Passholder Pride!

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So here’s that thing I was so very proud of that I wanted to show you, but first needed a something to show, but the something got caught up in transit, and so I had nothing to show.  Thing thing thing, show show show!

*Ahem* So the thing I was so very proud of – the physical proof of which was indeed caught in a sort of transit – is that thanks to our year-long diligence in cutting back, watching our spending and enjoying that which we already have, we were able to become Disney World annual passholders!  That’s kind of big deal, right, it’s not just my imagination? 🙂  But for what we have planned for the next 365 days, it made the most financial sense, and that’s on a cost-of-tickets basis alone; the extra little perks like money off dining, merchandise, entertainment and accommodations and special, passholder-exclusive offers are just that – extra little perks (and already well-used, thanks to our Labour Day long weekend trip!)

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Anyhow, it’s been a donkey’s age since I’ve done any nail art, and so I thought I’d do a manicure celebrating this awesome – and awesomely fun – financial milestone.  I am so, so proud of us for making this happen, as silly as it may seem.  Which I bet to many of you is very silly.  And I’m cool with that; the Peter Pan approach to life is not for everyone.  But consider that Mr. Finger Candy and I have decided to just get out there and fully immerse ourselves in the Deep Disney State – anything we can do to save money while we’re out being dorky dreamers is going to be a help.

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TL;DR: While year-long passes to four of the world’s most popular theme parks may seem like a gigantic financial leap, it’s a chasm we easily crossed thanks to our very best efforts in reining in our spending and dedicating everything extra to this one financial goal.  I love that we worked toward a goal and met it.  Gotta say, it feels pretty darn great!  Just like these nails – I’ve missed doing nail art, must really aspire to feature more of it here on this, uh, nail art blog. 😉

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Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party!

On general principle, I’m against the front-loading of any major holiday.  I stopped shopping at craft retailer Michael’s years ago after they began trotting out their Halloween merchandise in mid-July, so incensed was I (also because everything is wildly overpriced, and their staff, in my experience, are not the nicest of folks.)

But when Mr. Finger Candy and I went to Disney World over the Labour Day long weekend and found ourselves at the Magic Kingdom for one of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Part(ies), we just decided to roll with it, late August date and 91 degree temps notwithstanding.  Here’s some of the festive fun we had. 🙂

First, a photo with some of the outstanding Halloween decorations at the very front of the park.  Not too surprisingly, Disney does seasonal decorating very well; glance around the park and you’ll find lush boughs of leaves trimming every door frame, flickering rows of Jack-o-Lanterns lining each balcony and streetlights hung with festive foliage.

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The Halloween parties (hereafter known as MNSSHP) run from mid-August to Halloween.  It is a hard ticketed event, which means your admission is NOT included in the cost of a regular park ticket, so be prepared to pay up (and up and up and up…)  The party itself runs from 7 pm to midnight, although guests are admitted as early as 4 pm (but as annual passholders, we can go whenever the heck we want!)

Around 6 pm cast members will begin ushering out the day’s remaining guests to prepare the Kingdom for the evening’s festivities.  I wouldn’t recommend hiding out behind the little Dutch kids on It’s a Small World so you can stay on until the party; the CMs are rather diligent about checking your issued event bracelets.  Capacity for the parties is capped at 20,000 guests, although there were far fewer than that in attendance on August 31st.  Which, of course, made it the perfect evening for these two MNSSHP newbs to really explore this cool seasonal event.

Because of all the usual safety concerns, there are strict rules concerning costumes.  Within reason, kids can wear pretty well whatever they’d like, while adult costumes are measured against a firm list of do nots – do not wear a mask, do not wear a full, floor-length costume, do not come dressed as 45 (sorry, that’s just one of my personal requirements.)  Basically, do not look like you could be confused for an actual character at work (and play) in the parks (and that includes 45!  Anyone take a real gander at his animatronic in the Hall of Presidents?  I swear they just nabbed an old beaver pelt from one of the tableaus out by Tom Sawyer Island and stapled it to his head.  Just like real life, ba-dum *ching*!)  We attended this party costume-less (a very wise decision given the obscenely humid weather) but we’ll be back on Halloween, and you can bet we’ll bring our A game then. 🙂

