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D23 Expo Revisited – Celebrities, Legends, Long Lines, and Magical Memories

D23 Expo Revisited - Celebrities, Legends, Long Lines, and Magical Memories

The 2013 D23 Expo was last weekend, and it truly a a magical event for all Disney fans who attended!  This was my first D23 Expo and I enjoyed every minute of it: I met Disney Legends, new friends, and learned what being a true Disney Fan was all about!

D23 Expo Revisited - Celebrities, Legends, Long Lines, and Magical Memories

Once we got into the convention center, the first day’s main event was the Animation Session hosted by John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer for Pixar and Walt Disney Studios as well as Principal Creative Advisor for Walt Disney Imagineering.  We were given glimpses into the next several movies in the pipeline for Pixar, Walt Disney Animation, and Disneytoons Studios.

D23 Expo Revisited - Celebrities, Legends, Long Lines, and Magical Memories
We were even treated to guest appearances from voice actors Dane Cook from Planes, Bill Hader from Monsters University, and Josh Gad and Kristen Bell from Frozen, the much anticipated new animated feature from Walt Disney Studios.  We even got a special appearance from John Ratzenberger!

D23 Expo Revisited - Celebrities, Legends, Long Lines, and Magical Memories

Bill Hader from Monsters University and Pixar Veteran, John Ratzenberger

At the end of the session Broadway great Idina Menzel sang “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen and brought the house down!

After the main session, which ran five hours, we were all hungry and headed outside to the row of food trucks that D23 had brought in. I enjoyed a meatball sandwich that was incredible.

After lunch, it was time for walking around the Collector’s Gallery, where Disneyana collectors from all over the world were gathered to buy, sell, and trade Disney collectibles from vinylmations to animation cells from classic Disney features.

Pat Carrol, the voice of Ursula from Disney’s Little Mermaid, Imagianeer and Disney Legend Bob Gurr were also there signing autographs and taking pictures, it was incredible.  There were also some amazing collector’s items that were available for sale.

D23 Expo Revisited - Celebrities, Legends, Long Lines, and Magical Memories

Disney Legend Bob Gurr

The next day was filled with smaller sessions in the morning until it was time for the Walt Disney Studios Live Action Feature Movies panel.  We were treated to previews from Marvel’s Thor: Dark World, Guardians of the Galaxy, and even Captain America.

D23 Expo Revisited - Celebrities, Legends, Long Lines, and Magical Memories

Angelina Jolie for Maleficent at D23

The highlight of the day was the presentation for Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks, the story of Wait Disney and P.L. Travers, author of Mary Poppins.  It was a great preview and concluded with an appearance from Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak who portrayed the Sherman Brothers in the movie.  Schwartzman and Novak were accompanied by Richard Sherman, one half of the legendary Sherman Brothers songwriting team.  They sang “Let’s Go Fly A Kite” from Mary Poppins as they were surrounded by kite flying dancers.

D23 Expo Revisited - Celebrities, Legends, Long Lines, and Magical Memories

Disney Legend Richard Sherman, B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman

On the final day, we were able to sit in a session with Disney Legends, Bob Gurr, Marty Sklar, Alice Davis, and X Atencio called Working with Walt.  These are some of the very Imagineers who actually worked with Walt Disney.  It was an incredible experience to listen to their stories and learn more about some of the great Disney movies and the creation of Disneyland.

D23 Expo Revisited - Celebrities, Legends, Long Lines, and Magical Memories

The rest of the morning and afternoon was spent walking around the vendor booths and some of the incredible Disney Consumer Products.  We got to experience some of the upcoming Disney products before they were released.  We even got some signed lithographs from Disney Consumer Product Artists!

D23 Expo Revisited - Celebrities, Legends, Long Lines, and Magical Memories

 One thing we learned was to divide and conquer.  One of us would wait in line for whatever main event we wanted to see, while the rest of us were able to walk around or sit in on other smaller sessions.  If you attend the next D23 event, don’t forget to bring tons of patience, the lines are super long, but it does give you the opportunity to make new friends and read all those emails you have been meaning to get to!

