It’s thrilling! It’s amazing! It’s fun! The most delightful magic has been gathered together from Disney parks around the world in one enchanting place. Want to share in still another big Disney party? Disneyland’s 50 th anniversary has been turned into a massive celebration for Disney Parks around the world. The Happiest Celebration on Earth blasted off at the World Disney Parks and Resort in Orlando in May, 2005 and will continue for 18 months.
The Castle is decorated with rose swags, bunting and swirling bands of “pixie dust” encircling its spires. We tilted our heads back and could see golden sculptures of animated characters from several of our favorite Disney films ... Cheshire Cat and White Rabbit; Peter Pan, Wendy & Tinker Bell; King Louie & Kaa; Flounder & Sebastian; Sima, Timon & Pumbaa and Victor, Hugo & Laverne.
The magical golden frame above the castle’s front arch shows colorful images of the five iconic castles from Disney theme parks around the world at regular intervals throughout the day.
How about taking an aerial flight over California? New at Epcot there is a hang-gliding journey over the magnificent landscapes of California, Soarin’. This exhilarating aerial adventure surrounded us with a multi-sensory experience, complete with sights and sounds plus the caress of warm breezes and the scent of pine forests, citrus groves and salty seashores. Soarin' is located at The Land pavilion.
With the wind blowing in our hair, we found ourselves gliding 40 feet in the air as we looked down upon the breathtaking vistas of Yosemite and redwood forests. It is a nice easy ride with beautiful photography that we could enjoy as if we were actually soaring on a hang-glider. Even if you are concerned about heights we think you will find this one super-special. We did and would rate it the top new attraction at all the parks.
"The attraction is perfect for Epcot because of its spirit of exploration and discovery, and The Land is a natural fit since the pavilion is about the appreciation of the rich bounty and awesome beauty of the Earth," said Kathy Mangum, Walt Disney Imagineering executive producer/vice president.
Typical of a Disney adventure they use stunning cinematic artistry and Imagineering-developed motion-based technology. Soarin' literally lifted 87 of us at a time 40 feet aloft into an 80-foot projection screen dome. The sensation, however, is that we have taken off into the skies as our entire field of vision was filled with panoramic beauty.
To further enhance the Soarin' experience, the film is projected at high definition, high speed -- 48 frames per second, twice the speed of normal motion picture film. The result is a crisp, clear image with extraordinary detail.
Among the many sights we were able to view during the exhilarating fly-over: the Golden Gate Bridge, Napa Valley, Palm Springs, Yosemite National Park, San Diego and more. Throughout the flight, we shared the sky with a variety of other aircraft, such as hang gliders, hot air balloons, helicopters and Navy jets. We were absolutely mesmerized by the sights.
The experience is intensified as we could feel the sweeping winds and smell the fragrance of orange blossoms, pine trees and even the seashore that seemed to be all around us ... and a beautiful orchestral musical score heightened the thrill.
Soarin' offered us a first-of-its-kind experience at Walt Disney World Resort. While at Epcot we have been able to blast off like an astronaut on a rocket ride to Mars aboard Mission: SPACE, we’ve never before been able to soar with the eagles. With Soarin', that dream of free flight becomes reality.
For us another highlight at Epcot is the peek into the next 50 years of Disney parks. Nestled in the Hong Kong Disneyland Preview Center located in the China pavilion there are showcases filled with plans and photos, costumes and models, maps and artwork of Disney’s 11 th theme park that will be opening in Sept of 2005.
But wait ... there is even more to see for your next visit. The Disney-MGM Studios theme park has a brand new show from Paris ... Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show. You want action ... you get action! Cars, motorcycles and watercraft careen and jump across an enormous Mediterranean village set. Those performing have to be the best of the movie industry’s stunt masters. Sit back, hold your breath and enjoy. Engines rev, tires screech and adrenaline kicks into overdrive as a series of highly orchestrated stunts, specially designed cars, motorcycles and jet skis and amazing pyrotechnics give you a behind-the-scenes look at how action stunts are created for the movies. Even “Herbie” makes an appearance.
Did we tell you that we were staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge? Our room overlooked the Savanna and we had the opportunity to sit on our balcony and watch the parade of animals. We felt as if we were actually on safari, without the hassle of planes, trains and jeeps to shepherd us around the savannas of Africa. We do not know if more animals have been born since our previous visits but we have never seen so many at one time parading, foraging for food, inter-acting with each other ... and we were sure ... just posing for our cameras. We were even able to watch the giraffes use their 18 inch long tongues to reach the tender leaves on the highest limbs of the trees.
The reason we enjoy staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge is its closeness to the Animal Kingdom Park which is one of our favorite parks and has even more to entice us now. Ladies and Gentlemen .... Lucky the Dinosaur now inhabits the Animal Kingdom. This first-ever free-roaming Audio-Animatronics creation is so startlingly lifelike it was named one of the year’s top inventions by Time magazine. Lucky met us, or should we say, we met Lucky ... and after we got over our concern at seeing a dinosaur parading by itself with a trainer around the park ... showed us his bag of tricks ... signing autographs, drinking soda, burping, smiling, reacting with the crowds and walking the streets of DinoLand. Lucky will be at the park for only a limited time so you had better make your plans to visit soon.
