Confessions of a Disneyholic

Cars 2 opens this weekend and I’m not even excited. In fact, my excitement level hasn’t been this low for a Pixar movie since Ratatouille (important note, Ratatouille was the last Pixar movie released before I started working at The Disney Store), and I think that’s because I wasn’t a fan of Cars. Don’t get me wrong, it was a decent film, but it was certainly my least favourite of Pixar’s roster. It’s no Up or Wall•E or Finding Nemo.

That the Cars universe has explosions and choppers and international locales (I think the Mater’s Tales shorts had all these, actually) hasn’t really swayed me, and seeing the main billing as Owen Wilson and Larry the Cable Guy doesn’t help either. That said, I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised by what I’m sure will be a high octane sequel. The near Abramsian secrecy around the content of the movie, which Pixar has shown on their projects of late, will hopefully ensure many surprises.

Since the first Cars, Pixar’s storytelling has jumped to a whole other level. compare Toy Story 2′s level of emotion to that in Toy Story 3. Whole. Other. Level. Plus John Lasseter is such the man at Disney these days that nothing leaves their magic factories without his approval… And his hands are all over this movie!

As the reviews start pouring in, I’m sure that we’ll get to know whether Cars 2 is a great movie by Pixar standards, by regular Hollywood standards, or if it’s a run of the mill sequel. One thing is certain though, every boy aged 3 to 10 will be seeing it. Twice if they get their way. I’ll probably brave the crowds and see the movie, as to not break the tradition of seeing every Pixar movie in theaters since Finding memo (minus Ratatouille). If not for the cars, for the Toy Story short. Who knows? Lightning McQueen and Mater might convert me into a true Cars fan!

097 – Free Time and Frog Princesses

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For the first time in what feels like ever, I haven’t anything to do. Well, I have an interview to edit, a case study to complete, exam material to study, an article to write, presentations to prepare, a website to populate… but nothing that is absolutely required for today!

Friday was the final school-related presentation. It went well! Above, Sarak is ready to sleep not too long after.

Despite the slow start, it’s going to be a huge week. But for some reason, all I want to do is buy books! I’m not sure what Malcolm Gladwell did to me, but I have a number of books in my Amazon checkout (where you can get Airmiles, so I discovered) and I do want to read them. But I have to finish Blink first.

There are a few pictures I’ve rustled up from various memory cards. My American quarter set, which is nearing completion, some Disney frogs, perogies, a parking lot, and nap time.

089 – It’s like walking into your bedroom only someone else’s stuff is there. And they repainted.

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Yesterday, I was at the mall when I was greeted by Mickey Mouse! I thought it was nice that Mickey was around the mall, especially since the store that replaced Disney had opened the day before. And that escalator that would take me there! It has been broken for a long time now. Just like The Bay with its broken door that doesn’t open, Bayshore is kinda slow at fixing things. And then I eventually made it up and saw the new, open-for-business Ricki’s. Walking in, I felt like it was familiar, but not. The pillars, now plain white, the ceiling, now way low, the wall bays now squarely recessed into space-maximizing walls… and a huge company logo where the projected screen once displayed Hannah Montana music videos and The Little mermaid singalongs. I’ll have to go in and tell them to enjoy the scent of Subway bread and horrible fat vat smell when KFC cleans out their reserves. Oh, and that the place is haunted.

And pictured above is a guy who was rapping beside me.

084 – Netbooks and fanboys

I’ve had one problem since my first laptop died on me a number of months ago – my mom would have to use my newer laptop when she would want to access the internet. To help remedy this issue, I bought a new computer! I use the term “computer” lightly – I bought a netbook. It’s small, it’s loaded with Windows XP, and my left shift key is half the size it should be… \when \i type, \i keep not hitting it. However, the increased portability that I’ll get from this 10″ device will more than likely make up for the need to adapt to a new keyboard. Hopefully.

