Archive for the ‘characters’ Category

Disney Detours – Epcot Character Spot

August 29, 2009

Image belongs to Blake’s family.

Guests can meet all of Disney’s “fab five” at a great character experience in Epcot’s Future World.

By Blake

Originally posted August 29, 2009.

Many guests have experienced the “stampede” of people that hurry to popular attractions at opening time in the Disney parks. In the case of Epcot, the crowd is split between heading left for Mission: SPACE and Test Track, or heading right for Soarin’. When these massive crowds make their way to those long-line attractions, several other experiences just as entertaining are still open, but often get overlooked in the midst of the crowds. One of these satisfying experiences is the Epcot Character Spot.

Located in Innoventions Plaza (just before you enter the right breezeway that heads to Imagination!, The Land, and The Seas), Epcot Character Spot opened in May, 2007, as a replacement of Epcot Character Connection (which opened in November, 2005). Basically the Character Spot is the same setup as the Character Connection, just with fancier backgrounds and lighting.

Minnie is one of the characters available for meet & greets at the Epcot Character Spot. Image belongs to Blake’s family.

Guests queue up in one line to meet five Disney characters (though each character is met separately). Usually the lineup includes Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, and Donald (Disney’s “fab five”). That’s quite a spectacular group of characters! Here, they’re all dressed in their “traditional” outfits: Mickey in his coattails and bowtie, Minnie in her red polka-dotted dress, Goofy in his classic orange-and-blue attire and green hat, Pluto in his orange collar, and Donald in his signature blue sailor outfit. The Character Spot is an even greater experience if you head to it right at park opening, when there will hardly be a line.

Goofy is one of the characters available for meet & greets at the Epcot Character Spot. Image belongs to Blake’s family.

If you do happen to visit at a time when there’s a bit of a wait, don’t fear! Several television screens are positioned throughout the queue and play classic Disney cartoon shorts (similar to the setup of the Judge’s Tent over in the Magic Kingdom). Even better, Disney fans will enjoy reading the fascinating trivia facts about the selected cartoons that appear in the right-hand sidebar of the TV screen.

When you’re finally to the front of the line and it’s time to mingle with your Disney friends, the fun really starts. Each character is patient, and is glad to pose for pictures and sign autographs, as well as offer some special one-on-one interaction. For a more memorable meet & greet, ask each character a question specific to their personality. (For instance, ask Pluto if he’s found any tasty bones lately.) Characters also love it when guests draw them special pictures.

Pluto gets down on his paws to greet a guest at the Epcot Character Spot. Image belongs to Blake’s family.

As with many other character experiences around Walt Disney World, Disney PhotoPass photographers are on hand at the Character Spot to snap plenty of pictures, and character handlers are also available if you’d like them to get a family shot with your own camera.

After you’ve met all of the main characters, make sure to check in the hallway to your left before dashing out the door. Sometimes (but not always), there is a “bonus” character available for meet & greets there. Don’t count on anyone being there, but it never hurts to check.

If you’ve already met the fab five before, would just rather not meet them at all, or enjoy seeing characters meet with guests, the Epcot Character Spot has another unique feature. A large glass window lets guests outside view the goings-on inside. They can sit on a shaded bench and relax while they enjoy the playful antics of the characters. Sometimes the characters will even come up to the window and interact with guests sitting outside.

Overall, the Epcot Character Spot is one of Walt Disney World’s best character experiences. Guests meet five of Disney’s most popular characters while waiting in one line, which is often very short first thing in the morning. However, if there is a line, classic Disney cartoon shorts keep the waiting guests entertained. Additionally, it’s helpful to have all of the “fab five” in one location to prevent having to track each of them down individually. If you happen to meet them before heading to Epcot, then honestly there probably won’t be a reason to stop by the Character Spot for you, but at least peek in the window. But if you do head on inside, please make sure to show Donald anything you have that has Mickey Mouse on it.

Donald Duck waves to guests at the Epcot Character Spot. In his mind, he’s always #1! Image belongs to Blake’s family.

By Blake; posted August 29, 2009. All images belong to Blake’s family.

Blake’s Picks – Top 6 Walt Disney World “Extras”

August 6, 2009

Image belongs to Blake’s family.



Disney goes the extra mile to immerse their guests in a fantasy kingdom where everything contributes to telling stories.

By Blake

Orignally posted August 6, 2009.

Guests visiting Walt Disney World feel like they’ve been transported to some imaginative community far from reality. Not only is this the place where dreams come true, but it’s an immersive experience like none other. Whether guests realize it or not, a variety of components all culminate together to make sure that everyone is in an authentic environment that meets the level of quality that Disney is used to giving.

Sid Cahuenga’s One-of-a-Kind at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a great example of Disney’s attention to detail and theming. Image belongs to Blake’s family.

Some of these aspects are fairly simple, such as Cast Members being courteous to guests, while others require a far more intricate amount of detailing and planning out. Here are some of my favorite little perks that make Walt Disney World such a special place, and also help to relieve guests of their “real-world” worries and give them the chance to be immersed in the Disney enchantment.

