Wishes And Pixie Dust

Follow the journey of a Wisconsin family of 4 who relocated to the Walt Disney World area in July 2011


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Christmas in July Giveaway!

If you follow us on Facebook, you may have noticed that we were listening to Christmas music from the Music Choice cable channel- Christmas is our favorite holiday and loved that we could listen to it during their “Christmas in July” promotion.  July 25 is the official day of “Christmas in July”, and coincidentally, it is also the first day that we arrived in Florida!  Tomorrow marks our three year anniversary, and we decided to celebrate with a giveaway!

Last year after Christmas we were gifted with two Mickey ornaments from one of our readers, and we wanted to pass them along to you:  Magician Mickey and Mickey’s Toy Machine.

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There will be two separate winners:  the giveaway will run until July 31st; winners will be announced August 1 on this blog, and the Wishes and Pixie Dust Facebook Page.   Click on and use the Rafflecopter link below to enter.

Christmas in July Giveaway

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Using DAS and Fastpass+ Together

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Recently we were chosen to be among the first Annual Passholders to test MagicBands (MBs) and MyMagic+ (MM+), including the ability to schedule our Fastpass+ (FP+) times in advance.  We wanted to share our experience and some advice.

First, some quick background.  Recently we had some issues with using our DAS card and miscommunications we had with Disney.  We sent an email to Disability Relations at Walt Disney World and received a call from a Disability Relations representative and had a very nice call with her for almost an hour one afternoon.  She asked about our experiences overall with the entire DAS process and then what happened to cause our concern.  She was shocked at how we had heard so many different stories about the program.  What it all boils down to is that the only people who will know about any changes are people at her level and above working directly with the DAS program and that none had been planned or discussed back to Guest Relations (GR) or to those who staff the DAS help line; and that includes their Supervisors and Managers.  So, if anyone at that line or at GR tells anyone that there are ‘changes’ in place, planned or coming, that’s not true.  They won’t find out about any changes until they are ready to roll out and that’s not happening.  Right now and for the future the DAS works as always, 1 return time at a time with no limit per day or per the 14-day period.  Accommodations are the same as they were always meant to be.  They are on a guest by guest, day by day and Park by Park basis.  The only change is that there should be no notes in the files anymore “guaranteeing” a certain accommodation.  It all depends on how busy any Park is on any given day, how many attractions that Park has available and how much those accommodations are needed by that particular Guest.  And she stressed that no Cast Member should ever be saying that there is nothing they can do, and if you hear that, ask to speak to a Manager immediately, as there is always something they can do.  It might be re-admission tickets (paper Fastpasses), and they are allowed to give up to 3 sets at a time.  Or it may be as simple as giving you your first return time while at the GR desk if the Park isn’t busy.  How she put it to me is to simply state that you are using your Fastpasses and using your DAS but it just isn’t enough and you’d like just something extra to help with your day.  She did say that they take the feedback they get from guests like us to a weekly DAS committee meeting and they use that meeting to plan for the future.  So, send those emails in with your feedback.  The two biggest pieces of feedback they have right now is the ability to use a single return time for multiple rides and being able to have multiple return times at a time.  Email WDW.Guest.Communications@disneyworld.com, copying the email to Disability.Services@DisneyParks.com and specify that it for a DAS concern and give a phone number to call.

Some basic background on Fastpass+ may be needed.  As of today (and the program is subject to change), each guest is allowed 3 FP+ ‘reservations’ per day and they must be all at a single Park.  Epcot and Hollywood Studios (DHS) use a tier system which allows one FP+ for Tier 1 and 2 from Tier 2; the Magic Kingdom (MK) and the Animal Kingdom (DAK) have no tiers in place at this time.  A full list of all available FP+ attractions is at the end of this article for your reference.  If needed you can change your FP+ times and/or attractions at any time using the My Disney Experience (MDE) app on your phone, computer or at any of the FP+ kiosks available throughout the Parks.

