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Pal Mickey: Hot Item on eBay

20 Mar

Pal MickeyWho woulda thunk it? But just today I learned on one of my favorite Disney fan interweb message boards that Pal Mickey, now discontinued by Disney Parks but still fully functional, is routinely fetching over $100 on eBay, as opposed to the $60 (or so) that he used to cost in the parks. I didn’t believe it, actually, so I followed the advice of one poster to check the “completed listings”, and yes indeed there they were.

It also sounds like there are still a few Pal Mickeys out there in the shops at Disney World, perhaps especially out at the resorts.

What an odd thing that there’s apparently still such demand for the little guy! And no, mine won’t be showing up on eBay anytime soon….perish the thought!

Mickey’s Discontinued, But He’s Still My Pal

18 Oct

Yes indeed, the news recently hit the Interwebs that Pal Mickey is being discontinued.

And I gotta say, as much as I enjoy my own little personal tour guide to Walt Disney World, it’s real clear to me that Disney never figured out how to make the most of Pal Mickey. I bought mine expecting interesting trivia and the occasional useful park touring tip…and instead, ended up feeling like I had a needy three-year old vibrating at my hip, wanting to tell me the same old joke again, and again, and again. Lisa and I tried to interview him on Episode #2 of Those Darn Cats (MP3), with predictable results. He also didn’t fare particularly well in comparison with a plastic cup from Club Cool.

But strangely, despite his clear failings I’ve found myself rather attached to Pal Mickey. I’ve been a fan of stuffed animals since I was a kid, and despite never being a huge Barbie fan there’s something fun about dressing Mickey up for the Pirate and Princess Party, or making him a duck costume for a DisBoards meet aboard a duck boat, or just making him a simple t-shirt with the logo of my local roller derby league.

Will I continue bringing Pal Mickey to the parks? Well, maybe not all the time. But he’s shown up so many times on Broke Hoedown that I feel almost duty-bound to bring him to MouseFest this December, and make up a batch of Those Darn Cats t-shirts for him and his little friends.

And I do hope that Disney eventually comes up with a genuine virtual tour guide, like Pal Mickey should have been from the start. They were testing a Nintendo DS-based guide a while back, so I suppose we’ll eventually hear more on that front.

Counting Down to MouseFest 2008!

6 Oct

Okay, I know it’s still a couple months away…but I’m excited to let you know that the Those Darn Cats Podcast (of which I am a co-host and co-producer) is an Underwriting Sponsor for MouseFest 2008! We’ve got a page up on our blog with info for a couple meets we’re hosting, at Haunted Mansionand Finding Nemo – The Musical. We may even throw something together for Thursday morning, if enough of our buddies seem to be around that early (hey buddy, whatcha doin’ before MouseFest 101?). And of course, the MouseFest site is the ultimate authority for all the various meets that will take place that week…including (I’m sure) tons that haven’t even been scheduled yet.

Photo by my BFF

Photo by my BFF

I am very sad that my son (aka The Wachamacallit) won’t be coming with me, due to his demanding academic life. (I’ve been complaining about this for a while now….even rambled on about it on my Jentasmic! column in August.) But Pal Mickey will no doubt keep me company — he does tell a joke or two, from time to time.

Plus, I’ve heard that there’s no such thing as a solo trip to MouseFest. It’s still early October and already I’m having to make tough choices about which activities to partake of! I suspect I will not have much time to sit around and mope.

And besides, I could not even consider missing MouseFest this year! I cannot risk a repeat of last year’s Mr. Potato Head Meet, which is the sole post ever published here under the tag “bitter bitter bitter.” Nobody wants to see that happen again.

Magic Meets: Best, Worst, and Strangest

23 Jul

Magic Meets was my first major Disney fan gathering, and it was a blast! I’ll be on a roundtable discussing this event later this week on the All About the Mouse podcast…so for the time being, I’ll simply offer some “slice of life” observations and tidbits from my weekend.