6.) In-Room WDW Specialty Television Programs

Televisions in the hotel rooms at the Disney resorts have several unique channels that you won’t find back home on your regular TV set. Made especially for Disney resort TVs, a few programs play on a continuous loop and have one main purpose: to give guests a preview for what’s in store for them in the parks by getting them excited for some of the parks’ best attractions. Some channels may show highlights from each park, while another has a countdown of favorite attractions. Other channels have handy tips accentuated by Disney music, as well as weather reports. One channel that used to be featured but (unless something has changed recently) doesn’t play anymore was the classic cartoons channel, which included showings of the Disney cartoon shorts from the 1930’s, 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1960’s.

Since most guests are in their hotel rooms at the beginning and end of each day (sometimes at other points, too), these special TV programs allow a great preview of what’s to come (while you’re watching as you get ready to embark into the parks in the morning), and make as a pleasant look back at your fun day (as you’re unwinding in the evening).

5.) Wake-Up Calls

Another Disney resort perk that I look forward to experiencing in the mornings at WDW is a special wake-up call. If guests let a Cast Member know in the resort lobby, or call a special number on their room phone, they’ll get a wake-up call from a Disney character at the time of their choice. The wake-up call during my last visit had Stitch hollering “No sleeping!,” though the particular message may have changed since then. I advise putting the call on speaker phone once you answer it, so that the entire family will have a chance to listen in on this fun way to start the day.

4.) Transportation

An integral part of immersing guests in another world relies on getting them to and from their destinations in a way that they might not usually experience elsewhere. I’ll admit that riding a bus may be typical, but whisking off on a pleasant ferry ride just to travel a short distance isn’t your everyday carpool. And are there that many other places that you’ve traveled via a gliding monorail?

The monorail in particular is such a Disney way to travel, and even though I’ve never stayed at a resort along its route, I try to go out of my way to at least hop onboard for a quick trip every visit. Being elevated above regular traffic is an experience in itself, but a few other details, including its narration and announcements, make the monorail a memorable classic. Also notice that after each stop the monorail makes, Disney has made an effort to send those that are leaving WDW at that time with some special words of parting, making the monorail a terrific way to end a Disney vacation.

3.) Characters

Something I love about meeting Disney characters is that each of them has their own personality. They each put their own little spin on how they pose for a picture, and each character has a specific autograph style, complete with specialty font that they use to sign their name. Each character implements their own . . . well, character . . . into their meet & greet experiences. Goofy is a little bit clumsy, Stitch is usually very playful, and you can count on the princesses to be all smiles with plenty of patience.

Buzz Lightyear (left) and Woody from the Toy Story movies are some Disney’s many famous characters that guests can meet in the Disney parks. Image belongs to Blake’s family.

2.) Story

No matter where you go in Walt Disney World, almost everything you experience is part of some kind of story. However, unlike in movies and television shows, the Disney theme parks allow the guests to be a part of the stories Disney tells, immersing guests and letting them experience adventures as if they were plopped right into a movie.

This creative prop is a detail that helps tell the story of Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3-D at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The pre-show area of this attraction is full of goodies like this to look through. Image belongs to Blake’s family.

Nearly every Disney attraction or show tells a story. It can sometimes be a stretch to figure out what the plot of a particular ride or atmosphere may be, but most of the time something’s there for guests to decipher. For instance, The Barnstormer in Mickey’s Toontown Fair at the Magic Kingdom isn’t just a small roller coaster. It’s a “flight” being “piloted” by Goofy, who is his usual self and ends up crashing the coaster through his barn.

Typically attractions are grouped in themed “lands,” all pertaining to a particular subject. While each of a land’s attractions may have their own individual story, they also all come together to tell a bigger story involving that land’s purpose. For example, while The Barnstormer does indeed weave its own little backstory, the premise of Toontown (the land where The Barnstormer is located) is that the fair has come to the town where Mickey and Minnie live, and guests are invited to see some of the fair’s highlights.

Look around and smell the flowers – sometimes literally – while you’re in the Disney parks. Image belongs to Blake’s family.

1.) Cast Members

More than any particular “thing” or ride, Disney’s Cast Members truly make Walt Disney World the most magical place on Earth. They continually make an added effort and go the extra mile to make sure their guests are having a good time.

Sometimes the gestures of Cast Members are purely simple, but so genuinely Disney, such as addressing each guest as either a “princess” or “prince,” or wishing you to “Have a magical day!” It’s so simple, but its results are extraordinary. It makes guests feel special, and also reminds them that they really are in a Disney World.

Other Cast Member experiences may involve some of the Cast Members truly going out their way to make a guest’s day especially memorable. This could include tracking down a particular character, selecting a family to be the Grand Marshals of a parade, or something else that the Cast Member goes beyond their call of duty to pursue, just to give guests a magical experience. One particular instance of this happening to my family was when we didn’t answer our wake-up call (but still woke up), and a few minutes later a Cast Member was knocking on our door to make sure we hadn’t overslept. Fortunately we were already awake, but it was very kind for the Cast Member to check in on us.

