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Animal Kingdom 2017

Animal Kingdom 2016 was Disney Darling's most popular post last year, and it's time to do an update! DAK definitely will have t...

Monday, July 3, 2017

Souvenir Shopping with Kids

If you’re a Disney fanatic, you’ll have to fight off the urge to buy everything as soon as you step into a store on Disney property. And after working in a Disney World gift shop, I’m willing to bet that your kids are the same. The only thing worse than a kid in a candy store is a kid in a Disney store. Souvenirs are not completely necessary, but they do serve as a physical reminder of your happy vacation memories. Children will especially love a new toy to play with or a t-shirt to wear to school. But you do not have to buy every toy, or even any toy. Here are a few tips on saving money on souvenirs.

How much to spend?

You can limit your children’s spending in fun, educational ways other than a harsh “no.”

Setting An Amount
Giving your kid a Disney gift card is a great way to teach financial responsibility. Give them a preloaded gift card that they can use throughout the trip on souvenirs. They have the freedom to spend it all in one place or on one souvenir each day. Please note that this may work best with older kids.

If you do not wish to give your kid money, you can always just limit the amount of souvenirs that they buy. For example, you can set a limit of one per day, or three for the entire trip.

Earning Money
Another parenting tip is to have your kids earn the money that they spend. This works well with younger kids. They can earn money for being polite to cast members, waiting patiently in lines, getting ready to leave the hotel on time, finishing a meal, not fighting with siblings or not throwing temper tantrums. At the end of the day they can buy a souvenir with how much money they have earned.

Please note that Disney souvenirs are expensive. A small plush toy will be between $15-$30. Shirts can range between $25-50.
What to Spend Money On?

While everything in Disney is spendy, there are a few souvenirs that are less expensive than others. Consider pins and pressed penny collections.

Pressed Pennies
At 51 cents each, these are the cheapest souvenirs in all of Disney World. Pressed penny machines are scattered throughout the parks and resorts, and each one has different characters. Make a scavenger hunt or treasure hunt out of it. Searching for penny machines in the resorts is a great way to spend down time away from the parks.

Pin Trading
I highly suggest this activity for shy kids or to teach kids manners and social skills. Pin trading involves interactions with cast members. While individual pins can get expensive as they range from $10-15 each, there are great bundle deals on pins. I suggest buying a starter pack. This includes a lanyard and at least 4 pins and costs around $25. The trick to buy a pack with only one or two pins your child really wants as they will be trading away most of them. Mystery packs are also fun. Each mystery pack has two randomly selected pins. If you kid gets a pin they like, then great! If they do not like the pin in the mystery packs, they can always trade it away for one they like better. The next step is to seek any cast member wearing a black pin lanyard. Some stores even have a pin board – a giant corkboard filled with pins to choose from and trade. Some areas get very creative with pin boards. The custodial staff at Animal Kingdom has a pin trashcan. The stroller rental area has a pin stroller. The Pirates of the Caribbean cast members have pin swords.

What NOT to spend money on

Packing essentials such as hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, umbrellas, ponchos and a water bottle will save you time and money from having to purchase these items in Disney. The parks also sell handheld fans for $20, and believe me, your kids will want them.  I recommend buying some for cheaper at Wal Mart before your trip to avoid the temptation.

Another big seller at Disney World is autograph books. If your child is meeting characters, an autograph book is a must. Instead of buying an autograph book, I suggest making one yourself! It can be a fun craft to do with your child to get them excited about Disney World. I made my own. I bought a small sketchbook with blank pages from Hobby Lobby. It is small enough to fit in my purse, yet big enough to tape pictures of the characters into. I then decorated it to look like Mickey Mouse with red pain and white buttons. Your child can do something similar or make one based off their favorite character. You can use paint, jewels, glitter, buttons, scrapbook paper and stickers. And all of the supplies will most likely be less than an autograph book for sale at Disney.

When to buy it?

A strategy that some people have is not to buy any souvenirs until the last day of vacation. Most will go to World of Disney in Disney Springs, as it is the biggest store on property. The benefit of this is that it prevents kids from impulse buying. They will be much more secure and happy with their decision if they have time to think about what they really want. The downside of this is that World of Disney, despite being the biggest, does not sell everything. There are certain park specific or area specific items that are not sold at WoD. For example, they will not sell Animal Kingdom picture frames. Only Animal Kingdom has them. If you choose to do most of your souvenir shopping in Disney Springs, please keep this in mind. If you are not sure if an item is sold at World of Disney, you can always ask a cast member. They will look it up for you on the computer system.

