Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Press Release and Video of new Annie Leibovitz Photo Series

This is the Disney press release of the new Disney Dreams photo series by Annie Leibovitz. There is also a behind-the-scenes video on this, with interviews with several of the participants of the photo shoot.


Disney First in Line With Spending

This is a financial analysis of Disney's capital investments in improving California Adventure.

There's no question that DCA needs this. But the one question that isn't clear is how much of this huge spending is taking away from the development and constant improvement/maintenance of the other parks in N. America? With the $1.1 billion rehab of DCA, and the 2 cruise ships being built, Disney is spending a lot of money in the next few years. I just hope that's still plenty left-over that the other parks are not neglected.


More Annie Leibovitz's Disney Dream Portrait Series

Annie Leibovitz and Disney released the first set of her portraits of celebrities in various Disney dream scenes earlier last year. She has now released a second set of portraits, this time with Rachel Weisz, Roger Federer, and Julie Andrews/Abigail Breslin.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Housing Project Deal Near Disneyland Takes A Twist

That proposed SunCal housing project near Disneyland that has cause so much controversy has now taken another expected turn.

SunCal says the Frank Family Partnership reneged on the $46-million deal to sell the land. SunCal is asking that the contract be enforced, along with $60 million in damages. The land is currently occupied by two mobile home parks.

But that's not so, according to the Frank Family Partnership.

But attorneys for the Frank Family Partnership said today that it was SunCal that walked out on the deal signed in April 2005.

"The Frank Family granted SunCal eight different extensions which postponed the close of escrow," said Ed Connor, attorney for the partnership. "The Frank Family bent over backward for two years. What is so surprising is that SunCal three weeks ago suddenly decided not to make the $500,000 deposit that could have resulted in another three-month extension. We were absolutely stunned."

This has gotten absolutely silly and stupid.


Look Who We Got Our Hanes On Now?

Hanesbrand has signed with Disney for co-branding, attraction sponsorship, and signage.

All basic apparel sold by Disney at its parks and resorts, and at the company's ESPN Zone restaurants, will now be from the Hanes and Champion lines. Under the agreement, basic apparel includes T-shirts and tanks and fleece sweat shirts, sweat pants, hoodies and other garments, including infant and toddler items.

In terms of attraction sponsorship, this was the one that surprised me a bit:

Hanes also will become the sponsor of the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith, one of the main attractions at the Disney-MGM Studios park in Florida. Champion will also have naming rights for the stadium at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida, and the deal includes promotions at the ESPN Zone restaurants throughout the country.

Er.. Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and Hanes? I don't get the connection. Still, maybe Disney can do a lot more improvements to this attraction now that it has a sponsor.

So my only question now regarding this deal is that, will all t-shirts sold at Disney now will be Hanes/Champion t-shirts?


Where In Walt Disney World?

It's been a while since we had one of these, and the picture is also appropriate for this time of the year.

Where in Walt Disney World can you see this? Obviously, this was taken at night, and only during the Halloween festivities, but where can you find it?

Happy Disney Halloween!


Bambi Made It As Top 25 Horror Movie?

That's what Time Magazine online says. It made it to #20 of the Top 25 horror movie of all time. Now do you still want to show this to your kids? :)


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Overseas Still Hungry For 'Ratatouille'

Ratatouille remains the top movie internationally for the 4th consecutive week. It pulled in $21.9 million in 31 markets.

"Ratatouille" continued as the dominant pic -- even though the toon completed its final launches during the previous frame -- with first-place finishes in the U.K., Italy, China, Poland, Switzerland and all four Scandinavian markets.

The Disney-Pixar toon cooked up its top figures in its third U.K. frame with $8.2 million, rising an impressive 31% amid school holidays; its Italian soph sesh with $4.3 million, off 35%; and its fourth German frame with $3.6 million, off 45%. The Brit cume hit $36.3 million, surpassing Japan as the second-biggest "Ratatouille" market behind France's $60 million.

"Ratatouille" has cumed $346.8 million overseas -- well above Disney's forecasts -- and $552 million worldwide. It may still have enough gas in the tank to have a shot at becoming the 29th pic to hit the $400 million mark internationally.

