"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, October 28, 2016

1 Day: 100 Posts Later, Tomorrow We Leave

I did it. 100 posts. Not all on time, but all done. I'm pleased with myself. I think I'll go to Disney World to celebrate!

2 Days: Back To The Magic Kingdom To Say Good-Bye

I almost didn't write about our last day because it seemed kind of depressing to talk about leaving before we even arrived. But I was supposed to write it yesterday and didn't on account of getting caught up watching Season 1 of Agents of Shield with the lovely and talented Lisa and today it doesn't seem as bad, so here goes.

Thursday will be a half-day in Magic Kingdom before we head home. We'll try to fit in as many favorites as we can, but two things have me very excited about even this abbreviated day.

First, we'll be eating lunch at the Jungle Navigation Company's Skipper Canteen. This is a new place and a first for us, so that alone is exciting. But it's also an incredible menu featuring some unusual (especially for a theme park)  Asian-inspired dishes. I plan to get the whole, deep-fried Lion Fish, the lunch that smiles back. And as a bonus the whole place is Jungle Cruise themed with added throwbacks to the Society of  Explorers and Adventurers made famous in the old Adventurer's Club in the defunct but sorely missed Pleasure Island.

Second, we'll be leaving the Magic Kingdom Monday in full Halloween decor and entering Thursday morning to see it decked out for Christmas! The transformation is overnight and will allow us to experience two holiday trips to Disney in one week. I can't beleive how cool this is going to be!

Can you tell I'm excited?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

3 Days: Animal Kingdom at Night

First off.......OH. MY. GOD. Three Days!!!!! :-)

Wednesday will be our Animal Kingdom day. We'll get (hoping anyhow) an early start with 8 am Extra Magic Hours and a first stop on Kilimanjaro Safaris. Our first FastPass+ of the day is for Expedition Everest between 11 and 12, so we should have plenty of time to poke around Africa and Asia. We're bummed that Dinosaur is still closed for refurb, but I'm looking forward to Primeval Whirl as I've never experienced that ride.

Lunch is at Tiffins and I can't wait for that! It looks amazing and the menu has me drooling already.

Our second FastPass is for another attraction we've never tried, Kali River Rapids, in the late afternoon. I'm dying to ride and planning to bring flip flops and ponchos to make the remainder of the day a little more comfortable after a possible drenching.

But the most exciting thing about this visit to DAK, even better than Tiffins, is experiencing the park at night. I'm imagining it being a whole new experience. Animal Kingdom is my second favorite Disney park, after the Magic Kingdom, because of it's incredible themeing. Seeing all of that at night, including the safari with our last FastPass, will be amazing, I'm sure.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

4 Days: Our First Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Tuesday will be Epcot day! We hope to arrive at rope drop and hit the new Soarin' before crowds build. Our Test Track FastPass+ is for the 10-11 am window, so we figure we can get at least the Living With The Land boat ride in before heading over.

Then it'll be Food and Wine time! We've never experienced this, so we're very excited. We have all three been pouring over the menus of all the booths and I have a map now, so by the time we go we'll have a good game plan. There's just so much that looks good! I mean , it looks like I'd be perfectly happy living inside either the Belgium or New Zealand booths. I'm thinking of maybe lobster roll at Hops and Barley and some buttered chicken at the Africa booth. A few of the Asian dishes look great as well as many of the Latin American ones. I'm just looking forward to grazing all over the World Showcase.

We have FastPasses spread out in the late afternoon and early evening to try to draw us away from the feed bag for a while. You know, so we don't explode. It's evening Extra Magic Hours and I'm told the booths remain open for at least a portion of the extra time, so more chance to munch before stumbling to the bus depot to get back to bed to rest up for....


Monday, October 24, 2016

5 Days: Magic Kingdom Monday

That's what I'm hoping for one week from today. It'll be Halloween day, and my birthday, and our first day in the Magic Kingdom.

It's Extra Magic Hours, so I'm hoping to get to the park at about opening to have a little bit of time before we need to meet out Keys to the Kingdom Tour group a City Hall at 8:45 am. I'm very excited for this tour. I've been backstage, and even in the utilidors, before but John and Lisa haven't and none of us have experienced this tour before. As I understand it, we get to see backstage and the utilidors, the parade storage/staging area and ride a couple attractions with the tour guide's commentary. I have purposely kept myself a bit vague on details because I want to be surprised.

