Friday, August 31, 2007

Live WDW Talk Show - 08/31/2007 @ 9PM EST

Disney World Discounts, Tickets, Resorts, Hotels, Maps, Forums, Weather, News and Trip/Budget Planner!

Join yours truly and a merry band of Disney Geek misfits as we attempt to throw together another live talk show of all things Disney!

Michael Suhrbier, owner of Explore The Magic, is once again hosting this fun-filled chat fest.

As usual, our goal is to answer your questions, in real-time, about planning Disney trips or anything else related to Disney.

I can hear you asking,  "Who will be on this show?"  Well, confirmed we have myself, Michael (of course), and one half of The Disney Geeks (which half, I don't know.  They aren't talkin')

But you never know what other Disney Community personalities may show up.  We have extended invitations to previous participants:  Award-Winning Podcaster, Nathan Rose (owner of Magical Mountain) and Tim Devine (owner of The Magic in Pixels) who also happen to be the co-hosts of The Magical Definition Podcast.

We offer many ways of interacting

  • Skype
  • Chat Room
  • Live Audio Stream

For instructions on how to listen to the show or how to log into the chat room, please visit this post on George's Disney Geeks forum:

Daily Figment 06 - Live Internet Broadcast

If you have nagging questions in regards to traveling to Disney or just want to talk about the latest rumors and news, please don't hesitate to drop by and participate.  The shows are much more lively and entertaining when we have you, the listeners participating.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Devine Inspiration #4

Well, firstly, Tim made me need to go back to the drawing board on this week's showcase.  The picture that I wanted to do he chose to use for his Photography Tip of the Week on the Magical Definition Podcast.  Since, I didn't want to look like I was taking the easy road out, I dug through his albums again and quickly found another image that struck my fancy.

I can hear you all screaming, "WHY!" after seeing the picture I have chosen.

Well, let me tell you why.  Firstly, EPCOT (Every Person Comes Out Tired) is one of my favorite parks to go to.  I'm a sucker for that edutainment.

Secondly, this picture has a very futuristic, yet simplistic look. 

For those of us that are familiar with the iconic Space Ship Earth, this image gives us a glimpse of it.  More like a slight kiss of the geodesic sphere.  Plus, I never really noticed the palm trees before. 

With Space Ship Earth taking up two-thirds of the frame and still not showing the entire structure helps hint to the sheer size of the subject. 

The final touch that draws me to this picture is the colors.  I love the blending of the blues, purples and yellows that make up the light that is being reflected off the metallic surface of Space Ship Earth, or as I like to call it.....The Giant Golf Ball.

Another home run in my opinion.

If you happen to enjoy this picture as much as I do and are pretty sure you'd never have a snowball's chance in Hades of bagging this trophy yourself, stroll on over to Tim's store because this puppy happens to be one of the few out of the thousands of gems that get picked to be offered to the public as a beautiful 8x10 print viewable with 11x14 matte.

But, hey, if you don't particularly like this print, but like the artistic eye Mr. Devine possess take a stroll over to his store and look around anyway.  You never know what eye-candy you just might find that you must have for your very own wall dedicated to all things Disney.

All Images are used with permission of Tim Devine/The Magic In Pixels.  All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Grump's Opinion: Simply Devine and Rose-y

I just wanted to do a quick blog post and suggest that if you aren't in the habit of listening to the Magical Definition Podcast (or as it's fans like to call it the MDP), I suggest you download and listen.  If you were a former listener, I suggest you take another listen for the following reasons:

  • A New content format is being rolled out
  • Much more of that witty banter from our hosts.  After all, we all know that it's more than the quality of your content that makes the difference, it's the delivery.  This week we get to hear more of their opinions of the impending changes at Disney's MGM Hollywood Studios.
  • Jim Hill is still there and is really starting to get into his groove as a MDP contributor.  He, as usual, entices us with lots of juicy details of "what might come to be" and "what almost came to be".
  • Tim has brought back his sorely missed "Photo Tip of the Week" but with a new twist.  In addition to giving generic tips, he's giving instructions on how to attempt to reproduce a popular photo from his own forums, The Magic in Pixels (should be no secret who he is if you've been following my Devine Inspiration series).  This week they are keeping with the theme of the show and he's discussing "The Hat" (see left).  This just so happens to be one of my most favorite night-time shots Mr. Devine has on display.
  • The blooper reel at the end of the show.  Some of the best comedic gold is after the closing credits have rolled.

Of course the most important reason to listen is that my lovely wife, Enchanted Rose and I have been named "Friends of the Show" along with my buddies George and Andrew (aka The Disney Geeks)

Photo used with permission from Tim Devine/The Magic in Pixels.  All Rights Reserved.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Getting Fit for the Trip (Update #2)

Well, if you've been watching my count-down clock (courtesy of's Trip & Budget Planner), you'll be able to figure out that the wife and I will be heading to Disney a week from this Sunday.

The last I left you on my saga of getting fit, I had passed out in the gym after a grueling upper-body workout that I didn't complete.

After that, I starting sticking very close to the diet I mentioned in my second update.  It was amazing how quickly it made a difference.  When a week had gone by and I was having to do the same workout again that I was laid out from before, I not only completed the workout, but managed to significantly increase the weight I was moving.

From the cardiovascular front.  I have found that I can keep the ole feet moving longer if I am on the elliptical trainer, but that isn't always an available option.

But, needless to say, I have been able to get my endurance up to 50 minutes on the elliptical or 3 miles in 42 minutes on the treadmill (at 4.5 mph).

I have started to notice that I was getting the same pain in my feet after doing intense calf workouts just like I get after 2 or 3 days in the parks.  After some thinking, I have come to the conclusion that it must be due to having tight arches in my feet and now that I'm doing all these calf raises that are stretching the heck out of my feet and my calves, I'm hoping that will be one thing that goes away on this trip (the painful feet).

