Sunday, March 31, 2013

DDW Pic 579. Toy Story Midway Mania! - Panorama

Toy Story Midway Mania! - Panorama
Toy Story Midway Mania is one of the most popular attractions in all of Walt Disney World. The FastPasses are often gone well before noon. The exterior of the building is made to resemble Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, California. I took this shot while giving a tour of Hollywood Studios last week.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

DDW Pic 578. Easter Bunny

Easter Bunny
While giving a tour of the Magic Kingdom last Monday, I happened to be in a spot to snap this photo of the Mr. and Mrs. Easter Bunny. They were part of a short "pre-parade" that took place just ahead of the Celebrate a Dream Come True parade. These beloved characters were part of the parade this entire week and will be making their final appearance on Easter Sunday. This was certainly a nice addition to get people into the holiday mood.

Friday, March 29, 2013

DDW Pic 577. Animal Kingdom - Asia

Animal Kingdom - Asia
The landscaping at Disney's Animal Kingdom amazes me. Although the park didn't open until 1998, Disney started preparing the land several years before. Sixty dump trucks of dirt were delivered to the site every day over a two year period, and more than 4 million trees, plants, shrubs, and ground coverings were planted. I took this shot of Asia last week from across the Discovery River near the Theater in the Wild. I was waiting for my guests to come out of Finding Nemo - The Musical.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

DDW Pic 576. Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun!

Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun!
I took this shot of the parade at Hollywood Studios last week. I was standing relatively close to the entrance of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. This parade includes floats and characters from many of the Pixar films. Unfortunately, Disney just announced that they are discontinuing the parade on April 6th. It will be interesting to see what they replace it with.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

DDW Pic 575. Grand Floridian DVC Construction

Grand Floridian DVC Construction
I snapped this shot just prior to meeting my tour guests last Saturday. This building is going to house the Disney Vacation Club villas for the Grand Floridian Resort. Disney's version of the "timeshare" has been so successful that they continue to build more and more DVC properties. It looks like this addition to the Floridian is only a few months from completion. I haven't stayed at this resort since 1990, and I look forward to having the chance to stay in this new building when it finally opens.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

DDW Pic 574. The Great Movie Ride - Panorama

The Great Movie Ride - Panorama
The Great Movie Ride in Hollywood Studios is housed in a building whose entrance is a full scale replica of the famous Chinese Theater in Hollywood. This is the attraction that I usually start off my tours with. It sets the tone for this movie themed park, and it also contains one of the most amazing audio animatronics figures. I've had more than one kid come off this ride asking me if the wicked witch was real.

Monday, March 25, 2013

DDW Pic 573. Big Thunder Mountain

Big Thunder Mountain
I found myself on Tom Sawyer Island today while giving a tour of the Magic Kingdom. With the sun starting to set, I took the opportunity to get this silhouette shot of Big Thunder Mountain. There are many different spots to get a good picture of this attraction, but the view from the island is probably my favorite.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

DDW Pic 572. Grand Floridian Easter Eggs

Grand Floridian Easter Eggs
The Walt Disney World Resort is known for its amazing holiday decorations during the Christmas season. However, as I was walking through the Grand Floridian this morning, I was happily surprised to see a display of giant Easter eggs. Cast members spent three weeks creating these "edible works of art." The hollow chocolate eggs weigh 9 to 12 pounds and stand 16 to 20 inches tall. This photo shows just a small section of the display.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

DDW Pic 571. Cinderella Castle at Dusk

Cinderella Castle at Dusk
While giving a tour if the Magic Kingdom today, I came across one of those perfect photo opportunities. This view caught the eye of many "photographers" on the bridge between Liberty Square and the hub. The color of the castle and its reflection in the water made it a beautiful picture.

