March 2004
Walt Disney World Bits and Bites

Feature Article

This article appeared in the March 2, 2004, Issue #232 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

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STEP BACK IN TIME
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Ever wonder what Walt Disney World was like way back when? We rummage around in our archives for this feature, which takes you back in history for a glimpse of Walt Disney World through the ages.

This month we "step back" to a mere five years ago when Asia officially opened in the Animal Kingdom. The park hadn't yet celebrated its first birthday and a new land was born. Asia takes you to the mythical kingdom of Anandapur (place of delight), complete with the crumbling ruins of an ancient village, its temples and even a maharajah's palace. Asia also features a water raft ride, a walking animal trail and a bird show.

The bird show, Flights of Wonder, actually opened with the park in 1998, although it has since gone through a number of changes. The water raft ride, Kali River Rapids, most certainly gets you wet! I don't recall any other Disney attraction that sells ponchos at the ride entrance! Did you know the original name for the ride was Tiger Rapids Run? And did you realize that the entire queue area for Kali River Rapids is really its own attraction? If you slowly explore the queue you'll discover all kinds of interesting things amongst the unique designs and artifacts.

Maharajah Jungle Trek is a beautiful animal-viewing walking trail that takes you through the ruins of India. On your self-guided tour, you'll happen upon tigers, bats, a tapir, birds, and much more! Be sure to spend time at the viewing stations, watching the animals and talking to the guides.

As Disney's Animal Kingdom continues to look toward the future, watch for a new mountain to rise up in Asia called Expedition Everest! In 2006, the legend of Yeti will be brought to life as only Disney Imagineers can!

For more on Disney's Animal Kingdom visit: http://allears.net/tp/ak/ak.htm

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FINDING NEMO
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Imagine for a moment, a group of adults who collectively have visited WDW so much...well...let's just say they're seasoned veterans. Imagine these same adults with broad smiles, calling out to each other, "Look at this!" "Come over here!" "You gotta see this!" Which new attraction captured their fancy? The new "Nemo and Friends" exhibit in the Living Seas.

Outside the Living Seas pavilion, you are now greeted by a colorful sculpture garden where you can have your photo taken with some aquatic friends, including Marlin, Dory, and of course, Nemo himself! After finding an agreeable Cast Member, willing to weigh himself down with six or seven cameras, we posed and laughed and proceeded inside... not expecting much at all. Well, lo and behold, this new segment in the Living Seas is worth a trip for folks of all ages. You can search for clownfish (Nemo and Marlin), blue tangs (Dory), starfish (Peach), seahorses (Sheldon) and stingrays (Mr. Ray). You can also check out the Can You Find Nemo habitat, the Great Barrier Reef display, the stingray viewing habitat, Mr. Ray's Lagoon, and my personal favorite, the jellyfish! This new exhibit is simple and low budget, but enchanting, all at the same time. Of course, not all the Finding Nemo characters are here... it'd be pretty difficult to have the great white shark, Bruce, join the gang, even if he is a vegetarian!

For photos visit: http://allears.net/tp/ep/e_seas2.htm

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GOOFY'S EPCOT GUIDE
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Beginning March 7th, kids visiting Epcot will be able to enjoy a new "scavenger hunt" called Goofy's Epcot Guide. Each day, approximately 3,500 guides will be available at the Main Entrance, International Gateway, Guest Relations, Tip Board and Kidcot locations. Once you have completed the hunt, you can redeem the guide at designated locations for a special prize -- an 8 x 11" character poster (one per guest/guide). Complete instructions and information are included in Goofy's Epcot Guide booklet.

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HAPPY VILLAINTINE'S DAY
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Do you have villain fans in your family or traveling party? If so, then you might have enjoyed WDW's recent pin pursuit game called "Happy Villaintine's Day." Margaret Edmonds from Massachusetts and her family of villain (and princess) fans recently returned from WDW where they incorporated the Happy Villaintine's Day game with various villain adventures in the parks. They were unaware of the villain themed pin pursuit prior to their trip.

After several days visiting the other parks, "...our family hits Pin Central at Epcot," Margaret writes. "By this time, the kids have decided to include Mom in pin trading. They surprise Mom with her own lanyard complete with four identical Tinker Bell pins... Meanwhile, Brian has found a display board that pictures eight new Disney pins. A Cast Member explains that this is 'Happy Villaintines Day.'

