed to repeat it.

There are some fun sight gags to keep an eye on as you ride that can help clue you in to the story.  Even as a train pulls in to the station, it becomes apparent that there is no engineer at the throttle. The passengers board, no doubt with some trepidation, and are warned by the western twang of an unseen old miner (voiced by the late Dallas McKennon) to hold onto their hats when the train departs the station. Unexpectedly, the little locomotive, with its five passenger cars trailing behind, lunges forward into a mine tunnel of impenetrable darkness. This is the start of the wildest ride in the wilderness! Professor Cumulus Isobar, a perplexed rainmaker who seems to have done his job a little too well, bails out his water-filled wagon. Either skill on the Professor's part or pure dumb luck has created a downpour that the parched, hard-baked desert land is unable to soak up, and now the boomtown is in danger of being swept away in the sudden, resulting flash flood. Despite the imminent danger, the sounds of revelry continue unabated, issuing from the second floor of the local saloon. All about the town a menagerie of Western critters add their voices to the ensuing cacophony of chaos. Across the track, a miner in long johns floats by in a bathtub that serves as a makeshift boat. The track itself undulates as though being carried away by the raging waters as the Big Thunder train attempts to cross it. And you thought you were just on a 3:25 minute roller coaster!

Special thanks to former cast member Matt Dempsey for providing much of this information.  Did you enjoy this behind-the-scenes look at BTMR?  Please let me know over at!  

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Promises, Promises

I once heard a Disney expert say that all plans at Disney are made in Jell-O, meaning of course that they aren’t stable and could shift at any moment.  I thought it might be fun to take a look at some Walt Disney World plans that never materialized, including promised attractions that never surfaced.  Here’s a list of my top “I would have loved this” ideas that never quite made it to life:

10.  Several resorts were planned for the Magic Kingdom area that were never built, including:

 A) Disney's Asian Resort -- inspired by the culture of Thailand, the hotel would have featured Thai furnishings and cuisine. Architectural plans featured a large center building more than 160 feet tall with a restaurant on top comparable to the design of Disney's Contemporary Resort. Guest rooms would have been arranged in a square around the perimeter on three sides leaving the side opposite the Seven Seas Lagoon open. This would have been located where Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is today.

 B) Disney's Venetian Resort – located between the Contemporary Resort and the Transportation and Ticket Center, this resort was to be themed after Venice, Italy and located on the shores of Seven Seas Lagoon.

C) Disney's Persian Resort -- The resort would have been laid out in a circle with a central building. It would have had a 24 foot dome on the main building which would have housed the entrance area and meeting facilities. The main colors would have been white and blue. The Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi offered to fund the project's construction and operation but after The Iranian Revolution the project was permanently shelved.  The resort was to be located on the shores of Bay Lake, not the Seven Seas Lagoon like the rest of the resorts. The early drawings would have had a monorail spur going to it and through Tomorrowland.

 D) Disney's Mediterranean Resort -- was going to be themed after a small Greek island and be located on Seven Seas Lagoon, exactly where the Venetian Resort had originally been proposed. Land was cleared for the building, but due to very swampy and poor ground samples, the resort was never able to be built.

9. The Japan pavilion at Epcot has had several rides, almost.  Mt Fuji Roller Coaster, a roller coaster modeled after the Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland, was rejected after protests by Eastman Kodak, sponsor of Journey Into Imagination, over a ride sharing the name of their biggest competitor, FujifilmSimulated Bullet Train Ride was intended to be a unique variation on Disney's CircleVision 360 show. Guests would have found themselves standing aboard a vibrating recreation of the passenger compartment of a Japanese bullet train. Looking out through the oversized faux windows in this passenger car, they would have been treated to a high-speed travelogue as some of Japan's most beautiful scenery whizzed by the windows. The Godzilla Bullet Train Ride, on the other hand, would have had the bullet train run afoul of Godzilla in Tokyo Bay, followed by a race to safety.

8. Germany was slated to have a ride, as well. The Rhine River Cruise was designed as a cruise down Germany's most famous rivers – the Rhine, the Tauber, the Ruhr and the Isar. Detailed miniatures of famous landmarks would also be seen, including one of the Cologne Cathedral. The ride entrance and the building that would have housed the ride are still visible at the Germany pavilion.

