Magic in the Details: Raven About the Haunted Mansion By Guest Author Adam Berger

Published October 29, 2014 by jpmdo


The Haunted Mansion has always been one of Disney’s most popular attractions. Yet no matter how often you may ride, you’ll probably notice details you missed during your previous visits. That’s because the Disney Imagineers intentionally filled the attraction with far more details than anyone could possibly discern, even after numerous excursions. They knew that this approach would entice guests to experience the Haunted Mansion again and again, appreciating previously unnoticed content each time. And now, with Halloween fast approaching, I’d like to share one of my favorite overlooked elements with you: the Mansion’s sinister raven.

Adam Berger HM

Because of the faint lighting levels inside the Mansion, the raven can be difficult to make out. But if you know where to look, you’ll spot the bird not just once, but FOUR separate times during the ride. Its first appearance occurs in the conservatory, perched atop a wreath next to the casket. The large black bird, with its glowing red eyes, is a suitably ominous presence. The Imagineers even recorded the raven squawking, “Nevermore!” in an audio tribute to Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem, “The Raven.” The bird’s voice, provided by actress Eleanor Audley, (the voice of Cinderella’s stepmother and Maleficent), was never used in the ride. Yet Ms. Audley is still heard inside the mansion…as the voice of Madame Leota.

Adam Berger Raven Disney Copy

Copyright – Disney

Speaking of Madame Leota…the raven’s second appearance is in the séance scene, perched on the back of a chair behind Madame Leota’s table. You’ll see the bird a third time in the gnarled branches of a spooky old tree as your Doom Buggy begins its backwards descent into the cemetery scene. You’ll then encounter the raven one last time, perched atop the stone archway as you enter the crypt scene.

At the Magic Kingdom version of the attraction, you’ll also find a fifth raven: a stylized brass figure that adorns the stone pipe organ in the interactive area in front of the Mansion entrance. The front of the organ is inscribed with the name “Ravenscroft”—a not-too-subtle nod to voice actor Thurl Ravenscroft, the deep bass voice of the broken singing headstone in the cemetery scene.

Adam Berger Organ Disney Copy

Copyright – Disney

Obviously the inclusion of the raven in so many locations can’t be a coincidence. Which leaves you with this chilling challenge: to figure out why the Imagineers decided to give it such a prominent role.

One explanation refers back to the Poe connection—the idea that the Imagineers found inspiration in Edgar Allan Poe’s famously unsettling poem. A second possibility suggests that the designers may have been influenced by Maleficent’s raven sidekick in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, the production of which coincided with the early conceptual stages of the Haunted Mansion. Of course, ravens have always had a strong association with the spirit world, predating Poe’s 1845 poem. For example, they are prominent figures in both Norse mythology and in the creation myths of some of the indigenous peoples of America’s Pacific Northwest.

So do you have a favorite Haunted Mansion detail that you only noticed after repeated rides? Feel free to share. But remember one thing: Beware of hitchhiking ghosts!


Adam M. Berger is president and senior show writer at Berger Creative Associates, Inc., an Orlando, Florida-based creative writing and consulting firm serving themed attraction and design clients around the world. He is also the author of the book Every Guest is a Hero: Disney’s Theme Parks and the Magic of Mythic Storytelling—available in print and e-reader editions from and other fine online booksellers.

Adam Berger photo


IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party: Is it Right For You? By Guest Author Sara Lundy

Published October 26, 2014 by Sara M. Lundy

IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party: Is it Right For You? By Guest Author Sara Lundy

Recently, I have seen several people post questions on social media sites about whether or not they should go to the IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party at Epcot. My answer to this is… YES! My husband and I attended this separate ticket event this past May 2014 and we were NOT let down.

To begin with, the party offers an amazing view of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.  The location at World ShowPlace offers the guest a view of almost the entire World Showcase Lagoon. I know there are many great location spots for viewing IllumiNations throughout World Showcase, but, for me personally, it was a spectacular view. Being a “vertically challenged” woman of 4’10”, this particular view gave me an opportunity to see parts of the show that I had never been able to see before because physical barriers of one sort or another had always blocked part of my view.


Another reason that I enjoyed the IllumiNations Dessert Party was getting to sample all of the delicious desserts and sparkling wines. Personally, I am not much of a dessert person and was mostly looking forward to the unlimited sparking wines. My husband, on the other hand, is not much of a drinker and was looking forward to the unlimited desserts. Neither of us were let disappointed. I also liked having the opportunity to try many of the desserts offered by the various World Showcase countries all at one setting. Though the offerings may change (check the official Walt Disney World website for the latest offerings), here is what was available when we were there in May 2014:

  • Baklava (Morocco)
  • Tiramisu (Italy)-My personal favorite!
  • Vanilla Pot de Créme (France)
  • Shortbread Cookies (UK)
  • Cronis (American Pavillion)
  • Ice Cream Novelties, including the Mickey Premium Bar, a favorite of my husband. These are similar to the offerings found at kiosks around Walt Disney World
  • Various fruits
Dessert Party Offerings: Shortbread cookie, Pot de Créme, and Tiramisu

Dessert Party Offerings: Shortbread cookie, Pot de Créme, and Tiramisu

Cronis- a donut cooked in Kahlua Liqueur and Bacardi Rum, dusted with sugar.

