By Wendy C. | Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013
For the past few years I have heard many stories and rumors about the handmade candy canes at Disneyland. I only heard bits and pieces. These candy canes are made only during the holiday season. This holiday tradition has gone on since 1968. Each batch takes about two hours to make and only yields about 40 to 45 candy canes. Disneyland only produces three batches each day. Just prior to the start of the candy cane season, Disneyland posts a schedule of days the canes will be made. I had looked up a little info about the candy canes at Disneyland and decided this is the year I’m going to experience this magical unicorn of a candy.
It didn’t take long for me to decide what article I would open the year 2013 with. After surviving another Christmas season, I decided what better way to begin the New Year in the middle of winter than talk about the most magical vacation spot in the tropics! And yes Disney fans, I’m talking about Disney’s Aulani resort and spa located on the Leeward Coast of Oahu, about 18 miles west of Honolulu. This resort is totally different that any Disney resort you might have been to. Disney turned to veteran Imagineer Joe Rhode to help design the new resort, because Joe was raised in Hawaii and has intimate knowledge of its culture, people, traditions and history. Unlike typical Disney resorts, you’ll find few references to the Disney Company, or even few signs sans the gift shops that advertised the Disney moniker. Even Mickey and Minnie and the rest of the characters keep a low profile. The idea was to showcase Hawaii’s culture, its people, the land and its history. And Joe Rhode and company have done an amazing job.
Walt Disney World and photography, perfect together. Each year there are untold millions of pictures taken annually at Walt Disney World. These pictures are taken with everything from a $15 throwaway camera to a top-of-the-line Canon 1D Mark 4. And the people taking these pictures come from the ranks of amateur and professional photographers alike. The basics of taking great pictures have changed little since inception of photography over 150 years ago. But in the last 30 years, equipment used has advanced in leaps and bounds. No longer are we shackled by cameras with limited control, and film which only gives us finite amounts of shots per roll. The new digital equipment today, gives us instant feedback with our pictures and the ability to take unlimited shots and the ability to instantly erase a bad one.
After much time, the long anticipated opening of the refurbished “Test Track” is finally here. Originally presented by General Motors, it is now sponsored by another GM division, Chevrolet. GM wanted the new ride experience to spotlight on one brand. When you first arrive, the outside looks very much like the Test Track we all are familiar with. The only big difference is the monikers outside proclaiming the new sponsor.
It’s hard to believe that another Christmas Season is upon us. It seems like just yesterday I was putting up decorations, and getting back from last years’ World Chapter Christmas Party, with the theme, “Disney goes to the Movies.” Our theme for this year’s party is even more magical and amazing. This year’s theme is centered around one of the most iconic variety shows on American television…”The Mickey Mouse Club.” This year’s party is the “Mini-Mouseketeer Reunion” theme. For Disney fans worldwide, it is incredible that 57 years have passed since this family staple production began in 1955. But our party this year was made more remarkable, not for the fact we celebrated Walt’s masterpiece, but the fact that attending the affair were four of the original Mouseketeers that starred in that memorable show!
It’s hard to believe but the Christmas Season is again upon us! At this, the happiest time of the year, millions of families have their plans to celebrate and traditions to follow. For my wife and I, that means two things – Attending two of our favorite holiday parties at the Magic Kingdom: “Mickey’s Not-so-scary-Halloween Party” and our favorite, “Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.” And we are not alone. Countless families have included these venues as part of their traditional Holiday celebrations.
As a member of the media, I was an invited guest for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at this year’s press event. The party is a separate hard-ticket event in addition to any regular park pass. Guests wanting to attend the parties, which are held on select nights from November 9 to December 21, should realize that the Mickey’s Christmas party is extremely popular and advanced booking is recommended. Tickets can be purchased online (your best bet to get the date you want!) or in person at the Ticket and Transportation center or at Guest Relations. You can purchase tickets on the night of the parties, but if they are sold out, as many dates are, you will be disappointed.
