"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
---Walter Elias Disney

Friday, September 30, 2016

29 Days: Bringing Dead Men To Life

A rumor shared by the WDW News Today suggests the revamped Fantasmic show in Disneyland will replace the Peter Pan segment with Pirates of the Caribbean.

That's cool and all, but get this. They plan to use "projection mapping" technology, the same technique used on Cinderella Castle during Wishes and the Chinese Theatre during the Galactic Spectacular, to transform the sailing ship Columbia on the Rivers of America into the Black Pearl. The projections would be able to follow the ship as she moves during the show. Cool, huh?

Ok, but that's not the coolest part. The same technology is going to be used, according to this rumor, to change actors from living pirates to skeleton pirates and back again. Apparently they can install an RFID chip, like in your MagicBand, in a costume and them program the projector to follow the chip and change the actor's appearance back and forth according to timing and location on the set. He steps into "moonlight" and, BAM, skeleton. He steps out and BAM, back to flesh and blood. Just like in the movie.

This would be incredible, but, given pieces of this technology are already in operation, it is something I think Imagineering can make happen. They would really "just" be stitching together existing tech. But man oh man would I love to see it in action!

30 Days: Avatar Land Lands in the "Official Guide"

Looks like Disney is feeling pretty good about getting Pandora--The World of Avatar open next year. The Birnbaum Official Guide, which is produced with the cooperation and under the guidance of the Walt Disney Company, has included descriptions of Avatarland's two attractions in the 2017 book.The new section of Animal Kingdom, under construction for what seems like forever, is said to be scheduled to open "by mid- to late 2017," though the usual caveats about the unpredictability of construction timelines is also included.

I'll include the photo of the Official Guide's page copied from the Laughing Place blog, because who ever heard of copyright, right? Anyhow, you can read all about the two new attractions there. They sound fun and the entire new "land" sounds like it will be a visual masterpiece, especially at night.

I'm no fan of the Avatar movie, but I'm very much looking forward to this!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

32 Days: We Done Been MouseRanted!

It's been eye-opening seeing the vast world that is Disney podcasting. I knew it existed before, but largely because I couldn't figure out how to play my phone through the car radio (yeah, I know, #oldguyproblems), I had never listened to one. Then I was invited to join a podcast and ended up volunteering to produce what is now the three-episode-old MouseLife Podcast. I figured I had better study up, so I noodled out the phone-to-car radio thing and have been listening to a bunch of my fellow Disney podcasters the last few weeks. Some are very professional, some not so much; some I've learned a lot from and some aren't my cup of tea. There are probably hundreds of these things out there, something that surprised me, but it's a labor of love for the people who produce and participate in them, so the fact that so many exist makes me happy.

Thing is, that apparently doesn't make everyone happy. In any gathering of people, either real or virtual, there are the drama queens (male and female, not being sexist here) who revel in rivalry and criticism and basic middle-schoolness. Seems ol' Barry who brought us together got on the wrong side of one of these people, and he stumbled upon MouseLife and tore it apart on his show, Mouse Rants.

Look, I'm not offended or hurt or angry. I'm thoroughly amused. The whole thing is funny, if in a bit of a sad way. Leaving aside the whole Jerry-Barry (Jerry is the MouseRanter) issue and looking at the criticisms of our podcast (and others, part of the shtick of the show is trashing other shows), they largely boil down to a lack of originality. My man even points out that MouseLife is a pretty generic name. Yes, the guy who named a show based on ranting about Disney "Mouse Rants" said that.

And that's the funny part. We're being called out for lack of originality by a guy trying very hard to be the Disney Podcast version of Howard Stern. If you are at all familiar with Howard's show, you'll get it immediately. DisHoward even has a female sidekick who behaves exactly like the Howard Stern Show's Robyn. As DisHoward screams and drops forced F-bombs (because saying "fuck" on a podcast is all edgy and whatnot, don'tcha know) DisRobyn provides the laugh track and agrees with DisHoward and basically just kisses his butt, much like the real pair operated. It's hilarious, at least for a few minutes, or long as you can pretend it's intentional parody.

The part that made me a little sad was noticing that DisHoward almost always refers to podcasting as "radio." It's a bit cute, but I have to wonder if radio wasn't DisHoward's dream and this is as close as he could get to it. More power to him in the sense that a podcast is a spoken audio medium and maybe it makes him feel better about not being a DJ, but I suspect that's where some of his anger comes from---frustration at not being a real radio personality. And that's sad.

So I guess that's our official welcome into the wider social sphere of Disney Podcasters. DisHoward and DisRobyn did play a bit of our show on theirs, and they have quite a few listeners, so that's not all bad. And he gave out our iTunes address! Say what you want, DisHoward, just spell our name right ;-)

33 Days: Disney Eyeing Twitter Acquisition

This just struck me as interesting given how much time I personally spend on DisTwitter now. Wouldn't it be funny if they actually owned Twitter?

