Saturday, November 10, 2012

New Fantasyland

As you may know, I like to plan.  Some say I over-plan; that  I'm an anal, obsessive planner. I say fortune favors the prepared, but whatever. However, even I have to admit that when unexpected surprises throw your best-laid plans out the window, an opportunity arises for true Disney magic to triumph.

Such a moment occurred on our recent visit to the Magic Kingdom. We arrived early (of course), rode Space Mountain, Kira and I kicked Ray's butt on Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin (we will never let him live this down), and then headed back to Storybook Circus for a few quick photo ops.
Kira, Dumbo, Me -- I hope you can figure out which is which.


We then started cutting through Fantasyland on our way to the other Disney mountains. (I had a schedule. I stick to schedules.) On our way, we stopped for a quick peek at the still-closed New Fantasyland. We saw several people asking to go in, but all were denied. We struck up a conversation with a few friendly Cast Members:

The CMs asked if we'd like a sneak peak.  "Um, yeah!" I was so excited, I nearly cried. I did hug all of them. :)

For the record, I'm not the world's greatest photographer, and all I had was my phone. But without further ado (and with a minimal amount of exposition from me), here is a pictorial tour of our New Fantasyland preview. I hope you enjoy it!

Kira and I outside Maurice's Cottage

Moving inside the cottage:

We were then transported trough a magic mirror into Beast's Castle, where Kira and I both got to help tell the tale of Belle's first meeting with Beast.

Next we took a tour of the village, where we got to meet the main man, Gaston!

Of course, we had to check out his tavern, where Ray felt right at home.

By the way, we tried LeFou's Brew, and loved it!

It wouldn't be me if there wasn't some shopping involved, so made a brief trip into Bonjour Village Gifts.

I love the CM's costumes.

 I saw a t-shirt I wanted, but all they had were Large and Extra Large. A Cast Member heard me lamenting this, and volunteered to check for other sizes, as she believed they had just gotten in a new shipment. Helpful cashiers volunteering assistance -- only at Disney!  Sure enough, they had it -- so of course I bought it!

We got some wonderful pictures of the rest of New Fantasyland  (including our meal at Be Our Guest Restaurant), but I feel as though I've made you sit through enough of my photos for now. It's rather like our generation's version of the slide shows our parents used to subject people to, isn't it? ;)

Thanks so much, and I'll be back soon with more!

Friday, June 8, 2012

"The Avengers" - Behind the Scenes (Part 2)

Teri S. was in “The Avengers” with Mark Ruffalo. Mark Ruffalo was in “In the Cut” with Kevin Bacon.  Wow, that was easy.

Yes, it made for crazy days and very little sleep. Yes, I used up a large chunk of my vacation days. Yes, the pay was mediocre ($10/hour for the first 8 hours each day, time and half for every additional hour.)  And if I could do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat.

We’ve all heard that the entertainment industry works in a “hurry up and wait” fashion.  They aren’t kidding.  As I mentioned previously, I could be on the set for 10-14 hours per day, but if one hour of that was actually spent in front of a live camera, I counted myself lucky.

We (the “Group Hug” extras) were held in a cafeteria in the lower floor of a downtown Cleveland building. Depending on the planned filming for the day, it could be groups of 75 – 300 people anxiously waiting for their chance to be on camera. More on that later.

As I mentioned previously, I usually arrived around 6:00 AM. We’d give our costume number to the wardrobe department (mine was DNY-281) and they’d bring us our freshly laundered and pressed costumes.  In my case, the laundering was more of a freshness than a cleanliness issue. Why?  Because the “D” in my “DNY” stood for dirty.  I’m serious. I was designated as a “dirty New York pedestrian”, and they took that appellation very seriously. Once I finished in wardrobe, I went up to hair and makeup.  As I had already done my own hair and makeup at home, all that was left for them to do was dirty me up.  And boy, were they good at it.

Every time we came out of the bathroom, they’d touch up any dirt that we’d washed off of our hands. Before any time on camera, they’d make sure we’d been freshly covered in more dirt. During the filming of one scene, I was actually on the set with Robin Swoboda, Cleveland news anchor and icon. (You hear her towards the end of the film giving news updates.)  She took one look at me and cracked up laughing. “Do you have any idea how dirty you are?”, she chortled.  I smiled wryly. “Yes, yes I do,” I replied. It was actually a pretty sweet moment.  You see, generally people didn’t talk to the extras.  We weren’t really actors, just props that were capable of moving themselves.  That said, I absolutely adored the crew, and the few “real” actors with whom I interacted were great.

