Disney Music Notes: Main Street, U.S.A. Holiday Loop

The Holiday season is a great time to visit a Disney theme park. Not only are guests introduced to seasonal food and entertainment offerings, but the Holiday decor ranges from blindingly apparent (a 60-foot-tall Christmas tree) to charmingly subtle (Holiday-themed paper cups), and rewards curious visitors who scout around.

It's easy to underestimate how much a person can enjoy quasi-European splendor combined with American commercialism.
It’s easy to underestimate how much a person can enjoy quasi-European splendor combined with American commercialism.

Although all the domestic parks and resorts get makeovers,* the biggest concentration is in Disneyland and Magic Kingdom. The element that binds it all together and moves you from land to land is the atmospheric Holiday music; and the loop on Main Street, U.S.A. is a particular pleasure. The songs are a chime-y mix of Christmas standards, and sound like they came straight out of a December cocktail party at Walt and Lillian’s house.

[*One of the under-appreciated wonders of modern management is the decoration of six theme parks and thirty resort hotels by Disney cast members in Florida and California. Not only is the level of detail astounding, but most of the work is completed without the guests seeing it happen.]

The authoritative breakdown of the Main Street, U.S.A. loop was compiled by the great Al Lutz, and his post is the starting point for these notes. I highly recommend clicking over, it’s great. In fact, go ahead and do that right now. This will still be here when you get back. Although, I mean, make sure and come back, too! Haha, don’t just… you know; click away and stay away. You know what? I am overthinking it. Just… do whatever you want.

Assuming you have come back from Al’s post, and with the background out of the way, let’s dive into the Main Street, U.S.A. Holiday music loop notes. The songs in each category are listed in no particular order.

Continue reading “Disney Music Notes: Main Street, U.S.A. Holiday Loop”

DFO Disney Conversations: Epcot Expansion

We belong to a Disney Crew, or a Disney Squad, as the kids might call it these days. This is a fellowship of a dozen or so family and friends who are all long-term Disney fans; and who have spent excessive time, money, and brain cells in service to the Mouse. We have occupied many happy hours with members of the Crew, talking comprehensively* about all things Disney.

[*I do mean comprehensively. From Disney history, to trivia, to debates about rides, movies, and park amenities — right down to the very ideas and concepts behind the whole empire — these conversations are high-level nerdery.]

Just a couple of our squad members, dancing.
Just a couple of our crew members, uh, dancing? Which we totally do all the time… I guess?

So, when The Walt Disney Company announced that one of their oldest theme parks will be the focus of a multi-billion dollar makeover, we got all excited to talk about it with the Crew. More specifically, we wanted to wildly speculate about what it might mean when Parks and Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek declares Disney would be doing “…some major transformation at Epcot in the future.”

For this Deep Forest Outpost Disney Conversation, Amy and I sat down with frequent collaborators and fellow travelers Rich and Hydee. Both are deeply intelligent and well versed about a great many things, including Disney. We tend to lean on Rich for his analysis and linear thinking, whereas Hydee is our keeper of “Disney Lore” and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the characters and media.

Continue reading “DFO Disney Conversations: Epcot Expansion”

Disney Parks Like a Pro, Part Two: The Six Practices

If you didn’t read Part One, please find it here. If you are already exhausted by clicking internet links all day, then do whatever you want. I’m not your dad.

In Part One we revealed the three principles for enjoying a Disney park vacation:

  • Willingness to try
  • A small measure of imagination
  • Resolved budget concerns
This one photo captures at least three of the six practices.
This one photo captures at least three of the six practices…

But that was just the preparation round of this (needlessly complicated?) strategy guide. To really visit a Disney park like a pro, we also need to address what to do when there.

In Part One we also referenced conversations with friends about surviving a Disney trip. Like the three principles, the following six practices are developed from those discussions over the course of many years. The practices are flexible and should be adapted to each individual’s requirements and interests.

Although we recommend trying everything, it’s better not to focus on all six practices the entire time. Decide which ones you enjoy the most*. It’s still a vacation, after all; no need to bring a checklist.

Continue reading “Disney Parks Like a Pro, Part Two: The Six Practices”

Disney Parks Like a Pro, Part One: The Three Principles

As a Disney Parks and Resorts fan, I recognize that some people will never understand the appeal. A percentage of the population is just not wired for entering a world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy, and I am fine with that. Everyone has something they like, and it’s okay if it’s not Disney-related. Besides, the parks are crowded enough as it is.

Yep, nothing cool to see here. At ALL. Everyone should just stay home...
Yep, nothing cool to see here. At ALL. You’re not missing anything, just stay at home…

But visiting a Disney park has also become a rite of passage. Kids reach a certain age, and adults feel compelled to take them to Walt Disney World/Disneyland, whether they want to spend the time and money or not. This is an easy path to miserable experiences for all. Nobody has fun on a trip when the people paying for it are irritated the entire time.

I always feel bad when I spot one of those unhappy groups, because it is certainly possible for a non-fan to enjoy their vacation to a Disney park. I mean, it shouldn’t be that hard, right? Every year, millions of guests visit thousands of acres of design and technology dedicated to just that proposition.

