Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Disney Wish List

Our Disney Wish List 
Disney Wish List (products/souvenirs you'd like Santa to bring you this year)

Welcome to those of you joining me from Manda’s Disney Blog and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 3rd stop on our Magical Blogorail.

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth, my two front teeth, my two front teeth.  Nope, already got those, but what should Santa bring me instead?  

This month on our Magical Blogorail we are talking about Disney products/souvenirs we’d like to see under our Christmas tree this year.  I don’t want to see my wish item under my tree, but on my tree.  I want a new Disney ornament for my tree.  I have collected assorted Disney ornaments for the past 10 to 15 years or so.  This year, however, I didn’t get an ornament even though I was in Disney World this summer.  I had packed a carry-on only for that trip, and didn’t have room for souvenirs.  

My mom is in Disney World this week with my aunt on a ladies-only trip (something I highly recommend…unless you aren’t a lady, of course!).    Maybe she’ll get me one (hint, hint…).  

In the meantime, let’s look at some of my personal favorites on the tree this year!

Cheers to you and your family for a very special Christmas and happy New Year!

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is The Disney Point.

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:

1st Stop ~ The Disney Chick
Final Stop ~ The Disney Point 

Friday, December 6, 2013

My Tops Tens - attraction queues

I’ve decide to round off my series of Top Tens with attraction queues.  

No one likes to wait in lines and during peak times, wait times for certain popular WDW attractions can be lengthy.  Fastpass has helped mitigate these longs waits, but unless you plan properly, you’re bound to be stuck in a queue at some time or another.  One of the things that Disney has done an outstanding job of is making your wait time more pleasant through the use of interactive queues, music, entertainment, and distractions to look at.  In some places, I think the attraction queue overshadows the ride itself!  See if any of your favorite attraction queues makes my Top Ten list.     
My Top Tens – Attraction Queues
10 - The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (Magic Kingdom)
Re-imagineered in late 2010, the new Winnie the Pooh queue integrates the former “Thoughtful Spot” into the queue, complete with interactive features perfect for the little ones in your family.  
9 - Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin (Magic Kingdom)
Awash in Buzz Lightyear’s signature colors of chartreuse, white, and blue, this queue moves quickly thanks to it's quick loading Omnimover track.  Near the front of the attraction, you’ll come across a larger-than-life Buzz.  However, since Buzz Lightyear is really a toy, the attraction is scaled to give the illusion that YOU have been reduced to the size of an action figure.  Along the walls of the queue, you find telling details such as a giant exposed Philips screw heads and an explanation of the ride resembling a toy’s instruction sheet, only oversized.  An Audio-Animatronic Buzz Lightyear figure and giant View-master provide explanation of the "mission” - to destroy Zurg's secret weapon with your blasters. 

8 - Space Mountain (Magic Kingdom)
Space Mountain has always been a notoriously slow loading ride and it’s queue lends to the inability to see how close you are to the front.  Since it's recent refurbishment, long gone are the retro-faux 3D galaxies and star displays that once lined the long white hallway.  Now the hallway just past the first third of the queue is lined with a series of large screens. Along the side railings are sets of buttons that control short interactive games that appear periodically on the screens.  A nice way to spruce up a previously dull space and make that long wait time seem to go a little faster.  
7 - Star Tours (Hollywood Studios)
If you are a Star Wars fan, it’s not hard to be impressed walking under the gigantic legs of an All Terrain Armored Transport, otherwise known as an Imperial “AT-AT”, and into the starport of Star Tours .  Inside you’ll find an audio-animatronic CP3O and R2D2 alongside a full size replica of your Starspeeder 1000.  As you enter the next room of the spaceport, you pass through Droid Customs and see crates of droids awaiting processing.  In this area, you also see what appears to be an opaque window onto a pedestrian corridor showing silhouettes of other "passengers" from the Star Wars universe as they hurry to their own flights.  I’m sure you’ll recognize a few!  In the security area, a bot called G2-9T scans luggage and interacts with the guests. Higher up in the queue, G2-4T scans humans, and you'll be able to see a thermal-scan version of yourself on screen.
6 - Toy Story Mania (Hollywood Studios)
Much like Buzz Lightyear Space Range Spin, YOU, the guest, are shrunk down to the size of a toy as you enter the queue.  Not much taller than a playing card or a crayon, you are magically transported into Andy’s room.  The queue is loaded with an amazing assortment of nostalgic toys.  Many adult guests will recognize toys from their youth – Candyland, Battleship, Chutes & Ladders, and Scrabble.  The details are fabulous here, so take some time.  Notice how the larger-than-life crayons looks like the ends have been used.  

