Started off the morning with a later wake up call – 7:30am. Headed down to the Mill for a quick breakfast and then we were on a bus by 8:15ish. Arrived at EPCOT and picked up our welcome packet for the D23 event at the Guest Relations window. We entered the park at opening, saw the brief opening show then split up. One headed for Soarin and Fastpasses and the rest of us over to the Odyssey to check in for the D23 event. Signed in, picked up our packets, signed up for our tour then found a seat for the morning presentation. A WDW ambassador, someone from Holiday Services, then a couple of pastry chefs spoke to us. From 11am till 4:30 we were on our own. We ended up heading over to the Land and using our Soarin’ Fastpasses. Then grabbed lunch (some in the Land and I ran over to the Electric Umbrella). I rejoined the group and we went on the Living with the Land boat ride. Once back on shore we caught the Joyful concert then went over to Test Track to use a Fastpass (as part of the event we were given Fastpasses for the parks). Stopped by the Odyssey to see if there was anything interesting going and for something to drink then headed into World Showcase. Strolled by Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, and Italy before arriving at the American Adventure. Went in for the 3:45pm show then over to the American Gardens stage for the Candlelight. After the show we boarded cruise line busses backstage near the American Adventure and headed around the backstage area of EPCOT and out the gate near Test Track. We entered the Studios by the backstage gate near Tower of Terror and cruised around the park to the Lights, Motors, Action area. We disembarked right outside the arena, went through a quick bag check, then headed inside for dinner on the set. After dinner we were escorted over to Toy Story Mania . Managed to get in two rides (and set the high score for the day). Then dessert over at the Studio Catering Co. After dessert we headed out to the Street to hear about the Osborne Lights. There was a great presentation then we were able to roam around and see the lights perform. Our busses pulled up to the street (on the tram route) and we boarded to head out. Due to the event running long we made a quick stop at EPCOT’s parking lot to drop someone off then the rest of us were taken to Downtown Disney so we could transfer to a resort bus. Pulled into Pleasure Island and ran for a Riverside bus. Managed to get onboard and then headed for the resort, room and bed.
D23 Magic and Merriment Day 1:
- Today was the first day of the D23 Event, Magic and Merriment. First some background information. D23 is the Official Community for Disney Fans. This event went on sale October 15th and was priced at $195 per person. You could sign up for up to four people in your party (the D23 member and 3 guests). We already had our trip on the booked and then this event was announced. I decided to give it a try and managed to get tickets. I read online people had problems, this event like many of the other D23 ones sold out very quickly. I want to say it was within an hour, but I don't remember.
- We were sent an email to pick up our park tickets and itinerary at EPCOT guest relations in the morning. We arrived about 8:30 and found no line. Walked up, showed my ID and picked up our welcome packet. Inside was a schedule for the two days, 2 one day park tickets, and 2 DisneyQuest tickets. We then headed for the Odyssey restaurant for the official check in, which began at 9am.
- As we approached a queue had formed. Jeffery from D23 was signing everyone in. We had to show our photo ID and D23 card. Then we received our official packet for the event. Inside was a welcome letter from Steven Clark and then for each person an event badge to where and an information packet with info/bios on the morning speakers (it was really like a press packet which was great!). We then headed inside to another registration table. Here we were handed one cook book per party, order forms for D23 Quarterly Cases, and there was a sign up sheet for the castle suite tours (which were Sunday afternoon).
- The book we received was Culinary Confessions of the PTA Divas. I have no idea what we received this as I saw no obvious and I still do not see a tie in to the event. Again I was in tourist mode and did not think to ask either.. I just blindly took my copy and sat down... if anyone out there went and knows why please let me know... also I did not like having to lug this book around all day. I would have much rather received it at the end of the day like we did our other gift (which I will talk about later).
- The entire check in process went extremely smooth with no real wrinkles that I could see. Everyone was in a great mood and the lines kept moving. Once inside there were snacks and drinks for us. Then we found a seat for the presentations that started at 10:00am.
- First up was some house cleaning and introductions which included our hostess a WDW Ambassador, Becky Cline from the archives and Jeffrey from D23. Of course I was in tourist mode and not reporter mode so I did not take notes and I did not grab the Ambassador's name.
