I took this photo after standing under a tree for twenty minutes or so just watching the hustle and bustle of Future World as Epcot prepares for Flower & Garden Festival 2014. It was such an incredible day that if Epcot promoted sleeping in the walkways, I'd have stretched out in a World Showcase Walkway Angel like no other. I posted the photo this morning on my brand's Facebook page and one of my friends sent me a message saying she thought I should say a little more about it. She was right.
You see, I'm here in this beautiful place with my kid and a roof over my head doing what I have dreamed of since the first time I set foot on an It's a Small World boat because of an incredibly generous, kind, and supportive group of people. I shot this photo with a Nikon D3100 and a kit lense, two of the possessions that were small enough to fit into the car I packed almost one year ago before I left a life that had fallen at my feet. I am in the parks every day because there are people who have Disney memories like mine that make this place special. I won't ever be able to fully thank them, but I try to regularly with offerings like this one.
I'm not the best at photography, and in fact there are many more talented photographers that I have the privilege of working with as I search for content for my e-magazine, The Source. But, as my friend Christine Cunningham reminded me, often it's about what composed the shot that makes it worthy of the Disney memories so many of us use to inspire and comfort when we can't be here. I will always cherish snapshots like this one, still reminders of twenty crystal-clear minutes of peace given to me by friends and family who believed I could make something of myself in the most magical place on Earth. I hope that the image is an adequate thanks. ~M
Dr. Erika Ebbel Angle is a science princess. She has the crown and the Ph.D. from MIT to prove it. The founder of Science from Scientists, an organization dedicated to promoting the STEM initiative by putting scientists in the classroom with Boston-area kids, Dr. Erika is also a former (2004) Miss Massachusetts.
This week Dr. Erika, the underground star of the educational and oh-so-entertaining series The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers on PBS, and her team of chemists, physicists, and astronomers, in tandem with Raytheon, are bringing science-in-action to Epcot's Innoventions West Pavilion. Science Thrills Live! presented by Dr. Erika and Raytheon, is a 20 minute interactive stage show that puts scientific concepts like nucleation-triggered eruptions, thermoplastic recycling, and angular momentum in familiar and fun contexts. Presented daily through Friday, February 17, at 11 a.m., and hourly from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Innoventions Engineers Lab, Science Thrills Live! is a great way to familiarize yourself and your family with the ways that big reactions play out in everyday life.
But don't stop with Science Thrills Live! Those of you who read my work here and in The Source know that I'm a big fan of those who can call themselves role models. Dr. Erika Angle is high on my list. It takes some moxy to accessorize your lab coat with a crown, and to proudly carry the responsibilities that get you both. Dr. Angle is a major proponent of well-rounded kids and she embodies the concept herself. Of creating scientists and critical thinkers she says that kids need exposure to all kinds of avenues so that they can develop their own paths of evaluation. They need to then take those methods they've developed and put them in the right environments to grow them.
"The importance of a mentor, when you're a kid, I think is fundamental and crucial. It's so much more than just the material; it's the people who are teaching it to you and the environment…"
Dr. Angle has a fantastic perspective about keeping our kids ahead of the curve in the global community and the role STEM plays in that goal. If you have a chance to see her and her team in Science Thrills Live!, be sure to stop by this week. If you can't make it down to Epcot, check out the Dr. Erika Show as well as the PBS series with Erika and other scientists, and all of Raytheon's National Engineering Week Events. Because every science princess has to get her start somewhere.
Since late last year, Walt Disney World has been releasing hints here and there about Festival of Fantasy, the new daytime parade coming to the Magic Kingdom mid-March. This blog post is going to be a long one, but by the end you'll have the most comprehensive look at what this parade has in store for guests and why it's unlike anything Walt Disney World has ever seen before.
What It Is
Festival of Fantasy is a totally new (no more recycled floats!) daytime parade that will fill the "3 o'clock parade" slot at the Magic Kingdom. Innovative design is the hallmark of this parade from the music, to the float designs, to the costume concepts. Festival of Fantasy will feature at least seven parade floats (and maybe one or two we don't know about yet), more than a hundred costumed characters and dancers, custom music featuring some of your Disney favorites, brand new parade technology, and a color scheme that can only be described as brilliant.
Each float in this parade brings with it a thoroughly detailed mini-world of dancers, props, and characters. Themes are carried through each "unit" from float to music to costume, sometimes to an almost unbelievable degree. Let's take a look at the floats we've been able to sneak a peek at so far.
Based in Punzy's world with something of a viking flair, the Tangled float features Rapunzel and Flynn taking to the high seas on a 36-foot-long ship float that has everything from woven tresses to floating lanterns to ruffians and giant swinging pendulums.
Accompanying this float unit are Ruffians, thugs, and even some ladies in waiting. All the Tangled cast has elaborate costuming comprised of leather, fur and gold trim, sturdy belts and arm cuffs, and studded headpieces for the thugs and lace, tulle, woven ribbon, and floral details for the ladies.
