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    • Tom Bricker
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    Apr 2009
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    Thumbs up The Brickers' Holi-Disney Christmas Vacation 2010 Report (D23 Event, Reunion, etc!)

    Preface:

    Welcome to Christmas 2010 Walt Disney World Report! For those of you who have been following our Saga in our other reports, thank you for joining us once again! For those first time readers, thanks for opening this thread--we hope it doesn’t disappoint!

    Worth noting is that this report report is over 50 single spaced pages of text. I don't point this out because I want to warn you before you make the time commitment to read it, but because at this length, and given my schedule, much of the report was written very hastily. I hope that it’s somewhat coherent and not rife with grammatical errors, stylistic faults, misspelled words, or incorrect word choices (for example, in a previous report, I meant to type “cookie,” but I was distracted while typing and wrote “cutter”) but such may be the case.

    Also worth noting, since I receive many comments and private messages asking about this, is that Sarah’s dresses are mostly a brand called “BCBG.” There are other brands, too, but I can’t remember them--most are BCBG. She gets them from Sample Sales. These are discounted invite-only websites that sell nice clothing and products. They are all legitimate retailers of said products (not like some New York street corner selling knock-off Louis Vutton purses). We've saved a LOT of money buying through these sites rather than the mall. Here are our favorites ranked in descending order:
    #1 - Gilt Groupe/Gilt Man
    #2 - Rue La La
    #3 - HauteLook
    #4 - Ideeli (mostly women's stuff)
    #5 - Beyond the Rack

    Probably wouldn’t have received a ton of questions this time as you can’t see most of the dresses since she’s bundled up, but there’s the info, anyway.

    As this is a Christmas trip, I begin writing this with the goal to get it out prior to Christmas prior to 2011. Given how busy I’ll be between now and then with work (apparently it piles up when you take nearly two weeks off!), holiday shopping, and other responsibilities, I’m going to attempt to make it shorter than prior installations. It will likely have significantly fewer images, as I focus on writing now, and updating at future junctures with additional images and, possibly, more text. Despite the fact that we got far fewer images than us this trip than we normally do, this TR actually has far fewer of the artistic ones since those are more time consuming to edit.

    Alright, enough with the disclaimers, warnings, and other miscellaneous opening remarks. On with the show!

    ----

    The trip began in its typical manner, under chaotic circumstances. Packing the night before actually went better than usual, as we had accomplished some packing ahead of time. We got to bed relatively early the night before, around 10:30 pm. The next morning we were up bright and early, with Sarah’s dad taking us to the airport at 5:30 am. We took one set of bags down to the car and were planning on going back up for incidental items, to do a once over, and to lock up the fort. The previous trip down, I told Sarah that I would just leave the keys upstairs since my hands were full. Unfortunately, in our apartment building, once the door shuts, you have to use a sensor (on our keychain) to open the front door. Here we are, at 5:30 am in 20 degree weather, no coats, locked out of our apartment building. We had to go back upstairs as our unit’s door was open, plus Sarah’s ID was up there.

    The natural response to this situation is to buzz the call box of all adjacent tenants to see if they’ll let you in. Well, maybe this isn’t the natural response of everyone, as some of you may have more common courtesy than us, but it was 5:30 am, we were freezing, and fearful that we’d miss out flight to WDW. It was our natural reaction. Our neighbors either were undisturbed by the constant buzzing (in which case no harm, no foul), or chose to ignore (in which case I don’t feel too sorry for them). Not knowing what to do, we called the apartment’s emergency line. This line is reserved for situations such as gas and water leaks, but I felt missing a flight to WDW was fairly analogous, so we called and left a message. After more time passed, the gentleman who delivers the newspaper came by and let us in. But for him, I think we would have missed our flight. Add leaving our keys in the house to the list of things not to do before heading to WDW (add it to the list of things not to do whenever leaving home, for that matter).

    Other than this, the trip down was relatively uneventful. There was one somewhat minor issue, but that was relatively quickly resolved: I couldn’t decide whether to order 2 or 3 sausage McMuffins with egg from McDonald’s. I decided to order 2, then see if I wanted another. I ended up wanting another, but was too lazy to wait in line again. Lesson learned there!

    Sarah was selected for advanced screening in Indy, so she went through one of the WBI machines. I did a fair amount of research on WBIs, BDOs, SPOT, and the rest of the acronym soup involving advanced measures of airport security in law school, so I was sort of hoping to be selected for the screening to experience it first hand. (For those curious, my ultimate thesis was that whole body imaging was impractical due to its costs and inevitable ability of terrorists to circumvent it; I found advanced screening unobjectionable from a personal liberties perspective. Although I’m sure no one cares.)

    Once through screening, we headed to our gate, and boarded shortly thereafter. We slept most of the flight there to conserve our energy. What seemed like 15 minutes later, we touched down in Orlando, and headed towards the DME area. In previous trip reports, I’ve commented on our inability to find this area despite heading there so frequently, and more importantly, having maps indicating how to get there. This hadn’t been an issue for the last couple of trips, as we had found it right away without the maps, but this time, I decided to follow my instinct, and disregard the map--with Sarah all the while telling me I was leading us the wrong direction. As a proud male who both refuses to follow a map and is seldom wrong, I can only assume the airport had been reconfigured since our last trip, as we were in the wrong area.



    We re-traced our steps, headed to the other side of the airport, and boarded the DME shortly thereafter. Since we were staying at an All Star resort (Music) the first night of our trip, we were sandwiched in among Pop Warners parents and players. They must not have been too loud, as I was able to sleep. (I almost wish they had kept me awake, as I missed that DME video, which I love!)



    This would be the first of two admittedly “new” DME bus drivers we’d have on the trip; this particular one drove to All Star Music, before realizing he had forgotten to stop at All Star Sports, and turning around--without dropping off us guests staying at AS:Mu. Not wanting to deal with any more of his brilliant moves, Sarah and I got out at Sports and walked to Music. Given the crowd that came behind us to check-in, I’m fairly confident that I’m right.

    We met our friend, Nick, at the check in desk and then proceeded to our room to drop off some stuff before we headed immediately to the Magic Kingdom. I had opted to wear jeans and a long sleeve shirt that day given that we’d be in Indy part of the day, and that night was supposed to be cool, but I noticed that even during the day, I didn’t feel hot in that attire. Oh well, I thought, the next 11 days would be warmer.



    We engaged in so many unique experiences and I’ve written so many thoughts on specific attractions in previous trip reports in the past that to do so again would be superfluous. If there was anything out of the ordinary or specific to this trip of which I think, I’ll discuss it, but otherwise, assume we rode attractions each day in addition to what is discussed.

    First on the agenda was eating. We stopped at the best restaurant in the world, Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe. Actually, after two consecutive 10 plus day trips, I have to admit that Cosmic Ray’s has fallen a few rungs on my ladder. I just can’t eat that way for that way. My body is trained to be a lean, mean, killing machine, and Cosmic Ray’s food is more conducive to pudgy, groogy, waddling critters. Don’t get me wrong, the burger is still great, especially with a liberal assortment of toppings, it just isn’t something I can eat day in and day out.



    We hit a couple of attractions before seeing the WDW Today Reunion group across from Aloha Isle. I wasn’t quite sure how Nick would take to hanging around with a huge group of Disney nerds, so I quickly said hello to a couple of the guys we know before we headed off. Nick had to leave for work shortly thereafter, so I figured we’d meet up with them at that time.



    About 45 minutes later, that’s exactly what we did. This meet-up was at the Frontierland Shootin’ Gallery. Since we’re well aware that the Gallery costs additional money to play, we’ve typically avoided it. However, I must say that the targets look pretty cool. Had we any cash, we might have given it a whirl. I was a bit dismayed to learn that it didn’t keep score, though. What’s the point in a game that doesn’t keep score?!? I am not some 6 year old who needs to be coddled by over-protective parents and a society that says kids are scarred if they lose, I want the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.



    During our honeymoon, we met up with Henry Work, the developer for TouringPlans.com one evening. Shortly thereafter, I began writing for the TouringPlans.com Blog and working for TouringPlans.com on photo projects for the site. If you check out the mastheads at the top of each page, you might recognize some of the photos. With the exception of the Disneyland TouringPlans site and a couple other photos here and there, they’re mine.

    In addition to designing all of the Mastheads for the Disneyland and Walt Disney World TouringPlans.com pages, I’ve been creating galleries for each attraction (click link and scroll down for an example) meant to give users an idea of what to expect from the attraction--from the time you approach the exterior to the time you exit the queue. At first, this didn’t seem like much of an undertaking, I figured I had a lot of these photos already, and could just harvest my computer’s photos. Unfortunately, that was not the case, which meant that that this trip, I would be making an conscious effort to take more photos of the attractions. While the task proved a fun challenge, it also meant taking a lot more photos, and with the already large RAW size of the D7000’s images, I found myself filling up my external hard drive in a hurry. So quickly, that by the second day of the trip, I was already contemplating ordering a new one from Amazon.com, and using Prime to get it to me in a hurry. Being a bit of a gambler, I opted against this. As you’ll read later, this may have been a mistake.

    Anyway, at the gallery, we saw Henry (you’ll notice him in these photos as the one who is ridiculously tall) and he introduced us to Reilly, another TouringPlans.com staff member. After chatting briefly, I did some shooting--with my camera, before we headed on to the Haunted Mansion. The wait was something that seemed ridiculous to me (probably 20 minutes), but the entire group was doing it, so we thought, “what the heck.” It would turn out that a wait of 20 minutes would be pretty standard for the Haunted Mansion this trip. Odd, as I don’t think we’ve ever waited that long during the height of the summer season. I will explain my theory on this later.

    We split off from the group after Haunted Mansion as it looked like it would be a long wait before everyone else got off the attraction. While we like doing group things, we were concerned with getting as much done as possible before my parents joined us two days later, as we predicted the pace would slow down then.

    When we first started going to WDW together in 2006, it quickly became a tradition for us to go the Magic Kingdom the night we arrived, and start the evening by relaxing on the TTA. This tradition quickly died, as we started booking our flights earlier and earlier, and it wasn’t always advantageous to hit the MK on the first night. Not wanting to get away from our “roots” too far, we decided to do the TTA then, even if it was still daytime, and not our first attraction. As I’ve said before, the TTA is so much better at night. It’s nice during the day, but at night it’s next-level.



    As we approached the return-station on the TTA, we noticed the group heading into Tomorrowland. We watched them as we exited the ride, and they queued up for Buzz Lightyear Spaceranger Spin. It seemed like as good of a time as any to rejoin the group, so we did. Managed to do TTA while they had waited--not too shabby!









    We did more, both with the group and by ourselves, before meeting for the group dinner at Peco’s Bills at 6 pm. We had a room all to ourselves, which was pretty cool. Not so cool was that the only place to get the wristbands for the MVMCP was near Stitch’s Great Escape and the party was about to start right as we finished dinner! We had passed this location several times while wrist bands were being distributed earlier in the afternoon, putting it off because we’d “do it later somewhere else.” I swear there were multiple locations to get the bracelets in previous years.







    To mentally prepare myself for the party, way back in September I began assembling tracks from the Main Street loop that plays during MVMCP. Shout out to MagicMusic.net, which helped me immensely in this process: Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party - MSUSA BGM - Magic Music Forums[/URL] As the party started and we heard this music on Main Street, I think my heart skipped a beat. It’s one thing to have the loop quietly playing at my office on a Monday morning, it’s an entirely different feeling to hear it bellow from the Magic Kingdom speakers at the start of MVMCP on the first night of a trip. It was pure bliss. Seriously. As I thought there, I realized MVMCP was the key to world peace. Nobel Peace Prize committee, private message me for my address so you can mail my award to me.

    Knowing that we’d be attending two more MVMCPs during the trip, we didn’t strategize too much to make sure that we got everything done. We made a rough schedule that had us experiencing everything except the Celebrate the Season stage show and the character meet and greets. We figured my parents would want to experience these things, and by cutting them from this night, we had more time with the group.



    One thing we did commit ourselves to do was watch the fireworks during each party, and watch each running of the parade. The fireworks would be easily accomplished. After all, they’re fireworks...how can you possibly NOT endeavor to watch them?! However, 6 parades seemed like it may be more difficult. We loved the parades and all, but we didn’t know if it would happen.



    After watching the first parade that night, I was pretty sure it would happen. That parade is just so good. I know I am not alone in this sentiment--the toy soldiers are nearly worth the price of admission, alone! Add to them the gingerbread men (love the flat backs!), the reindeer, Chip & Dale having a snowball fight, and the music--it’s just such a great parade, through and through!





    Between the parade and the fireworks, we decided to visit the Diamond Horseshoe to see the Woody’s Roundup Dance Party. Sarah really gets a kick out of these things, plus it is indoors and it was cold outside, so I didn’t mind checking it out. Being inside there really makes me wish Disney would put that building to use again. It also makes me wonder how many buildings in the Magic Kingdom no longer are used like they once were. I can understand this more at EPCOT, where there probably isn’t as much demand for capacity as there was in the mid 1980s (I’m just guessing, but I think the addition of the Studios and Animal Kingdom have taken some of the “second park” burden away from EPCOT; I’ve seen photos of huge lines at EPCOT for SSE, JII, Horizons, and World of Motion back in the day, so I think this may be the case), but it’s unlikely the Magic Kingdom has any less need.







