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Things I Wish I'd Known For My First Walt Disney World Visit

  The first visit to Walt Disney World is stressful, confusing, and a dream come true. I am not the first on...

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

5 Movies To Watch During Finals

Finals is the most stressful part of both college and high school. It is important to not stress out too much, though. So, in an effort to retain some sanity during this time, why not relax with some Disney movies after studying?

If Mulan can save all of China, you can pass your algebra test

The Emperor's New Groove
With all the stress finals cause, you'll need a good laugh. The Emperor's New Groove is the perfect Disney movie for when you just need to laugh.

The Sword in The Stone
"It's up to you how far you go. If you don't try, you'll never know". Who wouldn't want to take lessons with Merlin and Archimedes as their teachers?

Peter Pan
Because nothing makes you want to fly away to Neverland more than finals week.
Monsters University

Because this movie teaches us that failing out of college isn't the end of the world.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Are the Disney Princesses Good Role Models? Part 4: Ariel

     The Little Mermaid has captured hearts of millions from the moment she made a big splash on the silver screen in the legendary year of 1989. She started the Disney Renaissance, amazed critics, and brought home Academy Awards, Golden Globes and a Grammy. She is all over the Disney parks, with her castle in the Magic Kingdom, a fountain in Shanghai, a themed land in Tokyo, and two rides in the USA. Children adore her, boys admire her, millennial women have a strong nostalgia for her. She is funny, outgoing and, according to some, a "feminist's worst nightmare".
      Ariel is one of the most adored of all the Disney Princesses, and is also the most heavily criticized. There are so many arguments to be made both for her and against her that I have had spent months trying to conceive this article. So, let's dive right into it. Is Ariel a good role model?
     One criticism is that she disobeyed her father, and was rewarded for it in the end. This could be concerning because it could teach children that it is okay to not listen to their parents. This, however, is oversimplifying and twisting one of the themes of the story. The main theme of the original book by Hans Christian Anderson (a beautiful writer, by the way. I highly suggest reading his stories) is sacrifice. The Little Mermaid sacrificed her voice to become a human, and then ultimately sacrificed her own life to save the prince's life. In the Disney version, the theme of sacrifice is still there, just a little more subtle. And it's presented in a different way than in the book. Instead of focusing on Ariel being the one to make the sacrifice, it is the father, King Triton, who makes the sacrifices. When Ursula is about to take Ariel's soul, King Triton instead takes Ariel's place. He sacrifices his soul so that his daughter can live. At the very end of the movie, King Triton uses his magic to turn Ariel into a human forever, so that she may be with the one she loves and in a world she loves. This is very difficult for King Triton. He wants Ariel close to him. He wants to keep her safe. But he realizes that Ariel is much happier as a human, and hey, maybe Prince Eric isn't such a bad guy. So he puts his daughter's happiness before his. He lets her go. That is beautiful, and in my opinion, the best metaphor for being a parent. Being a parent is all about putting your children's needs before your own desires. It is about raising your children to make the right decisions and then letting them go out into the world, knowing that they will be okay as adults.

      And Ariel is aware of this. She does not take her father for granted. This is evident in her very last line of the movie, "I love you, Daddy." It should be noted that the writers chose this line as the very last spoken line of the entire movie. Ariel's last line is not about Prince Eric or being a human. It is about her relationship with her father.

      King Triton is a very important character in The Little Mermaid, and one that is all too often overlooked. If you are looking for a character that grows and learns something over the course of the movie, do not look at Ariel. Instead, turn your attention to Triton. He starts off the movie as a speciest (or humanist? or racist?). He has a strong prejudiced against humans. He makes blanket statements, accusing them all to horrible, selfish, murderers (or shellfish murders haha...). This is why he forbids Ariel from going to the surface. This is why Ariel has to keep her collection of human items a secret. Once Prince Eric saves both Ariel and Triton by defeating Ursula, that is when Triton starts to realize that maybe not all humans are as bad as he once thought. And it is through Ariel's love of humans that he begins to accept them. Triton, even though he was the parental role in the film, was in the wrong this time. And that's okay. Parents are not always right. Children do not have to blindly follow them, especially if the adults' views are prejudiced against another group. That is not to say that Ariel disrespects her father or hates him. And that is not to say that all parents are wrong all the time. But sometimes adult's views need to be challenged by the younger generations. And sometimes adults can learn a thing or two from kids.

