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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Shopgirl Becomes Princess at Night

Gemma Beard
Gemma Beard

A shopgirl is making a go at being a princess at night. No, she's not related to Prince Charles, but Gemma Beard actually does the transformation on a weekly basis.

Gemma is the proprietor of Enchanting Story Book Parties, based in Gloucestershire, England. She is an unassuming shopgirl at the city's Game store. However, she got the idea last fall to begin dressing up as Snow White, Cinderella, Ariel the Little Mermaid, Belle and the rest.

No, she does not do that for any illicit purposes, you naughty things!

She has found out that there is a great demand in Gloucestershire for princess hostesses of children's parties. On some weekends, she winds up hosting five events at little princesses' homes. A trained actress, Gemma was a wee too short to be hired as a princess at Disneyland Paris, so she made her own way.

Gemma is quoted:
"I believe the classic fairytales have a lesson to teach and there are many strong characters which make good role models for children."
That certainly sounds about right. With the popularity of "Frozen," Gemma is doing Anna and Elsa as well these days. Business is so good that she is looking to add on some little princess helpers.

Sounds like a princess dream come true!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Win A Walt Disney World Vacation!

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Pixie Vacations for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.
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Friday, April 4, 2014

Irish Kids Love Disney!

Dublin Disney Store
The Dublin Disney Store

You never know why some people and localities like different things, but it appears that Irish kids in particular love Disney!

The Dublin, Ireland Disney store is one of the top performers in Disney's entire European operation. According to marketing statistics, 88% of Irish parents have bought their children Disney merchandise - a staggering amount that places the Dublin store within the top five in all of Europe. That is phenomenal considering that Dublin is not nearly as large as, say, Paris or London, and people from other nations cannot just drop on by without a load of planning and expense.

Dublin Disney Store
Mickey welcomes visitors to his store

The best sellers overall at the Dublin Disney store are what are known in the business as "evergreen" products - ones that never go out of style and were as popular in the 1970s as they are now. These would be Cinderella and Snow White dolls and posters for girls and the like. Merchandise such as toy cars from the "Cars" films (and soon toy aircraft from the "Planes films) have been more successful with boys.

Dublin Disney Store
The Disney Store at 60 Grafton Street, Dublin

Other hot items come and go. Recently, "Frozen" Blu-ray dvds sold out within three days of release. The "Doc McStuffins" line related to the local tv show from Irish animators Brown Bag Films also is unusually popular in the country with little girls from ages 3-6 and could wind up being offered in stores abroad - an interesting example of reverse pollination into the Disney stream.

This is all just another indication that the Disney Brand is thriving around the world.

No. 19 Raglan Road
Irish professional dancers at Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant at Downtown Disney in Florida

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"Frozen" Printable Coloring Pages

Fun "Frozen" Coloring Pages

Everybody loves "Frozen" and its loveable princesses, Anna and Elsa. Below are printable coloring pages of the characters Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Hans, Olaf and Sven the Reindeer from "Frozen." There are a variety of combinations of characters and levels of difficulty, but everybody should be able to find something they will find fun to color.

There is a separate page for the traditional princesses Cinderella, Snow White, Aurora from Sleeping Beauty, Mulan, Ariel the Little Mermaid, Rapunzel and others here.

I also have special coloring pages for two of the other newer princesses. A coloring page for Tiana of "The Princess and the Frog" is here, and a coloring page for Merida of "Brave" is here.

You might also like to download printable paper dolls on my pages for Snow WhiteCinderellaAriel the Little Mermaid and Sleeping Beauty.

Elsa Anna Frozen

Anna Frozen

Elsa Anna Frozen

Anna Frozen

Elsa Anna Frozen

Elsa Anna Frozen

Elsa Ana Frozen

Elsa Anna Frozen

Elsa Frozen

Elsa Anna Frozen

Elsa Anna Frozen

Elsa Ana Frozen

Elsa Anna Frozen

Elsa Anna Frozen

Elsa Anna Frozen

Elsa Anna Frozen

Elsa Frozen

Elsa Anna Frozen

Elsa Anna Frozen

Elsa Anna Frozen

Elsa Anna Olaf Sven Frozen

Hans Anna Frozen

Sven Frozen

Olaf Frozen

Olaf Frozen


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Disney World Tips and Tricks for Your Visit

tips and tricks for maximizing your time at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida
Main Gate to Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World near Orlando (Lake Buena Vista, Florida) is probably the top destination for parents of small children. Walt Disney World Florida's four theme parks and two water parks offer a lot of variety and adventure. On a standard vacation, it is virtually impossible to see everything, not just because it is so spread out, but also because the lines make you have to pick and choose what ou will see.

