July 31, 2012

Helpful Website: Mouse and Memos.com

Update: Sadly, Mouse and Memos.com was shutdown in early December 2014. While the links below will direct you to their Good Bye message, I'm leaving this article up. Jonathan Briehl was the creator of Mouse and Memos, and still develops many other great websites.

Mouse and Memos.com is a fabulous tool to use when planning your next WDW vacation!  It was built to be used both at home (build plans, write reviews, make notes, etc.) as well as to be used at Walt Disney World (view your plans, set reminders, etc.)  It was also created to be used on multiple platforms - computer, cell phone or tablet.  And the best part of all, signing up for an account is completely FREE!  So give it a try!
Photo courtesy of Mouse and Memos.com
Here's a quick list of things I have used on the site:
  • Reviews.  You can read reviews and add your own for any attraction, restaurant, show, shop, and even tours!  Reading reviews may help you gain perspective on whether or not you'd like to try something new.  Writing reviews will help others figure out what they'd like to try on their next WDW visit.
  • Reminders.  Send reservation reminders to your phone via text message or email, and choose the time the reminder arrives - from 15 minutes beforehand up to 24 hours.  Certainly a helpful tool, especially if you've got Fast Passes in hand that you don't want to let expire!
  • Notes.  Want to try something different next time or remind yourself of something that needs to be done before your next trip?  Create a note!  It can be kept private, or shared with friends or the public.
  • Build a Plan.  On my last WDW vacation there were attractions I didn't want to miss... and yet, I missed them.  I did not write out a complete itinerary.  If I had used this site to build my plan, I could have accessed the list of attractions on my cell phone and wouldn't have forgotten!
  • Hidden Mickeys.  Do you love to hunt for Hidden Mickeys?  There are many Hidden Mickeys listed on Mouse and Memos, but there's plenty more that need to be recorded!  Feel free to upload your own findings of Hidden Mickeys, and go ahead and check off if you've found others that are listed.
Another neat feature on this site is that every area you utilize, you can set as private, "share with friends," or make public.  By finding your friends within this site (tell them to join!), you can share as little or as much as you like with them. Using these planning features with friends (or family members), will be great when vacationing with others - allowing everyone to be on the same page.

This site is excellent to use as a "reference guide" too.  Let's look at the page dedicated to the Magic Kingdom, click here.  Scroll down to the "Attractions" list.  You'll see the attractions listed in Alphabetical order, how many "stars" each has received according to reviewers currently using the site, which rides distribute Fast Passes, and which rides have height restrictions.  Scroll down towards the bottom of the page and click on the "+" next to "Dining."  That area will expand and you'll be able to see every single restaurant, including which are table service, quick service or side-stands.  Again, each of these has reviews (or the ability to create a review).  If you don't like viewing these lists alphabetically and would prefer to view them geographically, scroll back toward the top and click on a "land" under the "Areas" list.  All of the attractions, dining locations and shops are listed for each specific land.  If you click on an actual attraction, you'll be able to see more information on it, plus extra details that may be helpful - such as what attractions and restaurants are nearby!

Sign up for an account and give it a try!  If you need help, just send Jonathan an email!  He loves to get feedback and will certainly help you learn how to use his site.  And if you don't have an upcoming Disney trip to plan just yet, you can still add reviews to help others out!

July 30, 2012

Today's Featured Agent: Lesley Sawhook with Pixie Vacations!

Today, I'm pleased to introduce you to Lesley Sawhook - an agent with Pixie Vacations - and owner of the website Destination Magic!  Lesley was actually "nominated" for this interview by one of her clients, David!  That speaks volumes, doesn't it?  And talk about "Small World..." - Lesley and I are both writers for Chip & Co.!  What a fun coincidence that she was brought to my attention for this "No-Fee Disney Agent" series!  Without further ado, here's our interview with Lesley!
WDW Hints: Can you tell us what your Disney World "favorites" are?

Lesley: Favorite Resort: Animal Kingdom Lodge, it's simply breathtaking!
Favorite Restaurant: Top 3: Teppan Edu, LeCellier and Yachtsman Steakhouse
Favorite Park: Epcot
Favorite Ride/Attraction: Rockin' Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios or Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom
Favorite Character: Mickey Mouse (of course : )
Favorite dessert (and where it's found): Dole Whip Float at Aloha Isle in Magic Kingdom

WDW Hints: What little known thing do you like to recommend to your clients to try at WDW?  