The Walt Disney Company is among several looking to acquire Twitter. Microsoft is also apparently interested. Twitter has a market value of $16 billion, so it would be a deal nearly on a scale of the purchase of ABC. That's a lot of dough, even for Disney.

Disney is looking to shore up distribution outlets in a world where more and more people are "cutting the cord" with cable, and Twitter is trying to position itself as a content provider as well as social media outlet, so maybe there are some synergies (OOO, I used a fancy business word).

But I also read that a Twitter bosrd member is also on the Disneyboard, so it's not beyond the realm of possibility that this is a trial balloon meant to increase interest in and inflate the price of Twitter. We'll just have to see, I guess.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

34 Days: Non-Magical Day on Disney Roads

Photo Credit: WDW Today
An SUV crashed into a support and brought a big sign down across World Drive a few days ago. It snarled traffic quite a bit, apparently, and I'm hoping everyone involved is ok.

But it also made me think about how happy I am to let the driving to Disney when I'm inside "the bubble" of Walt Disney World.

I drive a lot for work, sometimes as much as close to 1,000 miles in a five-day week. I don't dislike driving, but being able to put the car keys away for an entire week is pretty magical for me. I don't mind waiting in a bus line at the beginning or end of a day one tiny bit. I figure you'd spend that time trudging out to find your car in the acres of parking lot anyhow, and then have to drive it back to your resort and find a place to park there. No thanks.

Not only do I not mind taking Disney Transportation, I truly enjoy it. I love all the variety, from buses (both regular and the newer, super-cool bendy ones) to monorails to boats, I love them all! We've actually taken a bus to Hollywood Studios just so we could take the boat from there to Epcot's World Showcase gate because we'd not experienced that particular boat ride before. And it was a good choice, as our boat had a broken horn so the captain and mate had to use one of those canned air horns like you see (and hear) at football games. They were having a blast tooting it at the other boats, and the other boats knew ours had no horn so were mocking us on the way by. It was great fun :-)

Anyhow, that's just one more escape for me on a  Disney trip. Mickey is welcome to take the wheel.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

35 Days: Jeffrey's Epic Stunt Spectacular

Being a part of the "show" at Disney World can be pretty special. We got talking last night with the MouseLife crew on Twitter about being That Guy and The Churro Guy in Monsters Inc, and I mentioned that'd been a part of the special effects show that used to precede the now closed Backlot Tour at Hollywood Studios. This morning, coincidentally, the photos from that experience showed up on my Facebook memories!

That was a really cool experience. We happened to be at the front of the line for the next group to enter the show, and when they asked for volunteers, Lisa goaded me into raising my hand and I was picked. I and four other guys were taken into the show area and given rain gear. We were each given a role to play in the show, a WW2 PT boat being attacked scene, and I got the role of telephone guy in an office that gets swamped by a huge wave coming in the window.

I had an absolute ball. I had a line, if I remember correctly, and got a good crowd reaction to being deluged. The cast members running the show were great and made us all comfortable and feel like we were special for being in the show. It put a little extra magic into an already wonderful Disney Day!

Friday, September 23, 2016

36 Days: Muppets Opening In Liberty Square Next Week

We may miss saying goodbye to Stitch, but we'll be just in time to be among the first to welcome the Muppets to the Magic Kingdom!

Muppets Present: Great Moments In American History will debut on Sunday, October 2 in Liberty Square just outside the Hall of Presidents. This live attraction will offer two different shows, one based on the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the other based on Paul Revere's ride. Sam the Eagle (John's favorite Muppet) will be joined by Miss Piggy, Kermit, The Great Gonzo and Fozzie Bear and Liberty Square's own Town Crier.

The show will be offered several times throughout the day. The hours for the first week were announced and it looks like plenty of performances. 

I can't wait! Save your complaints about the Muppets not belonging in the Magic Kingdom for someone else, I'm not listening! Muppets Rule!

37 Days: New Disney Patents

I wrote a couple weeks ago about Disney filing a patent application for dron.....I mean "Flying Robots" that would launch fireworks and other goodies into the sky during park shows. Well, apparently it's Patent Application Season, because I've seen news of two more pop up this week, and both are just as cool as the Flying Fireworks Robots.

The first patent involves a projector that would essentially theme a space (like a resort room) in any way Disney desires. The application is very technical and goes pretty far over my head, but it looks like a lamp or ceiling fixture would be fitted with apparatus allowing animated objects to appear around the space and, along with integrated audio, turn the room into an immersive, themed experience. As I understand it, it would be a lot like virtual reality games but your room would take the place of wearing VR goggles.

The possibilities are huge, both for good and, well, a bit evil. According to the Orlando Business Journal article,

The patent also looks at including a tracking camera that can be programmed to remember a user's facial features and then change the imagery to that person's settings — or in another case can be used to wake up a child by projecting images onto their bed.

Waking a child by projecting images onto his or her bed? That could be way too much fun.....

