Saturday, September 29, 2012

There's a new balloon in town

A small article in DIS News reports that the big yellow balloon in DD will reopen soon.  Doesn't say if it will still be yellow.
Closed after a similar balloon in France had safety issues, the balloon at Downtown Disney has been replaced and will soon reopen.

Friday, September 28, 2012

WDW political contributions

The Orlando Sentinel has this story about Disney  spending big bucks on political campaigns in Florida .
Disney's political spending in Florida has ballooned to unprecedented levels: It has spent nearly twice as much money as it had at this same point during the 2010 elections, and it has spent about six times as much as it did during the entire 2008 cycle.

Nearly 90 cents of every dollar that Disney has spent on Florida campaigns in this election has gone to Republican candidates or Republican-leaning interest groups, according to the Sentinel's analysis. Republicans control the Governor's Office and Florida Legislature.
 Among issues that WDW wants to influence is gambling casinos...
 "Disney is betting the farm on trying to block the expansion of gambling in Florida," said Lee, a former state Senate president making a return to Florida politics. "They're laying down their marker … to make sure they populate the Legislature with anti-gambling legislators."

Noah signing villains

DIS News reports the artist Noah will be at Disneyland D-Street on October 12 to sign individual pieces from his villains collection. Noah is popular and so are villains.  The Chernabog VM should be interesting.
October 20, 2012
Popular artist Noah will be on hand to sign pieces from his new Villains collection at D Street in Downtown Disney from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm.  The art featuring Chernabog, Scar, Malificent and The Evil Queen will appear on various items including giclees on canvas, apparel and skate decks.  A limited edition Chernabog Vinylmation is also part of the collection

Random WDW Picture

Obviously, this is not a very common sight, unless one is a cast member and walking around the park before it opens. This is not the case here. I'm not a cast member, and I'm walking around, albeit in the morning, after the park opened.

Zz.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Disney Wallpapers

Hey, in case you missed it, check out a bunch of amazing wallpapers that you can use for your computers/ipad/smartphones. I currently have the Hitchhiking Ghosts wallpaper on my iPad. Very cool and very Shag-like. They have added a nice retro wallpaper to commemorate Epcot's 30th anniversary that's coming up in a few days (Oct. 1st, 2012).

Zz.

Random WDW Picture

Wishes, as viewed from the Noodle Terrace during one of the Wishes Dessert party.

Zz.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Letting Off Steam

We had a very enjoyable time during our last trip to WDW. The Pin event, the dessert party, the Illuminations cruise, the Spirit of Aloha luau, and the first MNSSHP of the year certainly added a lot of activity to our 10-day vacation there.

Alas, there were a few things that we encountered that could have gone better. Now, don't get me wrong. None of these things are what I consider as major, and it didn't detract one bit from the good time that we had overall. However, since we're talking about Disney theme parks here, the expectation and the standard that we hold them to is rather high. And some of these things that I've encountered (and not just during this last trip) have always puzzled me, and I continue to wonder why they can't figure out how to do them any better.

First of all, let's start with things that are just not working. I have lost track on when it was the last time I saw the Yeti at EE actually working. After spending all that money and effort in building it, the best we can do is have it stuck in one position? Have they constructed something that is so complicated that it just has a horrible reliability in working all the time? That's not good.

Also add to things that are not working is some parts of Thunder Mountain Railroad. I could have sworn that this attraction just had a rehab a while back. Not only was the spurting geyser at the end not working when I was on it, but during the final climb, the walls of the cave was supposed to move and made it look as if they were caving in. Didn't happen when I was on it. Nothing moved.

And now comes a rant on stuff that are not unique from our last trip, but really something that have puzzled me for quite a while.

Why don't they give passholders a more sturdy ticket? I mean, the passholder ticket that we got were utterly flimsy, and looked as if it won't survive repeated usage! Why can't passholders get a plastic ticket similar to the room keycard?

Why is Disney's counter food service at the parks ALWAYS SO SLOW? This is something I have never understood, considering that they've had years and years of experience. I will describe to you what I normally observed at one of these typical counter service, and you (especially if you are a cast member and know more about what goes behind the scenes) can correct me if I get anything wrong. And oh, I'm not counting counter service such as Sunshine Seasons, or those you find at the resorts where you wait for your buzzer to go off to pick up your food. I don't have any issues with those.