We get lunch on the tour and it finishes about 2:30 or 3 so I'm hoping that leaves us time to catch the Festival of Fantasy Parade, which we've never seen. I have FastPass+ for Jungle Cruise as well in case the parade doesn't pan out. I've also made FastPass+ reservations for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Dumbo in the early evening before MNSSHP begins at 7 pm.

We'll catch rides and shows and see all we can see until the fireworks and the late parade, which I hope to catch at the beginning in Frontierland so we can hop on Splash Mountain afterwards because I just love that ride at night. We'll close the place out and catch the midnight performance of the Hocus Pocus Villains show before zombie-ing ourselves home to rest up for......

Epcot Food and Wine Day!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

6 Days: Hollywood Studios Day

I figure for my sake as much as anyone reading this I'd take the next few days to go over our plans for touring next week. One week from today, next Sunday, is our first day on property and our Hollywood Studios day.

Since we'll be arriving Sunday morning and some of us will likely be napping after an over-night car trip, I figured we'd hit the rather abbreviated Hollywood Studios. I made our first FastPass+ for the Tower of Terror with an arrival between 3:40 and 4:40. I figure that's plenty of wiggle room to get everyone rested up and to the park. Besides that, my personal priority is the new Star Wars LAunch Bay to hug Chewbacca and hopefully see the stormtrooper march and if we're lucky some Jawas. I'm packing a few old flip phones to trade so I'm really hoping to see the little guys!

Other than that, we want to see much of what's left--the Great Movie Ride (with the Ark of the Covenant now in the queue), Star Tours, Muppetvision 360, One Man's Dream and the associated Dr. Strange preview, and if the line isn't silly long Toy Story Mania.

I'm playing food by ear and hoping Pizza Rizzo is open. If it isn't (and maybe even as a second stop for grub) I'm considering dropping into the Tune-In Lounge.

We'll finish the day using our second FastPass+ for the Fantasmic show before heading back for some well-deserved rest to prep for a HUGE Day Two at the Magic Kingdom!

7 Days: ONE WEEK!!!!!!!!

I'm trying to catch up on the whole "blog-a-day" thing. This week hasn't been the best for that. And this coming week doesn't look like it'll be much better. But I've come this far and while they haven't all been on time, I have done a post for each day of the 100 Day Countdown so far, and I plan to ee it through.

This is yesterday's post, and yesterday marks one week until we leave for Disney. We'll be taking a bit of a non-traditional route, meaning we'll be driving about 2 1/2 hours in the wrong direction first and leaving for our trip at 9 or 10 pm. See, John's last band competition of his high school marching band career is Saturday and we aren't going to miss that. We'll be spending the day we leave in Cary, NC watching the Pride of the South Coast compete. We'll leave when the show is over and the awards all handed out, drive through the night, and arrive at Coronado Springs for or Saturday reservation at about 8 or 9 Sunday morning.

I'll have to call down there and explain that to the front desk, because we still want our Saturday reservation so we can have a room to sleep in when we get there. I don't see that being a problem. The question is, will I be able to sleep, even nap? I'm kind of doubting that. I suspect at least Lisa will be able to doze off and likely John as well. So I may just spend the morning chilling at Coronado Springs. Which sounds pretty ok to me!

Here, for your edification, is why are plans for Disney start off in such a strange manner. That face. How could we do this any other way?

Saturday, October 22, 2016

8 Days: Disney Visa Rocks

We're terrible about discovering and utilizing the perks and rewards and discounts available through our Disney Visa, but even so, we are taking advantage of a few this year, including a couple of meet-n-greets exclusive to card holders. I bring this up because they've just moved the Epcot meet and greet location from Innoventions West to the Imagination Pavilion, and the new spot looks awesome!

We also saved 15% on our Keys to the Kingdom Tour by utilizing a Disney Visa discount I didn't even know existed until the cast member asked me if I was a cardholder. That's a decent bit of change, really. The card also gets you discounts at Disney Stores all over as well as many merchandise locations in the parks. Many restaurants, including the wonderful Boma at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, offer a Disney Visa discount. I had no idea it could have saved us 10% at Artist Point last fall, which also would have been a not insignifcant amount of money.