Our first stop, for the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom-lovin’ nerd I’m married to, was the Main Street Firehouse for our special event Sorcerers cards.  Limited edition cards for this neat, Magic Kingdom-exclusive collectible card game/scavenger hunt have been produced nearly every year for both the Halloween and Christmas parties; this year’s Halloween card features Orange Bird, the cheery citrus spokesbird of Sunshine Tree Terrace, a counter service spot in Adventureland where you can enjoy life-sustaining (or at least life-improving!) Citrus Swirls – frozen orange juice concentrate on one side, creamy vanilla soft serve on the other, blissed out heaven in the middle.  Here we’ve shown one of our cards (already safely ensconced in a protective top-loader; thanks, nerd!) alongside our not-long-for-this-world Citrus Swirl and a passholder exclusive Orange Bird pin we picked up later on in the evening.

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Crucial administrative details thus attended to, we walked over to Liberty Square and joined a lineup of 500 other overgrown goth lite types to meet Jack and Sally of The Nightmare Before Christmas.  The Pumpkin King and his ragdoll paramour only show up during MNSSHP; they are not characters you will find regularly bopping about the parks like you would the princesses or Pooh and the gang.  Which is the ONLY reason I consented to stand in a very hot, not particularly well shaded lineup for two and a half hours in order to meet them!

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Also because I adore The Nightmare Before Christmas, and when we finally met them, I could not stop myself from excitedly telling them about our Halloween wedding nearly 14 years prior (“Did it rain?” Jack queried.  “Actually, it did!” we chirped, prompting a keening, “Oh, how perfectly lucky AND marvelous!” from the man himself.  I nearly up and died and became a resident of Halloween Town right then and there.)

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Regrettably, after standing in a nearly three-hour lineup in the blazing sun (twas not blazing by the time we made it to the front of the line) the rest of the evening proved a real struggle against total collapse – following all that unaccustomed heat, 12 hours of air travel, precious little sustenance and a 2:30 am wakeup call nearly 24 hours previous, we were feeling quite piqued.

So no better time to shove a bunch of sugar in our faces, right?!  There are a number of party-exclusive food items available during MNSSHP, in addition to a seemingly endless quantity of candy you can pick up along the innumerable trick-or-treat trails.  We probably should have stuck with the mini Snickers (ooh, Snickers) – the Jack Skellington push pop we grabbed from Sleepy Hollow (cake, frosting and other creamy stuff layered together in a push-uppable container) nearly did us in; total blood sugar blitz.

I don’t know why we have so many darn photos of that push pop, because it wasn’t that good!  There are so many incredible snacks available at the parties; why did we go with this weird, cake crumbles and cream thing?  Next time, poison apple cupcake, I’m coming for you!  Below, Mr. Finger Candy standing in front of Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe with a Jack Skellington push pop IS The Nightmare Before Christmas, wah-waaaahhhhhhhhhh.  Get it, get it?  “Yes, we get it,” you’re saying.  “And it’s still not funny.” 😉

After stumbling away from our snack spot, we ambled about for a bit, seriously contemplating whether we should just pack it in for the night and return to our resort, despite not having seen the parade, the Sanderson Sisters stage show or the fireworks show.  That is how sickly we were feeling!  Instead, we rallied hard – not too difficult when you consider the money on the line; Disney is an incredible vacation experience, but it’s never not inexpensive – and went off to Tomorrowland to meet our buddy, Stitch, resplendent in his Halloween costume as white jumpsuited Elvis!  As always, Stitch was an amorous little thing – he kissed my hand twice, oh my!

