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:


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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?


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?


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.


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?


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..


Movie Review: Frankenweenie, a Tim Burton Film

 Frankenweenie Movie Poster

So, let me start out by saying I’m not a fan of Tim Burton films. I didn’t like The Nightmare Before Christmas or Corpse Bride. They were a little too “out there” for me. So when I was invited to the Frankenweenie screening I almost passed up the opportunity. But BabyGirl and her BFF really wanted to see it, so we went. And I’m glad I did.

Frankenweenie is based on a story Tim Burton wrote about 30 years ago. The story is classic Tim Burton, but didn’t have the years of being jaded by Hollywood or filmmaking. Disney hit a home run with this film. Macabre and dark, what you’d expect from Tim Burton. But the family-friendly story and the love a little boy has for his dog keeps you connected to the story.

The premise of the movie is a takeoff of the traditional Frankenstein tale, without the adult themes. And a slight twist. Keeping with the black-and-white horror film genre he’s known for, Tim Burton created a visually exciting film despite it’s obvious lack of color palette. The labor-intensive stop-motion animation only added to the depth of the film. And you’re easily transported to 1970s New Holland despite not having the usual visuals in a live action film.

With Tim Burton at the helm you know you’re getting a modern horror flick. With voices by Hollywood veterans Martin Short (Edward Frankenstein, Mr. Bergemeister, Nassor, Dad, Bob), Catherine O’Hara (Victor’s Mom, Gym Teacher, Weird Girl) and Martin Landeau (Mr. Rzykruski) parents hear familiar voices. The young newcomers are excellent and give not only a voice but a personality to their characters.

Rendered in 3D, it’s not visually overwhelming. The end is really where much of the 3D effects add to the dimension of the film. Both BabyGirl and her BFF really liked the movie. This, despite the BFF having just experienced a pet death the day prior. On the way home I didn’t hear any talk of trying to recreate the film to bring back her cat, which is probably a good thing.

The movie is very tame, until the end when it’s more Godzilla-like than Frankenstein. There were some kids crying in the theater, but BabyGirl and her BFF (both 9 years old) thought the movie was awesome. The BFF is a fan of Tim Burton’s horror flicks so I expected her to like it. BabyGirl has never seen a Tim Burton film prior so with this as her first experience I know she’s willing to see more of his work.

The fact the movie was in black and white was lost on some in the audience. But for those of use who remember the original Frankenstein, or even grown up watching the Aadams Family, had the movie not been in black and white it would not have felt authentic.

I liked that the story was generally family-friendly, although I don’t know if it would be appropriate for younger children. There were a few around us at the screening and they really didn’t seem to understand a great deal of it. This film is perfect to get you in the Halloween spirit.

Frankenweenie is rated PG due to some thematic elements, scary images, and some action scenes. I agree with this given that the younger kids at the screening didn’t seem to enjoy it as much.

Official Promotional Details

From creative genius Tim Burton (“Alice in Wonderland,” The Nightmare Before Christmas”) comes “Frankenweenie,” a heartwarming tale about a boy and his dog. After unexpectedly losing his beloved dog Sparky, young Victor harnesses the power of science to bring his best friend back to life—with just a few minor adjustments. He tries to hide his home-sewn creation, but when Sparky gets out, Victor’s fellow students, teachers and the entire town all learn that getting a new “leash on life” can be monstrous.

A stop-motion animated film, “Frankenweenie” was filmed in black and white and rendered in 3D. The talented voice cast includes: Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, Charlie Tahan, Atticus Shaffer, Robert Capron, Conchata Ferrell and Winona Ryder. 

Presented by Disney, “Frankenweenie” is directed by Tim Burton, produced by Tim Burton and Allison Abbate, from a screenplay by John August, based on an original idea by Tim Burton. “Frankenweenie” releases in U.S. theaters on October 5, 2012.

