Turtle Trek opens at Sea World Orlando!

On Friday I was lucky enough (to head to Sea World Orlando for the Opening of their new experience called Turtle Trek! It is SUCH an amazing attraction. Probably one of the best ones I have seen in a while. It is not a ride, it is a total experience and let me tell you, it is top notch!

From the Desk of Sea World:

TurtleTrek, SeaWorld Orlando’s newest attraction, comes to life with SeaWorld’s unique blend of up-close encounters with manatees and sea turtles and state-of-the art entertainment, making for a real adventure and a first-of-its-kind 3D 360 degree dome theater film that is completely surrounding and immersive.

Guests first visit two massive naturalistic habitats, home to gentle manatees and gliding sea turtles, learning what makes each species so precious. Families then enter a domed theater and what happens next has never before been seen and is a first at any theme park in the world.

Inside the dome, they’ll be surrounded by a hyper-realistic, 3D 360 degree film that takes them on the amazing life journey of a special sea turtle named Nyah. The experience is all around guests and even above them – not just in front of them or only on one screen. It’s this all-new and immersive way of showcasing a sea turtle’s epic adventure that is the heart of TurtleTrek. And for the first time, SeaWorld guests are given a turtle’s eye view of the ocean’s wonders.

 

So when you walk into the Queue you go right into the underwater viewing area for the Turtles, Manatees and Fish! All around you see everything floating and living and eating and it is AMAZING! The view is crystal clear and you can see EVERYTHING!

After you go thru there you are brought into the Egg shaped Dome where the 3D 360 Show takes place. You Put on your 3D Glasses and you become Nyah the baby sea turtle and we follow her on her journey through her life. We are in the egg and we hatch with all of our brothers and sisters. Because the dome is egg shaped you really do feel like the baby sea turtle. From there You have an encounter with a Crab and a Seagull, You swim with your family in the ocean thru coral. You meet Manatees and bigger gliding turtles and sting rays. You swim in the coral with the Jelly Fish in a sunken treasure ship. You meet up with Sharks and dolphins. You get caught in a net but because of the special release net, you escape. The whole thing happens around and above you and makes it a one of a kind movie!

Once you exit the attraction you get to go to the top of the 360 degree viewing area and see the animals at the very top of the habitat. You also get a chance to play ” Race for the Beach” video game that plays out on massive video screens. It teaches people what and how Turtles eat and what kinds of dangers await them in the ocean.

This Attraction is such a wonder. It is a story that everyone needs to be part of. With the Grand Opening of this event Sea World has decided to eliminate plastic shopping bags. The eco-friendly move will save an estimated 4 million plastic bags per year from both entering landfills and impacting wildlife. SeaWorld routinely rescues marine wildlife such as endangered sea turtles that sometimes mistake plastic bags for a favorite food such as jellyfish.

Please make sure that visit Turtle Trek on your next visit to Sea World Orlando to learn all about These wonderful animals and how they live their lives!

Thank You to Sea World President Terry Prather for the opportunity to compliment him on such a fantastic attraction and snap a picture, Todd Faison Manager of Human Resources for taking the time to ask me my opinion and Dustin for letting me take a picture of his T shirt!

 

 

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An afternoon at Kidani Village

The other day I found myself with a few extra hours before I was supposed to meet up with friends for dinner and decided to go exploring. Not actual exploring, like at the polar ice caps or anything (for anyone who knows me, I don’t do cold), but one of my favorite types of exploring: at Disney resorts. After some brief investigative work a few weeks ago, I made a list of some lesser known activities around the parks and resorts that I’d like to highlight here or at least try out for myself. So, back to the other day, I chose to spend a few hours at the Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village.

This resort opened back in May of 2009 and I had my first stay there several months later. One of my favorite things about the resort, aside from the animals, of course, is their restaurant Sanaa. The food has always been great, featuring flavors of African and Indian influence in a setting that has, in my opinion, one of the best views to be found from a restaurant anywhere on Walt Disney World property. When I learned that there was a free Cultural Tour of Sanaa, I knew I wanted to learn more about one of my go to restaurants. On the activities guide at the Animal Kingdom Villas, the description is listed as “Discover the inspiration behind this unique location through the eyes of one of our Cultural Representatives.” Based on this, I was expecting something similar to the Cultural Safari that takes place at the Animal Kingdom Lodge in Jambo House in the evenings.

Seeing that the tour was scheduled for 4pm, I opted to get to the resort with plenty of time to see the animals on the savanna before I needed to check in at the restaurant’s podium. I started my adventure in the library at Kidani Village, which is probably my second favorite rooms at a resort in which to relax. After a short while I went downstairs to Sanaa to make sure that they knew I was there for the tour. Sometimes these tours are not very well known, to the point where not many guests show up, so it is best to announce your presence if you don’t see any other people around, which was the case this time.

