Celebrating EPCOT 35

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We recently were at Walt Disney World to celebrate Epcot’s 35th anniversary. While we were very excited to be at Epcot on October 1st, we were equally excited to attend the RetroWDW Podcast’s special event. I have been listening to this podcast since it began about 3 years ago, and they produce excellent content “taking you back to the vacation kingdom of the world; the way it was and the way it is in your memories.” I am a major Disney history nerd, so this podcast is a favorite. When the podcast announced they were holding an event around EPCOT 35, Emily and I were in, and since Mama Darling was buying our tickets (they went on sale while Em and I were at WDW this summer), she decided to buy one for herself too!

The event was held Saturday evening at the Living Seas lounge at Epcot. We checked in, got our wristbands, and were ready to go.

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We had recently visited the Living Seas lounge when we took the UnDISCOVERed Future World Tour, so we knew what to expect. It was really neat seeing how a function operated in this space. We entered the space right near this retro Living Seas logo.

 

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We are really obsessed with the few remaining old school Epcot logos.

Shortly before the doors opened, a little less than 200 of us crammed into a tiny holding room. You could feel the anticipation build from everyone around us. Finally, we were allowed up the stairs and into the function space. What immediately caught our attention was a replica cake of Epcot’s 15th anniversary  cake, which was made for this event.

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The event was a lot less formal than official Disney events I’ve attended, but I really liked that. People mingled about the space, ate soft pretzels (yes, our ticket price included pretzels…with 3 different types of mustard!) and cake, gazed out the windows into the giant aquarium and casually hobnobbed with Disney legends.

There were some more formal presentations including an intro video based on the original Living Seas video with the original voice actor, a discussion with Corrine Cook, an actor from the Horizons attraction at Epcot, and Disney Legends Tom Nabbe and Bob Gurr. Tom Nabbe has a really interesting story about how he was hired by Walt Disney to play Tom Sawyer on Tom Sawyer island in Disneyland. He worked his way up the ranks and eventually moved to Florida while WDW was being constructed. He oversaw the construction of the monorail beams and stations and later supervised logistics for WDW’s giant warehouses.

Bob Gurr is one of my favorite Disney Legends because he designed many ride vehicles at Disneyland (the Monorail, Autopia Cars, the Doom Buggies of Haunted Mansion, 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas Submarines, and Matterhorn Bobsleds). He has said, “If it moves on wheels at Disneyland, I probably designed it.” Bob was actually a surprise guest, and I spotted him mingling among guests before his presentation. My heart nearly stopped because meeting him was at the top of my Disney bucket list. I have seen him give presentations at Disney events and have watched him in videos, and not only is he a legend, he is hilarious, personable, and seems to love young people. I watched him have the cutest interaction with a little girl near the cake. I’m not the type of person to go up and start talking to a legend, but he was very close to me and I thought, this may be my only chance. He was extremely gracious, friendly, and humble and meeting him is something I will never forget.

I had a chance to meet Tom Nabbe as well and have him autograph his book. It just was incredible to be able to be up close and personal with these guys. People who worked with Walt hold a special place in my heart, and I feel like the world has less and less of them as time goes on. Also in attendance, which I thought was incredibly cool was Dave Ensign aka Hoot Gibson, who was one of the duo who ran the Mesa Verde Times website that I discussed in a previous post.

We also had a meet and greet with a retro Viking Goofy. He did such a nice job with the guests, and he was super entertaining to watch while we waited in line.

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While the event in itself was worth the price of admission, the guys at RetroWDW organized and orchestrated the greatest gift any old school retro Epcot Disnerd would love. When they showed the video that built up to the surprise, people were losing their minds…..they resurrected (with Disney’s permission) the old entrance fountain prism sculpture at the park entrance. It lights up and changes color!

 

The guys at RetroWDW Podcast threw one heck of an event, and I can’t wait to see what they put together next. If you are interested in checking out their podcast, they can be found here.

 

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EPCOT’s 35th Birthday – Here we come!

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This Sunday, one of our favorite parks – EPCOT – is turning the ripe age of 35 and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be there for it. Per usual, it will be a whirlwind weekend trip with most of our time spent at the birthday park as well as doing some classics in other parks.

On Saturday evening, we will be attending one of our favorite podcast’s events – RetroWDW Presents: Looking Back at Tomorrow. What’s really cool is it is taking place in the Living Seas Salon that we got a sneak peek of back in June on our UnDISCOVERed Future World Tour. Little did we know then we’d actually be attending an event there rather soon. We are huge original EPCOT Center fans and we can’t wait to be stuck in a room with other like-minded individuals!

We are also planning on catching the ceremony at 10:01 am on Sunday (EPCOT’s actual birthday) at the fountain as well as checking out some merchandise that will only be sold that day. They will be handing out special park guides to commemorate the day as well.

In just over 24 hours Emily will be arriving back at Port Orleans Riverside with Mama Darling and Molly will be arriving in just over 48 hours. But who’s counting? Wait…we always are!