Best in Show: Spending time with a boatload of fellow Disney freaks was truly a treat! I’ve never seen a friendlier, more welcoming community. It was especially fabulous to get some face time with friends I’ve gotten to know online, and find out more about how much we have in common. It has been brought to my attention that I truly am not the only evil queen around here. It was also incredibly satisfying to learn that Lisa’s and my Those Darn Cats podcast does, in fact, have several listeners! Sure, our download stats already told us people were subscribing…but listening is a whole other thing!

Bitchiest Moment: There were two major events taking place in the Radisson that weekend: Magic Meets and a Marriage Enrichment workshop. In the gym Saturday morning, I kept wanting to ask people, “So, are you a Disney geek, or is your marriage just all fucked up?”

Deepest Observation: I attended my first ever Pin Trading meet, and realized just how intimidated I am by the people sitting with enormous binders of pins before them. Can I blame this on a little PTSD from a bad experience with a pin shark putting the hard sell onto my son at Disneyland Paris? Maybe. But I also notice that hardcore pin traders seem to be the stigmatized out-group within the out-group of Disney geeks. People with pin trading binders and lanyards overflowing with Hidden Mickey pins (like, say, myself) will nonetheless say, “I’m not really a serious pin trader…” or even, “Those people scare me.”

How much of this is because we’re intimidated by their awesome collections, and how much is because we want to believe that, at least for this one moment, there is somebody freakier than ourselves? (“If you can’t find nobody else, then help yourself to me.” Thank you, Kris Kristofferson!)

I was also interested to learn that plenty of hardcore pin traders used to be Beanie Babie collectors, and that when Beanie Babies went bust, the collectors needed something new to do. Unlike, say, those of us moderate-level pin traders like myself, who seem to be Disney fans who find in it a simple expansion of our passion for all (or many) things Disney.

Saddest Moment: Missing my son terribly, after attending the Pin Meet. He’s the one who got me into pin trading in the first place, and I know he would have had a blast playing bingo, and looking at all the rare and special-edition pins. Late Saturday night I became overwhelmed with sadness about the fact that he can’t join me at MouseFest 2008, and was too embarassed to tell anybody, so I just hibernated in my room a while (so, what is it that now compells me to share this intimate tidbit on the wilds of the interweb? am I nuts or what?).

Best Place to Stretch Your Legs on I-78: Roadside America! Pal Mickey and I needed a little break on the way home Monday, so we stopped into this indoor miniature village to walk around a little bit. I was taken by the nighttime pagaent, but his favorite was the caverns. Remember, stalactites stick tight to the ceiling, but you might trip over a stalagmite!

Even More Deepest Observation: I found myself reflecting a bit on my cultural orientation and class background, and the priorities I unconsciously apply to my decisions about vacation time and money. Sometimes I deeply envy those who stay in the Deluxe accomodations, who book trips through Adventures by Disney, whose lives are such that a Disney Vacation Club investment makes sense. But then I consider, is it truly that I couldn’t afford those choices? Or is it that I simply have different priorities for my time and money? I am a travel junkie…there’s no doubt about that. And regardless of what my income is, or might someday be, I’ll probably always choose quantity/length of trips over luxury of accomodations or service. I’d rather spend 6 nights at All Star Movies than 2 at the Grand Floridian.

But when a travel agent referred to Disney Deluxe accommodations as being “what we’re all comfortable with,” it really came home exactly how different my experience is. Do I enjoy deluxe accommodations, on the occasions I’ve partaken thereof? Absolutely. But am I uncomfortable at the Best Western or Pop Century? Absolutely not.

Best Animatronic Cows: What, animatronic cows? Well, yes indeed. Lisa and I spent some time Sunday at Hershey’s Chocolate World, where we needed to ride the Chocolate Tour not just once, but twice. I’m hoping that the ridethrough we recorded comes out okay! I tried to buy a copy of the theme song in the gift shop…the look on the clerk’s face was priceless.

