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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tip Tuesday: Duffy the Bear

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

This week, we're going to meet a character who recently "returned" to Walt Disney World from Tokyo Disney Sea, where he was just as big as Mickey Mouse, maybe bigger!

Meet Duffy the Bear!

Long-time Walt Disney World veterans may recognize a similar stuffed bear that was available for years called the Disney Bear. A while ago, the Disney Bear left the American parks and was "adopted" by Tokyo Disney Sea and given an entirely new persona and backstory.

Now, according to story, Duffy was made by Minnie Mouse and given to Mickey Mouse as a companion as Mickey was preparing to sail around the globe. Mickey and Duffy went on many voyages and everytime they returned home Mickey and Duffy would tell Minnie all about their adventures. Mickey and Duffy traveled to Japan (Tokyo Disney Sea) and were meeting guests there for quite a while. In fact, while Duffy was at Tokyo Disney Sea, he developed such a huge following that when new bear designs or new outfits for Duffy were introduced, guests would line up for hours to purchase the new items. Don't believe me? See this post from contributor Jack Spence. In October 2010, Mickey decided to bring Duffy home.

Of course, in Disney fashion, Duffy himself had to have a special location to meet and greet all his new friends when he returned to the United States. Duffy, of course, is a world traveler, so he had to be located in Epcot's World Showcase. Now Duffy has a special gazebo located near the Mexico pavilion where he meets new friends every day. Be sure to check a times guide for specific appearance times.

But Duffy is more than just a meet-and-greet character. Duffy can come home with you (parents, be warned that this little stuffed guy is very cute and cuddly and is sure to be a hit with younger guests). In addition, Duffy can be dressed in several different outfits, representing several countries located in World Showcase (he's wearing his Mexican and Chinese outfits above), various holidays and, naturally, his sailor's outfit. More outfits and costumes are planned for Duffy in the future.

Furthermore, Duffy's presence at Epcot is even wider than meet-and-greets and a plush toy. Duffy has replaced the masks at each Kidcot station in World Showcase.

The next time you're at Epcot, be sure to stop by and say hi to Mickey's best bear -- Duffy! It's one more reason Epcot is perfect for kids of all ages -- young and old.

DisneyDaddy featured on WDBJ mornin' show

I had the pleasure of joining Bob Grebe and the folks from WDBJ's morning show to talk about the Southern Living article and to share a few tips about Walt Disney World.

Watch some highlights for yourself!





Friday, May 27, 2011

Disney Interactive announces new Disney Universe game in development

Disney Interactive Studios announced today that Disney Universe, a fast-paced multiplayer action adventure game, is currently in development for PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, Wii™ and Windows PC/MAC. In Disney Universe, players will experience non-stop action through a mix-up of worlds inspired by both animated and live action films from Disney, including titles from Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures. Players will suit-up as iconic Disney and Disney•Pixar characters and embark on adventures to power up their hero, battle powerful adversaries and master challenging puzzles to save the universe. Disney Universe is slated for release in fall 2011.

“Disney Universe is a vast treasure chest of Disney properties with memorable characters, places and experiences that gamers, as well as Disney fans will enjoy,” said Adam Sussman, senior vice president of publishing, Disney Interactive Media Group. “The fast-paced, frenetic gameplay combined with wacky humor and hilarious situations make Disney Universe the perfect game to play with family and friends.”

In Disney Universe, players can select from more than 40 classic and contemporary Disney character costumes, including Alice (“Alice in Wonderland”), Mike (“Monsters, Inc.”), TRON (“TRON: Legacy”) and Stitch (“Lilo & Stitch”) to explore six different worlds inspired by legendary Disney and Disney•Pixar films. Each world will allow players to experience objectives and missions that follow Disney and Disney•Pixar movie storylines. Players will select a character-based costume, with each costume offering a specific tool that changes and grows in power as players adventure through the game. Disney Universe offers frenetic gameplay, multiplayer with up to three friends and slapstick humor that will appeal to players of all ages.

