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The Brickers' Holi-Disney Christmas Vacation 2010 Report (D23 Event, Reunion, etc!)


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  • Trip Report The Brickers' Holi-Disney Christmas Vacation 2010 Report (D23 Event, Reunion, etc!)


    #1 - Gilt Groupe/Gilt Man
    #2 - Rue La La
    #3 - HauteLook
    #4 - Ideeli (mostly women's stuff)
    #5 - Beyond the Rack

    Alright, enough with the disclaimers, warnings, and other miscellaneous opening remarks. On with the show!


    We re-traced our steps, headed to the other side of the airport, and boarded the DME shortly thereafter. Since we were staying at an All Star resort (Music) the first night of our trip, we were sandwiched in among Pop Warners parents and players. They must not have been too loud, as I was able to sleep. (I almost wish they had kept me awake, as I missed that DME video, which I love!)

    During our honeymoon, we met up with Henry Work, the developer for one evening. Shortly thereafter, I began writing for the Blog and working for on photo projects for the site. If you check out the mastheads at the top of each page, you might recognize some of the photos. With the exception of the Disneyland TouringPlans site

    galleries for each attraction

    We split off from the group after Haunted Mansion as it looked like it would be a long wait before everyone else got off the attraction. While we like doing group things, we were concerned with getting as much done as possible before my parents joined us two days later, as we predicted the pace would slow down then.

    As we approached the return-station on the TTA, we noticed the group heading into Tomorrowland. We watched them as we exited the ride, and they queued up for Buzz Lightyear Spaceranger Spin. It seemed like as good of a time as any to rejoin the group, so we did. Managed to do TTA while they had waited--not too shabby!

    To mentally prepare myself for the party, way back in September I began assembling tracks from the Main Street loop that plays during MVMCP. Shout out to, which helped me immensely in this process: Mickey&#39;s Very Merry Christmas Party - MSUSA BGM - Magic Music Forums[/URL]

    My first big decision photography-wise occurred before the fireworks started. I had to decide whether I wanted to photograph from the train station, availing myself of the clear view (no flagpole) of them and endure the poor atmosphere (they leave the lights on up there and I *think* the music is quieter), or shoot from Main Street, have better atmosphere and full view of the perimeter bursts, but miss out on the once-a-year view from the train station. My mind was made up for me, as when we approached the train station to scope it out, it appeared to be pretty packed. Oh well, Main Street would be more than sufficient.

    A Mouse-Eye View of Main Street at Christmas by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr

    Our plan for the next day was to make it to the Betamouse podcast

    When the formal portion of the event concluded, we again lingered to get some more photos of the pavilion before heading out. We then headed to the United Kingdom with Len and Henry to scope out locations for the TouringPlans meet later in the night.

    The next event was a group ride on SpaceShip Earth on which we would all select Skagway, Alaska as our home city. Prior to this, Sarah took some photos of the entire Reunion group, and some individual/group shots of the TouringPlans bloggers and staff.

    By the time we arrived at World Showcase Lagoon, all that was left were obstructed views. Of those, the view from the shot below was by far the best, and was actually a great compromise between cool foreground and watching the show.

    Plus, I view Walter Cronkite as an American legend and hero, and seeing and--more importantly, actually--hearing this show with his narration as many times as possible this trip was pretty important to me. I took away keepers each of the three times we saw it (I'll give credit to Mr. Cronkite for that!), which is new for me. I know Mr. Cronkite won't be narrating this tag forever, so I only hope I can enjoy it as many times as possible while his narration is used.

    Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr

    The rest of the morning and afternoon at DHS was pretty standard, with lunch at Pizza Planet (they got rid of the ranch dressing!). We got FPs for the headliners and hit most of our favorites. At one point, I wandered away from everyone else while taking pictures.

    At 6:45 pm, it was time for us to break off from my parents and do another Reunion event put on by Mouse Fan Travel. I felt a little bad about this, as I know they would have enjoyed it, but Sarah and I got the last two tickets for the event, and two additional tickets never became available. My parents ended up getting to see the Osborne Lights and riding TSM to end the night, though, so I think they had fun, too.

    I was able to enjoy some wonderful desserts AND photograph Fantasmic with the 70-200 f/2.8 and (more importantly) an unobstructed viewed. The event was already worth its $28 price tag. Yet, it was not over. After that, we were led backstage again to an area that looked like it was near Pixar Place.

    !SAMTSIRHC YRREM by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr

    It ended up being one of the most fun nights of the trip. Letting loose, so to speak, with other individuals down there for Reunion was a great time, and talking shop about all things Disney was great. Discussing the future of California Adventure or the viability of a River Country DVC is probably a more typical bar conversation, but as Disney geeks, I think we all had a good time.


    As always, we got our best character photos of the trip at DAK. For as much as I complain about this park, it does constantly deliver good character photo opportunities for us. Perhaps this is because it is substantively lacking elsewhere, so this entertainment is necessary.

    Nick told us that the candy-cane cheesecake was pretty popular, but he failed to mention that it was candy-cane AND eggnog cheesecake. Sarah and I split an order of it anyway. It was okay, tasting exactly like I imagined a melding of candy-cane and eggnog would. Interesting combination.

    After that, we waddled our way to the Studios. Nick had to stop at home first, so I asked him to bring me a jacket or sweatshirt. It turned out that jeans and a polo would not be warm enough to 40 degree weather. While we waited for him, we hit Voyage of the Little Mermaid with my parents.

    I then found Nick and Sarah, and as we wandered some more, a sweatshirt at Youse Guys

    We spent the rest of the night doing attraction and taking pictures before calling it a night. We again had to walk from the Poly (we would every night except the last night at Shades of Green, so assume this from here out), which was even less fun than the previous night, as no one was arrested this time.

    Their presentation lasted two hours, and each moment of it had me on the edge of my seat. It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. As we left Segway Central (where the event was held) and Innoventions in general, we found we were locked in the building! After much searching, we finally asked a Mousekeeping CM how to get out. He simply pulled the automatic doors a tad, and they opened. We probably should have figured that out on our own, instead of just walking towards them like chumps and expecting something to happen.

    We actually had so much fun the night of Kimonos that when Henry sent me a message saying that he and UK Tom were going to be hanging out at the Polynesian that evening--an evening that was already shaping up to be the coldest of the trip--we opted against heading over to the Magic Kingdom after Epcot. This was a tough decision, as it meant missing one of two opportunities on the trip to see the Main Street Electrical Parade. The allure of the Polynesian is strong, though, so we decided to take the warmth of the tropics over playing in the Magic Kingdom. Like Kimonos, it would amount to being a nice change of pace.

    Shortly before our Via Napoli ADR, we headed over to Italy. Via Napoli was packed! Most of the people, it appeared, were walkups being turned away after pleading for availability for a few minutes. If there is no availability for a given restaurant, I wish Disney would put out a sign, or have a separate check-in for guests with ADRs. We waited in line for roughly 10 minutes to check-in, and I believe only one other party checked-in before us in the line.

    EPCOT Center - White Christmas by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr

    Last edited by NeverNeverland; 01-05-2011, 03:17 PM. Reason: Link to non partner site and affiliate links removed per board policy
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  • #2
    Re: The Brickers' Holi-Disney Christmas Vacation 2010 Report (D23 Event, Reunion, etc

    Joking aside, I had no clue what she meant by a “real” burger. In any case, Sarah’s burger tasted no different than a burger at Cosmic Ray’s, and was certainly not comparable to Beaches and Cream. My Club was decent, but lacking. It seemed like it had about half the things listed in the menu’s description of it. Definitely not somewhere I’d go out my way to dine at again. My expectations for Disney restaurants aren’t that high, and this was one of the few restaurants I’d consider to be a dud. Hopefully the Magic Kingdom steps up the dining when the Fantasyland Expansion is finished.

    We spent the rest of the afternoon doing attractions. Of note we did Hall of Presidents, PhilharMagic, and Carousel of Progress. During each of these shows, someone tall sat right in front of me. Without fail. I can understand this during PhilharMagic, as it plays to a packed house every show, but the other ones must have been bad luck. Part of my platform if I were dictator of WDW would be that no one over 6’ could sit in the front 75% of the theatre at any show. I meant it when I said I’d make a great dictator of WDW!

