A World of Character Meet and Greets

Before we went to WDW, I was a little worried my daughter might be scared of all the characters I’d told her of so many times. She was not quite 5, and though brave and social, she had been nervous around costumed characters before in the past.  I did all of the “they’re much bigger at parks, honey”, I showed her pictures and even videos on YouTube (look up some of the ones of Donald when kids are wearing something to do with Mickey. LOL), and just generally made sure she loved the characters.  She also figured out on her own that they were people in the suits, though she went back and forth on believing that. 😉

But would this stand up when we actually got there?  I couldn’t be sure until we went, so I just crossed my fingers that all the character meals I had planned wouldn’t end in freak outs.

I really needn’t have worried.  Enjoy a huge number of pictures.  I really hope she gets to meet even more the next time we go.  Please keep in mind that booking a Disney trip with me is free, and it will help me get my girl back to WDW for at least a few days.  With that said… here we go. ^_^

The very first character we saw. And he was EVERYWHERE. This was Hollywood Studios.

The very first character we saw. And he was EVERYWHERE. This was Hollywood Studios.

Daisy and Donald had the greatest costumes!

Daisy and Donald had the greatest costumes!

And Minnie! EVERYONE loved Minnie.  What a dear.

And Minnie! EVERYONE loved Minnie. What a dear.

I like to think Mickey is kind of like "She's ... choking me..."

I like to think Mickey is kind of like “She’s … choking me…”

D was really into Woody for months after she saw Toy Story :)

D was really into Woody for months after she saw Toy Story 🙂

I don't know, some people might be creeped out by faceless soldiers.

I don’t know, some people might be creeped out by faceless plastic soldiers.

 

We came out from the restrooms and NOBODY was in line to see Brer Rabbit. She got him to herself!

We came out from the restrooms and NOBODY was in line to see Brer Rabbit. She got him to herself!

 

Minnie again! Minnie sang Happy Birthday to her. :D

Minnie again! Minnie sang Happy Birthday to her. 😀

 

Goofy liked her hat.

Goofy liked her hat.

 

I LOVE her face in this. at the Garden Grill.

I LOVE her face in this. at the Garden Grill.

 

Her she's asking Chip to dance. :D

Here she’s asking Chip to dance. 😀

 

We didn't get a lot of character time our first day at MK, but the Fairy Godmother was out first thing!

We didn’t get a lot of character time our first day at MK, but the Fairy Godmother was out first thing!

 

First time I'd ever seen Pirate Goofy! We came out and there he was!

First time I’d ever seen Pirate Goofy! We came out and there he was!

 

At the Princess Breakfast at Akershus, Belle and D were twins :)

At the Princess Breakfast at Akershus, Belle and D were twins 🙂

 

Cinderella was the BEST.

Cinderella was the BEST.

 

I love this hug with Ariel! I keep trying to get her to love Ariel best but she really does like Cinders too. ;)

I love this hug with Ariel! I keep trying to get her to love Ariel best but she really does like Cinders too. 😉

 

And Stitch again, at the Magic Kingdom this time

And Stitch again, at the Magic Kingdom this time

 

...Does this count as character greets?

…Does this count as character greets?

 

And Stitch AGAIN, at Hollywood Studios,

And Stitch AGAIN, at Hollywood Studios,

 

Then Rafiki came in! And it was like "WHUUUT?"

Then Rafiki came in! And it was like “WHUUUT?”

 

AND Mary Poppins. This party was ON.

AND Mary Poppins. This party was ON.

 

Princess Jasmine had to fix D's tiara. She's motherly like that.

Princess Jasmine had to fix D’s tiara. She’s motherly like that.

 

D was very, very taken with Jack Sparrow.

D was very, very taken with Jack Sparrow.

 

This was my favourite meet and greet of all! I may be biased.

This was my favourite meet and greet of all! I may be biased.

 

Podcast Updates, 4/24/13

I ought to be ashamed of myself. I’ve kept everyone waiting for Podcast updates way too long. Why you might have had to go looking for them on your own!! FAIL, Rebecca. 😛

Podcast Updates:

Top 5: Pixar Movies

Got a favourite Pixar film? Nearly everyone has at least one. I don’t know anyone who says “I don’t have a favourite Pixar film ’cause I hate all that junk.” I might know some people who may say they don’t have a favourite because they like them all, but most people have at least some they like more than others.

