We’ve Got Plenty to be Thankful For in 2020

To say 2020 has been a challenge is an understatement. The spread of COVID-19 and all of the measures in place caused closures, layoffs, and made homeschoolers of us all. Whole families and communities are struggling with isolation and grief over lost lives, lost dreams, lost opportunities, lost jobs, and lost fellowship. Everything from grocery shopping to dining “out” to weddings to graduations have been turned upside down.

With all of the challenges of this year, we have to mention the triumph as well. We’ve seen the indomitable spirit of humanity and the creativity of the communities we live in. Healthcare workers and essential employees all over the country serve us day in and day out. Teachers, students, and parents have learned to do the remarkable over email, Zoom, and FaceTime. We are all learning to be better at friendship and family from a distance.

Even amid shocking closures and layoffs, Disney has rolled with the punches and worked to create magic at home for all of us. Olaf made us melt with a brand new song to see us through the initial quarantine. The Disney Parks Dapper Dans brought harmony to our homes with a virtual performance on National Barber Shop Quarter Day. ABC, a Disney affiliate, brought us not one but two Disney Family Sing-A-Longs (streaming now on Disney+) with some of our favorites stars and songs reimagined. (Word is, there’s a holiday sing-a-long coming soon!)

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the Disney magic that has happened over the last few months. But we cannot forget the toll this pandemic has taken on the employees of Disney Parks. If you are looking for ways to help out this year, to say “thank you” for all the enchantment these special folks have brought over the years, consider making a donation to the Cast Member Pantry or cast member-owned small business.

During this special holiday season, we all tend to gravitate toward gratitude and perpetual hope. Let’s speak up about the things we’re thankful for and give where we can so that we can all get through this together. We’d like to start by saying…

THANK YOU! Thank you for joining us on Instagram and the blog to share our love for all things Disney. We’ve enjoyed sharing this space with you.

Why We Love-Hate the Disney Remakes Trend

Let’s be honest, we have a love/hate relationship to the entertainment industry remake trend. On the one hand, when we fall in love with a series, film, character duo, or screen personality, it’s hard to say goodbye. We want more! On the other hand, remake, sequels, prequels, spin-offs, etc rarely have the same enchantment as the original.

Remakes give fans a chance to see characters from a new angle, in new cinematic light, with different representation, with more depth of story, and with reworked scores. With all of the opportunity these films and shows provide for nostalgia and enchantment, there are risks that directors and actors with a new vision might leave out or change an aspect we love.

Disney recently released its latest remake of their animated classic Mulan. Audiences on Disney+ were able to purchase early streaming but the movie will be available to everyone on Disney+ in December. I’m sure many of you have seen it and if you haven’t, you’re probably wondering if it lives up to the original.

The movie is beautiful shot and captures new angles on the old story. A lot of inconsistencies and inaccuracies were removed (i.e. Eddie Murphy as a ancestral guide) but they also removed the romance with Captain Shang. For a lot of fans of the original, these changes and the loss of beloved songs made the movie a bust. For fans of Asian martial arts films (hello, Jet Li) and powerful female leads, the movie was a hit.

These mixed reviews sort of define Disney’s remakes and it all comes down to personal preference. Some remakes have actually received critical acclaim and have incredible staying power with viewers. One of those films is The Jungle Book. Now you may be thinking about the 2016 remake and you’d be right but if you also thought about the 1994 remake, you’d also be right. The 1994 remake stars Jason Scott Lee who coincidentally has a major role in the new Mulan.

101 Dalmatians is also about to receive its third iteration with Cruella slated for 2021 and the buzz is good with stars like Emma Thompson and Emma Stone bringing the crime comedy to life. We’re looking forward to it!

There are so many films and characters that have been remade through sequels, prequels, spin-offs and reimagined originals. Some movie characters have been adapted to television and vice versa. Interestingly, the show Once Upon a Time (a series on ABC which is owned by Disney), reimagines the stories of dozens of Disney characters. It ran for seven seasons and even included a spin-off in Wonderland.

