Thursday, January 31, 2013

DDW Pic 520. Cinderella Castle

Cinderella Castle

I shot this close up of Cinderella Castle during Christmas week. I used a new iPad mini and the camera seems to do a nice job with subjects illuminated by the sun. As you can see, this is the normal "look" of Cinderella Castle. However, there was a time when this icon was decorated to look like an 18 story birthday cake. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Walt Disney World, the castle was transformed into this giant pink cake back on October 1, 1996. It was quite a sight, but most Disney nostalgics were not big fans of this major change and hoped it would quickly return back to normal. It stayed in its pink form for more than a year. On this day, January 31st in 1998, our beloved Cinderella Castle was returned to "normal."

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

DDW Pic 519. Happy Birthday Illuminations

Happy Birthday Illuminations
Tonight, we say happy 25th birthday to Illuminations. This show made its debut over the World Showcase Lagoon on January 30th, 1988. It continues to be one of the most popular nighttime shows in the world. Other than special holiday versions of the show, Illuminations hasn't changed much over the past 25 years. For most guests, it is a "must do" on every Walt Disney World vacation. My favorite time to watch Illuminations is during the Christmas season. There is a very special "tag" after the finale that is simply incredible.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

DDW Pic 518. Sleeping Beauty

Princess Aurora
On this day, January 29th, 1959, Disney's animated feature film Sleeping Beauty premiered at the Fox Wilshire Theater in Los Angeles. Although this classic is over 50 years old, it has stood the test of time and is still popular today. Sleeping Beauty herself, otherwise known as Princess Aurora, is a very sought after princess, and most young girls like to meet her while on vacation at Walt Disney World. This picture was taken in the Town Square Theater in the Magic Kingdom where the princesses are temporarily located. At some point in 2013, they will be moved to their permanent home in Fantasyland. The location is going to be called Princess Fairytale Hall and will occupy the old Snow White's Scary Adventures building.

Monday, January 28, 2013

DDW Pic 517. Swan and Dolphin Hotels

Swan and Dolphin Hotels
On this day, January 28th, 1988, groundbreaking for the Swan and Dolphin Hotel complex began. Although these hotels are on Disney World property, they are actually owned by the Tishman Hotel Corporation and operated by Starwood Resorts. The Swan and Dolphin complex contains a huge convention center and you will often find convention guests staying here. However, this location has deluxe accommodations at affordable prices and many families choose to stay here as well. I took this shot back in November while on the walkway between the Boardwalk Resort and Hollywood Studios.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

DDW Pic 516. Roger Broggie - Town Square

Rogger Broggie - Town Square
I took this picture of one of the windows on the "Car Barn" last week. This building is tucked in the northwest corner of Town Square at the Magic Kingdom. If I turned to my left, I'd see the two giant doors where the afternoon parade begins. The car barn houses the horses and trollies that traverse Main Street and Town Square. It is appropriate that there is a tribute to Roger Broggie here, as he was Walt Disney's transportation specialist when Disneyland opened. He helped create the model trains of the Carolwood Pacific, which was Walt Disney's private railroad that ran in his backyard. He then went on to oversee the creation of the Disneyland Railroad, the Disneyland Monorail and the Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland. Broggie was also involved in the early development of the Epcot project. In addition to this window, one of the Walt Disney World Railroad engines is named for him. Roger Broggie was considered the first "Imagineer."

Saturday, January 26, 2013

DDW Pic 515. Toy Story Midway Mania!

Toy Story Midway Mania!
On this day, January 26th, 2007, Disney announced plans to build Toy Story Midway Mania in Hollywood Studios. This attraction, one of Disney World's most popular, opened in May of 2008. Although the lines can get extremely long, this ride has one of the best queues to be found anywhere. It miniaturizes guests to the size of toys and puts them under Andy's bed. This picture shows a gigantic View-Master "reel" from Peter Pan, which gives guests the perspective of a Woody or Buzz sized toy.