Lesley: Lately I've had a  lot of clients with little boys looking for something special so I give them tips on how to get their child enrolled in Jedi training academy.

WDW Hints: What made you decide to go from a "Disney fanatic" to an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner?  When did you become an ADVP?

Lesley:  I had planned my friends and co workers trips for Disney for years and when people started coming to me offering  to pay me to write their personalized itineraries after they had seen what I had written up for their friends  I decided it was time to pursue my dreams to help others on a professional level and so I found Pixie Vacations and it's been a wonderful partnership.

WDW Hints: Do you find yourself going on Disney vacations more, less or about the  same since becoming an ADVP?

Lesley: More. As an agent I am actively involved in training so I go down to Disney to do tours of the resorts with the agency. I also want to experience new things so I can help my clients plan great trips. For example, we have been on the Disney Dream two times but when a great rate on the Fantasy popped up I jumped on it because I want to experience those ports and the ship for myself to help my clients plan amazing vacations. I also plan on going to Disneyland in 2013 so I have more first hand knowledge about that as well.

WDW Hints: Is there anything tedious about the job?  (I've heard of some agents waiting on hold for hours with Disney reservations - is that true?)

Lesley: Well, that is why using an agent is so valuable. I am the one on hold every time you want to make a change to your reservation or change dining time. Yes, I do spend hours on hold with Disney per week. I also am available to my clients 24/7 unlike booking through Disney directly. So my clients can email me, call me or text me at any time and they know they will hear back from me quickly. This does occur during my own family vacations as well but it is part of the job and the service I give my clients and I pride myself in that.

WDW Hints: Do you book airfare for your clients?

Lesley: With Pixie Vacations we only book airfare that is sold directly from Disney but I do help my clients search for affordable airfare and then set up Disney's Magical Express for Disney World, research the most affordable transfer options for Disney cruiseline and set up transfers to and from the airport for Disneyland  vacations as well.

WDW Hints: What extra perks or special gifts do you give to your clients that other ADVPs may not give?

Lesley: For Disney World and Disneyland I offer Disney gift card incentives (the amount depends on the amount of the vacation), I offer on-board credits and gift cards for Disney cruise line vacations, and I let clients choose from other fun incentives based on package price that include personalized Disney totes, lanyards, personalized Disney t shirts, autograph books, etc.

WDW Hints: I enjoy booking my own ADRs right at 180 days out, if I were to book my vacation through you, can I still have control over my own ADRs or do you take over everything?  (In other words, do you allow clients to be involved in their vacation planning as much or as little as they want?)

Lesley: Yes, you can have as much control or little control over your reservations as you want. Some people come to me because they are overwhelmed and want help start to finish with planning and others are Disney veterans and just want that added service of a personalized itinerary once they have booked everything and they go through me to get the incentives like the Disney gift cards, etc.

WDW Hints: What fun opportunities have you been given since becoming an agent?
Lesley: I have won two sales contests our agency has held earning my family of 4 a free Disney cruise and a 2 night stay at the Grand Floridian resort. My sales helped the agency achieve the status of Authorized Disney Vacation Planner this past year and that was a very proud moment. Most recently several of the top agents from Pixie Vacations were hosted for 3 nights at the Beach Club by Disney and we were given some fast passes to use during our park time, we toured many of the resorts including the new Princess rooms at Port Orleans and the CARS suites at Art of Animation and I was awarded my very first "Mousecar" award for my sales with Pixie Vacations. The award sits proudly on my desk!

WDW Hints: I just priced out the following vacation - can you beat the prices I found or offer an upgrade?
~Dates: Sept 22 - 27 (5 nights).  2 adults 2 children (ages 2 & 4) Room only reservation at Animal Kingdom Lodge (standard room) using Disney's Aug/Sept discount (30% off) = $1059.00
~4-day Park Hopper Tickets through Undercover Tourist (using mousesavers secret link):  (2 adult, 1 child) = $916.86
~Grand total = $1,975.86

Lesley: Yes, I can actually beat that offer. Pixie Vacations partners with Disney to create Pixie Exclusive deals and we have one running in September, one in October for Food and Wine Festival one in November for Jersey Week and one in December at Christmas. With our promotion you not only would get the hopper tickets but everyone gets a FREE water park or ticket to Disney Quest. For our September promotion you would need to arrive between September 15-21st to start your vacation but the total for 2 adults and 2 children (ages 2 & 4) staying at Disney's Wilderness Lodge for 5 nights with 4 day hopper passes the grand total would be $1850.71 PLUS you would get a personalized Disney tote as a thank you : )

WDW Hints: What do you love most about being an ADVP?