     The other very popular criticism is the same one used for the majority of the Princesses. She married a man she just met. It should be noted that it is not specified exactly when Ariel and Eric got married. It could have been days, it could have been months. The audience does not know for sure. What the audience does know is that Eric is a good guy. He is sweet. He has a good sense of humor. He loves his dog, Max. He is selfless. He accepts Ariel for who she is.  Eric sees Ariel as a mermaid and still loves her. He risks his own life multiple times in the movie to save others. 
     Ariel was stupid, some feminists say. She gave up her voice for a guy she didn't know. She only liked him based on his looks. And because Ariel could strike up a meaningful conversation with him, he could only fall in love with her based on her looks. But is should be noted that it is Ursula, the VILLAIN of the film that says, "it's she who holds her tongue who gets her man". Not one of the good guys promotes the idea that only looks are important in a relationship. It's the bad guy who says this. And all Disney fans know that you're not supposed to listen to the bad guys. They are not the people we should emulate. A closer examination of the lyrics of Poor Unfortunate Souls and you'll see that Ursula supports this idea of silence, particularly the silence of women.  "On land it's much preferred for women not to say a word", she sings. This is exactly what feminists are fighting against. We do not want women to be silenced. It is Ariel who sings for women empowerment: "Betcha on land they understand/ Bet they don't reprimand their daughters/ Bright young women/ Sick of swimming/ Ready to stand". This is the message feminists want to get across. A woman's opinion matters as much as a man's does. Your voice is important. And this is the message I as a feminist choose to take away from the movie.

     Ariel does not turn into a human just for a guy. This has been pointed out by many Disney fans before, but the point does not get across to everyone, so I will reiterate it. Ariel is obsessed with the human world way before she even sets eyes on Eric. In her very first scene of the movie, she is exploring a shipwreck for items to add to her collection. It is not until after she sings Part of Your World that she swims up to Eric's ship. But once Ariel falls in love with Eric, it gives her enough encouragement to finally take action and turn into a human. It should also be noted that before Ariel meets Eric, she sings "wish I could be part of THAT world".  When she is on the beach with Eric, the lyrics finally change to "wish I could be part of YOUR world".
     Some people will complain about how selfish Ariel is. Not only is she a mermaid, but she's  princess mermaid. She's rich, she's got power, she lives in the ocean and she's pretty. Why does she want more? Why can't she just be happy with what she has? A lot of other people would love to be a beautiful princess mermaid. 
      Ariel was NOT selfish for wanting to be human. Yes, she was a mermaid. Yes, she was a princess. Yes, she was pretty. But riches and status and attractiveness do not always bring happiness. Ask anyone who suffers from depression. And Ariel truly was depressed being a mermaid. This is evident in the scene when Ariel is first shown on the surface with human legs. Sebastian is trying to convince her to go home. You can go home with all the normal fish and just be..." and then he gets a look at Ariel's face. Ariel is heartbroken at the thought of going back to being a mermaid.  "...And just be miserable for the rest of your life", Sebastian realizes. So he agrees to help Ariel be a human. 