    My first big decision photography-wise occurred before the fireworks started. I had to decide whether I wanted to photograph from the train station, availing myself of the clear view (no flagpole) of them and endure the poor atmosphere (they leave the lights on up there and I *think* the music is quieter), or shoot from Main Street, have better atmosphere and full view of the perimeter bursts, but miss out on the once-a-year view from the train station. My mind was made up for me, as when we approached the train station to scope it out, it appeared to be pretty packed. Oh well, Main Street would be more than sufficient.



    The fireworks were awesome, as usual. I prefer this show to the Summer Nightastic fireworks, although I do think that the Summer Nightastic fireworks, particularly the storming the castle scene, engulf the crowd to a greater degree. My favorite parts of Holiday Wishes have to be the opening lines from Jiminy Cricket, the O Christmas Tree scene, and the smiley face & present bursts. Overall, it’s my favorite Magic Kingdom fireworks show. Then again, I am partial to Christmas.











    After the fireworks, we reconvened with the group, and rode Dumbo collectively. I wonder if our “flights” had the lowest percentage of kids ever on Dumbo at one time. Like is often said, we’re all kids at heart.













    As promised, we watched the parade once again, enjoying it just as much as the first time, before heading over to Tomorrowland. This was our first time attending MVMCP since the Tomorrowland theatre had been razed, so it was our first party not seeing Mickey’s Twas the Night Before Christmas. Obviously, it’s not the Disney way to replace a park classic with something inferior, so we expected the “Twas” replacement, A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas to be a spectacular show. Well...



    Well...I can’t say I totally hated A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas. Actually, it wasn’t as bad as I’ve heard some people say it is. It’s cute, and Stitch is not super annoying in it (actually, he’s cute and endearing), but it is no Twas. Not even close. This really tested the theory that Disney always replaces one offering with one of equal or greater quality. The definitive answer to this would come the next day when we saw the De Vine Christmas gospel group at EPCOT. Surely, they’d be better than the Lights of Winter, right? Right?!



    Although my strongest campaign platform for dictator of WDW is banishing Stitch to Animal Kingdom (since no one cares about that park, anyway), I guess I could make an exception to although him to stay in the Magic Kingdom in this show only. Oh, yes, I’m running for dictator of WDW. I realize dictator generally isn’t an elected position, but the vote will be more of an ex post facto thing to give my throne the appearance of legitimacy.







    At the conclusion of the party, we met up with Henry and Reilly again. Interestingly, as we left, two different managers asked if we were with ABC. We had no credentials displayed, although I did have nice camera gear. Both times I answered that we were not. Had I said yes, I wonder if they would have let me stay overnight in the park. You would really think one arm of the company (TDO) would really know what another arm (ABC) is doing in its park, but I guess it’s more efficient to just ask random people if they’re affiliated with the parade filming production. Makes sense, right? Anyway, we left the park, boarded the monorail to the TTC, and hitched a ride back to All Star Music from Henry and Reilly.


    A Mouse-Eye View of Main Street at Christmas by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr



    Our plan for the next day was to make it to the Betamouse podcast meet that started at 8:30. The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. We had to switch resorts to Shades of Green, which took some time so we didn’t end up making it there until the tail end of the meet. Still, it was fun to be around more Disney geeks. While the Disney geeks from the previous day were cool because they were hardcore like Sarah and I, it’s possible this group was even “cooler,” as they were not only hardcore about Disney, but also about technology. Yes, I realize I am playing fast and loose with the term cool, but we’re all here on a Disney forum, so I think we may have skewed versions of the word “cool” to begin with.

    We started the Betamouse meet at the Seas with Nemo, and met Cody, his wife, Lisa, and their three triplets for the first time. Cody is a long time friend from Flickr and a heck of a photographer. What I wouldn’t give for the photo ops those triplets would present (although I imagine with the fun comes responsibility, too!).

    After Nemo, we we arranged cell phones on the ground to spell “Beta” (fun fact: most attendees owned iPhones) before we headed to Captain EO. Back when Disney first announced that it was bringing EO back, I admit that I was not a fan of the decision. I think it is questionable, at best to cash in on the death of someone, and even more questionable to cash in on the death of a pedophile (for those who retort by saying he was never convicted...c’mon. You really think our legal system is that good? I suppose OJ is innocent, too...). Disney, a company that is supposed to be predicated upon family values, checked its morals at the door when it brought that attraction back. I realize other celebrities who have associations with Disney don’t always have squeaky clean pasts, but I think the combination of the offense in this case, along with the fact that Disney is cashing in on the death reaches a new low. On top of that, I thought it sent a bad message that old attractions would just be brought back, without any changes being made. Even if EO is more entertaining than HISTA, this is not “progress” in the sense of the term that Walt always advocated. Long story stort, I was steadfastly against the attraction being brought back.

    After EO had been back for a while, and I heard reports of people seeing it, I will admit that my desire to see it grew. I still maintain my feelings in opposition of it, and I suppose by seeing it I became a hypocrite, but I did desire to see it more and more. When we finally did see it, it was an interesting experience. The pre-show, well, that was something. The way the video starts out, silent cuts of empty locations, it’s almost as if they’re building suspense for something shocking to happen, or setting the stage for some macabre scene. But that’s not the case. Anyone know what I’m referencing? I’m really not sure why the video opens like that, but it’s certainly odd (fitting, I guess).



    The show itself was mildly amusing. The music is fun 80s tunes and the show registers a 10 on the ‘cheese-factor’ scale. (In fact, when I showed a video of it on YouTube to friends in college, they instantly said, “this would make an interesting drinking game.”) I got us in the door, whereas HISTA hasn’t accomplished that feat since 2006, so I guess that’s saying something. Still, something needs to be done to that pavilion.



    Even though it was early, we were hungry, and Sunshine Seasons beckoned. When we arrived, we noticed the menu had changed since June! The sandwiches were on new breads, and my favorite sandwich was no longer on foccacia, but instead, on some dry-looking bread. This was terrible news! I probably didn’t need my own sandwich, anyway, so Sarah and I split the chicken entree, which had also changed to include a side other than mashed potatoes, but we were luckily able to substitute for the potatoes. Phew.



    Somewhat “unfortunately,” I happened to acquire a new lens right before the trip. A new lens is ordinarily an event to be praised, but in this case, the new lens was another fisheye. I had been given grief by both Sarah and my mom regarding my overuse of the fisheye on our honeymoon, and just when the novelty was starting to wear off, I got a different one. I was never happy with the Tokina fisheye (I only bought it because I got a great deal) and I had been trying to find a cheap copy of the Sigma since with no luck. When I bought the D7000, a new option opened up to me: the Samyang/Pro-Optic/Bower/Rokinon 8mm MF Fisheye. I have no clue why this lens has so many aliases (it’s engaging in some sort of identity theft, I suspect), but it’s a gem.

    Back to my original point, the problem with having a new fisheye meant that I would again be taking more fisheye shots! I tried to hold back, but it just wasn’t possible. Ultimately, I decided that what I’m doing is a public service. I predict a day, around four years from now, when we will all evolve to have the vision of fishes. I’m not sure whether the scientific community would view this as a positive ‘evolution’, but I think it would be a good one. By taking photos of WDW in this manner now, I’m preparing us all for how the parks will look to us in the future. You’re all welcome.





    After that snack, we didn’t have much time before lunch at Wonders of Life started, so we just wandered around for a bit. This was the first of two hard ticket events we were able to attend that Mouse Fan Travel was putting on as a part of Reunion. The event was relatively reasonably priced (if I recall correctly, it was around $13) for the lunch we got. That said, I would have paid more than $13 for the experience alone.

    That is, the experience of having an empty Wonders of Life pavilion to photograph as we lingered behind after everyone else had gone upstairs. I know the pavilion is open during F&WF and other events, but I’ve never seen it empty. These photo ops I got where priceless, in my opinion. Granted, they’re not all the greatest shots, ever, but I think they’re cool. I don’t think I could afford to pay ~$13 for all of the priceless photo ops that might exist at WDW, so I’m glad that they aren’t all priced like this!





    Removing the photo op from the price of the event (as I don’t think it was included in the price, anyway), the event was well worth the money. We got to go up to the old Met Life (they sponsored WoL, right?) lounge, had a delicious lunch, and were entertained by the WDW Today personalities. Hearing about Len’s antics towards the other participants on the scavenger hunt made me wish that we would have participated on the TouringPlans team. Unfortunately, neither Sarah nor I knew it would be so fun, when we first heard about it, we didn’t want to take away from our time together that morning. Hopefully the scavenger hunt is held again next year, as it sounded awesome!



    Unfortunately, Team TouringPlans did not win the scavenger hunt, but we did come in second place (although, they say second place is the first loser). Somehow, Team Studios Central managed to pull off the win. Given that two large components of the hunt related to photography and Carousel of Progress (a show Sarah and I watch at least--no joke--4 times per trip), I really wish I would’ve participated.





    When the formal portion of the event concluded, we again lingered to get some more photos of the pavilion before heading out. We then headed to the United Kingdom with Len and Henry to scope out locations for the TouringPlans meet later in the night.

    The next event was a group ride on SpaceShip Earth on which we would all select Skagway, Alaska as our home city. Prior to this, Sarah took some photos of the entire Reunion group, and some individual/group shots of the TouringPlans bloggers and staff.









    For the Skagway meet, once again, our group seemed to totally engulf the queue. I’m sure others wondered what the heck was up with all of the crazed Disney fans who knew one another. Once we boarded our time machine, we noticed we could not select Skagway, Alaska as our home city. Not sure if it was just Sarah and I who were barred from being Skagway citizens, or if the option had been removed, I never did ask anyone else. Not wanting to be confused for communists, we ended up selecting a city in eastern Alaska.

    We spent the rest of the afternoon meandering around World Showcase before the TouringPlans fish and chips meet started. If you attempted to purchase fish and chips from the UK (World Showcase, not the actual country) on December 3rd, I apologize. I think we made the line ridiculously long. In all fairness, though, who gets in a line for food that is already about 30 people deep? (Although my guess is that first time visitors see such a long line and think, “dang, this must be AWESOME, let’s line up!” Gotta love that herd mentality!) I don’t know why the line became so long, Disney knew in advance that we would be consuming copious amounts of fried fish that evening.

    Overall, the event was really fun. We chatted with a lot of people, and near the end, saw Cody and Lisa again. Sarah, I believe, has a syndrome common in the female of the species known as “baby fever.” The symptoms, as best I can tell, are saying “awww” when confronted with babies, and wanting to touch said creatures. Babies of the human species tend to take an interest in Sarah, as her long hair is somehow mesmerizing to them. By contrast, they tend to cry when I hold them. These triplets kept taking off their shoes and dropping them on the ground, and Sarah would respond by putting the shoes back on. I told Sarah it would teach them a good lesson if we took the shoes and kept them. She was not amused. Apparently I’m the only one who thinks babies need tough love.



    The event was winding down and we thought it would be fun to take a unique photo of Cody, Lisa, and the triplets, so we headed towards SSE. Oddly, a lot of people randomly touched the kids or commented upon them. I don’t think I could ever have triplets. Not because I wouldn’t want to deal with the triplets, but because I wouldn’t want to deal with all of the random small talk with people commenting upon the triplets. The triplets themselves were fun. Photographing them in a sense of chaos was easy--I think it turned out well.

    Following this, we did Living with the Land with Cody and co., before heading to watch Illuminations. Sarah doesn’t really care about Illuminations all that much, so the location from which we watch is usually up to me. I debated between a location that would allow for unique photos and one that would allow for viewing the show fully.



    By the time we arrived at World Showcase Lagoon, all that was left were obstructed views. Of those, the view from the shot below was by far the best, and was actually a great compromise between cool foreground and watching the show.

    Plus, I view Walter Cronkite as an American legend and hero, and seeing and--more importantly, actually--hearing this show with his narration as many times as possible this trip was pretty important to me. I took away keepers each of the three times we saw it (I'll give credit to Mr. Cronkite for that!), which is new for me. I know Mr. Cronkite won't be narrating this tag forever, so I only hope I can enjoy it as many times as possible while his narration is used.


    Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr

    With Illuminations over, we had the rest of EMH to enjoy various attractions. We both were pretty tired, so a nap in EO was in order. We also hit the other Future World attractions, accomplishing several of them and thus compensating for a morning and afternoon that were fairly devoid of attractions. We also managed to get some photos of ourselves, something we neglected to do the previous day due to the cold weather. It wasn’t much warmer this evening, but we figured we better get the shots anyway.











    Unforunately, by the time we left EPCOT, the Shades of Green bus had stopped running from the TTC. This meant walking from the Polynesian. Not exactly the most thrilling thing to do in the coldest hours of the night. However, we did see some dude getting cuffed and a swarm of cop cars around the front lobby of the Poly. We never did find what he did, but I’m going to assume it was cyber terrorism--that only makes sense. When we returned to Shades of Green, we got our luggage and headed to our room and inadvertently woke my parents.





    The next day we headed for the Studios. First up on the agenda, thanks to long wait times everywhere else and no FastPasses at TSM, was the Backlot Tour. This was actually the first time I had seen the BLT since Lights, Motors, Action had been added to the park. I don’t need to beat a dead horse with this one...the BLT is a huge disappointment now, and everyone knows it. It was neat seeing Sarah experience Catastrophe Canyon for the first time. I also got a couple cool photos, so I guess not all was lost.





