28 February 2013

World News Roundtable - 28 February 2013

Roundtable Contributors: Princess Fee (DF'82), Estelle Hallick (This Happy Place Blog), Alan Mize, Melissa Sue Sorrells Galley (Mouse on the Mind), Blake Taylor (BlakeOnline.com), Andrew (Disney Hipsters Blog), and yours truly.

Princess Fee (DF'82)

My first ever half marathon was the inaugural Disney Princess Half Marathon, and it was an amazing experience, and so I watch each year’s event with jealousy and humility at the many women (and men!) who take part. This year’s race was held on Sunday 24th February, and the first lady to cross the finish line was Rachel Booth! She was cheered on by her two daughters to retain the title, and beat her time from the year previous. She could be a new idle of mine, having won four runDisney women’s titles (2 Princess Half Marathons,  and 2 Disneyland Half Marathons). 26,000 runners took part in this year’s Princess Half Marathon, which takes place in Walt Disney World, and winds through Epcot and the Magic Kingdom for 13.1 miles of royal fun. If you haven’t taken part in this event yet, and think it sounds like fun, get your shoes on and start training!

Estelle Hallick (This Happy Place Blog)

True story: When I first moved to NYC, I went to school and I cried a lot. It was a hard transition and I got through it but who knew that Disney, years later, would create a game to teach me just how to succeed in the Big Apple? Oh Disney, what would I do without you?

For real though, Disney has created City Girl, a game specifically for young women ages 20-26. Once you click in, you decide how you look, how you dress, how cute your apartment looks, and work to obtain your real job. (Doesn’t it sound like Mall Madness or playing with your Barbie dolls?)

I guess it’s no surprise that Disney isn’t much for diversity when it comes to creating these likenesses because most of them are tall, skinny, have great hair, and resemble fashion plates than a normal, hardworking person who can’t be quite that perfect all the time.

In a world where social media is everywhere and our phones are always close by, I hope young women everywhere would opt for real life -- really hanging out and about finding friends, shopping for their own apartments, and doing well in their jobs -- than a computerized one. Was this really a demographic that Disney felt was lacking in gaming world? I find that hard to believe.

This might come as a shock to some people, especially considering my often dour outlook during these roundtable discussions, but I love the Disney Jr. Live on Stage attraction. Sure it might blatantly panders to very young children and their equally gullible parents, and I might be a grown man. However, the amazing execution of these beautiful puppets more than makes up for any awkwardness I may feel. (which never existed anyway...)

Due to the fickle nature of children's television this show needs to be updated every few years to incorporate the new slew of characters. Sofia The First (a princess show...) and Doc McStuffins (a girl who is a stuffed animal doctor...really.) are the most recent additions. Though I haven't had a chance to see either show, or any Disney Jr. show for that matter, the puppets are equally as advanced and wonderful as the older ones. I was happy to see that they were integrated into the show well, and that they don't seem too pushy.

Alan Mize

This week, my topic is going to be short, sweet, and from what I hear, delicious.  In the past, I have eaten at Earl of Sandwich at Downtown Disney and I have loved it.  My personal favorite is the Hawaiian BBQ with grilled chicken, roasted ham, aged Swiss cheese, fresh pineapple, and barbecue sauce.  The barbecue sauce is sweet, the pineapple is tangy, and the Swiss cheese provides a nice bite.  I love it.  However, there is one sandwich that has eluded me and seems to have an almost cult following: the holiday sandwich.

Sadly, I’ve not had an opportunity to enjoy this concoction of oven roasted turkey, hearty stuffing, zesty cranberry sauce, seasoned mayonnaise, and warm gravy.  Thankfully, the sandwich gods must have been looking out for me, because it was announced this week that the holiday sandwich will be finding a permanent home on the menu board.  It’s truly a blessing that this is effective on March 4th, roughly two weeks before my next visit.  I am so excited to try this sandwich for the first time and see what all the hype is about.  I hope it lives up to the hype and if it does, I see many holiday sandwiches in my future.

Melissa Sue Sorrells Galley (Mouse on the Mind)

Great news for sandwich lovers: the Orlando Earl will now have the holiday sandwich on its menu all year long! In addition to the holiday deliciousness, the sandwich shop will also serve a variety of salads, wraps and a new line of soups. I, for one, can't wait to wait (and wait and wait) in line for my chance to enjoy a savory hit of the holidays any time of the year! I only wish they'd make the sandwich a menu mainstay at my local Earl of Sandwich in Manhattan. THAT would truly be something to celebrate.

