Thursday, July 3, 2014

Taking Time to Relax on Your Vacation

When you are preparing for a trip to WDW, there is so much planning that has to take place in order to get the most out of your vacation.  Many people feel that they have to plan every moment of each day in order to have fun. After many trips to the World, I have finally learned that it is necessary to take some time out of everyday to enjoy some spontaneous fun. Take a break from all of the fast pass + planning, and just do something low key.  For example, take a boat ride on the Seven Seas Lagoon. This is an immensely relaxing way to spend time on your vacation. There are lots of other fun boat rides too.  You can tour Bay Lake by riding from the Contemporary to Fort Wilderness or to Wilderness Lodge.  Remember, you are on vacation, and you should take some time to unwind and just enjoy the time that you get to spend with your family!
         Another way to relax is to visit any of the resorts that surround the Magic Kingdom.  All of these resorts are beautiful, and you can spend hours just walking around and exploring what each resort has to offer. I have spent many enjoyable hours just sitting in the lobby of the Grand Floridian listening to the piano or to the band. In addition, the Contemporary Resort offers some beautiful views of WDW property, and who doesn't love watching the monorail drive through the building? Also, the Polynesian Resort offers gorgeous views as well as relaxing music to help you wind down after a long day at the parks. Wilderness Lodge has a grand lobby that has so much history as well as many hidden Mickeys to explore. If you want to feel like you are far away from civilization, head over to Animal Kingdom Lodge and enjoy all of the animals that can be found on the savannah. At night, they even offer night vision goggles that allow you to see the animals. The Boardwalk Inn also offers a great deal of entertainment. You can enjoy the placid water views or just walk around the shops.
       If you have already toured the resorts, take some time to refuel by the pool. Just take some time to relax and enjoy the amenities at your resort.  All Disney resorts should be explored because each one is so full of rich details and theming. Remember, you don't have to spend every minute of your vacation in the parks in order to enjoy yourself!
If you are looking for relaxing ways to enjoy the parks, you can always take in some of the live entertainment that is offered on a daily basis throughout all four parks. I always enjoy the Dapper Dans as well as the Main Street Philharmonic when I am visiting Magic Kingdom. The Citizens of Hollywood also put on amazing shows at Hollywood Studios! They interact with the guests and are just so funny! They add to the ambiance of the Studios, and I never get sick of seeing what new shows they come up with next. In Epcot and Animal Kingdom, there are lots of opportunities to enjoy live music as well as fun characters who hang out in the parks. Basically, there is so much to do at WDW, there should never be a reason for you not to be enjoying your vacation.

       So, next time you visit the world, make an effort to spend less time planning and more time enjoying spontaneous magical moments with your family! That is what vacation is all about. Until next time, have a magical day, and keep moving forward!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Earning My Ears

Since I have become a cast member at Walt Disney World, I have had the opportunity to view the parks from a new perspective. When I first expressed interest in working at WDW, so many people told me that I would not like working in the parks and that I would get sick of going to Disney World everyday. Now that I have been working for a while, I can say that being a cast member has not put a damper on my love for the parks, nor has it spoiled the magic for me. Since I have been a cast member, I can honestly say that I feel like I am part of creating magic and happiness for others. This has given me an even stronger appreciation for all of the hard work that makes Walt Disney World function so well.
           When someone starts as a cast member, he or she attends Traditions, which is a class that helps to explain the history and mission statement on which the Disney Company is built. This all-day course was so much fun for me because I love Disney history, and I also believe in furthering Walt Disney's legacy of quality family entertainment. We learned some important core values during Traditions. First, as a cast member, one of our primary goals is to create happiness for our guests. We are part of the magic that makes Disney Parks so special, and we are the stewards of Walt Disney's legacy. We have a responsibility to treat every guest as a very individual person (VIP), and we need to have pride in all that we do. In addition to these lessons, we also learned about the four keys basics, which are safety, courtesy, show, and efficiency. These four keys are the guiding principles by which all Disney Parks operate.  Safety is the first and most important key because we want both guests and cast members to be safe so that they can have fun. You are safer at a Disney Park than anywhere else on earth!
            After completing all of my various orientations, I finally found out that I would be working at the Great Movie Ride in Hollywood Studios. I was both excited and nervous because I knew that I would have to learn a 40 page script in a very short amount of time. Even though I definitely felt concerned, I was so excited to start my journey as a cast member! I trained for six very long days, and then I had to go through my assessment, which was very challenging. Luckily (and with lots of hard work), I passed and earned my ears!
           I never thought that I would be pursuing my dream of becoming a cast member; so many people told me that it was impossible and would just ruin my love of Disney World. However, I am proud to say that all of those folks were wrong, and I am glad that I took a risk and became a cast member. Every morning when I am walking through Hollywood Studios before the park opens, I am able to watch the park come to life. It goes from a peaceful place to a hive of activity as all of the cast members start to arrive and prepare their areas for another day of creating magic. Then, I spend all day fighting bandits and gangsters who try to steal the jewel from the great stone god, Anubis. I get to protect guests from the Wicked Witch and visit the wonderful land of Oz every 22 minutes.