Of course, there are certain items you may find more appropriate to buy in the beginning of your vacation. For example, Minnie ear headbands or Mickey ear hats that can be worn throughout the duration of the vacation should be purchased first. Another suggestion is to buy small toys or books to keep toddlers busy while waiting in line. Stores sell small toys packaged together in boxes or carrying pouches for easy storage.

Some parents will do their entire souvenir shopping at Wal-Mart. This is not recommended. Wal-Marts in Orlando will carry plush Mickey and princess shirts, but that’s about it. Supermarkets are great for stocking up on Disney themed clothing before visiting the parks. But if you want something that specifically says “Walt Disney World” on it, you’ll have to buy it at the parks.

What tricks work for you while souvenir shopping with kids? Comment them below!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

News of Pandora's Opening at Disney's Animal Kingdom

I am very excited that Pandora’s opening is successful. As a DAK Cast Member in 2015, I got to see the construction and models for the land. All of my coworkers were excited, as was I. The news was eventually revealed to the public. But unfortunately, a lot of the general public seemed either angry or unenthused about Pandora. I was taken back by the response. Didn’t they know how amazing this would be? Because of the poor response to Pandora, I was nervous for its opening.

I never needed to be nervous. The response has been overwhelming. Crowds have been huge. It takes a few hours to even get into Pandora, and then another few hours to wait to go on a ride. As I write this, the wait for Flight of Passage is 4 hours. The land hits its capacity before noon.

Not only are people lining up for miles to experience Pandora, but good word of it is spreading. There seems to be nothing but praise in all the online reviews, despite the annoying size of the crowd. People are saying Flight of Passage is “the best ride I’ve seen so far at Disney” (Orlando Sentinel). Critic Matt Cabral of  Hollywood Reporter said “as anyone who's ever tried the Grey Stuff at Fantasyland's Be Our Guest restaurant can imagine, Disney has delivered on this vision with unparalleled detail and incomparable immersion”. The Huffington Post congratulates “the teams of creative people that brought Pandora to life” and says that “Pandora - the World of Avatar serves as a metaphor for the issues we face here on Earth”.

Of course, everyone knows that the best part of Disney is the hard work the Cast Members do. " A Disney World spokeswoman said Saturday afternoon, “Thanks to our dedicated cast members and talented Imagineers, we’re excited with the enthusiastic response we’re seeing from our guests who are enjoying the fun and immersive experiences of Pandora – The World of Avatar”.

I personally have not had the chance to visit Pandora yet. I might not for a while until the crowds die down (if they ever do). Have you visited Pandora? Tell me about your experience in the comments below!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Walt Disney World Resort Summer 2017

Summer at Walt Disney World is always an exciting time. The summer of 2017 will be amazing with several new additions to the parks.

Deals and packages
Walt Disney World is offering a summer ticket and room package. The package includes a 4-night stay at select resorts and 4-day park hopper tickets. This offer is only available until July 14. Learn more about it here.

The opening of Pandora
Pandora will open May 27! This magical new addition to Animal Kingdom is not to be missed. The land will feature two new rides, a new restaurant, a bar for adults and face painting or the kids (or kids at heart). And don’t forget about Animal Kingdom’s new night show, Rivers of Light.

New fireworks at Magic Kingdom
Sadly, Wishes will not be showing this summer. Fortunately, a new show will take its place. Once Upon A Time is the new castle projection show. It will be followed by Happily Ever After firework show.

The music of Pixar
Starting May 26 is a live orchestra performing music from Pixar movies at Hollywood Studios. The performance will feature clips of the beloved characters on screen.  

Saturday, May 13, 2017

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 one to do an article similar to this. But as with most everything, everyone has different experiences. I had never gone to a Disney park during my childhood. When I was 19 years old, I was accepted into the Disney College Program. My parents drove me halfway across the country to Orlando to drop me off. We decided to visit the parks the day before check-in day. This way I could get the "OHMYGODOHMYGOD I'M AT WALT DISNEY WORLD!" out of my system before I had to appear professional inside the parks. We decided on a park hopper ticket to visit Magic Kingdom and EPCOT. We arrived at Magic Kingdom mid-morning, hopped over to EPCOT in the afternoon, and returned to Magic Kingdom in the evening. As with most people, there were definitely some things I wish I had known before my first visit. I'm sharing them so hopefully others can learn from my experience. 

