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Matt Hochberg Survives Dinosaur Attack!

28 Dec

Have you shamed Matt Hochberg today? No? Well, in the Disney community we do believe that shaming Hochberg about his fear of the Dinosaur ride is an important part of your balanced breakfast. So, if you haven’t yet seen or heard the evidence of Hochberg’s death-defying encounter with the Dinosaur ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, get thee over to my BFF Lisa’s blog My Life on the WDW D-List for the full scoop.

The Myth of Story: Lost and Found at Walt Disney World

1 May

Re-Imagineering had a funny piece yesterday about the number of Disney attractions based on similar “stories.”

From the late 80’s on Imagineers indeed affixed ‘story’ after ‘story’ after ‘story’ to their rides, shows and attractions. Unfortunately, however, the concept of originality eluded most of them.

While certainly WDI saw some unbridled successes under Eisner’s ‘What’s the story?’ ordinance, it seems Imagineers had little more than one ‘story’ up their sleeve. And they shamelessly told it again and again and again.

It goes something like this: a character or prop has gone missing and the guests and/or other characters are tasked with finding it/them.

At times I think they’ve overreached their point. Can you really boil down the Pirates of the Caribbean ride story to this?

Pirate Jack Sparrow, treasure in hand, has gone missing among the villagers on the Isla Tesoro and Captain Barbossa is out to find him.

But even when they over-reach, it’s an interesting read. And consider this too: How many Disney Parks attractions are based on the premise of transportation gone wrong or stretched to its limits? On my recent trips to Disney World I rode:

  • Two trains-gone-wild (Big Thunder Mountain and Expedition Everest)
  • One broken elevator (Tower of Terror)
  • One problematic mission to mars (Mission: Space)
  • One difficult trip into someone’s immune system (Body Wars)
  • One complete mishap of a space shuttle trip, with a hopeless pilot (Star Tours)

And that’s not even counting last summer at Disneyland, what with the crazy trouble with snakes and spiders when I was touring with Indiana Jones, or that wacky ride down Mullholland Drive. I don’t even want to talk about what happened when I got into the car with that Toad.

Is the message here that Imagineers are falling down on the job with creating stories for rides? Or is it that some stories are so flexible, you can make a zillion successful rides based on them?

Bucky Greenhorn, Celebrity Extraordinaire

27 Dec

If you need a fake celebrity autograph, guaranteed to depreciate in value from the very moment the ink dries, Bucky Greenhorn is your man.

Bucky Greenhorn

My son and I met Bucky one afternoon last week at Disney MGM Studios, where he had set up shop on a bench near Hollywood Hills theatre. We needed some autographs, and he had the hookup: we walked away with genuine fake signatures of Tallulah Bankhead and Lucas Grabeel.  And since Bucky’s clearly on a path to stardom, we got his autograph as well.

Now, I imagine Bucky’s pretty busy today. I just read in the Orlando Sentinel that both Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom filled to capacity by 3:15, and the Disney MGM Studios parking lot was full, so Bucky’s gotta be doing a brisk business. But next time you’re there, look around for him, he’s a helluva guy.

DIY Disney Project Ideas for Crafty Types

5 Dec

Sometimes it’s tough for Disney geeks to find the right wardrobe . . . there’s plenty of stuff out there emblazoned with our beloved characters, but perhaps it’s not quite in keeping with our personal aesthetics. Or maybe it’s out of our price ranges. Or, well, maybe we just like to spend a bit of time with our sewing machines, or with a tub of fabric paint.

I’m very new to crafting, but thanks to books like Sew Subversive and a wonderful lesson from a local sewing machine shop, I’ve been having fun customizing clothing and starting to design a few pieces of my own. Having caught the crafty fever, I’d like to show off a few of the things I’ve made and perhaps inspire you to DIY a few pieces of your own.


One easy way to get started is to grab a few patches and customize clothing you already own (or can obtain cheaply). I noticed this summer at Disneyland that they’ve got some great patches out for Pirates of the Carribean. Disney is selling these patches as part of the “make your own pirate hat or bandana” package at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, but you can also buy them separately — and they’re a pretty good deal, running about $2.50 per patch. Because they’re not designed for use on clothing, you might want to carefully remove the snap from the patches using an exacto knife, and then you’re ready to go.

In homage to the city-ablaze scene in Pirates, I made a hat and scarf out of fleece, using this pattern. I swear, it’s totally easy to sew! Including the patch, it took maybe 90 minutes to make the whole set.

Pirates fleece scarf and hat

Close-up on fleece pirates patch(click this and other thumbnails for better view of patch)

Also in that same set of patches, there’s an awesome little pink girly skull! This time, I scavenged fleece fabric from a major fashion mistake, a pink fleece I picked up super-cheap in the Dollar-A-Pound section of the Garment District (home base for Boston-based bargain fashionistas — email me if you want advice on when to go!). I also added a Ramones patch to the scarf to complete the look.

Pink skull fleece hat and scarf

Pink skull patch

Another patch in this same series worked well on a black Banana Republic shirt I found that same day on the crowded floor of Dollar-A-Pound:

Pirates shirt

Pirates patcho

Pirates not your thing? Shame on you! But over at Animal Kingdom, the Expedition Everest gift shop is all ready for you with a set of patches, designed for your iron-on convenience (I tend to sew them anyway . . . holds up better over multiple washings). Here’s a vest (once again from Dollar-A-Pound!), with a lovely Yeti patch.