    The rest of the morning and afternoon at DHS was pretty standard, with lunch at Pizza Planet (they got rid of the ranch dressing!). We got FPs for the headliners and hit most of our favorites. At one point, I wandered away from everyone else while taking pictures.















    Sarah called me to tell me that they were heading to Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, and when I pulled my iPhone from my pocket, the thing ended on the concrete. For some idiotic reason, I don’t use a case, so the end result was a severely cracked screen. For a few minutes, it also said “no SIM card,” so I really thought I was screwed. Luckily, that message went away by the end of Indy.











    Possibly to take my mind off the phone, more probably because she’s just crazy like that, my mom enthusiastically tried to get selected to participate in the show, and was selected. Her performance was humorous, and it gave some new “life” to a show that we’ve seen many, many times. It amazes me that this show remains fresh (I think so, at least), while a show less than half its age, LMA, needs to go. LMA is just so poorly paced and outstays its welcome.












    At 6:45 pm, it was time for us to break off from my parents and do another Reunion event put on by Mouse Fan Travel. I felt a little bad about this, as I know they would have enjoyed it, but Sarah and I got the last two tickets for the event, and two additional tickets never became available. My parents ended up getting to see the Osborne Lights and riding TSM to end the night, though, so I think they had fun, too.



    The event began with all of us meeting near Rock ‘N’ Rollercoaster. The Mouse Fan people repeatedly warned us to have our cameras put away when we went backstage, a warning we heeded. After all, I figured there was little point in taking photos of utility vehicles or whatever else was backstage. I did not anticipate what I ended up seeing, which was...Walt’s cryogenically frozen body!!! It was just sitting there, on the lot! Okay, not really, but with all the warnings, I expected something like that. What I actually saw was all of Tower of Terror from the backside. It was really cool, and I wish I could have photographed it. Stupid rules.

    Once our walking concluded, we arrived at the dessert party (I didn’t mention it above, but this event was called “Desserts and Delights”). I assumed, for some reason, the dessert party would be held in some random building. Much to my delight, it was held in a prime viewing area of Fantasmic! This was especially exciting for me, as I had already conceded to Sarah that we wouldn’t attend Fantasmic this trip (she’s not a fan of the WDW version).





    I was able to enjoy some wonderful desserts AND photograph Fantasmic with the 70-200 f/2.8 and (more importantly) an unobstructed viewed. The event was already worth its $28 price tag. Yet, it was not over. After that, we were led backstage again to an area that looked like it was near Pixar Place.

    When we emerged back on stage, we saw people in front of us begin to head into TSM. The whole line of people began cheering. I swear, this ride is like the elusive Christmas toy (maybe it shares blood lines with Tickle Me Elmo?). It normally takes “work” to be able to ride it; walking on is like finding the Tickle Me Elmo just randomly sitting on a store shelf...back in 2000, when it was hard to find. You get the idea.

    We had been talking to Reilly the entire time we walked from backstage, and thought we were becoming friends. However, Reilly thought differently, cutting us at the last minute when he couldn’t enter the appropriate ride vehicle out of his load gate. Oh well, he’s from California.

    For those curious, I beat Sarah. That was like icing on the cake, but in this case, the cake hadn’t even arrived yet! The “cake,” as it were, was experiencing the Osborne Lights with just our group. So much had already occurred without even getting to that point yet.

    Finally, we arrived at the lights and set up to take a group photo. As the photographer counted backwards, hitting “1,” all of the lights turned on. We erupted in cheers. We didn’t have a whole lot of time at the lights, but we availed ourselves of the opportunity for some “clean” shots. We could always enjoy the lights a later night--now was the chance for photos! The event didn’t last that long, but given the electricity being eaten, I’m not too surprised by that. Overall, it was an amazing experience. Definitely something I would do again!


    !SAMTSIRHC YRREM by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr

    After this event, Henry mentioned that some of them were heading out. While Sarah and I had been to the Adventure’s Club several times, we typically didn’t go out while at WDW because that’s lost time in the parks. We had just heard that the Magic Kingdom’s hours were extended until 1 a.m., which meant if we headed there right then, we’d have nearly 2 hours in the park. That said, it was really cold this particular evening, and we had plenty of nights ahead of us, so we thought what the heck. The first stop of the evening was Kimonos, a karaoke bar in the Swan. This was my first time at a karaoke bar, and it was pretty fun listening to all of the ridiculous renditions of songs. Even better was this one upper-middle aged man who kept singing various songs for the clear purpose of impressing a lady near the stage. For his own sake, I really hope he was drunk; if not, his ability to pick up on social cues and ‘play it cool’ were both sorely lacking. Either way, though, it entertained me. We closed up shop with Reilly performing a stirring rendition of some song by the Backstreet Boys before leaving.

    Atlantic Dance Hall was still opened, so we figured, why not, and headed there. If ever evidence of how not to run a successful club, the Dance Hall was it. Sadly, it reminded me of another club at Pleasure Island (can’t remember which one--we only were there for like 10 minutes before leaving due to it being so lame) prior to the island’s closing. If all Disney clubs managed to be this lame, it’s no wonder they closed Pleasure Island! Despite the Dance Hall itself being an audio and visual mess, there were enough of us there to make it fun. Plus, the people there who genuinely liked the Dance Hall (I would imagine it takes a certain awkward type) made the evening really amusing. When closing time came, everyone was immediately forced to leave. I’ve never seen anything quite like that, but perhaps it was Disney’s way of sparing us from having to endure that train wreck for even a few seconds longer.

    It ended up being one of the most fun nights of the trip. Letting loose, so to speak, with other individuals down there for Reunion was a great time, and talking shop about all things Disney was great. Discussing the future of California Adventure or the viability of a River Country DVC is probably a more typical bar conversation, but as Disney geeks, I think we all had a good time.

    Staying out so late did have its consequences, specifically having to roll out of bed the next morning to go to Animal Kingdom. You don’t have to be much of a trooper to get out of bed and go to a Disney park (trust me, I rolled out of bed and went to work today--it was much worse), so it wasn’t really that bad.

    I’ve said it in the past, I’m sure I’ll say it again: Animal Kingdom is the weakest of the Disney parks. I feel I should say this again now that I’ve spent some time at California Adventure. DAK has so much promise, and executes what it does execute so well, that this really is a disappointment. It does the details so well (except Dinorama!), it is incredibly well themed, but it is incredibly lacking on substantive comment. I recently read from some posts on another board regarding this from a highly regarded consultant to Imagineering, and his explanation was that DAK is not a theme park in the traditional sense. Its theme does not include rides to such a degree, its about the natural experience. That left me scratching my head. I don’t know how a theme park could not be about the attractions. If you remove those from the equation, you have a “park,” and at that point, DAK is merely a compromise between the zoo and a National Park. Granted, if it’s a zoo, it’s an exceptional zoo, but it’s not much of a National Park. It should have rides/attractions. The only difference between it and the other parks, is that its attractions should be themed around the Animal Kingdom, whereas the other parks’ attractions should fit their theme. You can certainly have a ride that pertains to animals or mythical creatures without using real animals. Boom, theme satisfied.











    That said, this was our best day in the Animal Kingdom, ever. For the first time, it wasn’t ridiculously hot (it was cold, though!), it did not rain, and all of the attractions were operational (as opposed to during evening EMH when around ¼ are running). We hit the attractions efficiently, and only missed Finding Nemo: the Musical (of the things we wanted to do). We got plenty of character photos (we always seem to get the most character photos at DAK!), and enjoyed wonderful sandwiches at Pizzafari. We had such an enjoyable half day that we considered going back another morning later in the trip to do Flights of Wonder and Nemo.











    As always, we got our best character photos of the trip at DAK. For as much as I complain about this park, it does constantly deliver good character photo opportunities for us. Perhaps this is because it is substantively lacking elsewhere, so this entertainment is necessary.















    We actually only left DAK prior to it closing because we had early dinner ADRs at Jiko. Since we weren’t on the DDP, this was to be the big meal of the trip. We went with our friend Nick, who is a Cast Member at Jiko.

    Wow, what an experience. We truly got the royal treatment. The hostess seated us in a large booth (my preference as it is more intimate and apart from other diners) in what I believe Nick called the “sun room” (the colors on the wall change). He informed us of some celebrities who had recently dined at Jiko, including everyone’s favorite, Samantha Brown!

    Shortly after we ordered drinks, our server brought out soup compliments of the chef. I don’t remember its name, but it was delicious! As we ordered, I debated getting an appetizer. I was a little reluctant to do so, as my meal was already going to be expensive, and I didn’t think anyone else was ordering one. At the last minute, I decided to do it, realizing we probably wouldn’t be back to Jiko for a while.





    I wanted to get something more adventurous, as we were at a unique dining location and I didn’t just want to opt for the “American tourist picks,” but I think I ended up doing just that. I got the barbeque flatbread as an appetizer and the filet with mac ‘n’ cheese (which apparently no longer comes with mac ‘n’ cheese, but the server said they could do it anyway) for my entree. Our server recommended both, so I didn’t feel so bad about not being adventurous.







    Sarah didn’t make as good of picks, opting for some selections of bread as her appetizer (oh yeah, once I became the appetizer “trend setter,” everyone else also got one) and lamb for her entree. I thought her lamb was good, but once she tasted my filet, it paled in comparison. I was shocked that the filet was so good. No wonder Jiko is the highest rated signature restaurant on property.

    Nick told us that the candy-cane cheesecake was pretty popular, but he failed to mention that it was candy-cane AND eggnog cheesecake. Sarah and I split an order of it anyway. It was okay, tasting exactly like I imagined a melding of candy-cane and eggnog would. Interesting combination.





    When it came time to pay, we again got the royal treatment. Two different managers had paid for our appetizer and desserts! For the five of us, it was about as much to eat there as it ended up being for the four of us to eat at Via Napoli! Overall, an excellent, excellent meal. I would rate it higher than California Grill (although not in ambiance), but lower than Victoria & Albert’s, giving it a respectable second place out of all dining establishments!

    After that, we waddled our way to the Studios. Nick had to stop at home first, so I asked him to bring me a jacket or sweatshirt. It turned out that jeans and a polo would not be warm enough to 40 degree weather. While we waited for him, we hit Voyage of the Little Mermaid with my parents.

    They didn’t have much energy left (like typical 40/50-somethings, they get up at like 4 am and go to bed at 7 pm), so they went back to Shades of Green after this. Nick arrived with the savior--I mean sweater--and we headed to the Osborne Lights. There, we encountered a bunch of people I know from Flickr (Joe, Cory, etc.) who were participating in a WDWPhotography.com meet. I chatted with them for a bit while Sarah and Nick wandered around the Streets of America. This is really the only time I chatted with these guys, as we only attended one of the WDWPhotography events, and that was a lecture/presentation. I wish I could have spent more time with them, but it was a family trip, first and foremost.







    I then found Nick and Sarah, and as we wandered some more, a sweatshirt at Youse Guys Moichendise caught my attention. Knowing that it would be cold for pretty much the duration of the trip, and not wanting to wear Nick’s sweatshirt everyday, I bought it. It will likely go down in history as the best $24 I ever spent.









    We spent the rest of the night doing attraction and taking pictures before calling it a night. We again had to walk from the Poly (we would every night except the last night at Shades of Green, so assume this from here out), which was even less fun than the previous night, as no one was arrested this time.

    The next day we started out at Magic Kingdom. I think my parents sensed that they’d be getting up much earlier than us, so this day they headed out before us, and we met them at the park. The crowds were much heavier than I expected, with swarms of young cheerleaders with some sort of central nervous conditions. Well, I assume they had conditions, because many of them were scantily clad despite ridiculously cold temperatures. I can only assume they did not have sensation of cold.

    One of the big misconceptions about having a wheelchair is that you get special or fast access to the attractions. Maybe this was true in the past, but it’s certainly not the case now. In fact, having a wheelchair is a huge hindrance, I think. We had to wait for CMs at the Haunted Mansion to “appear” (which could take a while), we had to go down a special ramp in IASW, which definitely took longer, and many other attractions had the same setup. At no point did we ever get “instant front of line” access. I’m quite glad this was the case, because now I don’t think this is one of the motivations for some people to get those damned scooters. The wheelchair became such a hassle that we frequently ditched it near the stroller areas, and had my dad walk to the attractions. This wasn’t a huge issue for us, as he can walk (he just couldn’t do it all day), but I could imagine it being an issue for people who have more severe mobility issues.





    After spending the morning and afternoon at the Magic Kingdom, we headed to EPCOT, where the WDWPhotography event that we’d be attending was being held. My parents again did their own thing from this point until the end of the night. This event was put together at the last minute, but it was the one I wanted to attend most. It was a presentation from three photographers who all used to work in the department now known as Yellow Shoes, as creative photographers for Disney. These are not your garden variety PhotoPass CMs. When they were CMs, Disney probably had 5-10 photographers of their calibre on staff. These are the guys who produced photos for the souvenir books, the calendars, the ads, etc., that you could purchase/view during the late 80s and early 90s. They all still do work for the company as freelance photographers. Hearing them talk about their experiences with Disney was amazing. Inarticulable. If I had the opportunity to do what they do, I’d drop this “law” gig in an instant.