From the body frame standpoint.  My 30" waist pants which fit quite well when I began this journey are now barely able to stay on my body if I didn't have a belt.  Unfortunately, I'm not going to have much luck finding shorts at this point and time since the stores are rolling out their Fall Lines.  That means pants.

Here is what I've learned in the past month:

  • Getting fit is hard to do solo.  The more people who are focused on the same goal, the easier to leverage off each other's energy.
  • Having a goal or purpose is key.  I admire people like Lou Mongello, The Phat Disney Geek, and Jonathan Dichter who are using their training and eventual competition in the Walt Disney World Half Marathon as a way to raise money for charity.  This is a very good motivator.  You cannot be a very successful fundraiser if you are in no position to compete in the Half Marathon.  My motivation is a bodybuilding competition next October.  Unfortunately, there isn't a Disney sponsored event to strive for.  Maybe one day, I'll be in a position to train for one of the shorter races.
  • Diet is key.  By diet, I'm not meaning a new-age bizarre next-to-impossible meal plan, but just what it's supposed to mean....what you put in your stomach.  The body is a machine and it needs fuel.  It's up to you to decide whether or not you want to run on fumes, cheap gas from the no-name station, or high-octane gas that fills race cars
  • If you quit once, you'll quit again.  You can do it.  Just keep telling yourself that.  If you cannot keep running, then start walking.  If you cannot walk anymore, then shuffle, but keep moving.  If you can't move the weight in the full range of motion, then move it whatever amount you can.  This is another place where it's hard to do it alone.  Your workout buddies will motivate you to power through your own self doubts.  There is some credence to the motto, "No Pain, No Gain" you just need to know the difference between good pain and an injury.
  • You have to want to improve.  If you are doing this for any reason other than for yourself, you will not succeed or if you make any success it will be hard to maintain

I like using Disney as intermediate goals to strive for.  Since my wife and I aren't into taking pictures of ourselves to see how we've improved, we use the pictures taken of us at the parks.  We can then compare them from the last trip and compare how our faces look and how our clothes fit us. 

I'm excited about my trip in two weeks.  I have a feeling that all this work that I'm doing so that I can make myself look better will have a great side effect of making it easier to enjoy my trip.  The true test will be EPCOT and see if this is one person who doesn't come out tired.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Grump's Opinion: Musicals = Disney Movie Gold?

As part of my wife's master plan to push me down the path of becoming a full-fledged, card carrying Disney Geek, she made me sit down and watch:  The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, Beauty & the Beast, and Aladdin.

With the exception of Pocahontas, I had seen these movies before.  These are all movies, in addition to The Lion King, that many consider are staples of the new Golden Age of Disney Animation and for the most part they were all stunning successes (or at least I remember them being so). 

Now, I have watched many of the newer Disney movies and I don't think any of them are of the caliber to be lumped with these movies.  I know movies such as Finding Nemo and Toy Story have made mucho dolares for The Mouse and it's evident in the prevalence of the characters showing up in the parks.  But, as an adult I'm not possessed with a strong urge to watch these movies over and over again.  There is nothing about these movies that strikes an emotional chord with me like the movies of the 90's.

One might make the argument that my attachment is due to my age at the time, but I was in my 20's when I saw all of them.  In fact, I remember seeing Aladdin 4 times during the Thanksgiving weekend the year it came out in the theaters. 

It wasn't until I watched these 4 movies in one week that I started to perceive a common element that may have played a major role in their!  More specifically the fact that these movies were Musicals.

All these movies had the characters breaking into song as if that was a normal thing in day-to-day life just like the famous live action musicals.  Who can forget the dramatic musical numbers like Be our Guest from Beauty and the Beast or Friend like Me in Aladdin

In addition to these big musical numbers there were many other songs and most of which were infectious.  I don't think there is a single song from any of those movies that my wife doesn't have memorized.  If you happen to catch her when she's not aware of your presence, you have a good chance of hearing her singing these songs.

My wife isn't the only person like this.  I remember my suite-mate in my college dorm who would drag the soundtrack to the Little Mermaid into the bathroom so he could belt out the lyrics while he showered.  In fact, this was my first exposure to The Little Mermaid.  I saw the movie much later after it had been released on VHS. 

Tarzan is the first movie I can think of that doesn't quite get the privilege of being ranked amongst movies such as The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.  I don't think it would be hard to find people who agreed that Phil Collins provided many great songs for the movie's soundtrack.  But Tarzan wasn't a Musical in the sense of it's older siblings.  I think they tried to throw the big musical number in there when the Apes invaded the camp, but that is about it. 

As time went on, the movies seemed to be more focused on soundtracks that were in the background and in the case of Cars they even went as far as getting popular recording artists like Sheryl Crow to record music for the soundtracks. 

I think there is something magical about musicals.  It just isn't normal for people to just break into song and I think that is a big part of it. 

To put a little more fuel to my argument, In 2006, Disney went as far to release a live-action DCOM (Disney Channel Original Movie) that you many or may not have heard of that did pretty well for itself. 

Many kids think that it's the Start of Something New, but I think Disney is starting to get Get their head in the Game and figured out what I Have Been Looking For (by I, I mean those of us who like Disney produced content).  Therefore, this little movie was able to Bop to the Top.  It worked because We're All in This Together and it takes more than a few fans to make a hit that changes the Disneyscape.

It was such a success that the executive asked themselves What Time is It and the answer was "Sequel Time" and they decided to Bet on It.  As we have heard, it broke all kinds of records.  Do you really think the wholesome family-friendly story is the sole reason for this record breaking success.  I don't think so.  America loves it's Musicals as long as it doesn't involve cops that rock.

In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm referring to those two little movies High School Musical and High School Musical 2 (I know I just lost 2 bicep points for bringing that into this post).