          All in all, working for Disney has enhanced my love of the parks, and I can't wait to see where this journey takes me. There are so many different opportunities for cast members, and who knows where I will be working a few years from now? So, if you make it over to the Great Movie Ride, "my name is Jenn, and I'll be your guide for a magical journey into the movies!" Until next time, have a magical day, and keep moving forward!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Festival of Fantasy

            Last month, a new parade, the Festival of Fantasy, debuted at Magic Kingdom, and I was lucky enough to see it!  This parade is a huge improvement over the Celebrate a Dream Come True parade that recently retired.  The music, costumes, and floats in the Festival of Fantasy parade show creativity as well as a strong attention to detail.  Each float tells a different story, and the floats also have many moving parts that contribute to the overall kinetic feeling of this entertainment offering.  For example, the Tangled float looks like a huge ship, and Flynn Rider swings back and forth on the float during the entire parade.  One of the most impressive sections of the parade is the giant steampunk dragon that breaths fire.  It is an artistic masterpiece, and the fact that it breathes fire is amazing and quite exciting. The Peter Pan float is also well done; it is very tall, and the cannons that are attached to the pirate ship actually fire every few minutes.
            Not only are the floats intricate, the costumes are also bright and colorful. Every float includes the major characters related to the movie or franchise represented, but between each section, there are various dancers to represent more minor characters or just background from these movies.  Every costume looks like it was made specifically to reflect as much sunlight as possible.  I enjoyed the dancing sections between the floats much more during this parade than I have during previous parades. 
            With regard to the performers in the Festival of Fantasy, all I can say is, “Wow!” These folks looked excited and happy from the moment the parade started until the moment the parade ended.  No one ever looked tired or miserable or uncomfortable.  Everyone performed in a way that can only be described as magical.  This is important, because even though all of the floats are beautiful and interactive, the characters and performers really drive the action of this parade.  I truly enjoyed the high energy of every part of the entire spectacle.  I have only seen the parade once, but I want to see it many more times so that I can really examine all of the details.  This new entertainment option is such an excellent addition to the Magic Kingdom, and it really helps to celebrate the focus on New Fantasyland as it nears its completion.  This parade also matches the grand scope and scale of the Magic Kingdom in Florida.  If you are at Walt Disney World in the near future, make sure to see the Festival of Fantasy; you will not be disappointed.  Until next time, have a magical day, and keep moving forward!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Carousel of Progress: A Hidden Gem

            With the anniversary of the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair on the horizon, I thought that I should make a visit to one of the attractions that debuted at this event.  Everyone seems to know that It’s a Small World was a brand new attraction during the World’s Fair, but people sometimes forget about the Carousel of Progress.  This attraction truly is a hidden gem that can be found amidst the hustle and bustle of a crowded Magic Kingdom. Usually, there is a very short wait to experience this stage show, and you get to enter an air conditioned building as well as enjoy wonderful music that was written by the Sherman brothers in order to promote General Electric, which was the original sponsor of this attraction when it was in its infancy.  This music includes the original theme song called “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” as well as another song that played for several years, which is called, “Now is the Time.”  Both songs promote an optimistic outlook on life, and they are both quite catchy. 
            In addition to watching the show inside of the theater, guests are also treated to a look at Walt Disney’s creative process.  Before guests board the attraction, they can view Walt working with the Sherman brothers in order to create the music for the attraction.  I love watching this original video of Walt doing what he really enjoyed: being creative and having fun with his work. 
If you have never experienced the Carousel of Progress, the basic idea of the attraction involves the audience following members of a family as they grow and change throughout the 20th century.  Every scene is filled with period specific props as well as references to what was going on in the world during the time period in which the scene is set.  Each scene takes place during a different holiday including Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Christmas, and the 4th of July. The overarching theme of the attraction is that times and things may change, but the bonds that we have created with our families remain the same no matter the decade.  This attraction brims with positivity and optimism, and you can’t help but feel a little more hopeful when you re-enter Tomorrowland. 