    Their presentation lasted two hours, and each moment of it had me on the edge of my seat. It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. As we left Segway Central (where the event was held) and Innoventions in general, we found we were locked in the building! After much searching, we finally asked a Mousekeeping CM how to get out. He simply pulled the automatic doors a tad, and they opened. We probably should have figured that out on our own, instead of just walking towards them like chumps and expecting something to happen.

    We actually had so much fun the night of Kimonos that when Henry sent me a message saying that he and UK Tom were going to be hanging out at the Polynesian that evening--an evening that was already shaping up to be the coldest of the trip--we opted against heading over to the Magic Kingdom after Epcot. This was a tough decision, as it meant missing one of two opportunities on the trip to see the Main Street Electrical Parade. The allure of the Polynesian is strong, though, so we decided to take the warmth of the tropics over playing in the Magic Kingdom. Like Kimonos, it would amount to being a nice change of pace.







    The next day again came early, as this waking up this morning had a “deadline” since we had to be up for breakfast at Kona Cafe. We arrived at the Poly, and yep, it looked pretty much how we had left it a few hours prior, only this time, with a lot more people. We saw Cody and co again; if they weren’t already eating when we got there, I would have thought they were stalking us.









    Breakfast was delicious. We finally had the Tonga Toast, which fully lived up to our expectations. The only unfortunate part, and I’m not sure whether this is because we were starting to come down with colds or because of something to do with the breakfast, but Sarah, my mom, and I all felt sick after breakfast. Since the breakfast tasted so good, I’m going to place the blame elsewhere, but it still has me nervous about our next breakfast at Kona.







    This day was disappointingly unproductive, much like the previous day, which was a common theme of the trip. While it is fun to enjoy the parks and take in your surroundings, when you visit once or twice a year, experiencing attractions multiple times is top priority, for us at least. I often hear people say they spent the entire day at the park without doing a single attraction. That isn’t our style of doing things. Enjoying the atmosphere is fine--for a while--but after too long it becomes frustrating.







    While fun, this bordered on one of those days. Since we didn’t arrive at EPCOT following breakfast until almost noon, had dinner ADRs at Via Napoli, and because the park closed early, it was a short day. Part of this was our choice--if we wanted a longer day we shouldn’t have had two table service meals, but part of this was a constraint brought upon by the shortened park hours. A 9:30 pm closing for the park that’s open LATEST that day?! That’s absurd!









    Between the two meals, we managed to experience four attractions. Granted, one of these was Universe of Energy, but still, not nearly as much accomplished as we would have liked. We did wander around World Showcase, too, and watched some of the Santas perform, so I suppose we could count each of those as an “attraction,” too.







    Shortly before our Via Napoli ADR, we headed over to Italy. Via Napoli was packed! Most of the people, it appeared, were walkups being turned away after pleading for availability for a few minutes. If there is no availability for a given restaurant, I wish Disney would put out a sign, or have a separate check-in for guests with ADRs. We waited in line for roughly 10 minutes to check-in, and I believe only one other party checked-in before us in the line.



    After checking in, we waited for about 15 minutes to be seated. Crowds and waits like these make me wonder why Disney doesn’t keep building more restaurants. I think as long as the DDP exists, Disney can keep building restaurants in all of the parks and have them constantly booked. With how popular the EPCOT restaurants are, I’m shocked MK doesn’t have more table service restaurants.

    I had read some pretty positive reviews of Via Napoli prior to the trip, so I was fairly excited about the meal. However, I think with any new Disney restaurant, there is a bit of “inflation” that occurs in the Disney fan community. People so want the restaurant to be the next Le Cellier that, psychologically, it seems better than it actually is (as Mulder from the X-Files would say, “I WANT to believe.”). I’m not saying Via Napoli wasn’t good--it was very good--it just didn’t match the hype I had read about the place. Given the price, I would not place it in the “must do” realm. Still, it was very good, and well worth a visit.







    Dinner lasted longer than we anticipated, and afterward, it was almost time for Illuminations. It was incredibly cold that evening, probably the coldest night of the trip, and already getting late, so my parents left. By the time Illuminations started, the park was dead. The second floor of the department store in Japan, which is one of the toughest viewing locations to secure, was empty 10 minutes before Illuminations. Another prime viewing area, in front of America, had very few people. While part of me wanted to photograph the fireworks from Japan, I think that location has been so overdone that I just went for a “classic” location. It had been a while since I’ve had any success shooting Illuminations from a classic location that I figured I was due to add some shots like this to my library. After Illuminations, we took some photos before heading home. Another night of walking from the Poly, another night in bed before midnight.








    EPCOT Center - White Christmas by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr

    On Wednesday, we again started out at the Magic Kingdom. Even though we were getting to bed early, we were both fully sick by this point, and the constant walking during the day plus that sickness was taking its toll, and causing us to require more sleep. Consequently, we weren’t up as early as I would have liked, instead arriving at the park between 10:30 and 11 am most mornings, right with the rest of the masses.









    While Sarah and my parents waited in line at the Bakery to get breakfast, I did some shooting. The line, as usual, was ridiculously long. Why there aren’t more breakfast options in the parks is beyond me. We usually eat breakfast in our room, but some mornings the allure of those delicious ham, egg, and cheese sandwiches is too much. Unfortunately, it comes at a huge cost: $6, ~13,000 calories (okay, maybe that’s an over-estimate), and 30 minutes of time waiting in line. Doesn’t Disney realize people eat breakfast?




    These guys looked like a foreign boy band. No clue who they are, but I thought I’d post this for everyone who likes this sort of thing.







    We did a few things this day before our lunch reservations at the Plaza. This was our first time eating at the Plaza. I remember back in 2007, I read some rather negative reviews of the Plaza and Tony’s. This year, I read and heard a lot of positive things about the Plaza (and a few positive things about Tony’s, but mostly still negative). It was cheap, so I figured what the heck and made ADRs for a few days. I figured if we liked it, it was worth doing a few times, as it was only slightly more expensive than counter service.



    Suffice to say, we only ate there once. All of us found it to be exactly in line with counter service food. I got the Plaza Club and Sarah got the burger. A lot of things on the menu sounded good, so we got these items based on volume of Twitter responses (yeah, we really can’t think for ourselves, I guess). Sarah asked the waitress if the burger was comparable to Beaches and Cream. The waitress didn’t know, but she said it was a “real” burger as opposed to the burgers at Pecos Bill’s or Cosmic Ray’s. I knew it! Bill and Ray were serving imposter burgers! I had to alert the authorities at once!


    Last edited by NeverNeverland; 01-05-2011 at 03:17 PM. Reason: Link to non partner site and affiliate links removed per board policy

  2. #2

    • Tom Bricker
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    Re: The Brickers' Holi-Disney Christmas Vacation 2010 Report (D23 Event, Reunion, etc

    Joking aside, I had no clue what she meant by a “real” burger. In any case, Sarah’s burger tasted no different than a burger at Cosmic Ray’s, and was certainly not comparable to Beaches and Cream. My Club was decent, but lacking. It seemed like it had about half the things listed in the menu’s description of it. Definitely not somewhere I’d go out my way to dine at again. My expectations for Disney restaurants aren’t that high, and this was one of the few restaurants I’d consider to be a dud. Hopefully the Magic Kingdom steps up the dining when the Fantasyland Expansion is finished.



    We spent the rest of the afternoon doing attractions. Of note we did Hall of Presidents, PhilharMagic, and Carousel of Progress. During each of these shows, someone tall sat right in front of me. Without fail. I can understand this during PhilharMagic, as it plays to a packed house every show, but the other ones must have been bad luck. Part of my platform if I were dictator of WDW would be that no one over 6’ could sit in the front 75% of the theatre at any show. I meant it when I said I’d make a great dictator of WDW!





    Then came our big decision. We had yet to see the Main Street Electrical Parade or Wishes, and this would be our last opportunity of the trip. However, if we stayed for Wishes, we risked not being able to get to EPCOT in time for Illuminations. To beat the crowds heading to the TTC after Wishes, we decided we’d compromise, and watch Wishes from the TTC. However, to do this, we couldn’t watch the entire MSEP, either, as it started at 7, Wishes started at 8, and there probably would be a decent line for the monorail already amassed by 7:30, the earliest we’d likely get out of the MK. We compromised, watching a little of the MSEP before bolting for the TTC. Even with leaving early, we still had to wait for a while at the monorail station. I can only imagine the line after MSEP or Wishes.

    We got to the TTC about 5 minutes before Wishes started, and I found a spot from which to photograph. Not realizing what the gates right in front of the location where I set up did (I’ll admit, I had some of that “herd mentality” as I merely set up where I saw other people waiting to watch the fireworks), I poised myself for the show. About 1 minute into it, I saw a mass of people heading towards me. I was set up right on the other side of an exit gate for the Magic Kingdom Ferry! Luckily, there were several gates and no one attempted to come through the one where I was, but I still had to brace the gate so the vibration from the other gates didn’t slap the gate near me open and into my tripod. I also had to growl at anyone who came within 15 feet of the gate. I’m sure some people wondered what was going on with that. Live and learn, I guess.



    The line for the EPCOT monorail wasn’t so bad. I guess not many people want to go to a park for its last hour of operation. We got there fairly quickly, and headed through bag check in no time. I had dreams of the park being as empty as it was the previous night, but unfortunately, 10 degrees made a huge difference, and the place was packed. There were no empty spots along the rail lining the lagoon--at least decent empty spots--so we decided to take a risk, and head up to a new location. I managed to get my tripod elevated quite high in this location, and ended up with some decent shots, I think.



    After the fireworks, we spent some time taking some photos. It was warmer--still incredibly cold, but it’s all relative--so we decided we had better get some shots of us. We were lacking on shots of us (if we had a quota, we’d be failing to meet it, for certain), so we took some time to take some of these. As we began walking towards the exit, Sarah spotted an abandoned ECV. She was so tired that she checked the vehicle to see if it could be driven. I thanked my lucky stars that it could not, as the last thing I wanted was to be banned from WDW for unauthorized ECV use. How ironic would that be?













    By foot, we dragged ourselves towards the exit. Our colds were really catching up with us, even if we didn’t want to let them. This particular evening we stopped off for a little break at the Polynesian on our way home. Every night for the remainder of the trip, we ended up doing this to warm up a little. We were at the Polynesian so much this trip that it’s almost like we stayed there. In fact, we easily spent more time in the lobby and restaurants of the Polynesian than we did at Shades of Green. If you take out the time we spent sleeping and getting ready in the morning, we were at the Polynesian more overall!

    When we arrived back at Shades of Green, Sarah and I stopped to relax on these giant plush bears in the lobby. These things were gianormous, comfortable, and just all around awesome. The whole Shades of Green lobby was pretty awesome, actually. By far the coolest aspect of the resort. It had the look of a scaled back Wilderness Lodge that really fit the Christmas season well. The coolest part of all was that, among the games, books, and magazines Shades of Green had in the lobby for guests to enjoy were copies of the Color Companion to the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, a book for which I’m a photographer. I jokingly asked Sarah if I should autograph the books. She responded with a resounding yes, but I didn’t know how I’d explain that one if someone saw me signing them, so I decided against it.





    We wanted to recover a bit before the big weekend, so Sarah and I decided to sleep in a bit on Thursday. This worked out nicely because my mom is a shopping fiend, and wanted to spend time at Downtown Disney, and we had no desire to go there. We thus decided that we would meet them for lunch at Whispering Canyon, and do our own thing in the morning.

    Unfortunately, when we made the ADR for Whispering Canyon, we were feeling well (it was, after all, made around 2 months before the trip) and expected to be heading to EPCOT that morning before doing a late lunch. Since we weren’t sleeping in for that long of a time period, I decided to pull up Disney Dining on my phone (kudos on the nice mobile interface, Disney) and got an earlier ADR. I figured my mom would be pleased to hear this, but she was actually a little dismayed, as it would give her “only” a little over an hour to shop at DtD.

    Sarah often gives me grief about buying too many things (rightfully so - I have more crap and clothing than I care to disclose), but it’s safe to say I’m nowhere near as bad as my mom. She loves to shop. Whether it be pins, keychains, sweatshirts, blankets, hats--you name it, she probably bought it. My dad, on the other hand, can’t stand shopping. While we were in stores during the trip, he would just park his wheel chair in an area of sun bundle up under a blanket, and take a nap. I can only imagine what people thought as they passed by. He looked like someone just abandoned him; always in random locations, always asleep in his chair.

    In any case, the early ADR for Whispering Canyon made a lot more sense to me. One thing I hadn’t thought through, however, was transportation. We gave ourselves plenty of time to get to the Wilderness Lodge--or so we thought--but it turned out that buses didn’t go from the TTA to Wilderness Lodge, which threw a wrench in our plans. The really disappointing thing was that Sarah and I actually got off a bus headed for the Studios, from which you obviously can catch a bus to Wilderness Lodge, and onto a bus that was headed towards the TTA because the TTA was closer to Shades of Green (and Wilderness Lodge) than DHS, so I figured it would be quicker to go that route. Once at the TTA, we caught the monorail and then caught a boat for Wilderness Lodge. We were late, but it was no big deal, as my parents beat us there and had checked in. Even after checking in, we still had to wait.