I do realize that story plays a big, big, big role in a movie's success.  That is why I think Pocahontas wasn't as big of a monster success that the executives at Disney hoped it would be (according to the IMDB database entry for this movie, Jeffrey Katzenberg was sure Pocahontas would get a "Best Picture" Nod). 

I am in a way hoping that Disney goes back to this Animated Musical format for the Frog Princess (or whatever more politically correct name they have changed it to).  I think we may be surprised that it will succeed.

Keep in grumptastic folks and remember that "Music makes the people come together"

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Devine Inspiration #3

For today's Devine Inspiration, I'm taking us to Disney's Main Street Electrical Parade.  This is one of the few parades that I'll sit and watch.  It brings back a lot of good childhood memories from when my parents, brother and I would watch this parade when it was still on Main Street and Disney's California Adventure was still a parking lot.

This picture is extra special because I was standing next to Tim when he popped this shot off.  He found a sweet viewing spot and it apparently isn't very well thought of because a couple days later when I went back to watch the parade with my sister-in-law and her family (Hi Collin!), the same spot was still wide open.DSC_3101

Disney's Electrical Parade is one of those things that I feel would be really hard to get a decent amount of quality shots with a Point-and-Shoot camera.  I noticed this when I saw the pictures my sister-in-law attempted to make with her very nice Point-and-Shoot.  If the lights weren't blurry, they were streaked.

Even with a good dSLR camera, you still need to have your settings such that the individual lights glow in the picture and don't end up just pinpoints of light. 

But, even if you have your settings right and are in the right place, it's still not easy.  Take for example, this shot (to the right) taken while I was standing next to Tim of the same exact subject in Tim's picture I'm showcasing.  I need to note, that this was the best of the several shots I attempted to take of this particular subject.  I just love how Tim captured Dumbo winking and everything is nice and crisp and frozen in time. 

I pulled this picture from Tim's recently updated Photo Album on his The Magic in Pixels web site.  Tim recently added a bunch of new albums from his Disneyland Trip with Disney's Electrical Parade being just one of those new albums.  If you haven't been to Tim's site in awhile, I suggest you go see what new stuff he's uploaded for our viewing pleasure. 

Pictures are used with permission of Tim Devine / The Magic in Pixels.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Grumptastic Digital Painting

Tim Devine isn't the only artist that I admire.  My brother is also a talented artist who I feel hasn't gotten the attention his skills deserve. 

RayNancyWishes_MDHarknessTreatmentThe picture I have posted on this blog is one that he has worked his magic on.  I didn't get the privilege of watching him work on this picture, but I have seen him work on others that he's been consigned to produce.  It's rather awesome to watch him work with his tablet as he converts what was once a digital photograph into an image that gives looks like an oil portrait. 

I've been told that there are "actions" or wizards that can be run with Photoshop and other digital photo software packages to try and IMG_1178achieve this look, but he's actually painting this stuff himself.  He is using his own eyes and talent to convert the picture into a one-of-a-kind piece of art. 

With the piece I saw him working on, he painted trees over the images of cars in the background of the picture so that the picture now looks like it was taken in the woods.

I know this is a Disney-based blog and that is why I included this painting with this entry.  The original photo was taken of my wife and I after the Wishes! Fireworks at the Magic Kingdom last September.  Therefore, the image counts as a Disney-related picture.  Just so you can see what he started with, I have provided the original image he started with.  As you can see, he cropped the image for maximum affect and added a new and much more exciting background.

If you want to check out my brother's web site (I strongly encourage you to do so because I'm very proud of his talents), you can go here:  M.D. Harkness

He has quite a sampling of different types of pictures he's painted including some wedding portraits.  The guy with the cigar on his main page is a self-portrait he has done of himself.  If you go here you can see a couple more before and after images one being the self-portrait.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

The Birthday Contest: Part Deux

I noticed that the few submissions that I could find online were answering all 3 questions posed by John.  To make sure I cover all the bases for my contest submission for the special Mickey Ears being offered by John Frost of The Disney Blog, I decided that I'll answer his other two questions as well.  I don't have as much to say on these other two, so I'll tackle them in the same blog post:

Q:  What is your favorite or most useful tip for guests of Disney's theme parks?

I'm asked for tips all the time by friends.  I tell them all the same thing:  plan, plan, plan, and then plan some more.  I tend to believe that one way to assure yourself a bad time at Walt Disney World is to show up without any consideration for where you are going, what you want to do, and approximately you want to do it.  I also consider making one's ADRs a part of this planning process.  Granted, it seriously ruins the spontaneity of the trip because you need to pick places to eat dinner, but it has quickly become a necessary evil due to the popularity and affordability of the Disney Dining Plan.

As I mentioned in my post a few days ago about my being stuck outside "The Disney Zone", I suggest that one purchase The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World <DING> and use it as their Disney Bible.  It has tons of invaluable information that can be used to plan what you want to get accomplished and where you want to eat.

Q:  What is your favorite Disney theme park attraction or show and why?

As I reported to George over at The Disney Geeks in their Meet Our Neighbor posting:

Oh, this is a tough one. I have so many rides that I MUST ride. But if you are putting a gun to my head, I'd have to say........... Pirates of the Caribbean. Haunted Mansion comes a close second, but that song in Pirates just makes my toe tap.

What can I say, that is short, sweet and to the point when it comes to my favorite theme park attraction or show.  What can I say, I'm easily entertained.

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The Birthday Contest (Courtesy of "The Disney Blog")

Well, John Frost of The Disney Blog is having a fun little contest in honor of his son's 4th Birthday. 

So, I thought, "What the hay" and am now submitting my entry into this little game of chance.

I'm reading the instructions to be that I can answer any of the three questions posed in the contest instructions to qualify for submission.   So.....