The typical counter service at the parks goes like this. You walk up to the cashier, place your order, pay for it, and then you get a receipt. You then walk up to the counter, and wait for your food.

Now, here's what I've observed, and what I think happened. Various parts of your order went to different stations. The cast member doing the drinks got a notice on what drinks were ordered at which counter. That is why I often see that our drinks were "staged" near our counter even before the rest of the food arrived. Now somewhere in the back, there's a printout of our order, and the order was assembled on a tray. Once the tray was complete, it was then passed out to the front, where a cast member read which counter that tray was for. He/she then brought the tray to the proper counter, fill it up with the drinks that have been waiting for the rest of the order, and hand it over to the guest. So far so good?

The problem here comes in when the place is busy and the lines are long. It takes quite a bit of time to fill and order. The food order is being filled by the back of the restaurant. Someone back there has to put it together. Only when it is done, will it come up front and a cast member will have to grab it and deliver it to the right counter. I remember standing in a long line one time, and another guest simply couldn't understand why Disney can't learn from MacDonalds on how to handle such large crowds. Obviously, with MacDonalds, during peak periods, a lot of the popular sandwiches are already made, and the serves simply need to grab when was ordered, put them in bags, and off they go! There's very little waiting, unless it is not a common item. I'm sure with Disney counter service, a lot of these things are already cooked. They only need to be put together. But the fact that someone back of the restaurant has to put the order together, etc. and then pass it up to the front, simply is too slow when they place is jammed with guests.

And it gets worse if things don't go right. We were waiting for our food at Flame Tree BBQ during our last trip. We ordered 2 smoked chickens, and an order of fries. For one of the smoked chicken order, instead of baked beans and cole slaw as the sides, we asked for the baked beans to be substituted with apple slices. It's simple enough, and we've done it before many times. Well, we knew things were not going to go well. First of all, it took unusually longer than normal. The guest behind us got her order first, even though she too had smoked chicken. Then I could see our order coming through the window since by then, I was already paying attention to what is going on due to our long wait. A cast member (male) grabbed the tray, and quickly spun around, causing the fries container on the tray to tip over and dumped at least half of our fries onto the floor!

So then he went back to the window and asked for a new order of fries. But the fun part was that he walked away from the tray! Rather than wait for the to be brought over, he went away, did something else, or even went to deliver other trays/orders to the guest. A couple of cast members were starting to sweep the spilled fries off the floor, but our tray was sitting there for at least half a minute when another cast member, seeing a tray there waiting to be delivered to a guest, grabbed it, looked at where it should go, and promptly brought it over to us. I immediately pointed out to this cast member that half of my fries spilled onto the floor, which was what they were sweeping right behind her! At the same time, looking at the tray, I also noticed that they did NOT give us apple slices instead. We still got 2 chickens, both with baked beans and cole slaw. I pointed that out to her. So she took it back to the window, and asked for a new order of fries and also for the apple slices. This was where things got even more annoying.

It turned out that the whole tray has to go BACK in, even though all it needed was an order of fries and a packet of apple slices. So off went our tray back through the window where it came from. After a couple of minutes, the tray came out, and cast member brought it over. Of course, you can guess that the debacle did not end there. One order of the chicken came back with ONLY apple slices, no cole slaw. At that point, I'm sure I said "Oh, you have got to be kidding me!" loud enough that people around us would have heard it. We again pointed to our receipt, and the receipt that was on the tray, that we would like cole slaw AND apple slices for one of the chicken order. The cast member of course realized the mistake, and of course, brought the entire tray back to the window, and yes, off the whole thing went back in! By now, this is no longer a Disney establishment, because this type of comedy of errors typically occurs at any of your typical neighborhood incompetent joint.

Our tray finally was delivered, with the correct items. However, since each time the tray came to us they were delivered by different cast members, none of them knew how long we had been waiting, and what has transpired. Consequently, there were no apologies for the long wait and for all the mistakes since the last cast member had no idea what happened. We walked away from there shaking our heads with disbelief. Of course, by the time we sat down and ate, the chickens were barely warm! But I sure as heck was not going to go back and ask for a new piece. I could be stuck there till next week!

