TCM to Sponsor Great Movie Ride: Why This Matters


Turner Classic Movies is entering into a sponsorship/strategic partnership with Disney, one that will include a sponsorship of the Great Movie Ride in Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, as well Walt Disney Studios providing TCM with vintage movies and episodes of TV series like “Disneyland” and “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” for a periodic programming block on the channel called “Treasures From the Disney Vault.”

The first change under the sponsorship will debut in early 2015, with the films in the pre-show theater queue and finale of the Great Movie Ride receiving a refresh thanks to Turner Classic Movies. Additional changes have not yet been announced, beyond some new branding (see poster below) and TCM to “inject brand authority” into the attraction, whatever that means (also see below). TCM will also attempt to encouraging guests to explore the world of classic film once they leave Walt Disney World.

There are a ton more details about the partnership in this New York Times article, but since I don’t see value in regurgitating info press release style here, I’ve covered only the salient details above. You can read that article for more specifics. Instead, I want to offer commentary focusing on why I think this is a big deal.

Actually, at first blush, it may not seem important at all. Perhaps even bad, if you love the pre-show film and its infinite quotability, as I do. No changes to the substance of the attraction have been announced, so this really might end up being a non-story.

I think that’s a fairly cynical view, although I can understand why Disney fans might be cynical about anything good happening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I am not quite this cynical… (more…)

Disney Paint the Night Parade

Disney Paint the Night parade is a new nighttime parade ‘spectacular’ at Hong Kong Disneyland. Think of it as Main Street Electrical Parade for the new generation, in that the core concept of the light parade is the same, but the execution has been technically modernized, as has the soundtrack and the Disney characters represented. This post features my Paint the Night parade photos, plus my review of the parade and random thoughts.

Let’s start with a little context. Paint the Night parade has seven units: Tinker Bell Opening Unit, Monsters Inc. Unit, Cars Unit, The Little Mermaid Unit, Belle Candlelight Unit, Toy Story Unit, Mickey & Friends Finale Unit and features Owl City’s “When Can I See You Again?” as its theme song. Other than that, I’m not going to bore you with a bunch of basic facts that you could read about in the parade’s press release or Wikipedia page. If you want to know that stuff, click those links. Instead, I thought I’d share my thoughts on this parade.

First, the good. The good is that Hong Kong Disneyland now has a nighttime parade, and more nighttime parades can only be a good thing. I’m a huge fan of these parades, with SpectroMagic and Dreamlights being my two favorite parades ever.

Several of the floats here are really ambitious, showcasing advanced technologies that are really impressive. In fact, just about every float does something that hasn’t been done in a nighttime parade before (at least to my knowledge), so the parade really pushes the envelope in that regard. I was especially captivated by the Mickey Mouse float, which had this twisty-thingy (that’s the technical name) that sort of was like an infinite loop. It was absolutely mesmerizing. (Watch the parade on YouTube if my excellent explanation left you saying “huh?”) (more…)

Top 10 Disney Theme Parks

Want to plan the perfect Disneyland visit? Here are 101 of our BEST tips! http://www.disneytouristblog.com/101-best-disneyland-tips/

Disney has 11 worldwide theme parks at Walt Disney World, Disneyland Resort, Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disney Resort, and Hong Kong Disneyland. While each of these 5 resorts has a Disneyland/Magic Kingdom style park, not all of these parks are of the same quality, and their second gates and beyond are all fairly different. Some of you have been asking me to rank all of the Disney Parks for a while, and while this technically won’t do that since it’s leaving one off to fit within the “Top 10″ format, it really will since it’s only leaving one off.

Think of this list as like my ‘power rankings’ for the Disney Parks. It’s my attempt at objectivity in ranking the parks, but my personal biases and most recent impressions undoubtedly will creep in a little. Like power rankings, my actual rankings could vary month to month or even week to week depending upon maintenance, new attraction announcements, seasonal improvements, and a litany of other variables. It’s all very scientific. ;)

Keep in mind that this list is all in good fun. Like sports fans, most Disney fans have strong allegiances towards their home park and take offense when they feel it’s slighted. Although I view the parks of Walt Disney World as my “home” parks, I don’t really think I have allegiance to these parks that prevents me from seeing their faults (although I do have admittedly strong nostalgia for 3 of the 4 parks). In any case, remember that this is one random dude’s opinion on the internet. At the end of the day, it doesn’t impact your enjoyment of your “favorite” park if I rank it at number 8, nor does my opinion matter (at all) in the grand scheme of things.

With that said, here are my rankings of every Disney Park, minus the Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris… (more…)

Packing for Disney in Winter

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If you’re visiting Walt Disney World or Disneyland during the Christmas or winter season (pretty much November through February), what you will need to think about packing will be different than visits throughout the rest of the year. I was reminded of this today when I was checking out the long term weather forecast for Walt Disney World, and noticed a low of 39 degrees tomorrow. While low temperatures this low are the exception and not the rule, the weather can get cold on both coasts, and ever since being caught off-guard by below-freezing temperatures a couple of years ago at Walt Disney World in December, I’ve been very cognizant of the weather forecast.