Lesley: For me, it is helping clients have amazing vacations. I have worked with families of four to groups of 25+ and I help to make each one of their vacations special and I strive to give them that VIP customer service that everyone wants. I love it when my clients return home and send me notes or emails with pictures of their  acations going on and on about their Disney memories they have made - THAT'S what my job is all about and I LOVE it!

WDW Hints: Thank you so much for your time, Lesley!
Editor's Note: You can contact Lesley through her website, Destination Magic, or by visiting her Facebook page, Pixie Vacations by Lesley!  Lesley is also a contributor to the blog Chip & Co.

July 25, 2012

Today's Featured Agent: Darren Wittko with Magical Vacations Travel

This week, we're happy to feature Darren Wittko.  Darren is a Disney Travel Specialist with Magical Vacations Travel and owner of The Best of Walt Disney World website.  Like all of the agents we're going to feature, Darren's services are completely free!  Here's our interview with Darren... enjoy!
Photo courtesy of Best of WDW
WDW Hints: Can you tell us your favorite resort, restaurant, ride, etc.?

Favorite Resort: Wilderness Lodge, Bay Lake Tower
Favorite Restaurant: Trails End Restaurant
Favorite Park: Tied for Magic Kingdom & Epcot
Favorite Ride/Attraction: Pirates of the Caribbean, Spaceship Earth, Splash Mountain
Favorite Character: Mickey ­- it all started with a mouse!
Favorite dessert: the Napoleon at Boulangerie Patisserie.

WDW Hints: What little known thing do you like to recommend to your clients to try at WDW? 

Darren: That WDW is nearly 50 square miles, that’s twice the size of New York City! This ‘ain’t’ Six Flags! Be sure to make an itinerary, whether it be flexible or precise, but have a plan.

WDW Hints: What made you decide to go from a "Disney fanatic" to an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner? When did you become an ADVP?

Darren: I grew up going to Walt Disney World and had made such wonderful memories there. It became familiar to me, a second home of sorts. I read that booking through a Disney travel agent had more benefits than booking myself, so I started using Magical Vacations Travel. Once they saw how often I was going, I was invited to join the team. That was back in 2008 and I’ve been booking Disney vacations ever since.

WDW Hints: Do you find yourself going on Disney vacations more, less or about the same since becoming an ADVP?

Darren: I’m on a Disney trip about 6 times per year, or about every other month. Sometimes I have to leave my family behind, that part is never easy. As an agent, I do get some discounts and that helps me a lot.

WDW Hints: Is there anything tedious about the job?

Darren: For me, it’s having to double­check all the facts and figures, especially when I have several clients at the same time. There’s no room for mistakes on someone’s vacation quote,
so I will double check, even triple check, the figures before they go out to clients. That part is tedious, but so important.

WDW Hints: Do you book airfare for your clients?

Darren: I do book airfare if they request it. Many folks prefer to hunt down their own deal online, but I have no problem booking it if they wish. Sometimes they’ve done their homework on flights and just give me the info. to book it for them. Otherwise it’s a lot of emails back and forth as to flights, times and fares.

WDW Hints: What extra perks or special gifts do you give to your clients that other ADVPs may not give?

Darren: Even though we offer some magical extras like a customized newsletter with a crowds calendar, the Color Companion to Walt Disney World and a few others, the real benefit is our service. We double­-check all the paperwork when it arrives from Disney. We search every day for better offers and promotions that we can pass along to our clients. Just having someone who is looking out for the client’s best interests is definitely our most valuable perk. If we didn’t offer exceptional customer service, people would just book online themselves.

WDW Hints: I enjoy booking my own ADRs right at 180 days out, if I were to book my vacation through you, can I still have control over my own ADRs or do you take over everything? (In other words, do you allow clients to be involved in their vacation planning as much or as little as they want?)

