Thursday, May 31, 2007

WDW May/June 2007 Day 3

OK, it is a bit of a pain and rather tedious to post pictures on here, especially when you want to post a lot and have it appear in the same section that you have your text. So I'll wait till after I'm done with this trip to post those pictures. In the meantime, you'll just have to read about it and use your imagination. :) I might post a picture or two, but not a whole series of them.

We started out at AK for the Breakfastosaurus. It was a lot of fun. Mickey, Donald, Pluto, and Goofy were all there. Our server, Mikesaurus, was particularly fun and "goofy" and kept us all entertained (I gave him an extra tip even though the tip was included with our Dining Plan). We actually arrived an hour early than our reservation at 8:50 am. But since AK has the early Extra Magic Hours today, we thought that even if we could not get an early seating, we would be able to do the park before it opens to everyone. Well, we actually did get seating early. So we ate and then did Everest. We actually did Everest twice. In between we were at Camp Minnie and Mickey and also saw Festival of the Lion King.

And oh, we were the FIRST guest to drive into the AK parking lot. We've never done that before.

After AK, we then headed over to The Magic Kingdom. Of course, we asked to sit in the front cab, and we had a terrific ride. Even got the Monorail Pilot "license". So watch out!

We left MK to pick up our friends from the Orlando airport. After they checked in, we came back to the MK to do SpectroMagic and Wishes. SpectroMagic was fine as usual. However, I think they were showing us the "light" version (no pun intended). Having watched this parade many times (and with 2 versions of it in my video collection that I've uploaded), I tend to remember it very well. This time, many things were either parred down, or simply didn't work! The "mountain" didn't open up to reveal chernobog! That was the biggest disappointment of the night! I hate it when they skimp on us like that.

We then moved to Main Street to see Wishes. I was going to snap pictures of it (as if I don't have enough already), but just as I started to snap a few, I had a low battery signal. I could have switched battery, but I thought I should just enjoy the show. So I only got a few pictures.

Today, we're going back to Disney-MGM and spend the morning there. Later in the afternoon, we'll head to Epcot and will do dinner at Marakesh and stay for IllumiNations. Epcot has the extra Magic Hours this evening, so we'll see how much energy I have left tonight to stay up that late.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

WDW May/June 2007 Day 2

We had a leisurely 2nd day at WDW. We started off here at Old Key West with a reception for a number of people to hear a briefing from DVC people about possible upgrading more points at OKW, SSR, and AKL. They are selling a special with each points discounted by $10 at most of these places. We were tempted, but we need to consider this a bit more to see if we want to add to the 230 points that we already have.

We then headed out mid morning to Disney-MGM Studios. The park seems to be rather busy by then because Tower of Terror was running 40-60 minutes. We didn't feel like waiting in line since we will get to do this on at least 2 other occasions. We did the animation studios and I got to draw Mickey AGAIN, but this time it is Mickey in profile. I'll take a picture of it and upload it later.

The hat had all the stuff ready for the big party on Saturday evening (it will be a dance floor). Your truly will be attending this party, headlined by the lovable Kathy Griffin.

We then headed over to the Animal Kingdom. We did the Finding Nemo - the Musical. It was SPECTACULAR! They certainly borrowed a lot from the Lion King Broadway musical, but regardless, it is something you should see. Very well done!

We then did Everest (of course!) It is still as kick-ass as ever!

We then stayed for Mickey Jammin' Jungle Parade. I'll post some pictures here, but we did videotaped this. I'll edit and upload it to Google video once it is ready. So look out for it.

Tonight, we're spending a leisurely evening at Downtown Disney. We will have a very long day tomorrow, so we are going to rest for the evening.


WDW May/June 2007 Day 1 Followup

Here are some pictures from our first day right after we flew in from Washington DC.

This is our "home" at Old Key West.

There are signs all over the place celebrating the 15th Anniversary of the Disney Vacation Club. This is one of them.

We spent our first day at Epcot, which still has the Flower and Garden festival. There's a lot of pirate-themed display, understandably. But the one at the entrance is Peter Pan.

We went to see the Grand Fiesta, the new rehabbed ride in the Mexico pavilion. It was OK, but I was expecting a bit more.

Dinner at Alfredo's at the Italy Pavilion was fun. Too bad the pasta that we got was lukewarm and clumpy. I would think that, of all places, they would pay a greater attention to how they serve pasta here. To their credit, I thought the bread was EXCELLENT. It was crusty on the outside, and chewing on the inside, just the way it should be.

Here, the guests get to twirl their napkins while the musicians play/sing a tune.

We then stayed for Illuminations.

We took this picture on our way out.

One thing we noticed when we were driving in from the airport is that the "bugs" are back! This is this small, black, slightly reddish bugs that we encountered at WDW a few years ago, and they seem to be back. Our windshield was splattered with them as we're driving.

In fact, after we parked at Epcot, we saw this vehicle that has a front almost covered with it. These people must have driven quite a distance to get to that stage!

Today, we might head out to the Magic Kingdom in the morning, and maybe to Animal Kingdom in the afternoon. We shall see.


Monday, May 28, 2007

WDW May/June 2007 Day 1

We made it to WDW! Spent a wonderful weekend near Fredricksburg, but now we are at our "home" at Old Key West.

We had dinner at Alfredo. The food was very good but with a rather disappointing main entree. Our appetizer was excellent (the caparese salad). We ordered 2 pasta dishes, but they appeared to have sat a while before they were brought to our table. The pasta was lukewarm, and they've clamped up together. While they taste quite good, it certainly is disappointing when the pasta has stuck together like that.

Still, it is a fun place to eat. They got the guests to twirl their napkins while they sang. The singing part went on almost non-stop. So it was certainly a festive occasion.

We also managed to see The Fiesta ride at the Mexico pavilion. It was OK, but nothing to shout about. Some parts feel like It's A Small World, and they relied too heavily on videos.

We then stayed for Illuminations. I took a few pictures of it.

Pictures will come up soon when I get around to uploading them. So there will be more follow-up to this report.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Pirates Gets Mixed Reviews

... and we have deja vu all over again. That was the same type of review Pirates II got.

