Friday, October 26, 2012

Foodie Friday: Columbia Harbour House

Image Credit & Menu:

Even reading the name of the restaurant sends my taste buds into a frenzy! Remember that on my review of Keys to the Kingdom Tour I told you that this is where you stop for lunch. Lucky for me we did or I probably would have never found the best vegetarian meal in Disney! After reading review after review, I have come to find the general consensus is that this counter service is one of the best and favorites at Magic Kingdom and I have to agree! We were escorted in by our tour guide and taken to the top floor. I love American History and this cute little late 18th century restaurant was perfectly decorated. From the walls to the carpet to all the little trinkets sitting on shelves, you really felt you were in a different era! I’ll go ahead and apologize for my parents ordering their usual chicken strips and fries, as most of this food is available within every park, there isn’t much difference from restaurant to restaurant. Anyway, the chicken strips and fries were given a thumbs up! 

I want to focus here on a spectacular meal that I was served: The Lighthouse Sandwich. This sandwich, served with chips, has made its rounds into the hearts of many Disney vegetarians, and mine too! A simple hummus with tomato-broccoli slaw sandwich served on crisp bread. I think I was too stunned to answer the question from my parents: “Is it good?” Absolutely! After making my way through many of the parks, Yak and Yeti and their tofu noodles held the title as the best vegetarian meal (although Cosmic Ray’s veggie burger was pretty rockin’) I had found. Fresh broccoli slaw with a juicy tomato and creamy hummus can really make a girl’s day 10 times better. The bread was just crispy enough and the sandwich didn’t fall apart at all, something I can’t say for some of the veggie burgers I had. The chips were also pretty good but combine this fantastic sandwich with the beautiful early American theme and you’ve got a one-of-a-kind experience! I can’t wait to return to Columbia Harbour House and delve into another one of these! 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

DVC Open House

  If you've been to Walt Disney World, you have no doubt seen the Disney Vacation Club booths. So what are they all about? These booths are there to give you some information and to try to sign you up for an open house of the DVC. For those who don't know, Disney Vacation Club is Disneys take on the timeshare, that uses a point system to allow you to book any dates, as long as you have the points.
  If you sign up, first you pick a time you'd like to go and where you'd like to picked up at. Disney will pick you up from anywhere on Disney property, be it theme park, resort, Downtown Disney, etc. You'll get picked up by one of the red DVC vans you see driving around Disney, and taken to Saratoga Springs. When you arrive, you check-in and get a name tag. At this point, if you have a child over 3, you can take them to the playroom, which has everything from blocks and dolls, to video games and TVs with Disney movies and shows playing. After checking-in, there is a very nice waiting area with drinks and refreshments for you as you wait for your DVC sales reprentstive to come.
  The tour lasts about 60 to 90 minutes. Your first stop takes you in a room with many screens and a big light map that explains what the DVC is all about and shows you all the different resorts you can use your points at. Not only can you use them at Disney resorts, but also at over 500 partner hotels around the world. After that, you move to another building where you get to take a tour of a few different rooms available. When you first enter, they have a scale model of a Treehouse Villa, which I have to say even in model form is very impressive. The tour then goes through rooms from Aulani and the different room types from the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
  After the tour, you get the opportunity to sit down with the sales rep for some one on one time where they go over prices and availability. In a very no pressure environment, they give you the info and let you decide for yourself. If you decide this is for you and can afford, not only am I very jealous cause I wish I could afford it, but they will get you signed up. You can also wait and "sleep on it" and make a decision later or decide it's not for you. No matter what you decide, after you are done it's time for ice cream. Yes, at the end of the open house there is free ice cream for all in a private ice cream parlor.
  Another bonus is the incentives that are offered from time to time. Last time we went they were offering a $50 Disney gift card just for taking the tour. Now they don't always offer that but what they do always have is that each member in your party gets 3 immediate use fastpasses, which means you go to the fastpass machine and it kicks out a fastpass for right away, for each day of the rest of your trip! My recommendation is to go early in your trip. If they are offering something else aside from the fastpass, you have to chose one. It's usually either money or time, as in less time waiting. After you're all done, you board a red DVC van once again that will take you anywhere you want to go on Disney property.
  So we have done the open house 2 times now and if we had the money we would most certainly buy into it, and I would recommend it to anyone who goes to Disney often. Have you done the open house? What were your thoughts? Did they have any extra incentives when you did? Let us know in the comments below or on the Addicted to Mickey Facebook page. As always have a Magical day, and see you real soon!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Who's Who Wednesday: Contributor Angela

Hello to all of you Disney fans!  My name is Angela Pulsifer, I am married to my wonderful Prince Charming, Rob Pulsifer and have two beautiful daughters ages 4 and 2.  My entire family shares the same amount of love for Disney as I do.  I was born and raised in St. Petersburg, FL and visited Disney World as a child a few times.  My love for Disney soared when I had a family of my own to enjoy it with and my first experience of being part of the magic was when Rob and I were selected to be the grand marshals of the parade in 2004.
My husband and I were huge fans after that experience and were hooked.  Ever since we have always showed up in matching Disney clothes.  We took our first daughter when she was 10 months old and soon after became pass holders.