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But fuzzy blue alien kisses are apparently just the remedy one needs for an overabundance of sun, heat and sugar, because after our cool meet and greet with him, we felt immensely better, and decided to hotfoot it over to Cinderella Castle to catch the HalloWishes fireworks show.  We have had just the worst, most crap luck when it comes to properly seeing any of Disney’s amazing fireworks shows – usually we’re stuck behind the Castle seeing none of the cool projections they feature during Happily Ever After, or we’re at Epcot and we’re too pleasantly tipsy on walkin’ margs to possibly stay (and stand!) for Illuminations, or one particularly memorable time, we were trapped on Pirates of the Caribbean for 45 minutes and missed the entirety of the Magic Kingdom’s Happily Ever After fireworks show.  But for this special seasonal show featuring incredible projections and fireworks (that finale!) scored to neat arrangements of some of my favourite creepy Disney music, we had front row, centre (standing, always standing) space, and it was wonderful.  You know, I never thought I was one of those “I love it when shit blows up!” kind of people, but you guys, I love it when shit blows up!  Especially sparkly shit that makes a real big bang. 😉

In between all this, we hopped about a bit and rode a few rides – Pirates of the Caribbean, with live actors dotted throughout the ride just for the Halloween party, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and the Haunted Mansion, but of course.  I’d typically say that given all of the other things to occupy your time during Mickey’s Not So Scary, actually riding the rides is a pretty poor use of your party time, but we walked straight onto all three with no problem and it didn’t impact our schedule in the slightest.  We also walked around and hit up a couple of the merchandise shops to check out the party-exclusive items, where we grabbed this refillable, light-up cauldron popcorn bucket I’m posing with the following morning in our hotel room.  Holy crow, was this thing popular!  Nearly as popular as my Gaston ears.  People would just bellow across the street at me, “WHERE DID YOU GET THAT AWESOME BUCKET?!” and I’d be, like, “Uh, right over there?”  Over the next couple of days, I saw so many more of them begin to pop up – pun intended – around the parks.  And in case you’re wondering, yes, it will be returning with us at Halloween.  We really love our $2 refills, and who doesn’t want to tote around a glowing cauldron?

Next, we walked back to Main Street and nabbed a super primo curbside spot right outside Casey’s Corners from which to watch the Boo to You Parade!  Once again, parades are, historically, not my jam.  I nearly had a total meltdown last Christmas after getting stuck in a massive crowd of people between Frontierland and the river on one side, and the relentlessly annoying holiday parade on the other, so no, not my thing.  But I loved this parade!  Gosh, it was so charming.  Featuring a showstopping entrance by the Headless Horseman (I apologize, but my camera utterly failed during the parade; poor thing could not keep up with the cascade of flashing lights and colours), as well as appearances by the Grim Grinning Ghosts, Jack Sparrow and his scurvy lot of pirates, the Splash Mountain gang, the gravediggers and diningroom dancers from the Mansion, Vanellope Von Schweetz and frickin’ Clarabelle the Cow hoofing around a silo, among many, many others, this delightful parade concluded with an entire float of rarely glimpsed baddies – Cruella, Jafar, Maleficient and the Evil Queen.  Badass, in the cutest, most adorable manner possible. 🙂

Finally, we capped off our evening with a midnight viewing of the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular Show, featuring the Sanderson Sisters, The Nightmare Before Christmas’ Mr. Oogie Boogie Man and about a half dozen other killer villains – Cruella again, Dr. Facilier, Hades.  The show itself was a ton of fun, just a tiny bit raunchy (by Disney standards, of course, so still very family friendly, even at the late, late hour), with some great songs (shoutout to the ultra fun version of I’ve Put a Spell on You.)  And I don’t believe I’ve ever seen Cinderella Castle look so beautiful; the projection technology they’re using now is real world design and tech magic. 🙂  Just another day at the office, I believe the Disney Imagineers would call it. 🙂

Then, having been awake and on our feet for 23 out of the last 24 hours, we left the Kingdom and threw ourselves onto a resort bus back to Coronado Springs, where we rested and rejuvenated for the grand total of three hours and 45 minutes, before we got up and returned to the Magic Kingdom to start it up all over again.  No rest for the wicked, you know – just ask the Sanderson Sisters!  Also, there might be something wrong with us? 😉

Remembering the Riverside

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And just when you thought I had stopped yammering about this place!  But the Port Orleans Riverside at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida is our favourite place to stay on property, and I apparently have lots more to say on the subject.  So much more, actually, I made up this neat little video for our YouTube channel, Park or Perish!, extolling this great resort’s many awesome qualities.  Please do check it out and at least have a good chuckle at the weirdness of my voice, if you’d be so kind. 🙂  And who knows, maybe you’ll see something you like well enough to get you down to the Riverside as well for your next Disney vacation.