    Then came our big decision. We had yet to see the Main Street Electrical Parade or Wishes, and this would be our last opportunity of the trip. However, if we stayed for Wishes, we risked not being able to get to EPCOT in time for Illuminations. To beat the crowds heading to the TTC after Wishes, we decided we’d compromise, and watch Wishes from the TTC. However, to do this, we couldn’t watch the entire MSEP, either, as it started at 7, Wishes started at 8, and there probably would be a decent line for the monorail already amassed by 7:30, the earliest we’d likely get out of the MK. We compromised, watching a little of the MSEP before bolting for the TTC. Even with leaving early, we still had to wait for a while at the monorail station. I can only imagine the line after MSEP or Wishes.

    We got to the TTC about 5 minutes before Wishes started, and I found a spot from which to photograph. Not realizing what the gates right in front of the location where I set up did (I’ll admit, I had some of that “herd mentality” as I merely set up where I saw other people waiting to watch the fireworks), I poised myself for the show. About 1 minute into it, I saw a mass of people heading towards me. I was set up right on the other side of an exit gate for the Magic Kingdom Ferry! Luckily, there were several gates and no one attempted to come through the one where I was, but I still had to brace the gate so the vibration from the other gates didn’t slap the gate near me open and into my tripod. I also had to growl at anyone who came within 15 feet of the gate. I’m sure some people wondered what was going on with that. Live and learn, I guess.

    The line for the EPCOT monorail wasn’t so bad. I guess not many people want to go to a park for its last hour of operation. We got there fairly quickly, and headed through bag check in no time. I had dreams of the park being as empty as it was the previous night, but unfortunately, 10 degrees made a huge difference, and the place was packed. There were no empty spots along the rail lining the lagoon--at least decent empty spots--so we decided to take a risk, and head up to a new location. I managed to get my tripod elevated quite high in this location, and ended up with some decent shots, I think.

    After the fireworks, we spent some time taking some photos. It was warmer--still incredibly cold, but it’s all relative--so we decided we had better get some shots of us. We were lacking on shots of us (if we had a quota, we’d be failing to meet it, for certain), so we took some time to take some of these. As we began walking towards the exit, Sarah spotted an abandoned ECV. She was so tired that she checked the vehicle to see if it could be driven. I thanked my lucky stars that it could not, as the last thing I wanted was to be banned from WDW for unauthorized ECV use. How ironic would that be?

    By foot, we dragged ourselves towards the exit. Our colds were really catching up with us, even if we didn’t want to let them. This particular evening we stopped off for a little break at the Polynesian on our way home. Every night for the remainder of the trip, we ended up doing this to warm up a little. We were at the Polynesian so much this trip that it’s almost like we stayed there. In fact, we easily spent more time in the lobby and restaurants of the Polynesian than we did at Shades of Green. If you take out the time we spent sleeping and getting ready in the morning, we were at the Polynesian more overall!

    When we arrived back at Shades of Green, Sarah and I stopped to relax on these giant plush bears in the lobby. These things were gianormous, comfortable, and just all around awesome. The whole Shades of Green lobby was pretty awesome, actually. By far the coolest aspect of the resort. It had the look of a scaled back Wilderness Lodge that really fit the Christmas season well. The coolest part of all was that, among the games, books, and magazines Shades of Green had in the lobby for guests to enjoy were copies of the Color Companion to the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, a book for which I’m a photographer. I jokingly asked Sarah if I should autograph the books. She responded with a resounding yes, but I didn’t know how I’d explain that one if someone saw me signing them, so I decided against it.

    We wanted to recover a bit before the big weekend, so Sarah and I decided to sleep in a bit on Thursday. This worked out nicely because my mom is a shopping fiend, and wanted to spend time at Downtown Disney, and we had no desire to go there. We thus decided that we would meet them for lunch at Whispering Canyon, and do our own thing in the morning.

    Unfortunately, when we made the ADR for Whispering Canyon, we were feeling well (it was, after all, made around 2 months before the trip) and expected to be heading to EPCOT that morning before doing a late lunch. Since we weren’t sleeping in for that long of a time period, I decided to pull up Disney Dining on my phone (kudos on the nice mobile interface, Disney) and got an earlier ADR. I figured my mom would be pleased to hear this, but she was actually a little dismayed, as it would give her “only” a little over an hour to shop at DtD.

    Sarah often gives me grief about buying too many things (rightfully so - I have more crap and clothing than I care to disclose), but it’s safe to say I’m nowhere near as bad as my mom. She loves to shop. Whether it be pins, keychains, sweatshirts, blankets, hats--you name it, she probably bought it. My dad, on the other hand, can’t stand shopping. While we were in stores during the trip, he would just park his wheel chair in an area of sun bundle up under a blanket, and take a nap. I can only imagine what people thought as they passed by. He looked like someone just abandoned him; always in random locations, always asleep in his chair.

    In any case, the early ADR for Whispering Canyon made a lot more sense to me. One thing I hadn’t thought through, however, was transportation. We gave ourselves plenty of time to get to the Wilderness Lodge--or so we thought--but it turned out that buses didn’t go from the TTA to Wilderness Lodge, which threw a wrench in our plans. The really disappointing thing was that Sarah and I actually got off a bus headed for the Studios, from which you obviously can catch a bus to Wilderness Lodge, and onto a bus that was headed towards the TTA because the TTA was closer to Shades of Green (and Wilderness Lodge) than DHS, so I figured it would be quicker to go that route. Once at the TTA, we caught the monorail and then caught a boat for Wilderness Lodge. We were late, but it was no big deal, as my parents beat us there and had checked in. Even after checking in, we still had to wait.

    I had a little time to do some shooting, so I went upstairs. Near a fireplace that was tucked away where I was shooting, there was an elderly couple sleeping on separate chairs. I quietly went about my business (thank you, D7000's quiet shutter mode!), taking a few shots without waking them. It was too dark up there to shoot sans tripod, so I was using that. Then, I got the bright idea that a photograph of them might be 'cute' (although I don't find old people attractive, this term is often used for them, and I don't have a better term, so...). I grappled with the idea for a bit, thinking it was highly invasive, but also, that it would make for one cool shot. Ultimately, my mind was made up for me, as my phone vibrated--our table was ready and I didn't have time for the shot (which would require a different lens).

    Normally, I might consider getting the shot anyway and just making everyone wait (kidding!), but I was really hungry, so I quickly headed down to Whispering Canyon. I had heard there are a number of things you can do to get the staff to mess with you, but I wanted our experience to be more “natural” so I didn’t memorize a list or anything like that. The only thing, specifically, I could even remember was asking for ketchup. I hoped our experience would be cool even if we didn’t know any of the “prompts.”

    It certainly was, and I’m glad we just let things happen as they may. Our waitress, who seemed disappointed by serving us (in a good, hilarious way), started by throwing a handful of straws at our table. On top of that, she told us that the tap water was from the pond, and made a few other witty remarks. The highlight of the meal, though, was her bringing a gigantic cup of Coke for me after I rather quickly finished my first glass. (I typically drink my table service Coke quickly in WDW to get as much caffeine as possible so that I don’t have to buy more later--yes, I’m cheap.)

    My mom and I ended up ordering the Canyon Skillets, while Sarah got some sort of chicken or turkey sandwich. She was going to get the skillet, too, but when she asked the server for a recommendation as between the sandwich and the skillet, the server said to get the sandwich, as we had already ordered the skillet and Sarah could just try food from our skillets. I was surprised that she would suggest this, but it was nonetheless nice of her.

    The skillets were excellent and very filling. Given my cold, I wasn’t exactly eating as much as I normally would, so I probably didn’t get exceptional value out of the skillet, but it was still a great meal. The mashed potatoes were a standout, as were the ribs and the pork sausage. Really, it was all good. Writing about it now is actually making me hungry for it!

    While my mom waited for the bill, I went to the lobby to take some more pictures before we left. I figured I would be time-pressured, so I wanted to get a good head start. I didn’t realize my mom had shopping to do after paying, or I probably wouldn’t have left the table early. We ended up staying at Wilderness Lodge far longer than I anticipated.

    Lazy Holidaze at the Wilderness Lodge by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr

    Following lunch, we finally arrived at our first park of the day: EPCOT. Wait times were particularly bad this day, and we didn’t really end up doing a whole lot. To be fair, we did get there in the early afternoon, and would be leaving only a few hours later. Still, it’s a little disappointing to only do a handful of attractions in a day. It’s not as if wait times were prohibitive or because we had a bad touring plan; it was entirely by choice.

