Sunday, July 31, 2011

56. Walt Disney World Pro App

The team at TimeStream Software has done it again. Back in June I wrote about a great iPhone app called WDW Secrets Notescast. It is filled with secrets, fun facts and "Hidden Mickey Tours." As interesting as this app is, the developers took the idea of providing useful information about Walt Disney World to a whole other level with their latest creation, the Walt Disney World Pro app.

The Walt Disney World Pro app is packed with very useful information for anyone planning a Disney vacation. They have included over 600 professional quality photographs from the parks and resort hotels. There are detailed descriptions of each resort including room features and hotel amenities. If you are undecided about where you will stay, this is a great way to quickly compare the different properties. In addition to using the app to choose a great place to stay, it can also be used to pick out restaurants in the parks to make advanced dining reservations. The dining section includes detailed descriptions of each restaurant along with overall menu items, general price ranges, hours and available discounts.
In addition to the dining and resorts sections, the "WDW Information" section is also a great area to browse while in the planning stages of your trip. It includes an extensive list of topics from annual events to guests with disabilities to WDW phone numbers.  You will also find useful tips on finding WDW characters, traveling with toddlers and even a detailed explanation of tickets, including prices. The "WDW Information" section is an area that can be utilized in the planning stage as well as while enjoying your vacation.
As great as the Walt Disney World Pro app is for helping you plan your vacation, it is even better while you are actually there. I had the opportunity to really test drive the app on my most recent WDW trip a few weeks ago. I was highly impressed. Even as a Disney World veteran, I took out my trusty iPhone many times and fired up the Walt Disney World Pro app. First, it was a handy place to quickly check the park hours. We had park hopper tickets and there were several occasions that I used it to check closing times and extra magic hour schedules. It helped us budget our time in each park. The next area I found extremely useful was the maps section. Now you might be saying, "Why would a Disney World veteran need a map to get around?" Although we didn't need the maps for directions, the information displayed on them was fantastic. You could see the estimated wait times in an instant. This helped in letting us know which areas of the park were least crowded and which attractions to avoid. Also, you could simply tap on an attraction name and you would see a detailed description including the minimum height requirements. This was very helpful with a 4 year old who is currently on the verge of many of these heights! The attraction descriptions are also great for new visitors who would like to learn what each ride or show is all about. Finally, a great feature of the maps section that we utilized on several occasions, was the restroom locations. It was very nice to have this information at our finger tips when nature called!

Overall, I think that if you are looking for an "all inclusive" Walt Disney World app, this one has to be at the top of the list. It is a wonderful app for new visitors as well as experienced Disney vacationers. It is currently available at the iTunes store and costs $3.99. It is worth every penny!

Have a Disneyriffic day and remember to keep moving forward. See ya real soon!

Friday, July 29, 2011

55. World of Walt.com

Back in March of this year, I wrote about a great website called WDWmemories.com. This site contains thousands of high quality photographs of Walt Disney World. It was created by a Disney enthusiast by the name of Herb Leibacher.  Shortly after my review of WDWmemories.com, Herb told me to stay tuned because he was in the process of building another Disney World related website. His new site is now live and is called WorldofWalt.com.
Although WorldofWalt.com is very new, it already contains over 100 pages of useful information and is growing on a weekly basis. Herb does a great job of simplifying the whole concept of a Walt Disney World vacation in a way that is easily understandable for the first time visitor. He highlights the basics of vacation planning and even suggests the best way to choose a travel planner. The site is broken down into nine major categories including Disney World Vacations, Disney World Tickets, Disney Cruise, Disney Resort Hotels, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Other Disney Fun. Each of these categories includes a "main" article that gives an overall description of the topic. At the bottom of the main article you will find a list of related articles. These articles also contain great information all about Disney World vacations.

Herb does a nice job at giving all kinds of tips based on his experience and knowledge. He goes in depth about the most popular attractions and includes interesting facts about each. Not only can you learn about the best ways to plan a Disney vacation but you will also learn a little about the history of this magical place. Many websites list facts and figures but WorldofWalt.com reads more like a book. You can tell that Herb has a true passion for Walt Disney World and it is fun to read his opinions about the vacation kingdom.

