Disney In The Details: China’s Evil Prince

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ChinaEach country in Epcot’s World Showcase is home to endless details and symbols of the cultures and customs represented. A unique detail found in the China Pavilion demonstrates how Imagineers were able to tie historical details into the design making it educational as well as entertaining.

On the roof of Nine Dragons Restaurant, look for a figure of a man riding a chicken. This is Prince Min of the State of Qi who was hung from a temple’s roof in 238 BC for his crimes. Chinese tradition calls for a statue of him to be placed on a roof to protect the building from evil spirits. Located behind Prince Min are also numerous animal statues which provide additional protection as they guard him.

So next time you are in China, be sure to look up and check out Prince Min- another great detail giving insight into China’s history!

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Five For Fridays: Best Hidden Mickeys in the Animal Kingdom

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Tree of LifeFor this week’s Five For Fridays, let’s take a look at some of the bets Hidden Mickey’s throughout the Animal Kingdom. I’m not going to include any pictures to accompany the descriptions of where to find these Hidden Mickeys since hunting for them is half the fun! See how many you can find!

1. Tree of Life – On the back of the Tree of Life, start by looking for the head of a hippo. Once you have found the hippo look for a classic silhouette of an upside down Hidden Mickey. This one can best be seen from the lookouts on the pathway between Africa and Asia.

2. Conservation Station – Upon first entering into the Conservation Station, be sure to spend some time just taking in the massive and beautiful mural of animals that greets you. If you look closely near an owl, you might just find a class Hidden Mickey as well.

3. Kilimanjaro Safaris – This is the second largest Hidden Mickey in all of Walt Disney World and it can be found near the flamingos. Try to think out of the box for this one and you will find it.

4. Expedition Everest – This is the largest Hidden Mickey that exists and can’t actually be seen from the Animal Kingdom. Pull up Google Maps and focus on the mountain itself. See if you can figure out this massive Hidden Mickey.

5. DINOSAUR – After passing through the seat belt check and turning the corner to start heading towards the time travel passageway, look for a dry erase board on the left hand side of your ride vehicle. It is covered in notes and doodles left by the students at the Dino Institute and if you look closely enough you might just find a Hidden Mickey somewhere in the mess.

Happy hunting!


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Muppet*Vision 3D

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Muppet Vision 3DNestled in the Backlot area of Disney’s Hollywood Studios lies an attraction sure to tickle any funny bone, whether with small jokes or over the top visual gags. Muppet*Vision 3D is a wonderful display of the merging of Jim Henson’s humor and the Imagineer’s magic touch, and is sure to draw guests back again and again.

In 1990, a stage show titled Here Come the Muppets was added to Hollywood Studios (then MGM…ahh who doesn’t still refer to it as MGM sometimes?) in order to promote the coming attraction which was finally added in May of 1991. The attraction added a new immersive way for guests to experience the Muppet’s world through the use of 3D technology. To this day, Muppet*Vision 3D is the only 3D attraction on property that refers to its glasses simply as 3D glasses. (It’s Tough to be a Bug refers to them as Honorary Bug Glasses, Star Tours refers to them as Flight Glasses, and Philharmagic refers to them as Opera Glasses.) The world of 3D is a perfect fit for the Muppets as it allows a new way to present those classic, corny gags that the group is famous for.

Back when the attraction first opened, the queue was always extensive and wound around the side of the building into an area to the right of the entrance. Since there is rarely a wait time over twenty minutes now a days, that section of the queue is often overlooked by guests who beeline right to the entrance of the theater. If it is not roped off, be sure to walk around the extended queue and take in the first of many gags to come. There you will find posters advertising some pretty famous films, but with a Muppet twist. My favorite is the Star Wars poster…or Star Chores as it is known here. Despite this section of queue being around since the opening of the attraction, the posters are regularly updated and now include a nod to Pirates of the Caribbean and even High School Musical.

Muppet Vision 3DBefore you enter into the actual attraction, be sure to look everywhere (and I mean everywhere) around you in the courtyard for some great visual gags including an ice cream sundae, and a Hidden Mickey in the fountain. As you enter into the building, take pause at a counter of the Muppet’s security desk on the right hand side. See that sign indicating that they’ll be back in five minutes and that the key is under the mat? Go on, you know what to do!! That small attention to detail combined with the Muppet humor is what makes this attraction so loveable to me. Stop and take a few minutes to read the directory board too, you might end up wanting to order some alphabet soup! Perhaps my favorite small detail of the entire attraction lies above you on an arch way into the preshow room. Look for where a Muppet has made his mark and set the standard for guests to follow him and enter into the theater.