     Once Ariel finally ends up on land with a pair of legs, she needs to get Eric to fall in love with her. And he does, eventually. Eric has his hopes set on marrying the girl that saved him. He does not think it is Ariel, but he is still kind to her. He takes Ariel on a tour of his kingdom. During this time, Eric gets to know her. Fortunately, their are other ways to communicate besides just talking. And Ariel's personality is so vibrant that she does not need to talk. Eric learns that Ariel is curious, a go-getter, and funny. She is not afraid to explore anything. She is constantly seeking to learn about the world around her and educate herself. It is this boldness and sense of wonder that Eric likes about her. The same reasons the audience falls in love with Ariel are the same reasons Eric falls in love with her. This is evident in the scene below:

    Yet, Eric cannot let go of his "dream girl", the one that he thinks rescued him. Grimsby gives Eric some advice. "Far better than any dream girl is one of flesh and blood. One warm and caring and right before your very eyes". Ariel may not be the girl in Eric's head, but she is kind and caring and can make him laugh. This is perhaps the first Disney movie that portrays relationships in such a real way. We tend to build up this girl or guy in our heads. They are perfect. They are everything we ever wanted in a partner. They have no flaws. But they do not exist. And if we compare every single person we meet to the girl/guy in our heads, we will never be happy. We might never meet the Prince Charming or Cinderella of our dreams, but that does not mean the real people in front of us are not amazing and completely worthy of our love.
     Yet another argument people make against Ariel is that, similar to the Princesses before her, she needs a man to save her. They are forgetting that Ariel saves Eric's life in the beginning of the film. And then Eric saves Ariel in the end of the film. They saved each other. They are on equal terms.
     One reason people love Ariel is her personality. She is brave, saving Eric from drowning. She has a sense of wonder about her. She is always excited about the things around her. This is a quality she shares with Walt Disney himself. This attitude is very optimistic and youthful. Ariel seeks to educate herself. She wants to learn absolute everything she can about the human world. She is not dumb or ignorant. Furthermore, those who feel that they are misfits can relate to her. Ariel does not feel like she fits in with the other mermaids, or even her own family. She is unhappy as a mermaid. As someone who spent their entire adolescence questioning where they belong, Ariel definitely strikes a chord with me.

To summarize:
  • Ariel gets Triton to change his prejudiced views
  • Ariel wants her voice heard
  • Ariel saves Eric's life. And then Eric returns the favor.
  • Ariel wants to educate herself and explore the world
  • Eric falls in love with Ariel's personality, not her looks

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Quick Tips for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

If seeing the shows are your top priority, camp out in front of the Cinderella Castle. The Castle lighting ceremony, Mikey's Most Merriest Celebration will be on the castle stage. The parade route circles the hub. And of course the castle will be the focal point of the firework show. Grab a spot early on, and have a member of your group go grab snacks for everyone from Starbucks or the Confectionery. 

Wait to take pictures until late at night, after the firework show. There will be less of line. And less people in the background of your shots. 

Some pictures you may want to take at the party are along Main Street, in front of the Christmas tree, in front of the castle, on the sleigh in front of Ye Old Christmas Shop, and in front of the train station,

The second parade at 11:00 is usually a lot less crowded than the first parade. 

If character meet and greets are your top priority, make sure to get in line 10-15 minutes before the character's scheduled beginning time. Meet party exclusive characters earlier in the evening, like Jack Skellington and the seven dwarfs. Popular characters such as Mickey, Tinkerbell and the Princesses at Fairytale Hall are best to meet late, around 11:00 p.m.

If rides are your top priority, hop in line during the first parade and the firework show.

Fastpasses are NOT available during the party!

Eat a big, early dinner. This way you do not have to take time to eat during the party.

Stick together! The party can get crowded so make sure you stay with your group. Make a plan in case you become separated. This is important especially if you have children. 

Dress for the party! Have fun wearing Christmas colors or themed outfits. You could try coordinating outfits with your group for fun pictures.

All About Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2016

The party takes place all throughout November and December:
  • November 7, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 18, 27 and 29
  • December 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 16, 18 and 22
Keep in mind that the closer to actual Christmas day and Thanksgiving day, the ticket prices will be more spendy. You can purchase tickets through Disney World's official website.

The party does not officially start until 7 at night, but you can enter Magic Kingdom at 4 p.m. with your party ticket. The party lasts until midnight.