- I forget the order (again in tourist mode) but during the first presentations we received Mickey Santa Hats as well as envelopes with Fastpasses for every Fastpass Attraction at EPCOT and the Magic Kingdom. We each received two Fastpasses to each EPCOT one and then a set of 7 I think it was ticket good at any of the Magic Kingdom attractions. So between the three of us in my group we had more Fastpasses than we knew what to do with. What a great surprise!!
- The first presentation was from Lisa Borotkanics who is the manager of Holiday Services. It is her department that is responsible for maintaining the holiday decorations year round and decorating the parks. She went through several slides showcasing some of what they do.
Here are some quick facts:
- they have a 50,000 square foot warehouse (which if you go on the Yuletide Fantasy tour you get to visit.. I have)
- It takes nearly 150 semi-trailers to transport the decorations to the resort
- They use almost 8.5 million lights
- 15 miles of garland
- 1,314 wreaths
- 300,000 yards of ribbon
- The new Mickey silhouette on the Contemporary is 25 feet wide and 11,400 warm white LEDs
- Overall I thought her presentation was interesting. You could tell she does not do many of these as she was spending a lot of time reading the slides back to us. I live in a Powerpoint world and its so hard to break people of that habit.. you want to use the slides as a starting point and backup material but your presentation needs to be more engaging... at the end she took some questions. Nothing too interesting but there were two that made her dance a bit. Both on why things have disappeared. One on the working train around the Magic Kingdom tree and the second the Lights of Winter display at EPCOT. Neither answer was that satisfying to me or to those in the audience, most of whom really seemed interested.. especially in the Lights of Winter one.
- Next up were two of the top pastry chefs at the resort. Erich Herbitchek from the Grand Floridian and Stefan Riemer from the Yacht and Beach Club. These two talked about gingerbread houses in general and then specifically the Disney ones that have grown into a grad tradition around the resorts. I thought these two were the highlight of the morning and wished they had more time to talk and that they would have had more slides in their presentations to illustrate their points. Everyone I spoke to really enjoyed their presentation, only problem was they seemed to be rushed. As a gift for this presentation we each received a cookie that they made.
Some great facts:
- The Grand Floridian and Y&B bakeries each have a staff of 28 (at the Grand Floridian there are 3 that do nothing but decorate wedding cakes)
- They turn out 1,200 loaves of bread and 2,000 rolls on a daily basis (for the holidays Christmas/Thanksgiving this jumps to 3,500 and 4,000)
- Morning Session Summary - In all I thought the morning session was great. I wish it would have been a bit longer, maybe 45 or 60 minutes for each presentation vs trying to cram both into an hour. Also I would have liked to have had a presentation on the Candlelight. Maybe some history of it on both coasts. I thought that would have been a nice addition to the line up and lead in for the evenings activities. Or maybe event a presentation before the event in the theater.
- We had the afternoon from when this session ended until 4:30 to enjoy EPCOT. The Odyssey Center remained available to us for refreshments and relaxation all day long (we stopped by once in the mid afternoon and it was nice to have a quiet place to sit and grab something to snack on).
- At 4:30 we were told to meet at the America Gardens Theater.. we realized no one said where but it was easy enough to spot Jeffrey in his blue D23 shirt and we were let right in. The upper, back section (nearest the Japan side of the theater) was reserved for us. The seats were not the best but having reserved seats and not having to wait in the Standby or even the regular line was great! Also due to the size of the group (about 200) this made sense.
- We enjoyed the Candlelight but it still does not ring as impressive or engaging to us as the Disneyland production. It is hard to compete with 4-5 thousand people in Town Square. I thought Chita Rivera did an ok job reading. She seemed much more interested in singing and enjoying her time than the reading though. She did not have the presence or command that past narrators I have seen had.
- After the show we stayed in our seats while the theater cleared and then we were escorted through the crowd and backstage through the gate near the American Adventure to one of four waiting cruise line busses. This process went fairly smoothly. One other suggestion I have is that they would have done assigned busses. I thought this would have sped up the process and might have helped with problems that would surface at the end of the day. We boarded the buses and headed for the Studios, driving backstage around EPCOT and out the gate near next Test Track. This was great. Also surprised no one warned us about taking pictures.. it was dark and we were in a bus with tinted windows so it was not worth trying to take any but still surprised. We worked out way over to the Studios and backstage through the gate near Tower of Terror and around to the Lights, Motors, Action arena. The busses let us off on the street the backlot trams use. We disembarked, then walked into the theater. Along the way Disney security greeted us for a bag check (this seemed odd since we just left a park but guess its better safe than sorry).
