31 December 2008

Year of a million dreams

I thought today, since it is the last day of 2008, we would take a look back at some of my favorite photographs that I took at Walt Disney World in the past year. It has definitely been a year of a million dreams, even if I never won anything, that has spawn a million dreams for everyone I have already had come true. Some of these pictures have appeared on the Gazette before, and some of them haven’t, but they are most definitely some of the highlights of my collection.

30 December 2008

MouseFest for Dummies

A while back, at the Geek-together for Wall*E this past summer, I met Elizabeth Caran. Through the miracle of the internet we have become fast friends in the months that followed. MouseFest offered a perfect opportunity to not only spend some time with Elizabeth, but also to serve as Geek Ambassador to several of her friends who had little or no experience with Walt Disney World. I believe the upbeat attitude towards Walt Disney World of my wife may have gone further than my “Did you know…” orations, but regardless it was fantastic to make some new friends and strengthen the bond that I had already begun to form with Elizabeth.

Upon returning from MouseFest, Elizabeth asked if I would like for her to write an article for the Main Street Gazette. My response was a resounding, “YES!,” which brings us to today. As always, comments on Gazette articles are fantastic, but I would consider it a personal favor if you would leave a comment for Elizabeth so that she’ll come back a write for us again!

MouseFest for Dummies
By Elizabeth Caran

As I was planning my trip to MouseFest, it occurred to me on more than one occasion that I was a poser to the highest degree. I only read a handful of blogs, and only two podcasts are on my list to listen to at all. I don't even always listen to every one of those. My love for Disney World is true… I am certainly addicted to all four parks as my six (seven with MouseFest) visits over the last 30 months can attest to. I'm also a fan of a few travel guides and books, being the good librarian I am. But I was really nervous about attending a fan convention with people who I knew were die-hard addicts--people who could tell you who exactly created which attraction and when they did so. Heck, I have a hard time remembering which attractions were built on which coast first.

To make matters worse, I'm very shy in new situations. I get terribly nervous talking to new people and I am easily intimidated by large crowds. However, a friend of mine basically convinced me I HAD to go at all costs. To ease my nervousness, I decided to ask a few friends to come along, just in case I hated MouseFest. At least this way I knew I would have a good time no matter what. Four of my friends agreed to ditch their other responsibilities for the week and come along.I picked my events carefully, knowing I'd be hitting them all solo. First was Ryan Wilson and Greg Grimsley's Unofficial Rocking Chair meet on Thursday. This seemed to be low key and casual enough that I could face it without my knees knocking too badly. Plus, Ryan and I had met at a Wall-E screening this summer and had been Facebook buddies for several months, so at least he wasn't a total stranger. It was a fabulous way to ease into MouseFest, as the crowd was small, friendly, and casual. We rescued borrowed Ryan's wife and headed off to Artist's Pointe for drinks, dinner, and Christmas decoration viewings.On Friday, I attended the 500th Episode Party for WDWToday. Although there were close to 100 people there, it was also an intimate affair, with tables and enough seating for all. Plus, there was chocolate cake and free sodas. Really, how could that go badly? Again, this was an event where I knew someone already so I was a little more at ease than I would have been in a room of total strangers. By now, I was getting the hang of approaching total strangers, and I was already enjoying a new, strong friendship with Ryan and Aileen… two people who seemed completely in their element at a large event like this. They were also at the MouseFan Travel Illuminations Dessert Party and introduced me to even more new faces.By Saturday, I felt completely at home. I attended the Mega Mouse Meet with only a small bit of fear and found myself chatting with Lou Mongello and shaking hands with Jennifer and Dave Marx. Not to mention meeting Lee Cockerell, which may have actually been my favorite part of the whole event.