While I think the Thugs and Ruffians look awesome and really on point, the maidens confuse me a little. I would love to have seen the flowers that were worked into their costumes look more like those braided into Rapunzel's hair and something without so much white. But I'm hoping they look awesome in the context of the overall unit. I think the choice of a sailing ship for Rapunzel was, frankly, really weird. I would have liked to have seen something that worked in her tower or the village or…something related. If I try really hard, I can imagine it's the ship she and Flynn sailed to Arendelle on.
With two separate architectural elements bridged by a giant rainbow and suspended pirate ship/anchor combination, the Peter Pan float is certainly one of the most impressive. The ship's Jolly Roger flies nearly three stories above the ground and your favorite Pan characters are all aboard.
The lost boys complete this float's unit and I was surprised to find out their costumes were inspired by Newsies. I have what is likely an unhealthy obsession with the movie and the Broadway play and the crossover of characters into this parade unit absolutely thrills me. I hope it does the same for others. I think the costumes also give a nod to Hook and I can't promise I won't be yelling "Roof-i-OOOOOOO" at some point.
The float itself has some added effects like cannon smoke and likely some others they're not telling us about just yet that make for what I think will be a great unit in this show.
It probably wasn't much of a stretch to get the whimsy and color into this unit's floats and costuming given the vibrant underwater scenes created by the animators in the first place. The Little Mermaid unit consists of a fun sea friends music box float driven by an animatronic (or at least puppet) Sebastian and an accompanying cast dressed in fantastic seashell dresses, seahorse suits, and various exotic fish costumes.
A number of the costume elements in this unit including the seashell maiden hats and the coral costumes were made with 3D printers. The costumes for the entire unit are incredibly intricate and are made to play on the bright Florida sunlight with their brilliant color schemes.
I'm certain that this will be one of the most popular units in the parade if for nothing more than the eye-popping costumes. I think that the theming in the Fantasyland ride that was added just last year is fantastic and I don't have any doubt that this parade unit's presentation will top it.
It's not often that you see people riding on a giant bagpipe, but Festival of Fantasy brings you just that with Princess Merida's Brave parade unit. The float is accompanied by a cast of Scottish dancers moving to iconic music, a feature that's sure to be a big hit with the audience.
I'm a bit sad that more of Merida's family isn't featured in this unit, but I think that if the music and dancing is done well, this float unit will be a popular one.
The Princess Garden
Inspired by (and designed just like) Tokyo Disneyland's Princess Garden float that you can see here thanks to InsideTheMagic, the Princess Garden float concept art hasn't yet been released, nor have we been able to sneak a peek. Disney did debut the costumes from the Swan Court dancers that will accompany the float and let us know that the float will feature Cinderella, Tiana, and Belle with their princes in a garden of topiaries with some fun effects. The coolest thing about this float? Anna and Elsa will be joining their princess friends. I have questions about how they're going to work them in, but let's hope it will be seamless.
Maybe the most anticipated float and unit in the entire parade is the Sleeping Beauty float that features Prince Philip locked in a battle with a fifty-three-foot-long, twenty-three-foot-tall Maleficent Dragon created with Steampunk design. It's reported that the Dragon will breathe smoke and fire, which fits the spooky feel of the costumed thorn dancers and impressively-wingspanned raven cast that fills out the unit.
Finale and Mickey's Airship
There is actually a trio of floats that closes out the parade - a 90-foot-long party of characters including Dumbo, Pinocchio, The Seven Dwarves, The Mad Hatter, Pluto, Snow White and more escorted by over-the top dancers and cast in costumes that range from the strange (big top dress?) to the phenomenal. Throw in some Pegasus horses, a few dancing hippos, and some "zany" new costumes for Mickey and Minnie, and you've got a truly fantastic end to what will be an eye-popping parade.
With so much inspiration drawn from the Tokyo parades and innovative design by the engineers and designers in this parade, whether you like it or hate it, it's going to be a new era of entertainment at Walt Disney World. I think it's going to be a really amazing show, but if you can't say anything nice about it, be reassured that we're finally getting rid of that hideous mirror float.
The images in this post are courtesy of Walt Disney World and Disney
This article is from the February, 2014, article of The Source, a Disney-focused e-magazine that can be found here.
Tucked into the far side of the lobby just underneath the second-story bandstand at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa you’ll find the Garden View Tea Room, an often-missed gem of the resort and Walt Disney World in general. The Tea Room, open from 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. features two different services, a 10:30 a.m. My Disney Girl’s Perfectly Princess Tea Party (on select days of the week only) that ends at noon and a British-style afternoon tea (daily) from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The My Disney Girl’s Perfectly Princess Tea Party features apple juice “tea”, ham and cheese and peanut butter and jelly “tea sandwiches”, and child-sized desserts throughout a lovely party of music, dancing, storytelling, and an appearance by Princess Aurora. Girls attending the tea receive an 18-inch My Disney Girl Doll dressed in a Princess Aurora gown with accessories (the only place left on property to obtain such a doll), a ribbon tiara, a silver princess link bracelet, a fresh rose, special scrapbook page, and best friend certificate for their doll. Boys attending the party receive Duffy the Disney bear, a pin, Pirate Mickey ears and a crown. The adult luncheon plate includes an assortment of tea sandwiches, cheeses, and dessert plus a selection of tea, coffee, or soft drink. The party, which requires reservations in advance, costs $250.00 for one adult and one child age 3-11. Adults may not book the party without children. Additional guests ages 3-11 are $165 while additional adult guests aged 12 and over are $85. Reservations may be made through the dining phone line, or online reservation system.
