Wednesday, June 30, 2010

If I Had Eight Million Dollars

Champagne taste on a beer budget?  Heck, there have been times I couldn’t even afford the beer.  But there are moments when I regret my lack of fiscal flexibility more deeply than others – like now.

You see, Disney has unveiled their latest way to make me feel like trailer park trash – um, I mean has unveiled their latest, exclusive luxury option: Golden Oak, a luxury community right on Walt Disney World property.

According to Disney, The story of Golden Oak begins in true once-upon-a time fashion. A scenic ranch in California's Placerita Canyon proved to be an inspiring location for filming segments of The Mickey Mouse Club TV show. Walt Disney Productions purchased portions of the property in 1959 and, over the years, acquired more than 900 acres to reserve its quiet vistas for TV and movie productions and protect its harmony with nature. In fact, Walt and his family spent time relaxing and playing on the ranch. The name of this ranch? Golden Oak, in honor of a storied tree there, under which some say gold nuggets had been found in 1842. From these illustrious origins, the legacy continues with Golden Oak at Walt Disney World Resort.

Located southeast of the Magic Kingdom and north of Epcot, Disney has created Golden Oak so that the wealthy may enjoy “elite concierge services and privileges at Walt Disney World Resort and to step into a realm reserved for just a fortunate few.”  It’s a hard-knock life, huh?

How much does it cost to join this world of privilege and access?  Golden Oak Realty will offer a limited collection of single family custom homes priced from approximately $1.5 - 8 million, with fewer than 30 home sites available for sale this year (2010). Priority Reservation deposits are now being accepted, with the first completed homes projected for 2011. In all, the community will eventually consist of around 450 homes. Just plunk down a $25,000 deposit, and you could be on your way.

What does 1.5 – 8 million get you these days?  Here’s the Disney description of these homes:

“At one with nature, Golden Oak is an exquisite community that reveals a careful balance of artistry with stewardship of the land. Master-planned by Walt Disney Imagineering and acclaimed design firms, homes are discerningly placed amid lush landscapes. Expansive conservation areas comprise almost half of the entire 980-acre footprint and provide sanctuary to migrating songbirds, ospreys and wood storks.
Four gracefully arranged neighborhoods await your consideration. Each is designed as an exquisite complement to the whole of Golden Oak and a well-lived life. Homes will be crafted by a select group of expert builders chosen for their experience in constructing fine custom residences.

The natural preserves surrounding this lovely neighborhood offer a scenic and private setting for the finest of family getaways. At up to three-quarters acre in size, each of Carolwood's seventeen custom-home sites can amply accommodate your family estate. Should you choose an address in the secluded, northernmost enclave of Carolwood Reserve, you'll be well rewarded with serene natural, golf course or water views. The Reserve is a limited offering of eight premium custom-home sites, all generously sized at approximately three-quarters acre.

Enjoy the best of both worlds at Silverbrook, where the natural and the social come together beautifully on nineteen homesites of approximately one-half acre. Here, your family can savor a life of quiet repose alongside conservation areas or water features — yet stroll to community amenities and activities at Summerhouse, the proposed private clubhouse for Golden Oak.

Kimball Trace
A charming Tuscan-inspired village with courtyard homes, Kimball Trace caters to those with an enthusiasm for resort living. This intimate collection of creatively designed homes is sited to emphasize privacy, while centrally placing you within neighborly reach of the proposed Summerhouse, new friends and engaging diversions.”

And of course, the property is “plussed” with some special Disney benefits:

“An abundance of pleasures and pastimes will be yours at Golden Oak. Nothing can compare to a day in the theme parks at Walt Disney World® Resort. Adding an even more magical dimension to your Disney experience will be the privileges created expressly for families at Golden Oak:
  • Private VIP transportation
  • A suite of in-park benefits
  • Access to select special-event tickets
  • Community-hosted activities throughout the year 

Your Golden Oak Concierge
There's something rather delightful about being able to hand over your "Want To's" and "Must Do's" to someone who can orchestrate them into "Well Done's." And here, that special someone is your Golden Oak Concierge, just a call or click away. It will be their pleasure to take care of such arrangements as:
  • Move-in services
  • Travel and private transportation
  • Disney parks and special-event tickets
  • Golf tee-times
  • Dinner reservations
  • Private VIP tours
  • At-home dinners and parties
  • Holiday home decorating
  • Grocery shopping and errands
  • Pre-arrival and post-departure home maintenance services

Summerhouse, a Private Proposed Clubhouse
A destination experience close to home, the Summerhouse is envisioned to be a casually elegant gathering place for families and friends. Imagine the possibilities for finding your ideal blend of social, leisure and quality time enjoying:
  • Fine dining
  • A spacious veranda, the perfect spot for sipping refreshments
  • State-of-the-art fitness facility
  • Yoga studio or workout area
  • Culinary adventures, such as guest chef appearances and wine tastings

Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World® Resort
Prepare to be dazzled by the proposed Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World® Resort, a grand 445-room hotel planned to be located at Golden Oak. Residents will have access to select amenities at the proposed Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World® Resort including:
  • An 18-hole golf course designed by Tom Fazio
  • Superlative restaurants
  • Facilities for private events
  • A tranquil spa, offering a complete array of services, for body, mind and soul”

Oh, and these will all be private residences.  Disney will not allow any of them to be used as timeshares, or to be rented out for periods of time shorter than six months.  Of course, if you’d like a first-hand report of what living here is like, I’d be more than happy to accept donations!  No?  Then I guess I’ll have to stick to my champagne wishes and Mickey Mouse dreams.

