Red 5 Standing By, Star Wars Weekends Are Almost Here!

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Probably the highlight of my time spent at Disney’s MGM Studios as a Cast Member was working Star Wars Weekends, 2001.  Imagine showing up to your work and there is Kenny Baker, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Jeremy Bulloch you know just signing autographs as you walk past like it’s the most normal everyday thing in the entire World.  Stormtroopers were everywhere and even we Castmembers thought, “The park has been invaded by the Empire!” It was also the first and only time that Carrie Fisher attended Star Wars Weekends and being able to see the q and a panel with that amount of star power that year made me as a Star Wars Fan for lack of a better term, Geek Out!

We’ve gone to Star Wars Weekends 3 times since then and each time it packs an emotional geek filled resonance for me personally.  I have been fortunate to have taken my kids as well, we even were there on the opening Star Wars Weekends for Star Tours 2.0 back in 2011.  It is safe to say that if you have even a small, minute interest in a galaxy far far away you will love this event!

Here is the run down of events and what to expect for Star Wars Weekends 2014!

Stars and Autograph Sessions!

First there are the celebrities and just like my experience in 2001, you will not be disappointed at all in this years lineup of Star Wars stars and backstage artists who brought the films to life:

May 16-18, 2014

  • Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks)
  • Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca)
  • Vanessa Marshall (Hera Syndulla – Star Wars Rebels)

May 23-25, 2014

  • Warwick Davis (Ewok, Wicket W. Warrick)
  • Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett, Capt. Jeremoch Colton)
  • Tiya Sircar (Sabine Wren – Star Wars Rebels)

May 30 – June 1, 2014

  • Ray Park (Darth Maul)
  • John Ratzenberger (Major Bren Derlin)
  • Taylor Gray (Ezra Bridger – Star Wars Rebels)

June 6-8, 2014

  • Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker, Darth Bane – The Clone Wars) (will not be signing autographs)
  • Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian)
  • Ray Park (Darth Maul)
  • Taylor Gray (Ezra Bridger – Star Wars Rebels)

June 13-15, 2014

  • Dee Bradley Baker (Captain Rex/the Clones, Bossk and more – The Clone Wars)
  • Cat Taber (Padme Amidala and more – The Clone Wars)
  • Tom Kane (Yoda  – The Clone Wars and more)
  • Matt Lanter (Anakin Skywalker and more – The Clone Wars)
  • Steve Blum (Zeb Orrelios – Star Wars Rebels)

The great thing about these weekends is that during the autograph sessions there are a number of Fastpasses you can get though limited to help with your wait!

 

Daily Schedule of Events

Each Weekend has a similar rundown of events in order so that no matter which weekend you choose you are sure to experience the fullness offered.  believe me you won’t be able to take it all in in one go!

  • Stormtrooper Welcome – 7:30am on Hollywood Boulevard
  • Autograph Sessions throughout the day (check Times Guide)
  • Legends of the Force Motorcade and Welcome at 11:30am
  • Stars of the Saga Talk Show and Q&A Session (Premier Theater) – 3:15pm
  • Jedi Training Academy – Check Times Guide
  • Behind the Force (Premier Theatre) – 1:45pm
  • Obi-Wan and Beyond (Premier Theater) – 7:00pm
  • Padawan Mind Challenge at 1:00pm, 2:15pm, 4:15pm, 6:30pm
  • Star Wars Character Encounters – 8:00am – 7:30pm (Check Times Guide for locations)
  • DJ Lobot Dance Party – 7:00pm
  • Symphony in the Stars Fireworks – 9:30pm

Character Dining for Star Wars Weekends

New this year are Star Wars Weekends Character Dining Experiences at both Hollywood and Vine and Sci Fi Dine In Theater!

These include your favorite Disney characters dressed as some of your favorite Star Wars Characters like: Jedi Mickey, Leia Minnie, Vader Goofy, Ewok Chip & Dale, and Stormtrooper Donald!

