Another year has come and gone and so has another EPCOT annual pin event.
The “Love is an Adventure” pin event was held August 24th to August 26th this year and while many of us lament that we would have preferred that Disney left the event in September, this year if they had we would have been smack dab in the middle of hurricane Irma!
On February 14th – Valentine’s Day – Disney officially announced the dates of the upcoming event on the disneyparksmerchandise.com site. The official “save the date notice” indicated that registration would open April 25th at 1 p.m.
The announcement also stated that there would be no auction or breakfast this year. These were two things that many people would miss, although it didn’t bother me as I never participated in the auction and hadn’t planned on going to the breakfast.
On April 18th the itinerary was posted and the merchandise catalogue was available.
This is when the excitement starts to build for me!
I was happy with the look of the pins and started making my wish list. Registration on April 25th went smoothly, without the mad dash for a breakfast ticket there wasn’t a need to overload the web site at precisely 1 p.m. so it was an easy process done later in the day. The event did eventually sell out but not until later in June.
The next stage in preparation is completing the RSP (Random Selection Process). This had to be submitted by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Tuesday, July 18th. The RSP is like a lottery process that is run when you send in your list of pins that you want. There are 1100 registered guest for the event and the pins are all limited editions. Once the RSP has been submitted you sit back and wait for the results.
The e-mail from Disney telling me what pins I got through the RSP arrived July 25th, I was assigned all the pins that I had requested, the e-mail also went on to tell me that I would see the charge for the pins go through my credit card by August 8th. This year annual passholders received a 20% discount. Nice!
My travel plans were a bit different this year. Flying out of Syracuse was extremely pricey and for the first time ever I found a less expensive flight out of Canada. On the day before the event Gary drove me to the Ottawa airport. I caught a commuter flight from Ottawa to Toronto where I met up with Carrie, my travel companion for the event. We had a good flight to Orlando; picked up the rental car and arrived at Old Key West Resort by early evening. We quickly dropped off our luggage and headed to Disney Springs to have a sandwich at Earl’s. After enjoying our sandwich and a quick visit with a friend we stopped by the pin store for a few minutes and, of course, a small purchase. From there we went to Guest Services to update passes and coordinate our fast passes. Once that was complete we headed back to the room via the grocery store. It had been a long day and we had to be up early for the Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders breakfast.
Thursday morning came early but we were anxious and excited to be starting the event with the 7th annual Artist Breakfast. This annual event organized by Janis Lavender and John Rick of the Central Jersey Disney Pin Trader group is the perfect way to start the weekend.
This year it was held in the Durango room at Coronado Springs Resort. This was a bonus as the registration for the pin event was also held there, so that meant we could go right from the breakfast to the registration without leaving the building.
The food was great and the interaction with the artists was wonderful. During the entire time you could see Alex Maher sketching away and those sketches were raffled off at the end of the breakfast to a half a dozen lucky winners.
We were each give a keepsake button.
The artists that joined us this year from the Disney Creative Group (formally called Disney Design Group) were:
Alex Maher – Senior Character Artist, Disney Creative Group
Quynn Kimball – Graphic Designer, Disney Creative Group
Jess Willis – Freelance artist in house, Disney Creative Group
Ariel Silverstein – Freelance artist, Disney Creative Group
When the breakfast concluded at 11:45 a.m. we headed down the hall of the convention centre to the event registration.
The line was long, it always is, but it gives us time to chat with old friends and meet some new friends. This year we had a very large Canadian contingent attending so we were able to catch up with a few.
Our Canadian group is growing!
Our registration package included a welcome pin, our pre-ordered merchandise, a map for the scavenger hunt, a special $30 gift card, and our credentials that held our trading tabs and our ticket for the goodbye gift.
Once we got through registration we assembled in the big trading room that is open until 7 p.m. for all event registered guests.
This is the area where we opened our packages, checked out our pins and started to trade. This is when we open the Mystery Boxes to see how lucky we’ve been!
The Mystery Box Pins usually become the “coveted pins” of the weekend. This year they were lovely and I wanted them all. There were 16 pins in total, 2 per box. We were shown 8 of the pins before the event and the other 8 were the “chasers”. The “known” 8 pins were limited release and the 8 chaser pins were Limited Editions of 250.
You can see where the challenge was!
I was lucky with my mystery boxes, I got several chasers and all of the “revealed” pins, I was able to work the room and actually get all the pins but three on that first day. I was confident that I could find the rest the next day.
