Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hilton Buys Hilton Hotel On Disney Property

So, do you know of the Hilton Hotel on Hotel Plaza Blvd. right across from Downtown Disney's Market Place? Yes, that one. I've stayed there before. Well, it seems that the Hilton Hotel company has bought .. er .. that hotel!

Hilton Worldwide now owns the Hilton at the Walt Disney World Resort.

The company announced purchase of the 814-room hotel across from Downtown Disney Wednesday afternoon.

The hotel is located on Disney property on Hotel Plaza Boulevard near the Holiday Inn and the Royal Plaza Hotel.

Hilton Worldwide paid just over $127 million.

This means that what has happened is that before this, the building and property were owned by Disney, and they just, what, leased those out to Hilton? So Hilton now fully owns that building and property? What does that mean now? I'm sure they can't do whatever they like to it since zoning and development in that area are still governed by the Reedy Creek Improvement District.

But does this mean that most, if not all, of the hotels on Hotel Plaza Blvd. are not owned by those respective hotels? What about the Swan and Dolphin?


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Jeff Bridges on "Tron"

CNET has an interview with Jeff Bridges, and includes a substantial portion on "Tron", "Tron Legacy", etc.


Gnomeo and Juliet Official Movie Trailer

This is my first glimpse at the upcoming "Gnomeo and Juliet".

I guess it's a strange version of the Shakespearean classic, done with gnomes. Still, I can't help to think that this is similar to the Toy Story series, where the toys have to be "lifeless" in the presence of humans, but have their own lives when the humans are gone.

We'll just have to see how good, and how original, this is when it comes out.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

New Disney Store opens in downtown Chicago's Block 37 Shops

Chicago received one of the first new Disney Stores opening in select markets across the country. These are stores using the latest technology to enhance a shopper's experience through interactive displays and unique shopping areas. The new downtown Chicago Disney Store is located at 1 West Randolph Street, within the Block 37 Shops. A cast member told me people were lined up outside by 8:30 a.m. for today's Grand Opening, even though the store didn't open it's doors until 10:00 a.m. It was crowded when I visited during my lunch hour, but it was well staffed and shoppers could move easily throughout the displays.

One of the unique things in the store is the kid-sized Disney Princess Castle which you can walk through.

Inside the Princess Castle is a Magic Mirror. Although it looks like an ordinary glass mirror, a special surprise happens when one of the various princess's wands is waved in front of it. The mirror's reflection magically comes to life with an animated clip of that princess introducing herself and telling her story. I witnessed a little girl stopped cold in her tracks, her jaw dropped open with amazement and enchantment, when she saw this feature on the Magic Mirror.

A blue glitter trails leads guest through the store. A cast member told me that they will have parades each day winding through the store following the blue glitter trail.

There are also large white tree structures throughout the store and video images are projected onto them. The cast member said to look closely for Hidden Mickeys on the trees, although I couldn't spot any.

Another unique part of the store is the new Disney Store Theater, where guests can view movies and gather for special in-store events and entertainment. The area included a child-sized table and chairs. It looked like a few tots were coloring and enjoying classic Disney cartoons there during my visit this afternoon. A cast member told me that the theater is interactive as well. There's a display panel on the right side of the theater that allows you to choose which kind of entertainment you'd like to view.

This store also includes an area where you can build your own remote-controlled car, based on the Disney/Pixar movie CARS. A cast member is on hand to assist you in selecting the body, tires, and other components of your car. It's assembled at the table before your eyes, and you walk out of the store with your own custom-designed toy. I suspect this is going to be a huge hit with young boys and girls.

Some Disney Visa cardholders received a coupon or email for a free exclusively-designed pin with any purchase, redeemable only at this new store. It's a Tinker Bell pin with a white glittery background. It's on a card that reads "Disney Store is your magical destination where Disney characters and stories come to life everyday...where little princesses and space rangers can discover their dreams in an extraordinary place." Here's what the pin looked like:

Vacation As You Wish

This past week and through the weekend, Disney held a special DVC event "Vacation as you wish" in Downtown Chicago. It was held at the Arie Crown Theater in McCormick Place convention center, which was rather unusual. Typically, all DVC events are held at Woodfield Mall (often in the Improve Theater there), where it is close to the Doorway to Dreams center inside the mall.