The crew: I just loved them.  First, as I previously mentioned, was the Extras Casting Coordinator, Maryellen Aviano.  I felt pretty cool that out of 1,500 extras, she remembered my name. Even better, I had my own nickname: The Cookie Lady.  Hey, I take what I can get.

Then there was the Set Production Assistant Ryan J. Pezdirc, AKA “Pez”.  Pez reminded me of The Claw in “Toy Story”.  You remember, “The claw is our master.” “The claw chooses who will go and who will stay.” That was Pez’s job. If, out of the 300 extras sitting in the holding pen waiting to be called only 10 were needed, Pez would come down and select the 10. Needless to say, competition got stiff.
Don’t get me wrong. Holding wasn’t that bad. How often to you get paid $10 per hour to play euchre and Trivial Pursuit?  (And if you know me, I never pass up a chance to play Trivial Pursuit!)

But that’s not what we were there for.  We all wanted screen time, and we’d do everything we could to get it.  For example, I learned to moderate my intake of fluids. I did not want to be in the bathroom if/when someone came down to pick a group for a shot. I also learned to keep an eye on the spot where the production team would usually enter, so that I could make sure I was nearby when they started picking. I was also a firm believer in eye contact, and wasn’t above jumping up and down like a fool to get noticed.

Once we got on the set, we were usually under the direction of Julian Brain and Greg Hale , Second Assistant Directors.  Twice, though, I actually got to appear in scenes directed by Joss Whedon himself!
In one, I was outside after a large explosion tending an injured pedestrian.  Thanks to people in nearby buildings taking pictures and then posting them online, I was able to find a photograph of that moment:

It’s a good thing I did, because this scene was cut from the final film. (In case you can’t tell, I’m at the very top of this picture. Matt Haltuch is with me as I tend to “Massive Head-Wound Harry”, as we dubbed him.)

My other scene that was directed by Mr. Whedon was in the bank. This was the special Saturday shoot for which I had been called in, and we were all very excited to be there.  The prime character in the scene was The Waitress, portrayed by Ashley Johnson (little Chrissy Seaver on “Growing Pains”). Speaking of sweet people, she was just a darling. We joked about everything from her hailing from Michigan (always a bit of a rivalry with us in Ohio) to the proper way to tackle someone. Again, very cool.

But I’m sure you’re all wondering, “What was Joss like?” The thing that struck me about Joss was how quiet he was.  All of his assistants were running around yelling their lungs out, but Joss was very reserved. When he spoke to “Ash”, as he called her, his direction was concise, but not rushed or short. I just wish I’d have gotten the opportunity to speak with him directly.

Then came the months and months of waiting for the film to come out. I saw it Friday May, 5, 2012 in 3D. To my dismay, I didn’t see myself at all. The “Head-Wound Harry” scene had been cut completely, and the bank scene almost entirely, as well. But then I went back to see it again in 2D. This time, I found myself four times: crouched in front of a car, in the bank behind the waitress (in the upper left quadrant of the screen), leaving the bank, and finally fleeing into a subway.  All told, maybe 2 seconds of screen time total. My face is only visible in the brief glimpse in the bank.  Mostly, it’s more shots like this:

(What do you mean you can’t tell that’s Matt and me?  It is, I swear.) Oh yeah: Out of hundreds of extras, Matt and I are together in all of our scenes. Weird, huh?  It’s because we strategized together on how best to get on camera, I’m just sure of it. ;)

Of course, once “The Avengers” comes out on DVD and Blu-Ray September 25, 2012, you can bet I’ll be combing through it scene by scene for more Teri sightings!

Have you seen the movie yet?  What did you think?  And more importantly, did you spy me at all?  Let me know over at!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

"The Avengers" - Behind the Scenes (Part 1)

A little movie came out last month; perhaps you heard of it – “The Avengers”?  What you may not know, however, is that I, your humble Disney Gene, am in that movie!

