Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Why I return to the Disney Theme Parks

Jeff Pepper wrote a great post about his views on the success of Ratatouille and the Disney/Pixar merger.  The comments on the blog had varying views about the movie, its success, and opinions about the perceived long-term relevance of this particular movie.

I made the following comment on this post:

To me whether or not a film can stand up to the test of time is moot. I very rarely ever watch a movie more than once or read a book more than once. Once I know the ending, I don't have a desire to go through the process again.

Jeff, responded to my comment with the following:

Just curious Ray--
How do you reconcile that dynamic with what seems to be your clear love of theme park entertainment, which is clearly overwhelming in its repetitive nature?
As with any form of entertainment, there always seems to be an enormous amount I miss on the first swing. I just discovered that most especially when I revisited Meet the Robinsons on DVD.

I have been racking my brain trying to think of a reason why this obvious error in logic exists.

When discussing this personal paradox with those people I talk to "in real life", I could only come up with one very sound, yet emotional, reason.

That reason is that I have developed a personal relationship with the Disney Theme Parks.  A kind of relationship that I have been unable to develop with movies and books.

This relationship drives me to want to keep going back and revisit the parks.  The only way I can describe it is that when I go to the parks it's like an awesome day with a beloved family member or a best friend.  After days like that, you just cannot wait to do it again.

emperorsnewgroovedvdcover In the name of full disclosure, I should state that there have been very rare movies that I have watched multiple times.  One of those movies was The Emperor's New Groove.  Now, I don't have an emotional tie to this movie, but there is something about Patrick Warburton's portrayal of Kronk that just made that movie for me........Riiiggghhhhttt.  I just couldn't stop laughing when he's in the movie.  The problem is that Kronk is so ingrained into the story, you must watch the entire movie to see his parts.  Kronk, is probably why I really enjoy The Emperor's New School on the Disney Channel.

The other movies were the original Star Wars Trilogy and an action flick or two.  But with those few exceptions, I mainly watch a movie once.

But, despite that, I have never really had that kind of relationship with a movie. 

But, if I was to offer a more analytical explanation as to why I will continuously go back to a Disney Theme Park....

When it comes to the Theme Parks, the only explanation I can give is that going to a Theme Park is like watching a movie in parts.  You have to keep watching to fill in the gaps of the story that were missed because you didn't watch in it's entirety. 

Now, I know that people might argue that you need to watch a movie multiple times to get the entire picture because there is new stuff to be seen with successive viewing.  Just read Jeff's DVD review of Meet the Robinsons as an example.  He does, indeed, highlight all the new things he observed when watching it again.

For that argument, I would respond that I guess I don't view movies the same way as a lot of my peers.  I am it in purely for entertainment.  If you are trying to educate me, change my way of thinking, or just plain make me The relationship Growing Strongerthink, I'm most likely not going to give the movie a second thought. 

I think one of the biggest reasons I failed to succeed in the Radio, TV, Motion Picture curriculum at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was because I could never see the movie for more than the surface story. 

I wasn't adept at picking up the subtle nuances of lighting choices, character development and choice of dialogue.  Imagery, metaphors, and other thematic devices always seemed to go over my head.  This could also be said for my weakness with books.

To me, when I watch a movie, I'm just in it for the story (and it doesn't even have to be well spun) and whether or not I'm entertained (most important).  I cannot really perceive all the other stuff unless someone points it out to me. 

An example was when a friend did a college term paper on the movie Terminator 2 for a film appreciation class (Senior fluff class).  He had noted in his paper that the bad Terminator always had red lights of some kind around him in confrontational scenes, while Arnold's Terminator character had blue.  In the climatic final battle, there were the blending of reds and blues throughout.  I never in a million years would've picked up on that unless someone told me.  In fact, I had to watch the movie again to believe it.

Now, with the Theme Parks, even when I feel like I've gotten the entire "story", the "story" is always changing.  New attractions and rides are added.  Old ones are sometimes removed (Horizons, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Country Bears, etc).  Some are just re-themed (Journey in Imagination, Mexico Pavilion, Space Ship Earth, Haunted Mansion, etc).  There is also the well designed architecture and landscaping between the rides and attractions.

Please Respecting Our Temple AreaThis creates an environment where the story isn't the same when you start viewing it again.  I think only one movie franchise could come close to matching this scenario.  That was the original Star Wars Trilogy. 

George Lucas, on a couple of instances, added or enhanced the movie with new digital effects, scenes, etc.  This made for a new reason to watch the movies.  I'm sure this was as much of a marketing ploy as it was to allow Mr. Lucas to tell the story the way he originally intended but technology didn't allow.

But even with all that said, I was starting to wonder how I was going to maintain going to the parks every year after I got through everything multiple times.  After all, Disney loves to change things but not every year. 

I have managed to conjure up a renewed vigor in which I attack the parks mainly due to a few things:

My photography has given my eyes a new medium through which to look at the parks.  Now, I'm looking at it in a  Crate Appreciation Society more artistic sense.  I view it through my viewfinder and try to capture images that would look good hanging on my wall.

The podcast segments, the various blogs I have mentioned, and the Crate Appreciation Society give me things to look for.  Sometimes those things translate into new views to capture through my camera.

I'm trying to apply this newly found vigor for the parks to the huge Disney DVD Collection my wife and I have amassed.

My dad, the other day, suggested that maybe I view them again, not to be entertained, but to try and learn from them.  These successive viewings would allow me to see what is in the movie that I may have not noticed because I was too busy being entertained. That is going to be hard for me because it seems like work….haha.

I think I'm going to try it though.  But, I'm still perplexed about arguments about movies standing the test of time.

To me, if the movie was entertaining once, it will always be entertaining.....

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Disneyana Alert: New Kinkade Print....Cinderella Castle

A New Day at the Cinderella Castle (Thomas Kinkade) Way before we went on our trip to Disney World in September, the wife and I made our usual swing through the Thomas Kinkade shop at our local mall.  I know that he has his detractors, but we really like his work.  Especially, the Christmas stuff.

Well, awhile back we had seen the piece he did for Disneyland's 50th Anniversary and we were inquiring about whether or not it could still be found.  The owner did some calling around and found that it could still be purchases at the Art of Disney stores at Disney World and Disneyland (which we found to be true in our June trip to Disneyland).