The card also racks up Disney Dollars, redeemable for purchases throughout the parks and Disney Stores worldwide. I have no idea how many we've accumulated. I figure I'll check when I start planning our next adults only, non-park trip.

We've used the card's early shot at the Free Dining discount before, and many if not ll discounts are offered for a few days to cardholders prior to the general public. That's really helpful in getting the room you like in the resort you most prefer.

Here's a link to the Disney Visa site explaining all the perks and discounts. Give it a look, you might just find a way to save yourself some money!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

9 Days: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

I hadn't realized this film was scheduled for this coming summer until the teaser trailer dropped this week. Now I'm really excited. Sure, you can hate on them for taking the Tower of Terror in Disneyland. I don't care, and besides, that ToT doesn't even work right. Come to Florida and experience the 5th dimension if it bothers you that much. And, sure, there are those upset they are rumored to be coming to Epcot with a roller coaster replacement for Universe of Energy. Get over it. Ellen is annoying, the ride has run its course and from the rumors, the coaster would be epic. And I don't wanna hear about "edu-tainment" either, that idea has been on the way out for years. I say if you own a franchise as cool as Guardians, you use it.

And they ARE cool, the Guardians. They aren't terribly super and they are pretty lousy heroes. They are misfits and freaks led by an over-compensating, socially inept geek. In other words, my kind of people. So move over and let them into my Happy Place.

The trailer is great, and I've pasted it at the bottom of this post for your amusement, but the truly exciting part is this photo.

Am I seeing some punk here? A lot of punk here? I'm telling you right now that if they put the Ramones on the Vol. 2 soundtrack, they've earned a Guardians fan-for-life here.

10 Days: Hocus Pocus

It came out during some conversations with my podcasting pals that I'd never seen the movie Hocus Pocus. This fact horrified a few of the MouseLifers and they insisted that I remedy the situation. So when a schedule of showing of the film appeared on Twitter the other day, I knew I had run out of excuses and the family sat down to watch last night.

I have an unreasonable aversion to Bette Midler. I have no good reason, she's never said or done anything to make me upset. She has a wonderful voice and I'll even admit she can be very funny. SHe just annoys me. But I girded my loins and gave Hocus Pocus a try.

I'm glad I did. I truly enjoyed the movie, much more than I expected to. I mean, it's not Blazing Saddles funny or scary in the least, but it is completely entertaining, Bette Midler and all. She's actually very good as the lead witch dealing with two less competent little sisters. Sarah Jessica Parker's witch is the youngest and she was my favorite, always in the background doing something goofy with a look of complete buy-in on her face. The child actor leads were good as well, cute but not annoying-cute, if you know what I mean.

I was even surprised at the level of adult humor Disney threw at us adults watching. There's a bus driver that is super-slimey hitting on the witches to the point that when they tell him they want children (they need them to steal their souls and stay young(er) forever) he tells them it may take a few tries, but he's sure he can do that. I died. But then, I'm easily amused.

As an added bonus they say the word "amuck", and that amuses the Hell out of me, too (see? Easy.).

I've completed my podcast homework! I'm a little more Halloween Disney-fied, and I'm ready to appreciate the stage show at MNSSHP this year.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Day 11: Finding The Lost Ark

We may have been denied Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Rockin' Roller Coaster and Dinosaur by the Refurbishment Gods, but we've been thrown a pretty awesome bone. The Ark of the Covenant from Raiders of the Lost Ark has been added to the displays in the Great Movie Ride queue.

Those displays always include real movie memorabilia, and they apparently rotate stuff in and out. It just so happens the Ark rotated in just yesterday or today and we'll be among the first to see it! That's cool, as second to Star Wars, the Indiana Jones movies are a huge part of my growing up.

So, let's see here. I get to hug Chewbacca and find the Lost Ark on m first day at Walt Disney World. Yep, things are looking good.

