Wednesday, December 31, 2014

DDW Pic 1218. Buzz and Tim Allen

Buzz and Tim Allen
While giving a tour of Hollywood Studios today, I saw a pretty unexpected sight. I was waiting for my guests near MuppetVision and I decided to step into Pizza Planet for a few minutes to get out of the drizzle. I was the only guest in the restaurant, as it hadn't opened yet. I glanced over to the counter area and saw a man with his back to me standing with a Disney escort. When he turned around, I realized that it was none other than Tim Allen.....the voice of Buzz Lightyear! Shortly after spotting him, Buzz came out from the kitchen area and they both stepped outside for a quick photo shoot with some Disney photographers. There were only a few guests nearby, and I was lucky to be there for this rare photo opportunity.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

DDW Pic 1217. Wreck-It Ralph

Wreck-It Ralph
I took this shot of Ralph yesterday, as he rolled by in Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade. I was with my tour guests at the end of the parade route near the Emporium. This parade can only be seen at night during Mickey's Very Merry Christmas party in November and December. However, it is performed for all park guests twice a day during Christmas week.

Monday, December 29, 2014

DDW Pic 1216. Seven Seas Lagoon

Seven Seas Lagoon
Yesterday, I took the ferry boat from the Magic Kingdom to the Transporatation and Ticket Center. As we were crossing Seven Seas Lagoon, I noticed a seagull flying along side at the same speed of the boat. I quickly took this photo and saw that it included some of the Grand Floridian rooftops. It's funny how a simple shot like this can turn into a "picture of the day."

Sunday, December 28, 2014

DDW Pic 1215. New Polynesian Lobby

New Polynesian Lobby
Today, I had the chance to get a look at the new Polynesian Resort lobby, which opened a little over a week ago. When I first heard that the waterfalls and lush green foliage were being removed, I wasn't thrilled. I have been visiting this resort for nearly 40 years, and there was some nostalgia that went along with the original lobby. However, my first impression of the makeover was very good. There is a great deal more space for walking and many more spots to sit down. Also, you can walk straight through to the pool/beach area without having to go around the large "jungle" that used to occupy the center. In addition, the "balls" hanging from the ceiling add color and character to the lobby.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

DDW Pic 1214. Memento Mori

Memento Mori
Memento Mori has quickly become my favorite gift shop. This store, featuring gifts based on the Haunted Mansion, opened up a few months ago. There are many unique items to be found here and I recently had my face turned into the "aging man" portrait at this location. Here is a figurine based on the stretching room painting of the ballet girl over the alligator.

Friday, December 26, 2014

DDW Pic 1213. Goofy, Max, and Dale

Goofy, Max, and Dale
While giving tours of Hollywood Studios, I often find myself near the exit of The Great Movie Ride early in the morning. This is the area where many of the characters come "on stage" in their Hollywood attire to meet with guests. On this morning, a few weeks ago, I spotted Goofy, his son Max, and Dale the chipmunk making their way toward the center of the park near the giant sorcerer's hat.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

DDW Pic 1212. Frozen Christmas Celebration

Frozen Christmas Celebration
Each year, Disney airs a special featuring a parade and celebrity performances on Christmas morning. It includes both Walt Disney World and Disneyland, and it is seen by millions of people. However, it is recorded weeks before Christmas over a period of several days. This year's version was called "Frozen Christmas Celebration." I was at Magic Kingdom for the taping of several performances in front of Cinderella Castle. This is a shot taken during Lexi Walker's rendition of Let It Go. She is a 12 year old YouTube sensation who has appeared on America's Got Talent.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

DDW Pic 1211. Wilderness Lodge

Wilderness Lodge
I don't typically post too many family shots, but it seemed appropriate on Christmas Eve. This is in front of the Christmas Tree in the Wilderness Lodge. My lovely bride and our happy little man posed for this picture just before dinner at Whispering Canyon a few weeks ago. We want to say Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all of you who follow Digital Disney World!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

DDW Pic 1210. La Nouba

La Nouba
Today marks the 16th anniversary of the opening of La Nouba at Downtown Disney. This Cirque du Soleil show debuted on December 23rd, 1998. Featuring 65 amazing performers, La Nouba was created specifically for Walt Disney World. I took this shot of the theater from the Characters in Flight ballon a few weeks ago. If you look closely, you can see Spaceship Earth at Epcot in the upper right corner.  