Cast Members bid gets good-bye as they hold signs that read “See ya real soon!” at the end of a Magic Kingdom day. Image belongs to Blake’s family.

Pin trading is an excellent way to interact with Cast Members. Not only are pins fun to collect, but trading with Cast Members gives you the chance to talk to them, hear some of their stories, and makes you feel like you’re sharing a bit of magic of your own.

Whether their tasks are miniscule or humongous, the Disney Cast Members make every day an unforgettable experience in the Disney parks.

Walt Disney World really does seem to take its guests on a journey into a fanciful, inspired dream. Little perks like special television shows and character wake-up calls give guests something exciting to experience right in their hotel room, the unique transportation makes traveling just plain fun, the Disney characters give guests the chance to see their childhood favorites in-person with plenty of personality, guests are continually involved in an ongoing story told through the parks’ attractions, and Cast Members give a level of terrific customer service that makes Walt Disney World what it is – an enchanting realm where worries are forgotten, imaginations are set loose, and families are grown closer together.

Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom. Image belongs to Blake’s family.

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By Blake; posted August 6, 2009. All images belong to Blake’s family.

Disney Talk – Lucky Duck

June 9, 2009
Image © Disney.

Donald Duck is celebrating his 75th birthday, and has made quite a lot of friends since 1934.

By Blake

Originally posted June 9, 2009.

A classic scene-stealer since his debut in the 1934 Silly Symphony cartoon The Wise Little Hen, Donald Duck was given special treatment by Disney animators in his early years. After Donald repeatedly proved to be much more than a sidekick in his recurring role in several Mickey Mouse cartoons, he soon earned his own individual series of cartoons. The first of those shorts was 1937’s Don Donald (which was also Daisy’s first appearance), which made Donald the first Disney character other than Mickey Mouse to have his own cartoon series (Goofy and Pluto later followed).

Donald’s 75th birthday is today, Tuesday, June 9, 2009. D23, the official Disney fan club, seems to be the only branch of the Walt Disney Company that’s commemorating Donald’s special day, but they’re doing so in fine fashion. Donald made the cover of the summer issue of Disney twenty-three magazine, and inside was a special Donald-themed feature article tracing the duck’s expansive and fascinating history. D23 members can also submit art of Donald by June 15 that could be chosen to become his official 75th birthday portrait, making the winning member Donald’s official portrait artist.

Donald was on the cover of the summer 2009 issue of Disney twenty-three magazine. Image © Disney.

Additionally, the D23 website has been showing a classic Donald cartoon each week in what they’re calling “Duck Season.” This week’s pick is the 1940 cartoon Fire Chief, as selected by Dave Smith, Chief Archivist of the Walt Disney Archives. Previous choices in Duck Season have included Chef Donald, Truant Officer Donald, and Donald’s Snow Fight. This is a really great opportunity to see some classic Donald misadventures.

Lastly, a commemorative article celebrating Donald’s 75th birthday was posted earlier today on D23’s website. D23 has done an excellent job at celebrating a Disney milestone that might not have been noted otherwise, as no other official recognition by Disney has been given of Donald’s birthday this year other than the D23 happenings.

To throw in my congratulations to Donald for 75 years of quackiness, I thought I’d list some of Donald’s closest friends and the relationships he’s made with them over the years.

Mickey Mouse

Donald has wanted to take the spotlight from Mickey Mouse ever since their first appearance together in 1934’s Orphan’s Benefit. Although in reality Donald has actually succeeded Mickey in popularity (especially during the time of his cartoon shorts in the 1940’s and 1950’s), it seems that no one’s told Donald that! He’s continued to want the attention put on him instead of Mickey, especially when it comes to The Mickey Mouse Club. However, when it comes down to it, Mickey and Donald are really good friends. Even though Donald repeatedly messes up situations for Mickey, Mickey always seems to come through with the patience and forgiveness needed for the two to remain friends.

Donald disrupted Mickey’s band performance in 1935’s The Band Concert. Image © Disney.

Minnie Mouse

Throughout the course of Donald’s 75 years, audiences haven’t seen much interaction between Minnie and Donald. When we do, it usually involves Minnie warning Donald not to do something, and of course then results in Donald not listening and doing just what Minnie said not to do, as in the live show Cinderella’s Surprise Celebration (now closed) at Walt Disney World. Additionally, Minnie tends to give Donald encouragement every now and then, such as in Dream Along with Mickey, which is now performing at the Magic Kingdom. Even though Donald may not realize it that often, Minnie is a good friend that’s always there for him.

Goofy

Goofy’s antics are enough to drive anyone . . . well, goofy. Even Mickey, one of Hollywood’s most patient actors, sometimes gets annoyed by Goofy’s clumsiness, as seen in the TV show House of Mouse. However, while Mickey might try to rationalize with Goofy and talk things through to resolve a situation, Donald just downright gets mad. And the audience loves it. There were even several “Donald & Goofy” cartoons that were released in the 1940’s because the pair worked so well together cinematically. Goofy is sometimes oblivious to the problems he creates, and that’s what makes him so lovable, and even Donald is there to lend the goof a helping hand when needed.