Or second daughter was born in 2010 and she was going to be a fan and not even know it. ;) Her first trip was at 3 months old, practically slept through the whole trip but she is a huge fan now at 2 1/2.
We visit Disney World between 10-12 times a year, we can't get enough!  We have been on two Disney cruises and are currently planning our third cruise.  I love everything about Disney World and the best part is seeing the enjoyment on my children's faces each and every time.  I really enjoy making our family matching outfits.  Love my maternity Disney shirt I made. ;)  

Our Animal Kingdom shirts.
 Christmas shirts.

 Halloween/Pirate shirts.

Our more recent outfits including my daughters pink and white Minnie Mouse dresses and their pirate shirts and skirts are made by my friend Rebecca Warg. :)

 I love going to Disney all the time because every trip we experience something new.  There is so much to do and see at WDW each trip is always a new adventure!!  Looking forward to many more trips with my family and experiencing all Disney has to offer! Leaving you with a fun fact, first family of the day at the character spot at Epcot gets this one of a kind photo of all the characters together!!  I can now take that off my bucket list. ;)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Foodie Friday: Making the most of your time and budget at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival

Epcot's 17th Annual Food & Wine Festival is going on right now. While this is an extremely enjoyable and much anticipated event, it can also be tough on the budget; so here are a few hints to make the most of your time and budget. I have attended this event for many years and so far this year I've had the privilege of attending twice with first timers, so I hope I can offer some ideas and advice for both the veteran and newcomer to this special event. Here are my "Top Tips" for the Food & Wine Festival attendees.

1) Attend with a "Food Buddy". This is very important for a few reasons. First, it allows you to save on the cost by sharing your samples. Most dishes are sized for sharing with 2 people, but it may take a bit of planning. Secondly, it allows you to try more dishes since you won't get full as fast because you're not eating as much! Not every booth has a knife available, so pick one up at the first booth you can and keep it with you as you travel around the festival to make sharing easier. If you get a soup or something that doesn't look too "share-able", tell the cast member you are sharing and ask for another bowl or plate. Don't be afraid to try new or unfamiliar tastes or foods. On one of my visits my Food Buddy and I both tried things we otherwise wouldn't have because the other wanted to try them. We both ended up saying that those dishes were among our favorites!

2) Plan ahead. Decide what dishes you and your Food Buddy most want to try ahead of time and prioritize them. You can do this by researching the menus and prices online, or when you first get there by using the "Discovery Passport" you can pick up at the Festival Center and many other locations throughout Epcot. This will save you time and allow you to decide if you want to skip something because you're running out of time, budget or appetite and there's a higher priority item coming up.

3) Purchase a Food & Wine Festival gift card and load it with whatever amount you are comfortable spending on your journey around the Festival. If you have anything left over when you're done, you can spend it just like any Disney gift card anywhere on property. You will get a receipt after each purchase showing your remaining balance to help you keep track. You can choose to reload the card if you wish at most any cash register. Afterwards it becomes a souvenir or it can be used from year to year as the designs do change.

4) Bring a bottle of water into the park with you and then refill it at the water fountains. If you don't like the taste of the fountain water consider bringing something from home to add to it, such as a flavored powder or liquid.

5) Take advantage of the freebies. Yes, I said "FREE"! Everything from wine tastings (usually three times daily while supplies last) to samplings of everything from chocolate, ginger, vinegar, and mustard to butters. The Festival Center (located in the old "Wonders of Life" building) offers many free samples and demonstrations as well as seminars by HGTV celebrities each day. This is also where the Chase Lounge is located. If you have any type of Chase card, you and up to 9 guests can relax there with free soda, coffee or teas. (UPDATE for 2014: The Chase Lounge is located in the American pavilion in the World Showcase. They also have charging stations for your electronic devices here! Warning though if you have an Android device you should bring your own cord, all the cords last year were for apple products.) You can also get a wrist band for special seating at the (Free!) Eat to the Beat Concert Series and a reserved viewing area for Illuminations while supplies last. They also have a "charging station" for your phone and other devices.

