Roly’s Storyteller’s Cafe Review

Hello, Roly here, and today I will be reviewing something my dad, Pongo, has been bugging me to write about for some time, and I’ve never gotten around to. My family and I went to a character breakfast for the first time. You see, my mom, Perdita, had had trouble with Disney and for the trouble, we got a free character breakfast for the trouble.

This is a picture of where we were seated (we are not in the picture.)
This is a picture of where we were seated (we are not in the picture.)

The character breakfast was a breakfast buffet, and since I have loved any buff

et I have ever been to, I really liked this. Right when we entered the door, we were greeted by Chip (Chip has the black nose and one tooth, Dale has the red nose with two teeth.) we got a quick picture with Chip, and were seated. The waiters were very friendly, and we got several drink refills. Some of my favorite foods were: Eggs Benedict, which I have never had before; cupcakes, there were four flavors; and bacon, mmm bacon

This is a photo of Kenai and Koda, the Bears from Brother Bear.
This is a photo of Kenai and Koda, the Bears from Brother Bear..

Characters came and posed for a picture with us at our table frequently as well. These characters included: Koda and Kenai from Brother Bear; Pluto; and Chip. Some came to our table more than once, and Koda and Kenai led a game of following the leader (I was the oldest one participating.)

The restaurant itself is a craftsman style restaurant named the Storyteller’s Cafe inside the Grand Californian. Each section of the restaurant is separated by wooden panels with some sort of scene, based upon the saying written above it. The room my family and I were seated in had paintings of people like Davy Crockett on the wall. It was a very nice restaurant, a very good experience, and I highly recommend it.This is a photo of Kenai and Koda, the Bears from Brother Bear.

Roly

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The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is the newest WDW roller coaster and is the centerpiece of New Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom. It opened on May 28, 2014 and is based on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” It was touted as part coaster, part dark ride. We have had the opportunity to ride it several times, the first right after the fire in November (That’s another story). I want to share an overview and my opinion of the ride, but not give any spoilers for those of you who have not yet ridden it.

This fire was caused by the Wished Nighttime Spectacular fireworks, and was put out before there could be any real danger.
This fire was caused by the Wished Nighttime Spectacular fireworks, and was put out before there could be any real danger.

Queue: The outer facade is a tree-covered hill with rail tracks coming out. The outside line is amid the forest. You pass the front of the dwarfs cottage before entering into the mine. The inside queue is interactive with games to entertain you while you wait. The stand-by wait is usually over an hour. These will help pass the time. Personally, I will not wait that long for any attraction. When you come to the gem-filled barrels, make sure that you and the people around you get ALL of the barrels spinning as fast as you can and keep looking up. You will get a nice surprise.

I am pretty sure you will never see the dwarves marching out to work, but this is still a very nice picture.
I am pretty sure you will never see the dwarves marching out to work, but this is still a very nice picture.

Ride: The ride begins as a roller coaster, transitions to a dark ride, goes back to coaster, and ends as a dark ride. It is a “family friendly” coaster with an intensity similar to Big Thunder Mountain, but much smoother. It and Goofy’s Barnstormer are the only two coasters that Perdita will ride. The car that you ride in is an ornately carved barrel that sways as you round corners. You can feel this. It is a neat sensation that adds to the ride and makes it seem less jerky. The dark ride portions have some of the most impressive audio-animatronics. Several, including the vultures, are recycled from Snow White’s Scary Adventures. The only problem with the dark ride portions is that they are too brief. Songs from the film, “Heigh-Ho” and the “Yodel Song” are all a part of the ride.

The mine portion, seen in this picture, looks as if it is straight from the movie. It has the most advanced animatronics, which makes them have smooth, realistic, yet cartoonish movements.
The mine portion, seen in this picture, looks as if it is straight from the movie. It has the most advanced animatronics, which makes them have smooth, realistic, yet cartoonish movements.

Photos: There are two on-ride cameras. You can purchase photos and videos through Disney’s Photopass. The videos are new to us, and we were impressed. Unlike the other WDW rides, there are no screens to view the photos after the ride. The photos and video are sent to your email for viewing and purchase.