Not too shabby for a movie that some "Disney critiques" called a failure or a disappointment. It is not even close!


VOA News - Walt Disney, 1901-1966

Voice of America's People In America program focuses this time on Walt Disney. You can read the transcript of the show, or download the audio.


Missing Road Signs at Walt Disney World

Has anyone else notice this? I've seen this for at least a couple of years already, but never considered making a comment on it until I took these pictures as "evidence" during our last trip to WDW. So here it is.

If you are driving either from Epcot or the Magic Kingdom (Transportation Center) and you are going to Downtown Disney, if you follow the Disney signs, you'll be on Epcot Center Drive. You then exit right onto an exit ramp, and this is where it gets "interesting". When you take that exit, you first see this sign on the left side of the exit ramp.

So from that sign, you will make a left turn to go to Downtown Disney, so you make sure you're in the left lane as you approach the upcoming intersection/lights. But wait, as you approach the intersection, there's another sign, this time on the right side of the exit ramp.

It now says that you can go forward to go to Downtown Disney! Well, ok, that's not unusual since there usually is more than one way to get around at WDW. Since you saw the other sign first and you're already in the left lane, you'll make that left turn. This turn will put you on the "Overpass Road". So far so good. This will get you to the T-junction joining Overpass Road and Bonnet Creek Parkway. This is where, if you do not know where you are, you're left hanging with no other instructions on where to go.

There is only one street sign indicating the direction to the left, which would be to Old Key West, Saratoga Spring, Port Orleans, and golf courses. There's no indication here that if you want to go to Downtown Disney, that you should turn right. I thought this is rather strange that Disney didn't follow through with their signs here. I've noticed this for quite a while, and I would think that someone would have noticed this omission.

BTW, if you happened to have gone forward instead on the exit ramp rather than turning left, you'd be on Backstage Lane that will get you to the Buena Vista Dr. Turning left will get you to Downtown Disney, and there's a sign to indicate this.

So, anyone else noticed this?


Disney's Ratatouille Gives Kids Taste for Rats

Er... when I first read this, I thought kids now want to eat rats due to the popularity of Ratatouille. Luckily, that is not the case. Instead, pet store are now having a shortage of rats because kids now want them as pets.

That isn't too surprising. When 101 Dalmatians came out, there were a lot of people who suddenly want to have a dalmatian as a pet - big mistake for most since dalmatians are not the easiest pet to have especially if you live in a city. Hopefully, these rats have better luck.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

More WDW Halloween Pictures

With Halloween coming up this week, here are a couple more pictures that I took during the last Mickey Not So Scary Halloween Party at WDW this past Oct. 4th, 2007. These are "statues" found right at the Hub in front of Cindy's Castle.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Marty Sklar Series of Videos

If you haven't come across this yet, you HAVE to see it.

On the Disney's XD on, there is a series of videos featuring Marty Sklar. In each one of them, he describes some aspect of the "inside" working of Disney, including one video on his recollection of Walt Disney himself.

If you are a Disney fanatic and a trivia buff, this series of videos would definitely be something you'd want to see. So don't miss it!


Thursday, October 25, 2007

New Disney's Hollywood Studios logo unveiled

The new Disney's Hollywood Studio logo was unveiled today. This is the name that will replace Disney-MGM Studios starting in 2008. Of course, there are other new things that will debut in 2008 beyond just the name change.

Hopefully, that will make that theme park more conducive to an all-day attraction rather than just a short "go-do-ToT-and-RnR-and-leave" theme park.


Old School Thinking Flunks with Iger

Bob Iger certainly came out swinging at this presentation. If anyone thinks he lacks any spunk, this would certainly change that perception.

In wide-ranging presentation Wednesday, Robert Iger said the best way to fight digital piracy is to go on the offensive and that big media companies are undervalued on Wall Street.

The Disney CEO even took time to swipe at The Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety.

