Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mickey's Mini Garden, The Dragon Fruit Souvenir

In all the years of going to Walt Disney World parks probably one of the best souvenirs that we've ever taken away has to be something that's actually alive and still is after three years.  What I'm referring to is the Dragon Fruit plant that my son Quinn used some of his souvenir money for at the Land in Epcot.

Right across from the travel desk at the entrance to Soarin' is a small store kiosk.  They always have these really cool clear boxes of what looks like clear gel with a little small plants sprout, that is for sale.  Each plant is cloned from one original plant behind the scenes in the Land building.  Each one goes for about $10.00, at least at the time we bought it, and there were a lot of varieties.  Most of these plants are found in the greenhouse.  They have a binder at the counter that has each of the plants that are for sale on an info sheet so you can get details before you buy your plant.  Quinn really liked the idea of the  dragon fruit plant, so that's what he got. 
One time when we were on the tour of the greenhouse we saw how they created the cloned plants to use for these cool "Mini-Gardens".  The one of the container is a borrowed pic to show what it looks like.  Our pic did not make it due to a bad camera at the time.  Thanks to the Main Street Gazette.
Another good side effect of the nutrition gel that's packed around the plant fragment is that it gives you some time until you need to transplant the plant.  We did not actually transplant it until about three months later.  It survived fine.  Quinn did the transplanting and I watched and all seemed well and the plant took off from the beginning.  It's a really weird plant in that it grows in a lot of different ways and kind of reminds me of an Aloe Vera plant.  We follow the directions, indirect sunlight, water, fertilizer and after a year and 1/2 it was about four or 5 inches tall with three or four off shoots.
Last year we went back to WDW and went on the tour of the greenhouse in the Land again.  Quinn had taken pictures of his plant on his phone and brought them with us.(Could not find them for this post, will keep looking)  In the course of the tour, because he had told our tour guide and showed him the pictures he made it a point two crossed paths with the Cast Member that was responsible for creating those souvenirs.  Quinn was very proud to show her his pictures of the dragon fruit plant.  She actually seemed impressed and then went further to say that most people's plants don't really last more than a year.  She were really made Quinn's day with that comment.

So it's a little over three years later since we've planted the dragon fruit plant and it has grown incredibly.  Unfortunately it has grown horizontally and we're still trying to figure out how to keep it in check.  It seems very fragile where the branches connect so we try not to move it around too much and that's why it has gotten a little out of control.  The girl at Epcot told us that once we make it 5 years the plant should begin to flower.  Once it does then we need to do some research about self pollinating so the plant can eventually grow fruit.

Just to give you an idea of what a dragon fruit, fruit looks like, here is one we got at the store the other day and as for the taste and consistency goes, it tastes like a pear and felt like eating a kiwi.  A very good experience all around.  We discovered the secret of eating kiwi this year and that you cut it in half and use a spoon to spoon out the fruit.  No more messy peeling of the kiwi.  Same process worked well for the dragon fruit.  We can't wait until our plant gives us fruit like this.  Although I am not holding my breath. 

Have you ever bought a Mickey's Mini-Garden while at WDW?  If so please leave a comment and let me know how it went the last time we were down, a much sure if it was that they were just out of them, but there were no fruit plants and I can't remember the exact name, but it was a fern that the leaves closed when you touched it.  Very cool.  So let us know if you tried any of the plants.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Lou Mongello's "102 Ways to Save Money For And At Walt Disney World" E-Book

One of the biggest questions I get from the followers of this blog and the podcast shows we do is how to start planning for a trip to Walt Disney World?  I at first smile, and thank the person because they had already jumped their first hurdle, knowing they have to plan.  I would then give them my standard answer, which is a great toolbox of resources.  Get a Park Guide like the Unofficial Guide to WDW, register with Touring, check out the information and especially the menus on and use the services of a free Disney sponsored travel agent to make your reservations.  I’m happy to say that after today I can add Lou Mongello’s, “102 Ways to Save Money For And At Walt Disney World” to that list of must-haves to plan a successful and economical trip to WDW.

For those that don’t know who Lou is, in a word, it all started with Trivia.  The Walt Disney Trivia Books Volumes 1 & 2 to be exact.  Lou also produces and stars in one of the best podcasts for Disney Park fans available today, The WDWRadio Show.  I have been listening since show #1 and am proud to be a Pod-Person and I might sound like a homer, but you only have to see that he’s won the Best Travel Podcast award from 2007-2012 to know other people share my opinion of the guy.  When it comes to traveling to Walt Disney World, Lou’s done it all.  Great story about the name of the book ala Lou.  At WDW, the Cast Members have code numbers they use for radio calls to get important information across fast.  You might have heard that a Code 101 was a ride down.  Therefore a code 102, is the ride is back working and everyone is happy again. 

