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Update for November 22 – November 28, 2010

Go directly to: News & Views | Join our Networks | Coming Soon | Refurbishment/Attraction Closures | Discounts/Promotions

News and Views

Walt Disney Company’s fourth quarter profits fall | Disney bans on the job texting while driving | Pleasure Island to transform into Hyperion Wharf waterfront district | Electrician's estate sues Disney and others | Disney goes Gowalla | Atlanta Braves 2011 spring training | ESPN The Weekend package | Walt Disney World Resort launches Toys for Tots drive | Construction update | Quick takes

Walt Disney Company’s fourth quarter profits fall

The Walt Disney Company’s revenue dropped 1 percent to $9.7 billion in the fourth quarter of its 2010 fiscal year ending October 2010, with net income falling 7 percent to $835 million. Of the company’s five segments—media networks, parks and resorts, studio entertainment, consumer products, and interactive media—three showed increased revenue while two, media networks and parks and resorts, declined.

Studio entertainment made the most dramatic gains for the year with revenue rising 9 percent to 6.7 billion and operating income going up almost 300% to $693 million. This fiscal year, Disney had Toy Story 3, Alice in Wonderland (with Johnny Depp), and Iron Man 2, compared with last year’s Up, The Proposal, and Bolt. Last quarter, revenue rose 6 percent to $1.6 billion.

Theme park revenue declined almost 1 percent to $2.8 billion as the company continued to reduce bargains used to bolster attendance during the recession. Operating profit fell 8 percent to $316 million. The results reflect a decrease in domestic operations, partially offset by improved international operations at Hong Kong Disneyland Resort and Disneyland Paris. Disney blamed rising labor costs and pension obligations at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, and lower ownership sales of Disney Vacation Club, Disney’s point-based timeshare program.

See the Walt Disney Company’s Web site (link) for details.


It may not be Thanksgiving yet, but the Christmas holiday festivities are in full force with ttreats for sale at the Magic Kingdom. Photo by Julie China.

Disney bans on-the-job texting while driving

Did you know that driver distraction is the cause of at least one out of every three accidents and fatalities on the roadway today, and that the crash risk for driving drunk (at a .08 blood alcohol level) is the same as the crash risk for driving while talking on a cell phone? The Walt Disney Company has taken a stance recently, and issued a new policy prohibiting employees from sending text messages and e-mail while driving company vehicles or while driving their own cars on job-related duties. This ban also prohibits employees from making or receiving phone calls while driving on the job unless they use a single ear piece. The ban applies to all Disney employees worldwide including all Walt Disney World workers. Punishment for workers caught violating the policy will be handled on a case-by-case basis and could include firing.

With growing concerns about distracted driving after some highly publicized lethal accidents involving train conductors crashing their trains because they were busy sending text messages, Disney is probably taking a proactive stance to avoid such tragedies. A number of celebrities have taken up the cause of discouraging distracted driving, such as Oprah Winfrey's "No Phone Zone" campaign (link) and Tom and Ray Magliozzi (Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers, hosts of NPR's Car Talk and the voices of Rusty and Dusty from Pixar's Cars) with their Driver Distraction Center (link), an online resource on distracted driving.

Pleasure Island to transform into Hyperion Wharf waterfront district

Disney has revealed its plans for a re-imagined Pleasure Island at Downtown Disney. A nostalgic-yet-modern take on an early 20th century port city and amusement pier will evolve Pleasure Island into “Hyperion Wharf.” By day, the bustling port district will draw guests in with its stylish boutiques and innovative restaurants and by night, thousands of lights will transform the area into an electric wonderland.


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Artist rendering of Hyperion Wharf waterfront district. © Disney.

Taking its name from Hyperion, the Greek god of light, as well as the street on which Walt Disney built his first major animation studio, the wharf district will also feature a relaxing lakeside park and enhanced pedestrian walkways.

