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The Battle Hymn of the Republic at Epcot

If you have not taken time to catch a performance by the Voices of Liberty at the American Experience in Epcot…well shame on you! You are missing a good show. Here they are doing one of their best numbers, The Battle Hymn of the Republic.


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.

Quick Update continues to grow. New galleries have been added and the pages for each theme park have been created. The next step is to flesh out the pages with all the information you need to know if each attraction is for you. Grumpy will be diligently working on this over the next few weeks or more but the emphasis is on quality and not quantity. I hope you enjoy the work!

If you have missed it be sure to see one of grumpy’s personal favorites, Kilimanjaro Safaris!

Living With The Land

Part One of the Living With the Land Ride

Living with the Land is located in the Land Pavilion in Future World at Epcot. It is no doubt one of those often overlooked and under-appreciated attractions that make Epcot synonymous with boring to many Disney visitors. Nevertheless it is worth the time to see it if only to be able to say you have seen it.

The ride has two distinct phases. The first is your standard if understated Disney dark ride, meaning you are in a boat riding past Disney created landscapes and animatronics.

The first scene opens with a thunderstorm in a forest and tell us the beneficial impact of even seemingly cataclysmic events. Next the guests pass through a rain forest as they are told that even though the rain forests are a small part of the earth’s surface they have a major impact. Then the American plains open up as the narrator informs everyone how the landscape was transformed by even simple things like the hooves of the buffalo. The final scene is an American farm house complete with goats and chickens. From this we are taught the quest for more efficient food production can lead to overuse and destruction of the land. We are offered a glimmer of hope as the narrator tells us we are now learning to live with the land without destroying it for future generations.

At this point the ride shifts gears to focus on the efforts humans are making to minimize their impact on the environment while producing the food we need to sustain ourselves. This is not a standard greenhouse though. The boats enter greenhouses where some interesting crops and techniques are displayed. The key word for these greenhouse is sustainability. The crops are grown and sometimes engineered to survive with minimal resources and produce maximum results.

In the tropics greenhouse guests get to see some familiar fruits and some new faces too. Each of these fruits are edible to humans and though some are not as popular as the banana (the most popular fruit on the planet, at least among humans) the others offer the possibility to help feed an ever growing human population.

Aquaculture is the next exhibit as the boats float past aquariums filled with sustainable fish. Not every animal in this area is fishy though. There are some alligators too.

In the temperate greenhouse guests will not see any fruits they will not recognize but they may be surprised at how big these common fruits can grow when given the opportunity. Several prize winners were grown here right in Epcot. Of special interest to lemonade lovers are the nine pound lemons grown here in the greenhouse.

The string greenhouse introduces guests to some innovative growing techniques such as nutrient film technique and vertical growing. Vertical growing makes plants, like tomatoes, look like trees.The Guinness World Record is held by a tomato plant grown at Epcot. It produced over 32,000 tomatoes! This greenhouse also houses some Mickey shaped surprises.

The last greenhouse is the creative greenhouse. Here the aeroponic technique is demonstrated.  Instead of planting the crops in the ground it is suspended in the air and nutrients are sprayed directly onto the root. It works too.  There is also a small display of NASA experiments created for long range space expeditions.

While this ride is a great science lesson is it worth it? To some it is and to others not so much but Grumpy enjoys it. Guests can get a Fastpass and enjoy a leisurely ride will getting some much needed rest from the rest of Epcot or its a good time filler while you wait for your Soarin Fastpass which is housed in the same building.

It is also interesting to note that over 30 million tons of produce are grown here for use in Disney restaurants and some of the seafood is produced here too.

Epcot Gallery And A Cinderella Castle Bonus

Test Track Is Getting An Update

It seems Test Track in Epcot’s future world is in for a change!

Test Track is one of the most popular thrill rides in a park that is severely lacking in the thrill department. The current version features you becoming a test dummy and riding through some of the tests cars are put through before they hit the production phase. You will experience bumpy roads, heat, cold and breaking tests before you hit the open road and pick up some real speed. It is a high adrenaline ride to be certain!

