Friday, November 30, 2012

DDW Pic 458. China - Panorama

China - Panorama
I spent quite a bit of time at the China pavilion while giving a tour of Epcot last week. Most of this location is modeled after the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. The circular building on the right is a 1/2 scale replica of The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest. It contains an round lobby that is said to be "acoustically perfect." If you stand in the center, you can hear yourself talk, which is an interesting phenomenon.  Without a "ride," the China pavilion can be a little boring for young children. However, this location is one of the sites of Agent P's World Showcase Adventure. If you have kids who are fans of Phineas and Ferb, I highly recommend trying out this entertaining and interactive experience.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

DDW Pic 457. Toy Story Midway Mania!

Toy Story Midway Mania - Snack Bar
I have always been a fan of "hidden Mickeys," but recently I've spent a lot more time researching them.  They have become a big part of my tours. As I escort guests through the Disney parks, the kids love to look for hidden Mickeys. To some kids, this activity can be almost as fun as riding the attractions. Most of the time, the Mickeys take the classic three circle shape, with the head being slightly bigger than the ears.  However, sometimes it can be Mickey's profile. This Mickey shaped piece of popcorn falls into that profile category. This one can be seen behind the counter at the "Hey Howdy Hey" snack bar across from Toy Story Midway Mania in Hollywood Studios. There is another one that can be found inside this snack bar. See if you can find it the next time you are in Hollywood Studios!

YouTube 24. Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

This annual event in Hollywood Studios has taken place since 1995. This incredible display was originally on the property of the Osborne family in Little Rock, Arkansas. Although the lights come on at nightfall, they actually dance to holiday music about every ten minutes. Much like Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party in the Magic Kingdom, Disney makes it snow over the Streets of America. Although it may not feel like a "traditional" holiday season in the warm temperatures of Central Florida, this is one area that really puts you into the Christmas spirit. Running every night from early November to early January, this is an "attraction" that shouldn't be missed!

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

DDW Pic 456. The Land

The Land
I took this picture inside The Land pavilion at Epcot on Thanksgiving day.  You can see the large group of people walking down the stairs on the right edge of the photo. Most of them were headed to "Soarin," and this steady stream of humanity continued throughout most of the day.  The average wait time for this attraction was over 100 minutes and there were actual lines at each of the FastPass machines all morning. The FastPasses were "sold out" by noon.  Soarin' is an incredible attraction, but waiting close to two hours for a five minute ride is ridiculous. As a tour guide, let me give you a very simple piece of advice:  Get to Epcot early and go directly to Soarin' as soon as the park opens! It will make a huge difference in your day.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

DDW Pic 455. Magic Kingdom Entrance - Panorama

Magic Kingdom Entrance - Panorama
This shot from last week takes in the entire entrance area in front of the Magic Kingdom. You can see both tunnels on each edge of the photo. The Mickey flower bed, right below the train station, is the most photographed spot in the world.  I'm not talking just Disney "World." There are more pictures taken here than anywhere else on the planet! With only a small crowd, perfect weather, and a Walt Disney World steam train at the station, I couldn't resist snapping this panorama.

Monday, November 26, 2012

DDW Pic 454. Grand Floridian Gingerbread House

Grand Floridian Gingerbread House
This is the time of year when holiday decorations can be found all over the Walt Disney World Resort. This amazing gingerbread house is located in the lobby of the Grand Floridian resort. The huge structure is 16 feet tall and contains more than 10,000 pieces of gingerbread. The Disney bakers started making the gingerbread in July and it took over 400 hours to bake it all. There is actually a gift shop located inside of the house where you can buy pieces of gingerbread. If you are visiting the Magic Kingdom during the holidays, I recommend making the short trip to the Grand Floridian. Not only will you see the gingerbread house, but you'll also get a chance to see the gigantic Christmas tree in the lobby.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

DDW Pic 453. Canada

Canada is one of my favorite pavilions in all of Epcot. This is one of those countries that makes you feel like you have been transported out of Florida to somewhere much farther north. I love the area towards the back of the pavilion with the amazing rock work and the water running through the mountain. I took this picture while giving a tour a few days ago. I was standing pretty to close to the entrance of the Le Cellier restaurant. You can see the Victoria Gardens in the foreground with the Canadian Rockies depicted in the left side of the photo.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

DDW Pic 452. Adventureland - Panorama

Adventureland - Panorama
I took this shot a few days ago while standing near the Sunshine Tree Terrace. This view allows you to see several of the shops and attractions in Adventureland. From left to right is the Agrabah Bazaar, the Zanzibar Trading Company, the Magic Carpets of Aladdin, and Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room. Also, you can almost see the entrance to the Jungle Cruise between the Magic Carpets and the Tiki Room. Adventureland is a lively area of the Magic Kingdom that is fun to walk around, even if you don't visit the attractions.