Friday, March 22, 2013

DDW Pic 570. Crystal Palace - Panorama

Crystal Palace - Panorama
The Crystal Palace is a great dining spot in the Magic Kingdom. Not only does it have the Winnie the Pooh characters, but there is also excellent food served here. I snapped this shot while waiting for my touring guests to finish lunch today.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

DDW Pic 569. Tree of Life

Tree of Life
I took this shot today while waiting for my guests to come out of "It's Tough to be a Bug." This view of the waterfall isn't seen by too many guests because of where it is located. When coming out of the exit to the show, most people turn to the right, as this is the normal exit path. However, if you turn left, there are some hidden treasures to be found. In addition to this waterfall, there is also a 100 year old Galapagos Tortoise. The next time you leave the Bugs Life show, I suggest you make a left turn!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

DDW Pic 568. New Annual Pass

New Annual Pass
Today marks another step in the roll out of Walt Disney World's "next gen" technology. They started issuing annual passes with built in RFID. RFID stands for "Radio Frequency Identification," which makes for a better guest experience. Like the Disney resort room keys, these passes can now be used for easy access into the parks. You simply tap it against a Mickey shaped symbol on a post and you are allowed in. This makes the entrance process quicker and alleviates the need to go through the old fashioned turnstiles. Eventually, this technology will be implemented into the FastPass system as well. Another nice feature is that the pass is made of plastic, as opposed to the typically cardboard ones of the past. Since my annual pass was coming due next week, I decided to renew it today and be one of the first to have the opportunity to try out the new technology. I look forward to using it to enter Animal Kingdom tomorrow, as I will be giving a tour of that park.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

DDW 567. Muppet*Vision - Cast Member

Muppet*Vision - Cast Member
I had the opportunity to chat with a cast member at Muppet*Vision 3D today. She was a very nice lady who has been there since the early days. She shared her story with me, and I couldn't resist posting it here.

This sign hangs in the "security post" just inside the entrance. There is a mat on the ground with an actual key under it. This particular key is attached to the rug so it can't be taken, but this wasn't always the case. In the beginning, my new cast member friend played a roll in placing the key under the mat, on a regular basis. Her husband, who had passed away, worked at a GM plant. He had several key rings from his job that held more than 150 keys. Well, this wonderful cast member decided it would be fun to place one of these keys under the mat, so the sign would be factual. However, when a child discovered it, he or she would often take the key as a souvenir. So the cast member would routinely replace it with another of her husband's keys. Eventually, she parted with all 150 of them and Disney decided to affix a permanent version under the mat. You have to wonder if any of those 150 guests realize what a special souvenir they actually have. This lovely cast member helped the memory of her husband live on through the smiles of the children who found his keys.

Monday, March 18, 2013

DDW Pic 566. Illuminations - Setup

Illuminations - Setup
Illuminations is one of the best fireworks shows anywhere. It takes place every night at Epcot. There are several large barges that are loaded with fireworks each afternoon. Along with the barges, the "Earth Globe" is moved to the World Showcase Lagoon from a backstage area around 3:00 each day. I happened to catch this process today. This open drawbridge is located right near the China pavilion.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

DDW Pic 565. Woody - In Flowers

Woody - In Flowers
Here is another shot from the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival. Woody can be found out in front of the American Adventure. It is really amazing how Disney creates these characters out of flowers. Other than the Food and Wine Festival, this is one of the best times to visit Epcot. In addition to the already great attractions and entertainment, this festival adds so much more.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

DDW Pic 564. Storybook Circus

Storybook Circus
I took this shot while riding Dumbo last week. It gives you a pretty good aerial view of Storybook Circus and New Fantasyland. The center of the photo shows the massive construction project that will become the Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster, scheduled to open next year. You can also see several flying Dumbos from the other "carrousel," and even Prince Eric's Castle from Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid.