Q:  Have you ever celebrated your birthday at a Disney theme park? If so, tell us about it.

That would be a big 10-4.  I celebrated my 35th Birthday in the company of "The Mouse" in September 2006.  Not only did I spend my birthday there, but we turned it into 10 days of fun and excitement. 

I proudly collected the 4 birthday buttons from each of the theme parks and wore them with pride the entire time we were there.  I was amazed at how many other park guests went out of their way to wish me a happy birthday.  I expected the Cast Members to do this, but it was a pleasant surprise to have total strangers passing on good wishes.  By the end of our trip, I was looking around for celebratory buttons so I could "pay it forward".And Another photo of the B-Day Muffin

For the actual Birthday Celebration, we did a character breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table.  This was something my wife really wanted to do.  I am not the biggest fan of the characters after my traumatic experience with the Wicked Witch  as I described in The Disney Geek's Meet our Neighbor piece I participated in back in early July.

Ray and Sleeping BeautyI must say that the Princesses know their stuff because they got a real kick out of the fact that I couldn't keep my eyes open in the pictures my wife was taking.  They each were trying to pass their personal tips onto me, but nothing seemed to work.  To top it off, I got a kiss on the cheek from Aurora!

We did dinner for my birthday at Victoria & Albert's.  I must say this is not a place to go if you don't like sitting for 2.5 - 3 hours for a meal and do it in a coat and tie (for men) or dress (for women).  But, we had a blast.  We tried all kinds of new foods and got to play dress-up.IMG_0964

My wife got to celebrate her birthday this year in Disneyland.  We were there for 5 days and she wore her Birthday Button from Disneyland with pride.  One thing they do at Disneyland that they don't do at Walt Disney World is put your name on the Birthday button.  That is a nice touch.  That way, you can actually be wished a Happy Birthday by name!

DSC_1328We did a character breakfast for my wife too.  We had hers at Goofy's Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel.  For her Birthday Dinner, we went to the Napa Rose in the Grand Californian with her mother, her mother's husband, and her sister.  Fun was had by all.

This year, we are going back for my birthday.  This year we are just doing the Character Breakfast because we've decided it made a good tradition.  Upon recommendations from friends, we are going to give the Ohana Character Breakfast a shot. 

Stay tuned to this blog.  There will surely be a trip report about our September 2007 trip to Walt Disney World and another birthday celebrated with the Mouse.


Can't seem to get into "The Zone"

Mike Scopa has talked on occasion about being in what he has termed "The Disney Zone", in fact, it was a good focus of his "Why we do what we do" talk at the 2007 Magic Meets.

I'm not as seasoned of a traveler to the Disney Theme Parks as some of the more well-known members of this rich Disney community, but I typically do not have a problem getting myself into the "Disney Zone".  All I really needed to do was just think about the idea of going.

In fact, when Enchanted Rose and I went last September, we were in "The Zone" from the time we booked the trip in March 2006 until we went in September 2006.  We were able to stay in that blissful state by reading The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World <DING> (we read it from cover to cover), Cara Goldsbury's The Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World, and any and every Disney Propaganda Travel Shows we could find on the Travel Channel or the Discovery Channel (High Definition version preferred).  We even listened to the now defunct Mouse|Tunes podcast to fill in the gaps and prevent dissipation of that "Zone" feeling.

Well, this year we once again bought the 2007 Edition of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and this time picked up Lou Mongello's Walt Disney World Trivia Book and Steve Barrett's Hidden Mickeys:  A Field Guide to Disney's Best Kept Secrets

I just couldn't get into the mood to read The Unofficial Guide.  My wife has been secretly reading it while I've been asleep (she works 3rd shift so is often wired when she gets home in the late, late evening).  My doldrums about this upcoming trip is driving her nuts.  I think bodily harm has been threatened upon me a time or two if I just didn't "snap out of it".  I know I don't hide my affinity for Grumpy, but this isn't a situation where I want that trait to be coming to the surface.

As my count-down clock in my blog header indicates (courtesy of the Trip & Budget Planner tool at Michael's ExporeTheMagic web site), I have slightly less than 3 weeks to go.

We have everything planned now.  We have our ADR's, made a last minute booking of Mickey's Not-So-Scary-Halloween Party, booked our town car transportation to/from Orlando Airport, and booked the "hotel" for our beloved Chihuahuas children.  We are even tossing around the idea of doing that Super-Duper 8 hour backstage tour.

DSC_0499I think one of the biggest reasons I'm having a hard time getting into "The Zone", is because I dropped and broke the lens to my Nikon D80 digital SLR camera right before my trip to Disneyland in June.  I ended up buying a replacement lens for the trip.

It wouldn't have been a big deal if I hadn't found out how much fun it was to go on a photographic safari at a Disney theme park.  If you don't believe me, take a look at how many pictures I took during my trip to Disneyland.

Upon coming back from that trip, it took me a couple weeks to get the camera to Best Buy because I paid for the Accidental Damage policy on the camera.  Unfortunately, the policy isn't a simple swap, you have to send the camera into them for repair.  Well, I finally got some good news today that it is supposedly on it's way back to me.  I am hoping that once it's back in my hands and I can be sure the lens is truly working, I'll start getting out of this funk.

But before the good news today, I was finding that watching some classic Disney animated movies (Beauty & the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and Pocahontas) was helping a bit.  Additionally, reading Lou's Trivia book was helping a lot too.  I never realized how much those trivial details will help with my appreciation of the parks.  Plus, the book really opened my eyes to how little I really knew.

I know that I may be speaking blasphemy by being in the "Community" and all, but I felt my story needed to be told in case others were feeling this way and were in the belief they were alone.

Don't get me wrong. I'm sure once I stepped foot on that hallowed ground and made it to my personal Mecca, my mood would've turned around (if it hadn't prior to that). 