7.  Of course, the big let-down at Epcot was all of the countries that have been proposed, and even advertised, that never came to life.  Equatorial Africa would have mixed tribal dances and shows with African artwork in a recreation of an African village. A film hosted by Alex Haley was to be featured. Souvenir maps and a TV special on EPCOT Center's opening announced that the pavilion would open in 1983. It was never built due to budget and lack of sponsorship from suitable African nations; offers from South Africa were refused because of the country's apartheid system.
An Israel Pavilion was also advertised on billboards when EPCOT opened, this would have recreated ancient Jerusalem with a courtyard stage and open-air restaurant. It remained unbuilt because of budget problems and security issues regarding the state of Israel.
Soviet Union Pavilion -- planned in the early 1990s, this would have been placed between China and Germany and dominated by a recreation of Red Square. The center building would have housed a sled-like ride showing the Russian landscape based on Russian folk tales. There also would have been a unique show blending film, Audio-Animatronics and a live actor that would showcase Russian history. It reached the final stages of approval but was later cancelled due to the breakup of the Soviet Union and the info released by the Russian government revealing the horrors committed by the Communist regime.
Spain Pavilion -- also advertised on billboards circa 1986, this pavilion would have featured a boat ride similar to Mexico, with a design blending elements of Barcelona and Madrid. Also planned were a film on Spain's history and a restaurant.
Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Iran, and Costa Rica all had planned pavilions at one time or another, as well.

6.  Over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, there’s a long list of “if only” attractions.  The Mel Brooks “Castle Young Frankenstein I discussed in, for starters.

5.  Or how about a Chinese Theater's Villain Ride?  In this 3D adventure visitors would have been menaced by three-dimensional recreations of Disney's most famous fiends before the forces of good finally came to their rescue. The ride would have replaced The Great Movie Ride.

4.  I’m a huge “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” fan, so it’s no surprise that I regret that we never got the proposed Baby Herman's Runaway Baby Buggy -- a Fantasyland-style dark ride based on Baby Herman, Toontown Trolley -- a madcap adventure that would have flight simulators surrounded by animated screens to take guests on a "hare-raising" trolley ride through a zany cartoon world with Roger Rabbit at the helm, or Bennie the Cab Ride, where guests would go on an adventure with Bennie the Cab.

3.  I nearly cried when I heard that not only was The Great Muppet Movie Ride (a "misguided" tour through movie history – Muppet-style) originally planned for the studios, but also a restaurant, Gonzo's Pandemonium Pizza Parlor.  On the site of what is now Mama Melrose’s, this Muppet-themed restaurant was to be the Great Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat's version of a pizza parlor, complete with Muppet interaction and typical Muppet zaniness.  I would be making my Advance Dining Reservations the full 180 days in advance for that one, for sure!

2.  Journey to the Center of the Earth, Tokyo DisneySea’s signature attraction, was at one point slated to be recreated at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  On this ride, guests travel through mysterious caverns to the Earth's core as scientists aboard vehicles designed by Captain Nemo. The ride begins through a cavern of colorful glowing crystals before entering the giant Mushroom Forest, which is inhabited by strange insect and amphibian-like life-forms. Before the car can proceed further, an earthquake causes a cave-in of the tunnel ahead, forcing the car off its planned route and down a side branch filled with giant egg-like sacks. The car emerges on the shore of the Subterranean Sea, and is nearly struck by lightning from the electrified gas clouds. The finale comes when the riders are forced into the fiery heart of an active volcano, where the riders come face-to-face with the giant lava monster that calls the Center of the Earth its home, before escaping back to the surface on the wave of an eruption.  Dude.

1. Beastly Kingdom -- We all know we were supposed to get it.  Mythical beasts like dragons and unicorns are alluded to in the parking lot of the Animal Kingdom and on the park entrance, but not really in the park itself.  I’ve even seen the area referenced on Rand-McNally maps of the Disney area.  Oops.  What are we missing out on? How about Dragon Tower, a dragon-themed roller coaster? Laid-off Imagineers took the idea to Universal, where it became Dueling DragonsOr maybe Quest for the Unicorn, a hedge maze, or Fantasia Gardens, a boat ride featuring the mythical animals in “Fantasia”?