Things I Wish I’d Known

MK isn’t that big
Size-wise, Magic Kingdom isn’t as big as I thought it was going to be.  My parents and I had a reservation at Be Our Guest, and I thought it would take about 15-20 minutes to get from the main entrance to the restaurant. It only took about 5 minutes at a normal pace in medium crowds. If you have never been to the parks before, it may be difficult to imagine just how big (or small) they really are. Especially if you’re bad at guessing anything that has to do with numbers, like I am. However, walking time can increase based on how crowded the park is. And it is always better to be early than late. 

Epcot IS that big
Once I saw first hand how small MK was, I thought EPCOT would be about the same size. It isn’t. It’s twice the size of MK. The pavilions on the map look close together, but it’s quite a walk around the World Showcase. My family and were worn down before we even made it halfway through the World Showcase.

Tour in a path that makes sense
Running back and fourth through the park is taxing. If you get an adrenaline rush like I did, the tiredness might not hit you until after the excitement has worn down. But your legs will be sorry. Instead of having a rough idea of a touring plan, my family just kind of ran around. Most people pick a land to start the day in and then tour either clockwise or counterclockwise throughout the park. And I can say with first hand experience, that a smoother plan makes more sense than zig-zagging around. It’s less tiring, it makes sure you get to Fast Passes and restaurant reservations on time, and it makes for a more relaxing day.

Transportation takes a lot of time
Walt Disney World Resort is huge. The parks and resorts are spread apart, so it takes a while to travel between them. If you are traveling via monorail, bus, or boat, you will have to wait in line. The busier the park is, the longer the wait will be. And then there’s also the time it takes to park your car, ride on a tram, walk through the parking lot, go through security check, and get your tickets scanned. Make sure to plan about 20 minutes for travel time, and 30 during busy times like Christmas.

Try Different Attractions
You might find one you never though you’d like. During my first trip, we stuck to dark rides and Dumbo. When I went to the parks with my roommates for the first time, I let them take the lead in choosing what to do. One my roommates who had been to Walt Disney World almost every single year since she was born wanted to see Mickey’s Philharmagic. I was hesitant about it, mostly because I didn’t know what it was. I asked her, and all she said was “you’ll like it”. And I did! Philharmagic is now one of my favorite attractions. I wish I had explored it with my family on that first visit. Of course, you wont like every single attraction. But trying something new is part of the experience.

DAK is amazing
Like most people, I severely underestimated Animal Kingdom. I skipped it my first trip, but I will never make that mistake again. DAK ended up being my favorite park. My family also enjoyed seeing all the animals and The Festival of The Lion King show on a later visit. It's a highlight for every Walt Disney World visit!

Use Fast Pass to save time
I didn’t use Fast Pass at all during my first trip, as my parents don’t really like rides. But if I had done some more research, I would’ve found out that you could use Fast Pass for some character meets and shows. Even if we had used Fast Pass on the few rides we went on, it would’ve saved us a lot more time for exploring the parks.

Bring sunscreen
Okay, so I did bring a bottle of sunscreen. But I left it in the car, thinking we’d reapply later. This was a mistake. Bring the sunscreen with you, and reapply every couple of hours. Your skin will thank you.

You can get free water
Like most people, my dad was a bit taken aback by the price of water at the parks. But you can get a cup of ice water for free at most quick service places. After we bought one water bottle, we refilled it for free at the many water fountains throughout the park. Four dollars isn’t that much of a setback, but every dollar saved at Disney counts. 

Even though there were some things I wish I had done differently, my visit was not a disaster. There were some things I did right.

Things I did right

Went With The Flow
I said before that we didn’t have a structured plan (or really any plan at all) and that wasn’t such a good thing. So this might sound contradictory. Many first time visitors will try to schedule every single second of the trip. As a Cast Member, I’ve seen more than one parent start to yell at their kids because of the frustration when their schedule isn’t going exactly right. Please don’t be that parent. A rough plan with room for flexibility is usually the best way to visit the parks. Since we were in no rush, we could do whatever struck our fancy at the moment.