If you are planning on visiting Magic Kingdom for the entire day, you will need to purchase both a regular Magic Kingdom day pass AND a party ticket. I suggest doing the attractions in the morning as that will free up time to see more of the special party events at night. At around 4 in the evening, ask a Cast Member where a ticket location is within the park. They will direct you to a place where you can receive your official party wristband. 

If you are not planning on staying in Magic Kingdom the whole day, you have a few options. You can take time to rest up at your hotel before the party, or you can visit another park for half the day (Hollywood Studios is a good half-day park during the holidays). You can also go shopping at Downtown Disney Springs or mini golfing on Disney property. It is recommended that you arrive at Magic Kingdom around 3:30-4:00 p.m. This will give you time to go through security check and get your wristband. Then you have three hours to grab dinner, take pictures or hit up your favorite rides before the party begins. 

This party has a lot more shows than the Halloween Party! In my opinion, the shows are the best part of the party and well worth seeing.

  • A Frozen Holiday Wish, 8:15
  • Mickey's Most Merriest Celebration  7:40 p.m., 9:25 p.m., 10:30 p.m. 
  • Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade 8:30p.m., 11:00 p.m.
  • Once Upon A Time 9:15 p.m.
  • Holiday Wishes—Celebrate the Spirit of the Season 10:00 p.m.
  • A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas 7:45 p.m., 8:45 p.m., 9:55 p.m., 10:50 p.m., 11:45 p.m.
This year there is also a dance party, called Club Tinsel, being held at Cosmic Ray's. 

Character Meet and Greets
Your favorite Disney characters will be at the party including Mickey and friends, Tinkerbell and Pooh. Special character meet and greets for the party include Jack Skellington as Sandy Claws, the seven dwarves, and Nick Wilde and Judy Hopps. Check the Party Map for accurate locations and schedules. If character meet and greets are your top priority, it is recommended that you line up 15 minutes before the party starts to be one of the first in line. You can also wait until later in the night. Most of the crowd will clear out after fireworks at 10. Lines also might be shorter during fireworks. 

Most of the attractions will be open during the party. Check the maps for a specific list. I recommend hitting up the attractions earlier in the evening or later after the fireworks show. 

Sweet Treats
Click here to learn more about the complimentary treats the park will be serving.

There will be special cupcakes sold around the park. You can find the peppermint cupcake and the holiday wish cupcakes at Main Street Bakery (aka Starbucks). The holiday tree cupcake will be sold at Gaston's Tavern. Also, you can buy ice cream cookie sandwiches at the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor. PSL lovers will delight in the pumpkin spice waffles (served with vanilla ice cream) at Sleepy Hollow Refreshments. 

There is party exclusive merchandise being sold at specific locations. T-shirts will be sold at the Emporium, Big Top Souvenirs, and Mickey's Star Traders. Trading pins will be sold at Big Top. And Magic Bands will be sold at the Emporium. 

If for whatever reason you do not get a chance to purchase this exclusive merchandise during the party, you can head on over to Magic Kingdom the following day. Ask a Cast Member about what items you would like to buy. Make sure to show them proof that you were at the party, such as your wristband or a picture of you at the party. They will be able to sell you the merchandise.


Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party UPDATE: NEW FREE SWEET TREATS

Every year at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, guests are given complimentary sugar cookies and hot chocolate. This year, the party is taking it up a notch with the goodies. 

Try eggnog or a  gingersnap cookie, found appropriately at Heritage House in Liberty Square. FUN FACT: George Washington created his own recipe for eggnog!

Friar's Nook near the carousel will be giving away snowman sugar cookies and snow cones.

The snowman sugar cookie can also be found at  Pete's Silly Sideshow, along with apple cider to drink.

For all you chocolate lovers out there, the Lunching Pad underneath the People Mover will be serving peppermint bark cookies and hot chocolate.

And the classic sugar cookie and hot chocolate combo will still be served at Tortuga Tavern in Adventureland.  