Monday, June 28, 2010

It's Supercalifragilisticexpialidocous!

I am doing a Happy Dance.  Well technically, it’s more of a Pooh Wiggle, since my injured foot still prohibits anything more ambitious.  But celebrating I am, because a DVD release date has finally been announced for some Disney documentaries I have been eagerly anticipating.

November 30, 2010 will see the release of all three critically acclaimed documentaries which offer insights into historical periods of The Walt Disney Company.  The Boys: The Sherman Brothers ’ Story, Waking Sleeping Beauty, and Walt and El Groupo will all be available for purchase.  Here’s the skinny on those:

The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story is an intimate journey through the lives of Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman, the astoundingly prolific, Academy Award®-winning songwriting team that defined family musical entertainment for five decades with unforgettable songs like “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocous” from Mary Poppins, “I Wanna Be Like You” from The Jungle Book and the theme songs to many Disney theme park attractions.  The feature-length documentary, conceived, produced and directed by two of the songwriters’ sons, takes audiences behind the scenes of the Disney Studios, and also explores a deep and longstanding rift that has kept the brothers personally estranged throughout much of their unparalleled professional partnership.
Bonus features include:
  • Why They’re “The Boys”
  • Disney Studios in the ’60s
  • Casting Mary Poppins
  • Theme Parks – A look at their theme park music songbook and how they went about composing a song for a ride
  • Roy Williams – A Disney Animator and also famous for being on the original Mickey Mouse Club, we learn through his artwork some of the stories of what it was like to work in the Animation Building in the 1960’s
  • Bob’s Art:  A look at Bob Sherman’s other passion, his artwork
  • Celebration:  Testimonials from celebrities and Hollywood legends
  • Sherman Brother’s Jukebox:  A collection of Sherman Brothers songs and the stories behind them including: “Tall Paul”, “Chim Chim Cher-ee”, “Feed the Birds”, “There’s A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow”, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, and more

Waking Sleeping Beauty:  This is no fairy tale. It’s the true story of how Disney regained its magic with a staggering output of hits – “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” “The Lion King,” and more – over a 10-year period.
By the mid-1980s, the fabled animation studios of Walt Disney had fallen on hard times. The artists were polarized between newcomers hungry to innovate and old timers not yet ready to relinquish control. These conditions produced a series of box-office flops and pessimistic forecasts – maybe the best days of animation were over. Maybe the public didn’t care. Only a miracle or a magic spell could produce a happy ending.
Bonus features include:
  • Why Wake Sleeping Beauty? – Overview featurette
  • Untold Bedtime Stories – Deleted scenes from the feature
  • The Sailor, the Mountain Climber, the Artist and the Poet – Celebrating Roy Disney, Frank Wells, Joe Ranft, and Howard Ashman
  • Studio Tours – Randy’s tours, Roger Rabbit studio, Oliver studio, and the tour we shot at ARL
  • A ReunionRob Minkoff and Kirk Wise
  • Walt – What would Walt do AND compare Walt’s era and this era
  • 3 webisode shorts
  • Gallery – Photos, caricatures, and art from the era

Walt & El Grupo: For ten weeks in 1941, Walt Disney, his wife Lilly, and sixteen colleagues from his studio visited nations in Latin America to gather story material for a series of films with South American themes.  The feature documentary film Walt & El Grupo uses this framing device to explore inter-American relations, provide a rare glimpse into the artists who were part of the magic of Disney’s “Golden Age” and give an unprecedented look at the 39 year-old Walt Disney during one of the most challenging times of his entire life.
Bonus features include:
  • Audio Commentary – Director Theodore Thomas and Historian J.B. Kaufman
  • Photos In Motion – How the photos literally came to life
  • From The Director’s Cut – 3 different segments taking you deeper into the story
  • Saludos Amigos – Original theatrical version
  • Original Theatrical Trailers: Saludos Amigos (1942); The Three Caballeros (1944)

These are currently available for pre-order through  List price per DVD (each of the three are of course, separate) is $29.99, and the Amazon price is $20.99.  You can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be getting them.  Are you excited, too?  Let me know at!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Time for a Cool Change

I started writing today’s post with the intent to pick an attraction in each of the four Walt Disney World parks that I thought was due for an overhaul, and perhaps describe an appropriate replacement.  I got a little hung up though when I came to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  It was a little like facing a dessert buffet; with so many tempting options, how do you choose just one?

There’s a lot about the Studios that I just adore.  Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock’n’Roller Coaster, and Toy Story Midway Mania! are three of my favorite attractions.   Fantasmic! Is always a good time (when it’s, you know, actually showing), and watching my husband perform in the American Idol Experience will always be a wonderful memory for me.  But there’s plenty in the Studios that could use a reboot.

The obvious choice is Sounds Dangerous.  It’s currently operating in seasonal status anyway, and we all know that that generally means its days are numbered as a WDW attraction.  And outside of Drew Carey himself, I doubt a whole lot of people will be sorry to see it go.  I don’t anticipate any Toad-style sit-ins for this one.