D23 Expo Revisited - Celebrities, Legends, Long Lines, and Magical Memories

D23 was an incredible event.  We are already looking to the next one in 2015.  We discovered that we were not alone in our love and passion for Walt Disney and all of his wonderful creations.

Richard Sherman and Alan Menken D23 Expo Live Press Conference

Disney fans looking forward to the incredible D23 Expo this weekend in Anaheim, California got a sneak peak at the amazing event featuring Richard Sherman and Alan Menken live on stage together!

Richard Sherman and Alan Menken D23 Expo Live Press Conference

Richard Sherman & Alan Menken

During a conference call for fans and press, Sherman and Menken discussed the plans for the live event as well as their carriers in Disney, Broadway, and film.


Richard M. Sherman and Alan Menken: The Disney Songbook one night only, two of the world’s most celebrated songwriters and composers will take to the stage. Richard Sherman and Menken have won a combined 10 Academy Awards for their work with Disney, and have composed music and songs for more than three dozen Disney feature films, over two dozen Disney Park attractions, and half a dozen Disney musicals on Broadway.

Enjoy this press conference from Richard Sherman and Alan Menken.

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Richard M. Sherman and his brother Robert B. Sherman composed some of the most beloved songs in the Disney canon. The Disney Legends won two Oscars® for their work on Mary Poppins, and during their decades–long association with Disney they wrote more than 200 songs for 27 films and two dozen television productions. They made unforgettable contributions to such Disney films as The Parent Trap, The Jungle Book, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and the entire Winnie the Pooh series, as well as the family classic Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. They also penned beloved songs for Disney Parks including the theme songs for Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, it’s a small world, and Carousel of Progress. Richard wrote the song “Make Way for Tomorrow Today” for the blockbuster film Iron Man 2.

With eight Academy Awards, Alan Menken has received more Oscars than any living person. He has written songs and scores for some of the world’s most beloved films: TangledEnchanted, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast , Aladdin, Pocahontas, Hercules, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Little Shop of Horrors, Home on the Range and Newsies. His song “Star Spangled Man,” was the patriotic anthem of the 2011 hit film Captain America: The First Avenger. Menken’s Broadway successes include his 2012 Tony Award® for Newsies, plus The Little MermaidBeauty and the Beast, Little Shop of Horrors, and Sister Act . His other stage productions include King David, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and his latest stage production Aladdin: The New Musical, opening next year. 

Dining Recon: Beaches and Cream Soda Shop – Guest Blog Post

One thing you learn when you start writing Disney dining reviews is that you better move quickly. For example, a few months ago, my wife and I enjoyed Beaches and Cream Soda Shop at Disney’s Beach Club Resort for the first time. Not too long after that, we learned that the soda shop had made changes to their menu. What?!

The second thing you learn is that, when Disney menus are altered, the actual changes get a bit less press than you might think. Having said that, I thought it would be interesting to compare “then” and “now” in the context of recounting our burger and ice cream feast.

Beaches and Cream Soda Shop at Disney's Beach Club Resort

Prior to our visit, I honestly felt that the best burger in Walt Disney World lived at The Fountain in the Walt Disney World Dolphin or at Pecos Bill in the Magic Kingdom. In fact, each time I saw the question, “What’s the best burger in Walt Disney World?” on a chat board, my thoughts went to “Bill” or the Fountain. Naturally, they got my votes. Then, I would watch other Disney fans rave about Beaches. What was I missing?

Here’s the view back “then”. You have to love a menu that refers to one of its sections as “Burger Heaven”, don’t you?

Beaches and Cream Soda Shop at Disney's Beach Club Resort

Here it is now…

Beaches and Cream Soda Shop at Disney's Beach Club Resort

First of all, my wife’s selection of the Beaches Rachel Sandwich lives on at its former price of $11.49. That’s a good start.

