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Disney World rings in the holidays with a skillful mix of old favorites and new seasonal attractions

Jim Hill

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Disney World rings in the holidays with a skillful mix of old favorites and new seasonal attractions

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Greetings from Orlando. Where Nancy and I are right in the middle of a whirlwind working trip.

Things got underway bright & early this past Saturday morning with the kick-off of the first-ever Disney Dish Podcast fan weekend. Organizing by the very nice folks at Storybook Destinations, this three day-long event was full of fun holiday-themed activities like Ugly Christmas sweater contests ...


Photo by Nancy Stadler

Len Testa and I also recorded our first live-in-front-of-an-audience (at a Disney Resort, anyway) show in one of the ballrooms at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort.



Photo by Nancy Stadler

Speaking of the Coronado ... That WDW Resort is something of a war zone right, what with all of the construction that's currently underway on that hotel's new 15 story-tall tower.


Photo by Nancy Stadler

If you'd like to get some sense of what the finished product will be like, then I suggest you swing on the convention center at Disney's Coronado Springs and visit this project's preview center. Which has a terrific model on display that shows what this WDW Resort will look once all of the work is done in 2019. Not to mention some nifty pieces of concept art that show what the hotel's new lobby area will look like, the refreshed interior of the guest rooms, etc.


Photo by Jim Hill

Anyway ... This first-ever Disney Dish Podcast fan weekend started off with a breakfast at Restaurantousaurus at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Then Len and I led the group over to Pandora for a walk-and-talk in & around the World of Avatar. I have to say that - every time I wander through this recent 14-acre addition to this theme park - I stumble across even more detail that then helps to tell the story of humans interaction with the Na'vi.


Photo by Jim Hill

In between presentations at that theme park, Nancy and I hustled on over to DAK's Maharajah Jungle Trek to see if the twin Sumatran Tiger cubs that were born at this theme park back in August had gone on exhibit yet. Unfortunately, Jeda (the male) and Anala (the female) are still being kept backstage and will remain there 'til at least January. Largely because the animal care specialist at Disney's Animal Kingdom want to be sure that these two are strong enough swimmers / are actually physically able to climb out of the rather deep moats that separate visitors to this theme park from its tigers.


Photo by Jim Hill

Later that same day, the Disney Dish Podcast fan group traveled over to EPCOT for an "Illuminations" dessert party as well as a special after-hours ride on "Frozen Ever After." While we were walking over to that theme park's Norway pavilion, I slipped into the Mexico pavilion to check out the "Remember Me" exhibit that was still being installed in the lobby area of this World Showcase pavilion.


Photo by Jim Hill

Using Pixar's soon-to-be-released "Coco" as the inspiration for this exploration of Dia de los Muertos, I have to say the displays that were already in place did a great job of explaining many of the more intriguing aspects of this Mexico holiday. Take - for example - all of the effort & artistry that goes into the creation of sugar skulls.


Photo by Jim Hill

Speaking of "Coco" ... If you'd like to get a sense of how the artists at Pixar Animation Studios came up with the distinctive look that the characters in this new Lee Unkrich film have, be sure and check out all of the concept art from this movie that's currently on display at Disney's Hollywood Studios in that theme park's "Walt Disney Presents" attraction.


Photo by Jim Hill

Nancy and I drove over DHS yesterday afternoon to check out some of the recent additions to WDW's movie-themed theme park. The BaseLine Tap House seemed to be doing a brisk business over on Grand Avenue.


Photo by Jim Hill

Meanwhile over at Echo Lake, Gertie the Dinosaur seemed to be channeling for Eeyore as she glumly stood guard over the central Christmas tree at Disney's Hollywood Studios.


Photo by Jim Hill

When night fell, a lot of the guests toward to the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror to check out this theme park's new 'Sunset Seasons Greetings" show.