We realize that many families are looking for the newest, latest, most exciting thrill ride and Disney is well aware. The newest adventure of its own, created for the Animal Kingdom, is the towering Expedition Everest thrill ride in the Asia area of the park. The legend of the Yeti comes to life in a dramatic high-speed train adventure that combines coaster-style thrills with the excitement of a close encounter with the abominable snowman among the icy peaks of the world’s highest mountain. We have not had a chance to take this ride as it is still in the building stages but from what we heard from imagineering lead designer, Joe Rohde ... this one is going to be a “hold onto your hat ... and your stomach ... kind of ride”. All the thrills you could ever want but also combining a great deal about the Yeti story and conservation of the area.
Our return to Disney has been phenomenal. What an absolutely fabulous array of new attractions and, as we have not had the opportunity to visit in some time, we were also able to finally get to see Mission: SPACE at Epcot .... a stomach churner for us; Mickey’s PhilharMagic, ... a delightful 3-D (glasses and all) musical show with much of the animation right IN your face; Stitch’s Great Escape!, a showcase for Stitch's endless appetite for pandemonium; a refurbished It’s a Small World ... we constantly sing the music and the fresh, vibrant colors, detailed costumes and new puppets have made it even more charming ....and the Wishes fireworks spectacular that are all at Magic Kingdom.
Another adventure we undertake while at the Parks is looking for the Hidden Mickeys. Years ago, the Disney Imagineers decided to put silhouettes and abstract images of Mickey Mouse Hidden Mickeys ... across the 47-square-mile Vacation Kingdom. Imagineers include Hidden Mickeys when designing, building or putting the finishing touches on a new attraction or hotel, hiding silhouettes, profiles and other images of Mickey Mouse in murals, queue areas and even golf course sand traps. No one knows how many there really are but we usually find a couple on each visit.
If you want to begin your search ... at Magic Kingdom the Haunted Mansion boasts “999 Happy Haunts,” it also has one “mouse” ... a Hidden Mickey is formed by an arrangement of dishes on the table in the attraction’s banquet scene. At Epcot, Mickey is actually hidden in his own constellation just beyond the Spaceship Earth loading area. At Disney’s MGM-Studios Mickey rocks his way into Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster in the tile floor in the attraction’s rotunda area.. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, there are more than 25 Hidden Mickeys at Rafiki’s Planet Watch, with Mickey found hidden in murals, tree trunks and paintings of animals. And even the Resorts are not left out. At Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, a Hidden Mickey can be found on the weather vane atop the convention center.
On your next trip ... start searching. You will find it part of the family fun to see how many you can find.
“Fifty years of Disney theme parks really means 50 years of magical experiences and cherished memories for families around the world,” Al Weiss, President of World Disney Parks said. “During the ‘Happiest Celebration on Earth,’ our guests here in Florida will find new magic from all the worlds of Disney, no matter which of our parks they visit.”
Another new addition which should make life much easier for those traveling by plane is ....
In addition there are new innovative ticket plans -- "Magic Your Way" -- now allows Walt Disney World guests to create their own tickets for a customized vacation. Guests can purchase tickets to Walt Disney World theme parks, attractions and other entertainment offerings that are tailored to the length of their vacation and the interests of their group -- and allow them to enjoy the fun with savings that increase the longer they stay.
And because "Magic Your Way" tickets offer savings that increase with the length of stay, a week long Walt Disney World vacation becomes even more affordable.
Under this new program, a family of four can enjoy a six-night/seven-day Walt Disney World vacation -- including a stay at an on-property Disney hotel with theme park tickets -- for as little as $1,500 and sometimes less.
Sounds to us as if Disney may be the place for your next family vacation. With all the new sites, sounds, action and adventure ... you can be sure that is where our family will be this summer.
Hope we see you there.
FAST FACTS .... Happiest Celebration on Earth
The biggest celebration in Disney history -- a global jubilee with new attractions and entertainment at each of the Disney destinations around the world
Commemorating 50 years of Disney park magic that began when Disneyland welcomed its first guests in 1955
18 months beginning May 5, 2005
Walt Disney World Resort -- Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (opened Oct. 1, 1971).
The Vacation Kingdom is importing attractions and shows from Disney destinations around the world:
"Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show" at Disney-MGM Studios (from Walt Disney Studios at Disneyland Resort Paris)
Soarin' at Epcot (from Disney's California Adventure at Disneyland Resort)
Disneyland Resort -- Anaheim, Calif . (opened July 17, 1955).The place where the magic began celebrates with new attractions and entertainment including at Disneyland:
Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams
Remember... Dreams Come True fireworks spectacular
Tokyo Disney Resort -- Urayasu, Chiba, Japan(opened April 15, 1983).
A thrilling new roller coaster attraction at Tokyo DisneySea will take guests through the ruins of an ancient ceremonial site when Raging Spirits opens July 12, 2005. Disney's Rock Around the Mouse is a special tribute to 1950s Americana when Disneyland was born and rock and roll was king.
Disneyland Resort Paris -- Marne-la-Vallée, France(opened April 12, 1992).
Inspired by the fireworks spectacular at Walt Disney World Resort, "Wishes" is set to light up the sky above le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant ( Sleeping Beauty Castle) from July 16-Aug. 28, 2005.
Disney Cruise Line (maiden voyage July 30, 1998).
Beginning May 28, 2005, the 2,600-passenger Disney Magic is scheduled to sail 12 consecutive seven-night cruise vacations from the Port of Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera until Aug. 19.
Hong Kong Disneyland (set to open Sept. 12, 2005).
Classic Disney attractions and unique Chinese design elements will introduce a new region to the enchantment of Disney when the company's 11th theme park opens its gates on Lantau Island.
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© 1997-2005 Alese & Morton Pechter