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: Is It Worth It? Park Hopper Option

Now we all know that the more days you purchase for fun in the parks, the less each day costs you. But does Disney get that money back by upselling you on options you don’t need? Like the Park Hopper option? Let’s find out!

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Orange Loop. Today we are sharing aspects of a Disney vacation that make people ask: Is it worth it?


Park Hopper Parks

So many Park choices!

Again, we all realize that buying admission days in bulk is the best option. The more days you buy, the cheaper each day becomes. But as with everything in life, it’s the extras that’ll kill you!

Let’s assume you are going to take your family of four to Walt Disney World for four days. Basic admission tickets for everyone would basically cost you $1,400 US (ouch!)

Park Hopper Basic

Now add the Park Hopper option to all four tickets for all four days and now you will spend $1,700 US (OUCH!)

Park Hopper Ticket Prices

So basically you will spend an additional $300.00 US just for the privilege of jumping around from park to park in the same day. Is that an extra that really adds value? Here are some reasons why I believe it does not:

  • You could probably spend that $300.00 on something else (dining, souvenirs)
  • There is more than enough to do in each park for a day without jumping
  • Precious vacation time will be lost travelling between parks
  • Got grumpy kids? Park hop. Nuff said!

This option makes more sense for a single visitor or for couples who visit often and know what they want to see and can thus plan to make the most of the Park Hopper option. For families, and those on a budget, this option is one best left off your basic ticket!

For more opinions on what is and isn’t worth the splurge at Disney,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


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Thumper or Miss Bunny: A Figurine Investigation

So most cartoon bunnies look alike. Male or female, they all look alike. So what do animators do to differentiate one from another? Sometimes they will use color changes, size, or most often eye lashes. We will consider some of these techniques and others to determine if the ceramic figurine we have in this post is Thumper or his girlfriend, Miss Bunny.

Before we get into our investigation, let’s have a look at the suspect:

Thumper Front

Suspect: Bucktoothed and Cute

CLUE No. 1

When we purchased this figurine the Seller gave us a card that was given to him when he himself obtained it. Such provenance is often helpful in determining exactly what an object is. Take a look:

Thumper Card

After some research we were able to determine that these ceramic figurines, made by Evan K. Shaw Pottery, were indeed produced in the early 1940’s. But we were still unconvinced that what we had was ‘Thumper’s Girl’.

We began our investigation by checking the Internet for other examples of the piece to see what online Sellers were claiming it was. Some said ‘Thumper’ while others said ‘Miss Bunny’, or ‘Bixbi’, as some Disney fans have named her (she is not given a name in the original movie).

We also found other small ceramic figurines that were definitely depicting a female bunny, that were brown, and posed differently than ours. It was this figurine that was consistently called ‘Miss Bunny’ and not the version we have. So we now had a majority consensus.

But our figurine could still be another version of Miss Bunny, as some were claiming.

CLUE No. 2

Next we need to consider the color of the piece. Let’s have another look at it:

Thumper LeftThumper Right

Brown Fur

This is a confusing clue, but stay with us. Thumper, in the movie Bambi, was gray, not brown. So we could arbitrarily pronounce this character to be Miss Bunny, who was brown, based solely on that parameter. However, pottery companies were notorious for going off-model when creating their pieces, getting features and colors wrong more often than not. It wasn’t until later that Disney started to tighten up on its demands for standardization of its character merchandise.

So this clue is inconclusive.

CLUE NO. 3

Eyelashes have been the stereotypical way of depicting a female character in the world of animation since the beginning of the medium. Our figurine has three short upward eyelashes, and not the multiple swept-back lashes of a female character.

CLUE NO. 4

Sometimes, if you know the character well enough, you can recognize them by body language. Of course, in the case of a sculpture, this technique will depend on the artist portraying such characteristics in his artistry.

Thumper Back

Thumper was very expressive with his ears. Many times he would have one ear up with the other ear down. This was a way of distinguishing him from his many brothers and sisters in the film.

The ceramic figurine we have exhibits this trait.

CLUE NO. 5

Lastly, we checked the figurine for any markings that could help us to identify it.

Thumper Bottom

No such luck!

Ceramic figurines are either stamped with black ink, engraved, or sport a sticker, usually on the bottom of the piece. This example has none of these markings, so no help there for our investigation.

CONCLUSION:

We believe this figurine to be Thumper. And here’s why:

  • General consensus gathered from Internet Sellers
  • Frequency of wrong use of color for Disney characters by manufacturers
  • Eyelashes are consistent with male characters
  • Body language, specifically the ears, is consistent with the character

We hope the techniques of this detailed investigation will help you to identify your treasured pieces of merchandise! And you can see more of Thumper as a lawn ornament by clicking the link. Or for a Disney-themed joke featuring Thumper (and other characters) check out this link.