An interactive audio-animatronic Mr. Potato Head from the Toy Story movies serves as a "Carnival Barker" over the queue.  He interacts with guests, cracking jokes and occasionally having a body part pop loose.

5 - Expedition Everest (Animal Kingdom)
In this attraction, you are immersed into the role of an explorer trekking to the fictional Nepalese village of Serka Zong.  The surrounding area is richly themed with bright prayer flags, indigenous plants, weathered buildings, and other artifacts found around the true Mount Everest area. Shops hawk climbing gear and other supplies, and the bustling air of adventure and anticipation in the village is punctuated by subtle and outright ominous warnings about a mysterious creature you may encounter, the Yeti. 
The queue line meanders through the booking and permit offices of the Himalayan Escapes tour company, a pagoda-style shrine brimming with yeti totems, a general store, and the Yeti Museum.  A makeshift exhibit in a converted tea warehouse, the museum offers evidence of the importance that the yeti plays in art and culture as well as the reverence and fear that he inspires. The displays also present information that appear to corroborate the existence of the mythical beast. 
Even if you aren’t a roller-coaster fan, this queue is amazing in it’s detail and storyline.  
4 - Jungle Cruise (Magic Kingdom)
The Jungle Cruise has a deceptively long queue that snakes back and forth through the last outpost of the Jungle Cruise offices.  And it’s not so much the theme of the queue that makes my top ten list, it’s the subtle details, the play on words, and sight gags that make this queue stand out.  All the signs, posters, and props that are worthy of your attention.
For example, there's a chalkboard with a list of missing boats and persons, with names like "Ilene Dover" and "Anne Fellen
Also listen to the overhead chatter of the Cast Members to help while the wait time away. The really bad jokes they tell give you an idea of what you're in for on the cruise itself!
At the exit of the Jungle Cruise Attraction you will see a large chalk board with a list of "Missing Persons" and "Missing Boats."  If you read the list you will find some interesting names like: Al Belate, B.N. Eaton, Emma Boylen, C.M. Cooken, Ilene Dover, Ann Fellen, Seoum Yett, Albert Knot, & Betty Dont.
3 - Haunted Mansion (Magic Kingdom)
In recent times, the Haunted Mansion queue line has undergone a massive re-design making your wait experience more interactive, but even before the change, the Haunted Mansion queue has always been one of my favorites.  Once you round the bend in the queue, you will notice that you no longer can see into Liberty Square, or hear the music from the Square.  Instead, it’s eerily quiet except for the occasional howl of a dog.  At this point, you are now on Master Gracey’s property seemingly on the outskirts of town.  Look around and take in the imposing architecture of the Hudson Gothic style mansion modeled after the "The Harry Packer Mansion" in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.
Notice the black front door wreath.  During the period of time represented by the house, black wreaths hung on doors whenever serious illness or death occurred with the house, warning guests to enter at own risk.  Also, notice that the flower planters along the front lawn are actually cremation urns.  A sure sign of what awaits you inside!  
As you make your way up a winding path, and through the wrought-iron gates, you’ll pass a small graveyard with an assortment of tombstones engraved with funny epitaphs. The names featured on the tombstones are those of some of the attraction's original designers and developers:
• Rest in peace, brother Huet. We all know you didn't do it.
• R.I.P., good friend Gordon. Now you've crossed the river Jordan.
• Master Gracey laid to rest. No mourning, please, at his request. Farewell.
• At peaceful rest, he's brother Claude. Planted here beneath this sod.
• Here lies good ol' Fred. A great big rock fell on his head.
• Here rests Wathel R. Bender. He rode to glory on a fender.
• Dear departed brother Dave, He chased a bear into a cave.
• Here lies a man named Martin. The lights went out on this old Spartan.
Guests aren’t required to go through the new section of queue, but there are several new elements in this area and it’s worth taking a look to see what Disney Imagineers dreamed up to enhance the guests experience.  I placed a few pictures here, but it’s best left to be experienced in person.  