    Before we left EPCOT, my mom and Sarah wanted to make a stop at the Art of Disney store, where I had been drooling over a few things (stops at the Art of Disney store--that I had initiated on previous days--and other such detours were a large part of why we were managing so few attractions per day). Since I figured they didn’t want me with them, I took my camera up near the front of the park, and took some photos.

    It took them a while in Art of Disney, which at the time was frustrating since it was approaching 6 pm and MVMCP started at 7 pm, but it was worth it on Christmas morning when I opened a couple awesome prints!

    We exited the park, right as the sunset was finally starting to get good (I swear I spent more awesome sunsets on the monorail this time than during any other trip) and headed to TTC. MVMCP had sold out for that evening, something we considered shocking given that it was still early to mid December, but if the crowds at the TTC were any glimpse into the crowdedness of the party (they weren’t) it would be packed.

    We arrived at the MK around 6:40, and immediately got in line for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Well, we thought Snow White would be there. Apparently, Grumpy had made some sexist remarks to Snow White about women, “not belonging in the ‘Dwarf Mine’,” and Snow White was a bit offended. So she never did show up. While this explanation might be more humorous, I imagine the actual explanation was that Disney wanted to give the impression of more entertainment at the party than there actually was, so Snow White got her own meet & greet in Toontown, thereby creating two separate lines for people to wait in to see her and the dwarfs. This was really disappointing, because the Dwarf Mine set up for the little guys looked great, and was (surprisingly) well lit. At least we got a photo with Snow White AND the Dwarfs at last year’s MNSSHP (I guess MNSSHP has enough entertainment that they don’t have to separate the characters); unfortunately, the lighting was crappy at the Halloween party.

    By 7:15, we were through the Dwarf line (ironic, as it was quite a lengthy line). We wandered around, heading over to the Golden Horseshoe to watch the dance party again. For some reason, this dance party was very captivating to us--us being Sarah and my mom. Both of them danced with the characters, having quite the good time. I am not down with the hip hop music, so I didn’t quite see the appeal. I also was a bit surprised at some of the suggestive songs being played. I doubt the little tykes understand the messages of these songs (or at least I hope they don’t understand them at their ages), so maybe it’s not such a big deal. Still, not what you’d expect to see in the Magic Kingdom. Before we left, I saw one of the Country Bears “getting down,” so I busted some of my ill moves next to him. I can assure you all, you’ve never seen moves like mine. They are...terrible...seriously, train wreck bad. Ill is not an exaggeration. They are so ill they would remind you of a rabid raccoon.

    Since it’s patently obvious that WDW has made cuts to MVMCP in the last several years (free photo, Twas, portions of the fireworks, etc.) without adding much new quality entertainment (nothing pertaining to the Castle counts as that is run regardless of MVMCP--even if it weren’t, the argument can be made that the Castle lights only offset the loss of Country Bear Christmas), and while dramatically increasing the price, it would be nice if little “plusses” were made to the party. For example, during a normal day at the MK, the toilet paper that is out is pretty brutal. During the party, maybe they could bring in some of that nice 2-ply stuff they have at the Grand Floridian and Polynesian. Yet another example of why I’d make a great dictator of WDW. Heck, if any Disney executives are reading this, I’d even settle for a middle management position!

    After the dance party, unsurprisingly, my mom wanted to do some more shopping. Since I knew she wouldn’t want to stay the entire night, and the stores get especially packed around closing, I agreed to go then. Plus, you never want to delay when LE pins are at stake! The Emporium, unsurprisingly, was a mad house. I quickly exited the store in favor of wandering around Main Street. I told Sarah to call me when they were done.

    We caught the first parade, arriving only 15 minutes early but catching it from our super secret perfect location. Watching it so many times gave me the luxury of shooting it with numerous different lenses. I actually ended up using all of my lenses except the 50mm f/1.8, which has become the black sheep of my herd (oh yes, the appropriate term for 4 or more lenses is a herd).

    After the first parade, we found a spot for the fireworks. Given that the party was sold out, I was a little surprised that Main Street wasn’t more packed for the fireworks. My theory was that a large block of tickets went to the cheerleaders, and they either left voluntary because the cold was too much, or were hospitalized because of it. Either way, I wasn’t too beat up about the park being less busy than I expected. The fireworks, just as they were the time prior, were awesome. I could watch that show again and again--I certainly listen to its soundtrack enough during the Christmas season.

    Celebrate the Season was next on the agenda. This was the one thing, entertainment-wise, that Sarah and I had not done the previous party. We had only seen this show once ever, as it was cancelled in 2008 when we last attended the party. This show was pretty good; perhaps better than I remembered. That, or last time the measuring stick for it was Mickey’s Twas the Night Before Christmas, and this time, the measuring stick was A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas. Funny how everything is relative.

    Merry Christmas (Eve) From Mickey &amp; Minnie by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr

    For the second parade, we were going to go for our normal super secret awesome spot, when I spotted a new awesome spot! It turns out that a filming crew was at the MK to shoot a commercial for ABC. I had been thinking about using the fisheye to photograph the parade, but this sealed the deal. There was a “father and son” (those are air quotes, for what it’s worth) on the curb right in front of us who were models for the commercial. Let me just say that I would not want to be a Disney model. Different people kept approaching the two of them, telling them to do things differently. Three different people told them contradictory ways to sit (boy on outside vs. father on outside), and kept making other requests of them. It was funny to hear the kid and dad talk; I realize actual father-son teams are not usually cast for these things, but it’s still funny to hear a “father” ask his “son” where he is from. It was also funny overhearing the crew talk amongst themselves about how much they hate shooting at WDW because of all the rules, requirements, and control. The coolest part, by far, though, was seeing all that camera gear. I can only imagine how much some of THAT stuff cost. I think my little Nikon D7000 and Rokinon fisheye had a bit of performance anxiety.

    Speaking of the D7000, I've received a lot of emails, messages, and comments about how I liked the D7000. I haven't responded to any of these yet (or any messages for the last month or so--been busy--sorry!), and this as good of a time as any to give my capsule review of the D7000's powers, so I figured why not give some of my thoughts now.

    First, the pros. The dual memory card slot is nice, as is the virtual horizon (yet I still manage to get slightly crooked shots). The ability to meter with older lenses is great, as it enabled me to buy a Samyang/Rokinon fisheye that wouldn't have metered with the D90. The camera is well built (better than the D90). The biggest upgrade of all, that I have noticed, has been the dynamic range increase. I can really push and pull a RAW file in all directions. It's huge.

    Now, the negatives: the high ISO increase does not meet my expectations. This was a big selling point for me as I shoot a lot in low light without a tripod, and I was hoping to push the ISO more. The buffer does not seem noticeably improved, and that's running class 10 cards. I still experience slowdown. The RAW files are huge; I suppose some people might consider this an advantage, but I'm fine with 10MP. The advanced settings in auto-ISO are sort of wacky when using the Nikon CLS flash system. This may not seem like a big deal, but I actually use this a lot.

    Maybe my expectations are too high, but I am already looking forward to the D400 or (don't tell Sarah) the D700's replacement. My next camera will probably be full frame regardless of the D400's features, as full frame enables me to buy the 14-24 f/2.8, which is the holy grail of lenses for me.

    Overall, I would say the D7000 is a good camera, but a bit overrated. The price difference between the D90 and the D7000 is going to be about $600 for most people. Because I bought an Epson printer that had a nice mail in rebate (and subsequently resold the printer), and sold my D90 before the D7000 was announced (and thus before the market had a chance to react) the upgrade was only around $200 for me. For that amount, it was a worthwhile upgrade. For $600, if money is an issue, I would suggest putting that money towards an UWA lens. If money is no issue...why not buy a D700 or D3s?

    I got some cool shots from the parade with the fisheye, but it’s not something I would want to use if I were only photographing the parade once or twice. This was also probably the least attention I paid to the parade, because I was so enamored with what the film crew was doing. With any luck, I am in a commercial. At the very least, I know my feet made a couple of shots. (Because I kept kicking the father and son to make sure my feet got into the shots!)

    The rest of the evening was spent enjoying the ambiance of the party (oh, and we saw A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas again) and trying to stay warm. We had plenty of hot chocolate, and plenty of cookies. I think the cookies we had at the three parties probably account for about 7 of the 10 pounds I probably gained while we were down there. I’m going to have to workout double-time in the new year to work off all of this flab.