The second patent is an attempt to make animatronics, especially faces of speaking human animatronic figures, more life-like. The Imagineers have for decades been able to make very real seeming figures, such as those in the Hall of Presidents, but when they speak, the movement of the figures' mouths tend to give them away as robots. The most recent fix for this problem has been to leave the figure's head kind of a blank slate and project a moving, speaking image onto it. This works great on Buzz in is Space Ranger Spin, but apparently not as well on the new Frozen attraction in Epcot's Norway pavilion. No matter how well done, we are looking at two very different technologies and the realism isn't quite there.

The fix in this patent application is based upon building animatronic muscle-like material underneath a "skin" so that when the muscles underneath the skin it looks like a human does when it speaks. The problem with the old animatronics was that the movement points, the pieces of robot that actually moved, were very visible.  This new system spreads the movement along an artificial muscle-like material so the face moves realistically. I think I grasp this concept better than the virtual reality projector, but it still leaves room for  being a tad creepy. I mean, just how life-like are we comfortable with our animatronics looking? Science fiction has delved into the idea of humanoid robots and it doesn't always end well, does it?

Still, all three of these new ideas are completely in keeping with Disney's history. I am thrilled to see the Walt Disney Company continuing to follow in the footsteps of its founders by keeping on the cutting edge of entertainment technology.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

38 Days: Stitch's Great Escape Moving To Seasonal Operation

Stitch's Great Escape's days are almost certainly numbered. The attraction will be closing for except for the most busy days in the Magic Kingdom. According to the Orlando Sentinel, you'll be able to visit Stitch in Tomorrowland from November 19-26 and from December 17 - January 2. Beyond that Stitch's future is cloudy at best.

Rumors suggest a Wreck-It Ralph virtual reality attraction taking Stitch's place, and this mostly-closure certainly leads one to believe something new is on the horizon.

I'm not terribly excited one way or another over this whole thing. I rode Stitch once and while I'm not as anti-Stitch's Great Escape as a lot of the Disney community seems to be, it's not something I will really miss. I was hoping for a Big Hero 6 attraction or maybe something Tomorrowland (the film) oriented, but I guess a Wreck-It Ralph presence won't be bad. I'm most looking forward to seeing what WDI does with virtual reality, no matter what franchise it's tied to, so cheers to that.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

39 Days: MY Disney Experience

It's already later than I'd like to be awake, so I'll keep this brief. The My Disney Experience app rocks.

Apparently it's a real joy in the parks themselves, but even as a planning tool it can't be beat, especially for the phone-phobic among us. Today I heard through the Twitter-vine (I just made that word up. Feel free to use it all you like) that Disney had released new first week of November hours for Animal Kingdom. It had been scheduled to close at 6:30, but will now be open until 8:30 pm. I was expecting this, but was waiting for the official word.

Right there in the Food Lion parking lot I opened the My Disney Experience app on my phone, verified the Animal Kingdom hours for November 2, canceled my Morimoto Asian ADRs and made Tiffins ADRs for a nice 1:30 pm lunch. I checked my FastPass+ times and saw it might be a rush getting from Dinosaur to Tiffins as I had them scheduled so I shifted both my Dinosaur and Expedition Everest FastPass+ times back an hour. I then pulled up an itinerary with all these reservations listed together, saw it was what I wanted and ta da I was done. No phone calls, no computer, just my cheap-o smart phone.

THAT is Magical!

Monday, September 19, 2016

40 Days: Moana, Halloween and "Cultural Appropriation"

First off, if you ever say the words "cultural appropriation" without sufficient sarcasm in your voice or making those little quote things with your fingers in the air, we need to have a long, long talk, my friend. I think if you Google "Psuedo-Intellectualism" the first link is a YouTube video of a poorly dressed college professor giving a room full of rich white liberal kids a lecture on "Cultural Appropriation."

So what's got my anthropology geek dander up you ask? This completely moronic article on the i09 website complaining about a Maui (the demi-god sidekick to Moana, the title character in the upcoming Disney animated feature) Halloween costume being not only an example of the dreaded "cultural appropriation," but also.....gasp....tantamount to "brown-face." You get it, right? They refer to the old Vaudeville and minstrel show trope of the white guy in exaggerated make-up known as black-face. Only Maui isn't black, he's Polynesian. Hence, "Brown-face".

This is black face. If you send little Johnny out as Maui, i09 thinks you're doing the Pacific Islander version of this
Only it's not the face that's brown in Disney's costume. The fine, sensitive folks at i09 assume parents will take care of that part themselves. No, what Disney did with it's Maui costume is make it look like, well, Maui in the movie. It's a body suit colored like a Polynesian with Maui's tattoos all over and an attached grass skirt. And that's the problem, well one of them, these morons have. It's, oh the horror, colored in a non-white skin tone! This is racist, you see. Don't ask me to explain, I'd lose brain cells trying.