While hedge-fund investors seem only to care about individual quarterly results, "critical shareholders" understand the value of long-term success. "Live for today, die tomorrow," he warned during his presentation at the Forbes MEET II conference at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

It is very comforting to know that this person is running the Walt Disney Company. This is exactly the kind of mentality that should be able to ensure that quality, above anything else, drives the product.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Disney's The Lone Ranger?

Could Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer team up to create another blockbuster franchise to fill the void created by Pirates? That's the rumor circulating online with the often-mentioned production of a series of The Lone Ranger movies. It does sounds as if all the gears are running for another partnership between these two.


Universal Creative Exec Leaves for Disney

This could be a coup for Disney.

Disney has managed to lure and hire Scott Trowbridge, who was the vice president of Universal's Creative Studios, to Walt Disney Imagineering as as vice president for creative research and development.

Trowbridge's record at Universal included being senior show producer for the Spider-Man ride, which has been widely hailed as one of the greatest indoor rides in theme-park history.

At Disney Imagineering, he will report to WDI Chief Creative Executive Bruce Vaughn, overseeing creative research-and-development projects.

It didn't say so in the news report, but hey, maybe he could do a lot of things with the planned DCA rehab!


The Venom of Disney Fans

I think this poor women has gone through enough, and also has first-hand experience on what it is like when you write about Disney in the mass media. You'd better be accurate on your facts or they'll come at you like a ton of bricks.

It all started innocently enough in a Winnepeg Free Press newspaper about a journalist describing her trip to the Walt Disney World. She made several factual errors that most Disney fans can spot from 100 miles away! :)

Now, I don't know how much publicity that she got from this, but this news report was pointed out on WDWMagic. As with any other public fan forum website, the responses ranges from "Oh, who cares" to "this person is an imbecile" (I'm paraphrasing). I also do not know how many actually wrote an e-mail to this reporter, or what tone that e-mail took.

In any case, it obviously was enough that she had to write another follow-up to admit her mistakes but also to describe the nature of the responses that she got. Now I certainly do not know how many of the e-mail she got were as vicious as the ones she described. I would guess that many of them simply were pointing out her obvious mistakes, and that as a journalist, she should have at least double check some of these things. Of course, she does NOT deserve those nasty comments directed at her, especially her duties as a mother. That is just way out of line, and it can't possibly come from someone who claim him/herself to be a true Disney fan.

There's nothing different or out of the ordinary as far as human behavior is concerned. That is why we have 'extremists', people who simply can't put things into perspective or such low self-esteem that the only way they can feel good is to spew derogatory remarks at others. Some Disney fans are certainly not immune to such behaviors.

It is also a clear demonstration of the very dangerous waters when one writes about Disney in the media. Hordes of Disney fanatics have facts at their fingertips such that one slip and you're chopped liver. I certainly had made lots of errors in my comments, but luckily, this is just a personal blog and none of you were force to, or have to pay, to read it. So you get what you paid for! :)


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

More Disney-Related Items Recalled

More Cars merchandise being recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission:

"Cars” Game Pieces
About 110,000 game pieces were sold with 12-inch “Cars”-themed backpacks. The game pieces include a red plastic car, a blue plastic car and two red and black plastic discs that have “gas,” “oil” and “service” printed on them in red letters.

“Disney Presents a PIXAR film” is printed on the gray vinyl front of the backpack. Small magnets inside the game pieces can fall out of their enclosure and be swallowed by young children.

If more than one magnet is swallowed, the magnets can attract each other and cause intestinal perforation. There have been three reports of loose magnets, but no injuries.

The $13 backpacks were sold at Target stores from February through September 2007.

For more information, contact the Cars Backpack Recall line at (877) 848-4070.

I wonder how much of these recall scares would affect the upcoming holiday shopping.....


Meet The Robinsons DVD

Meet the Robinsons is being released on DVD today in the US. IGN already has a review of the DVD.


Disney To Phase Out Trans Fat At Its Non-US Theme Parks

Disney is following its plan to phase out trans fat at its US theme parks by doing the same to the ones in Paris, Hong Kong, and Tokyo.

Walt Disney, seeking to address concerns about childhood obesity and eating habits, will phase out trans fats from food served at its theme parks in Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo over the next two years.

