Monday, September 29, 2014

DDW Pic 1125. Mexico

As I was walking through Epcot last night, I spotted this view of the Mexican pavilion and liked the angle and the lighting. I took this shot only minutes before Illuminations was scheduled to begin. The control booth for the nightly spectacular is located near the top of this building. At the time I snapped this photo, the final Frozen fireworks show was occurring across the World Showcase Lagoon at Hollywood Studios.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

DDW Pic 1124. The Walter E. Disney

The Walter E. Disney
The Walt Disney World Railroad is going down for maintenance for the next six weeks. We had to ride it one last time before it closed today. We exited the train at Storybook Circus, and quickly walked to this spot to grab one final shot of the Walter E. Disney. Our son is already counting the days until his favorite attraction is running again!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

DDW Pic 1123. Studio Backlot Tour

Studio Backlot Tour
Last week I posted a panorama from the Studio Backlot Tour at Hollywood Studios. Today was the final day this attraction was in operation, and we had the opportunity to ride it one last time this afternoon. I thought it would be appropriate to post one more picture from the ride that I've enjoyed for 25 years. It will be missed, but I'm looking forward to what is coming next. 

DDW Pic 1122. Stitch

Whenever Disney is doing a refurbishment or adding something new, they do a nice job of "decorating" the construction walls. This Stitch poster can be found on the bridge between the hub and Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom. Of course, the little alien decided to alter his photo with a little graffiti! I took this shot last week while doing some tour research.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

DDW Pic 1121. Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe

Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe
Liberty Square has many great little hidden details that make this area of the Magic Kingdom very interesting. This sign is hanging on the outside of Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe. Ichabod Crane was the lead character in the Washington Irving short story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. This ties in with the snack stand across the way, which is called Sleepy Hollow Refreshments. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

DDW Pic 1120. Way Back Wednesday - Star Jets

Way Back Wednesday - Star Jets
Many years before Astro Orbiter was the "weenie" that drew guests into Tomorrowland, the attraction atop Rocket Tower Plaza was called Star Jets. It was essentially the same ride, but it had an entirely different look, which matched the area's "white" motif of the 70s and 80s. In 1994, Tomorrowland was re-imagined to have a "Buck Rogers" look at the future, and the Star Jets became the much more colorful Astro Orbiter. This shot was from our family vacation in 1984.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

DDW Pic 1119. Big Thunder Mountain - Panorama

Big Thunder Mountain - Panorama
Today marks the 34th anniversary of the first ride on Big Thunder Mountain at the Magic Kingdom. Although the official opening wouldn't take place until November, this iconic attraction "soft opened" on September 23rd, 1980. This is certainly one of my family's all-time favorite rides, and we continue to enjoy it on a regular basis. I took this panorama from the Liberty Belle Riverboat as I cruised up the Rivers of America.

Monday, September 22, 2014

DDW Pic 1118. T-Rex

T-Rex is a fun restaurant located at Downtown Disney. With its dinosaur theme, it is a favorite of young boys, including our son. The company that owns T-Rex also owns the Rainforest Cafe, as well as Yak and Yeti at Animal Kingdom. I took this picture on a very sunny day last week.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

DDW Pic 1117. Studio Backlot Tour - Panorama

Studio Backlot Tour - Panorama
When Hollywood Studios opened in 1989, it was a working studio where guests could see actual movie and television productions taking place. One of the premier attractions at that time was the Studio Backlot Tour. Many years ago, Disney decided to stop the "working studio" aspect of this park and focus more on rides and shows. Also, when building the Lights, Motors, Action stunt show in 2005, they took away a large chunk of the Backlot Tour. The popularity of this "tour" has continued to decline and they announced yesterday that it would be closing permanently at the end of this month. I thought it would be appropriate to post a photo of one of the highlights of the Backlot Tour....Catastrophe Canyon. Although this wasn't currently the most popular experience in Hollywood Studios, it will certainly be missed by nostalgic Disney World fans like myself!

DDW Pic 1116. Ursula

I'm always looking for opportunities to take quality "low light" pictures inside Disney attractions. The only way to get a decent shot is if the ride vehicle stops for some reason. This is exactly what happened earlier this week, while riding Under the Sea at the Magic Kingdom. I stopped right in front of Ursula, who posed nicely for me.