So hit or miss? What do you think about the remake trend and how has Disney missed, met, or exceeded your expectations with their revisited classics?

Disney Park Castles: Everything You Wanted to Know!

From parks to movies to merchandise, the Disney castles are iconic. Some of my favorite memories from childhood and on include a Disney castle. Whether it’s the periodically updated intro to my favorite Disney films with a sprinkle of pixie dust from Tink or rounding the corner of Main Street and seeing the spires touch the Florida sky, the fairytale icon is part of some of my best memories.

There is probably a thing or two you didn’t know about the castle and the more I learn, the more I appreciate the timeless enchantment of that beautiful place.

History of the Castle The original Disneyland castle is modeled after a famous German castle built for King Ludwig II. While on vacation with his wife in Europe, Walt Disney toured the stunning structure. He was so captivated by the elegance and enchantment that it became a part of his plans for Disneyland. Like the castle in Germany, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle (as it’s known in Disneyland) is known and loved by millions around the world.

Castles Around the World – You are probably familiar with Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in Disneyland and Cinderella’s Castle in Walt Disney World in Florida, but did you know that Disney Parks around the world feature their own iconic castles. These castles often show off architectural nuances of the countries they enchant.

Tokyo Disneyland features a smaller, higher contrast version of Cinderella’s Castle in the park. Disneyland Paris takes it up a notch by placing their Sleeping Beauty Castle on top of a hill with square-shaped trees (just like the film, Sleeping Beauty). The Enchanted Storybook Castle in Shanghai Disneyland is the tallest at 200 feet and it features a little more realism in its design. Hong Kong Disneyland castle is currently under renovation (originally scheduled to reopen 2020 but is now delayed). The new structure, Castle of Magical Dreams, will pay tribute to classic princesses but also new heroines such as Tiana and Moana. It is going to be beautiful!

Inside the Castles – Guests of Walt Disney World in Florida can enjoy table service at Cinderella’s Royal Table and a very lucky few might get to stay overnight in a luxury suite at the top of the castle. Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in Disneyland features a walkthrough storybook so guests can experience the tale of Sleeping Beauty while wandering the halls and stairways of the castle.

Over the decades, there has been speculation and interest in what other mysteries the castles might contain. I for one would like to think there’s a beautiful 360 degree view of the parks from one of those spires that only the cast members know about.

What ride, attraction, resort, or restaurant would you build into a little enchanted fairytale castle? Tell us in the comments below!

Disney Springs Is a Must See, Must Do, and Must Eat on Your Next Disney Trip!

It’s hard to imagine that there is anything worth doing outside Disney Parks when you plan your visit to Walt Disney World, but if you haven’t checked out Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney), you’re missing out!

Disney Springs has a lot to offer if you are:

  • planning a long trip and looking for a little variety;
  • visiting Disney World for the zillionth time and want to try something new;
  • looking for more options for the 21+ crowd;
  • hoping to catch a little more live music and entertainment in your time at Disney; and
  • shopping for the perfect gift or souvenir to remember your special getaway.

Whatever the reason, Disney Springs has something for everyone in your group from youngest to oldest. Here are just a few reasons we love Disney Springs!

Dining. There are over 60 dining options in Disney Springs! World-class dining opportunities are available for anyone and feature menus from celebrity chefs. Restaurants offer table service, quick service, and special dining experiences. Just try the delicious chicken at Chicken Guy (Guy Fieri’s restaurant) or New Orleans cuisine and music at House of Blues Restaurant and Bar. T-REX is an amazing pre-historic themed restaurant that the littles will love and of course, there are baked treats for any sweet tooth.

Shopping. Whether you are looking for the perfect souvenir or just love to shop for great finds on vacation, there are over 100 shops to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. World of Disney and DisneyStyle are some of our favorites but you can also shop at classic stores like Anthropologie and Lululemon. If you’ve got a Master Builder or two in the mix, be sure to stop by the LEGO Store which is both a shop and an experience with LEGO creations to ooh and ahh over.