I love the Carousel of Progress so much that we dressed as the husband and wife for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party this past year!  So, if you are looking to escape all of the crowds in the Magic Kingdom, take a spin on the rotating theater that houses the Carousel of Progress, which can only be found at Walt Disney World.  It is amazing to think that this attraction started its life in New York, then went to Disneyland, and finally ended up in Walt Disney World.  People of all ages can enjoy this show, and you will definitely learn something about history as well as the value of family.  Until next time, have a magical day, and keep moving forward!

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Ever Changing World of WDW

In life, change is inevitable, and the same is true at Walt Disney World.  Lately, there has been a great deal of change at the World, so I thought I would reflect back on some of those big changes and how they have impacted my touring.  First, paper fastpasses are no longer offered at the parks, and I really do miss them.  I enjoyed collecting them, and it was fun to run to a particular attraction at rope drop and snag a coveted fastpass.  Yes, I know that the new system is probably more efficient, and it wastes far less paper.  However, I really miss the strategy sessions during which we planned out fastpasses to get during the day. 
            Whenever we stay at a WDW hotel, we always take advantage of Extra Magic Hours.  Long ago, castmembers used to hand out bracelets that said “extra magic hours”.  Again, I used to collect those bracelets during our trip just to see how many I could end up wearing by the end of the week.  It has been years since the bracelets were issued, but I still have some in my Disney collection.  I also miss the WDW specific napkins that used to be offered in the parks.  They often referenced whichever celebration was occurring for the year, and there were even holiday napkins.  I have a few napkins from various restaurants too, like the Sci-Fi Dine In.  Disney World still has cups and popcorn containers that are decorated for the seasons though, so I am glad that this type of paper ephemera still exists.
            With regard to attractions, I really miss Snow White’s Scary Adventures.  I know that I can go to Disneyland and ride it, but I always enjoyed journeying into the scary forest and facing the Evil Queen.  Although it has been gone for a long time, I do miss 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea too.  This was one of my favorite rides as a child, and it just gave such a mysterious look to that corner of Fantasyland. I also enjoyed the music, and the sense that you were really journeying deep into the ocean in order to go exploring.  Now, New Fantasyland is beautiful, but I will always be nostalgic for 20K.  Not only are some attractions a thing of the past, but there are also parades that no longer exist.  I really miss Spectromagic, and again, this might just be because I grew up with this parade.  I loved the music and the whole look of the parade.  I recently purchased the limited edition pin that contains a piece of the parade.  The alarm sound on my iphone is actually Spectromagic!
            As far as merchandise goes, WDW has done a great job bringing back some retro designs.  However, I do miss the build your own Mouse-ear hat that was introduced at the Chapeau in the past few years.  I built two different hats, and I covered them with patches.  I also purchased these patches to sew onto other bags and hats.  Patches must not be popular because they are impossible to find on property.  In addition to these items, we used to collect small glass figurines that depicted Mickey Mouse and the current year.  Sometimes, he was sitting on a suitcase with the year on the suitcase, and sometimes he was standing with a banner labeled with the year.  We had several of the figurines from our yearly visits, but then they were no longer produced. 

            Even though I miss many things that are no longer present at WDW, I am definitely hopeful for the future.  I am sure that the Imagineers are hard at work coming up with what the next big thing will be.  New Fantasyland will soon be in full swing, and who knows what will happen next at Hollywood Studios or with Futureworld at Epcot?  The new Festival of Fantasy parade at Magic Kingdom debuts very soon as well.  Since I am a local, I have the chance to be at the center of the action, and that is so exciting!  Until next time, have a magical day, and keep moving forward!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Blank and Bow

The Disney Parks Blog often hosts events in both Walt Disney World as well as Disneyland.  On February 13th, just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Disney Parks blog hosted a meet-up at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in order to preview the new stop motion film Blank- A Vinylmation Love Story.  In order to be chosen to attend, I had to sign up via email.  Only a limited number of people were chosen out of all of the emails that were received.  After trying out for many of these events, I knew that I might not get picked.  However, I was excited to discover that I had been chosen for the event.  I was even allowed to bring a guest (my husband) with me!                         
On the night of the meet-up, we were told to arrive by 7:00 pm at the front gate of Hollywood Studios.  There was a clearly labeled area for us to congregate and sign in. Each attendee also had to bring a signed consent form that allowed Disney to use his or her likeness and image on the Disney Parks Blog in order to promote the event.  After signing in, we were given lanyards to wear that would identify us to the Disney castmembers who were working the event.  Hollywood Studios was already closing for the evening when this event started.  Since we were easy to spot, it was simpler for us to be directed to the Premier Theater where the event was being held. 
The Theater is located in the rear of the park near the Muppet Vision 3-D building.  For Star Wars fans, this is a familiar spot because it is also the home of the Stars of the Saga Talk Show during Star Wars Weekends.  After making our way to the Theater, we were escorted in and provided with popcorn, soft drinks, and the opportunity to take photos with the stars of the film, Blank and Bow.  After sitting for a few minutes, the evening began with Steven Miller (Merchandise writer for the Disney Parks Blog) interviewing the film’s director as well as discussing new Vinyls that will be debuting soon.  After the brief interview session, the film began. 