Beaches and Cream Soda Shop at Disney's Beach Club Resort

“My” Bacon Angus Beef Burger, however, survived the menu upheaval but with a bit of a disappointing recipe adjustment. Formerly topped with smoked bacon and cheddar, it’s now served with bacon, blue cheese, BBQ sauce, and onions.

I just “crowned” it the TRUE ‘best burger’ in Walt Disney World, and now they change it altogether?! Even its price – a hefty but worthwhile $13.99 – got “revised” to $14.49. As it was, it looked great and WAS phenomenal. Now, the jury is out again.

Beaches and Cream Soda Shop at Disney's Beach Club Resort

On the other hand, the Angus Beef Burger flip-flopped its toppings (and its price) with the Bacon Angus. Now at $13.99 (as opposed to $14.49), it has dropped the blue cheese and BBQ sauce in favor of cheddar. Wouldn’t that make it an Angus Cheese Burger? Clearly, another research trip is in order.

Other notable menu changes include:

The price of the Chicken Caesar Sandwich increased $1.00 to $12.99

The Classic Turkey Club, Grilled Cheese and Tomato Bisque, and Pot Roast Sandwiches are all served on Brioche Bread instead of Sourdough.

The Grilled Vegetable Sandwich was dropped in favor of a Vegetarian Falafel.

The Chicken Caesar Salad’s price increased $0.50 to $13.49.

And, finally, the price of the infamous Kitchen Sink sundae has increased $2.00 to $28.99.

For the most part, the menu was “tweaked” more than it was changed. If you can swallow the prices, I would highly recommend at least one visit to Beaches and Cream in your WDW guest “career”. The soda shop atmosphere is quaint and entertaining, and the food tastes great! Especially the “No Way Jose” sundae! Yum!

Beaches and Cream Soda Shop at Disney's Beach Club Resort


Guest Author – Bob Sikon

Guest Author Bob SikonBob Sikon is a Cast Member “Wanna-Be”. He fell in love with Walt Disney World on his first visit to Mickey’s Florida home in 1999, and it was all because of the Cast Members. In his words, “The way they take care of you, they make you want to be part of The Magic.” Someday, his dream will come true, and he’ll proudly wear a Cast Member name badge, but, for now, you can find him in Atlanta, GA, planning his next trip to “The World”, and blogging about the place “Where Dreams Come True” at


Main Street Bakery Now Serving Starbucks at Magic Kingdom Park

A major addition was made to Main Street U.S.A as Walt Disney World officially reopened the Main Street Bakery at Magic Kingdom Park – a favorite stop for many Disney fans.  And on the menu for the first time at Walt Disney World Resort, you’ll now find Starbucks drinks and food along with delicious Disney house-made treats.

Main Street Bakery Now Serving Starbucks at Magic Kingdom Park

After the official opening ceremony, Main Street Bakery served up Disney cookies, brownies and cupcakes to Magic Kingdom Park guests. Starbucks offerings include coffee and espresso beverages and Frappuccino® blended beverages, as well as breakfast sandwiches and pastries.

Main Street Bakery Now Serving Starbucks at Magic Kingdom Park

Main Street Bakery, which is designed to fit with the current theme of Main Street, U.S.A., won’t be the only Walt Disney World Resort location to serve Starbucks. As previously announced, other locations are coming to EpcotDisney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

And, at the Disneyland Resort in California, the Market House, serving Starbucks, is scheduled to reopen on Main Street, U.S.A., in September.

Let us know what you’re looking forward to ordering during your next visit to the Main Street Bakery in the comments below.

The Disney Parks Experience is Always Evolving Just Like Walt Disney Wanted

Magic Bands at Walt Disney Parks

(Kent Phillips, photographer)

If you have visited any of the amazing Disney Theme Parks over the last few years, you would have noticed that they always seem to be in a state of change.  Here is just a partial list of recent changes to the Disney Parks:

And the list could easily go on.