But then I got to thinking: What about Voyage of the Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast?  While both of these are charming and enjoyable shows, they aren’t ones that I have to catch on absolutely every trip.  And will the new Fantasyland expansion make these attractions superfluous, as both characters will at that time be well-represented in the Magic Kingdom? It’s something to think about.  And from what I understand, these were never meant to be permanent fixtures in the park, anyway.  They were supposed to run for a few years and then be replaced with something new, much as shows were rotated in the Backlot Theater.  If Belle and Ariel will have nice new homes in Fantasyland, why not let some of the newer characters like Tiana or Rapunzel have a show at DHS for awhile? It’s just a thought. And while I like the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, I'm still hoping that we can copy Disneyland's Indian Jones Adventure.  What an awesome ride!

And the Backlot Tour; oy vey, the Backlot Tour.  What can I say?  I mean, it still has Catastrophe Canyon, but not much else.  A several-hour tour has been reduced to 25 minutes, and that ain’t because people needed bathroom breaks, folks.  It’s because now that the Studios is no longer a working studio, there’s just not much to see.

What do you think?  Are you absolutely aghast that I could be the least bit critical of anything Disney related, or do you agree that DHS could use a little TLC?  What attractions would you like to see updated or added?  Let me know at!  

Monday, June 21, 2010


If you haven’t seen Toys Story 3 yet, my advice to you is:

1. Go!  It was wonderful!
2. Wear waterproof mascara.

Now quit reading this post right now.  I mean it; go away.  You do NOT want to read any spoilers for this film.  You want to experience it for yourself, trust me.  I’m serious; the less you know about this film when you see it, the more you will enjoy it.

Are they gone now?  Okay, good.  We can discuss the film. Obviously, I loved it.  I loved how they started with the familiar lines and characters (we all recognized “One-eyed Bart” right off the bat, and knew that dinosaurs can take down force-field dogs any day of the week).  We experienced strong emotions as we watched Andy grow up; proud of the young man was becoming, but a sense of loss, as well. We saw how this affected his family and his toys.  Then we got a whirlwind adventure as they toys struggled to determine where they belonged, and how to get there.  There was a great villain, and I was so thankful that Pixar didn’t take the cheesy redemption route, but had him stay evil when he had a chance at atonement.  And if you weren’t crying in the fire scene, your emotion chip has malfunctioned and it’s time for a reboot.  My daughter even cried in that scene, and she didn’t cry when Old Yeller died!

This film ran the gamut of emotions.  I loved the humor (Buzz in Spanish mode, Tortilla Potatohead), the edge-of-your-seat thrills, the simultaneous sense of loss and completion during the final good-bye.  I know I’m not even scratching the surface of the real highlights of this film, but to be honest, my emotions are still so raw, so close to the surface, that I think I’m going to need to see the film again before I can provide any sort of an objective analysis of it.  And see it again, I shall.  My daughter clamored to do so immediately, and my husband, Mr. Frugal (or as I shall now refer to him, Mr. Pricklepants) who hates seeing movies in the theater, didn’t argue. It’s another home run for Pixar, and has me even more excited for some of their upcoming projects.  What’s on the horizon?  There’s Newt, the story of the last remaining male and female blue-footed newts on the planet forced together by science to save the species, and they can’t stand each other (Summer 2011). Summer of 2012 is supposed to herald in Cars 2, featuring the international escapades of Lightning McQueen and Mater, and even though I wasn’t all that impressed with Cars (by far my least favorite of the Pixar films), I trust Pixar enough to give them another chance on that franchise.

Have you seen Toy Story 3?  What did you think?  Let me know at!  

Friday, June 18, 2010

I’m Sooooo Excited!

If you are a Disney fan, I’m sure that you are aware that today marks the release of Toy Story 3 to theaters, and I for one am so excited! 

When Toy Story 2 came out in 1999, my excitement was tempered.  My experience to Disney sequels up until that point had been less than stellar.  The only animated sequel that had been released to theaters that I could recall was The Rescuers Down Under.  I thought it was okay, but I liked the original much more.  And all of the direct-to-video sequels like The Return of Jafar, Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Pocahontas II: Journey to a new World, and The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride had not exactly instilled me with a lot of confidence in Disney’s ability to make a good animated sequel.  I should have known to give Pixar the benefit of the doubt.

Our experience with that movie didn’t start out well.  When we got to the movie theater (in pouring-down rain, I might add) the show was sold out.  The last show of the night still had some seats available.  Did I want to take my four-year-old to a 9:50 show or tell her we had to come back another night?  I’m a cool mom, and a smart one.  And it’s not like I was all that worried that she be bright-eyed and chipper for pre-school the next morning.  Of course we watched it that night.  And the crowds, the rain, and the loud children in the theater (seriously, does no one make their kids behave in a movie?) all ceased to matter as we watched the film.  My husband and I were actually debating in the car on the way home which was better; Toy Story or Toy Story 2.  When’s the last time that was an issue with a Disney sequel? 

There are a lot of Pixar films rumored to be sequeled (Is that a word?  I don’t think so.  But you know what I mean.): Cars, Monsters Inc, and The Incredibles come to mind. I’m sure I’ll be lining up for any that they release, even the Cars sequel.   But to me, there’s something really special about the Toy Story characters.  Even though they are a child’s toys, they are actually adults, with emotions I can relate to.  They react to situations in a way I can understand, but not necessarily predict.  And I feel a real emotional connection with these characters.  That’s why I’ll be sure to bring a pack of Kleenex with me to this picture.  I mean, who am I kidding?  I cry at the very beginning of a Disney movie when the show the castle!  Considering the subject matter and my knowledge that in three years it will be my baby going off to college, there is no way I am going to make it through this picture with my mascara intact.

