Magical Blogograil: What to do on Non-Park Days – Waterways

What’s more relaxing than enjoying the waterways of Walt Disney World? Many take a resort day to escape the crowds, but we like to board one of the many water craft, available at no cost, and chart a course!

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Green Loop. Today we are sharing fun things to do at Disney on non-Park days.


Hi Ho and it’s a pirate’s life for me! Well, not actually a pirate’s life, more like a passenger’s life!

Come aboard this post and enjoy the views of Walt Disney World from a different perspective:

Waterways On Board

Here we are aboard one of the many Water Taxis that take passengers from one resort to the next on the Seven Seas Lagoon. You can visit Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa (pictured above), Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground. And of course, ending up at The Magic Kingdom.

Waterways Craft

While on route, you can enjoy beautiful vistas and view your favorite attractions from unique angles, such as Space Mountain, above. Also above you can see one of the smaller water craft that you can rent for personal tours of the lake.

Waterways Contemporary View

Seeing structures like the Contemporary from the water side is a rare treat, complete with a monorail sighting if you time things just right!

Waterways Docking

Above is a view of one of the Water Taxis arriving at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground.

Waterways Shoreline

Sometimes you can see older attractions, or what’s left of them, such as this landing from the old River Country water park. The above picture was taken in 2008 so I wonder how much of this scene is left now.

Waterways Arrival at Magic Kingdom

Ferryboats run from the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) across the Seven Seas Lagoon to the entrance of The Magic Kingdom. You could take the monorail, but that wouldn’t be as wet!

Waterways Ferryboat

Empty Ferryboat on Training Run

Other vessels also ply the waterways:

Waterways Misc Boat

No matter which option you choose, the fun is the same! As hinted at earlier, you can also rent jet skis, paddle boats, canoes, and other water craft for solo or group adventures.

Waterways Sailing

Sailboats Too!

Waterways Sunset

And when the day is done, you will be treated to some of the most breathtaking images you can imagine!

So who’s with me? Will you take to the waters on your next non-Park day?

For more ways to spend non-park days at Disney,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


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Magical Blogorail: Best Live Entertainment – Epcot

Disney has always plussed the guest experience with a wonderful variety of live entertainment around the parks. Epcot is perhaps unique in that it offers colorful selections from around the real world around the World Showcase!

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Orange Loop. Today we are sharing some of the best live entertainment at the Disney Parks.


I’d like to share some of the live entertainment acts that I have seen around Epcot over the years. Just like the other attractions in the parks, these acts have come and gone in an ever-changing line-up of talent.

Live Entertainment Morocco

MO’ROCKIN

This was a 6-person Moroccan musical act that played in the Morocco Pavilion. The group was often accompanied by a belly dancer. Unfortunately, Disney decided to discontinue this act and it played for the last time on September 27th, 2014.

Live Entertainment Extra

Sometimes this version of Mo’Rockin would be playing in the Morocco Pavilion.

Live Entertainment Off Kilter

Off Kilter

Off Kilter is a high-energy Celtic rock band founded by Jamie Holton, bagpiper, in 1996. The band is a unique blend of traditional Celtic tunes and songs with a rock twist, popular covers arranged with a Celtic rock feel, and original songs. Instruments consist of bagpipes, Irish whistles, electric guitar, bass, fiddle, drums and vocals. The band played for 18 years as one of the most popular bands at Walt Disney World in Florida (Canadian Pavilion, Epcot), and currently tours the country performing at many different venues.

Live Entertainment Quartet

Quartet

I wish I could remember which country these four entertainers represented! They were quite good.

So, I’ve shared acts that aren’t in Epcot anymore. I include them to show the variety of acts that have been offered over the years.

The official lineup now is as follows:

  • British Revolution (English groups cover band)
  • JAMMitors (Percussion group)
  • Jeweled Dragon Acrobats (Chinese acrobatics)

Live Entertainment Acrobats

  • Mariachi Cobre (Mexican band)
  • Matsuriza (Japanese drumming)
  • Rose & Crown Pub Musician (Piano)
  • Voices of Liberty (American vocal group)
  • Wies N Buam (German Oomph band)

This is by no means an exhaustive list. You can check out this official Disney site for show times and other entertainment offered.

I hope this whets your appetite for live entertainment at Epcot!

For more must see live entertainment at Disney,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


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Magical Blogorail: Disney Ride Secrets – Big Thunder Mountain

Every ride has a ‘sweet spot’ where everyone wants to sit. Especially roller coasters! Where should you sit on Big Thunder Mountain? And what other secrets does this attraction hold?