Continue reading “Disney Parks Like a Pro, Part One: The Three Principles”

We Say Some Of The Stupidest Things at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Walt Disney World November 2013 Day Five

“Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”

— Anatole France

Thursday November 14, 2013

The shuttle bus rattled down the resort road, filled to standing capacity with happy children and cheerful parents, and pointed toward the most visited zoological park in the world. The sides of the bus were wet with morning dew, as the morning air held faint traces of the previous evening’s relative cool.

Tucked into a section of contoured plastic seats, our touring group – me and Amy, brother and sister Rich and Hydee, and their mom JaNae – was more subdued. We had left our rooms that morning just ahead of 9:00, which was not bad for a collection of inveterate night owls on vacation. But, in trade, we seemed to be operating on essential systems only, and our usual discoursing had been replaced with bleary silence.

Usually the vultures are hanging out in Splash Mountain.
Usually the vultures hang out in Splash Mountain.

From my seat I could watch our distant gazes and vacant expressions. We looked like commuters on our way to another eight-hour stretch at the office. I always say that I could live in Disneyland, but if we were already starting our mornings with thousand-yard stares, then maybe my reservoir of Disney devotion was not bottomless, as I had always thought.

We rolled into the Animal Kingdom complex, and with squeaking brakes and hissing hydraulics, the bus stopped to regurgitate us into the park. I was still deep in contemplation. But then, a miracle appeared in the heavens. It was a juxtaposition of images so unexpected that I grabbed everyone and pointed it out, and it made us laugh out loud, and turned our mornings around:

In the skies above Disney’s multi-million dollar animal conservation park were a dozen vultures, turning lazy circles.

******** Continue reading “We Say Some Of The Stupidest Things at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Walt Disney World November 2013 Day Five”

An Incomparable Day at Magic Kingdom – Walt Disney World November 2013 Day Four

Comparison is the death of joy.

– Mark Twain

Wednesday November 13, 2013

Our ambitious Walt Disney World vacation was about to get real.

Magic Kingdom was almost instinctively familiar to us, being the East Coast version of our home park, Disneyland. Day four would be our first visit this trip, and we could not have been more excited about it. Our touring group was Amy and I, with our friends: siblings Hydee and Rich, and their mom, JaNae.

This view has never failed to make us happy.
This view has never failed to make us happy.

A swirling breeze and low, 50-degree Fahrenheit temperatures greeted us as we left our rooms, which was a change from the warm, wet blanket of air from the previous mornings. I was still in the shadow of the towering, Callipygian Ursula when I wondered if I should double back and grab my coat. But, no, I would manage. I was confident that my decision would not come back to haunt me at the end of the day.

The bus was packed, although we found a seat for JaNae next to some very nice people from Poughkeepsie, NY on the bus. True to her engaging and outgoing nature, JaNae made friends with them at once. Our conversation buzzed with talk of today being the “true” and “genuine” start of our trip – unfounded and unfair though it was to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot. Continue reading “An Incomparable Day at Magic Kingdom – Walt Disney World November 2013 Day Four”

From History Lessons to Horseplay at Epcot – Walt Disney World November 2013 Day Three

The stone slabs leading up to Spaceship Earth look a little too mausoleum-y for my taste.
The stone slabs leading up to Spaceship Earth look too much like a mausoleum for my taste.

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

― Winston Churchill

Tuesday November 12, 2013

Epcot was still something of a mystery to us, and I woke up the morning of our third day eager to change that.

Amy and I had vacationed at Walt Disney World twice before, in 2007 and 2009. These trips cultivated a burgeoning love for the amazing East Coast property, but were also barnstorming affairs. We had thundered right past masses of experiences in each of the four theme parks* on our way to the high-profile attractions. We also knew that these lesser luminaries – the things you “discover” – were the battleground. Either you found them, loved them, and it crystallized your fan heart forever, or you spent the rest of your life complaining about the price of ice cream bars and the line for Winnie the Pooh. There was no middle ground. Not for fans like us, anyway.

(*To say nothing of the two water parks and twenty-plus resorts.)

Continue reading “From History Lessons to Horseplay at Epcot – Walt Disney World November 2013 Day Three”

Lowered Expectations at Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Walt Disney World November 2013 Day Two

“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”

― Alexander Pope

Monday November 11, 2013

At last, after months of planning and daydreaming, and one long-and-winding travel adventure, we woke up to our first full day at Walt Disney World.

The last person to snicker at this view was turned into a sea slug.
The last person to snicker at this view was turned into a sea slug.

We had chosen Disney’s Art of Animation Resort (AoA) for our stay, and were in the Little Mermaid wing, on the second floor of the building marked by a five-story statue of Ursula the Sea Witch. Our doorway opened to a view of Hourglass Lake and Disney’s Pop Century Resort. Just around the corner was the open-air elevator lobby, and having it so close boded well for aching feet at the end of the day. The window of the lobby also happened to perfectly frame the billboard-sized derrière of the Ursula statue. Amy pointed it out with characteristic dryness: “Well, there’s Ursula’s butt.”

Our experiences had been great since the airplane landed the day before, but I had misgivings about our destination for the day. We were heading to Disney’s Hollywood Studios (DHS), and I had been ambivalent about it since we first made our plans. The truth is, I was much more excited about Epcot the next day. The memories of our previous visits to DHS were not unpleasant, but were also overshadowed by better ones in other parks. Continue reading “Lowered Expectations at Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Walt Disney World November 2013 Day Two”