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Suntimes and of Ebert and Roeper gave it a mixed review, generally leaning on the positive side, while CNN's Tom Charity wasn't too charitable with his review. Both reviewers thought the plot was convoluted and confusing.

We shall see the fan's reaction starting this evening.


More WDW On A Budget

It seems that every beginning of summer, various sites and news media publish their own hints at how one can do Disney theme parks on a budget. This is good! I'm sure it is very useful for many families to know how they don't have to take a 2nd mortgage on their homes to afford a family vacation at a Disney theme park.

So this is another budget hints, this time from MSNBC. If you have read this blog, you would have seen similar advice published before on here or other websites. But the one about buying Disney t-shirts first before you get to the parks and then giving it to the kids is actually a brilliant idea. If they are young enough, they won't know the difference, really.


Inside Disney's Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage

This news article describes the new Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage at Disneyland. With the new Finding Nemo ride at the old Living Seas pavilion at Epcot and the Finding Nemo show at Animal Kingdom, there seems to be a lot effort to go "find" Nemo. You'd think they've found him by now!



Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Where In Walt Disney World?

OK, the last one of this was quite easy, but this one might be tricky. Can you figure out where exactly in Walt Disney World can you find these?


Giddy For Disney

It's Wednesday, and I just know that Thursday is going to move VERY slow. I always feel like this the week before my trip. I'm playing Disney tunes at work the past 2 weeks, and I'm ramping up all the Disney stuff everywhere, as if I need any more gearing up to get into the spirit of it.

We're leaving early Friday, but even though we won't be at WDW until Monday, I still count Friday as the start of my adventure. I've never been to Virginia before, much less Fredricksburg, so even this brief diversion away from Disney is exciting.

I'm not sure how I'll survive one last day at work tomorrow. I've been clearing out everything that is going to be due while I'm gone, and I have one last piece of stuff that needs to go out before everything that I have to do is done! I just know that I'll find it difficult to sleep tomorrow night - I always do before such a trip.

The TV stations around here have been advertising an 8:00 pm showing Thursday evening for Pirates. I think that is almost what most part of the country is going to do. There is just a feel of quiet frenzy in the air anticipating this movie. I'm hoping that some of the opening day Pirates pins that they will be releasing on Friday are still around by the time I get there. After we check in to our resort at Old Key West, we are heading straight to Epcot and the Pin Trading store. We have a list of pins that we want to get right away before they are gone.

Damn, I'm so looking forward to this trip!


Shake-Up At Imagineering Division

This appears to be a rather extensive reorganization of management at Disney's Imagineering Division.

Officials on Tuesday confirmed several changes in Walt Disney Imagineering -- the Disney arm that dreams up and designs everything from Walt Disney World thrill rides and shows to themed restaurants. They include a new partnership at the top featuring research and development guru Bruce Vaughn and design master Craig Russell. Vaughn was promoted last week to chief creative executive, and Russell to chief design and delivery executive.

I hope this is all good. They are the ones Disney fans count on to continue to produce things that we want to see and do!


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Pirates 3 Captures 83% of Ticket Sales

Pirates of the Caribbean - At World's End isn't scheduled to open till Thursday evening here in the US, and already it is having brisks ticket sales on Fandango.

Fandango is reporting that "Pirates 3" is currently:

* Selling three times as many tickets as last year's "Pirates of the
Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," at the same point in the films'
respective sales cycles on Fandango (as of May 22, 11:00 a.m. PT);

* Accounting for 83 percent of all weekly ticket sales on (as of May 22, 11:00 a.m. PT).

I think there is just an overwhelming anticipation for the movie. We probably won't be able to see it during the opening weekend since we will be in Virginia for the first part of our vacation. We will be flying in to Orlando on Memorial Day, and then maybe decide then and there if we want to see it at the Downtown Disney theaters (assuming we get tickets). If not, we'll probably see it after we get back.


Extreme Vacation: Disney World With 6 Preschool Children!

I was horrified just from reading the title of this trip report, because I was half expecting an adult to be having a nervous breakdown or a kid being shackled to the bed as the end result. While the actual trip report falls short of that, there were times that it sounded very horrifying close (and LOUD as well).

Fortunately, this is a rather hysterically funny trip report. It certainly is funny when you don't have to live through something like this:

No. 1 twin Ava, exuberant and vociferous at 3, took the running and screaming past the bounds that had already been drawn for her numerous times at dinner by her mom and Auntie Joy. Unfortunately for her, it was on Uncle P's watch and he had to drop the hammer.

The threatened punishment was to go back to the hotel room, so back we went. Kicking. Screaming. Hitting. (That little fist was a surprise.)

So I sat in the room with her while she cried and cried and cried, actually got sick for a second, then cried some more until my sister came by to pick her up. That kid's got pipes.

I love my nieces and nephews very much, but even I would not want to be put through that. It is why they have parents and I love them a whole lot because they simply go home at night, or I can pass them on to their respective parents and say "It's your kid. YOU handle it!"



Disney Raisins?

Yup! You might just start seeing your lovable Disney characters on packages of raisins snacks. Disney has approached National Raisin Co. about having their brand on these healthy snacks.

I suppose that is consistent with Disney's trend of trying to have healthier food at its theme parks.


Teens Arrested at The Magic Kingdom

Yup! School holidays are here!

A few unruly, and possibly drunk teens, were causing a lot of trouble at the Magic Kingdom. One of them even had to be tasered by a sheriff deputy. And a couple of them are girls, folks!

Local6 news station even has pictures of a couple of these wonderful kids!

Whenever something like this happens, my first question has always been: where are the parents?


Monday, May 21, 2007

Iger Speaks About Anaheim Housing Dispute

Bob Iger finally speaks about the battle between Disneyland and Anaheim about the housing battle.

"Disneyland and our properties occupy about 5 percent of the land in Anaheim, but we deliver 50 percent of the revenue, thanks to taxes, to the city, and with that have created, or I should say helped to create, with the city, some excellent public services, starting with the police department and the fire department and the like," Iger said. "And in addition to that we're the largest employer in this region. We've created a tremendous number of jobs."