Took time to explore
The best part about the Disney parks is the detail. So many people put so much effort into the theming. There’s even Mickeys on the sewer drains. It is very easy to suspend reality once you're inside the parks. You really believe you stepped into a small town at the turn of the century, or in an African village, or inside the middle of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Allow yourself to really look around you and appreciate the park. Wander down an empty path. Take lots of pictures. Explore. This is how I discovered Cinderella’s Wishing Well in the Magic Kingdom. I saw the well on a completely empty path near the castle as we were walking from the Hub into Tomorrowland. Out of curiosity, I dragged my parents around the park to hunt for it. We found it, took some great photos with the castle and the moat in the background, tossed some coins in, and relaxed while enjoying the view. Cinderella’s Wishing Well is my favorite spot in all of Walt Disney World and I never would have found it if I hadn’t taken some time to explore.

Made dining reservations
What we based our visit around was our dining reservations. Several weeks before our visit, we made dining reservations online for Be Our Guest and Tony's. These are both table service restaurants, and both can fill up quickly. Be Our Guest in particular is very difficult to get a table without a reservation. Table service restaurants made the most sense for our family because it offered us the chance to sit down in air conditioning for an hour or so.  

Took lots of pictures
Some people may not want to "live through their phones", and I understand that thinking. But even though my dad and I took a bunch of pictures, I still wish we could've taken more. Being apart of the Disney College Program meant that I had six months to experience things without looking through my phone screen, but I only ever had ONE first visit. Not only did we take a lot of pictures, we took a lot of pictures of ourselves. There are tons of pictures online of the Cinderella Castle or Spaceship Earth. Having pictures of the people we experienced the trip was what was important.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Hidden Mickey: History and Facts of Animal Kingdom

When most people think of Disney, Animal Kingdom isn't the first thing that comes to mind. Some people have criticized the park for not being "Disney enough" (whatever that means). But Animal Kingdom is very important to Disney. Walt Disney himself was a big believer in conservation, way before the modern movement of the 1970s started. Conservation was very important to Walt. He once said, "Landscapes of great wonder and beauty lie under our feet and all around us. They are discovered in tunnels in the ground, the heart of flowers, the hollows of trees, fresh-water ponds, seaweed jungles between tides, and even drops of water.Life in these hidden worlds is more startling in reality than anything we can imagine. How could this earth of ours, which is only a speck in the heavens, have so much variety of life, so many curious and exciting creatures?"

Walt also said, "You've probably heard people talk about conservation. Well, conservation isn't just the business of a few people. It's a matter that concerns all of us." This sentiment is the basis of Animal Kingdom. His ideologies live on with the park.

While he is now most known for his animated films, it was his True Life documentaries that gained him most critical acclaim during his lifetime. In fact, Walt never won an Academy Award for his animated films. But his True Life series earned 8 total awards. Walt was also presented with the Audubon Medal for his appreciation and understanding of nature.

When Walt was building Disneyland, he originally wanted real animals to be featured in the Jungle Cruise. Of course, that was impossible. Now there is an entire theme park that features real animals in Disney's name. And this park continues to bring to life one of Walt's many dreams.

The park benches are made out of recycled plastic.

Dinoland used to be a cast member parking lot

If you even been on the Kilimanjaro Safaris, you might have noticed big, bare baobab trees. Some of them aren't real trees at all, but are storage sheds.

DAK is the only park at Walt Disney World where the Cast Members can walk straight through the front entrance in costume. There is a way to enter the park completely out of view of guests, but it takes a while. It is more efficeint to have the Cast Members walk from their parking lot, past the resort buses, and past security check. There is a backstage entrance by the bathrooms just outside of the main gates.

Animal Kingdom was opened to the public on Earth Day 1998. The park was actually built and ready to be opened months earlier. An earlier opening would've made more money for the park. But the message of conservation was so important to the park that they held out for the Earth Day opening.

If you look at the ground outside of the entrance of the park, you will notice two different colors of pavement. It was designed to look like a tree from an aerial view.

The animals above the three ticket booths represent the animals of yesterday (dinosaur), today (elephant), and the animals that never were (dragon).

If you are ever worried about the animal's health - don't be. The animals are usually kept in the park for life. They are retired from being shown to guests on the safari or in exhibits. There is a retirement section backstage just for the animals to chill out. This is better for the animals because they are kept with the same care takers for life.

Just like any other cast member, the animals also get days off. The animals on the safari usually rotate. So you will see one group of lions on the safari one day, and then the next day that group of lions will take a break while another group of lions takes their place on the safari.

Seriously, don't feed the animals.

There is a hidden Mickey on the Tree of Life. Find the buffalo. Near the buffalo will be three black spots. That's Mickey!