My host, Vincent, was from Botswana and kindly gave me a private tour, which was really cool since it was more like us just hanging out and having a conversation as opposed to a typical lecture style tour. We started at the entrance to the restaurant where he explained that the word Sanaa means “works of art” in Swahili. The restaurant is decorated accordingly with various works of art from tribal drums from different African nations, to gourds used as drinking vessels, coffee pots, clothing, light fixtures and wall hangings.

During the tour, Vincent explained how the restaurant was setup into areas reminiscent of the boma, roughly translated to a hearth or safe area for gathering. There is usually a boma found in each home, and then also a larger boma in the village for everyone to gather together. After pointing out a couple of hidden Mickeys, in the restaurant, one of which I’d never noticed, Vincent led me to the lounge area of the bar. He advised me that the chef would be coming out to greet me with the bread service that is typically on the menu as an appetizer. This was an added bonus that I wasn’t aware of previously: free food!!!

Chef Johnathan came out and described the process the restaurant used for making the bread in the tandoor oven and how they only use fresh herbs and spices and grind them there at Sanaa to ensure consistency. The bread service consists of several pieces of naan and three dipping sauces: a coriander (more commonly known here as cilantro) chutney, a mango chutney, and a cucumber raita. While I’m not a fan of cucumber at all, unless it is in the pickled form, I decided to be an adult and try what was served to me. The sauce was creamy, being yogurt based, with only a hint of cucumber if you didn’t actually eat the chunks of cucumber mixed in, which I didn’t. The mango chutney was typical, but with some peppers mixed in and it was a bit more liquid than what I’m used to. My favorite of the sauces was definitely the coriander chutney, which by taste, is very similar to a sauce that I make based on a recipe that used to be used at Jiko. I love cilantro, but if you are not fond of it, you may want to skip this one. I enjoyed this so much I went back and asked for and received a copy of the recipe to take home.

The tour and tasting took me about half an hour, which was just about perfect since I had the place to myself. I would gladly take this tour again, especially now knowing that there is a snack at the end. It was a great way to spend a part of my afternoon and think it would be fun with a group of friends maybe even ending the tour at the bar with an adult beverage. If you go, say hi to the bartender Kat. Have you been to Sanaa? Did you take the tour? Have you taken any other tours? I’d love to hear your feedback.

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Showcase of Citrus

When I moved to Florida I made an effort to see and do a lot of the things that you can do in the Orlando area.  I stumbled across a Living Social deal for a monster truck off-road Eco-Tour in Clermont at the end of the summer last year.  It was such a good deal and the eco tour sounded fun so I got a few tickets and promptly forgot about them.  It ended up being a good thing that I forgot about them because the best time to go on the eco tour is when oranges are in season.

Monster truck

I picked a Saturday in December to take the Eco-Tour.  We got there just in time to check in and climb (yes, climb) into the monster truck before we headed off into the orange groves.  Having grown up in the northeast I had visited many apple orchards, but this was my first time on an orange grove.  It was really neat to see the trees dotted with the orange fruit, but it was even more amazing since I was riding above them!

Orange trees

 

One of the first things we learned from our guide was that the grove was one of the suppliers for Florida’s Natural orange juice and that the grove was all organic.  The tour brought us past the fields and orange groves and through a forest where our guide told us about the local plants.  Before long we were at a new large field with cows running towards the monster truck.  I was afraid we were going to hit them but these cows knew what they were doing.

Cows rushing to the monster truck

 

Cows eating oranges

 

Our driver parked the truck near a lake and we were told to pull out baskets from under the benches.  The baskets were full of oranges that we were able to toss off the truck to the cows.  They loved them.  According to our driver, they’ve tried to feed the cows other types of citrus fruits, including grapefruit, but the cows only like the oranges.  Once all of the oranges were tossed, we continued on our tour, including driving through a deep river.  Since it was December, it was too cold for us to be spotting any gators.

This old truck was just screaming "Florida oranges" to me!

After our tour we were able to go off and explore the pick your own.  With the exceptions of the pomellos, you are able to sample all of the oranges, tangerines, tangelos, and other fruit.  My favorite one that I sampled was the Orlando tangelo.  It was amazingly sweet and delicious.  Down one of the rows, I saw an old pickup truck that was just screaming classic Florida.  Of course I had to stop and get pictures.

The perfect orange

 

Sometimes you need to reach for the good ones!

Hot sauces available at the market

 

The Eco-Tour is $20 per adult and $10 per child, with group discounts available.  Entrance to the groves is free and you only pay for the fruit you take home.  Current prices according to their website are $20 per bushel and $10 per half bushel.  There is a country store where you can also pick up some homemade goods and other country goodies.

I highly recommend visiting the Showcase of Citrus if you want a relaxing day away from the parks.  The best times to visit are in the fall and winter when the fruit is in season, though they are open in the summer too.  Check out their website for more details on how to schedule a tour.

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AVENGERS Prize Pack Giveaway!!!