Donald is featured along with some of his friends (including Goofy, Minnie, and Mickey, featured here from left) in the TV show Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on Disney Channel’s Playhouse Disney. Image © Disney.

Pluto

Pluto is actually a lot like Donald, often getting frustrated about situations that he can’t control. However, since Pluto is a genuine dog and doesn’t fully understand quite what’s going on sometimes, instead of having a tantrum like Donald does, he shows curiosity to take matters into his own paws and solve problems himself. It seems fitting that two similar characters would work so well in scenes together, and the Disney animators seemed to know it. In the 1935 cartoon On Ice, Donald puts a set of ice skates on poor Pluto while the dog is sleeping, resulting in a surprise for Pluto when he wakes up. The pair was later put together in the 1936 cartoon Donald and Pluto in another great story and again in the 1939 short Beach Picnic. Both displaying their tempers often (though Pluto’s is far tamer than Donald’s), the two of them have delivered a hoopla of entertaining stories for audiences.

Daisy Duck

The apple of Donald’s eye, Daisy first appeared in the first-ever official “Donald Duck” cartoon, 1937’s Don Donald. Originally her voice was the same as Donald’s, though she soon got a distinctive female voice. It’s appropriate that Daisy would be drawn to Donald’s befuddled personality, as she often displays a temper herself. Even though she constantly is warning Donald to stay calm, sometimes she joins him in flaring her anger, making the two great for each other.

Daisy Duck is Donald’s girlfriend. Image © Disney.

Huey, Dewey, and Louie

Donald’s nephews (the sons of his sister Dumbella), Huey, Dewey, and Louie with their energetic personalities and rambunctious mischief get Donald almost every time. The boys are experts at pulling pranks on their uncle, and often succeed at tricking Donald and causing him to explode in frustration. Like Daisy, the trio once had the same voice as Donald. However, when they began to headline their own TV series along with their great-uncle Scrooge McDuck (but without Donald) in 1987 – 1990’s DuckTales, the boys got their own voice, which was provided by Russi Taylor, who is also the voice of Minnie Mouse. (Huey, Dewey, and Louie all collectively sounded the same, but now sounded different than Donald). In the 1996 TV show Quack Pack, the boys had matured to teenagers (where they got another voice change) and tagged along as Donald and Daisy reported news for a TV station. Since 1999, the boys-to-teenagers transition has been on and off, though we mostly now see Huey, Dewey, and Louie in their younger stage. Whatever their age, they almost always jump at the chance to prank their “Unca Donald,” though also know when the make things right and apologize when they’ve gone too far.

Chip and Dale

Another group that frustrates Donald, Chip and Dale often annoy him without even realizing it. Usually they’re just trying to get back what Donald has mistakenly taken from them. However, once each side knows they’ve angered the other, there’s no stopping them. Chip and Dale usually get the best of Donald in the end, much to their satisfaction.

Scrooge McDuck

Donald doesn’t quite understand his Uncle Scrooge’s love for money, but that doesn’t bother Scrooge. Scrooge seems to have grown humbler as he’s progressed in TV shows and movies over the years, and because of this he’s been able to put up with Donald’s tantrums. After all, Scrooge has had experience with Donald’s mother (Scrooge’s sister), Hortense, who had quite the temper of her own.

His Fellow Caballeros

Donald is one of the “Three Caballeros,” a group of birds that were featured in a “self-titled” Disney film of the same name in 1945. The other caballeros are Jose Carioca from Brazil and Panchito from Mexico. Donald has a sense of belonging to the group, and seldom misbehaves around them. The three later went on to appear together on an episode of House of Mouse, and again in an attraction at Walt Disney World’s Epcot called Gran Fiesta Tour starring the Three Caballeros.


Donald is a member of the Three Caballeros. From left: Donald, Panchito, and Jose. Image © Disney.

Although Donald has displayed many instances of flaring anger throughout his 75 years, he’s also been adored by audiences for his witty, persistent personality that’s been conveyed not only by himself, but also with the help of some of his beloved co-stars.

If you get the chance, head on over to the D23 website to catch some of those classic Donald shorts, or view one of Donald’s Walt Disney Treasures DVD sets to get a glimpse of his timeless career.

Happy 75th birthday, Donald Duck! Now I’m off to watch a Mickey cartoon. Just kidding . . . there’s no need to throw a fit. 😉

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By Blake Taylor; posted June 9, 2009. All images © Disney.

Blake’s Picks – Top 12 Disney Animated Heroines

November 17, 2007

In preparation for ‘Enchanted’, let’s take a peek at some of Disney’s most memorable leading ladies.

By Blake
Originally posted November 17, 2007.

The part-animated, part-live-action Disney feature Enchanted is being released this week, and along with it comes a new Disney princess: Giselle. So, in preparation for this highly-anticipated film, I’m counting down the top 12 Disney animated heroines (I say “heroines” because not all of them are true princesses).