Sometimes, the Disney Zone is easy to slide into and hard to get out of and other times it's hard to get into and hard to get out of

Here's hoping that you are all having a grumptastic day!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Devine Inspiration #2

The Great Movie Ride - Wizard of OzI was flipping through Tim's online photo album and came across this little gem. I thought I'd like focus on images contained within an attraction.

The reason for this decision is that pictures taken inside attractions are pretty tricky. For one, you aren't armed with a tripod to keep the camera steady in the low light conditions. You, therefore, are at the mercy of your ability to make the right settings on your camera and work with whatever lenses are in your arsenal.

At first, I thought of showcasing an obligatory Pirates of the Caribbean shot. It's recognizable and a beloved ride. I also thought about doing an It's a Small World photo. Why? Why not?

But, when I saw this picture of the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz, I knew I found my shot.

For those of us who've tried to take pictures of this particular part of the ride, we know that getting a great capture is difficult. This isn't a truly dark ride in the traditional sense. The large "dioramas" are heavily lit with lights while, where you are sitting in the ride vehicle is not. It's almost like trying to take pictures of a stage show.

Tim's capture of this part of the Great Movie Ride is wonderful especially considering he hadn't used a flash device. How do I know he didn't use a flash? I know because flash photography in Disney attractions is very, very big faux pas and bad form and it detracts from the enjoyment of rides from others. You'll know this if you've been on rides such as Space Ship Earth that has the non-Imagineer approved addition of the strobe affects of flash photography.

But I get off track.

I have seen other photos of this particular character where the focus is hard to maintain, or the colors are more muted because of the attempt to compensate for the low light or the hot spots in the ride produced by the spotlights in the ride. This picture, from my recollection, does a fairly good job of capturing what I actually saw with my eyes.

Click here to to to the photo in Tim's online Photo Album.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Whatever you Do, Don't Irritate the Grump

I have a real hard time coming up with content for this blog.  I mainly started this blogging process to help me further enjoy something I only recently came to realize.....Disney makes me happy.  But, it's not always easy to come up with stuff that I think others will enjoy. 

I am a The Disney Geek in training, and that means I frequent many of the Disney Blogs and listen to quite a few podcasts.  Sometimes they inspire my posts like it did when Lou Mongello had a listener rail on people carrying around electronic devices in the parks to provide "entertainment" and distractions, which resulted in my post:  Disney Magic Falling on Deaf Ears or my blog posts about the Dining Plan or Disney's California Adventure's $1.1 Billion dollar upgrade.  Other times, it's an inadvertent exposure to something Disney that inspires my posts as in:  Can You Feel The Love Tonight

As I said, I don't find it easy to write my posts.  Sometimes, I feel like the planets need to be aligned just right to get the creative juices flowing.  But, even when I'm stuck for days, I would never think of copying & pasting someone else's work into my blog post even if I was providing a link back.

Recently, I have noticed that several of my posts have been showing up on German blogs not related to Disney.  In the blogging community it's known as scraping.  I'm not happy about it but there is not much I can do about it because those are picked up by the bloggers who are scraping content from my RSS feeds using automated scripts.  The upsetting part to me is that they are getting Adsense dollars and other advertising revenue by putting ads on my content.

Now, what is really upsetting me is I'm noticing some bloggers in the Disney Community who are deliberately (as opposed to using an automated script) taking the entire content of someone else's blog post (pictures, links, text, etc) and putting it on their blog and their byline is there instead of the original author.  There is no attribution to the original blog.  If they had provided a link to the original source, that would be OK, but in many circles that is still wrong. 

On some forum sites like and it is a violation of the terms of services to copy an entire copyrighted piece and they consider e-mails, blog posts, online articles, books, etc as copyrighted works.  Doing so will get you reprimanded then banned.

I'm pretty sure that if I dug into the Terms of Service for Blogger you'd find similar verbiage. 

What you are supposed to do is provide a snippet and then a link.  This will cause your readers to go to the other source to get the rest of the content.  Yes, it will cause your readers to leave your blog, but when you link to others there is a strong chance someone will link back to you (if your content is good enough).

Another thing that bothers me is the "theft" of images.  If you notice, when I did my first Devine Inspiration blog post, I made every effort to inform others that the image was Tim Devine's and he holds the copyright and I was using it with permission.  This keeps artists from getting angry at you.  My brother is an artist and has had several pieces stolen and used for other's gains and he doesn't see a cent from it.  Some artists will swap the image you are stealing with one that is not so Disney-friendly (if you know what I mean). 

On top of having the pieces used without permission, if you are direct linking to their images, you are stealing bandwidth and that costs them money.

So, if you find an image that you just need for a blog post, please ask the author for permission and then properly attribute the image back to them.

Most of the bloggers out there seem to be very good at scratching each other's backs and that is what I love about this community, but those few people out there that aren't doing that are going to be opened up to a whole world of hurt.  I'd hate to be a fly on the wall when one of these people accidentally bump into one of the people they scraped from at a place like MouseFest.

But, as that little ditty from the Humphrey the Bear short called In the Bag went:

First you stick a rag, put in the bag, bump bump
Then you bend your back, put it in the sack, bump bump
That's the way it's done, it's a lot of fun, bump bump
Whatever you do, don't irritate the grump

EDITOR'S NOTE:  I added the last line to those lyrics


Friday, August 10, 2007

Scrapbooking and fun with food

The latest scrapbooking project is finished.  I am sharing this little gem to give examples of the fun ways to use creative pictures that may be overlooked in the planning stages but add a great deal to the finished product. 