Entertainment/Play. Young and old will find plenty to do in Disney Springs. There’s bowling, world-class shows, and even an 8-minute hot air balloon ride – don’t worry, it’s tethered! Long walks on the landing, live music, a carousel, Drawn to Life presented by Cirque de Soleil and Disney, and so much more!

Be sure to talk to Kayla about the options available in Disney Springs and she can also provide additional recommendations for your party. You won’t want to miss out on all Disney Springs has to offer to make your trip even more magical.

Tell us about your favorite shopping, dining, and playing experiences are in Disney Springs in the comments below!

Why the Disney Skyliner Is Our Favorite Way to Travel at Disney World

One thing first time (or first time in a long time) Disney guests often miscalculate is how spread out the Disney Parks and resort properties are. To maximize your park time, consider using Disney Skyliner to speed hop around the properties.

Disney Skyliner, a gondolier system, opened in Fall 2019 and it’s a massive time saver. The Skyliner has terminals for Pop Century and Art of Animation Resorts, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Riviera Resort, and a hub at Caribbean Beach Resort.

Disney history buffs might remember that this isn’t the first gondola system for Disney Parks. In fact, the older Skyway which transported Walt Disney World guests not long after it opened in 1955 only closed down in 1999.

Each Disney Skyliner gondola is colorful and most feature characters from our favorite films on the outside. Each car is vented and the windows are tinted so keep cool air circulating for hot Florida days. The gondolas have comfortable wooden benches forward and backward facing to maximize space but the cars are never overpacked.

The longest route, from the hub at Caribbean Beach Resort to Epcot, is just 11 minutes! If you’re staying at Pop Century or Art of Animation, you can get to Hollywood Studios or Epcot in less than 15 minutes with transfers. Of course, there can be long wait lines but because the transportation system moves guests seamlessly, even long lines aren’t an issue.

One thing that cuts down wait times is that families can board without breaking down strollers. Most strollers fit easily through the doors and between the benches for quicker boarding times.

A few issues plagued the Skyliner system in its initial operating months but the kinks have long sense been worked out. The Disney Skyliner is a quick and efficient means of getting around some of the parks and resorts.

One of our favorite features of the Skyliner is the space it creates in the schedule to bring littles back to the resort for a quick afternoon nap before hitting Hollywood Studios or Epcot again for an evening of fun. Everybody is happier when the littles nap!

Be sure to include the Disney Skyliner in your transportation plans and if you’re on the fence about Disney resorts, remember that Art of Animation, Pop Century, Caribbean Beach Resort and Riviera Resort all have direct access!

Hollywood Studios: Something for Everyone

Hollywood Studios received so many great updates in the last few years. The addition of Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land ensure that the park remains a fun and engaging place for visitors. There is something for everyone in your family at this park.

*Please note that some of these things are temporarily unavailable or adjusted due to COVID-19 guidelines but as a Disney travel agent, Kayla can keep you informed of any changes to the guidelines or park measures.

For the Littlest Visitors

  • Toy Story Midway Mania – a fun carnival game-themed ride with no height requirement
  • Alien Swirling Saucers – a fun, spinning ride with a 32″ height requirement
  • Muppet Vision 3D – an immersive entertainment experience, this show is great for kids of all ages but it does require wearing 3D glasses
  • Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy – a 10-minute show featuring a great animatronic McQueen and his race simulator
  • Disney Junior Motorcade – a chance for your littles to sing and dance with their favorite Disney Junior characters
  • For the First Time in Forever – this 30-minute Frozen-themed singalong and story time entertainment event is amazing for Frozen fans of all ages

For the Bigger Littles

  • Slinky Dog Dash – this coaster in Toy Story Land is a wild thrill for bigger kids and grown-ups
  • Star Tours – with a Star Wars themed experience, this simulator is just right for older kids and preteens (40″ height requirement)
  • Galaxy’s Edge – this immersive world in Hollywood Studios is great for older kids and fans of the movies with food, games, shops, and rides that are age-appropriate for middles
  • Pixar Place – this spot is great for games, entertainment, and characters from the Pixar films our middles grew up with