As part of the transformation, most of the area's former clubs, including Motion, Adventurers Club, BET Soundstage Club and Rock 'n' Roll Beach Club, will be torn down. The name "Pleasure Island" will be phased out entirely.

Construction on Hyperion Wharf is scheduled to begin immediately and is scheduled to be completed in 2013.

Do you want to write for MousePlanet?

MousePlanet is looking for some new feature writers to expand our coverage of Walt Disney World. We're looking for new topics or perspectives that we may not be addressing right now. Some examples are:

  • Dining at Walt Disney World (general)
  • Eating at Walt Disney World with dietary restrictions
  • Planning and/or budgeting your trip
  • Live entertainment
  • Meeting characters
  • Visiting the "World" vs. traveling the world
  • How visiting the parks is different for… (the single traveler, the DVC member, the frequent visitor, etc.)
  • How to get the most magic out of your trip

If you've got a topic or perspective that you think would be a worthy addition to our site, let us know! We're looking for talented writers with strong journalistic skills. If you live in Central Florida and may be able to cover press events (potentially including mid-week press events), that may be considered a plus.

If you think that you've got what it takes to join our staff, send an e-mail to Mark Goldhaber with your idea for a topic or perspective that you'd like to cover and a little information about yourself. If we like your concept, we may ask you to prepare a sample article or two and submit it for consideration.

Are we looking for you?

Electrician's estate sues Disney and others

The Orlando Sentinel reports (link) that the estate of Douglas Howell has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against his employer Reedy Creek Energy Services, and others including Reedy Creek Improvement District, Disney Photo Imaging, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts U.S., Inc., Tishman Hotel & Realty and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. Howell was electrocuted at a substation switch near the Walt Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort in November 2008. The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $15,000, exclusive of interests and costs.


Mom (Donna) and baby (Luna) elephant on Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Luna was born in May 2010. Photo by Julie China.

Disney goes Gowalla

by staff writer Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix

If you've mastered the art of sharing your life in 140 characters or less via Twitter, and regularly update your status on Facebook, you may already have heard of Gowalla, a Web-based social networking service (link). Gowalla members use their cell phone to "check in" at locations like parks, restaurants and stores (known as spots), and can share their location with friends and family. Gowalla members have a virtual passport, and can receive virtual stamps when they check in, and can earn virtual (and sometimes real-world) prizes for certain activities.


Gowalla users can collect virtual Disney "stamps" when they visit Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Photo (c) Disney.

Disney Parks Social Media Director Thomas Smith announced last week the company has partnered with Gowalla (link), and unveiled some of the special Disney-designed passport stamps Gowalla users can collect when they check in at parks, rides and shows. Disney has also created a series of "trips," (the Gowalla terms for a series of spots), and is offering virtual "pins" to users when they complete a trip. The trips include a "Fun for Young Ones" collection of spots such as Playhouse Disney and the Duffy the Disney Bear meet-and-greet location, and a "Seasons Greetings" trip with stops at "it's a small world" and the Christmas Fantasy parade.

The choice to go with Gowalla instead of the better-established Foursquare application was met with some complaints by readers who posted comments to the Disney Parks blog, but others commented that the Disney tie-in was enough to make them switch to Gowalla.

Do you use an application like Gowalla now, and if so, what do you like about it? If you don't already use Gowalla, or if you're a Foursquare fan, does the Disney partnership make you want to sign up or switch? If you have no idea what a Gowalla is (which I'll admit, I didn't until a few months ago), how do you feel about Disney's forays into social and location networking? Tell us what you think in the comments below, or on our MousePad discussion forum (link).

[Editor's note: A word of caution. Location-based apps like Gowalla and Foursquare have the ability to let everyone know where you are—including the fact that you are away on a vacation to a Disney theme park and that your home is empty and ripe for burglary. Be mindful of your privacy settings should you decide to forward your Gowalla check-ins to Twitter or Facebook, and make sure your announcements are only broadcast to your trusted friends.]