6) If you have a little extra time and budget the Festival Center is also where the daily low cost ($15) wine/mixology seminars and culinary demonstrations take place. You can check at the desk in the Festival Center when you arrive at Epcot for same day availability or you can call or register online. (If it shows "sold out" online it's still worth checking for same day availability. I found same day availability for 2 seminars that showed "sold out" online while I was there.) The mixology seminar I went to was sponsored by Patron and we received 3 small mixed drinks for the $15.00 cost along with an entertaining talk by one of the owners of the company and a licensed mixologist. When you look at the price of the drinks at the kiosks at the Festival, this is a good value. At $15 the cost of the culinary demonstrations is also a good value. You get to see a chef (sometimes a Disney chef and sometimes a "celebrity" chef) prepare and discuss a dish or dishes and then sample it. If a demonstration is sold out but you really wanted to see it, you can still listen and watch from outside the seminar area, you just won't get to taste the final product.

Free ginger tasting seminar

7) So you want a souvenir, but you don't want to spend a lot for it. No problem. Your FREE Marketplace Discovery Passport is a great souvenir! You can pick one up at the Festival Center and many other locations throughout Epcot. As you go to each food location you can get it stamped and then check off what you sampled there! When you get home you can make your friends jealous as you show them all the wonderful food you sampled. Add a few pics from your digital camera of the various dishes you tried and maybe your used Food and Wine themed gift card and you have some instant scrapbook pages. (If you go to any of the seminars/tastings at the Festival Center you can ask to keep your tickets to add to your pages as well.) Another good option is the Festival cookbook at $16.95. It offers recipes from many of the different booths as well as some from the Party for the Senses and the Chef Demonstrations (which are from several of the table service restaurants).
Marketplace Discovery Passport

8) Stop at the Cranberry Bog between Future World and the World Showcase. It's something most of us don't ever get to see and there are samples of Craisins available.

9) If you can spread out your "food journey" over two days, you should do it. You will enjoy it more since you're not rushing. More importantly you will have more appetite for all the wonderful food; and you can go back for a "repeat" of a favorite.

10) Relax, have fun and most of all, this is the time to have an open mind and try new things! Whether it's introducing yourself or your children to new tastes and flavors or learning new things at a seminar, THIS is the time and place to do it!

I hope you find these ideas useful. Let me know how you make the most of your time and budget at the Food & Wine Festival!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The First Family of the Magic Kingdom

Millions upon millions of guest each year vacation at the Walt Disney World Resort.   Out of those millions only 365 families get to experience being selected the First Family of the Day at the Magic Kingdom.  I have been a huge Disney fan ever since I can remember and a pass holder for 4 years now.  The first time my family arrived early enough to the Magic Kingdom to see the Good Morning show I was hooked.

 Ever since I have not missed the show and have made it a goal to see every rope drop and welcome show at every park.   Each time at the Magic Kingdom I was very envious of the family that was selected to help open the park and I began researching how to boost my odds of being selected.

In my searching the web I found out that lots of families blog about their First Family experience and also gave tips on how and where they were when they were selected.  Some tips were arrive early, dress in Disney attire and or matching Disney attire.   Be friendly, talk to any and all cast members you come in contact with.  I took this all in and prepared our attempt at being selected.  We arrived on September 11, 2011 at about 7:10am for a 9:00am park opening.  There were only two families there before us.  They were both in matching, very cute Disney outfits.  Around 7:45am the family that arrived right before us was selected to be the First Family of the Day.  I was bummed but got over it pretty darn quick realizing I was at Disney World and about to have the best time with my family.  The next year on September 11, 2012, we arrived again for vacation.  We go this time every year celebrating my husband's birthday.  We attend the parks many times throughout the year, little day trips here and there but this is our big vacation week.  Here we are a year later and I have studied and done my homework. :) We have our new matching, handmade 9/11 Disney outfits on and I have talked my husband into getting up at the crack of dawn to arrive at the front gates at 6:45am.  I am not kidding it was pitch black out and my heart was racing with excitement.