For the Kid in All of Us

  • Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad – this is NEW ride in Hollywood Studios and already its rocketed to the top as one of the best for the whole family with a ride through a cartoon universe with twists and turns
  • Star Wars Rise of the Resistance and Smuggler’s Run – are must-to experiences for life-long fans and new fans alike
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith – this loud, fast ride is a great break from Disney as usual and gives adults a chance to rock out to one of the greatest – Aerosmith
  • Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – if you love a good scare, this stomach-dropping ride is perfect for you and it comes with a great (but brief) view of the park

What are some of your favorites rides, attractions, or shows at Hollywood Studios and what will you be sure to include on your next visit?

DinoLand, USA: A Trip Back in Time for the Whole Family

Hidden in the jungle of Animal Kingdom, far from the story time castles and flashing futuristic lasers in Magic Kingdom, guests of Disney Parks find a world built for junior paleontologists.

DinoLand, USA is a step back in time, the time of the dinosaurs to be exact. You enter under a massive brachiosaurus. Fossils and prehistoric themes are everywhere!

Kids can get out their wiggles and burn off some steam on the Boneyard playground. Think a massive playground with nets, slides, tunnels, and of course, dino bones! Parents can easily watch kids from a shady spot nearby and enjoy a moment of rest.

Triceratop Spin and Primeval Whirl are two fun rides for the whole family. These rides offer thrills without the intensity of other rides. Plus, the little dino seats in Triceratop Spin are just like Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride!

If a wild ride is more your style, check our Dinosaur. You start with a tour of the lab with my favorite scientist Bill Nye the Science Guy. Then the ride takes an intense turn into dangerous territory. I don’t want to give too much away but let’s just say, you’ll be dodging danger right and left! But don’t worry, it’s Disney danger so it’s all in good fun!

Restaurantosaurus and Dino Bites offer food and snacks to keep your whole family fueled for the fun games in the prehistoric midway, Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama. Think carnival games and you’ve captured the idea behind the midway. (Note: the kids meals at Restaurantosausrus come with a little sand bucket and shovel for your little dino diggers!)

One of my favorite features of DinoLand, USA is an understated detail, of all places, on the ground. The midway is meant to harken back to pop-up carnivals that would appear overnight in a parking lot in your hometown only to disappear just as quickly a few nights later. So the geniuses at Disney Parks built their permanent midway on, you guessed it, a parking lot. Those little details make all the difference in ambience and enjoyment of Disney Parks.

If your family is all about the character meet-n-greets, be sure to look for Donald, Goofy, and Pluto. We’ve even spotted Chip and Dale dressed as dinosaurs too! Launchpad McQuack and Scrooge McDuck from the Duck Tales series can also be spotted just outside of Restaurantosaurus. Talk about nostalgia!

So if you’re planning a trip to Disney’s Animal Kingdom anytime soon, be sure you save time for DinoLand, USA and have a blast!

Disney Instagram Walls: Are they worth the wait?

Before we share some of our favorite Instagram walls around Disney Parks, let’s talk about why they are so popular and why you may want to seek them out on your next trip.

It may seem silly to see people queued up in line for…a wall. With all that Disney Parks have to offer, it can seems a little crazy to spend time in a line for a photo opportunity that does not include your favorite Disney princess or villain. But the Instagram walls at Disney Parks are about more than just pictures.

First, the walls, designed and executed by some of the brilliant minds at Disney, are beautiful and fun. They are works of art in their own way.

Second, they are iconic Disney in the world of Instagram and each wall has its own hashtag. If Instagram isn’t your thing, consider those you are traveling with. A photo with one of these walls just might be toward the top of your teens bucket list.

Third, it can be really hard to get a good family picture around Disney Parks, especially if you want one without a random stranger photobombing in the background. The queues for Instagram walls provide a chance for a crowd-free group photo.

Fourth, these Instagram walls provide a chance for your family or friend group to capture yearly trip pictures. Create special traditions to capture your growing family, maturing kids, or “still-together-after-all-these-years-and-kids” friend group.