Where do I stand on the 2D vs. 3D debate?  I’ll be paying the extra couple of bucks to see it in 3D.  Yes, the glasses are dark, heavy, too big for my head, and give me a headache.  But I’ll be watching this in 2D at home when I buy the DVD (you’ll notice I said when, not if), so I figure that I may as well see it in 3D while I have the chance

You all know what I’ll be doing this weekend. (Well, that and trying to learn how to play the trumpet for my role in Gypsy.  That is not going well, in case you are wondering.  I sound like a dying cow, and it scares the living daylights out of my dogs.) Will you be joining me in theaters this weekend?  Let me know at!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Did I Get Ripped Off?

Dear Disney,

I’m a pretty big fan.  I’m a DVC member.  The only credit card I use consistently is my Disney Visa.  I own every Disney movie I can get my hands on, including most of the crappy direct-to-video sequels and a bootlegged copy of Song of the South.  I study Disney history, pore over Disney guides, help others plan their Disney trips, and talk, dream, and think about Disney nearly non-stop.  I even write a blog dedicated to all things Disney three times a week.  So if D23 isn’t for me, who in the heck is it for?


When Disney announced D23 back in early 2009, I was thrilled.  I signed up the very first day, and was extremely excited to be a “Charter Member”.  When the time came up for my renewal, I hemmed and hawed a little while, and then finally decided to renew it.  But last week as I filled out a D23 survey, I paused to reflect over my purchase, and I found myself wondering:  Did I get ripped off?

For those who may be unaware, D23 is the official Disney fan club.  For $34.99 you can get a Silver Membership, which includes, in Disney’s words:

  • Membership Card and Certificate: Your membership card and personalized, suitable-for-framing member certificate feature many of Disney's most beloved characters drawn by Disney Master Artist David Pacheco.
  • Our 2010 member gift, Disney Undiscovered: A 23-Month Calendar of Disney’s Unrealized Masterpieces from the Walt Disney Archives Collection. This vibrant piece offers rare and never-before-seen images from Disney parks, animation, and live-action films.
  • Special Member Events: The opportunity to attend numerous D23 Member events throughout the year
  • Exclusive Merchandise: D23 offers its members access to exclusive, limited-edition merchandise and collectibles.
  • Subscription to bi-weekly D23 FanFare e-newsletter with breaking news and special offers. (You may opt out of receiving FanFare after your first e-newsletter arrives.)
  • Special promotional offers and discounts throughout the year.

While a $74.99 Gold Membership will provide all of that, plus:

  • Disney twenty-three Quarterly Publication: A one-year subscription (four issues) to D23's exquisite collectible magazine, filled with stunning photography, dazzling illustrations and the ultimate Disney insider perspective. It's your all-access pass to discovering the magic of Disney's past, present and future!

Maybe I just have “sucker” tattooed to my forehead, but I thought this was going to be really cool.  I was picturing a D23 lounge in the Disney theme parks similar to Club 33 in Disneyland, maybe some sort of rewards program that would include a sizeable discount on merchandise or theme park tickets, and some real behind-the-scenes information that I couldn’t get anywhere else.  Um, I was wrong.  I didn’t get any of that.  Instead, I get the four magazines, which actually do often come with a pretty cool gift, the yearly gift (which was also pretty neat), and then lots of opportunities to spend more money.  My husband considers these drawbacks, not benefits.  He still has nightmares about the shopping spree I went on when I discovered 

The magazines are beautiful.  I just don’t find them particularly informative.  A lot of times I feel like I’m looking at a high-priced promo for an upcoming Disney film, instead of getting a cool peek into Disney’s history.

My biggest gripe though, is that the entire focus seems very West-Coast oriented to me.  The bulk of the events are in California, with only a few token ones in Walt Disney World.  I get that California is where a lot of the history occurred, but how about a little love for the fans of Walt Disney World?  When last I checked, the average annual attendance of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World is 116% that of Disneyland Park, and the four parks at WDW combine for an average annual attendance of 47.146 million people, compared to only 20.287 million for the two parks at Disneyland Resort.  Now, call me kooky, but doesn’t it make sense to hold the events where the people actually are

So I guess what I’m saying is that while I don’t actually regret my previous purchases, I don’t know that I’ll be renewing my membership next year.  Unless the yearly gift is really cool, of course. 

Are you a D23 Member?  Are you glad or remorseful?  Let me know at

Monday, June 14, 2010

"A Step in the Right Direction"

Should I just go ahead and start buying my clothes in a larger size?  I have a feeling I may need to after my next trip to Epcot.

There are some new food options coming to Epcot, and I for one am pretty excited.  Let’s take a look at what we’re getting:

1. Via Napoli, the new Italian Pizzeria in the Italy Pavilion will offer several authentic Neapolitan pizzas. As most Disney fans know, you have a better shot of finding a Michael Eisner tribute in Walt Disney World than you do a good pizza.  But Disney claims that’s all about to change. Famed Pizzaiolo Charlie Restivo will serve as executive chef, and ingredients will include Marzano tomatoes, Caputo flour, handmade fresh mozzarella, Parma Cotto, crumbled sausage, and water calibrated specifically to the pH found in Naples (the Florida water is usually the attributed culprit for the poor Disney pizza quality.  I swear they are serving Tombstones straight from the frozen foods section at Publix, but that’s just me).  Anyway, the three wood-burning ovens of Via Napoli will be named after the three active volcanoes in Italy –- Mount Etna, Mount Vesuvius and StromboliEach oven will be sculpted with the “face of the volcano”, reflecting the gods associated with each volcano’s history and mythology.