 My girls are 4 and 2 and they had no idea what was about to happen.  The grounds keepers were still hosing down the sidewalks and maintenance cast members were still working on putting some garbage cans out.  The security guard looked at us like we were crazy.  He said, "Uh Mam we do not open until 9am."  Of course I knew this but only 15 minutes later at 7:00am other families started to arrive in their cute matching Disney outfits.  ALL of us had one goal in mind.  To the turn style we went and began making conversation with any and all cast members. The girls were so well behaved and most of the time were eating breakfast and playing follow the leader.  We were talking to one very nice cast member who asked us what was our girls' favorite thing to do at Disney World?  I told her they both love the characters, they could fill a whole day with just meeting characters.   She said I bet I can get you in to see Mickey Mouse first with no wait.  That was pretty exciting, not exactly what we were wishing for but still awesome!!! Just around 7:50am, right before they were going to open up the turn styles, she walked away from her position and had a brief conversation with another cast member.  I was getting very nervous and excited at this point.  They both came back and the other lady said. "Okay I have two offers for you."  "Her's or mine."  Oh man was I going crazy inside.  Hoping  and hoping her offer was to be the First Family of the Day.  Like the big Disney dork that I am, I began to cry a bit like a baby when she secretly showed me a piece of paper with the words on it saying, "'Do you want to be the First Family?',  It was as if the Disney Gods were singing Hallelujah all together.   Of course I said YES!!!!  Oh my goodness did that just happen?!?!?  We were quickly escorted in the park at 8am and waited for further direction.

My heart was still pounding and I was like a 5 year old on Christmas morning.  Our girls had no clue what was in store and I had a bit of an idea from all the research I did.   We were then greeted by the most wonderful and enthusiastic cast member named Beverly.  I recognized her immediately from the Move It, Shake It Parade.  She is always the one dancing and having a blast with the music.  She had us climb aboard this amazing vintage fire truck and we had a fabulous ride down Main Street stopping at all the photo opportunities where we received one of a kind pictures in the park before opening. 

The streets were empty and the Magic Kingdom was ours to enjoy by ourselves.  It was so magical!  The girls were so excited and loved the fire truck ride.  My favorite stop was at the Castle and getting pictures of our girls holding hands from the back looking at the castle with no one else in sight.  It was beautiful. 

We rode back down Main Street and met the Fire Marshall and all the cast members appearing in the show inside the train station.  We took enough picture to last us a life time.  The Good Morning show director gave us the scoop on what to do and when to do it and the Fire Marshal practiced reciting our last name so it would be pronounce correctly to the crowd below.  The cast members were warming up and doing some dance moves while waiting for their cue. 

The train arrived and we stepped through and walked out right next to Mickey Mouse and waved to the crowd and started to count down....10, 9, this really happening?  3, 2, 1 Boom off went the fireworks and the park is now officially open and my dreams of being the First Family have come true!! We followed Mickey Mouse down the ramp for more pictures and then were given fast passes that were good for any ride for the entire length of our stay.  It was the most amazing experience for this huge Disney fanatic!! 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Who's Who Wednesday: The Incredibles

If there is a movie that teaches us the power of family and love, it’s the Incredibles. Bob and Helen are two “supers” who were forced into a relocation program after a few mishaps in the past. Now married, Helen and Bob have 3 kids, Dash, Violet, and Jack-Jack. Each child has their own set of superpowers, just like their parents. Bob possesses superstrength, Helen can stretch like elastic, Violet creates forcefields and can become invisible, Dash has superspeed, and Jack-Jack, though first thought to be “normal” ends up having some of the biggest range of powers including teleporting and shape-shifting. 

After Bob becomes fed up with his 9-5 insurance agency job, he gets himself into trouble and his family must come save him from Syndrome, a vengeful fan of Bob’s. Using their powers, the Parr family overcome obstacle after obstacle and learn the true meaning of using their powers for good. Mr. Incredible (Bob Parr), Elastigirl (Helen Parr), and Frozone (Bob’s best friend) can all be found at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the Disney Animation Building at Hollywood Studios. Violet never comes out to meet because she is too shy, Dash is so fast at running that he cannot be spotted by guests and since Jack-Jack is a baby he would crawl all over the place! The three oldest “supers” can also be spotted at many of the Hollywood Studios parades!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Foodie Friday: Chef Mickey Treasures from the Vault & Delicious New Favorites and Rice Cream Recipe

One of the ways that I bring some Disney Magic home between trips is to try to recreate some of my favorite recipes from the restaurants and meals that were enjoyed while on vacation (or as some of us say "second home") at Walt Disney World, Disney Cruise Line, etc. In so doing I have collected a few of the various cookbooks that have been produced though the years.