At the same time, she told us about the new piece he had been commissioned to create for Disney World.  She took our information down and told us she'd call when there was anything to tell but it probably wouldn't be until October. 

Well, we got the call about a week ago, but due to my wife's chaotic work schedule we didn't get to go until today.

Well, let me say, we were impressed.  We actually have a place over our fireplace that is designed to showcase a piece of art.  We had planned, from the beginning, that it would be a piece of Disney art that would be hung there.  We were hoping it would be one of the Kinkade pieces (this new one or the Disneyland 50th Anniversary print) or a Beauty & the Beast inspired painting acquired from the Art of Disney store.

This print is a limited edition, numbered print and is on canvas and comes framed. 

Needless to say, Grumpy's name is on this and should be hanging this sucker over the mantle in 3-4 weeks when we get it from the artist (the limited edition ones are getting signed).

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Friday, October 26, 2007

The Autopsy of a Theme Park Backpack

I put out the request for post ideas and I got one that sounded like a really cool idea.  James (aka Disneynorth) submitted the following:

How about a report on the benefits of using a backpack?? I'm always interested in what people carry in their bag. I bring the minimal items with me....Camera and wallet....

Before I upgraded my camera to the Nikon D80, the wife and I used to meander the parks with one backpack.  Granted it was the size of your average school backpack, but only one of us got the sweaty back that comes from the extensive exercise that comes from walking the parks.

Now that I'm moving into the world of Digital SLR cameras, I have a backpack for my camera gear and my wife has a backpack for her stuff.

So now I'm going to give you a peek into each of our bags

The Grump's Bag

5547_open_lrgAs I said, I'm now lugging around a dSLR camera.  I ended up buying a backpack style camera bag.  If you have any interest in this kind of bag for your digital camera, I strongly suggest you go to your local camera store and physically check these things out.  There are so many styles and types of backpack camera bags.  You have the sling bags that go over one shoulder and can spin around easy and you have the two strap type.  Plus, you have varying sizes.

I went with the Tamrac Adventure 7 Model 5547 bag.  It actually holds the camera and a few lenses in the bottom half of the bag.  The center of the bag unzips and the bag flips open and you can put your camera body and attached lens in there plus it has 4 slots for other lenses or external flash.

Plus, it has a front pocket specifically designed for storing flash cards and extra batteries.

The top half of the bag is actually storage space.  So now a look at what I pack in my bag:

  • Nikon D80 (mostly carried around my neck but goes in the bag during rides and attractions where it's safety is questionable)
  • Tamron 28-300mm lens
  • Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 lens
  • 1 spare 2 GB SD Flash Card
  • 1 spare 4 GB SD Flash Card
  • 1 extra battery for the Nikon D80
  • Business Cards....You never know who you'll meet in a line somewhere
  • tightly folded rain coat
  • Two (2) gallon Ziploc bags (they come in handy when you must make your camera water-resistant)
  • a couple plastic grocery bags (you never know when you might need them)
  • pack of gum
  • granola bars and protein bars for my wife.  She suffers from hypoglycemia and when she needs to eat, she needs to eat and these tide her over until we can get some "real" food.  If we wait too long, the price she pays will ruin a day quickly.
  • My old Canon PowerShot S70 point-and-shoot camera.  You never know when you need a backup camera
  • Sunglass case for when I need to take my sunglasses off
  • Umbrella (well at least next time)
  • Guide Maps
  • Lens cloth
  • Sunblock
  • Lactaid because I love dairy but dairy doesn't love me back
  • Small bags of souvenirs that were purchased and will fit in the backpack
  • 2 bottles of water stored in the two side adjustable mesh pockets

Enchanted Rose's Bag

My wife's bag was a sling-style backpack that she was given as a Nurse Appreciation Day gift from the hospital at which she works.

It isn't very large but you'd be amazed on what she can cram in there:

  • Sunblock
  • Lip balm
  • Gum
  • 2 bottles of water
  • Umbrella
  • Tightly folded rain coat
  • Steve Barrett's Hidden Mickeys Guide
  • Lou Mongello's Walt Disney World Trivia Volume 2
  • More granola bars and protein bars
  • More Lactaid (she has the same love/hate relationship with dairy)
  • Small bottle of Tylenol 8 Hour (the only type of headache medicine that works on me)
  • Phenegren and Zofran (my wife suffers from Crohn's Disease which can cause nausea.  These medications are the "In case of Emergency, Break Glass" solution for an unannounced attack of nausea.  This is what will keep me from needing to carry her out if she has a bout of severe nausea.  The one downside is that either of these meds can cause extreme fatigue depending on the person taking it.  I think Phenegren makes my wife tired while Zofran does not.  But I've heard the case flip-flopped for other people. [Ed. Note:  These are prescription medications]
  • Sunglass Case
  • Small bags of souvenirs that were purchased and will fit
  • Her hat when not being worn
  • Hair scrunchies and hair bands
  • Small travel sized container of baby wipes.  They aren't just for babies anymore.  They are great for staving off, for lack of a better term, Theme Park Butt (TPB).  Get inflicted with that early enough in the AM and your day is fun, fun, fun.
  • Guide Maps (you can never have too many)

I love having all this stuff with me when I'm in the parks.  We have used everything at some point or another, but I really miss the days when you could just walk into the park and not have to subject yourself to the rubber glove treatment.  Since those days are long gone, it is often a big annoyance to carry bags into the park.

But, saying that, it only takes one moment of need to make you glad you have your backpack with necessities packed within.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Welcome Main Street Gazetters

For those of you coming over from Ryan P. Wilson's Main Street Gazette blog, I want to wish you a warm welcome.......WELCOME!

I must say that I was surprised and flattered that Ryan listed my little blog as one to help satiate your appetite while he is gone for the next two weeks taking care of his wedding nuptials and subsequent Honeymoon.

There are a lot of blogs that fill needs for people looking for things Disney.  I feel the niche that I fill is one in which you feel like you are in my living room discussing anything related to Disney.  I try to present a conversational tone and you will get to hear my views on things going on in the Wonderful World of Disney.