    The Princess &amp; Her Castle by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr

    The Long and Winding Cinderella Castle by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr

    &quot;It's a Kingdom of Lights during this Season, Mickey&quot; by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr

    When we left, it was only us and this tourist at the monorail station. Both he and I were taking pictures as we waited for the monorail, and suddenly, when it approached, one of the Cast Members said, “oh, they aren’t riding,” without asking us. Sarah quickly responded that we were, and the other individual followed us onto the monorail car that we boarded. All of the cars were empty, yet he chose the same one. This guy must have never seen Walt Disney World before, because, even as we were in the moving monorail late at night, he was firing away like crazy. He had a nice-enough DSLR, but there is no way these photos were turning out. During the monorail ride alone, he probably took as many photos as I took the entire day!

    He got off at the Polynesian, and continued to take shots throughout the lobby of various things. I sure how he was shooting in jpg, because I can’t imagine having to process all those RAW files! We contemplated just sleeping on a couch at the Polynesian before deciding it probably wouldn’t be too fun to walk home a couple hours later after we got kicked out.

    The next day was another Magic Kingdom day. Since we only had an hour and a half before lunch reservations, we decided to do our Monorail resort tour first, so my parents could see the decorations at the Grand Floridian (we had already been to the Polynesian, which wasn’t exactly loaded with decorations--what happened to all of the little candy/chocolate displays, and lunch was at the Contemporary); one resort isn’t much of a “tour,” I know, but it seems like we accomplished more if I call it that, so I will. The Grand Floridian was gorgeous, as always, but was an absolute madhouse. Honestly, I don’t think I would want to stay there at Christmas. I would be a little irritated if I were one of Disney’s elite, and the resort was freely letting in the riff raff, like me, to take advantage of the resort’s amenities. Plus, us riff raff generally have pungent odors, so I imagine those elite get pretty irritated that we come in and stink up their resort. Really though, I would be a little peeved at noise there.

    After wandering around for a while, we headed over to Contemporary to try The Wave. The Wave was a last minute addition (same day ADRs). We had discussed it prior to the trip, but had decided we wouldn’t eat there. Then, on this particular day, we found ourselves hungry and not wanting to eat counter service again. So, we made the voyage to the Contemporary. I think I speak for everyone when I say that I’m glad we ate there.

    The restaurant was pretty well dead when we entered, which made me wonder why all of the tables were so close together. As the server took us to our table, I was really worried that we’d be seated at one such table on that was practically on top of the table next to it, but luckily, we weren’t. Instead, we got a large booth. Given that it was so slow (and we would have had no problem getting our pick of dinner reservations, either), I wondered why the tables were spaced so close together. Perhaps they were going to an American spin on Biergarten.

    For some reason, the burger (really, the cheese on the burger) sounded really good, so I opted for that. Not very daring, I know, but I think I had lost the energy for daring. Although, to my credit, I didn’t fall asleep at dinner like my father, who likely set a world record for times falling asleep during meals on a single WDW trip. Guinness keeps world records on just about everything else, maybe I can submit my photos and get my dad some recognition!

    I didn’t want to be in a food coma the rest of the day, so I opted to avoid dessert, although it did look delicious. By all accounts of our party, all of the food was really good. Sarah actually preferred The Wave to Jiko. I found this a little dubious, so I suspect that someone at The Wave must have paid her off for this ringing endorsement.

    One of my quests since our honeymoon was to find a nice velcro wallet for WDW. I had just about aborted this quest when I was prepping some of my Figment collection to sell on eBay, and I stumbled upon this gem. Although it had a little squeaker in it that caused it to make a noise when I bent over or sat down (by around the second day of the trip, thankfully, this squeaker wore out), this little guy was a lifesaver, and an incredibly awesome way to store FastPasses and tickets. Plus it was oh so stylish.

    It made me want to get other retro accessories for our WDW trips, too. I would mention exactly what, here, but I’ve been sort of burned by that in the past. Back when I started buying WDW camera straps, I had no problem getting them for around $5-15 each. Then, as more people asked where I got them, and I answered, the prices skyrocketed. Now, the prices are anywhere from $30 to $100. Unfortunately, that’s just too much for me to pay. I am all for a market economy and I understand that’s what’s occurring, but it still pisses me off that I shot myself in the foot, so to speak. It pisses me off even more that one of the people who began purchasing the straps because of me has since started selling them for $100-200 each. Whatever, I suppose, such is life. By bringing this up, I’m probably only shooting myself in the foot even further, but at this point, the straps are already so far out of my price range that it doesn’t matter.

    As the days of the trip passed, my belly became more and more “jolly” looking as I gorged myself. By this point in the trip, I looked like I was in the second trimester. Perhaps that’s why random strangers kept coming up to me and rubbing my belly.

    I mentioned earlier that the wait times for Haunted Mansion were higher than we ever waited in the summer. The reason for this, I think, is that we got there relatively late in the day this trip (never arrived at a park, besides for Magic & Merriment, before 10 am) and the parks closed relatively early. Conversely, in the summer, we’d still arrive at 10 am, but the parks would often be open until 1 am (or 3 am with EMH), and we mostly did FastPass attractions, shows that never get waits, and the TTA during the day then and wait until late at night for the ‘moderate’ attractions like the Fantasyland dark rides (except Peter Pan’s Flight) and Haunted Mansion as they have no waits by then. However, when the park closes at 10 pm, it’s not as empty in the last two hours as it is when it closes at 3 am. Perhaps in the future if we’re not sick during the trip (thereby causing us to require more sleep), we will actually arrive at park opening when there are such short operating hours. Maybe my theory isn’t even accurate.

    This was another packed day at the MK, and further proof that wheelchairs aren’t advantageous--or at least weren’t advantageous for us (I’m not contending that my anecdotal evidence is irrefutable proof by any means). We waited a while at Haunted Mansion, and my parents had what probably ended up being a 45 minute wait for IASW. I say probably because Sarah and I got out of line and went to do our own thing for a little while. The only reason my parents didn’t get out of line is that they were sort of boxed in. Breaking off for a bit was nice, though, as it gave us the opportunity to do things at our own pace. I very much enjoyed being there with my parents, but at times the slower pace was a little frustrating.

    During the time we were separated, Sarah and I managed to accomplish a number of attractions, hitting PhilharMagic (awesome as always!), TTA, Pirates, and Pooh. Pooh is one of those attractions that I find gets better with each visit. Perhaps this time that wasn’t just because my enjoyment of the ride involved internally to me, but because the ride’s entrance and queue changed substantially. The new queue is really something, and even though we didn’t get to play with any of the cool features, I did get to photograph them (sorry, photos aren’t edited yet), which was fun. One thing I worry about with the new queue is the little gophers (or whatever they are) that pop up. Each of the three times we rode Pooh, we saw little kids being vicious to these guys. I’m sure Disney designed these to handle abuse from kids, but how much abuse? It would be disappointing to see these broken in 3 months and never repaired because it’s not “in the budget” or “not feasible” or, heaven forbid, because gophers become “obsolete technology.”

    Following this burst of attractions, we met back up with my parents to do Country Bears. While waiting, Sarah stopped for more of her world famous Disney Bird photos. While taking the photos, Sarah got up and quickly moved away as some of the birds flew above her. When I inquired why, she responded, “with the length of my hair, it would be game over if a bird **** on me. I’d have to go back to the room and take a shower.” I guess I sometimes don’t think about the additional concerns of a female with long hair. Aerially released bird droppings landing on me have never been too great of a concern for me, but then again, I could always head to the nearest restroom and put my head in the sink.

    We did a couple more attractions with my parents before Sarah and I prepared to depart for the Studios. As we left, I made an ADR for my parents at Trail’s End. I really wanted to eat there earlier in the trip, but we had opted to eat elsewhere because of the additional commute to Fort Wilderness. This is probably one of my biggest regrets of the trip, as my parents said they had an absolute blast going around the campsites looking at decorations.

    We tend to plan one event that acts as icing on the cake to conclude our trips, so that the final days of the trip aren’t quite so “ominous.” Usually, this is something like attending a character breakfast on the last morning to gain early access to a park. About a month prior to this trip, we saw that D23 would once again be holding its Magic & Merriment Event. Sarah and I desperately wanted to attend this event in 2009, but it coincided with two of my finals, and I don’t think my professors would have been too keen on me missing them to play in Walt Disney World. Obviously, they’re priorities are skewed.

