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Brian Bennett

WDW Trip Planning Guide Reader Feedback

by Brian Bennett

7/15/02

 

As has become our custom, we'll review some reader responses to recent Notes From the World material before we move on to cover some new letters...

To start off, I got several responses about Mickey's Backyard Bar-B-Que. Here's a sampling (without comment by me):

Lu writes: I have been going to WDW for many years now and have just found your site. I thinks its great to allow guests to bounce ideas around with each other. I wish I had someone to ask before I dragged my entire family of 4 with a 2 & 3 yr old in addition to my in-laws, both sisters in law plus one brother in law along to the BBQ for $30 or so each for our 2000 Thanksgiving dinner.

What a fiasco! When they say Backyard BBQ they aren't kidding! Since I have been to almost every character meal and dinner show they offer I had my expectations, and sold my family on them. I EXPECTED something similar to the Hoop De Doo since the prices were similar and the locations almost on top of each other buy I was wrong, VERY WRONG. When I first saw it I was shocked, it is set on a slab on concrete with a plain wood roof cover like you see at any municipal park. The seating was on plain old picnic tables. The entertainment was some no-name country band that was very good although not what I was expecting. No characters were in sight. The buffet of big pans of food on 2 tables where you walk in were obviously being recycled from seating to seating. I believe we ate off of paper plates. The food was tolerable. I would recommend that a family skip this alltogether and go see the Hoop De Doo twice rather than waste their money here.

Libby adds this: Dear Brian, I haven't sent this as a review as it has been four years since we were there. When we went the food was good - as long as you're a meat eater .. ribs, chicken drumsticks, cornbread, sponge cake and planty of soft drinks.

The entertainment was country music,line dancing and a few games for the children, but not really our thing, did a bit of line dancing but found the evening fairly boring. Highlight of the evening were the characters - Mickey, Minnie, Chip, Dale and Goofy all dressed up in wild west gear.

We were on a package trip from UK and bought our ticket from our Virgin rep. Virgin must have block booked the whole evening as all the guests were from England or Wales. Quite a surreal evening Wild West theme in USA but with British audience!!

Not our cup of tea but might be more fun if we'd been travelling with a group of friends.

PS thanks for the info on your site, I really enjoy getting a disney fix!

Margaret writes: Dear Brian, You asked for information on Mickey's Backyard Barbeque in today's column. I haven't been myself but, as I know that MousePlanet and WDWIG are friendly rivals, I thought I would mention that Deb Wills has posted several reviews of it. There's a considerable disparity of opinion. Apparently attendance isn't limited as at Hoop-de-Doo and so it can get very crowded, but people who have gone at less crowded times have enjoyed it. It also seems to be a better value than Hoop-de-Doo, at least if you like country music.

Thanks so much for your input, Margaret. I certainly count Deb Wills as a friend and a great asset to all of us Disney nuts out there. I don't like to advertise "the enemy," but in this case, I'll share your note ASAP. ;)

Then, a few other topics were brought back up by Notes From the World readers...

Jim Writes: Brian, I always enjoy reading your site. I have a couple of comments on questions people asked in your 7/8 trip planning guide.

Regarding E-Ride Nights: We’ve done this one three times at different resorts. I’m not sure about the boats, but busses and/or monorails definitely run to each of the resorts following E-Ride. They make enough trips to get everyone back to their hotels just like they do after the park officially closes.

Regarding laundry at All Star Movies: I would not plan on using this option unless absolutely necessary. Yes they do have a Laundromat with supplies, but I believe the total number of machines was 6-8. Definitely not enough for a resort with nearly 2000 rooms. I spent more than 4 hours one evening attempting to wash a sweater that I desperately needed the following morning.

Finally to the family of 10 asking about staying on or off property at a rental home. I would definitely attempt to stay on property even if budget only allows several rooms at one of the all star resorts, or camping at Fort Wilderness. The reason simply comes down to transportation and convenience. Our family of two (sometimes three) has never been on a trip to WDW where we felt like doing everything together at the same time. It would seem that trying to keep a group of 10 happy would be a nightmare if staying off property. By staying on property, the cranky one can go and take a nap easily and rejoin the troops again later, or family members can park hop and all meet up at the resort in the evening. At the very least, if staying off property I would recommend taking several vehicles so people can come and go a various times, or the parents can visit another park when the kids are ready for day five at the Magic Kingdom! I can’t imagine 10 people all being happy on the same schedule.