Take a look at the Dumbo chaser pin above. Some of the pins read “Love is Nurturing” and some are blank like mine. Who knows which of the variants will become more collectible over time!
Carrie and I decided to leave earlier than usual and head to Animal Kingdom; neither of us had been to Pandora and we had decided that our mission this trip would be to see it all!
We arrived at Animal Kingdom by 5 p.m. and the first stop was something to eat at Pizzafari then off to Pandora. We wandered a bit then tucked into the Satu’li Canteen for dessert.
Next we checked out Wind Traders to see the popular banshees found in the Rookery. It was then time for our FastPass+ for the Na’vi River Journey.
The ride was beautiful and we decided that it was something we needed to do again before we went home.
The other item on our list of to-do’s was to watch the Rivers of Light; neither of us had seen that either. We slowly wandered over to Asia and arrived a bit early but we were happy to sit under a big fan and cool down. The heat was really getting to us. Soon it was time for the FastPass+ entry into the outdoor theatre and we were seated waiting for the show.
It was lovely and well worth the wait.
After the show we slowly made our way out of the park and decided to make a quick trip to the grocery store for a few more things. We got lost, turned on the GPS in my phone and navigated our way out of wherever we were. We found the Publix store we were looking for and were soon back to the room. It had been a very long but rewarding day.
Friday morning there was no rush to get there so we took our time getting ready; we arrived at EPCOT about 8:45 a.m. and went immediately to the special event bag check area.
Ruby the sniffer-dog checked out our bags and we were quickly through to the event special park entry line.
We stopped at the Pin Station on our way back to World Showcase, and then joined the line to get into the event at World ShowPlace. The line stretched back past the Canadian Pavilion!
It is always long but the doors opened on time at 9:30 a.m. and we were in the air-conditioned room within minutes.
We wandered a bit to look at the decor and had our pictures taken to officially kick-off the weekend.
Then we started with two of the shorter lines. We chose the coffin game and the hatbox game.
The lines at the trade board were very long so we decided to wait until later in the day.
When we received our credentials the day before we got our trading tabs; similar to last year we each received 4 trading tabs per day.
The tabs give everyone a fair chance at getting to the trade boards and boxes.
I don’t mind this feature but I think that 5 tabs would be better. We were both done our trade lines well before the end of the event day.
We had also received a scavenger hunt map that could be completed over the two days. Carrie and I did ours in the morning while the lines were still quite long. I really loved the pin set that we were given when we completed the hunt.
New this year was the event specific merchandise shop, and they had lots of great items with the event logo.
There were hats, jackets, t-shirts and more. I was happy to buy the Alex & Ani bracelet to add to my collection.
At noon we headed over to Rose & Crown for our traditional lunch.
I always make Advance Dining Reservations at Rose & Crown for both event days. I like to get out for a break and it is a good chance to visit with friends.
After lunch we returned to the event and tackled one of the long trade board lines.
As always, the decor for the event was lavish!
Some of the backdrops matched with the pins designed for the event.
Do you see the sign in front of Rapunzel’s tower? Signs like that were clues in the scavenger hunt!
The closing time for the event was 6 p.m. but Carrie and I left a bit early, stopped at Art of Animation on our way to the car and then proceeded directly to Disney Springs. We had dinner at Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Shine Bar; it was great. I loved the fried chicken!
We were both stuffed when we were done. We took some time to walk off dinner and toured through the shops but the heat was beating us down so we headed back to the room. I suggested to Carrie that we could go for a swim to cool off a bit but her response was, “That seems like a lot of work.” so I had a shower instead.
Saturday morning started pretty much the same as Friday, we arrived at the event just as the doors opened and we followed the crowd into the nice and cool World ShowPlace. We did a couple of the shorter lines and wandered around having some fun pictures taken. The photo-ops that were set up for the event offered lots of fun options, including posing with Tarzan and Jane, or the bride from the Haunted Mansion or just dressing up and being silly on the face of a postcard.
After all that posing we were hungry so we headed off for lunch.
After our lunch at Rose & Crown we stood in line for one of the trade boards, then I headed to the back room to do some trades and Carrie went off with Jay and Chantel in search of ice cream. Carrie, being the friend that she is, brought me back a Disney favourite of mine, a Cronut, it was yummy.
During the afternoon there was a Disney Artist Panel where the artists answered questions that had been written out by the guests prior to their arrival.
There was an Artist Pin Signing where you could have the artist that designed your pin sign it for you.