12.) Ariel, from 1989’s The Little Mermaid, voiced by Jodi Benson
Ariel is curious, insecure, and in love – the typical aspects of a teenage girl. However, there’s one trait Ariel has that makes her at the bottom of this list: spoiled. Don’t get me wrong, I think The Little Mermaid is a fantastic movie with an intriguing plot and wonderful music, but the main star herself is just downright pathetic. She’s already a royal princess, daughter of King Triton, yet she doesn’t appreciate the perks of a royal life and instead comes across as being bratty when you really analyze her personality. She’s willing to give up all her friends and family just because she has a crush on some guy (not to mention that that guy’s not even the same species as her).

Ariel

11.) Jasmine, from 1992’s Aladdin, voiced by Linda Larkin (speaking)/Lea Salonga (singing)
Jasmine shares several similarities with Ariel, but has a little more passion in her story than the mermaid’s. She is already a princess, and has all her needs. Though, the law states that she must be married to a prince by her next birthday. Jasmine, however, disagrees with the law and wants love to find her, not be forced upon her. To me, Jasmine seems semi-spoiled, but at least she, unlike Ariel, has a logical reason for feeling trapped.

Princess Jasmine

10.) Bianca, from 1977’s The Rescuers, voiced by Eva Gabor
Probably the littlest-known heroine on this entire list, Bianca is a Hungarian mouse that is a member of the Rescue Aid Society, a group that helps rescue needy children. She proves her bravery as she helps save a kidnapped little girl, Penny, from the clutches of the hideous Madame Medusa and her fiendish pet crocodiles. Bianca seems wealthy, but certainly isn’t haughty because of her riches. And when she has her pick of any dashing male critter to accompany her on the voyage to save Penny, she chooses plucky janitor Bernard.

Bianca

9.) Jane Porter, from 1999’s TARZAN®, voiced by Minnie Driver
Adventurous and very curious of her surroundings, Jane Porter journeys from England to the jungles of Africa to explore animals. Jane is intelligent, resourceful, and, when you think about it, a lot like Belle from Beauty and the Beast. She falls in love with Tarzan, who isn’t your average Prince Charming. Jane, also like Belle, isn’t intimidated by haughty, stuck-up male contenders (only she turns down Clayton, not Gaston 🙂 ).

Jane Porter

8.) Megara, from 1997’s Hercules, voiced by Susan Egan
Megara, often called “Meg”, is confident, tomboyish, and is not fazed at all by the many males who constantly beg for her attention. Meg works for Hades, the leader of the Underworld. When ordered by Hades to attract the attention of muscleman Hercules to lure him to a fatal trap, Meg (after much ambivalence) eventually lets love conquer her contract to Hades and settles down with once-enemy Hercules. To me, Meg is one of the heroines on this list that has gone through the most out of anybody. Poor Cinderella, she has to do chores. Poor Ariel, she can’t have species change. Just look at poor Meg, who (as far as the audience knows) has no parents, and is forced against her will to do the work of Hades, one of the harshest bosses one could ever have.

Megara . . . you can call her “Meg.”

7.) Princess Aurora, from 1959’s Sleeping Beauty, voiced by Mary Costa
Up next are three heroines in harsh and depressing situations, though they each have dreams they wish upon. The first is Aurora, also known as “Briar Rose” and “Sleeping Beauty”, who would be depleted a little more in my list, except Aurora doesn’t actually know she’s a princess until well into her story. Betrothed to a prince, she refuses to marry her suitor because she claims she’s already found someone else. Little does she know that that “someone else” is the one she’s betrothed to! Aurora has had a simple life until her love game enters the scheme of things and, of course, the nasty Maleficent shakes things up by attempting to kill the young maiden.

Princess Aurora dances with Prince Phillip.

6.) Cinderella, from 1950’s Cinderella, voiced by Ilene Woods
Cinderella, probably the most publicized and popular heroine on this list, is forced to do tend to her selfish stepmother and stepsisters. But her truly evil relatives don’t deter from her passion of her dreams. She gets through the day by singing happy melodies with her animal pals. Eventually Cinderella’s wishes are granted true when her Fairy Godmother comes to save the day and send her to the ball, where she experiences the power of her dream and the love of her life. To me, Cinderella is very deserving of her happy ending.

Cinderella

5.) Snow White, from 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, voiced by Adriana Caselotti
The “fairest one of all,” Snow White has a high-pitched voice and, apparent by her name, seriously needs to hop in a tanning bed. Snow White’s evil queen stepmother threatens to kill Snow White, just for the satisfaction of being fairest in the land. In my opinion, the queen seriously needs to get a life if her existence revolves around being prettier than a girl nearly half her age.

Snow White

In all seriousness, though, Snow White really does deserve something nice to happen in her life. Not only does she have to do chores for her stepmother like Cinderella, but her stepmother actually plans to kill her! Snow White longs for her prince to come rescue her from her misery. However, unlucky for Snow White, she has no Fairy Godmother or friendly mice friends to help her.