    Luckily for us, the event was so popular last year that it became annual, and 2 of its 3 days overlapped with our trip. Tickets for these events are notoriously difficult to secure, but with a little practice and quick fingers, we were able to purchase two. Once we secured the tickets, we adjusted our flights and added another night to our resort stay.

    With the backstory set for our Magic & Merriment experience, we headed to the Studios on Friday, December 10th to check in for the weekend and see a screening of “Archiving the Archives,” a new documentary about Dave Smith and the Disney archives. Sarah and I debated long and hard about even going to this event, as there was a ‘late’ check in the next day, and we didn’t really care about the documentary. However, after reading accounts from last year that surprises and giveaways occurred at various events, we decided to suck it up and attend.

    Once there, we got the final schedule for the weekend. One of the events for Friday evening was a ‘private viewing’ of One Man’s Dream that lasted an hour and a half while check-in was taking place (check-in itself lasted around 15 minutes, save for a few stragglers). Disney history buffs we may be, but not such that we wanted to spend 90 minutes combing through One Man’s Dream. With this knowledge, we decided to ask a D23 Cast Member if any surprises might be in store for the event. He only gave an ambiguous response, so we decided to stay, and go sleep in the theatre.

    Ten minutes after arriving in the theatre, we were all kicked out, saying it wasn’t “ready” yet. At that point, Sarah and I asked a D23 Cast Member if it would be an issue if we took photos in the Studios, and returned when the film was to begin. The Cast Member did not object, so we availed ourselves of this opportunity.

    While we cannot spend 90 minutes in One Man’s Dream, apparently 90 minutes taking photos flies by. In the middle of one photo, Sarah checked her phone, and the movie was set to begin in 2 minutes. We raced back to the attraction, and snuck inside just as it started. We got end seats in the very back so as to avoid being rude.

    The film was interesting, I suppose. Like I said, we are huge Disney history fans, but I find a film, accompanied by little else (say, CircleVision or 3D) as a worthy theme park attraction. The event concluded and we all were dismissed without anything being given away. If Sarah and I didn’t spend that time taking photos, I really would have been irritated that this evening was packaged as an “event.” Wasting two hours of my time (plus transit time) to see a 30 minute documentary that I would have had the same experience watching at home is not a good use of theme park time, nor is it a valuable option on an expensive private event. Just as my blood began to boil over this, a D23 Cast Member came up to us, and said he wanted to exchange event lanyards with us (another D23 CM had done this with someone else prior to the documentary). At first we were skeptical, but quickly we realized what was happening, and we agreed to the exchange.

    Overall, I would rate this event a solid F. If a lower grade were possible, I’d give it that. It was unnecessary, poorly organized, and time was not managed well. Moreover, the event didn’t really offer anything holiday-specific or even worthwhile.

    On our way out of the park, Sarah danced about with grandiose visions of what the lanyard “meant.” At first she wondered whether it was a stay in the Castle Suite. Unlikely, I told her, as two guests had these lanyards, and more importantly, that was such a large prize that the rest of the attendees would be envious and irritated by it. She bounced around the idea of other prizes, all the while I told her not to get her hopes up. Knowing Disney, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was a DVC tour.

    EPCOT was open late that night, so we headed over there, as was the plan prior to the event. As the bus approached EPCOT, we both sort of simultaneously realized how early we’d have to be up the next morning, and said maybe it would be best to only hit an attraction or two.

    SpaceShip Earth was the obvious choice, as it didn’t require walking too far in the cold weather. As we got off SpaceShip Earth, an idea for a photo came to me and I saw what can only be described as an epic-ly orange sky. I don’t know quite why it was like this (FotoDave told me on Twitter, but it involved science, so I quickly forgot), but it was great. Unbelievably great. I was yammering for a few more shots, and Sarah could tell, so she offered to ride SSE once more while I played. I got a few more while she boarded the Spaceship; when she returned, we called it a night.

    Since we left before the park closed, this would be the first night of the trip that we’d be able to take a Shades of Green bus. It was crazy waiting for the bus, seeing it pull up, and NOT walking from the Polynesian in the chilly weather. Unfortunately, while we were waiting for the bus, I decided to set up my tripod for some lame shot--it would’ve been much cooler during a busy time of day--and when the bus came, I was in such a rush to board, that I left my lens cap on the bench. We never ended up returning to the TTC (with any time to spare, at least) so I never checked lost and found for that cap. Maybe I should call them up, although I’m not really sure what that would accomplish.

    The next morning came entirely too soon. Naturally, it took us longer to get ready than I accounted for in my timelines, so we were running late as we left our room. We got the luggage folks to take us to the end of Shades of Green property again, a service that relatively pricey with our frequency of use on this trip. But, it saved us seven minutes, and that was valuable time. After all, we didn’t want to miss the prize-awarding at the Odyssey Center!

    From the edge of Shades of Green property, we walked to the TTC. In our experience, we determined this would be substantially quicker than using even the most efficient monorail. Part of me wanted to check lost and found and the bench at which we were sitting the previous night, but we just didn’t have the time. That is, until we waited and waited for the monorail. After it came, and we approached EPCOT, we saw the line at the Odyssey. We weren’t too late!

    Once we departed the monorail, we searched for someone to let us into the park. Finally we found a Cast Member who was aware of Magic & Merriment (yes, we’re sure we weren’t there for a Princess breakfast!), and let us inside. It was awesome being at EPCOT all alone in the morning, although the weather sucked (it was really foggy) and we were already late, so I didn’t take many photos.

    We arrived at the Odyssey Center, were handed some goody bags, and I found seats while Sarah scheduled a Castle Suite tour time. I didn’t know anyone at the table, but apparently one of the ladies knew me, asking if I was WDWFigment on Twitter. I responded that I was, and she said, “I’m [Twitter handle], I follow you, but you don’t follow me.” For a few seconds, it was a little awkward here. I wasn’t quite sure why she’d indicate that I didn’t follow her. I hope it was as sort of a heads up that I wouldn’t recognize her Twitter name, but in the context of the rest of the conversation, it seemed a lot more like an admonishment for not following her in return. I didn’t realize that the Twitter Covenants included an obligation to follow all those who follow you. (For those unfamiliar with Twitter, there are a lot of people on there with mostly idiotic things to say; I’m not suggesting she is one such person (I have no idea), but if I followed everyone, my updates would be inundated with crap about Justin Bieber and relationship drama. I have no desire to read about either.)

    Seeking to avoid the awkwardness, I fiddled around with my camera for a few minutes until Sarah arrived. Almost immediately thereafter, the presentations began, the first with three chefs from Germany giving a presentation of an array of Christmas topics, mostly German food at Christmas. I don’t remember of the credentials of each, but one is the head chef at Biergarten. These guys were really amusing, and interesting. I was surprised by some of the discussions of Biergarten. I wasn’t highly impressed with the place (I’d say it was on the upper end of mediocre), but their discussion gave me new interest about the restaurant, and made me impressed by it. They didn’t seem like the types who would recite the company line or fluff things up, so I buy what they had to say. They were engaging, humorous, and had plenty of “un-Disney” zingers. Great

    The next presentation was from Meg Crofton, President of Walt Disney World. If you follow online news and rumor discussions like I do, you’ll know that Meg Crofton is not very well-liked in the fan community. At least, not among the most fervent fans. When she walked out on the stage, I searched high and low for horns and a tail, but I saw neither. Perhaps the podium was concealing the tail and she has a really good hairdresser.

    Her speech was nice, but decidedly canned. While all of the other presenters spoke candidly and in a conversational manner, she read from a teleprompter giving a presentation that said “all of the right things” but ultimately felt impersonal. I much preferred the irreverent and off the cuff humor of the chefs. As soon as her speech was over, she exited the building, never to be seen again. Oh well, I suppose it was better than her presentation just being a video of her. I understand that as the President of the largest single site employer in the US (as she pointed out multiple times in her presentation), she is likely busy in her job. However, by not taking the extra 20 minutes to talk to D23 members and Cast Members, it reinforces the message that she is detached and distant from cast and guests. I wonder, does she know the name of the building she was in? Does she know that the Lights of Winter do not operate at EPCOT? Or does she just know that X dollars have been saved in fiscal years 2009 and 2010 by not operating “Seasonal Element 24” (or whatever line-item name it may have). Say what you will about Michael Eisner, but in his prime, he had a firm grasp on every aspect of the company that its leadership since hasn’t seemed to have.