That's a bit surprising because, especially in Europe, trans fat has long been banned from many food items. Still, this is a good step for Disney to do. After all, you do want to keep your loyal fans to live for a long time and keep coming back with their kids and grandkids.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Epcot 25th Anniversary Day - Oct. 1, 2007

What can I say? Everything that one expected from a wonderful day like this almost came true (the almost part is due to the rainy weather that night). While many of us feel that Epcot should have had more celebration on that day, considering that Disney started late in its plan for the fans' observation, it was good enough.

Walking in, you see the celebration poster on the wall erected in front of the on-rehab Spaceship Earth.

Even though I got in at around 8:15 am, there were already fans right up to the rope-drop area in front of the fountain. There are already lines for the merchandise and the pins. The line for the pins went back all the way to Spaceship Earth.

As soon as the rope dropped, many of us (at least those who were not in line for the pins or merchandise) made it the other side of the Fountain of Nations and staked our place for the re-dedication ceremony.

The re-dedication ceremony was short and sweet. The cast members representing the various attractions in Future World came on stage.

Jim McPhee gave a short speech, and then Marty Sklar was introduced, escorted by Mickey and Minnie.

After Marty Sklar's speech, cast members representing the countries of World Showcase came on stage. They also brought with them water from their countries and reenacted the pouring of the water into the fountain, something that was done during the opening of Epcot in 1982. That resulted in huge fountain display and fireworks fanfare that concluded the re-dedication ceremony (see the video I made - it should give you some idea of it).

There was a picture taken, probably of the Epcot management.

Of course, what happened next was the Celebration 25 group photo. Both the Cast Member ambassadors and Jim McPhee joined in for our photo.

I managed to shake Jim McPhee's hand after the photo ceremony and thank him for all of his efforts to organize an observance of Epcot's anniversary.

We then rushed to The Land because we had tickets for the 11:30 am Marty Sklar's conversation. It's too bad that they don't let us take pictures or videos, but here's a snap shot of the screen before it started.

Our next group activity that day was a ride-together at Journey into Imagination with Figment. This ride that typically barely register 5 minute wait time, suddenly ballooned to 20 minutes wait time by the time all of our group started to enter the line. We did warn the cast member in charged and he directed us to a roped queue line.

We also went to the Epcot's historical exhibit. It was wonderful to see things long gone, or what things look like when they first opened.

This was one of the items at the exhibit that caught my eye. It's the Epcot's opening ceremony program.

While the exhibition was small, it certainly looked as if they really put their hearts into it. I'm sure those who had been there then, or had visited Epcot during the first few years of its life had quite a nostalgic feeling looking at all the items on display there. Don't miss it if you can. It should still be there for a few months, I think.

As the early evening approached, the rain started to fall. We had a "sit through" group activity at the American Experience at the US pavilion. Some of our group members came in drenched due to the rain.

The rain continued into the evening, and our planned desert reception at the front of the Italy pavilion had to be moved in to the Odyssey. It didn't matter. We still had a great time chatting with other members of the group. Again, it was fun to put faces to the various people that we had chatted online at WDWMagic.

10 minutes to 9 pm and we were escorted back to our reserved area by Italy to view Illuminations. Just as we're about to get there, the heavens opened up and rain poured as if someone opened a faucet. We scrambled to wear our ponchos and continued to make it to our designated area. Due to the rain, we didn't take any pictures or videos, which was something we definitely regretted because the anniversary tag that was added to the end of Illuminations was OUTSTANDING! They mostly used the music from Tapestry of Nations to accompany the fireworks, and by the end of it, the hairs on the back on my neck and on my arms were standing up. I'm hoping our official videographer for our Group took videos of it.

After the fireworks, we were given prior permission to stay behind as the park was emptied out to view the burn-off of the inferno barge. We again had another pleasant surprise. First we were sent a box of ice cream (Mickey Premium!!!!!!). And then Jim McPhee showed up to check up on us.

By then, I could swear that he had us eating out of his hands. The fact that he showed that much care for our group truly made it a spectacular event for us. I know that for me, he was a very big part of why this was such a memorable and magical event/trip. Epcot is in very good hands with him at the helm.