My Triumphant Return To the Top Five today is not here to tell you which Pixar movies are no good, though. Unless you consider a lack of inclusion in this list to mean that they are no good, which you shouldn’t; because there are 13 Pixar features released as of today, and this list can only take five, meaning that by default 8 cannot be listed. However, I am going to rank the little buggers and prove to you beyond a shadow of a doubt that there can be no argument: my top 5 should be your top 5.

(Disclaimer: doubts may in fact be shadowed. In reality this is my opinion, which can and will vary from yours, and I’m writing like this for entertainment value and also because I had some wine with dinner and I’m a lightweight. SO.)

Honourable Mention: “Up” from 2009. WHY, I can hear you wailing, WHY IS THIS ONLY AN HONOURABLE MENTION?! Do you have no HEART? Okay, the fact is, I haven’t seen this one. Reason being that I have put it off due to my full awareness that the opening can very possibly destroy my soul. 🙂 No, but in all seriousness, Pixar is fully capable of reaching me on an emotional level that many movies can’t reach, and I know that I need to be ready for the beginning of “Up”. So I’ve put it off. To be completely fair to it, I think I would have it on my Top 5 if I had seen it, based on everything I have heard. So it’s Honourable Mentioned. Yeah, I know that this technically makes the list a Top Six but just… shut up. 😛

#5: Monsters, Inc., 2001.

image (c) Disney.com

image (c) Disney/Pixar, from Disney.com

I find this movie to be utterly adorable, and not only for the utterly adorable little girl. No, it’s actually because of the design and the sheer silliness of the Monstropolis world. You know how there are various scenes that exist only to show the day-to-day life of weird-looking, but ultimately harmless and even Just Like Us monsters? Like during Mike and Sully’s walk to work in the morning? That is the sort of thing that appeals to me. A million and one background gags. However, MI also has a great heart to it, and the ending – the VERY ending – always makes me tear up a little. Somehow I got it into my head that years and years have passed for Boo and when Sully comes out she’s not a little girl anymore, but it doesn’t matter for either of them. I’m not sure where that idea came from, especially since her voice sounds the same, but I’ve always felt it every time I watch. Add to that some great voice work – this is one of my favourite Billy Crystal roles – and animation that really shines, and this is a great movie.

#4: WALL-E, 2008.

Image (c) Pixar.

Image (c) Disney/Pixar, from pixartimes.com

I think the most amazing thing about this movie is that they sustain an entire, what? 30 minutes? 45? At the start with NO DIALOGUE. I might be overexaggerating on that because I didn’t time it, but regardless, it’s impressive no matter how long it’s for. The entire story and everything in it comes across visually and you get a strong sense of the characterization – of a ROBOT who has developed a personality – anyway. And you can follow the story. It’s brilliant storytelling and the use of WALL-E the cutie makes you instantly empathize. With a ROBOT. Additionally, I ended up loving the humans, especially the Captain, with his complete lack of realizing that he’s useless. And the way that doesn’t matter to him once he does realize it. Oh, and plus, Fred Willard. That’s all I need to say.

#3: Toy Story 2 & 3.

Image (c) Dixney/Pixar, from storylineblog.com

Image (c) Dixney/Pixar, from storylineblog.com

It’s a tie so I count them both together. Yes, I like Toy Story, it started the whole thing after all! But I think TS2 is the stronger movie for some reason. Plus it brings in Jessie, a character I like in spite of myself. I know some people find her annoying and I get why. I think she’s great. 😀 But it’s Jessie in the second movie who really moves me, and the theme they introduce with her – kids outgrowing their toys and the toys having a hard time dealing with the rejection – is the central theme of TS3. (You could argue that it’s the theme in TS1, as well, but I feel it’s approached differently in that one but in largely the same way in 2 and 3.) I also just feel like the writing is top notch in these, especially 2.

#2: The Incredibles, 2004.

They say that Frozone is a bad mother- *shut your mouth!* But I'm talking 'bout Frozone!  *We can dig it.*  Image (c) Disney/Pixar, from fanpop.com

They say that Frozone is a bad mother- *shut your mouth!* But I’m talking ’bout Frozone! *We can dig it.* Image (c) Disney/Pixar, from fanpop.com

This movie, honestly, this movie needs more love. It’s got some amazing jokes but even more its characters are SO strong. This is a family that feels like a family, and in particular the adults are so relatable. Elastigirl is my hero on many levels. The fact that the movie is largely about having powers and yet feeling powerless is a nice touch. I feel like, out of all of Pixar’s movies, this one may be the most adult of any of them. It definitely seems to be the one that is most relatable TO adults, and in my eyes it’s about ADULTHOOD in a way that the other films are not. Their other movies are about emotional themes, and this one honestly seems to be about growing up, about a midlife crisis. I truly feel like it’s handled very well.  Also I really can’t go an entire paragraph without mentioning Frozone. YEAH Frozone. 😀

#1: Finding Nemo, 2003.