Monday, October 17, 2016

12 Days: The "Almost Teen" Is About Grown Up

So I wrote this about sharing Walt Disney World with John as he was about to turn 13. I loved that he was as interested in the Imagineering as  I am and I was impressed with the examples of "show" he found all on his own and how much he appreciated the thought that went into them. In re-reading that, I had a tar in my eye. Not because those days are gone, but because all the hopes I had for him then are being realized.

John is in his senior year now and we are beginning to see the "lasts" coming. We got the mail about ordering cap and gown. This Friday is his last home football game night and Senior Night for the band (we get to walk him out onto the field to be recognized). The night we leave for Disney is his last marching band competition. And this will likely be the last Disney trip we make as a family all living here in the same house. I mean, I can't imagine we won't be going to Disney with John anymore, but it will be different. He'll be his own person traveling with us. And he is already knocking on that door.

But it's a good thing. He has really become what I was hoping in that blog four years ago. His inquisitive nature has blossomed and is now informed by knowledge and experience I don't have. We have begun seeing things from different perspectives, and enjoy sharing them with each other. That's what I'm looking forward to this trip.

Going to Disney and and getting to see it through your child's eyes is always magical. Even if that child is almost a grown man now. I am so very lucky.

13 Days: Mo...mo.....mo....and even mo.....Moana!

Have  mentioned I'm very excited for this movie? I might have. But check it out, Moana has it's own airbus now!

Now, who wouldn't want to fly to Hawaii on THAT? Not that a trip to Hawaii would involve twisting my arm in any case....

And that's not all. Dwayne Johnson released a "Twitter Exclusive" (you'll get the joke when you watch it) video clip from the film that takes a scene we saw a bit of in previous trailers and follows it a bit further.

Because I can't figure out how to embed the Twitter post from @TheRock, you'll have to watch on Inside the Magic here. And poke around, they have a fun site :-)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

14 Days: Take My Money

I'm a complete sucker for Disney merchandise. I'm especially a sucker for classic Disney poster art. I have the book this calendar is based upon, and it's amazing.

According to the Disney Parks Blog, each month's poster is perforated for easy removal and framing, almost like they knew I was going to be decorating the room in which I record the MouseLife podcast this winter......

Guess I'll need two :-)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

15 Days: Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!

We never got to see the Osborne Family Christmas Light Spectacular (or whatever it was officially called), and that kind of bums me out because it was apparently a real experience. But with the Streets of America giving way to Star Wars Land construction, the Osbourne lights had to go. And the people were sad, particularly on Twitter.

Until yesterday! Then Disney blew up Twitter with the announcement of a new holiday show for Hollywood Studios, and the people rejoiced. Especially on Twitter.

The new show, called "Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM," replaces the Galactic Spectacular and begins November 14 running through the holiday season. It is in the same vein as the Star Wars show, with a combination of pyrotechnics and projections on the Chinese Theatre, and it looks AMAZING! It's based on the elves, Wayne and Lanny, from the Prep and Landing specials with appearances by Mickey and friends, the Nightmare Before Christmas gang and more.

No telling if this will last long enough (meaning doing it again next year or maybe even into 2018) for us to experience it, but it's great seeing Disney keeping what looks to be a great Christmastime offering at Hollywood Studios.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

16 Days: Rivers of Light News

We have some firm dates for Rivers of Light, but not so much for an actual opening date. What Disney has done, is release the dates when they will begin offering preferred seating dining packages for Rivers of Light. Sadly, it isn't next week, it's May 1, 2017. Uhrg.No Rivers of Light this trip.

But, for future trips, the dining packages look pretty cool. They are offered at Tusker House, which I expected, and Flame Tree Barbecue, which I did not. Having a quick service preferred seating option is really cool, particularly as Flame Tree is one of my favorite places anyhow!

Now, as the Jambo Everyone blog points out, this doesn't mean May 1 is the opening date of Rivers of Light. Disney tends to open shows and let them run for a bit before starting the seating packages, but it seems to me they wouldn't go almost six months. I'm thinking a Rivers of Light open before the end of the year is looking less likely.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

17 Days: Wordless Wednesday, Inside Wilderness Lodge

18 Days: We Need The Bubble

People wonder at my Disney fascination. I'm a 45 year-old guy with my only child a senior in high school, and our big trip this year is gong to Walt Disney World. Again.

