Moana Review: Familiar and New At the Same Time

Moana One Sheet

I think most of us can rattle of our top 5 Disney animated movies. Some go back to childhood – The Rescuers, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – while others are played on a loop in our minds from the many times our kids ask to watch it. I grew up in the 70s and 80s but had to wait until I was in college for the first big modern hit, The Little Mermaid, swim into my memory. While it may not make it into your all-time top 5, Moana is sure to become a classic.

This week we welcome another strong young woman in the ever-expanding lineup of princesses, Moana Waialiki (voiced by Hawaiian actress Auli’i Cravalho). We know she’s a princess because her back-story tells us so. But even if we’re not convinced, her soon-to-be friend, Maui (voice by Dwayne Johnson) clearly points out, “If you wear a dress and have an animal sidekick, you’re a princess.” Hard to argue with that!

Academy Award-winning writer/director and New Zealand native Taika Waititi wrote Moana’s original script and the movie was directed by Disney veterans John Musker and Ron Clements, Moana is the first “Disney princess” movie not to give the leading lady a love interest. Compared to the now-classic modern Disney princess movies – The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahantas, Brave, and Frozen – Moana’s story joins that of warrior princess Mulan’s where it’s girl versus the world to save her family.

While her father, the chief, is in the movie, early on we get a strong sense that women are well-respected in her Polynesian culture. Moana’s grandmother is the chief storyteller in the beginning and sets the stage for the journey Moana will take. We learn about the disgraced demi-god Maui and are given an idea of how he will be part of her journey, but it’s not until Moana meets him that we’re treated to his humor. It was Maui, whose actions set the course for putting Moana’s people in peril, the set the stage for Moana’s grand adventure.

Moana HeiHei

Years prior, Maui took a mystical stone, “the heart of Te Fiti”, that causes Moana to set out on this open-ocean adventure. Like Pocahontas, Moana has two animal friends. However, only one, Heihei the clueless rooster, joins her on the water even though he should have stayed on the island. Nonetheless, he provides for comic relief among the few moments of tension.

While Moana means ‘ocean’ in Maori (the Polynesian people of New Zealand), Maui will likely evoke a sense of Hawaii among most moviegoers. A bit stereotypical, Maui is a large, hulking figure who knows the history of their ancestors, is covered in tattoos, and can shape-shift through the magical powers of his giant fish-hook sword alternative.

Moana and Maui

The plot is relatively simple – girl defies her father and sets out on an adventure to save her people and in the process makes a friend and defeats the enemy – but we’re taken along in a way that keeps you engaged and brings you back when you’re starting to feel like it’s becoming trite. Moana and Maui have to work together, but there is no romance that is brewing. Both are strong and have an appreciation of each other that does not need to be woven together with a love story.

Instead, the two join forces to return the stone so Maui can continue his journey through life and Moana and her people can, once again, live freely as their ancestors once did.

It wouldn’t be a Disney movie without great music, right? It’s the songs that keep us connected (along with all the merchandise!) to the movie. Moana doesn’t disappoint, but it’s no Frozen. With music by the renown Disney music writer Mark Mancina, we’re treated to a soundtrack that includes the lead singer of a South Pacific fusion band, Opetaia Foa’i, and Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda. While you may not think the music would hold together with such an eclectic group, it’s that diversity that keeps you wondering what’s coming next.

The movie is adorable and I’m sure will be a big hit. Will it be “the next Frozen”, I highly doubt it. Will it make you want to plan your next trip to Disney’s Aulani Resort on O’ahu? I wouldn’t be surprised. I anticipate an interest in all-things Hawai’i from this movie. Partly because of the island-theme, but also because Moana and her people are portrayed with such authenticity and depth it’s hard not to love them and want to feel that spirit.

My first impression of the movie was that it felt like Brave meets Hamilton with a musical interlude by Flight of the Conchords. If you don’t know Flight of the Conchords you might not get my description, but I throw them in because of the giant crab (voice by Jemaine Clement of FotC) scene. Nonetheless, I stick by that characterization. I use Brave instead of Mulan, mainly because Brave is more recent, but it easily could be Mulan meets Hamilton with a musical interlude by FotC. I say this not as a slight to the movie. However, in the first few minutes of the movie the song(s) take on a very Hamilton-esque cadence and feel that Baby Girl whispered that the songs seemed really familiar but she couldn’t place it. That’s when I whispered back ‘Hamilton’.