While THE AVENGERS doesn’t hit theaters until May 4th, you can win a pretty awesome AVENGERS prize pack today!!!

“Marvel’s The Avengers” stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Tom Hiddleston, with Stellan Skarsgård and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. Directed by Joss Whedon, the epic action-adventure film is based on the ever-popular Marvel comic book series “The Avengers,” first published in 1963 and a comics institution ever since.

 

In the Super Hero team up of a lifetime, Iconic Marvel Super Heroes Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow are called to duty when an unexpected enemy emerges that threatens global safety and security. Nick Fury, Director of the international peacekeeping agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D., must assemble the Super Heroes to pull the world back from the brink of disaster.

 

“Marvel’s The Avengers” is presented by Marvel Studios in association with Paramount Pictures. The film is being produced by Marvel Studios’ President Kevin Feige and executive produced by Alan Fine, Jon Favreau, Stan Lee, Louis D’Esposito, Patricia Whitcher, Victoria Alonso and Jeremy Latcham.  The story is by Zak Penn and Joss Whedon, and the screenplay is by Joss Whedon.

 

The contest will be open until May 5, 2012, and the prize pack includes an adult sized AVENGERS  t-shirt, set of 6 buttons and your choice of one pair of limited edition 3D glasses!

Good luck!!!

 

 

Continue reading “AVENGERS Prize Pack Giveaway!!!”

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SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Parks Say Good-bye to Plastic Bags

In a press release earlier this week SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay released the following information.

Paper or plastic? Soon there will be just one choice at the 10 theme parks of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment — paper — as the company eliminates plastic shopping bags within the next year. SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment will be the largest theme park operator to make this commitment.
Park gift shops will offer paper bags made from 100 percent recycled paper or guests can choose to purchase reusable bags.
 
“This is a significant change for our company, one we hope will provide a model for our industry overall,” said Jim Atchison, President and Chief Executive Officer of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. “Eliminating plastic bags is an important statement about our commitment to the environment, as well as the need to help protect marine animals from debris. It also allows our guests to play a direct part in making a difference on our planet.”
 
This move will keep an estimated 4 million plastic bags from entering landfills and the environment each year. Approximately 1.4 billion tons of trash, including plastic bags, enters the ocean annually. Wildlife such as endangered sea turtles often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, one of their favorite foods.
 
The company began exploring the concept at SeaWorld San Diego in 2011, when the park discontinued the use of plastic gift bags to mark the opening of its new Turtle Reef attraction. SeaWorld Orlando is eliminating the bags this month in conjunction with the opening of its new attraction, TurtleTrek.
 
Opening April 27, TurtleTrek combines naturalistic habitats (sea turtles and manatees) with the world’s first 3-D, 360-degree dome theater film. The film immerses guests in a sea turtle’s extraordinary journey.
 
Another Refreshing…and Renewable Change:
Also adding to the ways park guests can consume responsibly, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment and The Coca-Cola Company introduced paper cups for guests made with 85 percent renewable resources as part of a new 10-year partnership. Guests use more than 13 million paper cups each year throughout the 10 parks.
 
About SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment
The 10 parks of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment inspire 23 million guests a year to celebrate and conserve the natural world. Through up-close animal encounters, educational attractions and innovative entertainment, each guest leaves with a heightened sensitivity to the world around them and an awareness of the plight of animals in the wild.
 
The company, headquartered in Orlando, Fla., owns and operates SeaWorld Orlando, SeaWorld San Antonio, SeaWorld San Diego, Busch Gardens Tampa, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Discovery Cove and Aquatica in Orlando, Adventure Island in Tampa, Water Country USA in Williamsburg and Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pa. near Philadelphia.
 
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment also is a global leader in animal care and conservation. The company has rescued more than 20,000 orphaned, injured or ill animals over the past four decades and contributed more than $50 million to conservation worldwide. SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment is a portfolio company of Blackstone.
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Exploring Camp Minnie-Mickey

An often overlooked are of Disney’s Animal Kingdom is Camp Minnie-Mickey.  I personally visit it almost every time I visit the park, if for no other reason than to see The Festival of the Lion King.  I highly recommend taking some time during your next trip to visit this area.

Camp Minnie-Mickey is designed to look like a summer camp in the Adirondack Mountains.  When it is filled with park guests, it feels like it is the first day of the summer camp when all of the parents drop the campers off.  It is full of activity from the Character Greeting Trails and the other character meet and greets and Gi-Tar Dan to the always popular Festival of the Lion King.

When you leave Discovery Island and head into Camp Minnie-Mickey you begin encounter bridges and building that have a very rustic feel.  The railings for all of the bridges and the signs are all made of carved wood.  You see a special waterfall that looks like the water is coming out of a dragon’s mouth.  This may be a remnant of the rumored Beastly Kingdom.  As you proceed along the trail, you encounter Daisy with Huey, Duey, and Louie who are out on a nature hike.  You also find Mickey, Donald, Goofy and Pluto relaxing by the river and fishing.