If you have any dietary needs, there is an allergy kiosk on Disvocery Island that will provide you will yummy snacks and menus to the restaurants in the park.

As you enter Asia from Disocvery Island, you will notice a prayer tree. It is common in India to tie a piece of cloth to a tree. Once the cloth falls off, your prayer will have been answered. The first cast members of the park actually were the ones to tie the cloths to the prayer tree in the park!

If you do any souvenir shopping in Asia, you might notice a picture of a couple hung up in the shops. That is the King and Queen of Andapour. The picture means that the King and Queen approve of the shop, and the size of the picture shows how rich the shop owners are. The bigger the picture, the more money the shop makes! The merchandise carts have the smallest pictures while the Everest gift shop has the biggest.

A lot of the Christmas decorations hung in the park are made of recycled materials.

DAK is the only park that has two exits in all bathrooms. This is in case an animal were to ever escape into the park. The guests could hide in the bathrooms and exit to a safe place backstage.

The Cast Member cafeteria backstage is called Pride Rock, in homage to The Lion King. There is also a smaller break room near Resturantasaurous, called Castosaurous.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Disney with a Disability

Booking a Hotel Room
When booking a hotel room, be sure to mention if you need a wheelchair or hearing  accessible room. This will ensure you a comfortable visit.

Visiting the Parks
If you are or visiting with a guest with a disability, the first stop at every park should be guest relations. Cast Members can give you information, tips, and let you know about services the parks will provide to help you have a magical day.

There is a place near the entrance of every park that rents strollers, wheelchairs and ECVs.  Wheelchairs are the cheapest option at $10 a day, but the passenger may be more comfortable in an electrical scooter. ECVs are $50 + a $20 deposit each day. Please note that children under 18 years cannot drive or sit in the lap of and ECV driver. They may need a wheelchair instead.

If you have a child who is autistic, you could bring a child harness to prevent them from running out into a very crowded park and becoming lost. WDW Prep School has a very in-depth article about visiting Walt Disney World with a child on the autism spectrum. Click here to read it.

Service dogs are allowed at the parks. In fact, once I saw a bunch of service dogs being trained at Magic Kingdom. I talked to the trainer and the trainer said that the parks are the best place to train service dogs! The reason for this is that  there are so many things that could be distracting at the parks. Being in that environment helps the dogs learn to focus. Check here for more information on service animals at Walt Disney World.

One of the many services the parks offer are shows with sign language. These shows are often, but not everyday or showing, so be sure to plan ahead. You can email for the sign language performances schedule by contacting WDPRsignlanguageservices@disney.com

Most of the time, there is a place located outside of an attraction queue line to park wheelchairs and ECVs. If you cannot make it through the attraction queue walking, then ask the Cast Member located at the front of the queue line. They will give you further instructions. 

More Info
As always, the Walt Disney World website will have more information. 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

This Week in Disney History (April 2)

April 2 - Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor attraction opens in 2007. The attraction is located in Tomorrowland of the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. 

April 4 - The Jungle Book has its premiere in 2016 in the El Captain theater. The film will go on to win an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.

April 5 - Marry Poppins is a huge winner at the 1965 Academy Awards. The movie had 13 nominations, including a nomination for Best Picture. Julie Andrews took home the award for Best Actress. The Sherman Brothers won Best Score and Best Song for "Chim Chim Cher-ee". The film also won Film Editing and Visual Effects. 

April 5 - Mary Costa is born in Knoxville, TN 1930. Mary Costa's first role was the voice of Princess Aurora. Walt himself chose her for her "fairytale-like" voice. She went on to become an opera singer. She was hand-picked by Jackie O. to perform at JFK's memorial service. She was made a Disney Legend in 1999. 

April 6 - In 2007, The Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros opens. It is located in the Mexican Pavilion in EPCOT of Walt Disney World Resort.  

April 7 - Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain opens in 2006. The roller coaster is located in Asia of the Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World. It is one of DAK's most popular attractions. 

April 8 - Jingles is dedicated to Julie Andrews in 2008. Jingles is the lead horse on the King Arthur Carousel in Disneyland. Andrews was the ambassador for Disneyland's 50th anniversary. Walt himself took Andrews on a tour of Disneyland to convince her to take the role of Marry Poppins, so it's very appropriate that a part of the park is dedicated to her. 