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Red Loop. Today we are sharing some of the secrets you’ll find while enjoying Disney attractions.


So what isn’t a secret about this iconic Walt Disney World attraction? The official site says: “Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a speedy rollercoaster-type attraction designed with your entire family in mind. However, some parts of this attraction are bumpy and, in some instances, take place in the dark.”

Obviously, this isn’t the fastest or wildest ride in the Magic Kingdom. But what it lacks in thrills it more than makes up for in fun and theming. However, if you want the biggest possible thrill on the Big Thunder Mountain railway, here is how to get it:

Big Thunder Train Cab

TIP: Don’t Sit Up Front

When I rode this attraction for the first time, I assumed that the best place to ride would be directly behind the ‘engine’. But when I asked the loading Cast Member if we could ride up front, he told me that if I wanted to really feel the drops, I needed to ride in the back. He directed us there and… he was right!

Why? On the main drop, the coaster train slows, and the front starts down the drop before the cars are released. So the first two cars don’t experience the full length of the drop. But the last car, still slightly behind the crest of the hill when the drop begins, gets the full effect!

So whereby with other coasters the front cars are the best, with Big Thunder Mountain, it’s the rear that gives the best ride!

But there is one more tip I can share to help you get the most out of this attraction. As mentioned earlier, Big Thunder Mountain is heavily themed, so you will want to see everything. But how can you do that whilst whizzing around the track? You can’t. Therefore…

Big Thunder Mountain Vista

TIP: Ride Other Attractions

The picture above was taken from the Liberty Belle Riverboat while plying the Rivers of America. This allows you a leisurely look at the majestic spires of the mountain.

Big Thunder Ride Vehicle

You can also watch the ride vehicles go by and listen to the screams of the riders.

You can also see the mountain from the other side if you take a ride on the Walt Disney World Railroad:

Big Thunder SceneryBig Thunder Store

You will have less time to see things from this perspective as the train moves a little faster than its lake-going counterpart. But most of the small details are on this side, so be sure to sit of the right side of the train cars for the best views and photo opportunities.

I’ll let you discover the rest of the secrets on your own when you ride Big Thunder Mountain for yourself!

For more Disney ride secrets,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


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Magical Blogorail: How We Know We’ve Arrived at Disney – Check In

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Blue Loop. Today we are sharing How We Know We’ve Arrived at Disney.


STAYING ON-SITE: CHECK-IN!

Check In 1

Nothing says “You have arrived!” like seeing a giant sign with the name of a Disney resort on it. This is where you will be staying and from where all the Disney magic you experience will start from. From parking the car to checking in to finding your room, don’t rush the process!

I’m going to show you how you can make the check-in at your resort a truly magical way to start your Disney vacation. If you follow my suggestions, you will truly know that you have arrived at Disney! I will be using Disney’s Art of Animation Resort as our model, with one picture from Pop Century thrown in for good measure.

FIRST: Approach the Check-in Desk.

Check In 2

Here you will meet your first friendly Cast Member. Enjoy the smiles and get ready to see more of them! These wonderful people are there to make your stay a memorable one.

SECOND: Get Your Bearings.

Check In 3

These maps are handy to find your building but also to familiarize yourself with the entire property. You’ll want to find the pools, restaurants and food service locations, the bus stop, and the resort retail store.

THIRD: Find Your Home-Away-From-Home.

Check In 4          Check In 5

Check In 6          Check In 7

Check In Room

Squaring away your things before you set out to explore is always a good idea. You can also use the time to relax and freshen up after your long journey to Disney. Once you have put everything away, it’s time to…

FOUR: Explore Your Resort.

Check In 8     Check In 9

This is a great way to get your first taste of Disney magic and to take those vacation photos that everyone back home will be waiting to see. So take lots of shots and pose with everything in sight!

FIVE: Visit the Resort Store.

Check In 10

You will visit many retail locations during your visit. Some of these you will visit voluntarily while others will be thrust upon you. For example, after most big attractions you will exit into retail spaces and be jostled by some rabid shoppers and many others who just want to get out of there and hit the next ride! Visiting your resorts retail location will give you a chance to browse the merchandise at an unhurried pace.

