by Brian Bennett
| Bill writes:
Brian, I agreed with your response
to the questions posed by Louise about the Tree of Life
and the Kilamanjaro Safari animals, except for one thing.
At the end of the Safari, when the poacher is captured,
the little elephant is in a truck. I believe, even though
you don't get a good look at him, he is not real. Now, I
don't think you can call him "animatronic," but
he is represented as an animal and he isn't real.
Nit, i know :).
Hi Brian, In today's feedback, you
had a question if all animal at the Safari are real, which
you answered with yes. However, don't forget "Little
Red" in the back of the Truck just before the end of
the ride, that one is an audio-animatronic.
Hi Brian! I just wanted to point
out a error. Isn't 'Little Red', or whatever the kidnapped
baby elephant's name is, an animatronic?
Paul chimes in:
OOPS! When you recently wrote in
your mailbag column you mistakenly said all the animals
on the safari are real... You forgot that the baby elephant
in KS is an audio-animatronic, not a real animal...
and Ken writes:
Hi Brian, you wrote "On the
other hand, ALL of the animals that you see on Kilamanjaro
Safaris ARE indeed living, breathing animals."
Not quite I think - Isn't there an animatronic elephant
(or two)? I know the little one in the back of the poachers'
truck is AA, and I thought I remembered a vignette of "Big
Red" having been felled by a poacher's bullet. That
elephant would have been fake too. Not to bust your chops,
but I didn't want someone thinking that the felled elephant
(which may exist only in my imagination) and the one in
the truck were like circus animals, made to perform those
roles ("Okay, Jumbo. Play dead!") all day long.
BTW, I have to think someone would
have to be either rather unsophisticated or giving Disney
Imagineering a little too much credit (they usually don't
get enough, but...) if they thought any of the roaming animals
seen on KS were AA.
Disney's best AA creature can't hope
to get near the beauty or majesty of the ones made by God,
but I realize not everyone thinks this way. Though they
usually stay in one place (that ingenious artificially-cooled
rock), give the lions, for example, a good hard look and
see the intelligence in their eyes (cause you're close enough
to make eye contact -- an amazing experience), and there'll
be no question you're NOT looking at AA lions. For Heaven's
On the one hand writing for fellow
enthusiasts is rewarding and satisfying, but the flip side
is that some of them know a little more than we do about
one particular aspect or another of the main subject. And
they love to point it out.
I'm in the same boat writing about
synthesizers, keyboards, and electronic musical equipment
for Keyboard. Occasionally I'll make a harmless, thoughtless
generalization and then the letters and emails start: "No,
you're wrong!!!" Funny, isn't it?
I imagine others would have hipped
you to the mistake and I confess acting on the impulse to
say, "No, you're wrong!!" Humans are so silly.
. . .
|Thanks for the note, all. Obviously, I forgot
about Little Red... although I'm quite certain there isn't any
"felled" animatronic elephant.
| And following up, Ken
(the last guy listed above) wrote: Obviously. My point was
that there's always someone ready to remind you that you forgot
something, or said something wrong, or made an unfair generalization,
or what have you. It's amusing that I fell victim to the same
impulse that annoys the crap out of me in others.
BTW, spent a little time at the GF
(sic) in Anaheim while I was in town for a convention. What
a lovely place! What a shame people are staying away on droves.
I wonder if all the negative hype on
our favorite site has got people thinking that ALL of the
expansion associated with DCA is just junk unworthy of their
time and dollars? Maybe one of the Anaheim MousePlaneteers
could do a story on the hotels themselves (I hardly recognized
the grounds at the Disneyland Hotel - I stayed there about
15 years ago and the pools and landscaping have been completely
transformed) and all the work that's been done to the surrounding
neighborhood (I cracked up the cabbie when I didn't know where
I was until we drove past the part of DCA visible from Katella
To Disney's great credit, the area
around Disneyland is a much more pleasant place to be than
the embarrassing, garish, run-down dump it used to be. I think
they deserve a little cheese for that, and I haven't seen
it coming from MP.
While I'm on the subject, IMHO I think
MP as a whole has taken a little too much of a hard line approach
of late. It seems that Disney can't get a break from MP criticism.
I can't and wouldn't defend Eisner and Pressler's penny-pinching
and dumbed-down "vision," nor would I disagree that
things are not quite what they used to be. But the rest of
the world isn't what it used to be, either. Each generation
thinks things are not as good as during their own childhood.