Atlanta Braves 2011 spring training

Major League Baseball's Atlanta Braves has announced its 2011 spring training schedule at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. After two weeks of workouts, the Braves play an 18-game home schedule that includes games against New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, and St. Louis Cardinals.

Information on the Braves’ spring training season and tickets is available by calling 407-WDW-GAME (407-939-4263) and online at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Web site (link).

Individual game tickets go on sale Saturday, January 8, 2011 at 10 a.m. at the sports complex box office, as well as through Ticketmaster 800-745-3000 and Ticketmaster.com. Prices start from general admission lawn seats for $10-$20 to lower reserved seats for $30-$42, based on premium options, such as the opponent, weekend games, and night games.


Mom and three baby warthogs on Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney's Animal Kingdom. The baby warthogs were born in July 2010. Photo by Julie China.

ESPN The Weekend package

ESPN The Weekend is a special event from March 3 to 6, 2011 at Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park packed with athletes, live ESPN telecasts, broadcast personalities and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in interactive sports activities.

Walt Disney World has released a free dining offer for ESPN The Weekend. Even though these dates fall during the current free dining offer, this package includes additional benefits at no additional cost. You must check in between February 28 and March 3, 2011. The package includes:

  • Three nights at a select Disney Value or Moderate Resort hotel (standard room)
  • Four-day Magic Your Way base ticket
  • Free Disney Dining Plan (free Quick Service Dining plan at Value Resorts, free Disney Dining plan at Moderate Resorts)
  • One ticket to the Atlanta Braves Spring Training Game against the Detroit Tigers on Thursday, March 3, 2011 at 1:05 p.m.
  • Ability to make advance reservations for seating at Mike & Mike in the Morning or The Herd with Colin Cowherd including first in line access for a Meet and Greet with Mike Golic, Mike Greenberg or Colin Cowherd after the show. Reservations for these shows will be open to the general public on February 1, 2011. Seating is limited.
  • Thirty minutes of play at the PlayStation Pavilion within the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
  • Ability to enter the Premiere Theater at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for Inside ESPN shows 15 minutes prior to doors opening to theme park guests.

The package costs $611 per adult based on double adult occupancy at a Moderate Resort for three nights with a four-day Magic Your Way base ticket and free Dining Plan.

You must book this package by December 20, 2010. Room availability at this rate is limited. Reservations may be booked by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-7926 or your travel agent and using booking code DT2 for a Value Resort and ZL3 for a Moderate Resort. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).

Walt Disney World Resort launches Toys for Tots drive

Walt Disney World Resort launched its annual Toys for Tots collection drive last week. Through December 10, Walt Disney World cast members will play the role of Santa’s helpers by collecting new toys for the annual toy drive. The toys will be added to Disney’s donation of 1,200 stuffed Duffy bears from the “Cuddliest Christmas Tree.”


The “Cuddliest Christmas Tree” made of 1200 Duffy the Disney Bears. Gene Duncan photographer. Photo © Disney.

This year, Central Florida Toys for Tots expects to assist thousands of families from Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties celebrate the holiday season with gifts for their children. The Walt Disney Company’s involvement with Toys for Tots began more than 60 years ago when Walt Disney and his animators designed the original Toys for Tots logo that is still used today.

Toys for Tots has nationwide drop-off sites set up to accept toy donations. For locations, visit the Toys for Tots Web site (link).

Construction update

Here is the listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last week:

  • Magic Kingdom Cinderella’s Castle – refurbishment.
  • Magic Kingdom Liberty Square Produce Market – plumbing work and electrical repairs.
  • Magic Kingdom Frontier Land – construction work.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama – construction work.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Front Entrance – construction work.
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios Star Tours – installation of smoke dampers.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Playhouse Disney – construction work.
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios Hollywood and Vine – steelwork at entrance and restaurant rehab.
  • Epcot Innovations East – installation of airline to former Battery Room.
  • Epcot Main Entrance – construction work.
  • Transportation and Ticket Center Westgate Mechanical Room – mechanical work.
  • Disney's Typhoon Lagoon – construction work.
  • Downtown Disney World of Disney – construction work.
  • Downtown Disney Marketplace Kiosk – construction work.
  • Downtown Disney Marketplace – tree lighting replacements.
  • Downtown Disney Disney Quest – installation of new door at lower landing.

