Character Spotlight: The 60th Anniversary of the Alice in Wonderland Attraction Brings Out the Characters!

This is my 400th feature for this site!  And I had no idea going into this week what I was going to write about, but I knew I wanted it to be special.

Some weeks I have a specific topic in mind – something I’ve experienced already that I want to share, or something I plan to seek out. But often, I just visit the Disney parks and note what I happen to encounter. And oh boy, did I have an encounter yesterday!

This week – Thursday, to be precise – was the 60th anniversary of the Alice in Wonderland attraction at Disneyland Park. This classic Fantasyland dark ride is unique in all the world and remains consistently popular as it has been periodically updated or “plussed” over the years.

I actually didn’t board the attraction this week – although I rode it fairly recently with friends – as a) I rarely take the time to go on attractions since my biggest park love is its Mousertainment! and b) I got VERY distracted yesterday when this happened in celebration of the anniversary…

The Alice in Wonderland Character Cast of Disneyland Park!

YES! In the most incredible character moment I’ve EVER seen, SIX Wonderland characters all came together for a photo opportunity and some very lucky guests got to have a Meet & Greet and pose with the entire group!

To say I was having a total fan meltdown when this happened would be an understatement.

I’d previously met all six of these characters, but usually in groups of two, or perhaps seeing two groups of two greet each other in passing, but never meeting guests while gathered all together like this!

It was an unadvertised amazing piece of Disney Parks magic and I’m just thrilled beyond words that I was there to participate and get photos! Continue reading

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We Wants the Redhead!

As always, this article reflects my personal opinions and observations, not those of anyone else.

This week I went on Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland Park to have one last visit with the Redhead, as one of so many guests who have admired and appreciated this beautiful audio-animatronic character creation over the years.

On Monday, April 23rd, the attraction will be closing for a few months and this iconic scene will be altered to better reflect the current audience’s sensibilities. The Redhead will be transforming into a buccaneer herself, running an auction of goods, rather than an object of human trafficking as she is now seen as portrayed through a modern lens.  So the original bride auction version of the Redhead is going, though not everyone is happy about it, with some feeling it is destroying a piece of Disney history and Imagineering design in the process.

Thinking about this change and the furor over it made me realize that the park is really serving several different masters at this point, making it quite impossible to please everyone.

As I see it, there are three types of guests who go to Disney Parks:

  1. The old school hardcore Disney fans – those who have been visiting the parks for decades. They like things as they are – or preferably, as Walt Disney and his WED/Imagineering Legends originally created them. They resist change for any reason, and especially hate what they see as ‘change for the sake of change’ – which often means the adding of IP or “Intellectual Property” to a classic non-IP attraction. See the uproar over: The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management), It’s a Small World (with added Disney characters), Maelstrom becoming Frozen Ever After, shortening the Rivers of America to make room for Galaxy’s Edge, or the various changes the Pirates attraction has already undergone from adding movie characters like Captain Jack Sparrow, Barbossa and Davy Jones to the first politically correct updates made several years ago so the pirates would no longer be chasing the women, but instead chase food or have the women chase them. This crowd feels the park was always better ‘back in the day’ and few changes ever improve an attraction or a park.
  2. The modern Annual Passholder – the folks who go to the park several times a year or once a month or even once (or more) per week. For this group, they like change and expect and embrace it! They want the parks to be constantly evolving and offering them something new every few months at least to make the experience different. This crowd is often social media driven and looking for the latest thing to post on their Instagram, Facebook, etc. So new is always good and desirable – from new food and merchandise, to show updates, to a new “wall” to take a selfie against. This group demands that Disney constantly change to keep their attention.  And whether something has history in the park or not, if it’s outdated in its representation, these folks would often support its eviction or replacement with something new.
  3. The tourist – those folks taking an occasional or even once-in-a-lifetime trip to a Disney Park. This group wants a mix of both! They want the classic Disney Parks experience that they’ve always heard about, but also something unique to make their trip special and different to their neighbors’ who may go in another year. As long as they have a good time – whatever experiences that includes – it was worth the visit!

So how can Disney please all these different kinds of guests? There may be no answer to that other than perhaps giving everyone a little of what they want, even if they can’t have it all. Continue reading

How to Have a Romantic Valentine’s Day at the Disney Parks & Resorts

With Valentine’s Day coming up soon, you may be thinking about how best to celebrate the day. You could always curl up at home with a good romantic Disney or Pixar film!

But perhaps you’d rather spend the day at the Disney Parks & Resorts with your loved one?

In that case, I hope you’ve gotten your dining reservations done in advance, as it is a very popular day for a special Disney meal!

While some folks will opt for a fancy table service meal for some fine dining (and there are PLENTY of choices ranging from the atmospheric Blue Bayou at Disneyland Park to the delicious Le Cellier at EPCOT), maybe you and your loved one prefer to enjoy a real Disney meal with character? In which case, there’s very little that can top the magic of dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table inside Cinderella’s Castle at the Magic Kingdom – unless it’s dining at Be Our Guest in Fantasyland nearby!

Personally, I think one of the best combinations over at the Disneyland Resort is having dinner and a movie. Now, you could (for now) visit the AMC Theatres in Downtown Disney and pair that with a meal, but really my favorite way to do this is right on Main Street U.S.A.! Continue reading

Mousertainment Music: The Songs of the Disney Parks Attractions

Recently, the Disney world lost not only one of its longtime talented artists, but one of its most memorable park music contributors as well. X Atencio passed on September 10, 2017 at the age of 98. He was remarkable not only for being a Disney animator on works ranging from Fantasia to Mary Poppins, but for creating two of the most beloved Disney Parks attraction songs ever.