We waited and waited and waited for the burn-off. Due to the rain, Illuminations was about half-hour late, and it was 11:30 pm when the burn-off began. It was more of an appearance of someone having the bad case of the gas. Still, we had a terrific time while we waited. No one was complaining even though most of us were wet and the rain continued to fall on and off.

What happened next will stay with me for the rest of my life, and from reading other accounts of those who were there, also became one of the biggest highlights of the whole event. After the burn-off, we were escorted back to the main gate by a cast member, since Epcot was officially closed. As we walk from the Italy pavilion to the front gate, someone started to sing Disney theme park tunes. First it was tunes from the various Epcot attractions, and then it went on to other WDW attractions. Almost everyone was signing in unison. Cast members who were working as we walked past them were either waving or applauding at us. It was MAGICAL! Never before have I felt the comradarie with other Disney fans as strongly as I've felt that night walking out to the gate. I felt privileged to be a part of the group and sharing that moment.

That was the end of the Celebration 25 event and Epcot's anniversary. It was only fitting that as we walked through the turnstile, the time was 12:05 am Oct. 2nd. Epcot has been my most favorite Disney theme park. The events of Oct 1st, 2007 has done nothing but strengthened my affection towards it for daring to be different than any other theme parks.

Now let's see if I can make it to its 50th....


France Embraces Disney, Thanks to a Rat

With the success of Ratatouille in France, it appears that this rat may be responsible for a lot more.

The animated film “Ratatouille,” about a rodent who dreams of becoming a French chef, has become the highest-grossing film of 2007 in France. The film sold more than $60 million in tickets, placing it No. 1 at the French box office for six weeks, beating the record set by “Titanic.”

It appears that the effect of the movie can be felt elsewhere.

More unexpected has been the healthy response to the Paris opening of the Broadway production of “The Lion King” on Oct. 4. The French have historically greeted Broadway-style productions, with the exception of “Les Miserables,” with upturned noses.

But ticket sales for “Le Roi Lion” have been brisk enough to support an open-ended run, according to a Disney spokesman. Even Disneyland Resort Paris is starting to sizzle: the park, celebrating its 15th anniversary, is achieving attendance records, with more than 6.1 million visitors in the first half of 2007, up 11 percent from the first half of 2006, according to regulatory filings.

It it makes the French warm up to Disney, I'd say that it was worth spending every penny on that movie.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Windy City Pin Traders Meet Oct. 20th

Yesterday we attended another one of our monthly Windy City Pin Traders meeting. It was another HUGE turn out (around 30 people). Of course, half of the people had a hat to wear since this is the meet before Halloween.

We brought a ton of stuff. Along with the stuff we bought for a few members of the group that we shopped for during our last trip, we also brought many pins and merchandise that we bought during that trip. A lot of pins went very quickly, especially that commemorative Disney Dollar pin that had a limited edition of only 500.

Now, I mentioned earlier during my Pin Event trip report of the Mickey as Scoop Sanderson super jumbo pin. We originally got it, but we stupidly canceled it, mainly because of the cost, but also it didn't look that good in print. Well, when we saw it in person at the event, we regretted not getting it. While we tried to get it again during our 4th random selection process, we could not acquire it, mainly because we think everyone there wanted it as well.

Anyway, people in our pin trading group kinda knew we regretted canceling it. Well, yesterday, a family in our group who we have become very close friends with decided to trade one of this pin (they had 3 from that event) with us. Not only that, this pin was autographed not only by the artist, but also by Scoop Sanderson during the pin event! So not only is this a gorgeous pin, but it also has 2 important autographs on its back!

I'll take a picture of it later, but needless to say, we are overjoyed to have this pin. I'd say this was one of the highlights of this pin trading meet. There are just so many nice people within this group, and the friendship we make is more valuable than the pins we trade. I think that when Disney fans get together, there is a common bond that somehow connects all of us to each other. I certainly felt that way whenever I attend one of our monthly pin meet, and I certainly felt that way during the Epcot Anniversary celebration (the continuing trip report for that will be coming up soon).


