Category Archives: Travel Blog

9 Things You Won’t Want to Miss at Disneyland Paris Resort

Good advice is worth its weight in gold, especially when you’re traveling.  Getting first-hand advice can save you time, ensure you don’t miss an essential moment, and help you make good decisions on how to spend your hard-earned vacation dollars.  This is especially true for specialty locations like Disneyland Paris.

Disneyland Paris is celebrating its 25th Anniversary in 2017 (the park opened as Euro Disney on April 12, 1992), making this the perfect year to enjoy the festivities.  The anniversary theme – “It’s Time to Sparkle!” – introduces new spectaculars to make your visit even more memorable.  You’ll want to be prepared, so you won’t miss a second of the magic.

Here are my top 9 things you definitely won’t want to miss – gained from experience as a DLP annual passholder.  Some are unique and found only at Disneyland Paris Resort.  Some are delightful variations of classic Disney attractions.  All are outstanding.

There are two parks at the Disneyland Paris Resort:  Disneyland Park, and the Walt Disney Studios (now celebrating its 10th Anniversary).  I divided this List into “family-friendly” and “wild side” features, with notations in which park they’re located.

This article was originally published on LaughingPlace.com on April 10, 2017.  Continue reading 9 Things You Won’t Want to Miss at Disneyland Paris Resort

Christmas Magic to Enchant the Wizarding World at Universal Studios Hollywood

"Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" - Universal Studios Hollywood
“Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” – Universal Studios Hollywood

It may be difficult to think of Christmas during this summer heat, but Universal Studios Hollywood has more magic in store at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Just two weeks after their announcement of the new “Nighttime Lights” projection show spectacular this summer (evoking memories of the grand opening of the Wizarding World just one year ago), Universal Studios Hollywood tops that with a Christmas show bound to delight.

The holidays at Hogwarts were pure magic in the original novels by J.K. Rowling.  The massive tree, the decorations in the Great Hall, the delectable treats, the Yule Ball.  How I wished I could have stepped into that world.

Now, Universal Studios Hollywood offers the next best thing.  Here’s a preview of “Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.” Continue reading Christmas Magic to Enchant the Wizarding World at Universal Studios Hollywood

Why You Need to Visit Disneyland Paris This Year

If you’ve ever dreamed of visiting Paris, and wished upon a star to walk through Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant (Sleeping Beauty Castle), this is the year to do it.  Disneyland Paris – the sparkling European jewel in the Disney crown – celebrates its 25th Anniversary in 2017.  And they have been diligently preparing for you to ‘Be Our Guest.’

Park improvements progressed throughout 2016 to prepare for “It’s Time to Sparkle” the Disneyland Paris 25th Anniversary celebration starting March 26, 2017.

This article was first published on LaughingPlace.com on April 7, 2017.

Troubled Beginnings

The path wasn’t always sprinkled with pixie dust.  “Euro Disney” – the fourth Disney castle Park – opened on April 12, 1992 to much controversy.  There were protests against this invasion of American culture in France, including a one-day train strike that effectively cut off the Disney resort to anyone without a car.

Continue reading Why You Need to Visit Disneyland Paris This Year

Spectacular Harry Potter “Nighttime Lights” this summer at Universal Studios Hollywood

"The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle" at "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" - Universal Studios Hollywood -- Hufflepuff house featured
“The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle” at “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” – Universal Studios Hollywood — Hufflepuff house featured.  Photo: Mike Danenberg/Universal Studios Hollywood
Attention Harry Potter fans! Universal Studios Hollywood will enchant guests this summer with a brand-new experience at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: “The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle.”
 
Do you remember the grand opening of the Wizarding World at Universal Hollywood a year ago? John Williams mesmerized guests, conducting a full orchestra playing his themes from the Harry Potter films.  

I get goosebumps every time I hear John Williams’ score and see Hogwarts.

Continue reading Spectacular Harry Potter “Nighttime Lights” this summer at Universal Studios Hollywood

Disney Ufufy: The Newest Thing from Japan Since Tsum Tsum!

(Photo: DisneyStore.jp)
(Photo: DisneyStore.jp)

Spring reminds me of Easter and eggs.  Ufufy are new Disney characters from Japan that are pastel-colored bunches of joy that should bring a smile to your face.   If you love Tsum Tsum, check these out!