The fun will continue on with plans for Disney Universe to be an expanding universe post-launch with items for download and new content available. Additional worlds, costumes, and more will be available for purchase, giving Xbox 360 and PlayStation®3 system owners an ever-evolving gameplay experience.

Please visit for more information.

Release dates, product names, and/or visuals shown are of product currently in development and may be subject to change. Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox LIVE are either registered trademarks or trademarks of the Microsoft group of companies.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tip Tuesday: Driving to Walt Disney World

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

With airfares continuing to skyrocket, I thought I'd share a few tips this week about driving to Walt Disney World. My family and I usually drive to WDW (about 12 hours one-way), mostly because it's far less expensive (even with the recent jump in gas prices) than flying. Five airline tickets can be quite a pill to swallow.

Driving to Walt Disney World presents it's own special opportunities and challenges. In previous posts, I talked about driving around Walt Disney World and about how to take advantage of the Central Florida Greenway to avoid driving on I-4 through Orlando.

This week, I want to talk more about the though process when considering driving versus flying and what kind of time frame you should think about when planning your drive.

To Drive or not to Drive, that is the question
When considering how to get to Walt Disney World, there are several factors to consider when thinking about driving versus flying.

Some of the things to keep in mind when considering flying are:

  • Airline fares - how much is each ticket and how many tickets do you need?

  • All those fun fees - you're going to want to take some clothes to wear, so just how much will those bags cost you?

  • Airport destination - can you fly into Orlando International Airport (MCO) and, thus take advantage of Disney's Magical Express? If not...

  • Airport transfers - if you're not flying into MCO (because of a cheaper rate into another airport) then you'll have to find some way to get from the airport (Tampa, Sanford, Daytona Beach, Melbourne, etc.) to Walt Disney World, which leads to...

  • Car Rental rates - most people decide to rent a car if they're flying into an airport other than MCO. You'll need to factor in the costs for car rentals

  • Departure and Arrival times: Depending on when you can arrive (and, later, depart), you might be able to get an extra half-day in your trip. Also keep in mind the time required to get to the airport, go through security and collect bags at your destination.

Some of the things to keep in mind when considering driving are:

  • Mileage - You're hitting the road and you're going to be covering a lot of miles -- most likely hundreds of miles, if not more than a thousand, and that means you'll need a lot of...

  • Gas - Gas prices are about a predictable as Charlie Sheen's career right now. Prices continue to fluctuate greatly. You need to know how large your car's gas tank is, what your car's average mileage per gallon is, and then calculate how much gas you'll need to get to WDW and back.

  • Time - it's no surprise that driving takes longer than flying. Do you have enough time to drive or will driving eat too much into your available time?

  • What's along the way - I strongly encourage stopping along the way. You want to get to WDW safely, and that means taking a few opportunities to rest and stretch. A drive to WDW can turn into a family road trip adventure. Are there some fun places to stop along the way? No, this isn't National Lampoon's Vacation, but it might be a chance to see a few sights.

When you boil it all down it comes to one key decision: Time vs. Money. It's probably going to be cheaper to drive, but it's going to be faster to fly. Which is more valuable to you? Time or Money? Which can you afford to spend more of?

For me, and my family of five, we usually drive from Virginia. Here's the calculation that led me to decide to drive: Flying to WDW (MCO) costs as low as $225 (round-trip) per person out of our regional airport. Right now rates are much higher ($300+), but I'll go with the lowest amount here. Flying into MCO means we can use Disney's Magical Express and not incur any transportation costs. Total cost: About $1400.

We do have a low-cost airline that flys into Sanford. Those rates are about $49 a person one-way (about $99 one-way once you add in all the fees), but then there's transportation costs to consider (like renting a car). Total cost: $1200+

It's about 750 miles, or 12-hours drive time to Walt Disney World from the house (according to online mapping pages). Given that the car's gas tank can hold 20 gallons of gas and gets about 20 miles to the gallon, one tankful of gas is equal to about 400 miles of driving, which means I need two complete tankfuls of gas to drive one-way. Adding in an extra tank of gas for safety, the round-trip total is five tankfuls or 100 gallons of gas. As of this writing, gas is running around $3.55 a gallon for a total of $355 in gas.