Festival of the Lion King is inside a large (air conditioned!) theater in the round.  The theater is supposed to resemble a camp hall.  I think that if a bon fire was set in the middle of the theater, everyone would be ready to roast some s’mores.  I could probably write a whole post about the show.  The show is a live show with singers, dancers, gymnasts and even a flame twirler.  It includes live music from The Lion King and even some audience participation.

The Character Greeting areas remind me of picnic pavillions with each area being covered. The only thing they’re missing is the picnic table. During the holidays, the trails are each decorated by the respective characters and they’re decorated with a personalized Christmas tree.

You also have common areas of the camp.  You will usually see Thumper and Ms. Bunny hanging out near the exit from the Festival of the Lion.  Wandering around, like a senior camper is Gi-Tar Dan.  If you get a chance to, take a few minutes and talk to him.  He may make up a song just about you!

If you have visited Camp Minnie-Mickey let me know what you think about it.  I’ll be happy to share pictures of your favorite features in a future post!

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A Love Letter To Disney’s Hollwyood Studios

One of the things I love most about Walt Disney World is the attention to detail that Imagineers put in to each one of the theme parks and resorts. It was recently brought to my attention that it seems we have been neglecting one of the parks (thanks Matt Hochberg of Studioscentral.com). Each time I go to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I find a new reason to fall in love with it. There is an incredible amount of thought put into the theming and I would like to shed some light on some of my favorite aspects of the park. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t my favorite park at Walt Disney World, but I absolutely love it and think there is something for guests of all ages at the Studios.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I have an affection for the days of yore. The classic days of Hollywood are represented beautifully in DHS between the attractions, architecture and design elements throughout the park. In particular, some of my favorite films from the 30’s through the 50’s and even into the 1960’s are showcased. As I enter the park to the sounds of some of the best film scores of all time from Gone With The Wind, to a personal favorite, the James Bond theme, I am immediately transported to a land where movies are made.

The greatest tribute to this golden era of film making is the Great Movie Ride. While not the most thrilling of rides Disney’s Hollywood Studios has to offer, it is definitely an E Ticket attraction in my book. The ride takes guests through classic scenes from the 1930’s with the Busby Berkeley musical numbers, classic gangster films starring James Cagney to one of the most beloved films of all time: The Wizard of Oz. This is just a smattering of movies from the first major decade of Hollywood. Even more classics, new and old, can be seen in the montage ending the Great Movie Ride. The 40’s are depicted in my all time favorite film, Casablanca, and Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman still look stunning delivering some of the best lines every written for a movie script. Moving onto the 1950’s, the iconic scene of Gene Kelly Singin’ in the Rain is beautifully recreated. There are other great movies from the later years of Hollywood, but it is these early classics that are so special to me and are why I keep revisiting this fantastic attraction.

While many guests may just focus on the time of their next fastpass for Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster, or how long the wait is for Tower of Terror is, I prefer to look up and around at the scenes and architecture on Sunset Boulevard. Oh sure, I often feel the need for speed and love RNR, but more than anything I just like to soak in the ambiance and the recreation of the Hollywood of the past. From the Carthay Circle Theater to the Sunset Ranch Market, Imagineers have seemingly painstakingly preserved that feel of the mid century in Southern California.

Now it is no secret that Tower of Terror is not my favorite ride and was just recently the last attraction that I had to experience at the Studios to complete all of the current attractions the park has to offer. You can read about my love/hate relationship with rides competing with my desire for completion here. While it is not my go to attraction, I love the theming of the Tower of Terror and amazing attention to detail that was put into it. The exterior is rather intimidating with the Hollywood Tower Hotel standing just under 200 feet tall, complete with what appears to be damage from lightning across the facade of the building. As you wind through the queue and the overgrown (intentionally, of course) landscaping to approach the lobby of the hotel, you feel a sense that something ominous has transpired. When you enter the lobby, it appears to be frozen in time. Everything is just as it was on that fateful night in 1939, just covered in cobwebs and dust. The music playing faintly in the background is that of the Big Band era and fits perfectly for the aura of the ride. I’m not going to ruin it for those who haven’t experienced this attraction, but next time you do, pay close attention to the magnificent details that were placed throughout the queue, lobby and library of the Hollywood Tower Hotel, you won’t be sorry.

As much as I’d rather not revisit the D23 Scavenger Hunt from last year, there were a few good things that came out of it, especially at

the Studios. I was reminded of the crates located near Min & Bill’s Dockside Diner and at the far end of New York Street by the Backlot Tour. Two of my favorite crates are from Gone With The Wind and It’s A Wonderful Life. It isn’t just anywhere you can go these days to find homages to films that are 60-70+ years old. I think it is great that the Imagineers have taken the time to design things as innocuous as crates sitting around a dock and given them backstories tying them to films such as The Producers and Casablanca.