Go see the movie! It’s a sweet story (just know there are very few slightly scary parts), there’s a connected plot, and just when you think it could start to get boring you’re jolted back with a song or humorous exchange between the characters. Plus the music! It’s beautiful music and well thought out. It might not replace “Let it Go”, but there is hope.

Moana is rated PG
Run time: 1 hour 53 minutes
In theaters: Nov. 23, 2016

Images: ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Sara

Disney Park Tips From A Tween

For many years BabyGirl had a blog. While she still loves to write, it’s not her primary space so I’ve decided to share some of her posts. This is one she wrote awhile back, from the perspective of a pre-teen about spending time at a Disney park. I think she hits the highlights.

Disney Tips from a Tween

Here are a few things you SHOULD NOT do while at Disney:

Lunch:

Don’t go to eat lunch when everyone else is.  Not only will the restaurants be crowded, but you’ll be missing the opportunity to go on that attraction you wanted!  This can apply for basically all the parks, as long as the attractions normally have longer wait times.

Shoes:

Don’t wear any shoes you deem even slightly uncomfortable.  A lot of the time, I have seen people wearing uncomfortable-looking shoes, and they often complain and don’t have very much fun while they are at the parks.  Sneakers (tennis shoes, whatever you call them) are your best friend.  If you want to be a little more fashionable, you can go for sandals.  However, these sandals must be made for walking.  Any sandals won’t do, as some sandals aren’t made for long-term use.

Packing:

Don’t bring a huge bag with you in the park.  Only bring the necessities.  A phone, maybe an extra charger, a change of clothes (but really only if you go on a wet ride), ponchos, and a water bottle – it should be refillable, but if not that’s okay.  Not only will you have less weight on your back, you won’t annoy other guests by constantly banging into them!

Pictures:

Don’t take too many pictures.  A few pictures are okay; to capture the memories of going to Disney.  But if you are taking your phone out every five seconds to snap a photo of something, you need to stop.  Capture the important moments.  Don’t waste your memory on minuscule things that you won’t even care about in the long run.  And yes, I know that sounds harsh, but it’s easier on you if you don’t constantly feel pressured to take a picture of something.

Kids:

Don’t let your kids run wild and if you’re a kid reading this, listen to your parents.  Sure, this is Disney, so if they’re old enough to get food at a restaurant buffet, they can, but make sure you’re watching them.  I’ve heard a lot of website authors complaining about how parents at Disney let their kids run everywhere, and frankly, it’s annoying.  Don’t restrain them too much – let them have a chance to ‘capture all the Disney magic’, but you can’t let them just run around at risk of getting lost.

So, I hope these tips help you prepare for your trip to a Disney park. If you’re heading to Disney, take a moment to see one of the crazy things my family does when we go.

This article is a repost from BabyGirl’s no longer active blog.

Sara

Could Big Hero 6 Create A STEMGirl Revolution?

Big Hero 6 Girls

Admittedly, I’m not up on all things Marvel Comics. Other than watching a few of the cartoons growing up, Guardians of the Galaxy was the first mainstream Marvel movie I went to see. Even the, when I went to the Guardians of the Galaxy screening I took my friend with me because she was more familiar with the franchise and would be able to explain things I didn’t get.

When the Big Hero 6 movie marketing started it was all focused on the lead character, Hiro, and the robot Baymax. And while it’s great to finally see a positive male Asian lead character, that was pretty much a given with the Big Hero 6 story. The same with Baymax. Afterall, this is a Disney movie. Which is why I didn’t go to the screening. I really wasn’t in the mood to see a superhero movie about men (even if they are really boys) saving the world from imminent destruction. Even if it had a soft, lovable, squishy robot turned killing machine, turned lovable robot.

Then the movie came out and I read a great article by Bob Yamtich about Big Hero 6 and giftedness. And I figured it was worth researching more. Everything focused on Hiro and his band of superheroes. But there are girls in the movie. Girl superheroes. Smart girl superheroes. Science-minded, brilliant girls! Characters that really can be role models for young STEMGirls like BabyGirl.

From my research, both Honey Lemon and GoGo Tomago are very different in the comic version. The writers didn’t have to make them equal in the movie. But they did. I’d like to believe it was a conscious effort to create both women as equals with respect to their male counterparts.