I guess it’s not fair to say I feel cheated that these ideas never became reality, but in truth I do, a little bit.  Of course, these aren’t the only Disney plans that never saw the light of day.  What do you wish Disney had followed through on?  Let me know over at!  

Monday, May 24, 2010

"Look at all These Rumors Surroundin' Me Every Day"

There are a lot of rumors floating around right now about possible changes coming to Walt Disney World.  I thought it might be fun to discuss a few of them.

1.  Possible new pavilion coming to Epcot's World Showcase -- The previous front-runners here were Russia and Greece. But a dark horse is emerging from the pack and gaining momentum: Turkey.  Personally, I'd still rather see Russia or Greece, but then I'm certainly no expert on what a Turkey pavilion may have to offer.  Refurbs for Japan, Norway, and Germany have been rumored, as well.

2. Staying with Epcot, there's also a rumor that Le Cellier may experience some changes and upgrade from Table Service to Signature Dining status.  The downside is that there will be an increase in cost (and will require two dining credits instead of one), but on the other hand, this should make it easier to get an ADR there.

3.  Improvements are allegedly in the works for Expedition Everest's Yeti at Disney's Animal Kingdom.  I won't believe this one until I see that guy working with my own two eyes.  Anything that they do short of shutting the ride down for an extensive refurb would just be a temporary patch, not an actual solution.

4.  There's talk of the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular at Disney's Hollywood Studios being shut down to make way for a Star Wars themed show and restaurant, possibly to debut simultaneously with Star Tours 2.0.  I like Indy, but I'm always up for more Star Wars!

5.  We've already discussed the new Interactive Mickey that could one day come to the Magic Kingdom (, but I've also heard on this that if Mickey is successful, he may be followed by Minnie, Goofy, Pooh, and Tigger.  You'd also be far more likely to see them at a character meal then in a traditional theme park meet and greet.That way, Disney can try to make a little money without technically charging you to meet them.

Again, let me emphasize that these are unsubstantiated rumors, and my sources are just the same Internet rumor mills that everyone else reads.  I do think it's fun to speculate, however.  What do you think of these rumors?  Do any of them appeal to you? Are there any additional ones you've heard?  Let me know over at!

Friday, May 21, 2010

'Cause it's Root, Root, Root for the Home Team

I am a girl; I swear.  I mention this because I fear my femininity may be called into question at some point during this post.

You see, I love sports; particularly football and baseball.  Watching them, that is.  Playing them?  Not so much.  I mean, I can establish my dominance on the offensive line with the best of them, but am absolutely useless at any position involving hand-eye coordination.  There was a reason I was always picked last in gym class.

Because of this arm-chair quarterbacking addiction of mine, one of my absolute favorite places to hang out is at the ESPN Club at Disney’s Boardwalk. I love it there.  I’ve visited numerous times: alone, as part of a couple, and with my family, and have always had a blast.

The menu is nothing special; sandwiches, burgers, chili, etc., but it’s exactly the food you want when sitting down with a large draft beer to watch the game.  Speaking of sitting: good luck with that.  This restaurant/bar is always packed whenever I go (which tends to be during Monday Night Football or baseball playoffs; go figure).  Waits for tables in the restaurant usually exceed wait times for Peter Pan’s Flight, and there are generally patrons standing three deep at the bar, hoping for a bar stool.

This brings me to the bartenders.  They are probably my favorite on property.  Despite the fact that they are extremely busy, they take wonderful care of me when I’m there alone.  The last time I went, one of the bartenders knew that a customer had asked for his bill and would be leaving soon.  The bartender tipped me off to this, so that I could be positioned to snag this man’s seat as soon as he left.  How sweet is that?  Another time, I arrived at the club ravenously hungry.  It was after 8:00 PM and I had been in conferences all day with no chance to eat.  My eyes tend to be larger than my stomach at times like that, and I ordered the wings and the nachos.  The bartender took one look at me and said “No.  You’re never going to eat all of that.  I’ll bring you the nachos, and if you still want the wings, I’ll bring them then.”  He was right.  The nachos were huge; I didn’t even finish those.  I thought that it was incredibly nice that he was looking out for me, instead of trying to get a larger bill, and thus a larger tip. 