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Make-A-Wish Sends Little Girl To Disney World

Make-A-Wish Foundation, American Airlines, and Something Magic Foundation sends little Olivia and her family to Walt Disney World. I hope you have a magical time at WDW, and may all your wishes come true.

I like to highlight these stories every time they appear just so the rest of us (especially me) do not take for granted the luxury that some of us have of visiting our most favorite place very often, and the luxury of having good health. For many kids, healthy or sick, going to a Disney theme park can often be a dream they can't have. Some of the million dreams given for YOMD should be to these kids.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Epcot 25th Anniversary Eve - Sept. 30th.

Continuing with my fractured trip report, this time it will be the coverage of Epcot's 25th Anniversary Celebration, starting with the anniversary eve on Sept. 30th, 2007. This celebration, of course, was the main highlight of our trip, and being a part of Celebration 25 made it even more special.

The festivities for the group started on the 30th where we picked up our special lanyard and other items at a table set up for the group outside the gate. Several members, and the organizers of the event, were there to greet all the participants showing up that day. Already I could sense that this was going to be a terrific group. It was also nice to finally meet some of the people that you've only made contact with online.

These two pictures show Epcot and the commemorative plaque, looking more brilliant than ever.

This is the registration table for Celebration 25

After the rope drop, we went into Guests Relations to make dinner reservations, and I took these pictures on the wall that I never noticed before.

Our first group event that day was the history tour. It was very informative, even when the test track cars kept interrupting him every few seconds. I certainly learned a lot of stuff that I did not know or never appreciated before. The next set of pictures were all taken during the history walk throughout the afternoon.

The last location for our history walk was in front of the Fountain of Nations.

Things were going well and smoothly until our presenter was "rudely interrupted" by a Jim McPhee. :)

Yup! The Vice President of Epcot himself came by. He was extremely gracious and welcomed our group to Epcot and the anniversary event. Honestly, this was the highlight of the day for me. Mr. McPhee surprise appearance made us all feel special that day. It is amazing how something as simple as a welcome from a Disney management member can have such a huge meaning to Disney fans like us.

One of our organizer, Adam, got an even more special treat of having his picture with Jim McPhee right in front of the fountain. The rest of us were rushing to it to snap as many pictures as we could.

When Mr. McPhee left, our history walk presenter thought he could continue with his history lesson, but nooooooo. Jim McPhee came back and gave us a sneak preview of the park map that they will be giving out the next day.

Needless to say, we were oohing and aahing (and snapping pictures) as he showed us the park guide map with the old retro Epcot opening day reproduction. (I made a mental note to try to grab a handful of them the next day). Everyone in the group broke out in a spontaneous applause.

We didn't join the group for the Soarin' ride that evening. We had a lovely dinner at Marrakesh and then headed back to our resort to turn in early since we knew that the next day, Oct. 1st, was going to be a long day. And it was, but it was THE most memorable day at WDW I've ever had.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Shuttle Goes From Train to Disney

Not exactly the Disney Magical Express service, but this certainly would add another level of convenience for people thinking of taking the train to Disneyland.

Now, visitors can take the train from places such as Santa Barbara, Los Angeles or San Diego, then zip over to the theme parks or hotels and back on a $3-a-day shuttle or trolley. The shuttle ride takes 15-25 minutes.

I think Disney and Anaheim should seriously consider having a rail service either from the train station, or directly starting from LA. This would tackle two major issues:

(i) provides an even easier access to Disneyland

(ii) renders the issue of people having to live very far away to work at Disneyland moot for many, since now one has an easy access to go to work at Disneyland.

Of course, plans like this have been floating around for decades. I don't think anyone is going to be pouring that kind of money for such a project anytime soon.


Food and Wine Festival

This was our first ever visit to Epcot during the Food and Wine Festival. As someone who lives in Chicago and have been to Taste of Chicago, the concept isn't all too different. The F&W festival certainly, I would think, have a wider cultural range of food than Tastes.

Epcot was certainly nicely decked out for the festival.

We were at Epcot on 3 separate days - Sept. 30th, Oct. 1st, and Oct. 7th., and each day we sampled some of the food being offered.