This might be the first kid-focused movie to have strong women scientist characters BabyGirl can relate to. Girls across the country have few, if any, STEM role models in movies. But Big Hero 6 changed that. Honey Lemon was a very talkative college co-ed with a love for chemistry. But she is also feminine and smart, described in the press materials as an “effusive brainiac”. GoGo Tomago is described as “tough, athletic and loyal to the bone, but not much of a conversationalist.

So what was it that brought these two characters to the big screen? I’ve not read anything about their character development or why the writers and developers chose to change-up these characters from their original. I realize much of their original back story wouldn’t work given that the Big Hero 6 movie is set in the fictional town of San Fransokyo at the local University. Since the characters themselves are kids, much of the original story had to be re-written.

Long before Frozen hit the big screen, this movie was moving forward in development so we can’t even say that Big Hero 6 needed something for girls to like coming off the blockbuster hit. Somewhere, someone realized that maybe the girls in the movie could be equally as capable, smart, and awesome as their male counterparts. And for that I’m thankful.

Whether there was anything consciously done to create these STEMGirls I really don’t know. What I do know is that if they keep this up more young girls will see that staying with science, technology, engineering, and math are cool. That they, too, can create things and be superheroes.

For now, though, I’ll let everyone else focus on Hiro and Baymax while I talk about Honey and GoGo. Because, just as people talk about how Hiro and Baymax really come to life in this movie, I’ll be talking about how these two female scientists not only came to life but also helped stoke the flame that burns inside a new generation of girls who believe being smart is cool and amazing.

Have you seen Big Hero 6? If not, do you think you’re going to see it now?

Sara

Seven Not So Scary Reasons to Celebrate Halloween at Disney

Disney Halloween

I’m not a Halloween person. I’ve mentioned that before and it’s something many of my friends learn very early on in our friendship. But when Halloween is packaged with Mickey Mouse, roller coasters, a parade, and family memories, that I can do!

On our second trip to Disney World we were there during Mickey’s No So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP). BabyGirl was about 6 and she was very well aware of my non-love of Halloween. As a way to appease her and hope that she’d totally fall in love with Mickey’s version of trick or treating, and never want to go trick or treating at home, we bought tickets.

As a separate ticketed event, the Halloween party is not included in general park admission. So we plunked down our greenbacks, obtained our special wrist bands and made our way around Magic Kingdom for a few hours with what seemed like just a few hundred people in the park. I’m sure there were several thousand, but with no wait on any ride, lots of room to roam, candy stations that would fill your bags with hands full of candy, and character meet and greet lines merely a few people deep the Mickey’s No So Scary Halloween Party was a big hit.

We’ve now been to MNSSHP five times and each year it’s just as fun as the one before. So I thought I’d share with you …

Seven Not So Scary Reasons to Celebrate Halloween at Disney

1. Costumes – The general policy at Disney Parks is that costumes may not be worn by adults unless there is a special event permitting guests of all ages to wear them. And by adult, Disney means guest age 10 and over. For me, this isn’t really a big deal. BabyGirl likes to dress up for the Halloween party but I go as far as getting fun Halloween matching shirts for CycleGuy and me. This year BabyGirl dressed as Hermione from Harry Potter and she was a bit hesitant because it wasn’t owned by Disney. But she was happily greeted by Cast Members and guests alike. Minnie also noticed her during the parade and gestured to her that she liked the costume. A magical moment!

MNSSHP Alice In Wonderland

MNSSHP Hawkins Family

2. Short or Non-Existent Lines – Well, for the most part you will be able to get right on your favorite rides. The only exception we as was the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train which had a 25-minute wait. For most, that’s a short wait. But for MNSSHP veterans it brings out a bit of grumbling for having to wait. With the introduction of the Fastpass+ system, many are not able to secure a Fastpass for their favorite rides and wait times in excess of 45 minutes are often agreed to reluctantly. At the party, though, there are no Fastpasses so you can get on any rides or attractions that are open (which is pretty much all but a hand full). For us, the biggest coup was getting in to see Anna and Elsa without much of a wait. The outside placard showed 30 minutes. We debated whether or not we should just suck it up and wait, and decided that 30 minutes was worth it since we could have a snack and stand in the air conditioning. In under ten minutes we were whisked back to meet Anna and Elsa! That’s right, under 10 minutes to meet the two most sought after characters at Disney!