For some, all this change brings anxiety and to others it brings excitement.  Many people don’t ever want the parks to change while at the same time, many want the parks to always be bringing new experiences to Disney Guests.

But if we go back to the beginning with Walt and Disneyland, he always wanted the parks to be adding new experiences.  He felt that the parks HAD to use new technologies to create even more magic.

Walt Disney said Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.

Disney Fans can always debate the pros and cons of the loss of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea at Walt Disney World (a loss that I still feel to this day) but in light of Walt’s desire for the parks to always change, fans have to understand the need to keep moving forward.

That change has brought us amazing experiences like Space Mountain, The Tower of Terror, and Disney’s California Adventure Park.  The theme park experience is constantly evolving.  Disney is always looking to make the Park Guest experience even better by adding Magic Bands at Walt Disney World or the My Disney Mobile App at Disneyland, Imagineers are always looking to leverage technology to help create even more magic for all of us!

And that’s what makes the Disney Park Experience so special; it’s never the same way twice!   DisneyMagic must change and can never be the same way twice.  As much as we all love the attractions and experiences from the past, we must continue to follow Uncle Walt and keep moving to that “Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow!”

The My Disney Experience mobile app delivers pertinent parks information, maps and simple navigation to guests on the fly - via their smart phone or other portable device.

(Kent Phillips, photographer)

I would love to know what you think.  Leave me a comment and let us know how you feel about all the changes happening at the Disney Parks.

Taking the Disney Guest Experience to the Next Level

At Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, they continually push the boundaries of creativity and innovation to deliver the best possible experience for their guests. They’re always looking for ways to take what we do and do it even better. Over the past few years, they’ve devoted considerable time and resources to create a more immersive, more seamless and more personal experience for each and every guest who spends time with at the Disney Parks. I know there’s been significant speculation about these efforts among Disney fans, so we’re pleased to give you a glimpse into the work they are doing to take the entire Disney guest experience to the next level.

Haunted Mansion Interactive Queues at Walt Disney World

Some of these initiatives are more apparent and can already be seen by Disney guests – like the interactive queues at Walt Disney World® Resort and the Enchanted Art on Diseney cruise ships – while others are more behind-the-scenes and are focused on “how” visitors plan, access and enjoy their experiences with Disney. Over the next several months, Disney will be rolling out a collection of tools at the Walt Disney World Resort called MyMagic+ that will give guests more opportunities to customize and personalize their entire visit.
Like most people who visit Walt Disney World Resort, my family and I have our “must-do” attractions, and those attractions often end with the word “mountain.” Now, rather than dashing as a group, or even splitting up to gather FastPasses, imagine booking guaranteed ride times for your favorite shows and attractions even before setting foot in the park. With MyMagic+, guests will be able to do that and more, enabling them to spend more time together and creating an experience that’s better for everyone.

Guests use MyMagic+ at Disney Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World

A major component of MyMagic+ is the new My Disney Experience website and mobile app, which gives guests planning their trip the latest information on all Walt Disney World Resort has to offer. Disney knows that some people like to plan every aspect of their vacation in advance while others like to plan very little, letting their day unfold spontaneously. No matter where guests fall in that spectrum, My Disney Experience gives them the flexibility to plan as much or as little as they’d like to create the exact Disney experience they want. They can book dining and other experiences and reserve times for their favorite attractions, shows and more through an enhanced FASTPASS system, Disney’s FastPass®+ service. Once they arrive, they can use their smart phones to spontaneously change their plans in the moment, exploring our parks at their own pace and getting the most out of their visit.

A Guest Uses the MyMagic+ MagicBand at Walt Disney World Resort

Linking the entire MyMagic+ experience together is an innovative piece of technology Disney developed called the MagicBand. Worn on the wrist, it will serve as a guest’s room key, theme park ticket, access to Disney’s FastPass+ service selections, PhotoPass card and optional payment account all rolled into one. Disney began testing certain aspects of MyMagic+ in Florida last month and the early reactions they’ve gotten have been fantastic.’

