Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Food Finds: Boardwalk Pizza Window and Boardwalk Bakery

Out of all the Disney Parks, Epcot undoubtedly has the widest variety of food options and definitely the best.  Sometimes, though, you don't want an elaborate dinner, international delight, or healthy meal.  Sometimes you just want something quick, tasty, and bad for you.  Disney's Boardwalk offers two places for that quick fix, and it's just a short walk from World Showcase's International Gateway entrance.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Disney World Update: Week of July 23-29

It's the middle of the summer break season in Orlando, and Main Street USA, as well as the rest of the parks, is packed full of sweaty tourists.  Now is the time of year to get a cool drink, find a quiet spot to sit, and watch the oddest human tapestry on Earth march by to the next attraction.

Even with the summer heat, construction continues at a rapid pace on New Fantasyland.  More and more detail work is visible on the new castle walls.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Friday, July 27, 2012

2012 Olympics Merchandise Available at Epcot

With the Olympic Games kicked off in London, it should come as no surprise that a wide array of 2012 Olympics merchandise is available in Epcot's United Kingdom Pavilion.  Available at the Sportsman's Shoppe, products range from t-shirts and posters to toys and mugs.   Many of these items feature Wenlock, the official mascot of the 2012 Olympic Games.  My personal favorite item is the Wenlock plush dressed as a Royal Guard.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

New Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom Trading Card Game Announced

Photos courtesy of DisneyParks Blog.
Today DisneyParks Blog announced a new trading card game coming in August based on the interactive Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom attraction.  The Magic Kingdom attraction features battles with Disney villains throughout the park, utilizing a randomly distributed  pack of spell cards as weapons.  These cards already featured extra information, such as power numbers and card types, that some speculated had greater importance than the basic game described.

An Underwhelming First Look at the Art of Animation Resort Lion King Wing

DisneyParks Blog claimed to have an exclusive first look yesterday of the Art of Animation Resort's new Lion King themed expansion.  The entire first look is that singular photo above.  That's it.

Rather than give a decent overall view of the area, or a nice picture of the pool, or even an overview of some of the new themed rooms, we get a picture of a Simba statue with no perspective.  At least they could have made it a shot that gives any real sense of the size of the statue.  As it is, all this photo tells me is that Simba will be appearing in the Lion King section of the of the hotel.   Hopefully next they'll tell us if there will be water in the swimming pool and if the beds will have sheets.

Intense sarcasm aside, I've heard many good reviews of this new resort so far, and I'm sure the Lion King wing will be stunning when completed.  Hopefully we'll get a better view of it soon than just Simba's big rocks.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mr. Nixon Will Not Be Appearing on Tonight's Mickey Mouse Club

Courtesy of the National Archives.
For me, the two most fascinating figures of the last century are Richard Nixon and Walt Disney.  They shared a surprising amount of similarities in upbringing and even some of their views.  In a lot of ways they represent two sides of the American Dream, one using talent and opportunity to enrich the world, the other wasting it on power and corruption.  If I have to explain who did what in the previous sentence, then you need to read a lot more about history.

There's already been a decent amount of coverage about Nixon's connections to Disney.  Still, researching the topic myself, I come across some interesting things.  This letter from 1956 personally requests then Vice President Nixon appear on the Micky Mouse Club show to address the question "Why should I be a Republican?"  Most likely meant for a segment about the upcoming election, Nixon was unfortunately unable to fit the appearance into this schedule.

Apparently it was only a tight schedule that prevented the appearance, as two years later Nixon appeared on an episode of the program.  Unfortunately, recordings of the episode or even transcripts of it are not readily available online, but it's safe to assume he probably didn't talk about his dog Checkers or sweat too much in front of the camera.  At least, I hope not.

Alice Cooper Bringing His Own Brand of Horror to Universal Orlando

In what's proving a trend this year, Universal announced yesterday in a press release that both Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Orlando Resort will feature mazes inspired by shock rock artist Alice Cooper at their respective Halloween Horror Nights.  As I noted yesterday, Halloween events at both Universal parks are sharing a large amount of licensed themes this year, which breaks with recent tradition of both events being largely independent of each other.

Halloween Horror Nights Orlando will be receiving a copy of Alice Cooper: Welcome to my Nightmare, a maze that was featured at last year's event in Hollywood.  No word yet on whether the maze will be an exact copy, and undoubtedly reuse many of the same props, or whether the Orlando team will put their own twist on the concept.  Welcome to my Nightmare is supposed to be a journey into the loose storyline of Cooper's most famous album, utilizing classic iconography from his stage show and career.