Meanwhile, on Planet Earth, what Disney is doing is teaching about and paying tribute to the rich Polynesian culture in an entertaining and, my guess is, very popular manner. The film Moana is based upon one of the great cultural mysteries. Polynesians once roamed the Pacific Ocean in small sailboats, traveling hundreds or even thousands of miles of trackless sea with no compass, no chart, no astronomical book, no chronograph. They didn't get lost. They used tide and current and wind and weather and who knows what else to guide themselves. But then, for over a thousand years, they simply stopped. All of a sudden. No one knows why. Myths sprung up among the people of the South Pacific islands to explain the mystery, and this film is based upon a hodgepodge of those stories. Is it a stricly academic study of Pacific Island culture? No, it's a Disney movie with a pretty young girl as heroine and a big, strong, funny guy, demi-god played by  Dwayne Johnson as her sidekick. There is music and magic and anthropomorphic critters. But what it is NOT is making fun of or belittleing in any way whatsoever the people of the South Pacific.

Disney once was criticized, and probably rightly so, for all it's "Princesses" being white Europeans. Lately the company has been making a concerted effort to be more inclusive of other cultures, which is good and makes perfect sense. All peoples of this Earth have stories and myths and legends, and Walt would be proud that today's movie makers are exporing new things and letting curiosity lead them down new paths. And it has a positive effect on audiences. Quite the opposite of the complaints.

No 8-year-old in suburban America was dressing as a Hawaiian demi-god last year. This year, I'm thinking quite a few will, and it will be because Disney ignited that spark in them and led them to open their little minds to a culture they would otherwise be unfamiliar with. How that can be a bad thing is a compete mystery to me.

41 Days: Walt Disney World 45th Anniversary Stuff

I like stuff. I especially like stuff that commemorates something big, like the 45th Anniversary of Walt Disney World. Thankfully, the Mouse has me covered. While I'm sure there will plenty of 45th-themed merchandise available while we are in the parks, I just may need to jump on one of these limited edition t-shirts via the Shop Disney Parks app in a little more than a week.

Scroll to the bottom and check out the attraction tribute t-shirts. I need the Jungle Cruise on badly :-)

Saturday, September 17, 2016

42 Days: Dr. Strange Coming To Hollywood Studios

One Man's Dream is another, well, maybe THE other, Walt-centric attraction in Walt Disney World. It's in Hollywood Studios between the Little Mermaid show and Toy Story Mania. One Man's Dream is a museum, basically, with memorabilia from Walt's and the Disney company's early years as well as some more modern Imagineering paraphernalia.  The attraction used to culminate with a movie about Walt Disney, and a very good one at that. It brought tears to my eye. That movie has now been replaced with rotating previews for upcoming films.

I'm not happy at all that the Walt movie went away, but if I can't see it, at least I can see a cool preview. As of October 7, a ten minute preview of Dr. Strange, the next Marvel film, will be showing at the end of One Man's Dream.  I'm excited for this movie, so that takes a bit of the sting away. There is even talk of a casting call going out for an actor to portray Dr. Strange in a meet and greet, presumably also at Hollywood Studios. If I could see him AND Chewbacca in one day, that's be pretty alright :-)

43 Days: Carousel of Progress

The Carousel of Progress at the New York World's Fair in 1964
This is maybe the most "Disney" attraction in Florida. It's one that you'd never see the likes of in Universal or Sea World or Busch Gardens, and that fans of those parks would never in a million years WANT there. The technology is fairly outdated, there's not thrill aspect or tie-in to a franchise, there's a song you'll not get out of your head unless it's replaced by "It's A Small World" later in the day, it breaks down with some frequency, the "modern" family segment is from the 1980s, but I love it.

First off, it's a tangible piece of Walt in a park he never lived to see or even supervise much of the construction of. The Carousel of Progress wasn't built for Walt Disney World, or even Disneyland, it was built for the 1964 World's Fair. The attraction we can ride today is the same one that was built in New York, disassembled and taken to Disneyland and then disassembled again and installed in its Tomorrowland home in Florida. For a guy who loves him some Walt and who hasn't been able to swing a visit to California (yet), it's pretty special to sit in an attraction the The Man himself had a real hand in creating.

But I also have a ore personal reason to find Carousel of Progress special. My parents actually rode it while on a date in high school at the New York World's Fair. They rode the train from Philadelphia to New York City and spent the day at the World's Fair as young teens. And today, I and an my family can experience one of the attractions they saw then in much the same form (with a few small updates). That is a piece of real Magic.

The Carousel of Progress has received a new paint job and is in the process of getting some new signage to match. Here's a link to some recent photos. I like that this classic piece of Disney History is being treated well but not really changed. The fact that Disney spent a few bucks to gussy her up tells me the Carousel won't be going anywhere anytime soon, and that makes me happy.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

44 Days: Disney Infinity

I almost hesitate to write this because I feel silly, but I am completely geeking out over Disney Infinity right now. I did this before, two Christmases ago, when Lisa gifted me the 2.0 version. Now, since the Disney is discontinuing the online features, Walmart is selling all their 3.0 stuff at huge discounts. And I've been snapping an embarassing amount of the stuff up.

