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WDWNT: The Magazine – “20 Years Running”

Posted on February 9, 2013

20 Years Running

by Michael Truskowski

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When the Walt Disney World Marathon was first run in 1994, a few thousand runners took part. This year, for the 20th running of the race, over 20,000 took part in the 26.2 mile run. Not to mention the other 40,000 or so participants who participated in the weekend’s other activities, such as the Walt Disney World Half Marathon, the Disney Family 5K, and the Kid’s Races. As the sport of running has gone mainstream, the runDisney events have become some of the most popular on the Disney Parks calendar.

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My first Disney marathon (and my first marathon ever for that matter) was the 2011 Walt Disney World Marathon. Last year I stepped it up and ran my first Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge. The Goofy, for those who may not be aware, is comprised of both the Walt Disney World Half Marathon AND the Walt Disney World Marathon. That is a combined 39.3 miles over the course of two very early mornings. This year I went one step further, and ran my first “Dopey” challenge. Unlike the Goofy, the “Dopey” is not an official event. But every year several thousand Goofy runners add the Disney Family 5K to the weekend’s events, completing a 42.4 mile weekend.

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This year was a particularly brutal year thanks to the weather. The last several years have been very cold for Marathon Weekend. The 2010 Half Marathon actually had some snow fall at the start! I remember last year wearing multiple layers to the start line to keep from freezing before the race (I threw almost all those layers off at the beginning, which Disney collects to donate to local shelters). This year, however, things went completely in the other direction. At the start of each of the races, at 5:30am, the temperatures were already in the upper 60s, and by the end had reached into the 80s. While anyone who has visited Walt Disney World in July would think this a break from the heat, for a marathon, these were potentially dangerous conditions. Couple that with humidity of upwards of 97% and you had one of the hottest races I have yet run, and easily the hottest marathon. Disney was well aware of this and went so far as to post numerous warnings at the start line.

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As always, the weekend began with a trip to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for the Disney’s Health and Fitness Expo. A visit to the expo is required for all participants to pick up their race material. The expo is also the place to hear from running experts, as well as shop for all kinds of gear, including a massive official merchandise booth (bring money, LOTS of money).

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I had last run the 5K in 2011. The course was the same this year, with the only change being that the race now has a corral system at the start. It is still an untimed “fun run”, but the corral system is meant to help ease congestion by putting the faster runners in front (much the same as the system used at both the half and full marathons). There were 5 corrals, A – D, with D being split into two, one for runners only and one for the stroller division. The 5K is the only race that allows strollers, or anything not carried directly on the runner’s body for that matter. I was in corral A, so I do not know what effect this had, but they did seem to put a good amount of time between corrals, as the stroller division was beginning right as I was coming across the finish line.

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Morning two of waking up at 2:45am was for the Half Marathon. This was the first year I did not have monorail transportation to the start of the race as I was staying at Fort Wilderness. Much as I love the campground, I think I will be going back to the Contemporary next year as the buses certainly did add some time getting to the park. If you have never run the races before, fair warning: You have to get there EARLY. If you are any later than about 4am, you will be late getting to the start line. We got there before 4am and still managed to be a bit late, although that was due to much worse than usual congestion on the walk from the staging area to the start line (which is not a short one).

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One of the highlights of this year’s race was that the Castle Dreamlights were turned on when we ran up Main Street and through the castle. This was not the case in previous years, so I was very happy to see it this time (yes, this race begins so early that after running from Epcot to Magic Kingdom, it was still night).

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The way back to Epcot was when it got really hot, as the sun had then come out. This set the stage for the next day.

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The marathon is always the premier event of the weekend, and so much more so this year due to it being the 20th running. Among the 25,000 runners who gathered at the start line were 95 people who were known as “Perfect 20s”. These 95 people have run each and every Walt Disney World Marathon since they began in 1994.

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The course was changed for this year to celebrate the 20th. Rather than going through Epcot immediately after the start, the course instead followed the half marathon exactly up to Magic Kingdom and out. The first truly new experience was when the course entered the Walt Disney World Speedway. The course wound around nearly the entire length of the track, passing many of the race cars and exotic driving experience cars along the way. Exiting out of the speedway, the course then resumed its normal direction toward Animal Kingdom.