I know there are people out there that absorb Disney with a critical eye and I hope I'm not viewed that way.  I speak my mind but I'm just as willing to gush about what I love as I am to point out what I wasn't happy with.  I don't consider myself immune from criticism as you'll see if you read far enough back to get to my Do you know what your Theme Park Footprint is? post.  I clearly state I'm as guilty as the next guy.

The things I'm most proud of are my Trip Reports.  Those posts are a work of love.  I really try to give excellent descriptions of my day so that you, the person stuck at home, might be able to close your eyes and feel like you are walking around with my wife and me.  But,to keep you from having to dryly swallow my War & Peace sized trip reports, I try to provide a bit of applesauce in the form of some carefully chosen pictures from my Flickr account.

Feel free to follow my blog links on the upper left hand side of this blog.  Every one of those I read and love and you may recognize a few from the ones that Ryan listed on his post.  Of course, don't forget to spread the love.  Nothing makes a blogger happier than a bit of commentary.  So feel free to comment on this blog and any of the others you may cross in your travels on the World Wide Web.

The best times of my life have been inside Disney Theme Parks.

So, pull up a chair, enjoy and have a truly Grumptastic time here at Grumpy's Hollow

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wayback Machine: This Grump's First Trip to Disneyland

The Grump and his mom at Main Street USA (Disneyland)Being that my "real" life, the one that pays the bills, is taking up a bit of my time right now, I thought I would put up a quick pictorial post.

This is me, with my mom, on Main Street USA at Disneyland. According to the note on the back of the picture, this was taken January 22, 1972 [Ed. Note:  Thanks George for pointing out the date was wrong.  I wasn't still in a stroller in 1992]. I was born on September 8, 1971, so you can do the math on how old I was (a little over 4 months).

According to my mom, we were moving from Dayton, Ohio to San Marcos, California in 1972 due to the fact that my dad was getting a job transfer with NCR. My parents and I were in California on a scouting mission in January 1972 and they decided that a trip to Disneyland was in order.

There weren't many pictures that are preserved from that trip. This was one that really stood out to me.

Some things of note:

  • Look how empty Main Street is. Granted it's January, but I doubt you'd find it this empty now.
  • Note the Theme Park fashion choices of the early 1970's. There are men in sport coats and women in slacks. Not a pair of jeans in sight. Also, a lot of dress shoes. Heck my mom is wearing some sort of pant and vest combo.

Heck, back in that day, it looks like you could sport a huge Theme Park Footprint and still not get in anyone's way.

Who knows, this may have been the source of the pixie dust that fills me to this day.

[Editor's Note: Yes, I know that I appear to be copying the niche that Major Pepperidge at Gorilla's Don't Blog fills with the wonderful pictures of old, but this picture (along with a couple others) are just too irresistible for me to not blog about]

*Wayback Machine is a nod to Mr. Lou Mongello and Jeff Pepper who use that term all the time on their WDW Radio Show when they do their Disney Scene Investigations of Disney Things of the Past


Monday, October 22, 2007

Extreme Makeover: Theme Park Edition (Addendum)

Grizzly Peak at DCA I guess I spoke prematurely when I said:

I'm not going to add anything from a news or views standpoint because I've already touched on this topic back when the news first broke in July.

Well, after reading a few of the other posts and the Wall Street Journal Article that contained the announcement, I had some things that I just needed to get off my chest.

I know there are many quotes from Uncle Walt when it comes to quality and here is one I found from a simple Google Search (keywords:  Disney quality quote) and found that I really like:

"I knew if this business was ever to get anywhere, if this business was ever to grow, it could never do it by having to answer to someone unsympathetic to its possibilities, by having to answer to someone with only one thought or interest, namely profits. For my idea of how to make profits has differed greatly from those who generally control businesses such as ours. I have blind faith in the policy that quality, tempered with good judgment and showmanship, will win against all odds." —Walt Disney

(Quote obtained from Disney

I am not completely ignorant and realize that in the 21st Century, corporations answer to stockholders.  But whatever happened to the days when the stockholders would trust the people running the company.  Yes, you need to drop some cash to make a quality product, but I firmly agree with Walt when he puts faith in a quality product rewarding in the long run.

When it came to WestCOT, Mr. Eisner and his advisors lost that blind faith Walt was talking about in the above quote.  This faith shattering event seems to be attributed to what executives were supposing to be inevitable failure of EuroDisney (aka Disneyland Paris).  As we all know, this park is still alive and kicking and happens to be on people's wish list of places to go (see the latest poll on Imaginerding).

I know these decision were made out of a sense of self-preservation.  Let's face it, the theme parks weren't named Eisnerland nor Michael Eisner World.  He was carrying a mantel that could easily (and eventually) removed from him.

But still, I think one of the things that made a Disney theme park a Disney theme park and not another brand was Quality.

I was once told that if you are a man and must wear dress shoes often, that it's much better to buy an expensive pair of well made leather shoes that can be re-soled then it would be to buy a pair of nice leather shoes from Payless Shoes.  In the long run, you'd end up saving money because you bought a quality pair of shoes that could be easily refreshed with a resole as opposed to constantly having to buy new shoes.

They said that it would've cost about 3 billion to create WestCOT.  But instead they spent ~$1 Billion to build Disney's California Adventure.  Then there were other costs associated with adding stuff to draw people to the new gate (A Bug's Life, Tower of Terror, Soarin', a failed attempt at a night time water show, etc.).  Now, we have the $1.1 billion to do this re-imagineering.  If you factor in the money lost over the years that they would've gotten from ticket sales if they had done it right the first time, I firmly believe they would've spent less money if they had built the original concept park instead of Disney's California Adventure.

In my real life, I have seen this happen too.  Whenever you cut corners,for whatever reason, which produces an acceptable product as opposed to a high quality product, those people who are intended to utilize that product will eventually force you to do it right which ALWAYS costs you more money than if you did it the way you knew it should've been done in the first place.

So, as Walt said in the quote above, I firmly believe that quality will always win out.

And with the recent re-Haunting of the WDW Haunted Mansion it appears that the Imagineers and those who get the funds for their budgets are starting to gain that blind faith again.  