If you are unfamiliar, Disney Infinity is a very open-ended game that allows you to play as any number of Disney, Marvel, and, in the 3.0 version, Star Wars characters. You build worlds, decorate a home, race vehicles, fight bad guys, and generally fool around. It's great fun mixing and matching from different franchises.

I've bought mostly Star Wars characters but have a variety of Marvel ones and a few classic Disney, such as Donald Duck. It just tickles me to death the way it all mish mashes together. Kylo Ren fights bad robots from Toy Story, Chewbacca takes on pirates, the Black Panther mixes it up with Rhinoceros pikemen from Robin Hood. Speaking of Robin Hood, one aspect of the game is gaining a "sidekick". Right now mine is Robin Hood, the fox Robin Hood from the animated feature, and he's wearing a Tron helmet. That just makes me smile.

I think I need to maybe reign it in though. I've been telling myself it's a bargain because this stuff is so cheap on clearance. But tonight I went to Amazon and bought, at almost the regular price, Baloo. Because I just HAD to, ya know? Nah, I don't have a problem......

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

46 Days: Disney Costume Guidelines

Even though we won't be costuming ourselves for MNSSHP this year, I'm interested in how Disney handles costumes, particularly on adults, in the age of terror attacks and such. The word immediately after the Orlando nightclub shooting was that costumes would not be allowed for adults, but Disney has relented on that and instead issued some more restrictive guidelines than in years past. The Disney Parks Blog has a a short article about it, but the info is mostly in their little video.

My favorite part is that lightsabers are specifically allowed. However, long capes, full-face masks, dresses that drag the ground and real-looking weapons are not. For full details, follow the link the the video. It certainly looks like they've left plenty of room for creative Halloweeny fun!

Monday, September 12, 2016

47 Days: The South Coast Classic

Every time I write this blog with the countdown number in the title, I'm reminded that something pretty special is coming up about a month before our trip. This year will be the inaugural South Coast Classic high school marching band competition held at John's school, South Brunswick High.

The idea for doing this sort of grew out of the group of band parent friends we sit with at home football games and travel with to band competitions at other schools. I can't tell you for certain, but it was most probably first voiced by Elie Erickson, who has turned what was a few parents sometimes meeting for lunch before a competition into a rather large "Spirit Squad." Elie is......enthusiastic. And she's fun and smart and most of all a doer of things rather than just a sayer of things. This thing has gone from the "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if...." phase to the "oh sh**, it's happening in three weeks!" phase in less than a year.

A band competition, if you are unfamiliar, basically consists of marching bands putting on their halftime shows and being judged on every aspect from music to marching to colorguard to percussion to my personal favorite "General Effect." The schools are organized according to number of students in the band so they can compete on a somewhat equal footing. I've seen bands of close to 100 students and one that consisted of just six (who, by the way, put on an amazing rendition of songs from the American Soul Music canon).

The young musicians work incredibly hard on these shows, putting in easily as many hours as the football players for who's halftimes they perform. Ours attend band camps twice during the summer and practice at least twice after school each week. They memorize music and drill (the exactly choreographed movements on the field) until they can move with all the harmony with which they play the music. It's been an eye-opening experience watching John become a part of this. He works his tail off and the work shows on the field. What better lesson for a high school student, really? I couldn't be prouder of him or his entire band family.

The family aspect has been a huge blessing to Lisa and I as well. We have a crew in the stands. Heck, Elie even brought me a cow bell festooned with school color ribbons and a big "S" for South. I keep it in my car, I say just in case I need it, but really as a reminder of the kind of unsolicited kindness one sees from true friends. Our Spirit Squad has grown, too. As more parents see (and hear, did I mention the cow bell) us cheering on the band, those of our ilk come and join us and they stay week after week. We sing and yell and make a racket. We embarrass the children by hollering out their names from high atop the bleachers. It's Pro-Level Parenting, I tell ya, and we love it.

With the date, Saturday, October 1, fast approaching, we could use all the help and support the community can offer. We are looking for trophy sponsors, volunteers and attendees. If you can help with a few bucks, with a few hours or simply with a prayer or two, I'd be truly grateful. We'll have need of ticket takers, car parkers, concession sellers and bleacher fillers. You'll have a great day, I promise. If you think you can help, or want to simply keep up with our goings on, you can go "Like" our South Coast Classic Facebook page. If you think you can help with a sponsorship, drop me an email at jgstites@yahoo.com. If you'd just like to come out and see these amazing musicians do their thing, just roll on up to the Southport High School football stadium by 3:00 pm on Saturday, October 1 and buy yourself a ticket.

I'll see you there!!!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

48 Days: Disney Dron.......I Mean Flying Robots

According to the DisKingdom blog Walt Disney has applied for a patent on "Air Delivered Special Effects." This would entail using drones, or as Disney calls them in the patent application, Flying Robots, to deliver a variety of special effects such as pyrotechnics, confetti and smoke. Imagineering is clearly trying to  "plus" the fireworks and even evidently daytime shows with drone....oops, I mean Flying Robot, launched effects. How cool would that be?