This article was originally published on LaughingPlace.com. 

Disney Store Japan launched their newest characters on November 3, 2016: “Ufufy.”  These Ufufy are next in the kawaii (cute) creations sold exclusively at Disney Stores in Japan.  And they certainly did not disappoint.

(Photo: DisneyStore.jp)

We were on hand at the Disney Store in Ikspiari (the shopping center at Tokyo Disney Resort) on release day (a Thursday), when the lines wrapped through the store to snag one of the first Ufufy.

Ufufy release day

Continue reading Disney Ufufy: The Newest Thing from Japan Since Tsum Tsum!

Reflections: 6 Pearls We Learned from the Creators of Disney’s Mulan

When the creative team of a Disney animated classic shows up and shares stories of how a film was made….it’s an unforgettable experience.  As an unadvertised treat, the creators of Disney’s Mulan surprised movie-goers at the El Capitan theater in Hollywood with an impromptu pre-screening panel discussion on January 26, 2017.

“Throwback Thursday” at the El Capitan offers the chance to see a Disney classic on the silver screen.  And in honor of Chinese New Year, the film was Mulan (1998).  Our ‘inside source’ for the panel discussion was director Tony Bancroft (@pumbaaguy1 on Twitter).

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Continue reading Reflections: 6 Pearls We Learned from the Creators of Disney’s Mulan

DVC Members Say ‘Jambo’ to Safari Spectacular Nights at Animal Kingdom

You’re invited to a private evening party at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  The stifling heat of day gives way to a refreshing evening breeze.  A golden sunset bathes the savanna, and paints the peak of Expedition Everest a remarkable tint of rose.  The crowds are gone.  Surprises await you around every turn.

Welcome to the Disney Vacation Club Safari Spectacular.

[This article was originally published on Sept 28, 2016 on Laughingplace.com]

Disney Vacation Club: “Celebrating 25 Years…And Beyond!”

As part of its 25th Anniversary celebration, Disney Vacation Club (DVC) is hosting special “membership magic” events.  These have included advance movie screenings, a new Member Lounge at Epcot, and after-hours parties in the Magic Kingdom and Typhoon Lagoon.  Coming this fall – an after-hours party in Disney California Adventure park.

DVC members also received email invitations to reserve a special event night (September 6, 13, 22, or 27, 2016) at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Exclusive Membership Magic in Animal Kingdom

Although the official festivities were scheduled from 9:30 pm to midnight, DVC members could check in for wristbands from 7 pm at the front gates of Animal Kingdom.  Each guest was also treated to two tickets for the midway-style games in Dinoland.  With a bit of luck, we came home with a blue dinosaur friend to commemorate our evening.

Imagine screaming past the Yeti on Expedition Everest, with no crowds. (Although the front-row line was considerably longer than usual).  Or walking on to the Kilimanjaro Safaris (open until 11 pm) for a balmy journey through the savanna.  Kali River Rapids, Primeval Whirl, TriceraTop Spin, and It’s Tough to be a Bug were also open for exploration. Continue reading DVC Members Say ‘Jambo’ to Safari Spectacular Nights at Animal Kingdom

 “Once Upon a Time” Season 6 Teasers: San Diego Comic-Con

Can’t wait for Once Upon a Time Season 6 to return on March 5, 2017?  Here’s a refresher, with previews from San Diego Comic-Con 2016…

[This article was written for and originally published on LaughingPlace.com on September 25, 2016]

Once Upon a Time returned to San Diego Comic-Con for the sixth year, delighting a packed Ballroom 20 on the most popular day of the convention.  Spoiler alert! If you haven’t seen all the episodes of last season, we dive right in at the panel.  We review the highlights of Season 5 as we prepare for the next mind-twisting season our producers have in store.

Yvette Nicole Brown moderated this panel, offering a refreshing perspective (as she herself is a huge fan of OUAT).  Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz (executive producers) returned with favorites from the cast: Colin O’Donoghue (Killian / Captain Hook), Jennifer Morrison (Emma Swan), Lana Parilla (Regina/ Evil Queen), Josh Dallas (David / Prince Charming), Emilie DeRavin (Belle), Rebecca Mader (Zelena/Wicked Witch), Jared Gilmore (Henry / the Author).

Notably absent were Ginnifer Goodwin (Snow White / Mary Margaret) and Robert Carlyle (Rumplestiltskin).