Cronis-a donut cooked in Kahlua Liqueur and Bacardi Rum, dusted with sugar.

Drink offerings included:

  • Sparkling wine from the United States
  • Prosecco from Italy
  • Non-alcoholic drinks such as tea, lemonade, coffee, water

I liked both of the wines offered, but my personal favorite was the Prosecco from Italy.

Enjoying my sparkling wine or as i call it, "a tasty beverage".

Enjoying my sparkling wine or as I call it, “a tasty beverage”.

A final reason to attend the IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party is for the atmosphere. Check in to the party begins about an hour before the start of IllumiNations. This is a great opportunity to enjoy not only the desserts and drinks, but mingle with other park guests as well. I HIGHLY recommend getting there an hour early. This allows for time to get in and find a table to enjoy the party’s treats. Yes, there are no chairs, so we were standing for much of the party. This is probably the biggest complaint that I have heard about the dessert party. Please be aware of the fact that guests to the party will be standing the entire time. So find a table, enjoy the treats, and talk with other park guests. My husband and I ended up sharing another table with a couple from New Jersey and had an enjoyable time discussing our trip experiences. Overall, I would say there were around 100 park guests attending the event, though I didn’t feel it was too crowded. Time went by quickly, though, while enjoying the treats and talking to other guests, and it was soon time for IllumiNations. Though my husband and I did not linger too long after the show was over, we were not rushed out by cast members, and we could have stayed longer had we chosen to do so.

For those who have not seen IllumiNations: Reflection of Earth at Epcot, it is a Walt Disney World experience that is not to be missed. It is a truly jaw-dropping show of fireworks, flames, and light spectacular over the World Showcase Lagoon.  The IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party can be booked at The Walt Disney World website or by calling 1-407-WDW-DINE. At the time of publishing, the cost of the party is $49 for adults and $29 for children.

Go Back in Time to the Land of Dinosaurs.

Published October 25, 2014 by jpmdo


DINOSAUR is a dark ride attraction in Dinoland USA at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World. At first, the ride was named Countdown to Extinction, but it was later changed to DINOSAUR to promote the 2000 Disney movie, Dinosaur. The attraction’s only connection to the movie is that they both have Aladar the Iguanodon and a Carnotaurus.

Guests enter the Dino Institute, which shows real dinosaur fossils and a background narration by Bill Nye the Science Guy. They watch a pre-show video, where Dr. Seeker tells the guests that he will send them back in time to the Cretaceous period so that they can bring Aladar back to the present.

The guests exit the pre-show area and go down a staircase to the underground loading area, where they board a Time Rover and are sent back into a prehistoric jungle.


As The Time Rover drives through the jungle looking for the iguanodon, it passes different kinds of dinosaurs. The computer gives a warming of how many seconds before the asteroid will hit. After the vehicle comes across a Carnotaurus, Seeker decides to abort the mission. The Time Rover finds Aladar, who’s holding up a fallen tree so that the guests can pass under. The computer announces that there the meteor is about to hit. The Time Rover arrives back into the present followed by Aladar, who then goes wandering through the institute. Seeker thanks the guests for their help and tries to find the Iguanodon.

Out of all the attractions in Animal Kingdom, Dinosaur is my favorite. Every time I go to the park, I have to ride it, and I never get tired of it. Even though the ride is fast, dark, and kinda choppy and has sharp turns, sudden drops, and things that jump out, it doesn’t bother me, or stop me from enjoying the ride.

12Amber Montes de Oca is a huge Disney fan. She’s an annual pass holder and loves to visit the Disney parks often. Her hobbies are singing, acting, and drawing. She has a BA from the University of Central Florida.

RunDisney Q and A – By Guest Author Jason Rowe

Published October 23, 2014 by ManOfTheMouse

As we wind down the year with the last RunDisney event, many of you may be thinking “I would love to run at Disney, but how?” Well, I am here to help you make that a reality. Like many of you, I had a lot of questions at the beginning of 2014 on how all of this works with RunDisney events. I have compiled a list of Q & A to help you with just that. If you are already thinking about making your New Year’s resolution to take part in one of these events, the following questions and answers are for you.

Q: How much are these races going to cost?

A: These races vary in price, the cost typically increases from year to year, as new races are added and the existing races are growing in popularity.

Registration for a half marathon distance is right around $185, with the 5k somewhere around $80.

