Sunday, May 6, 2012

Why Animal Kingdom May Never Have a Dark Ride

Recently, I have been watching a lot of Disney movies.  Most of them have been the ones I haven't seen since I was a child.  I must say, some of the films take on whole new meanings when you watch them with a slightly older brain.

A great example of what I'm talking about is Tarzan.  (spoiler alert)  In addition to noticing a few rather macabre things that somehow escaped me when I last watched the film at least ten years ago (most notably the dead bodies of Tarzan's parents and the shadow of Clayton's body after he accidently hangs himself), I have also realized something that may upset many Disney fans I have encountered on fan discussion boards.  Tarzan (and Bambi, and Brother Bear) does not lend itself to a Disney dark ride. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

What Keeps Me Going Back

I admit it.  I'm a Walt Disney World junkie.  In my life, I've been to Walt Disney World at least thirty times.  I've done every single ride, nearly every show, and seen nearly every character there is to see.  Some of you might be thinking to yourself "Why on earth would you keep going back?"  Well, I can sum that up in one simple word: magic.  From the characters going out of their way to make a child feel special, to cast members doing little things for people that just make me smile, the magic that Walt Disney World has just pulls me in.  Every single time I go, I meet at least one cast member who makes an impression on me.  I hope you'll bear with me as I share a few of those stories here.

Bert in his sweep outfit (the best way for Bert to be)
My first trip to Walt Disney World was when I was young enough to still know that Mickey Mouse had walked right out of the cartoons to meet me.  So, you can imagine my joy when Bert asked me if I would like to help him lead a parade through Fantasyland (how I wish they would still do this, it was a lovely experience).  After the parade, Bert and I sat and just talked.  He asked me about my favorite rides, my favorite characters, anything he could think of.  Then he asked for my autograph book, and he wrote me a personalized note calling me the best parade partner he'd ever had.  He then took me to the front of the line for Mary Poppins and Mr. Penguin and introduced me to them both as his personal friend.  As you can imagine, Bert still holds a place in my heart to this day.

That same trip, we found Esmerelda and Phoebus in the France pavillion at Epcot.  At the time, Esmerelda was one of my favorite characters, so I was, of course, over the moon to meet her in person.  Not only that, but we were the only people around, so they spent extra time talking to me.  Then, a band came out.  Well, as soon as they started playing, Esmerelda took my hand and we danced together right there in the middle of France. 

As you can probably tell, that first trip made quite the impression on me.  But the magic continues, even now that I'm older.  One trip, a supervisor gave me a free pin, for no reason at all.  Scoop Sanderson gave me a pin two trips ago when I told him I had (regretably) left my pin collection at home.  And, perhaps the most special to me, is a character handler named Chip, who helped me finally meet Terrence in Pixie Hollow after who knows how many times standing in line.  Not only that, but he told Terrence we were special friends, so Terrence made a huge deal out of me and my family.  You can't top memories like that.

So, whenever people give me the crazy stare when I say I'm going back again, I just smile and move on.  I know its the magic that keeps me going back.  And as long as there's magic, Walt Disney World is where you'll find me.

Do you have a magical memory of your own?  Feel free to share it in the comments!

May the Fourth Be With You! A Look at Her Universe (SWW)

As many of you know, today is National Star Wars Day (May the 4th be with you.  Get it?).  With that in mind, I'd like to take a moment to talk to you about Her Universe.  Her Universe is an amazing line of Star Wars (and now, SyFy Channel) merchandise, all for women.  Female geeks rejoice!  Even better, the line was started by Ashley Eckstein, the voice of Ashoka Tano on The Clone Wars.

I know this is probably the point in this post where you may be saying "Ok, but what does this have to do with Walt Disney World?"  Well, I'll tell you.  Her Universe merchandise, which is typically only available online, will be available at Star Wars Weekends this year!  Her Universe was also available at last years Star Wars Weekends.  I was so glad I bought my Padme Nouveau shirt (my favorite of my many Star Wars shirts) during week 3, because nearly everything was gone by week 4.  I saw Ashley wearing it at the 2009 Star Wars Weekends and was determined to own it.
Padme Nouveau Tee (from
The Her Universe line extends well beyond T-shirts.  In fact, Ashley announced several new products today (in honor of May the 4th), including a new racer back tanktop and an adorable hoodie fit for a certain princess.  I'm also happy to let you know that at least some of these new items will be available at Star Wars Weekends this year.
Princess Leia Hoodie (from Her Universe Official Fan Page on

One of the things I love about Her Universe is that it really focuses on celebrating the female characters in the Star Wars universe.  Before Her Universe, the last Padme shirt I saw was from when  The Phantom Menace came out (1999).  Her Universe has two shirts, a pair of earrings, and a charm for a charm bracelet all devoted to her.  That's great for female fans who love her.