    I had a little time to do some shooting, so I went upstairs. Near a fireplace that was tucked away where I was shooting, there was an elderly couple sleeping on separate chairs. I quietly went about my business (thank you, D7000's quiet shutter mode!), taking a few shots without waking them. It was too dark up there to shoot sans tripod, so I was using that. Then, I got the bright idea that a photograph of them might be 'cute' (although I don't find old people attractive, this term is often used for them, and I don't have a better term, so...). I grappled with the idea for a bit, thinking it was highly invasive, but also, that it would make for one cool shot. Ultimately, my mind was made up for me, as my phone vibrated--our table was ready and I didn't have time for the shot (which would require a different lens).

    Normally, I might consider getting the shot anyway and just making everyone wait (kidding!), but I was really hungry, so I quickly headed down to Whispering Canyon. I had heard there are a number of things you can do to get the staff to mess with you, but I wanted our experience to be more “natural” so I didn’t memorize a list or anything like that. The only thing, specifically, I could even remember was asking for ketchup. I hoped our experience would be cool even if we didn’t know any of the “prompts.”



    It certainly was, and I’m glad we just let things happen as they may. Our waitress, who seemed disappointed by serving us (in a good, hilarious way), started by throwing a handful of straws at our table. On top of that, she told us that the tap water was from the pond, and made a few other witty remarks. The highlight of the meal, though, was her bringing a gigantic cup of Coke for me after I rather quickly finished my first glass. (I typically drink my table service Coke quickly in WDW to get as much caffeine as possible so that I don’t have to buy more later--yes, I’m cheap.)



    My mom and I ended up ordering the Canyon Skillets, while Sarah got some sort of chicken or turkey sandwich. She was going to get the skillet, too, but when she asked the server for a recommendation as between the sandwich and the skillet, the server said to get the sandwich, as we had already ordered the skillet and Sarah could just try food from our skillets. I was surprised that she would suggest this, but it was nonetheless nice of her.

    The skillets were excellent and very filling. Given my cold, I wasn’t exactly eating as much as I normally would, so I probably didn’t get exceptional value out of the skillet, but it was still a great meal. The mashed potatoes were a standout, as were the ribs and the pork sausage. Really, it was all good. Writing about it now is actually making me hungry for it!

    While my mom waited for the bill, I went to the lobby to take some more pictures before we left. I figured I would be time-pressured, so I wanted to get a good head start. I didn’t realize my mom had shopping to do after paying, or I probably wouldn’t have left the table early. We ended up staying at Wilderness Lodge far longer than I anticipated.




    Lazy Holidaze at the Wilderness Lodge by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr

    Following lunch, we finally arrived at our first park of the day: EPCOT. Wait times were particularly bad this day, and we didn’t really end up doing a whole lot. To be fair, we did get there in the early afternoon, and would be leaving only a few hours later. Still, it’s a little disappointing to only do a handful of attractions in a day. It’s not as if wait times were prohibitive or because we had a bad touring plan; it was entirely by choice.





    Before we left EPCOT, my mom and Sarah wanted to make a stop at the Art of Disney store, where I had been drooling over a few things (stops at the Art of Disney store--that I had initiated on previous days--and other such detours were a large part of why we were managing so few attractions per day). Since I figured they didn’t want me with them, I took my camera up near the front of the park, and took some photos.



    It took them a while in Art of Disney, which at the time was frustrating since it was approaching 6 pm and MVMCP started at 7 pm, but it was worth it on Christmas morning when I opened a couple awesome prints!

    We exited the park, right as the sunset was finally starting to get good (I swear I spent more awesome sunsets on the monorail this time than during any other trip) and headed to TTC. MVMCP had sold out for that evening, something we considered shocking given that it was still early to mid December, but if the crowds at the TTC were any glimpse into the crowdedness of the party (they weren’t) it would be packed.



    We arrived at the MK around 6:40, and immediately got in line for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Well, we thought Snow White would be there. Apparently, Grumpy had made some sexist remarks to Snow White about women, “not belonging in the ‘Dwarf Mine’,” and Snow White was a bit offended. So she never did show up. While this explanation might be more humorous, I imagine the actual explanation was that Disney wanted to give the impression of more entertainment at the party than there actually was, so Snow White got her own meet & greet in Toontown, thereby creating two separate lines for people to wait in to see her and the dwarfs. This was really disappointing, because the Dwarf Mine set up for the little guys looked great, and was (surprisingly) well lit. At least we got a photo with Snow White AND the Dwarfs at last year’s MNSSHP (I guess MNSSHP has enough entertainment that they don’t have to separate the characters); unfortunately, the lighting was crappy at the Halloween party.



    By 7:15, we were through the Dwarf line (ironic, as it was quite a lengthy line). We wandered around, heading over to the Golden Horseshoe to watch the dance party again. For some reason, this dance party was very captivating to us--us being Sarah and my mom. Both of them danced with the characters, having quite the good time. I am not down with the hip hop music, so I didn’t quite see the appeal. I also was a bit surprised at some of the suggestive songs being played. I doubt the little tykes understand the messages of these songs (or at least I hope they don’t understand them at their ages), so maybe it’s not such a big deal. Still, not what you’d expect to see in the Magic Kingdom. Before we left, I saw one of the Country Bears “getting down,” so I busted some of my ill moves next to him. I can assure you all, you’ve never seen moves like mine. They are...terrible...seriously, train wreck bad. Ill is not an exaggeration. They are so ill they would remind you of a rabid raccoon.

    Since it’s patently obvious that WDW has made cuts to MVMCP in the last several years (free photo, Twas, portions of the fireworks, etc.) without adding much new quality entertainment (nothing pertaining to the Castle counts as that is run regardless of MVMCP--even if it weren’t, the argument can be made that the Castle lights only offset the loss of Country Bear Christmas), and while dramatically increasing the price, it would be nice if little “plusses” were made to the party. For example, during a normal day at the MK, the toilet paper that is out is pretty brutal. During the party, maybe they could bring in some of that nice 2-ply stuff they have at the Grand Floridian and Polynesian. Yet another example of why I’d make a great dictator of WDW. Heck, if any Disney executives are reading this, I’d even settle for a middle management position!

    After the dance party, unsurprisingly, my mom wanted to do some more shopping. Since I knew she wouldn’t want to stay the entire night, and the stores get especially packed around closing, I agreed to go then. Plus, you never want to delay when LE pins are at stake! The Emporium, unsurprisingly, was a mad house. I quickly exited the store in favor of wandering around Main Street. I told Sarah to call me when they were done.





    We caught the first parade, arriving only 15 minutes early but catching it from our super secret perfect location. Watching it so many times gave me the luxury of shooting it with numerous different lenses. I actually ended up using all of my lenses except the 50mm f/1.8, which has become the black sheep of my herd (oh yes, the appropriate term for 4 or more lenses is a herd).

    After the first parade, we found a spot for the fireworks. Given that the party was sold out, I was a little surprised that Main Street wasn’t more packed for the fireworks. My theory was that a large block of tickets went to the cheerleaders, and they either left voluntary because the cold was too much, or were hospitalized because of it. Either way, I wasn’t too beat up about the park being less busy than I expected. The fireworks, just as they were the time prior, were awesome. I could watch that show again and again--I certainly listen to its soundtrack enough during the Christmas season.











    Celebrate the Season was next on the agenda. This was the one thing, entertainment-wise, that Sarah and I had not done the previous party. We had only seen this show once ever, as it was cancelled in 2008 when we last attended the party. This show was pretty good; perhaps better than I remembered. That, or last time the measuring stick for it was Mickey’s Twas the Night Before Christmas, and this time, the measuring stick was A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas. Funny how everything is relative.


    Merry Christmas (Eve) From Mickey & Minnie by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr

    For the second parade, we were going to go for our normal super secret awesome spot, when I spotted a new awesome spot! It turns out that a filming crew was at the MK to shoot a commercial for ABC. I had been thinking about using the fisheye to photograph the parade, but this sealed the deal. There was a “father and son” (those are air quotes, for what it’s worth) on the curb right in front of us who were models for the commercial. Let me just say that I would not want to be a Disney model. Different people kept approaching the two of them, telling them to do things differently. Three different people told them contradictory ways to sit (boy on outside vs. father on outside), and kept making other requests of them. It was funny to hear the kid and dad talk; I realize actual father-son teams are not usually cast for these things, but it’s still funny to hear a “father” ask his “son” where he is from. It was also funny overhearing the crew talk amongst themselves about how much they hate shooting at WDW because of all the rules, requirements, and control. The coolest part, by far, though, was seeing all that camera gear. I can only imagine how much some of THAT stuff cost. I think my little Nikon D7000 and Rokinon fisheye had a bit of performance anxiety.









    Speaking of the D7000, I've received a lot of emails, messages, and comments about how I liked the D7000. I haven't responded to any of these yet (or any messages for the last month or so--been busy--sorry!), and this as good of a time as any to give my capsule review of the D7000's powers, so I figured why not give some of my thoughts now.

    First, the pros. The dual memory card slot is nice, as is the virtual horizon (yet I still manage to get slightly crooked shots). The ability to meter with older lenses is great, as it enabled me to buy a Samyang/Rokinon fisheye that wouldn't have metered with the D90. The camera is well built (better than the D90). The biggest upgrade of all, that I have noticed, has been the dynamic range increase. I can really push and pull a RAW file in all directions. It's huge.

    Now, the negatives: the high ISO increase does not meet my expectations. This was a big selling point for me as I shoot a lot in low light without a tripod, and I was hoping to push the ISO more. The buffer does not seem noticeably improved, and that's running class 10 cards. I still experience slowdown. The RAW files are huge; I suppose some people might consider this an advantage, but I'm fine with 10MP. The advanced settings in auto-ISO are sort of wacky when using the Nikon CLS flash system. This may not seem like a big deal, but I actually use this a lot.

    Maybe my expectations are too high, but I am already looking forward to the D400 or (don't tell Sarah) the D700's replacement. My next camera will probably be full frame regardless of the D400's features, as full frame enables me to buy the 14-24 f/2.8, which is the holy grail of lenses for me.

    Overall, I would say the D7000 is a good camera, but a bit overrated. The price difference between the D90 and the D7000 is going to be about $600 for most people. Because I bought an Epson printer that had a nice mail in rebate (and subsequently resold the printer), and sold my D90 before the D7000 was announced (and thus before the market had a chance to react) the upgrade was only around $200 for me. For that amount, it was a worthwhile upgrade. For $600, if money is an issue, I would suggest putting that money towards an UWA lens. If money is no issue...why not buy a D700 or D3s?

    I got some cool shots from the parade with the fisheye, but it’s not something I would want to use if I were only photographing the parade once or twice. This was also probably the least attention I paid to the parade, because I was so enamored with what the film crew was doing. With any luck, I am in a commercial. At the very least, I know my feet made a couple of shots. (Because I kept kicking the father and son to make sure my feet got into the shots!)





    The rest of the evening was spent enjoying the ambiance of the party (oh, and we saw A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas again) and trying to stay warm. We had plenty of hot chocolate, and plenty of cookies. I think the cookies we had at the three parties probably account for about 7 of the 10 pounds I probably gained while we were down there. I’m going to have to workout double-time in the new year to work off all of this flab.


    The Princess & Her Castle by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr



    The Long and Winding Road...to Cinderella Castle by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr


    "It's a Kingdom of Lights during this Season, Mickey" by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr

    When we left, it was only us and this tourist at the monorail station. Both he and I were taking pictures as we waited for the monorail, and suddenly, when it approached, one of the Cast Members said, “oh, they aren’t riding,” without asking us. Sarah quickly responded that we were, and the other individual followed us onto the monorail car that we boarded. All of the cars were empty, yet he chose the same one. This guy must have never seen Walt Disney World before, because, even as we were in the moving monorail late at night, he was firing away like crazy. He had a nice-enough DSLR, but there is no way these photos were turning out. During the monorail ride alone, he probably took as many photos as I took the entire day!

    He got off at the Polynesian, and continued to take shots throughout the lobby of various things. I sure how he was shooting in jpg, because I can’t imagine having to process all those RAW files! We contemplated just sleeping on a couch at the Polynesian before deciding it probably wouldn’t be too fun to walk home a couple hours later after we got kicked out.

    The next day was another Magic Kingdom day. Since we only had an hour and a half before lunch reservations, we decided to do our Monorail resort tour first, so my parents could see the decorations at the Grand Floridian (we had already been to the Polynesian, which wasn’t exactly loaded with decorations--what happened to all of the little candy/chocolate displays, and lunch was at the Contemporary); one resort isn’t much of a “tour,” I know, but it seems like we accomplished more if I call it that, so I will. The Grand Floridian was gorgeous, as always, but was an absolute madhouse. Honestly, I don’t think I would want to stay there at Christmas. I would be a little irritated if I were one of Disney’s elite, and the resort was freely letting in the riff raff, like me, to take advantage of the resort’s amenities. Plus, us riff raff generally have pungent odors, so I imagine those elite get pretty irritated that we come in and stink up their resort. Really though, I would be a little peeved at noise there.







    After wandering around for a while, we headed over to Contemporary to try The Wave. The Wave was a last minute addition (same day ADRs). We had discussed it prior to the trip, but had decided we wouldn’t eat there. Then, on this particular day, we found ourselves hungry and not wanting to eat counter service again. So, we made the voyage to the Contemporary. I think I speak for everyone when I say that I’m glad we ate there.

