Category Archives: Extras!

The things a lot of people don’t know you can do!

The Story Behind The People Behind The Attractions: Imagineers

Walt Disney was no doubt a great man with great vision but he is not the only individual behind the movies and especially the parks that we have come to love. He had a team of some of the best and brightest individuals who did not just think outside of the box they threw the box away and the sky became the limit. These are the people we have come to know as imagineers.

Surprisingly the term did not originate with Walt Disney but with a company called Alcoa but the name will forever be linked to the Disney legacy. Obviously the term combines two words, imagine and engineers. Normally these two terms are not connected. Engineers are supposed to work on concrete fixed principles and people who imagine are supposed to be dreamers thinking of the impossible. Putting the two words together seems an odd fit but Disney not only did it on paper they did it in the real world. Imagineers come up with a dream and then make that dream come true.

Disney is no making a documentary about these individuals and their work and I for one am excited to get my hands on it. Check out this short clip about the imagineers and the upcoming documentary.

Win a Night In Cinderella’s Suite!

Disney World Vacation Sweepstakes Including a Night In The Cinderella Suite!

How sweet would it be to spend the night inside the Magic Kingdom in the Cinderella Suite? Well you would probably think your own personal fairy godmother had gave you a little of that magic treatment. It could happen with this Disney World Sweepstakes though! You could be the very lucky winner of a trip to Walt Disney World including a night in the Cinderella Suite.

The contest runs through August 26 and you can enter ONCE PER DAY!

Click here to get started!


Cinderella Suite

Win a Free Disney World or Disneyland Trip

Monsters UniversityIn honor of Monsters University, the new Disney-Pixar film, Disney is giving away a free vacation to either Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida or Disneyland in California.

Click here to enter. All you have to do is provide your email, name and phone number. Note, if you play the three games associated with the page if you can get three more entries!  I had to reload the page and enter my email again to play the games but it was worth it for three more chances! And you can go back and play different games. So far I have had Haunted Mansion, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Carsland and New Fantasyland.

Contest expires August 31, 2013.

Disney Removing Refrigerators From Rooms (Temporarily)

Disney TA Blog has just made an announcement that refrigerators will be removed from all rooms at Walt Disney World, Disneyland Resorts Aulani, and Disney Resort & Spa, Resort hotels due to a defect.  Vacation Club and Fort Wilderness Campground will not be affect. Guests staying at one of the affected resorts will be notified via a letter in their room. A select number of replacements will be available by request.

The timeline to replace all of the affected rooms is expected to take several months. Grumpy will try to keep you updated.

Win A Free Trip To Disney World!

Free airfare, five days and four nights at a hotel of Disney’s choice (okay I would rather pick my own but hey its free!) and a five day hopper pass. Click the pic to enter!

Get Custom Disney World Maps!

Get your own map of Disney World sent right to your door!

Did you know that you can order customized Disney maps? The maps come in a set which includes one for each of the four theme parks and one of the whole world! (Disney World not that other one.)  You can select which rides, attractions and restaurants you want highlighted on your maps. Next you select a classic look (pictured on the left) or a character look for your maps. The maps are then sent straight to your home.

The maps are not your standard park maps you get at the gate. They are collectible quality on good paper. They are folded which distracts a little from their appearance but they come in an envelope that is worthy of keeping too! The whole set reminds me of treasure maps or old documents.

The cost? Would you believe it’s free! Yes I said free. The only thing you have to do is register at and then click here. You can even add your dates of travel if you have a trip planned and if you have kids it’s a great way to let them know they are headed to see the Mouse! The only catch, you can only order a set every six months and they take 2-3 weeks to arrive at your house. So plan ahead if you want them for a trip.

Extra Magic Hours

Extra Magic Hours! Even the name sounds great. I am getting something extra, something out of the ordinary! Something special!

Imagine having the Magic Kingdom all to yourself. Well Extra Magic Hours can't do that but you can get closer to the dream!