  • Star Wars Dine-In Galactic Breakfast! at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant (8:00am-noon, cost is $47.99 for adults and $29.99 for kids (ages 3-9)
  • Jedi Mickey’s Star Wars Dine at Hollywood and Vine (4:15pm-park closing, cost is $55.99 for adults and $33.99 for kids (ages 3-9)
  • Jedi Mickey’s Star Wars Dine at Hollywood and Vine withFantasmic! Dinner Package (you can add the Fantasmic Dinner Package on for a slight uptick in price which will also guarantee priority seating at Fantasmic! later in the evening)

You will also be able to meet LOADS of characters from every spectrum of the Force throughout the parks throughout your days in addition to your standard Disney characters!

V.I.P. Experience

Disney has released an exclusive V.I.P. experience for those amongst us who might want a full package that has some exclusivity to it.  If you are an uber fan and convention costs aren’t that big of a concern this may be the droid you’re looking for:

  • Premium seating for Star Wars Weekends shows at the Premiere Theater, such as Stars of the Saga—a Star Wars-themed talk show that’s as entertaining as it is surprising
  • Expedited access to attractions like Star Tours – The Adventures ContinueToy Story Midway Mania! and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
  • Private continental breakfast  at The Hollywood Brown Derby
  • Reserved viewing location during the Legends of the Force Motorcade
  • Table-service lunch at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

The cost for this package is $499 and does not include park admission.  It is available May 16 to June 15, 2014 and can be reserved by calling: (407) 934-7973.  According to Disney advance reservations are HIGHLY recommended for this experience.

 

Merchandise and Goodies!

Like all things Star Wars (believe me I’m a parent to a Star Wars fan on top of being one myself I can’t see the walls in some rooms because of our lightsaber collections) what would the experience be without the merchandise?  “Merchandising, Merchandising, Merchandising!”

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Yes, that’s Yogurt from Space Balls, but it’s an apt description of the BEVY of buying opportunities you will have throughout the weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Weekend exclusive merchandise, to your own likeness frozen in carbonite ala Han and shipped to you, to Lightsabers, and yes even a Vader Cupcake!

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The possibilities for purchases are endless so be prepared for a steady stream of “I WANT!” and that’s not just the kids!

 

Jedi Training Academy

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The JTA is in full “force” over these weekends and as you would imagine it is CRAZY difficult to score a coveted spot.  I recommend though if you want to give it your best go arrive WAY before rope drop, like more than an hour and be prepared for a line to sign up.  You may have to be flexible in your plans and take the most available spot though if you want your Youngling to train on a Star Wars Weekend.  It takes on a special nature to do JTA on these weekends at Disney so be prepared with cameras!  For our Review Read Here, and For A Video Click Here!

 

As with all special events my advice on this one is no different, be prepared for crowd levels to spike.  The area near Star Tours especially will feel crazy congested throughout the day.  So if Star Wars isn’t your thing I would avoid that area of the park.  Also something to think about is there will be special shows, fireworks, characters mingling so if you have a child who is used to the standard park experience at Disney’s Hollywood Studios you had better prepare them for the changes.  We took our youngest aside as we were walking in to let him know Star Wars had invaded the park so it would look a bit different and had to keep re-iterating throughout the day, that all was fine this was okay.

For more details visit the official home of Star Wars Weekends online:
Disney’s Official Page 

Official Facebook Page for SWW

Have you ever been to Star Wars Weekends?  What did you think?

 

New Rope Drop Procedures At Magic Kingdom

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You may have heard the newest hot ticket attraction at the Magic Kingdom isn’t some new ride, or restaurant or even a parade or show.  No the newest most exclusive experience in the Magic Kingdom on both coasts has become the Character Meet and Greet with Queen Elsa and Princess Anna.  I have seen consecutive days now of Guests reporting 300 minute wait times (that equates to 5 hours!) in order for a 5 minute audience with the Royal Pair from Disney’s Frozen.