There were games that pre-selected guests participated in and could win wonderful pin prizes. Through out the entire two days the Pin Partners Product Previews were set up, showing the upcoming pins from Walt Disney World, Disneyland CA and Walt Disney Imagineering.
The day was coming to a close, we had used all our tabs, even a couple of extras that were gifted to us, I was thrilled with the pins I got off the boards this year; lots of limited editions and artist proofs. Some will go into my collection and some will go into my trade bag. During the Artist Panel the announcement had been made for next year event and I am excited already about it.
Coming in 2018 Walt Disney’s Animation Celebration – Celebrating 95 Years of Disney Animation.
Of course dates will be announced next year but August seems to be the trend.
One of the last things Carrie and I did before leaving was pick up our farewell gift. We swapped a tab from our credentials for the set of four pins pictured below.
We waited until after the final grand prize door prize draw was done before we left the building and as we headed to the car I could feel the rain in the air. We didn’t make it; the downpour started just as we walked by the Pin Station and did it come down! We were soaked by the time we got to the car. We had a dinner reservation at Kona CafÃ© and our plan was to then go to the Magic Kingdom to watch the Happily Ever After fireworks and then the Once Upon a Time castle projection show. We decided that after dinner, rather than continue in the rain and due to the fact that I was totally soaked, we would go back to the room. It was a good plan.
The event was over for another year, and I give this year’s event high marks. I really enjoyed the decorations; I thought the photo-op setups were fun. The merchandise shop was a nice addition and the gifts were great. I didn’t miss the breakfast or the auction. The addition of the artist panel was nice too. The credentials this year were cardboard rather than plastic and I found that they didn’t stand up well for the whole event, just a minor complaint though and I would like 5 tabs instead of 4.
Even though the event was over, Carrie and I still had a couple of days to explore Pandora and take in a Halloween Party.
Sunday started off with a rain storm that we sat out in the room and then we headed to Animal Kingdom for our FastPass+ on Flight of Passage. What an awesome ride! Then we met up with friends, Bob, Juanita and Joaquin for lunch at Satu’li Canteen. After lunch we rode Flight of Passage again; it was even better the second time.
By then it was time to head to Disney Springs for dinner at Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Shine Bar with a group of our friends, 17 in total.
Carrie and I had decided that after dinner we would head over to the Magic Kingdom to see the fireworks. We had a bit of time before it started so we rode the Little Mermaid ride, then found a patch of artificial turf in front of the castle and sat and waited. It was worth the wait; I love the new show.
When it was over we went back to Old Key West, met up with another friend for a bit of a chat in the lobby before calling it a night.
Monday we went to some outlet stores in the morning and wasted a bit of time at Animal Kingdom Lodge before heading to Animal Kingdom park for our FastPass+.
We watched the Festival of the Lion King show, met with our friends the Dobson’s, rode Flight of Passage and did the early evening Kilimanjaro Safari.
We saw lots of animals and I regretted not having my camera. My phone captured a few good shots though!
After the safari we took a chance on getting a “walk-in” at Yak & Yeti for dinner. We lucked out and could sit at the bar without any reservation or wait. We had a great dinner there and then went back to Pandora to ride Na’vi and Flight again. It was raining and quite dark when we left the park.
Tuesday we were back to Animal Kingdom. We had noticed the tour booth near the safari ride the day before so we thought we would check and see if we could do the Caring for Giants tour.
We signed up for the 10:30 a.m. tour and were the only two registered so it was a private tour. It was awesome, very inexpensive and very informative.
I would recommend it if you have an hour to spare. We did one last Flight of Passage and then went to Disney Springs to have lunch at Earl’s. Our plan was to go back to the room, get ourselves packed and rest a bit before the Halloween Party. Mission accomplished!
We met with friends at the Jungle Cruise Skipper Canteen and had a great dinner there, then immediately started trick or treating around the park.
It was hot and humid so we took things slow. We visited the pin store and bought a couple of party pins. We were disappointed that some of the pins had been pulled due to a quality issue. We rode Haunted Mansion . . . a must during a Halloween party . . . . then watched the parade and fireworks.
After the last parade Carrie and I said our goodbyes to friends and headed back to the resort. It was over for another year.
Wednesday morning I said goodbye to Carrie, returned the car to the airport, got on the plane to Montreal, transferred planes in Montreal to a 23 minute flight to Ottawa where Gary was patiently waiting to drive me home.
It was a great week and I can’t wait to do it again next year!