Here's hoping the updated Haunted Mansion is truly demonstrating that the powers-that-be are putting quality back on top and want to create a wonderfully Grumptastic experience for us, the loyal park guest

But, I'll have to wait and see how Space Ship Earth turns out to get a better idea of what kind of track they are putting this train onto..

Saturday, October 20, 2007

In case you missed it.....

Drum & Fife Corp at EPCOT's American AdventureWell, the other day Disney Geek George used a picture from my recent trip to Walt Disney World for their Daily Figment 85.

The day after publishing the post, George contacted me and asked me if I saw the little bit of Disney Gold in the picture I loaned him. 

If you click on the picture to the left, it will take you to the source picture on my Flickr account.  Take a close look at the Bass Drum.

Do you see it?


Maybe this will help:Bass Drum Close Up






Now that you know what you are looking for, you should be able to find it in this picture.  I knew about this one because my wife pointed it out and insisted I take this picture:

Snare Drum...Fife & Drum Corp (American Adventure)







Now the big question that I have is, where did that logo come from?  I'm sure one of those Disney Scene Investigators Lou Mongello (Disney World Trivia and WDW Radio Podcast) or Jeff Pepper (2719 Hyperion and WDW Radio Podcast) will be able to provide some historical insight on that logo.

As Lou and Jeff always tell us, look up and look down and look around.  Something Grumptastic is always under your nose.  So don't forget to have a camera handy. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Extreme Makeover: Theme Park Edition

California Screaming at Night Well, it's official!  Disney has announced the changes to Disney's California Adventure that the blog-o-sphere has been chattering about for awhile.

This latest, official announcement has been touched upon by several of the blogs that I frequent:

In my opinion Jeff has provided the best synopsis of the proposed improvements and changes.  John Frost has provided good Concept Art.

I'm not going to add anything from a news or views standpoint because I've already touched on this topic back when the news first broke in July.  If you have forgotten or are new to my site and haven't dug that far back into the archives, here you go:

What would you do with a Billion Dollars?


What would you do with a Billion Dollars? (Addendum)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Do you know what your Theme Park Footprint is?

My theme park what?  I can hear the question all the way on this side of my monitor.

It's a term I coined during the course of my two Disney Trips I have taken thus far in 2007 (Disneyland in June 2007 and Walt Disney World in September 2007). 

I'm not using the term "footprint" literally.  We aren't talking about whether or not you have pressed your feet in fresh concrete outside the Chinese Theatre at Disney's Hollywood (nee MGM) Studios.

The first time I heard the term "footprint" used in this way was from my dad.  I would be telling him about some cool new piece of hardware (stereo or computer) equipment and he'd ask me how large the footprint was.  What he was referring to was how much space it took on my desk or stereo cabinet.

The next reference was in regards to mankind's impact on the environment.  I think the term was Ecological Footprint.  [ed. Not related to this post, but The Walt Disney Corporation is trying very hard to minimize their Ecological Footprint with Green Initiatives taken in the parks and resorts].

So, I guess you've figured out what this post is about?

What is your theme park footprint?  Are you aware of just how much space you are taking when you and your "family" (family is used loosely here to describe your traveling party) navigate the theme parks and shops?

As my wife and I were making our way around the parks, we often observed people and groups who moved around the parks totally oblivious to where they were in relation to the size of real estate their party was taking up.

It is often easy to get so taken up in what we, as guests, are doing in the parks, that we completely become oblivious to where we are positioned and who is around us.  Throw in a newly resized personal space and you have a whole lot of bumping around.

Stop!  Resized Personal Space, what the heck are you talking about?

Disney Geeks goofing in Wheelchair Well, simple.  There are a number of factors that can contribute to what I refer to as a resized personal space and none of them involve lifestyle changes that warrant an application to be on The Biggest Loser

Here are a few examples:

  • You could be a normally able bodied person, but this trip to Disney you are in a walking cast.  So you opt for the rental of a mobility device.  Yet, you aren't used to being on this device so you have just increased your personal space by the size of your new ride. 
  • You break out your extra large stroller for hauling your kids and supplies (strollers, I hear are great for hauling stuff so you don't have to wear it on your back) and now you have increased your personal space by a stroller length. 
  • You can even alter your personal space by the introduction of a backpack [ed. AHEM!  That would be you Mr. Grumpwurst!]. 
  • Even further you can increase your personal space by creating a much larger entity in the form of the infamous roaming pack group which is consistent of a party larger than 1 person.

I don't know how many times I have nearly wreaked havoc in a store because I turned around and forgot that I was wearing my backpack or tripod and bumped into merchandise or a fellow guest.  I am always very apologetic when I whack someone with whatever happens to be hanging off my back.  Sometimes it makes things better, other times it just irks the person more.

The Grump Loaded Down Another example of my own footprint negatively impacting others is when I would pull out my tripod to take pictures. 

This happened twice in September.  The first time was when I was trying to take pictures of Wishes! from the deck outside Narcoosee's and I accidentally set myself up in front of the window.  This tripod placement was blocking the view of the people sitting at the table on the other side of that window.  If you remember from my trip report, they very loudly rapped on the window and mouthed angry words to get me to move.  I obliged but remember thinking to myself that I made an innocent mistake and a polite hand wave to tell me to step to the side would've sufficed.  But, ultimately, I was not paying attention to where I was and who I was impacting by taking up so much space.

The second time was at the Rose & Crown when I setup to take pictures of Illuminations.  Once again, there were people who were quite accommodating of my enlarged footprint, but there was that table of tourists behind me that were not so happy despite my trying my best to not get in their way.  It's easy to fall into the trap of, "Well they can just move", which I did at the time, but as I now realize, I stepped on other guests with my large footprint and expected them to just accept it and be happy with it.

I guess what I'm saying is that only the very lucky get to come into the parks without some kind of extra "baggage", so to speak.  This "baggage" throws us off of our game but we still have things to do, attractions to ride, and places to be.  Tens of Thousands of us are all in the parks with the same plan.

This problem isn't isolated to the individual.  It is also easy to become unaware of our surroundings when we are a part of a group.  Sometimes, I think it's even easier to have this condition befall us when we are with others.  The fact that there are others who are sharing your goals and interests and traveling with you makes for an added distraction to the park and attractions themselves.  You want to talk with them and laugh and enjoy yourselves. 