So now that you understand why everyone is lining up for those Instagram walls at Disney Parks, here are a few of our favorite walls! Be sure to check out others around the different parks and make plans for your special photo opp.

Moss Wall, Animal Kingdom (#MossWall)

This gorgeous wall is easily spotted near Satu’li Canteen in Pandora – The World of Avatar in Animal Kingdom. It’s one of the newest walls in Disney Parks so it’s pretty popular. It’s natural textures and colors surrounded by the alien look of Pandora is a stunning spot for a picture.

Mickey Mouse Wall, Animal Kingdom (#fichwafellow)

I love this unique wall that features The Mouse himself! Guests knock out two birds with one stone at this wall because it’s also a hidden Mickey! We’re told that “fichwa” means hidden in Swahili. You’ll find this wall near the Harambe Marketplace of Animal Kingdom. (Also, the You Are Most Beautiful wall is nearby!) There may be other hashtags for this wall so see what’s trending on Instagram.

Popsicle Stick Wall, Toy Story Land, Hollywood Studios (#PopsicleStickWall)

How cute is this wall?! Disney so perfectly captures childhood memories of cooling off with a popsicle on a hot summer day. I can sort of taste it right now! Fans of the Toy Story movie franchise or fans of childhood in general will love this wall!

Purple Wall, Tomorrowland, Magic Kingdom (#purplewall)

This wall is where it all started! The purple wall right past the entrance to Tomorrowland captured the attention of Instagrammers several years ago. People caught on so quickly that Disney began creating more walls around the parks. Recently, the purple wall got a geometric makeover and we love it!

What is your favorite Instagram wall around Disney Parks and why? Share in the comments section.

13 Days of Disney Halloween

Trick or treat, Disney sweets, give me Mickey Bars to eat!

Disney captures the spooky fun spirit of Halloween so perfectly! The parks are awash with reds, yellows, and browns. Pumpkins are stacked in the most delightful ways. There is nothing like Main Street in October.

But…many of us are spending Halloween at home and trick-or-treat is looking anything but magical.

How about bringing the Disney Magic home with 13 of their best Halloween movies, shows, and specials from yesteryear to today!

In no particular order, here is your 13 Days of Disney Halloween!

1. Hocus Pocus (1993)

I’m coming right out with possibly the greatest Halloween movie of all time. Hocus Pocus is a classic that brings comedy and scares that the whole family will love. Everyone has a favorite Sanderson Sister. Mine is Mary – no wait, Winifred – no, Sarah!

2. Trick-Or-Treat (1952)

This classic has appeared in Disney programming for decades and it never gets old! Watch Donald learn his lesson from Witch Hazel and get the “Trick-or-Treat” song stuck in your head from now until Christmas!

3. Monsters, Inc (2001)

Ok, so not exactly a Halloween movie but Monsters, Inc is all about the monster hiding under your bed, or the closet. It’s a family favorite and your little Boo might even get a costume idea. “Mike Wazowski!”

4. The Adventure of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)

Ok admittedly the Mr. Toad story is a bit dated and would be hard for kids to follow; but there’s no mistaking the spooky tale of Ichabod Crane. I still want to cover my eyes when he rides into the forest after dark. 👀

5. Halloweentown (1998)

Imagine finding out on your 13th birthday that you’re a witch and your family is in an epic fight of good versus evil. Cool, right?

6. Disney’s House of Villains (2002)

Mickey and his pals have to get creative when the most infamous villains take over the House of Mouse. It’s also narrated by John Cleese which pretty much seals this as a classic.

7. Maleficent (2014)

Again, this movie isn’t technically a Halloween flick but who better to inspire fear and spooky delight then the queen of baddie herself. Dark shadows and beautiful swells…and I’m just talking about her cheek bones!

8. Toy Story of Horror (2013)

Join the reunion cast of the Toy Story franchise for a mildly scary tale of the missing Mr. Potato Head…and a mystery creature…and a toy thief…and…well, I don’t want to spoil the ending!