Here is the information from the Official Disney Park’s Blog:

Beginning this fall, Epcot guests will be able to enjoy a re-imagined version of the popular Future World attraction, Test Track presented by Chevrolet.

This new version of the attraction will transform the current testing workshop into the sleek “Chevrolet Design Center at Epcot,” where guests can become immersed in the fun – and fast – world of automotive design. Here, guests will become automotive designers and create their own custom vehicles. Next, they’ll buckle into a six-person SimCar ride vehicle and test out their design on the challenging track of the Test Track course.

Afterward, guests can take a fascinating look into the future of transportation by viewing a collection of the latest Chevrolet vehicles in an all-new showroom.

This fun new experience is the result of a renewed, multi-year business relationship between Disney and General Motors, companies that have worked together for more than 30 years.

Click here for the official blog post.

Turned Away At The Magic Kingdom?

Since 1971 the Magic Kingdom has been entertaining, quite literally, millions of guests. For the most part that entertainment has been every day of the year. There have been a few exceptions. The park has been closed for hurricanes. It was closed and effectively evacuated on 9/11 (For more info on how terror affected Disney World click here.) Under those circumstances it is perfectly clear why the gates would be shut on your vacation dreams.

But are there other circumstances that would result in you being shut out? There is at least one more. Sometimes the park reaches capacity and people are turned away at the gates. Can you imagine making your way to the Magic Kingdom, taking the ferry or the monorail to the TTC and then being turned away at the gate? Surely that doesn’t happen does it? Why yes it does. In fact it happened this past Christmas! Christmas dreams were turned into a Clarke Grizwald nightmare!

It doesn’t happen often though and the good news is not everyone was turned away! If you met certain criteria you could still get in. One of those criteria was being a guest of of one of the the Disney World resorts. Just another perk of staying on property.

Here are the four phases of Park Closing:

Walt Disney World closing phases

Phase 1
Guests with ‘Magic Your Way’ base tickets, or a ‘1-Day 1-Park Ticket’, Guests without an admission ticket, and Cast Members using Main Gate & Silver Passes will be turned around at the parking lot booths.

Phase 2
Admission is limited to:

  • Disney Resort Guests (including the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin, and guests arriving by bus from the Hotel Plaza Boulevard hotels)
  • Annual and Premium Annual Passholders
  • Guests with Hopper tickets coming from another park
  • Guests re-entering the park
  • Guests with dining reservations
  • Magic Kingdom Guests with reservations for Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or The Pirates League
  • Guests using Walt Disney World Resort Transportation will be admitted.

Phase 3
Admission is limited to:

  • Disney Resort Guests (including the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin, and guests arriving by bus from the Hotel Plaza Boulevard hotels)
  • Annual and Premium Annual Passholders
  • Guests with dining reservations
  • Magic Kingdom Guests with reservations for Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or The Pirates League

Phase 4
Closed to all guests.

I searched high and low (okay I did two quick searches) for images of this evacuation but couldn’t find any so instead I will let Darth Vader explain it to you.

An Anniversary To Remember-Part One

Our room even included an Elephant!

In 2009 my wife and I took a trip to Walt Disney World for our anniversary. We had both been to Disney several times before. I went twice as a child with my family and we had had been once by ourselves.

That one trip by ourselves was not very enjoyable. We had left our home in Indiana to travel to Illinois. Then we came back to Indiana for one day. Then it was off to the Atlantic coast of Florida before heading to the Orlando area where we were staying with my aunt. We spent one day at Disney and to be honest I was so tired from all the travelling I just did not enjoy it and we left early.

Then my family started making Disney trips when my niece Megan came along. I simply was not interested because of my bad experience at Disney with my wife  on our trip together. But mom kept begging us to go and offering to pay for part of the trip. The trip also included some time at the beach so we agreed to go.

Am I ever glad we did! It was so much fun I immediately wanted to go back and we did. Most times it was the whole family but one time just my wife, my brother, his daughter and grumpy himself.

Two Beautiful Princesses although only one of them is an official Disney Princess. The other did marry a frog though!