"'Happy Villaintine's Day' is a brand new pin collection of eight pins that was released on February 4. Each pin features a different villain and is labeled 'Happy Villaintine's Day, February 2004, Walt Disney World.' There is a catch to these pins, though. Seven of the eight pins can be purchased, but at seven different locations. The eighth pin is actually a complimentary pin that can only be obtained by completing a pin pursuit map, on which you receive a stamp from the seven locations. I look at three children with pleading eyes: 'Can we do it, Mom?' I nod my head and each child gets a map."

This turned out to be a fun experience for the whole family, answering trivia questions, hunting down villains and getting a free pin to boot! Learn more about their experience in the full article found at: http://allears.net/btp/vill.htm

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GUEST EXPRESS?
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ALL EARS® Editor-in-Chief Deb Wills recently filled out a survey based on her December 2003 stay at WDW. Several of the questions pertained to something called Guest Express:

"Now you can begin your Walt Disney World vacation the moment you arrive! Disney's new Guest Express is a timesaving service that eliminates the hassles of baggage handling and transportation. It's an exclusive benefit available only to Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests. You'll be greeted at the airport by a Disney representative and directed to the 'Disney Welcome Center,' where you'll check in and quickly board a Disney-themed motor coach for transport to your Disney resort. Then, while you're getting settled at your resort or off enjoying the magic, your specially tagged luggage will bypass baggage claim and be taken directly to your resort room. And finally, at the end of your vacation, Disney will transport you and your bags back to the airport where you'll have Disney assistance getting your bags checked in before proceeding to the gate."

The description concluded with, "Would you pay $30 per person round-trip or $15 per one way for this service?" Only time will tell if it is soon to be part of WDW's offerings!

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MONTHLY REMIND-EARS
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Port Orleans French Quarter reopens March 21! Look for the refurbished rooms to have new bedspreads with a hidden Mickey design, fresh paint, new carpet, larger TVs and added amenities ranging from ironing boards to hair dryers. A privacy drape now separates the rooms' bed areas from the vanity areas, which feature new, ornately patterned tile floors. New artwork and decorative touches reflecting the French Quarter theme complete the room makeover. The process also included modifications to wheelchair-accessible rooms to enhance the resort experience for guests with disabilities. The landscaping of the resort has also been enhanced to build on the Southern atmosphere.

Are you staying at the French Quarter during reopening week? If so, please contact us at: http://allears.net/forms/feedback.htm. We're interested in firsthand reports and photos of the rehabbed rooms!

Magic Kingdom Afternoon Parade Special -- The "Home on the Range" pre-parade will precede the "Share a Dream Come True" Parade from March 5 through April 16. Walt Disney Pictures' "Home on the Range" opens in theaters on April 2, 2004.

St. Patrick's Day Party at Pleasure Island -- March 12, 13, and 17, Pleasure Island DJs will feature videos by Irish artists, such as The Corrs, The Cranberries, and U2. Grumpy leprechauns will stroll the island, and Irish dance instructors will perform in front of Hub Stage, pulling guests in to learn Irish dance moves. Watch for the way-over-the-top costume of The Shamrocker, an Irish punk rocker, who wanders Hill Street, a bit dazed, looking for his/her band. Anyone named Patrick receives a drink coupon! Admission to the St. Patrick's Day Party is included with regular Pleasure Island ticket media.

TriceraTop Spin will be closed through March 16, 2004. http://www.allears.net/tp/ak/ak_chester.htm

The Sword in the Stone show will not be performed March 6, 8, 13-17, 20-24, 27, 29. http://www.allears.net/tp/mk/mk_merlin.htm

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Souven-EARS
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Anyone who's ever visited Walt Disney World knows that there's a gift shop everywhere you turn, and like the rest of the World, each has its own theme and its own personality. All shops have a merchandise mix that will appeal to guests of all ages, but perhaps the most "kid friendly" shop of all is Chester and Hester's Dinosaur Treasures in Dinoland at the Animal Kingdom. This shop is virtually "all kids," although some of the merchandise will definitely appeal to the adult kids, too.

Set in an old, tin-roofed garage, this gift shop is anything but plush. The floors are concrete and there are bright red "water pipes" running up the walls and across the ceiling. The interior paint looks like it's been there since the age of the dinosaurs, emphasizing the fun theme of the shop.

With a name like Dinosaur Treasures, you would certainly expect to find dinosaurs -- and you will! Small plastic dinosaurs, medium and large "stuffed" dinosaurs (beginning at $12) and, for the connoisseurs of dinosaurs, a dinosaur hat ($22) that doubles as a puppet.

However, Chester & Hester's also sells things you wouldn't expect to find there -- sparkly pink princess hats complete with wispy veil and Mickey ears ($18), sparkly purses and change purses, princess crowns and princess scepters.