Magical Blogorail: Disney Bucket Lists

Everyone can visit a Disney theme park anytime they want. For a fee, they can even get a special tour. But not everyone can get a VIP tour behind the scenes of the Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios. This should be one everyone’s bucket lists!

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Orange Loop. Today we are sharing our Disney Bucket Lists and what you should add to yours.


Touring Disney  & Pixar Animation Studios

bucket lists

Wouldn’t it have been great to live back in the time when Walt Disney was eager to show people around his new studio? Any excuse to show off his thriving animation operation was taken with gusto! He even did promotional and theatrical films depicting life inside the studio in response to the demand from the public to see how his films were made.

Yes please.

The closest to a private behind-the-scenes tour would be the Walt Disney Studios Tour offered by Adventures by Disney. This is a three-day California experience where, in part, you can learn the story of The Walt Disney Studios during a privately guided visit, which includes The Walt Disney Archives.

If I can’t get my own private tour into restricted areas, the above experience would certainly be a good consolation prize!

And although Pixar Animation Studios hasn’t been around for as long as the Walt Disney Animation Studios, I think everyone would agree that it would be a fun place to visit! And something to add to everyone’s bucket lists.

pixar-entrance

Apparently there are no public tours of Pixar so getting past these gates is probably not going to happen. Or is it? Check out this link for seven ways that just may get you in!

One of the ways to get in mentioned in the link is to ‘know a guy’ on the inside. You can enjoy a pictorial tour by Ken Miyamoto or watch the cool video below from Keith Lapinig, both who used this method of entry:

34,761 people have already ran through the halls with Keith, to date, but there’s always room for one more guest! And there are literally dozens of tour videos from special guests and media outlets on the Internet so there are many ways to tour vicariously through others.

pixar-inside

Could I get past the guard and sneak around?

Probably not. I’ve visited Walt Disney World and Disneyland, gone on a Disney Cruise, interviewed Dave Smith, and recently visited the birth place of Walt Disney in Chicago, IL. My Disney Bucket List is growing!

It’s only a matter of time before I add tours of the Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios to that list. I hope!

For more Disney bucket list ideas,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


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Magical Blogorail: Saving Money for Disney

Now I know you are probably going back to Disney to pick up even more treasures to add to your collection. And yes, some more memories too. But don’t rule out one of the best ways to generate capital to make that trip possible – selling off some of your existing Disney swag!

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Red Loop. Today we are sharing ways to save money for your Disney vacation.


Selling Your Way to Disney

sell-sell-sell

I’m going to do my post this month in the form of a Top Five List. So without further ado, here are the Top 5 Reasons for Selling Your Way to Disney, which means selling some of your Disney collection to pay for your next Disney vacation:

Reason Five

Dusting

Do you like to dust? I don’t so my wife is always after me to dust my collectibles! I try to tell her that if I don’t dust, then when I pick up a collectible, I will know exactly where to place it down again due to the dust ring. And that is why men are more creative thinkers than women!

But you may want to clean the item up a bit before you sell it. Or have your spouse do it.

Reason Four

Space

outer-space

Outer Space is infinite. Your shelf space is not. Sooner or later, or probably sooner than later, you will start to run out of places to put your Disney stuff. When your children’s toys are all over the floor because their toy chest is full of your collectibles and your spouse’s closet space is disappearing, it may be time for a purge!

Reason Three

Re-focus

Back in the 1980’s you were all about The Little Mermaid and Roger Rabbit, but now we are living in the Millennium. We now have Baymax and Hank the Septopus merchandise everywhere! No one wants to look at the same stuff year after year, right?

OK, maybe we do, but sacrifices must be made. We’re trying to get to Disney, people!

Reason Two

Demand

You have it. Everyone else wants it. That is basically how the demand for Disney collectibles goes. So why not take advantage of someone else’s obsession and unload some unwanted stuff?

They’ll thank you for providing a new-to-them treasure and you’ll add some much needed capital to your Disney trip jar!

Reason One

Money

disney-dollar

You want it. Your unwanted Disney collectibles could turn into it. And seriously, if you want to go on a Disney vacation… you’re going to need lots of it! So get out there (or online) and sell! Sell! Sell!

And if you do, I’ll see you in the parks!

For more ways to save money for your Disney vacation,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


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Book Review: The Ultimate Guide to an Affordable Disney World Vacation

– This publication has been provided by the Author for review –

Ultimate Guide

by Kevin Barry

Publisher: Frugal Enterprises, LLC

ISBN: 978-0-9974363-1-0

Pages: 122

Type: Soft Cover

Size: 6″ x 9″

Synopsis: This book was written to help cut the costs of a Disney vacation which will allow more frequent visits, longer stays, and enjoyable trips that won’t break the bank. It serves as a central resource to help vacation planners tackle the largest expenses for every Disney trip: travel, hotels, food, and tickets.