This is one area of life (like so many others) where extensive preparation will maximize your results. Yes, it's a hassle and takes away some spontaneity, but it will get you into more rides with fewer waits and smoother transitions than just showing up at the park and buying a one-day pass.

It can be either a great family memory or a nightmare, depending upon how you handle it. Having been there and had a pretty good time, we have some tips for getting the most out of the experience.

Operating hours vary by season and from park to park. Hours are subject to change and may do so at any time without notice. Just as an example, the downtown Disney area often opens at 8:30 a.m and much of the rest of the park opening at 9 a.m. or sometimes later. Things start shutting down at 5 p.m., but some areas stay open past midnight. The downtown Disney area closes at 2 a.m.

Stay At A Disney-Run Hotel

Yes, this appears to be a promo for Disney, but it's not. The Disney hotels are pricey, and they probably are an additional purchase for you and not part of a generic package deal not made in association with Disney. However, here's the truth: Disney World is not cheap. Consider this alternative if you have the money and are willing to pay a little more up-front.

tips and tricks for maximizing your time at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida
Walt Disney World hotel

Guests at Disney-run hotels are admitted during “Extra Magic Hours” that fall outside of times available to the general public. The Extra Magic Hours benefit allows registered Guests—with valid theme park admission—of select Walt Disney World Resort hotels to experience select attractions at the theme parks before or after the parks are open to the general public. Times and availability varies. To take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours benefit, each member of your party will need to present one of the following: A valid theme park ticket and a Disney Resort hotel Key to the World card; A Disney Golden Oak ID card; a MagicBand that grants you access.

The lighter crowds during "Extra Magic Hours" translate to much shorter waits—a price versus convenience factor to consider in your hotel reservations. There are also all sorts of hidden perks for guests at the hotels which come and go. But you want to be there when they come along.

There are all sorts of packages for Disney World that come and go for certain times of the year. The price depends on all the usual factors. You can, for instance, reserve a Magic Your Way package for 4 nights and 5 days at select Disney Value Resorts and get a Quick-Service Dining Plan included. Or, you can get a non-discounted Magic Your Way package for 4 nights and 5 days at select Disney Moderate, Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resorts, which includes a Disney Dining Plan. It's kind of like college, where they have dining plans.Your best deals will be during the slower times of the calendar (see below).

Believe me, you won't miss anything if you don't see much of Orlando. Yes, it's a wonderful city and full of terrific people and places and so on and so forth. However, it's not something you will miss if you never see it because you stay on-site at Walt Disney World.

There are 20-plus Disney-branded hotels of varying quality. Guests in those hotels get all all kinds of perks. This year, Disney introduced MagicBands, part of the new My Magic+ system.

tips and tricks for maximizing your time at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida

MagicBands are bands that are embedded with sensors and linked to your personal information. The bracelet works like a wearable magic wand as visitors roam Walt Disney World. Wave it over sensors and it grants front-gate admittance, makes cashless purchases, opens locked hotel-room doors, and validates up to three reservations a day for the shorter FastPass+ lines at major attractions. Plans can now be changed on the fly as well using an app, My Disney Experience.

The Walt Disney Travel Company describes the My Magic+ system as a comprehensive Disney World vacation planning tool designed to "take your Walt Disney World vacation to an all-new level, making it yours like never before." It is Disney entering the 21st Century, and not a minute too soon.