Q: What do you receive for this price?

A: A tech shirt, finishers medal, personalized bib, and goody bag. This is not much different from most marathons, however it is all Disney related!

Q: How quickly do I need to register for a RunDisney event?

A: ASAP! With popularity ramping up and more events being added, sign up should be completed the day registration opens to ensure a starting spot.

Don’t worry if you miss out, some travel agencies carry race registrations as part of their travel packages. Also, some charities also may have entries available in exchange for fundraising.

**Also, if you are an Annual Passholder or DVC member, early registration is available a week early.

Q: How long are race weekends typically? From a scheduling perspective?

A: Race weekends are typically four day events, with the expo kicking everything off.





Q: When is the expo held? Is anyone allowed to visit the expo?

A: The race expo will start the day before the first race. This is the area where runners will pick up their bibs, shirts, and limited edition RunDisney merchandise. Anyone can attend the expo.

Q: Is there an age requirement for entering race?

A: Each race has its own requirements. As with most, 5k’s are open to all ages. The 10k races require that runners be 10 years of age or older. Half marathons, the requirement is 14 years or older. And if  you are really brave, the Goofy and Dopey Challenges, runners need to be 18 years or older.

Q: What is the pace? What is being “swept”?

A: RunDisney sets a pace requirement of a 16 minute mile in order not to be swept.

Being “swept” is being taken off the course due to not maintaining pace.

** You will be broken down into corrals based on your anticipated time that you will need to provide to register. 5k’s do not require an anticipated time to enter.

Q: What if I get thirsty or need a bathroom break?

A: About every mile and half, runners will find a water station. Bathrooms will also be located at these stations.





Q: What should my family and friends prepare for to greet me along the route or at the finish line?

A: First thing you to remember, you are at Disney along with thousands of your closest friends and runners, crowds will be on hand.

After the race there will be a family reunion area at the finish line. Banners will be set up in sections by last name. Arrange for your family and friends to meet in one of these designated areas.

Or at a location far enough away from the start/finish line.

For more information on RunDisney events coming in 2014, you can visit for details.

Until next time, train hard, have fun, and make it happen friends!



About the author: Jason Rowe is a huge Disney fan stuck in the midwest. If you would like to read more about RunDisney events or Disney from a guys perspective, check out, Jason enjoys bringing news from Main Street to Your Street.

Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage ~ By Amber Montes de Oca

Published October 17, 2014 by jpmdo

Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage ~ By Amber Montes de Oca

As a musical, Beauty and the Beast is considered to be a big hit.  It’s won Grammy Awards and Academy Awards for its music.

Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage is a live Broadway-style musical based on the 1991 Disney movie Beauty and the Beast.  The show is located in the Theater of the Stars, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park in Walt Disney World.

The story begins when an old beggar woman offers a spoiled and selfish prince a single rose in exchange for shelter from the cold; but because of her ugly appearance, the prince turns her away.  He’s then transformed into a Beast as punishment.  Only learning to love another and earning their love in return can break the spell.

The song “Belle” begins and the curtain opens, revealing Belle strolling through the village, reading a book.  The other villagers comment that Belle is especially beautiful, yet also strange and isn’t like the rest of them.  Gaston arrives onstage and, along with the villagers, sing and brag about him.  After all the villagers leave, Gaston takes Belle’s book from her and asks her to marry him; but she refuses.  Gaston takes her book away again, saying that she will marry him, and leaves.  Belle sings about her wanting a life outside of the provincial town.  Shortly after, Belle finds herself in the Beast’s castle where she meets the enchanted objects, who are the servants also under the spell.  Along with the dancers, they invite her to “Be Our Guest” for dinner, where they bring out food carts and giant spoons.  Afterward, the Beast enters onstage saying he’s afraid that Belle will only see him as a monster.  Belle then wanders into the West Wing and finds the rose.  The Beast finds her and says that he’s told her never to go there, which causes them to argue.  The objects gently tell the Beast be kind to her, if they’re ever going to break the spell.  Over time, the two start to bond and eventually fall in love.


Back in the village, Gaston convinces the villagers that the Beast is a dangerous monster and declares that they have to go after him and kill him.  Belle comes out during a fight between Gaston and the Beast, and afterwards tells the injured Beast that she loves him.  The spell breaks, and the Beast is magically transformed back into the Prince.  Along with all the dancers, Belle and the Prince dance happily to the “Beauty and the Beast” song.

The show has combined a few different tones. The enchanted objects give a comical tone, while the mob song, the fight scene and the transformation provide serious tones.

The major conflict in this play is the Beast’s struggle to become kind and to love and earn the love of another, in order break the spell.  The major theme of Beauty and the Beast is to not judge someone by their appearance, because beauty comes from within.