(Me, in my Black Widow costume for Halloween)

Well, barely.  I was one of the 1,500 or so extras that were used on the Cleveland portion of the filming. Still, it was one of the coolest experiences of my life, so I thought you might like a look behind the scenes of some of the Hollywood magic.
It all started on a hot July day. The potential extras were told to assemble between noon and 4 PM July 15, and 10 AM to 4 PM July 16, 2011 at the Holiday Inn Independence for their chance to audition. Interested people “should dress in their best business executive outfit and must be well-groomed”.  We were instructed to bring our own pens to fill out an application, and photos would be taken at the casting.

My husband and I decided to hit the Saturday auditions.  Reports of long lines on Friday had us arriving about 9:00 on Saturday, but the lines were already snaking through the parking lot.  All told, we waited about four hours standing in the hot sun. In business suits. And heels (for me, anyway.)  And best of all, I’d been stung by a bee on my foot on Thursday, so my foot had, quite literally, swelled to three times its normal size. Boy, was that fun to cram into a dress shoe, and then stand on for four hours.  Hey, I said it was exciting, not glamorous. I mean seriously, it was wicked stepsister shoving her foot into the glass slipper material here.

Estimates of the number of people who auditioned for these 1,500 spots ranged from 4,500 to 10,000, depending on which report you read. To make a long story short, I made it but my husband didn’t. Don’t think that didn’t make fore a wee bit of tension in the household. ;)

I actually didn’t hear back from them for quite some time, so I didn’t think that I’d been selected. But when sitting at rehearsal for the Bellevue Society for the Arts’ production of “Move Over, Mrs. Markham”, I got the call. I couldn’t believe it!

I got a gist of how things would work right away. It was 7:00 on a Thursday evening.  “Can you come in tomorrow morning to downtown Cleveland for a fitting?” I was asked. Well gee; I do have this thing called a job… Oh, what the heck.  “Sure.” I said. Fortunately, my boss was cool about it. She was very excited for me, and completely understanding about the flexibility needed in the use of my vacation days over the coming weeks. Brad Rowe, my director in “Move Over, Mrs. Markham” was an absolute sweetheart about it, as well.  I had to have been a director’s worst nightmare during that time, but Brad was always patient and supportive!   

Friday morning: my fitting.  I’m sure many of you are familiar with the quote by Randy Pausch, “Be good at something; it makes you valuable…. Have something to bring to the table, because that will make you more welcome.”  I believe in taking that quote a bit more literally than most people. So when I showed up for my fitting, I didn’t arrive empty-handed; I brought my special homemade sugar cookies. They were a hit.

I was originally slated to be on the set from 3-5 days, depending on how filming went.  But a couple of days after my fitting, I was laying out by the pool when I get a phone call. “The director wants to know if you would be available for a special scene to be shot on Saturday. Can you make that?”  Um, let me think… “Yes!”

So Tuesday August 16, 2011 I reported to downtown Cleveland at 6:00 AM… with cookies. This time, I made 10 dozen cookies – I didn’t want anyone to miss out! I sought out the Extras Casting Coordinator, Maryellen Aviano.  Upon catching sight of me, she exclaimed,  “The Cookie Lady’s here!”  You can bet your bottom dollar that I was determined at that point to show up every day with cookies in hand!

Here is how the days went: the night before I was to be on the set, I’d call the hotline for my scheduled arrival time (usually 6:00 AM) and the designated parking garage.  I’d get up at about 3:15 AM for shower, hair, make-up and clothes, then drive an hour to an hour and half (depending on traffic) to join the rest of the “Group Hug” extras (possibly the least effective secret identity in movie history).  We’d usually be on site until around 7 or 8 PM, at which point I would drive home, make cookies for the next day, collapse into bed, and then get up the next morning and do it all again.  My husband thought I was crazy to make the cookies each night after those long, crazy days, but I just had to.  Why?  Quite simply, the crew was working their butts off.  When I got there at 6:00, the hair and make-up people were all set up and ready to roll. The costume people had already laundered all of our costumes from the day before. And there were days that in addition to our daytime shoots, they also had to take care of the extras that were there to film the nighttime scenes in Germany. I figured those people needed and deserved a sugar boost, so the least that I could do was try to help!  So I brought cake bites, sugar cookies, snickerdoodles, chocolate chunk cookies, and oatmeal scotchies.  I hope that the crew liked them, because I really appreciated all of the hard work they did for us!

I’ve already rambled on for nearly 1,000 words, so I’ll stop here for now.  Next time, I’ll give you a look at our days on the set, as well as some info on my appearances in the film.  Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Keep Moving Forward... Not Backward!

