Review of Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival at Epcot

 

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What’s the best thing about having a doctor’s appointment in Orlando?  Squeezing in a quick visit to Walt Disney World, of course!  Last weekend, I made an overnight trip to the world.  Having a limited amount of time, we focused in on Epcot. It was quite crowded with it being a holiday weekend, so I only had one goal in mind, in terms of attractions: to check out the Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival at the Magic Eye Theatre. The festival replaces our beloved Captain EO which closed last December. We were really bummed to say farewell to Captain EO, but understand Disney needs to keep moving forward. I decided to see what this film festival was all about.

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After picking up our 3D glasses, we watched the preshow. The first part of the preshow covers Walt Disney’s creation of short films, which includes some voice overs and drawings from Walt. He discusses the Silly Symphonies Flowers & Trees, which tested out the use of Technicolor in cartoons and won the short film Disney’s first Academy Award. The second part of the preshow covers Pixar history. Several Pixar folks are interviewed and share stories about how the Luxo Jr. lamp was created and where the idea for Toy Story came from. I thought the preshow was very interesting and I love anything that explores Walt and the Disney company’s history.

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After the preshow, we were ushered into the theater to the tune of Steamboat Willie, one of my favorite classic Disney tunes! There are three short films that play, including  Walt Disney Studios’ “Get a Horse,” which infuses classic Walt Disney black and white animation with CGI. It also features archival recordings of Walt Disney as Mickey Mouse, which earns bonus points in my book. The folks in the theater enjoyed watching Pegleg Pete’s hijinx, and there was a little boy behind us that was laughing so hard it was infectious. Next up were Pixar’s lighthearted story of birds on a wire,”For the Birds,” and the quiet, yet visually stunning “La Luna.” Even if you have seen the Pixar shorts as movie releases, I would encourage you to see them here. My eyes often struggle to focus on 3D movies, but everything was crystal clear and visually beautiful.  The 3D effects were the best I’ve seen at any Disney park.

I didn’t know what to expect from this attraction, and have to admit I may have thought about Captain EO once or twice during the short films, but I was pleasantly surprised by experience and will definitely return again. It reminded me of how enjoyable short films are. I hope that they rotate some different films into this attraction in the future.

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Beyond Neverland-Watching Fireworks Outside of the Magic Kingdom

One of our favorite “Beyond Neverland” activities is watching fireworks outside of the theme parks.  Fortunately, there are plenty of spots to view Wishes outside of the Magic Kingdom where they pipe in the music.

All of the resorts around Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon offer viewing locations with music. We’ve watched from the California Grill, atop the Contemporary Resort. You have to be a patron to watch the fireworks from their observation deck, but there also is an observation spot on the fourth floor of the Contemporary that is accessible to anyone.  From this vantage point, you can see how far away the fireworks are actually shot off behind the Magic Kingdom.

Before the construction of the bungalows, the beach at the Polynesian was a lovely spot where we used to enjoy Wishes. In our opinion, it’s now not quite the same with the bungalows, and there are so many better locations. We’ve also watched from the beach at Ft. Wilderness.  Although Discovery Island slightly obstructs the view, it is a neat spot because it’s away from all the hustle and bustle of Seven Seas Lagoon. We were told that WDW actually times the music to account for how far away the viewing spots are from the actual fireworks, so that the music is in sync with the fireworks no matter where you watch them from.

We unexpectedly stumbled upon what seems to offer the best head-on view of the fireworks during our summer Beyond Neverland trip.  We were trying to get back to the Poly where we had parked and decided to get off the monorail at the TTC because Wishes was starting. We exited down the ramp from the monorail and looked over to the right. There was a straight-on view of the Magic Kingdom castle and the music was being played there too!  I’m sorry that this is the only picture I took, it was the end of a long day…but it gives you an idea of the vantage point.

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Now imagine some beautiful fireworks blasting off over that castle along with the music and you get the idea. This is a spot we would definitely visit again. Another thing we’d like to try on a future trip is watching Wishes from one of the resort launch boats heading towards Magic Kingdom. We’d love to hear where you enjoy watching Wishes outside of the Magic Kingdom, so please leave us a comment!

Morimoto Asia: A Dining Experience Worth Braving the Crowds For

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When I booked our New Year’s trip, I knew on the first day we wouldn’t be hitting any parks. I had mentioned this to Mama Darling, and she immediately suggested we try out Morimoto Asia in Disney Springs. I checked out the menu and it didn’t take too long to convince me, I was in. I had never actually heard of it before and didn’t realize how hard it was to get a reservation. I booked one for us at 5:15 pm which is a little on the early side, however, after checking daily for a few weeks I snagged a cancellation at 6:00 which for us was a much more suitable time.

This was my first visit to Disney Springs in well over two years. The last time I was there it was still called Downtown Disney, and there wasn’t much construction going on. Molly and Mama Darling have been to DTD/DS quite a few times since construction started, but I didn’t quite know what to expect. This post is going to focus on the restaurant experience rather than the ‘Springs, but I will note that trying to get to the restaurant was an adventure to say the least with crowds everywhere!

Upon entering, we sensed a calm atmosphere with immaculate modern architecture, and we quickly forgot about the chaos outside the doors.

 

We waited a few minutes and were seated at a table for two in the middle of the restaurant on the first floor. The thing I loved about the seating was that even though some tables are close together, you still have a feeling of privacy and can hardly hear anyone around you. (Or maybe our neighbors were just quiet!) I really liked the open kitchen concept and I could easily tell how spotless everything was. The music was soothing and mellow, with a little bit of a flair that we loved. We actually used Mama Darling’s app on her phone that tells you what music you are listening to – the artist is called OhmG & Bruno.

I knew I wanted to try a bunch of different items, so we decided to share everything, rather than ordering our own entrees. Luckily, Mama Darling let me choose everything, apparently she trusts my opinion when it comes to fine dining.  We were pleased to see that they have different menus for people with various allergies.

We started out with three dim sum selections- vegetable egg rolls, chicken dumplings and grilled chicken bao (steamed buns with grilled teriyaki chicken):

 

 

Everything arrived piping hot, and I could not wait to dive in. All three appetizers were deliciously authentic. My favorite were the egg rolls, which I added onto the order last minute. I am so happy I did! They were unique and filled with edamame, kale and mushrooms and served with a spicy apricot dipping sauce.

For our entrees~chicken lo mein and basil fried rice:

 

Now these entrees might seem basic at first glance, but I can assure you they were not. They were not your “typical” fried rice and lo mein. The noodles tasted fresh, not dried, and the sauces in both dishes were very pure in flavor. The amount we ordered was the perfect amount for two people, and I would definitely order these entrees again. I only hope that in the future I can go with more people so we can order even more selections to try. I absolutely will be back!