May the Froth Be With You!

No, wait, that can’t be right.  May the Firth be with you?  Ooh, as in Colin?  I loved him in Kingsman!  Hmm, well, what else could it be?  May the Frick be with you?  That’s an art gallery I once went to in Manhattan.  May the Fort(nite) be with you?  I bet there’s a lot of kids who would agree with that sentiment (my old ass is not so old that I don’t know what’s the hot, crazy-makin’ video game of the moment.)  Truly, I’m stumped.  Oh, wait, it’s that Star Wars thing, isn’t it?  Yeah, I had heard that it was going to be kind of a big deal today.  Never heard of the movies myself – are they popular? 😉

All facetiousness aside, I made another video for our YouTube channel, Park or Perish!, all about our galactic adventures at Disney’s Hollywood Studios this past Christmas.  Please click on the link below to share in a little bit of the fun, and as always, may the Force (ahh, got it that time) be with you.

Still Stuck in Vacation Mode

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Hello friends, just a quick update to let you know I posted a new vlog over on our YouTube channel, Park or Perish!  Fun reminders of an awesome vacation aside, I have loved putting together these picto-videos; I may have a journalism degree, but my forte is not, and has never been, audio-visual media.  So I’m beyond pleased that over the course of a few weekends I’ve been able to work through the basics and not-so-basics of a couple of different editing programs, turning out some not entirely unfortunate end results!  At the very least we have some slickly edited videos with which to bore our friends.

To that end, this post is also a mea culpa, and an apology.  I do believe I remarked some posts ago that the launch of Park or Perish! would put an end to my incessant Disney chatter over here on my blog.  But I’m clearly still talking about Disney, only now I’m doing it vocally and visually, as opposed to boring you silly with the written word.

I just have been completely unable to totally (or even really partially) disconnect from holiday vacation mode.  Like, I know I have to come back down to earth eventually, but it’s not going to be any time soon.  And it’s made all the more complicated by the fact that we’re actively planning our next trip; makes it quite hard to turn off when you’re gearing up for the next big adventure.

So with apologies to those who no longer wish to share in my Disney obsession, and with thanks to those who do, I’ll link to our video, in which I offer up a few useful tips for girding your sanity at Disney during the busy holiday season.  I hope you enjoy it, and thank you for watching and (mostly) understanding that the Disney stoke – it’s very real! 🙂

Life on Pandora: Exploring Disney’s World of Avatar

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Kaltxi!  And welcome to what I’m sure you are hoping is going to be one of the final posts you have to endure on the subject of my Christmas trip to Disney World.  Except I still have so much to say!  Particularly on the subject of a very special (and very, very busy) place we visited at the Animal Kingdom on the final day of our holiday, Pandora – The World of Avatar (I’m sold already; gotta love a title that contains a hyphenate.)

The World of Avatar opened in June 2017, and just seven months on, it remains THE hottest ticket in the entire Walt Disney World Resort.  And I do mean that literally – FastPasses were not to be had for Flight of Passage, the most popular ride in any of the Disney parks, although I did manage to nab early evening FPs for Na’vi River Journey, a stunningly gorgeous dark boat ride, and my pick for the better of the two attractions anyways (hard not to go with the one that didn’t make me want to hurl all over the back of a banshee, but more on that in a second.)

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Right, so before I get to the breathtakingly beautiful landscape and design work (Disney calls this “Imagineering”) let’s get to what I know you’re really here for, TIPS AND TRICKS ON HOW TO TACKLE PANDORA – THE WORLD OF AVATAR WITHOUT LOSING THREE-QUARTERS OF YOUR DAY AND/OR YOUR SANITY.

First, stay on property at a Disney resort.  This gives you the ability to book FastPasses 60 days out from your vacation.  You may be able to get a FP for Flight of Passage this way.  I was not able to get any, but I was on the hunt “just” 30 days out.  You should be able to get a FP for Na’vi River Journey with little to no trouble 60 or 30 or even 10 days out.

