Celebrating 300 Issues of ALL EARS®

by ALL EARS® Editor-in-Chief Deb Wills and Senior Editor Debra Martin Koma

Feature Article

This article appeared in the June 21, 2005, Issue #300 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

The Debs celebrate the 300th issue of ALL EARS®!

A friend -- another avid Disney fan who has recently begun taking non-Disney vacations -- asked Deb Koma a few weeks ago: "Aren't you starting to get a bit burned out on Walt Disney World?"

Deb's answer to that is simple. "Not yet."

She's been to WDW more than 30 times; Deb Wills, probably at least twice that. All those visits, "fact-finding" missions or "research" as we playfully call them, to the same place -- two, three, even five or six times in a year. Isn't that a bit excessive? Maybe even a bit OB-sessive?

Consider that for more than nine years Deb Wills has been operating Allears.net, her website that has about 4000 pages of Walt Disney World information, plus 3500 images. Deb Koma's been helping out, first with the website, then with the newsletter, for more than seven years, since early 1998.

Then also consider that this issue of the ALL EARS® newsletter marks the 300th edition.

That's 300 issues since September 1999. Nearly six years of feature articles (a new one just about every week) -- reviews, previews, and interviews -- plus news, tips, and riddles, all about Walt Disney World, with a little Disneyland and Disney Cruise Line thrown in for good measure.

That's a lot of Disney, week in, week out.

Yep, when we look at all that, we can see why someone might think that we would be getting burned out on WDW.

But we're not. Burned out, that is. (Crazy is a whole other issue!)

Instead we thought, with this 300th issue of the newsletter, we'd like to share with you WHY we're not burned out, and what keeps us going back for more.

Believe us when we tell you that even though we visit WDW often, we manage to do something each visit that we've never done before. And that's no surprise, when you consider that WDW encompasses 47 square miles, with four theme parks, two water parks, more than 300 places to eat, more than 20 resorts, 99 holes of golf and... and... and... Add to that the fact that it's constantly growing and changing - well, how could we possibly ever do it all? Since opening on October 1, 1971, millions of visitors have entered through WDW's turnstiles and we feel safe guessing that no two people have had the exact same experience. We know that every trip we make is different for us.

And because WDW is so dynamic - with attractions and restaurants opening and closing, live entertainment, special events and celebrations - we never can say that we know everything about the place. There's not only always more to see and do, there's always more to learn.

Just think of all the changes we've covered in 300 issues of this newsletter. We reported on the evolution of Surprise Mornings/Early Entry to Character Caravan to Extra Magic Hours, and no sooner get the hang of that when they introduce Enhanced Extra Magic Hours with a totally new schedule. We finally, after all these years, get used to saying "Priority Seating" instead of "reservations," and Disney goes and changes the name - to Advance Reservations! Remember the introduction of FASTPASS, Disney's patented computerized system that prints out timed tickets and helps reduce wait times for the most popular attractions? Just when we think we know all the ins and outs of that, we hear that Disney has gotten a new patent and there may be additional enhancements to the system. And don't even get us started on the new Magic Your Way Tickets and Dining Plan! There's a certain challenge to keeping current and staying on top of what's new... and anticipating what's next.

But is that what makes Disney World so special to us? Is that why we never get tired of going?

Well, partially. But truth to tell, there's something more.

Each time we pass through the turnstiles -- whether it's at one of the theme parks, one of the water parks or even at DisneyQuest or Pleasure Island -- we can feel the smiles spreading across our faces. We even get butterflies in our stomachs from the anticipation and excitement. It's as though we are little kids again.

Yes, we admit it. We still believe in Tinker Bell. We believe in Pixie Dust. We feel it every time we set foot in Walt Disney World.

Deb Wills feels it when she rides the first Disney attraction she ever experienced as a child at the New York World's Fair in 1964 -- it's a small world. She feels it as she watches the Asian tigers play in the water in Animal Kingdom. She feels it when she realizes she had breakfast in Africa, and will be having dinner in Italy - without ever leaving Florida.

Deb Koma feels the pixie dust as she's rocketed at 60 mph to the music of Aerosmith, followed by a quick flight to Endor. She feels it when she hangs on for dear life as her family's raft careens down a water slide, then is dunked into a pool of water. She feels it when she watches the face of her son, now a teenager, as his eyes twinkle following the Spectromagic parade -- and then she remembers him as a 4-year-old similarly entranced.

Don't you feel it when you're there, too? We bet you do. As you're standing on Main Street USA, with the scent of cotton candy and chocolate chip cookies tickling your nose, or maybe as you're plunging 13 stories from the top of the Tower of Terror? Or maybe the feeling hits you as you're tapping your toe to the rhythms of Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade, or as you're sipping a cappuccino, feeling the spray on your face from Epcot's dancing fountains?

We've heard all the complaints about how Disney has changed over the years -- it's not as clean, it's so expensive, the Cast Members don't care as much... And while some of this may be true to a degree, we can't escape the fact that nowhere else gives us that "just sprinkled with pixie dust" feeling that we get when we're at Walt Disney World.

Why is that? We think the secret is that "our" WDW is more than just the list of attractions you find on the guide maps. It's the memories that we generate while we're there. It's that the whole place is about having fun and escaping harsh reality, even if only for a few days. If you've been reading this newsletter for any length of time, you've read how much we appreciate "the little things," the "stop and smell the roses" things that don't require running from Point A to Point B, or riding a record number of rides in one hour (although we've been known to enjoy that, too). We tend to treasure the quiet (and, OK, sometimes the not-so-quiet) moments of people-watching or interacting, noticing details or taking a path we've never taken before. Here are just a few of the things that leave us feeling pixie-dusted -- remember that sometimes the best way to get sprinkled is to do some sprinkling of your own first!