Blake Taylor (BlakeOnline.com)

A book shedding light on the magic of Disney's guest services has been delayed until 2014. The Disney Difference by Ted Kinni was originally slated to release February 26, 2013, but has, for unknown reasons, been pushed back significantly on the calendar. Upon inquiring on a pre-order of the title at a local bookstore, I was told the book was postponed to next year. A bit incredulous, I tried to pre-order it at a different bookstore, where the order apparently went smoothly. That was, until a few days later when I received an email stating my purchase was unable to be processed. A reason was not given, but that was all but confirmation that Disney really had pushed back this book that had me so excited to delve into the backstage workings of Disney's approach to excellence.

Perhaps the fickle nature of book schedules is the reason why Disney usually stays mum about new releases. A few weeks ago when I wrote of The Disney Difference's (supposed) arrival, I expressed curiosity as to why fans have to go searching for new Disney books rather than be informed of them from Disney publicity like the company does elaborately with everything else is develops. We may have our answer now: publishing is such an unpredictable medium that announcing books far in advance would mean recounting statements and updating announcements left and right, which would appear unprofessional. As bizarre as it is, this is not the first time Disney has heavily delayed a book. Fans flooded to bookstores in 2009 to pick up The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney's Hollywood Studios, only to be told the title would not arrive for another 16 months. It seems it's better that Disney remains quiet rather than confuse readers.

Ryan P. Wilson (Main Street Gazette)

I wanted to take a moment today to update all of you to a situation I wrote about concerning my last visit to Walt Disney World. As many readers know, I was wholeheartedly disappointed with the customer service I received, more specifically the lack of response I received after several attempts to speak with management, when I was given a room at Pop Century that was still occupied.

The morning that article ran I was contacted by a manager from Pop Century who is a dedicated reader of the Main Street Gazette. Unfortunately, he and I played phone tag over the course of the next week or so and were never able to actually speak to one another. The blame for this is squarely upon my shoulders, not his, as those next two weeks were incredibly difficult to navigate and I only had the briefest of windows with which to speak with the outside world.

It did my heart a world of good to know that there were people listening, and I am happy to say that I believe my concerns have been addressed, whether or not I was finally able to speak with someone. The fact that I was reached out to, and the issues now known, leads me to believe that the situation I encountered won't befall another guest down the line.

I want to offer my sincerest thanks to the manager who called me (I would love to publish his name here, but as I never obtain consent to do so, I feel it would be inappropriate to do so. However, he knows who he is) and also offer up my apologies for never being able to make that phone connection. For those of you worried about your upcoming experiences at Pop Century, let me reassure you that I believe it will still be a terrific place to stay!

27 February 2013

Ripe Performers

A little less than an hour down the road from Walt Disney World is a town called Plant City, a little corner of the state that I was able to call home as a child. February and into March is prime strawberry season in this area of Florida and is celebrated through the annual Florida Strawberry Festival which begins tomorrow. This signature strawberry dish, which is always available at the festival, is Strawberry Shortcake. Can’t make it to the festival, but have a trip planned to Walt Disney World? You in luck, because Epcot’s Sunshine Seasons offers up their own version of Strawberry Shortcake!

Three thin layers of shortcake, whipped cream, and macerated strawberry pieces are tiered together in this feast for the eyes! Macerating the strawberries allows them to soften and give up a lot of their juices to form a type of simple strawberry syrup that soaks into the pieces of cake. Speaking of the cake, it comes across the tongue as soft and airy little slivers of sponge cake. Not to be forgotten, the rich creamy whipped cream holds everything together perfectly.

Florida is known for its citrus, but that isn’t the only fruit to call the sunshine state home. At the height of this strawberry season do yourself a favor and stop by a season of your own, Sunshine Seasons. In addition to grabbing a delicious meal, you can pick up your own sweet slice of Florida with their Strawberry Shortcake!

26 February 2013

Holy Cow

In the history of Disney critters, from Cinderella’s mice to Copper and Tod, nothing compares to seeing and interacting with a living and breathing creature. That said, of all of the magnificent creatures that have called Walt Disney World home, whether it has been in the Magic King, Discovery Island, or now in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, perhaps there is none more beloved than Minnie Moo.

