Friday, August 19, 2011

Almost There; Just the Two of Us

Throwing caution, kids, and dogs into the wind, Hubster and I are going to Walt Disney World, just the two of us!  (not to worry, the kids & dogs are actually going to Grandma & Grandpa's & friends' houses) 

We are celebrating 15 years of marriage next week.  In that time we've moved six times, driven five different cars, been involved with four different churches, had three kids and two and a half dogs {no partridge or pear, but we do have a plum tree...}

In keeping with the number theme, I googled a few fun facts about Disney:

I thought I hated laundry... Disney Cast Members wash an average of 285,000 pounds of laundry each day!  If you or I were to wash and dry one load a day, it would take 52 years just to do what Disney does in a single day. Over 15 years, that's 1,560,375,000 pounds to be washed.  {Yeah, we'd be dust before we could wash that much.}

I'm a Coca Cola girl, but yikes!  75 million Cokes are consumed every year in Walt Disney World.  That's 1,125,000,000 Cokes over 15 years.

Trivia Question!  The Lost & Found is a busy place in the Disney Parks.  Can you guess the number one lost item?  ( I'll bet you get it!  The answer is at the end of the post)

In any given day, Disney's Photo Pass Photographers take between 100,000 & 200,000 pictures.  In 15 years, that would add up to 547,500,000 - 1,095,000,000 pictures.  Even the most die-hard scrap-booker must get a little shaky thinking about all those shots!  {and all that editing!}

Have you ever had a Turkey Leg in a Disney Park?  Perhaps you've seen others gnawing away like they'd been transported from a medieval theme park show.  Seriously, if Costco made turkey legs, this is the size they'd be.  They're HUGE!  (and one of my favorite uniquely Disney treats)  Well, 1.6 million of the banquets-to-go are gnashed on each year between the four theme parks.  That's an even 24 mil. in 15 years.  Pass the cranberry sauce!

Remember the 80's movie, Can't Buy Me Love?  The protagonist, Ronald Miller,  mows 331 miles of lawns for his summer job to raise money for a new telescope.  Well, he'd still be riding if he were mowing the Disney grounds.  Each year, 450,000 miles are mowed on property.  That's 6,750,000 miles in 15 years.

Honey, I love you.  There's no one I'd rather be on this journey with than you.  Here's to another 15, and 15 after that, then 15 more...don't you think we could even squeeze in another 15?


Trivia Answer!  Among the lost, hats are in second place with an average of 18,000 a year.  6,000 missing cell phones and 3,500 where'd-I-put-that digital cameras must equal a lot of bummed-out vacationers.  But the number one lost item, at an average 76,650 lost each year?  Sunglasses!  (I bet you got that, right?)
Guy Patterson, AKA Shades
That Thing You Do
Best. Movie. Ever.
{Well, at least in my top 5}

Friday, July 15, 2011

Almost There; Carmageddon

Happy Birthday, Disneyland!  56 on Sunday? 
You don't look a day over 50.

Let's hope that if you're planning to visit the Southern California Parks this weekend, you stay there for the duration of the party.  Sounds like traffic is grinding to a halt with the 405 freeway closure to the North, creatively dubbed "Carmageddon."  At least in the Parks, your CARS will be smiling!

Have a great & safe weekend, folks!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Almost There; At the Movies {Cars 2}

Happy Monday, folks!  Over the weekend, our family piled into the truck and headed out to the movies.  We patronized one of our favorite small town theaters, where the matinees are still affordable, the seats are squeaky, but still springy, and everything - from the walls to the floors- is covered in crushed movie-theater-red velvet.  It was the perfect setting for Cars 2.

We went in having read some negative reviews about the movie.  I was hesitant when I heard that the character "Mater" was an even bigger part of the sequel.  Sophomoric humor is not my cup of tea.  If it was to be up-played in the sequel, then perhaps I would side with the critics and declare this the first inferior Pixar flick.  What I loved about the first movie was its scenery and the way it immersed you in that small town sense of camaraderie.  The music complimented the sweeping southwest panoramas, evoking both nostalgia and sense of adventure.  The critics were saying that Cars 2 left the small town behind for a spy-themed world tour.  I was doubtful they could do any better than dubious.  I was wrong.

What I think most reviews should have led with was: Michael Caine is in this movie.  Dreamy-voiced, amazingly talented, SIR Michael Caine.  Have you ever seen a bad Michael Caine performance?  'Nuff said.  {except: it had MICHAEL CAINE!}  Ahem.  Pixar did not disappoint, from the funny reunion of the Toy Story gang in the Pixar Short, Toy Story Hawaiian Vacation, to the Radiator Springs gang on their world tour.  True, the story focuses on Lightening McQueen and Mater from the original series{did I mention they added two British characters, one of which is voiced by none other than Michael Caine?}, and maybe it has to do with the fact that Mater's mannerisms reminded me of my goofy Chocolate Labrador, but I found the dubiousity(yes, I'm making up a word) to be handled well.  I even chuckled. 

