The Magic Behind the Walt Disney World Moms Panel

July 28, 2010 at 1:02 am | Posted in Disney Travel Planning, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort | 3 Comments
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The Walt Disney World Moms Panel is becoming very well-known in and outside of the Disney community. The panel began a few years ago and since that time has answered many thousands of questions from people like you planning their Disney vacations. Many of them were planning their first ever trip, and others were planning their 15th and 20th trips. But as you may or may not know, there is a LOT to do at Walt Disney World. The Moms Panel is full of FANTASTIC people who are Walt Disney World experts. They have stayed there, played there, eaten there and more.

One of the very first members of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel was Laura Spencer. Since then, she has gone on to work for Walt Disney World in Social Media for Disney Parks. She is part of the magic behind the current Moms Panel. I was lucky enough to have Laura answer some questions for me!

1.  Your job is fascinating to all Disney fans. Tell us what exactly you are responsible for on a daily basis.  Social Media for Disney Parks

 2.  You were on the 1st Walt Disney World Moms Panel. What made you decide to apply? My love for all things Disney and I knew NOBODY knew as much about Walt Disney World as I did LOL! I am also a mom of color and I didn’t see a lot of Disneyphiles out there like me in the blogosphere and fan sites and I wanted to connect with more!

 3.  What was the best experience while on the Moms Panel? I had already been helping people plan their trips to Walt Disney World before the panel came into existence for years, so doing it on a large scale for even more people was really great! 

4.  How did being on the Moms Panel bring you to work for Disney?  I have almost 25 years of experience in marketing, sales and public relations in many industries, so my resume and experience was solid. It was a natural transition to doing what I know to doing what I love.

 5.  What is the best thing about working for Disney? Working for Disney.

 6.  What was one unexpected thing you found while working for Disney?   That it is still magical, even for Cast Members. 

7.  What is your favorite WDW theme park and why?  Magic Kingdom. There is a castle. I’m a princess. Nuff said.

 8.  What is your favorite WDW resort and why?  Disney’s Old Key West Resort. It was my family’s home-away-from-home and my dear grandmother’s favorite resort. She is since passed on, so visiting there brings back many happy memories. 

9.  What is your favorite WDW restaurant and why? It changes from month to month, but right now it’s Jiko since I became a vegan. 

10. What is your favorite WDW attraction and why?  it’s a small world. It is the classic that my family always makes time for.

11. Does your family share your love of Disney?   Of course.

 12. How does Disney influence you as a mom?  It doesn’t. I think being a mom is truly the best job in the world and I love it! That would be true with or without Mickey.  However in my opinion the Walt Disney Company does offer families the best quality when it comes down to family-friendly entertainment, products and movies. Most moms want the best for their families, so yeah, my house is full to the brim with Disney stuff!

 13. What is your favorite Disney movie?  I love “Lady and the Tramp” because the lullaby sung by Darling to the new baby has the word “Lu” in it. Lou is my nickname used by only my closest of friends. The song also has the world “pink” in it and anybody who knows me knows, that I always wear pink somewhere, everyday. I still sing that song to my daughter every night before she falls asleep. 

14. If you could tell us one thing about what makes Disney special, what would it be?  Cast members truly want to make everyone’s visit magical.

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Collect the Mouse!

July 2, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Posted in Collect the Mouse, Disney collectibles, Walt Disney World Resort | 1 Comment
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Autographed Walt Disney postcard from Big Fat Panda

 

Earlier this year, a new website was launched for lovers of Disney collectibles, small and large, common and rare. This unique site, www.collectthemouse.com, was just what was needed! Collect the Mouse is different in the fact that it is not selling Disney collectibles. This site is solely for people who love all things Disney and want to either display photos of their collections, view photos of other Disney collections or both! 

Scott Nadeau and his wife came up with this wonderful idea and launched the site in May. Scott, a graphic 

Disney Room by Christine

 

designer living in Pennsylvania, has a huge love for Disney and Disney collections. He doesn’t have a huge collection himself, but he has always loved looking at other’s collections. Once they came up with the idea, they had to find pictures of collections! Scott (@collecTM) reached out via his Twitter network to gather photos. The wonderful Disney community had an overwhelming response. He was able to post many photos from his Twitter friends. 

John Stamos' Dumbo Ride Vehicle

 

While he was getting started, he was trying to find some unique items. He had heard that John Stamos had a Dumbo ride vehicle displayed at his house. Proving the power of Twitter, Scott reached out to John inquiring about the possibility of receiving a photo of the ride vehicle. Within a few hours, Scott received a tweet back with the photo! You will find the picture of the Dumbo ride vehicle on the front page of the site. You’ll notice that it says submitted by “John S.”. Scott is not out to promote himself or others. You have the option of putting your first name and last initial, twitter name or anonymouse on the site. 

If you have a photo of a collection or an item you would simply like to share, you can submit the photo via the site. There are categories 

Wedding Collection from Shaene C.