More Christmas updates coming soon!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Quick Tips for Shopping During Christmas

Buy Year Merch Early
Have a Disney vacation planned in late 2016? Are you wanting to buy some 2016 merchandise? Good luck trying to find any after Halloween. Working in Merchandise at Walt Disney World, I personally had to take down some 2015 merchandise in order to make room for holiday merchandise the day of October 31st. Disney is always a month or two ahead of the actual calendar when it comes to merchandise. If you are fortunate enough to take two Disney vacations a year, I highly suggest you plan to buy year specific merchandise during your earlier trip. If you can only go late in the year, but still want year-specific merchandise, I suggest you order it before your vacation. You can use the Shop Disney Parks app to order merchandise before your trip. Or you can buy the following year’s merchandise, as it will probably be out on shelves in late December. For example, even though I worked at WDW for most of 2015, I bought 2016 merchandise. Frankly, I liked the 2016 merchandise better than ’15. 

Use the Shop Disney Parks App
Disney during Christmas is crazy crowded. And shops – especially shops with Christmas merchandise – are packed to the point where you can’t really move an inch without stepping on top of a kid. And the merchandise flies off the shelves faster than the Cast Members can stock it. Using the app may be a time and stress saver! You can browse all of the merchandise within the resort and see exactly which stores have what in stock. This way you do not have to waste time running from store to store to look for a specific item. You can even order through the app and have your souvenir sent to package pickup at the front of the park for you to pick up when you’re ready to leave. You can also have it sent to either your resort room or back home! This way you do not even have to step inside a store your entire vacation. Which means more time for rides!

Have An Idea of What You Want Before Shopping
This is another way the app comes in handy. While waiting in line for rides or on the monorail or during lunch, you can scroll through the app to get an idea of what items you may want to buy. This way you know exactly what you’re looking for and do not have to waste time in stores. You can even ask a Cast Member for help. If you say, “I am looking for an Olaf sweatshirt”, they will be able to show you exactly where it is in the store.

Buy it NOW!
See something you like? Buy it NOW! As stated before, the merchandise flies off the shelves during Christmastime, and the Cast Members might not be
able to restock it. So if you see something you want, grab it before someone else does! It might be the only one left – not just in the store, but in the whole park! If
you later on decide you don’t actually like what you bought, you can always return it to any merchandise location in any park  (as long as you have the receipt!). But better safe than sorry!

Set a Budget
If you are trying to save money on your trip, make sure you set a budget for shopping. It can be very easy to go overboard on spending during Christmas, as there are a lot of unique, cute items out during this time. So make a plan. Maybe it’s to only buy one thing in every park. Or it’s to buy only ornaments, or figurines. If you are shopping with kids, one popular method is to give them a Disney gift card. These gift cards are limited to a set amount, so your kids cannot spend too much. This is also a good way to teach your kids financial responsibility and math skills.

Be Patient in Register Lines
Repeat after me: Christmas. Is. Crazy. That does not mean I have to be.

The over-crowdedness of the parks can lead to long register lines in stores. But please be patient and respectful to the Cast Members working! They are doing the best they can to get through everyone as efficiently as possible. That being said, there are a few things you can do to make sure you’re not one of the people holding up the line. While you are waiting in line, pull out your wallet. If you have a discount, such as a DVC membership, pull that card out, too. And always allow time for checking out in your plans. You don’t want to miss a fastpass reservation because of waiting in line!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is officially over, but I still have one more treat for you! In case you missed a touch of Disney Halloween magic, here are some videos of my favorite parts of Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party!

The Hocus Pocus Show:


 Boo To You Parade:

HalloWishes Fireworks:

Top 5 Sweet Treats at WDW

5. Mickey Ice Cream Bar 

4. Strawberry Waffles at Sleepy Hallow 

3. Mickey Rice Krispie Treats

2. Dole Whip

1. Cinnamon Roll at Gaston's Tavern

10k Page Views!

Thank you for the 10,000 page views! Please keep checking back to the blog and saving the pins to your boards!

There will be more posts coming around the holidays and a new feature for 2017!