Disney has instituted a guided process to the Royal Hall at rope drop as there was shall we say, some less than savory behaviors presented as Guests ran, trampled and otherwise RUSHED towards Fantasyland as if it were Black Friday and Fantasyland were stocked with free iPads.  So upon landing on Main Street at rope drop in the morning Cast Members will have a rope that will guide Guests in a CALM and SAFE manner to their destination and minimize disorder.

My thoughts on this meet and greet are simple, I think it’s rather out there to wait 300 minutes for a 5 minute Meet and Greet when you could do so much more with those 5 hours in the park.  If you were to break it down into dollars and cents think about the going rate of a park ticket, then divide that by the number of hours you could spend in the park realistically touring. You get a palpable number that those 300 minutes waiting amount to at that point, then when you weigh it amongst all of the other experiences you could take in it doesn’t make sense.  Not to mention wait times such as these, combined with limited FP availability to start has precluded many Guests with Disabilities the ability to wait.  You can speak with Guest Relations about this need, but be very specific as to why you need the pass.  As well something to consider is that violent crowd like behaviors are simply not tolerated at Disney, and the law doesn’t take a vacation.  Even though you may be in “Disney World” it still remains under the jurisdiction of local authorities.  People have been charged with assault for deeming a line offense worthy of physical retribution in the past.  So proceed with caution.  If you are in this line and someone is exhibiting behaviors that warrant a response GET A CAST MEMBER!

As well I think that Anna and Elsa really need to be spread around a bit more.  Akershus is a PERFECT venue for these two as they can easily fit in with the setting given that Frozen was based in none other than Norway.  They could also have a meet and greet in Disney’s Hollywood Studios considering their film won two Academy Awards.  I think the more opportunities people have to meet these characters the less pandemonium we would see at the Magic Kingdom every morning.

So what are your thoughts readers?  Would you wait 300 minutes to meet characters?

Room Only Discounts for Fall 2014!

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Disney released Free Dining and a Room Only Discount to Disney Visa cardholders earlier today.  Which I am still on hold helping clients make those all important changes (hundreds if not over a thousand dollars in savings)!  But wanted to share the details we are seeing for the Room Only Discount coming later in 2014.  All of the offers being released today must be booked by August 8th, 2014.

Contact us at http://www.upanduptravel.com/new/contact or via phone at 1-877-WDW-WISH (939-9474) to get a no obligation quote as this offer is limited!

Deluxe & Deluxe Villas:

Save 30% on the following:

  • Disney’s Boardwalk Villas
  • Disneys Old Key West Resort
  • Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
  • Disney’s Boardwalk Inn
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (Standard Viewor Pool View Rooms)
  • Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
  • Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Disney’s Yacht Club Resort

Save 20% on these Deluxe and Deluxe Villas:

  • Disney Beach Club Villas
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House & Kidani Village
  • The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Disney’s Beach Club
  • Disney’s Contemporary
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (Savanna or Club Level)

It gets a little different when we look at Moderate and Value Resorts:

Save 20% August 16-28th or Save 25% August 29th-Oct 3rd, 2014 on Moderate Resorts

  • Disney’s Caribbean Beach
  • Disney’s Cornado Springs
  • Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
  • Disney’s Fort Wilderness Cabins
  • Save 20% August 29th-Oct 3rd, 2014 on Port Orleans French Quarter

Save 15% August 16-28th or Save 20% August 29th-Oct 3rd, 2014 on Value Resorts

  • Disney’s All Star Sports & Music Resorts
  • Disney’s Pop Century Resort
  • Save 10% August 16-28th  or Save 20% August 29th-Oct 3rd, 2014 on Disney Art of Animation (Family Suites Only)
  • Save 15% August 29th-Oct 3rd, 2014 on Disney’s All Star Movies Resort & the Campsites at Ft. Wilderness

Contact us at http://www.upanduptravel.com/new/contact or via phone at 1-877-WDW-WISH (939-9474) to get a no obligation quote as this offer is limited!