As you’ve probably heard, the Disney community is all atwitter at the announced return of a long-absent park character.  Disney has decided to bring the Orange Bird back to the parks, and everyone seems thrilled.  Well, everyone but me, that is.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m as nostalgic as the next person about that cute little guy. And I have great memories of his time in the Magic Kingdom, right down to the little sipper cups shaped like whatever fruit juice they contained that were sold at the Sunshine Tree Terrace. But to understand my ambivalence about this sweet, sunny fellow, we’ll need to take a look at his history.

Disney likes sponsors – big surprise, I know. And our story begins with a Disney corporate sponsor.

In 1969, the Florida Citrus Commission was among the first organizations to sign on as a sponsor of a Walt Disney World attraction: the Sunshine Pavilion, which included the Tropical Serenade (known today as Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room) and the Sunshine Tree Terrace. It was decided that a mascot was called for, so Don MacLaughlin, publicity art designer for the Disney Studio, developed a character that would be known as the Orange Bird. A unique little chap, the character was an orange bird with leaves for wings. Unlike most birds, he couldn’t talk or sing; he only thought in the form of orange puffs of smoke that would appear above his head. To explain the Orange Bird’s tale, the famous Disney songwriting team of Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman composed an entire story album celebrating the new character. And who sang this sweet little song about an innocent bird? The spokeswoman for the Florida Citrus Commission, Anita Bryant.

And therein, ladies and gentlemen, lies the grudge I hold against the Orange Bird.

Who is Anita Bryant?” you ask.  I’ll refrain from commenting that you really need to get out more (just kidding) and instead give you a short look at this charming woman’s history. After a brief radio career and a trip to the Miss America pageant, Ms. Bryant decided to get involved in political matters. In 1977, Dade County, Florida passed an ordinance sponsored by Bryant's former good friend Ruth Shack that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Offended at the thought of discrimination being made illegal, Bryant led a highly publicized campaign to repeal the ordinance as the leader of a coalition named Save Our Children. The campaign was based on conservative Christian beliefs regarding the sinfulness of homosexuality and the perceived threat of homosexual recruitment of children and child molestation (never mind that the overwhelming majority of child molesters are white male heterosexuals). Bryant stated:

"What these people really want, hidden behind obscure legal phrases, is the legal right to propose to our children that theirs is an acceptable alternate way of life. [...] I will lead such a crusade to stop it as this country has not seen before."

And another lovely quote of hers:

"As a mother, I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children; therefore, they must recruit our children."

And let’s not forget:

"If gays are granted rights, next we'll have to give rights to prostitutes and to people who sleep with St. Bernards and to nail biters."

Oh, and her “Save Our Children” campaign?  By focusing on the idea that gays and lesbians were somehow threatening to children, Bryant had created an incredibly powerful rhetorical focus for social conservatives. In 1981, Jerry Falwell echoed her language in a fundraising letter that reminded his followers, "Please remember, homosexuals don't reproduce! They recruit! And they are out after my children and your children." (By the way, I'd love to hear them explain exactly how this "recruiting" occurs. That one just cracks me up.) By the beginning of the 1980s, the Religious Right had made the fight against the gay and lesbian community one of its primary issues, and found it a particularly effective focus for fundraising appeals. The efforts of conservatives slowed the advance of gay rights and established an organized anti-gay opposition. And Anita Bryant was the one who got this ball of hatred and bigotry rolling.

So when I see the Orange Bird, I immediately hear his song in my head. And who is singing it?  Anita Bryant.  Believe me when I say, that is not a voice I want to hear. To quote a fabulous quip I once read, “Anita Bryant like anita hole in the head.”  I realize it’s not the Orange Bird’s fault. But Disney knows of his past affiliations with this bigot. So if Disney wants to bring him back, I think they should make efforts to distance him from his checkered past. One way to do so might be by having the song re-recorded, and by an artist known to support equal rights for everyone. Better yet, Disney could donate the proceeds from that song release to support marriage equality. That would go a long way to rehabilitating the Orange Bird’s image, and I think all lovers of fairness and equality could then embrace him without guilt.  What do you think?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Time to be Movin’ Along

Today’s topic: What attractions at Walt Disney World should be put on the chopping block?  