Dana shares this note: Hi Brian, Your site was a lifesaver during my pre-trip planning, it's absolutely the best site out there!!

I just wanted to comment on two of the e-mails sent to you.

Lori had some trouble getting in to her 9:00 a.m. priority seating at Cinderella's Castle due to the park not opening until 8:50 a.m.. I just wanted to let you know that during my stay in June I had priority seating at the Crystal Palace for 8:10 a.m. I arrived at the park at about 7:50 a.m. and there was a a turnstile line open just for priority seating holders. They checked you off of a clipboard list and then they let people through 1-2 turnstiles right at 8:00 a.m. I wonder if maybe the cast member Lori spoke with didn't know about the special "Priority Seating" line (it was at the far end of the turnstiles---opposite of the bus loading/unloading sites. Anyway, we were actually in the Crystal Palace eating (where my daughter was Chef of the Day) by 8:10 a.m. and were standing behind the velvet rope at Fantasyland by 8:45 a.m. I got some great pictures of the castle with hardly anyone there and Mickey Mouse was also out already greeting guests!!

I also had a tip for Jackie who was concerned about souvenir money. If she is a member of the Disney Club then she can get 10% off at most of the Downtown Disney stores, including World of Disney, Pooh Corner and the Christmas Store. I waited and went to the Downtown Disney stores and saved around $25 - 30.00, if you're planning on a trip to Downtown Disney anyway... They also deliver the packages to your resort too.

Thanks for all that you do!!

Andy writes: Brian, I'm responding to a recent letter you received from Nancy and then responded to by Allison. I stayed at the Wilderness Lodge a couple of years ago and also did the e-ride night. Wilderness Lodge is a great resort but transportation can be a problem. The boats from MK do stop running before e-ride night is over and actually stopped running even before closing time of the Magic Kingdom. At that time the only way to get back to Wilderness Lodge was to take the monorail to the TTC and then transfer to a bus going to Fort Wilderness. The bus stops at Wilderness Lodge as well. You need to check the name of the bus you get on. I believe the Boone bus goes in one direction and the Crockett in another. Since there were not a lot of buses running late at night it did take over an hour to get back to WL. We rode the same route in the day and had no problems.

Marc writes: In your last update, Vincent wrote about the Animal Kingdom Lodge rooms: "The rooms are no bigger than the rooms at the value and moderate resorts. (If they are, I couldn't tell) " I have never stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, so I don't know about their rooms size. But in the past, Disney's rule was that value resorts have the smallest rooms, moderate a bit bigger and Deluxe the biggest. In the All-Star Resorts, they used a little trick that the rooms don't look too small: The beds are a bit shorter, so there is still enough space between the beds and the drawers/TV stand.

Marc,

The rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge are smaller than most of the deluxe resorts. They're actually pretty comparable to Wilderness Lodge in size, but smaller by about 10-15% than the other deluxes. The are also 8-10% bigger than the rooms at the moderates, though, so Vincent was technically incorrect... although I can't fault him for having that impression (without whipping out a yardstick).

Jo Ann writes: In response to Bob's question about wheelchairs, we had the occasion to use them while visiting the park in December 2001. The wheelchairs are readily available and come in two sizes, regular and wide. The non-motorized wheelchairs are a lightweight nylon version, color coded for each park e.g. Epcot's were purple. The cost was $8.00 per day with a refund of one Disney Dollar if you returned it when you left the park (and didn't just abandon it). There is a pocket on the wheelchair for a card with your name so someone else doesn't take your wheelchair in error. And, correct me if I'm wrong Brian, you can obtain another wheelchair for no additional cost if you park hop. Just save your receipt. Hope this helps, Bob.

Thanks so much for your input, Jo Ann. I'll share it on the site soon! You're correct, by the way, that wheelchairs (but not ECVs) are free of charge with a same-day receipt.

