Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day 2013 & Animal Kingdom 15 year Anniversary celebration

Earth Day 2013 was extra-special as Disney's Animal Kingdom celebrated it's 15th anniversary.  The day began with a very special Opening Ceremony.

We were allowed into the park up to a line of green vine.  I was fortunate enough to be in the second row to get a great viewpoint of the festivities.  The safari vehicle was already set up, along with a giraffe & peacock that we usually see in the afternoon parade.
The ceremony started out with representatives from each of the different parts of the park.

Then the characters came out & boarded the safari vehicle.  Soon after, we were introduced by the Vice President of Animal Kingdom, Josh D'Amaro, who spoke to us in hopes of bringing a new refreshed connection to wildlife.

He introduced us to Dr. Jackie Odgen, who was part of the Animal Kingdom Opening Team.  She shared a letter from a child who wanted to help the animals and made a contribution to the Worldwide Conservation Fund.  It makes you think if a child can do something like that, what could we do as adults to help animals and conservation throughout the world.  

The celebration was joined by performers from Nemo The Musical and Festival of the Lion King with wonderful song and dance.  I was thrilled to have a front row performance of the wonderful circle of life that takes place in the Animal Kingdom daily.  These shows are some of my favorite performances and I believe they're about as close to a Broadway performance as you can get.  This was truly a special treat for me!  This was one of those "pinch me" days as I felt like I was part of a very special moment.

 At the end of the Ceremony, a giant Earth was brought out and bounced around like a beach ball through the audience.  

Other notables on hand for the festivities today included: 
*  Erin Wallace, Senior VP of Operations integration/line of business Walt Disney World Resorts
*  George Kalogridis, President of the Walt Disney World Resort
*  Disney Ambassadors:  Rich Tamayo & Tye Arnold
*  Phil Holmes, VP of the Magic Kingdom
*  Beth Stevens, Senior VP Environmental Affairs
*  Val Bunting - VP Resort Operations Walt Disney World
*  Kevin Lansberry, VP Revenue Management & Analytics Walt Disney World

The great part about this event was that the VP's were so accessible to guests as we were allowed to THANK THEM for the magic that they create and even take pictures with them.  

After the Opening Ceremony, there was very special merchandise available and if you wanted it, you had to get in a very LONG line!  But for the limited edition merchandise, it was worth the wait!  Shirts, cell phone covers, pins, vinylnation - some items were extremely limited in number & very expensive...all the way down to the affordable.  There was also a special anniversary cupcake.  I was very lucky, as the one pictured was the LAST one & would take 2 hours until another batch was ready.
ALL merchandise seemed to be a big hit on this special day.  Special 15 year anniversary buttons were given out to those who came to celebrate & commemorative maps which included the way the park was on Opening Day on the inside and the way the park is now.  

There were commemorative buttons for those of us who donated to the Worldwide Conservation Fund.  All funds donated to the fund are matched by the Walt Disney Company.

There were special 15th Anniversary Activities for the young or the young at heart and truly a great day to have an Earth Day Party for the Planet at Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park.  I am thankful to Walt Disney World, who always knows how to throw a great party!  See ya real soon!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

EPCOT - The Living Seas

EPCOT's Living Seas Pavilion is the home of thousands of sea creatures and hosts a FUN Dolphin Presentation in the upstairs viewing area 3 times daily: 10:45am, 2:15pm & 4:15pm.  

Walt Disney World has four male dolphins:  Calvin & Malomar were the two out during my visit.  Dolphins in the wild form "Diads" which means that they pair with a best friend, usually same sex & approximately same age and become best friends for life.  During the life of a dolphin, they will have male/female relations & make baby dolphins (called calves) - but typically will remain with their "best friend" for life.  In Disney's Living Seas Pavilion they have two pairs of diads:  Calvin & Malomar and Khyber & Ranier.  All four dolphins get along well, but if you happen to see all four out at the same time, you'll notice that the two pairs tend to hang out with their partner a little more than the others.  

Calvin is 530 pounds & had just had a birthday as he is now 19 years old.  Malomar is 430 pounds & has a birthday coming up on June 13...they say that June 13, 2013 - Malomar will turn 13 so that will be a very special day in The Living Seas.  That might be a great day to enjoy this show if you're in town.

Some fun facts to share with others if you visit:
*  The food fed to the dolphins are the same mackrel, mussels, etc. used in Disney these dolphins eat quite well.
*  The water temperature is kept at 76 degrees and holds 5.7 million gallons of saltwater
*  Boy dolphins have an exclamation point mark on their bellies
*  They all have belly buttons...they're "innies" but you can actually see this as they swim by

They do have enrichment devices inside the tank but they also do research projects to help us learn more about these beautiful creatures.  The research is completely voluntary, so if a dolphin does not want to  participate that day, the Disney Cast Members have to put on the show by speaking to the guests & you can still view the beauty of these mammals swimming around.  

  They have great eyesight & can hear whistles / clapping through the windows.  So they do know what to do & when they perform correctly, they get tasty treats.  The last time I saw Malomar, they were matching signs in a multiple choice selection.  One window had the symbol they wanted him to go to, then when he was given the sign to go to the second window, there were three symbols including the one from the first window.  If he chose the correct one, we all cheered for him.  It was fun to see him know that he did well by our cheering.  

This time the research was giving him a sort of choreography in the water.  They would give him a sign for "bubbles," "twist," or even a "tumble" - then they would give him the signal to go to the other window & do the "same."  Sometimes he would mistakenly tumble instead of summersault, but every time was so fun!  And he even learned from his mistakes & did the moves correctly toward the end of the trials.

At the end, they give you the opportunity to have your cameras ready and both dolphins come to the window & smile for you...they even swim by waving goodbye.  It is a great show & only lasts around 15 minutes.
As with every Disney show, there is a valuable lesson to take away.  In this case, we learn to never feed wild animals.  By feeding them, it gets dolphins & other sea creatures too comfortable with boats, which can injure them and teaches us that human food will make them sick.   
That's Malomar on the left & Calvin on the right.  Next time you're in EPCOT, make sure you say hi...don't just keep swimming on by!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant

Disney's Sci Fi Dine In Theater is a great way to have some fun with your meal.  Many times at Walt Disney World, the experience is as important as the food.  We had to wait a few minutes for our table, so we were given a pager & had the opportunity to take a fun picture in their "classic car" parked outside.


Also while waiting, you may enjoy taking a load off your feet by sitting inside where you can check out the old movie posters for old B-Rated Camp Style Sci Fi movies that seem pretty funny in this day and time.  The average price of food ranges around $15 for a nice meal of Burgers or Sandwiches...but you may want to save room for a milkshake!
  Food selections include a wide variety of choices like Steak, Soup, Salad, Reuben, Salmon or Chicken BLT, Turkey Burger, Veggie Burger, Shrimp or Chicken Pasta, Onion Rings, Sweet Potato Fries, Chicken Wings...lots of great choices.

 Once you are led to your car, you're introduced to your "Car Hop" and the detail of this place is great!  It's a bit dark as it was in the old drive-ins, so as not to interfere with the movie.  You feel like you're in in outdoor Drive In from the 50's-60's era.  The seating is even bench seats from cars and I love the different classic car looks and lighting!
You may notice that the "make" of car that you are parked in is "Disney."
They even have "speakers" next to the car to remind you of the way things were in those days.

So, watch a few flicks, enjoy a tasty meal in the air-conditioned "outside" Florida Drive In blast from the past.  But when you leave, don't forget to turn your headlights back on.