"Chef Mickey Treasures from the Vault & Delicious New Favorites" is one of the more recent cookbooks released by Disney. The author Pam Brandon and the Disney Chefs have put together some of the most requested recipes from Disneyland, Walt Disney World and the Disney Cruise Lines along with some "Vintage" recipes from restaurants that no longer exist or recipes that are no longer offered. The book is divided into ten sections based on the course, and the Vault is dedicated to older recipes and features  vintage photos as well. There are even a few of Walt's personal recipes to try. The sections included are: Beverages, Breads, Soups, Salads & Salad Dressings, Fish & Shellfish, Meat & Poultry, Rice, Pasta & Grains, Vegetables, Sauces, Condiments & Spices, and Desserts.

Each recipe notes the restaurant, theme park or resort and the number it serves. The directions are fairly easy to follow. There are interesting facts or trivia and photos related to food and Disney throughout the book.  It also gives a brief history lesson into some of the old restaurants that are no longer around. With more than 150 recipes, from cocktails to desserts and everything in-between, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Keep in mind that these recipes have been "rewritten" from the originals to better suit the home cook (scaled down for quantity and for ease of obtaining ingredients) and for the home cooking environment, so the flavor profile may not be exactly as your remember it from the original, but it will be very close. Trust me, I've seen some of the "direct from the Disney kitchen" recipes, and this is a good thing! (Anyone up for making lobster stock?) Having said that, this is a great book for any Disney fan that is interested in Disney history, considers themselves a "foodie", or just wants to have fun in the kitchen and "keep the magic alive" at home. The suggested retail price is $24.95 and is currently available in the Disney parks and online. Below is their recipe for Rice Cream from Restaurant Akershus in the Norway pavilion at Epcot for you to try. Forgive the pictures, it was difficult to photograph all the white ingredients. I rearranged the ingredient list slightly to be more clear and I give my "Chef's Notes" at the end.

Rice Cream

Ingredients for Rice Cream:
11/2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup short-grain white rice
2 cups milk
Ingredients for Strawberry Sauce:
1 cup strawberry preserves
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 to 6 servings; makes about 5 cups rice pudding and 1 cup strawberry sauce.
In a 3- or 4-quart saucepan, bring 11/2 cups of water to a boil with the salt. Add the rice, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook the rice for 15 minutes or until all of the water has been absorbed. Add the milk and simmer for 20 minutes or until all of the milk has been absorbed. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, in a blender, combine the strawberry preserves, 1/2 cup water, and lemon juice and blend until smooth. In a bowl, whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla. With a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream mixture into the rice.
To Serve:
Transfer the rice pudding to a large bowl or to individual serving bowls and drizzle with strawberry sauce.

My Chef's Notes:
First of all, this makes more than the 4-6 servings, more like 8-10. This is a rich dessert, especially with the strawberry sauce. They figure on about a 1 cup serving, but you can really do about half that easily.
Be sure the rice mixture is room temperature before adding the whip cream or it will start to melt. I wouldn't put it in the refrigerator, but I would probably put the bowl with rice in a bigger bowl of ice. I would also stir the rice mixture before attempting to fold in the whip cream because the rice tightens into a fairly solid mass as it cools which makes folding in the whip cream difficult otherwise. As a Swede, my memories of this dessert center around the holidays and have it served almost parfait-like with the strawberry sauce and rice mixture layered (or at least with some sauce at the bottom of the cup or dish as well as over the top), and with some cinnamon either added to the mix or sprinkled on top. I hope you try this dish at home!
Book and the ingredients gathered together.           
Rice mixture and whipped cream ready to be folded together.
Finished product ready to be enjoyed!        

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Disney with Little Ones: Disney Junior Dance Party


  So do you have a little one that is a night owl and loves Disney Junior? If so, you should check out the Disney Junior Dance Party. It's held during evening Extra Magic hours at Hollywood Studios, in the Disney Junior Live on Stage theater. It's 3 hours of dancing and fun with your favorite Disney Junior stars to some of the coolest dance music around!
  The characters that are there are from the shows that are featured in the Disney Junior Live on Stage show, which are Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Handy Manny, Little Einsteins, and Jake and the Neverland Pirates. It's a great way for your little ones to have a great time with there favorite characters without having to wait in those long lines to meet them. When we went my son got to dance with Mickey, Minnie, Jake, Manny, and Annie (from Little Einsteins), plus we saw Goofy, and Pluto. They don't sign autographs, but there are plenty of chances for some great photos or video.
  The other part of this is the dancing, and to dance you need music. The music we heard was family friendly dance songs, ranging from classic hits to today top songs. My son had so much fun dancing around, by himself and with the characters. It can get loud, so if your little ones don't like loud noises you may want to skip this, in fact if you're in the area you'll hear it before you even get inside. It also is kinda dark, but with many flashing and strobing lights, it's just like a night club that you may go to without your kids. My wife actually said it felt like a little kid night club, because they check you ID at the door (your room key), the loud music, the lighting and people waiting to get things at the bar (ok there's no bar but they do make balloon animals and swords and Mickey ears, and everyone was waiting to get them much like they would be for drinks at a real club).
   This is really one of the great little extras that Disney offers, and being it's during Extra Magic hours it doesn't get to crowded. This can be a great time for little ones, and big ones alike, I mean who wouldn't love to dance with Mickey or Minnie? I think I enjoyed it as much as my son did. So have you been to this? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page. As always have a Magical day and see you real soon!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Review: Epcot's 30th Anniversary Free D23 Seminars