So a group of us diehard fans went to the event last Sunday. While it was fun, it wasn't anything spectacular. I think after a few of this, we kinda have heard all the spiel already. It was more of an enjoyable time to get our Disney fix.

So they didn't invite that many for each of the session. In fact, I'd say there were around 30 people in our session, and they intended it to be that small (but in that big of a theater?). I think many of their sessions were completely full since they were limiting them to that small of a number per session.

In any case, it was rather strange to walk into a very empty lobby of the theater. There were plenty of signs, of course, directing us to the event.

There were vocal entertainment, and the wish'meister (or whatever he was called) was there. I think I've seen him already in a similar Vacation as you Wish event at the Contemporary when we saw a preview of BLT.

After the presentation, the area behind the stage opened up, revealing our favorite Disney characters (where was Donald??!!!), a DJ, and plenty of snacks to eat.

Goofy came over and sat at our table for a few minutes. We had a lovely chat.

We got a few gifts at the event. Besides the usual DVC bag and folder, we also got a pair of binoculars, rice crispy treats, and luggage tags.

We left rather early while the festivities were still going on on stage.

It was a fun time, but one can tell that the incentives were not as enticing and generous as they were a couple of years ago.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Psychiatrist Recalls Strangest Cases

Er... hum...

So I came across this report on a new book written by a psychiatrist about some of the strange cases that they have come across, and I found this example:

We meet other patients, like a wealthy recluse in Colorado, a woman with a psychological need to believe she was pregnant, and a plastic surgeon with nightmares about turning into Pinocchio — who wants to marry a woman obsessed with all things Disney.

Whoa! You mean that dreaming about turning into Pinocchio, and wanting to marry a woman obsessed with all things Disney is not normal?! :)

Someone should tell them to go to a Disneyana fan convention. They will find many other "strange cases" to fill another book!


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Where In Walt Disney World

OK, this one should be a bit easier than the last one. Where in Walt Disney World is this?


Friday, September 24, 2010

One Millionth Vinylmation Prizes

I mentioned earlier that one of our friends was randomly selected as the purchases of the one millionth vinylmation during the last Pin Celebration event that we attended. I've now received pictures of the merchandise that he was given as prizes (in addition to 2 free admissions to next year's Pin Celebration event).

He received 4 complete sets of vinylmations in 2 vinylmation paint cans. The appears that the cans are one of those made solely for store displays, etc., so it is definitely something one can't buy or get easily (e-bay one of them, Phil!)
The 4 sets of vinylmations are in the first 6 rows of each display case (the last rows contain vinylmation previously purchased).

Now, you tell me that these things are not scary!



Sunday, September 19, 2010

An Adventure in the Magic Kingdom

An interesting set of historical video on Disneyland.

Join Tinkerbell and the "voice of Disneyland", Dick Wessel, on a black and white trip from the Disney Studios in Burbank to the Happiest Place on Earth, Disneyland, Anaheim. Then adventure into the trademark Disney lands as the public saw them in 1958. (One notably, "Holidayland")


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

Strong Demand For Disney Dream

Disney is reporting that advance booking for Disney Dream is quite strong.

"We're very happy with the booking pace that the Disney Dream has experienced," Walt Disney Co. Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo told analysts at a Bank of America/Merrill Lynch conference in Newport Beach, Calif. "There has been a tremendous amount of interest from both new and previous cruisers with us to book."

You can count me in as one of those "new cruisers". We will be going on our first ever Disney cruise in December 2011 on the Disney Dream. And there will be a large group going from the Chicago area too! So look out! :)

I think it helps that the cost per state room is lower than the Wonder and Magic. The large capacity probably allowed them to lower such cost. This is also true for the number of DVC points needed for the cruise. It is generally lower on the Dream. This can only spur more people who were considering a Disney cruise to take finally make that plunge.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tangled - Trailer 2

A new trailer for "Tangled" has just been released.