An extreme example would be the people participating in the walking tours that took place at the recent celebrations at EPCOT Center for it's 25th Birthday.  It's hard to move that many people around without getting in the way of some people.

I actually felt that the group scenario was the worst when it came to this footprint problem. 

DSC_7531 An example, was when my wife and I were trying to make the quick dash to the Monorail station at EPCOT following IllumiNations.  We constantly had to adjust our roll because we'd run into roving packs of people who were just unaware of the other people around them that really, really, really wanted to pass them.  Their forward momentum was extremely slow and they were taking up a good portion of the path.  You had to put on the breaks and try to get their attention so you could pass. 

These type of scenarios is what caused my wife and I to start referring to the act of "shooting the gap".  I think one my childhood friend's mom used to tell us to do this whenever we went to the North Carolina State Fair.  Shooting the gap is the process of waiting for an ever so small gap developing in the throng that you could slide you and you only through.  I think she used to joke that it would make her son a better running back in football.

Your skill at "shooting the gap" may be your only solution to the problem of hitting a space in the park where a huge theme park footprint is being consumed.  The downside is that your own travelling party can be easily separated because this maneuver is very much an "every man/woman/child for themselves".

If each person can be observant to where they are and what is around them, then things might move a bit more unobstructed.  I don't know, maybe I am a bit more sensitive to this from the three ski seasons I lived in a ski resort town.  As a snow boarder I learned that I had to be as aware of the 360 degrees around me as possible.  Not just so that I didn't run into someone, but so that someone didn't run into me.  I try to apply these techniques when I'm in the parks.  It drives my wife nuts.  The big hard looks over my shoulder before I make a quick change in direction and the quick frequent glances over each shoulder as I'm gliding through the parks to make sure I'm not about to merge into someone or step into the path of a faster park guest.

Disney Geek George and I were talking about this the other day and he had this to say:

We are always aware of where we are going and try to minimize the effect we have on other people traveling through the park. Even with the kids in tow, we spend so much time watching out for other people that we miss the surroundings. BK (before kids) we would thread the crowds like a professional and seasoned tailor: in and out, duck and reach our destination.

Remember folks, I know we are all on vacation and the last thing we all think about is the other people on vacation with us (unless we are stuck in line with them), but a good way to help your fellow guest have a Grumptastic time at the parks, without having to do anything blatantly magical, is to just be aware of your surroundings.  You wouldn't drive a car with blinders on we should try not to navigate the parks with them on. 

Disney Geek Collin and the Family @ Disney's Electrical Parade My sister-in-law has to go to Disneyland with a child, Collin (aka The Biggest Disney Geek Ever), in a wheelchair. 

She tries to be very cognizant of who is around her so she doesn't bash someone's shins in with the chair.  But, she tells me her biggest irritation is that people often don't see her coming or needing to get through the crowd and she has to just wait for a break in the traffic.  I can see how this frustration in some people could drive them to just do what they need to do and that creates possible animosity.  If the people around noticed the wheelchair and the person with the wheelchair noticed the people around them, it would take nothing more than a simple gesture (and not a mean one) to allow all parties to navigate the ground safely.

If we all just try a little harder to be more theme park footprint aware, maybe, just maybe, we can find a new thing that people like to complain about in the the normalization (big database programming term there) of the menus....haha

This ends the Grumpy's Hollow Public Service Announcement.  We now return you to your normally scheduled programming.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Free Disney SWAG: I want my Birthday Button

Grumpy Wearing his B-Day Buttons (2006) You are getting the AWESOME thrill of celebrating your Birthday at Walt Disney World.  How many people can say that?  Your wife/husband/parent/significant other has planned some special character breakfasts (or other meals) to celebrate the anniversary of your birth.  What could make it more special?

I'll tell you what.....

FREE Stuff!EPCOT Center Birthday Button

Let's face it.  Unless you are the lucky recipient of a hand out from the Year of a Million Dreams "Dream Team", you don't get that many free things at Walt Disney World.

But, there are a lot of people who don't know the treasure trove of buttons that can be had at the Guest Relations booths [ed.  You were one of them until 2006].  One such button is the Birthday Button.

Magic Kingdom Birthday ButtonAll you have to do is go into the Guest Relations office at a theme park and say, "It's my Birthday" and they'll give you a birthday button.

You may be asking yourself, "So what?"

Well, if you aren't opposed to getting a little more pixie dust sprinkled on you and if you aren't scared of getting the occasional spotlight shone in your direction, it's a great thing.

It is quickly becoming a tradition that my wife and I will be at a Disney Animal Kingdom Birthday Buttontheme parks during the week of one of our birthdays.  We have celebrated my last two birthdays at WDW in September.  My wife got to spend hers in Disneyland this year and there is a good chance we might celebrate hers at WDW in 2008 instead of mine.

One of the things I really look forward to is the donning of my birthday buttons and getting a little bit of extra Disney Magic.

I always try to pin my button in some prominent location so that it is very clear that I am celebrating my birthday and can maximize the attention I get for wearing it. 

This adornment was one of the many ways that I'd annoy my wife.  The buttons are typically pinned to the straps of my backpack so that they are visible in the front, but don't put holes in my clothing (see the picture at the top of the post).  Well, MGM-Studios Birthday Buttonas I take the backpack on and off, I'm often accidentally ripping the buttons off and/or impaling myself on the very sharp pin.

One of the things I quickly learned last year was that I was getting just as many well wishes from other theme park guests as I was getting from Cast Members and that was no insignificant amount of attention.

On this last trip, so many people were saying, "Happy Birthday", that I often missed it because I wasn't paying attention (picture taking).  My wife often would hit me to alert me so I could reply back.

This was noticeably different from when my wife wore her Birthday Button at Disneyland in June of this year. 

We have come to the conclusion that the sheer volume of Southern Californian locals at Disneyland park may be contributing to this.  When you are Walt Disney World you have far more people who have traveled to be there.  They see fellow guests with the Birthday button and know that person has traveled a ways to be here too (a safe assumption) and is celebrating something special so they want to contribute to the celebration in what little way they can.  When at Disneyland, it's pretty safe to assume most of the people you are running into are from The New Disney Birthday ButtonAnaheim or the close vicinity.  So, I think they may not be as forthcoming with the congratulations because they just assume you are there neighbor and we all  know how friendly and communicative we are with our neighbors....haha.