    Next up were some chefs, one of whom was the Head Pastry Chef at the Grand Floridian, and and the other was the Head Something at all Resorts. These two, again, had great chemistry. The “all Resorts” Chef previously worked under the Grand Floridian chef, and it was clear they had a pretty good dynamic. More off the cuff jokes, including some ribbing about the Grand Floridian chef being Austrian rather than German. Not the type of humor you’d find in Meg Crofton’s solemn speech!

    These guys were awesome, sharing how the Grand Floridian’s ginger bread house is made, why it cannot be consumed, and how to make good German ginger bread. During the course of the presentation, they alternated construction of a ginger bread house up on stage, which was pretty cool.

    After their presentation concluded, a presentation began by two gentlemen whose names I forget. One of them is a former Imagineer who creates DVDs of the parks, the other runs the temporary tattoo stands around the parks. Figuring this was going to be a lame advertisement, I dismissed myself to the restroom (people had been doing this throughout the presentations, so it wasn’t as if I was breaking some unwritten rule and being rude about it). I also took this opportunity to get some Ginger Bread coffee as Sarah and I were really dragging but from having to get up so early after the late night the previous night.

    As I was getting the coffee, I noticed that the presentation actually sounded somewhat interesting. It concerned this new endeavor of the tattoo man creating bead necklaces and bracelets out of recycled guide maps. To make the maps, they had partnered with a non-profit that had impoverished women creating the beads. The men described the inherent difficulties in this, as it required work to import the bracelets, and required changes to the typical process of the bead-makers, as their previous beads wouldn’t get approval from Disney’s labs (if I recall correctly, this was due to the weather in Florida).

    The men also discussed the involvement of Imagineering in the project, and how Imagineering created the carts for these locations, the price signs, and a host of other things (recycling bins for the maps). They also discussed how the first test cart at Rock ‘N’ Rollercoaster had been highly successful, and had also driven increased profits at an adjacent cart owned by Disney. While all of this may seem somewhat dry, boring, and/or a veiled advertisement, it was really quite cool and interesting. It was so interesting that afterward, Sarah and I found them and discussed the project for a bit. They gave us a couple of samples, attached to the guide map from which they were made, explaining that how the beads were rolled would impact their color. Very cool stuff.

    Before talking to them, and after the event had formally concluded, we wandered around a bit, collecting photos while we waiting for the Chef’s line (all the chefs were lined up taking pictures and signing a cook book we had been given) to die down. We wanted to be the last people in line for the chefs so that we got more time with them, but two people snuck in line behind us. Rats.

    While in line with them, we chatted with the Chefs about various aspects of their lives in America, specifically at Christmas, and listened to them rib the lone Austrian some more. Apparently, Austrians do not work as hard as Germans. This is good to know.

    Given the build-up about it from the previous night, you might be wondering what we won at the event. I only mention it so as to not leave you hanging, because it’s not really worth mentioning. At the conclusion of the event, they asked for anyone with a certain sticker on their lanyard to come forward. I didn’t have that sticker (I had another), so I quickly many more prizes than 2 were being given away, and thus whatever prize I won wasn’t that great.

    The first group won miniature gingerbread houses from the Grand Floridian. These stood about 16 inches tall and could be purchased at the Grand Floridian. I hadn’t seen the ones there, but the one at the Contemporary sold for $50 (I think) and was smaller, so this at least looked like a decent, albeit impractical for carrying around all day in the park, prize. There were 5 people who won these.

    Next was my group--there were six of us. We won pins of the gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, because I did win more than most other people there, and the pin did look neat, but winning a pin at a private event is like winning ten cents in the Lotto. Oh well, probably our own fault for thinking about what we might have won in advance. Definitely set ourselves up for disappointment.

    Overall, I would give this event an A-. The only things that was a bit disappointing was that it didn’t include a proper breakfast, and that Meg Crofton couldn’t be bothered to descend from her mighty thrown and mingle with the commoners. The gift bags were somewhat lacking, with gifts that were clearly just advertising material for other arms of the company (Tangled soundtrack), rather than special gifts like last year (a Magic and Merriment ornament). Also, while the final presentation was interesting, it had nothing to do with the Holidays, which where the theme of the weekend.

    Following this event, we had the day to enjoy EPCOT before Candlelight Processional. We first stopped at the new counter service restaurant in Mexico. Sarah is a big fan of Mexican food, me...not so much. I thought the food we had was good for what it was, but the portions were too small.

    As for the Candlelight Processional that afternoon, it was exactly what you’d expect out of the show. Whoopi Goldberg was the narrator, and while this might be exciting for some, I wasn’t so enthused. I liked her before she joined the View, but that show is just unwatchable. All of those anchors have opinions about everything, and they have little basis for any of their opinions. Essentially, they just complain to one another about things outside of their expertise. Not my idea of an entertaining show. I would much rather have J. Peterman as the host! It was nice having reserved seats without paying for a dining package, but we certainly still paid for them.

    After Candlelight Processional, we boarded a secret monorail (okay, charter buses) backstage to take us to the Studios. This was one of the most irritating parts of the weekend. After we got on the bus, it took around 40 minutes before we departed. At the time, no one on our bus had any idea what was taking so long. I later came to find out, after reading a report of someone else who attended the event, that one of the other buses was having difficulty loading wheelchairs/scooters. Thus, several people were just standing outside waiting to board that bus for that 40 minutes. I would have been even more irritated if I were one of those people waiting in the cold. Either way, there is no excuse for that issue. Yet another example of the poor organization and inefficiency of the weekend.

    Once FINALLY there, we entered the set of Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular for dinner. We have always wanted to do one of the on set/in ride dinners, so we were glad that this was included in the event. We went around to various set pieces and took photos around them. We were told not to climb on any of the vehicles for safety reasons. Climb on is not the same as crawl under, so Sarah and I quickly snapped the shot below before any clarifications were made to those rules.

    Sarah and I must not be very outgoing, because by this point in the weekend, we had still not really struck up prolonged conversation with any of the other attendees to the point that we had people we wanted to sit near. Instead, we nervously paced around, looking for a table with “normal” people (while most of the attendees seemed normal, there were a few of those rabid oddballs who you probably wouldn’t want to sit near). Shortly after sitting down, this guy named Clint approached us and said he had joked to his friends how they should sit near us, as he had seen my 70-200 lens during the Candlelight Processional, and figured I was taking good photos. It turned out that the joke came true, as they had actually (inadvertently) sat at the same table as us. Clint, Pam, and Matt turned out to be cool, and we did strike up prolonged conversation with them.

    Dinner was epic. The food was delicious and the beer and wine were unlimited. It was easily the best buffet I’ve had at Disney. I can’t recall everything on it, but it was all hot, and well-prepared. I was actually a little surprised. Afterward, Chip and Dale came out for photos. When I went up to get my third and final beer, the bartender knew what I wanted in advance. Apparently myself and two other people were the only ones who had anything to drink. I felt a little odd about that, but for the price of the event, I was going to get my money’s worth! Overall, I would give this event a B+; while being on the set was cool, the Indy set just doesn’t strike me as being as immersive as, say the Great Movie Ride. I would have given it a solid A had those spears that pop up from the ground been active. If one of those bad boys popped up, it would’ve soiled anyone going through the buffet line!

    Once dinner concluded and the park cleared, we got word that it was time to head to the Osborne Lights for a private showing and behind the scenes information from the show director, John Phelan. I must say, Mouse Fan Travel and WDW Today really spoiled us. WDW Today spoiled us in that John Phelan’s presentation was almost word for word what he said about the Osborne Lights on the podcast. After about 2 minutes of listening to him, we realized this, and decided to enjoy the opportunity to take photos and enjoy the lights sans crowds. Mouse Fan Travel spoiled us in that it delivered a hard ticket event with fewer people crowding the Streets of America. I can see how this event might have been wonderful for those who don’t listen to the podcast or didn’t attend Desserts and Delights, but for us, it wasn’t that unique. Still, that’s our fault, not the event’s fault. I’ll give it a solid B+, with it losing points due to the short time duration.

    After this event concluded, we still had some time left before the Magic Kingdom closed, so we headed over there. We had encouraged Clint, Pam, and Matt to do the same, so they came as well. We only did three attractions before realizing how beat we were. We felt a little bad that we had encouraged the others to come, too, but they seemed similarly tired, so we all left at the same time.