When we drive to WDW, we like to break up the trip into two days. We usually leave on day one and drive at least half way (depending on when we can leave - sometimes it's not until late afternoon). Then we get up early the next morning and complete the drive. I like doing this so that when we get to WDW, it's no later than 1 p.m., and often much earlier. Also, I'm not dead tired from driving for 12 hours and can enjoy the first day in the parks. We do the same thing on the return trip. We leave WDW in the late afternoon and drive about half way. This gives us a good half-day at the parks before we have to head home. So, adding in the cost of two overnight hotel stays of about $100 each -- that's an additional $200 to the drive costs.

Adding in the cost of wear and tear is a bit of a guess. I found a AAA source that indicated the maintenance costs for a minivan was around 6-cents a mile (not including gas). So I'll use that number for argument's sake. 750 miles x $.06 = $45 each way ($90 round-trip)

Grand totals:
--- Flying: $1200-$1400
--- Driving: $645

Of course, I haven't factored in time yet. To put it simply, flying to WDW takes around 7-9 hours from the time I leave the house to the time I arrive at my resort, depending on layovers and Magical Express.

Driving can take as little as 12 hours if I go non-stop. More often it takes about 18-20 hours depending on how far we go before we stop for the night on travel day 1.

So the real question is -- how much is 10-12 extra hours at WDW worth? For me, it's not worth upwards of $700 or more. For others, it might be, especially if the drive time is much longer.

So there you go -- some of the factors you need to consider when determining how you're going to get to Walt Disney World. There is no right or wrong approach. It just depends on your priorities at the time.

No matter which way you go -- by air or by road, please do so safely!

Friday, May 20, 2011

DisneyDaddy featured in Southern Living Magazine

In the June 2011 edition of Southern Living Magazine, yours truly and good friend Lou Mongello from the WDW Radio Show and Celebrations Magazine are among five Disney experts providing tips for those visiting Walt Disney World in an article celebrating the 40th anniversary of WDW.

While I knew this issue was coming out today, it's still a big thrill to see the article finally in print. I'm especially thankful to Southern Living Magazine reporter Elizabeth Passarella and the staff at Southern Living.

To read the article, just pick up the June 2011 edition of the magazine, or go to the Disney section of Southern Living Magazine.

UPDATE (5/23/11): Several folks have commented about the "never pay for parking" tip. I did not provide this tip, nor do I support this tip. Parking at Downtown Disney and then trying to get to the parks is a bad idea and is incredibly time-consuming, mostly because you have to transfer at a resort. Second, you're trying to cheat the system. It's not worth the hassle. Just pay for parking.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tip Tuesday: The Animation Academy

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

This week, I want to showcase a hidden treasure at Disney's Hollywood Studios -- the Animation Academy. This is located in the animation building on the upper level towards the exit to the Art of Disney store.

There are two ways to get to the Animation Academy. The first is the go through the main entrance and watch the Magic of Disney Animation presentation. Afterward, you will go into the huge postshow area where you can meet-and-greet several characters. The other way is to go into the Art of Disney Animation store (to the left of the entrance to the Magic of Disney Animation), go through the store and just walk into the museum beyond.

It's very likely the doors will be closed when you arrive at the entrance to the Academy. If you can, go ahead and sit (or stand) as close to the doors as possible. I'll explain why in a minute. In the meantime, watch the monitors and try to guess which characters are being drawn. It's a good way to pass the time.

There are several presentations each day, so be sure to check a times guide for specific show times. The experience runs around 30 minutes and only around 35 guests can participate in each show, so you'll want to make sure you're as close to the entrance as possible when the doors open.