And for some background on the DAS program, please visit our November article on this at this link: Our Experience With Disney’s DAS Card.  We also wrote on our general experiences at this link: Autism in the Parks.

We have now used our scheduled FP+ at all 4 Parks.  In order to test successfully, we chose to use only the DAS card itself and no additional accommodations.  Our first Park was DAK, where we had FP+ scheduled for Kilimanjaro Safari, Dinosaur and Finding Nemo – The Musical.   We started out by riding Kilimanjaro Safari.  Afterwards, on the way to Dinosaur, we stopped to get a DAS return time for Expedition Everest.  After riding Dinosaur we headed back to use our Everest return time.  We then headed back to get a DAS time for Primeval Whirl before going to watch Finding Nemo; afterwards going back to use the Primeval Whirl time.  There was a little more ‘back and forth’ and planning here, but it was reasonable and do-able; and we were able to successfully spend a good afternoon with little stress.

Our second Park was DHS.  Here we chose FP+ times for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (RNR), Tower of Terror (ToT) and Star Tours.  On our way to Star Tours, we stopped for a DAS return time for Toy Story Mania (TSM).  Let me mention that for a day at DHS, we would suggest getting one FP+ time for TSM due to the always high return times.  The available times this day were outside our visit range so we adapted.  After Star Tours we stopped and watched Muppet*Vision 3D before returning to Toy Story for our return time ride.  We then went to Tower of Terror and rode and headed for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.  The coaster was down at this point and we later learned that Disney had sent an email to our registered MDE email letting us know that it was down and allowing us to use our FP+ at any time that day at DHS on any attraction.  If an attraction is down during any of your FP+ times, check your MDE or at a FP+ kiosk for the options you’re given in exchange.  We did ride the Great Movie Ride before heading out this day.  My thoughts on DHS are to FP+ TSM and if you plan to ride both ToT and RNR, to FP+ ToT and get a DAS time for RNR first.  That will allow you to hit both rides fairly easily with little back and forth.

Our third Park was Epcot.  For this visit we chose Test Track, The Seas with Nemo and Friends and Spaceship Earth.  We first headed to The Land where we got a return time for Soarin’ and then rode Living with the Land and a quick rest stop at Sunshine Seasons before riding Soarin’.  Soarin’ is a good choice for using your DAS instead of FP+ only because you do have some options within The Land to spend your wait time (Living with the Land, Circle of Life, a meal or snack at Sunshine Seasons).  We then rode Nemo and Friends and visited the manatee rescue station before heading over to Test Track, riding with our FP+.  We then ended our visit with a Spaceship Earth ride.  If following our method, you could also stop and get a return time at Mission: Space before riding Test Track and can also use Universe of Energy to spend wait time.  Maelstrom can easily use a DAS return time with a stroll around the surrounding Pavilions to pass time.

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Finally our tests brought us to the Magic Kingdom.  For this particular visit we chose Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (BTMR), Under the Sea and Space Ranger Spin.  On the way to BTMR we stopped for a return time for Haunted Mansion, rode BTMR and then returned to Haunted Mansion to ride.  We got a return time for Pirates of the Caribbean and went to get Dole Whips to pass the wait time.  We returned to Pirates and then headed to Fantasyland.  There we got a return time for Winnie the Pooh, watched Mickey’s PhilharMagic and then went back to ride Pooh.  We then went to Under the Sea for our FP+ time (we would have gotten a return time for Peter Pan’s Flight but that was down at the time.  After Under the Sea we stopped at Space Mountain for a return time before riding Buzz and the PeopleMover.  We then used the return time on Space Mountain (well, the kids did) before heading out for the day.
We did a second trip to the Magic Kingdom this past Saturday, starting earlier than usual (we arrived around 10am whereas we normally start our Park days between 1:30pm and 2:30pm).  We were able to walk on Haunted Mansion, PhilharMagic, Country Bears, Carousel of Progress and PeopleMover that day while using FP+ for Big Thunder, Mickey Mouse Meet and Tomorrowland Speedway and DAS return times for Pooh, Buzz, Space Mountain and Peter Pan.  Our son did comment that this was the best day he had at Disney since the GAC changed to the DAS.