    The next morning my parents checked out of Shades of Green at around 5 am while we were still sound asleep. As neither Sarah nor myself are or have been in the Department of Defense, we couldn’t stay there for our last day. This meant that we had to check out when we got up, and change resorts. Of course, with us, procrastinating always trumps actual action, so we checked out and checked our bags with bell services instead of actually heading to Music again. We figured it was a good move, since brunch at the Contemporary started at 10 am. It’s never a good idea to miss brunch. Especially when you’ve paid so much for it.

    As alluded to, Sunday brunch at the Top of the World Lounge the following morning was our next event. Despite staying at Shades of Green, we had…uhh…magically found our way into this lounge earlier on the trip, and we were enthused about seeing how it would look during the daytime hours. We arrived fashionably (more like inadvertently) late thanks to monorail delays, but luckily that only cut into brunch by about 10 minutes. As soon as we got there, we received a reusable DVC tote with loads of DVC advertising materials. If any of you out there are looking for a confident with whom to share secrets, I suggest steering clear of Disney. I can only imagine how it treats “normal” secrets given its blatant advertising of its “Best Kept” secret.

    The food here was delicious and the Top of the World Lounge was a great location. I was a bit disappointed at the lack of variety in the food, but what was offered was pretty good. Although it was exceedingly windy outside (which stunk, because we had to eat outside until some space inside cleared), the morning views were gorgeous, and the photo op set up with Mickey was a nice touch. My only complaint would be the in-your-face DVC advertising. Between the bags and the subsequent constantly-announced tours, it was a little much. I understand that this was probably part of the Faustian Bargain made in order to secure the exclusive Top of the World Lounge, but if that was necessary, maybe D23 should have looked into getting the California Grill or some other location? Clearly the Top of the World Lounge was not large enough for us all (at least indoors). Even with the advertisements, this event gets a respectable B.

    While eating brunch, we met back up with Clint, Pam, and Matt and decided to tour the Magic Kingdom with them. I was a little weary of this at first, as we had already done several slow paced days, and I was hoping for a faster-paced day with Sarah, but this ended up being the most efficient day of the trip. Pam and Matt, who had been touring together since 1996 (I think), remarked, that it was their most efficient day ever, they thought.

    Lunch was a first for us: we ate at Pinocchio Village Haus. It was interesting, a little out of date looking. I had always wanted to try the fries there that have all sorts of crap on them (I can’t recall their name) that were taken off the menu a year or so ago. After those were taken off the menu, we didn’t really have much of a desire to eat there. That said, my meatball sandwich was decent. Not amazing, but palatable.

    The next event would be one, if not the, biggest events of the weekend for us. The Castle Suite Tour. It would only be fifteen minutes long, but we made the most of that time, balancing the desire to take photos like a madman with the desire to enjoy the experience. Like everyone says, the Suite is surprisingly small. I managed to get some neat photos, too, so I was pleased. The 15 minutes (I actually think it was more like 10) passed in no time, but given that they had to get all of us through in one afternoon, I understand the time constraint. Part of me was hoping at the end of our tour, we would be told we had won a stay in there for the evening, but it was not to be. I guess my only recourse for that is to change my last name to Cruise and have some cosmetic work done. This event gets an A-.

    Splish Splash, She Was Takin' A Bath by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr

    The Castle Suite Tour was the last unique event of the weekend. We also were provided Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party tickets for that evening (with “reserved” spots for the fireworks and parade—in terrible locations). I know I’ve already aired a number of grievances about the event, but another one for me was that there was no real end--no concluding event. That struck me as a little odd, but perhaps I’m alone in that sentiment.

    MVMCP Admission: ~$55, Seeing Lifesize Toy Soldiers March Down Main Street, USA in Florida with Snow Falling: Priceless by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr

    Merry Christmas! by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr

    For those unfamiliar with this event, the tickets were priced at $235 each, and sold out in a matter of seconds (literally). I don’t think this necessarily speaks to the value of the weekend, as the tickets were so limited that it’s somewhat of an artificial market. While we were waiting to go on our Castle Suite Tour, a couple of the D23 CMs informed us that the events are only self-sufficient, and the cost of tickets only covers the cost of the event. Personally, I find this hard to believe. Tickets last year cost less, and the event contained more. The only feasible explanation I can find for the additional cost (if it’s “real”) would be the first night. However, as I indicated above, that was a huge turd of an event. That, or maybe paying for the ridiculous number of D23 CMs at the event. If the event ticket factored in their salaries for the time they worked, I am also peeved, as there were way too many of them attending the events. Don’t get me wrong, they were all very nice and genuinely enjoyed the events, but it was unnecessary for there to be so many of them.

    Overall, I would not say the weekend was good value for the money, but reasonable minds may differ on that. The event suffered from poor organization and unreasonable waits between events, at times. It also packaged in things, and presumably, charged for them, that we didn’t necessarily want to pay for and could have done better on our own. It was, however, a lot of fun and gave me a new appreciation for some of the D23 Cast Members as it appears most of them have a genuine love of Disney and enjoy their jobs. While the weekend was not perfect, it was pretty good and allowed us to experience things we otherwise couldn’t. That said, it was, honestly, a letdown. Although we didn’t attend last year’s Magic & Merriment, every report I read from that gave it incredibly high marks. Based on the initial reports I’ve read from this year’s event, it seems much was lost. That is disappointing, and hopefully not indicative of all D23 events. Hopefully, as these events continue, D23 will fine tune and make them more enjoyable.

    I mentioned above that Magic & Merriment didn’t really have proper closure. As our last interaction with “that” portion of the weekend was a few hours before the party ended, that’s correct. We didn’t really do anything special for the remainder of the MVMCP, besides watch our final parade, going 6/6 on MVMCP parades for the week(!) and taking photos. It was one of the coldest nights of the trip, but since we had failed to take photos of ourselves so many of the other nights, we sucked it up and got a few shots before heading home.

    FROM: Santa TO: Tom by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr

    The Magic of Disney Christmas by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr

    As I mentioned above, we had checked out bags with bell services at Shades of Green that morning in lieu of actually heading to All Star Music. Normally, I regret putting things like this off because it still sucks to do it later, but this time, even though I didn’t want to switch resorts that night, I still realized it was a lot better than doing it that morning. We got our bags from bell services, and caught a taxi to Music.

    When we finally got to our room, it was around 1:30 am. I was ready to collapse on the bed. Then, of all things, Sarah began antagonizing me into taking photos of Music! I was a bit taken aback, but, since I hadn’t taken any photos of the grounds the first night we were there, I rose to the challenge, and headed out. I was back right around 2 am, at which time I finally did get to collapse into bed.

    The next day was brutal. We rarely sleep in on the last day no matter how tired we are, thinking we can sleep all we want on the plane ride home. However, this morning, when the alarm went off, neither of us could get up. We slept another 30 minutes before reluctantly getting up. Our colds had definitely peaked, and we were still extremely tired from the previous night. Being tired and sick wasn’t exactly the ideal combination for visiting the parks.

    Normally if I could only pick one word to describe a day at Disney, it would be “magical.” What can I say, I’m a sap for the cheesy special feeling that Disney creates. This particular day, the word definitely would have been “lethargic.” We didn’t have the normal sense of urgency or desire to do as much as possible. We just sort of slowly moved around, like sick hogs waiting for someone to put us out of our misery.

    On top of that, it was the coldest day of the trip yet (I can only imagine how could it must have been that night). It was so cold that as we walked through the park, we saw CMs putting tarps over topiaries and flowers. It was so cold that when I went to the restroom, I contemplated just hanging out in there for a few extra minutes because it was warm.

    It was worth it, though. Not because we got to do some more attractions or see the MK one last time. It was worth it because of what I saw and heard as we headed onto Space Mountain. As we headed towards the queue, I saw a man awkwardly carrying a car seat for a baby in front of us. I wondered what the heck was up, so I began paying careful attention. The man climbed over the rope to enter the queue (rather than entering it like a normal human, for some reason), with car seat still in hand, at which point I saw that there was a child in the car seat. A CM quickly approached him, asking what he was doing. He was, “going to Space Mountain.” Of course he was. I mean, what kind of parent would he be if he didn’t let his infant experience all of the rides?! The CM said that the infant couldn’t come onto the ride, explaining twice that it was a roller coaster. A r-o-l-l-e-r c-o-a-s-t-e-r. The man seemed perplexed, not understanding why this roller coaster was ageist.