Julie writes: Hi Brian,

I just wanted to defend myself from the 6/24 comments that Sharon made regarding her vacation. The parks were simply not as they always are. I guess people who have not been to WDW often just do not recognize where many of the cuts are taking place. I have been to WDW 5 times in the last two years (any many other times in years' past). I may be expecting just too much, but I believe that WDW has a responsibilty to all of us, veteran or rookie, and we should hold them to it! Vacations are not cheap and we all want the most for our dollar! Thanks!

Julie,

I agree with you wholeheartedly. Some folks just want to defend Disney, though, either because they're so immursed in the magic that they can't see the slips, or because they feel like they have to defend the company they just spent thousands of dollars with, or for some other unknown reason.

I guess all we (you and I and others that agree) is continue to warn folks to seriously consider what they're paying for their vacations against what they're going to receive. As long as folks are satisfied with the value they receive for their money, all power to them!

And Julies note ties directly into the next one...

Vicky writes: Dear Brian, Two things today. First, thank you (et al.) for MousePlanet! It's a great way to start my day. Second, I wanted to share the following in the hope you might include it in a future "Notes from the World".

Last month, on a whim, I sent an email via the official WDW website, to complain/express my dissatisfaction with the cancellation of Early Entry. I'm sure many would agree that it was one of the best perks to staying on-site. In my email, I also mentioned that the Character Caravan might be great for small children, but as a parent of teenagers, Early Entry was by far the better deal. I also stated that I did not want a "canned reply" (having received one from Disneyland when I complained to them about the loss of Magic Mornings).

Today, I received a call from some guy at WDW (I was in total shock so I'm not sure who he is or what his title is...). He called rather than reply via email so that I would know his response was not "canned". He said the response WDW has received re: the Character Caravan has been "overwhelming" and "positive". He says they have received VERY LITTLE complaint about the cancellation of Early Entry. "Really?!" I asked. Really, he replied. So, to all fellow fans of Early Entry... let's get the word out! Send WDW a quick note if you're dissatisfied with the loss of Early Entry. Probably won't help, but certainly can't hurt... ;-) Has anyone else had a similar response? Thanks for your time.

Vicky,

Thanks so much for the note! I'll definately share it in Notes soon.

My own personal take on the Caravan is just that the folks that take advantage of it probably say good things about it, but that they're not being asked the key question, "which would you prefer, Early Entry or the Character Caravan?" I bet if the question was asked clearly, the answer would be just as clear.

Not everyone (myself included) did take advantage of Early Entry, but I hate having a perk removed that used to be a standard... even if I personally chose to rarely use that perk. It just detracts from the value of staying on-site... an expensive proposition anyway, even before the cutbacks reduced the "worth" side of the value equation.

So folks, there you have it. If you would like to register your opinion about the cancellation of Early Entry, contact WDW guest communcations and let them know what you think!

Walt Disney World Guest Communications
Post Office Box 10040
Lake Buena Vista, Florida 32830

wdw.guest.communications@disney.com

And now, back to our regularly scheduled email...

Q.

Barbara writes: Hi Brian, I'm a relatively new visitor to your site, but I'm a WDW veteran having just completed my 26th trip in May. I impulsively planned, less than a week before we went, a long weekend trip for my college daughter and myself mid-May when she came home from school. My daughter grew up visiting WDW because her grandparents lived in Kissimmee, and we visited at least once a year from PA. When her grandparents relocated to Pennsylvania 5 years ago the WDW trips stopped.

I'm sharing that a parent/child trip to WDW is just as wonderful when the child has become an adult. My daughter and I had a marvelous time "remembering when" as we enjoyed the magic that still exists. On our May 11-14 trip we enjoyed wonderful service, short lines, great weather and a truly special time together. We visited all four parks, stayed on-site, and enjoyed the in-park entertainment and restaurants. I highly, highly recommend revisiting this magical place with your now grown up child. The perspective is certainly different, but wonderful!

Great site! I don't know when we'll return to WDW, but I'm visiting vicariously through your website.

A.

Thanks for the note, Barbara. If you'd like to submit a full trip report on you latest (or any other) trips, I'd love to add them to MousePlanet's Disney Trip Report Archive!

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Q.

Daryn writes: Hi Brian - love your site, I read it everyday! just wanted to let you know that I just won a Ultimate Day of Magic at the Magic Kingdom of WDW that was auctioned off by Disney on Ebay. Me and my family are really looking forward to this day.