I can only imagine what they will able to do, but as the blog points out, one goal may be to elevate the performance of fireworks to expand the viewing area. If you launch your fireworks from a few hundred feet, they will explode that much higher and be visible from that much farther away.

49 Days: Boats. Lots and Lots of Boats

So weekends are iffy for the blog-a-day thing. I'm catching up again this morning. John and I spent the day at the First Annual Wilmington Boat Show yesterday, so when we got home we were both pretty worn out, and the best kind of worn out. It was an incredible day.

Ever since Wilmington's new convention center opened a couple years ago I've been waiting for a boat show. I mean, why else even build a convention center, right? Well, the wait was worth it. This was a bigger deal than I would have ever dreamt. John and I were able to park on our side of the river at the USS North Carolina Battleship Memorial with our $10 admission including a water taxi to the main show over at the city marina. Of course we checked out Twiggy, the Waterskiing Squirrel before we crossed the Cape Fear. Twiggy was cool, her handler was a bit odd.

Twiggy, in all her glory

There wasn't much aside from the waterskiing squirrel to see or do on the Brunswick County side of the river, so we water taxi-ed it over the the marina. The taxi was advertised to be running every 20 minutes, but it seemed the two boats in service were picking up every 10 or 15. Oh, and the boat we rode back at the end of the day had a bar open. Yes, I had a rum punch on a boat to top off my day at the boat show. It's the little things, really. :-)

And what a day it was. The taxi let us off at Pier 33, which is sort of a part of the adjacent  city marina but not technically. The boat displays began there, running around the pier and to three sets of docks full of everything from small flats skiffs to two million dollar yachts, all of which we were welcome to climb aboard. Boat shows have for me always been about dreaming, and those yachts offered some BIG dreams. It was fun watching the eyes of fellow show patrons bug out as they took in the staterooms and flying bridges of these ships. Normal people just don't get a chance to actually sit and walk around on these things.

View from the Top o' the Yacht

Grills on the flying bridge are a ting apparently. They all had them.
It wasn't all out of reach, though. There was a guy outside the indoor portion in the convention center selling a catamaran with inflatable pontoons that came in one 98 lbs duffle bag for just around six grand. Inside, a fella was hawking these small round boats that could be plopped in your pick up bed. Fit out with a seat or two and an electric trolling mot0r the entire package was $2800. John is totally sold on this. Me? I'm sold on the mahogany  sailboat made by Cape Fear Community College's boat building class. They build boats (of course) every semester and then sell them for about the cost of the materials. I fell head over heels for this little sailboat, and with a $2000 asking price, this dream is well within reach.

Yeah. So. I need this.
The college also had its research vessel open for tours, during which we found one of John's friends who is in the CFCC Marine Science program in the pilot house. There were something like 200 vendors set up both inside the convention center and around the marina. We found a guy selling waterproof, floating Bluetooth speakers and I ended up buying one, as it turns out, for half the going price.

Everyone, from vendors to patrons to show staff to the captains of the water taxis, was as nice and friendly and happy as could be. It was full of people, but I hesitate to say crowded as it never seemed the huge number of fellow patrons slowed anything down or made it difficult to do anything we wanted when we wanted to do it.

As an example, there was a sailing school offering rides on their 27 foot sailboat. John saw the sign saying the next ride left in an hour and we stopped to ask if we could sign up. It was completely free with nothing but the softest sales job for the sailing school and sail boat club. We not only were able to sign up, but ended up as the only two on the trip. We sailed up and down the Cape Fear for almost an hour with two try really cool guys and had an absolute blast. It was a great way to top off the day.

I have to say it was a good day
This show could not have been handled better. It's the kind of thing that's going to become a destination. There simply aren't boat shows like this everywhere. My hat goes off to these people for completely doing it right and for giving John and I a day we won't soon forget.

Friday, September 9, 2016

50 Days: Disney Countdowns

It seems like yesterday I was thinking we'd never get to double digits in our countdown. Then I hit 100 and had the idea for daily (mostly) blog posting. The time since then has really flown by. It's been easier finding topics than I ever thought, and rather than being a chore, this blog has become a joy, and a daily ( mostly) joy at that. And that makes me happy.

I know counting down isn't for everyone. Some fin it annoying, some don't get why you'd count down for a year to a week's vacation. To them I say "Phooey!" But I understand, so I keep most of my excitement on here and my Poohsticks Facebook page and Twitter.

But I AM excited.

And it's 50 DAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

51 Days: Rivers of Light Rumors!

Photo By Blog Mickey
There are rumors floating around that Animal Kingdom's Rivers of Light show has been released from Walt Disney Imagineering to the Animal Kingdom park. This would be a step toward actually installing and running the show, hopefully soon. The show presented some problems when it was tested this spring, so let's hope the Imagineering wizards have worked out the kinks and the show can be brought to life (see what I did there?) this fall.