On a side note, Digital Disney World just had its 50,000th page view today. I want to thank my loyal readers for your continued support!  I am very appreciative that you take time out of your day to indulge me and my Disney World obsession!


Friday, November 23, 2012

DDW Pic 451. Earl of Sandwich

Earl of Sandwich
After a great week of giving tours, I decided to enjoy a Thanksgiving treat. Earl of Sandwich at Downtown Disney has always been one of my favorite restaurants, but this is particularly true around the holidays. Earls serves a delicious meal known as the "Holiday Sandwich." It includes turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and gravy and it tastes like Thanksgiving dinner in the form of a sandwich. If you haven't tried it, I highly recommend grabbing a "Holiday Sandwich" the next time you are at Downtown Disney!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

DDW Pic 450. Epcot

Today was a great day for photography in Central Florida. Pictures like this are not possible for much of the year because of the humidity. I took this shot from just around the western corner of the entrance to World Showcase. Although it was a crowded Thanksgiving Day, the weather was perfect for a tour, and a great time was had by all!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

DDW Pic 449. Tony's Town Square

Tony's Town Square
I had the pleasure of touring the Magic Kingdom today with a very nice three-generation family. They had lunch at Tony's Town Square restaurant, which has a "Lady and the Tramp" theme. Toward the back of this location, you see this armoire with a classic hidden Mickey made out of large rolls. The kids in the group had a great time finding hidden Mickeys today, and they certainly liked this one!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

DDW Pic. 448 The Rose Gallery

The Rose Gallery - Be Our Guest Restaurant
I had the opportunity to eat lunch today in the brand new "Be Our Guest" restaurant in the New Fantasyland area of the Magic Kjngdom. This location has three separate dining rooms, each with its own theme from the Beauty and the Beast movie. There is the Ballroom, the West Wing, and the Rose Gallery. I had my lunch in the Rose Gallery. It is a beautifully decorated room with a giant "Beauty and the Beast" music box at the center. Although this is a quick service restaurant, it is very unique. You order the food and receive a plastic red rosé to place on your table. Using some modern technology, the servers find where you are sitting and deliver your lunch right to that location. You get your own fountain soda and silverware, but everything else is taken care of by the server. It is a nice touch that makes it feel more like a "table service" restaurant. In addition to the service, my grilled ham and cheese was delicious!

Monday, November 19, 2012

DDW Pic 447. Osborne Lights

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights
Tonight, I had my first opportunity of the season to see The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Hollywood Studios. This annual event takes place in the Streets of America section of the park on most nights in November and December. What started as decorations at the Osborne family home in Little Rock Arkansas has become an "attraction" in Walt Disney World that is not to be missed. It is impossible to capture the feeling of this display in a photo, but you can see how the lights transform this area of Hollywood Studios into a "winter wonderland!"

Sunday, November 18, 2012

DDW Pic 446. Grand Floridian - Panorama

Grand Floridian - Panorama
I took this picture a few weeks ago at the Grand Floridian Resort. I was visiting to check out the new "Alice in Wonderland" water play area, but I had to grab a few panoramas while I was there. I was standing in front of the main pool area (which is being refurbished). The doors at the center of the photo lead right into the huge lobby area of the hotel. This is one of Disney's finest resorts, and it is always nice to walk the grounds on a day where the weather is this perfect!.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

DDW Pic 445. Gaston's Tavern

Gaston's Tavern
Here is another shot from my preview of the "New Fantasyland" section of the Magic Kingdom. This statue sits directly in front of Gaston's Tavern. The Tavern is a great reproduction of the tavern in The Beauty and the Beast. Although this location doesn't serve alcohol, you can get something called 'LeFou's Brew.' It is a frozen apple juice with a hint of toasted marshmallow, topped with all-natural passion fruit-mango foam. Although it has a different taste, it certainly reminds me of Harry Potter's 'Butterbeer' from that other theme park up the street. The inscription below the statue reads: "Tribute to Gaston. An extravagantly generous gift to the humble people of my village. From me, Gaston." That certainly sums up this entertaining character!