2. Over in the Mexico Pavilion, La Cantina de San Angel will get a new look with 150 outdoor seats and 250 indoor seats. The restaurant (newly christened La Hacienda de San Angel) will open at 11 am every day with chicken and beef tacos, nachos, and churros. It will change to dinner at 4:00 and will switch from counter service to table service. The menu will include appetizers such as queso fundido; black bean soup; and a taco trio of rib eye, roasted chicken, and pork. For the main course, enjoy a mixed grill for two with flank steak, chicken, chorizo and veggies; roasted shrimp in pepper garlic broth; flank steak with spring onions; refried beans and cactus leaves; and grilled red snapper with roasted corn and cactus leaves. Dessert choices will feature chocolate churros, sweet tamales, and fruit empanadas.

Mostly though, I’m excited about:

3. Karamelle-Kuche (Caramel Kitchen) is a new shop that will be opening in the Epcot’s Germany Pavilion.  Taking the home of the current Glas und Porzellan this fall, the new shop will resemble an Old World German caramel shop. Among the offerings will be fresh caramel popcorn, caramel apples, and caramel-covered marshmallows, all handmade by cast members in the shop's show kitchen. This new store will be the world's only free-standing retail location for Storck, who are the makers of Werther's Original Candies. Because of this, some products will be available here that are not available anywhere else. Let me just tell you, I’m crazy for caramel.  I’ll choose caramel over chocolate any day of the week.  (Fortunately, we live in a society where I can generally choose caramel and chocolate, instead of caramel or chocolate!) Forget Le Cellier; I’ll be more than happy to have a caramel apple with a side of Caramel corn for dinner.  Apples and popcorn count as real food, don’t they?

Of course, Disney management still hasn’t addressed the embarrassment of a restaurant that is The Liberty Inn over in the America Pavilion, but I think Eglantine Price from Bedknobs and Broomsticks would agree that this is a “step in the right direction, after all”!

Are you as excited as I am to see these new food options added?  Or are you wishing they’d have kept the Hummel and Goebel shop it will be replacing?  Let me know over at!  

Friday, June 11, 2010

Disney War

I tend to read everything about the world of Disney that I can get my grubby little paws on.  I read travel books, biographies, Imagineering guides, and trivia books.  It’s gotten to the point where my husband laughs at me for my eternal optimism that I might actually find out anything new.  That’s why I was so happy to stumble across Disney War by James B. Stewart. 

I was actually at to order my daughter’s summer reading assignments for Honors English, and I needed a couple more books to meet the minimum for free shipping. One of the books I ordered I wasn’t too impressed with, so I’ll refrain from mentioning it.  Another I ordered was Queens in the Kingdom, by Jeffrey Epstein and Eddie Shapiro.  While it didn’t provide much new data and could certainly do with an update, the book itself was hilarious, and a very enjoyable read.  The real stand-out though, was Disney War

Most Disney history books tend to focus on Walt’s life or the history of the parks.  I find all of that fascinating, but it can be hard to find anything new.  And not to sound like a petulant teenager, but it all happened before my time.  Disney War, on the other hand, covers the history of the Walt Disney Company throughout the Michael Eisner years. This is a part of Disney history that I remember vividly.  It’s so wonderful to compare the insider look provided by the book to my personal memories of the events described.

The book tries (to my mind at least) to give a fair representation of the side of each of the major players during the events that unfolded during the Eisner era.  Why did Roy E. Disney decide to oust his Cousin Diane’s husband from the company in favor of Eisner?  How much really changed upon the death of Frank Wells?  What was the cause of the acrimonious split (and ensuing lawsuit) with Jeffrey Katzenberg, and what lasting repercussions did his departure bring to the entire animation industry? How did we almost lose Pixar?  What finally prompted Roy E. Disney and Stanley Gold to start the Save Disney campaign (which I joined)?  How did the acquisition of ABC and the Family Channel impact the company, and why is the company still following this trend towards mammoth acquisitions today?  All of this and more is covered in this amazing book.  My husband is reading it now, and I can’t wait for him to finish so I can read it again.

Have you read Disney War?  If so, what did you think?  Do you have any good Disney books you’d like to suggest?  Let me know over at!  

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sing With Me: "Veggie Fruit Fruit. Veggie Veggie Fruit Fruit."

As many of you may know, I’m a girl from the Midwest.  We consider beef, chicken and pork as separate (and extremely important) food groups.  I regard myself as an equal opportunity eater, and I practically view dieting as a form of food discrimination.

That said, I do have to pay attention to the dietary restrictions of others.  You see, if I love you I feed you, so I cook rather a lot. I have a couple of friends with nut and/or seafood allergies, for example, so I have to take those into account when entertaining.  Even more frequently, however, I’m cooking for my mother-in-law and my niece, both of whom are vegetarians.