There were two free seminars offered during Epcot's 30th birthday celebration, both sponsored by D23. The first was titled Designing the Future – Past and Present: A panel of Disney Imagineers remembers 30 years of building tomorrow! The second was Epcot: How it Changed the World with Marty Sklar 30 years, 300 million people. Unfortunately photography was not permitted during either presentation since most of the pictures shown were the personal photos of those participating.

The first seminar consisted of several Imagineers sharing stories of their experiences with the building and designing of Epcot. Everything from recording music for some of the pavilions at Abbey Road in using some of the first digital recording equipment in existence, to researching colors for, and the painting of, the buildings and all the tiny details that were involved in the "making of" Epcot.

While it was quite enjoyable hearing the stories from these talented people, the second seminar with Marty Sklar was even better, and is what I will concentrate this review on. Marty worked directly with Walt Disney and even helped write various materials that were used not only in some of Walt's speeches, but also in books, manuals, presentations, television, and special films. Marty was assigned to write the preface for the EPCOT Building Code because Walt wanted everyone involved with the Florida Project to be aware of, and to stay consistent with, the standards that had been set for Disneyland. The work most of us would be most familiar with however is the 20-minute movie devoted to communicating Walt's vision of the Florida Project and EPCOT, his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow that was originally intended to help resolve the urban challenges found in American cities. However, what most of us didn't know is that it has two endings. One version was for the Florida legislature, with a pitch to create the Reedy Creek Improvement District that governs Walt Disney World. The other ending was used for pitching to companies and corporations to help build Epcot, which is the one that many of us have seen. Walt died just a about six weeks after this was filmed! Both endings were shown during this presentation. (Some bits of this film and memorabilia from it can be seen in the "One Man's Dream" attraction at Disney Hollywood Studios.)

Marty also showed some film clips and a clip of an editorial piece by David Brinkley in which he claims that Walt Disney World is the greatest piece of urban planning in America. My favorite though was the Danny Kaye segment of the opening broadcast where he very effectively explains what Epcot is in his own special musical style.

Another highlight was a number of early Epcot Center concepts by way of drawings and photographs of various models. One of the earliest ideas was to intertwine two circular structures, one for Future World and another for World Showcase. This version of the theme park would have been located between the Polynesian Resort and the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC). Another concept was that Future World and World Showcase would be two separate parks with two separate admissions. Then someone literally pushed the two models together creating one "Park". But the real breakthrough came from Imagineer Harper Goff, who came up with idea of a "cul-de-sac" with the nations having equal waterfront frontage. Marty also discussed how the entire project would be driven by the sponsors. He reminded the audience that at the time, Americans did not trust the government nor industry, but they did trust Mickey Mouse. One example he gave was a Mickey Mouse comic book with more than 10 million passed out, which was the biggest distributions of a comic book at the time. And the second biggest? Yes, another Mickey Mouse comic book.

Ever wonder why the walkway between Future World and the World Showcase is so long? It seems that in that spot is one of the largest sinkholes in Florida. Marty said that during construction they lost steel and even trucks in it. They still don't know deep the hole really is.

Marty also shared how a Disney Legend confounded the engineers by suggesting how to build Spaceship Earth. The technical people said that the globe would have to rest on the ground in order to stand. John Hench came up with a better solution. Spaceship Earth is made up of three parts. There is a large table held up by the angled supports that guests see today. One-quarter of the globe would hang below the table and the other two-thirds would rest on top. We even got to see his hand drawing of this concept!

My favorite "tidbit"  regarding the design aspects that he shared was the fact that at one point it was discussed that maybe they should have the main entrance between Future World and World Showcase. In essence, a guest could then enter the park and decide which side they wanted to visit first, or perhaps choose not to visit one area or the other. (Remember, one early concept was to have two separate parks!) Well, that idea was rejected by Disney upper management because all of the buildings in the Future World area were underwritten by different corporate sponsors and they had been presented with a Park concept as we know it today with everyone entering and exiting from Future World. A change like this would have required going back to each of them and getting their blessing for it.

