Mousekemeets 2014

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Photo Friday - the most beautiful sight

This week, I asked some of those who liked DisneyDaddy on Facebook ( to help me choose which photo to post today.  Mitch Brannen was the first to chime in with 2010 and he wanted an Epcot shot.  It seemed like destiny that Mitch of all people would say that.  Back in 2010 he and I along with another wonderful Disney fan, Lori Burke (many of you know her from the We Wants the Redhead blog) ran the 2010 half marathon together.  It was freezing, it was snowing, and it was one of the most fun Disney events I've ever participated in.

So why did I title this image "the most beautiful sight"?  From about mile 3, I was longing to see Spaceship Earth up close, not because I'm such a fan of this Walt Disney World icon (actually I am - it's my favorite park icon of all), but more because it meant the FINISH LINE was close!!!

So here is a shot I took just after I made the "turn for home" to again pass by Spaceship Earth on the way to the finish less than a mile away (from here, it was probably somewhere around half a mile to go).

It's also fitting that I post this shot today.  The 2010 half marathon was my first ever endurance event.  This coming weekend (April 26th), I'll run/walk in my third Blue Ridge Half Marathon, billed as America's toughest road marathon (and they're not lying - check out the course for the half) and earlier this week, I registered for the 2015 Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge (I must be crazy).

So as you can see, running is on my mind lately, and I appreciate Mitch reminding me of all the fun I can have out on a freezing morning with a few thousand friends.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Photo Friday: Torch lighting at the Polynesian

Welcome to another Photo Friday!

This week, I asked some of my Facebook friends to help me choose a random photo from my Disney archive (thanks John Reilly!)

This shot is from March 2010 and is from the nightly torch lighting ceremony at the Polynesian Resort.  This, like so many other things at the various Disney resorts, is completely free.  Every night around sunset, cast members hold a brief ceremony in which the ceremonial torches are lit for the night. 

As you can see, there's a bit more to this than just popping a few matches... though I'll leave that fire-tasting stuff to the experts.

Enjoy and aloha!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Introducing Mousekemeets 2014

It's here!  I'm so proud to announce that Mousekemeets 2014 will take place June 12 and 13 in Roanoke, Virginia, and I'm even prouder to announce that Lou Mongello from WDW Radio and Beci Mahnken from Mouse Fan Travel will be the key speakers.

There are a TON of events taking place, so go right over to to read all about the events and to register.

Registration is limited to 150 people, so register today!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A historical view of MK ticket prices

Click for a larger view

Back in February, Disney announced the next round of price hikes for park tickets.  Today a one-day, one-park (ODOP) ticket for the Magic Kingdom is $99.  Given that this price increase came in February, it's entirely possible (and, sadly, not unprecedented) that another price increase may come later in the year.

Thanks to the folks at, we can take a look back at the Magic Kingdom ticket prices since 1982 (that's when the old ticket books went away completely and regular park admission started).  Looking back at 1982, a Magic Kingdom ODOP ticket was just over $13, a mere fraction of today's price.  If you look at the chart above you'll notice that prices rose fairly steadily until the late 1990s.  When Bob Iger became Disney's CEO in 1999, a Magic Kingdom ODOP was $44 - more than four times what it was seventeen years earlier.  Now, in 2014, that same ODOP ticket is $99, more than double what it was just 15 years ago. 

Now I understand costs do go up each year, but what I'm most concerned about is Disney's pace of increase.  If you look at the trend line (the black line), you'll see that from 1982 to around 1992, the ticket price was just slightly above the trend, but pretty close.  From 1992 until 2002, ticket prices dropped below the trend line.  In 2003, that's when things really started to change.  Notice the general slope of the ticket price line starting in 2003 - it's much steeper than it had ever been.  That meant the price of tickets started increasing at a greater rate than before, and for the most part that new slope hasn't relaxed.

In the small chart above, you can see the percentage change of ticket prices from year to year.  After 1999, the percentage of change has been quite volatile, from no change to as much as 12-percent.  Granted, the economy over the last few years has been anything but stable, so I guess it's not much of a surprise to see volatility in Disney's pricing structure.

So what's the point behind all this?  Using a tool like this, we can attempt to predict what prices will be in the future.  Given this rate of increase at around 6% a year, we can expect a Magic Kingdom ODOP ticket to run around $105 next year (that is if they don't already do another price increase this year), and could be around $140 by 2020.  Stop and think about that -- by the time the Magic Kingdom celebrates it's 50th anniversary in 2021, a one-day one-park ticket will be ten times what it was just after the Magic Kingdom's 10th anniversary.  I can't think of too many things that cost ten times what they did about 40 years ago.  If gas prices followed the same rate of increase then one gallon of gas will cost $13 by 2020. 