The service is also great in the restaurant half of the club.  My husband and I went there on our honeymoon, and our waiter was great.  He even arranged for Ray and I to receive Mickey groom and Minnie bride ears the following day. Oh, and they were doing a sports show during halftime that night, and the MC interviewed me.  Of course, he probably wishes he hadn’t. (Let me give you all a little tip: if you ever meet me and you have a microphone and I don’t, do not under any circumstances relinquish control of the mic to me.  You’ll never see it again.)  

Even my daughter has fun there, and she hates sports.  Fortunately, there’s an arcade attached to the club, so we just keep feeding her money, and she stays happily entertained while my husband and I watch the game.  Talk about your win/win!

Joy of all joys, there’s even some shopping to be done there.  Mostly small ESPN stuff, but I still regret not buying the jersey that said “You Can’t Spell “Princess” Without ESPN”.  How “me” is that?

Have you ever visited the ESPN Club?  What did you think?  Let me know at!  

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"When it's Time to Change, You've Got to Rearrange"

Everyone likes progress; no one likes change.  No one exemplifies this axiom better than hardcore Disney fans.  When Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride got replaced with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, fans held sit-ins and started petitions.  Many of us still miss old favorites like Horizons, If You Had Wings, Alien Encounter, and Cranium Command.  And does anyone think that the original Journey into Imagination was improved upon by either of its successors? (The answer here is no.)

 Why is this?  After all, we knew from the beginning that the parks were never meant to be museums.  Walt himself said, "It's something that will never be finished. Something that I can keep developing...and adding to."  So why do we harbor such resentment? Is it because we have such strong feelings of nostalgia for the Walt Disney World of our youth?  Perhaps.  But I think our real issue isn’t change; it’s change for the worse.  Not too many people got upset when Take Flight took flight to make room for Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, or when Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable replaced Symbiosis (I mean seriously, does anyone even remember Symbiosis?).  Why?  Because these were changes for the better.  And of course, I think replacing the old ticket system with a one-cost option was one of the best changes Disney ever made.  I hated the tickets!  My parents would never buy me a new ticket book until I had used up all of my tickets.  “But Mom, I’ve ridden Cinderella’s Golden Carrousel three times already.  I’m trying to use my ‘A’ tickets!”  Or, “Nooo; I don’t want to see The Hall of Presidents.  That’s a waste of an ‘E’ ticket!”  I’m so glad that is behind me!

 Does Disney get this?  Do they realize that we can tell the difference between a legitimate improvement and a crappy overlay? (I’m talking to you, The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management) and Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros.)  I’m hoping so.  After all, they didn’t screw up Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, or Space Mountain when those got updated.  Woe betide them if they had.  And naturally, there are some attractions that I would love to see changed.  Would anyone really miss Sounds Dangerous or Primeval Whirl if either of those got the ax?

 Of course, the worst case scenario may be when an attraction closes with no replacement.  I get downright angry when I think of the entire Wonders of Life pavilion.  What a waste of space!  Or when an attraction goes into “seasonal” status; I think “seasonal” is code for “whenever Teri isn’t here”.  And can someone please inform Disney that when I’m shelling out $75 a day to visit their parks, I really don’t give a flying fig if an attraction has a sponsor or not?  Open up the freaking attraction!

 And since I’m on the topic, will Disney please note that this same concept applies to shops and restaurants, as well?  Many of the changes in those departments have not been for the better.  The items available for purchase in Tomorrowland should not be the same as those available in Liberty SquareOr in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, for that matter.  The same goes for menu options.  Stop the homogenization!