MagicBands replace Disney's old "Key to the World" cards. Magic Bands become guests' room keys, park tickets, dining credits, and FASTPASS+ tickets. Guests can even choose to link a credit card to their Magic Bands so that they can purchase merchandise and food in the parks with just a touch of their wrist (and a pin code, of course). Guests who choose to order their Magic Bands in advance will be able to customize the color of their bands. You want to do this, the box alone is a keepsake.

tips and tricks for maximizing your time at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida

Now, onto FASTPASS+.  With this new FASTPASS system, you can reserve attractions, character meets, and VIP seating at parades and fireworks shows...before even leaving home. This is a big advantage, much better than just getting to the park and winging it. You don't even tell Princess you planned everything out in advance, just find out what she wants to go on and tell her you'll make sure that you hit them all.

Another advantages is that you will no longer have to backtrack. No more visiting an attraction to get a paper FASTPASS, then come back later. That saves a lot of time and useless walking around.  Furthermore, since you already have a reserved window for experiencing the headliner attractions, arriving right at rope drop ("Disney-speak" for park opening) will no longer be as crucial.

Now, you don't have to have a MagicBand to enjoy Disney World. Some might not even like having their personal information in some kind of databank in Disney World, though the park has gone out of its way to assure people that they don't store the data past your stay (They said "We're not the CIA" or something like that). But if you want that extra little push to make things run as smoothly as possible, consider it.

Don't Leave or Avoid Going Because it Rains

tips and tricks for maximizing your time at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida
Rain at the Magic Kingdom

The park empties out (relatively) when it rains. People who are frustrated by lines and waits, though, love it when that happens. Bring an umbrella or two and get on Space Mountain in half the time it normally takes. If you wake up and it's raining, thank the gods and get yourself to the park.

When I think back to my own visit, guess what stands out as a truly extraordinary part of the tip: not the typical attractions; not the food; not the time spent baking in the hot sun being crowded everywhere before getting into some brief, mundane ride. No, the best experience was riding Space Mountain several times in row with no wait late in an afternoon when it was raining a little bit.

Be There Early and Late

Visitors are there with small children and from different time zones. Folks from out West, for instance, find it difficult to get to the park at opening time, so it is less crowded then. Other folks leave after the mid-day rush when their children get cranky, so there is a perfectly fine strategy of spending the day doing things in town and then entering the park during the afternoon. Few people want to spend their entire 18-hour day at Walt Disney World if they have fussy children or just get tired after a while. It's very nice - but enough is enough. You often can get on more rides in the evening hours than in the previous four hours combined - especially if it's drizzling.

tips and tricks for maximizing your time at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida
Anna/Elsa Meet and Greet

If your little princess wants to meet Anna or Elsa from "Frozen," those meet and greets are held at the Norwegian Pavilion in Epcot Center. If you get there when the park opens, you can stand in line for as little as an hour. What a deal! It's a lot better than the four hours you'd be spending during the afternoon.

Get Your Phone Reservations in Early

Cinderella’s Royal Table is a princess meet-and-greet held inside Cinderella Castle. Imagine, through lack of planning, getting to the park and then having to explain to princess that she can't see Cinderella like all the other girls who are running by her so happily?

tips and tricks for maximizing your time at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida
I can't guarantee that these haven't changed, but they worked the last time I tried them. I don't think they change.

You don't want that to happen. An unhappy little princess is the last thing you want to see during your visit.

Slots open up on Disney’s reservations line precisely 180 days in advance at 7 a.m. Orlando time. This is by far the most popular event at Disney World. Slots are snapped up in minutes by fierce fans—so mark your calendar and warm up the speed dial.

Visit During the Right Months

It's Florida - the weather is good just about always, with the caveat that it does get awfully hot in July and August and cool in January/February. You may only be able to visit at certain times, or have a thing against visiting when others don't want to. To each their own. However, if you are flexible, there are better times of the year to visit than others.

tips and tricks for maximizing your time at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida
The Christmas Day Parade is a spectacle that attracts a lot of visitors

The crowds appear when school is out. If you'd rather the crowds be a little thinner, avoid the late March/April Spring Break season and the summer months of June, July and August.

Also forget Christmas week, when the park is a zoo, if you don't like crowds. Of course, that's the only time you can see the Christmas Day Parade, which is a real attraction, so weigh what matters to you.