Disney's Animal Kingdom Celebrates Primates in August

Photos courtesy of DisneyParks Blog
DisneyParks Blog just announced that August is a special celebration of some our primate friends at Animal Kingdom.  August 1st is a celebration of all primates at Animal Kingdom, with extra learning opportunities across the park, as well as face painters and caricature artists.  

The rest of August will focus specifically on Cotton Top Tamarins, squirrel sized monkeys that originate from South America and Colombia.  Disney will present special information about these tiny, critically endangered creatures to raise awareness of their plight.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Creatures of Central Florida: Muscovy Duck

Muscovy Duck
  • Invasive Species: Sizable population from escaped domestic animals
  • Naturally found in warm climates from South America as far north as parts of Texas
  • Non-migratory
  • Can mostly be found along waterways in suburban areas

The Walking Dead and Silent Hill Coming to Universal's Halloween Horror Nights

Universal Orlando Resort announced in a press release that one of this year's Halloween Horror Nights mazes will be based on the popular television series The Walking Dead.  For those who don't know, The Walking Dead follows the survivors of a zombie apocalypse as they try to live life among the horrors of the flesh eating undead.  The franchise started as a comic book, is now on its third season as a hit television show, and just recently released a critically acclaimed episodic video game series.

It's obvious that a haunted maze based on such a popular show will attract a lot of attention, but it remains to be seen if this really proves something unique for the event.  Zombies are an increasingly tired horror theme, and have often appeared at previous Halloween Horror Nights.  While the event creators might still come up with something truly unique, this combination seems more like a marketing move than anything.

SeaWorld Announces Arrival of New Baby Manatee

All photos courtesy of SeaWorld's Inside Conservation blog.
SeaWorld Orlando announced yesterday the triumphant arrival of a new baby manatee.  The mother was rescued in June after being discovered with serious injuries from fishing lines.  It was found that she was also pregnant, and last Wednesday she delivered a healthy manatee calf.  This adorable baby is being watched closely with mom behind the scenes, but hopefully we'll get to see the pair on display before they get released back into the wild.

Manatees are one of Florida's greatest treasures, and it's great to see SeaWorld continue to care for this endangered species.  These giant, peaceful creatures have a curious nature and laid back attitude, which unfortunately makes them easy victims of boat propellers and other man made hazards.  SeaWorld and other Florida groups rescue these injured manatees and bring them back to health before releasing them.  These efforts help save these gentle giants, but it also gives us an opportunity to see them up close.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Animal Kingdom Update: New Additions at Kilimanjaro Safaris

Today Nicole and I braved the rain to explore Disney's Animal Kingdom with hopefully lower temperatures and crowd levels.  It worked out well, with low wait times on most attractions, including 2 almost walk-on rides of Kilimanjaro Safaris.

It also proved a good day to visit, because some new additions could be spotted on Klimanjaro's savannah.  Well, there was at least a chance you could see the new babies.  Today was the first day on display for the new baby white rhino.  After the elephant pools, our guide warned us that tours were not allowed to stop in the last section of the ride, as it could frighten the mother and trigger her maternal instincts.  Disney does not want to show the result of an angry white rhino charging a truck filled with tourists.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

First Impressions: Disney's Ghosts of Mistwood

When a Facebook notification appeared for a game called Disney's Ghosts of Mistwood, I had to say I was slightly intrigued.  Disney being involved with a social networking game wasn't a surprise, with their Club Penguin franchise still active and other projects like Virtual Magic Kingdom come and gone.  The interesting bit was the setting, a swampy haunted mansion with a ghostly mystery.  I could feel the Haunted Mansion vibrations emanating from this game, and I was definitely sympathetic to them.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Creatures of Central Florida: Green Moray Eel

Green Moray Eel

These bony fish are one of those creatures with a distinctly sinister reputation.  With an appearance somewhere between a fish and a snake, their nasty teeth and vicious look could easily shock any diver or snorkeler who accidentally finds their hiding spot.  Like most animals with a fearsome reputation, Moray Eels are mostly harmless to people, only retaliating in self-defense when they feel provoked.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Review: Agent P's World Showcase Adventure

This month, Disney officially opened the mostly-complete conversion of World Showcase's former Kim Possible interactive attraction.  Now dubbed "Agent P's World Showcase Adventure," the conversion attempts to leverage the much more relevant and popular Phineas and Ferb animated show to refresh the existing attraction.  Although more changes are obviously on the way, the current attraction rather effectively re-purposes existing scenery and props, to the point where the uninformed will probably find no evidence that this is the second version of the experience.

