At last we reach the event that was the impetus for our Christmas trip, D23’s two-day Magic & Merriment shindig, which promised a private dinner in Hollywood Studios, tours of the Cinderella Castle Suite, a private lunch in the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon, reserved viewing for Candlelight Processional, access to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Christmas Party (wait, is that right…?), a dessert party and Osbourne Lights viewing at Hollywood Studios, and on and on…
In typical D23 fashion, the details for this event were not announced until just a few weeks beforehand, which meant that we had already booked and paid for half the major experiences included in the package (notably the Christmas party and a spendy Candlelight Processional dinner package). It continually amazes me how D23 can do this to their uber Disney fans, who are the same ones making dining reservations exactly 180 days out and calling for reservations the instant special events like the Candlelight dining packages or MVMCP go on sale.
On top of that, the DISBoards’ private party at Hollywood Studios had been on sale for months and coincided with D23’s Hollywood Studios night. From the two events’ itineraries, it appeared that one would only have to miss the very end of the D23 event in order to attend the DISBoards’ event—and they were taking place practically right next to each other in the park—but the official word from Disney was that if you weren’t at the front of the park to meet the escort when the DIS Boards’ event started, you couldn’t attend. And since there was no way to leave the D23 event unescorted, there was no way to get to the front of the park.
So, these were the things I was stewing over as we got up and drove—yes, drove—from the Beach Club to Epcot for the start of D23’s Magic & Merriment Saturday morning. (Check in was at Guest Services at the front of Epcot before the park opened, and they hadn’t thought to provide an escort at the International Gateway for those of us staying at the Epcot-area resorts; this was remedied at the Sip & Stroll event we just went to). My level of stew went up to about 11 when we got there and found a big line at the window headed by people who were apparently asking for 2 weeks’ worth of dining recommendations because it was taking them FOREVER to pick up their packets.
This was when it dawned on me that everyone in D23 is just like us—Type A Disney Nerds who show up 2 hours early just in case and will get in a line without even knowing what it’s for. If we were going to get this worm, we were going to have to get up even earlier than the early birds!
From there, we all made a beeline for Epcot’s Odyssey Center, which appears to be an authentic re-creation of a 1970s public library.
As soon as we entered the building, we all made another beeline for a table at the back where they were doing signups for the Cinderella Castle Suite tours the next day. Although we were only maybe 15 people from the front, by the time we got up there, the early times we needed were all gone. This put me in a tizzy because we were trying to schedule around a Bay Lake Tower photo shoot with the Roots. Suddenly, all our plans needed to be rearranged. Grrrr….. I was somewhat mollified, though, when I opened the packet and discovered that Disney had finally decided to acknowledge the existence of the DISBoards event. There was a note saying that those of us who were attending both events would be escorted from the D23 event to the DISBoards event at the end of the D23 event. Hooray!
So our pix of the inside of the Odyssey Center aren’t great because it’s super-dark in there and they had all the blinds open…
The event kicked off with an introduction by the ever-bubbly Becky Cline, who has since become the Director of the Disney Archives.
Next up was a snoozerific PowerPoint presentation on how many miles of this and tons of that go into decorating Walt Disney World every year. What should have been a fascinating peek behind the scenes at how they accomplish the magical transformation became a litany of quantities arranged in hilariously long bullet points on slides, read aloud, verbatim. To fit it all in, they had to make the text so small that you could barely read it. Our favorite part was learning that the ginormous wreath on the side of the Contemporary Resort is made up of “over 10 pieces!” (So would that be… 11 pieces?) Bless her heart for trying, the presenter was very earnest but definitely not a public speaker and should not have been put on the spot like that.
Got all that? There will be a quiz…
Amazingly, the first presentation at D23’s Sip & Stroll event at the Odyssey Center this year was a similarly dismal slog through a slideshow. Apparently it’s part of the formula for these things! We all perked up a bit when the pastry chefs from the Grand Floridian and Yacht & Beach Club came on and talked about making the giant gingerbread confections in the lobbies of their resorts.
Chef Eric from the Grand Floridian also demonstrated how to make a small gingerbread house, and at the end they gave us each a gingerbread shingle from the GF.
Among our other shwag were Santa hats with Mickey ears and a fistful o’ FASTPASSes for Epcot and the Magic Kingdom. Cool! And then Stitch showed up.
From there, they turned us loose for the day until Candlelight Processional started. We decided to try to use all our FASTPASSes.
I think this may have been the first time we’d ever been on Soarin’ at Epcot. We usually skip it cuz it’s identical to ours in California and we hate lines.
Then we took a vertiginous shot of Sunshine Seasons at the Land….
At this point we abandoned the “use all our FASTPASSES” idea to go move the car back to the Beach Club. On the way out we saw this!
Moving the car turned into big ordeal when we tried to walk from the Beach Club Villas parking lot around the back of the villas and got lost in the bushes. Yeah… that path you see from the parking lot doesn’t connect!
This made us 1 minute late to our Chefs de France reservation, which meant we had to wait 25 more minutes to get a table. On the upside, the delay meant that we were still there when they wheeled Remy out.
The food was not as good as it had been on our honeymoon. I blame Free Dining!
We had a bit of time to kill before a brief meet-up we’d managed to schedule with the Roots, so we poked around World Showcase.
I had Patrick take some better pix of the Escape wedding location in Canada.
So this is the area where they put you if you buy a dinner package/attend a Food & Wine Festival event that comes with fireworks viewing. If they open up the very front section by the railing, the view is amazing!
We must’ve used our FASTPASSes for Maelstrom, cuz here we are!
While we were doing this, the Roots were having lunch with pals Justin and Lu at Beaches & Cream. Nathensey shot JuLu’s gorgeous Disney wedding, and JuLu designed the Roots’ gorgeous new web site (and my Disney Travel Babble logo!).
Here’s what Julu and Nathensey saw on the way to meet us in Germany:
Apparently one of the things they saw along the way was us! First person to spot the Lurkyloo in this pic wins a prize…
The Roots were eager for us all to meet up because they thought we’d get along so well. I was terrified of this because JuLu are a hundred million billion times more hip than we could ever hope to be. But of course it all turned out OK, mostly because I was sure to pepper my conversation with references to MyTube and FaceSpace….
We discovered that spotting Gargantuan Killer Lizards together is a great icebreaker!
This last shot was by special request. I’ll never be able to afford a $65,000 blinged-out castle, so I followed the old adage “Take a picture, for it shall last longer.”
Our time with JuLu was all-too brief, but it was great to at least get to meet them. They turned out to be everything Nathensey had said and more: fun and nice AND they laughed at all our jokes—definitely a sign of good character! Plus, eventually I got to work with them on the aforementioned header for this blog, which I absolutely adore.
At that point, the Roots had to dash off to a Disney wedding (their first ever as guests!) and we had a date with D23 at Candlelight Processional.