3. Character Meet and Greet – This is a huge draw for many people, especially since there are quite a few characters that only come for the party. I love this part of the event, but BabyGirl would rather spend her time on rides. I chalk that up to being a tween since in years’ past she’s loved having the opportunity to have these special photo-ops. Another cool thing is that there are usually Photopass photographers on hand. One of my favorite stops is at Haunted Mansion for the hitchhikng ghosts. Who doesn’t look in the mirror at the of the ride and wish they could take a photo of the hitchhiking ghosts? Now you can! Keep in mind that some of the lines do get very long. The Seven Dwarfs, Jack Sparrow, and Jack Skellington and Sally are all very popular and may have waits in excess of an hour since the characters don’t stay out for long periods of time.

MNSSHP Prince Charming

4. Boo To You Parade – Since the retirement of the Main Street Electrical Parade and Spectromagic, I’ve been a parade-hater. I admit it! But I just loved those parades and the newer ones have never really done anything for me. That was until we sat down to watch the Boo To You parade. The music becomes an earworm, but you’re rewarded by seeing characters in Halloween costumes, the Haunted Mansion caretaker, Cadaver Dans, and, of course, the Disney villains. There are two parades and many people will take time to see both of them since there isn’t the mad rush to try to get on rides when crowds are watching the parade. It’s a great way to enjoy those exclusive treats I mention next.

Boo To You Parade 2014

5. Specialty Foods – It’s not a trip to a Disney Park unless you get your favorite snack. But leave it to Disney to add a special something for your taste buds when you go to the MNSSHP. The line at Sleepy Hallow was pretty long for the spiced pumpkin waffle sundae, although we went for the funnel cakes. There are candy corn ice cream cones and cupcakes. Neither of which are as gross as they sound. Mummy and ghost-themed cupcakes can be found as well. And let’s not forget the season-inspired beverages of Pumpkin Spice Bubble Tea and the Wormy Apple Slush. (FYI: Most of these will be snack credits if you use the dining plan.)

Disney Pumpkin Waffle
Image Credit: Disney

6. Limited Edition Merchandise – Of course you knew there would be merchandise, right? While I didn’t see my go-to, picture frames, there were a lot of cute things. With MagicBands being the new E-ticket, a limited edition Halloween Magic Band was released just for the party. It’s only available in the park, though. Since they didn’t have my picture frames, I went for pins. I got a Special Edition pin for the party, one of the mystery pin boxes, as well as my Limited Edition Passholder Pin. While most of these aren’t collectible, they’re a fun way to remember having gone to the party.

7. Haunted Mansion – this kind of goes without saying, but there’s so much more than just “Haunted Mansion at Halloween”. Madame Carlotta and Madame Raina sit on the law and chat with guests. It’s cool and creepy! Cast Members are kind of in a state of euphoria and excitement at all the haunting. And, of course there are the pictures with the hitchhiking ghosts!

So there you have it, seven not so scary reasons to head to Disney to celebrate Halloween! It hasn’t turned me into a Halloween lover, but it’s given me reasons to enjoy celebrating my love of Disney.

Have you ever been to a Disney Halloween party? If not, do you think you’ll go now?

Sara

6 Reasons To Choose Sheraton Vistana Villages Resort for Your Disney World Vacation

Sheraton Vistana Villas

For our annual summer pilgrimage to Central Florida one of the toughest questions is whether or not to stay on-site at Disney World. There are many options for both, but there are pros and cons that need to be weighed in determining if you stay on-property or off-site when you visit Disney World. Things like getting a rental car, paying for parking, and the logistics of getting around. And, while some people would never stay off-site and others would never stay on-property it’s a decision I go through every year.

We’ve stayed on-property many times and know which options work best for us if we do. Our favorite place to stay is the Grand Floridian. We’ve stayed there a few times and it’s always worked out well for us. But this time we’d be splitting our visit between Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando. This was our first visit to Universal Studios and while we knew we would be staying on-property because we were attending the Family Forward retreat at the Loews Portofino Resort our time at Disney was much more leisurely.

Having been to Disney World many times, the introduction of the new Fastpass+ system, BabyGirl being older and having a more active role in our planning, and the need for space, this year we chose to stay off-site at the Sheraton Vistana Villages Resort. Since off-site resorts can be a bit of a hit or miss proposition I researched every review site before making the decision. And we were definitely not disappointed.