One of my favorite segments was some of the World Showcase pavilions that were considered, but never were. We got to see several sketches of design concepts for each of them as well. Costa Rica would have featured a very large glass enclosed aviary filled with lush tropical plantings, birds etc. Israel would have been a reproduction of an historic street. Denmark's pavilion would have had an ice skating rink and a Tivoli Gardens boat ride. The Iranian pavilion was proposed to the Shah after a team spent six weeks waiting for an audience with him. Two weeks later the Shah was overthrown! Marty's favorite pavilion that never came about was the Africa pavilion. Imagine an African river rapids ride and a “rhythm” show. Not to mention what would have been one of the largest displays of African Art anywhere! Disney had acquired a massive collection of art objects in anticipation of this; but ultimately  the materials were donated to the Smithsonian for the National Museum of African art when the pavilion was shelved.

Marty also talked about the original concept for the American Adventure. The plan was to put the pavilion between Future World and the World Showcase. The structure would have been quite modern in design and guests would go underneath the structure to visit the rest of the countries. Finally it was decided to move it to the far side of the lagoon so that it would draw guests deep into the park and act as the "Host" nation. We also saw a film about the development of the American Adventure. One of the key Imagineers was Randy Bright and he walked viewers through the evolution of the attraction. Bright said the reason that the attraction is a stage show is because you can't tell important information in a ride through. While they were able to easily agree that Ben Franklin and Mark Twain should act as hosts and representatives for their respective centuries, after considering over 100 different people to represent the 20th century they couldn't agree who should do it, so there is no "host" or representative for that century. A few other interesting things: In the Civil War segment, the scene at the railroad station was filmed in Disneyland Park. The two sons fighting on either side... both were cast members; the Union soldier was the director of Kitchen Kabaret and the Rebel was a rock and facade expert.

One of the crowd's favorite moments was a medley of songs written for Epcot. Until Epcot, there were only five songs written for the Disney parks. The Sherman brothers wrote Tiki room, Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (Carousel of Progress), and Small World. X Attencio (an Imagineer) wrote Yo Ho Yo Ho and Grim Grinning Ghosts. Epcot introduced several new songs and songwriters, such as Bob Moline. Bob wrote or co-wrote music for the Energy pavilion, Canada and America. The Sherman brothers wrote all the music at Imagination (Magic Journeys, Making Memories and One Little Spark). Buddy Baker wrote or co-wrote music for China and Mexico and Camile Saint-Saens wrote music for France.

One of the last items Marty discussed was the original Epcot logo and the fact that he liked that it was being brought back in some ways for this anniversary. It symbolizes unity, fellowship and harmony around the world. The five outer rings form the shape of a flower, a celebration of life. The heart of the logo is the earth embraced by a star, symbolizing hope. The hope that with imagination, commitment and dedication we can create a new tomorrow.

The original logo is the "O" in the "30" pictured above and below.

The hour and a half seminar concluded with a Q & A session where Marty took questions from the audience.

I don't know what the other D23 event(s) were like for this weekend, but these FREE seminars were wonderful and I wouldn't hesitate to attend another one. They were well worth the investment of time, at least for this self-proclaimed Disney Geek! They even have me considering buying a D23 membership to be able to attend other D23 sponsored events in the future.                                     

Friday, October 5, 2012

Foodie Friday: Kona Cafe Review

What do you think of when I say "Kona Cafe"? I can hear it now, say it with me, that scrumptious cinnamon and banana-stuffed 8th wonder of the modern world: TONGA TOAST! Well, I was fortunate enough to have my birthday dinner this summer at this wonderful restaurant located in the Polynesian Hotel's Great Ceremonial House (built to resemble a royal Tahitian assembly lodge and one of the two original hotels built for the opening of the Magic Kingdom). In other words, no Tonga Toast. BUT, I willingly gave that up in anticipation of a fabulous dinner to follow, and I was not disappointed! Here's a tip for all you Hidden Mickey fans: as you enter the Great Ceremonial House (AKA Lobby) where the restaurant is located, just look down!

This restaurant is located to the right on the second floor near the back of the building. Next door is Kona Island which is a coffee bar in the morning that transforms into an exotic sushi bar in the evening! TIP: You can ask for this sushi menu while dining at Kona Cafe for those in your party that might enjoy the sushi offerings! This restaurant is very open to the hotel lobby and it shares a "waiting area" with the Ohana restaurant, so it can be a bit noisy depending on the time of day and activity levels in the area.