Once you make it inside, take a seat at a drawing table. You will see a sheet of drawing paper and a pencil (with no eraser) waiting for you. After a few brief introductions, the castmember will ask the audience which character they would like to draw. Usually the artist doesn't draw the same character twice in a row (expect, perhaps, Mickey Mouse in different looks).

My daughter and I went to two back-to-back sessions. In the first session, we (tried) to draw Flynn Ryder. I have to say this was very difficult. I have a completely new appreciation for just how difficult and overwhelming it must be to put together a hand-drawn cartoon short, to say nothing about an animated feature film!

For the second session, my daughter requested to draw Mickey Mouse. The castmember (Corbie), was very patient and took her time explaining each drawing motion and how to make each line. What makes this experience so great is that you get to personally try your hand (literally) at being an animator. At the end, you have a great keepsake - your drawing! Best of all, it's free.

Here's my attempt at drawing Mickey Mouse, but, alas, it's nothing like...

... a trained artist! Corbie was very nice and gave my daughter her drawing!

I highly recommend giving the Animation Academy -- it's a lot of fun, it's something way too many guests walk right by.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tip Tuesday: "Special" pins

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!
(Sadly, yet another on a Wednesday)

I've talked before about pin trading at Walt Disney World both for serious pin collectors and family-fun pin trading.

This week, I went to my #1 source when it comes to pins -- my wonderful wife, the DisneyMommy, who is a massive pin collector.

It's her style of pin collecting I find so wonderful and it is this concept I want to share with you. She collects pins that have special value. I'm not talking about limited release pins or pins for special events. I'm talking about pins that have special value to her.

For instance, the photo above is a page from her pin book with different resort pins. She collects pins from those resorts we have stayed at. No resort stay -- no pin. That's what make these pins special.

Another page has nothing but cutie pins. This is a thing between my wife and my daughter. They collect different pins featuring Disney characters in the cutie style. These pins aren't particularly valuable to traditional collectors, but to her, each pin has a special meaning because they are completing the collection together.

Another tip when it comes to special pins deals with special events. Like the resort pins, we try to collect pins from different special events (Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, Epcot Flower & Garden festival, Osborne Spectacle of Lights, etc.). Again, the pins are a memento of the event itself. Where is the memory in collecting pins from special events you haven't actually attended?

So when you're thinking about collecting Disney pins, think about which pins are special to you.

It's all about remembering the magic.

Special thanks to the Box people and the DisneyMommy for this idea.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tip Tuesday: PhotoBooks

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!
(yes, it's a Wednesday. Oh well.)

This week, Disney announced a new promotion where guests booking certain trips can receive free dining and a free PhotoBook.

I've talked at length about PhotoPass and the PhotoCD. This week, I want to talk about another great PhotoPass option -- the PhotoBook.

Building a PhotoBook is very easy -- it's all done online via the PhotoPass Web site. Books can come with several cover option, both hard and soft covers (like the one seen above). Books start at $79.95 for 20 pages. Additional pages can be added for $3.50 for two pages (must add two pages at a time).

To start, simply create an account on the PhotoPass site (if you don't have one already) add some photos from PhotoPass (and/or upload your own), and select PhotoBook. You'll begin by selecting your cover and then you'll need to choose a base theme (you have several themes to choose from).

Once you have a theme, you can start adding pictures from your account. Remember that you can use photos taken by PhotoPass photographers and your own photos that you can upload. Each page can hold anywhere from one to four photos, depending on how you want the page to look like. Each theme has a ton of different backgrounds to choose from, which means you can create several different themed sections. In addition, you can add text to your pages to add a little extra touch.

What makes the PhotoBook so great is that you don't have to be a scrapbooking whiz to create a wonderful keepsake. Yes, you could use a third-party book-building site like Shutterfly or Snapfish, but only at the official PhotoPass site can you use all these awesome Disney backgrounds.

The photobook is another great way to take advantage of all those PhotoPass pictures I keep reminding you to get... so start getting those photos together and keep making memories!

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