    We didn’t stick around to hear the rest of the conversation, as something else of interest had occurred. After entering the standby line, a boy (probably around 12 years old) in front of us jumped over to the Fast Pass line in front of us. As we passed a CM, we heard him on a walkie talkie to someone else indicating this had occurred. The boy kept looking backward while he was in line, probably doing a fist-pump in his head at his ability to cheat the system. Then, he arrived at the Fast Pass collection point. When the CM there asked for his FP, he said, “what’s that.” Another CM motioned for the boy to come with him. We’re probably terrible people for obtaining so much joy out of seeing the idiotic acts of others, but if that’s the case, so be it. It cracked us up and made our morning a little better.

    The rest of the day was uneventful. We wandered around, mostly doing indoor attractions to avoid the cold. We avoided shows, as we knew we’d just sleep through them. When the day finally came to an end around 1, and it was time for us to leave, it wasn’t the sad event it often is. I am sad that we aren’t there now, but at the time, we were both just so physically drained that we were ready to go.

    We waited a while for the bus, to the point that we began worrying if we’d be back to All Star Music in time for DME. Finally, a AS: Sports bus came, and we just hedged our bets, knowing it would only be a 5 minute walk to Music from Sports, and could be a longer wait for the Music bus. Along the way back to the Sports, Sarah saw an armadillo. With the way she reacted, I could have sworn this was the highlight of her trip. It sure did give her some energy, if only briefly.

    We finally found ourselves back at Music, where we waited briefly for the DME bus. Once we boarded the bus, we zonked out. I did have to wake up to be on the look out for our bus driver potentially giving away our luggage (he professed how he was new several times on the trip, and I was worried he’d drop off our bags at the first stop at the were many others, apparently, as they pressed up against the right-side windows on the bus).

    The cold weather that day was not unique to Florida. Our return flight had two stops, and both of those had delays. Despite our original 9 pm return time, we weren’t back in Indy until 1 am. At least we weren’t delayed a day, I guess.

    Overall, the trip was a lot of fun. We managed to strike a good balance between overdoing it with group events and actual park touring. That weather, on the other hand, was something I don’t wish to experience again any time soon. A big part of it was my fault. For 12 days, I packed 12 polos compared with 4 long sleeve shirts. I didn’t pack a coat or sweatshirt, and had to end up buying a thin sweatshirt that I wore everyday. I know we’ll be back again in December, as the parks are beautiful at Christmas, and when we are, I will be armed to the teeth with warm clothing. Still, even with that warm clothing, there is the potential for a cold, given our touring style. Plus, you can’t keep every part of your body warm.

    The potential of that alone makes me a bit weary of traveling in the winter months to WDW. I downplayed it a bit here because I didn’t want to be constantly complaining, but being sick at Disney is not the greatest thing in the world. Sarah and I don’t see eye to eye on this one, but I’d much rather travel in the hottest of summer months. At least then all I get is a little sweaty. Although I do understand her point, given that she has long hair, and probably gets even hotter because of that--and she has to deal with that hair in the hot weather. I also prefer the longer hours the summer months offer, even if it is busier then.

    Anyway, that’s all for now. Hope you enjoyed the trip report. I went into it thinking it would be somewhat abridged, but it feels like I’ve written just as much as I always do. We don’t yet have our next trip booked, so I don’t know when I’ll write next, but in any case...

    See Ya Real Soon!
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    • #3
      Re: The Brickers' Holi-Disney Christmas Vacation 2010 Report (D23 Event, Reunion, etc

      Beautiful Pictures, Awesome Trip Report! :]


      • #4
        Re: The Brickers' Holi-Disney Christmas Vacation 2010 Report (D23 Event, Reunion, etc

        I had that exact same wallet when I was a kid! I thought it was awesome especially with that squeaker. Now I wonder why someone would put a squeaker in a wallet.


        • #5
          Re: The Brickers' Holi-Disney Christmas Vacation 2010 Report (D23 Event, Reunion, etc

          love it. your pictures were so awesome! and I really enjoyed hearing about the d23 event. I went the weekend before and missed the event, so it was nice to live vicariously through your report.


          • #6
            Re: The Brickers' Holi-Disney Christmas Vacation 2010 Report (D23 Event, Reunion, etc

            Awesome trip report! I read every bit of it and adored it. The pictures are breathtaking!


            • #7
              Re: The Brickers' Holi-Disney Christmas Vacation 2010 Report (D23 Event, Reunion, etc

              Great stuff, yet again Tom! I often got lost because I didn't know all the acronyms and stuff, but the rest of the report was awesome.

              That lecture with the photographers sounds amazing! Do you know the names of the photographers?

              Sorry about your lens cap :/ I lost my lens cap at Disneyland and those replacements are pretty expensive.

              Yeesh, your story about the Twitter lady was pretty awkward. What DO you say to that? "Uh...sorry?"

              And all of a sudden...I'm really, really hungry :9

              ( got a few repeats: the one of Sarah and the pineapple and the Christmas wreaths)


              • #8
                Re: The Brickers' Holi-Disney Christmas Vacation 2010 Report (D23 Event, Reunion, etc

                Originally posted by Dlandclub33 View Post
                Beautiful Pictures, Awesome Trip Report! :]

                Originally posted by GraceysGirl View Post
                I had that exact same wallet when I was a kid! I thought it was awesome especially with that squeaker. Now I wonder why someone would put a squeaker in a wallet.
                Originally posted by expedition_evan View Post
                love it. your pictures were so awesome! and I really enjoyed hearing about the d23 event. I went the weekend before and missed the event, so it was nice to live vicariously through your report.
                Originally posted by BeautyandtheBeast View Post
                Awesome trip report! I read every bit of it and adored it. The pictures are breathtaking!
                Glad you enjoyed it!

                Originally posted by niklj View Post
                Great stuff, yet again Tom! I often got lost because I didn't know all the acronyms and stuff, but the rest of the report was awesome.

                That lecture with the photographers sounds amazing! Do you know the names of the photographers?

                Sorry about your lens cap :/ I lost my lens cap at Disneyland and those replacements are pretty expensive.

                Yeesh, your story about the Twitter lady was pretty awkward. What DO you say to that? "Uh...sorry?"

                And all of a sudden...I'm really, really hungry :9

                ( got a few repeats: the one of Sarah and the pineapple and the Christmas wreaths)
                DisneyTouristBlog | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

                Please Visit My Travel Photography Blog, Covering Southern California and Beyond!


                • #9
                  Re: The Brickers' Holi-Disney Christmas Vacation 2010 Report (D23 Event, Reunion, etc

                  truly beautiful work. Thank you again WDWFigment! I love it when you share on here!
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                  • #10
                    Re: The Brickers' Holi-Disney Christmas Vacation 2010 Report (D23 Event, Reunion, etc

                    Dude! Awesome pics! Now I'm gonna have to break out the DSLR and pretend I know what I'm doing (Which I don't, so don't lemme say otherwise.) Also, the OtterBox for the iPhone is a life saver. I'm constantly dropping mine...
                    He felt like his life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.
                    follow us on Twitter! @MickeyMutineers
                    DisregardListen to our podcast on iTunes!


                    • #11
                      Re: The Brickers' Holi-Disney Christmas Vacation 2010 Report (D23 Event, Reunion, etc

                      Originally posted by KingEric View Post
                      truly beautiful work. Thank you again WDWFigment! I love it when you share on here!
                      Thanks - I really need to spend some more time on here as we will be heading to DLR again soon and I want to be fully prepared this time!

                      Originally posted by Coastierox View Post
                      Dude! Awesome pics! Now I'm gonna have to break out the DSLR and pretend I know what I'm doing (Which I don't, so don't lemme say otherwise.) Also, the OtterBox for the iPhone is a life saver. I'm constantly dropping mine...
                      Yeah, I've heard great things about the Otterbox. I should get one after I get my phone fixed (which I still haven't done...I'm lazy).
                      DisneyTouristBlog | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

                      Please Visit My Travel Photography Blog, Covering Southern California and Beyond!


                      • #12
                        Re: The Brickers' Holi-Disney Christmas Vacation 2010 Report (D23 Event, Reunion, etc

                        Originally posted by WDWFigment View Post
                        Yeah, I've heard great things about the Otterbox. I should get one after I get my phone fixed (which I still haven't done...I'm lazy).
                        You can get it on Amazon for around $15 vs the 50 I spent...
                        He felt like his life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.
                        follow us on Twitter! @MickeyMutineers
                        DisregardListen to our podcast on iTunes!


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