Disclosure: I was invited to a press screening and did not pay to see the movie. I was not required to write about the movie as a condition of the invitation. This post reflects my views and opinions and was not reviewed or edited by a third party. 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.


Disney World Park Planning – All Four Parks In One Day

Disney Parks

When planning a trip to Walt Disney World Parks, one of the many things you have to take into consideration is which park to go to on which day. If you’re going to be there for more than 4 or 5 days, it’s usually not a big issue because there’s plenty of time to hit each park. And if you have park hopper tickets it’s easier to change up your schedule.

But if you’ve got a coaster nut on your hands like we do, sometimes crazy thoughts enter their mind. Several years ago, on our last day at Disney World we got to Magic Kingdom at rope drop and by 10am had hit every major ride. Some of them 2 or 3 times.

Our Magical Express pick-up wasn’t until 4pm so we had all day. What do you do when you’ve done “all the rides” at one park and it’s still pretty early? So when BabyGirl asked if we could go over to Animal Kingdom so she can ride Expedition Everest (her favorite ride!) we figured why not. We could definitely get that done before the bus came to pick us up.

Evidently the sun had already gotten to me and I suggested that it would be fun to ride all the major rides at all four parks. In one day! Then get on a plane for 5 hours. What was I thinking? Am I insane?

We’re not talking about a ride here and there. No, I’m suggesting we do ALL the major attractions at ALL. FOUR. PARKS. That’s Magic Kingdom, which we’d already done. Then there would 2 rides at Animal Kingdom, which is not next to Magic Kingdom. And there would be 3 at Hollywood Studios and at least 2 at Epcot. That’s 7 more rides! At 3 more parks. In 5 hours! Seriously, it was hot and humid and I’m sure that led to my suggesting such a whirlwind day.

And so we set out to do it. And WE DID IT! Not just once, but we’ve done it 3 times now. I tell you, it’s not for the faint of heart. If planning is not your strong suit then this won’t work. There’s no room for dilly-dallying, character meet-n-greets or shiny things. This is about focus! And Uncle Walt would be so proud.

So how did we do it? It’s easy! OK, not really, but I’ll tell you anyway.

Start at Magic Kingdom. You’ve got to be there for rope drop. We get FastPasses at each ride that has ’em, just incase. We go on Space Mountain 2 or 3 times then head over to Big Thunder Mountain Rail Road for a few rides then hit Splash Mountain. We skip Pirates of the Caribbean because the one at Disneyland Resort is much better (per BabyGirl). And because The Haunted Mansion isn’t usually too busy we’ll grab a DoomBuggie for a quick spin and a few songs to get stuck in our head.

On the way out of the park we’ll grab a Dole Whip. This last time we took a detour through Pixie Hollow to see Tinker Bell and Rosetta. Our last stop, is with a Photopass Photographer. Gotta remember that last day!

Disney World with Tinker Bell

Then we were off to Disney’s Animal Kingdom by catching the bus from the Transportation and Ticket Center. Once at Animal Kingdom it’s straight back to Expedition Everest. Really, for BabyGirl, this is the only reason she goes to Animal Kingdom. We get a FastPass then get in line. Depending on the time, we’ll ride it 2 or 3 times. Then it’s a stop at the Photopass Photographer who’ll take our photo with Expedition Everest in the background before heading to Flame Tree BBQ for lunch. After, we head back in time on Dinosaur.

Family at Animal Kingdom

At this point I’m usually out of the game. I’m the bag-watcher, FastPass getter. CycleGuy is designated chaperone. And so off they are to pre-historic times and I wait in the shaded area getting my sweat on.

With the new transportation that will take you from park to park, it’s easy to get to stop #3 on the Crazy Town Express, Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This one’s a little trickier because the 3 major rides are all very popular. And Star Tours is on the other side of the park from Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster. Since Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster is her favorite, that’s first. So they head there and I do my duty as FastPass getter. Several times on Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster and by now CycleGuy is standing in line with BabyGirl and letting her go by herself and picking her up at the end.

