Friday, March 24, 2017

Would You Rather

As part of some research I've been recently doing for some recordings I've been asked to do with our friends over at the Mousecapades Podcast, I came across a website that had a fun game of Disney Would You Rather. 

We've all played this game right? You're asked to choose between two things. Usually, these things are not very pleasant so you're choosing between a bad thing or a worse thing. In this Disney version, one of the questions was you can only choose one for the rest of your life, so would you rather only ever be able to eat Mickey's Premium Ice Cream Bars or a Pineapple Dole Whips?

Mickey's Premium Ice Cream/ Pineapple Dole Whip

What a hard question to answer! I hate the thought that I would have to choose but there is a clear winner for me. This question, however, got me thinking about all the other Would You Rather questions that could be asked about Disney. I'm not going to go into them in this blog because I'm saving them for an upcoming episode of the Mousecapades Podcast but I would like to pose a question to everyone. What would Disney be like without some of these things?

It wouldn't be the same, that's for sure. So many of them are iconic and although I may not like riding Spaceship Earth, I can't imagine Epcot without it. The park wouldn't be the same.

Back in February, on the last night of my trip down to Disney World, I had planned to head back to the Magic Kingdom. I always try to end my trips at the Magic Kingdom so I planned all my fastpasses for that evening: Peter Pan's Flight, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and Splash Mountain.

I was staying at the All-Star Sports Resort this trip and after a long morning at Hollywood Studios that, I headed back to the resort to avoid the rain and to take a nap. I woke up around four and honestly, I didn't feel like doing anything. I was just going to stay at the resort, have dinner, and pack my bags to head home in the morning.

Just before six, I decided that I did want to go back out so I jumped into the shower, got ready, and quickly made my way to the buses. My last fastpass was for Splash Mountain from six to seven so I had about thirty minutes to make it. I rushed off the bus, into the park, down Main Street, and with just a couple minutes to spare, I was able to get on the ride.

After Splash Mountain, I didn't feel like staying in the park any longer. There weren't any other rides that I felt like standing in line for so, I decided to head back to the resort but there was one thing I wanted to do before I left the park and headed home.

I wanted one final Pineapple Dole Whip Float. So yeah, I made a single trip to the Magic Kingdom for Splash Mountain and a Dole Whip. For me, Disney World wouldn't be the same without the Dole Whip.

Pineapple Dole Whip Float

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Feeling Grateful

The past few weeks have been tough for me. I've had some trials and tribulations come into my life that have knocked me back but my faith, my family, and my friends have kept me moving forward. I had to have some surgery and the toll it took on me was far greater then I expected.

I have a lot to be grateful for: My amazing wife, beautiful kids, fantastic job, supportive friends and just a week ago, my wife and I welcomed into this world our fifth child and fourth son aptly named Walter Phillip. If you think you can figure out the two people for which he's named, send me an email and I'll send you some swag.

I want to apologize to all of my loyal readers during this time away. It wasn't intentional but sometimes, life gets in the way and there isn't much we can do about it. I hope it never happens again.

During my downtime, there's been a lot of things happening in the world of Disney. Lots of exciting changes are underway and exciting lands are about to open. Yes, I'm finally coming around on the world of Pandora and am actually looking forward to seeing it when I'm there in June.

I last visited the magical world of Disney back in February for the International Festival of the Arts and I do have some stories to tell from that trip so look for some of them in the next couple of weeks. It was a great solo trip and I finally had a chance to stay at the All-Star Sports resort.

I also want to announce some major changes that are in the works for The Magical Mouse. I can't really discuss any of the details just yet but I can say that I will be launching a new website soon which will help transition this blog into more of a Disney informational and planning site and not just a blog. Don't worry though, I will continue the blog on the new site.

These are exciting times and I'm so grateful that I can share them all with you guys.

Thank you all for the support, love, kind words, and as always, thanks for reading.


Friday, February 10, 2017

Flying Home

The alarm went off way too early this morning; not that anyone should feel sorry for me. Today is the day I'm returning home to Disney World and as the internet meme says, "I'm only a morning person on the day I go to Disney."

I gleefully showered, packed a few last minute items, and headed for the airport. It isn't a long drive and at this early hour, it was a peaceful one as well. My wife and I talked about my plans at the parks and I told her that I wished she was able to come but at eight months pregnant, she wasn't about to try. Instead, like the loving, supportive wife she is, she kissed me goodbye and told me to have fun.

When I walked into the terminal, a wave of emotions came over me. I was sad to be leaving my family but excited to be headed back to Orlando. Then, as I approached the ticket counter to drop off my bag, I was struck by another emotion; Joy. Pure, unadulterated joy.

There must have been a dozen of them. They were all lined up single file against the counter and one of the ticketing agents was hurriedly trying to process them all. I could tell that even at this early hour, they were beyond excited. Most of them probably hadn't slept a wink the previous night because these children and their parents were also on their way to Disney World. 