The difficulty of packing for Walt Disney World or Disneyland this time of year is the large variances in the weather. You could experience four seasons of weather during your trip…in a single day. Most people aren’t going to want to carry the luggage that would be required to pack for every weather scenario, making what to bring a tough question. This post will cover a few things you should take on any winter trip to the Disney Parks, plus some additional items to consider when the weather is expected to be unseasonably cold.

Note that this list only covers items you’ll want to pack specifically during the winter months. For our full all-seasons packing recommendations, check out our Unique Disney Packing List post, which contains a lot of innovative and cool things for your trip that you otherwise might not have considered. Now, let’s check out what you should pack for Disney during those winter months… (more…)

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art Lens Review

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The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM lens is the latest Sigma “Art” line, and it doesn’t disappoint. This review covers the strengths and weaknesses of the lens, with sample photos that I’ve shot with the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 lens on my Nikon D810, plus a summary of why I won’t be purchasing the lens despite its very impressive performance. To put it succinctly, this lens is almost identical to the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 in terms of design and performance, except it offers a 50mm focal length. Since that lens was virtual perfection, this is most certainly a good thing.

It’s important to note from the outset that the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 lens is designed for full frame cameras. To be sure, it works with crop sensor cameras, but it’s going to be overkill for them. Crop sensor shooters looking for an effective field of view roughly equivalent to this should instead check out the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 Art (read my review of that lens), which is the rough equivalent to this lens on a crop sensor body in terms of view. Another lens to consider as an alternative would be the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8, although that lens is not a prime like this one.

The build of the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens shouldn’t surprise anyone who has touched one of the other Art lenses. It continues the brand reinvention with a sleek look and beautiful industrial design. There’s considerable heft to it, and its brushed aluminum construction just feels good in the hands. Everything from its large build to its lens hood to even the cap just reeks of high quality. It’s really not just a matter of excellent build quality, this lens truly feels and looks nice. This might actually be concerning to those of you used to the 50mm f/1.8 lenses that weigh practically nothing and take up little space in your camera bags. This weighs much more and will take up a good amount of space.

As with the Sigma 35mm f/1.4, focus locks quickly and accurately, with no front or back focus issues. I did feel like there were times when the focus was locking on something in the frame other than what I intended (and I always select my focus point), but this happened seldom, and I can’t definitively attribute it to the lens. (more…)

Visiting Disney World in December 2014

December at Walt Disney World is all about Christmas. It’s everywhere, with decorations, entertainment, merchandise, food, and more. However, celebrating Christmas isn’t the only good reason to visit during December. Early December is also a good time to visit thanks to weather that is typically good (albeit cold at times), with relatively low crowds. All bets are off come the week leading up to Christmas through the remainder of December, when Walt Disney World becomes insanely busy, making it one of the worst times of the year to visit unless you know what you’re doing.

If you’ve already read our November at Walt Disney World post, you know some of the upsides of visiting Walt Disney World this time of year. The big difference between November and December in terms of events is that all of the Christmas offerings are in full swing by December, and that weather can be cooler (or downright cold) and the last two weeks of December are insanely busy.

In terms of crowds, one of the worst kept secrets is that the first two weeks of December are two of the slowest of the year. Well, this used to be the case. The “secret” has gotten out, not just thanks to savvy locals and Disney Vacation Members, but also due to Disney itself offering more discounts to lure people and groups down at this time of year. The result is that the beginning of December is still a good month to visit for low crowds (check out our When To Visit Walt Disney World post for the best and worst months of the year), but it’s not as good as it used to be. This is especially true if you happen to be at the same resort or park as the Pop Warner and National Cheer & Dance Championship attendees. This year, the event is December 6 – 13, 2014; we’d highly recommend not staying at the All Star Resorts during this time (an even better option is to visit prior to them arriving or after they leave).



Aside from this, expect wait times to be low to moderate until Christmas week. You will still encounter tons of people at the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights and long lines for Candlelight Processional, but otherwise, early December isn’t too bad. Because of the lower crowd levels, December park hours sometimes have earlier closings until Christmas week. (more…)

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party 2014 Tips

Walt Disney World ResortMagic KingdomMickey's Very Merry Christmas PartyFireworks at the conclusion of the Celebrate the Season stage show during Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party! For more Disney Christmas content, check out: http://www.disneytouristblog.com/tag/christmas/

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a special hard ticket event held in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. For 2014, the party will be held on select nights in November and December on the following dates: November 7, 10, 13, 14, 16, 20, 21, 30; December 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, and 19. After December 19, the party entertainment will be available to all day guests (and included in theme park admission), but waiting until Christmas week also means going during the busiest time of the year, and when rooms and dining are most expensive.