Again? Weren't you just there? And, yeah, wasn't that with just your wife and you didn't even set foot in a park? You'll drive that far for a long weekend? Isn't that an expensive vacation? Does your son even have fun? Isn't Disney for little kids?

If you're a Disney fan like me, you've heard all of the above more than once, haven't you? What is it that keeps us coming back? It's likely something a bit different for all of us, but for me it's primarily The Bubble.

The Disney Bubble. You enter as you pass under that archway that your passenger takes a photo of and posts immediately on Facebook or Twitter. It means you are in The Mouse's hands, in a place where the troubles of the real world can be safely put aside, where hundreds of people are employed to make you happy, where seeing the world with child-like excitement and reacting to it with child-like joy is not only accepted but encouraged. You don't need to drive if you don't want to. You don't have to cook if you don't want to. If you've done it right, you either know where you're going to eat or you don't care. In the bubble, a Big Important Decision is whether to head to the Polynesian for a Lapu Lapu break via monorail or boat. The Bubble is worth every penny.

Our Disney trips always seem to come just when we need them, and this one is no exception. About six months ago the lovely and talented Lisa took over as manager of our town after the town manager was fired. She's an interim filling in until a mew manager is hired, which hasn't happened yet. Until then  she's carrying on with her regular job as town clerk and filling in as manager. Running a town with more than 100 employees and budget of over  $30 million is a big job, and it's taken a lot of Lisa's time and energy. Then Matthew happened.

Look, it could have been a lot worse. We escaped the worst of the storm and flooding and my heart goes out to those inland who are still as I write this trying to deal with Matthew. But watching Lisa guide this town through the blow has been an unforgettable experience. She's been working 15+ hour days since Thursday and even when she's been home, she's more often than not been on the phone dealing with some storm-related town issue. From preparation through the storm itself to recovery and the aftermath, Lisa and her team (and she has great department heads) have kept things calm and smooth and humming along. But it's taking a huge effort on all of their parts.

Lisa is extremely intelligent, calm under stress, strong, and a natural-born leader. She knows instinctively it seems when to listen and when to lead, when to take advice and when to lay down what needs to be done. She's learning this on the job, but has already become a source of information and advice for others. People who've lived on this island a long time are saying they've never seen such a professional response to a storm from this town. I couldn't be more proud.

But it has been so hard watching her deal with all this and not being able to help. She's under a lot of stress. She has been making decisions over and over every day that will immediately affect people and will have long-term consequences for our town. She's doing great. I am not only proud of her as my bestest friend and wife, but truly thankful for her as someone who loves this island as a dream come true.

She's taking good care of my paradise, and she deserves a break in The Bubble. Yes, it's expensive, but it's the best bargain I can imagine if it can give Lisa some time completely free.

Monday, October 10, 2016

19 Days: I Got Nuthin', Really

How's that for a "click-bait" title? Should really bring 'em in to want to read this.

But I'm just being honest. Perused blogs and Twitter and nothing leapt out.

Some people are gushing about the new IMAX Dr. Strange preview, which is good. I can't wait to see that movie.

An original copy of the first draft of a script of Steamboat Willy is going up for auction. I probably can't afford it.

A new wine bar was announced for Disney Springs, the first sommelier-owned and operated wine bar in the state. I want to go. Disney Springs is getting better and better. It's a destination in itself now, and with The Edison on the horizon, I'm looking to make a "just Disney Springs" (well, maybe some resorts as well) trip in the not too distant future.

A director was announced (Guy Ritchie) for an upcoming live remake of Aladdin. With that and Mulan announced recently, the live action remake thing is looking to be going strong. And I'm happy with that given how much I enjoyed Cinderella and Jungle Book.

OK,so maybe I had a few things. But that's it. I'm off to fall asleep while watching the Panthers on Monday Night Football. Peace out.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

20 Days: Star Wars Land Ride Details

Photo Courtesy of slashfilm.com
A long and very detailed article on slashfilm.com is filled to the brim with rumored details of Star Wars Land, especially the Escape the Stormtroopers Battle attraction. Now, this is specific to Disneyland in Anaheim, but I'm thinking the attractions at Disney World will be very similar if not the same.