 

for park memorabilia, housewares, clothing, movie merchandise, toys & games, and Disney rooms. Here are some tips for submitting your photos:  

  • Light is your friend, use it well!
  • If you have your collection under glass either remove the items you wish to photograph or turn off your flash.
  • Having a good background for your items is key. For instance, if your item is black, try to shoot the item with a light colored  background.
  • When shooting a small item, use the macro setting on your camera. This will reduce blur.
  • If you are planning to shoot “Your Disney Room” please make sure any personal items are removed before shooting.
  • Horizontal images work best. Your image may be cropped or reduced to fit a standard horizontal space.
  • Like what you see? Head over to www.collectthemouse.com. Add your own pictures, buy some Collect the Mouse merchandise or just enjoy browsing the awesome Disney collections from others! You can also ‘Like” Collect the Mouse on Facebook and follow them on Twitter

    Pins from Deanna S.

     

    The Countries of World Showcase-Part 5: Italy

    June 14, 2010 at 1:46 am | Posted in Disney Travel, Disney Travel Planning, Epcot, Italy, Italy, World Showcase | Leave a comment
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    Ciao, and welcome to Italy! We are on the 5th stop of our trip around World Showcase. Italy is a beautiful pavilion, filled with the beautiful architecture of Venice. Stroll the Italian piazza and take in the eateries, the shops, the jugglers, music and more. The attention to detail in this pavilion is stunning. You’ll find it in the bridges, gondolas, colorful barber poles, the Neptune fountain in the central Plaza de Teatro, and a stunning 83-foot version of the bell tower, Campanile of St. Mark’s Square. The detail is so great in the Tower, there is even an angel atop the tower covered in real gold leaf. The scaled-down campanile was sculpted on model of the original, right down to the curls on the back of the head. Other statues in the relatively small pavilion, including the sea God, Neptune, are similarly exact.

    The Italy pavilion even has an island, like Venice. The seawall is stained with “age” plus there are moorings that look like barber poles with Venetian-like gondolas tied to them. St. Mark the Evangelist is also remembered along with the lion that is the saint’s companion and Venice’s guardian. He can be seen atop two massive columns that flank the arched footbridge that connects the island to the mainland. The only deviation from Venetian reality is the alteration of the site of Doge’s Palace in reference to the real St. Mark’s square.

    Italy is a horticultural-lover’s dream. On the island, you will find Kumquat trees, citrus plants typical of the Mediterranean. There are also a couple of olive trees originally located in Sacramento, California. The trees were transported to Orlando on a flat-bed truck. They actually arrived smaller than they were when they left California. As they were in Arizona, border inspectors mandated they be trimmed to the 10-foot length required by state law. They were actually shorned en route. The scars from their traumatic travel remain. The darker bark you see would be from the original and the lighter bark you see would be the new growth. You will also find in the pavilion tall column-like trees that are called Italian cypresses.

    Shopping in the Italian pavilion is reminiscent of real-life Italy. At Enoteca Castello, located at the edge of the piaza, you will find red and white Italian wines, chocolate, espresso, cookbooks, and decorative bottle toppers. At Il Bel Cristallo, you will find an abundance of sports-themed apparel and accessories plus purses, wallets, bags, scarves, ties, fragrances, and jewelry. One of my favorite World Showcase shops is La Bottega Italiana. This beautiful little shop is an eclectic blend of decorative ceramics and glassware along with handcrafted Venetian masks, ranging in price from $30 to $500.

    Dining in the Italy pavilion is pretty limited, but there is more coming! The table-service restaurant in Italy is called Tutto Italia. This is one of the most popular restaurants in Epcot. Recently, they expanded the outdoor seating area, which makes for one of the best people-watching spot in all of Epcot. Tutto Italia serves traditional appetizers like fried calamari, fresh mozzarella with tomatoes and basil and Caesar salad. Entrees include fresh pastas, fish, pork, chicken, and paninis at lunch. New on the horizon is Via Napoli, an authentic Italian-style pizzeria! This new restaurant is set to open in 2010. The menu will feature several Neapolitan pizzas, such as pizza bianca, quattro stagioni, piccante, and traditional Margherita pizza. Famed Pizzaiolo Charlie Restivo will serve as the restaurant’s executive chef.  The water at Via Napoli will even be calibrated specially to the pH found in Naples to make for an even more authentic pizza experience. For more on Via Napoli, go to Disney Food Blog.

    While one of the smaller pavilions, Italy is among the more authentic and a true delight. Take your time while exploring, and take in the sights, sounds and smells. And make sure while you are there, you search for Sergio, the Italian clown juggler!

    The Italy pavilion, with the author's daughter in the corner.

    Wordless Wednesday

    June 9, 2010 at 9:19 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

    Deep in conversation...