    The restaurant was pretty well dead when we entered, which made me wonder why all of the tables were so close together. As the server took us to our table, I was really worried that we’d be seated at one such table on that was practically on top of the table next to it, but luckily, we weren’t. Instead, we got a large booth. Given that it was so slow (and we would have had no problem getting our pick of dinner reservations, either), I wondered why the tables were spaced so close together. Perhaps they were going to an American spin on Biergarten.



    For some reason, the burger (really, the cheese on the burger) sounded really good, so I opted for that. Not very daring, I know, but I think I had lost the energy for daring. Although, to my credit, I didn’t fall asleep at dinner like my father, who likely set a world record for times falling asleep during meals on a single WDW trip. Guinness keeps world records on just about everything else, maybe I can submit my photos and get my dad some recognition!





    I didn’t want to be in a food coma the rest of the day, so I opted to avoid dessert, although it did look delicious. By all accounts of our party, all of the food was really good. Sarah actually preferred The Wave to Jiko. I found this a little dubious, so I suspect that someone at The Wave must have paid her off for this ringing endorsement.





    One of my quests since our honeymoon was to find a nice velcro wallet for WDW. I had just about aborted this quest when I was prepping some of my Figment collection to sell on eBay, and I stumbled upon this gem. Although it had a little squeaker in it that caused it to make a noise when I bent over or sat down (by around the second day of the trip, thankfully, this squeaker wore out), this little guy was a lifesaver, and an incredibly awesome way to store FastPasses and tickets. Plus it was oh so stylish.



    It made me want to get other retro accessories for our WDW trips, too. I would mention exactly what, here, but I’ve been sort of burned by that in the past. Back when I started buying WDW camera straps, I had no problem getting them for around $5-15 each. Then, as more people asked where I got them, and I answered, the prices skyrocketed. Now, the prices are anywhere from $30 to $100. Unfortunately, that’s just too much for me to pay. I am all for a market economy and I understand that’s what’s occurring, but it still pisses me off that I shot myself in the foot, so to speak. It pisses me off even more that one of the people who began purchasing the straps because of me has since started selling them for $100-200 each. Whatever, I suppose, such is life. By bringing this up, I’m probably only shooting myself in the foot even further, but at this point, the straps are already so far out of my price range that it doesn’t matter.









    As the days of the trip passed, my belly became more and more “jolly” looking as I gorged myself. By this point in the trip, I looked like I was in the second trimester. Perhaps that’s why random strangers kept coming up to me and rubbing my belly.

    I mentioned earlier that the wait times for Haunted Mansion were higher than we ever waited in the summer. The reason for this, I think, is that we got there relatively late in the day this trip (never arrived at a park, besides for Magic & Merriment, before 10 am) and the parks closed relatively early. Conversely, in the summer, we’d still arrive at 10 am, but the parks would often be open until 1 am (or 3 am with EMH), and we mostly did FastPass attractions, shows that never get waits, and the TTA during the day then and wait until late at night for the ‘moderate’ attractions like the Fantasyland dark rides (except Peter Pan’s Flight) and Haunted Mansion as they have no waits by then. However, when the park closes at 10 pm, it’s not as empty in the last two hours as it is when it closes at 3 am. Perhaps in the future if we’re not sick during the trip (thereby causing us to require more sleep), we will actually arrive at park opening when there are such short operating hours. Maybe my theory isn’t even accurate.



    This was another packed day at the MK, and further proof that wheelchairs aren’t advantageous--or at least weren’t advantageous for us (I’m not contending that my anecdotal evidence is irrefutable proof by any means). We waited a while at Haunted Mansion, and my parents had what probably ended up being a 45 minute wait for IASW. I say probably because Sarah and I got out of line and went to do our own thing for a little while. The only reason my parents didn’t get out of line is that they were sort of boxed in. Breaking off for a bit was nice, though, as it gave us the opportunity to do things at our own pace. I very much enjoyed being there with my parents, but at times the slower pace was a little frustrating.

    During the time we were separated, Sarah and I managed to accomplish a number of attractions, hitting PhilharMagic (awesome as always!), TTA, Pirates, and Pooh. Pooh is one of those attractions that I find gets better with each visit. Perhaps this time that wasn’t just because my enjoyment of the ride involved internally to me, but because the ride’s entrance and queue changed substantially. The new queue is really something, and even though we didn’t get to play with any of the cool features, I did get to photograph them (sorry, photos aren’t edited yet), which was fun. One thing I worry about with the new queue is the little gophers (or whatever they are) that pop up. Each of the three times we rode Pooh, we saw little kids being vicious to these guys. I’m sure Disney designed these to handle abuse from kids, but how much abuse? It would be disappointing to see these broken in 3 months and never repaired because it’s not “in the budget” or “not feasible” or, heaven forbid, because gophers become “obsolete technology.”

    Following this burst of attractions, we met back up with my parents to do Country Bears. While waiting, Sarah stopped for more of her world famous Disney Bird photos. While taking the photos, Sarah got up and quickly moved away as some of the birds flew above her. When I inquired why, she responded, “with the length of my hair, it would be game over if a bird **** on me. I’d have to go back to the room and take a shower.” I guess I sometimes don’t think about the additional concerns of a female with long hair. Aerially released bird droppings landing on me have never been too great of a concern for me, but then again, I could always head to the nearest restroom and put my head in the sink.



    We did a couple more attractions with my parents before Sarah and I prepared to depart for the Studios. As we left, I made an ADR for my parents at Trail’s End. I really wanted to eat there earlier in the trip, but we had opted to eat elsewhere because of the additional commute to Fort Wilderness. This is probably one of my biggest regrets of the trip, as my parents said they had an absolute blast going around the campsites looking at decorations.

    We tend to plan one event that acts as icing on the cake to conclude our trips, so that the final days of the trip aren’t quite so “ominous.” Usually, this is something like attending a character breakfast on the last morning to gain early access to a park. About a month prior to this trip, we saw that D23 would once again be holding its Magic & Merriment Event. Sarah and I desperately wanted to attend this event in 2009, but it coincided with two of my finals, and I don’t think my professors would have been too keen on me missing them to play in Walt Disney World. Obviously, they’re priorities are skewed.

    Luckily for us, the event was so popular last year that it became annual, and 2 of its 3 days overlapped with our trip. Tickets for these events are notoriously difficult to secure, but with a little practice and quick fingers, we were able to purchase two. Once we secured the tickets, we adjusted our flights and added another night to our resort stay.

    With the backstory set for our Magic & Merriment experience, we headed to the Studios on Friday, December 10th to check in for the weekend and see a screening of “Archiving the Archives,” a new documentary about Dave Smith and the Disney archives. Sarah and I debated long and hard about even going to this event, as there was a ‘late’ check in the next day, and we didn’t really care about the documentary. However, after reading accounts from last year that surprises and giveaways occurred at various events, we decided to suck it up and attend.

    Once there, we got the final schedule for the weekend. One of the events for Friday evening was a ‘private viewing’ of One Man’s Dream that lasted an hour and a half while check-in was taking place (check-in itself lasted around 15 minutes, save for a few stragglers). Disney history buffs we may be, but not such that we wanted to spend 90 minutes combing through One Man’s Dream. With this knowledge, we decided to ask a D23 Cast Member if any surprises might be in store for the event. He only gave an ambiguous response, so we decided to stay, and go sleep in the theatre.

    Ten minutes after arriving in the theatre, we were all kicked out, saying it wasn’t “ready” yet. At that point, Sarah and I asked a D23 Cast Member if it would be an issue if we took photos in the Studios, and returned when the film was to begin. The Cast Member did not object, so we availed ourselves of this opportunity.



    While we cannot spend 90 minutes in One Man’s Dream, apparently 90 minutes taking photos flies by. In the middle of one photo, Sarah checked her phone, and the movie was set to begin in 2 minutes. We raced back to the attraction, and snuck inside just as it started. We got end seats in the very back so as to avoid being rude.

    The film was interesting, I suppose. Like I said, we are huge Disney history fans, but I find a film, accompanied by little else (say, CircleVision or 3D) as a worthy theme park attraction. The event concluded and we all were dismissed without anything being given away. If Sarah and I didn’t spend that time taking photos, I really would have been irritated that this evening was packaged as an “event.” Wasting two hours of my time (plus transit time) to see a 30 minute documentary that I would have had the same experience watching at home is not a good use of theme park time, nor is it a valuable option on an expensive private event. Just as my blood began to boil over this, a D23 Cast Member came up to us, and said he wanted to exchange event lanyards with us (another D23 CM had done this with someone else prior to the documentary). At first we were skeptical, but quickly we realized what was happening, and we agreed to the exchange.

    Overall, I would rate this event a solid F. If a lower grade were possible, I’d give it that. It was unnecessary, poorly organized, and time was not managed well. Moreover, the event didn’t really offer anything holiday-specific or even worthwhile.

    On our way out of the park, Sarah danced about with grandiose visions of what the lanyard “meant.” At first she wondered whether it was a stay in the Castle Suite. Unlikely, I told her, as two guests had these lanyards, and more importantly, that was such a large prize that the rest of the attendees would be envious and irritated by it. She bounced around the idea of other prizes, all the while I told her not to get her hopes up. Knowing Disney, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was a DVC tour.

    EPCOT was open late that night, so we headed over there, as was the plan prior to the event. As the bus approached EPCOT, we both sort of simultaneously realized how early we’d have to be up the next morning, and said maybe it would be best to only hit an attraction or two.

    SpaceShip Earth was the obvious choice, as it didn’t require walking too far in the cold weather. As we got off SpaceShip Earth, an idea for a photo came to me and I saw what can only be described as an epic-ly orange sky. I don’t know quite why it was like this (FotoDave told me on Twitter, but it involved science, so I quickly forgot), but it was great. Unbelievably great. I was yammering for a few more shots, and Sarah could tell, so she offered to ride SSE once more while I played. I got a few more while she boarded the Spaceship; when she returned, we called it a night.

    Since we left before the park closed, this would be the first night of the trip that we’d be able to take a Shades of Green bus. It was crazy waiting for the bus, seeing it pull up, and NOT walking from the Polynesian in the chilly weather. Unfortunately, while we were waiting for the bus, I decided to set up my tripod for some lame shot--it would’ve been much cooler during a busy time of day--and when the bus came, I was in such a rush to board, that I left my lens cap on the bench. We never ended up returning to the TTC (with any time to spare, at least) so I never checked lost and found for that cap. Maybe I should call them up, although I’m not really sure what that would accomplish.



    The next morning came entirely too soon. Naturally, it took us longer to get ready than I accounted for in my timelines, so we were running late as we left our room. We got the luggage folks to take us to the end of Shades of Green property again, a service that relatively pricey with our frequency of use on this trip. But, it saved us seven minutes, and that was valuable time. After all, we didn’t want to miss the prize-awarding at the Odyssey Center!

    From the edge of Shades of Green property, we walked to the TTC. In our experience, we determined this would be substantially quicker than using even the most efficient monorail. Part of me wanted to check lost and found and the bench at which we were sitting the previous night, but we just didn’t have the time. That is, until we waited and waited for the monorail. After it came, and we approached EPCOT, we saw the line at the Odyssey. We weren’t too late!

    Once we departed the monorail, we searched for someone to let us into the park. Finally we found a Cast Member who was aware of Magic & Merriment (yes, we’re sure we weren’t there for a Princess breakfast!), and let us inside. It was awesome being at EPCOT all alone in the morning, although the weather sucked (it was really foggy) and we were already late, so I didn’t take many photos.



    We arrived at the Odyssey Center, were handed some goody bags, and I found seats while Sarah scheduled a Castle Suite tour time. I didn’t know anyone at the table, but apparently one of the ladies knew me, asking if I was WDWFigment on Twitter. I responded that I was, and she said, “I’m [Twitter handle], I follow you, but you don’t follow me.” For a few seconds, it was a little awkward here. I wasn’t quite sure why she’d indicate that I didn’t follow her. I hope it was as sort of a heads up that I wouldn’t recognize her Twitter name, but in the context of the rest of the conversation, it seemed a lot more like an admonishment for not following her in return. I didn’t realize that the Twitter Covenants included an obligation to follow all those who follow you. (For those unfamiliar with Twitter, there are a lot of people on there with mostly idiotic things to say; I’m not suggesting she is one such person (I have no idea), but if I followed everyone, my updates would be inundated with crap about Justin Bieber and relationship drama. I have no desire to read about either.)



    Seeking to avoid the awkwardness, I fiddled around with my camera for a few minutes until Sarah arrived. Almost immediately thereafter, the presentations began, the first with three chefs from Germany giving a presentation of an array of Christmas topics, mostly German food at Christmas. I don’t remember of the credentials of each, but one is the head chef at Biergarten. These guys were really amusing, and interesting. I was surprised by some of the discussions of Biergarten. I wasn’t highly impressed with the place (I’d say it was on the upper end of mediocre), but their discussion gave me new interest about the restaurant, and made me impressed by it. They didn’t seem like the types who would recite the company line or fluff things up, so I buy what they had to say. They were engaging, humorous, and had plenty of “un-Disney” zingers. Great

    The next presentation was from Meg Crofton, President of Walt Disney World. If you follow online news and rumor discussions like I do, you’ll know that Meg Crofton is not very well-liked in the fan community. At least, not among the most fervent fans. When she walked out on the stage, I searched high and low for horns and a tail, but I saw neither. Perhaps the podium was concealing the tail and she has a really good hairdresser.