So what are Extra Magic Hours? Put quite simply they are hours that select Disney guests get to be in one of the theme parks when general admission guests cannot.

Extra Magic Hours are broken down into two categories, Morning and Evening. For the Morning version a park will open one hour early. For Evening hours the park will normally stay open three hours later.

Unfortunately Extra Magic Hours do not include every park every day. Only one park will be having Extra Magic Hours at any given time. However, during the busier seasons of the year one park may have Extra Morning Magic Hours while a different one may have Extra Evening Magic Hours. Unfortunately, at least in Grumpy’s mind, sometimes one of those parks during busy season may be one of the water parks.

When a park is operating under Extra Magic Hours not every attraction will open, again unfortunately! For a list of what is open for a given park during Extra Magic Hours click here.

So who gets in on these Extra Magic Hours? Basically it is anyone who is staying at any of the Disney owned resorts/campgrounds or the Swan and Dolphin on the day the Extra Magic Hours are being offered. In fact you have to show your valid resort ID to use the Extra Magic Hours.

To use the hours simply hop on the Disney transportation system and head to the selected park. Transportation will be running early enough to make it for the Morning hours and late enough to get you back to your resort after the Evening hours. During the Morning hours you will have to show your resort ID to get into the park. That is normally not a problem because it is usually your park ticket too. Then you are free to go! For the Evening hours cast members will ask for your ID before they allow you to enjoy any of the attractions open for the Extra Magic Hours.

So now you have the nuts and bolts of the program but is it worth it? YES! Grumpy takes advantage of all the Extra Magic Hours even if I have to Park Hop to do it! In fact I get extra grumpy when my family members make me even think I might be late for the morning magic hours! And Grumpy doesn’t leave till the park is closed, well most of the time.

Of course lines are shorter during the Extra Magic Hours but are they really that short? Well there are lines but you can get a lot done during the Extra Magic Hours. One sunny morning Grumpy and Mrs Grumpy rode Aerosmith five times before the park “opened.” Of course we were using single rider line for some of that but by the time my brother, we will call him Dopey tonight, and his daughter got there we had ridden so many times we gave them our Fastpasses!

Grumpy considers the Extra Magic Hours so important that I would rather pay extra to stay at a Disney resort than save the money. So there you have it. What are your thoughts on the Extra Magic Hours? Is it worth the money or just extra hype?

Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom

Sorcerer's Apprentice is a new interactive game at the Magic Kingdom scheduled to debut in 2012. My biggest question, where's the loot!

Disney has something new in store for guests at the Magic Kingdom. The wonderful imagineers have come up with a new interactive game combining elements of a video game with card based games. Currently the game is being play tested by cast members in Adventureland. Rumor has a it some guests have been given the opportunity to try it out too.

This new game, called the Sorcerer’s of the Magic Kingdom, invites guests to join Merlin the Magician as he tries to stop an alliance of the most fearsome Disney Villains. Players watch a video and are asked to help by playing their card. Or so it would seem. Details are still a little sketchy at the moment.

Some questions I have: Can grumpyoldmickey’s play? If so will they look like creepers? Where do you get your cards? And is there a prize. I would like to suggest the winner get a night in the Cinderella Suite. I would also like to suggest everyone lets grumpy win!

More details as I find them. Till then enjoy a video of one of the cast members doing some testing. I must admit I do like the way the characters from our favorite movies will come to life again. This particular scene focuses on one of my personal favorites, Princess and the Frog.

Making Disney Magic Part Two: Plus is a verb

Okay maybe this should have been included under Making Disney Magic Part One: The Terms but this one was so big that I wanted it to have its own section. The following is from the book How to Be Like Walt: Capturing the Disney Magic Every Day of Your Life by Pat Williams:

“Normally, the word “plus” is a conjunction, but not in Walt’s vocabulary. To Walt, “plus” was a verb—an action word—signifying the delivery of more than what his customers paid for or expected to receive.