    Wordless Wednesday

    June 2, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Posted in Disney Travel, Walt Disney World Resort, Wilderness Lodge | Leave a comment
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    My home sweet home in 64 days…Wilderness Lodge

     

    Wordless Wednesday

    May 26, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Posted in Disney Travel, Disney Travel Planning, Magic Kingdom, Main Street, Uncategorized, Walt Disney World Resort | 1 Comment
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    Pondering the day's activities on Main Street

    The Countries of World Showcase- Part 4: Germany

    May 24, 2010 at 8:00 pm | Posted in Biergarten, Disney Travel, Disney Travel Planning, Epcot, Germany, Walt Disney World Resort, World Showcase | 1 Comment
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    Guten Tag, and welcome to Germany! This is our fourth installment of our trip around Epcot’s World Showcase! Today, we are visiting the beautiful and quaint Germany pavilion. This 16th-century picture-perfect village is dominated by a fountain depicting St. George’s victory over the dragon while on a pilgrimage the Middle East. Monuments to St. George, the patron saint of soldiers, are common throughout Bavaria. An animated glockenspiel (like the one in Munich) comes to life every hour above the platz (plaza), complete with Hummel figurines and a melody composed especially for Epcot. In the Germany pavilion, you can enjoy a beer, indulge in bratwurst and other types of sausage or stroll through one of the magnificent shops! Kids can also meet one of their favorite princesses, Snow White along with the Prince and Dopey near Snow White’s wishing well.

    Germany’s architecture is simply beautiful and was inspired by Bavaria and the Rhine region of Germany. The buildings are not precise replicas of buildings in Germany. Instead, the Imagineers of the pavilion adapted German structures to fit the need and scale of the World Showcase. The facade of the art and book shop was inspired by the Kaufhaus, which is a 16th century merchants hall located in Freiburg in the Black Forest. The high wall that serves as the backdrop for Germany was inspired by Eltz Castle, located on the Mosel River and the Stahleck Castle on the Rhine.

    Hungry? Then Germany is the perfect place to be! Biergarten celebrates Oktoberfest every day! Here you can enjoy Oktoberfest Musikanten show, a 6-person musical group that performs traditional Bavarian music with singing, dancing, and yodeling while partaking in a delicious meal of sausages, red cabbage, sauerkraut, spaetzle and schnitzel. The Biergarten restaurant reflects the 16th century town of Rothenberg. This lively restaurant is an indoor German courtyard, and it serves lunch and dinner. Seating is at long communal tables so everyone can be part of the Oktoberfest celebration. Ready for dessert (as I always am)? Biergarten offers up tasty Bavarian cheesecake, freshly baked apple strudel and more! Raise a stein of German beer or a glass of Rhine wine or other drink selection, and say “Prost” as you enjoy the food, entertainment and company! Biergarten is on the Disney Dining Plan! Make sure and make your Advanced Dining Reservations.

    Do you want to experience quick German food? Then you will enjoy Sommerfest, Germany’s quick-service restaurant. Sommerfest serves up bratwurst, frankfurters,  cake and strudel. Of course, you can also enjoy a German beer! If you’re just in the mood for a traditional German beer, you can head over to Bierline, which is a walk-up cart serving beer, wine and pretzels.

    Shopping is fun for both adults and kids in Germany. The shops interconnect on both side of the cobblestoned central platz. Das Kaufhaus stocks a nice selection of Adidas sportswear. Volkskunst’s walls are covered with Schneider cuckoo clocks, and the shelves are stocked with limited edition steins and glassware. Der Teddybar features Engel-Puppen dolls and Steiff plush toys. You will also find the Kidcot stop at the back of the store. Kunstarbeit in Kristall has beautiful Swarovski pins, glassware and Arribas Brothers collectibles. Look for the $37,500 replica of Cinderella’s castle, made out of 20,000 Swarovski crystals. You will find 300 varieties of German wines at Weinkeller. You can also take advantage of wine tasting opportunities. Head over to Sussigkeiten for imported sweets and fresh-baked goods such as fudge and cookies. Do you love Christmas? Then you don’t want to miss Die Weihnachts Ecke where you can find Christmas ornaments and handmade nutcrackers. Glas und Porzellan showcases Goebel and Hummel glass and porcelain objects. Sometimes you can even find a German artist painting the delicate M.I. Hummels there!

    Food and shopping are the true attractions in the Germany pavilion. You also will find a 1930’s miniature train village. This village was originally created for the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, but they kept it around due to the popularity. The village is complete with a castle, farmhouse, monastery and a wee commuter railroad!

    When EPCOT Center was being planned, one of the planned attractions was a boat ride that would take guests past mini-recreations of famous German tourist spots, like the Black Forest and Cologne Cathedral. The building that was to house the attraction was eventually completed, but budget overruns forced Disney Imagineers to cancel the project. This building still stands today behind the scenes. It is empty and is mainly used as a rehearsal space for the various high school bands that sometimes perform at Epcot.

    Germany is a beautiful and fun pavilion! Have a beer and a pretzel and stroll through the shops as you take in the atmosphere!

    Meet Zanna! A True Disney Mom!