The entire land will be themed to a degree not seen in Disney or any other theme park. Take that, Universal! The article descibes it as more like a Renaissance Fair than a theme park. I can't wait to just walk around.

But the stormtrooper ride really grabbed my attention. Apparently it will involve moving guests through several stories of the ride building and having them actually leave the trackless ride vehicle to run away from approaching stormtroopers before boarding another later. This has got to be hugely complicated, but I'm believing the story because I think Imagineering simply has no choice than to one-up Potterland.

Rumor has it the attraction will use more than 100 animatronics. For reference, the Disneyland version of Pirates of the Caribbean has about 75. Combine that with recent animatronic advances coming out of WDI and we are looking at a potentially mind-blowing experience.

I can't wait!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

21 Days: Hurricane Matthew Visits

I want to talk about Disney, but this stupid storm is too HERE to focus on much else. His center has passed us by, but let me tell you, Matthew has a windy backside!  It's blowing to bat the band outside right this minute, so it;s difficult to concentrate on witty blog posts. Instead, here are some on the scene photos from earlier today.

Yes, we had to take a walk and look around. That water behind John is normally a salt marsh with about a 5 foot wide canal

New construxtion on the left and a town park on the right, both covered by the ICW now. Not the crab trap bouy floating around to the right of the port-apotty

This is Yacht Drive, the street that runs parallel to the Intracoastal. It's largely under water.

I've never, in 23 years here, seen the ICW so high

Boats on lifts are pretty much in the water now

And here we see Mother Ocean coming through the beach access. We tried to save the street sign, no telling if it stayed where we stashed it.

Here's looking forward to a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Day 22: Disney Parks Ride Out Team

I have a new life goal! Apparently, due to Hurricane Matthew Disney has activated a Ride Out Team of employees to stay in the parks and on duty for up to 72 hours straight.

I figured I'm perfect for this job. I mean, I've ridden out a good half dozen hurricanes and even more tropical storms. I must have a knack for it. I'm still here, right?

According to this blog post, they are meant to take care of guests safety and well-being and happiness, but when I heard the term, that wasn't what sprung to mind.

I imagined a small group of brave and daring individuals (actually, I had a team of Twitter volunteers assembled and it looked pretty good!) who would "ride out" the storm in a closed and empty Disney Park. In my imaginary world I was joined by Sam and Kathy from our MouseLife Podcast and R.J. from the DisExplorers Podcast. We planned to perform such helpful functions as preventing unsold cupcakes from going stale by eating them all. I figured if things got really hairy we could hunker down in the County Bears Jamboree, on account of they obviously had a supply of Tropical Weather Event Essentials such as moonshine. Of course, the shelter of last resort has to be Pirates of the Caribbean, due to rum and the fact that you'd already be in a boat. See, we've really thought this through!

So put me in coach! Not so much to make ham and cheese sandwiches, and certainly not to face down angry DisBloggers irate at having to actually pay for food. No, Disney Casting, I and my Intrepid Team are ready for the much bigger mission of having the Magic Kingdom to ourselves for a night or so.

For the Greater Good, of course.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

23 Days: Sending Good Vibes To Florida

Somehow, reading all the live reports from Florida on Twitter, it doesn't seem right to gush about the Magic Kingdom. I gotta say, it is very nice being able to sort of keep tabs on the places affected by the storm and some people who, though we've never met, I feel an attachment to. Disney Twitter is a community, and while it sometimes goes a bit nuts freaking out over boxed meals, it's a loving and caring community.

So tonight it's all about sending love and good vibes to all facing Hurricane Matthew. Stay safe friends. I'll be on Twitter first thing in the morning (and whenever the dog has be between now and then) to check on you.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

25 Days: Disney and USO Open Welcome Center in Orlando International

I've written before about the Disney Hires Heroes Program here (which is reportedly 6500 vet employees strong now) and why it touched my heart so much. Well, they've done it again with the opening of a new USO Welcome Center in the Orlando International Airport. Disney donated $100,000 and helped design the space that will be used by military members and their families traveling through the airport. The first people staffing the Welcome Center are Disney Cast Members volunteers. It's not about the money, $100,000 is a drop in the bucket to the Walt Disney Company, but it's about the heart involved.