Has Disney done this before? have you heard of any reviews of it? I spent a lot of money on this package and I sure hope that it lives up to all the hype that was described in the auction.

Some features are behind the scenes tour of the Haunted Mansion, parade production facilities, the (Utilidor) tunnels, special viewing of parades and fireworks... and best of all - no waiting in any lines for the whole day.

Any who - I'll let you know how my trip goes but I was just curious if you had any idea what I was in for.

A.

Daryn,

You have me completely stumped. I've never heard of such a thing, but you certainly have me jealous! :)

I hope you'll write a trip report when you return and share all about what happened!

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Q.

Cindi writes: Hello Brian, This is a wonderful site. My husband and I have been going to WDW frequently this last 5 years, and I have seen many sites. But I am new to your site and absolutely love it. Keep up the good work.

I have many questions, but will only ask three.

  1. Do you or any of your readers know if the Carousel of Progress is operational, or is there a schedule available for it operation?
  2. And has anyone heard of a new attraction opening this summer in MGM at the Doug Live studios?
  3. We are bringing our daughter and her husband and 2 kids to WDW at the last week of August. Will there be any special things going on then?

A.

Cindi,

Thanks for the kind words about the site!

I understand that the Carousel of Progress will be running through the Summer, but I haven't seen an official notice to that effect, nor have I seen any schedules. We'll just have to wait and see on that one.

I've not heard of any replacement for Doug Live, either. It's about time that something goes back into that building, though, isn't it? :)

There aren't any special events planned for the end of August. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point-of-view), crowd levels in late August (and throughout September, except for Labor Day weekend) are lower than usual, so Disney rarely schedules additional events then. I suspect that it's just because too many people are busy with school starting up at that time of year.

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Q.

Darryl shares this information: I would have to say that I would avoid the Downtown Disney Pleasure Island area on Fridays and Saturdays, it seems a lot of locals like to hang out there, look for trouble and meet someone. In 4 trips to Disney I had a run in with some locals in June of 2002.

A.

Thanks for the tip, Darryl.

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Q.

Laura asks: First I would like to start out by saying how much I love and value your site. We will be staying at All Star Sports in October and I was wanting to know which buildings were non smoking. I was planning on requesting Homerun Hotel because my boys love baseball, but don't want it if it is smoking. I checked your accommodations guide, but did not find the answer there. Thanks again for the great work you do.

A.

Laura,

There are non-smoking rooms available in all of the various sections of the All Star Sports Resort. I would suggest that you call CRO as soon as possible and make your request for Homerun Hotel AND a non-smoking room. I'll be very surprised if your requests are not accommodated in October as that's a "down" time at WDW as far as guest load is concerned.

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Q.

Carrie writes: For off site groceries there is a new Winn Dixie on 535 well actually it turns into Apopka Vineland it is A LOT cheaper then Gooding's. When you exit Disney property take a left onto 535. Go straight through the next set of lights past Sizzler and then again through the next set of lights you will see a ABC store right next to that is the Winn Dixie Plaza. This is a good store its where I do all my grocery shopping.

Also, there is an ATM located inside Pizza Planet located near the Muppets 3D theatre.

A.

Thanks for the note, Carrie. I'll add that information to the site. I usually go down to the Publix on 192 when I'm down there. That's actually for personal convenience, since my driving route from up North brings me down US 27, and so I end up driving right past the Publix.

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Q.

Neil writes: Dear Brian, After reading David Koenig's 06/12 article dealing with obnoxious Disneyland Annual Passholders I wanted to share a story with you about one of their Walt Disney World counterparts.

My wife and I live in New York and became WDW Annual Passholders this year. We made a trip to WDW in late April and on one particularly hot afternoon we decided to explore the Pass holder's lounge at Epcot. Since this was our first visit to the lounge one of the Cast Members gave us a brief tour. With its comfy chairs, free refreshments and quiet atmosphere the lounge was a wonderful place to relax and recharge our batteries. Unfortunately our respite was short lived. About 5 minutes into our visit the calm of the lounge was broken by the invasion of a group led by a loud, abrasive woman. Shouting across the lounge to her friends the woman declared that she was going to make everyone her famous "mocha coca frappuccino". She started to mix the free hot chocolate, coffee and Coca-Cola, spilling ingredients everywhere and leaving the refreshment bar a filthy mess. She then yelled for a cast member to bring her ice. When no one responded (they had all wisely retreated to the front desk) she began opening doors into restricted areas and shouting for service. At this point my wife and I decided to take our chances with the mad dogs and Englishmen out in the midday sun.