Okay, I’m done ranting for now.  What do you think?  When Disney announces a change, are you excited or worried?  Please let me know at!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Chatting With Mickey

Raise your hand if you’ve had this conversation with your child after a Mickey meet and greet:

Child:  Why wouldn’t Mickey talk to me, Mommy?
Mommy: Well honey, Mickey meets a lot of kids each day, and if he spoke with all of them, his throat would get sore.  He needs to save his voice for the shows and parades.
Child:  But Cinderella and Snow White talked to me!
Mommy (hesitating slightly): Yes, but they aren’t in as many shows as Mickey.  Mickey is a very popular guy.
Daddy (whispering to Mommy): Nice save!
Child: But Tigger wouldn’t talk to me either, and he’s not in very many shows.
Mommy (in a panic): Oh look; balloons!  Would you like Mommy to buy you a balloon? 

And just think: you wanted to have intelligent and inquisitive children.

But seriously, this has been an issue since Disneyland opened in 1955.  You just can’t expect all of the “friends of Mickey” to be able to emulate his unique voice.  As always, Disney is sensitive to the needs of their guests.  Have you seen this video that’s been circulating the web?

How awesome is that? Of course, it is just in a testing phase now. And even if it does get implemented, you never know how long it will be around. I have never gotten to personally meet Lucky the Dinosaur or the Muppet Mobile Lab, for example. That said, I am so hoping that this does work, and becomes the future standard for Disney meet and greets.

Now, some people find this Mickey a little creepy. My husband tells me that this is because of the “uncanny valley” effect. This hypothesis states that as a robot is made more humanlike in its appearance and motion, the emotional response from a human being to the robot will become increasingly positive and empathic, until a point is reached beyond which the response quickly becomes that of strong revulsion. However, as the appearance and motion continue to become less distinguishable from a human being, the emotional response becomes positive once more and approaches human-to-human empathy levels. This area of repulsive response aroused by a robot with appearance and motion between a "barely human" and "fully human" entity is called the uncanny valley. The name captures the idea that a robot which is "almost human" will seem overly "strange" to a human being and thus will fail to evoke the empathic response required for productive human-robot interaction.

Personally, I think he looks fabulous, and the princesses in the video didn’t seem to have any issues with him. It’s taking the Turtle Talk with Crush and Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor Comedy Club technology to a new and better level. But what do you think? Let me know over at!

Friday, May 14, 2010

“I'm Not Spongin' for Rum. It be Gold I'm After!”

You know that I love to cook.  You know that I love to eat.  But my real talent lies in shopping.  And naturally, my favorite place to shop is Walt Disney World.

I don’t know if I realized how much I love WDW shopping until I sat down and started to compile this list.  Holy cow, was it hard to limit myself to a list of ten favorite shops.  I could’ve done a “Top Ten Shops Where I love to Browse but Never Buy Anything” list, a “Top Ten Stores that Used to be great but Now Aren’t” list, or even a “Top Ten Stores That are Tied to an Attraction” list.  Maybe I will someday.  For now I am going to do my very best to stick to my favorite stores in Walt Disney World to make purchases.

10. BouTiki (Disney’s Polynesian Resort) -- Some of my earliest shopping memories are from the Polynesian Resort.  We used to eat dinner one night each trip at the Papeete Bay Verandah (how I miss this restaurant!), and we’d always browse through the wonderful shops scattered throughout the Great Ceremonial House.  I desperately wanted one of the little grass skirt outfits that they sold there, but my parents weren’t buying it (literally).  So you’d better believe that the first time I took my daughter to WDW, we went straight to the Polynesian to buy her one, which I immediately let her change into to wear to the luau!

9. Disney’s Days of Christmas (Downtown Disney Marketplace) – I’m sure it’s no surprise that there is a significant Disney presence in the holiday decorations at my house.  But I don’t like just any Disney decorations.  The Victorian ones here fit the theme of my holiday décor and the parlor where I display them perfectly.

8. Art of Disney – There are in fact a few of these stores scattered across Disney property, and I love them all.  I just wish I could afford most of what was in them. 