The state of Oklahoma was being honored with a booth/pavilion/showplace by itself to celebrate its centennial. I didn't get to sample their food offerings, unfortunately.

The pears industry had a representation there, and you get to learn about pears, how to know when they're fully ripened, how to make dishes using them, etc...etc. I attended a couple of short cooking instructions in making pear salads, etc. I only wish they had used an actual chef, rather than an industry representative to do these demo.

I didn't get attend other cooking or food demonstrations. We simply had too much things to do especially with the anniversary activities with Celebration 25.

Now, about the food quality and quantity. In general, they were quite good, even though they were a bit lacking in quantity. I know you're not to expect any significant quantity when you pay between $2 to $3.95 for them, but still, some of them are puny. The calamari stew from Mexico had only TWO (count 'em) thin rings of calamari in it! I'm not expecting a bushel, but c'mon! I thought of all the food that I got, the stuffed cabbage from Poland was of a decent and fair size.

There was one disaster of a food. Don't get the samosa from India. The pasty dough was under-fried. It was doughy and limp, and fell apart as soon as you bite into it. It should have been golden brown and crispy. No indian worth his/her heritage would let something like this pass through. I go to a lot of Indian restaurants, and even the cheap ones do not have samosa this bad (in fact, I find that those are the best places to get really good samosa). So that was highly disappointing.

The empanadas from Argentina was also lacking. While the filling was tasty, again, the pasty was limp! So there seemed to be a constant issue here with the pastry not up to standard. I would have thought Disney would pay a bit more attention to the quality of the product they're serving, especially when the whole purpose is to highlight the food.

All in all, it was a great experience, especially the sampling of various different wines from many different regions of the world.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Disney Pin Trading - How to Trade Disney Pins at the Walt Disney World Theme Parks

This new article on American Chronicle highlights how one can do pin trading at WDW. So in case you are not sure, or new to pin trading, this might be a good place to start reading. You can also look at my earlier blog entry on pin trading etiquette. It contains links and pdf documents directly from Disney on what you can and cannot/should not do during pin trading on their property.


The $1.1 Billion Overhaul of Disney's California Adventure

The Wall Street Journal has an in-depth report on Disney's attempt to overhaul California Adventure. It will be the most expensive modification of a Disney theme park ever.

Now Disney hopes to turn the park around by making it more like its successful neighbor, filled with references to company founder Walt Disney, say people familiar with the plan. A key project will be redesigning the entrance plaza, now a hodgepodge of California icons, and replacing it with something akin to Disneyland's signature Main Street.

Just as Main Street harks back to Walt Disney's hometown of Marceline, Mo., in the early 1900s, California Adventure's new entrance will trace the footsteps of Walt Disney from when he arrived in Los Angeles in the 1920s, these people say. Similar to Disneyland's iconic castle, the redesigned park will feature a replica of Hollywood's former Carthay Circle theater, where Walt Disney premiered the movie "Snow White" in 1937.

But the part where guests told Jay Rasulo that they just don't have an emotional connection to it is very, very true. It feels like an ordinary theme park, and that's not what a Disney theme park is supposed to feel like. Come to think of it, I some time feel that way towards Disney-MGM Studios. If it weren't for the Sorcerer Hat and Tower of Terror, I would have no emotional connection with it whatsoever (ToT is my #1 most favorite attraction anywhere in WDW and it fits the theme of that park perfectly).

I hope this costly revamp of DCA will help. It certainly can't be any worse than it currently is.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

New Hidden Mickey Pin Series Released Today

The new Hidden Mickey Pin series at WDW is being released starting today. These are pins that you can obtain only via trading with WDW cast members.

I so want those Donald pins because they would go very well with the Donald Rubber Duckies that we already have.


The World's Biggest Treasure Hunt

Disney has launched on what it dubbed as "The World's Biggest Treasure Hunt" as a promotional lead-up to the December release of "National Treasures : Book of Secrets" movie.

Audiences will have the opportunity to win hundreds of thousands of dollars in authentic treasure from Odyssey Marine Exploration and an all-new Mercedes- Benz filled with treasure, winners to be announced on Entertainment Tonight.