This is just another one of those little details like the Villains Showcase put on by AFI at the exit of the Backlot Tour. One reason I almost always find time to sneak back here is to see not one, but two pictures of Sean Connery (my all time favorite actor) on display.

 

This past week I discovered a picture in One Man’s Dream that I had never noticed before. It isn’t labeled or captioned in any way, but the subject is unmistakable. Salvador Dali was riding the Carolwood Pacific in Walt’s backyard. I knew they had collaborated in the mid 1940’s on a short film called Destino that I viewed a few years ago at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. I guess I was just surprised that I had never seen the picture before and that it went without recognition I imagine from a lot of guests. I did confirm with the nearby Cast Member that it was in fact Dali and she went on to explain their connection with Destino since Dali had been a fan of Walt’s work on Fantasia in 1940. Discovering sweet little gems like this always make me appreciate One Man’s Dream a little bit more each time I go exploring through the attraction. Also in OMD I saw all these great attraction posters for the different lands at Disneyland. The classic look of these epitomizes the mid century nostalgia that I see around many corners of DHS.

In addition to great rides and shows, the Studios offers a great source of live entertainment in the form the always funny Citizens of Hollywood and the tween aimed Disney Channel Rocks show. However, my favorite by far is the band Mulch, Sweat and Shears!!! If youfollow me on twitter and you’ve seen me tweet from DHS, you may have noticed I have an affinity for the bass player, Axe. The band covers a lot of classic rock like the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, the Eagles, etc. and some newer rock songs like My Own Worst Enemy, Enter Sandman and The Middle. If you get an opportunity, please take the time to track down Morris (or Mia), the Hedge, Axe, Sticks and Buzz, as this family of musicians and landscapers rock their way around the park. You may even be “lucky” and get pulled up to “sing” in front of your friends and dozens of other guests.

Fast forward to about 5:30 if you want to see me make an idiot of myself (disclaimer: I’m not responsible for your ears).

Last but not least, I must address my childhood and continuing love of all things Muppets related. I can practically recite the script of Muppetvision 3-D, minus the Swedish Chef’s unintelligible ramblings, as I’m sure can many others. Even the queue and pre-show area of this great attraction hold many humorous jokes. Have you ever taken the time to read the signs in the queue and post-show area posters?

I know I haven’t even addressed some of the best attractions, like Star Tours 2.0 the Adventures Continue, Toy Story Midway Mania and I only briefly mentioned Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster. These are all fabulous and I enjoy them, but I think a lot of people aren’t aware of some of the more hidden gems like the Animation Academy. The headliners are fun and I like them, but the reason I love Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the park’s ability to transport me to a different time and place. I can see my favorite film Casablanca in several places. The architecture is astonishing, especially when you see how faithful the buildings are to their original inspirations. I hope this brought to light some new things for you to experience next time and that you enjoyed understanding part of why this park is truly magical, especially at night under the luster of neon and swaying palm trees.

 

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Celebrate Earth Day

Disney Animal Kingdom is the ideal place to celebrate Earth Day. Earth Day is the birthday of the park after all! This year the park is full of activities to celebrate the Earth. The special activities are available at Animal Kingdom from April 13 – April 22. Here are some of the activities that you can look forward to:

At the entrance to the park, you can find a large sand sculpture celebrating DisneyNature’s latest film “Chimpanzee” which comes out in theaters today.

In Asia, on the Maharaja Jungle Trek, families can play a supermarket game and learn how their purchases can effect wildlife.

In Africa, on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, children can identify chimpanzee tracks and clues left behind along trails in the forest.

At Rafiki’s Planet Watch you can learn fun ways to spend time in nature with your families. You can visit the Chimpanzee Research Station and take part in activities based on real conservation work.

And on Discovery Island, be sure to visit the artisans with their special crafts. You can find beautiful nature photography and lovely plants that you can take home as a memory of your vacation.

If you are not able to make it to Animal Kingdom in the next few days, you can always try out the new Disney Facebook game featuring Animal Kingdom. I’ve been playing it and I love it! Expect a review of it in the near future!

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Upcoming Figment Fine Art Events at Epcot

The Art of Disney, Epcot® is going to be playing host to some really cool upcoming Figment Fine Art Events for collectors of many price points on April 21st!!!

To celebrate the release of the Walt Disney Classics Collection Figment: Heights of Imagination, Sculptor Bruce Lau will be signing this figure from11:00 am – 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm.

Join Figment on an expedition into breathtaking wonder and towering imagination!  Creativity is a never-ending adventure, and this intrepid, little dragon is the personification of that all-too-human quest to push the boundaries of the possible and discover uncharted territories of magic and dreams.  Recreating the memorable moment in “Heights of Imagination” in which Figment scales the summit of a snow-capped peak,  this new numbered, limited edition of 500 Walt Disney Classics Collectionsculpture captures the daring mountaineer at the apex of his  creative powers.