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of examples of Walt “plussing” his products. He constantly challenged his artists and Imagineers to see what was possible, and then take it a step further…and then a step beyond that. Why did he go to the trouble of making everything better when “good enough” would have sufficed? Because for Walt, nothing less than the best was acceptable when it bore his name and reputation, and he did whatever it took to give his guests more value than they expected to receive for their dollar.”

Perhaps one of the best examples of Walt’s obsession for “plussing” comes from Disney historian Les Perkins’ account of an incident that took place at Disneyland during the early years of the park. Walt had decided to hold a Christmas parade at the new park at a cost of $350,000. Walt’s accountants approached him and besieged him to not spend money on an extravagant Christmas parade because the people would already be there. Nobody would complain, they reasoned, if they dispensed with the parade because nobody would be expecting it.

Walt’s reply to his accountants is classic:

“That’s just the point,” he said. “We should do the parade precisely because no one’s expecting it. Our goal at Disneyland is to always give the people more than they expect. As long as we keep surprising them, they’ll keep coming back. But if they ever stop coming, it’ll cost us ten times that much to get them to come back.”

This attitude is kept alive today. One quick example of this is the new interactive queues they are installing at several of the rides at Disney World. The worst part of Disney World, or any other theme park in the world for that matter, is waiting in line. Disney has realized that our patience is shrinking. Instant coffee, microwave dinners, the internet, smart phones and every other convenience in the world has trained us to want it and to want it now. Disney can not make the lines go away all the time but they can entertain us while we are in it. They are trying to make the unbearable at least more bearable. They also dispatch characters to relieve the monotony. They even use parades to draw people from more crowded to less crowded areas. They monitor line size constantly and even launch more boats on Pirates of the Caribbean for example.

The man who started it all was obsessed with creating a grand show, an illusion that would keep people coming back for generations. Judging from ticket sales he not only succeeded but the dream is still going strong.

Another example can be found in the resorts. They could have just built a bunch of hotels but that isn’t very magical. So each hotel has a theme. Sure the themes at the value resorts is not best in the world but when you move up to the moderate resorts things improve dramatically. If you move to the Deluxe resorts or the the Deluxe Villas they improve exponentially. Even at the moderate resort Port Orleans I love to have one day just to wander around the resort. I could spend a lot of days wandering around the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Not only are the resorts themselves great once you get there you can put your car keys down. Disney will provide free transportation to the parks and Downtown Disney. In fact you can get almost anywhere you need to go without the hassle of driving or paying for a taxi. Sure some of this is self-motivated because they want you somewhere you will be spending money but it is also a great perk. In fact if you fly into Orlando Disney offers the Magical Express. If you make the appropriate arrangements, which are quite easy to make, they will send you luggage tags to your home. You put them on your luggage and when you hit the airport in Orlando you head straight to the Disney center in the airport. They will take you to your resort for free! But the best part is you don’t even have to worry about your bags. They will claim them for you and bring them to your room. When you are ready to leave they will take your bags back to the airport and make sure they are loaded onto your plane.

While your in the parks Disney wants you to shop. They also know you don’t want to carry your packages around all day. Their answer? They will ship them to the front of the park for you. If you are staying at a Disney resort, on property in Disney parlance, they will ship them to your room if you are staying long enough for it to reach you there.

All of these services are “free” and designed to make you happy while at Walt Disney World. Of course they assume, often correctly, that if they make you happier you will either come back more or spend more money. They hope you will do both! Intend to make their dreams come true because they make so many of mine come true.

For more information check out this article from the New York Times.

If you need to catch up or finish this articles here are the links. Making Disney Magic Part One: The Terms and Making Disney Magic Part Three: The Tricks

Making Disney Magic Part One: The Terms

Walt did everything he could to help people escape from the real world for a little while and spend some time in a place where wishes do come true. Two prime examples are the fact you do not walk right from your car into the Magic Kingdom. Instead you board either the monorail or the ferry boat. Thus even before you get to gates of the park you begin to leave the world behind.