Monday, December 22, 2014

DDW Pic 1209. Christmas Parade

Christmas Parade
Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade is a feature of Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, which is a special event held on select nights in November and December. I took this shot at the party a few days after Thanksgiving. Now, during Christmas week, the parade takes place twice a day for all Magic Kingdom guests to enjoy. I look forward to enjoying the daytime version several times before the end of the season. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

DDW Pic 1208. Enchanted Tiki Room

Enchanted Tiki Room
While giving a recent tour of the Magic Kingdom, I found myself in Adventureland shortly after park opening. I was able to get this clear shot of Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room from the area in front of Jungle Cruise. Although the Tiki Room may not be the most  "exciting" attraction, it is an entertaining show with historical significance. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

DDW Pic 1207. Swan and Dolphin

Swan and Dolphin
Although this post has the title of "Swan and Dolphin," you can't see either of the resorts in this photo. This palm tree sunset shot is right in between the two hotels. I was standing on the bridge to the Boardwalk when I took it on Thanksgiving. The grounds around the Swan and Dolphin are beautiful, and I enjoy taking pictures here.

Friday, December 19, 2014

DDW Pic 1206. Splitsville

On this day in 2012, Splitsville opened its doors in Downtown Disney. This popular spot features luxury bowling, billiards, and food. I took this shot last week from the Characters in Flight balloon. This aerial attraction affords guests spectacular views of the entire Walt Disney World resort.

DDW Pic 1205. Summit Plummet

Summit Plummet
Here is a closeup view of Summit Plummet at Blizzard Beach. I took this shot a few weeks ago when we visited a nearly empty park on a 70 degree day. This attraction is the third tallest and fastest freefall water slide in the world. At one time, it held the top spot and was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

DDW Pic 1204. Starbucks at Downtown Disney

Starbucks at Downtown Disney
Starbucks is slowly but surely making its way into all of the Walt Disney World parks. It is already open in the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, and will be open soon at Hollywood Studios. There are also two locations at Downtown Disney. Last week, I was able to get this aerial shot of this Starbucks in the "West End" section. It is one of the largest Starbucks stores in the country.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

DDW Pic 1203. Tree of Life

Tree of Life
Last week, I found myself on the backside of the Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom. I was armed with a new iPhone photography app and this waterfall was the perfect spot for me to try it out. It melds together a burst of pictures to give it the illusion of a "long exposure" shot. You can see how the waterfall was smoothed out. My next experiment will certainly be fireworks.

Monday, December 15, 2014

DDW Pic 1202. Paradiso 37 - Panorama

Paradiso 37 - Panorama
On Friday, I had the chance to try Paradiso 37 at Downtown Disney for the first time. Located in the area of the former Pleasure Island, this restaurant features "cuisine from the Americas," with a Latin focus. I enjoyed a seafood dish with selections of salmon, shrimp, and a taco with crispy fish. This spot is surrounded by construction, as Downtown Disney is being transformed into Disney Springs. However, it is still accessible and worth a visit. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

DDW Pic 1201. Holidays Around the World

Holidays Around the World
Today, I had the chance to enjoy a handful of acts performing as part of "Holidays Around the World" at Epcot. During this time of year, each country in the World Showcase does a short presentation highlighting the holiday traditions of their nation. I was able to see shows in Mexico, China, Norway, Italy and the Kwanzaa celebration near the American Adventure. I was very impressed with the added entertainment to be found here throughout the Christmas season.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

DDW Pic 1200. Whispering Canyon Cafe

Whispering Canyon Cafe
We had the chance to eat at Whispering Canyon Cafe for the first time last night, and we enjoyed it very much. Located in the Wilderness Lodge, this restaurant is known for its lively atmosphere and country style cooking. The most fun occurs when you ask for ketchup. Your server has everyone at your table stand up and yell "We need ketchup." Whoever has ketchup is required to then run the bottles to your table. Once we had the ketchup, it became our responsibility to deliver it to the next table who yelled for it. This was just one of the things that makes Whispering Canyon a fun place to eat.