The whole goal of scrapbooking is to preserve memories and experiences in a way that regular photo albums fall short.  In doing this, you really have to think outside the standard trip photos and add some personal flair to the creative process.   Regan's Flipbook - Page 04

Pictures of signs may make the best title for the page.  This is especially helpful when you can't quite find the "right" font to fit the theming. What better way to capture attention than with the actual sign for the restaurant or attraction?  Several of my pages for my Disney World trip 2006 scrapbook are headed with pictures that Grumpwurst took on our trip of signs and posters.

Another fun way to add flair to a page is by using pictures of the food.  We started this when we went to Victoria and Albert's.  If we were going to pay that much for the food- we were going to remember everything about it!  I love how the kids macaroni and cheese turned out in this picture.  A Mickey Mouse on the page and another trip memory- a great combination.  Everyone ties memories to food wether conscious or subconsciously.  This aids in that process and makes for a cute page as well.   

Who doesn't tie your memories with vacation or life events with food?  I know that my top five things at Disney include at least two food events/tastes.  At Disneyland it is the ice cream from Catch a Flave on the boardwalk heading toward California Screamin and the clam chowder bread bowls in New Orleans.  Even writing about these palate pleasing treats makes my mouth water.  How do you think your memory and senses will be sparked from a picture?

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Devine Inspiration #1

0055-partnerscastleI'm going to try a new weekly feature here at Grumpy's HollowTim Devine, from the Magic in Pixels, has done me a great favor on my Disneyland Trip.  I could never have gotten as many good shots as I did if he hadn't taken me under his wing, so to speak, and told me about what settings to try and lecture me sternly when I was changing my lenses like a ignorant git.

So, I thought it would be nice to try and showcase some of his photos that I, as a hobbyist, find impressive.  These photos may come from his photo album or from his store (some are contained in both places).

I have chosen this print because what better photo to start off with then something as iconic as Cinderella's Castle and the Partner Statue.  Tim has quite a few images of the "Castle" and the Partners Statue, but this one just seems to have all the elements just perfectly captured (in my humble opinion). 

Plus, he's hit the mother lode with no people tainting the shot.

This is the shot, that every man, woman, and child that goes to Disney and is starry eyed with Pixie Dust wants to walk away with.  I would have to say that this shot has to be higher on the list than the perfect shot of the nightly fireworks show.

This image just so happens to come out of Tim's store and is available for purchase and can be found here:

Cinderella Castle 16x20 Mounted Print

Cinderella Castle with Partners Statue 8x10 Matted

If this shot doesn't happen to be on your checklist of trophies you want to bag yourself on the greatest photographic safari in the world, then Mr. Devine has made it easy to get this beauty hanging on your wall.

As I said, not every picture I plan to showcase is going to come from his store, but this one just happened to be.  If I wasn't salivating to get this shot with my own equipment, I'd be severely tempted to drop some cold hard cash on this print. 

I have 3 words for you:

Pure Disney Gold


Pictures are used with permission of Tim Devine / The Magic in Pixels.

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Grump's Opinion: Proposed Dining Changes for 2008 (Addendum)

For those who may pay attention to time and date stamps of posting, they will have noticed that my last post was thrown up in the early hours of this morning.  Well, as sleep usually does, another idea hit me while in the throws of counting those preverbal sheep.

Another possible solution that can better accommodate my desire for less impact on my pocket book and less impact on my dining spontaneity is possible, in my grumptastic opinion.

I'm sure, in the minds of the Walt Disney Accounting Department, they have already assigned some kind of monetary value to the snack, counter-service, and table-service credits we all get under the old and new dining plans.

I have proposed this idea on the forums in the past.

My friend and Disney Geek, George, has stated that he would really not care for the table service credits on the Dining Plan.  More so due to the ever so scrutinizing palette of his geeks-in-training.  It really isn't very cost effective to dine at a table-service establishment when members of your party are very picky eaters, or worse, eat like birds.

My proposed idea is to assign a value to each credit type:

  • Snack
  • Counter-Service
  • Table Service
  • Signature Dining

Then let people pick how many they want of each and charge them accordingly.  So, if someone want a Signature Dining option each night, a table service for each lunch and nothing else they could.  You could make any combination you wanted and Disney could get different amounts of money depending on the tastes of their guests.

I would suspect that many Dining Plan participants would chose a more counter service laden option if they could.  This would free up the ADRs, and more importantly reduce the crowds, in the table service establishments.  Right now, guests have no choice about table service vs counter service.  But, I have a feeling a majority of families with younger kids face the same dilemma as George.

I think everyone could win with this kind of option.  I'm still perplexed though on how the Mouse makes money off the dining plan in any of it's current or proposed future renditions.  Is it like gym memberships where they bank of you not using it to it's fullest (a majority of gym memberships go unused)?  I know they are watering down the menus to increase profit margins, but that cannot be enough to really make a buck?

If we knew how Disney was making money off the Dining Plans, it might help give insight to their thought process when it comes to changes to the plan.  As much as I love Disney, my personal observations is that very few changes are really made strictly for the altruistic benefit of making the guest happier (to "plus it" as Walt would say).  There is something in it for them. 

I just hope something fixes it soon.  What we definitely don't want is a time where people are left holding unused credits because they could never get into places they wanted to eat.  It should never be a situation where you are forced to eat somewhere because you had no other choice.  Nothing make a vacation worse than being forced to eat food you don't like.  As a kid, that's called being at home and eating what mom made for you.

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The Grump's Opinion: Proposed Dining Changes for 2008

This information was originally conveyed to me through listening to the WDW Today podcast, but was solidified in my brain through reading it on

The following is courtesy of

The other big changes for 2008 are related to the Dining Plan options:

  1. The price of the regular Dining Plan has been reduced by $1 per person per night, meaning the 2008 plan costs $37.99/adult and $9.99/child per night. However, it no longer includes gratuities or appetizers (but tax is still included). This is effectively a 15%-20% decrease in value. However, the Dining Plan remains a good deal for many people.