Up until this year, you could actually get a different button at each of the theme parks.  But, as I so disappointingly found out (well a commenter on my Disneyland Trip Report pointed out that this had happened but I didn't want to believe them), they have gotten rid of the different buttons and only have one button.

The plus side of the new button is that they put your name on it.  This means instead of just getting a "Happy Birthday!" you get, "Happy Birthday Grumpwurst!".

As a tip:  Have them put a piece of clear tape over your name after they write it on the Button.  We had to make many trips to Guest Relations to get my name "reapplied".  It was my wife's brilliant idea to put the tape on there because the Florida humidity made it easy to wipe off.  Even when they used a permanent marker.  The tape made sure it stayed put.

On the downside, you lose the joy of collecting all the buttons. 

I can see this decision from Disney's Corporate Office standpoint.  Now they can have one generic button and they can mass produce and spread them out everywhere.  You don't run into problems where one park burns through their button supply faster than another.

I'm just a bit sad that's all, but hey it's your birthday and you want it to be Grumptastic don't ya!

So, get your button and wear it proudly.

You never know, you may, just like this Grump, get put in the spotlight at the Imagination Institute while one of the wonderful scientists gets everyone in line to sing you happy birthday!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

What I Wish I Remembered to Bring #1: Umbrella

While my wife and I were enjoying the glow of Pixie Dust at Walt Disney World, we were keeping a mental list of things we wished we had brought as we encountered the need for the items.  I originally thought the list would make a good blog post, but as you all know, I am not frugal with my words, so it could be easily split into multiple posts :)

So the first item on the list is:

An umbrella

And not just any kind of umbrella, but one that could easily be carried in one's backpack or stroller.  The last thing you want is a gigantic golf umbrella to lug around the parks.  I'm already having to heft a tripod around (seen over my shoulder in the attached picture).

We were good and remembered to bring raincoats.  This time we went with quality raincoats to repeat the Spectromagic incident of the previous year where I A Rain Soaked Rosestill got soaked because the rain managed to leak through the seams of the coat.

I'm not a big fan of the poncho.  I cannot help but feel like I'm wearing a plastic full body dress [ed. How do you know what a dress feels like?].  I'm more inclined to don a rain coat than throw a trash bag with a hole in it over my head.

Well, we each stored our raincoats in our backpacks.  In fact, my wife's rain coat took up most of the room in her  backpack, while mine compacted a bit more (I gave her the better constructed, yet bulkier, Bass Pro Shops coat).

It wasn't until I was trying to take pictures on the observation deck outside the California Grill, in a rainstorm, that I realized that a raincoat may keep me dry, but it does absolutely nothing to keep my not-so-cheap Nikon D80 dSLR camera dry. 

It was at this point, my wife aptly pointed out that if we had an umbrella she could've used it to keep my camera dry. 

A Rain Soaked Grump Another time was during the torrential rainstorm that plagued our trip to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween party.  Once again, my coat kept me dry, but my lens kept getting wet as I was trying to take pictures of the fireworks display.  In this instance, the umbrella would've served the purpose of keeping my camera dry and my wife and I as we moved around the park in the downpour.  This was one of those times where the coat only kept your upper body dry and your lower body just got plain soaked.  My wife was in a sundress so she was in a much worse predicament than I was.  Granted I had my nice floppy hat on, but it eventually had the moisture content indicative of a dip in the pool.

This was just a couple of many rain-soaked moments that the desire for an umbrella was had.

You don't need rain to put an umbrella to good use. 

It wasn't uncommon to see people walking around with their own personal and portable shade.  An umbrella is a quick way to provide some respite from the sun.  Granted, it can become quite obtrusive in crowds and poke an eye or two out if you aren't careful. 

An umbrella can also be useful in shielding the lens of your camera from sun.  I often used my hat for this feat, but my hat frequently ended up inadvertently becoming an unintended element of the shot, ala the thumb in the bottom corner. 

For you see, when the sun is in the "wrong" location, you can get some interesting halo effects (not to be confused with the highly popular XBox video game).  By shading the lens from the sun, the aberration goes away.  My understanding is that this is caused by how the sun is refracted by the lens and is picked up by the sensor.

Despite the seemingly frequent desire to need an umbrella, the desire wasn't strong enough to warrant prying open the wallet to fork over Disney prices for one. 

Next time one or two umbrellas will be in our luggage.

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Sunday, October 7, 2007

Calling all Blog Ideas

My readership spiked to all time highs while I was doing the "real-time" trip reports from Walt Disney World.  Quite a few of those seem to have become regular visitors to this little neck of the Disney Online Community.

Since, one of the main reasons I did my trip report was for the enjoyment and/or benefit of others who may stumble across them in their search for Disney information, I thought I would extend an offer for ideas.

You, my loyal and Grumptastic readers, was there anything you read about it my very lengthy trip reports that you would love to get a dedicated post about?

For example, I just did a review of the resort we stayed at, Saratoga Springs Resort.

I'm not running out of things to talk about, but I thought while the memories were fresh that I should do some topics that are meaningful to those who have become wonderful visitors.

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Saturday, October 6, 2007

Devine Inspiration #6......Comes with a Spoiler Warning

TMIP Madam Leota

Well, I have been a bit remiss on doing my weekly Devine Inspiration feature since I left for Walt Disney World in early September.  Life and my trip reports sort of got in the way.

So, in honor of the Re-Haunting of Disney World's Haunted Mansion while I was on my vacation, I'm choosing today's Devine Inspiration from the batch newly minted during Tim's visit to Walt Disney World in honor of EPCOT's 25th Birthday.

As you can see, to the left, I have chosen the newly floating Madam Leota crystal ball.  Anyone who has armed themselves with a camera and boarded a doom buggy knows how painfully difficult it can be to not only get your camera to auto-focus on anything within Gracey Manor, but it's also difficult to walk out with anything "frame-worthy".