7. Mombasa Marketplace/Ziwani Traders (Disney’s Animal Kingdom) I actually themed my family room to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and most of the décor is from this shop.  People come into my home and think I have a weird elephant obsession…

6.  Yong Feng Shangdian Department Store (China Pavilion, Epcot) – This is such a fun place to shop!  They have a bit of everything – clothes, home décor, souvenirs, jewelry, and these darling little jade elephants – okay; maybe I do have a problem…
5. Villains in Vogue (Disney’s Hollywood Studios) – This used to vie for a top spot on my list, but lately there seems to be way too much of a focus on Nightmare Before Christmas and Alice in Wonderland merchandise.  Give me more classic Disney villains!  I still love it, though. ;)

4. Uptown Jewelers (Magic Kingdom) Disney + Jewelry = “Hi, I’m Teri.  Have we met?

3.  TrenD (Downtown Disney Marketplace) – This wins my “Best New Shop” award hands-down.  You see, I have a personal rule that I enforce to keep myself from buying absolutely everything I see at WDW: If it’s not something I would normally buy, I’m not going to buy it just because it has a Disney character on it.  I’m not a big t-shirt wearer, so this severely limits my Disney clothing options.  Enter TrenD -- a stylish boutique with designer flair and eclectic offerings, perfect for fashion-conscious shoppers seeking trendy apparel and novel accessories.  Now if only they’d start a Disney/Ann Taylor line…

2. Mousegear (Epcot) – This was a hard pick.  I didn’t want to put both the Emporium at Magic Kingdom and Mousegear on my list, as they are quite similar.  But which to pick?  Mousegear has a better jewelry selection, but Emporium has that great vintage attraction merchandise.  Maybe I should… no, I said Mousegear, and I’m sticking by it.

And my number one favorite shop?

1. Mickey’s Pantry (Downtown Disney Marketplace) – Yes, I realize that I may be the only person on the planet that would put this shop at number one.  Yes, I know that I left a lot of great Disney shops off this list.  But the truth of the matter is, I do love to cook, and I often buy more merchandise here than anywhere else on property!

But enough about me; what about you?  Where do you love to shop at WDW?  Let me know at!    

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Maybe It's Just Me, But...

I guess I’ve always been a little finicky about Italian food.  I love it, but I want it to be well prepared.  One of my family’s favorite “Teri” stories occurred when I was about two years old.  We were at a restaurant, and the waitress came to ask how our food was.  Never a shy child, I replied “Mith,” (I was trying to say “Miss”, but I had a lisp).  “Mith, your thpaghetti’s terrible.”
Honey,” she replied, “I don’t make it, I just serve it.” She then went to have a nice chuckle with the rest of the wait staff, as apparently they were less than impressed with the chef’s spaghetti (or the chef himself), as well.

That said, on our first trip as a family to Walt Disney World in 1998, my husband, daughter and I had a “magical moment” at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant.  I had made ADRs, and had timed them so that we should be done eating in plenty of time for the nighttime parade.  I had underestimated the snail-like pace of Disney transportation, however, and we got there extremely late. I was in a complete panic, but the Disney cast members came to the rescue.  Not only did they seat us right away, but they got us a table on their patio, so that we could watch the parade while we ate.  The food was wonderful, and the entire experience was stellar.

We enjoyed it to much that we went back on our next trip three years later.  This time it was okay, but nowhere near as fabulous as the last time.  We decided that maybe we had romanticized the experience, and that nothing was going to live up to the first trip, so we tried again in 2007.  That was not a magical experience.  We didn’t get seated until a good half hour after our scheduled ADR time, and the menu options were significantly fewer than on previous visits.  I was less than impressed.

Operating under the assumption that anyone can have a bad night, we went again on our most recent visit, fall of 2009. Again, we waited as the time for our ADR came and went.  And then we waited some more.  I can only guess that they were hoping that by the time we did eat, we’d be too hungry to care what our food tasted like.  They must not know me very well.