Friday, March 15, 2013

DDW Pic 563. Fantasmic Finale

Fantasmic Finale
Fantasmic has been delighting guests at Hollywood Studios for many years. The 9,000 seat stadium is usually pretty close to capacity on a nightly basis. I had the chance to get a close up seat on Tuesday. This boat, piloted by the classic black and white Mickey Mouse, cruises by near the finale of the show. Many of the all-time great Disney characters can be seen on the three decks of the ship.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

DDW Pic 562. Radiator Springs Playground

Radiator Springs Playground
The 2013 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival is in full swing, and I got the chance to visit a few days ago. There are several great additions to this year's show. First and foremost, they added food kiosks all around the World Showcase Lagoon. They don't quite have the vast selection that is found at the Food and Wine Festival, but it is certainly a nice addition. Second, they have several themed playgrounds this year. There is the "Oz - The Great and Powerful" playground which promotes the new movie, and there is a Cars themed Radiator Springs area. This amazing Lightning McQueen topiary sits in front of the playground and across from an equally impressive Mater topiary.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

DDW Pic 561. Coronado Springs Resort - Panorama

Coronado Springs Resort - Panorama
I took this picture today on the shores of Lago Dorado at Coronado Springs. This gigantic "moderate"  resort opened back in 1997 and has nearly 2,000 rooms. It is also home to one of the largest convention centers on Disney property. I enjoy spending time at this location. The views are beautiful and the grounds are fun to walk around. I have fond memories of Coronado Springs, as this is where we stayed the first time we took our son to Walt Disney World. He probably doesn't have the same memories, as he was only seven months old at the time!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

DDW Pic 560. Pizza Planet - Panorama

Pizza Planet - Panorama
Toy Story is one of the most successful movie franchises in history. It would only make sense that they would build a Pizza Planet in Hollywood Studios. According to my source (Brent Dodge of fame), this spot opened back in 1996. I took this shot today while waiting for my tour guests to finish enjoying Muppet*Vision 3D. I was on the second floor of the restaurant/arcade, right in the middle of the dining area.

Monday, March 11, 2013

DDW Pic 559. New Tangled Restrooms - Panorama

New Tangled Restrooms - Panorama
Just a few days ago, the new Tangled "rest area" opened in the Magic Kingdom. It is located just past 'it's a small world' and connects to Liberty Square near the Haunted Mansion exit. I call it a "rest area" because it is much more than simple restrooms. It is amazingly well themed to the movie Tangled, right down to the frying pans that hang over the sinks. It also has numerous places to sit and relax. Although it has a rustic feel, Disney recognized that most of us utilize our smartphones in the park, and they installed numerous recharging stations throughout the area. When I say recharging stations, I mean electrical outlets, but there is little question what they are going to be primarily used for. I took this shot today while giving a tour of the Magic Kingdom.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

DDW Pic 558. Rivers of America

Rivers of America
I took this picture a few weeks ago, along the shore of the Rivers of America. It really gives a good "snapshot" of what this area of the Magic Kingdom is all about. You can see Tom Sawyer Island on the left and the Liberty Belle making its way down the river. You can also see my favorite attraction, the Haunted Mansion, in the background. This is one of the few spots in the park where two different "lands" are part of the same general area.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

DDW Pic 557. Tusker House

Tusker House
The Tusker House restaurant is a very popular spot in the Africa section of Animal Kingdom. It is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and guests can enjoy Safari Mickey and his friends during breakfast and lunch. It is a buffet style restaurant with a variety of excellent food to choose from. This picture, taken about a month ago, is in the center of the restaurant where the buffet is located. You can see that it is themed to an African village. Although Chef Mickey's (at the Contemporary) is the most popular spot to dine with Mickey and the gang, I recommend checking out Tusker House the next time you are at Animal Kingdom. You'll have a much better chance of getting a reservation, and you'll still get to see Mickey and his friends!