The weather will be just fine in the first half of May, before school lets out, and during September/October, when school is starting up again. Try to find time during those months - it can be done with some effort. Don't go too early in September, and don't push it too far into early June, or you'll be standing in a lot of lines.

Dinner Reservations

tips and tricks for maximizing your time at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida
The entrance to Club 33

You may have heard of "Club 33." It is a secret feature of the theme park with a members-only policy. This was one of Walt's own original ideas, and a good one, based upon his observation of the growing popularity of "VIP Lounges." It's a thinly veiled alternative to the distinctly un-PC notion of a First Class - calling it something different makes all the difference. This is a place that even well-known movie stars talk about with a certain reverence and awe.

The entrance of the club is located next to the Blue Bayou Restaurant at "33 Royal Street." If you are a member, having paid the exorbitant annual membership fee and waited the standard ten years on the waiting list, then your reservation worries are over: you'll always have a place to dine when you want to at Walt Disney World.

If you're not a member and don't have that much cash to burn, don't fret - it's just a normal bar and grill with some dusty Disney mementoes lying about (put there by Walt personally). The only thing special about it is the location, which is fun and handy but hardly something that makes it that special. Well, it is special. But it's not "mortgage my house and pawn the kids" special.

Various characters will stop by your table

Other Disney restaurants take reservations in advance, and they are perfectly awesome and enjoyable. If there is a certain restaurant you desperately want to dine at, make reservations as soon as possible: in-demand tables fill up weeks early. For instance, Magic Kingdom’s Be Our Guest is notoriously difficult to be a guest at, and so is the tiny Le Cellier Steakhouse in Epcot’s Canada pavilion.

Some of the restaurants might be able to work you in at the last minute - hey, it's worth a shot - but your chances improve dramatically if you’re willing to dine at off-peak times such as when meal service begins. This varies per location but is usually around 11:30 a.m. for lunch and 4 p.m. for dinner. No reservation? Show up at those times, be gracious and friendly, and you may zoom in faster than people who even have reservations.

Get the Disney World App

tips and tricks for maximizing your time at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida
My Disney Experience

If you are staying off-property like most people, the My Disney Experience app can still be used for pre-planning. FastPass reservations, however, can only be made the same day. Pick up passes at in-park MyMagic+ kiosks that function a little like the ticket booths at an old-time fairground midway. These will cut your wait a little, but not much.

Buy Disney Bucks

There are certain survival strategies that you simply must follow if you want to avoid a huge credit card bill. Your little princess may not understand if you simply wave your credit card or, worse, MagicBand mysteriously and, dare we say it, magically to get her things at Disney World. She will want this, that and the other thing.

Here's the scenario from "Caddyshack":

Spalding Smails: I want a hamburger. No, cheeseburger. I want a hot dog. I want a milkshake. I want potato chips
[gets cut off by Judge Smails]
Judge Smails: You'll get nothing, and like it!
It's a hilarious sequence, especially as played by Ted Knight, but you don't want to come across as Judge Smails at Disney World.

tips and tricks for maximizing your time at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida
Disney Dollars

Limit spending by buying Disney Dollars, an in-park private scrip equal to the value of the U.S. dollar. Use them to set a budget and give kids an allowance. They’re charged as a purchase, not as a cash advance, so they’re also handy for avoiding ATM fees. Just don’t order them ahead of time, though, or you’ll pay $15 in shipping fees.

Here's another tip: if your princess is old enough, give her the Disney bucks. She will love the pictures of Mickey on them and probably want to save one as a souvenir (even a $5 one would be cheaper than any of the other souvenirs you could get, so consider yourself fortunate). Give her some big girl responsibility: "Here is what we have to spend today. Make it last and you can spend every last dollar, but once it's gone, we go home." Kids are notorious tightwads when it is their "own" money.

Trust me - this will work. Magically.