I had something that was akin to Pasta Pomodoro (it’s no longer on the menu, so I don’t recall the exact name).  It’s supposed to be Roma tomatoes, garlic, fresh basil and extra-virgin olive oil tossed with angel-hair pasta. If there was actually any garlic or basil within ten yards of that dish, I’d be amazed.  It was the blandest meal I’ve ever tasted.  I tried everything to give it some flavor – salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese - but nothing worked.  My family didn’t fare much better.  The spaghetti noodles .  I tried everything to give it some flavor – salt, pepper, parmesan cheese - but nothing worked.  My family didn’t fare much better.  The spaghetti noodles with my daughter’s Chicken Parmesan were cooked to the point that they were just a big wet mess on her plate, and my husband wasn’t even able to tell me a few hours later what he had eaten.

Why has Tony’s gone downhill?  Some people claim that the Disney Dining Plan is to blame.  They think that because of the DDP, Disney has limited the number of menu options, and has let the food quality slip as well.  Others say that Disney is counting on first-time or novice guests, who won’t be back again anytime soon anyway, so it doesn’t matter if the food isn’t that great.  After all, there will just be another rookie guest to fill their slot. I myself don’t know.  What I do know is that table service dining in the Magic Kingdom is seriously lacking, in my opinion.  With Tony’s slipping so badly, I’d say your best bet is Crystal Palace, and that’s a buffet, not a true sit-down experience.  The Plaza Restaurant is okay, but if I were on the dining plan, I’d never use a table-service credit for sandwiches. The Liberty Tree Tavern is serviceable, but falls under the “not really worth the money or calories” category for me, and I have zero interest in ever eating at Cinderella’s Royal Table again. 

I’d love to see Tony’s regain its former glory.  It is in such a prime location, and could be a jewel in Disney’s crown if managed properly.  But maybe the problem’s with me.  Maybe I’m just too finicky.  “Maybe I’m just too demanding.  Maybe I’m just like my father” -- okay; I’ll quit singing now.  But let me know what you think.  Chime in over at  I’d love to hear your opinion!

Monday, May 10, 2010

"No, You Idiot; No!"

Do you know that feeling you get when you are watching a horror movie, and one of the characters decides to investigate a noise in the basement?  Inwardly you are shouting “No, you idiot; no!”, but there is nothing you can do to stop them.  You watch in impotent dread, because you know what’s going to happen next.

I often feel this way when people are discussing the plans for their upcoming Walt Disney World trips with me.  If they come to me early on in the planning process I can help improve their vacation.  If they call me a week before their trip and run their plans by me, at that point I’m about as useful as an audience member in a slasher flick.  All that I can do at that point is stand back and watch the carnage.  Because by then, there’s nothing I can do.  They don’t really want help; they just want confirmation that they have made the right plans.  And while I outwardly smile, on the inside I’m shouting “No, you idiot; no!”

Don’t be an idiot.  Here are some important tips to keep you out of the serial killer’s basement: 
  1. Plan on getting to the parks well before their scheduled opening time.  I don’t know why people refuse to believe me on this one, but trust me; the smartest thing you can do is get to the parks early and make a beeline for the most popular attractions.  This is going to save you hours of waiting in lines, and I am not exaggerating.  At Epcot, head straight to Soarin.  At DHS, make a beeline for Toy Story Mania.  Be sure to hit Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom first, and at the Magic Kingdom either head to Space Mountain or Splash Mountain.  Don’t bother grabbing Fastpasses at this point; just get directly on the ride.  After that, grab a Fastpass for the number two attraction on your list and proceed from there.
  2. Speaking of Fastpasses, use them.  Integrate them into your strategy.  Unless you like waiting in 90 minute long lines, that is.
  3. Familiarize yourself with the layout of the parks before arriving.  You aren’t going to be able to book it back to Toy Story Mania if you don’t know where it is.
  4. Only do a character breakfast if you can get fit into point number 1.  You can actually get into the parks prior to park opening for some character breakfasts.  If you can do this; great.  You can actually be done eating and be situated deep in the park before others are even allowed in.  Otherwise, skip it and do a character lunch or dinner later.  You don’t want to waste those precious early morning hours waiting for pancakes when you could be riding Peter Pan
  5. Use Extra Magic Hours to your advantage.  Oddly enough, I do this by avoiding the parks with Extra Magic hours for that day.  If everyone else is flocking to that park, I’d rather be someplace else.  Also, the best park to be in early is whatever park had Extra Magic Hours the evening before.  For example if the Magic Kingdom was open late on Monday, Tuesday is a great day to visit the MK. 
  6. Stay on-property.  Yes, I know it’s expensive.  If it means saving up for an extra few months, do it.  It is so worth it. 
  7. Don’t think that just because someone is a travel agent that they are a Disney expert.  If booking a trip to Walt Disney World is the same for a travel agent as booking a trip to Las Vegas, there is no way I’m going to entrust them with my Disney vacation.  If you want some assistance with your trip, utilize a travel agent that specializes in Disney vacations.  I’ve heard travel agents give incorrect WDW information to clients, and it ticks me off.  Don’t trust your expensive vacation to a Disney poser; make sure they have personally stayed at Walt Disney World several times.
  8. Don’t pay rack rates.  People will call 407-WDW-DISNEY or go to, book their trip, and then ask me if they got a good deal.  I don’t have the heart to tell them that they probably didn’t.  Before booking your trip, check,, or to see what discount codes may be available.                                 