 

 

Beyond Neverland 3.0 – Christmas in July at Disney Springs

 

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There’s always something interesting popping up at the Walt Disney Resort, and our Beyond Neverland non-park trips always seem to be enhanced by something “different.” This year we were treated to Christmas in July at Disney Springs. The Market Place side was booming with Christmas music, decorations, shopping specials and free photopass pictures with the big guy himself. It was cool to see him in his summer attire and we even complimented on his hip converse all star high-tops.

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It was so fun walking around listening to Christmas music blasting. That was probably our favorite part. Even Starbucks got in on the action.

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We also found something really fun to take home with us, a ceramic Figment!

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Although it had nothing to do with Christmas in July, we enjoyed a fabulous meal at Wolfgang Puck Express. It’s a nice place to get a quality meal, while still being a quick service restaurant.

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We enjoyed celebrating Christmas in July at Disney Springs, and, just think, it’s only a few months until WDW starts celebrating Christmas!

Beyond Neverland 3.0 – Shopping at a Disney Outlet Store

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Something we have always been intrigued by are the Disney Outlet stores. Called Disney Character Warehouse, there are two of these stores in the Orlando area. The larger of the two is at the Orlando Premium Outlets and is only a few miles away from Walt Disney World property. These outlets are official Disney stores and carry discontinued park merchandise at deeply discounted prices. This is something we had always wanted to do, but we could never justify leaving WDW while we were visiting the resort. There is something about leaving Disney property and going back into the “real world” that can be a little jarring. Since we weren’t going to parks on this trip, we decided to give it a shot.

From our resort at Port Orleans Riverside, it was about 6 miles away and it took about 20 minutes to get there. Once we arrived at the outlets, we could tell it was really busy because we had to park near the top of the parking garage. The store map had tiny print, so it was hard to navigate, but we managed to stumble upon where we wanted to go.

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The store indeed was large, and had a wide selection of items. Molly saw the stack of parade cushions, normally 14.95 on sale for 1.99, and picked up a bunch for her classroom.

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Emily found a cute princess tree that she had been spying last year at Christmas for $7.95 (regular price $30), but upon further inspection she discovered it was really poor quality.

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There were lots of holiday merchandise, and items from old events such as the Flower and Garden festival that just ended. The majority of the items were priced to sell, such as a whole rack of $5 tee shirts. There was a wide variety of items, and there probably is something for everyone in this store.

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However, the store was EXTREMELY crowded. It was hard to move and negotiate our way around the store. We moved quickly through the store, looking for anything of interest, but this was not leisurely browsing. The line for the registers was very long, but we give the cast members credit, because the line did move quickly (the outlet is staffed by official Disney cast members)

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The line stretched towards the back of the store!

 

In the end, we scored some cool merchandise, including Disneyland 60th lanyards.

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All of these items totaled $24. We did ask one of the cast members if the crowds we experienced were normal, and she said this was more crowded than usual. It would probably be a much better experience if we went back on a less crowded day, but this is the kind of thing we did once and probably won’t do again. The best part about the Character Warehouse was its proximity to a Starbucks across the way, because we needed some nourishment after that adventure. As we drove “home” in a massive thunderstorm, we laughed and decided we weren’t leaving Disney property again on that trip!

Beyond Neverland 3.0 – Unwinding at Port Orleans Riverside

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When we plan our Beyond Neverland trips, which are trips in which we don’t go to the parks, we try to always stay at least at the moderate level. These resorts have more offerings and since we normally are spending more time there than a regular park trip visit, we don’t hesitate the splurge. We had ideas in mind such as the Ft. Wilderness Cabins and Animal Kingdom Lodge, but when we saw a summer rate for Riverside pop up in our search, we couldn’t pass it up.

We love the Port Orleans Resorts! They are so peaceful and laid back, and there’s something so calming about staying on the Sassagoula River.

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While French Quarter’s theme is New Orleans, Riverside is themed in the heart of rural Louisiana’s southern charm. Both resorts are very close to each other, so we were able to easily walk back and forth in between, as our section was the closest to French Quarter. Upon arrival, we noticed we were upgraded to a “Royal” room, which is one of Princess Tiana’s special rooms in the Mansions section. We particularly enjoyed the “fireworks” above our beds.

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Royal Room

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Our Mansion building

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View from our room

Emily especially enjoyed running around the property one morning, and happily saw there were plenty of other runners out there with the same idea in mind. Although Riverside has a bunch of nice pools, we never made it due to the weather, but it didn’t damper our time. The ease of getting to and from Disney Springs on the Sassagoula Steamboat was the icing on the cake. It’s a relaxing 15 minute ride from the resort to Disney Springs.

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When it comes to the moderate resorts, our favorites are by far Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter! The theming is impeccable, and you really feel like you are getting away from it all!

Beyond Neverland 3.0

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From our first Beyond Neverland trip!

 

We can’t believe it’s already time for our 3rd installment of Beyond Neverland !