Because food (and by extension the above dietary requirements) is such a central part of my existence, I do pay attention when at Walt Disney World to what food options are available, so that I can advise my friends and loved ones what to seek out (or avoid) when making their own pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  Below I will describe some of the most appealing vegetarian options I’ve discovered.  I’ve decided to go with the no meat (not even fish) approach, but not vegan, which would eliminate all eggs and dairy.  As far as I’m concerned, once you give up cheese and all of the desserts that require eggs you’ve pretty much resigned yourself to a joyless existence, and I’m not going to be able to help you.

Before I get started, I should note that vegi burgers are available just about everywhere at WDW, so I didn’t bother mentioning them.  Also, the Disney chefs are very accommodating, and will give you pretty much whatever you ask for.  I’m focusing on unique, straight-off-the-menu options that won’t require any special ordering requests on your part.

Best Counter Service Options:

Columbia Harbour House (Liberty Square, Magic Kingdom) – Offers a Lighthouse Sandwich with hummus, tomato, and broccoli slaw.  This can be paired with a bowl of vegetarian chili for a tasty meal!

Sunshine Seasons (The Land, Epcot) – This has a wonderful Asian entrée that includes Garlic Udon Noodles, stir fry veggies, white rice and broccoli

Tangierine Café (Morocco, Epcot) – Try a Vegetable Platter with falafel, couscous salad, hummus, tabouleh, lentil salad and marinated olives

Backlot Express (Disney’s Hollywood Studios) – I’d go for the Grilled Vegetable Sandwich - black olive ciabatta roll, mushrooms, red peppers, zucchini, tomato, watercress and cheese with sundried tomato pesto and black bean salad

Best Table Service Options:

Chefs de France (France, Epcot) – This one has a couple of intriguing options, like Lasagnes de legumes du soleil a l'huile d'olive au thym - zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, onions and bell peppers baked into thin layers of pasta, or Salade de Chevre Chaud - Baked goat cheese with walnuts, fresh grapes, tomatoes, endives and arugula salad.

Hollywood Brown Derby (Disney's Hollywood Studios) – How about starting your meal off with Cremini Mushroom Chevre Tortelloni with tomato-fennel sauce and shaved parmigiano-reggiano or Baby Greens Salad with grape tomatoes, candied pecans, Midnight Moon goat cheese and cabernet vinaigrette, followed by the Noodle Bowl - with wok fried coconut tofu, soy beans, sugar snap peas, bok choy and shiitake mushrooms in a red curry broth?  Yum!

Mama Melrose's (Disney's Hollywood Studios) offers everything from vegetable Minestrone to vegetarian flatbreads and Eggplant Napoleon - eggplant, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes over a warm cannelloni bean ragu.

Jiko (Animal Kingdom Lodge) – This restaurant has a number of meatless starters, soups, and salads: Crispy Savanna Rolls - with sweet corn, bitter greens, goat cheese and curry vinaigrette, Taste of Africa - Trio of Dips with Assorted Breads and House-made Naan, Spiced Tomato Soup - with goat cheese-cilantro butter and olive bread croutons,  Jiko Seasonal Salad - with baby romaine, watermelon relish, pine nuts and blood orange vinaigrette and Cucumber, Tomato, and Red Onion Salad - with Rocket, Cottage Cheese, and Watermelon Vinaigrette.  Follow this up with Seared Maize Pudding - with chakalaka and basil beurre blanc and you’ve got yourself quite a meal!

To my mind, however, some of the best vegetarian options can be found at some of the Disney Buffets.  For example:

Crystal Palace (Magic Kingdom)

Sliced Tomatoes and Egg Toasted Cumin Dressing
Sweet Plantain, Cucumber and Corn Salad
Edamame Salad
Couscous Tofu and roasted Vegetable Salad
Mediterranean Pasta Salad
Beet Salad with Sag Dhal Dressing
Romaine and Bleu Cheese Salad
Papaya Frisee and Arugula Salad
Mixed Field Greens
Ranch and Zinfandel Dressings
Mandarin Orange Sesame Vinaigrette
Tropical Slaw
Smoked Corn Chowder
Garlic Redskin Smashed Potatoes
Broccoli tossed in Puri Puri and topped with Key Lime Ponzu
Medley of Vegetables with Balsamic Glaze
Mac and Cheese
Fruit and Vegetable Tofu Curry
Fire Roasted Corn Spoon bread
Braised Kale
Cheese Pizza
Vegetable Pasta

Tusker House (Animal Kingdom)

Mango Ajar, Blatjang Chuntney, and Mixed Dried Fruit Sambal
Endive, Apple and Walnut Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing
Caesar Salad
Mixed Greens with Ranch, Balsamic Vinaigrette or Light Italian Dressing
Tomato and Cucumber Salad with fresh mint and Yogurt Dressing
Tunisian Couscous Salad
Green Bean and Onion Salad
Curried Basmati Rice
Fresh Fruit Salad
Hummus and Tabbouleh
Spiced Tandoori Tofu
Saffron-infused vegetables and cabbage
Green bean, mushroom and carrot medley
Marrakesh Couscous with roasted vegetables
Vegetable Samosa
Oven-roasted Yukon Gold potato wedges
Mashed potatoes
Orzo pasta
Jollaf rice
Pearl Couscous laced with Sweet Basil Essence
Basmati rice with toasted almond slivers

And my personal favorite:

Boma (Animal Kingdom Lodge)

African Breads
Mixed Field Greens:
Mango Vinaigrette, Paw Paw Vinaigrette,
Chili Cilantro Vinaigrette, Balsamic Vinaigrette
Potato Salad
Fresh Fruit
Avocado, Grapefruit and Papaya Salad
Pasta Salad
Watermelon Rind Salad
Kool Slaai
Avocado, Grapefruit, Papaya, Curry Cucumber Salad, Spinach and Beet Salad
Macaroni and Cheese
Saffron Rice
Smoked Tomato Soup
Creamy Carrot and Ginger Soup
Sweet Potato Pancakes
Vegetable Lentil Kofta
Braised Greens
FuFu - sweet and white potatoes mashed with coriander and cinnamon
Potatoes with Afritude
Vegetable Skewers
Couscous Marrakesh

These are my favorite vegetarian options, but what would you choose if you had to “go meatless” at Walt Disney World?  Let me know over at!