Although many of us are Disney World veterans who vacation there as often as possible, we all know people who are planning their first trip. WorldofWalt.com is the perfect website for the first time visitor. It is an entertaining and informative site for all Disney World fans, but it is a must for those who will be making their first pilgrimage to see the mouse. I highly recommend checking out both of Herb Leibacher's websites, WorldofWalt.com and WDWmemories.com.

Have a Disneyriffic day and remember to keep moving forward.  See ya real soon!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

54. WDW Radio Meet of the Month

It has been nearly two weeks since my last article. However, I have a good excuse......I was at Walt Disney World! Along with my wife and little boy, I had a great time on a twelve day road trip which included four days in the vacation kingdom. We stayed at Bay Lake Tower for the first time and had amazing views of the property, including the ability to see the Wishes fireworks show from our balcony. One of the highlights of the trip was meeting several prominent members of the Disney fan community at a great little gathering hosted by none other than Lou Mongello.

One of the benefits of creating this website is that it has connected me to a large, online group of Walt Disney World fans. I have had the pleasure of befriending many of the members of this community through the articles in this blog as well as through emails and forums. It has amazed me how many real Disney geeks (otherwise known as enthusiasts) are out there with similar interests as myself. Up until this past week, however, this great group of people only existed in my computer.

Lou and I
If you have been following Digital Disney World, you certainly know who Lou Mongello is. Among other things,  he hosts an award winning podcast each week, is a respected author and speaker, and now even gives historical tours of the Magic Kingdom. Lou has also developed a way to utilize the modern technology of the online world to bring fans together through his WDW Radio Meet of the Month. Each month, he picks a different spot on Walt Disney World property to bring fans together to meet him as well as each other. This casual gathering is open to everyone and doesn't cost anything. I had the pleasure of attending his most recent meet at Starring Rolls Cafe in Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Amy & Craig Petermann and I
Lou is a very popular guy so many people wanted to meet him. I got there pretty early and got a chance to say hi and chat with him a little. I also got a chance to meet Tim Foster, Lou's partner in Celebrations Magazine. Both Lou and Tim were very personable and it was alot of fun actually talking with them "in person." I then got to chat with Scott Otis who is a regular on the WDW Radio Newscast as well as a good friend of Lou's. Shortly after the meet started, Craig and Amy Falk Petermann arrived. They write "The Relocated Tourist" blog and I was looking forward to meeting them as I had recently wrote an article about their website. They were very personable and just as nice in real life as they seemed in their blog. I spent nearly an hour chatting with Craig all about their recent move to Central Florida, and he was gracious enough to answer all of my questions about their relocation experience. Toward the end of the meet, I had the pleasure of meeting Beatrice Feeney. She is another big fan of Walt Disney World who also recently moved to Central Florida. Beatrice has an infectious personality and real excitement for Disney World.

Dr. Steve Barrett and I
In addition to the great group of online friends, there were also a couple of Disney celebrities who came to the meet. It was fun meeting Dr. Steve Barrett, the recognized expert and author of the Hidden Mickeys Guide. Also in attendance was Ron Cohee, an actual Disney animator. He worked on features such as Mulan and more recently illustrated several children's books including some based on the Pixar movie, "Cars." As soon as I returned to my hotel room, I looked at one of the books in my son's backpack and it turned out that Ron was an illustrator for it!

The WDW Radio Meet of the Month is truly a great experience, and I am so happy I had the opportunity to attend last week. I feel that many of my online friends became real life friends during the brief but eventful gathering. I have to thank Lou Mongello for organizing this type of event and realizing how important it is for the online community to have a chance to get together. If you are planning a Disney World vacation and see that there is a meet scheduled when you will be there, I highly recommend taking the time to stop by. You can see when meets are scheduled by visiting wdwradio.com.

Have a Disneyriffic day and remember to keep moving forward. See ya real soon!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

53. Celebrations Magazine

In writing a blog about using modern technology, you'd hardly think that I would include an article about a regular, old-fashioned magazine. However, Celebrations Magazine is not an ordinary periodical. It is a must have for any true fan of Walt Disney World. Although I have many friends and family members who enjoy reading or hearing about the vacation kingdom, many of them (the folks who can remember any decade prior to the 1970s) don't have an interest in modern technology. They think a cell phone should be used just for making phone calls and they prefer a note pad over an iPad. If you fall into this category, or just like the idea of reading something "printed" on a page, Celebrations Magazine is the perfect way to stay connected to Walt Disney World.