Let's be honest, I just hope it's running by November 2nd, when we'll be in the park. If so, I'm assuming, and hoping, a restaurant or two will offer a dining and seating package as they did for the Jungle Book show this summer. If I'm not mistaken, Tiffins was a part of that. I'd love to have a good excuse for a meal there!

Here's a link to some more really cool photos on Blog Mickey of the Rivers of Light floats during their test earlier this year.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

53 Days: MNSSHP PhotoPass Magic Shots

We've decided to purchase the Memory maker package from Disney's PhotoPass service this trip in hopes of getting photos of all three of us at once. One bonus to that I hadn't even counted on was PhotoPass shots during the Halloween party. And a bonus of THAT I hadn't counted on is these super cool Magic Shots available exclusively during the MNSSHP.

We are all fans of the Headless Horseman, so you can bet we're excited to have a photo with him! You can follow the link above to see more examples, including two video Magic Shots. Thanks to my new podcast friends, I have a better idea how this whole PhotoPass thing works and how to make sure we find all the Magic Shots we can (you need to ask the photographers).

If we play our cards right, I'll have Wordless Wednesday material for months to come :-)

Monday, September 5, 2016

54 Days: And Awwwwaaaayyyyyyy We Go! Into The MouseLife

We did it. MouseLife is live on SoundCloud as of about five minutes ago with a special Preview Show featuring our discussion of Walt Disney's response to the Zika virus and the effects it may have on Disney travel planning.

Want to listen? Sure you do! It's right here:


It's been quite a ride getting this together. I mean just this weekend I became the licensee of our theme music and the owner of the future home of the MouseLife Podcast Website. A month ago I hadn't ever listened to any part of a podcast. Hell, even today, I've only listened to ours all the way to the end. But with the help of Google, YouTube and some terrific new friends, I'm producing one.

Those new friends? That's been the best part. As much as I've enjoyed learning the ins and outs of podcasting and audio editing, the real joy has come from getting to know a group of people with basically just a love of Disney in common. Turns out we have more in common (three of us are Penn Staters, which makes me VERY happy), but the only thread weaving us all into this venture was Disney. And it worked. It not only worked, it worked amazingly well. We've spent maybe three hours total together on Skype and already feel a camaraderie and friendship. We are as far away from each other as New York and Texas; we are hairdressers and travel planners; some of us are moms and dads, some not; some of us save to visit WDW once a year if we're lucky, some live close enough to go on a whim. But despite the differences of situation and experience, we seem to be fitting together like the pieces of a puzzle.

I would never have meet a single one of my MouseLife cohorts if not for Twitter, the Twitter-based Small World Club created by another friend I've never actually met, Barry Percival, and this project itself. But I am so very glad I have. These folks have become friends, real ones. They are all positive and intelligent and articulate and have wonderful senses of humor. The level of support and cheering on as we get this show off the ground has been unbelievable.

Or not. I mean if we Disney Geeks are anything we are Believers, in ourselves, in others and in that Magic that we keep our eyes open wide enough to see. Guess in hindsight, I shouldn't be surprised this is so much fun :-)

55 Days: Extended Star Wars Fireworks and Animal Kingdom Hours

Yeah, I'm still catching up on the countdown.....

Kenny the Pirate announced yesterday that October's WDW park hours had been adjusted, allowing for extending the Star Wars fireworks at Hollywood Studios and the after dark experiences at Animal Kingdom. If you aren't familiar with Kenny the Pirate, you should be. He is huge into character meet and greets and is the absolute king of helping you find exactly the character you want to meet. But beyond that, he is great for keeping abreast of park hours, show times and pretty much anything that affects your planning for a Walt Disney World trip. I'd recommend signing up for his email alerts via his website here as well as following him on Facebook and Twitter. 

Lately Disney planning has been more challenging than in the past due to the frequency with which they change shows and times and hours and such. I'm not complaining, mind you, this is the result of new experiences being added for the most part, so hooray that. But it is tricky making plans as far out as Disney encourages and then keeping an ear to the ground to see if the changes require moving ADRs or FastPass+ reservations or even shifting plans for which park to visit on which day. You've got to plan but remain flexible and sometimes that's a hard balance to keep.

In this case, we were ready to forgo Fantasmic (for which we'd secured FastPass+es) to be able to catch the Star Wars fireworks, but as it turns out they will not be offered on the night we are at Hollywood Studios. Kind of a bummer, but it means we can stick with our plans there that day. But Animal Kingdom's longer hours are another story. The park will be open until 8:30 pm rather than the previously announced 6:30 pm on October 31. We won't be there until November 2, and new hours haven't been released for November yet, but I have every idea those days will be extended as well. If this is the case, we'll cancel our Morimoto Asia ADRs and plan to stay in Animal Kingdom to enjoy the new nighttime experiences. There is even a rumor that Rivers of Light may be up and running by the end of October, which would mean trying to find an ADR at an Animal Kingdom restaurant that offers viewing and dinner combos.