Most Timely Bargain Shopping: On Sunday we made a highly successful expedition to the local Disney Store Outlet, where I found a Tinkerbell watch I’d admired (priced at $50) at a deeply discounted price ($7.50, to be precise). I also saw a wall full of WALL-E merchandise, which made me feel deeply conflicted. I love the movie, so I want the merch, but the movie’s message about conspicuous consumption makes me question whether I really need one more t-shirt, or that plastic watch. I had some serious lust for the WALL-E metal lunchbox I saw for sale at Magic Meets, but resisted for those same reasons. Of course, that didn’t stop me from buying the Tinkerbell watch, or a few other cheapo goodies for the boys back home. I never promised I’d be consistent, did I?


June 2008 WDW Trip Report: The Best and The Worst

26 Jun

Meeting Warwick Davis

A splendid time was had by all! And by “all,” I mean my son The Wachamacallit, my BFF Lisa, and myself. (I sure hope the folks we met up with there had a good time too! Shout-outs to Hayden, Matt, and Glenn!) As usual, there were high and low points to the trip. Here are my picks for the best and worst parts of our trip June 19-24, 2008.

Best new or updated attraction: Haunted Mansion. Yes indeed, as much as I loved Toy Story Midway Mania, and the updated Spaceship Earth, the improved audio and new features of the Haunted Mansion win this prize. I love the way the Escher room came out, and the graveyard’s a much more satisfying ride-through now that they’ve fixed the audio system and enhanced the visuals.

Worst hotel check-in line: Nickelodeon Family Suites. I’d booked this trip primarily with hotel points and frequent flier miles, so we had the distinct pleasure of checking out/in to hotels almost every day. For the most part, things went quite smoothly, and I have to give special props to Hampton Inn Lake Buena Vista for its comfortable rooms and complementary breakfast buffet, and to Pop Century for its always-boffo theming (and their quick attention to a problem with our room on arrival). We enjoyed our Sunday night stay at the Nick as well, especially for its fabulously-themed two-bedroom suites, and its Sony Playstations. But the registration line? We waited for about 45 minutes, by far the longest I’ve ever waited to check in at a hotel before.

Best trade: Silver-toned beads from a Jawa. This one was a tough call! I’m a pin-trader, and certainly I came home with a few fabulous finds. My collection of Figment “mood” pins is now complete! But I’ve gotta say that none of this can compare with having traded a tarnished old penny for a shiny new necklace from a Jawa we encountered on Commissary Lane. Uttini!!

Worst character meet-and-greet opportunities: Jedi Mickey, Stormtrooper Donald, Leia Minnie, and Darth Goofy. Disney surely knows that meeting any one of these characters is a must-have photo op for the Disney and Star Wars enthusiast. And there’s plenty of space in the Studios to set such things up. So why on earth do these four characters all share one location, and rotate who’s up for pictures? Why not give each a location of their own? The queue was usually 20-50 people deep, so only the most committed fan (or the parent with the most desperately-begging children) was likely to get a picture. Perhaps Disney could have made some money off this artificially-created scarcity, and had a $40/person character meal specifically for the Star Wars/Disney mash-up characters.

Most liberating fashion moment: Leaving the lumbar pack behind. It is a well-known fact that the amount of crap parents have to lug around is inversely proportional to the age of their child. And yes indeed, my child has gotten to the age where not only can he go more than 120 seconds without eating, in fact he is quite happy to carry his own snacks, water bottles, and other assorted paraphernalia. So, my days as a sherpa are over! But it’s not like I’m donating my massive lumbar pack to the Expedition Everest queue (hat tip to Hochberg)…I’m hanging onto it for now. You never know, I might be toting around stuff for grandkids someday.

Best non-traditional view of Wishes: From Ariel’s Grotto. This was a tough call too…I truly enjoyed watching Wishes from the ferry, while leaving the Magic Kingdom Saturday night (to go meet Lisa, who’d just arrived in Orlando, yay!). But better yet was being in line at Mrs. Pott’s Cupboard for ice cream when we realized Wishes was about to start, and scurrying over to the area right in front of Ariel’s Grotto to watch. I did get a good bit of whiplash from craning my neck back and forth to catch the fireworks in both directions, and the coordination of pyrotechnics didn’t work so well that way, but the sheer joy of being right in the middle of it all made me laugh out loud.

Most exciting competition: Padawan Footrace Challenge. I knew we needed to get to the park well before rope drop Saturday to sign up my son The Wachamacallit for the Padawan Mind Challenge, but I had no idea that, despite Cast Member instructions to the contrary, there would be an all-out dash to the sign-up table. I was trying to keep it to a fast walk myself…but somehow couldn’t bring myself to tell my kid to stop running when the other kids sprinted ahead of him. True to the competitive family spirit, my kid did in fact get to the table first, which he now speaks of with the same amount of pride as he does the fact that he tied for first place in the Mind Challenge a few hours later.

Theming at Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle StationLeast successful theming: Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle Station’s Monsters Inc decor. I asked a Cast Member what the wooden cut-outs of Monsters Inc characters were for, and she explained to me that this was now a themed restaurant, that it is a station where the children of the world can eat noodles. She was so thoroughly committed to the bit that I didn’t even consider the fact that this was absurd, and in fact not “theming” at all, but rather a haphazard attempt at decor. Hilarity ensued. If you want to know what I sound like when I’m laughing so hard that I can hardly breathe, and tears are running down my cheeks, just listen to Those Darn Cats podcast #7 (recorded live in and around the Noodle Station, and a good bit more random than TDC on an average day).

Tin Toy Golden BookBest attraction queue: Toy Story Midway Mania. The queue is designed to feel like you’re walking through Andy’s room, and you’re the size of a toy. All sorts of fabulous things are there…Chutes and Ladders on the ceiling, Viewmaster wheels from Peter Pan and Disneyland, Candyland pathways under your feet. But for me the best part of all was actually in the exit queue: A super-size Golden Book of Tin Toy, sure to catch the eye of any Pixar fan. I threw a few pictures onto Flickr of a couple pages (this and this), plus Pinocchio and Mickey Mouse from the back cover (Donald was there too, but I didn’t get the shot). Oh, and I trust that word has spread about the hidden Mickey near the place where you pick up your 3D glasses? Hayden found it, and told us where to look. Check out the Andy-drawn Nemo on the wall, and look down.

Worst traffic management: Toy Story Midway Mania. It’s clear they’re trying…Cast Members escorted the crowds from the rope to the FastPass machines at park opening Sunday, which perhaps averted a potential re-enactment of the 1979 Who concert in Cincinnati. But as my BFF Lisa has observed, the walkway in front of the attraction is just plain too narrow, even without the construction barricades for the building across the way. Sure, the crowds will diminish in time, so I trust that the wait-time won’t always surge close to an hour within 20 minutes of park opening. But I do believe this attraction’s popularity will last, and the area will stay congested. Perhaps they need to move the FastPass machines farther from the attraction, a la Dinosaur or Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin?

Best Easter Egg: Rainbow balloons. Toy Story Midway Mania has a whole bunch of special features and views that you can unlock by hitting the proper combination of targets. My favorite by far? The rainbow balloons which cascade down in the Bo Peep room, if you and your partner shoot down the final balloons on the corner clouds at the same time. I saw it just once, with the help of some guy I happened to be sharing a car with (he’d come through the single rider line, and was thrilled to find out that these Easter Eggs might give him an edge in an ongoing competition with his wife).

Most delicious meal: Le Cellier. bien sur! I was sure I’d be ordering the strip steak, but Cast Member Sarah (whose nametag inexplicably said “Ashley”) made the mushroom filet sound so appealing! I substituted cream cheese potatoes for the mushroom risotto, and it was fabulous. For dessert? A maple crème brûlée the size of my head. Good thing Pal Mickey was hungry too. Runner up: A pineapple Dole Whip, which technically does not constitute a meal but was nonetheless quite tasty.

Worst customer experience: United Airlines. It’s not the fact that our flight was delayed by weather, or that mechanical problems and crew-availability problems further delayed us. It’s not even the fact that we missed our connection in Dulles, and got stuck there overnight. It’s the fact that their recent schedule reductions and equipment downsizing meant that very few options were available for re-booking, and that about an hour after we’d re-booked, I got a text message telling me that flight was canceled (despite the fact that it was fully booked). It’s also about their customer service representative suggesting that my child’s health needs were inflexible, and that we should just sleep in the airport. I hope the airline’s just going through transitional pains, along with the rest of the industry, but after several years of elite frequent flier status, I’m seriously considering switching my loyalty to another carrier.

Best addition to my plushie menagerie: Towel animal! This little guy was waiting in the window for us in our room at Pop Century Monday night. I wasn’t sure if I could take him home…so I called the front desk, feeling rather sheepish, and the Cast Member reassured me quite kindly that my new terrycloth friend was mine to keep. I forgot to ask about care and feeding, but he does seem to be thriving in his new environment.

Most bittersweet moment: Knowing I’ll be making my next Disney trip solo. Well, not quite solo exactly…my next Disney trip will be to MouseFest 2008, so it’s not like I’m going to lack for companionship! But again, my child is growing up, and old enough now to understand that Mom’s going to Disney World on her own this December. Not only that, but he probably wouldn’t want me to pull him out of school for a trip, even if I were willing to do that, and after moping around when so many of my friends were there last December I promised myself I wouldn’t miss 2008. For me, the essential challenge of parenting is the gradual separation, knowing when to pull him close and when to let him fly. As he learns to fly higher and farther on his own, I may miss him, but I also can continue to enjoy the way my own freedom grows.

I trust that my friends who read this blog will remember I’ve said this, and bring my own words back to me when they find me weeping on Main Street come December!

Latest Episode of Those Darn Cats

17 Jun

Yes, Lisa and I keep on podcasting…whether anybody wants us to or not! Cuz hey, we’re having a blast and that’s the real point of this thing, y’know? I’m not exactly planning to become independently wealthy by blabbering on about Disney to unsuspecting random strangers. (Though I did have quite the pleasant conversation this afternoon with a colleague who said he’d heard I was going to Disney soon, and mentioned he was going next month…and got way more info than he’d probably bargained for!)

Anyway…our episode this week is about my Pal Mickey’s fashion requirements, and some ideas for fun (and sometimes maybe just a tad subversive) t-shirts. And oh yeah, I think there might be a little tangent about Olivia Newton John at some point. Ya never know.

There have also been a couple other episodes since the last time I posted about the podcast on Broke Hoedown, and we’re planning to keep morphing this thing into a slightly more structured show. You can keep up with us by subscribing either through RSS or iTunes.

Pal Mickey at Mr Potato Head Meet

7 Dec

I’ve got a very busy work day ahead of me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have time to squeeze in a quick DIS meet before things get hopping! After all, this morning I saw BFF Lisa’s pictures from MouseFest Day One, so I needed a little get-together of my own. So, Pal Mickey and I got into the office a bit early this morning, and had our very own “make your own Mr Potato Head” meet.

Mr Potato Head was a very gracious host, and even set up a little tea party with his Disney Princess tea set, a gift from my dear sister-in-law.

Shameless Plug: MGW Podcast on YOMD

16 Sep

Today’s MouseGuest Weekly Podcast features a segment my BFF Lisa and I recorded live this week with Dan and Eric, commenting at length on various criticisms we’ve heard of the Year of a Million Dreams. Per usual we also take a few tangents, like poking a bit of fun at other Disney podcasters, and taking inventory of my Pal Mickey’s rapidly-expanding custom wardrobe.

Merchandise Review: Pal Mickey vs A Plastic Cup

29 Jul

After much internal debate, and not a small amount of sheepishness, I’ve bought my first Pal Mickey. My descent into the Dark Side seems to be complete.

But Pal Mickey isn’t the only adorable souvenir that accompanied us on our flight home. At Club Cool in Epcot, my son created his own custom slushie cup, which immediately took on a life of its own as Princess Stitch, and pal’ed around with Mickey for the rest of the day. All hail the power of a child’s imagination!

Now, in my family we’ve never encouraged sibling rivalry. But watching these two side-by-side for the rest of the visit, I couldn’t help but wonder which was the better investment. So, I provide here a comparison, across multiple categories:

Price

  • Pal Mickey: About $61, with my Annual Passholder discount at the World of Disney store.
  • Princess Stitch: About $8, filled with Frozen Coke.
  • Advantage: Princess Stitch

Huggability

  • Pal Mickey: Soft and plush, like you’d expect any plushie to be. The metal casing for his electronic innards is mostly well-covered, with the exception of his disturbingly hard and rectangular tushie.
  • Princess Stitch: Hard and smooth, like you’d expect any plastic cup to be. It’s hard to tell the difference between Princess Stitch cozying up to you for a cuddle, and Princess Stitch whacking you in the bicep. And isn’t that just what you’d expect from Princess Stitch?
  • Advantage: Pal Mickey

Wardrobe

  • Pal Mickey: Disney sells a few outfits for Pal Mickey, plus there’s a great big beautiful world of teddy bear and doll clothes which either fit Pal Mickey, or can easily be altered to do so (um, am I really suggesting here that Pal Mickey needs a tailor?). PalMickey.net has an excellent page on sources of Pal Mickey attire. Plenty of Pal Mickey fans also seem to be rather handy with sewing machines.
  • Princess Stitch: Extremely limited. If you need a new pair of shoes you might luck out; when our Princess Stitch lost his adorable blue mid-heel pumps, I found the Cast Member in Club Cool was kind enough to give me a replacement, gratis (though he certainly did look doubtful when I told him my son had lost the princess shoes cup item). I’m sure any number of cup cozies could be let-out to accommodate Princess Stitch’s impressive circumference, or easily whipped up with a sewing machine, but there just isn’t much available ready-to-wear.
  • Advantage: Pal Mickey

Utility

  • Pal Mickey: While a cuddly plushie can win my heart any day, Pal Mickey’s real selling point is his interactivity. He’ll give you tips on short lines for attractions, current locations of nearby character meet-and-greets, or entertain you while you’re waiting in line. Of course, you might look a little silly doing all this if you are a forty-year-old woman, touring the parks alone . . . but Pal Mickey theoretically should be useful. And here is where Pal Mickey’s design point as a toy for the under-8 set was most clear. Only once in nearly 20 hours of use did Mickey offer a tip about a short waiting line for an attraction (Winnie the Pooh, Thursday night right around Wishes). The rest of the time he was a needy child with a short-term memory problem, constantly buzzing on my hip and wanting to tell me the same joke over and over . . . and over . . . and over. (In this category, I definitely found myself wishing for a Pal Len, as described by one of the listeners of the WDW Today podcast. Pal Len would shame you for missing rope drop, bully you out of Fantasyland when the lines were getting too long, and pester you into taking an afternoon break no matter what. Pal Mickey, on the other hand, just wanted to ask me yet again whether I knew the second line to “it’s a small world.”)
  • Princess Stitch: Doesn’t offer any Disney Parks touring tips, doesn’t play any games, but is perfectly designed to hold a frosty beverage.
  • Advantage: Pal Mickey, by an adorable shiny little nose.

Conclusion

Setting aside price, Pal Mickey takes it in a walk. But if I figure in the price, it’s a tougher call, because then I need to think about the long term. Will Pal Mickey end up gathering dust on a shelf, just as I suspect will happen to Princess Stitch? Will I tire of his corny jokes and incessant buzzing? Or will I really make that costume I’ve been thinking about, for Pal Mickey to wear to the Pirates and Princesses Party next month? If my son lobbies for a matching outfit for Princess Stitch, it will truly give me reason for pause.

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