  2. A new Deluxe Dining Plan is available for $69.99/adult and $19.99/child per night. With this new plan, each guest receives 3 meals and 2 snacks per night . You can choose from table service or counter service for each meal (so if you can eat that much food, you might as well eat all table service meals). The table service meals include appetizer, entrée, dessert and non-alcoholic beverage. "Signature Restaurants" still count as 2 table service meals with this plan.You also receive a refillable mug per person, to be used at your resort.

  3. A "Wine & Dine" Plan can be added on to any package that includes dining for $39.99 per night. This allows you to enjoy one bottle of wine per night from a selected list. Click here to see the brochure for this option.

I, personally, will most likely be using the #2 item, otherwise known as the Deluxe Dining Plan. 

Enchanted Rose and myself love to eat, current diet non-withstanding.  When on a dining plan, I am not the biggest fan of the counter-service dining experience.  Now, if I'm forced to pay for each and every meal that crosses my lips, my Scrooge McDuck side of me comes out and I will forgo a delectable sit-down dining experience at such places as Narcoossee's, Yachtsman Steakhouse, and Victoria & Albert's for the quick and dirty stylings of Cosmic Ray's, La Cantina De San Angel, or the ABC Commissary (Editor's Note:  Victoria & Albert's is only on the dining plan that comes with the Magic Your Way Platinum Plan).

But, as the title of this blog entry states, this is supposed to be opinionated :)

Just like I said in my posting about the $1.2 Billion windfall to Disney's California Adventure, this is all fine and dandy, but there are some serious problems that need to be addressed or everyone will continue to ignore the elephant standing in the middle of the room.

Currently, it isn't hard to locate complaints about the Dining Plan in its current incarnation.  There are many people who feel that this problem is associated with the fact that the 18% gratuity is included, and therefore any incentive by the wait staff to excel is thusly eliminated.

To this I say bull!  Do I believe there are slackers in the employ of the Mouse who come to work every day and think, "I really don't have to work hard today because I have 18% coming my way", yes they exist.  Do I think that a majority of the staff working a shift thinks this way!

My theory, based on several years of providing fine dining wait service in a AAA 4 Diamond Restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is that volume is the problem.

I don't care how astute, attentive, cheerful, dutiful and clairvoyant you are as a wait person.  You cannot maintain your "A" game for an entire shift if the patrons are flooding your particular section of the restaurant like they were the valiant soldiers storming the Beaches of Normandy

The onslaught is never ending, you don't get a chance to catch your breath.  I have been there, I know how it feels.  The only reassurance you have that you are not able to give your guests the undying attention you want to give them is that your tip is guaranteed.

Disney created this problem.  They created a Dining Plan that is extremely cheap and therefore highly popular.  This popularity fills up the restaurants which taxes the wait staff. 

As the plan stands now, I can only think of one ways to make it better:

Raise the price so that it wasn't so attractive to large quantities of people.  Maybe eliminate the regular dining plan and just going with what they are now calling the Deluxe Dining Plan.  I know I'm suggesting that Disney alienate people by making something more expensive to the point of pricing some people out, but they are raising the price of admission to a point that competes with the price of one lift ticket at Aspen, Colorado.  So, why would doing the same thing to the dining plan be any different.

Instead, Disney, in their infinite wisdom has decided to drop the tip and make it a tad cheaper.  Plus, offer a deluxe plan which is likely to entice quite a few new customers who were taken aback by the mandated use of Counter Service establishments on the old plan.

So, this is what I see will happen.....

With gratuity excluded you are going to have a lot of people who don't tip.  At first, ignorance is going to be the excuse, but ultimately you are going to see that it's just the plain inconvenience of it or the fact that people don't want to pay extra on top of something they feel they already paid for (the dining plan itself).  If they do tip, I have a feeling that a 10% average will be the norm.  Thus, the wait staff will be making considerably less which is a bit disconcerting when you were making 18%.  If I made a 8% drop in income, I'd have a hard time sucking it up and improving my quality of work.

Ultimately, my opinion is this......

I shouldn't have to be sitting by the phone, like I did on Drop/Add day in college, waiting for 8AM EST to make my reservations to restaurants 180 days out for a vacation that I have hardly decided what I want to do.  If Disney could find a way to allow me to not have to book so far out, it would be more enjoyable.  The spontaneity of Dining at WDW is gone.  It needs to come back.  I really miss when I went in 1985 and my parents could look in our Unofficial Guide, pick a restaurant and go there.

But, if I went by what I learned in ECON 101, economy is driven by supply and demand.  Demand for the Dining Plan is high, supply of seats is low.  This means, price should be high!  Maybe the bean-counters missed that day in ECON 101.

But, if I had my choice, the best solution would be the one that didn't impact my pocket book, but made it easier for me to eat where I want, when I want but with little pre-planning.

What's the point of having this great Dining Plan if I cannot eat where I want (ahem Le Cellier).


Before posting this I discussed with a certain photographer friend of mine who felt that a big part of the problem is the current ADR system.  I had to agree with him that the system does play a role in the chaos known as Disney Dining.

The current ADR (Advanced Dining Reservation) system is too loosy-goosy.  I could very easily call up right now and make an ADR for the same time in a restaurant in every park (or several restaurants).  Logic will state that I will only eat in one of those restaurants, but someone may be denied eating in every one of the other restaurants I made ADRs in because I locked them up with my gratuitous hoarding.  Tighten this up.  Prevent me from doing this.  If you want to make an ADR that conflict with an existing one, make me cancel one.  They should also be cognizant of people making reservations in different time blocks for the same meal (i.e. 6, 7, 8 and 9 PM). 

I understand this doesn't address the current state of affairs in the restaurants where they are bustling from open to close, but it does address the problem of getting the coveted dining slots.