That is right, it is time for our annual summer trip without setting foot in any park. As usual we have a few things planned, but also will play things by (Mickey) ear. We leave Friday and will be staying at Port Orleans Riverside for 2 nights. We haven’t stayed at this resort for a few years, so it will be be nice to revisit the resort and take in the calming atmosphere.

Also planned are renting a pontoon boat from Ft. Wilderness and checking out one of the nearby outlet stores for Disney merchandise (neither of which we have done before). Who knows, maybe we will finally get in a round of mini golf! Our running joke is we always plan mini golf on these trips, but always run out of time. This year, Molly has a pass that isn’t blocked out, so will she really spend the whole weekend without setting foot in a park? Stay tuned for recaps of our adventures to come!!!

UnDISCOVERed Future World Tour at Epcot

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We recently took the UnDISCOVERed Future World Tour at Epcot. While we had taken a couple of tours at Disneyland (which we loved), this was our first tour at Walt Disney World. It was a fun and informative look at one of our favorite theme parks. We are huge fans of Epcot of the ’80s, so we were looking for any glimpses into the past that we could find.

Our tour guide, Julie, was wonderful, and shared lots of knowledge with us. She had worked at Epcot for 9 years and operated many of the attractions, so she had a lot of interesting stories to share. What’s nice about the tours at Disney is that you wear an earpiece and the tour guide has a microphone, so you can hear everything she is saying as you walk around. Our group had 14 people in it, and everyone was very friendly and fun. The tour started off in the former Innoventions West Building with a discussion about Disney history. We knew a majority of the information our tour guide was sharing, but it always is fun to hear the stories about Walt and the park’s creation. We got labeled the “Disnerds” by Julie, because most times when she asked a question we knew the answer.

We got to see many backstage areas, which we were not allowed to photograph. We went into a lounge at Mission Space where anyone who is an employee of the sponsor (HP) can go if they show their employee ID.  It’s this really nice lounge above the ride queue with comfy chairs and couches, free drinks and snacks etc. We also learned that every VIP lounge has its own VIP entrance to the rides. We rode Spaceship Earth using the VIP entrance, so we got to board the ride where people get off! We also had a chance to ride Test Track using the VIP entrance as well.

The windows here from the Spaceship Earth Lounge, which overlooks the fountain of nations plaza:

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We got to visit this AWESOME space at the Living Seas which was formerly a sponsor pavilion. Now that it’s not sponsored, it’s used for weddings and other events. It was huge and gorgeous, with a definite ’80s vibe and was next to the aquarium above the Coral Reef restaurant. We also got to see some of the retro Living Seas icons. Fun fact: the aquarium is large enough to fit Spaceship Earth inside.

 

 

We also got to walk backstage behind Soarin’ and Journey Into Imagination, and we saw the area where they clean ALL the 3D glasses for the whole resort! It was like a HUGE dishwasher type machine. There is a special place for the truck to park too that gets them from all the different parks and brings them there. We couldn’t take pictures, but it was funny to see. We had to wear safety glasses inside, even though we weren’t close to anything dangerous!

We went underneath the outside area where Test Track goes around and then we walked over behind where the old Odyssey restaurant is and there’s a huge building for cast members. This is the central location for cast members. The most impressive part we got to see was the costuming area. We walked through this massive space that had racks of the costumes that cast members wear at Epcot!!! It was so interesting. They were all lined up perfectly and they explained how you just go in, grab what you need, scan everything to check out, and you walk out. You bring everything back to be laundered, or you can check 5 costumes out at a time and launder them yourself. We saw a bunch of other cool things in this building like the cosmetology and wig area, random retro props, the employee cafe, and murals painted by each department at Epcot.

It’s also interesting to note that in this backstage area that there is a bus loop that goes around the whole perimeter. so if you park back by the costume place but work in Canada for example, you just board the bus and it brings you to that area. There truly is a whole other world going on backstage! 

Here are a few of our favorite “fun facts” that we learned on the tour:

There are 7 different song sequences for Fountain of Nations.

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This animatronic in Spaceship Earth was made from the same mold as the father in Carousel of Progress. Disney often reuses animatronic molds for other characters.

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The landscape design in Future World West is different from Future World East. When you walk into Epcot, you are heading south, so Future World West pavilions are to your right (Imagination, the Land, and the Seas) and represent the “soft sciences”. The walkways and planters are more flowy and curved to represent the more free flowing sciences.

 

Future World East, which is to your left upon entering (Energy, Test Track, Mission Space), is designed with more angular edges to represent the “hard sciences” which focus more on engineering and math.

 

 

We were shown where the “green tile” is on the mural of Living with the Land. We had known the story that the artist made the murals that decorate each side of the entrance to the Land pavilion almost exactly the same except for one tile that doesn’t match the other side, but never had found it. Here it is!

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We walked over 4 miles on our 4 hour tour, which ended up lasting 5 hours. We were tired at the end of it and ready for an iced coffee break. As with all tours you take at Disney Parks, we were presented with a special pin to commemorate our tour.

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We thoroughly enjoyed the tour and are looking forward to taking the World Showcase DestiNations Discovered tour next!