As each day goes by, the new Fantasyland Expansion is getting closer and closer to completion. Starting out with the soft opening of Storybook Circus, the next phase that guests have been seeing in dribs and drabs is the amazing “Enchanted Tales with Belle” located in her father Maurice’s detail-rich cottage. But is it a show or an attraction? Until Disney gives it a final moniker, I can personally say it is a showcase for the most amazing audio-animatronics and special effects Disney has produced so far.
For the last two weeks, Disney has been giving guests a soft-opening preview of the new land. With unscheduled openings and several announced previews, we got a sneak peak of things to come. My wife and I attended a Cast-only preview of Enchanted Tales with Belle, Gaston’s Tavern, and the “Under the Sea Journey of the Little Mermaid” attraction. Since there have been reports all over for the last months, I will just mention our observations and post some of the pics we took.
I am a member of the Star Wars generation: saw the original movie at age 5 at the drive-in, collected the toys, played as Luke on the playground, doubted Vader was Luke’s father, and passed on my appreciation to my little brother. The summer before my senior year of high school my brother and I watched the original trilogy once a week. By the end of the summer we were saying the lines before the characters, and turning our bunk beds into X-wing fighters (If I were feeling nice I let him play Wedge and I took Luke). Now, my son has his own set of the movies, has dressed as a Star Wars character for Halloween multiple times, and we constantly have our own fanboy moments. I tell you this because like most of my Disney stories the importance of the role of Star Wars in my life comes back to family. When we went as a family to Disney World the first time, I had the pleasure of bringing my brother on his first trip to see The Parks, and, you got it, it was a Star Wars Weekend and the three McDaniel boys could hardly get on Star Tours fast enough. How amazing now that two of my passions come full circle together.
What Disney fan has not dreamed of working for the Walt Disney Company? For them, there can be no higher calling than being a part of the magic and wonder that Walt had created. Whether it is a Jungle Cruise Skipper, character performer, or maybe the ultimate dream job, Imagineer, it would be an aspiration comes true. Here is the story of a man who, before he could read, always dreamed of working for Disney, to be a part of Walt’s world. Artist, sculptor, designer and a fine Disney Historian in his own right, this is the account of Alex Maher who pursued this dream to fruition. Mr. Maher so believed in himself and his dream that he made certain radical moves to be close to Disney in the hopes of finding his place with the mouse. Here is his story…
So I got your attention? Maybe, with better truth in advertising, the marquee would proclaim: “Tom Hanks as Walt Disney.” Yes, Tom Hanks landed the role of our favorite American icon in a movie concerning his chase to land the rights to Mary Poppins from a very distrusting author, P.L. Travers, portrayed by Emma Thompson. Reportedly, this is the first on-screen portrayal of Walt Disney.
If you have not yet heard, guests visiting Walt Disney World now have a wonderful opportunity to sample another classic Food and Wine Festival. In addition to EPCOT’s annual festival, the World renowned Swan and Dolphin hotel here at Disney also offers guests a chance to sample World-class cuisine, wines and attend hour long beverage seminars, taught by the Swan and Dolphin’s expert food and beverage managers. In addition, guests can meet and greet with world-renown celebrity chefs in a beautiful outdoor setting.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 30 years since EPOCT opened. I remember coming here a month after its bow and have been captivated with this vision of Walt’s utopian city ever since. And I cannot think of celebration the park’s 30th birthday with anyone else but the crew from WDWcelebrations.com. I first met this group of Disney enthusiast’s on April 22, 2008 when they hosted Animal Kingdoms 10thbirthday, an event they called “A Wild Decade”. And that is the main focus of the group, celebrating Disney milestones with like-minded fans at the parks, complete with fun activities, meets and a way for fans to connect and embellish their love of Disney with each other. I have been covering Disney press events and writing about Disney for the past seven years, and I cannot say enough about this group of personable and dedicated individuals. I wrote an article about the site in 2009 and before we review EPCOT’s festivities, let’s take a look again at WDWcelebrations.com.