Saturday night was simply a party. I sang and danced at Jellyrolls with about a hundred of my closest MouseFest buddies and it was, as Jellyrolls often is, a night to remember. Sunday, I had the pleasure of watching a boy beat all the men at Lou's Triviafest (I actually called him Mr. Mongello when I met him and he was most adamant about me never doing that again). By the time everything broke up on Monday, I knew that coming to MouseFest had been an excellent decision, and one I intend to repeat.So if you are like me… a fan… but not sure you're THAT big a fan… trust me. Make plans to go next year. It's totally and completely worth it. I'll be sure to say hello!

Elizabeth has also written an article for the Main Street Gazette’s good friend, Imaginerding. Be sure to head over to Imaginerding and check out her reflection on the Disney Institute.

29 December 2008

Impersonating a comic

MuppetVision 3D in Disney’s Hollywood Studios offer more gags per square foot than just about any space in any park, anywhere, period. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Toy Story Midway Mania, and Expedition Everest all have tremendous dedication to their designs and are choke full of inside jokes and extraordinary details, but MuppetVision 3D pours it on and fills in every available corner. These jokes can be seen from a distance, like the building with eyes above, in the seldom used queue line, and throughout the interior of Muppet Labs. Taking time to catch some of the greater gags can be difficult, especially when the next showing is now, but for a Muppet fan, there is no better place to be.One of my favorite tucked away jokes is in the security office, just to the right of the entrance turnstiles, tacked to the corkboard behind the hat rack. There you can find WANTED posters for both Fozzie Bear, my favorite Muppet, and Miss Piggy. After reading the posters it becomes quickly apparent that Miss Piggy clearly was allowed the create her own WANTED comment, while Fozzie Bear’s was more than likely penned by Statler and Waldorf. Although, it is safe to say Fozzie can take a joke, as both WANTED posters have been neatly autographed.

28 December 2008

Mickey's Christmas Carol... An Epilogue

With Christmas winding down, I thought we would take one more look back at my favorite holiday tradition, viewing Mickey’s Christmas Carol, through the eyes of a collector. MICKEY’S CHRISTMAS CAROL… An Epilogue comes to us from the Spring 1984 The Disneyana Collector, and certainly gives me a number of items I am already adding to next Christmas’ list.

New Disney animated feature films are generally heralded with promotional advertising and various character merchandise… and Mickey’s Christmas Carol is no exception. Although termed a featurette rather than a feature, the film has been given the same treatment accorded a full-length movie as far as character merchandise is concerned.

Disneyana collectors who like to gather such promotional merchandise relating to films will be pleased to know that Mickey’s Christmas Carol left behind it an abundance of collectibles. There’s a set of five Grolier matched porcelain pieces – the 8 1/2” plate, the bell, the 7” tall figurine, the 2 1/2” disc ornament and the 3 1/2” miniature plate – all with the same scene involving Scrooge McDuck, Tiny Tim and Mrs. Cratchit (Minnie Mouse).Other Christmas Carol commemorative merchandise, most of which can be found at Mickey’s Christmas Chalet at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, include a porcelain figurine of Scrooge and Tiny Tim in a musical rocking chair, napkins, coasters, a pin-back button, a ball tree ornament, a lidded tin container with various scenes from the movie on the sides, a round art-glass ornament, a Read-Along record and a tape, a Little Golden Book, a tote bag, two different photo-etched tree ornaments and a set of five porcelain bisque figural tree ornaments, including Mickey, Minnie, Scrooge, Tiny Tim and Jiminy Cricket. Yet to arrive on the scene, probably by fall, are a mug and a set of 2 1/2” round disc ornaments with a different scene on each.

Many of the pictorial subjects appearing on the promotional merchandise portray actual scenes from the film but some of the items are related to the movie only by virtue of the Dickens-type costumes worn by the characters depicted. In any case, collectors agree that the Christmas Carol merchandise makes up “the happiest collection on earth.”

27 December 2008

Life that surrounds you

Our continuing series looking at quiet corners for adults to rest takes us deep within the depths of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The forests, jungles, and other habitats that form the boundaries and boundless lands of this park also create fantastic coves perfect for reenergizing the internal batteries.