I realize I’ve made many of these points before, but for some reason, people often just don’t listen.  I’m just trying to keep you off a meat hook in a cold storage unit somewhere -- or whatever the Disney equivalent might be.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Separation Anxiety

I will always associate Jelly Belly Jelly Beans with leaving Walt Disney World.

It was December 2001, and the time had come for us to leave Walt Disney World and start the long drive back to northern Ohio.  I had started crying the night before (during Fantasmic), and had been on the verge of tears ever since.  I just hated the thought of leaving my happy place and returning to real life, and the long drive home we faced wasn’t helping.  We stopped at Goodings Supermarket to stock up on supplies for our drive, and they had a huge Jelly Belly selection.  I can’t tell you how many pounds I bought.  As we drove home, I sat there gorging on bean after bean, with tears silently streaming down my face.  I think I nearly broke my husband’s heart.  My daughter, seated in the back, thankfully had no idea.

This was the most extreme reaction I've ever had to leaving WDW, but the emotions were not unique to that trip.  Why is it so hard to leave?  And what can help lessen the blow?  Over the years, I have learned a few tricks on how to ease my transition back into the real world. 

  1. Document your trip so that once you get home, you can share your experiences, either with a trip report or through photos (or both).  Reliving your experiences in this manner can help prolong the magic, and can help you remember tricks you learned for use in future trips. 
  2. Listening to Disney podcasts and participating in Disney discussion boards can help you keep the enchantment alive, as well as bring you the joy of helping others plan their vacations. I truly believe that helping others prepare for their WDW holidays can be almost as fun as planning my own.  Okay, “almost” might be stretching it, but I do enjoy helping.
  3. Recreating Disney recipes at home is always fun.  I will often do entire Disney dinners based on ones we enjoyed, and will even tie in a Disney movie that matched the meal’s theme.
  4. Surrounding myself with souvenirs from my trip doesn’t hurt.  Disney jewelry is always a good pick-me-up!
  5. Listening to Disney music is a great way to relive the magic, but this can backfire.  I am absolutely incapable of listening to the Fantasmic finale, Baroque Hoedown from the Main Street Electrical Parade, or Come Again from the Country Bear Jamboree without welling up.  Would you buy it if I claimed they are happy tears?
  6. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: It’s never too early to start planning your next Disney vacation.  I am absolutely positive that the reason I have often found it so hard to leave WDW is because I don’t know when, or even if, I’ll be back.  I went nine long years between my last trip as a child and my first “adult” trip on my honeymoon, and I think that separation scarred me for life.  Since then my trips to the world have been at least two years apart, sometimes as many as four.  To put it plainly, I get homesick for Walt Disney World.  Short of moving to Florida or other drastic measures, the best way to curb this panic attack is to be sure that I will be returning before too long.  Hopefully, my new DVC membership will help here.  Knowing that I will be back before long should help ease my sorrow at the parting.  Should

Speaking of separations, I want to let you know that this will be my only post this week.  I will be traveling for work, with no access to Facebook ( or my blog.  I’ll miss “talking” to you, and I look forward to resuming next week!