This is all part of Walt’s magic and vision. That vision could not be nearly as complete at Disneyland as it is at Disney World simply because of space. Walt and the imagineering crew also learned a few things from the California park.

Walt’s vision can be explained in a lot of the terms they use at Disney World. Some of those terms are onstage, backstage, cast members, costume, audience,utilidors, imagineering.

Onstage refers to anything the audience can see. Walt did not just want a theme park he wanted to create the illusion that the audience was in another world. To make sure that the onstage area is always in good order Disney spends a load of money on maintenance. Streets are steam cleaned nightly. Things are constantly being repainted. To give some scope to the onstage idea and how important it is to Disney consider the following facts taken from wikipedia:

In a March 30, 2004 article in The Orlando Sentinel, then-Walt Disney World president Al Weiss gave some insight into how the parks are maintained:

  • More than 5,000 cast members are dedicated to maintenance and engineering, including 750 horticulturists and 600 painters.
  • Disney spends more than $100 million every year on maintenance at the Magic Kingdom. In 2003, $6 million was spent on renovating its Crystal Palace restaurant. 90 percent of guests say that the upkeep and cleanliness of the Magic Kingdom are excellent or very good.
  • The streets in the parks are steam cleaned every night.
  • There are cast members permanently assigned to painting the antique carousel horses; they use genuine gold leaf.
  • There is a tree farm on site so that when a mature tree needs to be replaced, a thirty-year-old tree will be available to replace it.

Backstage is something that is not intended for audience viewing. Anything that would lessen the Disney illusion must be kept backstage. In fact, at cast member entrances to the onstage area there are verbal reminders that the cast is about to go onstage. There are also mirrors for a last minute inspection to make sure your costume is in order.

Cast member is the Disney name for employees. They are called cast members because they are not just doing a job they are staging a show for the audience. They are meant to be part of the illusion Disney is trying to create.

Costumes are the uniform that cast members wear. Sure its a uniform no matter what you call it just as cast members are employees. But by constantly reminding the cast members that they are staging a show they reinforce the idea that they need to be in character all the time. Personally I think they do a great job!

The man who started it all was obsessed with creating a grand show, an illusion that would keep people coming back for generations. Judging from ticket sales he not only succeeded but the dream is still going strong.

The audience, put simply, is anyone who is in the park but not part of the cast. They are the guests and are sometimes referred to as such. Either term you use they are still the beneficiaries of a lot of work Disney is putting into making sure we forget our troubles for a while and can dream about a better world.

Utilidors are part of how the illusion is maintained. Story goes that Walt saw a cowboy walking through Tomorrowland as he headed to his post in Frontierland at Disneyland and did not like how it ruined the staging of his illusion. There wasn’t much he could to about it at Disneyland but he filed the thought away for his new project in Florida.

To make the Seven Seas Lagoon a lot of earth had to be moved. Of course even Walt could not make it disappear but the imagineers came up with a use for it. As the Magic Kingdom was being built the entire first floor was designed as a system of tunnels dedicated to utility functions. The dirt was then piled over the the tunnels. Therefore what most guests consider the ground level at the Magic Kingdom is actually the second, and sometimes third, floor. Some of the tours at Walt Disney World will even let you catch a glimpse of these Utilidors. Note you must be 16 or older to get in! For more information on the tours click here.

Imagineering (or Imagineers) is a term originated by the Alcoa company. Put simply it is two words slammed together. Those words are imagine and engineering. Walt adopted the term and the philosophy. He wanted people who could not only engineer he wanted people who could imagine! The sky was the limit. In fact in the creative process of Disney Imagineering the first stage of the project is called the Blue Sky phase. So Walt may not have originated the term but he sure came nearest to perfecting it and we are still reaping the benefits, smiles and memories today.

So now you know some of the terms. Look for grumpy’s follow up articles on the Magic of Disney in

Making Disney Magic Part Two: Plus Is a Verb and Making Disney Magic Part Three: The Tricks.

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