24 March 2021

Unwind in the Heart of Serenity

With days finally starting to get a little warmer, the beverage selection around my house has turned from warm teas and ciders to something with a bit more of a tropical flare. While the warm sun of summer may still be as far away as Castaway Cay, it doesn't mean we can't bring the tropical flavors of a sun-drenched beach to our kitchens.

The Konk Cooler is one of the legendary drinks that can be found on Castaway Cay. A little bit pina colada, a little bit mai tai, a little bit pog juice, and a little bit of mixologist magic creates quite a tropical cocktail. Also, it isn't so strong that it'll knock you right out in your lounger. Instead, it lets the fruit flavors party in your mouth and leaves you in search of a friendly bartender to whip you up another.



1 Oz. Passion Fruit Juice
1 Oz. Pina Colada Mix
1 Oz. Orange Juice
3/4 Oz. Light Rum
1/2 Oz. Dark Rum

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker.
Shake vigorously and strain into a tall glass with ice.
That's about as easy a recipe for a cocktail as their is. Honestly, I suspect most well-stocked home bar liquor cabinets contain all but one or two of these ingredients. For our part, I had the passion fruit juice, but not the pina colada mix, for others I imagine it might be the other way around. Also, if you're feeling particularly fancy, you can add a wedge of the tropical fruit of your choice for a garnish.

The pina colada mix gives the Konk Cooler a creamy texture that many tropical cocktails don't employ. Typically, I actually try to avoid mixed beverages that utilize orange juice because I feel like the tend to overpower the other ingredients. Don't get me wrong, I love orange juice (I am a Florida boy after all), but it usually is too strong for adding it in with other flavors. Not so here, where the most forward flavors are the passion fruit juice and the dark rum. This switch up from what I was expecting, and from what I remember from my Konk Cooler on Castaway Cay, made for a delicious surprise!

I did have a couple of thoughts while making these myself. One, I would probably add ice to the shaker just to add a little chill to the proceedings, before the concoction makes it to the glass. Two, the dark rum works well here, but I also wonder if it wouldn't plus it up just a hair if I used spiced rum in its place.

Castaway Cay may not be in our immediate future, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy a piece of it wherever we find ourselves. This fun, fruity, and frosty beverage will remind you of the warm seabreeze in your hair and provide you with a moment to serenity, wherever you happen to be. The next time you need that moment of bliss, throw on some beach music and remember that the Konk Cooler is a simple escape.

22 March 2021

Take a Stroll Around the Block

The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival is one of the longer festivals to grace the park. In a typical year it features garden ideas, seminars, shopping, food, music, and, of course, topiaries. It could be argued, and rightly so, that many of the festivals have lost their identity and have transformed into one year-long festival, with a couple of menu changes in the marketplace booths. Each year there is less innovative or original gardens and topiaries, with the individual spirit of the festival being relegated to new merchandise. That’s a story for another day.
The topiaries scattered about World Showcase and Future World have always been one of the true joys, and heart, of the Flower and Garden Festival. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a purist or just stubborn, but I’ve always liked the topiaries without the fake eyes. The more plant, the better.

Here we see a bit of topiary humor, with Aladdin modeling as the final touches are made to his topiary by a member of the horticulture team. This photo was taken in 1994, just days before the Aladdin topiary was installed for the first time in the festival. His spot for many years were the gardens, usually purple and green cabbage or marigolds, of Morocco. Situated along the miniature canals that connected to the waterwheel. A display, which while often overlooked, gave guests an up close and personal look at the model of irrigation.

When the gardens were removed to make way for Spice Road Table, Aladdin found other places to fly his carpet around the Morocco pavilion. While he isn’t part of the festival this year, I have a feeling he may be returning in the next year or two, as his film will be celebrating its 30th anniversary in November of 2022. I love Aladdin, especially his original placement, but I don’t know if he’s on the tops of my topiary list. As for you, which of the topiaries from the Flower and Garden Festival, new or retired, is your favorite? 

