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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Busch Gardens photo tour 4/7/12

Every once in a while it is nice to sit back and just let the pictures speak for themselves. I can attest there are times when I am a bit longwinded and tend to get distracted (ooh squirrel). I’m going to try to introduce photo tours into my blog posts much like I did for my previous post on Disney’s Pop Century Resort. For those who don’t know, I work in Tampa and live south of there by a good 45 minutes. As often as I can, I try to take the opportunity to visit Busch Gardens since it is less than fifteen minutes from my office. This past weekend was gorgeous, so I decided to head over to the park on Saturday after I got out of work.

Since it was a kind of warm afternoon I noticed quite a few of the animals napping, which was not something I had seen on my previous few visits. I also couldn’t help myself in noticing several of the animals were mooning me while I tried to take their pictures. 😉

On this day I experienced two new attractions: Tut’s Tomb and Iceploration. The former is a recreation of King Tut’s Tomb that was discovered in Egypt in the early 1900s. This was a really neat area to explore that I had never even noticed before. I was very grateful that it wasn’t a very confined space, which I was a little worried about since I am claustrophobic. Iceploration is a relatively new show that takes place in the Moroccan Palace Theatre. The premise is that a young boy who doesn’t like to play outside and is very much into electronics is forced to travel around the globe with his grandfather exploring areas such as an African savanna, the Great Barrier Reef, the Arctic and a Rainforest. It is a unique presentation with performers dressed as different animals ice skating throughout the different scenes. There are also live animals (warning: birds fly into the audience!!!) that come on stage in the different scenes from birds to cats and dogs. You can even meet one of the huskies after the show and have a picture taken with it. It was an enjoyable show with a variety of entertainment styles from dance to ice skating, animal entertainment, all while telling the story of exploration across the globe. For you Disney folks think of it as Festival of the Lion Kings combined with Finding Nemo the Musical and the old Tarzan Rocks show at the Animal Kingdom (minus the recognizable songs and characters). They even have their own version of the tumble monkeys!

So I present to you some pictures I took at Busch Gardens this past weekend and invite you to join along for this photo tour. Enjoy!

 

 

All in all I spent a few hours in the park and was able to enjoy a few new things along with some of my favorites. I can always go to the park and just enjoy myself by walking around and watching the animals. It was especially nice to see the baby joeys and to see the cheetahs as close as I did. There seemed to be even more beautiful flowers than on my last few visits. Spring is in bloom. Have you been to Busch Gardens recently? What are some of your favorites? Is there anything you’d like to see on another photo tour? If so, please leave us a note in the comments or feel free to email me at Betsy@onthegoinmco.com.

If you enjoyed these pictures, check out my previous blog post here on the animals of the Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

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TrenD Report – Let Them Have Purses!

Let me start of this TrenD Report by saying…Hello, My name is Shelley and I am a purse addict.

Now that I have that out of the way, I can tell you that in this TrenD Report we are going to take a look at the purses of TrenD other than the Dooney and Bourke & Harvey’s purses.

I LOVE the variety of purses that are available now! If you are a Princess, Mickey, or Alice gal there is a purse for you!

I hope that you enjoy this look at all the purses that are out there for my fellow addicts!!!

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Easter Happenings At Walt Disney World

This week at Walt Disney World guests will find an array of events for the Easter Holiday. From special dining offerings at select restaurants, to activities at the resorts and in the theme parks, Disney has you covered, even down to religious services. With options available across property, Walt Disney World has taken strides to make guests feel at home in celebrating the holiday while on vacation.

As they do for Christmas, Walt Disney World is providing the Fantasia ballroom at Disney’s Contemporary Resort to hold Easter services this Sunday morning. Catholic Mass will be held at 8:00am and 10:15am, while Protestant services will be at 9:00am. If you are looking for other religious services, contact the concierge at your resort and they can assist you in finding the nearest location for your denomination or religious preference.

Restaurants are also joining in the celebration by offering special menus. Participating restaurants include: Captain’s Grille (brunch) at Disney’s Yacht Club, Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, The Wave (brunch) at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Cape May Cafe (dinner) at Disney’s Beach Club Resort, and Garden Grove (dinner) at the Walt Disney World Swan.

In the theme parks you will find a variety of entertainment options:

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom the Yak & Yeti DJ Dance Party will take place 4:00-8:00pm April 4 & 5 and 3:00-7:00pm April 6-14 in Asia. Africa will play host to Bourdicka April 4-14 at 3:10, 4:35, 5:30 and 6:30pm.