April 9 - Space Mountain: Mission 2 opens in 2005. This attraction was housed in Discoveryland in Disneyland Paris. Unlike the original Space Mountiain in the Magic Kingdom, this attraction is indoors and outdoors, has inversions and has a steampunk theme to fit in with the rest of Discoveryland. The attraction was refurbished to be Star Wars: Hyperspace Mountain in early 2017. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Beauty and the Beast (Live Action) Review


As always, I had several expectations before watching. My standard for Emma Watson as Belle was very high. I've always thought Emma would make the perfect Belle in a live action remake, even before one was announced. I'm always wary of CGI. When I was kid, CGI was still very experiemental and it could look awful. But since then, technology and artistry has improved. I really should stop being wary of CGI. Disney has not let me down in with movies like Zootopia, Moana and The Jungle Book live action remake. 

I saw Beauty and the Beast in theaters the Friday it was released I had wanted to get tickets for the 7 pm showing, but they were all sold out! Instead I booked tickets for the 10 pm showing. It's a good thing I reserved tickets because the theater was packed! 

Before I launch into the review, it is important to note that I am not here to compare 1991 version to 2017 version. Both are amazing movies in their own right and which one is "better" is a personal preference. This review is focusing mostly on the live action version.

However, I do want to make one mention of the 1991 film. Probably the biggest difference between the animated and live action movie is that the live action went into a lot more detail. There have been YouTube videos and BuzzFeed articles about the details of Disney movies. These details really are insignificant to the plot, and most of the time people who write these article and make these videos are reaching. But for some reason, people still make a big deal about them. For example, something that came into question among the internet was the Beast's royal status. Wouldn't have the people in Belle's town notice if their prince somehow went missing? Who rules over them now? What kind of government system do they have, exactly? This is actually answered in the live action movie! So how did Belle lift the Beast onto the horse? It's shown in the movie. How did Belle's mother die? Answered. Chip's father? Yep. The live action movie expands on the original, filling in gaps and adding details to the characters.
When Maurice is about to leave town, he asks Belle if there is anything special he can bring back to her. She asks for a single rose. I loved this scene because it is a nod to the original story by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumon. It also give Maurice more motivation to wander into the palace grounds.

The character that surprised me the most was Gaston. At first, he didn't appear to be very villain-like. Sure, he was a little self-absorbed, but he wasn't really mean to anyone. Belle did seem rude when she interacted with Gaston. I kind of sympathized with Gaston at first. He didn't necessarily do anything to show that he was a bad person, and Belle wasn't even giving him a chance. But about halfway through the movie, he did something very cruel, and his true colors showed. He was even meaner than in the 1991 version. Looking back, the writers probably did this so that you can see why the other villagers liked him so much at first. Belle did look crazy for turning Gaston down. And his true villain reveal was much more dramatic.

I liked the enchantress/hag appearing throughout the movie. It seemed almost as if she knew Belle was going to be the one to break the spell. Her appearance also reinforced the theme that good things can happen to those who are kind.

I LOVED Belle's ballgown. It looks plain in pictures, but when Emma is dancing and running in it, the layers of the dress create a beautiful movement. In fact, all of the costumes were beautiful. I loved how the movie put so much detail into the costuming and setting. It really does feel as if it's the mid 1700's.

Adults or older kids will probably enjoy this movie more so than younger ones as it is longer, more dramatic, and at some points, pretty dark. 

Overall, this movie is amazing. It's aesthetically pleasing, the actors are great, the music is beautiful. As soon as I got home from the theater I wanted to go back and watch it again. So far, it is my favorite live action remake. 10/10 recommend.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

This Week in Disney History (March 26)

March 26 - Day of big wins! In 1990, "Under The Sea" from The Little Mermaid wins an Oscar for Best Song. The song was written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. Exactly a decade later, "You'll Be In My Heart" from Tarzan wins the same award. This song was written by Phil Collins. 

March 27 - The Lion King wins two Oscars in 1995. "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" wins Best Song and composer Hans Zimmer wins for Original Score
March 28 - An exciting day in history for Hollywood Studios park! In 1998, Marc Davis leaves his hand prints in front of the Great Movie Ride. Davis was part of the nine-old men. In 2001, the Sorcerer Hat goes up in honor of Walt Disney's World's 30th anniversary. The Hat was DHS's second park icon, and probably the most hated one. Underneath the Hat was a pin trading shop.