Iger seems to be breaking out of his shell. He also made another first comment, this time in regards to that stupid Hamas TV show that used a Mickey Mouse lookalike aimed at brainwashing children to buy their message.

"We didn't mobilize our forces and seek to either have the clip taken down or to make any broad public statement about it," Iger told a gathering of the Society of Business Editors and Writers at the Disneyland Hotel.

"We were appalled by the use of our character to disseminate that kind of message," he said "I think anytime any group seeks to exploit children in that manner, it's despicable."

Still, Iger said it didn't seem to make any sense for Disney to make any loud public statement at the time.

"I just didn't think it would have any effect," he said. 'I think it should have been obvious how the company felt about the subject."

This is the first comment out of any Disney official on this. Previous, only Diane Disney Miller made a pointed criticism against this silly TV show.


Keith Richards Is Great Actor?

Who would have thunk?

Johnny Depp thought so. At least that is what he is saying. Read for yourself!


Disney World Underground

I mentioned a while back about an article on the Magic Kingdom's utilidors. Unfortunately, the link I provided no longer gives free access to the article in question.

But fear not. This blog actually provides quite a detailed description of the utilidors and a lot of its content. Some of it, such as a place where they place the map, you can see if you take one of the tours, such as Keys to the Magic Kingdom, which I have. So you do get to see part of the backstage area. Still, this article provides a lot more info, probably more than Disney would like.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Where in Walt Disney World?

This should be easy enough even though there's hardly any "landmarks" to identify it (other than that monorail line).

Where in Walt Disney World is this?


More Money-Saving Tips at WDW

Another news article on ways to save money (and headache) when vacationing at the Walt Disney World. The list given at the end is certainly consistent with what we have read from other sources so far, and certainly one that I would also recommend, except maybe for the Disney Rewards Visa card.

Don't get me wrong, I love having it, and I do use it now and then. However, you do not accumulate points that fast, and you only get $1 for every whole hundred that you spent within that billing cycle. For example, if you spend $90 in that billing cycle, you don't get any points. Or if you spent only $260, you only get 2 points.

Depending on what credit cards that you have, you accumulate points and cash-back rewards faster with other cards. You might come out ahead if you use other cards and get the cash back to spend at a Disney theme park.


Disney Still Reigns with Family Vacations

Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World still are the top choices for family vacations, at least for residents of El Paso, TX. Still, I don't think this is that much different from the rest of the country, especially after last year's record-breaking attendance from both theme parks.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Windy City Pin Traders May Event

Attended my 3rd event with the Windy City Pin Traders. Had another terrific time, even though the turn-out is a bit smaller than last month. We had some new pins to trade since we received a few pins from our buddies in LA, please we loaded up on a bunch of trading pins we had in bags. So we had quite a few. We managed to trade for several pins that we really, really like.

This, of course, is the week before we make our WDW trip. So for the next Pin Traders event next month, we should be fully loaded up from all the pins that we will be getting.


WDW Labor Rejected Deal

It's a no go and back to the bargaining table for both sides. The union members narrowly voted against the new deal between Disney and its labor unions.

More than 52 percent of Service Trades Council voters rejected the proposed three-year agreement, which would have included pay raises of 4 percent for many workers and health-care options for the group's roughly 21,000 members. The vote was 2,870-2,583.

Er... let's say... 21000 members, but there were only 5300 votes total? That is barely a quarter of the total membership. What happened to the others? They didn't have time to vote, or they couldn't vote?



Friday, May 18, 2007

Character Dining Trip Report

I've always recommended people to do at least one character dining on their trips. It is a very fun but also relaxing way to meet with the characters without standing in line in the hot sun.

This is one such report on character dining at 3 different WDW restaurants: The Royal Table at Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Chef Mickey's at The Contemporary Resort, and Play 'n Dine at the Hollywood & Vine in MGM Studios. While I agree that both Cindy's Royal Table and Chef Mickey are very popular, I don't think Play 'n Dine can be considered as such, at least from what I've heard (I haven't dine there while I've done both Cindy's Royal Table and Chef Mickey). In fact, I would think Crystal Palace and dinner at Liberty Tree Tavern might be even more popular.

While I also agree that the characters are the main attraction and not the food (thus, the food then to not be that good), I would say that the exception here might be Crystal Palace. The food there is surprisingly good! We have done both dinner and lunch, and the food was excellent both times.

So, if you want good food, and don't mind meeting Pooh and friends (and the noise level also tends to be higher), then I would truly recommend Crystal Palace. Just make sure you make advanced reservation.


WDW Labor Unions Vote Today

Walt Disney World union members head to the polls today to rectify the new contracts. While the union representatives generally endorses the new contract, there are, of course, a few that still are not happy with it and planned to vote against it.

In other words, it is just another day at the office.

We will know the results by this evening.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Theme Parks With No Mickey Parts

Orlando Sentinel has a couple of retro pictures of Epcot without the Wand and Disney-MGM Studios without the Hat.

I've heard rumors that the wand is coming off of Spaceship Earth. I know this wand irritates many Disney fan. I, frankly, don't feel that way. I don't mind it being there, and I don't mind it going away. It isn't that big of a deal with me. While it is there, it is not bad to look at.

The same with the Hat. It does draw your attention as you walk down its central blvd. And unlike the other theme parks, without the Hat, there's no central "icon" to Disney-MGM Studios. The Hat has essentially become the icon.


These Ducks Are No Match For Disney

OK, you HAVE to read this trip report. That is all I am going to say. It is one of the most charming trip report that I've read. If you happen to be one of those people who witnessed this, I'd like to hear from you as well.


Wounded Bambi Dies Near Disney

This is not from the movie, nor is it anywhere near any Disney theme park. Yet, there are many similar words here: deer (Bambi), Disney (Disney school here in Chicago).

A couple of deer were struck by vehicles on a very busy Lakeshore Dr. (a route I take everyday to work). It was also an unfortunate coincidence that this occured near the Disney school.

A mother and a young buck were killed in the accident.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Anaheim Petitioners Clash

Yowzah! Things are getting rather NASTY out there in Anaheim.

BTW, I didn't know that there's 99-cent store in Anaheim! I thought only the rich live there, and that's why they need this few "low income housing". But look at the picture in that news report!