Epcot will have Easter Egg Hunts and Relays inside the UK pavilion of World Showcase for children ages 3-9 and 8-12 respectively. There will also be a smaller section for children under 3 to participate in their own hunt. The Easter Egg Hunts will be every 10 minutes from 11:00am – 3:30pm and the Relays will be every 40 minutes between 11:40am and 3:40pm. Also on hand will be Mr. & Mrs. Easter Bunny to greet guests from 11:30am – 4:00pm. Space is limited for sign ups for the hunts and relays with registration starting approximately half an hour before each hunt. Future World East will be having Easter Egg Hunts as well for children 3-9 in addition to some Easter themed games. The hunts will take place on the quarter hour starting at 10:00am and ending at 4:00pm.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios has a special dessert just for the Easter holiday from April 6-17. The pineapple coconut Easter cupcake will be sold at ABC Commissary, Backlot Express, Pizza Planet, Starring Rolls and Studio Catering Company. Additional outdoor beverage stands will also be added around Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater, The Hollywood Brown Derby, Mama Melrose Ristorante Italiano, and 50’s Prime Time Cafe. Sweet Spells will have several other holiday related treats, including some Kosher offerings.

The Magic Kingdom will have a meet and greet with Mr. & Mrs. Easter Bunny until Sunday in the garden to the left of City Hall in the Tour Guide Garden.

On Easter Sunday, all Disney Resorts will have special activities of their own including Easter Egg Hunts, special arts and crafts activities, pool games themed around Easter, dance parties, and you can even meet some of your favorite Disney characters in their Easter costumes. There are even in room celebrations that you can order from Disney Florist. See this recent post on the Disney Parks Blog regarding Easter baskets you can have delivered for your family.

No matter how you choose to celebrate with your family and friends, it seems like Disney has something for everyone. Hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend and enjoy!

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Universal Sets May 8th As Opening For New Entertainment Experiences

In the following press release, Universal Orlando has set a joint grand opening date for two new spectacularly entertaining guest experiences.

The new Universal’s Superstar Parade and Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular: 100 Years of Movie Memories will have their grand opening on May 8, 2012.

Both experiences follow this year’s re-opening of The Blue Man Group Show, the re-launch of The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and the opening of the new Hollywood Drive-In Miniature Golf experience at Universal Citywalk.  They will be followed by this summer’s launch of Universal Orlando’s newest blockbuster ride – Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.

Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular: 100 Years of Movie Memories will present some of the world’s best and most popular films in an innovative, high-tech symphony of imagery, light, sound and special effects.  The show highlights some of the most fun, dramatic, awe-inspiring moments from nearly 200 films – representing approximately 300 Academy Award nominations and 100 Academy Award winners.

Narrated by Academy Award-winning actor and Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille honoree Morgan Freeman, Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular celebrates Universal Pictures’ most iconic films. Their most powerful moments will be shown in crystal-clear clarity on cutting-edge waterfall screens within the Universal Studios lagoon — surrounded by colorful, dramatically synchronized fountains and pyrotechnics and all against a powerful musical score.  The experience will take guests on an emotional journey through epic cinematic moments filled with heroes, horror, laughter, good vs. evil and triumph. The new show will run year-round except during annual and special events.

Universal’s Superstar Parade will offer an entirely new form of interactive entertainment that will give guests and entire families the opportunity to join in the fun.  Some of today’s most beloved characters and stories will bring new adventure to the streets of Universal Studios during the parade, an all-new show experience that features larger-than-life floats, state-of-the-art technology and hundreds of energetic street performers. Guests will get to sing and dance along with their favorite characters including the minions from the blockbuster animated feature Despicable Me, E.B. from the hit comedy, Hop, Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora & Diego. Guests will also have the opportunity to enjoy performances and character meet-and-greets prior to the parade at select locations throughout the day.

 

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Why I love Disney’s Pop Century Resort

I have always considered myself to be somewhat of an old soul. As a friend recently said, I do like movies starring dead people (read: I like classic films often shown on TCM more than a lot of the recent releases). As far as music is concerned, I know more oldies and classic rock music than my parents do. I am content listening to stories of the way things used to be. I even wrote my college admission essay about how I grew up in the wrong era. I am definitely a Gen Xer, but feel comfortable thinking back to the time when men wore hats and women wore gloves (think Mad Men or earlier). These all combine to account for a fraction of why I like Disney’s Pop Century Resort as my go to value resort at Walt Disney World.