Near the front door of the mansion is perhaps my most favorite part of this queue.  On the left is a mysterious tombstone for the infamous Madame Leota. Watch carefully and you’ll notice Madame Leota’s head moves slightly, and her eyes open for a little bit.  The movement is very subtle and, definitely, creepy.  Unless you watch it carefully, you might miss it which makes the effect all the more interesting.  I like watching other guests experience it for the first time.  I know they are thinking “did I really see the eyes open?"  The tombstone inscription is a sly reference to the character of Madame Leota, a disembodied fortune teller inside a misty crystal ball that haunts the attraction. It reads:
Dear Sweet Leota
Beloved by All
In Regions Beyond Now
But Having a Ball
2 - Kali River Rapids (Animal Kingdom)
While I personally don’t like this attraction (I don’t like being wet in street clothes!), I believe this has one of the most overlooked queues in Walt Disney World.  The details and landscaping are incredibly well-themed.  The queue winds through several buildings, passing by ancient, decaying statues, knee-high prayer shrines similar to those found in Nepal, overgrown ruins and lush landscapes. Outside the ancient temple there are many pairs of sandals lined up, reflecting the Asian custom of removing shoes before entering places of worship.  Wandering through the painted shrine, you’ll encounter 15-foot tall feline-like statues. Looking up, you’ll find hand-painted murals on the ceiling, each of which tells a legend of Bangkok.  No detail is spared in creating the Asian atmosphere.  In keeping with the ride theme against illegal logging, chainsaws can be heard in the forest near the queue. While approaching the loading pagoda, one passes through a boathouse and on a television screen the proprietor of “Kali Rapids Expeditions” explains their company's mission: to show visitors the natural beauty of the area. She also warns of illegal loggers, and the dire ecological impact their actions have.

1 - Tower of Terror (Hollywood Studios)
Arriving at number 1 on my Top Ten list of attraction queue is Tower or Terror in Hollywood Studios.
The story of the hotel, adapted from elements of the Twilight Zone television series, includes the hotel being struck by lightning on October 31, 1939, mysteriously transporting an elevator car full of passengers to the Twilight Zone and causing an entire wing of the building to disappear.  Disney Imagineers create an atmosphere that transports the guest from the hustle and bustle of Sunset Boulevard to the eerily abandoned Hollywood Tower Hotel in the Hollywood Hills.
Guests enter the Hollywood Tower Hotel though the main entrance gate. The outdoor queue winds through the overgrown gardens of the hotel.  The outdoor queue takes you through gardens of broken stoneware and decaying plants.  An empty fountain and cracked fountain awaits you at the entrance to the hotel. In the background you're listening to haunting melodies from the past by Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Vera Lynn, and other notables from that era.  Once inside the lobby, it is dark and covered in cobwebs and dust. There is a yellowing copy of the Los Angeles Examiner dated October 31, 1939, a table set with tea and stale pastries, several suitcases, and a cobwebbed owl sculpture surrounded by a circle of dead flowers that appears to be the centerpiece of the room.
Behind the front desk is the broken elevator, a sign still reads "Out of Order". Everything in the hotel has apparently been left undisturbed ever since it closed decades ago. Guests are informed that their rooms are not quite ready yet. For the time being, guests are asked to simply enjoy themselves in the hotel's library. The library is full of not only books, but exotic antiques, a television, and plenty of Twilight Zone memorabilia. Through the window, guests observe that there is a thunderstorm going on outside.  At this point, the pre-show starts with a lightning strike and the television coming on, apparently of its own accord.  The opening sequence of The Twilight Zone plays, followed by a supposedly "lost" episode. 
The attention to detail throughout the queue is amazing here. You’ll feel as if you’ve entered into a hotel that was long since abandoned.  It’s quite an eerie atmosphere.

Monday, December 2, 2013

My Top Tens - water features

Moving on to water features.  Water is a consistent feature throughout the Walt Disney World Resort.  From Bay Lake to the falls at the Norway pavilion, water is an ever present design feature.  Water can be used to enhance the imagination, integrate the design of the landscaping, power an attraction, or mask outside noise.  Imagineers use water as an architectural element to break up the landscape, separate lands, and divide resorts.  The natural beauty of water is evident everywhere.