Tim's entire album related to the newly Re-Haunted Mansion is one pictorial example after another on why a flash Madam Leotais not flattering inside a dark ride such as the Haunted Mansion.  If you have seen any of the countess examples of photos taken with a flash that were published after the grand re-opening, you'll see the dramatic difference Tim's pictures possess.

Actually, when I first saw them, I thought to myself that his photographic capture of these scenes were far more brilliant in color and vivid than what I saw with my own, naked eye from the doom buggy.

Now, I offer up my attempt at the same shot for your enjoyment

Friday, October 5, 2007

Saratoga Springs Resort.....A Review

Saratoga Springs Resort Jockey Statue OK, in the name of full disclosure, I need to preface this review by stating that the only other resort that my wife and I have stayed in is the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  It just so happens that we seem to navigate toward the remotely located accommodations but I don't think it's a conscientious decision.

The decision to stay at Saratoga Springs was made solely based off the fact that it's our home DVC resort.  We felt that our inaugural stay at Walt Disney World with our DVC points should be in our home resort.

Based on our experience at Disney World the previous September, we knew that due to the immense heat and 100% humidity, we sweated through all of our clothes and didn't really want to take all those clothes again.  Plus, we knew we'd have to take more than last time because we didn't have nearly enough socks to handle the 2+ pairs a day I wore because I had to keep changing them.

Because of this, we booked the 1 bedroom because it comes with a stacked washer and dryer unit.  To us, this was an important feature to necessitate the consumption of the extra points to pay for the upgrade. 

We really had no idea what to expect when we got there because the memories of the "model unit" had already faded from our memories.

But, we did know, thanks to Kitty-Chan at Broke Hoedown, that location of your room was key if you were going it sans automobile like we were (see Car-free and Staying Sane at Saratoga Springs Resort).

Thanks to her article, we knew to ask for the Grandstand section of the resort when we were offered the option to move when they found out that we didn't have a car.

With all that introduction taken care of here are our impressions:

The Room

Master Bedroom in Saratoga Springs Resort 1 Bedroom OMG!  The room was awesome.  Granted, the building was relatively new having been opened in April 2007, but still.  Our breath was taken away the moment we stepped through the door.  I swear the unit was only slightly smaller than the 1500 sq ft apartment we were renting at home.  I know, in reality, it was much smaller than our apartment, but it just felt more spacious.

The kitchen had everything that we could need plus it had granite countertops!  The refrigerator wasn't a full-sized unit that you might find in your own home, but it wasn't a dorm fridge either.  It was plenty sufficient for the storage of groceries one buys for a vacation.

As Tim Devine, of The Magic in Pixels, pointed out, you could easily cook dinner in your room and enjoy eating in comfort.

There was a nice sitting room/living room.  It had a TV, pull-out couch and a table to sit and eat at.  The TV also came with a DVD player.  So you could bring your favorite movies from home or rent them from the Artiste's Point (which are free if you are DVC member)

The bathroom was nothing to sneeze at either.  The shower was quite spacious.  It could easily accommodate two average sized adults in there without the need to do the little dance that comes with trying to pull that off in the standard tub shower.  I cannot guarantee there aren't any cold spots in the shower, but you'll at least not be giving your spouse black eyes as you try to shampoo your hair (who says that romance doesn't happen at WDW...haha).

The shower was in it's own space that was between the toilet and the bathtub.  The toilet was in it's own room which gave a bit of privacy for people who like that.  Plus, you had two doors that you could use to get to it.  Granted both doors took you to the shower area but you could get to the toilet from there.

You are graced with a giant jetted garden tub that overlooks the bedroom.  You can easily shut the shutters that separate the tub from the bedroom if you don't want to be staring at the bathroom all the time.

You also have one of two sinks next to the bathtub.  The other sink is next to the shower.  This sink, the one Washer & Dryer in Saratoga Springs Resort 1 Bedroom next to the bathtub, comes with tons of drawer space to stash all those necessary toiletries.

Off of this section of the bathroom is the closet. It's not a walk-in but it's also a tad larger than a reach-in.  Plus, this is where they stashed the safe, the playpen, and additional bedding.

Between the Master Bedroom and the living space was a closet storing the stacked washer and dryer.  They were by no means full-sized units, but sufficient for the vacationer.

The bedroom, was your typical Walt Disney World bedroom.  It had a desk which sported your connection to the high speed Internet ($9.95 per 24 hours), a plush chair, an armoire with TV and drawers for clothes, a sitting bench with storage under the cushion, 2 nightstands and a King Sized bed.

There was hidden Mickey's in the scrollwork on the headboard.

The Grounds

Saratoga Springs Resort I must apologize that we didn't do much exploring of the grounds that wasn't encountered during our walks to and from Downtown Disney.  My wife, did make a trip to the main pool to get a quick dip and soak up some of those fabulous Florida sun rays (I'm cursed with fair skin and burn when looking at a picture of the sun).

She really liked the pool.  Her comment was that she likes going to the pool because no matter how she is feeling about her body, there is always something or someone there that makes you feel better about what you are working with.

On the flip side, she was a bit taken a back by some of the younger females who were there who were sunning topless and wearing thong bikinis.  She just didn't expect to see that at a Disney pool.  I told her that just because you are at Disney doesn't mean that one's pool culture is left at the bordersSaratoga Springs Resort Exercise Room

I'm not familiar with the Saratoga Springs, NY area but I did get the impression that I was in a very horse-race friendly environment when I walked the grounds of this resort.

Saratoga Springs Resort also sports a top notch exercise facility.  It has many of the pieces of equipment that I use when I'm working with my personal trainer at the gym.  Plus, everything is very new which means less chance of malfunctioning equipment.  In addition to weight training equipment, the facility has quite a few eliptical trainers, recumbent bikes and treadmills

Getting Around

Grumpy On The Bus This is probably the one section of the review that most people care about or are concerned with.