Many of you are probably going to consider this concept sacrilegious, I’m sure. You feel that Disney should only add, never subtract.  But look at it this way: Every attraction costs money to run – electricity, cast members to man it, etc. And there is a finite amount of each space in the four parks. Is every attraction really deserving of this prime real estate?  Let’s look at each park and see where some of these resources might be better utilized.

Magic Kingdom:

1. Tomorrowland Speedway – Yes, it’s an opening day attraction. Yes, it often has long lines. You know what? I don’t care. This attraction is not worthy of the name “Disney”, in my opinion. There are similar attractions in pretty much every amusement park in the country, sometimes even with better theming. There’s nothing that makes this a truly Disney attraction, and I really don’t see how it fits in Tomorrowland (unless in the future, all cars are only going to go 7 MPH. In that case, shoot me now.)  A Cars overlay would make a huge difference (along with redefining this as a Fantasyland attraction), but word has it that the Disney’s Hollywood Studios people don’t want to see that happen, because they are hoping to get an entire Cars Land in a few years. As far as I’m concerned however, internal WDW politics should not stand in the way of progress.

2. Stitch’s Great Escape – When the highlight of the show is someone burping chili dogs in your face, it’s time to rethink the attraction. Why not go back to Alien Encounter?  You did it with Enchanted Tiki Room and Captain EO.

* Dishonorable Mention: Tom Sawyer Island – I feel a little guilty including this, because I’ve never actually visited this attraction. But doesn’t the fact that I’ve been to WDW around 20 times but never felt the need to venture over there tell you something?


1. Captain EO – Nostalgia is all well and good, but enough is enough. Not that I think a return to Honey, I Shrunk the Audience would be any better. This is the Imagination! Pavilion, Disney. Perhaps you should put your imaginations to work and come up with something new. (But for goodness sake, don’t go back to that idea of a trip through Michael Jordan’s mind that Jim Hill once mentioned. That’s just about the worst idea ever.)

2. Any of the World Showcase Films – Films about a country are awesome when you’re in a junior high Geography class and don’t want to do any real work.  They are not what I’m wanting to do when I’m paying about $100 per hour for entertainment. World Showcase needs some bona fide “E ticket” attractions, period.

* Dishonorable Mentions:  The Circle of Life – As far as edutainment goes, this is too much “edu” and not enough “tainment” for me.  Also, the Wonders of Life Pavilion and the Odyssey Restaurant; Disney should be embarrassed about these empty buildings. And I don’t even want to hear about a lack of sponsors. I might have bought that line of reasoning when theme park tickets cost $15 dollars per day, but not at today’s prices.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

1. Sounds Dangerous – It’s never open anyway. Why hang onto it?

2. The American Idol Experience – It was cool to see my husband perform in this a couple of times, but I’d never spend part of my day in the park watching complete strangers compete. And is anyone really still all that interested in American Idol?

*Dishonorable Mentions: Studios Backlot Tour, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Lights Motors Action Extreme Stunt Show – All of these fall into the “one and done” category for me.  I wouldn’t miss any of these at all.

Animal Kingdom

This one is really easy: all of Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama.  Yes, I know this is the feel they were trying for. Yes, I know it’s deceptively expensive to make something that looks this cheap and tacky. I don’t care. I find the whole area completely unappealing. I like Dinosaur, and that’s it. Maybe if they’d have gone ahead with the planned Excavator attraction that was originally supposed to be included, this area would have a more cohesive theme and might appeal to me more. As it is, I wrinkle up my nose in distaste whenever I see it, just as I would a real roadside attraction. That’s a level of authenticity I just don’t need.

So, how much do you want to strangle me now?  Have I served up anything you love on my plate of “extremely disposable”?  What attractions do you think should retire? Feel free to post them over at Just don’t lay a finger on my Country Bear Jamboree! :)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

♪ I Don’t Know When, I Don’t Know How…♪

We all have that list, right?  That list of things we want to do at Walt Disney World, but short of a lottery win or an Ocean’s Eleven-style heist, it doesn’t seem likely anytime soon. Some people call it their “Bucket List.”  That’s a little morbid for my taste, so I call it my “I Don’t Know When, I Don’t Know How List”. A little unwieldy perhaps, but Part of Your World is absolutely stuck in your head right now, isn’t it? ;)

So what would I do at Walt Disney World if I had unlimited funds?  Funny you should ask. I just happen to have this little countdown:

7. Any Tables in Wonderland experience that happens to be going on while I’m down there. They create private meal events in some really cool places – inside theme park attractions, closed restaurants, even giant warehouses full of Disney props. Costs vary, but are usually $100-$150 per person.