Friday, January 25, 2013

DDW Pic 514. Saratoga Springs Resort

Saratoga Springs Resort
On this day, back in 2002, Disney announced it would be closing the main campus of its "Disney Institute" to open a new Disney Vacation Club property. The Disney Institute was introduced in 1996 as a place where guests could go to learn a specific skill while on vacation at Disney World. Guests could participate in over 80 programs including subjects like animation, gardening, and photography. Unfortunately, Disney didn't have the attendance they hoped for and soon realized that most guests didn't go on vacation to be educated. On January 25th of 2002, they announced that a new Disney Vacation Club resort would take the place of the Disney Institute. Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort was built on that property. This picture is from when I stayed there with my wife and son back on July 4th of last year.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

DDW Pic 513. The Seas with Nemo and Friends

The Seas with Nemo and Friends
This is a shot of the Seas with Nemo and Friends from two days after Christmas. This is the only time of year where you will see the line for the Nemo attraction extend into a roped off area outside of the building. The wait was more than an hour for a majority of that day.  Six years ago today, on January 24th, 2007, the grand opening of the Seas with Nemo and Friends took place. Also on that day, Finding Nemo - The Musical celebrated its grand opening over at Animal Kingdom. This was a big day for Nemo!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

DDW Pic 512. Walt Disney World Speedway

Walt Disney World Speedway
On this day in 1995, plans for the Walt Disney World Speedway were announced. Construction began later that year. This location, right next to the Magic Kingdom parking lot, is home to several different driving experiences that guests can take part in. You can drive or ride in cars from Nascar, Indy, and even exotics such as Ferrari and Porsche. I had the opportunity to do a Nascar "ride" back in April of 2010. We hit speeds in the 150 mph range and it was quite a thrill. After the experience, I shot this picture of our little man sitting atop the M&M car that was in the shop.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

DDW Pic 511. Tinker Bell's Magical Nook

Tinker Bell's Magical Nook
Tinker Bell's Magical Nook can be found right over the bridge in Adventureland. In the old days, this spot was home to the Adventureland Verandah restaurant. Guests can meet Tink and at least one of her friends here. In this shot from Saturday, she was about to greet one of my guests who was touring the Magic Kingdom with me. Tinker Bell's friend, Rosetta, was also meeting with excited little girls that morning. This is a location that should be visited by every fairy fan. However, I recommend visiting very early in the day, as the lines tend to get very long.

Monday, January 21, 2013

DDW Pic 510. Brazilian Tour Groups

Brazilian Tour Groups
During certain times of the year, there is a phenomenon that occurs at Walt Disney World. I'm talking about the large number of Brazilian tour groups who can be seen enjoying the parks. They are usually in groups of 50 or more, and each group tends to wear the same colored shirts. I have been told that due to their excellent economy, there is a very favorable exchange rate for Brazilians visiting the United States. These high school and college age kids spend time at the outlets around Central Florida and purchase items for nearly half what they would cost in Brazil. Of course while they are in Florida, they also enjoy the theme parks. Walt Disney World attracts guests from all over the globe, but there is no question that a majority of the international tour groups come from Brazil. I snapped this picture of one such group posing in front of Cinderella Castle on Saturday.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

DDW Pic 509. Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster

Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster
While giving a Magic Kingdom tour on Friday, I snapped this shot of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster construction site in Fantasyland. Normally, you can't see this type of construction going on so close up. However, this attraction is in very close proximity to the new Under the Sea ride, and there isn't much that Disney could do to hide it. It has been fun to see the progress that has been made over the last few months. The coaster is scheduled to open in approximately one year, so there is still a lot more construction to be done. I will post a new photo of this area every few months so you can see the continuing progress.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

DDW Pic 508. Turkey Leg Air Freshener

Turkey Leg Air Freshener
I was in the Emporium gift shop in the Magic Kingdom today and couldn't believe my eyes......or my nose. When I came across this little item, I couldn't take out my camera (iPhone) fast enough to snap this shot. The turkey leg has become a phenomenon at Walt Disney World with about 1.4 million consumed each year. There are even turkey leg tee-shirts now. However, I can't imagine hanging an air freshener in my car that smells like a piece of meat! If you are looking to have that turkey aroma whenever you hop into your vehicle, then this product is for you!

Friday, January 18, 2013

DDW Pic 507. Coral Reef Restaurant

Coral Reef Restaurant
I took this picture inside the Coral Reef restaurant today, while my guests enjoyed Turtle Talk with Crush. This is a unique dining location where each table has a great view of the aquarium. There is something interesting about seeing fish in the tank while eating fish on your plate. In all the years I've been enjoying Epcot, I still haven't had the chance to dine at the Coral Reef, but I hope to change that in the near future.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

DDW Pic 506. Sword in the Stone

Sword in the Stone

This area in front of the Carrousel has been the home to the "Sword in the Stone" for many years. However, it has been a while since an interactive show has been performed here. In years past, Merlin the Magician would invite guests to come up and attempt to remove the sword from the stone. Just a few months ago, there was a whole new set of characters introduced along with New Fantasyland. These new characters ask guests to try the nearly impossible task of sword removal. Of course they start with big and strong men who inevitably fail. It usually ends up being a young child who has success and gets a big cheer from the crowd.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