We've been at war almost as long as my high school senior son has been alive. It's not the most intense conflict we've ever been engaged in, in terms of number of military personnel involved, but that doesn't make it any less difficult on military members and their families. And the nature of the conflict has led to a huge number of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder cases, with suicide rates among today's vets at historic highs. And we, as a society, have largely forgotten this war is even happening. We've forgotten those fighting it. And that's dangerous and sad.

I know from my father's experience returning from Vietnam how difficult it can be to transition to civilian life. I know how difficult PTSD can be for a family. I can only imagine the stress on a family of having a father and husband or wife and mother fighting overseas. Disney isn't curing any of those problems, but they are helping. Simply building this space lets our service members know they haven't been forgotten, and that they are being recognized and thanked by one of the largest and most iconic American corporations.

These heroes aren't getting the ticker tape parades they deserve. But they are getting smiles from VoluntEARS and a dose of Disney Magic. And that makes me happy.

Monday, October 3, 2016

26 Days: Mo Muppets, Mo Muppets, MO MUPPETS

So as if getting to eat in Rizzo's pizzaria and go potty in Gonzo's Water Works wasn't enough, Disney added Sam the Eagle, Kermit, Piggy and friends to Liberty Square with two live shows. That has the Stites fam all kinds of excited. But imagine when I spot this on Twitter!
Photo by Jenny Burke

It's Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker! On their Muppet Mobile Lab! In Epcot! I mean, what if we get to see Muppets in THREE parks?!?!? How cool is that?

Word is the Mobile Muppet LAb was appearing throughout the day today behind Spaceship Earth in Future World. I'm really hoping this is a new thing that lasts through our visit in just 26 days!

27 Days: New Pirates of the Caribbean Trailer

Just a short catch-up post this morning.

The new Pirates of the Caribbean trailer is out as of last night and it's a spooky one! No Captain Jack or confirmation of the rumored return of Will, but we meet our new Pirate Villain, a Captain Salahzar. This dude looks kind of dead-like and mean, but hints at a bit of a sense of humor , I thought, in his delivery. We'll see in May of 2017!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Day 28: Happy 45th Birthday Walt Disney World

For 30 days every year Walt Disney World and I are the same age, and that time begins today. Happily, it will end with my bad self right smack dab in the middle of the Magic on Halloween.

Between now and then, we will both be 45 years young. We have grown up together, me and Disney World. My parents took me the first time when we were both very young, 1972 I believe. I was there to share in the nation's bicentennial in the summer of 1976. I was back as a pre-teen and as a newly licensed 16 year-old. My parents celebrated my then girlfriend and now wife and I's college graduation by taking us and my sister to Disney World. We shared my son's first glimpse of the Magic at three years old with my parents, and Disney welcomed him with open arms and some of the most unforgettable moments of our lives as parents. We returned with John at about six and experienced the parks in an entirely new way, and again with an almost-teenaged John who reveled in the Imagineering details. We've been twice for Lisa's birthday and once for John's. We've celebrated our wedding anniversary in Disney twice, once with a full-fledged family vacation and more recently with an adults only non-parks weekend visit, both of which were magical in their own way.

In all those years I've ridden the Skyway and Mr. Toad and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; I've seen Epcot open, seen the Mickey hand and wand come and go, and seen Future World lose it's future focus; I've seen Disney/MGM Studios as an operating movie and television studio and Hollywood Studios as a very different and still evolving park; I've fallen completely in love with the "notazoo" Animal Kingdom and seen more and more come to a park that really shows what Disney can do with themeing; I've eaten breakfast at the Empress Lily in Disney Village, spent an evening at the Adventurers Club, shopped and eaten on our way in and out of "the bubble" at Downtown Disney, and enjoyed cocktails and squid on a boat at Jack Lindsey's Hangar Bar.

Disney isn't the same as it was when when I was a kid, but then neither am I. And that's a good thing. Are there things I miss about "classic WDW?" Sure there are, but there are things I  miss about being a carefree 8 year-old, too. That doesn't mean I'm  not
happy with who I am now and looking forward to where I'm going and who I'll be in the future. Same goes for Walt Disney World.

I can't wait to see what we are as we continue Moving Forward.....