Oh darn, looks like I'll have to keep hanging out on all the Disney websites..... Poor me :-)

Sunday, September 4, 2016

56 Days: Escaping To Georgetown

Sometimes you just have to get the heck outta Dodge, you know? Yesterday was one of those days. Around lunchtime I decided that I had to take the lovely and talented Miss Lisa on the road, and I figured on driving south. My first thought was Brookgreen Gardens because we've never been there. But Lisa thought we might as well press on and go visit Georgetown, South Carolina. So, of course, that's what we did.

We didn't have much of a plan other than some vague idea of getting dinner and cocktails in Georgetown, so we very much meandered down. Lisa wanted to show me Surfside Beach, a little town she and John had found the last time she ran out of town on a whim. We drove way down the beach there until it stopped and we had to backtrack. It was totally worthwhile because we saw a cement flying saucer house. Sorry, we were too flabbergasted by the thing to snap a photo.

We rolled into Georgetown about 1:30 and found free, on-street parking right downtown. First of all, how nice is it to see a town with free, no hassle, convenient parking? But it was also kind of weird not seeing any sort of crowds. It was actually incredibly quiet. Like a summer resort in February quiet. I wasn't expecting that on Labor Day weekend, but I'm not complaining.
Georgetown's River Walk, or Harbor Walk, or Some Kinda Walk

We stopped in some shops and walked down to something called the Kaminski House, because the name sounded intriguing to me. Turns out it is a town run historic site offering tours of too 18th century houses full of artwork and antique furniture and quite a bit of interesting history. We ran onto the porch and caught up with the last tour of the day as they were just beginning. We ended up have a great time and are planning to return this winter when the houses are dressed up for Christmas.

The Kaminski House

The House Next To The Kaminski House. It has a name, but I forget it. It was built just for parties. Cool.
After our tour, we enjoyed the River Walk for a while until the restaurant we picked, The River Room, opened for dinner. We had a spectacular dinner and enjoyed a great server who picked up immediately that we weren't in any sort of hurry. We'll certainly be back.

After dinner we looked around a bit more, checking out a Bed and Breakfast that looked nice and waiting for my two Dark and Stormies to work their way through my bloodstream. The drive home was relatively quick and we rolled in happy and relaxed.

Too relaxed to write this blog on the proper day, but I'm sure you'll forgive me......  I'll leave you with a few photos of the inside of the Kaminski House

This thing had enough leaves to make it twice this size!

Best bathroom floor EVER

Technically not inside, but still very cool

Friday, September 2, 2016

57 Days: First Night of MNSSHP 2016

The boy will be taller than his momma in this year's photos :-)
Tonight is the first Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party of the year and to celebrate, I'm sharing two Disney Blog posts that have me excited to attend the last one of 2016.

The first is all about special treats available exclusively at MNSSHP. Who doesn't like treats? The cupcakes look delicious and while the lovely and talented Miss Lisa poo poos worms in her slushy, I'm looking at giving it a try!

The second post previews a few of  the Disney PhotoPass Magic Shots exclusive to MNSSHP. When we decided to purchase Memory Maker for this trip, we weren't even thinking about the Halloween party, but you better bet we'll have a photo made with the Headless Horseman! And those video things? How cool are they?

Is it Halloween yet?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

58 Days: Poohsticks' Bookshelf

With the approach of Hermine, one must gather supplies. Tops on my list, truth be told, was rawhide bones for Belle the Hound Dog. She gets a little stressy during storms and raw hides are her Valium. The there's biscuits (Lisa's request), cereal and of course Little Debbie Oatmeal Pies, because they are traditional.

But what to do while it's nasty outside? Perhaps the power will go out. Good thing I'm stocked up on some pretty top notch reading, and Disney reading at that. You'll see a review of each of these in the coming days and weeks, but here's a little preview.

The Thinking Fan's Guide To Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom-- I've actually already finished this book, and it was great, but it was a little bit ago and I think I need to refresh my memory before I can review it. It contains history and some editorial thoughts on each attraction in the Magic Kingdom, both of which were interesting and often thought-provoking.

Drunk At Disney-- I'm almost finished with this one and it has made me snort out loud quite a bit. But aside from being hilarious, this book contains some really valuable information, such as which bars allow you to order from the associated restaurant's full menu. Brown Derby with out an ADR? Yes, please.

The Design of Fear-- This is the second book by RJ Ogren, a former WDW Animatronic Artist Lisa and I met at Mizner's Lounge during our Epic Monorail Bar Tour last September. This book features stories about working on haunted houses, from Disney's Haunted Mansion to the Queen Mary to others all over the country.

Keep Moving-- This is Dick Van Dyke's autobiography written on the occasion of his 80th birthday. This man is an inspiration. He lives Disney Magic. He loves life and it shines out of him. I'm guessing there's a lot he can teach me about growing older with class and exuberance. If he has any dance tips in there, so much the better :-)

Any interest in a Poohsticks Book Club? I just had that idea. I'm a genius.