Monday, June 7, 2010

My Sticky Little Fingers

Back in 2005 as part of "The Happiest Celebration on Earth", several new attractions were unveiled at Walt Disney World Resort in conjunction with a global salute to the 50th anniversary of California's Disneyland.  I thought this sounded like a great idea, and I, like many Disney fans, immediately started speculating on what attractions would arrive.  Here’s what we ended up getting, as described by Disney at the time:

"Soarin' -- Direct from Disneyland, Florida guests can now experience the wonderful Soarin' Over California that has been wowing audiences at Disney's California Adventure park. Located in The Land pavilion, the attraction simulates hang gliding by lifting riders forty feet into the air on a motion base, with their feet dangling, and gently moving them in synch with projected images of famous California landmarks.

Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show -- Imported from Disneyland Paris, this ambitious new stadium show focuses on car and motorcycle stunts and includes copious explosions and death-defying moments.

Cinderellabration – Brought to us from Tokyo Disneyland, The show picks up the story of Cinderella after the royal wedding depicted in the classic Disney animated feature, Cinderella, bringing to life the coronation of Cinderella and the festive celebration that follows."

I love Soarin’.  Even if I think they should’ve changed to be Soarin’ over Florida, or the United States, or the world, it’s still a great ride, and I’m glad we have it.  Cinderellabration and Light, Motors, Action!?  Not so much.  Is that really the best they could do?  They didn’t think they had anything better to offer?  Let me tell you, these attractions are not what I would have chosen.  If I could get my sticky little fingers on any Disney attractions worldwide and bring them to Walt Disney World, here’s what I’d steal:

10. Pinocchio's Daring Journey (Disneyland) – I’m a sucker for dark rides, and this one is really cute. You join Pinocchio on his adventures as he leaves the quiet streets of Geppetto's village to experience the excitement of Pleasure Island and the terrors of the belly of Monstro the whale.

9. Matterhorn Bobsleds (Disneyland) – I seriously debated whether or not to include this ride.  I really like it a lot, but there is something special about the connection of this ride to the original park.  To be honest, I’m actually okay with this ride only being available at Disneyland.

8. Enchanted Tiki Room (Disneyland) -- or the The Enchanted Tiki Room: Stitch Presents Aloha e Komo Mai!, featuring Stitch from Lilo and Stitch from Tokyo Disneyland; I don’t care.  Just get the one out that we have now.  I don’t want to hear Gloria Estefan songs in the Magic Kingdom; it just doesn’t seem to fit.

7. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (Disneyland) – I really miss this ride.  Barmaids and hellfire on a Disney ride?  Awesome!

6. Monster’s Inc Ride and Go Seek (Tokyo Disneyland) -- Based on the 2001 Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios film Monsters, Inc., this dark ride (I love dark rides, can you tell?) takes place after the film, and involves your family in a game of “Flashlight Tag” over the course of the ride.

5. Pirates of the Caribbean (Disneyland) – Yeah, I know we have one, but theirs is better.  For starters, ours is 8:30 minutes, the Disneyland version is 15:30.  And they have the Blue Bayou Restaurant in the ride.  How cool is that!  And the Blue Bayou serves Monte Cristo sandwiches.  Mmmm, Monte Cristos….

4. Crush’s Coaster (Walt Disney Studios, Disneyland Paris) -- Guests enter the Toon Backlot of Toon Studio and stumble upon the beached sound stage and film set of Disney-Pixar's Finding Nemo, where Crush and his other sea turtle friends invite guests to climb aboard their shells for a ride through memorable scenes from the movie, a sunken submarine, and the spiraling, churning East Australian Current itself.

3. Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin (Disneyland) -- Guests board a yellow cartoon cab named Lenny, who is the twin of Benny the Cab. Once guests reach a scene of Roger Rabbit and his taxi cab friend, Benny, spinning out in a puddle of "DIP" spilled by Judge Doom's weasel gang, the Toon Patrol, the steering wheel of the cab becomes active, and the car can then spin around, much like Fantasyland's Mad Tea Party. The rest of the attraction features many scenes and characters from the film, such as Roger's wife and co-star, Jessica Rabbit and Baby Herman.

2. Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye (Disneyland) -- This is a dark ride motion simulator attraction based on the Indiana Jones films. Guests accompany intrepid archeologist Indy on a quest for the Jewel of Power through a dangerous lost temple, then board military troop transport vehicles for a turbulent high speed adventure.