    May 19, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Posted in Disney Travel, Disney Travel Planning, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Downtown Disney, Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Mom's Panel, Walt Disney World Resort | 1 Comment
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    As you all know, I have a bit of an obession with all things Disney. While reaching out and finding others who share my passion, I found Suzannah DiMarzio, or Zanna (you can read her wonderful blog at www.zannaland.com) on Twitter. In the year that I have “known” Zanna, she has proven to be a wonderful person and friend. Her love of her family and of Disney come through with all tweets and blog posts. I am truly looking forward to finally meeting her in person this October during the 5K weekend.

    This past September, Zanna began the process of applying for the Walt Disney World Mom’s Panel. The Mom’s Panel is made up of several moms and dads who are true Disney fans. These people are the epitome of Disney experts. All of us on Twitter knew from the start that Zanna would be a perfect fit for the Mom’s Panel. We all cheered her on from the time they announced they were accepting applications, through her 2nd and 3rd round interviews and then finally when she made the announcement that she was selected to join this great group of people!

    Read on for more information on Zanna and how she incorporates her love of Disney into her every day life, including being a mom and wife!

    1.  Tell us about your childhood interest in Disney…

    My dad grew up in Ocala Florida and his family still lived there, so I know visited Magic Kingdom at about 7 months old (so 1974) and again at around I think 4 or 5, but I don’t remember those visits at all. The trip that changed my life and made me a Disney fan was in the summer of 1983. My parents decided to drive down and make stops along the way over and back to various historic sites (Philadelphia Baltimore, Washington DC, Charleston and Savannah). In the middle, we spent some time at Disney World. I don’t remember how long, it must’ve been a week though. We stayed at the Lake Buena Vista Villas which were located in what is now the Saratoga Springs area. It was beyond amazing to me, at 9 to check into a townhouse-like ‘hotel’ and get our own golf cart and be able to drive to the then Lake Buena Vista Marketplace. I fell in love with EPCOT Center then too. We visited again with my older siblings the next year, and the year after that, my parents and I moved to Ocala. They opened a homemade ice cream shop (named after me) and we’d visit EPCOT almost every other Monday when the shop was closed. I can’t really describe the magic that exists at Walt Disney World, but I think it’s mostly the feeling of being able to leave the real world behind and let your imagination take over. 
     

    2.  How did that change as you got older?

    As I moved through 6th – 8th grade, it was well-known by family and friends that we were just always at Disney. We visited other areas in Florida, and we’d join my mom’s family when they would vacation for the summer in the southeast part of Maine, but Walt Disney World became home. We built up so many memories there that, to paraphrase a quote from fellow Moms Panelist Andi, it became a living book of treasured memories. 

    In the middle of 8th grade, we moved to Lynchburg, VA. It was during that time that our multiple visits to Disney World stopped, but we did try to go once a year. It was then that we discovered Disney’s Beach Club resort. We fell in love. Being originally from New England and having the resort be so close to our favorite Epcot, it was just perfection.

    In the middle of high school I moved back to Massachusetts with my mom. We didn’t get down there too often, but I did find several other Disney fans in school. As a result, the senior trip that usually took place in Caribbean each year, was split into two groups, because so many people wanted to go to Disney World instead. That was a fun trip too. After that, I didn’t get to the parks too much, but after trying out a few majors in a couple of colleges (Creative Writing for Children and Public Relations among them) I realized that what I really wanted to do was work for Disney as one of the people that booked the vacation packages. I then switched gears to a smaller school to get a degree in Travel and Tourism Management and use that to get a job in the travel company at Disney. The only problem was when I moved down there, the travel company had no openings. I took a job on Main Street, USA and hoped to transfer. However, in the meantime, I found a position in an actual travel agency and decided to start there. The company was just starting out, so I was able to move up quickly and become the leisure and cruise department manager. I left when I had my first son.

    3. What is your family like?

    I met my husband in high school. He played guitar and wanted to play music for the drama club, but got roped into acting because so few boys tried out for parts. He was a natural but it wasn’t until senior year that we started talking more and hanging out. I introduced him to musicals and he introduced me to Led Zeppelin. 😉 Luckily, he liked Disney too. His family had been when he was 13, but that was it. I remember knowing everything would be fine when we drove down to Disney during Spring Break of 1994 and stayed in All-Star Music together. We had a such a great time. I was able to convince him to move to Florida in 1995 with my mom and I and we all worked at Disney for a while. We were married in 1996 and had our reception at the Walt Disney World Dolphin hotel. Our first son was born in 1999, our daughter in 2000 and our youngest son was born in 2008. My husband is a Systems Engineer and also writes tech books. Our oldest son is very into video games, usually on Xbox 360. He also loves to read and write. He has a killer sarcastic wit, which assures me daily that yes, he is mine. Our daughter is into gymnastics, swimming and loves helping with her baby brother. She detests pink much to my dismay, but she is still a princess in her own right. Our youngest son is a bundle of energy that keeps us laughing, smiling and warms our hearts daily. He is fearless and so far he shows all the signs of being a Disney fan too. My mom lives nearby and is a cruise agent. She likes to plan most of our family vacations to Disney and is very much like a fairy godmother to all of us. 