As I looked on at these little children, I could feel their excitement as they talked about what they were going to do first and who they wanted to see. One little girl said she just couldn't wait to meet Mickey while a slightly older one said she wanted to meet Princess Anna from Frozen. Another excitedly told her mother that she just couldn't wait to go in the Haunted Mansion to see how scary it was.

As often as I've been to Disney World, it is moments like this that help make these trips so special. These children are so innocent and their emotions were so raw that I couldn't help but smile and share in their joy. It was their joy and excitement that put me in the mood for my trip and got me through the long day. It is also a reminder for me that no matter how hard life gets or what obstacles I may encounter, joy can be found, in family, and at Disney.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The First Time

Unless you were a little kid, you probably remember your first trip to the Magic Kingdom. Walking down Main Street, hearing the Junk Man Rag in the background, and then, setting your eyes upon, in all its glorious beauty,  the castle.

If you're a parent like I am, you probably remember the first time you took your little ones to the parks for the first time as well. For me, watching the excitement in their eyes was as much fun as any ride or attraction at the park.

1st Visit Pen

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of taking my youngest son on his first visit to the Magic Kingdom. He was only 19 months old at the time and he isn't going to remember the trip but his mother and I will. My hope is that he will remember the good feelings from his time there.

Like many little kids, our son loves Mickey Mouse so our primary goal was to visit Town Square Mickey so that he could meet his hero. He had never met a character before so we were worried that he would get scared and that our pictures would turn out terrible so we decided to hit up the Crystal Palace first so that he could meet Pooh and Friends.

It was magical! His face lit up as each of the characters visited our table and he even played peek-a-boo with Piglet. It was so much fun watching him interact with play with them. It relieved all of the anxiety we had of him meeting his big eared hero.

Henry with Pooh Bear

We were attending Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party and the park was extremely crowded so we decided to head straight over to meet Mickey since that was the one thing that we felt that we must do and the only reason we brought him with us. Luckily, the line wasn't long.

Again, it was pure magic. Little Henry was so excited and the smile on his face showed that. The two were high-fiving and Henry was even able to give him a kiss. It was one of the sweetest things I've seen at the parks and something that his mother and I will never forget.

Kissing Mickey on the Nose

One of the best things about this whole thing, is that we'll get to do it a few more times before he remembers and with another little boy about to join our family, we'll get to experience it with him too.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Rapids

It's a beautiful park. Flora and fauna abound giving us the feeling as though we're walking through a jungle or preserve and if you're lucky enough, or patient enough to look for her, you might even spot a mystical creature they call, DiVine.

For us, a trip here always includes an early morning visit to the Tusker House for a glass of Jungle Juice and some Mickey Waffles and no visit to the Animal Kingdom is complete without a ride through Disney's Kilimanjaro Safari to see some beautiful creatures in a magnificently manicured savannah.

This trip was no different. Arriving for our Tusker House ADR early, we were the first in line. While the sun continued to rise on our right, a line slowly formed behind us which was filling with overly anxious and inordinately sunscreened patrons who had been planning this day for months and were now worried that they wouldn't get a seat for breakfast because their ADR time was earlier then those who were in front of them, now waited behind us to get into the park.

As the cast members scanned our magic bands and let us through the gate, a mad dash to get checked in at the restaurant ensued. Although we were the first through the gate, knowing that the Tusker House had plenty of seating, we decided to lay back to let the overzealous crowd pass us so that we could take pictures of the empty park.

Empty streets of Animal Kingdom

Without issue and after taking hundreds of photos, we headed over to breakfast in order to stay within our slotted ADR grace period checkin time. Breakfast was as delicious as usual and when we were finished, we headed straight over to the Kilimanjaro Safari. We arrived just as the attraction was opening and were among the first to head into the Harambe Reserve.

Alison with Daisy at Tusker House

As usual, the safari was brilliant. Early in the morning like it was, the animals were all out and active in order to get their breakfast. They reminded me of the vacationeers who had, just an hour earlier, fought and clawed their way to breakfast as well... Anyways, after the safari was over, I was itching to get to some other rides and the first one on my list was Kali River Rapids.

As we headed east out of Africa and into Asia on our way to the rapids, I had to explain to my wife what this next attraction was. Knowing that she was not dressed for this wet ride, I intentionally explained the ride in a vague manner. I also reassured her over and over again that it was similar to a log flume or Splash Mountain where nobody ever really got wet.

Wearing jeans and eager to experience everything Disney on her first trip, she believed me even as we walked past sign after sign after sign that warned or her impending wetness. Only once did she second guess me when she saw others pulling ponchos over their heads but, she should know me by now.

Kali Rapids Sign

The second we stepped into those puddle creating raft seats and placed our feet into the darkened water on the floor, she knew I had told her a story. By the time our belt was latched, the backside of her jeans were soaked through but before there was anything she could do to me, we were headed down the river.