Based on original attraction reference, Figment is hand-crafted of fine porcelain, hand-painted, kiln-fired and provisioned with real rope, metal flag pole and flag, and metallic paint on the pick axe.  Sculpted by Bruce Lau with creative direction from Disney Master Artist David Pacheco, Figment stands approximately 8″ high and retails for $150.00, plus tax.

A limited number of Figment: Heights of Imagination sculptures will be available for pre-order. To pre-order Figment: Heights of Imaginationplease contact
Walt Disney Event Services at             407-827-7600      .
Walt Disney Event Services is open Monday – Friday from 9:00a.m. – 5:00p.m. EST.

All pre-orders for Figment: Heights of Imagination must be placed with Walt Disney Event Services no later than 12:00p.m. EST Thursday, April 19, 2012.

Also at the Art of Disney, Epcot®, Disney Design Group Artist, Darren Wilson, will be signing his newest Figment inspired masterpiece, Figment on Mountain Top, from 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm.

 

 

There will be three different ways that you will be able to bring this painting home!

The original Figment on Mountain Top painting, Acrylic on Canvas, will be available for sale for $3,000.00.

There is also a Limited Edition Canvas Giclee, for $375.00. The Giclee is limited to 95 pieces.

Figment on Mountain Top is also available as a matted deluxe print for $39.95.

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Touring Walt Disney World with newbies

Dad, Debbie and me at MK

In the last few months I have had somewhat new experiences to me: touring the parks with guests who had never been to Walt Disney World before. It was also a bit unique in that last month was with my mom and my 86 year old grandma and the following week was with a friend from school, her husband and their eight and a half month old son. Previously I had met up with friends with young kids and others with parents and grandparents, but had never really spent the entire day with people this far on either end of the age spectrum. With these ages there are certainly considerations that must be taken into account when planning.

Back in December I had what I consider to be a major coup: I was finally able to get my dad to go to WDW after 30+ years of resistance. I think the fact that I told him he wouldn’t need to pay to get in the parks and that I could get a discount on the rooms helped. This was the man who had never set foot on Disney property until January of 2011 when he came to visit while I was around for marathon weekend running the 5K. On that brief visit, he did not want to purchase a ticket, so he asked the front desk clerk at the Wilderness Lodge, where we were staying, if he could go in for a few hours and try it out for free. I left the front desk dragging him away and shaking my head in disbelief. He did take a trip around both monorail loops and claimed he technically went to Epcot since he was in their air space (okay, sure dad), but we mostly visited resorts.

So we planned a trip for my dad and his wife, Debbie, to come down and make a side trip to Disney World since they were coming to Florida for my brother’s college graduation anyways. Debbie had been to WDW, but it had been well over twenty years since her last visit, so it was all pretty much new to her. Trying to plan a trip for someone has never been before presents the challenge of how much do you want to and can you get done in one and a half days of park time. You don’t want to overwhelm them with every single bit of minutia, but you do want to give them a good taste of the parks and the magic they hold.

With my dad, he wanted to have nothing to do with planning other than he expressed a mild interest in visiting Epcot. Since we were traveling in December, we were able to experience the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on our first evening. Both my dad and Debbie were visibly impressed with the presentation as we were fortunate enough to be there as the switch was flipped to turn the lights on for the evening. The only attractions we rode were Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster, Toy Story Midway Mania and the Great Movie Ride. I think this gave them a nice overview of the park since we didn’t get there until around 5pm and the park was closing at eight that night. My dad appreciated the theming and neon luster of the Studios at night.

Dad's first ride on Dumbo!

The next day was our most challenging as they hoped to fit in the Magic Kingdom and Epcot both. We first stopped for breakfast at Captain Cook’s at the Polynesian and then made our way to MK shortly after park opening at nine. We hit mostly classics between Dumbo, It’s a Small World, the Haunted Mansion, the Carousel of Progress, Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Peter Pan, Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise. A lot was accomplished in a short period of time before we made the jaunt to Epcot. The afternoon was spent mostly exploring World Showcase and a bit of Future World with Soarin’, Test Track, Living with the Land and Spaceship Earth. The fact that they are both morning people and were up a bit earlier than I was, factored in to us not experiencing any fireworks or nighttime parades while they were here.

Overall, a good time was had by each individual. My dad was continually amazed by the sheer size of the WDW property and the inner workings and mechanics of how things were operated and went so smoothly. There is a ton that we didn’t do, but for the short period of time I had to work with, I think we accomplished what we set out to do, which was to introduce my dad to Disney World and to have a good time. My mission was a success insomuch as he admitted he really enjoyed himself and wants to come back. Score!