Sheraton has a number of resorts in the area, but this one worked best for us based on price, location, and amenities. The big winner was being able to get to 2-bedroom villa that was in our budget and within our “no more than 10-minutes away” criteria. No, 3 people don’t really need a 2-bedroom villa. Especially when I’ve read about 5 people staying in some of the smallest rooms at the value resorts. But, vacations are highly personal and what works for my family may not be what works for others. For us, though, having a big place – it was 1,100 square feet – gave us all the space we wanted.

So why would we need 1,100 sq. ft. for a vacation? It definitely wasn’t a matter of need, more like want. And here’s my 6 reason we chose Sheraton Vistana Villages Resorts.

Sheraton Vistana Review

1. 2-Bedroom Villas – It’s OK to stay in a standard hotel room for a few nights. But for 10 nights? After awhile we all want out own space. Also, when BabyGirl goes to bed, CycleGuy and I are able to stay up late and work without bothering her. It’s also easier to get ready when you have two bathrooms!

2. Convenient Location – We were within our “less than 10-minutes” area, meaning we could get to any Disney Park, Downtown Disney, and the Disney Water Parks easily. The resort is also within a few minutes drive of grocery store, drug stores, shopping (hello Outlets!), and restaurants. It’s also convenient if you’re splitting your visit to other attractions in Central Florida.

3. Free WiFi – Connectivity is now a must rather than a “nice to have”. From BabyGirl wanting to stream movies, to CycleGuy and I still needing to do work, having complementary WiFi is just one less thing to worry about. And, unlike some resorts that say they have “free wifi” but charge a daily resort fee (that is not optional!), Sheraton Vistana Villages has no resort fee or other hidden fees.

4. Full Kitchen – This is a biggie for us. We’re breakfast people. Not going out for breakfast, but making breakfast kind of people. We don’t do this as a cost saver, rather it’s more of a convenience. When we hit the parks we don’t want to spend an hour of time grabbing breakfast. We’re fueled up and ready to keep up with crazy coaster tween the moment we arrive! Sheraton has everything you really need in a kitchen. It’s not fully stocked like home, but for a home-away-from-home for a week or two it’s pretty darn good.

5. In-Villa Laundry – OK, this may not be a big seller but I hate taking a ton of clothes when I travel. With many airlines limiting bags (we fly Southwest so it’s not really an issue – love you SWA!) so you may have to consider doing laundry. I’ve never been a fan of laundry mats but I’ll do ’em if I have to. Having a washer and dryer in the villa is so convenient. I was able to wash clothes without worrying that someone will steal my things or having to camp out in an icky laundry room for a few hours.

6. Housekeeping Optional – this may not be a big deal for most, but for us it was good to have the option. If daily housekeeping (they’ll still give  you towels if you need them) isn’t your thing there is a discount provided. Some people don’t like other people coming in to their hotel, even if it’s to clean up. And for most of us, we don’t change out our linens daily and don’t need it done when we travel. Yes, I love being taken care of when I travel. And I’m not about to take a bunch of extra time to play housekeeper. But if you’re doing to decline daily housekeeping why not get some benefit. Right?

Sheraton Vistana Villas Review

There are plenty of other reasons, like the multiple pools, fitness center, free parking, market, restaurants, and on-site spa. I liked having the gated entry. It was nice to “come home” at night and be welcomed back. Few places off-site are going to compare to the Grand Floridian, and I hear that a few times from BabyGirl. But she liked having her own room and it feeling more like home. We get up early to hit the parks so having a place to relax and get a good night sleep is important.

Next time you’re starting to plan for your trip to Disney World, Universal Orlando, Sea World, or any other destination in Central Florida, check availability at the Sheraton Vistana Villages Resort. We’re pretty picky and if both CycleGuy and BabyGirl say they’d stay again, then it’s a winner!

Image Credit: Starwood Hotels & Resorts (because I was lame and didn’t take any decent photos!)
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. And even though there is no requirement I tell you this, I just want to make it clear.

Sara

Disney and the Art of Henna

Art of Henna at Disney

I’ve been fascinated by henna art for many years, but never thought it was something I could experience. I didn’t see a Jewish person with a henna until I was an adult. That was the first time I began to research henna art and discovered it’s role and significance in many of the middle eastern cultures.

Henna is a plant and by itself will not stain the skin. Creating the henna used to adorn the skin requires the leaves of the henna plant to be processed into a powder then into a paste that will stick to the skin leaving it stained. Henna appears in the Bible, not explicitly but with a Hebrew reference to the henna plan (kopher) in the Song of Songs. Realizing it’s connection to my history, I felt more at ease having it done. I didn’t want to be disrespectful to the many cultures that use henna as part of their ritual ceremonies. But now I could join in the sisterhood of women who use henna as a ways to display their individuality as well as their interconnectedness.