This collection of tools is another step forward in the ongoing evolution of the Disney guest experience, giving Disney even more ways to help friends and family create the unforgettable Disney memories that they want most. Disney will be testing, adjusting and adding features to MyMagic+ and My Disney Experience over time and will continue to make improvements based on guests’ feedback. We look forward to sharing more with you in the months ahead!

Oooey-Gooey Ghoulish Delights from the Disneyland Resort Candy Kitchens

There’s no doubt about it – fall is in the air, Halloween is just around the corner, pumpkin carving is nearly underway, and the Disneyland candy makers have a few tricks up their sleeves to get everyone in the spirit of the season. Or in this case, “treats.”
David Ramirez is the Candy Production Manager, who works closely with the Disney Theme Park Merchandise product development team and candy makers to create ‘ghoulish delights’ for Disney fans to enjoy. Here are a few things he says that you should keep an eye out for, if you’re in the neighborhood.

Oooey-Gooey Ghoulish Delights from the Disneyland Resort Candy Kitchens Featuring Skull Apples

Skull Apple – Heads will roll for this particular gooey caramel and white chocolate dipped apple, which was themed after the apple featured in the animated film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Tip: Only available at the Disneyland Resort.

Oooey-Gooey Ghoulish Delights from the Disneyland Resort Candy Kitchens Featuring Dirt and Worms Apple

Dirt and Worms – You will “dig” this particular apple, which is covered in cookie crumble and drizzled with white chocolate.
What other Halloween-inspired creations can you treat yourself to? How about our Pumpkin Mickey Mouse Apples or Minnie Mouse Witch Hat Apples?

For the more “spirited” bunch, there are Ghost Pretzels and Ghost Marshmallows, which I would say are to die for … but that’s just me. Take a look:

Oooey-Gooey Ghoulish Delights from the Disneyland Resort Candy Kitchens Featuring Pretzel Ghost Oooey-Gooey Ghoulish Delights from the Disneyland Resort Candy Kitchens Featuring Marshmallow Ghost

A few other things I’m choosing to throw in to the Halloween bucket this year are the goth goodies, which include bag of bones candies and candy corn, among others, as well as a special popcorn tin and pumpkin seed brittle. To keep you coming back for more, look for the pumpkin fudge in the coming weeks.

Oooey-Gooey Ghoulish Delights from the Disneyland Resort Candy Kitchens Featuring Goth Goodies Oooey-Gooey Ghoulish Delights from the Disneyland Resort Candy Kitchens Featuring Popcorn Tin

Curious about whether they have anything sugar free? They certainly do. Selections vary, but can be found at many of the Disneyland candy locations throughout the park.

Here are a few locations where you can find some of the boo-tiful goodies featured here: Trolley Treats (Disney California Adventure park); Candy Palace (Disneyland park) and Marceline’s Confectionery (Downtown Disney District).

Special Robert Olszewski Collector Appreciation Event at Disney Parks

Special Robert Olszewski Collector Appreciation Event at Disney Parks

Olszewski and Disney fans, this one is for you! From September 21–23, select locations at the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts will be offering 25 percent off Olszewski Main Street, U.S.A., and attraction sculptures, Pokitpals and Gallery of Light pieces, as well as Heirloom and Paperclip boxes.

Heirloom and Paperclip boxes

Now is the time to complete your collection or even get a jump on holiday shopping – I can’t believe I just said that, but it’s true. It will be here before you know it.

Special Tip: For those visiting the Disneyland Resort during this special “Collector Appreciation” weekend, plan on scheduling some time to meet Bob at The Disney Gallery on Main Street, U.S.A., and even get your piece signed. Signing limits will apply.

Here’s a list of days and times he will be appearing:

  • September 21 – 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • September 22 – Noon to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
  • September 23 – Noon to 4 p.m.

As for locations where you can find Robert Olszewski merchandise, I just happen to have that too!