Just like Kim Possible, the experience starts at one of several cast member manned stations near and around the World Showcase lagoon.  The plotline is that you're joining the O.W.C.A. (Organization Without a Cool Acronym) as an intern to help foil the ineffectually evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz, who is doing something ludicrously convoluted in one of 7 countries.  You receive your fancy video communication device, craftily disguised as a low-end Verizon phone, and traverse a World Showcase country following the plot and aiding Agent P, aka Perry the Platypus.  Most of your mission entails finding designated spots and either activating special effects or finding answers to scavenger hunt style questions.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hong Kong Disneyland's New Coaster, More Awesome Board Game

The DisneyParks Blog just posted photos from the grand opening of Grizzly Gulch, Hong Kong Disneyland's newest addition in their continuing effort to have a complete theme park.  Unlike Mystic Point, which looks to be a relatively unique experience for a Disney park, Grizzly Gulch seems to follow existing Frontierland themes rather closely, though it's definitely an attractive area.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Disney Souvenir Finds: Blasted Dogs with Keys

The tourist industry is the heart and soul of Central Florida, and one of its biggest money makers is the mountain of souvenirs sold in the area every day.  Each theme park has its own assortment of branded apparel, toys, and other useless items, often dredging the true lows of tackiness and tastelessness.  However, plenty of items are available with a little more class, uniqueness, imagination, or even just sheer kitschiness.  I'm going to highlight some of those items, and today we're starting with a pirate's best friend and worst enemy.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Creatures of Central Florida: An Introduction

Central Florida is one of the world's greatest examples of what happens when rapid development coexists with a wild, often hostile climate and ecosystem.  Massive tourist attractions and housing developments run into swamps, lakes, and the remnants of the area's agricultural roots.  Because of this combination of the wild and the man made, this area of the country now provides the opportunity to witness an amazing variety of animals in both their natural habitats and in captivity.

Florida is a place where an alligator in the backyard is not a reason for panic, but just a typical afternoon.  Birds of all shapes and sizes migrate here during the winter, and many that would seem exotic anywhere else are as common a sight as a mallard duck.  In the zoos and theme parks, the near endless summer climate allows for the keeping of a truly stunning menagerie of animals from across the planet.

I plan on highlighting some of the many creatures that can be found in Central Florida.  I will provide some pictures, basic information, and where these animals can be found.  The natural world often gets lost among all the animatronics and roller coasters, and the real gators are so much better than the robotic ones on The Jungle Cruise.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Review: Turtle Trek at SeaWorld Orlando

For the first time in years, the theme park wars are heating up in Orlando.  Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a huge hit, with an all but confirmed expansion starting construction soon.  Disney World's New Fantasyland quickly approaches partial completion, and Avatar Land at Animal Kingdom shows signs of initial planning and development.  In contrast to the roller coasters and thrill rides added steadily over the last 14 years, SeaWorld Orlando is bringing the focus back on attractions that educate and entertain.

Turtle Trek is the first addition, a 360 3D film experience that replaces the former manatee and sea turtle exhibits.  The attraction is enclosed in a nicely themed building evoking both waves and the flippers of the titular sea turtles.  The queue itself is nothing spectacular and slightly deceptive in length, but there is some nice landscaping and a good amount of shade.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

30X2 or How the Best Laid Plans Go Awry

When I moved down to Orlando, I managed to achieve a childhood dream.  I was away from Indiana, living less than an hour away from the Happiest Place on Earth (copyright Disney, do not use without permission unless you want people in large costumes to break your legs).  I could see myself visiting constantly, and developed great ambitions about finally writing about one of my favorite subjects.

Nicole and I found a wonderful group of Disney devotees who met at the parks every week.  I planned to write about every attraction the group was scheduled to visit, cataloguing the entirety of Epcot in the process.  An ambitious plan at best, but a complete failure once life intruded.

First, remaining projects with work absorbed more and more of my time and creative energy.  Then, Nicole gained a steady client at work, unfortunately one that was scheduled at exactly the time our newfound Disney group met every week.  Finally, the family business for which I continued to work finally called it quits after more than a decade, requiring me to throw together many last minute projects to get by without a regular income.

Although things are far from stable yet, I decided it was time to start writing again.  My childhood dream was to live next to Disney World, my adult dream is to write about it.  It's time to make that dream come true.