    Her speech was nice, but decidedly canned. While all of the other presenters spoke candidly and in a conversational manner, she read from a teleprompter giving a presentation that said “all of the right things” but ultimately felt impersonal. I much preferred the irreverent and off the cuff humor of the chefs. As soon as her speech was over, she exited the building, never to be seen again. Oh well, I suppose it was better than her presentation just being a video of her. I understand that as the President of the largest single site employer in the US (as she pointed out multiple times in her presentation), she is likely busy in her job. However, by not taking the extra 20 minutes to talk to D23 members and Cast Members, it reinforces the message that she is detached and distant from cast and guests. I wonder, does she know the name of the building she was in? Does she know that the Lights of Winter do not operate at EPCOT? Or does she just know that X dollars have been saved in fiscal years 2009 and 2010 by not operating “Seasonal Element 24” (or whatever line-item name it may have). Say what you will about Michael Eisner, but in his prime, he had a firm grasp on every aspect of the company that its leadership since hasn’t seemed to have.

    Next up were some chefs, one of whom was the Head Pastry Chef at the Grand Floridian, and and the other was the Head Something at all Resorts. These two, again, had great chemistry. The “all Resorts” Chef previously worked under the Grand Floridian chef, and it was clear they had a pretty good dynamic. More off the cuff jokes, including some ribbing about the Grand Floridian chef being Austrian rather than German. Not the type of humor you’d find in Meg Crofton’s solemn speech!

    These guys were awesome, sharing how the Grand Floridian’s ginger bread house is made, why it cannot be consumed, and how to make good German ginger bread. During the course of the presentation, they alternated construction of a ginger bread house up on stage, which was pretty cool.

    After their presentation concluded, a presentation began by two gentlemen whose names I forget. One of them is a former Imagineer who creates DVDs of the parks, the other runs the temporary tattoo stands around the parks. Figuring this was going to be a lame advertisement, I dismissed myself to the restroom (people had been doing this throughout the presentations, so it wasn’t as if I was breaking some unwritten rule and being rude about it). I also took this opportunity to get some Ginger Bread coffee as Sarah and I were really dragging but from having to get up so early after the late night the previous night.

    As I was getting the coffee, I noticed that the presentation actually sounded somewhat interesting. It concerned this new endeavor of the tattoo man creating bead necklaces and bracelets out of recycled guide maps. To make the maps, they had partnered with a non-profit that had impoverished women creating the beads. The men described the inherent difficulties in this, as it required work to import the bracelets, and required changes to the typical process of the bead-makers, as their previous beads wouldn’t get approval from Disney’s labs (if I recall correctly, this was due to the weather in Florida).

    The men also discussed the involvement of Imagineering in the project, and how Imagineering created the carts for these locations, the price signs, and a host of other things (recycling bins for the maps). They also discussed how the first test cart at Rock ‘N’ Rollercoaster had been highly successful, and had also driven increased profits at an adjacent cart owned by Disney. While all of this may seem somewhat dry, boring, and/or a veiled advertisement, it was really quite cool and interesting. It was so interesting that afterward, Sarah and I found them and discussed the project for a bit. They gave us a couple of samples, attached to the guide map from which they were made, explaining that how the beads were rolled would impact their color. Very cool stuff.

    Before talking to them, and after the event had formally concluded, we wandered around a bit, collecting photos while we waiting for the Chef’s line (all the chefs were lined up taking pictures and signing a cook book we had been given) to die down. We wanted to be the last people in line for the chefs so that we got more time with them, but two people snuck in line behind us. Rats.









    While in line with them, we chatted with the Chefs about various aspects of their lives in America, specifically at Christmas, and listened to them rib the lone Austrian some more. Apparently, Austrians do not work as hard as Germans. This is good to know.

    Given the build-up about it from the previous night, you might be wondering what we won at the event. I only mention it so as to not leave you hanging, because it’s not really worth mentioning. At the conclusion of the event, they asked for anyone with a certain sticker on their lanyard to come forward. I didn’t have that sticker (I had another), so I quickly many more prizes than 2 were being given away, and thus whatever prize I won wasn’t that great.

    The first group won miniature gingerbread houses from the Grand Floridian. These stood about 16 inches tall and could be purchased at the Grand Floridian. I hadn’t seen the ones there, but the one at the Contemporary sold for $50 (I think) and was smaller, so this at least looked like a decent, albeit impractical for carrying around all day in the park, prize. There were 5 people who won these.

    Next was my group--there were six of us. We won pins of the gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, because I did win more than most other people there, and the pin did look neat, but winning a pin at a private event is like winning ten cents in the Lotto. Oh well, probably our own fault for thinking about what we might have won in advance. Definitely set ourselves up for disappointment.

    Overall, I would give this event an A-. The only things that was a bit disappointing was that it didn’t include a proper breakfast, and that Meg Crofton couldn’t be bothered to descend from her mighty thrown and mingle with the commoners. The gift bags were somewhat lacking, with gifts that were clearly just advertising material for other arms of the company (Tangled soundtrack), rather than special gifts like last year (a Magic and Merriment ornament). Also, while the final presentation was interesting, it had nothing to do with the Holidays, which where the theme of the weekend.

    Following this event, we had the day to enjoy EPCOT before Candlelight Processional. We first stopped at the new counter service restaurant in Mexico. Sarah is a big fan of Mexican food, me...not so much. I thought the food we had was good for what it was, but the portions were too small.











    As for the Candlelight Processional that afternoon, it was exactly what you’d expect out of the show. Whoopi Goldberg was the narrator, and while this might be exciting for some, I wasn’t so enthused. I liked her before she joined the View, but that show is just unwatchable. All of those anchors have opinions about everything, and they have little basis for any of their opinions. Essentially, they just complain to one another about things outside of their expertise. Not my idea of an entertaining show. I would much rather have J. Peterman as the host! It was nice having reserved seats without paying for a dining package, but we certainly still paid for them.





    After Candlelight Processional, we boarded a secret monorail (okay, charter buses) backstage to take us to the Studios. This was one of the most irritating parts of the weekend. After we got on the bus, it took around 40 minutes before we departed. At the time, no one on our bus had any idea what was taking so long. I later came to find out, after reading a report of someone else who attended the event, that one of the other buses was having difficulty loading wheelchairs/scooters. Thus, several people were just standing outside waiting to board that bus for that 40 minutes. I would have been even more irritated if I were one of those people waiting in the cold. Either way, there is no excuse for that issue. Yet another example of the poor organization and inefficiency of the weekend.

    Once FINALLY there, we entered the set of Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular for dinner. We have always wanted to do one of the on set/in ride dinners, so we were glad that this was included in the event. We went around to various set pieces and took photos around them. We were told not to climb on any of the vehicles for safety reasons. Climb on is not the same as crawl under, so Sarah and I quickly snapped the shot below before any clarifications were made to those rules.





    Sarah and I must not be very outgoing, because by this point in the weekend, we had still not really struck up prolonged conversation with any of the other attendees to the point that we had people we wanted to sit near. Instead, we nervously paced around, looking for a table with “normal” people (while most of the attendees seemed normal, there were a few of those rabid oddballs who you probably wouldn’t want to sit near). Shortly after sitting down, this guy named Clint approached us and said he had joked to his friends how they should sit near us, as he had seen my 70-200 lens during the Candlelight Processional, and figured I was taking good photos. It turned out that the joke came true, as they had actually (inadvertently) sat at the same table as us. Clint, Pam, and Matt turned out to be cool, and we did strike up prolonged conversation with them.

    Dinner was epic. The food was delicious and the beer and wine were unlimited. It was easily the best buffet I’ve had at Disney. I can’t recall everything on it, but it was all hot, and well-prepared. I was actually a little surprised. Afterward, Chip and Dale came out for photos. When I went up to get my third and final beer, the bartender knew what I wanted in advance. Apparently myself and two other people were the only ones who had anything to drink. I felt a little odd about that, but for the price of the event, I was going to get my money’s worth! Overall, I would give this event a B+; while being on the set was cool, the Indy set just doesn’t strike me as being as immersive as, say the Great Movie Ride. I would have given it a solid A had those spears that pop up from the ground been active. If one of those bad boys popped up, it would’ve soiled anyone going through the buffet line!





    Once dinner concluded and the park cleared, we got word that it was time to head to the Osborne Lights for a private showing and behind the scenes information from the show director, John Phelan. I must say, Mouse Fan Travel and WDW Today really spoiled us. WDW Today spoiled us in that John Phelan’s presentation was almost word for word what he said about the Osborne Lights on the podcast. After about 2 minutes of listening to him, we realized this, and decided to enjoy the opportunity to take photos and enjoy the lights sans crowds. Mouse Fan Travel spoiled us in that it delivered a hard ticket event with fewer people crowding the Streets of America. I can see how this event might have been wonderful for those who don’t listen to the podcast or didn’t attend Desserts and Delights, but for us, it wasn’t that unique. Still, that’s our fault, not the event’s fault. I’ll give it a solid B+, with it losing points due to the short time duration.





    After this event concluded, we still had some time left before the Magic Kingdom closed, so we headed over there. We had encouraged Clint, Pam, and Matt to do the same, so they came as well. We only did three attractions before realizing how beat we were. We felt a little bad that we had encouraged the others to come, too, but they seemed similarly tired, so we all left at the same time.

    The next morning my parents checked out of Shades of Green at around 5 am while we were still sound asleep. As neither Sarah nor myself are or have been in the Department of Defense, we couldn’t stay there for our last day. This meant that we had to check out when we got up, and change resorts. Of course, with us, procrastinating always trumps actual action, so we checked out and checked our bags with bell services instead of actually heading to Music again. We figured it was a good move, since brunch at the Contemporary started at 10 am. It’s never a good idea to miss brunch. Especially when you’ve paid so much for it.



    As alluded to, Sunday brunch at the Top of the World Lounge the following morning was our next event. Despite staying at Shades of Green, we had…uhh…magically found our way into this lounge earlier on the trip, and we were enthused about seeing how it would look during the daytime hours. We arrived fashionably (more like inadvertently) late thanks to monorail delays, but luckily that only cut into brunch by about 10 minutes. As soon as we got there, we received a reusable DVC tote with loads of DVC advertising materials. If any of you out there are looking for a confident with whom to share secrets, I suggest steering clear of Disney. I can only imagine how it treats “normal” secrets given its blatant advertising of its “Best Kept” secret.

    The food here was delicious and the Top of the World Lounge was a great location. I was a bit disappointed at the lack of variety in the food, but what was offered was pretty good. Although it was exceedingly windy outside (which stunk, because we had to eat outside until some space inside cleared), the morning views were gorgeous, and the photo op set up with Mickey was a nice touch. My only complaint would be the in-your-face DVC advertising. Between the bags and the subsequent constantly-announced tours, it was a little much. I understand that this was probably part of the Faustian Bargain made in order to secure the exclusive Top of the World Lounge, but if that was necessary, maybe D23 should have looked into getting the California Grill or some other location? Clearly the Top of the World Lounge was not large enough for us all (at least indoors). Even with the advertisements, this event gets a respectable B.





    While eating brunch, we met back up with Clint, Pam, and Matt and decided to tour the Magic Kingdom with them. I was a little weary of this at first, as we had already done several slow paced days, and I was hoping for a faster-paced day with Sarah, but this ended up being the most efficient day of the trip. Pam and Matt, who had been touring together since 1996 (I think), remarked, that it was their most efficient day ever, they thought.

    Lunch was a first for us: we ate at Pinocchio Village Haus. It was interesting, a little out of date looking. I had always wanted to try the fries there that have all sorts of crap on them (I can’t recall their name) that were taken off the menu a year or so ago. After those were taken off the menu, we didn’t really have much of a desire to eat there. That said, my meatball sandwich was decent. Not amazing, but palatable.



    The next event would be one, if not the, biggest events of the weekend for us. The Castle Suite Tour. It would only be fifteen minutes long, but we made the most of that time, balancing the desire to take photos like a madman with the desire to enjoy the experience. Like everyone says, the Suite is surprisingly small. I managed to get some neat photos, too, so I was pleased. The 15 minutes (I actually think it was more like 10) passed in no time, but given that they had to get all of us through in one afternoon, I understand the time constraint. Part of me was hoping at the end of our tour, we would be told we had won a stay in there for the evening, but it was not to be. I guess my only recourse for that is to change my last name to Cruise and have some cosmetic work done. This event gets an A-.










    Splish Splash, She Was Takin' A Bath by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr



    The Castle Suite Tour was the last unique event of the weekend. We also were provided Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party tickets for that evening (with “reserved” spots for the fireworks and parade—in terrible locations). I know I’ve already aired a number of grievances about the event, but another one for me was that there was no real end--no concluding event. That struck me as a little odd, but perhaps I’m alone in that sentiment.