In the case of Muppet*Vision 3D, the preshow is just as entertaining as the actual show and is definitely not to be missed. It is twelve minutes long, but it is worth every minute as it is both charming and hilarious. Set up to span three different television monitors, the Muppets have some fun bouncing from one screen to the other as they frantically try and get ready for the show. The tap dancing Gonzo’s are a great part of this preshow, but it is Sam Eagle’s introduction of “Mickey Mouse” aka Rizzo the Rat that steals the show. “Rat schmat, they’re tourists!” As the preshow is running, be sure to also walk around and take in the details around you as this room is dripping in puns. A great visual tribute lies above you- look for a net full of jello…now say that quickly. Sounds like Annette Funicello, right? This is a cleverly placed tribute to the late Funicello who was an original Mouseketeer selected by Walt Disney himself. There are also plays on famous artists and their works, movie posters, and even musicians (can you find the 2D Frutties crate?) Many of the crates scattered around also feature some great nods to the characters waiting for you in the theater…although they have ordered some pretty strange things. Honestly, you can go through this preshow dozens of times and probably find a new joke on each visit, so enjoy walking around and take in as much as you can.

Muppet Vision 3DWhen it is finally time to enter the theater and take your seats, be sure to remember that stopping in the middle of a row is distinctly unpatriotic! Check out the projector before the lights go down and notice that it’s made by Yell and Howl, a clever play on the projector company Bell and Howell. As the orchestra of penguins tunes up, check out the sheet music near them which portrays “The Rainbow Connection” of classic Muppet history. Once the show starts, you are treated to a tour of the Muppet labs and get to see dozens of your favorite funny friends. Fozzie is there with his usual mishaps and jokes, Miss Piggy is as over the top and dramatic as always, and Sam Eagle delivers the patriotism by the buckets.

However it is the glorious finale (“a tribute to all nations but mostly America” as Sam Eagle says) which steals the show. In Muppet tradition, things definitely don’t go according to plan and create some hilarious mishaps along the way. Throughout the finale, look for some familiar characters from It’s A Small World and listen closely for a few lines of their usual song. It is mayhem and fun all wrapped up into one scene. A special treat comes in the form of a classic Mickey balloon spotted in the background as Kermit ends the show. And of course, Waldorf and Statler get the last word!

Muppet*Vision 3D will definitely leave you laughing and wanting to return again and again. For me it is a must do on each visit to Hollywood Studios and I love all of the attention to detail and gags. I left out mention of my favorite visual gag, let’s see if someone can guess where it is – there is a blue pipe and some clever chalk work that creates a likeliness of Gonzo with his 3D glasses. Anyone know where it is?

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Disney In The Deatils: Sitting On Sunshine

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Spaceship EarthEpcot’s Future World East is home to attractions such as Test Track, Mission:SPACE, and Ellen’s Energy Adventure so it should come as no surprise that the main focus behind this section is technical advances in our world. From mechanical inventions for vehicles to the developments enabling travel into space, to renewable energy sources, Future World East is all about technology utilized to create a better tomorrow.

A great feature that can be found in Future World East near Test Track is a unique bench. During the day, it seemingly fits in with the surrounding decor, but has one pretty special feature. The top of the bench has a solar panel which collects that Florida sunshine throughout the day and powers a light attached above the bench at night. Many guests might not even notice the solar panel or the light, but if they have a seat there they are literally sitting on sunshine!

Just another great little detail to be found in Epcot!

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Five For Fridays: The Best Pixar Movies

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Pixar PlaceSince the partnership of Disney and Pixar, there have been some amazing feature films released beginning with 1995′s beloved Toy Story. From memorable characters to plot lines that make us laugh, cry, and hold our breathe, let’s see some of the best movies Pixar has created.

1. Up – In 2009, this movie debuted to immediate success. It centers around elderly Carl who has recently lost his beloved wide Ellie as well as his home. He sets off for the adventure he always dreamed of and finds himself surrounded by danger, beauty, and talking dogs. The best moment of the entire film comes in the flashback telling of Carl and Ellie’s relationship- good luck not crying.

2. Toy Story – This is where it all started in 1995 with John Lasseter’s imagined toy world. Since it’s debut, there have been two sequels as well as countless new characters who have joined Woody and Buzz on adventures all over the neighborhood and beyond. This original film introduced Toy Story’s world to guests, and they are still asking for more.