“102 Ways to Save Money For And At Walt Disney World” is a book that all people travelling to WDW should own.  In a nutshell, no matter your skill level in planning a trip to WDW, this book will save you money.  And that’s also Lou's money-back guarantee.  After reading it, I heartily agree.  The book itself is an E-book which can be downloaded to any of your smart devices.  Lou really takes advantage of today's technology by providing links to his shows that further explain the point he was making in the book.  Not too mention the fact that taking the E-book with you is as easy as taking your phone.  The book itself is broken up into logical sections that  pre-date your trip for the planning process and then up to and into the parks.  This book has clues, hints and money saving tips at every page swipe.  Some really great pictures and trivia also.
I wish I could go over the entire book page by page for you, but I don't think Lou would like that too much.  However, I think I might be able to get away with talking about a couple of the sections that really impressed me.  The first couple chapters will tell you how to get better prices on hotels, airfare and car rentals.  The section on what questions to ask to determine if the Dining Plan is for you is true gold.  As are the bonus 40 tips on true free-bees while your at the parks.  Lou even goes so far as to point out how to save money on souvenirs' by addressing the ample Penny press machines located everywhere. Truly, every page in this E-book will save you valuable time and money.  And who is not made happier by getting a deal and using  you short vacation time to it's utmost. 
In closing, my thoughts are, where was this book 20 years ago when we really began visiting the parks on at least a yearly basis.  All of the tricks and tips I have learned over that time through mistakes, trial and error, and good advice from friends are all in this book.  Every page swipe turned up another trick that I thought I, and only I, had discovered.  Kind of re-assuring in way that I have fine-tuned my trips to make sure we get the best bang of our buck.  If you have a trip planned or are even thinking about it, you should really consider getting your self a copy of this E-book or recommend it to a friend.  Lou is someone that you can trust to make sure you have a great trip to WDW, check out his website, listen to the Podcast and go get “102 Ways to Save Money For And At Walt Disney World”.
Besides, how can you doubt a Face like this?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Youtube Disney Gold: Walt Disney Product Placement...even in 1936?

I am really happy to be doing a Youtube Disney Gold post again.  It's been such a long time, but people keep feeding Youtube videos.  I wanted to talk about a clip I came across the other day.  I was randomly flipping around the TV and came across Buddy Ebson dancing in an old movie and he was wearing a Mickey Mouse shirt.  This was a movie from 1936 called Broadway Melody.  If the name sounds familiar, you might remember it as the movie that Gene Kelly sang Dancing in the Rain in, but you would be wrong.  If you go into IMDB there are a number of listings for Broadway Melody.  Each title supplemented by the date.  There is a movie named Broadway Melody for the years 1929, 1936, 1940 and 1952(This was the Gene Kelly version).  The one I am talking about is the 1936 version of Broadway Melody with the very young song and dance man, Buddy Ebson.  I was lucky enough to find the exact clip I needed on Youtube.  Thanks to GABRIEL ANTINOUS for this Youtube Gold.

The dance scene above is really well done and each of the actors are very good dancers and singers.  This being a Disney Blog however, we need that Disney hook and if you watched the above I'm sure you saw it.  Buddy Ebson is wearing a Mickey Mouse shirt or sweater and for some reason that really caught my eye the first time I watched this.  In three seconds as many thoughts went through my head.  My first thought was how could they have gotten what looks like a modern t-shirt back into a movie like that.  The Mickey pose and artwork is a dead ringer for shirts today.
My second thought was well, Buddy worked with Walt on the Dancing Man animatronic, was that before this movie and Buddy had a souvenir from working with Walt. My final thought in that couple second burst was that maybe Mickey was just that famous in 1936 that they were selling shirts or sweaters even then.  As far as the movie went it was normal in 1936 to see a young man wearing a Mickey shirt.  Hmmm. 
After some light research I think thought number three might be right.  By 1936, Mickey had appeared in over 90 shorts, not too shabby.  You should see the Vintage Disney section of Ebay there are a lot of items that are there and of them about 90 are from the 1930's.  A lot of different items that shows how popular Mickey was.  The items vary from figurines to brushes, from silverware with a mickey them to cereal boxes.  Take a look at this cereal box from 1936.  It's the back of a Post Toasties box with Mickey and the gang in full glory.  Note the figure at the bottom of the box.  It's a cut out figure that you can collect.  They advertise that there were different characters to cut out.  Is this perhaps where the mad dash to the Cereal Aisle at the supermarket started? 
So it really looks like the only reason the Buddy is wearing that shirt is that Mickey was so popular at the time and it was what the common thing for the lounging young guy to be wearing.  This was a nice little trip through some great Vintage Mickey stuff.  I still think there might be more to this, so I'll keep my eyes open and update this down the road if necessary.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Adventures in Podcasting