Maybe now you'll see what I'm concerned about -- Disney pricing themselves out of business.  There will come a point when the average family will no longer see the overall value of a Disney vacation.  I know some are already wondering if it's really worth it.  Sure, the parks are packed and attendance is still strong right now, but it doesn't take much to change all that.  Would you still drive a car if gas cost $13 a gallon?

I'm not griping about ticket prices.  Yes, they're too high, but that's not my main point.  My concern is the value of a Disney vacation.  I want people to be able to afford a Disney vacation.  I want the average family to be able to enjoy the magic.  I want Walt Disney World and Disneyland to be the premier theme parks in the world and the standard for which all others reach.  The more and more a Disney vacation starts to get our of reach for the average family, the closer Disney becomes to developing a reputation as something for the elite only.  Walt was never an elitist and I think he'd never want his parks to become something only for the elite. 

I understand prices have to increase, i just hope Disney will realize that their prices are going up too fast and will slow down that rate of increase. 

Those little Disney details...

Those who are long-time readers of this blog have heard me make this suggestion many times - stop and take in all those little Disney details.  As if you may need proof, here's just one more example.

Walking across the bridge connecting the UK and France pavilions at Epcot, you will see along the lagoon a small ledge where someone was painting along the shoreline.  Take a closer look at the painting and you'll see that it's not just some random scene, it's actually a painting of the International Gateway.  It's also somewhat of a look back in time.  Back when the International Gateway was first opened, it had burgundy awnings, as is depicted in the painting.  Yet now the gateway's awnings are green.  Also, there are more trees now than there were in Epcot's early days.

Also if you'll look carefully, you'll also see something that you never would have seen anywhere along the Crescent Lake area - a small sailboat. 

It's these little details that make Disney such a rich and immersive experience, if you take the time to take them in.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Farewell PUSH the talking trash can

It appears PUSH the talking trash can will never again grace the concrete walkways of Tomorrowland, at least for now.  Several reports indicate a possible contract dispute led Disney to break ties with the performer operating PUSH and so the beloved walk-around character is no more.  Now Disney has confirmed the talking trash can is no more.

UPDATE (Feb. 10):  According to an Orlando Sentinel article, Disney says PUSH will remain in Tomorrowland.  Earlier, an apparent internal Disney FAQ gave talking points to cast members about PUSH's removal.  I'm sure there will be more to come on this. 

UPDATE 2:  Disney has confirmed PUSH is gone, according to a new Orlando Sentinel article.

But did you ever stop to wonder just how PUSH did what he did?  He was a fully mobile and fully interactive character.  He could carry on complete conversations with people seemingly on his own.  Well, of course, that wasn't the case, but it was pretty hard to pick out just how it was done.

Now that PUSH has been retired, I'll let you in on the secret.

PUSH did indeed have a handler/operator.  If you looked carefully around at the crowd, you just might spot a person standing somewhere within eyesight of PUSH wearing a hat, some sort of fanny pack or satchel and holding his hand up to his mouth for an unusually long time.  Yep, that's the PUSH operator.  I've had the opportunity to secretly observe this performance several times and I have to say the person(s) who operate PUSH are quite good at blending in and not being conspicuous.  It's hard to see from the above photo, but this person is wearing headphones so he can hear what's being said around the PUSH character.  He can then speak into the mic and talk with unsuspecting guests.

It's a pretty simple operation but was beautifully done.  Even after I figured out who to look for, there were several times I couldn't find the operator, he had blended in so well.

So it is with great sadness and regret that I say farewell to PUSH the talking trash can from Tomorrowland.  I can only hope that there will come a day soon when you might make a return.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Photo Friday: Back in time

It's time for another Photo Friday!

This week' we're heading back in time to bring an Iguanodon forward in time - thanks to our time rover!  This shot captures the moment we are transported back millions of years to the time of the dinosaurs... or maybe it's just some huge heat lamps keeping us warm for when the T-Rex has us for a little pre-meteor shower snack.

Fortunately, I made it back to the present in the nick of time so I could share this with you.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Tip Tuesday: A hot time at Blizzard Beach

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

Well here in the mid Atlantic, it's still freezing with more snow in the forecast, so what's a better topic to discuss than the beach!  Blizzard Beach to be specific.

As many of you will know, Blizzard Beach is one of Walt Disney World's two water parks, the other being Typhoon Lagoon.  Blizzard Beach is located near Animal Kingdom, off West Buena Vista Drive (for those of you driving).  The story is that a freak snowstorm hit Orlando and Disney quickly created a ski resort.  Of course, it is Florida, so all that snow started melting, so suddenly this became a water park with the help of the Ice Gator!