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By this point, I was really feeling the heat, and essentially downgraded my own race to a “fun run”. I stopped for many more pictures than I had in the past, which was a lot of fun. But the most fun moment of the course took place in Animal Kingdom itself. I had seen runners leaving the course to ride Expedition Everest in the past, but I was always running for time, so I bypassed it. This year, as time was no longer a consideration, I decided it was worth losing 5 minutes to hop on. It was just after park opening, and the ride had just started running for guests. But the normal crush of thrill seekers in the morning was not there, as they would have the cross the course multiple times, leaving the line empty except for the runners. I felt that coaster more than I ever have before, and it was a blast.

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From there, it was on to the most difficult part of the course, the highway. It’s hilly, there is not a lot to see, and almost no spectators (other than the drivers trying desperately to get to Animal Kingdom). By now it was hot, and I felt as though I was going to melt.

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The most significant change was next. Instead of turning back to go to Hollywood Studios, we kept going and entered the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. A full three miles of the race took place here. We got to run through almost every part of the complex, including the baseball field (which reminded me a lot of the Disneyland Half Marathon course running through Angel Stadium). Leaving the complex we passed mile 20, which was a special mile this year to commemorate the 20th running. Mickey, Donald, and Goofy were all on stage, and large puppet characters were out along the sides. The mile marker had every medal from previous years along the sides.

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After this, the course returned to normal, heading through Hollywood Studios, past the Yacht and Beach Clubs, and through Epcot to the finish. I was over an hour and a half off my normal time, a combination of all the stops and the general slowdown of the heat. But I got my special 20th anniversary medal, and my Goofy Challenge medal.

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I always feel so much better after the Disney Marathon than most others, mainly because, being in Walt Disney World, I don’t end up falling asleep. Instead, I get to walk off the pain by heading out to the parks. It is always great fun to see everyone wearing their medals around the park, with everyone saying congratulations to random strangers.

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It has been amazing to see how big runDisney has become even in just the last few years. Only a week later, the Tinker Bell Half Marathon took place in Disneyland, meaning many runners already have their Coast to Coast medals. The Disneyland Half Marathon sold out in only one day. I missed it, so will definitely be using the early registration option at the Expo next year. This was not my best marathon (okay actually it was my worst), and the weather made it extra challenging, but in a way it was the most fun. It was my 5th full marathon (it would have been my 6th had this year’s NYC Marathon not been canceled due to Hurricane Sandy). I fully intend to go back next year. If you want to join me, check out www.rundisney.com. Registration will open in the next few months. You can also sign up for other races such as the Princess Half Marathon, the Expedition Everest Challenge, the Tower of Terror 10 Mile, and the Wine and Dine Half Marathon. So get training, and see you on the course!

Michael Truskowski has been a Disney fan for over 25 years. As a technology nerd, he has always been inspired by the innovations in the parks, particularly Epcot. He has completed two Walt Disney World Marathons (including a Goofy Challenge) and counting. He currently lives in New York City. Read more at www.michaeltruskowski.com


Topics: WDWNT: The Magazine |

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WDWNT: The Magazine – “Have You Tried… Spending A Whole Day Resort Hopping?”

Posted on February 8, 2013

Have you tried… Spending a whole day resort hopping?

by Katey McGregor

Many of us know exactly how to spend an entire day in the parks.  Some know how to do all four parks in one day and still hit all the best stuff.  You know where to eat, where to play, and exactly how to get there.  And, many of us have even resort hopped or at least spent a day at the resort instead of hitting a park.  But, with over twenty different resorts at Walt Disney World,how in the world  do you spent a whole day resort hopping without missing something?  Well, the truth is, you can’t, but here’s a guide to show you how to hit all of the greatest must-dos that the Walt Disney World resorts have to offer in one day.

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Morning

Good morning!  Since it’s a resort day, the best way to start off is with a good lie-in.  Make sure you’re well rested because you’re going to be running around to different resorts all day!  My favorite place to start in the early morning is at the Grand Floridian for breakfast at the Grand Floridian Café.  I feel like this restaurant is sorely underrated and serves an exceptional omelet and fruit plate.  This feels like the brunch you always wanted to have but could never find back home, and it’s such a relaxed way to start the day.

After breakfast, head outside to the marina where you can rent watercraft by the hour.  Boating around the Seven Seas Lagoon is a unique way to explore the Magic Kingdom area, and the perfect time to do this is in the morning when the heat of the day hasn’t quite set in.