Our overall experience was positive.  If planning accordingly, you can balance FP+ and DAS return times along with shows, snack/meal breaks and “quiet time” periods successfully.  We would highly recommend consulting a Park map as you plan FP+ times so that you can work them well together with DAS return times without doing more ‘back and forth’ travelling than is needed and to plan DAS return times for attractions where there are some low wait time attractions or shows nearby to help you pass wait times.  A good example, based on our experience, is to get a FP+ for BTMR given how far it is from other attractions (especially when Splash Mountain is closed); so you won’t have to trek to the back of the Park to do this as a DAS return.  We would also suggest that if you have a child who would like to ride something more than once to get a FP+ time, but get a DAS return time before boarding at your FP+ time.  This will allow for a quicker re-boarding for a second ride.  Finally, we suggest that if you eat a meal, get a DAS return time before you go to the meal, as we did with Haunted Mansion when eating at Columbia Harbor House.

Please also take the time to listen to the wonderful Special Mouse Podcast, I was a guest on a recent episode that you can listen to on iTunes, Stitcher or at this link: Beta Testing the DAS Card with Fast Pass+ at Walt Disney World.

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Animal Kingdom Fastpass+ Attractions

DINOSAUR
Expedition Everest
Festival of the Lion King
Finding Nemo – The Musical
It’s Tough to Be a Bug!
Kali River Rapids
Kilimanjaro Safaris
Meet Favorite Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost
Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade
Primeval Whirl

Magic Kingdom Fastpass+ Attractions

Ariel’s Grotto
The Barnstormer
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
Festival of Fantasy Parade
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
Enchanted Tales with Belle
The Haunted Mansion
it’s a small world
Jungle Cruise
Mad Tea Party
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
Main Street Electrical Parade
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Mickey’s PhilharMagic
Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
Peter Pan’s Flight
Pirates of the Caribbean
Princess Fairytale Hall: Meet Cinderella and a Visiting Princess
Princess Fairytale Hall: Meet Rapunzel and a Visiting Princess
Princess Fairytale Hall: Meet Anna and Elsa from Frozen
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Space Mountain
Splash Mountain
Tomorrowland Speedway
Town Square Theater Mickey Mouse Meet and Greet
Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid
Wishes Nighttime Spectacular

Epcot Fastpass+ Attractions

Group A (Choose 1)

Epcot Character Spot
IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth
Maelstrom
Soarin’
Test Track

Group B (Choose 2)

Captain EO
Journey Into Imagination With Figment
Living with the Land
Mission: SPACE (Green or Orange)
Spaceship Earth
The Seas with Nemo & Friends
Turtle Talk with Crush

Hollywood Studios Fastpass+ Attractions

Group A (Choose 1)

Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage
Fantasmic!
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
Toy Story Mania!

Group B (Choose 2)

Disney Junior – Live on Stage!
Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!
Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show
Muppet*Vision 3D
Star Tours: The Adventures Continue
The American Idol Experience
The Comedy Warehouse Holiday Special (Seasonal)
The Great Movie Ride
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Voyage of the Little Mermaid

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Annual Passholder MyMagic+ Update

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This afternoon, Disney Destinations sent an email to all AP holders alerting them that MyMagic+ is now available for all passholders.  The following information was included in that email.

“As a Disney Passholder, you now have access to MyMagic+! Your Walt Disney World visits can be more magical than ever—from reserving select attractions, shows and Character experiences in advance to entering the Theme Parks with your very own MagicBand.

And this is just the start! We’re always listening and learning to improve the experience for you. “

Disney FastPass+
Now you can choose from double the number of attractions and experiences than our original Disney FASTPASS® Service provided. Plan for seven days of Disney FastPass+ selections within a 30 day period*. Your seven days don’t have to be consecutive-and you can plan for any additional day as soon as you use one of your existing days.