We didn't really see any problems with transportation, but planning was in order.  Here are a few things we learned (all observations are based on a stay at the Walt Disney Resort between Sept 9 - 17th which is supposed to be one of the slower seasons):

  • If it's a thundering out, water taxis aren't running.  That means you are walking to Downtown Disney, or you are riding a bus to a park and then switching busses to Downtown Disney.  That could be quite an unnecessary ordeal compared to just getting an umbrella and walking.
  • If you are planning on going from Saratoga Springs to any other resort, you should still give yourself 1 hour.  Most of our "fancy" dinners were at the Monorail resorts (Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Contemporary).  Our preferred route was going to EPCOT, switching to the Monorail to the TTC and then switch to the Resort Monorail.  It just happened that way because we'd plan on catching whichever came first (Magic Kingdom or EPCOT).  EPCOT always seemed to come first.
  • There are 5 bus stops at Saratoga Springs Resort.  The first one is at the Grandstand Section.  Hence, the preference for staying there if you aren't sporting a vehicle.  With each successive stop, you run a greater risk of not getting a seat (The Springs is the last stop and is the one closest to the main office where you check in).  Even in this slower season, we saw situations where it was standing room only for the people at the last stop (The Springs).
  • Between 9AM - 10AM seemed to be the peak time for people leaving the resort going to the parks.  Those days when we went to the parks at that time, the busses were quite busy compared to leaving an hour earlier.
  • There are often just one way to get between parks.  For example, if it's served by a monorail, don't expect to find a bus to get there.  If there is a water taxi, don't expect a bus.  We often found this out to our own peril because we were in a rush.  For example, to get from MGM to the Yacht & Beach club, you cannot take a bus.  You must take a water taxi.
  • Patience will get you far.  Yes, you may have blistered feet or be standing around it rain soaked clothing but yelling at people doesn't make the bus show up any quicker.
  • Even with bad weather, 45 minutes was the longest it took us to get from the resort to some other place.  Yes, you could've gotten there quicker by car, but for me, it was nice to know that no matter how tired I was I didn't have to try and drive back.  Plus, I could enjoy the occasional Guinness and not worry about driving (I don't drive even if I've had one beer).
  • If you can handle walking EPCOT Center, then you can handle walking to Downtown Disney.  There were many a time we walked the entire way from the Boat Dock at Saratoga Springs to Downtown Disney without ever seeing the Saratoga Springs boat.  Translation:  You could get to Downtown Disney faster by foot than if you waited for the boat.  Plus, the boat doesn't run if there is lightening.  I think my wife and I timed it and from Bus Station at Downtown Disney it took us 15 minutes to get back to our room.  Granted, we are swift walkers and in fairly good cardiovascular shape.

Enchanted Rose on the Resort Monorail In comparison to our stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge the previous year, getting around by the use of Disney Public Transportation was a breeze.  We had to utilize taxis quite a bit to get to the various fancy restaurants we patronized.  This time we were able to pull it off without hailing a cab.  That saved us between $20-$40 (plus tip).

When comparing the use of busses to get to the parks, it seemed as if there were more frequent buses showing up at Saratoga Springs than at Animal Kingdom Lodge.  I swear, we felt like we were waiting for 30+ minutes at times at Animal Kingdom Lodge to get a bus places.

I also think Saratoga Springs is closer than Animal Kingdom Lodge so we were able to stay at the parks a little later before we had to head back for the pre-dinner shower and wardrobe change.

In Summary

We MOST DEFINITELY will be staying at Saratoga Springs Resort again.  Despite the various travails we had with the Disney Transportation System (crowded busses, late monorails, broken down vehicles, etc....see my trip reports), it wasn't enough to dissuade us from staying there again or force us to rent a car.  It may be the fact that I rode the METRO bus system in Houston for so long, but I'm not as impatient with quirks of public transportation as other, not so seasoned people might be. 

The rooms were great and really gave us the feeling of staying in a home away from home.  The fact that we didn't have regular maid service didn't bother us at all.  We knew if we were in a pinch, we could do our own laundry to get clean towels and/or sheets.

The bathroom and shower facilities were much nicer than what you'd see in any of the Deluxe hotel accommodations.  This may not be important to all, but it is definitely a nicety for my family.

I don't know if my ruminations were of any use to my readers or those who stumble across this via an Internet search, but I hope it was of some use.

This is Grumpwurst reminding all my lovely readers that only you can make your day a Grumptastic one!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Magic Kingdom We Haven't Forgotten About You

Main Street USA at Night Nothing is worse than going through the day and having everyone forget it's your birthday.  Magic Kingdom, we haven't forgotten about you.  Despite the fact that your younger more geeky and less whimsical sibling is celebrating it's 25th Birthday today, we here at Grumpy's Hollow haven't forgotten that today marks your 36th year.  You are about 1 month younger than me, but you don't look a day older than when you opened.

Thank you for being there for all of us over the years and may you keep plugging along like your much older sister on the West Coast and bring countless memories to all those who get to grace your beloved grounds.

You are the flagship of this happy chunk of earth in the fine state of Florida, and have long written the book on what it means to be create Grumptastic moments for your countless guests.  Forget the Year of a Million Dreams.  It's more like the Lifetime of Unforgettable memories.

Rock on!

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EPCOT Center, It's Your 25th Birthday What are you going to do?

Young Grumpy with Brother, Mom, Figment and DreamfinderHappy Birthday EPCOT Center.  Yes, I still call it EPCOT Center despite it's handler's many attempts to rename it to various incarnations.

Despite the fact that Every Person Comes Out Tired, it is still by far the most favorite park for me and possibly my wife.  Those of you who plugged through my very length, yet detailed 9 days of trip reports know that we made it to EPCOT almost every day that we were there and saw and did new stuff each time.

A trip to EPCOT Center isn't for everyone, just like standing any of the other parks are not for everyone [ed. maybe the exception is the Magic Kingdom.  Come on who can hate the Magic Kingdom].  There is a lot to do and walking is to be expected because everything is spread apart. 

The one thing I like is the fact that no matter where you seem to be standing, you can still see the iconic geodesic sphere called Space Ship Earth (or as I irreverently refer to it as:  The Giant Golf Ball).

I have to admit, the thing that most stuck in my mind from my first trip in 1985 was the following:

  • The Dreamfinder and Figment from Journey into the Imagination v. 1.0
  • Space Ship Earth
  • The candy maker in Japan

EPCOT Center, I say to you Happy Birthday.  May you live on to see another 25 years and keep making "The World" a much more Grumptastic place to be where Disney Geeks of the world can unite!

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