It looks amazing, of course. And it seems to be a pretty funny movie. However, is it me, or does this thing have the same "feel", as far as humor and 'street talk', as "Shrek" and "Ice Age"?

Still, I'm now excited to see this movie. So I guess the promotion in terms of the trailers, and the advanced word-of-mouth is working! :)


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Disneyland Paris Resort Expanding

Euro Disney has officially received permission to acquire more land and expand Disneyland Paris resort. In fact, there's talk about a third theme park at that resort that could possibly have a superheros theme, to make full use of Disney's acquisition of Marvel.

Philippe Gas, the chief executive of Euro Disney, said one idea for a third park is "a superheroes park" following the acquisition of Marvel by Disney - although the construction of a third park is a long-term vision. Mr Gas said there is a possibility that a decision to build a third park could come as late as 2020, although it may come earlier if planned work on the Disney Studios park is completed.

I think WDW should be the one to take full advantage of the Marvel acquisition.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

One Million Vinylmations!

I blogged during my last trip that one of our friends on that trip was selected as the person who purchased the one millionth vinylmation. So for all of us, that was the biggest news of the whole trip. He and his companion got a bunch of stuff (plenty of vinylmations, obviously), and also got their registration fee paid for for next year's pin event. Good deal!

Anyway, here are finally pictures of the ceremony. According to Phil (he's the winner in the picture), he was still stunned.... not that he was selected, but the fact that they sold 1 million of these things! :) :)

Congratulations once again! Someone in our group at this pin event always wins something these past few years! This year we had Phil with the big prize here, and Pat getting selected to play the Pin, Lose, Or Draw game. Previous years we had Gene, Chuck, and Ralph getting selected to either play a game, or win a prize. We have to keep the good karma going next year.

Thanks to Phil and Diane for the pictures.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Day 2 on the Platinum Plan

We were so tired after all our activities yesterday, but we were up early in the morning to begin our next wave of activities. The Platinum Plan expires at midnight, so we still had another full day to complete tours and dining. Unfortunately, I woke up with a terrible sore throat and feeling very run-down. Oh no! Not on the day of our highly anticipated dinner! We decided to sacrifice doing the 5 hour Keys to the Kingdom tour we had scheduled that morning, and I was able to get some additional sleep and take it easy poolside. We figured we could always do that tour at a later day. The rest helped, and we continued our itinerary later in the afternoon.

3:00 p.m. Spa treatments at Grand Floridian Spa
The Platinum package includes your choice of one spa treatment (massage, facial, or manicure/pedicure) at one of the resort spas. I never say no to a massage, so I went for 50 minutes of pure bliss while my partner had the mani/pedi option. These spa treatments were a wonderful pampering treat, and after all the walking in the parks, our legs and feet were very happy. As an additional perk, customers who get a spa treatment are able to use the spa's facilities (saunas, whirlpools) for the rest of the day. We didn't have time to lounge long because we had to get ready for dinner. We brought our clothes with us to the spa, and the facility had everything we needed to shower and prepare for our night out.

5:00 p.m. Dinner at Victoria & Alberts
We had been looking forward to this meal for months! Victoria & Alberts is the only 5 diamond restaurant in Florida. It gave us a chance to dress up and try some amazing fine dining. We were presented with personalized menus to select our 6 course dinner selections. Each course was outstanding, and they all led up to the most amazing desserts! As if we didn't feel pampered enough at the spa, we felt absolutely indulged by the end of this meal!

8:00 p.m. Specialty fireworks cruise
After all the delicious food and wine, we could have just lied down right on the spot, but we had to hustle to our final activity. We had a pontoon boat waiting to take us for a tour around Bay Lake. We were shown the resorts along the lake and given some information and trivia about them. We rode over to Discovery Island and saw all the birds sleeping in the trees -- the same birds that during the day are looking for your dropped popcorn and snacks in the parks! We rode to the old River Country water park as well. The cruise was supposed to end with a viewing of the Wishes fireworks show. Unfortunately, we encountered a lightening storm brewing, so we needed to hurry back to the marina. As a result, we didn't have the opportunity to see the fireworks that night.