Brian, this woman's behavior was atrocious and embarrassing. Thankfully people like her represent a very small percentage of the guests at WDW. I understand that a trip to WDW is not cheap and that we expect a certain level of service for our money. However, a park pass is not a free pass to abandon your civility and accountability. Just because someone else cleans up after you doesn't mean you have to leave a mess. Cast Members are not servants at our beck and call. They are people who do an extraordinary job under often difficult conditions. I hope people like my "friend" at the lounge will remember that when they visit.

In closing, I just want to say that my wife and I have made 10 trips to WDW since our honeymoon in 1994 (number 11 is coming up in November). We have stayed on property each time and every trip has been wonderful. We have never been disappointed with any facet of our stay. That's why we keep coming back. Thanks to everyone at WDW.

(And of course, thanks to you for such a great column).

A.

Thanks for the note, Neil.

I, too, wish that common courtesy was more prevalent in our society. I remember one event on a recent trip, when a group of college girls walked on the grass (behind a fence) and put their arms around a delicate topiary to take some pictures. When my (then) 3 year old son asked about it, and my wife told him that we didn't think that was a good way to behave, the girls just mocked my wife (which just confused my son). As it stands, Allan knows full well not to go over a fence that is clearly intended to keep pedestrians on the designated walkways, and he does pretty well with other commonly expected courtesies, too.

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Q.

Ginny asks: Where do I find your "Developing a Daily Game Plan" for WDW crowd patterns, etc.? Also, do you have a discussion page on best rooms at resorts, etc.? Thanks.

A.

Ginny,

The Developing a Daily Game Plan page does, indeed, have some great help.

Actually, though, I'd suggest that you go one level up to the WDW Primer index page, and look over all the pages in the section that is headed, "Planning Your Day." The ideas there apply to everyone, but they're especially helpful for families -- like yours -- with young children. The basic premise is to take your days in the parks in chunks of time. Don't go into the parks like "Disney commandos" from morning to night!!!! I'll let you read those pages for the details. It really does make sense. :)

You don't mention specifically which resort you're staying at, but if you go to this page, you can find a link to MousePlanet's "Fast Facts" pages for all of the WDW resorts. Those pages include a list of information on room recommendations.

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Q.

A rather terse MousePlanet reader wrote: Brian, Hi.  We are looking to stay at the Boardwalk Villas (2 Br) November 30th - December 8th if possible. Also, are there any of the Boardwalk Villas up for sale??? We were going to participate in the Disney Vacation Club, but I understand now that the Boardwalk is filled up? Please E-mail ASAP. We must decide soon.

A.

I do believe that the Boardwalk Villas are sold out. If not, it's very close to being so. The new Beach Club Villas will likely be selling soon, though, and it's right across Crescent Lake from the Boardwalk (the resort just opened this month).

An alternative to buying into the Beach Club Villas would be to find a resale Boardwalk unit.  You can find out more on this page of MousePlanet's DVC Trip Planning Guide.

You'll have to contact Walt Disney World directly, or use this link to MousePlanet's travel partner TravelNow to check availability and make reservations.

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Q.

Lynne writes: I was wondering if we stayed at two different resorts during our trip and didn't rent a car, would WDW provide transportation from resort to resort?

A.

Lynne,

The WDW resort's bell services will move your belongings from one resort to the other for you. You'll have to check with the resorts you're actually staying at to find out if that exchange will be room-to-room (at the Deluxe resorts, that's very likely) or simply bell service station to bell services station (at the moderates and value resorts that is most likely).

Since your belongings will be moved for you, you can plan on just leaving the one resort to go to a park for the morning, then "return" to the other resort later in the day to handle the check-in and other chores.

-

Q.

Gary writes: Brian, I have enjoyed your work and employed your WDW info for quite some time (years) now.