The cities in which the gang travels to were amazingly animated (including "Towkyo")  I'm sure I missed many references to real life people in the racing world, but fans of that genre will probably pick out the subtle salutes.  The writing and ingenuity were enough to capture adults' attention as well as entertain kids.  There was more intense action violence than I remembered Disney or Pixar showing in previous films, perhaps on a Parr to The Incredibles.  But it's a spy movie.  Explosions and battered informants are at home here, as is Michael Caine.  {swoon!}

What really was neat, was towards the end of the movie we return to Radiator Springs there is a great pan shot down main street.  This is what Cars Land is going to be!  All the mock-ups and story boards over at Blue Sky Cellar are really fun to look through, but seeing that quick camera stroke through the scenery, giving us a glimpse of what we will be able to walk through come Summer 2012, made my heart skip a beat.  It was like I was almost there

Okay, ladies, you ready?

AKA: Michael Caine

Monday, June 13, 2011

Almost There; Hidden Mickeys

Have you ever found a Hidden Mickey?  Well proportioned and even abstract trios of circles seem to jump out at you from the obvious to the least suspecting of places.  In our household, contests ensue in the vein of the "slug bug" road trip game.  It is addicting.  Exclamations of, "Hidden Mickey!" can be heard near and far, as evidenced by the strange glances we receive from the un-Disney-fied in, say, the party goods store.   {True story: my son spotted this and I whipped out my cell phone to snap a shot.  Sure, it's geeky.  But it's fun!}

They're everywhere when you're thinking Disney...  find them and it's like you're almost there!  


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Almost There; Of Princely Character

photo by Annie Liebowitz

What makes a good prince?  Honor?  Wisdom?  Courage?  Passion?  He is, after all, one day destined to be King.  His behaviour as a young man has much to say about who he will become.  Mistakes are to be expected, but the manner of correction he receives and the training he submits to will ultimately shape his future.

 My daughter loves the movie Tangled.  I mean, is head-over-heels about it.  Don't believe me?  Click here to visit her blog.  We first saw the movie in theaters together.  Each of us came out with a different opinion of the movie as a whole.  She had stars in her eyes of a relatable princess and a dreamy guy who ultimately followed their dreams and lived happily ever after.  I, on the other hand, was a bit perturbed at the mother-figure = bad, thief-as-boyfriend = good theme.  Perspective is everything.  She saw the movie as a teenage dreamer.  I saw the movie as a retired teenager who had been there, done that.  Back then, in the "olden eighties" as my son so *ahem* lovingly puts it, I bought into the whole good-girl-falls-for-bad-boy fairy tale too.  But seeing the movie as a mom, my perspective was, "What do you mean she falls for this Flynn Rider guy?!?  Can't she see he's a thief, a liar, and just using her?!"  (the smolder did NOT work on me)  

I worry not only what we are teaching our girls about who they should "fall" for, but who we are telling our boys they should be.  Are we feeding our boys this character assignment of "If you want to get the girl, you will need to have a dark the bad boy"? 

Two of my all-time favorite fairy tales are Disney's Sleeping Beauty and Mulan.  I have always loved  Prince Phillip from Sleeping Beauty.  He had what I would call Princely Character.  He was a passionate prince who loved his princess, recognized evil for what it was, and fought that evil with all his might to save his girl.  That's Princely, indeed. 

Mulan's love interest was Shang, Captain in the army and son of the General.  He was a leader who took his role seriously.  He trained hard, followed orders, and didn't allow himself to get distracted from his goal.  He was the kind of man that Grandmothers hope for their grandchildren {Would you like to stay forever?} Again, Princely Character.

The other end of the spectrum is Princes without depth.  I love Cinderella, but let's face it, her prince was rather two-dimensional.  Handsome and polite, but I couldn't make out more than just a pretty face.  Likewise, Snow White's Prince Charming was just that.  Dedicated, sure {One song, I have but one song...} but a bit flat.  If you need someone for a tooth-paste commercial, he's your guy. 

Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid was more of a free-thinker, and did risk his life to try and save Ariel {Grim, I lost her once, I'm not going to loose her again}, but he did fail to recognise evil when it came in a beautiful, deceiving form.  Sometimes evil presents itself as loveliness, and a good prince should be able to discern true beauty from a counterfeit.