Anyone who follows the Disney online community or has been reading this blog knows the name Lou Mongello.  He is an author, podcaster, tour guide and a true authority on all things related to Disney theme parks. He partnered up with Tim Foster, another author Disney World author, to create Celebrations Magazine. It has been published for about three years now and a new issue comes out every two months. It is a high quality publication in every way. Lou and Tim have enlisted the help of several well known Disney historians who contribute articles on a regular basis. In addition to being the editors, Lou and Tim also write their own articles for Celebrations. Each issue is packed with interesting Walt Disney World news, stories and reviews. There are articles about the history of attractions as well as plans for the future. You can read about the different resorts and there is even a section for kids. When I talk about quality, I am also referring to the actual paper that this magazine is printed on. It is produce on heavy, glossy stock and each issue is full of vibrant, full color photographs. These guys don't skimp on quantity either. Each Celebrations Magazine contains over 80 pages!

Even if you are a big fan of technology, I highly recommend subscribing to Celebrations Magazine. It complements the podcasts, blogs, and smartphone apps that high tech Disney fans have grown to love. For those of you who aren't into all the new fangled gadgets that the 21st century has to offer, this magazine stands on its own as a great way to get your Disney fix. You can get a year's subscription for only $29.99, which is 15% off the cover price of $5.99 per issue. You can also order a good majority of the back issues. To subscribe, head over to http://www.celebrationspress.com/. My subscription has become an annual father's day gift from my loving wife, and I look forward to each and every issue.

Have a Disneyriffic day and keep moving forward.  See ya real soon!

Friday, July 8, 2011

52. The Relocated Tourist

In the first six months of Digital Disney World, I haven't written too often about other blogs. However, there are many excellent Disney bloggers out there and I will be highlighting many of them in future articles. Today, I am excited to feature a blog that tells the ongoing story of a wonderful family "originally" from Wisconsin. It can be found at TheRelocatedTourist.com.

Many serious Disney World fans, including myself, have asked themselves this question: "What would it be like to actually move to Central Florida?" For most of us, there have been too many obstacles to fulfill such a dream. However, a short time ago, Amy and Craig Petermann turned their dream into reality. Along with their girls, Kyra and Emily, they left Wisconsin and relocated to Kissimmee, Florida to take up permanent residence right next to Mickey and company.

The Petermann Family
Amy and Craig started The Relocated Tourist blog back in February of 2010 when they made the decision to move to the Orlando area. They had been talking about heading south for many years, but this is when they actually started planning the big move. The Petermanns thought it would be fun to write about the relocation process and what they would encounter in the time leading up to their actual move. Originally, Amy and Craig set a goal to be in Central Florida by July 1st of 2012. They planned to take their time and not rush into making such a huge change in their lives. The plan was for Craig to secure employment in the area as well as have housing arrangements in place prior to the move. However, Craig was lucky enough to land a job with a company in Wisconsin that not only allowed but encouraged the move to Orlando. This accelerated the Petermann plans and they were actually able to make the move almost a year ahead of schedule.

When Craig and Amy started their blog, they had to hide their identities as to not tip off their employers that they were planning to move. In their early articles they went by the names Carl and Ellie Peters. Most Disney fans know the names Carl and Ellie as the loving couple in the Pixar movie UP. When you read their articles, you soon realize that using these names is completely appropriate as the real life Craig and Amy seem to be one of those special couples. They are totally devoted to each other and their two girls, and their strong faith in God is evident in their writings. It is obvious that there is a lot of love in the Petermann family.

The Petermanns wrote over 150 articles leading up to their recent move. Throughout the past year, they wrote about many different topics related to Walt Disney World. They discussed previous vacations, tips and tricks, and some of their favorite things to do.  They also chronicled their feelings and emotions related to their relocation plans.  In reading about this family's journey, you really feel like you are along for the ride.  Since their arrival in Florida about a month ago, Amy has changed the tone from one of anticipation to now enjoying the destination.  While much of Craig's time is being taken up by his job, Amy continues to write about the experience of becoming Florida residents.