DDW Pic 505. Hollywood Studios - Streetmosphere

Hollywood Studios - Streetmosphere
Hollywood Studios is known for great attractions and fantastic shows. However, they also have very talented street performers who can be found on both Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards. These acts are known as "streetmosphere." I took this shot of the keystone cops while giving a tour about two weeks ago. These guys were entertaining guests on Hollywood Boulevard. At the same time, they were using microphones to make announcements about different things happening at Hollywood Studios. The next time you are in this park, I highly recommend taking the time to enjoy the streemosphere performers.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

DDW Pic 504. Fantasyland - Panorama

Fantasyland - Panorama
I took this panorama of Fantasyland on New Years Day. I was standing close to the FastPass machines for Under the Sea and Winnie the Pooh, while waiting for my tour guests to come out of Mickey's Philharmagic. This "wide angle" shot includes Pinocchio Village Haus on the left and Prince Charming Regal Carrousel on the right. You can also see the entrance to New Fantasyland in the distance. When I snapped this shot, it was still pretty early and it wasn't too busy yet.  However, it got extremely crowded as the day went on.

Monday, January 14, 2013

DDW Pic 503. Pooh and Eeyore

Pooh and Eeyore
It is rare that there is no line for a character greeting at Walt Disney World. However, I found this situation in Animal Kingdom a few weeks ago. The Pooh and friends meeting area is an out of the way spot near the Discovery River. Because of its relatively remote location, it is rare to see a big crowd here. I was able to snap this shot of Pooh and Eeyore entertaining each other while waiting for the next guests to arrive.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

DDW Pic 502. Yak & Yeti

Yak & Yeti
The Yak & Yeti restaurant is a very popular spot in Animal Kingdom. Serving pan-Asian cuisine, this restaurant is located in the Asia section of the park. It is owned by the same company that created the Rainforest Cafe and T-Rex over at Downtown Disney. Like most of the Asia section of Animal Kingdom, Yak & Yeti contains authentic props and artifacts collected from the other side of the world. I took this picture toward the second floor while standing on the staircase of the restaurant. In addition to the fancier, indoor establishment, there is also the Yak & Yeti Local Foods Counter where guests can get quick service Asian food to eat in an outdoor seating area. The food is very good at both of these eateries.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

DDW Pic 501. Push - The Talking Trash Can

Push - The Talking Trash Can
Ok, so you are probably looking at this picture and wondering where the talking trash can is. First of all, if you've never seen it, this normal looking trash can rolls around Tomorrowland and interacts with guests. Kids absolutely love him, and most people get a good laugh when they converse with "Push." When it comes to the use of technology, I've always been the type of Disney World fan who wants to know "how they do that." The next time you are in Tomorrowland and you come across the talking trash can, take a good look around the area. Chances are good that you'll see a "tourist" wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, with one hand in a bag and the other near his mouth. As you can see in this picture that I snapped last week, the brains and voice behind "Push" is a cast member who blends into the crowd rather well!

Friday, January 11, 2013

DDW Pic 500. Animal Kingdom Monkeys

Animal Kingdom Monkeys
I took this picture last week while walking through Asia at Animal Kingdom. This area, near the entrance to Kali River Rapids, is home to a bunch of playful monkeys. Depending on the time of day, you can spend quite a bit of time watching these guys move around the Asian "ruins." These monkeys obviously have no fear of heights, and it almost seems like they are saying: "Look what we can do!"

Thursday, January 10, 2013

DDW Pic 499. Big Thunder Mountain - Panorama

Big Thunder Mountain - Panorama

Many of my tours start out in Frontierland.  I want my guests to experience Thunder and/or Splash Mountain before the lines start getting long. On a clear day, the sun illuminates Big Thunder perfectly in the morning, and I've gotten many nice pictures at this time.  I took this shot on New Years Day while my group was enjoying the attraction. They liked it so much that they quickly rode it a second time before any line started to form.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