4.) Mulan, from 1998’s Mulan, voiced by Ming-Na Wen (speaking)/Lea Salonga (singing)
Now we enter 3 heroines who are courageous because they choose to be, not because they are forced to be. The first of these is Mulan, who desperately does not want her father to have to fight in the mandatory war. To resolve the issue, Mulan disguises herself as a male and enters the army, striving to honor her family with every move she makes. To me, Mulan is a very powerful individual who puts others way before herself, and will stop at nothing to please her family’s wishes.

Mulan

3.) Pocahontas, from 1995’s Pocahontas, voiced by Irene Bedard (speaking)/Judy Kuhn (singing)
Pocahontas is determined to settle the rift between her Native American family and the Englishmen that have suddenly begun to take over the Native Americans’ land. With the help of John Smith, an Englishman, she is able to conquer the disagreements between the two sides by following her heart and listening to the “colors of the wind.” Like Mulan, she puts others before herself, but still follows her personal internal conflicts, as well.

Pocahontas

2.) Nala, from 1994’s The Lion King, voiced by Niketa Calame (cub Nala)/Moira Kelly (adult Nala)
Betrothed to prince Simba at birth, Nala goes from a very fun, carefree, “Hakuna Matata” lifestyle to a troublesome and distressing one when the evil Scar forces prince Simba to run away forever. Seeking help after the kingdom is put into misery under Scar’s rule as king, Nala eventually finds the long-lost Simba, and stops at nothing to bring Simba back to restore peace to the kingdom. Nala is dedicated, determined, and heroic, making her #2 on this list.

Nala

1.) Belle, from 1991’s Beauty and the Beast, voiced by Paige O’Hara
The ultimate Disney heroine in every sense of the word, Belle dominates all other competitors by a long shot. Not only does her story tell of bravery and courage, but also of true love conquering all. Belle, to me, is really the only princess that truly shows that anyone can be loved. I mean, really: Snow White and Aurora have a soul mate because a random guy smooches them to wake them up, Cinderella gets her prince by having a lucky shoe size, Ariel gets hers by having a species change, and Jasmine gets hers by falling in love with some guy in disguise. Belle falls in love with a hideous beast and, even when all her peers and friends turn against Beast, Belle sticks by his side to the end, breaking the spell on the Beasts’ castle. Wow.

Beast and Belle dance the night away.

So, with this look into some of history’s most endearing Disney animated heroines princesses, we can only hope that someday Princess Giselle will find her place among them. Enchanted is in theatres Wednesday, November 21, 2007.

By Blake; originally posted November 17, 2007. All images (C) Disney.

Disney Detours – REALLY In Character

September 15, 2007

Hints for finding Disney characters at Walt Disney World.

By Blake

Originally posted September 15, 2007.

What’s the highlight of any trip to Walt Disney World?
Well, obviously that answer will be different for every vacationer. Some might say rides. Some might say shows. Some might say dining. Some might say accommodations. Some might say parades. Some might say thrills. But would you believe . . . meeting the characters?!
Believe it or not, for many people meeting a favorite Disney character is the best part of a Walt Disney World vacation. With good reason, too. Disney characters greet every day in every park at Walt Disney World, and here it’s not just a generic character “attitude.” At WDW, every character has a distinct personality. Sure, Mickey might gladly lean down for a hug from a toddler, but Captain Hook probably won’t. Instead he’ll admire the child’s pins and greedily mistaken them for treasure. Donald Duck will angrily stomp on any items you happen to be carrying that have anything to do with Mickey Mouse. Goofy might clumsily slip while he’s posing for a picture. Stuff like this is one of the things that set Disney apart from the rest. And Disney character meet n greets are often overlooked by many. Waaaay overlooked.
However, note that character schedules and lineups are constantly changing at Walt Disney World, so much of the information in this article, although true at the time of its writing, could be false now!

When I said that meeting a Disney friend might be the highlight of someone’s experience to WDW, I wasn’t just talking about children. MANY adults frequently stand in two-hour long lines to snag a pic with Captain Jack Sparrow, search anxiously around the parks for a certain character, and some even go to WDW for the sole purpose of meeting characters, and don’t even think about the rides. In fact, this has become quite popular nowadays, and even has a name – character hunting.