Theater Seating

There are various theaters in Disney World such as Muppet*Vision 3D (in Disney’s Hollywood Studios), Mickey’s PhilharMagic (in the Magic Kingdom), and The American Adventure (Epcot). After a lot of walking around, you'll be glad to sit down for a corny film in an air-conditioned theater. There's a strategy to sitting where you want.

tips and tricks for maximizing your time at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida
Muppet*Vision 3D

Cast members move incoming audiences all the way down each row, so if you want seats toward the center, follow a large group of guests. Odds are that they’ll wind up at the end of the row and you'll be in the center, directly in front of the screen.

They Did Away With Disabled Preference

It used to be that if you were with someone in a wheelchair that they graciously and automatically sent you to a special door that allowed you to cut the entire line. There would be an hours-long line of people, and you would step right in front of them and board Space Mountain or whatever. People were known to invite a disabled relative along on their visit for just this purpose - that's just the fact of the matter.

tips and tricks for maximizing your time at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida
Space Mountain

No more. They have done away with this wonderful perk because some people in wheelchairs (actually disabled? who knows) were abusing the privilege, renting out their time to help people cut the lines. So don't count on that any longer.

Anyway, no matter what your choices, a visit to Walt Disney World is very much worth the time, effort and expense!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sofia Coppola to Direct "The Little Mermaid"?

Ariel Will be Returning

Sofia Coppola Golden Globe
Sofia Coppola

Sofia Coppola of "Lost in Translation" and "Marie Antoinette" fame is in talks with Universal Pictures to film a live action version of Hans Christian Andersen's classic fairy tale "The Little Mermaid."

Nothing is definite yet. Caroline Thompson of "Edward Scissorhands" is writing up a script, which already has gone through a sequence of previous writers and drafts. Kelly Marcel ("Fifty Shades of Grey") and Abi Morgan ("Shame") have worked on previous drafts, and since their works were not for kids, one may assume that this Mermaid will have a different tone than Disney's version.

The Little Mermaid blu-ray cover

The Disney film "The Little Mermaid" was light and bouncy, featuring spritely mermaid Ariel dueling with a devious nemesis in Ursula the sea witch. The original story, though, is tragic and romantic. This version of the story could be darker and more intense, though there is no indication (thank goodness) that it will be told from Ursula's viewpoint or anything like that.

Maleficent poster

People may think that Disney owns the rights to the classic tales, but they are in the public domain and thus free to everyone. In fact, Warner Bros. currently has its own plans for a Peter Pan film, "Pan," to be directed by Joe Wright. Disney is working up its own Peter Pan film, "Peter and the Starcatchers," as well as a new version of "The Jungle Book," which was a memorable 1967 animated feature film and, in fact, the last one that Walt Disney himself supervised. Disney currently has "Maleficent" in theaters featuring Angelina Jolie, based on an inversion of the "Sleeping Beauty" tale.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Princess Tea

The local homecoming queens holding court for the fundraiser

Sometimes we need ideas about how to treat our little princesses right. It's difficult to remember sometimes how important it is for little girls to have real role models and get out and enjoy themselves with other princesses.

Just as an example, in a town in Michigan they are having a "Princess Tea" that will serve as a fundraiser for a local youth center. Rather than have the young ladies holding the fundraiser dress up as Disney princesses, instead they are donning their very real princess regalia - as homecoming princesses - to meet and great aspiring little princesses.

“So far we’ve gotten quite a bit of interest,” Nancy Knick of the youth center said. “We even have some dads bringing their daughters, which is very cool.”

For a fee that is the same price as a ticket to see "Frozen," the girls get to chat with the homecoming queens, make crafts, take photos, play games and dine on finger sandwiches, tea and cookies. As a permanent memento, each little princess gets to take home a vintage tea cup and matching saucer of her own.

It is the kind of an event that many participants will remember forever. Don't you remember fondly events like that from your childhood? I do.

This is a terrific, original idea and it may just be something that others might find interesting to arrange in their own towns as well.

This particular affair (just as an example, obviously people far and wide and long after this has passed will see this and aren't going to attend a local event):

Tickets are $10 and seating is limited. Tickets can be purchased from 8:30 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. at the Allen Park Community Center, 15800 White Avenue, Allen Park, MI 48101, event to be held there Sunday, March 16 2014. For reference, this is just down the road from Dearborn and the Henry Ford Museum.