Beginning at 2:00 p.m. daily, the Garden View Tea Room serves a British-style afternoon tea with a wide array of tea selections, both standard and seasonal, and a delicate and delicious menu of snack-sized treats. The Buckingham Tea, a very popular choice with Garden View guests (partially pictured above), includes three courses beginning with a selection of tea sandwiches (you can choose your own selection if the tastes don’t suit) followed by scones and jam and a jam tart, and finishing off with your choice of two freshly made desserts and of course complimented by the tea of your choice. The Buckingham is incredibly reasonably priced at around $25 per person and the selection of teas is almost as impressive as the staff’s knowledge about each. And, if you can’t decide which tea you want to try, the Garden View sells loose leaf tea in many of its flavors both standard and seasonal. The Princess Breakfast blend, an incredibly smooth black tea that smells fantastic and tastes of strawberries and cream, is only available at the Garden View Tea Room, as it is blended specially for the Grand Floridian. A tin of this tea is a lovely gift for the tea aficionado or even the casual tea drinker.
The tea room is small, making finding a reservation a bit difficult at times, but the various table arrangements can seat even larger parties and the atmosphere provides a calming break from the hustle and bustle of vacation. The Garden View’s staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and the service is top-notch. Tea comes in individual pots that are part of the Tea Room’s lovely china service. Special Grand Floridian Garden View Tea Room cozies serve to keep tea warm through the service and though the courses come readily, guests are never rushed through what is truly an experience. Even younger children will enjoy the Mrs. Potts service which is served with special “chocolate tea” (hot chocolate) and kid-friendly sandwiches like peanut butter and jelly.
The Garden View Tea Room offerings range in price but are most reasonable for what you receive. Reservations are a must and can be booked at 180 days using the Walt Disney World dining reservations phone line at (407) WDW-DINE or the online reservations system. If you’re looking for a unique dining option on property, look no further. Afternoon tea at “The Grand” is an event that adults and children alike will remember for years to come.
As the publisher of an e-magazine about Disney trip planning, I cover sporting events at ESPN Wide World of Sports. This weekend I had the privilege of press access to the Champion Challenge, an event that in the past has been something of an exhibition, but this year was a career changer for all 51 of you.
I did not grow up with lacrosse, but instead was introduced to it by a friend who coaches and, subsequently, my 10-year-old son who has decided to become a lifetime devotee to “the flow”. It is for him that I am writing to you today.
As a single mother with a young son, I spend a lot of time monitoring. I watch talking oranges on YouTube, check for errant text messages on iPhones, eavesdrop on SportsCenter just in case, preview cable television shows, and last week I launched myself across the living room at the mute button when a football player went on a rant after an NFL playoff game. It’s not that I’m a helicopter parent, it’s just that much of today’s world needs to be explained in a context that my kid doesn’t understand yet. Until he can build those frames of reference, I work really hard to regulate what comes into his wheelhouse. As the gatekeeper of what sometimes seems like an endless stream of junk, as a mom, and as a fan, I want to say thank you to each and every one of you.
Thank you to the U.S. Men’s Lacrosse team for being entirely classy on and off the field. Thank you for letting our children “sneak” to your practice to watch you work with each other and comport yourselves in the most respectable of manners. Thank you, U.S. Men’s Lacrosse, for coming to dinner on the eve of what would be one of the most important games in your careers, and for leaving that at the door while you laughed and talked, took photos and signed posters for kids like Ben. Thank you for going 110% during the entirety of the game and for being gracious afterward in signing autographs for the throng of young lacrosse players who rushed what was surely an emotionally charged meeting.
Thank you also for the smallest of things that made the biggest of impressions: the constant support you audibly gave each other during the match, the table manners you used while you put away what my son characterized as “more food than he thought guys could eat”, and the language you did not use when you took a shot to the chest plate during the first minutes that rattled my kidneys halfway across the field. Because while you were locked in a battle that would see more than half of you getting cut from the national team, my 10-year-old kid was watching. And listening. And processing. While you and your coaches broadcasted positivity and excellent sportsmanship, my son was constructing an idea of what it means to be an elite athlete. I could not be more proud to say that he had all of you as examples.
To those of you who continue on with Team USA, we will cheer for you from wherever we are as you compete in Denver, and when you return to your respective teams. You are truly representative of an America I want to raise children in. For those of you who did not make the cut, continue playing admirably; your time is coming and no matter your status on this team, we will be lifelong fans. To each of you who attended Champion Challenge this weekend, thank you. You have been role models and in doing so, have made my job as a mom easier. That, in these times, is saying something.