Her Universe is a great option for female Star Wars fans who are sick of shoping in the men's section to get their geek aparrel.  Ladies, if you are going to Star Wars Weekends this year, do yourselves a favor and check out Her Universe at the merchandise tent.  I don't think you'll be sorry.

For more information about the line, visit

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Disney Special Events: Star Wars Weekends, Episode II

In my last Star Wars Weekends post, I discussed the Celebrity Motorcade, autograph sessions, and character meet and greets.  In this post, I'll be focusing on the other special shows that take place during Star Wars Weekends.

Stars of the Saga

Stars of the Saga happens every day during all four Star Wars Weekends.  During the event, which takes place in the Theater of the Stars (for those of you who remember, it is the theater where the Pocahontas and Hunchback of Notre Dame stage shows used to be.  For those of you who don't, it is near the exit of Muppetvision 3D).  The show starts off each year with a cute skit done by the Stormtroopers, and usually revolves around the year's theme.  Last year, for example, the show was based around the newly reopened Star Tours: The Adventure Continues attraction.  The year before, the show featured Boba Fett for the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back. 

May I be excused?  I seem to have....had my arms ripped off....

One of the hosts of Star Wars Weekends will then introduce two of the celebrity guests for the weekend, and they will discuss their work on the Star Wars series and some of their other work.  Sometimes, the host will go into the audience to allow audience members to ask questions.  If you want to have the chance to do this, sit near the end of a row. 

James Arnold Taylor, who will be returning as a SWW host this year.  As you can see, he really got into character.
 During my first Star Wars Weekends, I happened upon this show.  My second Star Wars Weekends, I saw it both weekends I was there.  If you are a big Star Wars fan, the show is definately worth seeing at least once.  This is especially true if any of the celebrities worked on the original trilogy.  Those men and women have so much history with Star Wars and are a joy to listen to. 

Legends of the Force

I saw Legends of the Force for the first time this year at Sar Wars Weekends.  It made me regret ignoring it for the past two years.  This show was awesome.  Hosted by Ashley Eckstein with some help from James Arnold Taylor, the show puts the audience in the sound booth with the incredible voice talents from the Star Wars: The Clone Wars television series.  The show includes quite a bit of audience participation, including the opportunity for two members of the audience to get up on stage with Ashley, James, and the week's visiting Clone Wars voice artist.  Even if you aren't a fan of the series, check out this show!  You will have a much greater appreciation for what voice actors do when it's over.  And the hosts work well together to keep the show light and entertaining.  Ashley and James have such a great energy when they work together, and I sincerely hope that they will return as event hosts again next year, as I love them both dearly.

James Arnold Taylor, Nika Futterman (Asajj Ventress) and Ashley Eckstein at Legends of the Force

Jedi Training Academy

During Star Wars Weekends, the Jedi Training Academy is extremely busy and difficult to get into.  If you want your child to have a chance to battle a famous Star Wars villian, sign them up first thing in the morning.  Sign up locations change from year to year, so ask a cast member when you arrive.

Come to the Dark Side....We have cookies.  Darth Vader and a Stormtrooper crash the Jedi Training Academy
Because of the overwhelming popularity of this show during Star Wars Weekends, the show accepts more children per show by adding an extra area on the ground near the stage.  Children who are on the ground will fight either Darth Maul or Assajj Ventress from the Clone Wars series.  If they fight Ventress, the Jedi knight character will be replaced by Ashoka Tano.  Children who are on stage will fight Darth Vader.  Please make sure you tell your children that they may not fight Vader, or you may find yourself with an extremely disappointed child afterwards.

If your child really wants to fight Vader, I would suggest going to Hollywood Studios on a weekday during your trip and arriving at the Training Academy stage 60-90 minutes before showtime.  This will give them the best chance of being chosen, and the show goes back to its normal, Darth Vader-only format during the week.

Special Celebrity Guest Shows

Both years that I have been to SWW, at least one celebrity guests has had a special show that they have done.  James Arnold Taylor's show, Obi-Wan and Beyond, is not only funny and heart-warming, but it will really give you an appreciation for what voice actors do.  Taylor is incredibly talented and has done work on more tv shows, video games, and movies than I could possibly list here (but that he will gladly run through in the course of about a minute and a half during his show).  I will be perfectly honest, his story nearly brought tears to my eyes.  He's truly inspirational.  (Full disclosure:  My love for James Arnold Taylor stems not from Star Wars, but from his work as Tidus in Final Fantasy X, and I've loved him more since he signed my SWW bag when I ran into him in the park.)

On weeks that Ray Park (Darth Maul) is in town, he will be doing his show "Visit to the Maul."  I've never actually seen this particular show, but my understanding is that it is a martial arts demonstration show which includes some audience participation (if you want to participate, line up early).