I never would have imagined my love of Disney and henna would become so enmeshed. On my first trip to Disney World, I got my first henna. I decided it would be my souvenir. An experience rather than a thing to take home and forget about. At the Morocco pavilion in Epcot there is a henna artist! Imagine my excitement when I saw her. She wasn’t busy so I went to talk with her to learn more about her experience with henna and, ultimately, choose a design. There are actually two henna artists, Ilham (who’s always done mine) and her sister (whose name I never got).

The designs I choose often represent a feeling I’m trying to capture – Love, Beauty, Joy, or Happiness. While they range in price, having now had an opportunity to look at local henna artists I have to say that the prices charged at Epcot for henna art are very competitive with my local area. What I like most about getting a henna tattoo at Epcot is that the lady who does it has been doing it for many years, long before she came to the Morocco pavilion at Epcot.

Disney Henna Art

While the designs I have chosen are intricate, a skilled henna artist can create them in about 15 minutes. At Epcot you choose a design from a book (prices ranged from $15 to $40) so the artist is familiar with this limited selection. Probably makes it easier and faster to have a set repertoire.

I’ve always had glitter put on mine at the end, but I’m not sure if that’s traditional or a little touch of Disney pixie dust. Either way, the glitter makes it a little more special. The most difficult part is after the henna is applied you have to let it dry. You know how when you’re not supposed to itch something that all of a sudden it itches like crazy? That’s what seems to happen. Get your henna on your hand and 32 seconds later you feel like you have to go to the bathroom. Resist the urge and plan ahead not to do anything for at least 30 minutes that involves the area where your henna was applied. Since you’re near all the beautify pavilions in Epcot, now’s the time to enjoy a leisurely stroll.

Disney Henna Art

Next time you’re at Epcot, stop in and take a look at the design available at The Art of Henna in Morocco. It’s tucked away in a little shop right next to the lagoon, but it’s easy to find. Henna art is a wonderful souvenir of your trip to Disney World!

Have you ever had a henna tattoo?

Sara

Why I Can’t Go On Disney’s Carousel of Progress Again

 Carousel of Progress

One of the iconic attractions at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Florida, the Carousel of Progress takes you through the 20th century to see how technology changes and improves our lives. It’s one of my most favorite non-ride attractions (yes, I do  have to get that specific) at Magic Kingdom. It debuted at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York then was moved to Disneyland until 1973. I never saw it there but always heard about it. It was replaced by another of my favorites, America Sings.

Anyway, never having been on Carousel of Progress when I finally went to Walt Disney World in 2007 it was top of my list. Going in August, I knew CycleGuy and BabyGirl wouldn’t mind getting out of the heat for about 20 minutes. It was a truly magical experience the first time we all loaded into the theater. Neither CycleGuy nor BabyGirl knew much about it, other than it was one of the goofy things I thought was awesome.

Every time we’ve been at Magic Kingdom, Carousel of Progress is always on the touring plan. Sometimes twice if I’m waiting for them to go through Space Mountain for the 93rd time that day. And, for the most part, both CycleGuy and BabyGirl indulged me and went with me even though I would sing along. (note: I don’t sing along if other people are in the theater, but usually that’s not an issue)

If you’ve never been on the Carousel of Progress, you’re missing out! It’s a 21-minute show about technology in the home and how it changed over the 20th century. Sounds cool, right. Well, except that it was made in the early 60s so the “future” part is a bit hokey to some degree. This is said to be one of Walt’s favorite attractions. You can tell he was greatly involved with it by the animatronics, the music, and the idea about technology in the future.

So, why won’t I visit it even though it’s one of my favorite parts of Disney? Let me ask you this. Have you ever gone to Disney and got stuck on a ride? A lot of people have. I’ve been stuck on Space Mountain so many times it’s not even funny (although I do like the old seats better than the new ones). When Disneyland had the Skyway (yet, those colorful buckets in the sky) I spent many an hour with a bird’s-eye view of the park. (I wish I had a cell phone then!) Name the ride at Disneyland and I’ve probably be stuck on it. Not so much at Walt Disney World, but then I’ve only been there about 8 times.