Yak and Yeti Restaurant.

Mickey News is reporting that the new table-service restaurant at Animal Kingdom, the Yak and Yeti restaurant (how come that doesn't sound too appetizing to me?) will open in late September of this year. Unfortunately, it will be run by the same company that runs the Rainforest Cafe (Yes, you guessed it. I don't particular like that place).

Still, I'll give it a chance before I diss it. :)

So now, from not having any table service restaurant at Animal Kingdom (not counting the Rainforest Cafe at the entrance), we will now have two after the conversion of Tusker House into a character buffet restaurant. How quickly things change.


Disney Launches Travel On Demand

So you've heard of video on demand and movies on demand from your cable or satellite system. But travel on demand? Disney seems to think it is possible.

Walt Disney Co. said Tuesday that it was launching travel-focused, video-on-demand programming that would let some cable television subscribers push a button on their remote and within 15 minutes get a call from a Disney reservation agent to book a vacation.

That sounds... er ... creepy! :) Still, I guess if you make it easy enough, impulsive viewer would do such a thing, although I don't know of how many people make a trip to WDW or Disneyland on an impulse, other than the locals.

Still, the channel will be doing some cool stuff, some of which have been roughly done by the existing Travel Channel.

The programming will take people behind the scenes via four shows, with new episodes every three weeks. "Making the Magic" is an "American Idol"-like reality series that follows an entertainer in his quest to become an elite performer at Walt Disney World Resort. "Disney Fact or Fiction" will examine urban legends about Disney parks. On "Dream Makers," unsuspecting guests can win various Disney experiences; and "Disney Travel Insiders," hosted by Elisabeth Hasselbeck of "The View," will offer travel tips.

If viewers like what they see, a reservation is close at hand, although travel agents won't be available in the middle of the night.

So insomniacs will have to wait. :)


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Follow-up On That Disney'esque Theme Park in Beijing

This is a follow-up on that theme park Shijingshan in China that had copied not only Disney themes and characters, but also several other Japanese cartoon characters without any permission. It seems that high level officials in China has cracked down on the blatant copyright infringement at that theme park after receiving the bad publicity and after Disney contacted them directly.

Disney officials aren't amused, and lawyers for the U.S. entertainment giant soon contacted officials with the bureau of copyright inside the Beijing city government, pointing out the park has no contractual rights to use Disney characters. The Beijing government dispatched a team of investigators to the site and says Shijingshan park officials have since "enacted emergency measures" to resolve the matter, according to a statement by the bureau's deputy director, Wang Yefei.

The sad thing here is that if it weren't for the Japanese TV report, this thing would have gone on operating the way it had in broad daylight. It's not as if this is some underground operations. They were quite open and blatant with what they were doing. It is only after receiving such nasty publicity and complaint that the Chinese officials cracked down on such copyright infringement. And guess what, folks? I doubt that this is the only such violation and that it will happen again. Why? Because most people who do this that blatantly just don't get it. They certainly don't understand or realize that they did anything wrong. Just read what the general manager of that park said:

Liu Jingwang, general manager of Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park, said he didn't understand all the furor caused by the Japanese TV report and added that the amusement center hasn't done anything wrong. "We have our own mascots. We have our own corporate image. We don't need to imitate other people," he said.

He just doesn't get it and seems oblivious to what he did wrong.

.. and so do a lot of people.


New Art of Disney US Stamps To Be Released

New Art of Disney US Stamps will be released soon. This time, the theme is Art of Disney: Magic. And they all have the new 41-cent value for first class stamps that just went into effect this past Monday. The new set of stamps will feature "... Dumbo and Timothy Mouse, Peter Pan and Tinker Bell, Mickey Mouse as "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" and Aladdin and Genie.."

The design is amazing, especially for the Mickey stamp and the Dumbo/Timothy stamp.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Disney's Magical Distribution Model

Motley Fool takes a closer look at one of the most underrated strategy of the Walt Disney Company. It's multi-platform distribution model for its movie content is hitting on all cylinders and producing a very strong performance for the company.

My colleague Rick Aristotle Munarriz described Disney's latest quarterly as a home run, despite only 1% revenue growth. His enthusiasm for the company's performance is based on its gains in operating profits. There are a variety of factors we might identify to explain its profitability successes in recent quarters, not the least of which is its multiplatform content-distribution model.

This is fine, but it is certainly driven by fewer but stronger Disney-brand content.

The company's multiplatform content-distribution model, which includes DVD, iTunes, and now VOD, provides a variety of avenues for Disney to reach out to the consumer. But multiplatform options are only as useful as the content that drives them. That's why the most illuminating part of the whole call was when Iger indicated that this multiplatform model is being coupled together with a strategy to invest in select Disney movies (versus non-Disney ones) with a greater emphasis on franchise titles. It's believed that focusing on fewer big hits that bear the Disney name, and then making them available through the various distribution channels, is the best way to achieve higher margins.

Now, do you think that such a model might work in the theme parks sector? How about fewer theme parks (i.e. stop with the opening of more Disney parks throughout the world), but pouring more money into existing theme parks "brand" to make their content stronger?


Ewoks, Darths and Androids Invade Disney MGM-Studios

The Star Wars weekends at Disney-MGM Studios this year is a little bit more special. They are celebrating the 30 year anniversary of the release of the first Star Wars movie (has it been 30 years already?).

Looks like they have quite a line-up of Star Wars celebrities and activities planned this year. We will be at Disney-MGM Studios around that time, but not during the weekend. So we may not get to see all of the festivities.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Fire In The Sky

This is another one of my favorite shots at WDW. This, of course, is at Disney-MGM Studios over The Hat. It was the fireworks show at midnight during a private event. It was spectacular.

I'm surprised this came out this well, since I didn't use a tripod at that time. Of course, half of all the pictures I took of the fireworks that evening were blurry. So this was simply good luck that it turns out this good.


Disney Expands Kingdom

We get many trip reports to various Disney theme parks, but we never had a good trip report on one of Adventure by Disney tour, till now. This is a very entertaining trip report of a family who took one of such trip to Costa Rica.