 What is a podcast?  If I had a nickel for every time...  I never knew what a podcast was until around 2005.  A podcast is an audio recording that is made public for all to listen to. Most shows are not that basic and they vary from very plain to  the well produced podcasts.  I mainly have always listened to Disney Themed podcasts, but you can find a show on almost any topic now a days.
 I found both the WDW Today guys and Ricky from the Inside the Magic Show at about the same time.  I've listened to hundreds of shows and still do.  Mostly all Disney themed.  Many of the shows over the years have stopped recording, but those that continue are great.  Along with the above, I spend my time listening to the Be Our Guest Podcast crew, Lou Mongello and his WDW Radio show and the group over at the DisUnplugged.
In the past year and a half I have found my way on to the other side of the microphone as a Podcaster.  The kids of course, by contact, also listened to a lot of Disney themed
podcasts and about 2 years ago we were talking about what we would say if we had our own podcast.  Well we talked about it over and over and decided to give it a try and the "We're Going to Walt Disney World" Podcast was born.  We're getting ready to record our 38th show and have had a blast recording.  We've been lucky enough to have had a friend of ours from England join us.  George adds a great perspective to the show.  We do a lot of different segments led by our Wheel of Attraction.  This is a great segment where we spin a great big carnival wheel with Disney Attractions on it.  We talk about whatever it lands on.  This show is fun because Quinn, Hope and George run and think up the segments and give their great teenage perspective to the show.  I'm the Tech Guy, a true up and coming Mike Newell and try to keep the show on track. 
More recently, in the last 3 months, I have become involved with a second podcast, The Disney Nerds Podcast.  This show came about with 4 people on a Facebook group called of all things the Disney Nerd Group.  We were amazed at the amount of info being posted in the group that were great history and park tips.  A couple of the groups members approached me as a "Tech guy" and I got involved.  We're a show of 4 and have guest hosts take turns joining us. We discuss all things Disney in a conversation format with a lot of honest opinions.  This show is 10 shows old but is more consistent and comes out, usually on Wednesday.  Jimmy, Farrah, Tom and I and our guests really have a good time discussing anything Disney.
I really enjoy podcasting.  The ability to be able to help out other people with information that we have learned through experience is great.  So let me know what you think in the comments below.  Is there a Podcast that you listen to?  Have you heard one of our shows?  What do you think?  We really want to know.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Sad News of Diane Disneys Passing

Once in a while you have a sad day.  This past week we had one of those days with the news of the passing of Diane Disney Miller.  She was a person of distinction and opinion and the staunch protector of the Legacy of her parents.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to her friends and family. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Eureka, the Disney Stoveworks have been Confirmed

About five years ago I approached you and a number of my friends in the Disney community looking for information about Walt Disney and the Miniature Stoves he would make.
My post from 2009, The Disney Stoveworks

I had a Eureka moment the other night while I was looking for information on Granny's Farm, the miniature house that Walt put together way back when.  The current interview I am working on for Walt's People, Harper Goff, talks a lot about this period in the company.  While looking for more information on this I came across the Stove information I have been searching for.  In an article about Walt's fascination with Miniatures, a couple of paragraphs were written especially for me:

Walt painstakingly crafted a pint-sized potbellied stove for the caboose as well. “I had a pattern made up, and it turned out so cute with the grate, shaker and door, and all the little working parts, I became intrigued with the idea,” Walt wrote. “I had a few made up: one was bronze, another black, and I even made a gold one! Then we made more and started painting them in motifs that fitted the period at the turn of the century.”
Each of these 5 1/2" inch tall stoves had a different design, and eventually about one hundred were made. Walt gave some to friends, and even sent some to an antique gift shop in New York where, to Walt’s delight, Mrs. Thorne herself purchased two to add to her renowned collection, the same collection that had inspired Walt’s hobby. They sold for $25 each and Walt made no special effort to market them or make a profit. He was just curious to see if there was any interest and by 1957, the supply was depleted.
“It has been fun making them and others appreciate them, too, so all in all, I feel well repaid,” said Walt.
 After reading this I am left with two thoughts.  The first is satisfaction in being able to confirm what Richard Todd said in that interview I transcribed in 2008.  I really love all aspects of the history of things.  I get the big warm and fuzzy when you can match up information through different sources.  So I was bummed to have only Mr. Todd mention this in a passing question in an interview and no other mention of it in all of my searches.  Of course this fell off my active radar, but the passive picked it up and question, resolved.
The second thought is, okay, he made about 100 of these stoves.  Why have I or anyone I talked to in 2009-2010 never heard of this?  I would think the value on one of these would be a little bit more than $25.  I'm thinking more like $2,500.  I'll have to put this search back into the active mode for a little while and see what else might be out there.  FYI, I just checked EBay and no luck.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sad to See You Go Sid Cahuenga