Can we encourage our young men to be of Princely Character?  To live with a sense of purpose, to be honorable, noble, courageous and good?  I hope so!  Perhaps there is a lesson in Tangled for our boys after all.  Flynn Rider ultimately found that Eugene Fitzherbert, the gentle & honest persona he once tried to shed, was the persona worth keeping.  While Eugene is still no Phillip or Shang, he's working on making better decisions.  I suppose one could say that he's almost there

All photos are, of course, Copyright Disney. Except as otherwise noted.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Almost There; California Adventure

{The kids, enjoying soft-serve from Catch a Flave
back when you could get bubblegum flavor!}
On the West Coast, we are lucky enough to have two Disney Parks!  Oh, you knew that?  There is, of course, the one, the only, Disneyland!  Then, Disney un-paved a parking lot and put up a paradise.  In 2001, Disney's California Adventure (or DCA) opened it's gates for the first time.  Unfortunately the response from locals was luke-warm at best.  Revisions of the park started almost immediately.

Perhaps it was my not being a local, but I fell in love with DCA when we first visited in 2005.  When we needed a calming break from the bright hustle and bustle of Disneyland park, we headed over to DCA.  There were quiet pockets of the park like the farm area with the best cheese sticks ever... I mean, these suckers were huge and came with a generous helping of purple grapes.  We would hit that little market, find a picnic table in the shade and relax while we watched the world hurry by.  While I think everyone in our family would still choose Disneyland as their favorite park, DCA provided a reposed place of refuge.

Apparently, our little utopia was not seen in the same light by Disney's dream team executives.  They had a new dream already {why they didn't think this through in the first place, I don't know...} and everything was set to change.  Some speculated that the original plan for the park was to "get it done yesterday", with the intent of re-doing what didn't fit as the admission money came in.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I know that Disney, like any business, ultimately needs to make a profit.  Having a Southern California themed park in Southern California became redundant.  The process of changing the kitchy California of yesteryear image to a full-fledged deluge of Disney theme park began.

Toy Story Midway Mania blasted onto the scene in summer of 2008.  This was a wonderful addition.  The Boardwalk got some new games, the neon Mickey came down from California Screamin', and the sun from the Sun Wheel became Mickey and thus Mickey's Fun Wheel.  More recently, the somewhat iconic Maliboomer was taken down and has an awkward "park" in its place (basically, some benches and pvc trellises).  I was quite disappointed to hear that our favorite little farm area was being torn down to put up a ride for the new Cars Land.  It was a full circle; they paved our paradise to put up a parking lot ride. 

Paradise Pier 2005

Paradise Pier now

I don't like to speak ill of Disney, but I have to say that if I had gone to DCA within the last two years, and it was my one BIG trip, I wouldn't have been impressed.  Many of the park's major renovations have come with long term closures and construction walls everywhere you turn.  (The water in the bay was drained for the better part of a year while work on World of Color was underway)  With all the "coming soon" and "pardon our pixie dust" signs I'd feel like I had really missed out.  Something great is coming, but you won't see it any time soon.  Please visit us again! 

Slowly, though, things are coming together.  The new park is emerging.  In 2010, the much lauded World of Color finally premiered, and to stellar reviews.  The California inspired, "Orange Zinger" got a face-lift to reveal a more blatantly Disney, "Mickey's Silly Symphony Swings".  Work has long been underway for the new Little Mermaid attraction, which will open June 3rd. (Perhaps it's the homeschooling mom in me, but I have missed "Golden Dreams", the edutainment film on California's early history.)  Also slated to open this summer is the re-themed Goofy's Sky School, formerly Mulholland Madness, and Paradise Gardens, a boardwalk inspired eating area which replaces Pizza Oom Mow Mow, Burger Invasion, and the water play area with the surf boards and the fire boat.  (Disney Parks Blog has more info on Paradise Gardens Menu items, as well as a new opening date of July 1st for both the eateries and Goofy's Sky School.)

Tandem surfing was never so easy!
Future home of Paradise Gardens, summer 2011

Although there are still many changes ahead... Cars Land in 2012, along with a complete 1920's era re-theme of the park's entrance, including a replica Carthay Circle Theater(where Snow White first was shown) and a Red Car Trolley line... now is not a bad time to visit.  It's sad to think about some of the places that our family really enjoyed being replaced.  But a part of me is growing more and more curious to see what new opportunities Disney has planned.  I am looking forward to making new memories.  I think I'm ready to be almost there.

Are you curious about what's new and what's next at DCA?  This is a fun look at Disney's Blue Sky Cellar, the Imagineers' concepts for upcoming attractions and new themes.  Click here to see what's NEW at Disney's California Adventure Park.