The point here is not to highlight this silly sequence of mistakes. Rather, it is to point out that when things don't go quite right, the system in place simply can't handle it properly. The inefficiency of not being able to replace or correct quickly small parts of the order can easily cause a simple mistake to snowball! And the fact that the cast member simply didn't stay with the incorrect order meant that no one was following through and making sure things were corrected the next time around, rather than having to keep bringing it back.

This is where I am puzzled that Disney hasn't come up with a better system. I am sure these cast members were simply following the system that they have been told to follow. I can't believe that this is the best Disney can come up with for this type of counter service. It is just slow and inefficient during the peak times when it matters the most!

And speaking of slow and inefficient, has anyone ever tried getting the dole whip float, or any order for that matter, at the counter/window in Adventureland? Think about this for a minute: it is hot and humid, and people would love nothing better than to spend money on a dole whip float, a root beer float, etc. The Dole pineapple counter service is one of the most annoyingly slow service anywhere in WDW. Period! And don't blame the cast members for its slowness either, because once again, whoever came up with the servicing system needs to be forced to stand in line and order his/her own float from here! Here's how it works. There usually is only ONE cast member at each cash register. He/she takes your order, and then, get this, goes ahead and fill that order. This means that he/she has to go and make the float, get the soft-served ice cream, etc.. etc.. while the rest of us wait. Heaven forbid, the guest is ordering a list of stuff ("I need 4 dole whip floats, 2 vanilla soft-served ice cream, 4 bottles of water, and a diet coke please"). You might as well camp out in that line as if you're waiting for the next iPhone. I mean, seriously?!

When we were there, a lot of people were in line because the weather was hot and humid, and yet, no extra cast members were assigned to expedite the order. They somehow can't comprehend having one cast member at the cashier taking the order, while another scramble to fill that order. This happens at this counter service almost ALL THE TIME! I always think twice before I actually want to order a dole whip float. There were many a times when I wanted one, but simply walked away because I can tell the wait is going to be unnecessarily long! Again, this is one of those puzzlingly bad system that I would expect some place else other than Disney to practice. Yet, here it is in the Mouse's House.

But other than those, we had a great time!

:)

Zz.

Then And Now

I saw these two photos that I have taken, and I thought it would be nice to compare what things look like then, and now.

This is the view across the World Showcase lagoon at Spaceship Earth, as viewed from the "gate" at the Japan pavilion. The first photo is from Aug of 2003. You can tell it is an "old" photo because the wand is still on Spaceship Earth.

This is the same view, snapped recently (Sept 2012). So this is a period of almost 10 years in between the two photos.
Biggest difference, obviously, besides the missing wand is that the trees on the island have certainly grown bigger! Even the ones from across the pond, especially the palm trees, have grown taller. But other than those, one can't tell that much of a difference. The more things change, the more they remain the same, I suppose.

Zz.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

EPCOT 30th anniversary

DIS News posted this article about the events planned for EPCOT's 30th anniversary. 
The events on October 1 are actually presented by D23, Disney's official fan club, and are included in park admission.
 The events include talks by Marty Sklar and a special ending for Illuminations.  There are some cool T-shirts too.

Tom in "Toy Hunter"

Just finished watching an episode of "Toy Hunter" on the Travel Channel this afternoon. In one segment, the host Jordan Hembrough went to Dayton, OH to visit a "Tom", also known as "Yoda". We both went "Tom"? A toy collector? In Dayton, OH? What are the odds?

And sure enough, it was Tom Tombush, whom we know! We did get to see a bit of his Disney collection in the glass display cases, and got to see a bit of his "warehouse". Holy cow! Of course, the host of the show wasn't interested in any Disney pins, so we didn't see any of those.

It was a fun episode, since he was collecting for stuff to bring to a ComicCon in NY City. Yowzah! Didn't think people would pay that much money for a toy.

Zz.

Moroccan Pavilion and ToT Together

I've always wanted to capture this shot from this angle, but somehow didn't get to do it till our most recent trip last week.

You already saw a picture of something that belongs somewhere else (the balloon at Downtown Disney being seen from World Showcase). Here's another one. If you look at this photo carefully, you can see not only the Moroccan pavilion in the foreground, but also the Hollywood Tower of Terror at DHS in the background!