Friday, December 12, 2014

DDW Pic 1199. Behind the Seeds

Behind the Seeds
Today, I had the chance to go on the Behind the Seeds tour at Epcot. It was very interesting and really shed new light on an attraction I've been enjoying for many years. I was also able to get some good photos of "Living with the Land" from unique perspectives. 

DDW Pic 1198. Magic Kingdom Christmas Tree

Magic Kingdom Christmas Tree
The Christmas season starts in early November around the Walt Disney World Resort. However, it isn't until a month later that the final decoration is installed. The Magic Kingdom Christmas tree was just put up in Town Square. It doesn't go up until after the Christmas Day parade is recorded each year, because it would block the camera's view down Main Street. I took this shot this morning while giving a Magic Kingdom tour.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

DDW Pic 1197. Way Back Wednesday - The Hub

Way Back Wednesday - The Hub
It's time for another Way Back Wednesday. This shot takes us back to 1977, and the 5 year old version of myself standing in the Magic Kingdom hub. It is interesting to see the shade coming from the large trees. They were cut down years ago to provide for better fireworks viewing. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

DDW Pic 1196. Future World East - Panorama

Future World East - Panorama
As I was waiting for my guests to come out of Ellen's Energy Adventure today, I noticed an opportunity for a fun panorama. I was able to get this shot of an extinct pavilion sandwiched in between two current attractions. You can see Energy on the left and Mission Space on the right. The gold domed building in the center is the old Wonders of Life, which is now used for special events.

Monday, December 8, 2014

DDW Pic 1195. Move It! Shake It! Dance & Play It!

Move It! Shake It! Dance & Play It!
Recently, the "Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It!" street party had a makeover at the Magic Kingdom. Although similar in concept, it is now called "Move It! Shake It! Dance & Play It!" and it features a new soundtrack and some new characters. There have also been large video monitors added to each float. Throughout the performance, guests are encouraged to tweet their selfies on Twitter using a specified hashtag. Then, toward the end of the party, these photos begin to show up on the screens. You can see that my photo with friends popped up on this float with Goofy on top. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

DDW Pic 1194. Blizzard Beach - Panorama

Blizzard Beach - Panorama
Today, I thought it would be fun to take our son to Blizzard Beach. It was 70 degrees and mostly cloudy, so I figured it wouldn't be too crowded. Boy was I right! There were no lines for anything, and I would be surprised if there were more than 100 guests in the entire park. We rode just about every slide in a little over an hour. Although it wasn't a hot day, the water was heated. I'd recommend this park in December for anyone who wants to enjoy the slides without waiting in lines. I took this panorama shot from the observation deck at the base of the stairs for Summit Plummit.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

DDW Pic 1193. New Fantasyland

New Fantasyland
Today, we say happy 2nd birthday to the "New Fantasyland" section of the Magic Kingdom. The grand opening of this area took place on December 6th, 2012. At that time, everything was open except the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which debuted this past summer. This is a very busy area of the park, but I took this shot early in the morning before the heavy crowds arrived.

DDW Pic 1192. Mickey Mouse

Mickey Mouse

We have all heard the famous "it was all started by a mouse" quote from Walt Disney. Being that today is Walt's birthday, I figured what better tribute than to post a picture of his most famous and popular creation, Mickey Mouse. This picture was actually taken two weeks ago, on Mickey's 86th birthday.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

DDW Pic 1191. Space Mountain

Space Mountain
Space Mountain is a classic Disney attraction that is only about a month away from its 40th birthday. For the most part, the exterior of the "mountain" has remained largely unchanged since 1975. However, during Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, it is illuminated with red and green light. I snapped this shot on Sunday night while walking through Tomorrowland.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

DDW Pic 1190. Donald and Daisy

Donald and Daisy
Most of my Hollywood Studios tours start with The Great Movie Ride. While waiting for my guests near the exit, I often see characters coming "onstage" early in the morning. This past Monday was no exception, as I was able to greet Donald and Daisy as they walked out toward the Sorcerer's Hat to meet with their adoring fans.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

DDW Pic 1189. Jingle Cruise

Jingle Cruise 
For the second year, the Jungle Cruise at the Magic Kingdom has been transformed into the Jingle Cruise for the Christmas season. This year, there have been even more props and decorations added to the attraction. For most of November and December, the boats have holiday names and the skippers tell corny jokes related to the season. I rode the Jingle Cruise today, and I thought it was a considerable upgrade from last year. I took this shot in the queue, just before embarking on my voyage. 