Darren: Absolutely! A client can book dining reservations themselves, and many like to do that. Other folks tell us what they want and ask us to fill up their calendar with dining. Yet, others will have no idea where to dine and really need some advice. In any case, the customer always has control of his or her reservation.

WDW Hints: What fun opportunities have you been given since becoming an agent?

Darren: For me, having the chance to meet other Disney fans, bloggers, website owners, and authors has been a lot of fun. As an agent, I work mostly with the online community so I’ve gotten to meet some wonderful people that way ­ even been invited to few special events. One of the best opportunities was having Bob Sehlinger -­ Co­Author of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World - ask to use a few of my photos in his book. I was so honored and he’s such nice guy!

WDW Hints: I just priced out a vacation using disneyworld.com,­ can you beat the prices I found or offer an upgrade?

Darren: Believe it or not, Disney is price controlled. This means that a Magic Your Way Package costs the same everywhere, just like an iPad will be the same price whether you buy it at the Apple Store or at Target.  There are some rare exceptions to this however, otherwise we charge what Disney charges. It’s always worth checking to see if there are any unadvertised specials available with us.

For example, we have a great offer right now for August 24 ­ Sept. 3 at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort: 2 adults, 2 children (ages 2 and 4), 5 nights, with 5­Day Magic Your Way Tickets with Park Hopper comes to $1,733.11. If a customer booked through DisneyWorld.com, the cost would be $3,651.65. Our customers saved a whopping $1,919 by booking with us!

WDW Hints: Why should I book with a Disney travel agent if the prices are the same?

Darren: It is so important to build a relationship with a travel agent. Our loyal customers get the news on our agency exclusive offers before anyone else, such as our Grand Floridian offer. Sometimes our customers grab up all the discounted rooms and it never has the chance to go public! Make friends with an agent!

WDW Hints: What advice do you have for someone going to Walt Disney World for the first time?

Darren: If you’re going to buy a new car, appliance, or any other major purchase, don’t you take the time to research it a little? Let’s be honest, Disney World is a major purchase, many folks spend three to five thousand dollars on a trip. This is why it’s important to have someone work with you, someone who can answer your questions fast and prevent you from overpaying. If you choose to do it yourself, then find some good unofficial websites that offer tips and tricks.

WDW Hints: Why is it better to purchase tickets through Disney rather than a ticket wholesaler?

Darren: Unless you’re traveling with a large party, the savings might only be $3 -­ $5 per ticket and there’s a lot of extra hassles involved. For instance, they most likely have to be mailed to your house, and if you do this last minute, you will be nervous about them arriving on time. If you should forget them at home or loose them, you’re out of luck. Disney isn’t going to help you here. Disney will not confirm days on tickets over the phone, the only way you will know if they are going to work is at the gate, and by then it’s too late!  
A benefit to buying them through Disney is that the tickets can be added to your Key to the World Card.  Having your room key, park passes, and dining plan all on one card so convenient. And if it gets lost, Guest Relations will make you a new card. To me, that’s worth the regular price.

WDW Hints: Thank you so much for your time, Darren!

Editor's Note: Darren Wittko is the creator and author of the Best of Walt Disney World.  He is a contributor to the The Unofficial Guide: The Color Companion to Walt Disney World (Unofficial Guides) guidebook and can often be found posting Disney World trivia and information on Facebook.  You can always contact Darren via his website or facebook page and he'll be happy to assist you!

July 24, 2012

Why use a Disney Travel Agent? Because they're free... completely FREE!!

I've never used a Travel Agent to book my Disney Vacations. Why? Because I thought they'd tack on fees or hidden charges somewhere - they've got to earn a commission, right? So, I've always booked my vacations online through DisneyWorld.com or by calling. But, I recently realized my assumptions were dead WRONG!

When using a no-fee Disney Travel specialist, there aren't any extra costs built in! It's all FREE! Let's say you're going to book a Disney Vacation yourself using DisneyWorld.com. You pick out your resort, your choice of tickets, you reserve your magical express transportation, you make all of your own ADRs, and you pay $3,000. OR you could use a no-fee Disney travel agent, and still pay $3,000 (not a penny more!) and they'll do all of that same work for you! Plus, some agents will throw in some extra perks, such as free autograph books for your kids, or a Disney gift card for you. They'll also be happy to give you recommendations and other helpful tips. Sounds like a good deal to me!