We returned to our hotel as the storm really unleashed the rain, thunder, and lightening. We had concluded our whirlwind weekend on the Platinum Plan. It was an amazing experience, and we would do it again.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Random WDW Picture

Another picture from Wishes.


Day 1 of the Platinum Plan

We checked into Animal Kingdom Lodge very early in the morning. We have a Savannah view room with concierge level privileges. I think we received these perks because we are doing the Platinum Plan. I'm excited to have a balcony off our room where we can sit and watch the animals, although there is very little time to do so during our first day! We are packing in one day what most people would do within a week's stay at Disney! So after dropping off our luggage and picking up our keys, we were headed off to start our adventure!

7 a.m. - Guided Bass Fishing excursion
We met our guide at the Polynesian boat docks, and he brought us on a fishing pontoon stocked with a cooler of water and sodas. We headed out onto Bay Lake, and parked near the pier for Wilderness Lodge. Our guide was very easy-going and handled baiting the fishing lines for us. He showed us how to hold the poles, and when we got a nibble, how to set the hook and reel 'em in! I have to admit that I'm a city girl and was somewhat reluctant to go fishing, but after 20 minutes out in the water, watching the sun rise, and sitting on the calm lake, I was really enjoying myself. And the excitement of catching the fish was an adrenaline rush. Disney practices catch and release. The final tally of the day: 7 fish!

10:30 a.m. Richard Petty Ride-Along Experience
My partner felt the need for speed! We checked into the Richard Petty Driving Experience. They offer the chance to drive a race car around the Walt Disney Speedway. We didn't have time for all the classroom instruction the driving experience required, so we opted for the 3 lap ride-along with a professional driver. My partner suited up in requisite racing outfit while I waited in the grandstands. He said the most difficult part was having to climb through the car window. Once inside, they roared off onto the speedway. Imagine the take-off to Rock & Roll Roller Coaster and multiply it!

12:30 p.m. Epcot Living Seas Aqua Tour
This was one of my favorite activities. A small group is led backstage to the aquarium at Epcot. We saw the various feeding areas, vet areas, and tanks that are used to treat the animals in the Living Seas. The last part of this tour included getting into a wet suit and actually snorkeling within the aquarium -- right alongside the fish, stingrays, sharks, and sea turtles! What a unique experience!

3:00 p.m. Lunch at Teppan Edo (Epcot -Japan)
After all that swimming, we were quite hungry, so we were looking forward to our Japanese grill. We had steak and chicken, cooked on a large grill in front of us. Our chef was very friendly and showed off his amazing knife skills.

6:00 p.m. Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba
The Platinum package includes tickets to the Cirque du Soleil show, and they were great seats -- 7th row center. We saw the show many years, and Cirque du Soleil doesn't disappoint. I think my jaw was wide open in wonderment throughout most of the show. La Nouba frequently updates the acts, so even if you've seen the show before, it's worth seeing again.

9:00 p.m. Dinner at Jiko
This restaurant, located in the Animal Kingdom Lodge, is one of our favorites on property. We really love their filet mignon with the delicious macaroni & cheese. Great wine selections, and a fantastic wait staff make this a place we always enjoy visiting. Being able to do so while on the Platinum Dining plan was an extra treat!

After all that activity and delicious food, we were happy that we just had to go up the elevators from Jiko to get to our room. We were exhausted! But we were only halfway through our whirlwind weekend! We still had more activities planned for the next day! I think I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Could "Tangled" Be A Best Animation Oscar Contender?

It is not finished yet, but still, the work-in-progress "Tangled" received an early small press screening. The early word so far is that it has been enthusiastically received, leading to speculation that it could be nominated for an Oscar for Best Animation next year. This is quite an endorsement for something that is only "60%" complete.

That’s right. Wednesday Disney did something studios never do unless they know they have the goods. They flew in several members of the press--mostly those who cover animation for outlets with long lead times--to see the first ever screening of the big Thanksgiving holiday release Tangled. The musical weaves a new take on the Rapunzel fairy tale, in what represents Disney’s milestone 50th animated feature since Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs in 1937. John Lasseter told the gathered press, “You can feel the pride people in this studio have in Tangled. We just couldn’t wait for people to see it.”