Two inspirational people:
Lou Mongello & Amy Falk Petermann
I created Digital Disney World as a way to help us stay connected to the vacation kingdom even when we couldn't actually be at the parks. I can't think of a better way to enjoy Walt Disney World from a distance than to follow the story of a family who basically live in this wonderful place. Since they arrived, the Petermanns have been going to the parks almost every day.  Amy does such a good job in writing and photographing their visits that you almost feel like you are there with them. In addition to documenting their Disney fun, Amy talks about the excitement and joy they are experiencing as well as the difficulties and challenges of becoming comfortable in their new surroundings. She has also come up with some interesting features, such as "Merchandise Mondays," to highlight interesting things sold in the parks.

Someday, my wife and I hope to be like "Carl and Ellie" and follow in their footsteps to live closer to the magic. Although that dream may be in the distant future for us, the Petermanns have certainly proven that a dream can turn into reality when the time is right. They are a great resource for anyone thinking of relocating and they invite people to contact them. Whether you're planning to make a big move or just want to "virtually" follow a family who has done it, I highly recommend reading The Relocated Tourist. I look forward to each and every article and hope to meet Amy and Craig in person someday.

Have a Disneyriffic day and remember to keep moving forward.  See ya real soon!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

51. O.T.D. - 7/3/1910 - Minnie Mouse & Nana are Born

Ok, so many of you probably have two very valid questions right now.  First, how do I know when Minnie Mouse was actually "born" and second, who am I referring to as Nana? Those of you who are Disney history buffs know that Minnie Mouse made her debut with Mickey in Steamboat Willie back in 1928.  Some of you may also know that Walt Disney himself provided the voice of Minnie in his first several animated shorts. However, starting in 1929, Minnie's voice was provided by a voice actor named Marcellite Garner, who was born on July 3rd, 1910.  Also born on that date was my grandmother, Amelia Pichulo, who is affectionately known as Nana.

Although there have been several actors to voice Minnie Mouse, Marcellite Garner would be the most prominent. Not only was she the first female to play the role, but she performed the part in 52 of the 73 cartoons that Minnie starred in. Marcellite was born in Redlands, California and began her career in Disney's ink and paint department. Walt Disney obviously realized that her talent could be better utilized as a voice actress, and he chose her to replace himself as Mickey's significant other. It proved to be a good decision as Marellite played the part of Minnie for over a decade. Even though she voiced such a prominent character in Disney history, there is very little information available about Marcellite Garner. I could not even find a picture of her online. She passed away in 1993 at the age of 83.

Nana on the phone with Italy.
When Disney fans hear the name Nana, they typically think of the dog in the classic film, Peter Pan. When I hear the name Nana, I think of my wonderful grandmother who turned 101 today. Although she lives in a nursing home, she is still in very good health. Other than some vision difficulty, she is in better health, both physically and mentally, than many people who are thirty years younger! She is able to attend family functions and we had a great birthday bash for her today. Surrounded by her family, which includes five adoring great grandchildren, she reminisced about the past and talked about how thankful she was to be around in 2011. She also took a birthday phone call from relatives in Italy and comfortably spoke to them in Italian! To say the least, Nana is quite an inspiration to everyone who has been lucky enough to know her.

Me, Nana, and her great grandson.
Other than sharing a birthday with Minnie Mouse, Nana has unknowingly contributed to this article in another way. In writing a blog that highlights modern technology, it fascinates me to think of all of the new technology that someone who is 101 years old has experienced. Nana has seen everything from the invention of radio and television to the beginnings of airline and even space travel.  She lived through two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the entire career of Walt Disney.  In the "old days" she didn't even have a telephone in her home and today every adult at her party was carrying a smartphone. As a matter of fact, Nana asked me a question about someone living in her nursing home who's husband had played professional baseball. In less than a minute, I pulled up his biography on my iPhone and printed it wirelessly on my parents' printer. How is that for modern technology? I'm not sure that Nana could have ever imagined the world we live in today, but she is happy to share her memories on how "it used to be," and just as happy to experience life in 2011. Happy birthday Nana......I love you!

Have a Disneyriffic day and remember to keep moving forward.  See ya real soon!