So how do these agents make money? Well, Disney pays them a commission after your trip has been completed. So, you can either book your vacation directly online or book through a no-fee travel agent... either way, you're paying the same price, but by going through an agent you're saving time and gaining a beneficial service of helpfulness!

To help gain a little more perspective on what these agents will actually do for you, we're going to be interviewing one agent per week over the next 4 weeks. You'll learn a great deal from them as to how their services work and what they can do for you and your upcoming Disney vacation. And it all starts TOMORROW!!

One last word of advice, when searching for a no-fee Disney agent, be sure to look for terms such as "no-fee service," or "Authorized Disney Vacation Planner," etc. to be sure that their services are indeed free, resulting no extra charges. If you're unsure - ask them flat out when first contacting them.

Agents featured in the Summer 2012 series:
Darren Wittko with Magical Vacations Travel
Lesley Sawhook with Pixie Vacations
Missy Smith with 3D Travel Co.
Tabitha Woodard with "Mouse"cation
Leigh Rosica with Mousekeplanner

July 19, 2012

Honorary Princess of the Day

My friend just shared the most amazing experience that her family had while at Walt Disney World last Fall and I wanted to share it with you.  Her daughter was chosen as "Honorary Princess of the Day" at the Magic Kingdom.  Here’s what she had to say:

"We were the first people in line for Breakfast at the castle and my daughter was asked to be the Honorary Princess of the Day. Apparently, every morning they ask the young girls in the first family in line for breakfast to be honorary princesses of the day. I knew nothing about this, but I did rush us there so I could get pictures of us in front of the castle without anyone else in the picture. (You know me and my pictures!)

She was given a special sticker, that only she got, they named her in the announcement to open the castle and over the PA system welcoming everyone to the park for the day, and they took her into the castle before everyone else was let in. We got extra time with Cinderella before they started letting in the people with breakfast reservations. Also, they sat her at the head of the first table. (Meaning that the princesses came to see her before they went to any other table at breakfast) Throughout the rest of the day, she was greeted by every Disney cast member with "Hello, special princess of the day" and every character pointed to the sticker on her chest.  She had never felt so special!!!!"

I guess Terri was right about getting to the parks early!  This sounds like such a unique an amazing experience for a girl at Walt Disney World. 

We’d love to hear more about this experience.  If your daughter has ever been the Honorary Princess of the Day, let us know!


July 16, 2012

Free stickers galore!

Did you know that most cast members at Walt Disney World have access to rolls and rolls (and rolls!) of Mickey Mouse stickers or other character stickers?  They’re happy to pass them out by the dozen to children and parents alike. 

On our last trip, my son stopped to talk to a cast member in the Mexican pavilion about learning Spanish at school.  She told him that she would give him one sticker for every number he knew in Spanish.  Once he got to 10, which is all he knew at that point, she started writing down numbers on the backs of other stickers.  She told him how to pronounce the numbers and handed over a huge strip of stickers.  Then she gladly gave my younger son an equally long roll of stickers.  It was one of the nicest moments on our trip.

The boys especially loved that they had enough stickers to give one to every child in their classes at school.  

Unlike most things at Walt Disney World, the stickers are free and will please any child.  They might be just what you’re looking for to appease a cranky child!  To me, however, the best part is getting some great interaction time with cast members.  They love talking to kids and go out of their way to make every child feel extra special on their trip.

So, on your next trip, take some time to chat with a cast member.  They’ll love getting to know you a bit and your child will certainly love some free stickers.  And, don't forget, there are other fun, free things to do at Walt Disney World!

July 14, 2012

Weekly Recap: Haunted Mansion

As our Haunted Mansion theme week comes to a close, I wanted to give a special Thanks to Mike from My Dreams of Disney, and Jonathan from Mouse and Memos for contributing articles and pictures!  

Have you visited either of Mike or Jon's sites?  My Dreams of Disney is a great blog written by Mike.  As a reader, you can tell that Mike loves Disney, because it's easy to recognize his excitement about what he's sharing in his articles.  His articles contain fun information, great tips, nice pictures and even videos!  Mike is also a writer for Chip & Co. and was the first person to reach out and make me feel welcome to the Chip & Co. crew when I joined.  Thanks Mike!