6. Parasailing - Flights set sail from the Contemporary Resort. The flights last between 8-12 minutes each and go up to from 450 to 600 feet.  Take off and landing is from a boat, so you do not end up in the water at all. (This part is very important to me. There are snakes, alligators, and brain-eating amoeba in Bay Lake. It’s true; I’ve seen them.  Well, maybe not the amoeba, but I’m willing to take that one on faith.) And it’s not cheap:

  • Single Flight :
    Regular - $95+ tax per flight (8-10 minutes at 450 feet)
    Deluxe - $ 130+ tax per flight (10-12 minutes at 600 feet)
  • Tandem Flight:
    Regular - $170+ tax per flight (8-10 minutes at 450 feet)
    Deluxe - $195+ tax per flight (10-12 minutes at 600 feet)
 You must be at least six years old to participate. All fliers must be at least 130 lbs. and no more than 330 lbs. total weight in the parachute. If a flier is under the minimum requirement, he or she may accompany another flier to reach the minimum weight. Minors under the age of eighteen must have an adult present to sign waivers prior to departing on your trip.

5. Dine with a Disney Imagineer - Join a member of the WDW creative team for an informal, one-on-one lunch chat at the Disney's Hollywood Studios' legendary Hollywood Brown Derby or dinner at the Flying Fish Restaurant located at Disney’s BoardWalk Resort. You'll get a fascinating glimpse of the creative process as these talented men and women share what it's like to work in the most magical place in the world. In addition, each party will receive a souvenir designed exclusively for this experience that can be personalized by the Imagineer. Lunch at the Brown Derby is $60.99 for adults (ages 10 and up) and $34.99 for children (3-9).  The Flying Fish dinner is only recommended for ages 14 and up, and runs $85.00, plus tax and gratuity. You can add wine pairings for an additional $30.00, and get a commemorative plate for $75.00.

4. Disney's Keys to the Kingdom Tour highlights the fascinating history of Walt Disney World Resort and provides backstage access to secret areas of Magic Kingdom theme park. This 4.5-hour tour explores the stories behind the creation and growth of Magic Kingdom theme park. Hear the intriguing story of Walt Disney and learn how his innovative ideas, revolutionary visions, creative philosophies and amazing accomplishments brought the park to life. The journey includes stops at backstage facilities and a variety of favorite attractions. One unforgettable highlight is a trip below Magic Kingdom theme park into the service tunnels known as the Utilidors. Guests must be at least 16 years of age, and the cost is $74.00 per person.

3. Wild Africa Trek - Journey through Disney’s Animal Kingdom on a three hour tour (♪ a three hour tour ♪). Travel deep into Pangani Forest on a thrilling, privately guided expedition featuring close encounters with exotic wildlife species. Adventurers are fitted with an expedition harness that attaches to an overhead track. Once your group reaches the riverbank, get a stunning look at the hippos, just 10 feet below. After a seemingly precarious trek across a rope bridge dangling over a throng of enormous crocodiles, experience another unbelievable view as you hang over the crocodiles' riverbed lair! Venture on to a VIP safari across an open savanna teeming with incredible views of everything from towering giraffe to powerful rhinos. A Disney photographer captures your experiences along the way. When you return home from your visit to Walt Disney World Resort, you'll receive a photo CD in the mail, which included in the cost of the tour. It should be, considering the tour will cost anywhere from $189-$249, depending on the season.

2. Backstage Magic Tour - On this 6-8 hour tour, guests get an in-depth look at the creative and technical operations used behind the scenes to bring innovative special effects, world-class entertainment and elaborate attractions to life. You go behind the scenes at Epcot and tour the Utilidors under the Magic Kingdom. Take a break with a family-style lunch at the Whispering Canyon Café inside Disney's Wilderness Lodge. Then, see how horticulture and landscape design play a starring role in creating an endless variety of uniquely themed environments at the Walt Disney World Nursery & Tree Farm. Head to Disney's Hollywood Studios and see how Walt Disney Imagineers combined cutting-edge design with breakthrough technology to create the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. You'll also learn how the Creative Costuming team outfits the performers in Disney parades and shows. Finally, wrap up your day at Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park with an up-close look at Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade. All of this for a “mere” $229.00 per person (ages 16 and up).