Impression: This is not an intense experience for thrill ride enthusiasts, but it won’t disappoint most of us. It is also not a completely meek experience like “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.” I do think that it strikes a nice balance, though, with a good dose of both. As with many Disney rides, I have been able to appreciate the details and have enjoyed it more the more times I have ridden it. I love that I can ride it with Perdita and still get my coaster fix. The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is definitely worth a Fastpass-plus spot. I wish the dark ride portion was longer, but that is my only complaint.

Pongo

A Growing Disney Addiction

Pondering Disney’s addictiveness-

Here you can see Alice's cottage, and the countryside from Alice in Wonderland. (Hopefully!)
Here you can see Alice’s cottage, and the countryside from Alice in Wonderland. (Hopefully!)

I have noticed that each time we return from Disney World we want to go back even sooner, think about it more, have more collectibles for our home, anticipate our next trip more, talk about it more, etc. Is this the sign of an addiction? This sounds like a joke but I think we as a family (my son and I with the worst addiction) are truly addicted to the whole Disney World “magic”.

We started ramping up our Disney visits in 2012. We went from the magical Christmas visit of 2011 when we returned for Christmas of 2012 to then going for the Flower & Garden Festival that same year. We did that for a couple of years and then last year went to the Food & Wine Festival in 2014. We still went over Christmas in 2014 and shortly thereafter went to Disneyland for the first time. We were so in love with Disneyland we are planning a return trip this summer. We are even fantasizing about someday going to Disneyland Paris and Disneyland Tokyo. I am afraid that will take some time but it is fun to look at the layouts for the parks and the hotels, etc.

It is really a treat to see all seven of the dwarfs, or any; however at special events such as Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party you can catch a rare picture with them.
It is really a treat to see all seven of the dwarfs, or any; however at special events such as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party you can catch a rare picture with them.

An addiction is usually thought of as harmful and something destructive like an addiction to alcohol or drugs. An addiction can be healthy and fun like running or visiting Disney. Of course anything can be done to excess; even the above mentioned things. But really

when is it excessive? Four visits per year? Five? For now, we are enjoying every minute of our visits, our memories of our last visits, and our planning of our next visit. Why spoil things with too much analysis, right?

Perdita

March 13, 2015: Weekly Disney News Roundup

* Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure will be open for 24 hours on May 22, starting at 6 a.m., celebrating the “Diamond Anniversary.”
* Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World will be open for 24 hours also on May 22, starting at 6 a.m. for Disney’s “Coolest Summer Ever” celebration, hosted by Olaf.
* Aloha Isle (and Dole Whips) has traded places with Sunshine Tree Terrace in Adventureland at Magic Kingdom.
* Smokejumpers Grill will open on March 20, premiering the first phase of openings of Grizzly Peak Airfield at Disney’s California Adventure.
* Doc McStuffins will be making regular appearances this summer in the Animation Courtyard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
* Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be renamed. When the change will occur or what the new name will be is yet to be announced.
* Registration for Disney’s Wine & Dine Half Marathon on November 7, opens on 3/17/15. It will fill up quickly.
* Disney is set to publish “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” a teen book series, in the fall of 2015.
* Tim Burton will direct the live-action version of “Dumbo.”
* Disney’s live-action “Cinderella” opens today, scoring an 85% on Rotten Tomatoes.
* Disney announces “Frozen 2” is in development.
* “Tron 3” is set to start filming.
* “Star Wars: Episode VIII” will open in theaters on 5/26/17.

Commentary: Tim Burton? NO!!!!!!!
Can Disney movies not come up with new ideas? Cinderella, Dumbo, Frozen 2, Tron 3, Star Wars 8. Where is the creativity?