3. Finding Nemo – Taking guests deep into the big blue world in 2003, this film introduced such lovable characters such as Nemo, Dory, and Crush. It tells a story of adventure and devotion and ultimately the lesson that family is all important. Just try not to get too close to the seagulls when you have food…mine!

4. Monster’s Inc. – In 2001 viewers were introduced to the town of Monstropolis which utilizes the screams of humans to power the city. Mike and Sully quickly captured hearts as they work to return toddler Boo safely to her home. Ultimately, we learn that laughter is key and that monsters really aren’t so scary after all.

5. Toy Story 3 – In 2010, everyone’s favorite toys were back and dealing with a rather emotional plot- Andy leaving for college. Through some adventure, the toys end up in a local day care where they must deal with a maniacal bear and find their way home. The ultimate tearjerker comes in the ending where Andy decides to part with his toys and leave them as gifts for another little girl. Once again, good luck not crying.

These are my favorite five Pixar movies, but there are so many others to love including Brave, Cars, The Incredibles, and Wall-E. Each one is an amazing demonstration of loveable characters and beautiful story telling and deserves to be watched if you have never seen it before. So get watching!

What is your favorite Pixar movie? Can you make it through those scenes in Up and Toy Story 3 without crying? Let me know by leaving a comment!

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Living With The Land

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Living With The LandOne of my favorite attractions in Epcot is one that is often overlooked by most guests who tend to beeline straight for Soarin’ when they enter into The Land. Living with the Land if a fantastic tour through several different areas all aiming to promote news ways in which to sustain and produce various foods in eco- friendly ways. From the greenhouses to close encounters with small alligators, Living with the Land offers both an educational but fun insight into the future of agriculture at Epcot.

When the attraction first opened in 1982, it was called Listen to the Land and had a very catchy theme song of the same title (now that it’s stuck in your head, you’re welcome). In 1993 the attraction was updated and renamed Living with the Land. One of my favorite ways to experience this attraction is to combine it with other activities within The Land. I often find myself headed to the pavilion first thing in the morning and getting a FastPass for Soarin’. I then hop on the stand-by line for Soarin’ since it usually has a very short wait. I then come out and enjoy breakfast at Sunshine Seasons, which in my opinion is the best quick service dining location in Walt Disney World. After eating breakfast, I head over to Living with the Land.

Living With The LandOne of the first things you notice featured as part of the attraction are the quotes scattered on the walls throughout the queue. It is worth taking your time and reading all of them as they really are inspirational and moving. Featuring famous authors, politicians, and environmentalists alongside children, the quotes all focus on the maintenance and preservation of Earth. My favorite quote is by ten year old Jessica Lee from Hong Kong: “The Earth is like my mother. You get punished if you make a mess. Why do you think this planet’s called Mother Earth?”

After working your way through the queue, you will board the attraction’s boats and set off on your journey. You first encounter scenes which show you all of the different environments that exist and how plant life and agriculture are supported there. As you pass through the rainforest scene, look up for a glimpse into the Garden Grill Restaurant. Once you enter into the desert scene, take notice of the buffalo and prairie dog audio-animatronics. They were originally created for a proposed area of the Magic Kingdom which never came to be. The expansion was called the Western River Expedition and was centered on the Wild West. However the project was replaced by the construction of Pirates of the Caribbean and the animatronics were stored until their use in Living with the Land.

Living With The LandAfter moving through the various agricultural environments, you move into the greenhouses. There you will see countless fruits, vegetables, and herbs all being grown utilizing various eco-friendly technologies many of which were developed in The Land. These greenhouses produce such a vast amount of food that chances are you will consume some of it if dining anywhere throughout WDW. You also get a glimpse into some of the labs and tanks being used for various forms of growing food. You will see examples of hydroponic drip irrigation, soil-free farming, and growth opportunities used in difficult areas such as the desert and arctic. If you are lucky, you might even see a Hidden Mickey in a suspended tube holding water on the left side of your boat. Depending on the time of year, you might also see certain vegetables including pumpkins being grown into a certain lovable mouse’s shape.