Mouse and Memos is an excellent tool to use when planning your next WDW vacation.  It was created by Jonathan, who has spent months writing the code himself to get the site working just right.  Now it's your turn to use it!  Go ahead and sign up for a free account.  From there you can write reviews on attractions, shops, restaurants and tours.  You can also make notes or reminders for upcoming trips, as well as make reservation reminders to be sent to your phone or email!  If you see that your favorite attraction doesn't have a review yet, don't be shy, go ahead and be the first to give it a review!  You'll be helping others out.

If you missed any of this week's articles, the complete list with links is below.  We hope you enjoyed this Haunted Mansion week as much as we enjoyed putting it together.  And if there's ever a topic you'd like to see featured as a week-long theme, let us know!  We're always happy to share our knowledge and do the research to bring you fun articles!

Haunted Mansion Articles featured this week:

Photo courtesy of Mouse and Memos

July 13, 2012

Special Effects used within the Haunted Mansion

How do they DO that?!  Often, I'm awe struck at the attention to detail and special effects that Disney puts into their attractions.  The Haunted Mansion, being created in the 1960's, uses some of the most simple techniques for special effects, but being "hidden" so well, it's still hard to figure out how the Disney Imagineers made it work.  Here are just a few of the special effects within the Haunted Mansion explained.

Spoiler alert!  If you feel that knowing how an attraction works takes away from the fun... you may want to skip down to the fun fact portion of this post.
Photo courtesy of Jonathan Briehl
Eyes in the Wallpaper & Busts in the Hallway - are they following ME?  This is a great optical illusion that is quite simple to create.  The eyes and busts appear convex (rounded outward like the exterior of a ball), but are actually concave (rounded inward like the inside of a bowl).  These busts aren't actual busts, but rather concave sculptures - you might think of them as "molds" that a bust might be cast in.  Although the object is actually facing away from you, with proper lighting, the busts (and eyes) appear to be continually watching you.  

Ballroom Dancers - One of the most magnificent scenes in the Haunted Mansion is the Ballroom dancing!  How is it done?  By using one of the oldest magician's tricks in the book - a technique called "Pepper's Ghost."  There is a large pane of glass between you and the ballroom below.  The dancing ghosts are actually located above and below the track that your doom buggy rides on.  The audio-animatronics are lit up with light bulbs that fade on and off above them; it is their reflections that you see in the glass.HINT: Look closely at the dancers.  The Imagineers "built" the audio-animatronics as proper dancers (men leading ladies), but forgot to take into account the mirror-imaging that the reflecting would cause.  So, in the ballroom scene, the ladies are actually leading the men in the dance!  

Singing Busts in the Graveyard - The busts are simply head sculptures with actors faces that are projected onto them.  A short color movie is projected onto these sculptures (or white mannequin heads) from below the front of the head. This allows the heads to look "alive."  Madame Leota and little Leota (the Ghost Hostess) are also created using the same projection technique.  (The projector is hidden inside Madame Leota's crystal ball.)  

Hitchhiking Ghosts [old version] - You likely already figured this one out - two way mirrors.  The side with the ghosts is brightly lit, the other side (where you're riding) is dark.  When one side of a two way mirror is lit and the other side is dark, you can see through to the other side (where the ghosts are).  They are behind the mirror, moving at the same speed as your doom buggy.  

Hitchhiking Ghosts [NEW version] - Have you experienced this new effect?  Through a new motion-capturing technology, Imagineers and Animators have created a variety of options for personalizing the ride for each guest.  Behind the new Hitchhiking ghosts is a motion tracker that allows a computer to track and identify elements of a guest - such as their eyes, ears, mouth, height, etc.  It can also detect the number of riders in a doom buggy.   These details are then used to determine which 'ghostly gag' will be played on you!    These ghostly gags, or 'mirrors' sequence, at the end of the ride goes by far too quickly, leaving guests wanting more.  Well, more is what they're going to get - as new technologies similar to this are being added into some of the newest Fantasyland attractions - but we'll leave that for another article.  

Is all that dust real?  To keep the 200+ props within the Haunted Mansion looking untouched and dusty, Disney purchases bags "Fuller's Earth" (theatrical dust).  It's been said that enough dust has been used since the attraction's opening in 1971 to bury The Haunted Mansion completely.  