Perdita’s Disneyland Fantasyland Review

My favorite “land” in both Disneyland and Disney World by far is Fantasyland. The reason is simple: to escape into another world of sorts is one of the biggest allures for me to go to theme parks. Therefore, Fantasyland accomplishes this escapism more than anywhere else, as well as providing an outlet for my desire for innocence and “to be a kid again.” Most everyone has that desire at least to some extent. Along with the escapism angle I really enjoy the appearance of Fantasyland in both theme parks the most. I also love the films the attractions celebrate such as “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” and “Peter Pan.”

Fantasyland at Disneyland was architecturally more impressive than Disney World with every building being of complex design. Disneyland also had several attractions that unfortunately are absent at WDW such as Snow White’s Scary Adventure, Pinocchio, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and Alice in Wonderland. These were all four well themed with Alice in Wonderland being the biggest surprise for me as to how well it is done. (It was recently renovated and improved in 2014.) Pinocchio was a delightful retelling of the movie with the ending montage being the best. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was indeed a “wild ride” simulating how Mr. Toad would drive through the streets of London ( I was anticipating this ride the most in some ways because so much ado has been made about its removal from Magic Kingdom at WDW). Snow White’s Scary Adventure was the least impressive of the aforementioned rides but still enjoyable.

Fantasyland also has other attractions/rides some of which we did and others we didn’t get a chance.
My favorite attraction that I haven’t covered thus far is Storybook Land canal boats. In this attraction you board a boat which rides past miniature montages such as Pinocchio’s village, the London park from Peter Pan, Arendelle and other scenes. You may also board the Casey Jr. train and see these same scenes, but the wait is longer and the view not as good. You also have a guide on the boats which tells you what each miniature scene is.

It’s a Small World is in the back of Fantasyland. It was quite a bit different than the Disney World version with characters from famous Disney movies represented in their countries of origin such as Alice from Alice in Wonderland in the Great Britain section, Peter Pan in the Great Britain section, Cinderella in the France section, etc. This ride starts and ends in the outdoors and is decorated with topiaries shaped like various animals.

Alice in Wonderland’s Mad Tea Party looked a lot different than at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World but was essentially the same spinning ride.

Other rides in Fantasyland we didn’t get a chance to experience, some of which were closed such as the Matterhorn and Peter Pan’s Flight. King Arthur’s carousel, Dumbo’s flight, and Fantasy Fair we didn’t get a chance to do.

Sleeping Beauty’s Castle was closed due to renovation as well, so we only saw the tarp covering it. We hope to visit again soon when everything will be open. We still loved Fantasyland and Disneyland even with some ride/attractions closed.

A Dad’s Guide to Places to Rest at Magic Kingdom

Long days at the Magic Kingdom, while fun, can be very tiring. Your back, legs, and feet can get very sore with all of the standing, walking, and more standing. Sometimes, it is nice to just sit, relax and take in the surroundings, or maybe even take a nap. Unfortunately, with the crowds and lack of good seating and shade in much of Magic Kingdom, finding a good spot to sit, relax and cool down can be difficult. I have found some fairly reliable spots, though, to share with you.

Main Street U.S.A.: This is one of the hardest places to consistently find a spot to sit. There are several benches and ledges in front of the rest rooms next to the Fire Station, and, if lucky, you can sometimes grab one. A new option is to sit on the lawn (astroturf) in the new viewing area in front of the castle.

Adventureland: There are benches here, but at busy times it can be hard to find a spot. There are rarely waits to enter the Enchanted Tiki Room. Slipping in for a show provides a nice place with AC to rest. The show is not bad, either.

Frontierland: Seating is at a premium here. Looking inside is a great option here also. The Country Bear Jamboree rarely has waits. The show is funny and can be a nice break from the sun and heat.

Liberty Square: The Hall of Presidents is maybe the best place in Magic Kingdom to catch a cat nap. I hope that doesn’t sound unpatriotic. It is cool, dark, with cushioned theater seats. The show is about a half hour long The show is very good, and I recommend watching it, but the temptation to nap is strong.

Fantasyland: You can often find a seat or a ledge in front the “Tangled” restrooms (maybe the best lavatory in all WDW). It is a great spot to people watch, especially at night with the paper lanterns glowing.