Not many in our pack of seven families were Disney die-hards, but more than a few of us thanked The Mouse for accompanying the group in name and spirit on our seven-day journey that took us from San Jose to the Arenal Volcano region to the country's Pacific coast. Walt Disney Co. -- its worldwide brand recognition and its tendency to fiercely protect its reputation -- was the security blanket many of us parents were looking for in unfamiliar territory. The trade-off: Spontaneity and independence flew out the window of our 54-seat tour bus.

But at least Mickey himself wasn't seated among us.

I can certainly understand vacationing with families on one of these things, especially if you are going to a particular location for the first time. Most of us certainly depends on the Disney name to ensure that everything has been thoroughly checked and secured.

Disney reports that, yes, as suspected, it does investigate activities and hotels to make sure they meet safety standards and expectations. There are "detailed site inspections of all towns in all countries to be visited, as well as in-depth, first-hand research into the activities, dining venues, museums, parks, etc.," says Ed Baklor, senior vice president of Adventures by Disney.

I don't mind that at all. When I'm going to an unfamiliar place for the first time, I'd rather have a well-organized and structured tour. If I like the place, then I'll make a second trip later on my own with a lot more freedom to explore, but at least by then, I have an idea on what to expected. So something like the Adventures by Disney would be just perfect as an initial introduction.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Donald Duck Vanquishes Mexico Soft Drink Lookalike

Whoa! I didn't realize there was this battle going on for this long.

Donald Duck has chased off a Mexican look-alike after a trademark dispute that simmered for decades between Disney and a beverage maker that copied the hot-headed cartoon character for its logo in 1940.

Pascual Boing, known in Mexico for tropical fruit drinks like mango and guayaba, is ditching its old logo based on Walt Disney Co.'s sailor-suited duck in favor of a rapper-style duck with spiky feathers and a blue baseball cap worn backward.

So that is now settled. Now about that copycat them park in China..... :)


50 Most Influential Visual Effects Films of All Time

The Visual Effect Society (VES) announced the 50 most influential visual effects movie of all time. 8 Disney and Pixar movie made the list, with Tron topping at No. 8. Others that made the list are Who Framed Roger Rabbit (16), Toy Story (22), Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest (23), 20,000 League Under The Sea (25), Mary Poppins (32), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (45), and Darby O'Gill and the Little People (50).

I must say that I've seen all of those movies, except for Darby O'Gill. I'm totally ignorant about that one. Has anyone seen it?

And I also can't recall the last time I saw a picture of John Lasseter not in a loud Hawaiian shirt! :)


Iger Makes Stronger Commitment to Blu-Ray

Disney CEO Bob Iger made a stronger exclusive commitment to the Blu-Ray format in his conference call to analysts this week.

We made our bed with Blu-ray because we believed more in that format for a variety of reasons; some technical in nature, some due to the fact that it simply had broader support from a variety of industries, notably the motion picture studios but also what I’ll call the consumer electronics and the tech industry.

I think he is underestimating one important aspect of this whole issue - the porn industry that most have "credited" as the determining factor in the Betamax versus VHS battle. Rumor has it that both Disney and SONY has prohibited Blu-Ray disk production plants to produce adult high-def DVDs. The adult industry has not come out yet with a strong support of either format, but when they do, this could easily be the "swing vote" in the Blu-Ray versus HD-DVD format.

As for us, we are still waiting - waiting for the combo player to come down in price. That way, we won't care who wins! :)


The Big Cheese Tour

No, this isn't Mickey going on the road, or a Wisconsin promotion wagon. It actually is a Disney tour to promote Disney-Pixar's upcoming movie Ratatouille.

Inspired by Disney/Pixar’s Ratatouille, a hilarious comedy about a rat named Remy who dreams of becoming a great French chef, the interactive experience will be highlighted by a thrilling “Big Cheese Slide” which will give kids an exciting ride down a 25’ wedge of cheese. Audiences will also be treated to a special sneak peek at Ratatouille inside the 30’ state-of-the-art “Eiffel Tower Digital Theater.” A Center Stage area features daily cooking demonstrations with a real chef featuring Tasty Treats and Healthy Snacks for busy families as well as daily shows featuring Ratatouille Video Game demonstrations, radio promotions and an inside look at how the animation for Ratatouille was created. Tour goers will also be able to see multiple making-of pieces at various kiosks.

That sounds like a traveling carnival!


Friday, May 11, 2007

2007 Pin Celebration

So much for us trying to cut back on our trip to WDW this year. Last year, we went to WDW on 4 separate occasions. So this year, we thought we'd cut back to just two - the Memorial Day week trip, and then the late Sept/early Oct. trip. We were planning on skipping the pin event this year, which is usually held the weekend after Labor Day weekend.

I can tell you that we are just so weak and get persuaded too easily. Our pin trading friends managed to talk us into going to the pin event again this year. I just finished registering to that event again, so we will be making a total of 3 trips to WDW in 2007. It didn't help that there are a few terrific looking pins that will be released at this year's event.

Anyway, we will be flying in just for the event. So far, we are planning on coming in on Sept. 6 and leaving on Sept. 9. Typically, the registration and merchandise pick-up starts the evening of the day before the event. So that's when we'll coming in. While this isn't going to be our first pin celebration event (it will be our third year in a row), it will be the first time we're flying in just for the event and not stay for the whole week. But I'm sure we'll sneak out a few hours here and there to go do the other parks, especially in the evening.

Anyway, if you're interested in reading all about my last pin event trip from last year, the trip report is available at WDWMagic here.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

My Table-Service Dining Reservations

Not sure why you'd want to read this, but they, I get to post trivial stuff like this because its my blog! :)

We don't normally plan our sit-down meals this much on our visits to WDW. Usually, we'd have maybe 1, or 2 dinners already planned and reservations made for the whole week's stay. The rest of the time, we play it by ear. However, since we're doing the Disney Dining Plan on this trip and we want to make sure we get to use our table-service plan, we decided to try and make reservations for almost every night that we're there. We still have one table service plan that we don't have any plans yet, but we thought it might be a good idea to have one "floating" in case we need it.