It’s looking like there will again be five nominees for Best Animated Feature this year. Based the deservedly enthusiastic press response to the work-in-progress print shown yesterday, Tangled could easily be among them. As will Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 3, which remains the 800 pound gorilla in the race. Dreamworks is already aggressively campaigning for How To Train Your Dragon.

This should be interesting. I wasn't that enthusiastic to see this movie, even though I did plan on it. But now, I'm curious with anticipation.


Random WDW Picture

This is on the bridge connecting the walkway from the Boardwalk to the walkway from Yacht/Beach club towards the World Gateway entrance of Epcot.

Platinum Plan

Patti just reported getting ready to do the Platinum Plan. For those who don't know about it, here's a link to the Disney's Platinum Plan that she's about to do.

I can't wait to hear her report. This should be good.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Getting Ready for the Platinum Plan

Guest blogger Patti has her bags packed and is getting ready to check into the Animal Kingdom Lodge for a whirlwind weekend on Disney's Platinum package. I'm still having some issues posting directly from my phone (especially photos), but I will try to blog live and then come back to the post to add photos.
Say tuned over the weekend, because you do not want to miss the exciting things we have planned for Saturday and Sunday -- various Disney tours, recreation, and dining.

Where In Walt Disney World

OK, this one might be a little tough. I will be thoroughly impressed if someone gets this.

Where in Walt Disney World can you see this?

River Country Site To Make Way For A DVC Resort?

A new rumor today that is being reported is that Disney is considering the site of the old River Country water park for a new DVC resort. The new resort will supposedly be themed on the "old Buffalo Junction plans" from many years ago.

The new timeshare project’s design will be “based on the old Buffalo Junction plans from years ago,” Screamscape said. The shelved Buffalo Junction project — also called Wilderness Junction — was to include a 600-room resort along the southern coast of Bay Lake at Walt Disney World next to the River Country water park, which was open from 1976 to 2001.

I didn't know that the DVC resorts are doing well enough during these tough economic times that Disney is considering building a new one. I'm a DVC member, so it is always nice to hear about new DVC resorts, but honestly, I'd rather see new attractions, expansion of current theme parks, or even a 5th gate! Those, universally, are more of interest to us Disney fans.


Thursday, September 09, 2010

September is a less crowded time at Disney World

Hello readers! It's guest blogger Patti, with a quick post.
Last night we headed to Downtown Disney for dinner at Earl of Sandwich, then some evening shopping and entertainment. I was so surprised to see a row of empty spots in the parking lot last night! Anyone who has driven around Downtown Disney during peak season knows how crazy it can be to find a space, so it was particularly surprising to be able to drive right in and park up close! September is a wonderful time to visit because older children are back in school, so the crowds are much lighter. The weather is still very warm (90s).
No lines for ordering our dinner at Earl's, nor was there a wait to order our custom-dipped treats at Goofy's Candy company. The World of Disney had a crowd of people shopping in the evening, but the registers had only 3-4 people in line, not the long roped-off areas that I have encountered during peak season.
Wow! This is really nice. I could get very spoiled like this!!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy

Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy theme is back at Disneyland! I wish they would do something like this at WDW!


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Last Ride to Endor

D23 members gave a rowdy farewell to the Star Tours attraction at Hollywood Studios tonight. There were 225 members that registered to be the final riders on the attraction. We received a boarding pass, a final Fast Pass, and a Star Wars coin set when arriving. We were then led through the closed park to Star Tours by a group of Storm Troopers. There were plenty of opportunities for photos of the ride and all it's elements. They placed all the attendees in line and everyone rode the attraction at the same time. We even had a pair of the Storm Troopers in our section! There were lots of cheers at the start and end of the trip. I don't think I've ever risen the attraction with such an appreciative audience.
As we exited the attraction, we were given a special Star Tours Final Ride patch from D23. Cast Members holding lightsabers surrounded us as we exited through the gift shop for one final photo opportunity.
So, farewell to the original Star Tours! Guess we'll have to wait for Star Tour 2.