Dad trying to hide his grin, but it isn't working

Fast forward a few months to March of this year and my trip with my mom and grandma. This was a bit different from the previous trip in that my grandma wanted to know what there was to do in each park, wanted to see maps and plan out for the most part what she wanted to see and do in each one. She had been to the Magic Kingdom many times over the past forty years, but it had been quite a while for her and she had only been to Epcot once or twice in the past twenty years or so. My mom is an annual passholder and typically makes it to the parks every three to four months. The impetus for this particular trip was the Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot.

My mom, grandma and me at Epcot

The first day of our trip the first order of business was Epcot. If we had any additional time we determined we would try to made it to the Studios as well, but there wasn’t much there of interest to my grandma, so Epcot was definitely the priority. Unlike the relatively slow time I had visited with my dad and Debbie in the beginning of December, the middle of March was smack dab in the middle of peak season and spring break. This was very evident when we arrived at Epcot and it literally took 30 minutes from the time we arrived at the line for security to the time we entered the park. The time was pretty much evenly split in waiting between the security and entrance lines.

While my grandma is generally in good health, she does have some mobility issues having had hip replacement surgery a little over a year ago. So, we thought it in everyone’s best interest for her to have a wheelchair for her park touring at least. When we arrived at Pop Century to pre-register for their room (I arrived the night before), we inquired at the front desk about a wheelchair to use while on property. They directed us to bell services who kindly provided us with one to use free of charge for the duration of our stay. We were even advised we were able to take it to the parks. This was great as it saved us $10.+ per day for wheelchair rentals. The only caveat to this is it can be kind of a pain hauling the chair around and having to lift it in and out of your car everywhere you go if you are driving yourself. I became quite a pro at it after two full days.

Now being the klutz that I am, I have experienced several of the parks in wheelchairs, with ECVs and on crutches, but have never accompanied anyone for days in the theme parks who was using any of them. Let me tell you, it is a totally different experience. You have to take into consideration not only energy to push someone up hills (okay inclines) and ramps, but also to be able to hold them back to keep them from careening down them and running over unsuspecting guests. Very quickly you learn the turning radius of wheelchairs and that you do need extra clearance from the guests in front of you as they do tend to stop abruptly to study that park map you may have memorized. I honestly think the wheelchair is more work for those traveling with the guest in the chair than for the mobility challenged guest themselves, but I didn’t really realize this until we were well into the day.

Later that night at DHS

I have to say that Norma, my grandma, was a trooper. We were in Epcot around 9:30am, didn’t leave to go to the Studios just see give her the old Hollywood feel and ambiance until around 7pm. After an hour of wheeling her around DHS, we went to get dinner at Downtown Disney at Wolfgang Puck Express. We didn’t get back to the room to eat dinner until after 11pm and they had been up since before 6am to drive up from Bradenton.

The next day we were back up and at it and heading to the Magic Kingdom before 8am, arriving there by way of sightseeing at the Polynesian shortly after 9. Again, there are things that I really didn’t think of ahead of time. Very simple things like the path I usually take from the parking lot to the lobby of the Polynesian has a large pole in the middle of it, making it inaccessible for wheelchairs (lesson learned). I also tend to favor taking the boat over the monorail, but it is much easier to travel the highway in the sky with a wheelchair and ramp as opposed to stepping several feet down (and subsequently back up) to get in and out of the boat, also having to fold and carry the wheelchair.

We had a great time once we got to the MK and stayed until late afternoon before making a last minute decision to make a side trip to the Animal Kingdom before returning to MK for Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes. The only two things we were trying to do were Kilimanjaro Safaris and then the Festival of the Lion King. Based on the lateness of the day, we knew there was a chance that we wouldn’t be able to do both as there was only one more Lion King show by the time we arrived and you never know with the animals. We went straight back to the safari and were in for a treat. We had the best safari experience ever! The animals were all out, even both the male and female lions. As soon as we disembarked the vehicle, my mom started off for the Lion King, leaving me to push my grandma, making a mad dash for Camp Minnie – Mickey from the outskirts of Harambe. I thought I was going to die, but you can actually push someone in a wheelchair from the safari exit to the entrance of the Lion King in seven minutes!

I got to do some things that I hadn’t before over the two days with my mom and grandma. I learned there are boats for

Norma getting loaded on to a Jungle Cruise boat

Gran Fiesta Tour and It’s a Small World where you can just drive the wheelchair on and you basically have a private boat for your party as long as you are willing to wait. There is some great seating for guests with wheelchairs in many of the shows like American Adventure, the Hall of Presidents, Impressions de France, Mickey’s Philharmagic, the Carousel of Progress, etc. Some attractions are more challenging with constant loading via conveyor belts and speedramps that can’t be stopped like the Peoplemover. All throughout though, I have to say the Cast Members were great. They were very understanding and patient and helped us in loading Norma in and out of ride vehicles as necessary.