Did I mention she’s crazy?

And despite the fact that the first time BabyGirl went on Tower of Terror she said it broke her neck (don’t you love how 5 year old kids describe things?), this is now a must do. Although if she could bypass the movie she would. That’s the part that scares her. I don’t blame her. Twilight Zone was a freaky show. After Tower of Terror it’s off to Star Tours then a stop for a frozen Coke, one last Photopass photo then off to our final destination … Epcot.

Luckily, it’s just a boat ride over to Epcot. But if there are long lines, we’ve been known to take the bus to the front of the park instead of entering through the International Gateway and having to trek across the park.

For us, Epcot has our final 2 rides – Soarin’ and Test Track. By time we enter Epcot, our ticket has been scanned at 3 prior parks. Disney is well aware of this, so it makes for some fun conversations. We head to TestTrack and I grab FastPasses and we get on the ride. A few times! Then over to Soarin’ and if it’s 30 minutes or less we’re golden!

On the way out our last stop is at Club Station Cool for a quick refreshment before our final Photopass Photo Op.

I guarantee you, this is not for the faint of heart. It’s a very intense day. But, oh, it is SO. MUCH. FUN!

Four Disney Parks One Day

Now it’s your turn. What’s the craziest thing you’ve done at Disney World?


Why Disney Is Our Go To Vacation … For Now

Disney World Main Street USA

Growing up, I dreamed of Disney vacations. I went to Disneyland for the first time when I was 7. My grandparents took me and my brother on a road tip to Southern California to visit family. My Grandmother’s sister and brother, and a few nieces and nephews, lived in the Los Angeles area so it was an opportunity for us to finally meet our extended family.

I didn’t know I would be going to Disneyland, and I dared not ask. I remember getting up, knowing we were going on an outing. I was so hopeful, but I kept my excitement to myself. I had dreamed of going to Disneyland and watching the Wonderful World of Disney with Tinker Bell flying over the castle and that big splash of pixie dust were etched in my memory. I imagined it would be that magical.

As we walked through the gates and saw Main Street, USA I just looked at my Grandpa with a big smile and said “Thank You!” I didn’t need to say anything, he just knew. And he smiled back with that special smile he had when he wanted me to know he understood.

Since that first visit, I’ve been to Disneyland over 500 times. Crazy, I know! Living in southern cal will do that for you. And when you’re 12 or 13 and you’ve mastered the bus route from your house to Disney, it’s easy to go several times a week.

Fast forward to being a parent. Cycle Guy and I knew we’d take BabyGirl to Disneyland one day. But we both wanted her to have that “WOW” experience I had walking down Main Street, U.S.A. in 1976. Her first trip would set the stage for what we hoped would be a lifelong love of Disney parks.

Our first trip was when BabyGirl was 4 and a half. It was an very unplanned trip, but something we needed to do to bring the magic and pixie dust back. We had been thinking about a trip to Disney, but sometimes things in life happen that make you throw caution to the wind and plan a week-long vacation to Disney World in less than a month. And that’s just what we did!

That was 2007. And since that first week we’ve since spent 40 days at Disney World with BabyGirl. We’ve gone back each year for 10 days.

Why? Why not go somewhere else? There are plenty of other places to travel. Like Italy? We know this. And throughout the year we do go other places. But for now, our vacation destination of choice is Disney World. Because one day BabyGirl may outgrow the desire to hang out with us at Disney, riding rides, ooohing and ahhhing over things we’ve ooh’d and ahhhh’d over hundreds of times. One day she’ll be grown up and want to take grown up trips that don’t involve getting up at the crack of dawn to hear the Welcome song at Magic Kingdom’s rope drop.

Honestly, I hope that day never comes. But interests change, demands on our time shortens our planned trips and instead of riding all the major roller coasters in one day she’ll want to take it easy and hang out at the beach, visit national monuments, or see more of the world.