DDW Pic 1188. Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show

Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show
Mickey's Very Merry Christmas party has some great entertainment, including the parade, castle show, and fireworks. However, there is a great little show in Tomorrowland that is overlooked by most guests. It is called the Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show. It features a live singer, talented dancers, and some fun characters, including Buzz Lightyear, Mike Wazowski, and Stitch. This shot is from the party on Sunday night.

Monday, December 1, 2014

DDW Pic 1187. Holiday Wishes

Holiday Wishes
Disney puts on some great fireworks displays throughout the year, but few compare to the ones at Epcot and the Magic Kingdom during the Christmas season. We were fortunate to be able to attend Mickey's Very Merry Christmas party tonight, thanks to some good friends. This shot is from Holiday Wishes. You can see that they utilize many red fireworks during this show!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

DDW Pic 1186. Kilimanjaro Safaris

Kilimanjaro Safaris
This morning, I enjoyed one of the best safaris I can remember at Animal Kingdom. The weather was beautiful and a majority of the animals were visible. We had some amazing close-up views of a bunch of animals including giraffes and zebras. This particular giraffe decided to stop in front of our safari vehicle for a short time, giving us an opportunity to take some fun pictures.

DDW Pic 1185. The Great Movie Ride

The Great Movie Ride
There are many attractions that provide guests with very different views, depending where they are sitting. The Great Movie Ride at Hollywood Studios is one good example. Last night, I rode the attraction from the far left edge of the ride vehicle, and took some pictures that I haven't had a clear shot of in the past. This is Jane riding on an elephant from the 1932 movie, Tarzan the Ape Man.

Friday, November 28, 2014

DDW Pic 1184. Chocolate Santa

Chocolate Santa
It has become a Thanksgiving tradition that we head to the Boardwalk area resorts to check out the Christmas decorations. Each of the 5 hotels does a nice job of transforming their lobbies into showcases for interesting holiday displays. Several of them involve gingerbread and one is based entirely on chocolate. This Santa is part of a display, at the Swan resort, that uses nearly 1,800 pounds of chocolate. The entire display is edible and contains over 5 million calories!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

DDW Pic 1183. Haunted Mansion

Haunted Mansion
While enjoying the Haunted Mansion today, our Doom Buggy stopped shortly after we boarded. We sat for a short time in the hallway that contains some interesting portraits. When the lightning flashes, you can see the scarier, "less alive" versions of these characters. We were stopped right in front of the horseman and I couldn't resist snapping this shot.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

DDW Pic 1182. Kali River Rapids

Kali River Rapids
In my opinion, Animal Kingdom has the best "natural" theming of all the parks. Everything just seems like it has been there forever, even though it was all created under 20 years ago. This example, from Kali River Rapids, shows ancient ruins from an Asian village. I snapped this shot yesterday, just before sunset.

Monday, November 24, 2014

DDW Pic 1180. Africa

While giving a tour of Animal Kingdom today, I found myself in the area of the new Festival of the Lion King theater in Africa. I was sitting close to the restrooms when I looked up and saw this view. This is one of the reasons that I'm such a huge fan of Animal Kingdom. It is hard to tell that this was taken at a major "theme park." It could easily be a photo from a real African village on the edge of a river.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

DDW Pic 1181. China

This is the view from the Lotus Blossom Cafe. There are so many fun details in the World Showcase pavilions and China is no exception. This half-scale replica of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest houses an audio secret that most people don't know about. If you stand in the center of the room you can "hear yourself talk," since the circular building is acoustically perfect. I enjoyed giving my tour guests this fun little experience today. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

DDW Pic 1179. Space Mountain

Space Mountain
This morning I found myself on the Astro Orbiter platform in Tomorrowland taking photos of my tour guests. There are some great views to be had from up there, so I took this shot of Space Mountain. It isn't a perspective that is seen everyday, unless you are a cast member working at Astro Orbiter. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