One of the often overlooked areas of Disney’s Animal Kingdom is its hub, Discovery Island. Here guests can find gorgeous walks, the Tree of Life, complete with its creepy crawly 3D film, shops, and several dining experiences. One such restaurant, Flame Tree Barbeque, houses some top notch quick service dining, along with a myriad of details, and vibrant pavilions. The latter element is the home to today’s break.Behind Flame Tree Barbeque, down a winding path lit by lanterns, are a multitude of pavilions. Each is decorated in a particular predator/prey relationship (i.e. snake and mouse, spider and moth, owl and rabbit, etc.). At meal times these pavilions can become quite crowded because of the terrific fare provided by Flame Tree Barbeque, and because the pavilions provide ample shade, a highly sought after commodity inside of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. At off times and in the evenings, these dining pavilions offer another benefit, quiet.When diners aren’t present, the long winding paths that interlace between the pavilions allow you to remove yourself further and further from the congested walkways behind you. This walk, as you seek out a remote and unoccupied pavilion, also allows you to begin to discount from the going-going-going mindset. While the pavilions themselves offer only modest patio tables and chairs, it is the overall surroundings that make them a truly wonderful place to take a rest, plan your next move, or to chat with the rest of your party.

My Flame Tree Barbeque advice is to continue down through the trails to the very edge of small lake. This body of water, which feeds into the Discovery River, borders not only Discovery Island, but Asia and Dinoland U.S.A. as well. Most guests will not walk down several flights of stairs, passing perfectly good pavilions, in order to reach this area, but it offers one of the greatest views afforded to the determined guest. Sitting here while you recharge your theme park get-up-and-go, you can catch a breeze off of the water, take in the vista of the water, Asia, and the Forbidden Mountain (along with hearing the screams of happily terrified train passengers), and not worry about the sun beating down on you for a moment or two.No matter what pavilion you stop in at, the area behind Flame Tree Barbeque is sure to offer you just the repose you are looking for, without ever having to leave Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

NOTE: You may have noticed I have given this set of articles their own segment title: Parking Breaks. I plan on talking about the places to relax inside of Walt Disney World four theme parks for quite a while, and I wanted the readers to have a way to find them quickly, without having to scour through all of the various Perspective pieces.

26 December 2008

Just to get a better view

A while back, in honor of the closing of the Adventurers Club, we viewed a correspondence between Hathaway Browne and Weggie Wishmeyer. Today, let’s take a gander at another communication. Although this letter is more formal, and not nearly as romantic, it still tickles in all of the right places.

25 December 2008

Verry Merry Christmas - 2008

This has been quite a year for me; personally, professionally, and Disney-y. I wish I could give a gift to each of you who have followed along with me on the Main Street Gazette this year, a gift for the gift of your commitment you have given me, but sadly I don’t have that kind of cash lying around. So, once again, as I have said a thousand times before, and will say a million more times before we’re all said and done, Thank You!

Thank you for your comments. Thank you for your readership. Thank you for listening to me prattle on on the various podcasts I have been so humbled to be a part of. Thank you for your letters. Thank you for your questions. Thank you for letting me be me.

A new year is almost upon us, and it promises to be a very bright year for the Main Street Gazette and, I hope, for you as well. The one small gift I can give to all of you today is that I am not planning on letting the Main Street Gazette go anywhere, anytime soon.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from my family at the Main Street Gazette to yours! Wherever home may be, you are always a welcomed guest here!

24 December 2008

Enjoy this American tradition, but please no tasting

Throughout the holiday season, Walt Disney World, its four theme parks, and resorts are filled with edible displays. Molding sugar, chocolate, sugar, and, of course, gingerbread fill lobbies and hidden corners alike. Though the most famous of the gingerbread houses resides in the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, another tempting, although not as well-known or sought after, residence fills the front of the Liberty Inn.Just like the baked goods that are filling most of our homes right now, this gingerbread house has obviously been prepared with a lot of love, among other oversized ingredients. In fact, the American Inn gingerbread installment consists of 820 lbs of sugar, 470 lbs of flour, 150 lbs of chocolate chips, 135 lbs of butter, 1,040 eggs, and 2 lbs of baking soda. According to records on how the house is prepared, the ingredients are all combined and then baked in a very large oven. And, as is stated right near the house itself, we are invited to “enjoy this American tradition, but please no tasting.”