During our trip to WDW last October,
we experienced exactly one rude treatment from a bus driver
who, in retrospect, may not have intended to be rude. Another
bus driver who was a minute or two ahead of his schedule made
an unscheduled, unmapped run from the TTC to the WL just for
my wife and I, just so we wouldn't have to wait 15 minutes
for the next bus. Totally above and beyond. At Cinderella's
Royal Table, the hostess paid attention to the notes apparently
placed in our PS by the attentive CM at CRO and gave us the
table under the window overlooking Fantasyland. We viewed
the fireworks from there and were the envy of every party
in the place. Our waiter made pleasant conversation... where
are you from? what brings you to WDW, etc. ? and he found
out we were celebrating our fifth anniversary with the honeymoon
we never had. When he brought the check, he gifted us with
a pair of CRT champagne flutes (later we tried to buy another
pair for a Disney-loving couple we know, and found that they're
not in the shops at all - how extra special). We saw peeling
paint and general run-down in a few places, but we showed
up just 5 days into the 100 Years thing and the place was
well and truly spruced up where it really counted. Decay on
the Haunted Mansion in particular almost fits the theme, y'know?
I dunno. I think maybe people go there
with the attitude that Disney owes them a perfect experience
for the money it costs, and conduct themselves in a prima
donna fashion. Inconsiderate or oblivious guests are the single
biggest cause of magic drain, in my experience. When their
experience fails to live up to their inflated expectations,
they declare a Disney vacation a rip-off and announce to their
fellow "fans" at MP that they'll be staying away
for a while. I think that's the wrong attitude. We found that
by playing ball with the Disney program, so to speak, and
by treating those who served us with grace and respect (tip:
If you say Hi and smile before they do, all sorts of good
things can happen) they reciprocated in spades, and our experience
was far more magical than I'd been led to expect.
Sorry, not to spew. Didn't realize
I felt so forcefully about it.
There are actually several great pieces on the Grand Californian
on MousePlanet. I can't think of a single thing that has been
written about it that has been the slightest bit negative.
It is, as you pointed out, a lovely resort.
If you go to this
MousePlanet page (which is one that I maintain), you'll
see a link top and center to the photo tour that Al Lutz put
together. There's also piece on the site by Lani Teshima and
Sue Kruse that you may enjoy reading.
| Alyssa asks: Hey
Brian, I was just Wondering if the ABC Commissary is where you
get to see the different sets of the ABC soaps.
The ABC Commissary at the Studios at WDW in Florida is just
a counter service restaurant with a strong Art Deco style.
It's not remarkable in any way (but it's not a bad place,
The Soap Opera Bistro at Disney's California Adventure at
the Disneyland Resort in California might be what you're thinking
| Patrick writes:
Brian, My family and I are heading back to WDW from February
10 -16. A couple questions regarding how things are going
down at WDW:
- Any recent (2002) word on crowds
- are they as slow as they usually are this time of year
or even slower?
- Do you know if the "Tapestry
of Dreams" parade runs from Mexico to England or just
from Mexico to Japan? The Disney web site now shows it going
the whole way around, but I am not sure if that is up to
- Are the "character cavalcades"
to the resort hotels in place of early open mornings still
going on? If so, do you know what characters actually come
to the hotels, or does it change from day-to-day?
By the way, your "Notes from the
World" column today could not have been more timely.
Although I made reservations several months ago, we only decided
over the weekend that we were really going to go in February.
Nevertheless, I was still a little worried about how the "cutbacks"
would affect the trip. Then, today's column had e-mails from
a couple people who said the impact was minimal, which greatly
relieved me. As with some of those people, we are getting
a great rate for our stay (which is why we are staying at
the concierge level for the whole trip), so I think (hope!)
the trip will be well worth it. It is just nice to get some
reassurance in that regard, which your column provided.
Thanks for your column (all the time,
not just today).
I'm glad you've found the column helpful! As for your
1. Crowd levels so far are reported as being higher now than
last year at this time. That was true during Christmas and
the first part of January to date.
2. Tapestry of Dreams only runs to Japan.
3. The "Character Caravan" is on a three day schedule
for each WDW resort hotels. Early Entry has still not been
reinstated. In each case, a handful of characters show up
-- without any specific pattern. There is no published schedule
(as to which characters appear) to the best of my knowledge.