Quick takes …

…Artist Jim Shore will appear at the Walt Disney World Resort on the following dates, times and locations:

  • Friday, December 3, from 3 to 7 p.m. – Art of Disney at Downtown Disney Marketplace;
  • Saturday, December 4, from noon to 2 p.m. and 3 to 5 p.m. – Heritage Manorat the American Adventure Pavilion in Epcot;
  • Sunday, December 5, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. – Art of Disney at Downtown Disney Marketplace.

…The Walt Disney World Moms Panel has released a new set of online videos featuring their favorite experiences. Celebrity “Disney Moms” Whoopi Goldberg and Teri Hatcher also share their own special family travel tips. These new videos are available at the Walt Disney World Moms Panel Web site (link).

…The Spice & Tea Exchange, a store-within-a-store, has opened inside Mickey's Pantry at Downtown Disney Marketplace. The shop sells tea, spices, sea salts, and more.

…BabyCakes NYC, the famous vegan bakery, has opened at Downtown Disney Marketplace on the former site of McDonald's. As of last Wednesday, the bakery had no signage, but you can find it in the building marked Fresh A-Peel.

…University of Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams, who overcame a chaotic upbringing to become a star student-athlete and advocate for domestic abuse awareness, has been selected as this year’s recipient of the Disney Spirit Award given annually by Disney Sports to college football’s most inspirational figure.

…Nearly 500 Disney VoluntEARS from the Walt Disney World Resort, Disney Cruise Line and Walt Disney Imagineering scoured nearly four miles of Brevard County beaches on November 13, clearing more than 2,500 pounds of trash from the coastline as part of the International Coastal Cleanup, the world's largest volunteer effort to improve the health of the ocean and waterways. Disney VoluntEARS, working with the Ocean Conservancy, Keep Brevard Beautiful, United States Coast Guard and the Canaveral Port Authority, represented the largest group of participants in the community-wide clean up event.

…Stitch Kingdom reports (link) that a third day, December 2, has been added to the 2010 Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade taping schedule (now December 2-4), and that Ryan Seacrest will be hosting the event. The same Web site also reports (link) that Mariah Carey will be taping her parade performance on December 3 at the Magic Kingdom.

…Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix posted a blog last week about a new phone service aboard ships of the Disney Cruise Line. Disney will offer guests the use of "Portable Wave Phones" on board its ships starting in December (Thursday, December 16 on the Disney Wonder; Saturday, December 18 on the Disney Magic). The portable phones can send and receive phone calls and text messages from other Wave phones when used on board the ship or on Castaway Cay.

…The 2011 Disney's Princess Half Marathon is 65 percent full. You can register at the official event web site (link).

…The 2011 Walt Disney World Marathon is 93 percent full, the Half Marathon is 97 percent full, Goofy's Race-and-a-Half Challenge is 98 percent full, Buzz & Woody's Best Friends 5K is completely full, and Mickey's Marathon Kids' Fest is 94 percent full. If you’re interested in participating in these races, now’s the time to sign up! You can register at the official Walt Disney World Marathon web site (link).