There's alway one seat on a raft that is positioned in just the right spot. No matter what, whoever is in that seat, will get soaked. She was in that seat.

As headed down the river, past the plundered log town and truck about to tip over, she leaned over and told me "This isn't so bad." It wasn't five seconds after she muttered those words when our raft plummeted fifty feet into a wall of water. Thankfully for me, her body shielded me from most of the water. She was drenched.

The raft picked up speed and took on more water, especially where she was seated but thankfully for her, the ride was over quick. Not so lucky for me, her wrath was just beginning. She let me have it pretty good and she made sure I understood, in no uncertain terms, how she felt about me misleading her.

Not so happy and soaked Alison

I was laughing pretty hard about it still when she finally admitted that the ride was fun. That's when she finally let me take her picture. Looking back, I should've helped her plan better and advised her not to wear jeans but, the real moral of the story...don't listen to Tim.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Beyond Town Square

At the Magic Kingdom, just beyond Town Square, is Main Street, U.S.A. The road, sandwiched between sidewalks paved in red as if a red carpet is being rolled out for us, usher us toward the different lands that form the main park attractions. This idealistic small town serves as a transition point between the real world and Disney's world.

The attraction of Main Street U.S.A. is different for each visitor. For some it's childhood memories from a similar town that maybe they grew up in. For others, it's the smells from the bakery that remind them of their childhood kitchens. Younger generations may be drawn to memories from family vacations where, for the first time, they laid eyes on Walt's Famous Castle. No matter what the draw is, Main Street U.S.A. is a beautiful reminder of what life was like in turn of the 20th century America. As Walt put it:
"Main Street, U.S.A. is America at the turn of the century - the crossroads of an era. The gas lamps and the electric lamps, the horse drawn car and the auto car. Main Street is everyone's home town...the heart-line of America."
Here's a short video clip of Walt explaining exactly what Main Street U.S.A. is.

The real beauty of Main Street can be seen in its architecture. There is a distinct Victorian architectural aesthetic that pulls us into Walt's world of optimism. At only three blocks long, and with a slight incline as you enter the park, Main Street has, as Roy Disney put it, "the nostalgic quality that makes it everybody's hometown."

Imagineer John Hench used the term the “language of vision” when he described the building of Main Street.  According to Disney historian, Jim Korkis, the term is the idea that you are using all of your senses when you experience Disney. Imagineers worked hard to make that a reality. The visual effects are amazing but the sounds and even smells along Main Street are too.

Disney uses what they call Smellitizers all along Main Street. This little devices are hidden to the eye but not to the nose. Using them, Imagineers are able to manipulate smells across the park. On Main Street, the scent of fresh baked cookies and vanilla are emitted from these devices.

Main Street U.S.A. is often overlooked and that's unfortunate. For some of us, as one friend says, when I retire, I want to be homeless on Main Street. I could spend hours writing about all the many different aspects of the stores or the alleyways. The windows on the second floors emblazoned with the names of the many Imagineers who helped turn Walt's dream into a reality. Even the lampposts tell a story and one day, I might tell it.

For now, I invite you to sit back, close your eyes, imagine you are taking a stroll past the emporium on your way to Casey's Corner, and enjoy the music of Main Street U.S.A. 

Thanks for reading.

Playing On the Corner

His name is Jim.

There isn't anything unordinary about Jim except maybe his exceedingly long fingers and infectious smile. He looks like any other guy you'd find walking down Main Street or punching a card in the factory but, he's a Magic Kingdom treasure and one day, his name will surely be among those etched in the windows above Main Street.

What sets Jim apart from others is his ability to draw and keep a crowd. From the time he walks through the door in his red and white saloon proprietor costume to the time he leaves, Jim is surrounded by his youngest fans and the look of appreciation can be seen on his face by his huge teethy smile. He is, the Pied Piper, of the Magic Kingdom.

Part of the magic Jim brings to his shows is his involvement of his littlest fans. Every few minutes, he chooses a different child to participate by playing along. He shows them what key to push and then, as he plays, he pauses to wait for them to play their part because as they do, their faces light up. In turn, his does too.

For thirty-four years now, Jim has been found tickling the ivory at Casey's Corner. Playing tunes from the turn of the twentieth century, generations of patrons can be found daily enjoying corn dog nuggets and cheese fries while listening to his tunes. His music is welcomed entertainment to all.

Jim's twenty minute shows have inspired tens of thousands to learn or improve their key banging skills. When I see the ease at which he plays, I too want to improve my piano skills for it is his job that I would love to have at the Magic Kingdom.

It would be such an honor to walk in his footsteps and bring such joy and amazement to so many.

If you ever get the chance, stop by Casey's Corner and spend twenty minutes listening to Jim. You won't regret it. Until you get the chance, here's a little video celebrating his thirty plus years playing, on the corner.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy!