Monday, 30 May 2011

There's room for a thousand...any volunteers?

I LOVE the Haunted Mansion. It is one of my favourite Disney rides and I love the different versions that I've been on.

It's one of the few Disney attractions that seems to shift "lands" every time it's built. At Disneyland it's in New Orleans Square, at the Magic Kingdom it's in Liberty Square, at Disneyland Paris it's in Frontierland and at Tokyo Disneyland it's somewhat bizarrely in Fantasyland.

If you're ever in Disneyland from mid-November to early January I recommend visiting the Haunted Mansion there because Master Gracey invites Jack Skellington to visit for the season and the effect is spectacular.

Everything about the attraction is an example of how talented the Disney Imagineers are. Obviously the ride itself is amazing but the exterior of the building (s), the queue areas, the pre-show areas and the stretching room are all fabulous pieces of storytelling. I've yet to see the recent additions to the WDW queue and ride finale but if they're anything like the changes made in 2007 then I can't wait. Another awesome thing is that even a lot of the backstage areas are themed too. The "servants quarters" actually have bells so that Master Gracey can call his servants!

When I first saw Phantom Manor (The Disneyland Paris version) I was taken aback by just how much the building looked like Norman Bates' house in Psycho. Unfortunately the last time I was there was a little before digital cameras had come of age so I've had to make do with a photo of the actual house from Psycho but I'm sure you get the idea. Speaking of the Bates' house it doesn't look quite so scary when you see it from this angle...

Trip to Whoville anyone?

I'm probably one of the few people that actually liked The Haunted Mansion movie. Well, when I say "liked" what I mean is I liked all the bits that didn't involve Eddie Murphy and the terrible acting. There were so many references to the attraction it was crazy. To be honest any film that features Madame Leota's head in a crystal ball has my vote!

If you ever take the "Keys to the Kingdom" tour of the Magic Kingdom then you'll get to hear some of the awesome things about the Haunted Mansion. Unfortunately I took the tour in 2007 which meant that section was skipped due to the Mansion being refurbished.

There's some great trivia associated with the Haunted Mansion. Lots of people are convinced that Walt Disney is one of the singing busts (False) and apparently a fair few guests have tried to scatter their loved ones ashes on the ride (I don't recommend it, they just get cleaned up!), and the voice of Constance (the Black Widow) is provided by the same person that voiced Dee Dee in Dexter's Laboratory!

Next time: Old Man River

Summer 2011 Trailer

Friday, 27 May 2011

Are you 23? - Round 2

Ok, ok, so I've used that title before but I promise never to do it again and I have a really good reason for reusing the title.


My paper chain is looking significantly shorter than it did when I first made it but back then there was well over 40 days left to wait.

So this week has comprised mostly of three things:

1) Car boot sales. Well actually this seems to happen most weeks because Student Ambassador work opportunities seem to be few and far between at the moment and most involve being in London for about an hour which means I'd spend more to get there then I'd get paid. So my solution has been to sell stuff that it's taken me a while to realise I don't need. Yay for getting rid of unnecessary clutter and yay for getting a little extra money for Florida!

2) Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Thanks to a decision I made a few months back to join Odeon's Premiere Club I was able to go and see the film for free with my parents (Yay for pre-Disney family bonding!). Add to that it was Orange Wednesdays and the three of us went to the cinema and had an awesome meal at Pizza Express for the grand total of £14. Not bad when an adult ticket alone would have cost £6.20. I loved the film. It was fun like the original and there were all sorts of people in it. I think Judi Dench might be trying to beat her record for shortest Oscar Winning Performance and Penelope Cruz is sooooo much better as the lead female than Kiera Knightley ever was. (This comment is in no way biased due to the fact that she has a photo of me from the 2007 Golden Globes). If you haven't seen the film yet you and liked the first one then GO! Also it's worth your while waiting until the last credit rolls....savvy?

3) Playing with iPhoto. I've had my MacBook Pro for nearly 2 months and this feels like the first opportunity I've had to really play around with the updated version of iPhoto. I made a lovely book of all the photos from last summer which I fully intend to get printed once I'm back from Florida, along with one for this summer, of course. I also started messing around with slideshows, the results of which can be seen in Episode 36 of the vlog and then I started messing around with the image settings and discovered I love over exposed photographs with heightened contrast. So for your viewing pleasure...

Unfortunately doing so has made me want a better camera than the one I own. Right now I'm using a Finepix Z35 which is fine but the photos were so much better with my old Sony camera that broke so depending on how much money I earn/spend this summer I may be tempted to buy a slightly better one. But then I also want an iPad....and an iPhone 5 (when it's released)...and I think I need to stop looking at technology things!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Hail to the Chief

Today's post was originally going to be a visit to Master Gracey and his 998 tenants but I'm going to take a teeny tiny detour to the other side of Liberty Square to visit a lot of people with the name Mr. President in honour of one of them visiting the country today.

Call me sad, geeky, dorky, boring, whatever... I love visiting both the Hall of Presidents and the American Adventure over in Epcot. I've already spoken of my love of American Patriotism and if you're prepared to buy into it there's just an incredible feeling that you get from sitting in both the attractions. The hairs stand on your neck and you walk away feeling like anything is possible.

The Hall of Presidents and Liberty Square are both full of references to US history. There's the 13 lanterns hanging from a tree (symbolising the original 13 colonies), the Liberty Bell (cast from the same mold as the original) and the plants are all coloured red, white and blue.

Every 4-8 years the Hall of Presidents receives a little facelift (can you guess why?). Several recent presidents have made significant contributions to the attraction so if you didn't get to see President Obama while he's been in the UK this is the next best thing because it really is him talking. I actually went to see the show the day President Obama officially moved in (July 4th 2009) - Yes I AM that cool! :P With that particular addition the show received a slight overhaul with a new narration provided by Morgan Freeman - the unofficial first African-American POTUS.

Anyone remember me talking about the 4 1964 New York World's Fair attractions that Disney built? Well this is the closest you'll get to seeing Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln at Walt Disney World.

On a side note my mum ran into President Obama today at Westminster Abbey. Well...not literally...that would be BAD! She was actually in the building next door but apparently everyone just stopped what they were doing to look out the window at him.

I was lucky enough to see President Clinton speak while I was at UCLA and saw John Kerry (remember him?) on the campaign trail at Washington Dulles Airport. An enthusiastic onlooker shouted "There goes the next President of the United States!" - yeah...ummm...

On a final note...

All the best to those that were scheduled to fly from Scotland yesterday. That darn volcano in Iceland struck again causing disruption for some of those arriving on May 24th. I'm sure all us ICPs had a collective response on your behalf. Personally, mine was a bit like....

and I'm sure that Goofy was looking a little like ...

Worry not though because I've sent this guy in to sort that Volcano out!

Next time: We now return to our usual programming

Saturday, 21 May 2011

A Weekend of Vlogging

What started off as me making one vlog yesterday rapidly turned into me making 3 vlogs this weekend. Episode 33 initially started as being about 18 mins of me going off on a tangent every 30 seconds before it got cut down. As I was filming it I remembered I had some footage from The Tiki Room: Under New Management which seemed to tie in rather nicely with a recent announcement about the future of the attraction. Then I noticed the date on my computer and realised I had not done a project that I've been promising to do for a while, although as I like keeping my promises cryptic I could probably have made any old vlog and got away with it but still it was something I wanted to do and in some ways was inspired by Becca's podcasts.

Episode 35 - Goofy's How to Guide to Flying will be the first episode of Suzie's Disney Adventure that will be available for download so that you can play it on your mobile device. The original idea was to have it as a podcast so that you could listen to it on the plane (and an offshoot of that idea may still happen) but I eventually decided to keep it as a vlog episode with the download option so that you can watch it on the plane if you want to.

I've rushed to get all 3 vlogs made this weekend so that Episode 35 was available to everyone travelling on the 24th May, apologies for it not being ready in time for everyone that travelled on May 1st I blame Uni and Kate and Wills for that one!

Hopefully this new vlog will be helpful to all those that will be flying to Orlando for the first time (and those that have been before.

Click here to Download it NOW from my gallery page!

Episode 34: Goodbye, Farewell, Aloha

Episode 33 - Losing My Mind

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Goofy's How to...Do Disney on a budget.

Working for Disney is without doubt the cheapest way to visit Disney World and comes down to 2 things: Cast Member benefits and cheap rent. But you won't be entitled to any Cast Member benefits (food discounts, free park entry, etc) until after your first day of work a.k.a. Traditions. So here are some things you can do that won't leave you drastically out of pocket.

First up is Downtown Disney. Last year I was surprised by the number of people that didn't know that it is free to go there. There are loads of restaurants and shops to visit and you can spend ages just walking around the place, soaking up the atmosphere. I know lots of people are keen to go to TREX (or similar) early on in the trip and my one criticism of that is that eating in places like those can get very expensive really quickly. There is no doubt that the food is overpriced. Remember that once you get your CM ID you'll get discounts in a lot of those places so consider whether it's worth waiting to visit the more expensive ones after Traditions.

For cheaper places to dine try IHOP, Perkins, Santa Fe, or any other "Normal" restaurants, along with places like Earl of Sandwich.
Another thing you can do for free is go and visit the hotels. There are plenty to choose from and during your first few days I recommend visiting the Polynesian and the hotels around the Magic Kingdom. Several reasons... firstly the beach at the Polynesian is a great place to watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks from so you can watch Wishes without spending a dime. Secondly, each hotel is beautifully themed and there's lots to explore. Thirdly, every hotel has a quick service location, many of which feature menu items that are also in their more expensive restaurants but for a fraction of the cost.

The next option isn't free but being a Disney CM won't save you any money on it so I'm throwing it in here anyway. Universal Orlando! If you're planning on visiting more than once then it's probably worth you getting an annual pass (which can also get you food and merch discounts).

Or what about more shopping? Firstly there's...ummm....Walmart which sells EVERYTHING but there's also The Florida Mall, The Millenia Mall, and the outlet malls. One of the outlet malls is right next door to the Commons and has a food court and stuff so provides another place to eat cheaply. (It's got a Subway, Starbucks, Panda Express, Sbarro etc).

Maybe you'd prefer to visit Celebration? It's a town that was built by Disney back in 1995 and it is beautiful and quaint. It's got some amazing restaurants, a cinema, and a great ice cream parlour too.

Speaking of the cinema don't forget that there's one in Downtown Disney and it's just about to start operating an in cinema restaurant as well. Basically you get fed a proper meal while you enjoy a movie - fantastic!

There's plenty of things to do in Orlando and at WDW but always try to make as much use of the discounts as possible. Loads of places will give you a discount (even non-Disney places) so ALWAYS ask before you buy.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Welcome to our Tropical Hideaway

You lucky people you! If I wasn't writing this blog right away I'd be reading it too! Why? Because it's about Adventureland!

Now I've already talked about Pirates of the Caribbean which is one of the most popular attractions in Adventureland but there's loads more to do there.

First up is the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. I was once told by a Disney Tour Guide that if there's a queue at the treehouse then you should immediately turn yourself around and go and visit another park and if you ask me that's some good advice. I also think that everyone should go up there once just for the incredible views.

It's also a great example of attraction storytelling and some of the detail is amazing.

Next up is the Tiki Room. This attraction has been in the Orlando news since January due to a fire breaking out. Until then it featured Iago and Zazu as the new managers of the establishment (they moved in during the mid-1990s to a somewhat negative response).

It sounds like the Tiki Gods may have had something to do with the fire though because Iago and Zazu have been evicted and the Tiki Room will be reopening in June as its former glorious self.

Look out for the Tiki Birds in a future vlog.

Obviously Aladdin didn't like the idea of Iago moving into Adventureland unsupervised because around the same time a magic carpet ride moved into town. Unbelievably I can't find any pictures of either that or the Jungle Cruise on my computer. This WILL be corrected over the summer. In order to compensate I have uncovered a video on youtube of the great Skipper John who will guide you through the jungle in my stead.

I can't leave Adventureland without mentioning the amazingness that is Dole Whip. Again, I shockingly have neither photos nor video of such deliciousness but I have found a video that shows off Dole Whip in all its glory.

If that's not enough to whet your appetite then I give you ...

Next time: Master Gracey's feeling social.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Casey Jr's Coming Down the Track

Today's post is devoted to another form of transport, arguably Uncle Walt's favourite, the steam train. Specifically the Walt Disney World Railroad which I mentioned briefly when I was talking about Pirates of the Caribbean.

Before I start talking about the railroad itself I want to quickly mention Main Street USA which in terms of planning and construction is one of the places that I love looking at the most. I remember as a kid visiting the Penny Arcade and playing with the machines with my dad. The Penny Arcade has long since gone but there is still one (sort of) over in Disneyland and when I went with my friends, David, Ryan and Deborah, back in 2006 we spent a good 30 mins playing on the machines. Now as I have mentioned many a time I was (oooo! Past tense!) studying film at uni. One of the classes I took was "The History of Silent Cinema" which may seem boring to most people but I loved it, mostly because we talked about a lot of history and old theatres. One thing that came up was Nickelodeons (Not the tv channel!) where you could watch primitive movies on Kinetoscopes that are kind of like a mechanical flip book with photographs. Suddenly the memories of the Penny Arcade came flooding back. The building itself may now be shops but some of the machines still live on at the Magic Kingdom in the Main Street Train Station so if you ever have a spare few minutes go and check them out.

The easiest way to talk about the railroad is to show it to you so please seat small children on the inside of the carriages, keep your hands and arms inside the train and remain seated at all times. All aboard the Walt Disney World Railroad!

I hope you enjoyed that brief pictorial tour of the railroad. If it's ever a little wet or you just want to take a moment away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the park then hop on board the train. If you're really interested in the world of Disney steam trains then there's a tour you can do at the Magic Kingdom.

Here's a video that Disney made about the Disneyland Railroad...

I actually live near a steam train line at home and they're amazing pieces of machinery so whether you're into trains or not they're definitely not to be overlooked!

Next time: All the birds sing words and the flowers croon...

Friday, 13 May 2011

Here's Johnny!

Give me a P....Give me an I....Give me an AAARGH!

Yes today's stop on my tour of WDW is Pirates of the Caribbean...

We pillage and plunder, we rifle and loot
Drink up me hearties yo ho,
We kidnap and ravage and don't give a hoot,
Drink up me hearties yo ho
Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.

Now the observant amongst you will notice that that wasn't a picture from WDW. It's actually from the original ride over at New Orleans Square in Disneyland. For those that haven't been it's a bit like a cross between the WDW version and the Mexico pavilion at Epcot but with more cavern scenes at the beginning and it is, by far, my favourite version of the ride.

We extort and pilfer, we filch and we sack,
Drink up me hearties yo ho,
Maraud and embezzle and even hijack,
Drink up me hearties yo ho,
Yo ho, Yo ho, A pirate's life for me!

These days Captain Jack Sparrow makes his home on the ride but up until a few years ago he didn't appear at all. That's what a successful film franchise will do for you. On 18th May Blackbeard is moving in too to help promote the new film and Angelica, Blackbeard's daughter, has already been appearing in Adventureland.

We kindle and char and inflame and ignite,
Drink up me hearties yo ho,
We burn up the city we're really a fright,
Drink up me hearties yo ho.

Back when I was living in Los Angeles I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood. If you're ever in LA I highly recommend going. It's a beautiful old movie theater that only ever shows one film at a time that has a soda fountain attached to it. They always have at least one sundae themed to whatever film is showing. When they showed Pirates 3 they made the organ (yes, it has an organ) look like Davy Jones' organ from the film and had a gallery with loads of costumes and props from the film as well.

We're rascals and scoundrels, we're villains and knaves,
Drink up me hearties yo ho,
We're devils and black sheep, we're really bad eggs,
Drink up me hearties yo ho

Ok, be honest, who's wondering why I just threw in a photo of a train? Well here's a little factoid for you that applies to both the Disneyland and Disney World versions of the ride. Near the beginning of both versions there's a small drop that sends you back in time. Well that drop works really well for the narrative of the ride but it actually serves a really important purpose. It allows the boats to cross the railroad line that circles the parks. At the end of the Disneyland version you cross back into the park when the boat is hoisted back up a hill near the end, but in the WDW version you cross back AFTER you get off the ride (that's what that uphill travellator is for).

We're beggars and blighters and ne'er do-well cads,
Drink up me hearties yo ho,
Aye, but we're loved by our mummies and dads,
Drink up me hearties, yo ho.
Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.

The history of Pirates of the Caribbean is well documented thanks to Uncle Walt's use of television as a promotional tool. So here are two more little factoids to finish off with. First, that POTC was originally conceived as a walk through attraction with pretty much the same layout as exists at Disneyland today. The second, is that, despite it already existing at Disneyland, POTC was not an opening day attraction at WDW. Why? Because Imagineers didn't think it would appeal to people visiting the Florida park because Florida is so geographically close to the Caribbean. Guests kept asking where the ride was so they built it. Decades later when guests asked why Jack Sparrow wasn't in the ride they shut it down and reopened it with the man himself appearing throughout the attraction. Talk about history repeating itself! Well, that's guest power for you!

All together now:

Yo ho, Yo ho, a pirate's life for me!

Next time: All Aboard!

Episode 31: There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow...

Por favor mantengase alejado de las puertas!

After another slight detour away from my tour of WDW I'm back on course once again, this time heading off to the monorail.

The monorail is an iconic form of transportation that has deep associations with Disney ever since they opened one at Disneyland in 1959.

There are effectively 3 different tracks of the monorail that guests can experience. The first is the Express Monorail that goes from the TTC (Transportation and Ticket Center) to the Magic Kingdom and back again in one big loop that goes round the Seven Seas Lagoon anti-clockwise.

Track #2 is the Resort Monorail. This is just like the Express Monorail except it travels round the loop the opposite way and stops at 3 different resorts in addition to the TTC and the Magic Kingdom as follows: TTC-Polynesian-Grand Floridian-Magic Kingdom-Contemporary-TTC.

Finally we have the Epcot track which travels between the TTC and Epcot.

Now I have bit of a soft spot for this track. Why? Well as I'm sure you know last summer I spent a lot of time "glowing" in Epcot so I usually wouldn't start until 4:30pm. To make the most of the day I'd head over to the Magic Kingdom for some pre-work fun just to get me in the magical mood.

After hitting some rides I'd then jump on the monorail to get to Epcot in time for work. That's right I took the monorail to work! How cool is that! The really awesome thing about it is that was what the monorail was originally designed to do in Progress City - Disney's Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.

That's the kind of thing that makes my day magical!

If you want to see some more of the fantastic monorail then check out Episode 19 of my vlog which interestingly has the same title as this blog post, except it's in English!

Next time: There be trouble ahead!