“Character hunters” spend their WDW trip (or, at least, some of it) tracking down characters. Some characters, like Mickey or Minnie Mouse, are located in every park and can be found super-easily. Others, such as Kenai & Koda from Brother Bear may take some extra-hard searching, as characters like these aren’t as popular to many (but may be super-popular with individuals), so they generally aren’t on a secured schedule in a regular meeting spot.
There are three primary ways to meet Disney characters. The first is the most common – to wait in a line for an opportunity to meet n greet Disney pals, and get some one-on-one time with them. The second is to book a character meal, where as you eat your food, characters will stop by your table to mingle. The third is to simply see a WDW live production (such as a show, parade, etc) and just primarily see the characters, without any personal interaction. This is a good way to see many characters at the same time without waiting in a line. Just keep in mind that you won’t actually get to “meet” the characters this way.
At Magic Kingdom, characters are abundant nearly everywhere you look. And here, the theming is great, too. You often won’t find random characters just anywhere in the park. Characters reside in which land their movie would best tie in to. Characters from The Lion King and Peter Pan can be found in Adventureland; Brer Fox and Brer Bear in Frontierland; Mary Poppins, Pooh, and Alice in Fantasyland; Mickey and the classics, as well as the princesses, in Mickey’s Toontown Fair; and Stitch and Buzz Lightyear in Tomorrowland. The definite best spot in Magic Kingdom to find characters is Toontown Hall of Fame Tent, where three long lines lead to three separate rooms, each with different characters, where you wait in separate small lines in each room for each separate character. Often 10 characters can be found here at one time. There are also four character meals in Magic Kingdom: breakfast @ Tony’s on Main Street w/Mickey, Pluto, Goofy, Chip, and Dale (just on select morning, though); breakfast, lunch, and dinner at The Crystal Palace with Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, and Eeyore; breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table (in the castle!) with Cinderella and the princesses; and dinner at Liberty Tree Tavern in Liberty Square with Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Chip, and Dale*.
At Epcot, characters aren’t as common as in Magic Kingdom, but can still be easily found. In Future World, Mickey and the gang hold fort at Epcot Character Spot (where you wait in one line for six characters! What a bargain!), while Figment is most likely to be found near the Imagination pavilion. In Epcot’s World Showcase area, the theming is excellent, as each character can be found in a World Showcase country pavilion that most matches their background. Belle is in France, Mulan in China, Aladdin in Morocco, Mary Poppins in United Kingdom, etc. While there are many different areas in Epcot to find characters, they often appear in smaller groups than the characters at Magic Kingdom. Epcot holds two character meals: dinner at the Garden Grill with Mickey, Pluto, Chip, and Dale; and breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Akershus with Disney princesses.
Disney-MGM Studios is by far the best place to look if you’re searching for newer or modern Disney characters, as they’re placed here before they’re dispersed to other areas of WDW. Here Remy and Emile from Ratatouille (as well as the Incredibles) can be found at the Magic of Disney Animation; the Little Einsteins and other Playhouse Disney characters on in Animation Courtyard; Mike and Sulley from Monsters, Inc. are on Commissary Lane; Mickey and the gang hang out at the Sorcerer Mickey Hat; characters from Toy Story can be found at Al’s Toy Barn; Kim Possible is on Streets of America, as are the Power Rangers and Lightning McQueen & Mater from Cars. One character meal is hosted here: breakfast and lunch at Hollywood & Vine with the Little Einsteins and Jojo and Goliath from Playhouse Disney.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom has the sparsest character offering of all four parks, as there are only four distinct places in the park where characters are regularly found. Mickey and pals greet guests at Camp Minnie-Mickey; Pooh, Tigger, and Eeyore can be found at the Discovery Island Character Landing; Rafiki, Pocahontas, and Jiminy Cricket are at Rafiki’s Planet Watch; and random Disney characters are found at the park entrance. One character meal is at Disney’s Animal Kingdom: breakfast at Tusker House with Mickey, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy.
That may sound very confusing and complicated, but it’s especially confusing and complicated if you’re a character hunter and in all those listing isn’t the character you’re hoping to find. And most of the time, character hunters have to search for quite some time before finding the character they want. Because (even though that is a pretty lengthy list above), Disney doesn’t usually post most of the character appearances in the park (and all the listings I posted above are the ones Disney DOES advertise on their schedules).
But, within the past year, Disney has made it easier to find certain characters, and has even debut quite a list of brand-new characters that had never before been seen in the parks.
One of those characters is Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean, who has been greeting on Disney Cruise Line for a few months and been performing in a show at Magic Kingdom for about a year now and just last week began doing “test” meet n greets in Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland. And from what I’ve heard, these tests have gone pretty well, and we can hope a permanent meet n greet will be set up sometime soon.
Some of the other characters WDW has debut in the past year include Lewis, Wilbur Robinson, and Bowler Hat Guy from Meet the Robinsons, all of whom did sessions at MGM’s Magic of Disney Animation for three months before retiring. Word has it that these characters probably won’t be seen again for quite some time.
Most of the other characters WDW has introduced for meet n greets this year are true Disney classics, and characters that not that many people know about, as they were initially introduced on screen during Walt Disney’s lifetime and haven’t been heard much from again.
There’s Jose Carioca and Panchito from The Three Caballeros, who are currently doing sessions with Donald Duck in Epcot’s Mexico in World Showcase . . .

. . . Horace Horsecollar and Clarabell Cow (Clarabell is pictures below), both of whom are from OLD 1930’s black & white Mickey cartoons, and currently now do sessions at Magic Kingdom’s entrance . . .