Disneyland Resort – China Closet, D Street, Disney Vault 28, Disneyana Shop, Elias & Co., Emporium, Off the Page, Star Trader, The Disney Gallery and World of Disney Store.

Walt Disney World Resort – Animation Gallery, Art of Disney, Art of Disney – Epcot, Bayview Gifts, Tatooine Traders, Uptown Jewelers and World of Disney Store.

Buena Vista Street Interiors Come Alive with Art Deco Glamour at Disney California Adventure Park

There is a lot of planning, thought and – yes, magic – that goes into every detail here at the Disneyland Resort. The new Buena Vista Street at Disney California Adventure park is no exception. Elias & Co. is a nod to the department stores of the 1920s and ‘30s. Take a closer look as you walk through the jewelry shop inside Elias & Co. Look familiar? The design was inspired by a round, velvet jewelry box. As you stroll through the women’s department, notice that it’s modeled after the cosmetic departments in those grand department stores of yesteryear. Check out the video and get a better idea of our “art deco glamour” on Buena Vista Street. Enjoy!

Read more about Buena Vista Street:

  • Imagineer Q&A: Buena Vista Street at Disney California Adventure ParkThis week, we’ll hear about the new Buena Vista Street at Disney California Adventure park from three of the Imagineers who led the effort to bring this new area to life.

    Lisa Girolami – Director, Senior Show Producer, Walt Disney Imagineering

    How have you created an emotional connection for guests on Buena Vista Street?

    Lisa: Every piece has to be there when you walk into a story, to know where you are, what time it is, what’s happening and to really be able to take in the music, the colors and the ornamentation on the architecture. The whole street coming alive is meant to put you right there in the steps of Walt when he first stepped off the train in California and all the optimism and opportunity he felt was there for him at the time.
    The sense of optimism will be very obvious on Buena Vista Street, and that story is told at the highest level of detail. Then there are many more levels of details, which our Disney fans will recognize and discover. I think we accommodate everybody as deep as they want to go, and the more you want to know, the more you’ll get out of it. I think we’ve covered it, too, for people who may be visiting a Disney park for the first time.

    What are some of your favorite aspects of Buena Vista Street?

    Lisa: I love Los Angeles and there are so many details I could say are my favorites…I think it’s going to be the feel of that street and how different it’s going to appear to everyone as they just enjoy being in the moment.

    Ray Spencer – Creative Director, Buena Vista Street, Walt Disney Imagineering

    What’s the Disney history behind the shop names and other items along Buena Vista Street?

    Ray: At the front of the park, we have the gas station, which is called Oswald’s, and Oswald was an early Disney character… Then we have Los Feliz Five & Dime, a merchandise store that features everyday consumer products. The names of the shops, and the names of the restaurants, are all based on Disney history — and especially the history that surrounded Walt Disney and the Disney brothers’ arrival in the 1920s. We have Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe, which is named after the Three Little Pigs from the Academy Award-winning animated short. We also have a merchandise location called Atwater Ink & Paint. It refers to the Atwater Village district of Los Angeles where Disney and the animators from Disney Studios spent a lot of time.
    We have a new Walt and Mickey statue, called ‘Storytellers.’ We made a conscious decision to put the statue down on street level with the rest of our guests, rather than up on a monumental planter, like at Disneyland park. Set in this time period, Walt Disney could have been you or I, or anybody at that time, out on the street. It’s part of the story of the street, a story of humble beginnings. It’s a story of a wonderful, inspirational time period with a wonderful, inspirational, gifted man who created what we can now enjoy as The Walt Disney Company.

    Coulter Winn – Principal Concept Architect, Director, Walt Disney Imagineering

    Will this be just like a street in Los Angeles?

    Coulter: You can’t go to Los Angeles and see a building that exists like you’re going to see on Buena Vista Street. The buildings that we referenced have been torn down, so we found them through historical photographs and began to design from there. Transporting our guests to another place and time like this, in the traditional Disney storytelling way, gives Disney California Adventure park a much more enriched environment to start the day for our guests.

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