I read the news today and could not believe it.  Sid Cahuenga's Antiques and Curios has closed and the contents of the store are being moved to the AFI Shop at the end of the Back-Lot Tour. 
Sid's was a very cool place to stop and check out.  It was right before the turnstiles as you exited the park on your right.  Sid's had a lot of great autographed pictures and other objects.  Some of the names that were on display were very impress, as were the prices.
The other reason we stopped at Sid's was the Trivia board that was on the porch.  If you could answer all of the questions, you were awarded a WDW Certificate.  We've only gotten one of those. 

From what I read, Sid's location will be a new MyMagic+ service center.  Goodbye Sid, see you around town...or not.  To hear more about the history of Sid Cahuenga's check out Lou Mongello's show # 297.
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Monday, November 18, 2013

Disney Tech Check: Watching World of Color and Glow with the Show Hats

Even though I'm going to use YouTube to illustrate my points, I could not really categorize this post as a YouTube Disney Gold Post, so I felt a new Post Category was required.  This will be the first of a series of posts called the Disney Tech Check.  These posts will cover all the new technology that is introduced by the Disney company and how it effects our visits to the parks and how we experience Disney entertainment. 
I found a great You Tube video posted by Ricky Brigante from the Inside the Magic Podcast and Disney Information Empire. Ricky has just posted a great HD video of the new show at Disneylands' World of Color nighttime show.  It's the new Winter Dreams overlay with a lot of Frozen included for advertising I'm guessing.  It looks like a really fun show.  This is a great example tech video because you get to check out two great park technology innovations.  The first is the World of Color show itself.  The great coordination of water and lights and video is incredible.  Ever since the show started, it's been incredible and I'd love to see it live someday. 
The second shot of new Disney technology is the recently introduced light up Mickey Ear hats or officially know as the Glow with the Show hats.  These are the hats that have the light up ears that during certain Disney Park shows, the ears light up in sequence with the show. 
As you watch the show, or you can go right to time mark 20:20, the Buzz and Jessie scene, and watch that minute of video.  That is a very good example of all of the above technologies all working seamlessly together.

The hats are around $25 and are becoming more and more available at the parks.  The only complaint I've heard so far is that there might be times when you might feel a little lonely at some of these night time events.  There still new and at $25 a hat not selling off the shelves.  The word is at events like the above, the ears are given out for free.  Leave me a comment if you know.  I'll follow up down the road about how these actually work. 
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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Maz Disney Book Review:Attention to Detail, a Look at Walt Disney World Parks

One of the things I love the most about the WDW parks is the amount of detail that is designed into almost everything.  Of course great details are expected on the large attractions, but at WDW the details are everywhere.  From a period phone that talks to you in the Hat Shop at the Magic Kingdom to the Upside down game of Battleship at Disney Hollywood Studios.  One of the best books around that shows us a lot of those details is Attraction to Details: A Look at Walt Disney World Attractions.  This is a book compiled by Keith Black and Jackie Damon and has some of the coolest and most unique details found in the WDW parks, all with photos.  The pictures are really bright and clear and show so much great detail.  In their words:

"Through the use of photographs taken at the parks, we hope to bring awareness to the incredible work of Walt Disney and his Imagineers found throughout the parks at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.  We seek to test your memory of the location of these details as well as give a little insight to their purpose and placement from our perspective and information we have gained over time. Our hope is to encourage others to pay attention to detail and in so doing gain further enjoyment of the parks."

The other great part of this book is that it provides photo scavenger hunts for the parks.  Click Here for an example from their website. I was lucky enough to be part of one of these scavenger hunts with some friends of mine in Oct. 2012.  It was a actually run by both Keith and Jackie during the Be Our Guest Podcast's Epic October 2.0.  It was a blast.  Below is a pic of all of us that participated:
The scavenger hunt was restricted to the MK Monorail loop which meant it included the three hotels, the Ticket and Transportation Center and the Magic Kingdom stop, up to the Bag Search Tables.  I can't find a picture of the cards we were given but each card had 5-6 numbered pictures per side.  You were to find where the picture was and have all but one of the team photographed with it.  We had a blast passing the other teams and looking for the clues.  We had a two hour time limit.  the Contemporary was the base. When we got back totals were tallied and we lost by one point.  Go Figure.

The Detail orientated Duo of Keith and Jackie are getting ready to release Volume 2 and I can't wait.  Check out the Attraction to Details: A Look at Walt Disney World Attractions book and hunts either at that link on amazon or at their Home Site and tell them I sent you. 
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The "We're Going to Walt Disney World" Podcast