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Coming up

  • November 28 and 30, December 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17 and 19. Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (link).
  • November 25–26, 28: Old Spice Classic (link).
  • November 27: Harlem Globtrotters Holiday Special Event.
  • December 4–11: Pop Warner Football Championships (link).
  • January 6–9, 2011: Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend (link).
  • January 14–17, 2011: UCA College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championship (link).
  • February 11–15, 2011: UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship (link).
  • February 25–27, 2011: Disney’s Princess Half Marathon (link).
  • March 1–31, 2011: Atlanta Braves Spring Training (link).
  • March 2 to May 15, 2011: Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.
  • March 3–6, 2011: ESPN The Weekend (link).
  • March 12–13, 2011: UCA National All-Star Cheerleading Championship (link).
  • April 28 to May 2, 2011: USASF Cheerleading and Dance Worlds (link).
  • April 29, 30, May 6, 7: Grad Nites (link).
  • September 30, October 1: Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend.

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • Ariel's Grotto – closed permanently to make way for the Fantasyland Forest makeover.
  • Pooh's Playful Spot – closed permanently to make way for the Fantasyland Forest makeover.
  • Scuttle's Landing – closed permanently to make way for the Fantasyland Forest makeover.
  • Mickey's Magical Milestones Tour – discontinued, effective November 23.
  • Astro Orbiter – closed for refurbishment December 5–9.
  • Splash Mountain – closed for refurbishment January 3–31, 2011.
  • Liberty Square Riverboat – closed for refurbishment January 29–February 4, 2011.

Epcot

  • No known scheduled closures.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • Star Tours – closed for refurbishment through May 16, 2011.
  • Studio Backlot Tour – closed for refurbishment January 3-29, 2011.
  • Honey I Shrunk The Kids Movie Set Adventure – closed for refurbishment January 3-29, 2011.
  • Playhouse Disney-Live on Stage! – closed for refurbishment January 30 - March 5, 2011. A new segment will be added, and the show will be rebranded from Playhouse Disney to Disney Junior.
  • Block Party Bash Parade – final performance January 1; Pixar Pals Cavalcade begins performances January 16, 2011.

Animal Kingdom

  • Kali River Rapids – closed for refurbishment January 3–29, 2011.
  • Primeval Whirl – closed for refurbishment January 17 through April 5, 2011.

Resorts

  • BoardWalk Resort – Kouzzina by Cat Cora closed for refurbishment November 29 to December 14.
  • Coronado Springs Resort – Cabanas Leisure Pool closed for refurbishment January 3–28, 2011.
  • Saratoga Springs Resort – Paddock Leisure Pool closed December 3, 2010 to June 29, 2011, for conversion to new feature pool.
  • 'Ohana – closed from January 17–20, 2011, reopens for dinner on January 20, 2011.
  • Yacht & Beach Club Resorts – The main slide and kiddie slide at Stormalong Bay are closed from January 3 through mid-February, 2011. Guests that wish to use have a pool slide as part of their resort pool experience can use the Luna Park pool at the BoardWalk Resort.
  • BoardWalk Resort – the Keister Coaster slide at the Luna Park pool will be closed from February 7 through mid-March, 2011. Guests that wish to use have a pool slide as part of their resort pool experience can use the Stormalong Bay pool at the Yacht & Beach Club Resorts.
  • Polynesian Resort – Leisure Pool closed for refurbishment January 10–February 18, 2011.

Water Parks

  • Typhoon Lagoon – closed October 31, 2010 through January 15, 2011 for annual refurbishment.
  • Blizzard Beach – closed January 16, 2011 through March 26, 2011 for annual refurbishment.

Elsewhere

  • Cirque du Soleil La Nouba – performs Tuesdays through Saturdays.
  • McDonald's at Downtown Disney – closed permanently; the location is being converted to Pollo Campero, opening this fall.
  • Palm Golf Course – closed through December 2 for refurbishment.
  • Magnolia Golf Course – closed December 1–10 for refurbishment.

Current Discounts & Promotions

Passholder discounts through December 25, 2010

Passholders can save 30 to 42 percent off their room rates for stays at Walt Disney World from October through the end of the year. Rates vary depending on your dates of travel and the resort category at which you are staying.