Thanks for the kind words, Patrick... and not just in this
email, but all the time. :)
|Julie writes: Hi
Brian, My husband and I are going to Disney World March 6-10,
2002 as a company trip for the company we work for. We have
really been weighing the pros and cons about taking our 4month
old now, 6 month old then with us and you have totally helped
us make up our mind!!!! We are bringing our little Gracie and
can't wait to be there!!!!
|Frankly, I'm glad you decided to do so. :)
I strongly recommend that you read through the WDW
With Kids section of MousePlanet. I'd especially
read about "Traveling with an Infant" as that section
covers lots of stuff that will make your trip go better!
|Gregg asks: Hey Brian,
big fan of the site. I am usually just checking for DIG updates
but my wife, myself and 2 children ages 6 and 4 are tentatively
planning a trip to WDW in December of this year. Is this a good
time of year to go first of all? Second, on the Disney website
trip-planner we were quoted a price of $4,214.02 for our trip
including airfare from Los Angeles, 8 nights at the Disney's
Caribbean Beach Resort, Ultimate Park Hopper tickets, the Dining
Package, The Magical Choice Feature, the Unlimited Access to
selected Theme Park Tours, The VIP fireworks viewing at Magic
Kingdom and Epcot, VIP Parade viewing at Animal Kingdom and
the Commemorative Trading Pin. Is this a good price?
Since this will be the first trip to
WDW for all of us we just want to make sure we are getting
the best deal and best hotel for our family based on price,
location, etc. We are all Disneyland / California Adventure
annual pass holders, so we know what to expect at theme parks.
But being there for 8 nights will be a new experience for
us. Also are the other attractions in the area Universal,
Sea world, Kennedy space center ok for kids as well. We don't
want to waste time if there is not much for the kids there.
And is it easy to get a rental car for day trips to the other
attractions? Help. Thanks.
Early December is generally a very good time to go. To find
out why, read this MousePlanet page on the Year
at a Glance.
It's hard to judge your pricing value. For one thing, I don't
know the value of the airfare. Frankly, I think you'd be paying
an awful lot for the extra features that really aren't worth
anything. I'd suggest you price everything ala carte and see
how the numbers compare. I think you can do much better that
As far as knowing "what to expect at theme parks"
-- with all due respect, you don't really. :) WDW is such
an incredible place... the scope and size are just something
you can't understand until you see it. You'll know what I
mean when you arrive. The Disneyland Resort is just a drop
in the bucket compared to what WDW has to offer. ;)
Universal, Sea World, and the Space Center are all worthwhile
day trips. However, your all-inclusive package probably includes
Disney tickets for every day of the trip. That's another reason
why ala carte purchasing might be better. You can buy a six
or seven (or less) day pass for WDW then spend one or more
Rental cars are available onsite from National Car Rental.
|Anne asks: Brian,
I reside in Australia and am planning a holiday to WDW in December
2002, are you able to tell me what is the latest day in this
month where crowds have not yet swelled with the pre Christmas
build up ? I have attempted to find school holiday times to
assist in this but have had no luck.
Any response would be greatly appreciated.
You can be reasonably safe until mid-month, but by then the
build up starts to begin.
One way to check, and you can't really do this until closer
to the Holidays, is to look for the dates of Mickeys' Very
Merry Christmas Party. WDW schedules this special event during
the slow times before the Holiday build-up, so when you see
the last date of the party, you'll see WDW's own opinion on
the end of the quiet early December days.
|Becky asks: Dear
Brian, I am planning to join the Disney Vacation Club and have
been finding as many sites about it as I can. I was very pleased
when I came across
yours and found that you had included point charts for the
different Disney resorts. What I wasn't pleased to find out
about, was the considerable difference in points required between
WDW hotels and the comparable Disneyland Paris ones.
As we live in England, using our points
at Disneyland Paris is an important part of our holiday plans.
Do you have any idea why the Paris hotels require more points
when, presumably they are all part of the same company, and
why their low season is also so different? According to DLP's
own brochure November/early December is the best value time
to go, whereas the point chart declares it as the most expensive?
I don't understand!!! Can you shed some light on the subject,
or do you know anyone who can?