If this is not hype, then I don't know what is. :)

Man, the movie better be good with this kind of hype surrounding it this far ahead of its release date.


Two More New Hits For The Disney Channel?

For the channel that can do no wrong nowadays, the Disney Channel may have another pair of hits on their hands. This past Friday, both "Twitches Too" and the new series "Wizards of Waverly Place" had strong premiers.

"Twitches" averaged 7 million viewers from 8-9:30 p.m. to become basic cable's most-watched telecast of the day, according to Nielsen Media Research. It also was TV's No. 1 program of the day among kids 6-11 (2.6 million) and tweens 9-14 (2.6 million).

After the movie, "Wizards" held on to 5.9 million total viewers from 9:30-10 p.m. Friday, ranking as basic cable's second-most-watched program for the day. The audience included 2.4 million viewers in each of the kids 6-11 and tweens 9-14 demos, making it TV's No. 2 program among those viewers.

While these numbers are not in the same league as High School Musical, it is still amazing that they can do this almost on demand.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party Oct. 4th, 2007

OK, so I've decided that since I didn't get a chance to do the day-by-day report on the last trip, that I would instead report separately on the 3 major events that we attended while we were at WDW last time, plus a few miscellaneous tidbits here and there. The first report will be on the Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party on Oct. 4th.

This is our first time attending this event, and it was fantastic! I had a lot of fun, especially when I dressed up as a "cook". I had a chef's hat and an apron. Both the hat and apron had the phrase "Kiss The Cook" on them. But I also bought a small Remy plush that I put in the pocket of my apron. So he was sticking his head out. Many people who saw it immediately got the Ratatouille connection.

Anyway, the evening was extremely humid that by the time I walked through Main Street, my back was already drenched in sweat! Still, it could have been worse, we could have been rained on. Luckily, the rain held off the whole evening.

Magic Kingdom was nicely decorated with Halloween items. However, it was a bit disappointing that the decorations were only confined to Main Street, the Hub, and Toontown. The rest of the Magic Kingdom had colorful lights, but no Halloween decorations, at least not that I can see.

Here are some pictures of the decorations. I especially like the extra "creatures" they put on buildings or around the grounds.

Of course, the first attraction we went to was the Haunted Mansion. The exterior of the building has rather spooky lighting, which made it even a lot more fun.

We had been on this ride a couple of days earlier, which was the first time we were on it after its recent rehab. Let's just say that this is now a FABULOUS attraction. The new stuff they have added to it has done nothing but enhanced this whole attraction. I now love it, LOVE IT, more than before.

An interesting observation that night was that the hidden mickey that's no the dining room table with all the ghost was missing the right ear. This hidden mickey was intact when were saw it a couple of days earlier, but on that night of the 4th, it wasn't intact. Wonder if one of the ghosts moved it? :)

We also did Pirates of the Caribbean before heading out to Liberty Square to find a good spot for the parade. I did get a lot of pictures, but they didn't come out that well because I was assuming that it would be like SpectroMagic, with lots of lights. It wasn't. If you don't have an external lighting, the pictures won't come out bright. And if you use longer exposure, the object will be blur since they're moving during the parade. Still, the Boo To You parade was a lot of fun. Luckily, they have a second parade later that evening after HalloWishes, and that is the parade that we videotaped that I mentioned in an earlier blog post. These are the pictures from that 2nd parade that evening.

There were plenty of ghosts and zombies walking around, and not just the guests dressing up.

The highlight of the evening, at least for me, was the spectacular HalloWishes. I hope you have seen the video that I have uploaded on it. Still, the video doesn't do it justice because at some point, the fireworks was along the parameter of Main Street. It was wonderful. Here are some pictures that I managed to get of the fireworks.

I also took a picture of Main Street at night during this event on my way out. I really like the blue/red color that kept moving and shifting.

Out front, the view towards the train station is gorgeous. Along with the banner for the event, I'd say this was the most "festive" spot with the best Halloween decorations.

It was a terrific evening and a terrific event. I was very pleased that I finally got to do this. So now, maybe next year, I'll do the christmas party next! :)