I’ve spent the last few days trying to get over some sort of cold. Helping me to do so is Heroes Season 3. I bought the dvd set this week, hoping to refresh my mind on what’s happened in the last year. I found the show somewhat annoying to watch it week by week, but viewing a few episodes at a time is much more fulfilling. In re-watching, I can see why some had been complaining about the show, but in the best spirit of many fans of various things, I think their idea of what the show should be is so high that any practical reality for the show seems to disappoint. All kinds of media outlets have had “what Heroes should be/do to be awesome again” articles (ahem 1, 2) prove my point. And it’s not limited to our primetime mutants. Take a look at Joseph Mallozzi’s blog comments to see fans up in arms over a show that won’t even air for another month, or any Nintendo community that has become pretty much anti-Nintendo.

J.J. Abrams and co. have a huge task ahead of them for the next Star Trek movie. That’s all I gotta say.

Oh, and Disney is buying Marvel. Crazy ducks. There’s even more purists (on either side) who can’t sleep at the thought of Snow White befriending Wolverine. All I know is that I have a cool Wall-E lunch bag and it wouldn’t hurt Disney to learn how to attract a male audience. Maybe then Pixar won’t have to be the boy’s section all by itself.

082 – Transition

I never did catch up on the rest of my Disney trip blogs. I meant to, I just haven’t yet found the time. Over the past month and a half (has it been that long?!), I’ve talked to many people about it, and I’m pretty sure I lit up each time, except where I talk about missing Carl and Russel (Up characters) by 6 days. Up, by the way, is fantastic. Go see it now if you haven’t yet.

Time won’t be an issue soon, so I’ll catch up on all kinds of pictures. My last class for the summer is tomorrow. My last shift at Disney is Friday. It was a month ago I found out that the store is closing, and each day since then has been increasingly difficult. I may have only been with the company for two years – one of which was actually with Disney (the first year, the Store were owned and operated by The Children’s Place), but in that time, I’ve felt I’ve found somewhere I belong. It’s a company that I would love to continue working with, certainly in a position at an office if not in the field at a store level. The people have been fantastic, especially co-cast members, and especially the guests that I’ve come to know over time.

Thank you to everyone for being a family and for allowing me to enjoy being at work. For enjoying retail. It’s mind boggling that I came so close to not accepting the job when Sharlene called me back about it. I’ve learned so much from everyone would do it all again in a heartbeat – even if it means hearing Hannah Montana’s “Life’s What You Make It” 30 times a day.

I once learned from a mediocre Disney movie to “keep moving forward” (clearly not Wall-E, or Up. Those are fantastic. Go see Up). As I look forward to the summer and fall, I have a new year of school (a last one, I hope… for now), a new job, a new position at CFFN, and a new Web site that I’ve gone back to creating. My life is a deck of cards, and someone is shuffling!

081 – Disney Day Four

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On the first night, we checked out Downtown Disney, but only really went into a place to eat. Today, our first down day, we decided to take to the shops and, in a nutshell, spend a ridiculous amount of money. The stores here are crazy awesome! The World of Disney Store, the biggest character store in the world, is easily 20x the size of my store at home. If not more. And despite the heavy traffic, it was still very organized and neat looking. Imagine how many hours they get! And the stitch outside likes to spit on people. Not surprising…

Also, our store has been starting to get products made of recycled materials, reusable bags, organic cotton shirts, and the like. The same lines of product are here too. With cooler designs!

The candy store is amazing as well. I couldn’t decide what to get because I wanted it all. Disney gummies are seriously the best ones I’ve had ever. If there are any pockets of space in my luggage (ha!), then I’m filling it with candy.

Another amazing store is the Holiday store – all Christmas 365 days a year. Unfortunately I dont’ want to bring back anything breakable, so everything stayed there. But it’s pretty cool. You could get a monorail set for the tree, instead of the more traditional train set. But It doesn’t say “Por Favor Manténgase Alejado de las Puertas” (the monorail says to stand clear of the doors in english and spanish). If it did, I would seriously ship one home.

We had also checked out the Boardwalk, but sillily did so in the morning when it’s pretty dead. Will have to scope out later at night – Jellyrolls, amirite?

I think this was also a swimming day. I can’t remember, but I’m starting to get used to pools.

AND PINS. Stupid Pin Store.