A Review of Season 5

An emotional Season 5 followed our heroes’ journey from Camelot to the realm of Hades in the Underworld.  Emma embraced her role as Dark Swan.  King Arthur was not as honorable as history recalls, obsessed with his broken Excalibur sword fragment, and striving to re-forge the blade with the Dark One’s dagger.

Killian almost dies in Camelot.  Emma turns him into a Dark One in an attempt to save his life, and erases everyone’s memory that this happened.  When Killian discovers he is a Dark One, he gives in to the darkness, resurrecting all the previous Dark Ones through a portal to the Underworld. Continue reading  “Once Upon a Time” Season 6 Teasers: San Diego Comic-Con

The Future of Star Wars: Episode VIII and Han Solo

Star Wars Celebration Europe (SWCE, July 14-17, 2016) ended with a much-anticipated panel featuring the upcoming Star Wars films, Star Wars Episode VIII and Han Solo.

SWCE Ep. VIII and Han Solo Director Panel

Pablo Hidalgo hosted a panel featuring Kathleen Kennedy (Lucasfilm President) and Kiri Hart (Head of Story, LFL).  First up: writer-director Rian Johnson discussed the filming of Episode VIII (code named: Space Bear).

(This article was initially published on LaughingPlace.com after Star Wars Celebration Europe, on September 20, 2016). 

A New Look from Lucasfilm: Star Wars Episode VIII delves deeper into character

Kathleen Kennedy is very happy with their choice of director. “Rian moves the camera as well as Steven Spielberg.”  And she doesn’t say that lightly.

Rian Johnson’s goal was to “tell a story that feels alive right now.”  Writing for Episode VIII corresponded with principle photography for Episode VII.  Johnson spent six weeks working on Story at Lucasfilm, watching ‘dailies’ of Episode VII with Kennedy and Hart to ensure continuity of story details.

Pablo Hidalgo’s hint: to impress leaders at Lucasfilm, bring homemade ice cream (Rian Johnson did).

Johnson was influenced deeply by classic Hollywood films such as Bridge on the River Kwai, Twelve O’Clock High, Letter Never Sent, Three Outlaw Samurai, and Sahara (Humphrey Bogart version).  He had the Episode VIII story team (Kathleen, Kiri, and Pablo) watch these films together ‘like a film camp’ for inspiration developing Story on VIII.

“We are gonna end up breaking kind of a longstanding Star Wars tradition, and for the first time, Continue reading The Future of Star Wars: Episode VIII and Han Solo

Marty Sklar’s “One Little Spark” Signing at Walt’s Barn

 

Marty Sklar, the Legend

Marty Sklar, Disney Legend and Imagineering Ambassador, charmed guests as he signed copies of his newest book at Walt Disney’s Barn on August 21, 2016.

Before Disneyland opened in 1955, Marty Sklar started as an editor of The Disneyland News.  For a decade, he served as publicity writer for Walt Disney himself.  When Marty was recruited to Imagineering in 1961 (for the New York World’s Fair), he found his true calling.

Marty served as President at Walt Disney Imagineering from 1987 to 1996.  He was personally involved in shaping nine of the twelve Disney parks: Epcot, Tokyo Disneyland, Disney-MGM Studios, Disneyland Paris, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney California Adventure, Tokyo DisneySea, Paris’ Walt Disney Studios, and Hong Kong Disneyland.

Sklar is the only Disney cast member who has contributed to opening all twelve Disney parks around the world, yet he remains humble.  “I quickly realized how many shoulders I was standing on.”  He credits icons such as John Hench, Herb Ryman, Marc Davis, Harper Golff, Claude Coats, and Harriet Burns … mentors, friends, and his Imagineering team.

(This article was first published on LaughingPlace.com on September 2, 2016)

One Little Spark!

The idea for One Little Spark! Mickey’s Ten Commandments and The Road to Imagineering came to Marty as he toured the country for his first book, and speaking at conventions and universities.

People wanted more stories about Walt Disney and how he accomplished the impossible.  They also wanted advice on how to become an Imagineer.  With Marty’s 53 years at Disney and having worked directly with Walt, he is uniquely qualified to share his experiences about both.

Continue reading Marty Sklar’s “One Little Spark” Signing at Walt’s Barn