How can you possibly have a bad day if it starts with a wake-up call from Mickey Mouse, or maybe even Stitch? Remember to dial 0 on your Disney resort phone to set up the call the night before, and you can begin the morning with a healthy dose of pixie dust. If you are traveling with children, make sure one of them answers the phone and let the giggles begin.

Are you lucky enough to be celebrating your birthday in Walt Disney World? Visit Guest Relations at the theme parks for a "Today Is My Birthday" button and wear it proudly. It's for adults as well as children, you know. And if you happen to see someone wearing a birthday button as you walk around the parks, don't forget to wish them a magical day! Deb Wills has even been known to sing Happy Birthday to strangers wearing the button, just so they know that someone noticed. Try it -- can't you just imagine the memory you'll create?

You've heard about Hidden Mickeys, haven't you? Look for a cluster of three circles that form Mickey Mouse's head subtly woven into the decor or paintings around WDW. Some are easy to find, while others take a trained eye. It's a great way to pass the time while standing in line -- no need to get cranky, just make a game of it while you wait.

Don't be shy, and don't just be a passive observer. Get involved! You can be a star at various shows throughout WDW, especially in the Disney-MGM Studios. Attractions such as the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular and the Backlot Tour look for volunteers to step into the spotlight. Ask the attraction's Cast Member how you can be part of the show. (Age restrictions apply.) Even some restaurants allow you to be part of the action. If you're looking for this kind of fun, don't forget to visit the '50s Prime Time Cafe at the Studios -- or maybe swing by the Whispering Canyon Cafe in the Wilderness Lodge. Deb Koma still recalls the time she tried to quietly ask the people at the next table for ketchup -- sadly, they tattled on her to their server, who put Deb behind bars. It made for a quite memory... not to mention a funny photo.

Have you ever caught the Flag Retreat in the Magic Kingdom? It's the flag lowering ceremony held daily at 5 p.m. in Town Square, complete with a snazzy color guard. Even if you don't consider yourself particularly patriotic, there's something about the ritual that will tug at your heart. If you're a veteran, stop by City Hall to ask if you might participate -- it's quite an experience.

Don't rush your family or travel group from ride to ride. It's a cliche -- you've heard it and we've said it a million times: stop and smell the roses. We mean that, literally. There's a gorgeous rose walk in front of the Magic Kingdom's castle, down to the right. Grab a bench and simply savor your surroundings.There's another rose walk connecting Epcot's Future World to World Showcase on the Imagination pavilion side. And while you're in Epcot, take some time to enjoy its many live entertainers. Celtic rock bands with kilts, improv troupes, alien contortionists and young Chinese acrobats are just some of the performers you'll find as you meander from country to country. There is truly something for every taste.

There are many little, lesser-known things that can leave you with a magical feeling, but that's not to say that the well-publicized events aren't special. Some of Disney's finest entertainment takes place at the end of the day and, for us at least, creates some of the warmest, fuzziest feelings. Don't miss Epcot's IllumiNations, the Disney-MGM Studios' Fantasmic!, or the Magic Kingdom's Wishes. With their stirring music, exciting synchronized fireworks and laser displays, each of these nighttime shows is breathtaking in its own way. And for a lower-tech entertainment, but one that's still a don't-miss in our book, remember that the Electrical Water Pageant travels the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake every night around 9 p.m. Its whimsical show of lights and synthesized music are most enjoyable when watching from the beach at any of the Magic Kingdom resorts.

Speaking of the resorts -- have you ever taken the time to appreciate the unique themes of each of the Disney hotels? From the Cast Member costumes to the pictures on the wall and everything in between, the theme of the resort is carried out in the greatest detail. Plan to break up your touring day with lunch at one of the resorts -- you don't have to be a guest to visit. Hop on the monorail and visit all the resorts on the line, or walk around Crescent Lake and stop by all the Epcot area resorts. If you have a car, drive yourself over to the more remote Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge. Try to decide which has the better design -- even though they were both designed by the same architect.

Finally, one of our favorite ways to spread a little pixie dust is to strike up a conversation with a stranger. Sometimes it's the best way to pass the time while waiting in a looooong queue -- you'll be surprised at how a few friendly words from an unfamiliar face can distract a cranky kid (or adult). And while you're in a social mood, don't neglect the Cast Members -- a well-timed word from you can brighten their day, too. And who knows? Perhaps they'll have something to share that will reflect the pixie dust back on to you.

There's pixie dust to be found in so many places, in so many ways at Walt Disney World - you don't have to go looking for it. Often it finds you, as long as you're open to it.

So now perhaps you understand why we say we're not bored or jaded, as far as Walt Disney World goes. That's why we still feel as though we've been sprinkled with pixie dust when we visit Walt Disney World. And that's why we still go back... and why we still love this newsletter.

Three hundred issues of ALL EARS®? Ha! That's nothin'. We'll still be here at 600 issues. At a thousand, even. As long as you keep reading, and as long as we keep feeling the presence of Peter Pan's magical fairy. As they say, all it takes is Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust!


Deb and Deb would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the folks involved in the weekly production of ALL EARS®, from our regular columnists to our behind-the-scenes crew, including Jack Marshall, Dotti Saroufim, Laura Gilbreath, Kenny Cottrell, Linda Mac, Gloria Konsler, and of course the more than 62,000 ALL EARS® subscribers, without whom this newsletter wouldn't exist!


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.