Let’s dispel with this photographs side story, right off, shall we? Yes, that is Harry Caray in the photograph. In 1990, when this picture was taken, Caray and several of the Cubs’ players were taking a special vacation with fans of the Chicago Cubs. They happened to be on hand as Minnie Moo was welcomed into the Disney family.

Minnie Moo came to Walt Disney World via Edgerton, Minnesota, where she had lived on the Brockberg family dairy farm. Melvin and Dorothy Brockberg had a niece, Jody Kline, who began writing letters and sending photographs of Minnie the Cow to both Disneyland and Walt Disney World in 1988. It wasn’t until September of 1990, however, that Walt Disney World contacted the family about purchasing the Holstein. Minnie’s markings had been visible since birth and saved her on more than one occasion. According to Brockberg at the time, “She’s not a top producer. At different times we’ve talked about hauling her off to market, but she’d turn around and we see the spots. The spots saved her.”

Minnie Moo’s first home, as visible in this photograph was in Mickey’s Starland at Grandma Duck’s Petting Farm. The farm was shuttered in 1996 to make room for the children’s rollercoaster, The Barnstormer at Goofy’s Wiseacre Farm. Minnie Moo was then moved over to the Tri-Circle D petting zoo at Fort Wilderness. While the expected lifespan of a Holstein is 12 years, Minnie Moo lived to the ripe old age of 15, before passing away of natural causes in August of 2001.

Minnie Moo has a special place in the hearts of guests who visited her in either Mickey’s Starland or at Tri-Circle D. Even Brockberg, who had seen thousands upon thousands of cows in his lifetime, had never seen another cow with a spot pattern like Minnie Moo. Somewhere down the line there may be another cow with mouse-eared spots, but there will never be another Minnie Moo.

25 February 2013

A Few of My Favorites

I don’t know about you, but whenever I watch the Academy Awards my Oscars hangover always leaves me wanting to spend a month exploring Hollywood or to visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios. A trip to Disney’s Hollywood Studios is more economical than jet off across the country and taking a month of time-off, and it also has some great places to really soak up the Hollywood vibe. Here are just a few of my favorites.

The American Film Institute Showcase – Recently overhauled from its villainous past to sparkle with some of the greatest pieces of film history, it is almost an epic Hollywood tale in and of itself! There are artifacts housed here that spent time on the silver screen in Titanic, Superman, Gone with the Wind, Dead Poets Society and many others. If there is such a thing as Hollywood royalty, and the honor was extended to costumes and props, this exhibit would certainly be amongst the most influential in Hollywood.

Animation Gallery – The more time you spend exploring the Animation Gallery, a part of The Magic of Disney Animation, the more you are certain to uncover. One room is dedicated to the upcoming, or most recent, Disney or Pixar animated release and features concepts, models, backgrounds and a few sneak peak paragraphs about the film. A pair of other rooms are currently dedicated to backdrops and layout, showcasing an overwhelming amount of artwork from the Disney archives. Last, but certainly not least, is a small display that houses a smattering of Walt Disney’s own Oscar wins.

Background Music – You really want to feel like you’re living in the movies? Grab a bench on Hollywood Boulevard, or spend some time exploring the handprints in the courtyard of The Great Movie Ride, and just listen to the music. There are epic overtures to send you off on a hero’s quest, romantic ballads that tug at your heart strings, and even some pieces that are just plain fun to dance around to.

The Hollywood Brown Derby – It’s easy to say you come here to dine like the stars, but I actually prefer to step inside and absorb the feel of old Hollywood before the restaurant opens. The rich d├ęcor, caricatures of the stars, maps showing off where the Brown Derbies once anchored Hollywood, and the guest book signatures are just a few of the pieces that make you feel like you have arrived.

The Great Movie Ride – Become one with the movies as you costar in features from ever genre, from Western to Sci-Fi, Children’s films to Romance, every corner of the film catalog are covered in this attraction that his carried by the Audio-Animatronics figures of a handful of A-list movie stars. Your guide really gets in on the action, and the finale always leaves me wanting to raid my home collection for an impromptu film festival.

The architecture, behind the scenes effects, streetmosphere characters, shows, and experiences of Disney’s Hollywood Studios are as close to exploring Hollywood as you can get in Florida, but there are a couple of spots that are simply imbued with Hollywood. Whether you’re looking for a meal, marveling at a piece of cinematic history, or paying your respects to the films and stars themselves, the park is the perfect place for a little hair of the dog for your Oscars hangover.