What is fascinating is that many people who look at this view from this angle would probably NOT notice this at all. The Imagineers certainly knew about this, and to make the ToT as least conspicuous as possible, they did two things. The first is the color. The ToT color mimics that of the Moroccan pavilion. So the two just blend with one another. The other is the architecture of the top of ToT. You'll notice that, even though ToT is supposed to have the Hollywood 30's Glam style, the top of the building blends easily with the Moorish architecture of the Moroccan tower.

There are tons of details like this all over WDW, and it is what makes it a fascinating place. There are always small details such as this to discover on each visit.

Zz.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Disney-Inspired Manor

For $1.5 million, you can have this Disney-inspired manor.




If you do buy it, can I come and visit?

Zz.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Walt Disney World vs Disneyland

This article appeared in the Orlando Sentinel, comparing WDW with DLR.  There are the expected comparisons with number of attractions, etc. but this quote gets at the intangibles.
Some Disney fans, like Steve Pratt, author of the More Kids Than Suitcases blog, see Disneyland as superior to Disney World because it is the original park envisioned by Walt Disney. Disneyland opened in 1955, while Disney World (initially just the Magic Kingdom), opened in 1971. Pratt says, "There is only one park that has Walt's personal impression on it. Disney World is bigger and newer, but that's not what the Disney parks are about. The magic came from Walt, and Disneyland is the park that he built. My kids, who are ride junkies, said it best, 'We want to go back to Disney World for the rides, but we want to go back to Disneyland for the Disney.'"
 Another issue, not mentioned in the article, is the quality of the counter service food at both locations.  Some veteran Disney-philes who visit both locations think that the quality and variety of counter service food at WDW has gone downhill in the past couple of years.   The combination of the Dining Plan and the complications of feeding the often massive crowds at WDW may be having their effect. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Changes at Pirates of the Caribbean

DisneyParks Blog reports that something will be added to the Pirates attraction at WDW.
Our friends at Walt Disney Imagineering dropped us a line today to let us know that something from the most recent film, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” is about to be added to the attraction here at Walt Disney World Resort. Can you guess what it is?
Maybe it involves mermaids.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Alcohol at Magic Kingdom

From a  news story in the Chicago Tribune, beer and wine will soon be available at MK.  The French-themed Be Our Guest restaurant in the new Fantasyland  is scheduled to open in November, and beer and wine will be on the menu.  The news article states that the restaurant will open about a month before the Fantasyland expansion itself.  Previously the only way alcohol was served at MK was at a special catered event.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sunday, September 09, 2012

On main street

Waiting for Wishes.


MK

We swore at MK on it's a small world.



Mickey's Circus VM

Monorail set in silent auction. Set was never sold retail. Bid was over $600 by afternoon.

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Mickey's Circus VM

The ring toss game. You get a better VM if you get the ring over the figure.

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Mickey's Circus VM

From the new Monsters Inc series.

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Mickey's Circus VM

Lone Ranger and Tonto, complete with crow on head.

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Mickey's Circus VM

VM from the new Cinderella series.
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Mickey's Circus VM

Gerald Mendez from Disney Store joins the other presenters.

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Mickey's Circus VM

Fantasia characters.

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Mickey's Circus VM

Upcoming Pixar characters.

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Mickey's Circus VM

Future set of black and white classic characters.

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Mickey's Circus VM

Slide showing Mechanical Kingdom characters.

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Mickey's Circus VM

Julie, Eric and Thomas talking about upcoming Vinylmations.

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Mickey's Circus VM

The stage in dramatic lighting before the 1:00 Vinylmation talk.

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Mickey's Circus VM

A Vinylmation year in review slide. Chip and Dale are shot out of the cannon every so often.

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Wet

It's a rainy day here at WDW. We are spending a lazy day at the resort. We are now at SSR waiting for the rest of our party to have lunch at the Turf Club.

Mickey's Circus VM

Tanya and Gunther making my phone happy to have their picture.

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Mickey's Circus VM

Christmas Agent P.

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Mickey's Circus VM

A display case with future releases.

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Mickeys's Circus VM

Tanya and Gunther on stage. She did a not-so-high wire act.

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Mickey's Circus VM

The bucket game. Three tries to get a foam ball into a bucket, then pick 2 VM's.
Not easy, so most people got to pick from the big bucket as consolation.

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Mickey's Circus VM

The trading area for VM's. In the morning, not as many people as were trading pins.

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