There were many differences between those family trips and our one solo trip. One was we had not traveled so much. The other was where we were staying. On our family trips we stayed at Port Orleans Riverside. There is just no comparison, at least in my mind, in staying on Disney property and staying off Disney property. Those two factors and many more, like Park Hopper Passes and Extra Magic Hours, just make a huge difference.

In 2009 no one in the family was planning on doing Disney but I had a bad case of I just have to be there this year so my wife and I planned a trip on our own for our 15th wedding anniversary. We have no kids of our own so we weren’t limited to when we could go so we picked the value season and got a great deal. We ended up at the Animal Kingdom Lodge for 8 days and seven nights. We had the Disney Dining Package. We also didn’t have to drive! Since there were only two of us it was about the same price to fly as it was to drive. So we traded 16 hours one way in a car to less than 2 hours on a plane.

We arrived in Orlando and took the Magical Express service to our resort. I cannot say enough about this service! Disney picks you up at the airport, with about 50 of your new best friends who are also headed to Disney, and drops you off at your temporary home. They also claim your luggage and bring it to your room for you!

Because we arrived around noon we checked in and headed to the Magic Kingdom. I was craving some Peco’s Bills! It happened that one of my aunts, the same one who let me stay at her house on our other solo trip, was also in the Magic Kingdom that day. We knew she was there but she and her husband had no idea we were there. I called my cousin, her daughter, who then called her mom just to see what was up. She found out where my aunt was without revealing we were in the park.

Would you believe I actually got to pet a rhino?

It happened she was on the river boat so we met her at the exit. I didn’t just call out to her though. I just stood in her way. She tried to walk around me several times but I kept getting in her way! Finally she looked up and realized that this idiot who would not get out of her way was not just any idiot. He was her nephew. We rode a few rides together and I got my Peco’s Bills. Then we parted ways. My wife and I wanted to ride something they did not and they had to get back in time to watch the Superbowl that evening.

Later that night we had a bad experience though. On the bus ride back to the Lodge my wife and I were standing. I was constantly overhearing a little girl being a brat, to put it politely. She finally worked herself up to a fever pitch and promptly threw up in her father’s face. Now I have a sensitive stomach and vomit smell is bad news for me so I was in trouble. But it got worse! Her sister, who was seated facing me, threw up too! Right on my jeans and shoes. She apologized profusely and I didn’t let my inner grumpy get the best of me but I was slightly less than thrilled to say the least! When the lights came on, however, I felt really bad for the second girl. She had a handful of vomit she was holding that should have hit my leg.

Because we were going to Florida where it is always warm I had only packed one pair of jeans (big mistake! Florida in February can be very cold!) We called down to the concierge and they agreed to launder my vomit infected clothes for free. Which I really appreciated.

Because it was an anniversary trip Cast Members went the extra mile to help us celebrate.

The next day we hit the Studios and had a blast even though it was cold. That week was so cold in fact they were using kerosene heaters to keep some of the trees from freezing at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The particular trees were native to Africa and there was a real risk they would die. In fact it was so cold that week that one morning on the Kilimanjaro Safaris one of the geysers was shooting its water up into the trees and making a wonderful ice sickle display.

But enough of the complaining! I said this was an anniversary trip to remember and it was! It was a great trip. I missed seeing my nieces enjoy the World but I did not miss constantly trying to keep a party of eight together! Or someone being upset because we weren’t all together. Side note: You don’t have to have kids to enjoy Disney! Adults can have a load of fun by themselves!

A real tree brought from Africa! This is a sausage fruit tree named because of the shape of its fruit. You can eat the fruit but most native Africans do not.If you look below this tree, located near Kilimanjaro Safaris, you can find a hidden mickey.

Being alone, my wife and I could ride what we wanted when we wanted as much as we wanted. And because it was value season prices were lower and lines were shorter. There was only one ride I had wanted to ride that I didn’t get to during that week even though the park hours were much shorter. That ride was Winnie the Pooh and I didn’t so much want to ride it as to be able to say I had ridden all the rides in the Magic Kingdom. Well I haven’t ridden Aladdin either but who is counting!

To be continued!

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?