- Dinner on the set turned out to be one of the highlights of the event. The food was great, the atmosphere fun, and we had plenty of time to explore the set and take pictures. Also Santa Mickey made an appearance for pictures which was a nice touch. I would have liked to have seen them use the large TV more. It just had a welcome D23 message on it all night. Seems they could have done more with it.. and maybe someone talking about the set would have been cool.
- After dinner we gathered and were walked through the tramway and backstage to Toy Story Mania. At this point the Disney folks escorting us did yell at some for taking pictures, which seemed odd since you were on the tram route which was a guest area.. we were then let into the Fastpass return for Toy Story. There were still guests in the Standby line cycling through (the park had closed but if you are in line you are allowed to stay in line and ride). We were near the front of the line and after riding went around a second time with even less of a wait. On the first time through I managed to set the high score for the day and as of the second ride it was still there, so that was great!! After the second ride we were guided toward the Catering Co area for dessert. I was under the impression we could ride as much as we wanted, but that did not seem to be the case and many in the group only were able to ride once. I felt lucky to get on twice back to back with no wait.
- Dessert at the Catering Company was a nice set up and a relaxing atmosphere. I did not care for the food that much but was full from dinner so it did not matter to me. I thought dessert dragged on and wish they would have had someone to talk to us during dessert or something.
- After dessert we were escorted out to a darkened Streets of America and John Phelan who was the original show director for the Osborne Lights took the stage to talk to us about the presentation. He went into a great history of how the lights came to the park and the first year. He also introduced some of the team responsible for the lights. They cycled through one song while we were at the stage then he opened it up to some questions and went ahead and cycled several more songs through as we were given some time to roam the streets. This presentation was great and having some time on the un crowded street was great. I wish they would have given him more time. He ran long but could have gone longer. I think he could have given the history during dessert maybe to allow for more time on the street.
- The busses were pulled up to the turn around that the trams use right at the end of the New York Street (between that and Lights Motors Action). As we headed for the bus we were given a nice red ornament that said Happy Holidays from your friends at D23. This was a nice gift. Only thing is I wish it would have been dated.. even better would have been to have the event on it, but I can see they probably used this for all the holiday events, but a simple 2009 would have been great and still worked everywhere. I thought this would have been a better place to hand out the cookbook (then you would not have had to carry it around all day).
- Due to the event running longer than anticipated the original plan of dropping everyone at the EPCOT parking lot seemed not be an option. So they asked us where we needed to go and then divided everyone up onto busses. This seemed like a good idea but in execution someone goofed up and our bus for example had people from 11 resorts on it. So they had to go to a plan C... which turned out to be a quick pit stop at the EPCOT parking lot then everyone would be taken to Downtown Disney to catch a Disney Resort bus. This seemed like a good compromise but it took quite a while to come up with it and execute and the quick stop at EPCOT turned into a 30 min delay probably when you counted the drive and then offloading a wheelchair from the bus (plus a visit from Disney security because there was a cruise bus offloading in the far end of the parking lot). All and all this led to some frustrated people on board and kind of a sour note to end a great day on. In the end I think they made the correct decision (except I would have suggested the Downtown Disney stop first since only the wheelchair and one or two people got off at EPCOT and everyone else was for Downtown Disney).
Observations from the park:
- This is the first time in a long time I was at EPCOT for the opening. I thought it was great to see the Test Track inspired car and all the characters out. Also how they let you into the central plaza before the official opening time. Unfortunately the event peaked at this.. the opening was basically a quick countdown, the car speed away and the characters bolted. It was very anticlimactic.
- Soarin is still a slow loader.. they seemed a little more efficient this time around compared to the last time I visited WDW.
- Had lunch at the Electric Umbrella. I was really disappointed in the pre-packaged dessert.. thought it should have been fresh cookies.. Pizza Planet at the Studios still has fresh cookies but not here...
Pedometer Information for the day:
with the text.. onto the pictures