080 – Disney Day Three

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After a long day at Magic Kingdom, Cat and I took a trip to EPCOT. You know, the park with the big expo-style ball? By the time the park closed, we had only really done the first half of it, doing Futureworld and just barely visiting the Canada part of the world showcase. We’re going to have to go again.

Spaceship Earth was perhaps my favourite thing at Epcot. Inside the huge ball, there’s an attraction that goes through the story of communication, from cave wall paintings to Matrix-style letters falling on the ceiling. And stars. And matrices of lights that look like they go on forever. We did it twice! My close-second fave attraction: Mission Space. Wow. Have you ever been to Mars? I went twice! Thanks, Gary Sinise! The simulated G-Forces were off the huzzle (bonus points if you just laughed there). Test Track was also amazing. It’s accelerating in a car, round and round, dodging obstacles – basically human crash test dummies. It’s a roller coaster that doesn’t feel like a roller coaster, which is alright in my books!

I made my own paper, recycled lots, and got stuck in an ill-prepared house during a severe weather storm. The 3-D shows are tricky with their water and air effects.

NEMO! The Seas was actually a little disappointing, because there wasn’t much to it, and it’s nowhere near as exciting as the other shows at the Magic Kingdom. talking with Crush was was funnier than Mike’s Laugh Floor, if only because kids ask the weirdest questions.

“how do you talk?”
“uh, with my mouth!”
“the turtles I know don’t talk!”
“*blank stare* strange, all the turtles I know talk, dude!”

That one’s probably very different each time.

“How do you swim?”
“uuh, in water, dudette! If I swam in the air, then I’d be flying!”

That one was funnier because one girl mentionned that she flew to Disney in a plane. Crush’s rection? Priceless.

Soarin’ is a hand-gliding flight over California. It was pretty exciting, and very convincing, but it would be better if it had seamless transitions though, lighting and locales change gradually. Honey I Shrunk the Audience was another 3D show. I thought it took too long to get to the good stuff, but it reminded me of how fun that universe is. Also the mice got me good!

And then the day was over. The Canada restaurant was reserved for a celebration of some sort of anniversary. And there’s no Tim Horton’s either. Seems like a missed opportunity!

And yes, there was more pin trading. And pin buying. I think I’m addicted.

079 – Disney Day Two

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Magic Kingdom

WOW.

Magic Kingdom is huge! The whole thing started off walking down Main Street USA from which you get a fantastic view of the iconic Cinderella’s Castle. And from there, it just kept getting better and better. We somehow managed to see a lot of it… not quite everything, but a whole lot. The park wasn’t that busy, so, in combination with Fastpasses, we didn’t have to do a whole lot of waiting. I wanted to see everything – soak up every detail and become part of it. This being my first real theme park experience makes it even moreso overwhlming. The little details are what makes Disney so spectacular, and Magic Kingdom is no exception to that rule.

Adventureland

If you’re going clockwise, Adventureland is the first main area. The Jungle Cruise was neat – animatronics is a big part of this place, and this is my first glimpse at this dying style of storytelling. The Tiki Room was a bit confusing because I wasn’t paying attention to the story as much as I was admiring the detail of the room, but Iago did a great spin on the Friend Like Me song. The pirates show a great show too – tons of detail.

Frontierland

Here’s where all the excitement is! Here, we made good use of Fastpasses and did two rides while waiting in line for one. First up was Splash Mountain. Now, if you know me, I’m not one for water – showering is as wet as i usually get, and not one for rollercoasters – I need to be dragged kicking and screaming on even the simplest SuperEx rollercoaster (ok, not the simplest. I’ll do the kiddie one no problem). And here I am, in line for a water rollercoaster that drops 16m (50+ feet, about 5 stories)… with a character theme that I don’t even know! But with much anxiety and some arm twisting from Cat, I go. And it wasn’t bad! It was good preparation for the next ride.

Big Thunder Railroad. I was scared until I actually did it. After that, I wouldn’t have minded going again. Maybe roller coasters are meant for more than computer sim games?

Liberty Square

There isn’t much here unless you’re big on US presidents. And Haunted Mansions. Haunter Mansion was really clever. I was more impressed with some of the effects tahn the actual ride itself. They made a movie about this?