    MVMCP Admission: ~$55, Seeing Lifesize Toy Soldiers March Down Main Street, USA in Florida with Snow Falling: Priceless by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr


    Merry Christmas! by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr



    For those unfamiliar with this event, the tickets were priced at $235 each, and sold out in a matter of seconds (literally). I don’t think this necessarily speaks to the value of the weekend, as the tickets were so limited that it’s somewhat of an artificial market. While we were waiting to go on our Castle Suite Tour, a couple of the D23 CMs informed us that the events are only self-sufficient, and the cost of tickets only covers the cost of the event. Personally, I find this hard to believe. Tickets last year cost less, and the event contained more. The only feasible explanation I can find for the additional cost (if it’s “real”) would be the first night. However, as I indicated above, that was a huge turd of an event. That, or maybe paying for the ridiculous number of D23 CMs at the event. If the event ticket factored in their salaries for the time they worked, I am also peeved, as there were way too many of them attending the events. Don’t get me wrong, they were all very nice and genuinely enjoyed the events, but it was unnecessary for there to be so many of them.

    Overall, I would not say the weekend was good value for the money, but reasonable minds may differ on that. The event suffered from poor organization and unreasonable waits between events, at times. It also packaged in things, and presumably, charged for them, that we didn’t necessarily want to pay for and could have done better on our own. It was, however, a lot of fun and gave me a new appreciation for some of the D23 Cast Members as it appears most of them have a genuine love of Disney and enjoy their jobs. While the weekend was not perfect, it was pretty good and allowed us to experience things we otherwise couldn’t. That said, it was, honestly, a letdown. Although we didn’t attend last year’s Magic & Merriment, every report I read from that gave it incredibly high marks. Based on the initial reports I’ve read from this year’s event, it seems much was lost. That is disappointing, and hopefully not indicative of all D23 events. Hopefully, as these events continue, D23 will fine tune and make them more enjoyable.

    I mentioned above that Magic & Merriment didn’t really have proper closure. As our last interaction with “that” portion of the weekend was a few hours before the party ended, that’s correct. We didn’t really do anything special for the remainder of the MVMCP, besides watch our final parade, going 6/6 on MVMCP parades for the week(!) and taking photos. It was one of the coldest nights of the trip, but since we had failed to take photos of ourselves so many of the other nights, we sucked it up and got a few shots before heading home.


    FROM: Santa TO: Tom by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr


    The Magic of Disney Christmas by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr







    As I mentioned above, we had checked out bags with bell services at Shades of Green that morning in lieu of actually heading to All Star Music. Normally, I regret putting things like this off because it still sucks to do it later, but this time, even though I didn’t want to switch resorts that night, I still realized it was a lot better than doing it that morning. We got our bags from bell services, and caught a taxi to Music.

    When we finally got to our room, it was around 1:30 am. I was ready to collapse on the bed. Then, of all things, Sarah began antagonizing me into taking photos of Music! I was a bit taken aback, but, since I hadn’t taken any photos of the grounds the first night we were there, I rose to the challenge, and headed out. I was back right around 2 am, at which time I finally did get to collapse into bed.







    The next day was brutal. We rarely sleep in on the last day no matter how tired we are, thinking we can sleep all we want on the plane ride home. However, this morning, when the alarm went off, neither of us could get up. We slept another 30 minutes before reluctantly getting up. Our colds had definitely peaked, and we were still extremely tired from the previous night. Being tired and sick wasn’t exactly the ideal combination for visiting the parks.

    Normally if I could only pick one word to describe a day at Disney, it would be “magical.” What can I say, I’m a sap for the cheesy special feeling that Disney creates. This particular day, the word definitely would have been “lethargic.” We didn’t have the normal sense of urgency or desire to do as much as possible. We just sort of slowly moved around, like sick hogs waiting for someone to put us out of our misery.

    On top of that, it was the coldest day of the trip yet (I can only imagine how could it must have been that night). It was so cold that as we walked through the park, we saw CMs putting tarps over topiaries and flowers. It was so cold that when I went to the restroom, I contemplated just hanging out in there for a few extra minutes because it was warm.

    It was worth it, though. Not because we got to do some more attractions or see the MK one last time. It was worth it because of what I saw and heard as we headed onto Space Mountain. As we headed towards the queue, I saw a man awkwardly carrying a car seat for a baby in front of us. I wondered what the heck was up, so I began paying careful attention. The man climbed over the rope to enter the queue (rather than entering it like a normal human, for some reason), with car seat still in hand, at which point I saw that there was a child in the car seat. A CM quickly approached him, asking what he was doing. He was, “going to Space Mountain.” Of course he was. I mean, what kind of parent would he be if he didn’t let his infant experience all of the rides?! The CM said that the infant couldn’t come onto the ride, explaining twice that it was a roller coaster. A r-o-l-l-e-r c-o-a-s-t-e-r. The man seemed perplexed, not understanding why this roller coaster was ageist.

    We didn’t stick around to hear the rest of the conversation, as something else of interest had occurred. After entering the standby line, a boy (probably around 12 years old) in front of us jumped over to the Fast Pass line in front of us. As we passed a CM, we heard him on a walkie talkie to someone else indicating this had occurred. The boy kept looking backward while he was in line, probably doing a fist-pump in his head at his ability to cheat the system. Then, he arrived at the Fast Pass collection point. When the CM there asked for his FP, he said, “what’s that.” Another CM motioned for the boy to come with him. We’re probably terrible people for obtaining so much joy out of seeing the idiotic acts of others, but if that’s the case, so be it. It cracked us up and made our morning a little better.



    The rest of the day was uneventful. We wandered around, mostly doing indoor attractions to avoid the cold. We avoided shows, as we knew we’d just sleep through them. When the day finally came to an end around 1, and it was time for us to leave, it wasn’t the sad event it often is. I am sad that we aren’t there now, but at the time, we were both just so physically drained that we were ready to go.

    We waited a while for the bus, to the point that we began worrying if we’d be back to All Star Music in time for DME. Finally, a AS: Sports bus came, and we just hedged our bets, knowing it would only be a 5 minute walk to Music from Sports, and could be a longer wait for the Music bus. Along the way back to the Sports, Sarah saw an armadillo. With the way she reacted, I could have sworn this was the highlight of her trip. It sure did give her some energy, if only briefly.



    We finally found ourselves back at Music, where we waited briefly for the DME bus. Once we boarded the bus, we zonked out. I did have to wake up to be on the look out for our bus driver potentially giving away our luggage (he professed how he was new several times on the trip, and I was worried he’d drop off our bags at the first stop at the airport...so were many others, apparently, as they pressed up against the right-side windows on the bus).

    The cold weather that day was not unique to Florida. Our return flight had two stops, and both of those had delays. Despite our original 9 pm return time, we weren’t back in Indy until 1 am. At least we weren’t delayed a day, I guess.

    Overall, the trip was a lot of fun. We managed to strike a good balance between overdoing it with group events and actual park touring. That weather, on the other hand, was something I don’t wish to experience again any time soon. A big part of it was my fault. For 12 days, I packed 12 polos compared with 4 long sleeve shirts. I didn’t pack a coat or sweatshirt, and had to end up buying a thin sweatshirt that I wore everyday. I know we’ll be back again in December, as the parks are beautiful at Christmas, and when we are, I will be armed to the teeth with warm clothing. Still, even with that warm clothing, there is the potential for a cold, given our touring style. Plus, you can’t keep every part of your body warm.

    The potential of that alone makes me a bit weary of traveling in the winter months to WDW. I downplayed it a bit here because I didn’t want to be constantly complaining, but being sick at Disney is not the greatest thing in the world. Sarah and I don’t see eye to eye on this one, but I’d much rather travel in the hottest of summer months. At least then all I get is a little sweaty. Although I do understand her point, given that she has long hair, and probably gets even hotter because of that--and she has to deal with that hair in the hot weather. I also prefer the longer hours the summer months offer, even if it is busier then.

    Anyway, that’s all for now. Hope you enjoyed the trip report. I went into it thinking it would be somewhat abridged, but it feels like I’ve written just as much as I always do. We don’t yet have our next trip booked, so I don’t know when I’ll write next, but in any case...

    See Ya Real Soon!

  3. #3

    • Minion
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    Re: The Brickers' Holi-Disney Christmas Vacation 2010 Report (D23 Event, Reunion, etc

    Beautiful Pictures, Awesome Trip Report! :]

  4. #4

    • Happy Haunt
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    Re: The Brickers' Holi-Disney Christmas Vacation 2010 Report (D23 Event, Reunion, etc

    I had that exact same wallet when I was a kid! I thought it was awesome especially with that squeaker. Now I wonder why someone would put a squeaker in a wallet.

  5. #5

    • future rockstar/imagineer
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    Re: The Brickers' Holi-Disney Christmas Vacation 2010 Report (D23 Event, Reunion, etc

    love it. your pictures were so awesome! and I really enjoyed hearing about the d23 event. I went the weekend before and missed the event, so it was nice to live vicariously through your report.

  6. #6

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    Re: The Brickers' Holi-Disney Christmas Vacation 2010 Report (D23 Event, Reunion, etc

    Awesome trip report! I read every bit of it and adored it. The pictures are breathtaking!

  7. #7

    • Some imagination, huh?
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    Re: The Brickers' Holi-Disney Christmas Vacation 2010 Report (D23 Event, Reunion, etc

    Great stuff, yet again Tom! I often got lost because I didn't know all the acronyms and stuff, but the rest of the report was awesome.

    That lecture with the photographers sounds amazing! Do you know the names of the photographers?

    Sorry about your lens cap :/ I lost my lens cap at Disneyland and those replacements are pretty expensive.

    Yeesh, your story about the Twitter lady was pretty awkward. What DO you say to that? "Uh...sorry?"

    And all of a sudden...I'm really, really hungry :9

    (Psst...you got a few repeats: the one of Sarah and the pineapple and the Christmas wreaths)

  8. #8

    • Tom Bricker
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    Re: The Brickers' Holi-Disney Christmas Vacation 2010 Report (D23 Event, Reunion, etc

    Quote Originally Posted by Dlandclub33 View Post
    Beautiful Pictures, Awesome Trip Report! :]
    Thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by GraceysGirl View Post
    I had that exact same wallet when I was a kid! I thought it was awesome especially with that squeaker. Now I wonder why someone would put a squeaker in a wallet.
    I guess it makes sense. I’m sure it was made for kids, not folks my age, and kids probably loved that squeaker. Now their parents, on the other hand...

    Quote Originally Posted by expedition_evan View Post
    love it. your pictures were so awesome! and I really enjoyed hearing about the d23 event. I went the weekend before and missed the event, so it was nice to live vicariously through your report.
    There were a lot of people on Facebook, Twitter, and other forums who were very vocal (to put it kindly) about their disappointment over not getting tickets to the D23 event. To all those people: you didn’t miss much.

    Quote Originally Posted by BeautyandtheBeast View Post
    Awesome trip report! I read every bit of it and adored it. The pictures are breathtaking!
    Glad you enjoyed it!

    Quote Originally Posted by niklj View Post
    Great stuff, yet again Tom! I often got lost because I didn't know all the acronyms and stuff, but the rest of the report was awesome.

    That lecture with the photographers sounds amazing! Do you know the names of the photographers?

    Sorry about your lens cap :/ I lost my lens cap at Disneyland and those replacements are pretty expensive.

    Yeesh, your story about the Twitter lady was pretty awkward. What DO you say to that? "Uh...sorry?"

    And all of a sudden...I'm really, really hungry :9

    (Psst...you got a few repeats: the one of Sarah and the pineapple and the Christmas wreaths)
    Sorry about the acronyms. I believe there’s a wiki somewhere with “translations.”

    I’ll have to go back and fix the photos. I use a file naming system that allows me to just change numbers into the html code of the photo prior to posting. I must have forgotten to change the numbers there!

    The photographers were Bob Desmond, Lee (can’t remember his last name), and Alain (also can’t recall his last name).

  9. #9

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    Re: The Brickers' Holi-Disney Christmas Vacation 2010 Report (D23 Event, Reunion, etc

    truly beautiful work. Thank you again WDWFigment! I love it when you share on here!

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    Re: The Brickers' Holi-Disney Christmas Vacation 2010 Report (D23 Event, Reunion, etc

    Dude! Awesome pics! Now I'm gonna have to break out the DSLR and pretend I know what I'm doing (Which I don't, so don't lemme say otherwise.) Also, the OtterBox for the iPhone is a life saver. I'm constantly dropping mine...
    He felt like his life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.
    follow us on Twitter! @MickeyMutineers
    DisregardListen to our podcast on iTunes!

  11. #11

    • Tom Bricker
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    Re: The Brickers' Holi-Disney Christmas Vacation 2010 Report (D23 Event, Reunion, etc

    Quote Originally Posted by KingEric View Post
    truly beautiful work. Thank you again WDWFigment! I love it when you share on here!
    Thanks - I really need to spend some more time on here as we will be heading to DLR again soon and I want to be fully prepared this time!

    Quote Originally Posted by Coastierox View Post
    Dude! Awesome pics! Now I'm gonna have to break out the DSLR and pretend I know what I'm doing (Which I don't, so don't lemme say otherwise.) Also, the OtterBox for the iPhone is a life saver. I'm constantly dropping mine...
    Yeah, I've heard great things about the Otterbox. I should get one after I get my phone fixed (which I still haven't done...I'm lazy).

  12. #12

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    Re: The Brickers' Holi-Disney Christmas Vacation 2010 Report (D23 Event, Reunion, etc

    Quote Originally Posted by WDWFigment View Post
    Yeah, I've heard great things about the Otterbox. I should get one after I get my phone fixed (which I still haven't done...I'm lazy).
    You can get it on Amazon for around $15 vs the 50 I spent...
    He felt like his life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.
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