A few extra Fun Facts:
  • There may be 999 happy haunts within the Mansion, but only 109 of them are Disney-created audio-animatronics!
  • There are 160 doom buggies in the Haunted Mansion at Walt Disney World; there are 131 in Disneyland's Haunted Mansion.  
  • The doom buggies travel at a bout 1.4 mph, and can accommodate up to 3,200 guests per hour at Walt Disney World, but only 2,618 guests at Disneyland because the track is shorter.
  • The song "Grim Grinning Ghosts" played in the graveyard was written by Xavier Atencio.  Xavier also wrote "Yo Ho (A Pirates Life for Me)" - the song played on the attraction "Pirates of the Caribbean."
  • The five singing busts have character names.  From left to right they are: Rollo Rumkin, Uncle Theodore, Cousin Algernon, Ned Nub, and Phineas P. Pock
  • The three hitchhiking ghost also have names, "Gus" (the Prisoner), "Ezra" (the Skeleton), and "Phineas" (the Traveler).  These names first appeared in fanfiction created by the Cast Members that worked at the WDW Haunted Mansion.  Later on, these names became so well-known that they began appearing on actual merchandise.
Don't you love Disney's attention to detail?!  Next time you tour the Haunted Mansion you can be a fountain of knowledge sharing lots of secrets and fun facts with your friends & family!

  • The Walt Disney World Trivia Book: Secrets, History & Fun Facts Behind the Magic, Louis A. Mongello. 2004.
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Haunted_Mansion_characters
  • Keys to the Kingdom Tour. Tour Guide: Corey. 2005.

Want more Haunted Mansion fun? We've teamed up with Jonathan Briehl and My Dreams of Disney to bring you this themed week! Check out the entire week's worth of articles:

July 10, 2012

A Storyline behind the Haunted Mansion

There are several different versions told of the story that you see inside the Haunted Mansion.  Part of the reason is because there were several different Imagineers working on the ride, all wanting to add their own element.  Read "A Little History on the Haunted Mansion" written by Jonathan Briehl, and you'll get an idea as to why several different stories have come about.

Photo courtesy of My Dreams of Disney
The storyline I'm going to inform you of was relayed to me on a Keys to the Kingdom Tour back in 2005.  For me, the Haunted Mansion ride makes so much more sense now that I've heard the following storyline and explanation...

The Story:  Many years ago, Master Gracey and Emily were engaged, but Madame Leota was also in love with Master Gracey.  Leota believed that if Emily were “gone” Master Gracey would then fall in love with her and they could get married.  On Master Gracey and Emily’s wedding day, Leota killed Emily and put her body in a trunk and put the trunk in the attic of the mansion.  Well, Master Gracey was so distraught over Emily’s death that he hung himself.  Madame Leota was left to haunt the mansion after she presumably died of old age.

Explanation of the Ride: Did you know that you become the 1000th happy haunt within the Mansion?  The ride begins with You entering this haunted house many many years after these 3 have died.  As you enter, you “think” you see the pictures on the walls following you or changing (in the first room). Then you walk into the stretching room and you’re still not sure if your eyes are playing tricks on you or not.  Suddenly the lights go out, and when you look up, you see the hanging body of Master Gracey. You are now scared so you “run” to find a way out of the house... (this is where you board a doom buggy). You “run” through the hallway, and library, where you see the pictures looking at you. You enter a room where you see Madame Leota calling up the ghosts/spirits to haunt the house and scare you away (this is where you see her face in the glass ball). Now that Madame Leota has "awakened" the ghosts, the ballroom scene is the first room that you actually see "real" ghosts.  You keep running and find yourself in the attic where you see the ghost of Emily in a wedding dress (and heart beating), next to her is the trunk containing Emily’s body – (if you look closely, you’ll see her wedding dress hanging out of the trunk.) Emily is angry, restless, and strikes out at the first thing she sees (which is you). Emily pushes you out the window (this is when the doom buggy tips backward and you descend down a hill – if you look to the right you’ll see the broken attic window that you just "fell" out of). You do not survive this fall and are killed, this is why the care taker and his dog are shaking when they see you... you are now a ghost... and the ghosts in the grave yard are celebrating your death. Since you are a ghost now, the other ghosts appear more “solid” to you. The ride ends with Madame Leota (that freaky little doll in the purple dress) telling you to remember to bring your death certificate if you want to return and "retire" at the mansion.

So the story has already taken place when you enter the haunted house, the ride is “your story” of entering the house, becoming scared, trying to find a way out, but getting killed by Emily and becoming the 1000th ghost.