So anyway, here are our table service reservations for our whole stay:

May 28 - Garden Grill, Epcot.
May 30 - Donald's Breakfastosaurus, Animal Kingdom.
May 31 - Marakesh, Epcot.
June 1 - Boma (of course!), Animal Kingdom Lodge.
June 2 - Crystal Palace, Magic Kingdom.

We'd probably use our last table service plan on our last day, which is June 3rd, somewhere at Epcot because that's where we plan to be for most of the day before we leave for the airport. Still, I think we'll decide this early in the week after we're there.

Speaking of Donald breakfastosaurus, I guess the rumors from months ago of Tusker House changing into a character buffet will come true. This is reported from Laughing Place:

Tusker House to Become a Buffet
Tusker House Restaurant at Disney's Animal Kingdom is being converted to a buffet restaurant. It will offer a character breakfast buffet, called Donald's Safari Breakfast, and a lunch/dinner buffet. It will be open from 8 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. for the character breakfast and 11:30 a.m. until park close for the lunch/dinner buffet. The restaurant will accept reservation. To accomplish the conversion, Tusker House will be closed from August 20 until November 17th. During the rehab the Safair Celebration Dinner Grand Gathering experience wiill not take place. The new character breakfast will replace Donald's Breakfastosaurus which will not be offered after November 5th.

I guess it was good timing that we're doing the Breakfastosaurus now. We've never done it before, although we have done character breakfast at Cape May at the Disney's Beach Club, and Chef Mickey breakfast at the Contemporary. It would be sad to see Tusker House being changed, because other than Flame Tree BBQ, this was our other favorite place to eat at Animal Kingdom. I suppose it is inevitable, since other than a non-Disney owned Rainforest Cafe, there's no table service restaurant at Animal Kingdom for lunch/dinner. Now they not only have that, but also a character dining.


Disney Extending YOMD?

John Frost at The Disney Blog is reporting a rumor that Disney is extending the Year Of A Million Dreams from 15 to 24 months.

This is good news! It means that I'll have more chances to win that stay at Cindy's Castle Suite!

(yeah, right! Like I ever win anything....)


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Disney Won't Release Movies in Theaters and Cable on Same Day

So much for Comcast plan to negotiate for new releases to be on per-per-view Cable on the same day. Bob Iger has stated that Disney is not in negotiation to do that.

Frankly, I don't see paying $30-$50 just to view a newly-released movie. Besides, what if it is a 3D movie the way Disney has been releasing several of its movies, and the fact that that trend is getting popular with other studios as well.

No thanks!


Disney is Too Far, So Please Come to Shijingshan

Wow! I realize that piracy and copyright infringement is common in China, but even I didn't think it is THIS blatant. Not only that, the park is also state-owned, which kinda defeat the purpose of the state trying to police piracy while it is also doing it. I like the part they someone actually tried to "rationalize" it:

"We do not have any agreements with Disney," its deputy general manager, Yin Zhiqiang, said Wednesday. "The characters in our park just look a little bit similar to theirs. But the faces, clothes, sizes and appearances are different."


This thing cannot get enough nasty publicity, as far as I'm concerned.


HK Disneyland A Drag

More details on the latest earning reports from Disney. The performance of Hong Kong Disneyland continues to be below expectations. Thanks to outstanding performance from the other Disney theme parks, the Theme Parks division posted solid numbers even when Hong Kong Disneyland's under-performance.

If anything, they need to work this out before they consider opening even more theme parks in that part of the world.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Disney To Open Tokyo Indoor Mall?

What's this? Disney and the Oriental Land Co. are opening a mall just outside Tokyo?

The facility, which will be all indoors, will include retail stores and restaurants and will be located in a “city outside of the greater Tokyo metropolitan area,” the Tokyo-based company said in a release.

So this is like an indoor Downtown Disney?


Disney Beats Earnings Expectations

So much for predicting little change in earnings from last year. Disney beats analysts expectations and posted strong earnings for the second quarter. The theme parks did exceedingly well, up 9%. However, this is predominantly due to the strength of Walt Disney World and Disneyland.

If Pirates 3 goes into orbit, who knows how high the stock will rise.


Disney Dining "Survival Guide"

This news article reports on the best way to enjoy dining at WDW, and possibly save some money. Most of these are very sound advice, but they seem to have skipped the Disney Dining Plan. This is not only a terrific bargain if you intend on doing most of your food consumption at the parks, but you can also get quite a discount with various Magic Your Way package or even get it for FREE during certain times of the year!

So yes, there are plenty of ways to save money during a WDW vacation if you can be flexible and know what to look for.


Disney Moves Up 'Pirates' Opening

And speaking of Pirates, this certainly came out of the quiet. Disney has asked a few theater owners to move up the opening of Pirates to Thursday evening, a day before the official opening. The possible reason for this is to counter the recent record-breaking opening weekend of Spiderman 3.

This isn't such a bad idea, and if I were a theater owner, I certainly would want what I think might be the biggest blockbuster of the year to open earlier. Still, I probably won't be able to see it during the opening weekend since I will be traveling to Virginia and then to WDW during the week. I still don't know if we can squeeze a few hours to see it in Downtown Disney. We shall see.


Disney May Report Little Change in Profit

Disney is scheduled to report its second quarter earnings today. Analysts are predicting that it will report little change in earnings when compared to last year's, which to me is damn good considering that last year was so strong.

This coming quarter, though, will be an entirely different matter, with Pirates scheduled to make its presence known.


Monday, May 07, 2007

New Disney Rumors 05/07/2007

Magical Mountain has posted some new rumors floating around (don't all rumors do that, float around?) about WDW. This range from new queue layout at Soarin', a new pirate-themed restaurant at the Magic Kingdom, to the upcoming Disney-Pixar movie Ratatouille.

I'll keep tabs if these actually do come true. :)


Mary Poppins Marks 200th Broadway Performance

Mary Poppins will mark its 200th Broadway performance on May 9th. The wildly popular musical is the biggest new hit on Broadway, while it continues its strong run on the West End of London.

I'm hoping to get to see it some time soon.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Where In Walt Disney World?

Here's another one of my favorite thrill ride at WDW. Can you figure out what this attraction is?