Fantasy Land

This area is the tamer part of town. It’s also where I experienced my first 3D show – Mickey’s PhilharMagic. Very clever. And silly Donald. The Dumbo elephants were nice as well – how come I could easily do these when I was younger, but am apprehansive about the heights now? Mad Tea Party was awesome. I love anything spinney. I can do spinney all day!

Mickey’s Toontown Fair

My first real character meeting! Cinderella. Belle. Sleeping Beauty. Minnie. MICKEY! The princesses were awesome. Part of what makes s them so great is watching them with kids. I threw out a couple of good questions, but to see what they say. I asked Cindy the question that has been plaguing me for over a year: why doesn’t her slipper disappear when the magic is reversed at Midnight? If you wanna know what she said, you’ll have to ask me. And meeting Mickey and Minnie was so totally awesome! Even though I’m a big Disney nut, these guys weren’t really on my radar, until this day. Now I can’t get enough of them! Fantastic! I also explored their houses.

Tomorrowland

This is the alst segment of the Magic Kingdom. Space Mountain was closed, but I did drive on the speedway. The car in front of me wasn’t too great on the road, so I went slower than I probably could have. This little girl overtook me half way through and was so excited! I tried to catch up, but couldn’t :(

The Buzz Lightyear Spin ride reminded me of laser tag with targets, and not other people. It built my excitement for Toy Story Mania. Stitch’s attraction was neat, but kinda disappointed. He burped once, fowl!

Pin Trading

Pin Trading is absolutely cool! I made one kid’s day by trading him my Bolt pin for sme random Pirates pin. Later that day, I ran into him and his brother again, and the brother traded me a cooler Pirates pin for his brother’s old one. I also made a woman’s day with my spinney Ursala pin. It was her first trade and was ecstatic! Trading with the Cast is easy, it’s with the guests where its more interesting. This one little girl came up to me and asked to see my pins. Her mother was surprised by this and quickly told her that I didn’t work at the park, which made her scared and run away. So, I went up to her and started talking, and showing her the pins I had, but she was too shy after the fact. Too adorable!

After getting back, we ended up watching some Nemo on the beach thanks to an inflatable screen they set up on some nights, and having smores around a campfire. Yes, my resort had an outdoor movie theatre and a campfire. Beach. Volleyball net. Hammocks. Hot tub. Pool. Even a nighttime light parade on the water!

078 – Disney Day One

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This was my frist trip on an airplane! The take-off was a bit tense-ifying, but once I realised it was a bit like a rollercoaster without the down bits, I didn’t mind at all. I also slept on the planes. Once I got to Washington DC, the first thing I noticed was pizza… at Subway? How crazy!

Then I got to the Orlando airport. It’s a whole other climate. Sweater? Really?! Unnecessary. Palm trees and conifers alike populate the roadways, and there are Disney signs everywhere… at least on the path of the Disney Express. Once I arrived, I went and lounged on the beach at the resort. Surprisngly, it wasn’t packed with people. A few kids here and there, and their parents, but plenty of room to sleep on hammocks and splash around (though I didn’t because I was waiting for my luggage to arrive. And Cat.

Once Cat arrived, we took the bus to Downtown Disney to buy Star Trek tickets. I HAVE STAR TREK TICKETS! Aterwards, we went to Planet Hollywood where there was a 40-minute wait for a table… but no wait for the bar. Smartly, we went and ate at a table at the bar. Even after not having eaten since lunch at Subway in DC, I couldn’t finish my burger. Not even close! I felt bad about it, but what can you do!

For those who work at Disney with me, I got my ID! After all that waiting and panicing. And you truly notice the Disney Difference here, from the moment you land at the airport. There is no comparison between the United people at the airport, and the even the Disney Express people at the Orlando airport. Night and day. I’ve been greeted with smiles and “what can I do for you” at every turn, and everyone has been so helpful. So far! I talked at length with one CM about Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus and all the other Disney Tween peeps. I couldn’t do that anywhere else, haha!

Anyway, it’s time to shower and head out to the Magic Kingdom. My camera is gonna die!