In conclusion, the basic idea here is that checking into your on-site resort will whet your appetite for everything to come. Usually most of us arrive at the resort later in the day and after an exhausting drive or harried plane flight. Try to resist the urge to rush right off to a park. Instead, relax and enjoy your check-in  experience, for it truly is how you will know that you have arrived at Disney!

For more ways we know we’ve “arrived” at Disney, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


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Magical Blogorail: WDW Value Resort Reviews – All Star Sports

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Orange Loop. Today we are sharing our reviews of the value resorts at Walt Disney World.


ALL-STAR SPORTS RESORT

All Star Sports

I’ll admit right off the bat (pun intended) that this isn’t everyone’s favorite value resort. Unless you’re heavily into sports most find the decor pretty un-Disney. However, because of this, you will usually be able to find a room here when all other value resorts are full!

Other than that, the amenities are very comparable with other All-Star resorts.

Location: You will be closest to Blizzard Beach and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Bus Route: Remember that the three All-Star resorts are on the same line, so expect long travel times. From the attractions, you get to Sports first, then Music, and lastly Movies. So coming ‘home’ you are the first to be let off. But leaving for the attractions can be time-consuming as buses may be full coming from other All-Star resorts.

Sports Layout

Rooms: So if you want to be close to the main pool and the Stadium Hall (where your food and buses are) than request buildings 1 or 4. If you like it quiet request buildings 2, 3 or 5. Keep in mind that building 2 has its own little pool for convenience.

End Zone Food Court

Theming: Again many people aren’t wowed by the theming of All-Star Sports. But it follows the same pattern of oversized props as the other All-Star resorts do.

Huge Helmets

I’ve stayed at Pop Century, All-Star Movies and Music, but never All-Star Sports. I intend to one day just to say that I’ve done them all! But I’ll likely try out the Art of Animation first. Maybe that sums up this resort only too well? Unless you’re really into sports!

For more value resort reviews, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


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Magical Blogorail: Discover Future World – Universe of Energy

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Green Loop. Today we are taking a closer look at the fun you can find in Future World at Epcot.


UNIVERSE OF ENERGY

Universe of Energy 1

Ellen. The Science Guy. A Game Show. Dinosaurs. And Air-conditioning. How could you not like this attraction?

Unlike many of the rides in Future World this one has a very large capacity which means you will experience one of the shortest wait times in Disney theme park history. So if you see a low wait time on the board for this attraction, please don’t think it’s because it isn’t good!

Universe of Energy 4     Universe of Energy 3     Universe of Energy 5

And it’s in a pretty building

The pavilion is located in the eastern half of Future World at Epcot. It contains just the one attraction, its second since its 1982 opening. The current attraction, entitled Ellen’s Energy Adventure, stars Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye. It features a combination of four separate large-format film presentations and a slow-moving dark ride.

You begin by standing in an outer theater while you watch Ellen in an eight-minute film in which she falls asleep and dreams that she is in an energy-themed version of Jeopardy!, playing against an old rival Judy Peterson (portrayed by Jamie Lee Curtis) and Albert Einstein. After round one, Ellen is losing badly. Enter Bill Nye to save the day with science information! Next you enter the main show area and take a seat in large ride vehicles. Another screen is used to show a four-minute film which sets Ellen up for the adventure about energy. She is taken back into the distance past. Then you are on the move into a dinosaur diorama:

Univers of Energy 7

Next is a 12-minute film giving an in-depth look at various current and future energy resources across the United States. Last is a final two-minute film presenting the end of Ellen’s dream in which she uses her new knowledge about energy in Round 2 to unseat Judy as Jeopardy! champion.

This is also one of the longest rides in Future World so sit back and relax and rest your tired feet in air-conditioned comfort! Some find the content a bit dated but the information is still relevant today.

When you exit, be sure to check out the views:

Universe of Energy 6          Universe of Energy 2

Sometimes the oldest attractions can be the best, and while this energy adventure may not necessarily be the best, it certainly is worth the time! Did I mention it’s air-conditioned?

For more about Future World, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!

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Magical Blogorail: Best Frozen Treats at Disney – Mickey Bars

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Teal loop. Today we are sharing the best frozen treats you can find at Disney.


M I C K E Y     B A R S

Mickey Bar Packaging

Everyone knows about this classic/iconic Disney treat! And I doubt there are too many theme park guests who haven’t had at least one.

Mickey Bar 2

Is it tasty? Yes. Is it good for you? Sure, why not. Is it addictive? Yes. Should you buy a box of them and smuggle them back to your home State or country? Sure, why not.