Even though it looks like there's a lot of ice and snow around, Blizzard Beach can be anything but cool (even the water is warm).  Most importantly, the walkways and sand get quite hot, so if you're planning to hit Blizzard Beach, you'll want to bring along some flip flops, water shoes or some other way to protect your feet.  Trust me - by afternoon, those walkways are searing and you'll be doing the hot foot dance if you don't have foot protection.  Also, keep in mind that, unlike resort pools, Disney doesn't hand out towels, so you'll want to bring some along with you.  

Just like the theme parks, some of the same overall tips apply here - the most important of which is to get there early!  Yes, the major attractions such as the Summit Plummet start to develop long lines, but the more important reason you want to be there early is to get a chair!  Yes, you read this right, the primary purpose to arrive early is to get the type of chair(s) you want.  Some people prefer shade (I'm one of those), and the shady chairs that are along the main beach at Melt Away Bay go quickly.

Here's a bit more on finding the shade.  If you look at the Tobaggan Racers, they run roughly from West to East (more like from West-Southwest to East-Northeast, but that's being picky).  The point is that this set of slides can help you get an idea of where the sun will travel during the day and how the shade will move.  During the morning, the shadows generally will point toward the west (along the same line as the Tobaggan Racers) and will slowly get shorter as noon approaches.  By late afternoon, the shadows will reverse and start pointing toward the Lowatta Lodge and the Beach Haus.  Of course, these directions will vary some from the summer to the winter months.  In summer, shadows will point a little more to the south and in winter, shadows will point a little more north.  This will help you try to identify where you want to set up camp, depending on when you arrive.

There are more chairs further back and some areas and cabanas that require an additional cost.  Some of this depends on where you want to be.  If you're more into the large wave pool and the three regular slides, you'll want to be on the far left side of Melt Away Bay.  If you're with kids and will be in the younger area, you'll want to make your way to the far right side away from Melt Away Bay.

I'll talk more about the attractions at Blizzard Beach in a future post as well as some of the other things to do in this area.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tip Tuesday: Touring the parks without FastPass

With all the recent changes (and glitches) coming to Walt Disney World concerning FastPass+, Magic Bands and all, there are plenty of guests (myself included) who are less then enamored with the implementation of FastPass+.

So it begs the question:  is FastPass+ worth it?  Does it cause more problems that it solves?

While I have yet to experience FastPass+ first hand, I have heard plenty of horror stories about this new service, so I thought I'd share some thoughts about the best ways to enjoy the parks without having to get one FastPass.

Yes, Virginia, it can be done, but it does require some planning.

First, of course, you have to arrive at a park well before park opening -- at least 30 minutes, though 45 might be better for the Magic Kingdom.  While you're waiting for the park to open, you need to set a few priorities when it comes to attractions and/or characters -- which ones are most important to you?  Head to those first.  If you don't have any priorities, consider hitting the headline attractions such as Space Mountain, Soarin', Toy Story Mania or the Kilimanjaro Safaris.  You will have a good hour or two where the crowds will be considerably lower than later in the morning/afternoon.  You need to make good use of this time.

Once the park opens, walk briskly (do not run) to your highest priority attraction and get in the standby line.  The standby sign may indicate a 20 or 30 minute wait.  Go in anyway -- there's a good chance that standby time is not current.  Depending on the standby line, you may be able to get in two runs in short order before moving to the rest of your priority list.

Once the crowds start to build in late morning to early afternoon, it's time to move to the less popular attractions and shows as well as high-volume attractions such as the Haunted Mansion, its a small world, Living with the Land, Seas with Nemo, Star Tours, Muppets 3D, or the Animal Kingdom walking trails.  These attractions can handle a fairly large number of people at one time, so odds are the standby lines will be shorter.

The afternoon into the evening also is a good time to take in some scenery and do a bit of shopping.  Take some time to appreciate all those little Disney details and maybe take in a show or movie or two. 

As the evening fades into night, you'll start to see the crowds begin to thin in some areas, especially as families with young children head home with weary tykes in tow.  At the Magic Kingdom, crowds will start to gather along the parade route for the Main St. Electrical Parade.  Main Street and the Hub area will be especially crowded as people get spots for Wishes.  Avoid these areas if you're not all that interested in the evening entertainment and go hit more attractions.  You'll encounter some waits, but they'll have decreased since the peak of a few hours earlier.  In Epcot, the World Showcase promenade will start to fill with folks waiting for Reflections of Earth.  Same deal -- head to Future World and try to get in a few attractions there.

At Hollywood Studios, it's all about Fantasmic - there will likely be considerable lines at the end of Sunset Boulevard, so just avoid that part of the park.  Yes, the Rockin' Rollercoaster and Tower of Terror might be a bit busy, but the rest of the attractions will start to clear out to some degree -- even Toy Story Mania. 

With a bit of planning, some luck and flexibility, you can have a great day in the parks and not worry one second about getting a FastPass, dealing with return times or having to mess with the My Disney Experience app. 

Just go out and have fun!