Image (c) Disney/Pixar, from fanpop.com

Image (c) Disney/Pixar, from fanpop.com

As I get older and understand myself more, I realize more and more that this is my favourite Pixar movie. It has layers. Its writing is terrific, to start with, but the acting is as well. From the first time I saw it, I cried in no fewer than six different scenes – sometimes tears of happiness and others, tears of genuine sadness. The funny thing is that as I’ve rewatched it, I still cry in the same spots every time. Something about this movie just resonates with me emotionally. It’s something to do with the parental/child relationship, but there’s more to it, there’s also the lopsided friendship between Marlin and Dory, the Tank group, and Marlin’s loss and how it defines him, as well as how he overcomes that in the end. I think what endeared this film to me so much, in the end, was my realization that – intentionally or not – it is a beautiful allegory for depression. “Just Keep Swimming” indeed. That is advice to live by.

And yes, I am looking forward to the sequel. 🙂

Saturday Blog Showcase: The Disney Beat

I try to keep a schedule on this blog, but the past month or so that’s gone out the window. Boo.  More realistic at following her schedule is Maisha at The Disney Beat, which is a smaller new blog you might not have heard of, but it’s a lot of fun!  The schedule follows a Wordy Wednesday post, based around certain themed Disney quotes, and a Friday 5-Day post that lists a top 5 of a particular topic, plus Road to RunDisney posts on Mondays.  Maisha also posts Disney news when it comes up.

 

One of the things I like most about The Disney Beat is how UP-beat it is.  For instance, she put together a fantastic and inspiring Wordy Wednesday post about the Boston Marathon tragedy, keeping the theme of Wordy Wednesday – a quote from Walt Disney – and respect for the awful events of the Marathon, AND a message of hope and goodwill.  The previous week was all about encouragement, and man, I needed it that day.  The timing was impeccable. 🙂

 

The subtitle of the blog name “The Disney Beat” is “in rhythm with all things Disney”, but you know, I think that thinking of it as being “upbeat” is in rhythm with Disney too… after all, Disneyland is the Happiest Place on Earth, and a blog that uses Disney examples to make people happy both in and out of Disney just feels right.  It makes me smile and it’s a great way to spend my days, getting a dose of Disney and a good hit of optimism at the same time. Thanks, Maisha, for your great blog!

 

Follow The Disney Beat blog, and also follow her on Twitter as @thedisneybeat as well as her community page on Facebook.  Enjoy!

Disney on the Cheap: My efforts to get to WDW this fall

January 2011 at Hollywood Studios

January 2011 at Hollywood Studios

The last time I took my family to WDW was also the first time – not for me, but for both of my kids. It was in late January/early February of 2011, and my daughter was about to turn 5. My son was just about 1 1/2. I’d waited years to take them, to make sure that my daughter would actually remember at least part of the trip.

After it was over I decided that my next trip would be just me and my daughter, a short camping trip similar to one I’d done for my 30th birthday all on my lonesome. I was aiming square at late September, 2012, with thoughts of tossing Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party in there too; but real life came and bit us in the butt, and long story short, the not-insignificant amount of cash I had saved up went to bills.

It happens. I mean, I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t pretty upset, but it happens. Life goes on and Disney World is still there.

So now, I’m starting from scratch and trying again to save up the money to get my daughter on a trip to enjoy as much as possible in 3 1/2 days on-property at Disney. Don’t get me wrong, I loved having the whole family, no complaints! But my daughter and I, we bond over WDW. I want to take her while she is young, to have a time just with her, and so that we can do whatever she wants without having to take everyone else’s needs into account.

So with that in mind, I’m planning a trip I might not get to take, trying to squeeze as much savings out of every part of it.

I thought, since a lot of people would love to go to Disney if they can afford it, I’d write a few posts talking about how I estimate my costs and how I try to whittle them down… My best suggestions in general, and how I am applying them specifically.