The nostalgic atmosphere of the resort cannot be denied. For the uninitiated, the resort is comprised of ten buildings that house 2,880 rooms, making it one of the largest resorts in the country. The different buildings are themed after the decades of the 1950s through the 1990s, which makes it a great choice for anyone with a thing for looking back and reminiscing about the good old days. Of course there are tons of other great reasons guests may enjoy Pop.

 

One of the most appealing benefits that the resort has over the other three current value resorts (Disney’s All Star Movies, Music and Sports Resorts) is that it has its own bus transportation to the theme parks, water parks and Downtown Disney that is not shared with any other resorts. As anyone who has stayed at All Star Movies may have experienced, there is not much more frustrating than seeing a bus pull up for the destination you are looking for, only to be completely full and not accepting any guests. More good news for Pop guests is that it will NOT be sharing a bus with the brand new Disney’s Art of Animation Resort opening on May 31st of this year. This is on top of the fact that Pop is a bit more centrally located than the All Star resorts.

The standard rooms at Pop Century have either two double beds or a king bed (note: many of the king rooms are handicap accessible). Flatpanel tvs sit atop sleek mid century modern light wood dressers and the artwork is themed after the decade of the building in which you are staying. A curtain can be pulled across the opening between the vanity area of the bathroom (which is separate from the toilet and shower area) to provide some privacy and a separation from the bedroom. Each room is also appointed with a table and a couple of chairs, an in room safe, telephone, dresser as well as an alarm clock radio. The rooms are clean and comfortable and quite adequate for the value of the resort.

In the last few weeks the value of the resort has increased even more. The resort is in the process of installing mini refrigerators in all of the rooms. These are slightly smaller than the ones at the moderate and deluxe resorts, but still large enough to store a decent amount of stuff. I was fortunate enough to have one of these newly installed in my room when I stayed at Pop in the middle of March. If one has not yet been installed in your room (even at the All Star Resorts) you may request one at no charge to be delivered to your room, whereas previously they were $10./night. Another great upgrade has just been completed across all of the value resorts: FREE WI-FI!!! This may not seem like a big deal to everyone, but to those of us who are permanently attached to our phones or laptops, this is a huge benefit that was previously only afforded to guests staying at Deluxe and recently the moderate resorts.

Given these upgrades and, in my opinion, the superior theming over the other three value resorts, I find it difficult to justify staying at the Moderate resorts over Pop. Previously I would rationalize by saying they have the fridge and coffeemakers, which I never use, but now what? Ceiling fans are nice and all, as is the larger room, but unless I’m going to a moderate with two queen beds, I’m going to choose Pop. The resort seems to be great for adults with a sense of nostalgia as well as kids who will recognize the large icons of some of their favorite Disney animated characters like Lady and the Tramp, Mowgli and Baloo from the Jungle Book, Roger Rabbit and even Mickey Mouse!

Everything Pop is one of the nicer options at the value resorts and has a nice open concept design with the gift shop flowing into the food court. Many mistakenly assume that counter service restaurants only serve burgers and hot dogs. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to inform people that it can be oh so much more. One of the great selections at Everything Pop is the nightly special that is something akin to mom’s home cooking. Some nights you will find a baked turkey dinner with mashed potatoes and green beans served with cornbread fresh out of the oven, and others you will have fish, pasta or meatloaf. The other food and beverage location at Pop is the pool bar Petals. I will admit I have spent more than a few hours there enjoying friends’ company over libations. It is a nice location and the CMs are always friendly and willing to strike up a conversation.

As with the other value resorts, Pop has several pools. The Hippy Dippy Pool is the main theme pool with the images of flower power from the 60s being prevalent as the pool is situated between the two 60s buildings. There are also pools between the 80s and 90s buildings with a computer theme, and my favorite being the 50s bowling pin pool. An arcade is located in the lobby just adjacent to the front desk and Everything Pop.

I’m not quite sure how I will feel about Pop when the Art of Animation opens in the end of May. I don’t often have need for a family suite, but it may be nice for several friends staying together or if I travel with family again. The bigger question will be if I will be staying at DAAR (Disney’s Art of Animation Resort) once the standard rooms in the Little Mermaid building open. I took some pictures last week of the progress that has been made recently with the construction at the new resort along with some nice views of Pop at sunrise.

 

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