DVC point charts depend, not on park crowds but on expected
usage of DVC owners. Of course, one would expect that those
two things would be pretty close... but that doesn't always
happen. For example, in Florida throughout the year, the weekends
(Friday and Saturday nights) require many more points just
because there are so many DVC owners within a few hours drive
that like to use their points then.
|and in a follow-up, Becky
writes: Dear Brian, Okay, so that sort of makes sense. But
what about the difference in the number of points required for
each night between the Grand Floridian and the Disneyland Hotel
in DLP even in the low season. For a weeknight visit to the
Grand Floridian it's 26 points and at weekends it's 45 which
follows the trend as expected. Whereas the Disneyland Hotel
needs 35 points week round. Why doesn't that reflect the facts
- Despite the Disneyland being the
top hotel of DLP, as far as room size, amenities and service
go, from what I've seen and read it's still not quite on
a par with the Grand Floridian. In real money terms, the
Grand Floridian is definitely more expensive, but the annual
allocation of points per room at the Disneyland is over
a thousand more.
- people are more likely to go away
at weekends here in Europe too!
And the other thing that really does
not bear any relation to the usual "more popular, more
points", is the fact that the Hotel New York at DLP at
any given time requires more points than the Disneyland. Under
NO circumstances would it the more popular of the two, unless
they were bringing business travelers into this whole DVC/timeshare
So is DLP really so popular that they
have to increase the points required to discourage the hordes?
I doubt it - to most people DLP is place you go if you can't
get to WDW. Or is it because it's not in the States? Do hotels
and resorts in Europe require more points than their American
equivalents, or is DLP unusual?
Sorry to keep bothering you, but I
find this whole thing slightly annoying and very interesting.
Something that I don't think I was very clear on is that
the DVC points are fixed only for the DVC resorts. The other
resorts at WDW, DL, and DLP are contracted situations. That
is, the resorts individually determine what value they place
on a DVC reservation and the DVC sets the point values accordingly.
The amount of points that are required to stay at a non-DVC
resort are not in any way fixed. They can go up or down as
the specific resort sees fit. In effect, each non-DVC resort
is a free agent in this regard. Ten years from now, the number
of points required to stay at the Disneyland Hotel at DLP
might be double or triple the current rate. There is no way
to tell for sure...
So the questions you're posing about the DLP resorts really
are the result of the management at those resorts deciding
what value they place on a stay at that particular resort.
The DVC simply responds to that "quotation" by setting
the appropriate number of points so they can make the necessary
transfer payments to the resort when and if a DVC member stays
there on a points basis.
Apparently the management at the Grand Floridian has decided
that the amount of money that the DVC gives up for 26/45 points
is appropriate value for a stay there. Likewise, the Disneyland
Hotel at DLP has decided that 35 points "week round"
is appropriate. I would suggest that there are much fewer
DVC owners that live in Europe and that would skew the traffic
at the hotel... thus the lack of need for a higher weekend
rate. Likewise, for whatever reason, the Hotel New York has
set another, different rate... again, I don't know why.
|and finally, Becky writes:
Thanks for taking the time to reply in such detail. Shame that
the points aren't set at non DVC resorts - it means less chance
of making plans. But at least we have more certainty with the
DVC ones. I suppose it's being rather greedy to want to upgrade
our accommodations at DLP when the moderate hotels are fine,
but it would be nice if points permit.
It was actually the thought of staying
somewhere like Old Key West when we do our occasional visits
to WDW that initially attracted me to the DVC idea. The thought
of spending a small fortune for two weeks in one hotel room
with our young daughter was not attractive, so the extra space,
better accommodations and more control over the amount of
money being spent is what we have worked our calculations
and made our decisions on.
Watching the price of packages to WDW
rise steeply year after year is frightening, not to mention
the affect of the exchange rate. I could see our accommodations
dropping from Dixie Landings (it will always be that for me
as well), to All Stars, and then probably Days Inn!!
Sorry to waffle on, but this whole
DVC thing is rather exciting!!
Many thanks for your time.
|Sean asks: Just got
back from six days at WDW. It was wonderful. I was prepared
to "attack the parks" commando-style with all the
tricks I'd learned from your site. Fortunately there were no
crowds and almost every attraction was "walk right in".
What made it really great was that
I could try all the attractions without having to judge them
in respect to the time waiting. With no line, every attraction
was fun. However, if I had to wait for 15 minutes plus, I
might have been very disappointed in many, many of the attractions.
In your "professional" opinion,
why would anybody go to WDW at the height of the tourist season
when balmy days in January beckon?
Thanks for your note.
There are three reasons why so many people do go to WDW during
the height of the tourist season. First, for whatever reason,
they may be unable to go when the crowds are less. For example,
teachers may be unable to visit during the off season because
they simply don't get vacation time that they can use during
the school year. Second, they may be completely ignorant of
the difference that the seasons bring to crowd levels. Third,
some people just like the tourist season for various reasons.