Anyway, if there’s one attraction you don’t want to get stuck on it’s Carousel of Progress. Trust me! See, in Carousel of Progress there is a song that plays at the beginning, the end, and as each decade progresses. Sounds simple, right? And it’s a fun song written by the Award-winning Sherman brothers. “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” is a fun little ditty that you’ll easily sing along with. That is, you’ll probably only sing along with it about the first 50 times you hear it played in a row.

There we were, with about 5 or 6 other guests, in the Carousel of Progress theater enjoying listening to Father (John, voiced by legendary Country singer Jean Shepherd) and waiting for the special treat when Cousin Orville shows up (he’s voiced by the truly legendary Mel Blanc!) when there was an abrupt stop. We were stuck! And, like most Disney attractions there is a protocol and you don’t just get up and leave. For Carousel of Progress, there’s an issue with the doors since the entire theater rotates. The cast members needed to realign the doors so we could exit safely.

So we sat there. Sure it was nice and cool and dark. A welcomed respite from the heat and humidity of an Orlando summer day. And we waited patiently, while the soundtrack played through and finished. Then it started again. There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow. All 21-minutes of the show, for the second time. Only this time we’re just sitting there in the dim theater. Then it started again. For the third time. And the fourth. And the fifth.

If you’re counting, that’s 21-minutes of a show listened to five consecutive times. You don’t need to be a math wizard to realize that’s a lot of great big beautiful tomorrows. I think CycleGuy and BabyGirl fell asleep. I know the other family that was in there did. While the cast members were great and kept working to reset the doors, they too were probably getting tired of hearing the song. And they work there and listen to it over and over again, everyday!

With a heave-ho, some Disney magic, a little help from some walkie-talkie’d cast members outside, we were soon escorted out into our own great big beautiful … day. There were no free fastpasses, no complimentary snacks, or a “See you soon!”. No, we were ushered out with a “Thanks for being patient!” And honestly, by that point, that’s all we wanted. There are only so many great big beautiful tomorrows you can hear sung about.

As each year has greeted us with plans to visit Walt Disney World again, I’m gently reminded that we’re not going on Carousel of Progress. So while I truly love this attraction, I think even Walt would give me a pass for a few years.

Are there any rides you just won’t go on any more?

Sara

Frozen Sing-A-Long Comes To Theaters Nationwide

The runaway animated hit of the 2013 holiday movie season will be coming to cities nationwide as a sing-a-long. One of the first of its kind from Disney, Frozen Sing-A-Long will allow the audience to sing along without worrying about bothering other movie-goers.

Starting January 31st, 2014 audiences nationwide can become part of the show. Whether it’s Anna, Ella, or the lovable Olaf, get ready to sing along with your favorite Frozen characters.

Frozen fans have embraced the film’s original songs and its soundtrack with such passion—there are countless YouTube videos from people singing songs like ‘Let It Go’—we decided to create a version that would celebrate that enthusiasm,” said Dave Hollis, executive vice president, theatrical distribution, The Walt Disney Studios. “It’s a great opportunity for families to get together and have some fun with these songs.”

According to Hollis, on-screen lyrics and a magical bouncing snowflake will accompany select showings; moviegoers can check local listings for showtimes and theaters. The duration of the sing-along run will vary by theater.

Check your area for times and locations. In the Phoenix area, check out Harkins or Studio Movie Grill for times and locations convenient for you. Until then, you can practice your Frozen sing along skills with this video.

And if you can’t be without this movie, you can preorder the Frozen Movie on DVD or Blu-Ray which will be released March 18..

Sara

Disney’s Frozen Movie Review

 Disney Frozen Poster

Disney’s Frozen movie

As we left the screening of Disney’s Frozen, BabyGirl was telling me what she liked most about the movie. And then she said “It was a very formula Disney movie”. Can’t argue with her, as Disney’s adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen is a very formula movie. Done in typical Disney style, it’s a storyline we’re familiar with and visuals we’ve come to expect. But it’s so beautifully done! And the introductory short, Disney’s Get A Horse, harkens back to Steamboat Willy and pairs it with modern animation to make it both current and nostalgic that even young kids who have no idea how Mickey Mouse first became real will love it.

In the fictional town of Arendelle, a young princess named Elsa is found to have special powers. In one moment her life is changed when those powers injure her sister Anna. Being a Disney film, her parents, the king and queen, don’t feature heavily in the movie (sorry, won’t spoil this part for you). The story focuses on the relationship between the sisters.