*One Theme Park per day. Valid Theme Park admission and online registration required. Disney FastPass+ attractions and entertainment experiences, the number of selections you can make and available arrival windows are limited.”

MagicBand
They’re cool. They’re colorful. They’re complimentary. And MagicBands are now available to Passholders! Use them to enter the Walt Disney World Theme Parks, enjoy your Disney FastPass+ selections and more.

Be sure to keep your Pass/discount card and photo ID with you for Passholder discounts!

Please visit MyDisneyExperience.com/privacy for information about our privacy and data collection policies and to learn more about RF technology used in MagicBands and RF cards.

To learn more or get started, call 407-560-PASS (7277). “


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2013 Florida School Grades

FL School Grades

The Florida Department of Education released their School Grades for 2013.

You can follow the link below to view all of their listings and historical information for all Florida schools.

http://schoolgrades.fldoe.org/

Mark.

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A Walk in the Park With Phil Holmes

This past Wednesday I was able to participate in a Disney Parks Blog Limited Time Magic opportunity; a walk through the Magic Kingdom with Phil Holmes, the VP of the Magic Kingdom (MK).  I wanted to share this tour with you. We started outside the main gate at 7:45am with Phil telling us that this tour came out of the Park walk-throughs that he asks his new leaders to do as they join his team.  This is done so that the leadership can gauge what the frontline Cast Members (CMs) see and hear during their days.  This lets Disney provide the best experiences for the Guests and it is those top flight experiences that in turn drive the Disney ‘machine’.  By providing the best for the Guests, Disney takes care of the financial line without worrying about the bottom line as most companies do, the bottom line takes care of itself.

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Our first stop was at the Roy Disney/Minnie Mouse bench in Town Square.  Phil shared his story of working construction for Disney World before it opened and how he saw how differently Roy acted in comparison to how he thought a company leader would, particularly in seeing Roy bus away his own tray as well as others’ after lunches in the construction cafeteria.

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We walked down Main Street taking in the view of a near empty Park (some early ADR Guests were in by this time) and Cinderella Castle.  We stopped in front of the Castle to view a card showing the many different ‘variations’ the Castle has had over the years.  Phil did quip that the comment he most hears about the Castle is how bad the 25th Anniversary ‘Birthday Cake Castle’ was and that it shouldn’t be done again (personal thought here – I agree).  His story here was simple, that Walt’s vision for Disneyland and Disney World was that they weren’t built to be museums, static and never-changing.  They were meant to change and evolve and to always bring new experiences.  To exemplify this he told how the current colour of the Castle isn’t the same as it was back on Opening Day.  A few years back the designer of the Castle in Paris came to him and Meg Crofton and suggested that the colouring schemes used there would also fit the MK Castle as well.  And so, with confidence (and the thought that if it didn’t work they could always re-paint it) the Castle was re-painted…and it looks wonderful.
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From here we walked up to the Castle’s main entrance and behind the Castle Stage.  We could see back up a now empty Main Street and into the Hub.  Phil told us here what he had said back during the 40th Anniversary Celebration (which we had attended 2 years ago) and reminisced on his time as a CM at the Haunted Mansion on opening day; a job he got after impressing his boss while working construction and being offered a job “inside in the air conditioning”.

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We then walked through “the hardest working Castle in the world” and into Fantasyland; the ‘heart’ of the Magic Kingdom.  Here we saw photos of Fantasyland as it was opening day and how it has changed over the years.  Phil explained why the decision was made to replace Snow White’s Scary Adventure with Princess Fairytale Hall.  This was because on Opening Day and for years you met the Princesses in Fantasyland but they had since moved to places they just didn’t belong, Mickey’s Toontown Fair and then Town Square; and that the fairy tale Princesses belonged in Fantasyland in the Castle.  Since there was no room in the Castle, they picked the next thing, the show building next to it.  He told of how he questioned the Imagineers on the need for Castle Walls being added as part of the New Fantasyland expansion; agreeing once it was explained that the walls ‘close off’ the Castle Courtyard and transition you into the Villages and Enchanted Forest of New Fantasyland.  He also told us here that we’ll never see the true classic attractions close; mentioning “it’s a small world”, “Pirates of the Caribbean”, “Haunted Mansion” and “Peter Pan’s Flight”.  We’ll see them change and evolve, using the addition of Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow to Pirates as an example, but not closed.