Everest fleece vest

Everest fleece patch

Fabric Paints

Want to create your own designs? Make yourself a fabric stencil, grab some paint and a t-shirt, and you’re on your way. I made a Mickey Jolly Roger, which I’ve painted onto a couple shirts and a pair of jeans. Now, beware of copyright issues here . . . you can’t even think about selling this sort of thing. But in many cases you may be protected by the first amendment, especially if your design is satirical, as is my Pirate Mickey below.

Mickey pirate fabric paint jeans


The piece I’m proudest of so far is the Mickey Christmas hat. Totally simple.

Mickey Christmas hat

This was very simple to make, if you have basic improvisational sewing skills (or are willing to pick up that Sew Subversive book, and get yerself some skillz!). . . use a stocking cap as a pattern, cutting two pieces about the same size and shape of the cap but with about 1/2″ added on each side for seam allowance. Cut yourself out a pair of Mickey ears from black fleece, two pieces of fleece per ear so you can sew them together and stuff ’em, then sew into the main seam of the hat. Stuff them firmly enough that they’ll stand up straight when the hat is pulled on snugly.

If you find yourself interested in crafting, there are tons of web sites out there that can tell you way more than I can about how to get started, and how to move on to more advanced stuff. I hope I’ve whetted your appetite just a bit.

A Lovely Day at Animal Kingdom (Part II)

22 Nov

Now let’s see, where were we . . . I’d left off last time with some pictures of Expedition Everest, a ride which I enjoyed much more than I had on my previous visit to AK, as this time the Yeti was in fact working. There’s just no substitute for the big hairy guy taking a swipe at you.

After riding EE, I headed over to the new Finding Nemo show. The Disney Blog has a good overview of the show, including some good pictures. I enjoyed the show, and was amused by the various uses of the bubble screens on either side of the stage. Hint for parents: If your kids are bored waiting for the show to start, have them watch carefully for Nemo, who’ll swim through now and then.

Found Nemo

You also might enjoy the seagulls, who show up at the end of the show:

Mine Mine Mine

I hit the Flame Tree Barbeque for lunch (the smoked chicken was reasonably good), and then headed through Dino-Rama to hit the Dinosaur ride. I’d never really been in Dinosaur World before, and must say, it’s an eyesore. The Re-Imagineering blog posted an excellent article recently about exactly what’s wrong with Dino-Rama, and how it intrudes on the otherwise-excellent theming of the park. If their argument doesn’t convince you, maybe these Christmas decorations will:

Dino-World Christmas decor

But then, back to the sublime . . . a walk through the Maharajah Jungle Trek, including a visit to the bat house:

Bat House

Then another ride on EE, and a viewing of Festival of the Lion King:

Acrobatics at Festival of the Lion King

Trio of Singers at Festival of the Lion King

And then off to the parking lot tram (please remain seated until the tram comes to a complete stop!), and then the rental car, the airport . . .  but on the way out, I did get a look at the Christmas tree on the main plaza:

Christmas Tree at Animal Kingdom

A Lovely Day at Animal Kingdom (Part I)

20 Nov

I haven’t posted anything here for a while, but it’s not for lack of good intentions . . . I spent a very good part of the last couple weeks working behind-the-scenes at a conference in Tampa. (Bonus points and a special gold star to any of you who can figure out which conference that was! And no, it doesn’t count if you’re related to me by blood, marriage, or 25+ years of friendship.)

But joy of joys, miracle of miracles, I found myself with 24 hours free in central Florida last weekend — and you won’t be surprised to know that I used this opportunity to exercise my WDW Annual Pass. After 9 long (but wonderful) days in the Tampa Convention Center, it was a real pleasure to wake up at the Sheraton Safari in Orlando, ready to spend the day at Animal Kingdom. (I don’t usually spend much time at Animal Kingdom; it’s been my least favorite of the Orlando parks. But it’s also my son’s least favorite, so it minimized my guilt about going without him!)


I’d booked the Sheraton Safari room on Priceline the previous morning, and quite frankly I wish I’d checked, as I think I could have gotten the room for less than the 50 bucks I’d paid. The place wasn’t that great . . . I found the building a bit run-down, and the room not as clean as I’d become accustomed to. I even found a (grossness alert! proceed with caution!!) very large toenail clipping on the floor of my room. But the location was good, the registration staff super-friendly (bordering on flirtatious, really), and the billing staff readily fixed a problem with my folio in the morning.

And so it was that I rolled out of bed without an alarm for the first time in recent memory, and watched a little Disney Resort TV before heading over to the World. Dunkin Donuts was across the street to meet my coffee and bagel needs. I was in Downtown Disney before I knew it, following the signs to Animal Kingdom.

At the main plaza in front of the turnstiles, I met Wes Palm, who seems to be a close relative of Push (the talking trash can in Tomorrowland in both Anaheim and Orlando). I grabbed a quick video, so you can get a sense of his general schtick; it’s on YouTube now for your viewing pleasure.

I love Kilamanjaro Safaris, so I headed right over. It’s best to get there in the morning, for primo animal viewing. It was a lovely way to start the day.


But then, the real treat of the morning: I fell in love. With, well, a piece of foliage. You Animal Kingdom fans and Disney geeks already know who I’m talking about: De Vine.

(If you’re as smitten as I, you may want the high-res version of this image to use as your computer desktop.)

I found a video on YouTube that gives you a taste of her performance, but truly the camera just can’t do her justice.And then the day continued, next with a run to Expedition Everest . . . I’ll post more on the rest of my visit to Animal Kingdom as the week goes on. For now, I’ll leave you with more desktop-friendly images, of Expedition Everest and its surroundings.

Expedition Everest
(Link to full-res version for desktop wallpaper.)

Expedition Everest with train
(Link to full-res version for desktop wallpaper.)

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