Friday, March 8, 2013

DDW Pic 556. Norway - Panorama

Norway - Panorama
I took this picture of the Norway pavilion courtyard about a month ago. You can see the Maelstrom ride on the left and part of the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall on the right. These two "attractions" make Norway a very popular spot. First, other than the Gran Fiesta Tour in Mexico, Maelstrom is the only "ride" in World Showcase. Second, Akershus is one of only two places in the parks where you can dine with Disney princesses. Can you name the other?  I'll give you a is in the Magic Kingdom!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

YouTube 28. Country Bear Jamboree

The Country Bear Jamboree is a classic attraction at the Magic Kingdom.  When Walt Disney World first opened, most of the attractions were copies of Disneyland versions.  However, along with The Hall of Presidents and the Mickey Mouse Revue, the Country Bear Jamboree was one of only three attractions that were unique to the Magic Kingdom on opening day.  There have been several "versions" of the show, including the "Vacation Hoedown" and the "Christmas Special."  Recently, Disney shortened the original attraction by about 5 minutes, and this recording, from November 6th, 2012, is the "new" version.

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DDW Pic 555. Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost

Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost
The Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost sits right outside of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular at Hollywood Studios. It is also adjacent to the 50's Prime Time Cafe. I was sitting on a bench outside of this restaurant on a day in early February. I was waiting for my tour guests to finish lunch when this view struck me as a nice photo opportunity. The air was crystal clear and there were no people walking by, so I quickly snapped this shot of the Indy gift shop.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

DDW Pic 554. Mama Melrose's

Mama Melrose's
I had the opportunity to enjoy lunch at Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano at Hollywood Studios a few weeks ago. Although I had visited this restaurant on several occasions to take pictures and look for hidden Mickeys, this was the first time I enjoyed a meal here. I had the Penne alla Vodka, and I have to say that it was fantastic. I look forward to returning to this spot to try out more menu items as soon as possible.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

DDW Pic 553. Jungle Cruise

Jungle Cruise
As I write about often, Walt Disney World attractions are all about telling a story. The Jungle Cruise tells a very humorous and entertaining story. The fun begins even before boarding the boat. You can hear silly announcements being made while waiting in the queue. This chalkboard can be seen right near the exit of the attraction. The Disney Imagineers must really enjoy their jobs when they are creating props like this one!

Monday, March 4, 2013

DDW Pic 552. Boardwalk Villas - Quiet Pool

Boardwalk Villas - Quiet Pool
I had the pleasure of staying with some friends at the Boardwalk Resort a few weeks ago. Their villa overlooked the "quiet pool" at the resort. Just to the right of this picture is the walkway to Hollywood Studios. I had just come back from giving a tour at that park when I snapped this "sunset" shot. There is a much larger (and noisier) themed pool at the Boardwalk that includes a playground and a pool bar. However, this is the spot to enjoy a relaxing dip after a day in the parks.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

DDW Pic 551. Journey Into Imagination

Journey Into Imagination
Today we say "Happy 30th Birthday" to Journey Into Imagination at Epcot. Although the official opening was two days later, it was on March 3rd, 1983 when guests were first able to enjoy this attraction. I was lucky to be among the first to ride (at the age of 11) while visiting Epcot with my family. Journey Into Imagination has gone through several changes over the years, but most fans enjoy the original version best. I took this shot of the Imagination pavilion on New Years Eve, just a few months ago.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

DDW Pic 550. Lights, Motors, Action - Panorama

Lights, Motors, Action - Panorama
I took this picture at Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show while giving a tour a few weeks ago. This show takes place in a 5,000 seat stadium in the back left corner of Hollywood Studios. It features car and motorcycle chases, large explosions, and even a stuntman bursting into flames. The iPhone panorama setting is perfect to snap a shot like this. It isn't possible to see the entire stadium using a "regular" point-and-shoot camera.

Friday, March 1, 2013

DDW Pic 549. Maharajah Jungle Trek

Maharajah Jungle Trek
Today we say happy 14th birthday to the Maharajah Jungle Trek attraction at Animal Kingdom. On March 1, 1999, both the "Trek" and Kali River Rapids officially opened for guests to enjoy. This walk-thru series of exhibits features many different animals, including bats, Komodo dragons, and tigers. It is an often overlooked attraction, as it isn't a ride or show. However, it allows guests close-up views of some pretty amazing animals and I certainly recommend taking the time to enjoy it. This is a picture of one of the tiger enclosures. It is made to look like the ancient ruins of a Maharajah's hunting grounds.