Mickey Bar

Ah, that first bite! It’s like a Disney rite of passage. But do you bite into the left ear or right ear first? Scientists have spent millions conducting an exhaustive study on that conundrum but as yet have only determined that biting into too many Mickey Bar ears causes stomach aches. Money well spent people!

Fun Facts: There are some things you may not know about this funny-shaped treat.

  • It’s gluten-free!
  • You can find it off-property (at the Vero Beach and Hilton Head resorts, for example)

And we end this loop just as we should all end each and every one of our Disney vacations: With a Mickey Bar!


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Top Five Things Disney Wouldn’t Do Today Due to Accountability

Things were much different in the 1950’s and even in the 1970’s when it came to acceptable practices. Construction projects were rushed to completion with minimal thought to safety. And nothing was off-limits for entertainment if it put a smile on the face of a paying customer!

We can’t judge Disney too harshly for any of the questionable things on this list as they were common practice in the past. But now in a world ruled by the PC Police and environmental concerns, there is no longer any room for the Top 5 things Disney wouldn’t do today:

NO-NO NUMBER FIVE

Disneyland Construction

Radical Terraforming

Orange groves? We don’t need no stinking orange groves! Cut them down. Bulldoze the landscape. We have a theme park to build! This is very close to the mentality of the builders of Disneyland back in the 1950’s. It was better in the 1970’s when Walt Disney World was built, but things were still done that wouldn’t fly under today’s environmental rules and regulations.

Of course, all things were done within the current understandings of those days. It is good to see that Disney is in the forefront of modern environmental practices today!

NO-NO NUMBER FOUR

Ink and Paint Girl

Paying Women Less

This could easily be Number One. But back in the early days of animation, no one was making a good living, and this lasted longer than you might think. Just read this informative post by Floyd Norman called There’s No Money in Animation for confirmation of that.

But if the average guy was having a hard time making ends meet, the average gal was practically working for charity! And women, or girls as they were called, were not allowed to be animators. Ink and Paint was the highest rung of the ladder for the ladies!

Times have changed with more female animators and Imagineers, but I think we still have a way to go.

NO-NO NUMBER THREE

Sleeping Beauty Castle Construction

Fast-tracking Attractions

Disneyland was built in just over a year. A single year! The entire park.  No wonder most of the rides were broken down at the end of Disneyland’s first day! It can take up to five years just to build a single attraction today.

Would you have wanted to trust your life to an opening-day attraction in Disneyland? Again, it’s good to see that Disney has slowed down and made safety and longevity the keys to every building project today.

NO-NO NUMBER TWO

Releasing Balloons at Disney

Releasing Balloons

Doesn’t that look beautiful? How many balloons do you think are in the sky in the above picture? Now, how many birds do you think died because of choking on these same balloons when they finally deflated and landed on the ground?

For an eye-opening education into this problem, check out balloonsblow.org to have your mind blown and your view of such beautiful spectacles changed.

NO-NO NUMBER ONE

Small World Opening

Foreign Waters in Small World Ride

What could possibly be wrong with doing this: Bringing actual untested water samples from some of the dirtiest rivers of the world and dumping them into a clean water source in the United States? This is just another example of money being able to do whatever it wants in the 1960’s.

Fortunately the samples were dumped into a closed water system that was likely highly chlorinated or otherwise treated. But still! Any number of foreign and dangerous parasites could have been released into the greater water sources of the park, and thusly, the US!

Being as you can’t take an apple across international borders today, I’m guessing that untested water samples would probably get you detained in Customs.

CONCLUSION

So what do you think of my list? Are you glad things are different today?

Disney’s Top Five Best Decisions of All Time

Recently I listed what I thought Disney’s Top Five Worst Decisions were and so in the interest of fairness I now present my Top 5 List of Disney’s best decisions:

BEST   DECISION   NUMBER   FIVE

Live-action Versions of Animated Classics

Jungle Book Posters

So although these aren’t my cup of tea the general Disney fan/public has embraced these ‘remakes’ with a passion! Cinderella did very well and the latest, The Jungle Book, also did a brisk business. And the upcoming Beauty and the Beast practically has people frothing at the mouth in anticipation.

While these are obvious attempts at recycling ideas and extending profits from established franchises, one can’t argue that they are beautifully done. My main complaint is that they haven’t strayed much from the original animated source material so there aren’t any surprises or new interpretations.

Maybe the live-action Beauty and the Beast will break out of this provincial approach and break new ground.