For those creative children, you can find alphabet beads and lots of character beads for making necklaces and key chains. Boys and girls alike will love the huge display of Mr. Potato Head pieces available to "mix and match."

And what kids' shop would be complete without something from the Goofy Candy Company? At Chester & Hester's, the specialty "candy" takes the form of "fill it yourself" 18-inch plastic tubes ($4) that you can fill with different flavors of sour powdered candy.

Dinoland at the Animal Kingdom is the closest thing Disney has to the old-fashioned "kiddie land" at your local state fair or amusement park. There are lots of rides and activities designed for the younger guest, but as is typical at Walt Disney World, the adults who accompany the youngsters can also enjoy most all the activities.

Chester and Hester's will delight kids of all ages with its unique, interesting and downright "fun" merchandise. Don't miss it next time you visit the Animal Kingdom!

To read Glo's entire article, with photographs, visit: http://allears.net/btp/glo6.htm

For other Souven-EARS articles, visit: http://allears.net/btp/gloria.htm

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MAGICAL MOMENTS
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Underh6642 writes: As a Floridian, you really don't look for special attention when you visit Disney -- heck we get to come all we want. We have been to the parks over eight times. But on 1/17/04, our family took a belated birthday trip for our 5-year-old, Janie. The Disney Magic surrounded her as soon as we took the tram from the parking lot, where she got to announce the location of the cars to everyone on the tram. "Grumpy, Grumpy, Grumpy, 124." The Cast Member let her do this over and over again. During the night, a couple of people pointed at her and said, "There's that cute little girl from the tram." Thank you, Disney! It sure was magic for a little girl!

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Kathie from Texas shares: We planned to spend Christmas 2002 in WDW with our awesome friends, the Jordans. They were able to go down a few days before us, so they offered to take our two girls with them. We each made costumes for our kids, so we had two Mickeys and two Minnies! We planned to come down later with all of the "Santa" goodies and our son. On Christmas morning, we were opening gifts as usual -- and then I opened "the gift" -- a picture of the girls taken at the exit of the Figment ride. While they were there, before we arrived, our girls were chosen as "family of the day." How magical is that?! The girls were lined up in their Mickey and Minnie costumes for their picture. Their picture was even on display there for everyone to see. I hadn't noticed it when I walked by it earlier in the week, maybe due to being rushed past it by the kids... but when I was finally shown the picture all I could do was cry! Our girls in their costumes, that we made, on display in WDW! I thought, does it get any better than this? IT DOES! While waiting for the parade on Christmas Day, the husbands sat in our spot and we took the kids to see Mickey and Minnie. Boy, were they surprised and very happy to see four more Mickeys and Minnies coming at them! They were so impressed with our costumes and spent quite a while "talking" to the children! While posing for the picture, we noticed a camera crew from a local TV station walk up. Our kids got to be on the local TV station with Mickey and Minnie! My 13-year-old said that it was the best Christmas present they got that year! This was definitely a trip we will remember forever! Thank you Wendy, Dave and Georgie for being our extended family! We love you guys!

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Suzanne writes: I have to say, after visiting the park six times since its opening, this last time had to be the best. It was a bittersweet time for me, as I left my baby (21-year-old daughter) doing a college internship at Disney. Here I was, a "Mouseketeer" from the '50s, leaving my little girl in a place that I only dreamed would ever come true. "A dream is a wish your heart makes" is the biggest understatement ever! Every phone call she has made home has been an exciting experience for both her and me. She knows what "Disney" meant to me in my youth, because it meant the same for her. Anyone who has a chance to participate in this program should really take advantage of it. What a magical experience!

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Kate B. writes: We took our first trip to WDW this February. The entire experience was outstanding, but we had several magical moments that will forever stand out, and I'd like to share one with you. We went to Disney-MGM Studios the Friday we were there. The park was practically empty upon our early arrival. Our 5-year-old daughter Caitlin was eager to meet Mickey, so we went off in search of the Magical Mouse. We were directed to a building where we were told he would be out at 10 a.m. Just as we were walking away from the door of the building, a Cast Member came out and asked Caitlin if she was looking for Mickey. She barely squeaked out a yes, and Mickey popped his head out the door, dressed in his sorcerer's costume. Caitlin squealed and jumped up and down and so did Mickey. He ducked back in the door and proceeded to play hide and seek with her. Then he came out and there were hugs and pictures and an autograph. Mind you, we were the only ones there at this time. After some serious one-on-one time with her, Mickey took Caitlin's hand and walked her down the street to meet other characters. We took a fabulous picture of them hand in hand and have a wonderful reminder of our Magical Moment.


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Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.