Part 1: Location, Location, Location!! Aka, Pick the right resort.

This is obvious. Look at your needs. First need is, do you NEED to stay on-property? (Personally, I do.) Depending on various factors and what you’re willing to sacrifice, plus the time of year that you go, you can get a room relatively close to Disney for very cheap. VERY, VERY cheap. I’m talking $30 a night cheap at certain seasons.

What you need to know: these are not the nicest hotels. They may smell funny. They may not be the safest-looking places.

A second need is, how long is your trip? What kind of trip is this? Is it going to be a quick-fix vacation – you know, been there before, will go again, but need a touch of Disney magic when I can get it? Or is this your Big Family Vacation that you’ve been saving for for 5 years? I’ve done both. 🙂 These two can lead you to VERY different places.

Third, who is coming with you? This is actually related to both of the first two questions, because obviously your needs are different if you are travelling solo or with an adult partner, versus if you’re travelling with kids or extended family. This can influence both whether you want to stay on-property AND the type of vacation you’re on.

And fourth, how much time do you want to spend in your hotel, and what aspects are most important to you? For instance – free breakfast? Free WiFi? Pool? Which of these is a make-or-break when selecting a hotel?

So none of these needs stand on their own. They all really dovetail with each other and you need to look at them all to paint a picture. Once you’ve got that picture, take a look at your options:

Firstly, on- or off-site hotel rooms? A quick look at non-Disney hotels:

If a hotel's exterior photo emphasizes a small patch of flowers over the hotel itself, don't have high expectations.  Image courtesy of Expedia.com.

If a hotel’s exterior photo emphasizes a small patch of flowers over the hotel itself, don’t have high expectations. Image courtesy of Expedia.com.

If you are travelling by yourself (or I should say, without children), and you will only be in your hotel for sleeping, and you are not easily wigged out by seedy-looking places, you can look into the cheap hotels I mentioned and spend a relatively miniscule part of your budget on your lodgings.  One note: read the reviews of the hotel first.  Know what you are getting into.

You can also upgrade, of course. Old Towne Kissimmee has a lot of nice hotel options. My first trip, I stayed in a Comfort Inn Suites that was really pleasant! Good (free!) breakfast, nice pool, lovely rooms. It lacks the Disney theming but in terms of room quality it was around a Moderate, but for less. Plus they have suites – BIG plus if you are travelling with a larger group (more than 4 people) and the Disney Family Suites are a bit past your price range.

Image courtesy of Expedia.com

Image courtesy of Expedia.com

Old Towne Kissimmee is closer than I thought it was to the Disney resort. We took a shuttle each day and it went to so many different hotels that I didn’t realize it’s very simple to get there. In fact, if you go to the grocery store in Celebration, then turn left out of that parking lot and left again at the light, you’ll reach the Comfort Inn Suites pretty quickly. (Of course that’s if you’re driving yourself; that will be another blog entry…)

The downsides: if you don’t have your own transportation, the shuttles usually only run once a day and pick up from multiple hotels, potentially hurting your options of getting an early start on the day at the parks. Even if you DO have a car, then you’ve got to pay for parking – getting back to the hotel for a nap, if needed, can be a hassle – and especially if you’re at the Magic Kingdom that’s a LOT of walking back to the car at the end of a long day. Good ol’ TTC. 😉

Another point to note is that you can get some great rates at the Downtown Disney hotels, which are technically on Disney property but which are not Walt Disney World owned and operated. This means you can get some luxury digs, without the perks that WDW hotel guests get (no Extra Magic Hours, not eligible for Dining Plans, etc), for less than you’d spend at a similar Disney-owned hotel. This is great if you’re not, like me, looking to make your cost as low as possible so that you can afford it, you’re just looking to save money where you can while still getting the most upscale experience possible.

So which is the better deal off-site: as cheap as possible, or bargain comfort? If travelling with kids, I point out the bargain comfort. I’d always spend a little bit extra to make sure my children are comfortable and safe. On my own though I’d probably go the cheap-as-possible route. 🙂

Now let’s say that, like me, staying ON Disney property is a must if possible. Honestly – I consider that to be a part of the expense just like the tickets. So how do you keep that cost down?

