Happy Birthday Mary Blair!

Maybe I don’t know anything, but the true testament of an artist is that we remember less what they looked like or sometimes even what their names are and moreso what their creations mean to us. Such is the case with Mary Blair. Most people if I showed this photo of a gorgeous statuesque woman at her easel would think it was a 40’s starlet in a production still. However, that’s Mary. A one of a kind, an original. But, if I showed this:

Most who have visited one of the Disney theme parks would place it immediately within It’s A Small World, an attraction that Mary really shaped in aiding the vibrant color scheme we have come to know and love. Mary’s art has shaped most of our childhoods whether we realize it or not. She was the artist behind so many of the Disney film books that we read over and over. And if you come streaming in via Monorail to the Contemporary Resort she is credited with the outstanding mural in the Grand Canyon Concourse. Mary’s art has been in my life for as long as I can remember. From the color scheme of my nursery to my first trip to Walt Disney World these patterns of bright colors have always evoked a sense of wonderment and awe. Even now as an adult all I had to do was view a few drawings from the Disney archives and I knew their artist. Her signature is unmistakable.

A Disney artist, along with her husband Lee, from 1940, Mary helped story board, provide color concept & concept art for some of our most beloved animated classics: Dumbo, Fantasia, Fun and Fancy Free, Cinderella, Lady and the Tramp, Peter Pan, Song of the South, & Alice in Wonderland just to name a few. And her legacy lives on in modern animators as her color schemes and artistic presence can also be felt in Pixar’s Up.

As I said above Mary was a true original and even designed and made her own clothes. If you want to learn even more check out the documentary “Walt & El Grupo“. There’s a whole section devoted to Mary with many recollections made by the children of her fellow Disney artists. Google got in on the action today and posted a Doodle in honor of Mary and her contributions to our childhoods:

So a very merry birthday to you Mary Blair. And thank you.

10 Tips For Enjoying Your 1st Trip to WDW

Partners by wbeem on Flickr

Remember: YOU ARE ON VACATION!  Now repeat it, make it your mantra.

1.) Walt Disney World… is big. It’s 43 square miles; bigger than the island of Manhattan.  So big that it is estimated it would take someone in constant motion 2 months or more to experience everything on property. So I guess the point is, don’t go expecting to see EVERYTHING. But, this doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time!  Leading up to our departure my family makes a priority list of attractions, shows, even dining experiences they want to make sure they add to their “Done” list.  If this is your first trip, check out YouTube and type in the attraction you want to see.  WDW is one of the, if not the most photographed and videoed spot on the planet.  Usually someone else has done some leg work for you.

2.) Make Technology Work For You: It’s amazing what the Disney community as a whole has now compared to when I made my first trip with my Grandparents in 1986.  Smartphone technology and Apps can help you not only create touring plans on your phone, but also log Advance Dining Reservations, see what the wait times are in the parks for attractions, even provide you with real time directions to whatever you seek.  The “World” is literally at your fingertips if you have a smart phone on your hip in the parks.  Here are some apps I have used: WDWMaps, WDW Dining, & WDW Lines.  There are hundreds more.

3.) You can bring snacks, bottled water, wet wipes, etc. into the park with you each day.  There is a great bag called an Overland Donner that has tons of storage and is easy to access as it sits on your hip not your back.  If you bring any bags into the parks, you will have to stop at the check in stations outside the front entrance to each park to have them inspected before you can be admitted to the park. The guards are usually friendly and try to make this move smoothly so you can get on with your day.

4.) Wear Comfortable Shoes! Not just a tip, a necessity. You will be doing a lot of walking and nothing is worse than getting a blister on your first day and nursing it the remainder of your trip. Don’t wear brand new shoes immediately at WDW, break them in well before.

5.) Make your dining reservations as soon as possible. This will allow you to know what park you will be in that day and also if you want table service those reservations fill up fast. Early bird gets the worm.  Dining reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance.  Recently the Disney Parks initiated a Dining Reservation change regarding payment and cancellation.  You can read more on that here.

6.) Enjoy yourself, a bad day at Disney is better than the best day at work. I have experienced once every trip there will be a fight, a major meltdown, etc. Roll with it, move on and compromise.  Also, be flexible.