DDW Pic 1178. Hollywood Studios Christmas

Hollywood Studios Christmas
The Christmas season at Hollywood Studios is highlighted by the Osborne Lights. Along with the lights, there are many additional decorations and holiday props all around the Streets of America. This "101 Dalmations" display is located toward the end of the San Francisco street. I like the hidden Mickey near the tail of the standing dog! 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

DDW Pic 1177. Flying Fish Cafe

Flying Fish Cafe
I've wanted to eat at the Flying Fish Cafe for a long time, and I finally had the opportunity last night. This "signature restaurant," located at the Boardwalk Resort, specializes in seafood, but they have several other choices as well. I had the steak and snapper combo, which was delicious. The service and atmosphere were also excellent and I look forward to returning to this spot in the future. I am very grateful to some special tour guests for treating my family and I to this wonderful dining experience.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

DDW Pic 1176. Madame Wardrobe

Madame Wardrobe
The "New Fantasyland" area of the Magic Kingdom has some of the best audio-animatronics figures at Walt Disney World. Madame Wardrobe in Enchanted Tales with Belle is a good example. Her lip movements and expressions are amazing. I snapped this shot while accompanying my tour guests yesterday. My 6 year old guest was chosen to play the part of Mrs. Potts.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

DDW Pic 1175. Prince Eric's Castle

Prince Eric's Castle
Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid is a fun "dark ride" in the Magic Kingdom. However, the part of the attraction that stands out to me is the exterior of the building. It is one of the most detailed structures to be found in all of Walt Disney World. The rock work that makes up Prince Eric's Castle is really amazing. I took these pictures this afternoon while my tour guests were meeting Ariel in her grotto. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

DDW Pic 1174. Motor Cruiser

Motor Cruiser
There are many different style boats that carry guests around the water ways of Walt Disney World. This "motor cruiser" is used for the route between the Magic Kingdom, Fort Wilderness, and Wilderness Lodge. The Castaways, pictured here, is one of three motor cruisers used by Disney. I was sitting on a smaller "motor launch," about to set sail for the Grand Floridian, when I snapped this shot at the Magic Kingdom dock a few days ago.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

DDW Pic 1173. Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6
Disney's latest movie, Big Hero 6, has been out for two weekends and seems to be doing well. The main characters from the film, Hiro and Baymax, are now greeting guests at Hollywood Studios, in the Animation pavilion. I visited this spot today, and it was very popular. The line was long and there appeared to be a wait of at least an hour. I decided to post a split shot today, so both BayMax and the "set" could be seen.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

DDW Pic 1172. Magic Kingdom Balloons

Magic Kingdom Balloons
As I was walking through Town Square this morning, I spotted this balloon vendor who just came onto the street from backstage. She was carrying a full load, which appeared to be around 40 or 50 balloons. At that moment, I couldn't help but think of the movie, Up, and wonder why she wasn't floating away. Then, my brain shifted into math mode and I realized she probably had about $600 worth of balloons in her hand. Finally, I just took the picture and moved on.

Friday, November 14, 2014

DDW Pic 1171. The Great Movie Ride

The Great Movie Ride
I have taken many pictures of the Wicked Witch in The Great Movie Ride over the years. However, I was in the perfect spot for another one last week. This animatronic is one of the most advanced and highly detailed in all of Walt Disney World. Her fluid movements make it hard to believe that she is a robotic figure. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

DDW Pic 1170. Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe

Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe
Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe in Liberty Square is open all year, but it certainly gets busier during November and December. While on a family visit to the Magic Kingdom on Tuesday, we walked through this crowded store. I noticed this great little sign on a door leading to a storage area. There are now 42 days until Christmas, and there are few places in the country that already feel this festive in the middle of November!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

DDW Pic 1169. Animation Courtyard

Animation Courtyard
The Animation Courtyard is s very busy area of Hollywood Studios for most of the day. It contains Disney Jr. Live on Stage, the Voyage of the Little Mermaid, and the Animation pavilion. With all of these attractions, this area of pavement is typically filled with hundreds of strollers. I took this shot a few nights ago, just prior to park closing time. It is rare to see such an empty, stroller free courtyard.