I am not sure if this is a question or a comment. Maybe I should tell you my experience and let you ask your readers if this is consistent with their experiences.

My wife and I are AP holders. Even though we live in Missouri, we have visited WDW seven times in the last three years. During our most recent visit, June 1-6, 2002, we had an unbelievable series of bad experiences on the WDW bus transportation. We were staying at the Wilderness Lodge. We have stayed there three times now. During our first two visits at Wilderness Lodge we had experienced such positive service with the WDW transportation that (for the first time) we did not rent a car this time.

This time, every trip on the buses took a minimum of twice as long as during our previous visits (yes, I time them). Buses were scheduled to run every 20 minutes this time. I am sure they ran every 15 minutes the time before. We never rode on a bus that was not full this time. To me this suggests that the CM with the PDA is there to ensure maximum capacity now rather than limited wait time for Guests. Additionally, every bus made numerous stops at other resorts in transit. On one bus trip from Wilderness Lodge to Animal Kingdom, we visited all three monorail resorts before going to the park.

The net effect is that we spent 6 additional hours on buses compared to our previous trips. If you divide the total money spent on this vacation by total "waking hours" on the trip, this means we received about $300 worth less entertainment for our money. When you add in the lost early entry benefit, the net effect is a greatly reduced amount of entertainment for the same dollars for resort Guests.

Am I missing something, or should I just stay off property until / unless this is changed?

Oh yes, the new buses also seat fewer people, thereby requiring you to stand during these long sojourns amongst the many resorts. There must be a huge parking lot positively FILLED with buses somewhere on property.

Does WDW seriously think we don't notice?

A.

Gary,

I've had very mixed luck with the buses over the years, too. Sometimes things go like clockwork for an entire trip, sometimes not. In general, a twenty minute wait isn't that bad in my opinion. It's pretty clear though, as you've pointed out, that recent changes to trim down the provided service has resulted in lesser service.

I don't know what to suggest about a response. Only you can decide if the service, as it current stands, is worth staying on site or not.

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Q.

Tony states: I'm looking for a map of the locations of the hotels inside the park and of the hotels that are in close proximity outside the park.

A.

Tony,

WDW has a brochure that has an excellent map of the property. Unfortunately, I can't scan it and put it on the site as it is copyrighted, but you may want to contact WDW to see if they will send you one.

The best maps of hotels outside WDW are available in the AAA Florida Guidebook. You may want to stop in at a AAA office and pick one up. Even if you're not a member, you can buy one. (I'm not certain of the exact pricing, but it's under $15, I'm sure.)

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Q.

Cobby writes: My wife and I are considering membership in the Disney Vacation Club.

Hopefully you have the answer to what I think is my last unanswered question. Is there the opportunity to add a dining package to your stay when using your membership points?

A.

Cobby,

There are member discounts (very much like the Disney Club) that members can take advantage of, but there is no special dining package (like the "Grand Plan" or the old "Food 'n' Fun" package) that is available to DVC owners via points.

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Q.

Grace asks: Hi! I had never visited your website... I found it by asking a question in Google and getting a relevant link to you.

My question: I've noticed people mention the HIGH SUMMER SEASON, or something like that. I know summer must be brutally busy for the parks, but is there a part of summer than is a little less busy, less crowded?

A.

Grace,

The only times during Summer proper when crowds are not heavy would be the last week or so in August and September, excluding Labor Day weekend. That drop off in crowd level coincides with schools starting back up.

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Q.

Yet another unnamed MousePlanet reader writes in and asks: Can you please tell me where I can locate the Characters of Toy Story - mainly Buzz and woody are they in Disney or Epcot - These are the only characters my son is interested in. Thank You.

A.

The best place to see the Toy Story characters would be Al's Toy Barn at the Disney / MGM Studios. Buzz and Woody are available there throughout the day. Jessie is also found out and about the Studios during the day, too.

Don't forget Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, which is a way fun attraction at Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom!

Well, I hope you enjoyed the reader feedback for the WDW Trip Planning Guide!  Feed free to send more questions or comments to brian@mouseplanet.com!

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Brian's Archive - Contents

I've always gotten email about the WDW Trip Planning Guide, but since we added the feedback 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!

So...I'll post 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!

 

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