The menu emphasizes a Pan-Asian taste and flair, but most people will find something to love. There is even a "Chef Selection" Prix Fixe 3 course menu available with choice of 1 each of the most popular appetizer, entree and dessert choices for 29.99 (no substitutions).

Our dinner started with the most amazing bread service. The bread loaf is closest to the yummy Hawaiian bread you can get at the grocery store, but fresh baked and perfectly textured. But the star of this is the Macadamia Butter. Seriously, ask for extra, it's that good! Our appetizer choice was Sticky Wings For Two: Glazed Chicken Wings with tangy Mustard Drizzle and Toasted Sesame Seeds for 12.99. When they say "For Two" they aren't kidding! The platter came piled high with these delicious and appropriately named chicken wings that had just a hint of the Pan-Asian flavors. For entrees I chose Shrimp and Scallops which is Panko-breaded Shrimp and perfectly pan-seared Scallops with Sticky Rice, Chopped Vegetable Salad, and Coconut-Lime Leaf Dressing for 20.99. The dish came together with flavors and textures that were "just right" for me. My dinner partner chose the Pan-Asian Noodles which is Yakisoba Noodles, Wok-seared with Vegetables and a choice of Chicken or Tofu in a Ginger-Garlic Sauce for17.99 or with Shrimp for 18.99. This entree has enough "heat" to satisfy those looking for something on the spicy side. Personally it was a but spicy for my taste, but my dinner companion said it was just the right amount of heat for his palate. For dessert we chose the Chocolate Fondue with Tropical Fruit and House-made Cookies for 6.99. The House-made cookies were fabulous!  Kona Cafe offers authentic Kona coffee for those looking for a coffee fix, and for those wanting an adult beverage they have the famous Lapu Lapu made with Myers’s Original Dark Rum and Tropical Fruit Juices served in a fresh Pineapple topped with Bacardi 151 Rum for 13.25.

Oh, I mentioned it was my birthday, right? Well, I had decided not to mention that when making my reservation, but... I was wearing my "It's My Birthday" button from the Parks. Guess what showed up at the table with our Chocolate Fondue!
 A special Lilo and Stitch Birthday wish!
Close up of the decorated plate.

Another advantage of this restaurant and its' location for dinner is the ability to go down to the beach and watch the Electric Water Pageant on the Seven Seas Lagoon and the fireworks from the Magic Kingdom if you time your reservations appropriately. It was a fabulous evening filled with great food and Disney Magic at every turn!

Dress Suggestion: Resort Casual (Especially for dinner, but since this restaurant/resort is located on the Monorail line, you will see the whole range from Theme Park t-shirt and shorts to Dressy Casual.)
Price Level: Approx. $15 to $35.99 for dinner    Kids $8.59

This location participates in the Tables in Wonderland program.
This location currently takes 1 table-service credit on the Disney Dining Plan

I hope you add this restaurant to your dining plan the on your next trip!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Who's Who Wednesday: Chip 'n' Dale

Warming our hearts and making us all say “awww”, Chip and Dale made their debut in the cartoon Private Pluto in 1943. These two mischievous chipmunks have been two ornery woodland creatures from the beginning. While the two critters are known well in the Disney community, Chip and Dale actually didn’t get their names until the cartoon Chip an’ Dale, in 1947. In this episode, they became antagonists of Donald Duck. 

Their love of messing around and playing practical jokes on other Disney characters is the main plot during most of their appearances. But do you know which is which? They are separated by their iconic noses! Chip has a black nose while Dale has a big red nose! Dale also has a gap in his front teeth. Despite their similar appearance, they have their own personalities. Chip is generally smarter , energetic, and cunning while Dale is a bit dim-witted but funny.  The chipmunks are usually seen in Donald Duck and Pluto cartoons, but in 1989, they snagged their own television show, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers! Here they open up their own detective agency with their friends. While the two could be mistaken for brothers they are actually best friends with the goal of collecting as many acorns and nuts as possible. They are chipmunks after all! 


While the two work together most of the time, there is one thing that has torn them apart in the past: Love! They have been known to fight over the chipmunk, Clarice, who works at the Acorn Club. Chip and Dale are easy to find in Walt Disney world, often roaming the parks and meeting and greeting park guests. You can also find them in many of the Walt Disney World parade, shows, and character meals.  These two are super fun characters who will for sure put a smile on your face when you meet them.