I never realized that auto racing is the biggest spectator sport in America, and the number 2 rated regular season sport on TV. But savvy race fans know that they can experience that same visceral thrill of their favorite sport right here at the Walt Disney World Speedway’s “Richard Petty Driving Experience”, where they can drive or ride shotgun in an authentic racing stock car. But when I atteneded a press event here at the Walt Disney World Speedway, home of the Richard Petty Driving Experience, I came to realize why. The event was to showcase a brand-new driving experience for the kids…The “Junior Ride-Along” Now kids’ ages 6years thru 13years can experience the same thrill that their parents have experienced since the program started in 2000. But a quick history of the sport and the speedway is in order.
Please take a moment today to think of those who were affected by the tragic acts eleven years ago. While Disney doesn’t officially do anything in remembrance, here’s a video of the special flag ceremony they did last year.
Attention all Disneyana collectors! Located just 30 minutes from Walt Disney World is an amazing Honey-Hole of Disney collectables all under one roof. If it is Disney you want, Disney is what you will find. Virtually anything Disney can be found here, from one-of-a-kind items, retired items, signs, posters, figurines, etc. I would have to print a catalog to list everything available. But the story behind this remarkable store is a magical as the merchandise is sells.
Walt Disney has left us with some of the world’s most beloved characters. We all know Mickey Mouse, the character that started it all, but next to Mickey, one of the most beloved and recognized is Tinker Bell. Tink, as she is sometimes called, has become the symbol of “Disney Magic” ever since her debut in the 1953 Disney classic “Peter Pan” But like many stories and characters in Walt’s stable she was not a Disney creation. Walt was perhaps the world’s greatest storyteller, and used his creative genius along with artistic license to mold many non-Disney stories and characters into his idea of how they should be portrayed.
Tinker Bell was the notion of Scottish author Sir James Matthew Barrie. Author Barrie wrote the story “Peter Pan or The Boy who wouldn’t grow up.” Inspired by his neighbor’s sons, the Llewelyn Davis boys, he penned a tale of a boy and girl (Peter Pan and Wendy Darling) who had magical adventures in a fairy tale world of Neverland. This was a play first launched in December 27, 1904. From this play and story, Barrie wrote the novel “Peter and Wendy.” But it was the minor character of “Tinker Bell,” a small fairy living in Neverland who had a romantic interest in Peter and was extremely jealous of any girls around him, including Wendy that morphed into the Tinker Bell we know today.
Welcome to part two of my series on planning your first trip to Disney World. Fellow neurotics, I need your help, please comment on your favorite place to stay and why!
Let’s start with the first options you have:
Some people stay off-property, others choose to stay in one of the Disney Resorts. Yes, the Disney resorts are a little higher priced but you gain the free bus or boat transportation to all the Disney Parks, resorts, and Downtown Disney. You also will receive room charge privileges (your room key becomes your charge card in the parks), Disney hospitality and service, and during certain parts of the year-free Disney Dining Plan (discussed later in this continuing series). Don’t forget bonus hours at the parks for visitors staying on Disney property; that is right– each day one park will stay open later or open early for Disney resort guests. By staying off property you will no doubt save money, although you will have to drive yourself to the parks and have to find and pay for parking, carry cash or credit cards, and take your chances with your service.
On August 10, Disney opened its third section of the New “Art of Animation Resort, “The Lion King” Themed after the 1994 Disney blockbuster movie of the same name. This section is beautifully themed as its counterparts, Finding Nemo and Cars. The two buildings, located to the left of the Animation Hall is the only section without its own pool, however the Big Blue Pool, Cozy Cone pool and the soon to be opened, Flippin’ Fins pool are a short walk away.
The whole area is themed as an African Savannah and the Imagineers did a fantastic job. Both buildings sport beautiful murals on their sides, and sculptures of all major characters in the film are all about. There is an elephant graveyard display that is amazing, the detail is awesome and the kids (and adults!) are going to love this new section. The new resort section has 320 suites. (For full detail of the resort, see my article…Disney’s “Art of Animation Resort” officially opens…on this site)