After that trip, I needed a break and wasn’t planning on visiting the parks for a couple weeks at least. That was until I got a message from a friend from elementary school, Laura, whom I hadn’t seen in 20+ years. She was going to be in Celebration visiting her mom and was down for a few days with her husband and son. We decided we would get together last minute on a Thursday since I had the day off and I offered to get them into the parks. Laura had not been planning to visit any of the parks since her son Riley was so young, she said she couldn’t justify the expenditure of tickets for the day for her and her husband Matt of almost $200. I totally understood, but told her I would take care of that if they wanted to go.

We met at the Polynesian mid morning since Laura and Matt decided they wanted to go to the Magic Kingdom. Matt had never been to WDW before, other than to run the half marathon earlier this year. So he had never experienced any attractions in any of the parks, nor had their eight and a half month old son Riley. The length and schedule of the day was going to be dictated by the boys since we had no idea how long Riley was going to last and what Matt was going to want to do. Laura had been a CM years ago and I’m in the parks practically weekly, so we had no problem ceding control to them.

Matt’s first ride ever was Space Mountain, and it is probably good we got that out of the way first since everything else was tame in comparison. Laura waited with Riley while I took Matt on what is admittedly my least favorite of the mountains. I tried to help assuage Matt’s fear of the unknown by pointing out the numerous kids in line and even striking up a conversation with the eight year old girl in line in front of us. I think she convinced him to ride more so than I did as his anxiety level was increasing as we neared the ride vehicles and could hear screams.

Matt's first ride in a Disney park ever!!!

After Space, Matt decided the tamer Dumbo was something he could definitely handle. It was very cool seeing the park through his eyes for the first time. He appreciated the theming and attention to detail on rides like Winnie the Pooh. The only rides Laura and Riley got to experience with us, partly due to timing and choice, were Pirates of the Caribbean and the Jungle Cruise. He did really well on Pirates until the drop when he got a little wet. We had discussed the drop and they were comfortable with his security on it, but we failed to consider how he would react to getting wet. After just a momentary break in composure, he returned to his wonderful smiling self and was fine. He did great on the Jungle Cruise as well. Boat rides tend to be soothing for young children, so I think JC was a good choice to end the day with.

Riley was a champ throughout the day. Aside from the getting wet on Pirates thing, he did not let out a single cry in the almost eight hours we were in the park. He did well waiting with his mom and people watching and even got to ride a couple rides. Later in the day, thanks to Riley, I was introduced to the Baby Care Center at the Magic Kingdom. It is tucked away in the corner by First Aid between Casey’s and Crystal Palace. There are small private rooms for parents to take their children to for changing or just for a quiet place to get away from the noise and sometimes crowds of the parks. My friends found this to be a great refuge even though it was only needed as a place to change Riley’s diaper.

At the end of the day Riley was still smiling

 

These three different groups of newbies of different sorts taught me many things. One thing is I don’t tour the parks like I do when I’ve got others with me who haven’t been before. By this I mean, I tend to go through the parks at a relatively leisurely pace when by myself or with my friends who are annual passholders. Since we go often, we are rarely compelled to have to do anything. If we don’t get to do something, it will be there next week or the week after. With guests from out of town who have never been, you want them to be able to soak in as much of the magic as possible. I certainly don’t force people to go at breakneck speed, but if they want to keep going, I’m not going to be the one to quit either (see the stupidity of me staying up for the entire 24+ hours of Leap Day in the Magic Kingdom). You live and learn. Next time with each group, things will be different. Everyone will be a little older, a little wiser, and have some more experience under their belts. We can go back and hit favorites or focus on the things they missed last time. I don’t know anyone who has done it all. Things are constantly changing in the parks, and I wholeheartedly believe that the experiences are made just as much, if not more so, by those you are with as opposed to just the parks themselves.

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War Horse

Normally movie night in our household is comprised of my daughter and I on the couch with a bowl of popcorn enjoying a light hearted, family friendly film.  I realized that I would unfortunately have to go it alone this week when we received War Horse in the mail.  So, after dinner was done, and my little princess was in bed, I sat down to watch.

Being both a lover of history, and a huge fan of Spielberg’s previous war era films (Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List) I was expecting quite a lot from this film.  I was not disappointed.  War Horse was a compelling story that showed the many facets of World War I through the interactions of Joey, the “War Horse”, with a number of characters throughout all facets of the war.  Although this masterfully written and directed story focuses on the uplifting relationships between the horse and the people he meets on his journey, it in no way glazes over the true horror of World War I.  The movie depicts the true nature of the war and the fates of many working animals in the military at the time.  Spielberg does a great job balancing the harsh tone of war with compelling stories, characters, and some lighthearted moments.

I would highly recommend this film to any fans of the period, or of Spielberg’s previous period films.  It has compelling scenes both harsh and uplifting, and is definitely worth the time.

War Horse is available now on DVD and Blu-Ray Combo pack. To stay connected, “Like” the Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/WarHorseMovie, Follow us on twitter @WarHorseMovie, and view videos at www.YouTube.com/WarHorseMovie.
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