New Fantasyland: The area in front of Gaston’s Tavern is surprisingly rarely very crowded. Again, this is a great place to people watch. The landscaping of the Enchanted Forest is the best in Magic Kingdom.

Tomorrowland: This land offers more options than the others, especially between the Tomorrowland Speedway and Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies. If you want AC and a possible quick nap, then the Carousel of Progress is the place to be. Rare waits, AC, dimmed lights, and cushioned seats again make this ideal.

I hope this helps. If you have found others, share them. A backup plan is always good.

Pongo

Roly’s Favorite Overlooked Attractions

Today I will be reviewing my, favorite “forgotten attractions” at each park. Even though they have short wait times and are mostly unnoticed, they are some of the best.

Magic Kingdom (The Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover): this has got to be one of Disney’s best idea’s for a ride. I love being able to board a mini-train and be given a tour of Tomorrowland, which means being able to see inside Space Mountain, and Buzz Lightyear.

Epcot(The Great Piggy Bank Adventure): In Innoventions there

is a mini-attraction, that is not to be missed. You get a piggy bank and go through a series of games trying to earn money up for retirement, vacation, etc. There are many other good games in Innoventions such as Stormstruck, and Sum of All Thrills.

Hollywood Studios(Muppet Vision 3D): This is one of the best WDW shows and yet there is little to no wait for it always. All of the muppets are there, which makes this one of the funniest Disney shows. Even the preshow is great. The 3D is fun, and the two grumpy old men are  hilarious. Overall this is a wonderful show.

Animal Kingdom(Flight’s of Wonder): This show is

Animal Kingdom Flights of Wonder 147amazing, and surprisingly you can get into a show with no wait, and without having to stand. All kinds of birds fly around and do tricks such as: taking someone’s money, or catching a piece of falling fruit. There are eagles and owls, colorful parrots and all kinds of other exotic birds. This show is not to be missed.

Roly

Rubbish! The World Showcase Players at Epcot

Walt Disney World is continuously making changes. Some are good, like replacing Snow White’s Scary Adventures with the Seven Dwarfs’ Mine Train. Some are open for debate like replacing Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. There are some changes we hope for: replacing Stitch’s Great Excape and Captain Eo. And, there are the ones that just stink. Canceling the World Showcase Players at the UK pavilion at Epcot late last year is one of the latter.

The World Showcase Players were improv-comedy, street performers who would perform classic skits such as “Arthur’s Quest for the Holy Grail,” “Romeo and Edna,” and “A Christmas Carol.” Every show was different as audience members were pulled into the show. We are WDW street show connoisseurs. We will spend a full day at Epcot or Hollywood Studios just watching the street performers. The World Showcase Players were reliably funny. It was our favorite street show, not only at Epcot, but in all of WDW.

Since the first time we saw them, we would catch at least one performance every trip to WDW. Roly would always get a “front rope” seat. Perdita and I would sit on the curb. We would groan aloud at bad jokes, yell “Long Live the King,” “Rubbish,” and “Free Beer,” laugh out loud, and be thoroughly entertained.

Five acts were canceled from the Epcot World Showcase: Ziti Sisters (Italy), Mo’ Rockin’ (Morocco), Off Kilter (Canada), Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps (USA), and the World Showcase Players (UK). Four new acts have taken their place: B’net Houwariyate (Berber music and dance in Morocco), Canadian Lumberjack Show, Sbandieratori Di Sansepolcro (flag performance in Italy), and the Paul McKenna Band (Celtic music in UK). The acts sound interesting. I hope they are good and will see them at some point. We opted not to catch any of the Epcot shows on our last visit.

In conclusion, how do we feel about Disney’s decision to cancel the World Showcase Players?

RUBBISH!!

Below is a recording of their final show from WDW News Today.  Enjoy.

Pongo

Pongo’s WDW Parks Quick Service Picks

I love food, but I am frugal (cheap ?). We rarely eat at table service restaurants due to cost, required planning, and time commitment. We have eaten at most of the WDW quick service restaurants. There are certain dishes to which I keep returning. Flavor is the most important thing to me, followed by nutrition.