Friday, November 16, 2012

DDW Pic 444. The Seas - Mine, Mine, Mine!

The Seas - Mine, Mine, Mine!
This shot was taken right in front of the Seas with Nemo & Friends. These famous seagulls, from the movie Finding Nemo, periodically open their beaks to exclaim "Mine, Mine, Mine."  This pavilion, which originally opened in 1986 as The Living Seas, was rededicated with the Nemo theme on January 24, 2007. This was part of a Disney effort to bring more entertainment into the park, and to make it more fun for kids. The first step of this transformation took place exactly 8 years ago today. On November 16th, 2004, the Turtle Talk with Crush attraction opened inside this pavilion. Like Monster's Inc. Laugh Floor (in the Magic Kingdom), Turtle Talk utilizes amazing technology that allows the animated characters to interact with the audience. Happy Birthday Crush!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

DDW Pic 443. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Today we say happy 32nd birthday to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the Magic Kingdom. This attraction opened on November 15th, 1980. It cost $17 million dollars to construct, which was the total cost to build all of Disneyland in 1955. Even after three decades, Thunder Mountain is still one of the most popular rides in the park, with wait times over an hour on busy days. It was recently closed for several months for refurbishment. Disney did a nice job of cleaning and painting (especially in the queue), and it once again looks like it did when it opened more than thirty years ago. This attraction recently became my six-year-old son's favorite, so I see us riding it quite often in the near future!

YouTube 23. WEDWay PeopleMover - 1984

This vintage video of the WEDWay PeopleMover was taken by my dad on a family vacation back in 1984. It is series of short clips showing a nice overview of Tomorrowland from almost thirty years ago. You can hear a reference to "Mission to Mars" which was located in the current home of "Stitch's Great Escape." You will see the extinct "Skyway to Fantasyland" and even get a quick glimpse of the "Home of Future Living" in Space Mountain.  Although it is dark, you can also see the old rockets in the queue of Space Mountain. Finally, there are some great views of the "Star Jets" which became the "Astro Orbiter" in 1994. My favorite part of the video is the old narration by Jack Wagner, who was also known for being the original voice of the Walt Disney World Monorail.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

DDW Pic 442. Grand Floridian - Water Play Area

Grand Floridian - Water Play Area
I had the chance to visit the new "Alice in Wonderland" themed water-play area at the Grand Floridian last week. It actually opened back in September. The main Courtyard Pool is closed for refurbishment, however this new play area is conveniently located near the grotto themed Beach Pool. You can see that the Mad Hatter's hat is dumping a large amount of water on the area below. Also, there is a tea kettle that pours an overflowing amount into the tea cups on the other side. Overall, this seems like a nice addition to the Grand Floridian.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

DDW Pic 441. Mickey's Star Traders

Mickey's Star Traders
Mickey's Star Traders is a popular gift shop in the Tomorrowland section of the Magic Kingdom. In  addition to being a place to pick up some fun merchandise, it is also known for something else. I was doing some research in this this park last week and discovered that it is home to the largest concentration of "Hidden Mickey's" in the Magic Kingdom. The mural in this picture contains three.  Can you find them? I'll give you a hint: one of them is slightly obscured by a light fixture.

YouTube 22. Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid

Typically, I post Walt Disney World videos from thirty years ago all the way up to today. However, this is the first video I've taken of a "future" attraction. Last week, I was able to see a "dress rehearsal" of Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid in the New Fantasyland section of the Magic Kingdom. I shot this video on November 5th, but the attraction isn't officially opening until December 6th. As expected, this is a great ride that is sure to become an instant classic.