. . . Clara Cluck, also from old Mickey B&W cartoons, who did test sessions at MGM’s Sorcerer Hat in January and hasn’t been heard from since . . .

. . . Scrooge McDuck, who has begun appearing annually during Christmastime in Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland. . .
. . . Clarice, Chip and Dale’s girlfriend who made a single one-time-only appearance in an old Chip & Dale cartoon (Two Chips and a Miss), and now does frequent sessions at MGM’s Sorcerer Hat . . .
. . . Marie from The Aristocats, who started doing sessions in February and now is frequently found in Epcot’s France . . .

. . . and last, but certainly not least, are Lady Tremaine, Anastasia, and Drizella (a.k.a. Cinderella’s evil stepmother and stepsister), who did temporary sessions in Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland last Spring and were so popular that they’re now a permanent park of a character dinner at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. Supposedly, these particular characters are spot-on attitude-wise, and fit their personalities perfect. They even gathered a crowd just to watch their antics, rather than standing in line to meet them! Here’s some footage of them in action (video by YouTube user kbarrett2):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbEGs–n2SE

So, the next time you happen to visit Walt Disney World, you might not want overlook one very important, and entertaining & enjoyable, aspect of the resort – the characters!

*Liberty Tree Tavern at Magic Kingdom will cease character dining in January 2009.
Please note that character lineups and schedules are constantly changing at Walt Disney World, so a lot of the information in this article is out-of-date!
By Blake; posted September 15, 2007. All images (C) Disney – special thanks to DisneyClipart.com!

Disney Talk – Inside the World of ‘Cars’

June 2, 2006

by Blake

Originally posted June 2, 2006.
In the lastest Disney/Pixar film Cars, a hotshot rookie racecar Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) gets tied in a nail-biting race against two competitors (Michael Keaton and Richard Petty). To get to the tiebreaker race in California, Lightning has to travel Route 66, where he ventures from his driver (John Ratzenberger) and gets strangded in the sleepy small town of Radiator Springs.

While there, Lightning learns that there is more to life than winning. He also meets some new friends along the way. Let’s meet the characters from Cars!
Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) is a country boy with a big heart and the only tow truck of Radiator Springs. He runs Tow-Mater Towing Service & Salvage. Although Mater is a little rusty, he is the best backwards driver in Carburetor County. Seeing the bright side of any situation, Mater is the first to reach out and lend a hand to Lightning McQueen, who Mater claims his best friend. Mater’s dream is to one day fly in a helicopter and also enjoys “tractor tipping.”

Sally (Bonnie Hunt) is a 2002 Porsche 911 from California who grew tired of the big city and started fresh and new in Radiator Springs. Her job in the town is to run the local hotel, the Cozy Cone, which she owns. Sally’s nickname for Lightning McQueen is “stickers.”

Doc (Paul Newman) is the doctor and judge of Radiator Springs. Slow and gentle, Doc fears that Lightning’s arrival in Radiator Springs will ruin the town’s citizens, and wants McQueen out as soon as possible.

Sarge (Paul Dooley) is a World War II veteran and owns Sarge’s Surplus Hut. His lawn is kept nice and clean cut, unlike his neigbor, Fillmore, who likes to keep his lawn uncut. Sarge can’t stand Fillmore’s antics and claims him to be a hippie.

Fillmore (George Cariln) is a 1960 Volkswagon bus and Radiator Springs’ local hippie. He owns an organic fuel shop and believes in world peace. His laid-back personality and preference of music drives his neighbor, Sarge, crazy.

Luigi (Tony Shaloub) is a 1959 Fiat 500 and owner of the local tire shop, Luigi’s Casa Della Tires. An excitable Italian race fan, Luigi is thrilled to meet racecar star Lightning McQueen.

Ramone (Cheech Marin) is a native of Radiator Springs and owner of Ramone’s House of Body Art (paint jobs for cars). He is married to Flo, owner of Flo’s V8 Cafe (the gas station). Ramone is all about the latest fasions, style, and what’s “in.”

Flo (Jenifer Lewis) is a 1950’s veteran and owns Flo’s V8 Cafe in Radiator Springs. She likes her husband Ramone for his hip, cool, new paint jobs he does on himself.

Chick Hicks (Michael Keaton) is racecar #86 and is tied with Lightning McQueen and the King for the Piston Cup. Chick tends to brag and doesn’t mind to rub it in Lightning’s, or any body else’s, face when he arrives first to the big race in California.

The King (Richard Petty) is racecar #43 and a racing legend. He has won more Piston Cups than any other car and values hard work and sticking together as a team. He is sponsored by Dinoco, the oil of champions.

Last but not least (in his opinion) is Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson), the conceited racecar who gets lost in Radiator Springs. He is racecar #95 and is sponsored by Rust-eze Mediacted Bumper Ointment. Lightning considers his silver lightning bolt his lucky sticker and enjoys saying his catchphrase, “Ka-chow!”

Cars is in theaters June 9, 2006 and is rated G. Soundtrack available on June 6, 2006.

by Blake, originally posted June 2, 2006. All images (C) Disney/Pixar