23 December 2008

Fill up the stockings

Today was the last full shopping day before Christmas Eve. If you’ve been doing any window shopping for that special someone, then these last few hours of the day are probably the time to make the final decision and purchase that last minute gift.For those of you that still want to do some more window shopping, may I suggest the shops along Hollywood Blvd. in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Along the boulevard you can find Minnie placing presents under the tree (I hope one is for me), Mickey-eared ornaments doing high kicks, snowy trees covered in snowmen with mouse ears, and even pails piled high with the holiday’s finest, including Mickey’s gloves.

Need a little Christmas

The covers of the Walt Disney World guidemaps are always eye-catching, but never more so than during holidays. This year’s batch of winter guidemaps are no exception. For those of you who are unable to make it to Walt Disney World during this festive time of year, of for those of you just seeking a bit of Disney magic before the holidays consume us all, here are the covers to all four parks guidemaps this winter.

22 December 2008

A magic spell

The Scary Apothecary, found on Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ Sunset Blvd., isn’t only scary in name. Inside, stacked on shelf after shelf, are enough potions to hatch several villainous schemes or make a trip through Wonderland as slippery as the Cheshire Cat himself. In fact, among the many concoctions available on the Apothecary’s shelves, several mixtures, including a sleeping potion, have gone missing. I wonder what rogue is creating a dastardly distraction now.In order to make sure that no other potions fall into the wrong hands, the Main Street Gazette is offering documentation of the Aging Potion, Laughing Potion, and Shrinking and Sneezing Potions. All you princes in training and damsels causing distress be careful when your adventures take you to Sunset Blvd.

People and wild animals

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is filled with wonderful vignettes from the moment you walk through the front gates, until the moment you return to the gates and the world beyond. The land of Asia itself is a cornucopia of narratives and legends, and there is not spot finer for finding these stories than within the crumbling walls within the Anandapur Royal Forest, otherwise known as the Maharajah Jungle Trek.The dilapidated Royal Hunting Lodge is filled with accounts told through the remnants of gorgeous murals and other artistic forms. The most poignant of these stories is told through five reliefs. Though open to interpretation, it is a very telling sequence of events. Below are the reliefs as well as my own interpretation.

In the first panel we are made aware that the land was once dominated by animals who seemed to live well with one another. In the second section we see a violent storm and man trying to find his way just as the animals of the world are attempting to find theirs. In the third relief man begins to remove the forest home of the animals, causing them to flee their homes as well as man. The consequences of these actions are immediately visible in the fourth segment, when man’s own life is put in jeopardy because of famine, mudslides and other dangers caused by his lack of foresight. In the final panel we learn, just as man has, that there is a balance to the world and that working with the earth, and all of its creatures, is the only way to preserve all of our well-beings.

This is only a single instance of the message of conservation and preservation that is prevalent all throughout Disney’s Animal Kingdom. No matter what form it takes, it is a message worth listening to and worth trying to carry forward with you. The reliefs in the Maharajah Jungle Trek may very well be some of the most beautiful reminders in the park, but they’re value is only increased when we choose to heed their plea.

21 December 2008

A salute to all nations, but mostly America

Though the Swiss flag flying above the Swiss Family Treehouse is an oddity in the Magic Kingdom, it is not, as commonly believed, the only non-American flag to fly within the borders of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy. Right next door at the Jungle Cruise there is another flag flying. As you are boarding your boat be sure to look up. There you will see the Union Jack billowing in the breeze.I must dedicate this article to MouseFest’s Gazette Girls, whom, without ever knowing they had stumbled on the exception to a long held belief, found this by keeping their eyes open.