They may like the longer park hours... they may enjoy the
holiday decorations... they may prefer the weather... Who
Hello Brian, I have a 150 share in Boardwalk, and am thinking
about buying a second share (so I have 300 total). Everyone
recommends The Timeshare Store (as you have). But I was wondering
if you were familiar with any of these: http://www.disney-vacation-club-resales.com,
I've heard people have horror stories with resales and find
it ominous that no one ever recommends these. Any advice or
insight you may have would be greatly appreciated.
I've not heard of any of those three timeshare resellers.
They may be fine, but I don't have any personal experience
with them... nor do I know of anyone that has used them (and
had experiences either good or bad).
|and in a follow-up, Christopher
writes: Thanks for the info.
I might just wait until The Timeshare
Store finds something for me since they come recommended by
so many people.
I read your conversation about DVC
vs. Vistana and would add one point to comparison. I would
rather buy a timeshare from a large company like Disney than
some of these other fly by night companies (not even sure
how to spell "Vistana"). I feel more confident that
Disney will be AROUND for 40 years.
|Thanks again, Chris. One comment... Vistana resort
is really a well-managed facility. I, for one, do not have any
such misgivings or lack of confidence in Vistana or any of the
other area timeshares.
|Daniel asks: Brian,
I would really appreciate it if you could help me w/ this. My
family and I are planning an 8-day vacation to Disney World.
We don't want the packages because we don't want to pay for
things we're not going to use (like water parks). However, when
I looked at Disney World's website, there were no 8-day park
hopper tickets. What should I do? Buy two 4-day ones, or what?
Your help would be greatly appreciated.
You can buy length of stay passes (that cover each day of
your trip) without buying an entire package deal. Those passes,
called "Ultimate Hopper Passes" do cover the water
parks, too, so that might not be what you want either.
In any case, you can read more about the various admission
media options on MousePlanet's admission
|a MousePlanet reader
asks: Does Florida have a hurricane season? How does
it affect WDW? Also, how can I decide which package deal
to go with since there are so many different options?
|I'll answer the easier question first. Yes, there
is a hurricane season that affects most of Florida. It covers
the time from mid-August through early October. Of course, you're
not likely to feel the effects of hurricane level winds that
far inland, but you will -- if a hurricane hits the coast nearby
-- feel the effects through higher than normal winds and lots
and lots of rain.
Regarding the package deal questions... I don't have a specific
list of what's included in the packages you cited. You should
be able to get that information from Disney Travel. However,
I would strongly suggest that you read through this
page and especially note the section, "So, Do I Buy
a Plan Deal or What?"... Personally, I would counsel
against it because it's not likely that you'll really get
the full value out of the package versus the cost.
I'll quote myself (from that page) here:
"The key to determining how valuable any Disney package
is for you is to think through your intended usage of what
you'll receive. If you'll use the flex features, and you
still feel like you'll be able to take full advantage of
the meal portion of the package, then you'll likely do well
to use the package deal. If you won't use any of the "perks"
then the overall value drops for you.
"I don't mean to be condescending as I state this
stuff...it's really pretty obvious, but the fact of the
matter is -- if you won't use the extras, then they have
absolutely no value to you and you really must eliminate
them from the equation.
"Several years ago, when Disney offered the much less
restrictive "Food 'N' Fun" packages, we thoroughly
enjoyed the results even though we didn't take full advantage
of the "fun" features. We used them somewhat,
but we didn't use two of them each day. However, the "meal
deal" was so fantastic (completely unlimited after
purchasing the package) that we couldn't go wrong.
"I guess the bottom line is....buyer beware! Only
you can know what you'll really use and what you won't.
You can make a good decision after thinking that through."
Well, I hope you enjoyed the reader feedback
for the WDW Trip Planning Guide! Feed free to send more questions
or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Brian Bennett's Disney Trip Planner
Click here to see
some awesome WDW pieces that have run on MousePlanet recently!
here to check out the rest of Brian's Archive, including all of the previously
published "Notes From the World" pieces!
always gotten email about the WDW Trip Planning Guide, but since we added
form to the site several months ago, the number of questions has increased
dramatically! I do my best to answer each and every question personally,
but I've noticed that a lot of the questions are asked again and again.
The question that one person asks might very well be the question that
someone else is wondering about. Thus this page!
reader email and feedback every once in a while, because the question
someone else asks might be the same one you're thinking about yourself!