Friday, May 04, 2007

More on Mount Disney

So obviously when I am fixated on something, I can't stop. :)

I did a bit more sleuthing on this Mount Disney, and found a presentation at a conference regarding the avalanche problem at that mountain and surrounding region. This was presented at the Joint Meeting of Rocky Mountain (56th Annual) and Cordilleran (100th Annual) held on May 3–5, 2004. Here are the details:

, J.C.1, ROTBERG, G.L.1, HICKLING, K.A.2, GARRISON, N.J.1, SYLVESTER, A.G.1, and WISE, W.S.1, (1) Geological Sciences, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106,, (2) Applied Environmental Technologies, Inc, Ventura, CA

Recent geologic mapping by UCSB students disclosed widespread exposures of a massive debris avalanche in a 30 km2 area in the Donner Pass region approximately 15km west of Truckee, California. The main foci of the mapping were the peaks and ridges around Mount Lincoln, Mount Disney, and Crow’s Nest. The avalanche fills an apparent paleochannel in the underlying, flat-lying, volcaniclastic succession of fluvial and debris flow deposited units. The debris-avalanche is poorly sorted, containing various volcanic clasts and clast sizes lacking coherent internal organization. Clasts include fractured andesite breccia, polylithic andesite breccia, stratified fluvial blocks, reworked tuff, granite, basaltic andesite flow blocks, and metasedimentary clasts. Clast size ranges from 1cm to 25m. Mixed within the bulk of the debris avalanche are large subrounded blocks of basaltic-andesite with a distinctive breadcrust texture. We regard these clasts as juvenile rocks and evidence of an eruption-related trigger to the avalanche. K-Ar dates from lava flows stratigraphically above and below the debris avalanche give an age range of 13.5/12.9 to 7.4 Ma. The exposed depth of the paleochannel, which trends approximately east to west, varies from 3m on Mt. Lincoln to 280m on Mt. Disney. Clast size increases from NW to SE, suggesting a source that may include Tinker Knob or Squaw Peak 6 and 12 km to the SE, respectively. The units underlying the debris avalanche are stratigraphically continuous across Mt. Lincoln, Mt. Disney, and Crow’s Nest, and comprise a stratified section of intercalated lapilli tuff and fluvially reworked volcaniclastic rocks. Lapilli tuff units consist of matrix-dominated, polylithic breccia. Fluvial units consist of pebble and boulder conglomerate and pebbly sandstone. The lithology of volcanically derived units includes clasts of hornblende andesite, pumice, cinders and metasedimentary rock and granite, the local basement rocks. Paleocurrent indicators lower in the section record a north-south channel direction, whereas flame structures upsection indicate a NW paleocurrent direction.

And here's the exact location of it.

There ya go. We now know a bit more on where this Mt. Disney is located.

But wait, there's more! (I should work in those TV informercials)

Here is a webcam of the nose of Mount Disney shot at the Village Lodge.


Disney Dining Can Cost You, Even If You Don't Show Up

Here's a blog from Orlando Sentinel that I find interesting, but not surprising. It appears from the Blog that if you are making a reservation for California Grill or Victoria and Albert (I'm not sure about the latter from this blog), you will need to give out your credit card number while making the reservation. If you don't show up for your reservation, you will be charged $20 per person for your whole party.

I suppose after reading the whole blog, I can understand why Disney would do that, especially for California Grill and the amazing view of Wishes. In my case, I'm always mindful of being early at all the reservations we made at WDW. This is especially true for Boma, where we always like to go look at the animals before we head out to dinner (some people said that I wanted to look at the animals that I'm about to eat, but hey, I don't recall them serving giraffes! :))

I wonder if these are the only 2 restaurants (assuming V&A is included in here) that have that charge for not showing up...


Mount Disney Found!

I have a "love-hate" attitude towards Jim Hill Media. I love some of articles published there, especially ones on the history and background info, but on others, I just can't stand it. But I suppose that is a rather common reaction to blogs. I won't be surprised if mine has the same effect...... on me! :)

In any case, Chris Barry at the Jim Hill Media hit a HOME RUN with this one (sorry Chris. I can't find an appropriate analogy with skiing). Walt was an avid skier and through his investment in what was called the Sugar Bowl, had a mountain (and other things) named after him! Fancy that!

This article was a very enjoyable read. Just when you think you've read almost everything about the Walt Disney, another unknown fact about him emerges.


Maryland Schools to See Mickey and Donald

Schools superintendent in the state of Maryland, US has endorsed the use of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck in the reading classes for elementary and middle schools.

The state worked with Disney Publishing Worldwide and its educational division last year on a pilot project in eight third-grade classrooms. Disney took Maryland's reading standards and created comics-based lesson plans, incorporating skills such as how to understand plot and character.

The students loved it, educators said.

I would too! :)


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Seven Seas Lagoon

Here's an interesting bit of Disney trivia that I've always wondered, but didn't find the answer till now. This is from the May 2007 DVC Member Newsletter:

Here's another interesting Disney Resort tidbit. Did you ever wonder why the body of water in front of the Magic Kingdom Park is called the Seven Seas Lagoon, rather than something more themed to the Park? It's because the lagoon was going to be surrounded by exotic Resort hotels themed to the seven seas of the world. Plans called for Asian, Persian and Venetian hotels (the Venetian concept included its own canals), but those plans never materialized.

It went on to say after the construction of the Contemporary and Polynesian Resorts...

The next resort to open was to have been the Asian Resort, and a location had been identified during the Park's construction. The 500-room Resort was to be themed in a Thai style, complete with Thai architecture, furnishings and meals. Plans called for the Resort to take the form of a large square with a 160-foot-tall central building featuring four A-frame windows.

The opulent penthouse restaurant would have featured high ceilings and ornate statuary, and the space would have been the night spot for dancing and stage entertainment. Also planned were convention facilities, which were to be located underneath the main Guest areas much like the Cast utilidor system beneath the Magic Kingdom Park.

Concept drawings of the resort were featured in books sold at the Walt Disney World Preview Center before opening day. The Walt Disney Company's 1972 annual report stated that construction on the Asian Resort would begin by 1974 and that the Resort would open later that same year.