16 March 2021

Great Places for Children to Visit

Toy Story has become one of the marquee franchises in Walt Disney World. Its characters have an attraction in the Magic Kingdom, an entire land in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and a section of the of All Star Movies Resort. The Toy Story section of the All Star Movie Resort features a representation of Andy’s Room circa the original 1995 Toy Story film, complete with a three story Woody figure and bookshelf. This bookshelf features a number of nods to other Pixar works of the time and was visible in the movie as well. What do all of these book titles reference? I’m glad you asked, let’s run through them.
Let’s get a couple of the more standard books children might have on their shelves. Fairy Tales, Dictionary, Great Places for Children to Visit, ABC’s, My First Book, and The Stars could all be found, in some form or fashion, on just about any child’s shelf. There are, to my knowledge, no hidden meanings tucked away in these titles.
Red’s Dream, Tin Toy, and Knick Knack are all references to Pixar short films. Red’s Dream, from 1987, features a red unicycle dreaming of being a circus star. 1988’s Tin Toy, stars a one-man band toy, Tinny, who is being pursued, and then ignored, by a baby. It is worth mentioning that Tin Toy would go on to be the first Academy Award win for Pixar. Lastly, Knick Knack, released in 1989, features a snow globe trapped snowman who desperately wants to be free of his snow globe and hang out with other souvenirs at a beach party.
Next up, Smyrl Smyrl Twist and Twirl, is a reference to Pixar technician and artist, Eliot Smyrl. Smyrl has worked on everything from Toy Story and A Bug’s Life, to Finding Nemo, Up, Inside Out, and even Pixar’s latest release, Soul.
The Adventures of Andre and Wally B. is actually a short that pre-dates Pixar’s formation. This short was created in 1984 and features a robot named Andre waking up in the woods and being taunted by a bee, Wally B. This short was created by Alvy Ray Smith, John Lasseter, Bill Reeves, and other names Pixar fans would be familiar with, but was created when they were still at Lucasfilm.
Ant and Bee Go on Vacation, isn’t a real title and it doesn’t have a tie to a Pixar project. However, it is likely a reference to the 13 Ant and Bee stories by Angela Banner that were created by Angela Banner and illustrated by Banner and Bryan Ward in the 1950s through the early 1970s. This series is still a beloved children’s book series in the United Kingdom.
Lastly, let’s discuss a pair of mysteries. Feet First has no place in Pixar or real-world literature that I could find. It’s a complete enigma to me. Scooter Run, however, may be a nod to the scooters that were used as transportation around Pixar in their early years. In fact, it is possible that this is even a reference to the timed races they would have when they needed to let off some steam, but I can’t find any solid documentation of my theory. If you have details on either of these titles, I’d be happy to know!
There you have it, a shelf full of childhood memories, nods to Pixar’s early history, and a couple of mysteries. Which is your favorite bit of history or trivia that you’ll share on your next trip to All Star Movies?

03 March 2021

One of Nature's Sweetest Creations

Today is the beginning of the 2021 Taste of Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. While the full festival experience is still paused given the pandemic, we thought we would follow suit and give those of you at home a chance to create your own taste of the festival. We decided on something sweet, that would be easy to whip up, and could be enjoyed for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or a snack any time of the day.

The Honey Peach Cobbler Freeze has been on the menu of The Honey Bee-stro marketplace since 2018, though in 2020 and 2021 it opted to drop the "cobbler" portion of its name and simply go by Honey Peach Freeze. I imagine the image of cobbler makes most guests think of something warm, which is the last thing this frosty concoction should do. Let's jump right in!



2 Cups Fresh Peaches (peeled and diced)
2 Cups Frozen Vanilla Yogurt
1/2 Cup Milk
1/2 Cup Granola
1 1/2 Tbsps. Honey

Combine peaches, milk, frozen yogurt, and honey in a blender.
Blend until smooth.
Pour into 2 tall glasses.
Top with granola to taste.
Pretty simple, right? Basically a peach milkshake, or something between a milkshake and a smoothie, but either way is is definitely refreshing. We made a batch of these for our Sunday morning brunch, but we decided we could have had them at any point during the day for a little pick me up. Disney's recipe states that you can add 1 1/4 oz. of blueberry vodka to make it an adult beverage, but I would say you can add a lot of different spirits to make this freeze more adult. I personally imagine a citrus vodka would do the trick nicely.

We found a basic granola (honey coconut) to use as a topping, which I crunched up a bit more so that it would work into the beverage a bit more and not all sink to the bottom. Despite the name change during the festival, the granola doesn't dramatically change this drink. Honestly, it seems to enhance it by providing some texture when the blending process smooths out the other components. Also, the peach flavor we got was more reserved than we would normally like, and our peaches were ripe, so I would almost recommend 3 cups instead of 2 cups of peaches, but you know your palate best.

Overall, this is a great milkshake/smoothie, that is a breeze to throw together, and is good for any time of day. It gives you a solid base to mix and match fruits, flavors, and make something unique to you, while giving you a taste of the Flower and Garden Festival.

01 March 2021

Serving Serka Zong

Signage plays an important role in the storytelling and world-building of the parks and resorts of Walt Disney World. No place is it used with more enthusiasm and precision than in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, particularly in the lands of Asia and Africa. Touring through the Serka Zong section of the Discovery River Amphitheater, there are many signs of life that can be gathered from the assorted posting. They provide insight into governmental agencies and local laws, the history of the region, local businesses and industries, culture, mythologies, and beliefs. Additionally, these signs create a visually dynamic landscape that guests can break-up the monotony a structure or walkway. Even if they are ignored by guests, they have subconsciously affected the guest experience. When they engaged with, however, that is where the real magic of great storytelling comes in to play.