Patti's Trip Report - 1

{Patti is still having problems with blogging live with her phone, so she's sending me her trip report for me to post here for now.}

This is your guest blogger, Patti S., reporting during her week-long trip to DisneyWorld. I'm sending all of ZapperZ's readers a little bit of magic this evening. Here's a rainbow we saw while on our way to dinner tonight. I'll let you know if we find a pot of gold under it!

Monday, September 06, 2010

Random WDW Picture

This is from Wishes on a hot and muggy night. The smoke left behind some time is as fascinating as the fireworks itself. It added another level of "eeriness".

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Incoherent Messages

If you've been seeing or receiving incoherent messages from this blog, there's a perfectly good reason for it. We've been trying to add Patti's iPhone to the mobile blogging capability the same way that I have for my phone. Unfortunately, we've been having a bit of a problem till now. Hopefully, we have that straighten out for the time being.

Patti is currently in Orlando, and if everything goes well, will be blogging on all the fun stuff she'll be doing at WDW, including several fantastic activities. I won't spoil it by telling you what they are, but if she gets to report them and snap pictures, this will be an amazing report.

I can't wait...


Random WDW Picture

A view of the Dolphin hotel resort from the balcony of a Boardwalk room. One can also see the bridge linking the Boardwalk resort to the Dolphin/Swan resort.


Saturday, September 04, 2010

Donald's Great Adventure - More Trade City, USA Pin Event Decor

Hello Fans! This is Donald Duck once again.

Although the Trade City, USA pin celebration event is over, I still have a couple of pictures from that event that I want to show all my fans. Disney has done a nice job of decorating the place, even though they did quite a bit of recycling from previous year's events. Still, I managed to walk around the event and inspect several of the decorations that they have put up.

ZapperZ thought that I should have a picture with one of the broomsticks. I said yes. Little that I know that he wanted me to be IN THE BUCKET!

Oh well, just to humor him, I hopped into one. It was actually quite comfy. I could take naps in there.

We then went over to the Alice in Wonderland table. They weren't serving afternoon tea then, ZapperZ thought that I should climb into one of the teapot. I told him it wasn't a good idea, but he insisted. Rather than waiting for me to say yes or no, he picked me up and shoved me right into the teapot. How embarrassing!
Of course, as you can guess, I got stuck! It took ZapperZ and another person to pull me out of that stupid teapot. Ruffled my well-groomed feathers, it did!

Other than that embarrassing incident, I had a wonderful time at the pin celebration event. Met many of my fans. I can't wait to come back for next year's event.


Friday, September 03, 2010

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Saddest Phrase In All Of Walt Disney World

You just had a wonderful time at the Magic Kingdom. You now have to go get your car at the Transportation and Ticket Center to head to the airport for home, so you hop onto the monorail. You know you're leaving the Most Magical Place on Earth. As the monorail pulls into the TTC, you hear the saddest phrase in all of WDW:

If this concludes your visit to the Walt Disney World resort, we hope you had a wonderful time and will return home safely.



Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Dragon Pulled From Fantasmic

This news article is reporting the troublesome dragon at Disneyland's Fantasmic. It is now out of the show due to technical problems.

But on Monday, Disney officials confirmed that the dragon was down for the count again, this time indefinitely. They described the ailment as some kind of "technical" problem during Saturday's show.

Fans were a bit more precise. The beast had collapsed during the show, they reported on, a fan website. Or as one observer suggested, Maleficent pulled a "face plant."

Photographer Rich Martin of Trabuco Canyon, Calif., was visiting Disneyland with his wife and daughters Saturday night when he happened on the already ailing dragon, its neck slumped, its fire-breathing jaw slackened, its body sinking low.

Oh my! That's sad!

It kinda reminds me of the poor Yeti at Expedition Everest. When was the last time anyone seen it working? We were there in December of 2009 and it wasn't working, and it wasn't working when we were there Thursday last week. Does Joe Rohde know about this? What's the point in having such amazing animatronics if it doesn't work most of the time? EE is still a fun attraction, but the non-working Yeti continues to be a disappointment, since that's the last thing that you remember at the end of the ride.