 

New Nighttime Show Coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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A new nighttime show is coming to Animal Kingdom.  As you may know in the past Disney has stayed away from a lot of nighttime activities at Animal Kingdom in order to give the animals a bit of respite.  I believe some of this change is now due to the impending Avatar land that will be coming soon to this park.  According to Disney’s blog today, the new nighttime show will be called “Rivers of Light” and appears at first blush to follow in a similar show pattern as Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios or World of Color in Disney’s California Adventure.  Though I am sure they will put a new twist on the show to not only fit with the park overall but add in new technologies.

Per the Disney site: “Rivers of Light” promises to be an innovative show unlike anything ever seen in Disney Parks, combining live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery. The show will magically come to life on the broad, natural stage of the Discovery River, between Discovery Island and Expedition Everest, delighting our guests and truly capping off a full day of adventures at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

We’ll of course follow any news as it develops and be sure to share here anything we hear!

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It’s He-ere! Free Dining Is Back for the Fall!

ImageDisney’s Free Dining Promotion for later in 2014 was announced for Disney VISA cardholders this morning, and will open to the General Public on May 7th!!

Contact us at www.upanduptravel.com/new/contact  or call 1-877-WDW-WISH (939-9474) to get started on this great and money saving offer!

This is for the following dates of travel:
August 31-October 3
October 26- November 1
November 9-November 2
December 12-December 23

Some exclusions apply including the following resorts:  All-Star Movies, Port Orleans Riverside, Port Orleans French Quarter, Grand Floridian Villas, Fort Wilderness Campsites, Art of Animation Little Mermaid Rooms and all 3 Bedroom Villas.

Booking Dates for this offer are between May 7 – August 8, 2014. To receive free dining you must book a resort package with a minimum of 3 night stay and 2 day park ticket.

As well a Room Only Discount will also be available for travel between 8/16 – 10/3.

Quiet Places and Spaces at Walt Disney World, Orlando, FL pt. 1

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As we discussed in our Disneyland list (see here), there are places innately built into the various parks that allow you to relax, breathe and help your child deflate and decompress should you spot the warning signs of a meltdown.  As well with all of the colors, smells, noises, and sights that abound in the Disney Park experience not to mention the amount of PEOPLE around all the time, some of us need it just to have that break instead of hauling everyone out of the park en masse.  So here by Theme Park and by Themed Land are our top quiet places and spaces at Walt Disney World!

Let’s Start with my personal favorite: The Magic Kingdom

Quite like it’s counterpart, Disneyland, this spoke and wheel formatted park has a bevy of places to sit and relax out of the way.  Each of the themed lands comes complete with shade, benches, and in some cases water ways to add a sense of serenity.  I always encourage families I work with to stop and smell the roses, or at least take a load off while touring.  When you tour with a child or family member with special needs, it’s quite necessary to take portions of your day slower and only pick up the pace occasionally.  All of the surrounding environs are included in the price of admission, just like the attractions.  And you would be surprised at the hidden details within all of these parks you get to see when you slow up and pay attention.  You might have a feeling you got more out of the experience than if you had run from ride to ride.

Main Street U.S.A.  

Near Guest Relations: There is a large brick lined walkway off to the side of Guest Relations, also near the restrooms at the front of the park.  This is a very nice area to wait if someone is refreshing themselves or in Guest Relations getting the DAS.  We’ve used it to do our bouncing, (flexing our knees); or simple compressions, water replenishment or just get out of the sun.

City Hall: This as well is an out of the way area and SO MANY people just pass on by on their way to the themed lands.  It’s got air conditioning, shops, and is one of the more quiet spots on the map.  Of course it fills up somewhat due to this also being a character meet and greet spot.  But in the wings of this building you can find some quiet and cool areas.

By the Plaza Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor: If you were to hang a right as you go towards the castle you would find yourself staring at the ice cream parlor and Plaza Restaurant.  If you were to keep walking down this path you will find it gets quieter and quieter and less populated.  We use this area often to let our sons (both of them) decompress while one of us gets ice cream.  The sounds and sights of Main Street U.S.A. are far enough away to be seen and heard at a more comfortable distance if they get truly overwhelming.  As well we have watched plenty of parades from this back portion of Main Street in order for them to be more tolerable to our youngest.