March 29 - A Buzz Lightyear toy is donated to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. The toy spent 15 months in space. It was officially donated by John Lasseter in a ceremony in 2012. 
March 30  - Another day of wins at the Oscars. In 1955, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea wins for Art Direction and Special Effects. That same night, Walt Disney himself receives the Best Documentary award for his True Life Adventure film, The Vanishing Prairie. In 1992, Beauty and the Beast has a very successful night at the Oscars. It is the first ever animated feature to be nominated for Best Picture. "Belle", "Be Our Guest", and "Beauty and the Beast" are all nominated for Best Song, but "Beauty and the Beast" wins the award. Alan Menken receives the award for Best Score. Angela Lansbury, Celine Dion and Pebo Bryson perform "Beauty and the Beast". It is also Celine Dion's 24th birthday! The ceromony is hosted by Billy Crystal, who will later lend his voice to Mike Wazowski in Monsters, Inc.

Marc 31 - In 1978, Ken Anderson retires from the Walt Disney Company. He did layout work on films such as Lady and the Tramp, Robin Hood and Alice in Wonderland. He also did concept artwork for popular Disneyland attractions like Peter Pan's Flight and Storybook Land. 
April 1 - Disneyland Paris kicks off its 20th anniversary celebration. The park officially opened on April 12, 1992. The anniversary celebration brings extended hours, a new parade and a new nighttime show.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

All About Dining Pacakges

One of the ways to make your Walt Disney World visit is to consider reserving a dining package. There are several dining packages available throughout the parks. They are a fun way to add to your Disney experience by guaranteeing special seating at several events and shows along with a full meal. In order to book a dining package, call (407) 939-3463 or online. Reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance.

The Festival of Fantasy Parade Dining Package includes lunch at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant. The meal will include an appetizer, entree and dessert. You will receive a voucher for the parade with you check. There will be a reserved spot for you by the Main Street flagpole. It is $45 for adults and $17 for kids.

The Wishes Dessert Party does not include a full meal, but it does include a unique selection of desserts and special seating for the Wishes firework show. Once you make the reservation, arrive about an hour before the actual fireworks start. You can hang out with your family and eat some of the best deserts offered at Walt Disney World without having to worry about crowding in front of the castle. It is $79 for adults and $47 for children. 

Hollywood Studios also has a dessert party. This one will appeal to Star Wars Fans. The dessert party is held inside Star Wars Launch Bay. Shortly before the fireworks begin, the party will be escorted to a VIP viewing area. It is $69 for adults and $39 for children. The reservation can be made here.

The Fantasmic Dining Package includes dinner at either Mama Melrose’s, Hollywood and Vine or The Hollywood Brown Derby. There is a section in the front-center that is reserved for those with the dining package during the first showing. It cost between $18-$65 per person, depending on which restaurant you chose. The Hollywood and Vine is character dining, and therefore probably worth the money more so than the other two. I personally would be reluctant to purchase a Fantasmic dining package as I usually either make a FastPass for the show or I see the less crowded second showing. However, if you are planning on eating at these restaurants anyways, the dining package might be worth it. 

Very similar to the Fantasmic dining package is the Rivers of Light dining package. Rivers of Light is Animal Kingdom's new night show. The resturants included in the dining package are Tusker House and Tiffins. Tusker House offers breakfast, lunch or dinner. Tiffins offers lunch or dinner. Prices will vary depending on where and when the reservation is. After eating, arrive at least half an hour before showtime to claim a seat within the reserved section.

During the holiday season, a candlelight processional dining package is offered. The Candlelight Processional is a reading of the Christmas Story from the Bible, accompanied by a choir. It is a highlight of celebrating the holidays at Walt Disney World. This is similar to the Fantasmic dining package. There is a large selection of restaurants in EPCOT to chose from. Prices will vary depending on which restaurant you eat at. Unlike the Fantasmic dining package, reservations can be made for either lunch or dinner.

I have only experienced one dining package for myself. I went with friends to see Neil Patrick Harris at the Candlelight Processional. The candlelight processional is a very popular event, and NPH is a very popular host. We wanted to be guaranteed a seat at the showing, so we purchased a dining package. We made a reservation at Tutto Italia Ristorante over the phone. The meal included an appetizer, a main dish, and a dessert. There was a menu especially for the dining package that had select dishes from the restaurant’s full menu, but I felt that there was still enough variety. We received our vouchers for the Candlelight Processional with our checks. We had a few hours before the event started so we spent some time around the park. Our ticket told us to be in line for the processional about half an hour before it started. Our predictions of it being a popular show were correct. The line for the dining package seating started in the American Adventure and spread all the way to the Morocco Pavilion. We still managed to get very good seats together. The whole process was easy and enjoyable. My experience with this dining package was wonderful. I would definitely do the Candlelight Processional dining package again. However, I’m not sure I would personally do a dining package for other shows like Fantasmic or Wishes, as I have seen both numerous times and am usually able to get a good seat. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Walt Disney World Attraction Turns 100 This Year!