Staying at a Disney resort also gives you access to Extra Magic Hours, extra in-park time extended to guests of Disney resorts either first thing in the morning or last thing at night.  Find out which day the Animal Kingdom is offering their Extra Magic Hours (owing to what I’m assuming are the actual animals’ nocturnal schedules, they tend to offer them first thing in the morning) and get there early with a mind to hitting Pandora.

No, really, get there EARLY.  Earlier than you think reasonable.  If you’re taking Disney transportation, you’ll find yourself sitting at a dark and foggy bus stop at 6 in the morning with 100 other stressed out people (and that’s just your resort!) also all fretting  about how quickly they can sprint through the Animal Kingdom and directly onto Flight of Passage.

I actually really wish that my fellow guests would not do this.  Moods at Disney are highly contagious, and listening to some teenager joke-mock his walker-enabled grandmother about the hustle she’s going to have to put on the second they step off the bus is dispiriting.  Listening in on other people’s neuroses leaves me feeling highly anxious and unnecessarily fretful.

So it turns out my very best tip is actually to calm the eff down.  Please.  With our ultra early start to the day, we were on and off Flight of Passage in a little under 45 minutes.  And our evening FP for Na’vi River Journey freed us up to then explore the rest of Pandora, and indeed the entirety of the Animal Kingdom.  So no need to go all wackadoo.

Having said all that, I am so freaking glad we got that jump start to the day, because by the time we exited the ride 45 minutes later, the wait time had climbed to three hours.  An hour later the estimated wait time had vaulted to five incomprehensible hours and the lineup stretched all the way to the front gates.  When we took this picture, roaring in front of the Tree of Life, we were feeling quite pleased with ourselves for having conquered at dawn what everybody else was now going to spend the entire day slogging to complete.  Mean?  Maybe!  But the early bird rides Flight of Passage with only a 25-minute lineup. 🙂

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Less roar-worthy is the fact that Flight of Passage KICKED MY ASS.  It’s a motion simulator, and a deeply immersive one at that – the screen wraps from top to bottom and then side to side.  The story is that you’re riding on the back of a flying banshee through the alien landscapes of Pandora.  Sounds incredible, and I can confirm that the minute or so of ride I actually experienced was next level amazing.  But oh sweet Jebus, the plummeting dips and drops and that nauseating thrusting motion of takeoff and the gigantic, sloshing wall of water…oof, I may need to stop talking about this, right now. 😦

So yes, I closed my eyes through roughly 60 percent of an attraction that I waited half an hour to ride and that some people waited up to five hours to ride.  But I felt myself begin to break out into a cold sweat, my number one tell, and decided to instantly bow to the warning signs I was too daft to heed on Star Tours.  You’re welcome.

I actually have precious little footage from the exterior or interior of either ride; we really hustled through both lineups, and there was no time to stop and smell the alien roses.  But Na’vi River Journey was definitely the more palatable of the two rides for me, a return to those classic, ultra detailed dark rides that have always set my Disney-loving heart aflutter.  Plus, Na’vi River Journey just looks like the best rave you’ve never been to.  Kind of sounds like it, too.  Gosh, I wish I had pictures of this one – it is a boat ride through a black lit, neon alien jungle, and that’s just as pretty as you might imagine.

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We quite shamefully made incredibly poor use of Pandora’s other amenities.  We didn’t go to Pongu Pongu for refreshing Night Blossom slushies and we also didn’t get to Satu’li Canteen for what is some of the only vegetarian food in the Animal Kingdom (for a place devoted to caring for all manner of wildlife, I find their reliance on BBQ to be quite odd.)  I blame Flight of Passage – my best laid Pandoran food plans went out the window the moment I emerged from the ride whiter than a ghost and (as always) cursing James Cameron’s name.