The much-braver-than-I kids after riding the Maliboomer in 2009
Glad they all met the height requirement before its removal!

My last two cents: With all the changes, why couldn't they have revamped It's Tough to Be a Bug?  A Bugs Life is one of my all-time favorite animated movies.  The attractions's 3-D show does not do it justice.

Really cool themed cue area in Tough To Be A Bug.
Just watch out for the stinger and the stink bug in the show.
Seriously, what were they thinking with that show??

Monday, May 2, 2011

Almost There; 40 years

October 1st, 1971.  The Magic Kingdom opened it's gates for the first time.  It must have been a bittersweet day: a Park without its Creator.  Nevertheless, Walt's brother Roy gave the welcoming speech, reminding everyone of the collaboration involved with making the dream come true. 

“Walt Disney World is a tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney… and to the talents, the dedication, and the loyalty of the entire Disney organization that made Walt Disney’s dream come true. May Walt Disney World bring Joy and Inspiration and New Knowledge to all who come to this happy place… a Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn — together. Dedicated this 25th day of October, 1971.” ~ Roy O. Disney
Months earlier, a significant day in my history was occurring.  On the second of May, 1971, my parents were married!  This sense of Disney connection might have been lost on them, save for the fact that on our trip to WDW this past fall, there were 40th Anniversary signs everywhere!  Disney is huge on celebrations of all kinds, and is never a stickler about the exact date.  So the fact that we were celebrating my parents' anniversary seven months early was no problem (hey, Disney was celebrating its own birthday a whole year early!).

Upon check-in at any Disney Resort, the cast members cheerfully ask if you are celebrating anything on your trip.  You see, they have bins full of buttons for every occasion.  First trip to the Most Magical Place on Earth?  There's a pin for that.  It's your birthday?  There's a pin for that.  Anniversary?  Yep, there's a pin for that.  Once you get your pin, you are encouraged to wear it as often as you like.  Other cast members around the parks are on the lookout for said buttons and will congratulate you in casual passing.  Sometimes catching you off guard if you've forgotten you were wearing the button.  "Hey, how'd you know...?"  Oh, right.  Duh.  Even fellow guests can get in on the congratulations; again, often throwing us off.  I blame the heat.  It was fun to be on the reciprocal side, though, spotting buttons on others and shouting out congratulations to forgetful celebratees.

In 40 years, Walt Disney World has grown from one park & two resort hotels, to four theme parks, two water parks, and twenty-three resort hotels (with more on the way!).  In those same 40 years, my parents have grown from a family of two, to parents of one, to grandparents of three.  Kinda glad their expansion wasn't quite as prolific as the Walt Disney World Resorts...that would have made a very crowded Thanksgiving table indeed. 

Happy 40th, Mom and Dad! 
With Congratulations & Love,

Ooh!  Sometimes along with the congratulations
came complementary cupcakes - yum!
{Mom & Dad at the Contemporary Resort} 

{Happy soon-to-be 40th, Magic Kingdom... you're almost there!}


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Almost There; What Is It with This Girl and Soap?

Two posts on soap in as many weeks?  Please don't stop visiting on account of that.  I couldn't resist this adorable Minnie Mouse pump soap my daughter spotted at Target:

Target, folks!  It smells really fresh, and pumps a much smaller amount of suds per pump - perfect for precious little grubby hands.  Also comes in Mickey!

Now just washing up for dinner can be like you're almost there!


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Almost There; Zack's Vardøger

According to the {trustworthy} and {ever correct} site, Wikipedia, I have found the following definition:
The word vardøger is a Norwegian term defined as "a premonitory sound or sight of a person before he arrives"
It also states that it can be used in lieu of the more common German term, "doppelganger".  But I chose the Norwegian word for a reason.  If any of you are familiar with the Norway pavilion at Epcot, you will most likely have passed this beautiful mural as you board the Maelstom ride.

I had ridden this ride as a teenager on family vacations, and again as a young mom to Alex and Nick.  But nothing prepared me for the bizzarity of this most recent trip.  Our youngest son, Zack, had never been to Walt Disney World before.  At least not that we knew of.  While making our way through the Maelstrom line on our first day at Epcot, I grabbed my husband's arm in shock.  There was Zack.  As large as life, and... Norwegian!

Zack and a Lego creation, circa 2009

Zack doesn't see the likeness.  {Perhaps if had been something "cooler", like a Pirate from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride?}  But for me, just looking at my son it's like I'm almost there!  What do you think?  I really think there oughta be a way to share in the royalties or something...

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