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Midday

After boating around the lagoon for a couple hours, hop over to the Beach Club Resort for some lunch and dessert indulgence.  Beaches & Cream Soda Shop is one of my favorite go-to locations at Walt Disney World (in case you didn’t know from my previous article about it), and it shouldn’t be missed on any resort-hopping checklist.  You can’t go wrong with the cheeseburger and a good old fashioned Kitchen Sink.  For those who are a little wary,or are on their own, the No Way Jose sundae is also delectable.

After stuffing your face at Beaches & Cream, work off some of the calories with a bike ride!  Traditional and surrey bikes are available across the lagoon at the BoardWalk Inn Resort, which is about a ten-minute walk away.  For those who don’t want to walk, however, a ferry is available that comes about every 15-20 minutes.  I highly suggest the surrey bike;it’s great for families or groups.  Ringing the bell as you ride around the Epcot resort area is a gas, and it’s a great way to explore the resorts that surround the lagoon.

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Afternoon

Once you’re done bicycling, it’s time to relax. Head over to Port Orleans-French Quarter and enjoy some beignets from the food court.  If you haven’t tried them already, you’re missing out.  This powdered sugar confection will have you addicted from your first bite, and the “streets of New Orleans” out the back doors of the Sassagoula Float Works will enchant you.  While enjoying your afternoon treat, take a walk along the Sassagoula River towards Port Orleans-Riverside.  It’s about a five to ten minute walk, and the view of the old south is charming. Port Orleans is a sprawling property that is just begging to be explored; a horse-drawn carriage ride is the perfect option.  The carriage rides depart from Riverside about every half hour from about 5 PM and run through both Riverside and French Quarter.  After a long day of boating and biking, taking a load off on a carriage ride is a great way to watch the sun set.

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Evening

After enjoying a relaxing carriage ride at Port Orleans, head to the Art of Animation Resort for dinner.  Landscape of Flavors, the food court, is by far one of the best quick service locations I have ever eaten at, and it cannot be missed.  The surf ‘n surf burger is a favorite of mine. However, there’s a “Landscape of Flavors” that is appealing to even the most picky of eaters.  Plus, this is a great opportunity to explore the new resort and its immersive environment.

After eating and taking lots of pictures with Lightning McQueen and Crush, hop back over to the Magic Kingdom area to the Polynesian Resort where you can relax on the beach with a Dole Whip from Captain Cook’s and enjoy Wishes! from afar.  If you’ve never watched Wishes! from the Polynesian’s beach, you’re really missing out on one of the best Disney experiences.  It’s separated from the hectic crowds of Main Street, U.S.A. and offers a more intimate viewing experience.

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Nighttime

After the fireworks, if you still have energy to spare, head back to the BoardWalk Inn Resort where Jellyrolls is just coming to life.  This over-21-only piano bar is one of the best-kept secrets of nightlife at Walt Disney World.  Exuberant and overly talented piano players play both old and new tunes, to which everyone in the audience is encouraged to sing along, and they always take requests.  Jellyrolls offers a great refuge for adults who still want to enjoy some good, clean fun- but without the kids.

Of course, this is just a taste of everything the resorts at Walt Disney World have to offer, but I think it’s the best place to start.  Even though the focus of every Disney vacation is the parks, the resorts cannot be overlooked.  So, have you ever spent an entire day resort hopping?  If so, what did you do?  Do you think I missed anything big? Let me know, and until next time, aloha!

Katey is a 22-year-old student at BYU-Hawaii from Woodstock, Illinois. Her favorite spot in the whole world is standing on the man-hole in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Katey has dreamed of being a part of the magic since she was young. Today, she is proud to call Walt Disney World her true home and takes deep pride in being a part of that heritage as a Cast Member.


Topics: WDWNT: The Magazine |

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Latest Progress on “Tangled” Restroom Area

Posted on February 7, 2013

A WDWNT reader was nice enough to send in the following pictures of the “Tangled” restroom area in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom that is currently under construction:

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As you can see, work is nearing completion

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Pavement is down where guests can cross into Liberty Square

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There will even be a small water feature as guests cross a bridge

Stay tuned as we continue to track the progress on this new area of Fantasyland until it is completed!


Topics: The Magic Kingdom |

Comments: 6 Comments »

WDWNT: The Magazine – “What is Vinylmation?”