While we’re often given stories of true love, this one presents itself with a slight twist (again, won’t spoil it for you). This movie has wonderful music, as both Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel voice the sisters Anna and Elsa, respectively. The animators created both princesses to be flawless in looks and movement, but didn’t forget that this is supposed to be a comedy.

Yes, this is a comedy. So while there are a few dramatic moments in the movie, we’re treated to a story where the two main characters, Anna and her new friend Kristoff (played by Jonathan Groff) are given dialogue that keeps you entertained. Kristoff’s best friend, his reindeer Sven, is given a wonderful personality that is keeps the story moving.

Stealing the show, though, is Olaf, a snowman created by Elsa early in the movie and voiced by Josh Gad. If you’re familiar with Disney movies, let’s just say Olaf and Donkey from Shrek would battle it out for the best lines. Olaf will likely emerge as the favorite character from the movie. To create Olaf, Disney had to first create new software so it can create an animated character that could do what the character was imagined to do.

The new software created wasn’t limited to Olaf. Animators wanted to improve on the braids they’d created in Tangled and Rapunzel so Frozen’s creative team set to work developing a computer program that would allow them to create realistic hair for Elsa. It paid off, because the realism greatly adds to the movie’s flow and helps to make you feel more connected to her as a person and not just a caricature.

Overall, Frozen is likely to be one of Disney’s biggest hits. The story, the characters, the imagery they all flow so well and draw you in. You have so much empathy for Elsa you can’t help but love her. Anna’s love for her sister, and everyone she come in contact with, is beautiful and we’re drawn in to her genuine goodness. And it’s a story that doesn’t apologize but instead helps a strong female character come to love her unique powers and in that love realizes that true love is found in your own heart first and isn’t limited to a romantic love.

This isn’t just a movie we’ll see go to DVD or BluRay. I imagine we’ll soon see Disney’s Frozen on Broadway, a la The Lion King, because the music ranks right up there. I’m sure some will disagree with me on this because the music does have a bit of a “high school glee club” feel. But when you have Idina Menzel hitting an out of the park homerun on “Let It Go”, well, really, on every song, and Kristen Bell pulling you in with “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” this isn’t the last we’ll be hearing songs from Frozen.

Is it a must-see? Definitely! Are there some scary parts? Yes, the snow monster is dreadful and a bit too much but it’s short-lived. Will it make you cry? Absolutely, it’s Disney!

 

If you’ve seen the movie but want more, or if you haven’t seen the movie and would like to have some fun before download these free coloring pages from Disney’s Frozen.

You can also play games, download posters and wallpaper directly from the Disney’s Frozen website. And don’t forget to enter the Disney’s Frozen sweepstakes for a chance to win and Adventure’s By Disney trip.

MPAA Rating: PG
Run Time: 102 minutes
Images from Walt Disney Pictures used with permission.

Sara

$25 American Express Gift Card FREE with Purchase

Back to School is right around the corner. Prepaid gift cards are great for so many purposes besides just gifts. It helps to control your spending if you’re out shopping, it’s a great way for kids to have money without giving them cash, and can keep your family members from hitting the ATM on a whim.

Through August 31st, if you purchase an AMEX prepaid gift card and load $200 or more (at the time of purchase) AMEX will send you a $25 gift card complimentary. There does not appear to be a limit to the number of separate cards you can order so if you’ll be hitting a theme park soon this is a great way to add a few extra dollars to your snack and souvenir budget. Kids heading off to college may appreciate theseas well. And of course it’s a good option if you’re sending your kids to the mall for back to school shopping with their friends.

When your order an American Express PrePaid Gift Card you will need to provide your method of payment (checking or savings) as well as other identifying information to validate who you are (i.e., social security number). You will be providing this information to American Express over a secure server so make sure the URL has https at the beginning and you’re not on a public wi-fi connection.

The American Express Prepaid Card. Get exclusive American Express benefits- with no credit check. Get your card now!

ORDER AN AMERICAN EXPRESS® PREPAID CARD, LOAD $200 OR MORE AT THE TIME OF ORDER, AND RECEIVE A COMPLIMENTARY $25 GIFT CARD. Offer Ends August 31, 2012. Limit one (1) offer per Card. After qualifying for this offer, please allow 6 weeks for the $25 Gift Card to be mailed to the Card purchaser.

Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link. Your purchase helps support this site. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Sara