Sing along with me – “Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me!”

Or perhaps you prefer – “Grim grinning ghosts come out to socialize!”

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X Atencio’s tribute window on Main Street U.S.A.

Yes, X was the man responsible for the classic songs we all love in both the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction as well as the Haunted Mansion. He also contributed lyrics for “Bear Band Serenade” in Country Bear Jamboree (still to this day a favorite show/attraction thanks to the humor and great songs, especially the one that tickles my funny bone the most: “All the Guys That Turn Me On Turn Me Down”).

While I have previously discussed some of the wonderful atmospheric music you will hear played throughout the Disney resorts, in X’s memory, I thought it might be nice to take a virtual stroll through the parks and commemorate some of the terrific, catchy music you will hear inside many of the most popular attractions.

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The Sherman Brothers’ tribute window on Main Street U.S.A.

Let’s start with the big ones: in my opinion, the only equally iconic attraction music contributions comparable to X’s creations were clearly those of the inimitable Sherman Brothers. Thanks to them we not only have the earworm of “It’s a Small World After All” playing at most Disney Parks worldwide, but also its just as easy to get stuck in your head “The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room” counterpart.  Happily Walt Disney World Resort’s Magic Kingdom still celebrates that “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” shining at the end of every day at the Carousel of Progress. And for the moment at least, Figment still shares “One Little Spark” in Journey Into Imagination With Figment at EPCOT. Continue reading

The Best Laid Plans of Mousertainment…

After nearly a year of planning – including early mornings up before dawn to arrange dining and FastPass+ reservations, this week I was all set to head off to Walt Disney World for a wonderful visit… and then Hurricane Irma happened.

Suffice it to say, my long-anticipated trip got canceled and yesterday instead of enjoying all my exciting options at Epcot, I found myself sitting at home staring at a yet-to-be-unpacked suitcase. So what’s a Disney fan to do except head off to the Disneyland Resort and try to do a West Coast version of the day I’d originally envisioned?

Dining

My food plans for the day were set to be all about Canada! I had intended to try out the cheddar cheese soup and pretzel roll at the Canada booth at the Food & Wine Festival and then have dinner at Le Cellier in the Canada pavilion.  So what did I do at the Disneyland Resort instead?

I stopped by the last weekend of the Summer of Heroes event at Disney California Adventure where I found one of the themed specialty donuts called the “Local Favorite”.

It’s Canadian-adjacent. Or related. Or something. Hey, there’s maple in it!

How did this pay homage to my Epcot dining plans? Umm, hello MAPLE-filled donut (with bacon on top – oh yes!)!!!

While I’ll have to give the edge to the apple-pie-filled donut I’d tried earlier in the season, this one was a winner, too. Although I didn’t actually find much filling inside, it still had the awesome taste as if someone had mixed a pancake with a donut. And the bacon bits on top gave just a touch of salt to balance out the sweet. Yum!

Entertainment

High on my priorities list for entertainment at Epcot was to see the glorious Voices of Liberty and listen to their soaring harmonies and classic music selections. Continue reading

My Disney Do List #9: Riding in the Wheelhouse of the Mark Twain Riverboat

Last weekend I got to check off an item on my Disney Do List… mostly… and I wanted to share the experience!

The recent return of all the attractions around the Rivers of America at Disneyland Park has not only added a welcome energy back to the area, but it allowed me to do something I’d always wanted to do: ride in the wheelhouse of the Mark Twain riverboat!

A view from the top – New Orleans Square.

Now, I’d always heard this was such a popular request that one usually had to make it over there early in the day to have a chance of getting one of these coveted rides. However, a friend and I were there on a not-terribly crowded day and were lucky enough to be selected by the Cast Member piloting the boat for that particular turn around the river simply by being up front by the gate and being quick to respond when he asked if we (or the party next to us) had ever been up top before. I jumped at the opportunity I believed we were being presented – as did the couple standing next to us – and we were told that as soon as the gates were opened, we were to follow the Cast Member up the stairs to the top, which we excitedly did!

My friend didn’t know what to expect, but I was thrilled at the prospect of this rare visit to the top of the boat!

We climbed upstairs into a small anteroom and then into the wheelhouse itself. This small area fits a maximum of four guests along with the Cast Member.

Looking out at the view behind us of the dock and Big Thunder Mountain.

From there, we had not only an amazing view of the river and the park itself in all directions around us, but we got to watch the Cast Member in action, communicating with those who helped run the attraction as well as watching him work the boat’s bell and whistle. Continue reading

One Hour at D23 Expo 2017 – Part Two: Everything Else on the Expo Floor

Last week I explained that I unexpectedly wound up being able to spend one hour of one day visiting the D23 Expo 2017. While there I saw several terrific costume displays, but I also saw other wonderful random things at various booths. So today I’m going to share with you some of the other sights from my brief exploration of the Expo floor that day.

For example – a picture of Dory and Nemo created entirely out of Jelly Bellys at the candymakers’ booth!

This picture of Dory and Nemo made from Jelly Bellys was still a work in progress when I visited their booth!

I also watched folks interact with this 10 foot tall Spider-Man at the Sphero booth!

There was some beautiful artwork to be found at the Walt Disney Family Museum booth as they promoted their current exhibit featuring the tremendously talented Disney artist Eyvind Earle. Continue reading