This is the part where I should probably mention that I hated Avatar, the movie.  Like, LOATHED it.  And I will never not be boggled by its inexplicable (clearly just to me!) popularity.  I remember when I first heard about the blue kitty person movie that James Cameron was making, I said to Mr. Finger Candy, “Mark my words, this thing is going to make, like, $17.38 total.”  And I was wrong.  So very, very wrong!  Wrong to the tune of about $2 billion, but hey, you can’t have $2 billion without $17.38, right?  Anyhow, my seeming ineptitude at making box office projections aside, I really, really hated Avatar and I’ve watched maybe just 35 minutes of the stupid blue kitty people total (side note: Do you know how hard you have to work to get me to hate a cat?  Even an 11-foot tall blue cat with a pervo tail?  HARD!)

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But I was neither too nauseous nor so much of a hater that I couldn’t appreciate the outstanding Imagineering at work in Pandora – The World of Avatar.  Holy cats (11-foot blue cats?) this place is incredible!  And no matter your area or areas of interest (horticulture, set dressing and design, food, music, computer tech, storytelling and world-building, architecture and engineering or simply the films themselves) there’s a little something for everyone to be dazzled by in Pandora.  I was particularly taken with the floating mountains, which I know are no such thing – I watched enough videos of them going up to know they’re engineered marvels of rebar and concrete designed to look like a craggy, levitating precipice.  But when you’re standing beneath a giant, floating chunk of earth, out of the top of which is growing a massive alien tree, its gnarled roots draping down over the edges and bursting through the underside of the rock, it’s hard not to be impressed.

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I kept thinking how much my grandfather, a lifelong gardener, would have loved the seamless blending of our real world flora with Pandora’s Imagineered alien blooms.

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Ah, yet another way to tell you’re getting on in years – when the behind-the-scenes, technical aspects of a theme park are more interesting to you than the actual attractions (see also the Seed Tour at Epcot’s The Land, where you take a mini class in Disney agriculture.)

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It’s really just the most stunningly gorgeous world, and so very beautifully executed.  I wish we had been able to stay into the evening when Pandora begins glowing under black lights, the “bioluminescent plants” throwing off alien neon light.  Even the splatter effect walkways (already super cool in the daylight) glow after dark!

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And the waterfalls!  Oh my gosh, so many waterfalls!  I feel like this entire post has been me excitedly pointing out yet another thing that blew my mind about Pandora, but that’s exactly what exploring the World of Avatar was like in the first place – what gorgeous, infinitely clever marvel will I find around this next corner?

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It seems the World of Avatar also brought out the Pepe Le Pew in Mr. Finger Candy, who laid a giant one on me as we stood in front of a lush Pandoran pond, prompting the cast member taking our photo to mock-admonish that “this is a family park!” and for a nearby group of Japanese tourists to spontaneously burst into delighted applause. 🙂 Apparently Pandora is for Lovers.

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So would I go back, even knowing what I know about my ability (or lack thereof) to handle Flight of Passage?  Yes, if only to cover myself with about two dozen anti-nausea patches to see if that makes a difference.  But also to check out some of the food and beverage offerings, and get a glimpse of Pandora after dark.  It’s also just a lovely and beautiful spot to chill out and people-watch for a bit; all those waterfalls make for a very relaxing place to wile away a bit of time.  Big recommendation on the World of Avatar; Disney, not too surprisingly, done good. 🙂

Every Day I’m Hustlin’

Quick bit of shameless self-promotion here (although can it be shameless if it’s on your own blog?  Suppose that depends on the definition of “shameless” you’re working with!)  But we posted a new video to our vlog, a kind of introductory thing, and I’m really super proud of it.  I am notoriously TOTAL CRAP when it comes to audio-visual editing.  Like, if it even still exists, there is an editing booth at Carleton University where the tears I alone shed in 1999 probably kept the ancient wood of the desk hydrated for use by another two generations of frustrated J-schoolers.  May there be mercy on your souls if you know the particular analog hell of trying to physically – with tape and scissors! and blood and tears – edit an audio clip.  It’s soul-crushingly bleak.

So seriously, obnoxious self-horn tootage aside, yay for me!  Because I think this video turned out pretty well visually (and aurally) and I like that it explains where we’re coming from with this Disney thing we’re harping on about all the time (it’s okay, I’m not offended, I know it’s harping!)  So please do click on the above video and check it out; I’d love to hear any comments you might have or any feedback you’d like to give. 🙂