Again, I'll say that the above story is just one of many versions.  Tomorrow, Jonathan will give a few more side-stories explaining what some of the imagineers had envisioned for the Haunted Mansion.

The Walt Disney World Trivia Book: Secrets, History & Fun Facts Behind the Magic, Louis A. Mongello. 2004.

Keys to the Kingdom Tour. Tour Guide: Corey. 2005.

Want more Haunted Mansion fun? We've teamed up with Jonathan Briehl and My Dreams of Disney to bring you this themed week! Check out the entire week's worth of articles:

July 6, 2012

A Princess Story

I recently wrote about some of the great activities for boys to do at Walt Disney World.  It got me feeling kind of bad for girls visiting Disney World.  Is there anything for them to do there?  Well, of course, there is a TON for girls at Disney World. 

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique – As we all know, it begins at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in the Magic Kingdom or in the World of Disney Store at Downtown Disney.  This salon gives every princess the royal treatment!  They have a variety of packages for girls ages 3-12 with fantastic up-dos, nail polish and makeup.  You, of course, can buy a princess dress as well.

Tea Parties –There are actually a number of tea party options at the Grand Floridian Resort!  

“My Disney Girl’s Perfectly Princess Tea Party” is a princess theme tea party is held daily at the Grand Floridian.  Girls can dress as a princess, drink tea (juice!) and have snacks.  They tell stories and give each girl a special doll, bracelet and tiara.  It’s seriously cute.  (Boys can certainly attend and get a pirate Mickey ears hat and a stuffed bear.)

Wonderland Tea Party – This daily tea party with the Alice in Wonderland crew has stories, sweets, treats and crafts for children. 

Afternoon Tea – If you choose not to go with a themed tea then stop by the Grand Floridian’s Garden View Tea Room during the afternoon for teas and sweets.  Reservations are not always necessary, but certainly can’t hurt!

Character Meals – What could be better than a meal with a princess or Mary Poppins?

Cinderella’s Royal Table – This is the mother of all princess meals.  Meals are served IN Cinderella Castle with a number of different princesses.  This one you’ll want to book as early as possible!  (Disney Dining allows you to book meals 180 days before your trip.)  

1900 Park Fare – This character meal at Disney’s Grand Floridian offers meals with Mary Poppins and Alice in Wonderland’s crew at breakfast, tea with Alice (see my notes below) during the day or Cinderella and friends at dinner.

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall – In Norway at Epcot, dine with multiple Disney princesses.  It’s a gorgeous restaurant that really looks like a royal banquet hall.

Princesses – Your princess will be thrilled with all of the princesses she’s able to meet at Walt Disney World.  At the Magic Kingdom alone, you can meet Tiana, Rapunzel, Belle, Jasmine, Princess Aurora, Cinderella, Arielle and Merida! You may also run into a Disney fairy while you’re there. No character meal is required.  (Terri even offers hints about a great website that has character schedules and meeting tips.)  Grab your camera and your autograph books and get ready for amazing memories.

Pony Rides – At the Tri-Circle D Ranch at the Fort Wilderness Resort, children 2 and older can go on pony rides!  This is a great activity for little girls (and boys!).  Horseback riding as well as carriage rides are also available.
Live Shows – There are a number of great shows in the parks that any girl will love!  Check out Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage or Voyage of the Little Mermaid at Hollywood Studios.  They are both fantastic stage shows.

Shopping – As a female, I feel perfectly comfortable saying that girls like shopping.  Ok, so I might be stereotyping a bit.  However, many do and there is a ton of great shopping at Disney World.  An afternoon perusing the shops at Downtown Disney may be the perfect option for your daughter.  It would be for me!

New Fantasyland – Have you heard the news that Disney is almost doubling the size of Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom?  Parts are already open with more to follow this fall.  This is going to be a true fantasy land.  Fantasyland Forest will have themed areas from the Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast and two new castles!  The Be Our Guest restaurant will let guests dine in the ballroom of the Beast’s castle.  

Stay in a Royal Suite – Port Orleans Resort, Riverside recently debuted royal theme guest rooms.  The beds have fiber optic fireworks on the headboards and royal theme touches have been added to the rooms.  Any girl would love staying there.

Disney World is truly an amazing place.  They go out of their way to make every little girl feel like a princess!  What is your favorite attraction for your girls?