A look at WDW Resort Hotels

I apologize for my lack of realization that I'd be blogging 2 years later when I took my uninteresting photos

I apologize for my lack of realization that I’d be blogging 2 years later when I took my uninteresting photos

There are various options to you. Knowing your discounts is a good one (if you find that overwhelming, a Disney travel agent like myself can always help you! Plug, plug); in addition to Disney’s own room discounts, for instance, there are also discounts available to AAA members, to Florida residents, to Active Duty members of the Military, and more. They can be overwhelming, and some discounts are undeniably better than others; and yes, some of the best ones aren’t available to everyone. Obviously, Disney wants you to stay at the higher-scale resorts, so the discounts are deeper as the rooms get more expensive. But sometimes, shopping around can get you some unexpected cuts in your spending.

So once again you want to look at your needs.  How big is your party?  If it’s over 4 people, at most resorts you’ll either need 2 rooms or a Family Suite.  Cost-wise, you’ll get a better deal by booking two rooms at most resorts than you would for booking a Family Suite – but the suites come with a mini-kitchen, which is its own cost-saving device, since you get the option of cooking your own meals.  This is not an option when you have two standard rooms.

Obviously, you’re going to get the lowest prices on rooms at the Value resorts.  Obviously, these are not $30 hotels, either.  But the nice part is that you WILL get a better experience at a Value resort at Disney than you would get at a cheapie off-property.  Sure, it’s not glamour, but all rooms are still well-themed and well-maintained, comfortable, reasonably spacious, and when you step outside your room you get a TON of things your cheapie hotel in Kissimmee wouldn’t get you.  Food court, play areas, multiple pools, music, shopping, constant buses to the parks, and the check-in area!  Goodness. Honestly, I feel like Disney resorts are among the only non-luxury resorts where you could make an excursion just to see them and still have fun. 🙂

Clearly, what I was getting at before I sidetracked myself there is that again you look at your needs.  What you need for a Disney resort will be different if you are solo tripping than it would if you were touring with your parents and your children.  Weigh your pros and your cons for each, your biggest needs, and make a chart about what you CAN afford vs. what you’d LIKE to afford.  If the two align, then go for it!

My choice: The Campsites at Fort Wilderness

Here's the reception building circa 2008, aka, IWantToBeThere

Fort Wilderness Reception in Spring 2008

To get the lowest possible price on-property at Disney, there is no argument that the Campsites at Fort Wilderness are where to look. You bring your own tent and you can camp for as low as $40 a night, depending on the time of year. If you don’t have a tent you can rent one. The resort itself provides plenty of free entertainment to its guests like outdoor movies, running trails, a petting zoo, and so on. It’s rustic, it’s beautiful, and it’s CHEAP.

This, by the way, is my choice if I didn’t already say so. I’m aiming to camp in early October for 3 nights; the cost after tax is about $160. That’s less than the cost of one night at many of the other resorts. I’ll admit to this: the bus system is a bit on the confusing side because the resort is so HUGE (see my review of the campgrounds from a month or two ago), but they also have a ferry to the Magic Kingdom; I mean, you’re right there.

And by the way, I do have a tent; and this time when I go, I’m going to know how to put that sucker up all by myself. I hope.  As of right now I do have enough money to cover the resort reservations, but that’s not much good without the rest of the costs!

Next time: Looking at Tickets

Saturday Blog Showcase: Walt Disney World With Toddlers

If you have kids, or even if you don’t but you just like to keep up with everything there is to know about Disney World, check out the new blog DisneyWithToddlers.com.  This is a fairly recent start-up but is by an experienced blogger, and it’s been extremely popular so far!  I can understand why, too, she is full of information and facts.

 

The writer, Carrie, has two really adorable daughters and a lot of experience at Disney World as a Florida native.  She posts about park info from a parent’s perspective, including posts like this one – similar to my own Top 5 Epcot attractions for young kids, but we have slightly different focuses – as well as Disney news that relates to the interests of her young daughters.  She reviews resorts and restaurants, has a guest blogger or two to add other toddler/young children perspectives, and just generally seems to have it together.  I really enjoy the blog for its posts, its insights and its helpfulness!

 

I do have a toddler, though he’s on the cusp of outgrowing such a label (being 3 1/2), but honestly… I think I’ll keep reading this blog afterwards just because I like the perspectives on it.  There’s always a sweetness to visiting Disney parks with young children and it shows through in Carrie’s blog.  Recommended both as a resource and as entertainment!

 

So… this is a rather short review post, but there isn’t a whole lot I have to say; the whole thing is fairly straightforward.  Good blog; like it; recommend it; done. 🙂  Check it out!