While many guests may find this attraction to be boring, I adore it. Not only is it interesting, but you are afforded glimpses into beautiful plants and various foods as they are growing. This is especially true during the afternoons when the greenhouses are flooded with that bright Florida sunshine. This attraction also makes a great opportunity to sit down for a few minutes, cool off, and rest your feet after a long day wandering through the parks. For those who are interested in a more in depth look into the greenhouses, there is also the Behind the Seeds tour which is an hour in duration and further immerses you in the experience. I’ve wanted to take this tour for several years now and will finally get the chance when I am in WDW this September!

Regardless of whether you are interested in agriculture and gardening, Living with the Land is a great attraction to experience when you are in Epcot. You’ll see wonderful things being grown, get a chance to rest for a few minutes, and might even learn something along the way.

Do you love Living with the Land? Have the old theme song stuck in your head now like I do? Ever done the Behind the Seeds tour? Let me know by leaving a comment!

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Disney In The Details: Main Street’s Realtor

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Cinderella CastleHave you ever noticed the businesses and names being advertised on the windows of Main Street in the Magic Kingdom? Well, each one of those windows is actually a tribute to a part of Walt Disney World’s history. Many feature the name of a previous Imagineer along with a tie in to a hobby of theirs. However there is one window which focuses instead on a company with a rather unique background.

Look to the right side of Main street while headed towards Cinderella Castle for a window which advertises “M.T. Lott Real Estate Investments.” If you say the name quickly, you’ll find that it is a play on empty lots, an ideal real estate buy. What most guests don’t realize is that M.T. Lott was a dummy company name used when Walt Disney was purchasing the land in Central Florida to build Walt Disney World. Disney used dummy names in order to pay normal prices per acre for the land. In fact, when it was found out that it was Disney purchasing the acres, prices skyrocketed overnight.

Leave it to Disney to come up with a creative and humorous name for a dummy company! Next time you are strolling down Main Street, be sure to find this window and take in a little piece of WDW history.

Have you ever spotted this window before? Do you have another favorite window on Main Street? Let me know by leaving a comment!

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Five For Fridays: Best Extinct Attractions

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EpcotWalt Disney World has some of the most well known and beloved attractions throughout the world, however some of them have been built in place of previously existing attractions. While it is always sad to see an something go, there are plenty of ways to remember extinct attractions. So let’s take a look at some of the most popular extinct attractions of WDW.

1. Horizons – Previously located in Epcot’s Future World where Mission:SPACE now resides, Horizons took guests on a trip through the future by displaying examples of expanding technologies including energy, transportation, and space. At the end of the attraction, guests could choose one of three options (space, desert, or undersea) and see the future played out in those settings. It was a deeply loved attraction and guests still miss it to this day.

2. Test Track - The original Test Track was recently overhauled to make way for a newly themed attraction focused on the creation and testing of unique SIM cars. The original attraction was created to look like an active testing facility where guests were sent through the rigorous testing that each car goes through before being approved for the public. I loved the kinetic workshop like atmosphere and the original theme. While I enjoy the new version, I have to say I favored the original more and miss it.

3. Journey Into Imagination – The original Journey Into Imagination featured not only the lovable Figment, but the awesome Dreamfinder. He traveled around in his Dream Catcher collecting bits of imagination and led guests through the worlds of literature, music, and art. Dreamfinder is one of the most loved characters of Epcot, and many guests hope to one day see his return to the park.

4. Snow White’s Scary Adventures – This attraction was replaced in the Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland by the Princess Fairytale Hall. The attraction was one of the first dark rides created for Disney and it took guests on a dark and ominous tour of the story of Snow White. From scary forests to a final showdown with the Wicked Queen, it lived up to it’s scary title and always had guests coming back for another ride.

5. ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter – This attraction previously existed in Tomorrowland where Stitch’s Great Escape now presides. It put guests in the middle of a terrifying psychological thriller where they were trapped with a murderous alien on the loose. It was one of the most frightening attractions Walt Disney World ever created, and I was really upset to see it go.

While these are five of my favorite extinct attractions, there are several more which have been replaced over the years. Let’s hope that in the future, more attractions are updated and added but not replaced.

What is your favorite extinct attraction? Do you miss anything from this list? Were you happy to see any of them go? Let me know by leaving  a comment!