7.) BUY IT WHEN YOU SEE IT. There are plenty of shopping opportunities but some things on property are exclusive to just that particular shop or attraction. If you miss it you can call Disney merchandise and ask that it be left at Guest Services or mailed to you.  Also, buying something doesn’t mean you have to lug it around all day, Disney has many available ways of holding it or even delivering it for you.  If you are staying “On-Site” that is in one of the Disney Resort Hotels, you can have your purchases delivered there.  If you are staying “Off Property” you can have your purchases sent to Guest Relations (located at the front of each park) and they will hold them there for you to pick up as you leave the park.  Generally they will give you a time when your purchases will either be delivered to your resort or placed at Guest Relations.

8.) Make note of Guest Relation Locations, First Aid stations, Baby Care Centers, and designate a meet up place should you become separated. Also, when bringing children introduce/point out Cast Members along the way so if they become separated from you they will be comfortable looking for name tags and costumes for each park.  The Clean Sweeps are one of the only costumes that do not change from park to park.  They usually are wearing white bottoms, a white top with blue and yellow accents.  They are also the most abundant front line cast members, and they have the most radios.  I usually strike up a conversation with one or two of these cast members while we are touring and introduce my kids to them.  This way they feel comfortable approaching Cast Members should they become lost.

9.) Utilize Fast Pass or Baby Swap wherever possible in order to trim down wait time in line.  Fast passes are there, they are free, and boy do they come in handy.  A quick flip idea.  If you want to go on two “high demand” attractions, get a fast pass for one then queue for the other.  By the time you are finished riding that attraction it will probably be time to get in the Fast Pass line for the first one.  Not only knowing there is a Fast Pass system, but using it will go a long way to helping you enjoy your trip and minimize wait times (and stress).

10.) If you don’t get to see it this time around, make a note for next time. Disney isn’t going anywhere!  While Walt Disney World is constantly updating, there are many things that remain the same.  Each trip we add on 40% new and keep 60% old, we make a point to try new things each time, but also check in with the old favorites we enjoyed.

Got a tip or two that has helped you tour WDW?  Post it below and help out new Guests!

Vacation Product Review: Picaboo

It’s not often that I am moved to highly praise a product that does it’s job.  But, the Picaboo picture books and it’s software make it just so darn easy, it’s hard not to.  Granted, I have not yet used their services for rendering a photobook, that will be after our vacation.  But, I have used them in the past few months to create autograph books for my sons to use whilst touring Walt Disney World on our upcoming trip.  So without further ado The Pros and Cons:

The Pros:

  • Simple Software- Whether you are using a Mac or PC you can use the PicabooX software, which comparatively to other downloaded software runs very well with little to no bugs in the system.  You can opt to design your own book from scratch, or you can use one of the many templates that come pre-loaded.  Given that I had Photoshop at my disposal I opted to build mine from scratch.  There is a simple image importer that you use regardless, and it moves quickly to help in building the book.
  • Artistic Freedom- As I said above since I had access to Photoshop I designed my own.  My designs were imported into the software, and I had to simply line them up with the grids for the pages to look symmetrical and even.
  • Sturdy Materials- I was worried that out of the books I designed, one design was softcover, one hardcover; that there would be issues with the pages, the binding, that the pages would let the click-able Sharpie ink drip through.  Each of the books I received was well made, sturdy, and looked EXACTLY as I designed it.
  • Quick Shipping- I realize in the realm of shipping, you get what you pay for.  But, on both of my orders with Picaboo the shipping has been very prompt and I had my completed books within 7-10 business days.
  • Great Customer Service- I realized through my own error I had messed up a couple of the inside autograph pages.  I cancelled my order and resubmitted it once I fixed the problem.  My credit card was immediately refunded and there were no issues of my orders getting mixed up.

The Cons:

  • Price- There is an old mantra, “You get what you pay for” and really that holds true with Picaboo and other like services.  Picaboo is on the higher end of the scale regarding price, but the product that you receive is really a nice and well made product.  Picaboo also ofsets this by sending out codes.  I made 4 books for our upcoming trip and didn’t pay full price for one of them thanks to the online codes and free shipping they send out.
  • Cancellation Policy- You have a half hour to cancel your order before it starts being printed and bound.  So you need to review review review before you order.  Nothing would be worse than to spend this kind of money on a photobook only to have a mistake that can’t be redone.