The idea of the show is to recreate the classic Disney movie.  The same characters, similar dialogue, and all the same songs from the movie appear in the show.  To anyone who has seen the movie, the characters and songs are easy to recognize.  All of the scenes happen in the order that they appear in the movie.  However, since the show is slimmed down to twenty-five minutes, some scenes and characters from the movie don’t appear, including Belle’s father Maurice, their horse Phillipe, Belle coming to the castle and taking her father’s place as the Beast’s prisoner, the wolves, Belle and the Beast’s ballroom dance, and the Beast allowing Belle to return home.  It’s my favorite show at Disney World and I could definitely see it more than once a day.  The show is fantastic and it’s a performance that I encourage people of all ages to see.



Beauty and the Beast has daily performances at 11:45am, 1:00pm, 3:00pm, 4:15pm, and 5:30pm.

About the Author: Amber Montes de Oca is a huge Disney fan. She’s an annual pass holder and loves to visit the Disney parks often. Her hobbies are singing, acting, and drawing. She has a BA from the University of Central Florida.




No More Tiers! Only smiles! – By Mary Morales

Published October 16, 2014 by

Changes to Disneyworld’s Fast Pass System – By Guest Author Mary Morales

UPDATE FROM MARY: October 16, 2014 at 6:50PM Eastern: The system is back to the tiered one – the system went down for hours when they did an upgrade, however they will be honoring all changes.

“The system is currently down for magical enhancements.” This is a statement that Travel Planners have come to dread when contacting the Disney Reservations System. It means you may not be able to run quotes, make reservations, do fast pass selections, make dining reservations, or any combination of the aforementioned actions.

We planners were greeted with this comment on this past Tuesday off and on when we tried to make magic for our clients. Cast members don’t often know when the system will be back up or what “enhancements” are occurring. When the system was back up and running, no one could say what changes were made until, lo and behold, the tiers were gone on the current fast pass system!

What does this mean? There has been a two tier fast pass choice system in place at both Epcot and Hollywood Studios. You were allowed to make one choice from Tier One and two choices from Tier Two. At Epcot, the coveted Soarin’ and Test Track as well as Illuminations were Tier One attractions. At Hollywood Studios, Rock n’ Roller Coaster, Fantasmic and the ever popular, Toy Story Mania were included in the Tier One selections.

This meant, that you could only have one fast pass for these highly sought after activities and sprinkle some pixie dust in hopes that additional fast passes were still available to select a Tier One attraction when you used your three initial fast passes. Now, you don’t have to choose. Like at Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, all fast passes for the parks are showing on the same level. It’s like the holidays came early!!!!!!

Although the Tiers are gone at this time, Disney has not said whether or not this is another test or a permanent change. Resort guests, will continue to be able to choose their fast passes at 60 days out, so does that mean it will be even more difficult for those with non-resort stays to obtain fast passes to those former Tier One attractions? Only time will tell at this point. In the meantime, enjoy not having to make that crushing decision between Toy Story Mania and Rock’n Roller Coaster!!!!

Mary Morales is a Travel Specialist at Mad Hatter Adventures. Her areas of specialty are special needs and allergy friendly travel, but her services are free for all to use. At total Disney foodie, Mary runs the Disney Food Fans page and you can contact her at

Review! WDW Magazine’s new 2015 Calendar ~ Written by Tamara Botzum

Published October 13, 2014 by clodvantam

2015 is fast approaching.  That means it is time to get a new calendar.  I recently received a complimentary glossy 2015 calendar from WDW Magazine.  It is full of stunning photos from one of my favorite vacation spots, Walt Disney World.  Twelve talented photographers contributed to the calendar, and every month a new photograph is featured.  Included with my calendar was a card signed by the photographers.  That was a nice touch.



Each month, the calendar features information on events at Walt Disney World for that month, and tips on how to enjoy a better Disney vacation.  Now, as lovely as this calendar is, there are some things that are sorely missing.  For example, the days of the week are not listed.  Nor are the moon phases.  There are only a few tidbits of Disney information interspersed throughout the calendar year.  This may not sit well with Disney fans who expect to see Disney trivia on each and every day of the year.  Granted, this calendar deals exclusively with Walt Disney World, and does incorporate some important dates in Walt Disney World history, but the omission of additional Disney information leaves this calendar lacking.  It is also rather uncomfortable to see there are very few holidays listed.  I expected to see holidays listed from the countries that are in EPCOT’s World Showcase, but there are none.

While all in all, the calendar is an enchanting tribute to the beauty of Walt Disney World, it isn’t the best calendar in which to write important dates.  The glossy paper makes a pen smear rather easily.  You may want to use sticky notes to mark your dates.

For those interested in this unique calendar, you can find it at WDW Magazine‘s website.  The cost is $19.95.  Please allow two to three weeks for delivery.

*I received this calendar as a free gift from WDW Magazine so that I could provide you with my honest review. This did not influence my opinion. All thoughts are my own.



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