Photo by Jim Hill

This is a new holiday-themed projection show that - much like those "Tree of Life Awakenings" that are now presented nightly over at Disney's Animal Kingdom - are relatively short but well-put-together vignettes that don't necessarily tell an actual story but do manage to put you in a proper holiday mood.


Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of the holidays ... On Sunday night, the group attending this year's Disney Dish Fan event went over to WDW's Magic Kingdom to experience Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. And even though it's been nearly a decade since I last attended one of these after-hours seasonal hard ticket events, I have to say that it did not disappoint. It was great to once again see the over-sized tin soldiers from Disney's "Babes in Toyland" marching down Main Street, U.S.A.


Photo by Nancy Stadler

Not to mention all of those "Mickey's Christmas Carol" -themed window displays at the Emporium. (Did you know that those were built back in 1983 to help promote the original theatrical release of this Walt Disney Animation Studios featurette?)


Photo by Jim Hill

And - of course - it never gets old looking at Cinderella Castle completely encrusted with little white twinkle lights. Though I remember when it used to be Cinderella's Fairy Godmother - rather than Elsa from Disney's "Frozen" - that performed the spell which then transformed the Magic Kingdom's castle for the holidays.


Photo by Nancy Stadler

But there were also some new presents (Well, new to me, anyway) under the tree. Take - for example - Voiceplay, the acapella group that performed over on the Rocketower Plaza stage inbetween presentations of the "Totally Tomorrowland Christmas" character show. The five guys who make up this close harmony group came out and presented this kick-ass set. A smart selection of holiday songs that was tight, funny and thoroughly entertaining. If Voiceplay are listed on this theme park's entertainment schedule whenever you're visiting the Magic Kingdom, be sure and check out this Orlando-based acapella group. You won't be disappointed.


Photo by Nancy Stadler

And speaking of things that were definitely not disappointing ... I have to admit that - when I originally heard that WDW Entertainment was thinking about putting together a holiday-overlay for the Jungle Cruise - my first thought was "Disney's taking an already-cheesy ride and adding ... What? Holiday fondue?" So I assumed -- going in this special Christmas addition of this classic Adventureland attraction - that the Jingle Cruise was either going to be really, really bad or really, really good.


Photo by Jim Hill

Well, thanks to Joseph & Lauren (i.e., the two Skippers who manned the boats that the Disney Disney Podcast fan group piled into this past Saturday night), the Jingle Cruise wasn't just good. It was great. Mind you, these two Cast Members were obviously energized by a very attentive & appreciative audience. But that said, Joseph & Lauren fully committed to the Jingle Cruise script. They performed each & every one of this attraction's deliberately lame seasonal puns & schticks. And the end result was one of the funniest damn things that I've ever experienced at a Disney theme park.

So if you're in the Magic Kingdom over the next month or so, be sure and check out the Jingle Cruise (And if you get the chance, ask for Lauren and/or Joseph. Those two really know how to sell this seasonal script).

And speaking of things that I hope you'll find entertaining (and continuing today's podcast-related theme), the second episode of "Marvel Us Disney" just went live on Bandcamp. This time around, Aaron Adams and I discussed "Thor Ragnarok," the latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe series. And given what a strong response the debut episode of "Marvel Us Disney" got from Disney Dish listeners, Aaron & I are hoping that this podcast will help us expand our turf a bit. Give us a broader array of topics to cover around here.

And speaking of covering things ... It's time for Nancy & I to head on over to the Orange County Convention Center so that we can then attend this year's Attraction Expo at IAAPA. And then - after that - it's time to see what that other resort down the street has in store for the holidays. I hear that things are about to get pretty Harry over at USF, at least when it comes to Christmas.

More details later. But - for now - on behalf of Len Testa, I'd like to thank everyone who came out for this past weekend's Disney Dish Podcast fan event. We all had such a great time meeting up all of you folks / getting the chance to hang out that we're already talking with the Storybook Destination team about some sort of follow-up event for next year. But look for details on that sometime in 2018, okay?

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