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Monday, November 12, 2012

DDW Pic 440. Wreck It Ralph

Wreck It Ralph
I had the chance to see Wreck It Ralph today, and my son and I really enjoyed it. I took this picture of the new character greeting in Hollywood Studios last week. Ralph and Venellope Von Schweetz are located inside The Magic of Disney Animation attraction. This movie seems to be an instant hit, so the line to meet the characters will probably be pretty long for the foreseeable future. The background is themed to Sugar Rush, the primary setting for the movie. Along with the Wreck It Ralph characters, you can also find The Incredibles and Sorcerer Mickey greeting guests in this building.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

DDW Pic 439. Hollywood Studios - Panorama

Hollywood Studios - Panorama
This shot at was taken last week at the end of Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood Studios. Prior to 2001, this was a totally different view. For the first 12 years of the park's existence, the Chinese Theater was what guests would see when standing in this spot. However, the Sorcerer's Hat became the new park icon in September of 2001. It completely blocks the view of the Chinese Theater and guests have to walk around it to enter the Great Movie Ride. The Sorcerer Hat was part of Walt Disney World's 100 Years of Magic Celebration and most people thought that it would be temporary. The fact that is has remained for more than a decade means that it is most likely here to stay!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

DDW Pic 438. Boardwalk Villas Pool

Boardwalk Villas Pool
I had the opportunity to spend a night at Disney's Boardwalk Resort this past week. There was a DVC preview of the "New Fantasyland" section of the Magic Kingdom, and you had to be staying at a Disney Vacation Club property to participate. Although I had visited the Boardwalk on many occasions, this was the first time I actually stayed at the resort. As a deluxe resort, it is on par with locations like the Beach Club and Contemporary Resorts. It is in in a great spot, just a short walk from both Epcot and Hollywood Studios. This pool is located on the "Villas" side and features Atlantic City style theming from the 1940s. Even if you aren't staying at the resort, this is a very nice place to visit. You could certainly spend several hours here enjoying the shops and restaurants.

Friday, November 9, 2012

DDW Pic 437. Be Our Guest Restaurant

Be Our Guest Restaurant
Here is another picture from my "New Fantasyland" preview this past Monday. The landscaping and rock-work make you forget that you are in Central Florida. After crossing the bridge, you enter into Beast's Castle. This incredible structure houses the Be Our Guest Restaurant. The three distinct dining areas represent sections of the castle that were seen in Disney's Beauty and the Beast movie. There is the majestic Ballroom, the West Wing, and the Rose Gallery. Although they aren't serving food here yet, starting on November 19th guests will be able to dine in the castle for lunch and dinner. It is the first restaurant that is a quick service location by day and a full-service dining experience at night. In my opinion, this is the best themed restaurant in all of Walt Disney World. Of course I haven't tried the food yet, but I expect it to be excellent. The Be Our Guest Restaurant takes reservations for dinner, and it is fully booked through March. Needless to say, I'm very excited to dine here in the near future!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

DDW Pic 436. PeopleMover Evacuation

PeopleMover Evacuation
Disney is known for their top notch customer service and high quality attractions. However, even though the rides at Walt Disney World work perfectly 99% of the time, there are those rare occasions where an attraction may break down while guests are riding it. I experienced such a situation while riding the PeopleMover yesterday afternoon. You can see from this photo that guests are walking along side the ride vehicles. Early in our ride, the "train" came to a stop in front of Progress City, which is the model depicting Walt Disney's vision for Epcot. The lights came on, and after about five minutes of waiting, there was an announcement that a host or hostess would be with us shortly. Although many guests would feel inconvenienced by this, I got excited because I knew we were going to be "evacuated" from this attraction. Sure enough, we were led through a "secret door" and down a flight of stairs through a backstage area. It was a small maintenance workshop that is never seen by the public. Unfortunately, a cast member was walking right next to me and he kindly asked that I didn't take any pictures. After passing through this area, we found ourselves in the Mickey's Star Traders gift shop. The cast member who escorted us off the PeopleMover gave each guest a special FastPass that could be used at the Magic Kingdom for any attraction for the next seven days. Disney always does a good job at compensating guests when they have a negative experience. I was just happy to get a backstage peek!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

DDW Pic 435. Spaceship Earth

Spaceship Earth
I just took this shot tonight at the end of a fun day of touring with a family from Boston. Although we toured the Magic Kingdom, I decided to end the night at Epcot and one more visit to the Food and Wine Festival, which ends on Monday. The air was cool and crisp which allowed me to get a nice clear nighttime picture of Spaceship Earth. Although I have enjoyed this attraction so many times over the years, I still decided to end my night with a ride. It is a classic that never gets old!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

DDW Pic 434. Cinderella Castle - Christmas

Cinderella Castle - Christmas
Tonight, Cinderella Castle converted into its Christmas version when the beautiful icicle lights illuminated shortly after dark. This iconic symbol of Walt Disney World is amazing on its own, but when these lights are added, it becomes even more magical. Although Christmas is still more than six weeks away, the decorations are popping up all over property. I also had a chance to see the giant Christmas tree at Hollywood Studios today. Over the next few days, the entire Vacation Kingdom will be in full Christmas mode.