Friday, September 19, 2014

DDW Pic 1115. Lego Dragon

Lego Dragon
This Lego dragon has been a fixture at Downtown Disney for many years. However, the landscape behind it is changing rapidly. You can see the bridge under construction that will provide an alternate route from one end of the Marketplace to the other. This is part of the new Disney Springs makeover that is taking place.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

DDW Pic 1114. Storybook Circus

Storybook Circus
This fairly large area near Pete's Silly Sideshow in Storybook Circus was originally used for the "old" FastPass machines. Then, last year, it was updated with brand new FastPass+ kiosks and cast members. It was a great spot to come first thing in the morning to take care of your FastPass needs, since it was one of the least known (and least crowded) of these locations. However, Disney has recently decided to close this FastPass location due to an apparent lack of need. They have piled a whole bunch of "circus like" furniture under the big tent, and now this appears to be a nice spot to get off your feet and relax for a bit.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

DDW Pic 1113. Way Back Wednesday - Town Square

Way Back Wednesday – Town Square
This shot of me and my siblings was from our trip in 1983. It is interesting for a couple of reasons. First off, you rarely see any of the "Little Pigs" in the parks anymore. Secondly, you almost never see any characters greeting guests or taking pictures in the middle of a sidewalk nowadays. Most characters have very specific meeting spots with a queue. The new way of doing things is certainly more structured, but sometimes I miss the chance meeting with a character who is just walking through Town Square. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

DDW Pic 1112. Haunted Mansion

Haunted Mansion
As the Haunted Mansion is my favorite attraction, I'm always looking for new or unique photo opportunities. After entering the foyer today, I found myself standing in front of the "aging man" portrait over the fireplace. This painting of the master of the house slowly changes from a young man into a rotting corpse. I was able to snap three shots showing this transformation. In trying to figure out how to post them as one picture, I came across a nice little collage app that did the trick.

Monday, September 15, 2014

DDW Pic 1111. Downtown Disney West Side

Downtown Disney West Side
Today is the 17th anniversary of the opening of Downtown Disney West Side. This third area of Downtown Disney is known for Disney Quest, La Nouba, and many restaurants and shops. There have been minor changes to this area over the last two decades, but a major overhaul is now taking place to all of Downtown Disney, which is slowly turning into Disney Springs. I took this shot from the Characters in Flight balloon a few years ago. If you look closely at the top of this photo, you can see several of Walt Disney World's iconic attractions, including Spaceship Earth, Expedition Everest, and Tower of Terror.

DDW Pic 1110. Epcot - American Flag

Epcot - American Flag
Today, we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the writing of the Star Spangled Banner.  On September 14th, 1814, Francis Scott Key wrote the poem that was to become our national anthem.  Today, I thought it would be appropriate to post a photo that included the American Flag.  This is one of my favorite views in all of Walt Disney World, and I like the way the flag was blowing in the breeze.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

DDW PIC 1109. Golden Oak - Panorama

Golden Oak - Panorama
The Golden Oak community, located east of Fort Wilderness, allows people to live right on Walt Disney World property. The houses are priced at between 1.5 and 7 million dollars. Also located in this community is the brand new Four Seasons Resort. I took this shot of some Golden Oak homes after visiting the Four Seasons a few weeks ago.

DDW Pic 1108. Clementine's Beach

Clementine's Beach
Although Walt Disney World is known for huge crowds at the theme parks, there are many quiet spots where very few guests typically visit. One such place is Clementine's Beach at Fort Wilderness. This quaint little beach sits on the shore of Bay Lake and is not far from the boat dock. It is rare that I see more than a handful of people utilizing this sandy paradise.