    4.  Do they share your love of Disney?

    Oh yes. They would live there if they could. My older two are at the age where they don’t like to admit they like it as much as they do, but they always find something new to make each visit special when we go. My oldest son in particular is very into finding Hidden Mickeys. They both collected pins for a while, but never got into the act of “trading” them. 😉 They now both love Vinylmation which has become a family activity (being obsessed with them).
     

    5. How many days a year are you in the Disney parks?

    This is something I really wish I’d kept track of, but sadly I never did. I’d love to know from day one exactly how many visits, including working there and being Florida residents, I’ve had. Before starting the blog and being chosen for the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, we’d probably go once a month, with a couple of longer stays throughout the year for birthdays. Since I started blogging and connecting with people on twitter, there haven’t been too many weekends that I’m not in the Parks. It’s been a completely different experience visiting the Parks solo, or with friends vs. with family and I’m very lucky and grateful that I’m able to do both. 
     

    6. What is your favorite Walt Disney World restaurant?

    My answer seems to change every week when I do my Meet the Moms Panel series on ZannaLand and read their answers. Just when I think I have one favorite, I read their choice and think “ooh, that’s a good one too!” I really do love Citricos though and that’d probably be my top pick if I wanted a nice dinner out with my husband. California Grill would be next on that list. For the whole family, we love Japan’s Teppan Edo, Les Chefs de France, Germany’s Biergarten, Le Cellier, Kona Cafe…I really should stop. 😉

    7. What is your favorite Walt Disney World Resort and why?

    It really is hard for me to pick one, because I have 3 top favorites: Disney’s Beach Club, Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge. I love them all for different reasons and would feel at home at any of them. Beach Club reminds me of New England and of course the pool there is just amazing. I love its convenient location too. Wilderness Lodge is just comfort defined. I feel so at home there and love the sights sounds and smells. Animal Kingdom Lodge has a similar feel, and I love that there are just so many areas to explore within the lobby alone. There is nothing that quite compares to waking up to zebra and giraffes grazing outside your window. For me, the resort has always been as much a part of the vacation as the Disney parks and other attractions. I love the relaxing feel you get as you leave the real world behind and make your Disney resort your home away from home.  

     

    8. What is your favorite Walt Disney World attraction?

    My two favorite attractions actually don’t exist anymore. The original Journey into Imagination and Horizons. I have such love for them because they represent a time when EPCOT Center was new and really made me love Walt Disney World. I thought the original Imagination ride was a complete work of art and it saddens me so much that whoever was in charge made the decision that it needed to change. It was a perfect representation of the different parts of imagination and things like the white room and the senses room and the science room were just amazing. I loved the photo at the end too, with no attempt to sell you a picture, it was just part of the magic of the experience.

    Horizons was reminiscent of Carousel of Progress, which has always been a favorite too. I loved that there was a *story* to the attraction and the extras like the orange grove smell and the ‘choose your ending’ parts really made it unique. I understand that rides have to appeal to a broader audience and most people want action vs. story, but those two rides will always be my favorite for those reasons. I loved World of Motion too. I have most of the original EPCOT Center album memorized. 😉

    Of existing rides, I love Soarin’. I wish there were about 5 more theatres so it wasn’t quite such a long wait for a short ride, but I still love it and think it’s a wonderful ride. I love Toy Story Mania! too and think it’s a great example of combining story with new ride technology. Outside of that, I’m a sucker for the classics; it’s a small world, Peter Pan’s Flight, Pirates of the Caribbean, the TTA (which will always be the Wedway People Mover to me). I love Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain, but I’m always going to love the older, simpler attractions because of the history they have. 
     

    9. What is your favorite Walt Disney World theme park and why?

    Epcot. Or I should say EPCOT Center circa 1985. 😉 I still love the park despite the changes. I walk through that park and thousands of memories flood over me. I love all of the countries and how you can have a different experience every time you visit the park. Magic Kingdom I love because I worked there, so I have great memories of that park, plus so many with my children. I love the Studios because it was my dad’s favorite park, but I do miss the old Residential Street and original backstage tour and special effects tour. Animal Kingdom I will always love because it is a park of discovery and you can just explore and drink in the surroundings. So…I like them all for different reasons, but I think Epcot wins out by a little. 

    10. Tell me about your decision to apply to the Walt Disney World Mom’s Panel…

    I hadn’t heard about the Moms Panel until the end of 2008, when the application process for the 2009 panel began. I believe it was in the allears.net newsletter that I saw a little blurb about it and thought, “oh, Disney? Moms? online? I can do that!” So I wrote out my answers in Word, pasted them into the little boxes, hit submit, and promptly forgot about it. Then in October I got an email about the Mickey Moms Club, realized that I didn’t make it and thought “aww.” but that was it. It wasn’t until starting to interact with other Disney fans on twitter and meeting some of the 08 and 09 moms there, that I felt like “wait, I HAVE to do this.” I’m sure the buzz online contributed to my obsession. I realized how much fun the panelists had with each other, and wanted to experience that in the context of helping others plan their Disney vacations, something that was really second nature to me. I knew with my experience as a visitor alone I could help, but combining that with my cast member experiences, my travel agent knowledge and my time online, I figured (and hoped) it would be a perfect fit.