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Whose the leader of the club?

The bus was allowed to go to a special entrance so that we would not have to carry our equipment so far. It was a special entrance for the entertainers. I was later informed that this is called "backstage". I was there with about 120 other high school kids from my high school marching band. We had been chosen to participate in the Disney magic for that day. Our high school marching band got the privilege of marching down main street while playing the Mickey Mouse March and It's A Small World. We then got to play at the park for the rest of the day as part of the reward of being chosen as participants.

The selection process was brutal. I think that we played those mind numbing tunes over a hundred times before even making the audition tape. The taping process alone was a nightmare. I am not sure how many "takes" we went through until our band director said the quality was good enough to submit. We then had to wait until the allotted time had passed before we heard the good news. Then we practiced some more!

I should have prefaced this entire blog with the fact that I AM A DRUMMER! I was the ONLY girl drummer in the school and our drum line was massive (four snare drums, four bass drums, two quad players, and three cymbal players- all this not counting our usual percussion pit). These songs were not made for marching drum lines, so I have to admit that I was not looking forward to the parade as much I was looking forward to it being over. (Marching with a drum in a parade is taxing work no matter what time of year it is!)

So, when I went to Disneyland for the first time I actually went backstage before I ever laid eyes on Main street. Now, looking back, I can appreciate just how unique those experiences I had in high school really were. Not everyone - even if they are from Southern California- has the opportunity to be a part of the Disney magic in this capacity. I was able to be a part of a Disneyland Parade while I was still in high school! How cool is that!

I have to admit that the only thing that really stands out to me from that parade was me hoping that I would not trip over the tracks on Main Street and fall on my face. That would be awesome -to spend my first day at Disney in the hospital instead. I could see the one person dropping all their sticks being me (I just had that kind of luck). I always carried extra sticks in case I dropped one, and we had chaperones that walked next to the drum line just in case that did happen, but I imagine the worst scenario possible when performing. (Do you think this may be why I collect drumsticks from all over the country now? Open-mouthed ) I did manage to make it through all in one piece and with all of my drum sticks in my possession. It was a miracle!

Now it was time to cross the yellow backstage line and come out on the other side- onstage for my first day at Disneyland.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Most Beautiful Flowers are not always found in Beautiful Gardens, It's True. (Cinderella)

Baby Quilt - Eeyore SquareThe perfect one is out there!  I know it is.  I keep looking, hoping that the next glance will bring success.  Then it happens!  I find just the perfect one.  It will complete the ensemble and make things work.

Crafting is not just a hobby- it is a hunt.  Which color of paper or which fabric will complete this project?  Will this page be my favorite when I have finished it or will I want to redo it as soon as I place it in the album?

Recently I have discovered that I can combine my passions and have great success.  I love to quilt.  I have been doing it since I was in junior high.  I love to scrapbook.  I have been doing that since I was in college.  I LOVE Disney!  I can’t pinpoint the moment this love affair started, but I think that it was shortly after figuring out what music was.  I have a serious love affair with all of the Disney sound tracks whether movie or otherwise.  (I have decided that I have a great shower voice and love to belt out the songs- Beauty and the Beast particularly.)

Buying crafting supplies is just as much fun for the "hunter" as is putting the project together.  For my quilts, theIMG_0123 main focus fabric has to be perfect to pull all of the other complementing fabrics together.  Texture, fabric type, and color all play a part in the success of any quilt.  With scrapbooking it is pulling the right theme for the page.  This may come from the pictures themselves or even just a great color that pops in the picture. 

Above all else- never pay full price!  That is what makes this a true hunt- the stalking phase.  Will my 40% off coupon get here in time?  Will license fabrics be on sale this week?  How much batting really is too much when you want 100% cotton for the entire quilt and quality really matters?  Each week I scour the weekly ads and hold out for just the right combination of coupons and sales.

Sometimes I believe that Grumpwurst thinks this hunt is my favorite part of the whole crafting experience.  My craft room is probably the best evidence in his favor.  The drawers and cabinets are filed with the pieces of the "next project".  We are currently building a new home in which I have a craft room all my own for letting these creative expressions take flight.  Once it is completed I will have to post a picture.

Seeing the completed project is a gratifying experience for me, but the true passion I have is in sharing.  My family has no problem with that!  Most of my sibling’s household’s have at least one Enchanted Rose quilt original.  No real guessing to what my family members get as baby gifts.

It is not a terrible thing for a scrapbooker to have a photographer in the house either.  It's nice when talents can complement each other so nicely. :)  Keep taking those Grumptastic photos and being my wingman in this hunt!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Top 10 Things that I Can Do That is More Fun than Going to MouseFest 2007

As George over at The Disney Geeks as so aptly reminded me, he and his brother Andy will be at MouseFest 2007 and I, at this time, am unable to attend.

Well, there is plenty of things I can do that are more fun than attending MouseFest but I thought I would limit it to the Top 10:

  1. Catalogue my extensive Disney Movie Collection
  2. Watch every Disney based propaganda show that airs on the Travel Channel
  3. Read all 7 Harry Potter Books...again.
  4. Listen to every episode of The WDW Radio Show podcast
  5. Rent Haunted Mansion and The Country Bears and analyze them in detail for their significance in pop-culture
  6. Log 1000 posts on various Disney Forums where my only contributions are "I agree", "Awesome", "You can say that again", and "bump"
  7. Transcribe my scribbled notes from my 2006 trip to WDW into another War & Peace length trip report in this wonderful blog
  8. Sit on my back porch, put on my favorite Disney music and enjoy a nice cold Shandy
  9. Send Lou Mongello e-mails telling him that he needs me as a side-kick so I can make him look tall in pictures

And the top thing I can do that is more fun than going to MouseFest 2007

    10.  Take a lap in my Money Bin


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