1. Journey to the Center of the Earth (Tokyo DisneySea) -- Riders travel through mysterious caverns to the Earth's core as scientists aboard vehicles designed by Captain Nemo. After traveling through Nemo's labs inside Mt. Prometheus, guests board "Terravators" to the facility's base station one half mile below. The riders then board steam-powered mine vehicles that travel through pre-drilled tunnels into the heart of the Earth. 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.

I know that a lot of argument has been made against the homogenization of the Disney parks, and many people want there to be rides unique to the individual parks.  I understand that, but how many of us are seriously ever going to be able to visit Tokyo Disneyland, or even Disneyland Paris?  These are fabulous attractions that Disney has already gone to the trouble and expense to build, so why not duplicate them for Florida guests?

But enough about me.  Are there any Disney attractions around the globe that you would like to see pop up in Florida?  Or are you against the premise entirely?  Let me know over at! 

Friday, June 4, 2010

“Why Didn’t Anybody Warn Me?”

It can get quite crowded at Walt Disney World.  Shocking, I know.  I mention this only because this fact apparently catches some people off guard.  In all fairness, however, there can be crowds at times that used to be considered the “off” season.  Therefore, I thought I’d mention a few events throughout the year that might catch you unawares.

Star Wars Weekends (Disney’s Hollywood Studios) – Unlike most of the festivities I will discuss today, this one is actually a Disney-sanctioned event.  Over the course of four weekends each year in May and June, fans of all ages will converge to celebrate the heroes, villains, creatures, and droids of the saga.  In addition to Star Wars costumed characters, activities, and the Star Tours ride, celebrity guests will be in attendance for meet-and-greet sessions, star conversations, and a classic Hollywood-style motorcade.

Now, I am a huge Star Wars fan.  I even dressed up as Princess Leia for Halloween a couple of years ago.  

That said, I have no particularly keen desire to attend Star Wars Weekends anytime soon.  The crowds are crazy huge, with fans camping out in the DHS parking lot overnight to get spots in the celebrities’ autograph queues.  And we’re not talking George Lucas or Carrie Fisher here.  The celebrities are more along the lines of the guy who played the rancor’s keeper in Return of the Jedi.  I’ll pass, thanks.

Gay Days -- This is an annual event since 1991, taking place the first weekend in June.  It started as a single designated day when the Les-Bi-Gay community and friends were encouraged to "Wear Red and Be Seen" while visiting the Magic Kingdom. From its beginnings with 3,000 attendees, this one-day park visit has evolved into a week long, citywide celebration. Gay Days attracts over 135,000 celebrants from across the nation and around the globe. This can impact theme park crowds considerably, particularly those in the Magic Kingdom on the first Saturday in June.  While I generally avoid the crowds, one day I’m going to have to make it down for this event.  Mostly, I just want to grab a bag of popcorn and a seat on Main Street, U.S.A., so that I can watch as any homophobes present freak out when they realize that for that day at least, they are no longer in the smug majority.  I think that would be vastly entertaining.  Until I could no longer keep my mouth shut, that is.  Then it would probably get ugly.  I may need to rethink this plan…

Pop Warner -- Each year, Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc. hosts the Pop Warner Super Bowl and National Cheer and Dance Championships.  For the past ten years, the event has taken place at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex during the second week of December. This even will have some impact on the parks, but more of an impact on the resorts, particularly the value resorts.  They will be swarmed with screaming children and their families.  Even more so that usual, I mean.

Foreign Tour Groups, Cheerleading Competitions, and Fan GroupsIf I could do a better job of predicting when these groups are attending Walt Disney World, believe me I would.  All that I can say is that your odds of being stuck in line behind a huge group of Brazilian teenagers increase dramatically if you’re with me; it never fails.  And there’s um, nothing quite like being awakened at 4:00 A.M. by 3,000 squealing cheerleaders.  Good times, good times.

These are by no means the only large groups that can descend like locusts upon Walt Disney World, but they are some of the most consistent and most noticeable.  By doing a little research when planning your trip, you may be able to join them or avoid them, depending on your preference.  Just don’t whine to me that nobody warned you!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Recreating Disney -- The Earl’s Brownie Crème

My Disney sweet tooth was clamoring for attention once again, so I decided to try my hand at recreating The Earl’s Brownie Crème from The Earl of Sandwich at Downtown Disney.  Of course, this is not even remotely close to the real recipe, but it may help curb your appetite between trips.  Enjoy!

Cheater’s Brownie Sandwich
(Makes 12 brownie sandwiches)

1 box Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Spray 1 12-muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.

Blend oil, egg, and water in a medium bowl.  Add brownie mix and stir until moistened (about 40 strokes).  Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups.

Bake 28 – 32 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Allow cupcakes to cool about 15 minutes, and then remove from pan to a wire rack.  Cool completely.  In the meantime, prepare frosting.

White Chocolate Buttercream:
3 Tbs. milk
2 ounces white chocolate, chopped
¼ cup coffee-flavored liqueur, or 2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter (not margarine)

Place milk in a small saucepan.  Heat over medium heat until tiny bubble form around the edge of the pan; remove from heat.  Whisk in chocolate until completely melted.  Add liqueur or vanilla.  Refrigerate until cool, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
In a large bowl with mixer at low speed, beat sugar and butter until just combined.  Increase speed to high and beat 10 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Reduce speed to medium and slowly add cooled white chocolate mixture. 

Slice cooled brownies in half horizontally and fill with frosting.  Replace brownie top to form a sandwich.  Repeat for remaining brownies.  Enjoy!