Adventureland

Near the Dole Whip Stand, Turquoise Alcove:  While many folks line up to purchase a Dole Whip and sit on the rock outcroppings by the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, there is a small seating area, lit during the evenings just to the left as you face the Dole Whip sign.  It’s painted turquoise and white and has small round tables and chairs.  If you find this empty (which believe it or not we have many times) it is a perfect little respite area.  It’s out of the way has only one entrance and exit if there is a meltdown and your child is a bit of a runner and also closes off the amount of sensory pouring in.  We use this to wait for Dad to get DoleWhips and bring out the earbuds and iPhone for our son to decompress while we tour.

Citrus Stand, near Tiki Room: I know it seems all of the locations I choose are near ice cream, but that’s by force of habit.  I usually pick places for our son where he can cool off figuratively and literally.  As well there is a walk through between Adventureland and Frontierland here that not many use with great regularity as many use the larger pass through with the restrooms instead.  So a bit of shade in there, cool breezes and not too crowded.

Backside of Pirates by the Restrooms: True story we’ve practically run for this area in a “potty emergency”, which brings about this tip always insist on a bathroom break and don’t take your kids’ word for it.  It’s easy to be distracted by all of the sensorial data flying around to shove that impulse down repetitively until it is an actual run for the nearest restroom emergency.  But I digress.  This area behind Pirates is a narrow shot to the restrooms and also a nice little out of the way area where you can do some slight compression therapy, breathing exercises and also have a quick access to the restrooms or while you’re waiting on everyone in your party to go.

Captain Jack Stage: Obviously consult the times guide to be sure you’re stop over doesn’t coincide with a show, but the stage area is up out of the way and a nice area to sit and calm.  We have let the boys get out some energy on the wooden planked stage during the late afternoon as it is out of the way of many a passerby and gives them that feeling of being above the noise.

Frontierland

The walkthrough from Adventureland to Frontierland: In the VERY back of both lands is a pass through walk way. It’s past Pirates on the Adventureland side and basically if you were to keep walking this path you would end up in Frontierland.  There is Pecos Bills on the right hand side and some tables there if you need to sit in a quieter space.  Obviously this fluctuates throughout the day as meal times come and go.  But I have found earlier in the day and in the mid-afternoon this area is a good stopover for us to sit and relax a bit.

Liberty Square

Top Floor of Columbia Harbor House: On the bottom floor is an echoing cacophony that drives me batty, but upstairs is a quiet calm area that overlooks the other Guests walking by on the paths below.  You can get a window seat that faces the Haunted Mansion or Liberty Belle and since the room is more closed off than it’s counterpart downstairs it is especially good for those who have noise and sound aversion and is considerably overlooked.  If your family member has trouble with stairs it could be a challenge to get to this level, but on the whole not too many draw backs and we have used it each time as a nice respite area for our entire family to take a break from the crowds.

Walkway by the Water: There is a smaller walkway off the main path, this one goes right by the water.  Now, be advised this is also part of a designated smoking area at one point, but it is out of the way and the cool breezes coming off the water are very refreshing.

Fantasyland

This area is pretty tight knit and there aren’t a lot of spaces, plus a great many of the areas I would suggest are near stroller parking.  This is one of the most congested areas mainly due to it’s popularity and construction.  I would recommend if you tour here its early in the day or in the evening:

Near the Castle, Walkway:  Believe it or not up near Cinderella Castle is quieter than Fantasyland proper.  Now please note there are shows that take place out front of the Castle periodically so consult your times guide.  These pathways are also not accessible the hour near the fireworks in the evening for security and safety reasons.

By Mad Tea Party, backside: Near the Mad Tea Party, and just before you blend into Tomorrowland there are several small areas you can find that are tucked out of the way.  There is even one near the restrooms that has shade during the day, we have used this one several times.