    Of course I found out during the application process that when you paste answers in, they can come across completely garbled and unreadable. So I wasn’t sure if my first attempt had been foiled because of that, or more likely, because I approached the first application like a resume, trying to “prove myself” worthy. The second time, I spoke from my heart and shared personal experiences vs. facts and figures. I’m not sure if that made a difference or not, but I’m of course extremely grateful that Disney saw something in me and I made it onto the panel. 

    11. Can you describe the process of the Mom’s Panel?

    Well, in the past, during the month of September, www.DisneyWorldMoms.com will have a link to apply to the WDW Moms Panel. On that page, you answer 3 questions in 100 words or less about you, your family, and your experience as a Disney fan. The questions vary slightly each year. I have no insight into *how* they choose people from the 1,000’s of applications they get, but I can only advise to put your passion into words. Don’t just say “I’m really passionate” show them how you are. With that many applications, they really have to weed through any spelling or grammar errors, so watch out for those. Just be yourself, and let the real you shine.

    After that first cut, somewhere around 200 people advance to round 2, which is another set of three essay questions. Usually they are a little more in-depth and may ask for examples of your planning tips or skills, or what makes you unique and a good choice for the Panel. In the past, it’s usually been narrowed down to around 40 or so, but we aren’t sure how that went last year since there were double the amount of panelists added. Round 3 is a phone interview where you tell executive cast members about your experiences and why you feel you should be on the Panel. From there, the final Panel is chosen! It is an extremely exciting, nerve-wracking and exhilarating experience. It’s equally as much fun as it is ulcer-inducing. 😉

    I know from speaking with a lot of people online, that sometimes it’s really hard to understand how the panelists are chosen and why some people with vast Disney knowledge or experience may get passed over. I have no answers for this because even after making the panel, we are not given any insight into how we were chosen or how future panelists will be chosen (and rightly so, it would taint the process if we knew). All I can say is that there are a LOT of people that love Disney. Disney loves and appreciates all their fans, and however they decide choose to select members of their panel, that decision should not diminish your love and passion for the Parks and Resorts. Keep spreading the magic and making memories, because that’s what it’s all about. 

    12. What was one unexpected thing you discovered on the Mom’s Panel?

    As a shy person in the real world (online is another story), I was worried that I wouldn’t fit in or be accepted by the rest of the panel. After all, how often do 21 (or 43 altogether) people actually have enough in common at first meeting to become friends? But the power of pixie dust is strong, and we all became instant friends. That in and of itself is such a powerful gift that I thank Disney for each day. There isn’t anyone on the panel that doesn’t want to help other people, and as much as it of course makes sense, it was an unexpected reality.

    The other thing was just how addictive answering questions on DisneyWorldMoms.com can be. As my time approached to start answering questions, I became nervous that I wouldn’t be able to do a good job or that I’d even feel overwhelmed by the ‘job’ part of being on the panel. It was just an instant fit and the only downside is that I don’t have enough hours in the day to answer ALL the questions I see on there. 
     

    13. What is your favorite thing about the Mom’s Panel?

    Without a doubt, being a part of such an amazing, diverse group of moms and dads. I’ve learned something from each of them and I’m so grateful to call them all “friend”. The cast members in charge of the panel and other aspects of Disney Parks are all wonderful too. It’s been such a treat to get an insider’s look at some areas of how things are run, and of course it leaves you with wanted to do more with Disney. In addition, the support on twitter and other places online for the panel in general has been overwhelming. There are so many people with such a great love and knowledge of Disney, it’s nice to know that we are all one big family online.

    Knowing that you are helping people head on their way to a magical Disney vacation is a wonderful feeling too. It’s especially nice when you get people that liked a previous answer you gave and come back and ask you more questions personally. I had one mom ask me about 3 different questions about her trip and it was so cool to know I was helping her plan a great trip. 

    14. What are your family’s thoughts on the Moms Panel?

    My husband and mom think it’s amazing and are really proud of me. The big kids didn’t really get that it was a big deal, until they got *their* picture in the paper too. 😉 Now they think it’s pretty cool. They love meeting other Moms Panel kids but what’s funny is they think that *everyone* I meet in the Parks now is on the Moms Panel. 

    15. How does Disney impact your role as a mom and a wife?

    It’s definitely made me appreciate my family more, and made me take stock of ALL the memories we’ve experienced over the year that turn into Disney traditions that they will hopefully pass on to their children as well. It’s definitely made me want to visit the parks more and gain even more experience to share with others who ask questions on the Moms Panel, and readers of my blog.