BEST   DECISION   NUMBER   FOUR

Promoting John Lasseter

John Lasseter

I just love this guy! From his early antics on the Pixar DVD releases to his many appearances to promote new productions in both Pixar and Disney studios, you can just feel his enthusiasm for both animation and the Disney legacy.

With Walt gone and no more Disney family members stepping up to fill the void, Lasseter is the next best thing. That doesn’t sound too complimentary until you realize whose shoes he is basically filling!

I hope to see him grow with the company for many years to come, but do wonder just who could fill his shoes when the time comes for him to step down?

BEST   DECISION   NUMBER   THREE

World Showcase Ethnic Casting

World Showcase CM

The best part of World Showcase in Epcot at Walt Disney World is the Cast Member interaction. And the fact that each pavilion has CM’s from the actual country being presented is a brilliant stroke of casting!

And so many benefit! Young people from around the world get to have an experience that they will never forget. The guests get to meet them and learn first hand about the culture and activities of all eleven countries represented in World Showcase. And those of us who are not American get to visit the country of our origin (if represented) and unite with a fellow countryman.

It’s win-win all around and I hope Disney never abandons this decision!

BEST   DECISION   NUMBER   TWO

Acquiring Marvel/Lucas Film

Marvel Comics Logo     Lucas Film Logo

As I stated in my post about the worst decisions Disney has made they should never have acquired Pixar. I feel it ruined the creativity of that company. But as it comes to Marvel Comics and Lucasfilm Ltd. I think Disney has only helped to grow these companies.

Largely by leaving them alone, Disney has given the people at Marvel full support to continue to develop the MU in a very interesting and profitable way. The acquisition of Lucasfilm Ltd. is too new to really tell how things are going to turn out, but if the first Star Wars film under the Disney banner is any indication, it’s not going to badly.

Maybe Disney has learned that putting up the money and just a little creative input is the way to acquisition success?

BEST   DECISION   NUMBER   ONE

Keeping Vintage Attractions

Carousel of Progress Signage

This is a highly debatable decision but I put it in the number one spot for a reason. Walt was all about nostalgia. And nothing sparks nostalgia like the original attractions that were in the parks when they opened. Or that came soon after.

Rides from the 1964/65 New York World’s Fair like The Carousel of Progress and It’s a Small World still interest park goers today just as they did in the past. And the fact that Disney fans mourn each time a beloved attraction is demolished confirms this as truth!

While other parks continue to focus on thrill rides Disney wisely nurtures its attraction heritage of dark rides and corny shows. Hey, if it works…

Conclusion: For every bad decision there is a good decision. And given the success of the multi-billion dollar business that is Disney, one would have to believe that the good decisions are outweighing the bad!

WDW 25th Anniversary Commemorative Plate

The collectible plate market crashed many years ago but manufacturers are still producing them like nothing happened. Prices for new plates can still reach over $50.00 but most often retail for just under $30.00 for most designs.

Disney-themed plates can always find a market. Today I am sharing a release from 1996:

Movie Rewards Bonus 001     Movie Rewards Bonus 002

Nice box packaging

This was a release to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Walt Disney World opening in 1971. It features the infamous ‘Birthday Cake’ Castle that Disney fans love to hate! I regret not being able to see it back then and feel that kudos should be given for taking such a promotional risk with an icon like Cinderella Castle.

Let’s have a look inside the box:

Movie Rewards Bonus 003

I was happy to find this in its original packaging with the price tag still attached. It sold for $35.00 US in 1996 but I paid only $12.50 CAN in 2016. Again, this is evidence that plates just aren’t a good collectible investment so buy what you like and plan on keeping it.

Below is an enlargement of the promotional spiel and a blurb about the artist, Charles Wissig:

Disney Collector Plates 011

Below are pictures of the front and back of the plate:

Movie Rewards Bonus 004     Disney Collector Plates 015

Very nice colorful design

If you are a plate collector you probably noticed the absence of a firing day limit. A low number of firing days means that the plate is rarer than those with a higher number of firing days. This was used to promote plates back in their day and was supposed to drive after-market prices higher. This worked initially but fell off quickly.

The fact that no firing limit is noted for this plate means that many were made which directly contributes to the plate being common and easily obtained in the after-market on eBay and other selling sites. In fact, you can find one on eBay right now (June, 2016) for just $15.00 CAN.

Value aside it is a very nice plate that I am glad to add to my growing collection.