The U.S. energy crisis, beginning in 1973, was one of the greatest factors in the Resort's demise. Another factor was the need for additional capital to support the eventual development of Epcot.

Ten years later, in 1983, the company repurposed the Asian Resort site as the home for Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, which opened in 1988 as the Grand Floridian Beach Resort. The Resort helped usher in a new era of Walt Disney World Resort luxury and established an enduring tradition of partnerships between Disney and renowned contemporary architects.

Fascinating! Now I know not only why it is called Seven Seas Lagoon, but also what were planned to be around it.


Disney's Enchanting Return to 2-D Animation

This is a wonderful piece in USA Today about Disney's return to hand-drawn 2D animation. With the combination of live-action and animation in Enchanted, and next year's The Princess and the Frog, there's plenty to look forward to.


Tron and Discs of Tron to be Released

Disney has announced that it will re-release the popular video games Tron and Discs of Tron on Xbox to mark the 25th anniversary of the movie Tron.

I must admit, I had never heard of "Discs of Tron" video game. Still, I wonder if they'll re-release the movie itself, maybe making it into a Disney Digital 3D? I think that movie just screams to be made into 3D.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Birthday Wishes for Disneyland Paris

This is a rather delightful "trip report" and reporting about the 15th Anniversary celebration of Disneyland Paris. If you think you have it bad with the crowds at WDW, just read this:

YOU would think it would be difficult to maintain a smile with cold rain trickling down the back of your neck while you are being pushed and shoved by Italian tourists.

And this wasn't genteel British shoving. This was elbows out, heads down, "get-out-of-my-way" proper shoving usually only seen in action on the first day of the sales.

Wow! That sounds..... er ..... dangerous! :)

As much as I'm happy for them, it simply adds to my annoyance that Epcot, which is the third most popular theme park anywhere in the world after the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland, is getting nothing, NOTHING, for its 25th anniversary. For the life of me, and I consider myself reasonably rational and intelligent, I cannot fathom what possible reason Disney isn't doing anything to mark this occasion.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

New Jersey Residents Get Porn Instead of Disney Channel

I'm sure this wasn't funny to the parent that it happened to, but I couldn't stop giggling while reading this. It seems that while watching a Disney Channel program, the TV signal went away for a brief moment, and when it came back, you get free porn on TV!

"We were just sitting here and the screen just froze and then all of a sudden I saw very graphic pornography on the television and I scrambled to get the remote to shut it off," Sherman told WCBS-TV in New York City..

Y'know, why is it that you get porn accidentally replacing "family-oriented" channel like Disney? Why don't we hear of porn accidentally being broadcast on, oh, let's say, Showtime or something like that? Even channel like Bravo or Biography would have been less shocking. But no. For some odd reason, it had to be the Disney Channel!



Walt Disney World Hotels Going Smoke-Free

Walt Disney World Resort today announces that they will go smoke free starting June 1st, 2007.

Walt Disney World announced today it will ban smoking in all guest rooms, indoor public areas, balconies and other locations at all company-owned and -operated hotels, and all Disney Vacation Club resorts at Disney World. That is 20 properties altogether.

Since I don't smoke, this is certainly doesn't affect me. Still, I don't think this isn't as big of a health-related news as the elimination of trans-fat in food served at WDW. Many hotels have gone completely smoke-free. But not many have gone zero trans-fat ..... YET!


2007 Magic Your Way Package With Free Disney Dining Plan

I mentioned earlier about the dates for 2007 free Disney Dining Plan package. The following is the info from WDW of this package.

Don't miss out on this delicious offer! Book by June 24 to get this magical 5-night/6-day vacation package including hotel and Theme Park tickets with FREE Disney Dining Plan for just $455 per adult (based on adult double occupancy) and $184 per child (ages 3-9). Child rate applies only when occupying room with an adult. That's a savings of $194 per adult!

The number of packages available at this rate is limited. Savings based on the non-discounted price for the same package. Tickets are for one Theme Park per day and must be used within 14 days of first use. See Important Details

This vacation package includes:
Disney Value Resort Stay – Standard room at a select Disney Value Resort most nights Aug 26 – Sept 22, 2007.
Theme Park Tickets – Visit one of four Theme Parks each day of your ticket.
FREE Disney Dining Plan* – The FREE Disney Dining Plan includes one quick-service meal, one select snack and one meal at a select table-service restaurant per person, per night of your package.

This Package Also Includes These Disney Resort Guest Benefits:
Complimentary Airport Transfer and Luggage Service – Your vacation starts the moment you land at Orlando International Airport as Disney's Magical Express transportation delivers you to your select Disney Value Resort.You'll bypass baggage claim and your luggage is delivered right to your room!
Extra Time in the Theme Park – Each day, one of the Theme Parks opens early or stays open late so you have more time to enjoy select attractions with the Extra Magic Hours benefit. Valid Theme Park ticket and Resort ID required.
Guest Transportation – Complimentary and convenient transportation among Disney Theme Parks and Resorts.

Important Details
No group rates or other discounts apply
*Children ages 3-9 must choose from children's menu if available.
Excludes alcoholic beverages.

Walt Disney Travel Co. CST #: 1022229-50

Call (407) 939-7704† or your Travel Agent and ask for booking code ZHW. Inquire about other resort categories and packages for other lengths of stay. Hurry, must book by June 24, 2007!

† If you are under 18 years of age, you must have your parent or guardian's permission to dial this number.

If you want to save money but want to go to WDW, you'd be hard-pressed in finding a better bargain than this.


9 Minutes of Ratatouille Is Now Available Online is now showing 9 minutes of Ratatouille online, ahead of its June 29th release. Supposedly, there will also be a media blitz today in the US pointing the viewers to this long trailer.

I must say, it looks very impressive, which for Pixar, is saying nothing since all of their movies look impressive. The storyline, though, looks quite compelling, and that's the most important part of this.


The Complete Walt Disney World

Magical Mountain has a rather short review of The Complete Walt Disney World, a new guide book that is very picture-driven. It sounds like a good guide book to have for someone who is planning on going there.

Authors Julie and Mike Neal spent five years writing and photographing the book, visiting Disney World over 700 times.

Hey, where do I apply for this job?!