I don’t think the magic and pixie dust will ever leave her. But for now, it’s all about being a kid. As much for me as it is for her. One day my baby will grow up and she’ll graduate to bigger and faster roller coasters (she already gets a subscription to American Coaster Enthusiasts thanks to Grandpa Tommy!). But I’ll always remember that her love of Disney was etched in her memory when we stepped onto Main Street, U.S.A. at Magic Kingdom in September, 2007. Because moms remember that kind of stuff!

Do you have a favorite place to vacation? Growing up, did your family have a “go to” vacation spot?


Review: Disney’s BRAVE

Disney Movie Brave

Disney/Pixar pushed the limits on technology to make BRAVE. The story of a Scottish princess uses technology that animators wished existed years ago when making other familiar films. This time, though, they had what they dreamed of and really challenged themselves not only to make the most of the technology they had but also to take the audience along on this adventure in the Scottish Highlands.

Queen Elinor is voiced by Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson, who does a phenomenal job of giving life to an animated character. You hear the emotions in the voice which matches the animation, so much so that there were times I forgot all of the visuals were tech-created. King Fergus is also so well done you may think actor, musician, comedian Billy Connolly really is acting the part. Kelly Macdonald gives princess Merida her soul and you’re drawn in to her as a young girl rather than, like prior Pixar films, a computer generated character.

The scenery is beautiful and very authentic. It’s easy to believe the characters are real and living in medieval times. The cast of characters we see bring laughter and comic relief at just the right times.

The story, though, is where I had some challenges. From the initial press, BRAVE seemed to be a story about a young girl bucking traditions to establish a new path for her life rather than accepting tradition. I knew that the princess wasn’t going to do exactly what a princess was supposed to do. The title is, afterall, BRAVE. I thought Merida was going to be more Mulan than Ariel or Belle or Snow White.

It’s one thing to take control of your destiny, it’s something completely different to be part of a corporate formula of what little girls should learn about a being a princess. Princess Merida wasn’t born into royalty. It stems naturally then that she’s going to be different. In many ways she’s no different than other young girls when it come to pushing boundaries with what your mom tells you. And while it’s a challenge to learn all the princessy-stuff, Merida does her best while wrestling with her inner country commoner who was taught to be independent at a young age.

As a princess, though, Merida doesn’t see eye-to-eye with her mother. In a fit she storms off and this is where I was less than pleased with the storyline. It’s formula. Sure it took its cue from the legend Queen Elinor was teaching to Merida. The story had Merida living out the gist of the legend. Although, it did throw in a witch (which, oddly, looked very much like the witch from the Snow White’s Scary Adventure ride) the story really didn’t need if they’d put a little more thought and creativity to making the legend more an integral part of the film.

At the end, of course, everything turns out OK and all is well in the Kingdom once again. It’s not without suspense and the edge-of-your-seat hoping that everything turns out OK and Merida and her mom are, once again, happily together. Was it a good movie, absolutely. Were there parts I was disappointed with, yes to that one too.

The big measure of success was what BabyGirl and her BFF thought of the movie. Two 9 year old girls loved the movie. They both thought the story was OK and they were sad that Merida and her mom got into a fight. While they knew it was just a movie, it impressed upon them that it’s OK to be mad at your mom but you shouldn’t wish anything bad to happen to her because maybe it will and that part made them sad. Overall though, they were so excited to have seen it (in 3D, too!) and see a strong girl as the main character, as well as the love among the family. They also liked that there were very funny parts too.

Directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman, and produced by Katherine Sarafian, BRAVE opens in theaters across the US on June 22, 2012, and will be presented in Disney Digital 3D™ in select theaters.

Disclosure: I was invited to a press screening and did not pay to see the movie. I was not required to write about the movie as a condition of the invitation. This post reflects my views and opinions and was not reviewed or edited by a third party. 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.

Image courtesy of Disney/Pixar