DDW Pic 498. The Land - Backstage

The Land - Backstage
So here is a view that you don't see everyday! As a matter of fact, you may only see it on one day per year. This is a backstage area at the Land pavilion at Epcot that was being used as an exit for Soarin' on New Years Eve. When I took this picture, I was standing right outside of the exit doors that are located near the Soarin' bathrooms. It was a great idea for Disney to utilize this exit on that day, as it would have been very difficult to head back upstairs and out the normal exit doors for The Land. The wait times for Soarin' approached five hours and the pavilion was very congested with people trying to get to this very popular attraction. It was fun to see Epcot from this perspective. In the distance, you can see the building with the hump that actually houses Soarin. All of the guests who used this exit actually came out near the back of Imagination, near the restrooms for that pavilion. New Years Eve is certainly an interesting day to visit any of the Disney parks. I gave a tour to a family of 11 that day, and thankfully they saw just about everything with very minimal waits. I certainly utilized all of my strategies and experience on that day!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

DDW Pic 497. Swiss Family Treehouse

Swiss Family Treehouse
I like the Swiss Family Treehouse at the Magic Kingdom for many reasons. However, my favorite thing about this attraction is the incredible view from the top of the tree. I took this shot on New Years Day, which was picture perfect with sunshine and temperatures in the 70s. In this shot you can see three different lands as well as several park icons. In the foreground is the lush foliage and colorful buildings of Adventureland. In the distance you can see Cinderella Castle, Space Mountain, and even the top of Astro Orbiter. Although the Swiss Family Treehouse may not be an "exciting" attraction, it has a lot more to offer than initially meets the eye!

Monday, January 7, 2013

DDW Pic 496. Splitsville

There have been several new additions to Walt Disney World in the month of December.  The New Fantasyland section of the Magic Kingdom opened, as well as the new version of Test Track at Epcot. Not to be outdone, Downtown Disney opened up a brand new entertainment venue called Splitsville. It is a multi-level structure that includes several bars, a restaurant, pool tables, a sushi bar and the main attraction......30 lanes of bowling. It is a welcome addition to Downtown Disney's West End, as it adds a unique opportunity for a fun time outside the theme parks. It is a great choice on a rainy day or a nice spot to come and relax after a day at the parks.  Although it is open to all ages, the second floor is restricted to 21 and over on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. I had a chance to visit Splitsville on the day after Christmas and that is when I took this picture.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

DDW Pic 495. Tree of Life at Sunset

Tree of Life at Sunset
In sticking with yesterday's sunset theme, here is a picture of the Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom. I took this shot from the walkway between Africa and Asia on Thursday night. I love this park at night for several reasons. First, the crowds die down rapidly when it gets dark. Second, there is a totally different feel in each area when the sun goes down. This is especially true in Asia, where strands of lightbulbs are used to illuminate the village in a very authentic way. Finally, even during busy times of the year, you can ride attractions like Expedition Everest and Kali River Rapids multiple times as there are typically no waits as park closing time approaches.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

DDW Pic 494. Epcot at Sunset

Epcot at Sunset
This is another shot from New Year's Eve at Epcot. It is one of those unique pictures that can only be taken on this day. Because the crowds are so huge, Disney opens up the lawns in the area between Future World and World Showcase as additional seating for Illuminations. I was able to get right down next to the pond to snap this photo.

Friday, January 4, 2013

DDW Pic 493. Streets of America - Panorama

Streets of America - Panorama
I took this shot a few days ago, while giving a guided tour of Hollywood Studios. You can see the entrance to Lights, Motors, Action off to the left, and the unload area of the Backlot Tour to the right. If I were to turn around, I'd be looking right down the New York City street. This is also the area of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, which has its final performance of the season on Sunday.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

DDW Pic 492. Primeval Whirl

Primeval Whirl
While giving a tour of Animal Kingdom today, I had the pleasure of riding Primeval Whirl with three of the kids from the group. I was able to snap this shot from the top of the ride. Although this certainly isn't a headliner, it is still a fun and unique little coaster.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

DDW Pic 491. Rock 'n' Roller Coaster

Rock 'n' Roller Coaster
In continuing with the theme of giant holiday crowds, I had to post this photo that I shot today. I don't think I've ever seen the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster queue extend out into the courtyard with rope lines. The wait for this attraction held steady at two hours for most of the day and I saw Toy Story Mania peak at over three hours. I thought that most people went back to work and school on January 2nd......apparently I was wrong!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

DDW Pic 490. Adventureland Train Tunnel

Adventureland Train Tunnel
While waiting for my guests to exit Pirates of the Caribbean today, I came across this interesting view of the Walt Disney World Railroad. The train comes through this tunnel that is part of the Pirates structure. The ride has a 14 foot drop inside to get the boats under the railroad tracks and out to the show building, which isn't actually seen by guests. Although I had to take this shot in between some trees and bushes, it was still fun to see the railroad from a little different perspective.