Posted on February 7, 2013

What is Vinylmation?

by Brian Shapiro

Always remember that this whole thing was started by a mouse.  I’m not quoting Walt Disney describing his company, I’m talking about Vinylmation!  When Vinylmation made its debut a few short years ago, the only platforms available were the three-inch and nine-inch Mickey Mouse shaped molds.  Shortly after, a one and a half inch Junior figure was introduced, but it was still shaped liked Mickey.  The three-inch figure, followed by the nine-inch figure, went through a redesign that simplified the shape to facilitate artists’ designs and improve manufacturing, but the shape was still that of Walt’s iconic mouse.  Today, all that has changed, and Vinylmation no longer refers to an artistic interpretation of a Mickey Mouse shaped vinyl figure.  According to the official Vinylmation Blog, Vinylmation is defined as “A fun and affordable collectible designer toy created by Disney Theme Park Merchandise.  At its core, Vinylmation is about creative expression and the mysterious thrill of the chase.”



The concept behind the Vinylmation canvas mold seems be divided between two different approaches.  The first is one in which the art placed on the vinyl must adapt to the shape of the figure.  This is the original concept that applied to the Mickey shaped canvas, except now there are other canvas shapes to choose from.  There is a monorail shape, a Duffy shape, and the Vinylmation 95 Lightening McQueen shape.  At the Mickey’s Circus Vinylmation Event, Disney previewed a new shape that resembles Minnie Mouse for the upcoming Cutesters en Vogue series.  Each time Disney introduces a new mold it is not unusual for it to be met with criticism on various online discussion boards.  In spite of this, all of these different shapes have been accepted by collectors and have found an audience.  With the exception of the monorail platform, Disney has plans to release new designs on each of these molds in the future.

The second canvas approach to Vinylmation involves adapting the shape of the figure to the art placed on it.  This started with the very successful Park Starz Series #1.  In this series, no two figures have the same shape, and the canvases are simple, stylized geometric shapes that take a cue from the art.  The same is also true of the recently released Popcorns series.  This series is like an amalgamation of the two approaches to Vinylmation.  The figures in this set have a similar, basic popcorn kernel appearance.  However, the molds have been adapted to fit the design of the character art placed on them, and no two figures have the identical shape.  For example, Kermit’s eyes bulge above his head, Sulley has horns, and Pluto has ears and a lump on the top of his head.

These two different approaches to Vinylmation are not unprecedented or new to designer toys.  Kidrobot has been releasing vinyl figures of different shapes and sizes long before Vinylmation appeared on the scene.  The artists of the Disney Design Group and the Disney Store have made impressive use of all the various canvas molds.  Collectors have so much to choose from that it is unlikely there isn’t something for everyone.  As a custom artist, I would love to see more of the newer Vinylmation shapes released as blanks to design for.  I absolutely loved the blank Vinylmation 95 canvas released this past summer and found a lot of potential in it as illustrated by my custom Genie.  It would be great if Disney released a simple, generic, blank Popcorns shaped figure to work with too.


Whatever happens, Vinylmation is no longer defined by Mickey Mouse.  It is now so much more, and will continue to evolve.  For purists, Mickey will always be there at the heart of it all, but Vinylmation fans and tastes come in all shapes and sizes, so why shouldn’t Vinylmation figures?


Brian Shapiro, a lifelong Disney fan, lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and children. Although he can’t get to the Parks as often as he’d like, he enjoys the magic by showing Disney movies every day in his dental practice and by collecting memorabilia like pins and art. Over the last few years he has become passionate about collecting, trading, and customizing Vinylmation.


Topics: WDWNT: The Magazine |

Comments: 7 Comments »

PICTURES: Walt Disney World Busses Getting a New Look

Posted on February 6, 2013

Cast Members and Guests traveling on roadways at the Walt Disney World Resort may notice a new bus in town.

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The new bus design scheme makes its debut on a Nova bus model in our bus fleet this week. The colors and design elements were developed with safety in mind and feature reflective vinyl, which improves visibility.

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The silver and red color scheme also complements the bus drivers’ costume.

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Topics: General Resort News |

Comments: 12 Comments »

Pre-Paid Coupon Book to Be Offered at Epcot Food & Wine Festival 2013?

Posted on February 5, 2013

So, a few months ago, I took a lengthy survey about the 2012 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. All of a sudden, I received a follow-up survey from Disney about the festival just last week…

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Now, it has been rumored for years that Disney might develop some pre-pay option for the Food and Wine Festival to improve sales and perhaps even shorten the wait times at some of the booths. What makes this survey most interesting is the one scenario they asked me to respond to…

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Needless to say, I responded with a 10 that the idea is extremely appealing. Not only could a book like this help cut down on lines around World Showcase, but you can also save a few bucks in the process. I say sign me up.