    Disney was such an important part of my childhood and for a long time I avoided ’embracing’ my love of Disney World because so many people I met just didn’t ‘get it’. Becoming involved in twitter and finding so many other people that felt the same love for Disney really helped me embrace my passion and find out how to share it with others and help them create wonderful memories too. I am really lucky to have such an amazing support system in my husband, mom, children and friends that allow me to pursue my dreams. I’m even luckier to have Disney be a major part of those dreams.

    I’d like to thank Zanna for taking the time out of her busy life to answer my questions! You can find her on the Moms Panel site, www.zannaland.com or on Twitter.

    The Countries of World Showcase- Part 3: China

    May 11, 2010 at 3:38 am | Posted in China, Disney Travel, Disney Travel Planning, Epcot, Walt Disney World Resort, World Showcase | 2 Comments
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     你好 (Nǐ hǎo) and hello from China! World Showcase’s China pavilion is our 3rd stop as we travel around the “World”. China is a beautiful, serene pavilion in which you can enjoy a beautiful 360 CircleVision 360 movie, witness thousands of full-size terra cotta soldiers and horses from a lost tomb that date back 2000 years or enjoy a delicious Chinese meal at Nine Dragons Restaurant or a quick meal at Lotus Blossom Cafe. 

     

    The focal point of the Chinese pavilion is the Temple of Heaven. The three-tiered, circular Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest is a one-half scale reproduction of its counterpark inside the Temple of Heaven complex near Beijing. Many of the architectural details have significance to the Chinese. Inside the hall, you will find 12 columns. These columns represent the 12 months of the year and the 12-year cycle of the Chinese calendar. Near the center of the room, you will find four columns representing the four seasons. These columns support a beam that represents Earth and is topped by a round beam signifying Heaven. Outside of the Temple, you may find Mulan and Mushu. Inside, the temple, you will see the best of Disney’s Circle Vision 360 movies called Reflections of China. This 13-minute film is a remarkable film presentation  that takes you on a breathtaking visual journey across this amazing country. You will journey from Beijing to Shanghai, from inner Mongolia to the Forbidden City, from the distant lands of the Hunan province to the Great Wall, discovering all the brilliant facets of this Land of Many Faces. The host portrays 8th-century Chinese poet Li Bai.  

    Reflections of China is shown on the half-hour. While you are waiting, you can take in the Land of Many Faces Gallery. You can also gaze 

    at Tomb Warriors: Guardian Spirits of Ancient China in the House of the Whispering Willows Gallery. These are pint-sized replicas of the life-sized tomb warriors found in the 22-square-mile tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang; and cases displaying archaeological tools and photos. Much like the real army, the model soldiers all have distinct characteristics and realistic features. 

    You can then be entertained by the Dragon Legend Acrobats. These are a fantastic troupe of children, typically 9-12 years old. These children are absolutely amazing and perform daily. They are a must-see! Inside the Temple of Heaven, you can listen to the beautiful harp-like music of Si Xian. Si Xian is the name of the harp-like music played on the Chinese zheng, an instrument resembling a table zither. This beautiful instrument was created more than 2000 years ago during the Qin dynasty. It is used as both a court instrument and a folk instrument , and it is now a member of the Asian zither family and is a very popular instrument. Si Xian plays at different times throughout the day. 

    Knell Studio Works

    Knell Studio Works

    Ready to shop?  Then head over to Yong Feng Shangdian department store. This unique shop carries apparel, furniture, fountains, food, housewares and jewelry. You can also find fun panda items as well as kid items. Kids love the brightly colored parasols in which they can get their names written on them in the Chinese language. Kids can also locate the Kidcot stop towards the back of the pavilion. They also may come across Mulan and Mushu! 

    Hungry? Then head over to Nine Dragons. Nine Dragons serves several different types of meals, many of which are perfect for sharing, including several Dim Sum favorites such as Shrimp and Chicken Egg Rolls served with plum-chili and ginger-soy sauces, General Tso’s Chicken Dumplings, and the Appetizer Trio, a sampler of cucumber salad, spicy beef and fragrant chicken. This restaurant was extensively renovated in 2008 and is a mixture of modernism and tradition. Chinese food is always best when served family style so make sure you order a number of dishes and share! Advanced Dining Reservations are recommended for Nine Dragons. 

    Need something quick? Then head to Lotus Blossom Cafe! This quick-service restaurant serves up stir-fry, eggrolls, and a daily special. 

    All in all, you will find a serene, peaceful and reflective area in China. The culture and the lands of China permeate throughout the pavilion. Find a seat and watch the people stroll along the lagoon! Enjoy and goodbye – 再见 (Zàijiàn). 

    Amy at http://www.flickr.com/photos/teruterubouzu/

    This post is part of the Disney Blog Carnival, go there to read more great posts like this!

    The Countries of World Showcase: Part 2- Norway

    April 27, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Posted in Disney Travel, Disney Travel Planning, Epcot, Norway, Walt Disney World Resort, World Showcase | Leave a comment
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    Heisann and God Dag! Welcome to Norway! This is our 2nd stop in our trip around the World- World Showcase, that is! Epcot’s Norway will transport you to Scandinavia, old and new. Here you step back into the land of the Vikings! Epcot’s Norway contains a beautiful village square with traditional Norwegian architectural elements such as stone and wood designed to represent the Norwegian towns and cities of Bergen, Oslo, Alesund and Setesdahl. 