For any stay from October 3 through December 25 (except for the Thanksgiving weekend of November 24-26), you get some great discounts:

  • Value resorts plus Animal Kingdom Lodge – 30 percent off
  • Moderate resorts, including Fort Wilderness Cabins, plus Grand Floridian Resort – 35 percent off
  • Remaining Deluxe Resorts – 42 percent off
  • Deluxe Villa Resorts – 42 percent off

You can book the deal from now through your day of arrival, through the rooms may go fast. The number of rooms available at these rates is limited. Minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals. Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World Web site (link), by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-7420, or your travel agent and using booking code XO7. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).

Free dining through September 29, 2011

Free dining is back, with the same split-level implementation as has been the case recently. Those staying at value resorts will get the Quick Service Dining Plan for free, while those in moderate, deluxe and deluxe villa accommodations will get the standard Disney Dining Plan for free. Free dining is available on select dates from this October through next September:

2010

  • November 27 to December 2
  • December 10–21

2011

  • January 1–5
  • January 9–13
  • January 21 to February 3
  • February 11–17
  • February 25 to March 3
  • May 27 to June 2
  • August 19 to September 29

You must book free dining by December 20. The rooms available at these rates is limited. Minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals. Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World Web site (link), by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-7926, or your travel agent and using booking code NL7. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).

Military ticket offer

From now through September 28, 2011, active and retired U.S. military personnel can purchase 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets with either the Park Hopper or Water Parks Fun and More option for $138 per ticket, plus tax, or with both the Park Hopper and Water Parks Fun and More options for $165 per ticket, plus tax. No Base ticket is available with this offer.

The tickets expire and may not be used after October 1, 2011. The tickets may not be used at all Walt Disney World theme parks and other gated attractions on the following blockout dates: December 27-31, 2010 and April 17-23, 2011. Additionally, the tickets may not be used at the Magic Kingdom on July 4, 2011.

Eligible service members include active or retired members of the U.S. military including the U.S. Coast Guard, National Guard, and Reservists. Disney Military Promotional Tickets can be purchased at Shades of Green or at a participating military base (MWR/ITT) office. There is no tax charged for these tickets but they must be activated at a theme park ticket window. Tickets may also be purchased at Walt Disney World Park Ticket Offices and Guest Relations Offices where tax will be charged. No more than six tickets may be purchased by any eligible member of the U.S. military (or their spouse, but not both) for themselves, family members, and friends, and all tickets must be purchased at the same time. If the immediate family has more than five dependants, additional tickets may be purchased for the dependants, however, additional tickets for guests may not be purchased. Valid military identification is required. The tickets are non-transferable and may not be resold.

The tickets may be upgraded to Seasonal Passes or Florida Resident Weekday Select Passes (for Florida Residents), or Annual Passes, Premium Annual Passes, or Disney Premier Pass with credit toward the upgrade based on the actual price paid. The no-expiration option and other upgrades, such as additional days, are not available.

For complete information regarding Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets, military personnel may call (407) 939-7830 or participating U.S. military base ticket offices.

Kids sail free on certain 7-night cruises

Children ages 17 and under traveling with two full-fare Guests in the same stateroom sail free on most 7-Night Caribbean cruises from January 8, 2011 through March 5, 2011, excluding the February 19, 2011 sailing.

There are definitely some restrictions and exclusions. The discount applies only to verandah staterooms (except concierge and suites), and it cannot be combined with any onboard credit discounts. Taxes and fees are also not included for the free children.

The number of cabins available at these rates is limited. Reservations may be booked through the Disney Cruise Line Web site (link), by calling Disney Cruise Line at 800-951-3532, or your travel agent and using booking code KFO. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).


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(Send an email to Julie China)

Julie China first visited Disneyland in 1974 when she was very, very young. She re-discovered the Disney theme parks during her 1993 honeymoon to Walt Disney World. Ever since then, Julie and her husband have made annual, and sometimes even multiple trips each year, to Disney World. Julie funds her Disney vacations by working as an attorney in Honolulu, Hawaii.