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We walked into New Fantasyland first stopping at the Be Our Guest Restaurant.  Here we heard how the designers wanted to feature a restaurant as the centerpiece of the expansion in order to provide a new experience not available in the Park before and in a way to make it accessible to all; counter service for lunch and sit-down service for dinner while encompassing the Guests into the Beauty and the Beast story.  We walked into Belle’s Village where we learned that having Gaston meet here was an important piece as he was highly requested and seldom appeared outside of Epcot and that his Meet and Greet has become a very popular and interactive experience.  We visited Bonjour Gifts where Phil posed with the portrait of “his ancestor” that hangs there.  I asked him here what the ‘story’ is behind the ‘little door’ behind the Shoppe.  He had no real answer, saying that it was a great way to theme a utility hatch, but if Guests wanted a story, he’d have to ask the Imagineers to create one; perhaps a door for Mrs. Potts to use to visit the Shoppe.  Last we visited “Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid”.  Here we learned how the Imagineers learn all the time how to apply new technology and methods even to older attractions.  In this case it is the grass.  The grass covering the outside of this attraction is so realistic that many do believe it is real.  This can now be applied to other attractions that feature grassy areas, specifically mentioning Splash Mountain, to make them more realistic.  We also learned that the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Coaster is on schedule to open pre-summer of 2014 as planned.  This coaster was designed with families in mind, following Walt’s vision that the rides should always be ones that the whole family can enjoy together, including rollercoasters; and this will be one that all can ride and not just the 75% that ride many other Disney coasters like Space Mountain.

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From here we ventured into Storybook Circus.  Here were learned that the vision of Storybook Circus came from designs that Walt Disney had drawn up himself for a never built Circusland at Disneyland.  We also learned that research had shown that for almost all Guests, a stay at Disney World couldn’t end without riding Dumbo, so over the years Dumbo was redesigned to add arms and elephant cars but that it still wasn’t enough.  Building Storybook Circus allowed for an increased capacity by adding the second Dumbo; but it also allowed for a centerpiece to be built for the area, the wait area that allows for children to play and burn energy while parents enjoy a rest in the air conditioning. Now came our big surprise as we walked down to the Fantasyland Train Station.  We boarded the train and were told that we were going to help be part of the Magic Kingdom Welcome Show…wow!  After we boarded we had a Q&A time with Phil where we learned things such as Limited Time Magic will end 12/31/13 but may come back in future years, there are no plans for ‘Dapper Danielles’ but there were also no plans in the past for female train engineers or other positions so ‘never say never’, the Frozen Princesses will be around for Meets ‘forever’ but not at the Magic Kingdom, Phil’s granddaughters were Batman and Robin for Halloween and more trinkets.  Now it was time for the characters to board; Mary Poppins, Stitch, Lady Tremaine, Pluto, Minnie and Mickey (and more).  The train circled around to the Main Street Station and hearing the noise build as we got closer and closer was just electric.  Waving to the waiting crowd and being a part of a show that opens the Park to all each day brought a lump to my throat…it was just pure joy and I was a little boy again.

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After the show we each had a photo taken with Phil and received a special gift, a Legacy of Leadership pin featuring a photo of Walt in front of a Florida map.  A treasure I’ll cherish forever!

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A huge thank you to the Walt Disney Company, the Disney Parks Blog and to Mr. Phil Holmes for providing this opportunity to all of those who have had a chance to enjoy this thrilling time.

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