Friday, September 12, 2014

DDW Pic 1107. Town Square

Town Square 
This picture incorporates three of my favorite things: the Magic Kingdom, baseball, and Halloween. The decorations look fantastic all around Town Square and up and down Main Street. I'm definitely looking forward to attending Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party next month!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

DDW Pic 1106. Way Back Wednesday - Mickey's Toontown Fair

Way Back Wednesday - Mickey's Toontown Fair
This week's Way Back Wednesday doesn't take us back too far. However, it does feature not only an extinct character greeting, but also an extinct land. Since today is our son's 8th birthday, I thought it would be fun to feature a "way back" shot of him at age 1. He is having what appears to be an interesting discussion with Mickey and Minnie in the old Toontown Fair section of the park. This land was turned into Storybook Circus in 2012, and Mickey was moved to Main Street, USA.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

DDW Pic 1105. Grand Floridian

Grand Floridian
I was at the Grand Floridian for a short time this morning, and I had the chance to take a few pictures. I have been visiting this resort for more than 25 years, and the "grandness" of the lobby always amazes me. I was standing at the far end,looking back toward the front entrance, when I snapped this shot. A few minutes earlier, I saw a bride getting her photo taken while standing on the grand staircase. This is certainly one of the premier resorts in the country for a wedding.

Monday, September 8, 2014

DDW Pic 1104. Spaceship Earth

Spaceship Earth
Spaceship Earth is an awe inspiring site, as it is such a unique structure. I think it is even more majestic at night. There is just the right amount of colorful lighting to make this 180 foot tall geospere stand out against the dark backdrop of the night sky. I snapped this shot on Saturday night as I was walking out of Epcot.

DDW Pic 1103. Railroad Station

Railroad Station
One of the more overlooked areas on Main Street has to be the upstairs area of the Railroad Station. Most guests walk quickly through it to catch the next train. However, there are some great details to be found throughout this "waiting room." Most importantly, it looks and feels like an authentic, old fashioned station. I snapped this shot last week while waiting in air conditioned comfort for the next steam engine to arrive. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

DDW Pic 1102. Illuminations

The opening sequence to Illuminations at Epcot includes this amazing inferno in the center of World Showcase Lagoon. The fire is so intense that the heat can be felt by guests who are watching from the promenade. I took this shot tonight from near the water, in the area where Future World turns into World Showcase.

Friday, September 5, 2014

DDW Pic 1101. Animation Academy

Animation Academy
There are two versions of the Animation Academy at Walt Disney World, and they both teach guests how to draw popular Disney characters. The one at Hollywood Studios holds 50 guests and uses actual paper. Tonight, I had a chance to try the one in Disney Quest, which only holds about 20 guests. The major difference is that this one uses electronic "tablets" and a stylus. A Disney animator taught us how to draw Goofy tonight, who is one of my favorite characters. 

DDW Pic 1100. Wishes

My favorite spot to watch Wishes in the Magic Kingdom is actually in the area of New Fantasyland. The crowds are low and the view over Beast's Castle is spectacular. The fireworks are also quite a bit louder in that area. I took this shot last weekend during the Blue Fairy sequence of the show. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

DDW Pic 1099. Way Back Wednesday - Frontierland

Way Back Wednesday - Frontierland
It is time for the second installment of "Way Back Wednesday." As often as possible, I plan to show photos that highlight differences between then and now. This shot from 1979 does just that. You can see the Frontierland dock for the Tom Sawyer Island rafts. However, you can't see either Splash Mountain or Thunder Mountain because they hadn't been built yet! If you were to take this same photo today, you'd see an entirely different background.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

DDW Pic 1098. Wildlife Express

Wildlife Express
As I've mentioned in previous posts, our 7 year old son is a huge fan of trains. We are very lucky to be living so close to Walt Disney World, where he can ride on two different railways on a regular basis. The steam engines at the Magic Kingdom have always been his favorites. However, more recently, he has really enjoyed trips on the Wildlife Express at Animal Kingdom. Although this locomotive runs on diesel fuel, it is made to look like an old steam engine. It's primary purpose is to transport guests to Rafiki's Planet Watch, but we typically just opt for a round trip journey on the train.

Monday, September 1, 2014

DDW Pic 1097. Thunder Mountain

Thunder Mountain
I often take pictures of my tour guests riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad from this spot near the exit of the attraction. However, it is usually during the day, when the sun illuminates the faces of the guests riding by. A few night ago, I found myself in Frontierland with friends and family, and I loved the way the mountain looked from this familiar angle. This is one of those attractions that really is a different experience at night.