Basically, there are two blank Vinyls, Blank and Bow, who meet and fall in love.  However, there are many obstacles that prevent them from being together.  I don’t want to ruin the film for you, but just know that things do work out in the end.  The whole film is done in traditional stop motion, and there is absolutely no dialogue.  It is amazing that so much emotion can be conveyed without words and without faces.  Remember, these Vinyls are completely blank except for a bow tie and a hair bow.  The music throughout the film was well orchestrated, and I definitely enjoyed seeing our little heroes overcome all of the trials that they had to face in order to be together.  The main message of the film is that you can be who you are and still be beautiful and be loved.  You do not have to be perfect or have any particular paint job in order to be valuable.  If you are in Walt Disney World, you can view the film at Hollywood Studios this weekend or you can watch the film on Google Play.  If you want a little heart-warming Valentine’s Day love, then give Blank a chance.  Also, keep an eye out for some cameos by a few of the Vinylmation Park Starz in the film.
           After leaving the Premier Theater, we were given a little surprise.  Each of us received our very own Blank and Bow Vinyls.  I am so glad that we were chosen to attend this Disney Parks Blog meet-up, and I hope that we will get to attend more of them in the future.  Until next time, have a magical day, and keep moving forward!


It All Starts with a Wish!

Wishes: dream a dream!  If you have seen the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, I am sure that you are familiar with that line from the show.  Since we are able to see Wishes on a pretty regular basis, we have been trying to scout out new locations for viewing this nighttime spectacular.  Of course, one of the best locations is on Main Street, USA.  If you stand here, Cinderella Castle acts a backdrop for the show, and you can take in all of the beauty of this section of the park.  Although many people flock to Main Street to get this view of the fireworks, this is not the only good view of Wishes to be had in the Magic Kingdom.  Main Street can get very crowded, and people start to push and shove, and that is just not conducive to a magical experience.  If you want to avoid the crush of Main Street, you can venture over to Liberty Square near the dock for the Liberty Belle.  If you watch the fireworks from here, you can even sit down on the low stonewall near the stocks.  This is an excellent spot for viewing the fireworks, and not many people stand in this area.  There are some downsides in that you cannot really see the castle from this angle. You can, however, see Tinkerbell make her flight from the castle.  Plus, after the fireworks, you could hop right on Haunted Mansion if the park is still open. 
Also inside Magic Kingdom, you can journey to a brand new section of the park in New Fantasyland.  If you stand in the middle of the new castle walls right behind Prince Charming Regal Carrousel, you will be surrounded by fireworks!  The smaller charges are set off near the castle and Fantasyland, and the larger blasts come from an area outside of the park behind Storybook Circus.  If you enjoy perimeter fireworks, this is the area for you.  A word of caution if you plan on watching Wishes in New Fantasyland: make sure to bring earplugs.  The fireworks are set off very close to this location, and they are very, very loud.  We saw many small children who were so uncomfortable with the loud booming that they did not enjoy the show.
            Now if you are outside of the park, there are many fireworks viewing locations that are fantastic.  For example, watching Wishes on the beach at the Polynesian Resort near Luau Cove provides a great view, and there are even beach chairs as well as swings on which to sit.  The Grand Floridian also offers a prime viewing spot right outside of Gasparilla Grill and Games.  There are tables and chairs all around this area, so you can have a comfortable seat.  Finally, you can also ride the monorail over to the Contemporary Resort to take advantage of the close proximity to the Magic Kingdom.  You don’t need a reservation at the California Grill in order to enjoy the fireworks from the Contemporary.  All you need to do is go outside to the seating area that is on the same floor as the monorail.  There are benches outside, and if you don’t mind standing, you can ascend a few flights of stairs to get an even better view of the show. 
            If you enjoy riding Disney watercraft, there are also some great opportunities for fireworks viewing.  Of course, you can pay to take a fireworks cruise, but you can also just ride one of the launches to a monorail hotel or over to Fort Wilderness.  These launches don’t cost anything, and they provide a relaxing and beautiful vantage point for the show.  So, if you love Wishes as much as I do, take some time to view these fireworks from different locations around the World.  Sometimes watching them from outside the hustle and bustle of the Magic Kingdom can be a more relaxing experience.  Until next time, have a magical day, and keep moving forward!