Making Disney Magic Part Three: The Tricks

It looks like its super tall but it’s only Disney magic at work. Its actually only 189 feet tall. Imagineers used forced perspective convince us its much grander than it actually is.

Disney World is a magical place. There is no other way to describe it. Walt’s team of imagineers have built a wonderful illusion. As much as we would like for the illusion to be real it is still an illusion. This article will focus on some of the tricks Disney uses to pull us into that illusion.

One of the best tricks Disney uses is the entrance to the Magic Kingdom. If the Magic Kingdom is a show the show begins as soon as you cross under the Walt Disney World Railroad and find yourself on Main Street USA.

There are several things about Main Street USA designed to draw you into the show. For example the buildings look much taller than they actually are. Disney is using a trick called forced perspective on you. It’s really quite simple yet brilliant and they use it all over the park. It works like this. The first story of the buildings are normal. The second story and third stories are not. The second story windows are smaller than the first story windows. The third story windows are smaller than the second story. Because of the way your eyes and your brain communicate you perceive those smaller windows to indicate that the windows are much farther from you than they actually are. Therefore you think the buildings are much taller than they really are.

Main Street USA is not the only place forced perspective is used. Cinderella Castle is another prime example of Disney using windows to make you think the castle is hugely tall when in actuality it is less than 200 foot tall. The windows at the top of the tower have been made very small to help created this illusion.

While we are on Cinderella Castle let me introduce a Disney term you might not be familiar with. That term is weenie. It is not used in any negative sense. It is simply a term to describe something that draws you in. Cinderella Castle is the ultimate weenie. Once you pass under that railroad Main Street USA has been laid out to give you a view of the amazing castle and draw you into the Disney illusion.

One other trick I want to tell you about before we move off Main Street. It’s an old trick. My real estate agent first explained it to me when I was trying to sell a house. She said to bake a pan of cookies before anyone came to view the house. The point was not,  however, for me to leave cookies for them. The point was for the house to smell like cookies which put people into a good mood. Disney has gone to the extreme with this idea. Even though Main Street Bakery is right there as you enter the park you are not smelling their fresh baked cookies. Disney is piping in a synthetically created cookie smell to improve your mood instantly! Of course if you stop and buy a cookie before you get started they will be very happy too.

Have you ridden Space Mountain? What is your opinion? How fast are you going? Would you believe it is only an amazing 28 mph. It seems like its faster because of the rapid twists and turns. And of course the darkness! If Space Mountain were outside it would probably be at best a kiddie coaster but because it’s dark it’s an E Ticket Ride.

Disney combines sight, sound, smell and touch to create illusions in several attractions. Most notably Soarin’. Soarin uses a movie screen, airflow, smell and a top rate sound system to convince the guests they are actually flying. Watch people pick up their feet as they fly over the pines to see if it doesn’t work. This same type of system is used in It’s A Bugs Life and Mickey’s Philharmagic. In both of these they add 3d for an added boost to the illusion. I have watched children actually grabbing for the items in the Philharmagic if you think it doesn’t work!

Have you ever noticed that once buildings reach a certain height that they have those annoying blinking red lights to warn planes? Those lights have to be placed on buildings two hundred feet or taller. You know how many buildings are taller than that in the theme parks? None. They are built right up to the limit but not over it because that blinking red light would ruin the illusion. Instead they use that forced perspective thing I mentioned earlier to make them feel much taller.

The last tricks to be covered, for now at least, are the trees at Disney World. Two come to mind quickly, the Tree of Life and the tree at Swiss Family Treehouse. These trees are obviously not real but the work that has gone into them making them look real! But what about some of the real trees on property? Did you know that Disney actually imported trees from all over the world? A prime example is the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Of course these trees don’t necessarily fit very well in the Florida climate so Disney has to go to some extreme measures to keep them alive and healthy. At really cold seasons some even get their own personal heater!

These are of course, just a few tricks that Disney uses to make us believe. If you have more feel free to share them below in the comments and be sure to check out

Making Disney Magic Part One: The Terms and Making Disney Magic Part Two: Plus Is A Verb if you haven’t already.

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