Dumbo PlayTent (for little ones): This area, while I have not used it myself, is a great area that allows kiddos to play in cool comfort while waiting for their turn on Dumbo the Flying Elephant.  In true Disney playground fashion this area is wonderfully appointed for smaller children, I state that it’s more attributable to younger children mainly due the nature of it’s construction.  The sizes allowed (while I know some of our children, mine included love things that are more suited for younger children) kind of prohibit older kids from accessing the actual play equipment.  However there is seating inside while you wait for the attraction, it’s out of the sun and heat and darkly lit in some areas.

Tomorrowland

By the restrooms, By Mickey’s Star Traders: We sit on these benches all the time in the quieter section of Tomorrowland, again with my access to restrooms but in these areas there is usually built in seating for families waiting for other members to go to the restrooms and freshen up.  They are also usually in the shade with a food cart or water cart nearby.

People Mover, a/k/a Tomorrowland Transit Authority: There is usually NO WAIT for this attraction as it is constantly moving.  But it is above the noise and crowds, there are breezes coming in, it’s shaded for the most part and you go through several attractions and stores as you ride so your family gets an idea of the layout of Tomorrowland without having the be down in the crowds.  We ride this several times during our visits as a respite attraction or while waiting for our Fast Pass times to come to fruition.

So that’s our list for The Magic Kindom at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.  On our next entry in this series we’ll be discussing Epcot  and some out of the way spots in that park to relax and replenish!

Do you have some favorite spots to stop over while you tour the parks?  Let us know in the comments!

Disney Releases Guide For Guests With Cognitive Disabilities Including Autism

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image Copyright Disney

This morning I came upon a new guide book Disney has released in order to help Parents and Families traveling with someone who has Autism or Cognitive Disabilities plan a trip to the Disney Parks.  I wanted to be sure to post it here as I am reading it now and it appears to include many of the bases we have covered here, as well the needs and concerns that have been covered on other blogs and via social media by many other trip planners and parents.  The resource though takes that broad information and puts the official Disney stamp on it and really is a nice resource filled with visuals that you can view with your child or family member in order to pre-teach or plan.

Some highlights I have noted already:

  • A park by park, ride by ride guide on what to expect on each attraction and it’s features.  For example Pirates of the Caribbean features a drop in the dark some flashing lights, periods of darkness, bumps, loud noises etc.  A+ Disney on this breakout, seriously.  Well done!
  • Places in WDW and DLR where you can break and find some quiet.
  • How to use the new DAS pass and integrate Disney’s FastPass+ and FastPass systems
  • A guide for interacting with Characters
  • A before you leave checklist for items like visual aids, contact bracelets, and ear wear

Update: I think the more I see of this Resource, the more I like it.  It is already on my phone, my iPad and yes in my Resources I provide Clients.  While we as parents must plan in advance of our trips, it is nice to see a company like Disney make these leaps and stretch out the proverbial branch for our children and us when I think of it, to have a leg up before we arrive.  According to the law, they need do nothing more than provide a reasonable and equal accommodation, and this goes above and beyond in many ways.  There appears to be great care given here to touring the Park with fresh eyes.  As if the person writing (thank you whomever you all are) was touring from the perspective of a new Guest who had never traveled to the Park with a child with Autism.

So while the overall feel is a point of reference style, you can see that it starts with a plan of action (IEP words!), things to do before you leave, identifying Cast Members, what to do if you become separated, a heads up on what to expect sensorially and walking a Guest through entering the Parks.  Great work!

Check out the Walt Disney World guide via this link: https://wdpromedia.disney.go.com/media/wdpro-assets/help/guest-services/cognitive-disabilities-services/wdw_cognitive_guide.pdf

And for Disneylandhttps://secure.cdn1.wdpromedia.com/media/dlr_v0200/en_US/help/Disneyland_Guide_For_Guests_With_Cognitive_Disabilities.pdf

Have anything you would like to add to Disney?  Leave a comment below!