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Music From The Parks

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Spaceship EarthWhile I’m in the Disney parks, one of the things I enjoy the most is the music that can be heard either subtly or overtly through the World. Disney music has the ability to help immerse you in the surrounding environment, be it through futuristic tones floating through the air in front of Spaceship Earth, native drums in Africa, a mariachi band in Mexico, banjo in the hills of Big Thunder, or whimsical calliope music on the regal carousel. No matter where I am in WDW, the music adds a layer to the whole experience. Thus, when I find myself at home in New York and missing the World, I turn to Disney music to help me feel as though I am in the parks and add a little Disney magic to my day. While I mostly have CDs, there are a few websites I visit to obtain Disney music from. I thought it would be fun to share with you my Disney music fixes- from the CDs that are in constant rotation in my car to the background music I use as…well, background music while working. I hope you can check out some of this music as well and ease that feeling of missing the parks today!

Magic Kingdom Event Party Music CD-  This CD pretty much doesn’t leave the stereo in my car as it features the music from my absolute favorite event in the Magic Kingdom: Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Kicking off with HalloWishes, you are treated to the fully narrated Halloween version of the fireworks show followed by the entirety of the Boo To You Parade’s soundtrack. There are also tracks from the Pirate and Princess Party, Music, Magic, and Mayhem, and Dream Along With Mickey. This CD is perfect listening for the fall (or whenever) to get you into both the Disney and Halloween spirit!

Four Parks – One World CD- Another CD that is constantly playing in my car, this features classic Disney music from all over the World. Ranging from background music to prominent features on attractions, this is the CD to go for if you are craving a taste of the parks. Highlights for me are “One Little Spark,” “All Aboard the Mine Train” (from Big Thunder Mountain’s queue), and “Hooray for Hollywood” (Hollywood Boulevard’s background music).

SpectroMagic CD- As a huge SpectroMagic fan, I was pretty bummed when it ended its run in 2010 to make way for the return of the Main Street Electrical Parade. Since I can’t see the parade in person at the parks anymore, I get to live vicariously through this entire rendition of the parade from start to finish.

Disney’s Electrical Parade CD- Even though I was sad to see SpectroMagic go, I still greatly enjoy the Main Street Electrical Parade as it brings back so many childhood memories. This CD features the entire parade, including Elliot the dragon “talking” to the audience (my favorite part!).

The Official Album CD- This album features some of the same music as Four Parks – One World, but includes music from Disneyland as well making it worth the purchase in my opinion. You get to listen to additional tracks such as “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” and “Fantasy In The Sky” direct from Disneyland. My favorite track on the entire CD is “Fantasyland Castle Medley” as it beautifully blends with “When You Wish Upon A Star” and immediately makes me feel as though I am standing in Cinderella Castle about to emerge into Fantasyland.

Epcot – Illuminations: Reflections of Earth & Tapestry of Dreams CD- Featuring music from both the current fireworks/pyrotechnics/laser show and the retired parade, this CD makes me feel as though I am standing around World Showcase Lagoon every time I turn it on. Plus, it allows me to remember Tapestry of Dreams any day!

Wishes: A Magical Gathering of Disney Dreams CD- This is perhaps my favorite CD of the entire collection. Featuring both the music and narration from the nighttime fireworks show of the Magic Kingdom, the Wishes CD can take any old day and make you feel as though you are ending your night staring at Cinderella Castle and watching the sky light up with color. This one is definitely a must have!

Mouseworldradio.com – This website allows you to listen to any of its six channels for free and offers a quick fix to any Disney withdrawal. These channels feature everything from the most common Disney parks music to themes from extinct attraction and obscure background music. I find that while I am writing or working on my computer, inevitably one of those channels ends up playing in the background.

So there you have my Disney music fixes to get me through those in between vacation periods. You can’t go wrong with any form of Disney parks music, no matter whether you choose to listen to the soundtrack to a parade, fireworks show, or a theme from an attraction. So go ahead and get listening!

Do you have a favorite piece of Disney parks music? Did I leave something off of my list? Let me know by leaving a comment!

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Disney In The Details: The Great Movie Ride’s Hidden Minnie

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Great Movie RideThe Great Movie Ride in Disney’s Hollywood Studios is home to dozens of movie stars including a few appearances by some lovable Disney characters. While some of those characters are on display, such as Mickey as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, others are a little more hidden.

In the loading area, look to the left of the ride vehicle to the large mural of the Hollywood Hills. Look for a gazebo featured near the center of the mural. Slightly above and to the right is a Hidden Minnie shown in profile. It can be a tricky one to spot, especially in the hustle and bustle of loading into the ride vehicle so check out the picture above for a hint and happy Hidden Minnie hunting!

Have you ever spotted this Hidden Minnie? Have another favorite Hidden Mickey on The Great Movie Ride? Let me know by leaving a comment!

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