Hopefully this concept will test well enough with those being surveyed and become a reality at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival 2013. What do you think of this concept? Would you buy a coupon book?


Topics: Epcot |

Comments: 2 Comments »

Dirk Wallen’s 2/2/13 Magic Kingdom Photo Report

Posted on February 4, 2013

WDWNT Reporter Dirk Wallen visited the Magic Kingdom on Saturday and has some fantastic pictures of new progress on the Big Thunder Mountain interactive queue, A Pirate’s Life: Treasures of the Seven Seas, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and more, so let’s take a look:

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While the Main Street Bakery is closed, guests can head to the Tomorrowland Terrace

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Plenty of options at Tomorrowland Terrace, including beignets!

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The flowers in the hub have gone to Valentine’s Day colors and the ducks love it…

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Valentine’s Day cupcakes available at Big Top Treats

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I’ve heard of panning for gold…

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More props and interactive elements have been installed in the queue at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

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The “exploding” crates are no longer under tarps

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These huge machines popped up in the second-half of the queue over the weekend

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It looks like guests will play some sort of game where they turn a lever

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Spinning handles on the back of another machine

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The refurbishment of Splash Mountain continues

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Lots of painting going on

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Golden Oak Outpost is closed again

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Work continues on the Adventureland Veranda building

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Another area of the building is also walled-off

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The Crow’s Nest is out from behind tarps and it looks quite different… we expect it to play a role in “A Pirate’s Adventure”

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More props for “A Pirate’s Adventure” have been installed throughout Adventureland

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Jack Sparrow’s compass

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This was the first prop installed a few months ago

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A cannon

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Ball and chains

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Some props by the Jungle Cruise

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Nearby, a pirate skeleton lies under the water near a treasure chest

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It appears these skulls near the Pirates of the Caribbean entrance will talk

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Another strange set of props

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Gun powder

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Sleepy Hollow Refreshments is open while the exterior is refurbished

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Walls up outside of the Haunted Mansion and Yankee Trader

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Tarps still up on Columbia Harbour House

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The latest progress on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

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Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day lanyards are out

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As is the new Test Track logo pin

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Over at The Villas at the Grand Floridian, we can start to make out windows


Topics: Photo Reports, The Magic Kingdom |

Comments: 3 Comments »

Belle Joins the “New-Look” Disney Princesses at Disney Parks

Posted on February 4, 2013

Following in the footsteps of Cinderella a few months back, Belle will also soon have a new look when you visit her in the Disney Parks:

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Madame Wardrobe has pulled out an all-new formal ball gown for Belle, made with luxurious fabrics and detailing.

After much anticipation and hard work on behalf of the Creative Costuming team, Belle will begin making appearances in her new look this Sunday, Feb. 3, at the Disneyland Resort. She is sure to dazzle our Guests with a complete makeover from head to toe, wearing her elegant attire at Ariel’s Grotto Princess Celebration in Disney California Adventure park. Belle will also wear her new gown when participating in shows and character greetings at Fantasy Faire, opening in Disneyland Park March 12.

Walt Disney World Resort Guests will experience the grandeur of the new ball gown starting Feb. 10, when Belle visits Princess Storybook Dining at Epcot and participates in Enchanted Tales with Belle in New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom Park.

What do you think of Belle’s new look?

Topics: Epcot, General Resort News, The Magic Kingdom |

Comments: 5 Comments »

PICTURES & VIDEO: “Limited Time Magic” Super Bowl Pre-Parade at the Magic Kingdom

Posted on February 2, 2013

Just hours before it premiered, Disney announced that there would be a Super Bowl Pre-Parade before the Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade at the Magic Kingdom starting on Friday. The special processional is being held February 1st-3rd and will also appear with the Super Bowl MVP on Monday afternoon. Thanks to our own Patty Granger, we have pictures and video of the parade to share with you:

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Topics: Photo Reports, The Magic Kingdom |

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VIDEO: Habit Heroes Quietly Re-Opens Inside Innoventions at Epcot

Posted on February 1, 2013

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Back in 2012, the Habit Heroes exhibit inside Innoventions at Epcot quickly opened and closed after a media firestorm concerning what many considered characters who were “fat-shaming” overweight guests. The attraction quietly re-opened a few weeks ago with new characters and revamped activities for guests. We have video of the complete experience for you to enjoy:


Topics: Epcot |

Comments: 4 Comments »

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