What’s new for 2014? Well, it should come as no surprise that Frozen-mania has spread to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Not only is there the , but the Frozen characters are also in the parade at the Christmas Party, too. There’s also the ‘A Frozen Holiday Wish’ Cinderella Castle lighting show, but this occurs every night, not just party nights, so we won’t be covering it here. (Read our Ultimate Guide to Christmas at Walt Disney World for more info on that and everything else that Walt Disney World does for Christmas.) Beyond that, the characters at the dance parties in Frontierland and Tomorrowland have changed, as have a couple of meet and greets. The big news in terms of meet & greets this year is that Jack Skellington appears as Sandy Claws! There’s also a rumor that Olaf from Frozen will be meeting guests for the first time at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, but he was not meeting the general public at the first party. We will keep you posted if this changes.

This post covers our Christmas Party tips, updated for 2014, based upon our experiences attending the party for the last six years. The Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party 2014 schedule is now set, with parties starting in early November and continuing through December! Ticket prices will vary for 2014 based upon whether you purchase in advance or on the day of, are a child or adult, and whether you have an Annual Pass, Disney Vacation Club membership, or some other affiliation that entitles you to a discount. In any case, the event is not cheap, starting at $62 for children with advance purchase on select nights and exceeding $70 for adults on the “Premium” night! To purchase tickets, visit Disney’s Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party page.

That said, if you’re visiting Walt Disney World in November or December, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is an absolute must-do! But more on that later. First, let’s provide an overview of the events to those who haven’t been.

Overview



Here are the things that Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party includes, that are unique to the parties (at least for November 7th through December 19th):

  • Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade (view our parade photos)
  • A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show
  • Celebrate The Season Stage Show
  • Character Dance Parties (usually in the Golden Horseshoe and Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe)
  • Holiday Wishes Fireworks
  • Disney character Meet and Greets with characters dressed in their holiday attire
  • Complimentary cookies and hot cocoa
  • Snow on Main Street

It’s worth noting that after December 19, 2014 through the remainder of the holiday season, the standard daytime parade in the Magic Kingdom becomes Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, and the Holiday Wishes fireworks are shown nightly. This entertainment is arguably 75% of the draw for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, but in exchange for not having to pay extra to see these things, you will face some of the worst crowds of the year after December 18th. If you want the best of both worlds, there are some other tricks you can use to avoid crowds during Christmas and New Year’s Eve weeks. So obviously there’s a trade-off!

Now that we’ve set forth what entertainment you can expect at the parties, let’s give you some more details, tips, and our review of whether Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is worth the money… (more…)

Scenes from Disney Parks: “Regular” Disney World

It’s time for more of my Disney photos in this installment of “Scenes from Disney Parks”! This time, we’re heading to Walt Disney World, with a set of new photos of the parks looking “normal.” I almost opted to dig into the archives and edit some new Christmas photos, but I know not everyone is excited for Christmas as I am, so I’ll spare you that…for at least another week! ;)

I’ve been photography at Walt Disney World has been a hobby of mine for 6 years now, and I’m still amazed at how I keep finding new subjects to photograph and new ways to compose familiar subjects. This is not meant to boast–I’ve been to plenty of non-Disney locations and found myself lacking any variety in my photos outside of the weather after only a handful of visits. It’s more a testament to how photogenic, thoughtfully designed, and inspirational the parks are in terms of photography.

Some people might roll their eyes and think another Cinderella Castle, Spaceship Earth, etc., photo?!, but I feel like there’s an infinite number of ways to come up with interesting and unique photos of these oft-photographed subjects. The Disney theme parks really are a photographer’s playground, and taking good photos in the parks is sort of like shooting fish in a barrel. Not only is it great hobby, but I feel like it’s a great way to absorb and appreciate more of the detail in the parks (I know there were a lot of things I missed prior to getting serious about photography). So, if you’ve ever thought about taking up photography, and you’re a Disney fan, I’d highly encourage you to give it a try. Sorry for the random-ish odd thoughts there, but it was just something that struck me while going through photos from this particular trip, and I figured I’d share here…

As for these photos, after each photo I’ll share some technical stuff like which lens I used for the photo. All photos in this post were captured with my Nikon D810 DSLR–check out my full Nikon D810 Review for more details about the camera. I also have more sample photos from the D810 here. You can click on each photo to view it larger in my gallery and to see EXIF data on it. Hopefully other photographers find this useful.

If you’re a casual reader not interested in photo jargon, hopefully you still enjoy this new set of photos from Walt Disney World!



This is one of my favorite photos from the trip. For a while, I’ve been trying to capture a new photo that effectively conveyed the solitude of the Hub when the Magic Kingdom is empty, but not just by taking another generic shot of the empty hub. I think I finally got that here, with the low angle and the lines of the bricks leading to Cinderella Castle. I used the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lens (read my review of this lens) because originally this was going to be @ f/1.4 to make the bricks out of focus foreground bokeh, but that photo was too distracting that way. There was no real reason why I stuck with that lens for this version of the photo other than laziness, I guess. (more…)