Content: Each chapter focuses on an area where the most costs can be cut. Included are step by step guides to walk you through the strategies to help save money on each of five main areas – Traveling, Park Tickets, Accommodations, Food, and Miscellaneous Expenses.

The Review: This a most thorough piece of work. I don’t want to give any of its secrets away but instead I recommend you buy the book and read it for yourself. It does have tips for everyone, from the well-to-do Disney traveler looking to keep money in the bank to the budget-minded Disney fan who would like to start traveling, or travel a bit more.

The entire premise of the book is to show how a family of four can save well over $2,000 US on their next Disney trip. The only problem I have with that premise is that most people would not be able to use all of the tips on just one trip. The well-to-do people I referenced earlier may be able to as long as they have a lot of money and beyond amazing credit. So it is more likely that budget-minded (or struggling) people, perhaps like you and me, will save only a few hundred dollars or perhaps more on successive trips. Eventually, we would save thousands! This is not a fault with the book, but perhaps with the book’s premise, as the author states this problem himself.

The only thing I would have to mention is the misinformation about Disney’s Vacation Club given in a chapter about renting DVC points. The author gets his math wrong and so advises strongly against a DVC membership saying that it’s never a winning proposition. Many have found just the opposite. This still doesn’t negate the value of the book for those looking to save money on a Disney vacation, for budget-minded people probably won’t buy into a DVC membership anytime soon anyway. So take the chapter with a grain of salt but be sure to read the information about renting DVC points, because it is valid.

Rating: I would give this book a 4.5 stars out of 5 for die-hard Disney travelers who have been everywhere and done everything. There are many many tips for such people that should help to drastically cut expenses.

However, I would give this book only 3 stars out of 5 for the average Disney travelers who don’t have a Brinks truck following them around and lack stellar credit. Most of the tips are either obvious or beyond the ability of such ones to exploit.

However yet again, I would still recommend this book for everyone for only you know what is valid for your situation. Frankly, if the tip to save money isn’t in this book, it isn’t anywhere else!

Looking Up at Disney World’s Main Street

Have you ever tried to take a picture of Main Street at Walt Disney World? Usually your shots would be filled with people that obscure the beauty of the buildings and their architecture.

So I found a solution! Point the camera UP:

Main Street 1

Not a ‘people’ in sight!

Main Street 2

Main Street 4     Main Street 3

The view is better up there!

Main Street 5

How many would notice the little flower arrangement?

And after you’ve worked your way up Main Street, don’t forget to take a clear un-peopled shot of the grandest subject any photographer could ask for:

Main Street 6

OK, I said ‘un-peopled’, not ‘un-moused’

Actually, the above shot isn’t quite un-peopled. Can you find the one person who snuck into my composition?

So remember, the tip of the day when photographing in a crowded environment is to angle your camera upwards, and edit those people right out of your shots!

Disney’s PhotoPass Picture Tips

My wife and I are Walt Disney World fans. We have gone as a couple six times and I have gone an additional two times, as a youth. We have also gone on one Disney Cruise and, as this post will feature, we have gone once to Disneyland.

We never thought we’d make it to California to visit Walt’s first park, but in 2013 the dream came true. It was unseasonably cold, but we made the best of it.

So join us on a trip down memory lane as we share our Disney PhotoPass pictures. Afterwards, I will have some tips for you to make your pictures the best they can be:

Big Red

Duffy     Sailor Donald

Bugs Land

Cars Land Sign

Cozy Cone Motel     Mater

McQueen

Castle     Walt and Mickey

Don’t forget, you can also purchase ride photos and have them attached to your PhotoPass account. Most rides with photo-ops have this feature now.

Ride Photo Splash Mt     Ride Photo RS Racers

Disney’s PhotoPass is quite expensive so here are some tips to maximize the value:

  • Try to use one PhotoPass Card for your family or group, for simplicity later on.
  • Pose for as many PhotoPass Photographers as possible in as many places.
  • Plan ahead. Pick three poses per set-up and be prepared to do them quickly.
  • Try to spread your posing out over several days so your clothing will change.

These are just a few suggestions that you will notice we didn’t follow in our PhotoPass photographs above. I give advice better than I take it!

The most obvious advantage to using Disney’s PhotoPass is that your whole family or group can be in the picture. Remember, they will also use your camera, but likely the camera they are using will take better pictures.

And don’t forget to say ‘Cheese!’ Mickey likes that.