All in all I am very happy with our autograph books, and I can’t wait to try them out in the parks.  They are lightweight enough the kids can store them in my purse but sturdy enough that I don’t have to worry about them getting injured. 

More WDW Restaurants Will Charge for “No-Shows”

A small, but effective, policy change will be put in place at the end of this month effecting Walt Disney World guests and their ADRs (Advance Dining Reservations).

Joining Walt Disney World’s select dining experiences will be more table service restaurants requiring a credit card to hold your ADR. This policy for Disney is already in force at:

The Spirit of Aloha

Hoop Dee Doo

Cinderella’s Royal Table

& Mickey’s Backyard BBQ

At these specialty dining experiences at WDW, the full price will be charged if you fail to cancel your ADR a full 24 hours before the show.

A similar policy will now be in place for the following table service restaurants in and around property:

    • 1900 Park Fare
    • Artist Point
    • California Grill
    • Cape May Café
    • Chef Mickey’s
    • Cítricos
    • Flying Fish Café
    • Jiko – The Cooking Place
    • Narcoossee’s
    • ‘Ohana
    • Yachtsman Steakhouse
    • Victoria & Albert’s ($25 per person fee)
    • The Crystal Palace
    • Akershus Royal Banquet Hall
    • The Garden Grill
    • Le Cellier Steakhouse
    • The Hollywood Brown Derby
    • Hollywood & Vine
    • Tusker House Restaurant


For these reservations, unless otherwise noted, if guests fail to cancel 24 hours or more in advance they will be charged $10 per guest. This of course is more at Victoria and Albert’s and will be a $25 per guest charge.

This policy will become effective on October 26th (right before my vacation, sweet) so if you need to cancel ADRs for an upcoming trip you can call 1-407-WDW-DINE or a new phone number: 1-407-WDW-CNCL.
I am sure you are wondering, “OK, so how does this really effect my vacation?” I have never been a huge fan of deciding 180 days out where my family will eat on their vacation, and thanks to the online reservation system many guests could pick up more than one TS reservation in order to have their “pick” of places to eat.  With this change in dining policy, this will hopefully release many day of reservations and walk ups could happen now with more frequency.
Most of these folks will likely still grab excess reservations, however, they will now have to cancel them 24 hours in advance versus just not showing up.  This aids in locals who visit the parks, as well as those of us who have tried to nab an elusive ADR for months.  To the point, walk ups will now be more of a possibility for table service restaurants.


Thoughts, comments, concerns?  We’d love to hear you?  Comment below!

Toons for Tuesday!

We’ve decided, not nearly enough people know who Horace Horsecollar is, or Clarabelle Cow. Heck, there are some Disney fans who have trouble with discerning the relationship between Donald, Scrooge, and Huey, Dewey, and Louie.

So every Tuesday we will feature a Disney toon, some old some new. And maybe (if we’re lucky and can find one) a cartoon featuring the toon of the week. So without further ado one of Walt’s first creations, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.

Originally introduced in “Trolley Troubles” in 1927, Oswald was co-created by Walt and Ub Iwerks for Universal Studios. Much has been written about the back and forth on the creation of this character, intellectual property rights, etc. However, it is interesting to note that Universal wanted a more plucky & determined fellow than Oswald, so he served as the basis for Walt’s next creation: Mickey Mouse.

Oswald was a star in his own right and for some 20 years his cartoons appeared. Though Walt lost the rights to Oswald, he was returned to the Walt Disney Company in 2006. Fans of Epic Mickey will note his character returned just in time to be utilized in the development of the story of the new gaming franchise; introducing Oswald to yet another generation of Disney fans.

Small Fire Closes Astro Orbiters in Tomorrowland

So, the rumors started around 11 a.m. EST that there was a fire truck with it’s ladder extended in Tomorroland. Now we have confirmation that the Astro Orbiters have indeed caught fire.

The fire was contained very quickly and the attraction evacuated.  No injuries were reported and a cause for the fire has not been identified yet.

Check the link here to WESH: http://www.wesh.com/r/29433137/detail.html


UPDATE: The cause of the fire has been determined as an overheated light bulb.  Apparently one of the circular lights at the top of the attraction became over heated and began to smoke, then caught fire.  The attraction reopened yesterday.