Some of my favorite water features include:

10 - The Seven Seas Lagoon.  The Seven Seas Lagoon is the man-made lake in front of the Magic Kingdom. The lake reaches a depth of 14 feet.  You can't get to the Magic Kingdom without crossing the Seven Seas Lagoon in some fashion, be it boat, bus, ferry, or monorail.  Technically,  the buses cross under the Lagoon; and you can walk from the Contemporary Resort to the Magic Kingdom, but I doubt you can ignore the presence of the Lagoon.  The Lagoon provides virtual transition from "real world" to Magic Kingdom.  The Lagoon also acts as a visual stage foreshadowing lands you'll find in the Magic Kingdom:  Polynesian Resort reflects Adventureland, Contemporary resort reflect the futuristic Tomorrowland, The Grand Floridian is reminiscent to the Victorian era you'll find on Main Street USA, and although not on the Seven Seas Lagoon but in the adjacent Bay Lake, you can find Fort Wilderness and Wilderness Lodge which are reflections on Frontierland.
Seven Seas Lagoon as it appeared in concept art prior to 1971
9 - Polynesian Lobby.  In the center of the the Polynesian's Great Ceremonial House is a lovely 2 story garden filled with tropical plants and a waterfall.  The first thing you notice when you walk in to the lobby of the resort is the soothing sound of that running water.   It's relaxing environment and a wonderful place to rest and people watch after a long day in the parks.

8 - Jungle Cruise River/Back-side of water.  The Jungle Cruise river is fed by the same waterway as what's around the moat; however, along the Jungle Cruise line, it's dyed using an organic and biodegradable dye to hide the shallow bottom and boat tracks.  I especially enjoy the "backside of water".   Who knew it looked the same as the front side?!?

7 - The crashing waves outside the Living Seas.  Very cool effect.  Once you've seen it, you'll understand.  

6 - Fire Rock Geyser, Wilderness Lodge.  Fire Rock Geyser, fashioned after Yellowstone National Park's Old Faithful, sits between the Pool and the beach shoreline at the Wilderness Lodge.  Every hour, from 7am to 10pm, the Geyser erupts, shooting plumes of water 120 feet into the air.   The surrounding hot springs even appear steaming.  The effect is created using sprays of mist.  The water is the same temperature as the ambient air.  When ducks decide to swim in the "hot" springs, the illusion is broken. 

5 - Waterfalls of the Canadian pavilion in EPCOT.  Although you can't see it from the front of the Canadian pavilion, walk through the gardens toward the back and you will find a 30 foot rushing waterfall.    The waterfall and associated mountain represent the Rocky Mountains.  It can be viewed from an upper level courtyard beyond the Hotel du Canada, or up close by following the lower path through the Victoria Gardens, and through a narrow canyon.  A true hidden gem of EPCOT. 
Water falls in the Canadian Pavilion
4 - Voyage of the Little Mermaid (Hollywood Studio) under the sea effect.  Using a spray of water from above, coupled with fog effects, and the laser lights give the impression that you're truly below the waves.

3 - Fountain of Nations.  Located on the plaza behind Spaceship Earth in EPCOT, the Fountain of Nations.   Also called Innoventions Fountain, this found is the largest on Disney property.  Set to music, the fountains appear to "dance", shooting water up to 150 feet in the air.  At night the fountains are lit with colored lights given the "dance" a more dramatic effect.  

2 - Fantasmic projection screens.  The night time spectacular, Fantasmic, at Hollywood Studios uses dramatic lighting, pyrotechnics, music, and water to create Mickey's dream.  The giant water-mist screens that are used to project images of Disney characters is dramatic and amazing to behold.  

1 - Upside-down waterfall outside the Imagination pavilion.  Upside down water fall!  What else is there to say?!?  Just outside the Imagination Pavilion at Epcot, you'll find a variety of water features, the most whimsical being the "upside-down waterfall".  Stretching up to an amazing 80 feet, water moves up from the base to the top of the falls.  Only in the world of Imagination does this seem possible.  
Upside Down Water Fall