  YouTuber Justin Scarred recently made an excellent video about a Magic Kingdom attraction that is turning 100 this year. 

The Prince Charming Regal Carousel was built in 1917 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company. It was first named the Liberty Carousel. It originally resided in Belle Isle Park of Detroit, Michigan. The Walt Disney Company purchased it in 1967. It was then redesigned with a Cinderella theme. It is one of the 15 attractions that have been operating since opening day of Walt Disney World. 

Even though Magic Kingdom was not open until October 1, 1971, the carousel was built in 1917. That means that the carousel is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

What To Do When It Rains

It is common in Florida for it to rain. Showers can happen anythime during the day, but they do not typically last long. Some only last 20 minutes at a time. Many guests will leave the park immediately once it starts sprinkling. Don't do this! Stay in the park and wait out the rain because it will stop eventually. Instead, find something to do to take cover for a little while. Here are some suggestions based on what park you are at that day:

Animal Kingdom
Tip: The best time to ride the safari is in the rain. The animals absolutely love to play in the rain and they'll come right up to the safari truck. The queue is covered, so don't worry about getting too wet while waiting in line.

Best Place To Be: Discovery Island
You can easily run from gift shop to gift shop to take cover. And you can get some amazing pictures of the Tree of Life while you wait for the rain to stop. The It's Tough To Be a Bug attraction is a 10 minute show with an indoor queue, which is perfect for waiting out a short shower.

Back-up Plan: Dinosaur. 
If you find yourself in Dinoland during a shower, ditch the carnival style games and head to Dinosaur. Both the ride and queue are indoors. If it is still raining after the ride, hang out in the gift shop. 

Avoid: Asia
This land is very spread out. The gift shops and attractions are very far apart from each other. 

Best Place To Be: The Land Pavilion and the Seas Pavilion
There's a lot to do at the Land Pavilion. Ride Soarin', Living With the Land, watch the Circle of Life short film, or grab a bite to eat at the Sunshine Seasons. It is also a short walk to the Seas Pavilion, which is another source of entertainment. You can ride The Seas With Nemo and Friends, explore the aquariums, or watch Turtle Talk With Crush.

Back-up Plan: Mission Space
The queue and attraction are indoors. If it is still raining after the ride, play some of the space themed games with the rest of your party.

Avoid: The World Showcase
It's a long walk between buildings and there is little outdoor coverings.

Hollywood Studios
Tip: Rain could cancel showings of Fantasmic. Ask Cast Members about this about half an hour before the show starts. 

Best Place To Be: Animation Courtyard
Here you  can catch a showing of the Voyage of the Little Mermaid, explore Star Wars Launch Bay or do a little souvenir shopping. A few feet away is One Man's Dream walk through exhibit and the Great Movie Ride. After the rain stops, make a beeline to Tower of Terror or Rock 'n Rollercoaster. The lines might have lightened.

Back-up Plan: Star Tours
If you find yourself on the opposite end of the park from Animation Courtyard, stay over in Echo Lake and ride Star Tours. The queue and ride are indoors.

Avoid: Rock 'n Rollercoaster
Sure, this ride is indoors. But the queue often stretches outside, with no cover. And the wait time is usually an hour, so you'll be trapped to wait outside in the rain for a while before you make it indoors to the actual ride. 

Magic Kingdom
Best Place to Be: Tomorrowland
All of the attractions are indoors and there's covered pathways in between the attractions at the entrance. The Laugh Floor is a great attraction to pass time while waiting for a short shower to end. Next to it is the People Mover and Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin. After the rain clears, try to make it Space Mountain. The lines might have lightened due to the rain.

Back-up Plan: Enchanted Tiki Room
This is a 15 minute indoor show. Nearby is Pirates of the Caribbean, another indoor ride. 

Avoid: Fantasyland
Fantasyland floods. There's dips in the pavement that make huge, unaviodable puddles. It is also the most crowded. If you do happen to get stuck in Fantasyland during a shower, head to Mickey's Philharmagic. It is a 15 minute indoor show.