1. The Chef's Table at Victoria & Albert's is a signature dining experience at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Enjoy a private dinner within the kitchen of Victoria & Albert's and interact with the restaurant's head chef, Chef Hunnel. An 11-year recipient of the prestigious AAA Five Diamond award, this is the premiere restaurant at Walt Disney World Resort, blending fine contemporary cuisine and world-renowned wine pairings from an award-winning cellar with personalized butler service and an elegant setting. Go behind the scenes and dine at a special table located inside the kitchen, where you can watch and speak with Chef Hunnel and staff as they prepare a 10-course meal. Each unique menu is brimming with ingredients culled fresh daily from the world market just for you. During the approximate 3-hour dining experience, Chef Hunnel offers culinary tidbits and tasting samples, catering the mouth-watering meal to you and your party's dietary preferences. A wait staff of two—a butler and a maid—are on hand to tend to your every whim. And with the Royal Wine Pairing, the sommelier selects superb vintages for each portion of your unique meal.
Menu Prix Fixe begins at $210.00 per guest, and wine pairings from $105.00 per guest. (Excuse me for a moment, while I go cry quietly in a corner.)
So, how about you? What are your “someday” experiences at Walt Disney World?  Please share over at!  

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Munching with the Mouse

One of my favorite ways to relive the magic at home is by recreating some of my favorite Walt Disney World dishes. Here’s a personal favorite from Epcot’s Restaurant Marrakesh, Couscous Salad. First I’ll give you the straight Disney version of the recipe, and then I’ll tell what improvements changes I’ve made.

Disney’s Recipe:


Olive oil
1/2 of a red onion
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/2 of a sweet red bell pepper
1/2 of a sweet green bell pepper
1/2 of a chopped zucchini
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Nutmeg to taste
Cinnamon to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1 cup orange juice
12 ounces cooked plain couscous
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup tangerine segments or mandarin orange segments
 Mint sprig for garnish  

Method: In a large nonstick skillet, sauté onion, garlic, sweet bell peppers and zucchini in olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon. Add 1/2 cup olive oil to vegetables along with raisins, chickpeas and orange juice. Toss vegetable mixture with couscous and pan juices. Add parsley and gently fold in citrus segments. Mound mixture onto a serving platter and garnish with mint.

Teri’s Version:

Olive oil – 1 to 2 Tablespoons
1/2 of a red onion, chopped
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/2 of a sweet red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 of a sweet green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 of a chopped zucchini or maybe just the whole thing, because what am I going to do with half a zucchini?
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste I start with 1 tsp. Kosher salt and ½ tsp. pepper, and increase from there
Nutmeg to taste - ½ tsp.
Cinnamon to taste - I start with about 1 ½ tsp. and go from there
Cayenne pepper - ¼ tsp. - I like how the little added kick plays with the sweet and savory flavors that are going on in this dish.
1/2 cup olive oil – Are you kidding? That’s a lot of oil, which means a lot of extra calories. I cut this down to ¼ cup.
1/4 cup raisins - I go for closer to ½ cup (because I like raisins), and I use regular or golden. When I cook the couscous, I just increase the recommended liquid by about ¼ cup and add the raisins right in there. It plumps up the raisins beautifully.
1/4 cup chickpeas (garbanzo beans) – I leave these out because I’m not a big fan, so why add the calories?
1 cup orange juice – Pineapple juice tastes great, too. I use whichever I have on hand.
12 ounces cooked plain couscous – I use 10 ounces, because that’s what comes in a Near East box. I prepare according to package directions, plus the raisins and a little grated lemon or orange peel, just to jazz it up a little.
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup tangerine segments or mandarin orange segments - I usually at least double this. I like mandarin oranges.
Mint sprig for garnish - Unless I have mint on hand for something else, that is not going to happen.  

Method: In a large nonstick skillet, sauté onion, sweet bell peppers and zucchini in olive oil. Add the garlic during the last minute or two of sautéing. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Add 1/4 cup olive oil to vegetables along with the juice. Toss vegetable mixture with couscous, raisins, and pan juices. Add parsley and gently fold in citrus segments. Mound mixture onto a serving platter and garnish with mint (or not). I love this warm or cold. Enjoy!