    Norway is one of the two World Showcase pavilions with an actual ride. Here you can enjoy Maelstrom, but remember to look out for trolls. After you take your boat ride, you can dine on traditional Norwegian fare and with princesses at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall or enjoy a wonderful Kringla Sweet Pretzel at Kringla Bakeri og Cafe. Then stroll through the Stave Church and see “Vikings: Conquerors of the Seas”, which is a collection of authentic Norse weapons and artifacts. Shopping aficionados will love the fragrances, candy, hand-knit woolens, trolls, glass, pewter and more that can be found in Norway.

    Maelstrom is Norway’s main attraction and is themed to Norway’s rich seafaring heritage. This is a FastPass attraction, but unless you are there at one of the busiest times, you shouldn’t have to wait more than 10-15 minutes. Maelstrom uses a 16-passenger boat to transport you through a 10th century Viking village and forest where trolls wind up casting a spell on your boat. After the curse is placed on the boat and trolls commandeer your ship, you will start going backwards before you reach a waterfall, where your boat will change course and turn around. After the waterfall, you go through a storm and arrive in a quaint Norwegian village. When you exit the boat, you will be in a holding area which will ultimately open in a small theatre that shows “The Spirit of Norway”,  a film on life in Norway. The film shows the daydreams of a young Norwegian boy. He examines an old Viking ship and imagines all types of successful Norwegians, which portray the film’s point- “The Spirit of Norway is in its people”. When the show is over, you exit into the store where you can don your viking horns and have your picture taken with the giant troll!

    After your Maelstrom adventure, you can head over to Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, where you can dine with princesses for breakfast, lunch or dinner for ‘Princess Storybook Dining’. A word of advice- make sure you make your Advanced Dining Reservations! When you enter Akershus, you will have your photo taken with a princess (it was Belle the last time I was there). The photo package will be brought to you during your meal, and it is included with your meal. Akershus is patterned after its namesake castle, located in Oslo, Norway. You will meet five Disney princesses such as Alice, Ariel, Aurora, Belle, Cinderella, Esmerelda, Jasmine, Mary Poppins, or Mulan will come and visit you during your meal for photographs and autographs (princesses subject to change during each meal).  Breakfast is a Norwegian-style meal with an American feel, such as scrambled eggs, bacon, potato casserole and more. Lunch and dinner begin with a Taste of Norway assortment of cold meats and cheeses as well as various salads. From there, you order your main course. You can try lamb stew and kjottkake or stick to more traditional items such as different types of chicken. And don’t worry, Akershus is still a Disney restaurant and knows what kids like- hot dogs, pasta, pizza and grilled chicken.

    For a sweet treat, stop by Kringla Bakeri og Kafe. This is a great pastry shop that serves breakfast or desserts. One of my favorites is the sweet pretzels- a must in my opinion. Use your Disney Dining Plan snack credits here!

    There is one main store, The Puffin’s Roost, in Norway. This store runs the gamut. Here you can find Norwegian apparel such as pricey Dale of Norway woolen items, Christmas ornaments, toys, Geir Ness perfume, puffin stuffed animals, plastic trolls, Donald Duck vikings and silly plastic Viking helmets, some with braids and some with horns. You can also find the Norway Kidcot station here.  And don’t forget before you leave, to get your picture taken with the Giant Troll!

    You can stroll through the old Stave Church Gallery to see Vikings: Conquerors of the Sea. This display shows a life-size Rognvald the Raider, a Viking who invaded and colonized France as well as Erik the Red, and King Olaf as well as a detailed scale model of a 9th century Viking ship. You can also see authentic swords, arrows and axe blades, some of which date back more than 1,000 years.  The Stave Churches (or Stavkirke) were built by Norwegians beginning in the year 1050. Norwegians knew woodworking the best so when St. Olaf brought Christianity to Norway, they turned to what they knew best and began building the churches  and blended Christian symbols and Viking images. Other wooden churches were built throughout Europe, but only ones in Norway remain. Out of the 1000 Norwegian Stave Churches built, only 28 remain.

    Make sure you observe the four different types of architecture while strolling through Norway. Setesdal style, with grassy roofs and thick logs, projects a rough woods look in The Puffin’s Roost and Kringla Bakeri og Kafe. Bergen style, captured here in the Fjording Shop, is marked by gabled windows on close-set wooden buildings. Oslo style is marked by the surrounding walls of the Akershus Castle. Alesund style is typified by the white stucco and stone-trimmed information building where you find the entrance to the Maelstrom.

    Norway is a beautiful part of World Showcase. There are many intricacies that you need to search for, and you can also find some Hidden Mickeys, for those of you who are Hidden Mickey fans! Enjoy Norway!

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