Here are my my favorite quick service dishes at each Walt Disney World park.

Magic Kingdom: Columbia Harbor House in Liberty Square offers Grilled Salmon with couscous and steamed broccoli. This is not your typical quick service/fast food offering. I love salmon. The salmon is always good, although, it has been on the dry side a couple of times. It is still tasty and nutritious. The couscous and broccoli are both good on their own and pair up well with the salmon. It is a tasty, filling meal that is a step above most quick service options.

Epcot: There are so many choices at Epcot! It is hard to choose just one. My favorite comes from ordering a’ la carte at Boulangerie Patisserie les Halles at the France pavilion. Roly orders the Bisque de Homard (lobster bisque), and I order the Quiche Florentine. We share a Roule Lard et Fromage (bacon and cheese roll). We find a spot to sit and dig in. All are delicious and the combo is filling. The Roule Lard et Fromage is one of my two favorite quick service offering in all of WDW.

Hollywood Studios: DHS has the fewest decent quick service options, in my opinion, while it does have two of my favorite table service restaurants. I hear that Min & Bill’s Dockside Diner has good macaroni dishes, but I have not eaten there. My go-to dish is the Grilled Vegetable Sandwich at Backlot Express. It has basil asiago bread, mushrooms, red pepper, zucchini, tomatoes, watercress, cheese, and sundries tomato pesto. It all goes together well and is quite tasty and filling. Choosing a side of carrots instead of french fries makes this a fairly healthy choice, too.

Animal Kingdom: Slow-cooked Chicken Curry at Tamu Tamu in Africa is delicious, the other of my two favorites. The chicken is tender, perfectly seasoned with mild heat. It is served with jasmine rice and pita wedges which complement the chicken perfectly. i absolutely love it and cannot get enough.

Have you tried any of these? Do you have other favorites?

Pongo

March 6, 2015: Weekly Disney News Roundup

* The 2015 Epcot Flower & Garden Festival has opened.
* Soarin’ at Epcot and Toy Story Mania! at Hollywood Studios are both set to undergo expansion aimed at decreasing wait times. Both should be completed by late 2016.
* Soarin’ at Epcot will soon have its screens and projection systems upgraded to improve the visual experience.
* Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom has re-opened after renovation with several updates.
* Fireworks caused a fire near the “It’s a Small World” attraction at Disneyland this week. No one was injured and there was no damage to the ride.
* Disney Egg-stravaganza, a scavenger hunt for Disney character themed Easter eggs, will run from March 27th through April 5th at Disneyland in California and at Epcot in Florida.
* Neil Patrick Harris and Mickey Mouse will co-host the new “World of Color – Celebration” show for Disneyland’s Diamond 60th anniversary celebration, opening on May 22nd.
* Planet Hollywood restaurant at WDW Downtown Disney is set to undergo renovations to fit into the Disney Springs turn-of-the-century theme.
* Disney’s Polynesian Villas and Bungalows open on April 1st.
* Renovations to the Polynesian resort’s main pool, the Lava Pool, is expected to be completed and opened by the April 1st opening of the DVC Villas and Bungalows.
* DVC members are invited to a complementary, advanced screening of Disney’s “Cinderella” on Saturday, March 7th at 3p.m. at the AMC Downtown Disney 24 theaters. RSVP is required. “Cinderella” officially opens in the US on March 13th.
* DVC members can save on tickets to “La Nouba” by Cirque du Soleil at WDW Downtown Disney from now through March 28th. Discounts vary from 18 – 36%, depending on category and adult/child ticket purchases. Members can purchase for themselves and up to 5 guests.
* Registration for the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon on 11/7/15, opens on March 17th.
* The new Disney Side App, “Show Your Disney Side” is now available for free on the Apple App Store for iPhone and iPod touch at http://Disneysideapp.com. It allows you to transform your image into your favorite characters from park attractions and experiences.