9. Twitches (2005)

Tia and Tamara Mowry made us all want to find our secret twin. Add magic to their tale and you’ve got the plot for this Disney Channel Original. Now we’re seeing double, double, toil and trouble!

10. Frankenweenie (2012)

Another Tim Burton film from Walt Disney Studios, this funny/horror film is about an outsider who uses his neediness to bring back his best friend – the dog. It’s dark humor of the best kind!

11. The Haunted Mansion (2003)

In this spooky comedy, we see a lot of the icons from The Haunted Mansion ride on screen! Hauntings. Romance. Eddie Murphy. You are guaranteed a laugh and at least a few frights in this family film.

12. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Ok, admittedly, we’re in controversial territory here. For many, this movie is a classic Halloween film and for many others, this actually falls under Christmas films. Either way, we think you’ll enjoy watching the Pumpkin King dream of a dark Christmas.

13. Pooh’s Heffalump Halloween Movie (2005)

This cute family film features the friends of the Hundred Acre Wood getting into mischief and not-so-spooky fun together. Beware the Gobloon and snuggle up your littles for this sweet movie.

Well, that’s it for our 13 Days of Disney Halloween! I know we left out a few classics. Let us know if the comments what is your favorite and what did we leave out that would make it into your 13 Days of Disney Halloween.

Give Your At-Home Halloween Party that Disney Magic

It’s hard to imagine that it’s October and we are still “safer at home.” If you are a parent, it’s also hard to imagine guiding your kids through a holiday season without traditional fun. Halloween without door-to-door trick-or-treating is what the doctor ordered, but it doesn’t mean we can’t create magical experiences at home! After all, Disney is all about creating magic in ordinary places.

Here are a few ways to make your at home Halloween more magical with Disney themed fun and costumes:

Captain Hook Ring Toss

This fun game is easy to set up with rings and a costume hook found online. The object of the game is to land a ring on the hook. This game is fun for all ages. If your littles haven’t watched the classic Disney film Peter Pan, add it to your watch list. Captain Hook is one of the most lovable villains of all time!

Bobbing for Poison Apples

Bobbing for apples is game that always brings the laughs and the reward, a delicious apple! Try this special Disney take from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and find the reddest apples you can find. Include a screening of the classic Disney film and you’ve got a full evening of fun!

Villain Bingo

Turn the classic game into a Halloween tradition with villains! We made our own set and you can too. Get creative and offer prizes for the winners. If you have a laminator at home, you can make these cards reusable and bring them out every year!

Turn your at-home Halloween party into a walk through the park – Disney Parks that is! Dress your littles up (or even yourself!) as a favorite Disney character and spend the evening in character. It’s just like bringing the magic of Disney Parks home.

Here are a few costumes we’ve got for our at-home Halloween party:

All of these beautiful costumes are from a shop we love called Little Adventures. Their costumes are great because they are meant for the rough and tough use they get at our home. You can just toss them in the wash too! (We’re not sponsored but we’d love to be!)

Of course, purchasing a costume isn’t always possible and if you have zero plans outside your home this year, you probably don’t want the extra expense of a costume. I totally get that! Here are a few costumes we created with items from home.

Goofy

This costume was made with items we had around the house. An orange top, brown vest, and a green beanie are all it really takes to recreate your own Goofy costume. If you’re up for extra sewing, you can add long ears to the beanie to complete the affect.

Feeling a little more Happy than Goofy? Add little white beard (cotton balls, construction paper and some string) to make this the happiest of the Seven Dwarfs!

Bert (Mary Poppins)

This costume was another easy one to put together at home. A white button up shirt, a Gatsby hat, red tie (from another old costume), and black eye shadow for chimney soot.

Swap the tie for a vest, add a newspaper and you can trade Bert for your favorite star of Disney’s hit musical Newsies! Super cute and easy.

So if you’re home for Halloween and want to create a magical experience for your kids (and yourself), consider throwing a Disney-themed at-home Halloween party! It’s easier than you think and the skies the limit if you’re creative and thrifty.

Share with us what you’re doing for Halloween this year and what creative ways are you making “at-home” work for your family.

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