Monday, November 5, 2012

DDW Pic 433. Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid

Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid

I had the opportunity to get a sneak peak at the New Fantasyland section of the Magic Kingdom today. To say that I was impressed would be a huge understatement. I really think that the Disney Imagineers outdid themselves with this project, and it still isn't nearly finished. However, the parts that are complete are truly amazing.  Right now, the Beauty and the Beast and Little Mermaid sections are pretty much done. In 2014, we will see the Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster and Princess Fairy Tale Hall. This shot of Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid shows how they built this attraction into a landscape. Prince Eric's Castle looks fantastic and the exterior and interior queue areas are extremely detailed. I have taken dozens of pictures inside and out and will be posting several more in the coming weeks!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

DDW Pic 432. Swiss Family Treehouse

Swiss Family Treehouse
I took this shot near the exit of the Swiss Family Treehouse while giving a recent tour of the Magic Kingdom. This is one of the only spots where you can get the whole tree in the frame. This amazingly lifelike structure is almost entirely manmade. The only living part of it is the Spanish moss that is draped over the 1,400 branches. The tree stands 60 feet tall and is 90 feet wide. It contains over 300,000 polyethylene leaves, and it holds the distinction of being the only Walt Disney World attraction that flies a non-American flag over it.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

DDW Pic 431. Walt Disney World Railroad

Walt Disney World Railroad
On a recent tour, I shot this photo looking out the back of the Walt Disney World Railroad while sitting at the Main Street Railroad Station. I usually try to sit toward the back of the train, especially when I am touring with young children. The conductor, who stands on the back platform will often choose a young passenger to recite the classic "all aboard" in the microphone just before leaving the station. My son had this opportunity a few years ago, and that is a moment he will never forget.

Friday, November 2, 2012

DDW Pic 430. Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean
The Pirates of the Caribbean is truly a Magic Kingdom classic attraction. It features amazing audio-animatronics and elaborate scenes. It also is a great example of how an attraction inspired a movie, and how the movie re-inspired the attraction. In 2006, Johnny Depp's character, Captain Jack Sparrow was added to the ride. The imagineers did an incredible job of capturing Depp's likeness in animatronic form. The Pirates of the Caribbean originally opened on December 15th, 1973, exactly 7 years after Walt Disney's death. The Disneyland version was one of the last attractions Walt personally worked on. The auctioneer in this scene has been one of the more famous and memorable animatronics in all of the Magic Kingdom. He was voiced by Paul Frees who is also the "ghost host" in the Haunted Mansion. Paul passed away on this date, November 2nd, 1986.

YouTube 21. Mission to Mars - 1984

This clip is from the classic Tomorrowland attraction, Mission to Mars. It was taken by my dad with early 1980's video recording technology, so it is a little dark and slightly grainy. However it gives you a feel for what it was all about. Mission to Mars replaced "Flight to the Moon" in 1975 and lasted until 1993. In 1995, it was succeeded by "ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter" and this spot is currently occupied by "Stitch's Great Escape." The newer attractions utilize some amazing modern technology, but I grew up enjoying Mission to Mars so it will always be a favorite from a nostalgic point of view. Incidentally, the Disneyland version of this attraction closed exactly 20 years ago today, on November 2nd, 1992.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

DDW Pic 429. Electric Umbrella

Electric Umbrella
When people think of food at Epcot, they typically refer to the amazing international offerings at the pavilions around the World Showcase. However, there are some decent, inexpensive dining locations in Future World. The Electric Umbrella falls into that category. This quick service restaurant is located in Innoventions East and features three dining areas. There are two levels of dining inside as well as an outdoor area overlooking the Fountain of Nations. I particularly like the upper level of the Electric Umbrella as it is a good place to get away from the large crowds to enjoy a meal. It is also relatively quiet so you can make a phone call without dealing with the typical noise of a theme park.