Thursday November 17th
Carol attended the D23 DestinationD
convention on her own two years ago and had a terrific time.
She was determined that I should go with her this time, but
after the disappointing time we had at the D23 Expo in
California last year I was reluctant. She was
persistent though . . . and after a great deal of coaxing, and her
offer to pay for the trip, I relented. I'm glad I did;
it was much better than the Expo and we had a great time!
Thursday morning we were up at 5:30 a.m.
and drove away from home at 6:30. There was virtually
no traffic on the freeways, no line at the border crossing
and we pulled into Syracuse's Hancock International Airport
at 8:45 and had plenty of time to enjoy coffee and a snack
before boarding Jet Blue Flight #315 to JFK Airport in New
York City. We lifted-off at 10:50, 5 minutes early and
only 55 minutes later touched down at JFK. We wandered
the terminal for a while and had a nice lunch at a sports
bar before boarding Jet Blue Flight #1889 to Orlando.
Once again our flight took off 5 min early, at 1:55.
The pilot must have put the pedal to the metal because our
smooth flight landed 35 min early. Everything happened
quickly all day; we were in our rental car driving away from
the airport before our scheduled landing time.
By 6:00 p.m. we had checked in at Disney's Port Orleans
Riverside Resort. Carol unpacked and got us settled in
room 2534, then it was time to head to Disney Springs for
dinner at Earl of Sandwich. We walked to Boatwright's
to catch one of the Sassagoula River boats and had a nice
chat with a young couple from Maine while we waited.
Unfortunately the line wasn't moving; after standing still
for about 25 minutes we walked back to the room, picked up
the car keys and drove to Disney Springs. We hoped
that the line at Earl's wouldn't be too long since it was
after 7:00 p.m., but we were wrong. The line stretched
out the door and around the corner. But it moves very
quickly . . . and the sandwiches are well worth the wait!
After dinner we took a stroll along the
new "Tree Trail" and enjoyed the display of themed Christmas
Carol made a quick trip to the Pin Store and then we drove
to Fort Wilderness Campground where Carol picked up a
special Chip & Dale pin for a friend back home. We
drove around a few of the camping loops admiring the
Christmas decorations before heading home at 9:15. We
were both tired after long travel day.
Friday November 18th
- Mickey's 88th
Friday was registration day! We
were up at 7:00 a.m., had a quick coffee in our room and
drove off to the Contemporary Resort at 8:00. All of
the D23 activities were held in the Conference Centre at the
Contemporary. We enjoyed a nice breakfast at The Wave
before meeting our friends Juanita, Carrie, Francine and Becky at
the Contempo Cafe.
At 10:00 a.m. we made our way
downstairs to the conference area and joined the short
While we waited our friends Susan and
Allison showed up and presented us with some very special
buttons. They had heard that everyone entering the
theme parks was receiving a special button honouring Mickey
Mouse's 88th birthday, so they rode the monorail to the
Magic Kingdom and came back with extra buttons to share with
a few friends. Thanks guys!
By 10:45 we were all checked in and
joined the next line, waiting to be admitted to the Mickey's
of Glendale shop which was scheduled to open at 2:00 p.m.
While we waited we checked out the goodie bags we had been
given when we registered. There was a birthday button
in each bag, now we had an extra . . . you can never have
waited in the second line we took turns visiting the Walt
which featured pictures and mementos from many of the
adventures Walt Disney enjoyed during his lifetime!
A dapper Walt Disney arrives at Le Bourget
airport, near Paris, on June 25, 1935. This photo,
along with additional archival images, props,
and models, is a part of “Walt’s Great Adventures,”
an exhibit showcasing Walt Disney’s travels
and some of his most memorable projects, curated
by the Walt Disney Archives exclusively
for D23 Destination D: Amazing Adventures.
Walt Disney visits Switzerland and is
inspired to re-create the iconic Matterhorn mountain in
Disneyland park. This photo, along with
additional archival images, props, and models, is a
part of “Walt’s Great Adventures,” an exhibit
showcasing Walt Disney’s travels and some of
his most memorable projects, curated by the
Walt Disney Archives exclusively for
D23 Destination D: Amazing Adventures.
doors to Mickey's of Glendale opened at 1:50 and a few
people at a time were allowed in to browse through the very
exclusive Walt Disney Imagineering merchandise for sale.
Naturally there were some pins that Carol wanted! I
thought that once we were admitted to the shop the waiting
would be over, but I was wrong! There was yet another
line, waiting to get to the pins! We spent about 4
hours in line and then shopped for about 5 minutes.
Carol was happy though, she got exactly the pins she wanted!
we were all finished; we hopped in the car and stopped at
Walgreens and Wal-Mart on our way back to our hotel.
friends Juanita, Carrie, Susan, Allison, Francine and Becky
Grand Floridian Resort at 5:15 and spent some time in the
lobby admiring the giant gingerbread house.
Juanita, Carrie, Becky, Francine, Allison,
Susan & Carol
was time for dinner with friends in
the Grand Floridian Café. We both ordered salmon,
it was great!
After a quick browse through the shops we headed back to our
room, put on our swimming gear and headed to the pool.
The quiet pool right beside our "mansion" was a bit chilly
so we walked over to the Old Man River pool and had a
refreshing dip followed by a soothing soak in the hot tub.
After a little bit of
television it was "lights out".
conference started today and there was a terrific line-up of
Disney executives and Imagineers scheduled to appear.
We were up at 6:45, anxious to get the day started. We
left the Riverside resort at 7:30, headed to The Wave for
breakfast. I dropped Carol at the front door so she
could return a t-shirt she bought the previous day then
headed to the restaurant. There was a long line at
Mickey's of Glendale so Carol joined the line to enter the
conference hall. By the time I finished breakfast and
joined her she had secured some great seats for the morning
session, on an aisle about 15 rows back from the stage.
meeting room was huge and there were about 1,300 in
attendance, so being only 15 rows back was a very good
The emcee for the
weekend was Dr. Albert Falls, the character often mentioned
by skippers on the Jungle Cruise attraction at the Magic
After Dr. Falls had
covered a few ground rules for the conference the parade of
speakers began, starting with Bob Chapek, Chairman of
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. He reflected on the
history of the parks and drew a hearty chuckle from the
crowd when he lamented that he really missed those sour
pickles in a plastic bag that used to accompany many meals
in the parks. Where have they gone?
Next on the stage were film producer
Don Hahn and Disney Archives Director Becky Cline.
They reviewed the old series of "True-Life Adventure" films
which earned the Walt Disney Studios eight Academy Awards.
During their presentation they ran a
hilarious film clip in which Roy Disney Jr. talked about a
Disney film crew which scoured a number of frozen lakes in
Minnesota, tossing ducks and skidding them across the ice to
get the perfect shot of colliding birds Walt wanted to see.
It brought the house down!
The final session of the morning featured
Disney Legend and retired Imagineering Ambassador Marty
Sklar who shared his firsthand knowledge about the
development of many of the attractions in Disney
Adventurelands around the world.
As we left the hall at 11:50 a.m. for a
lunch break we were each given a set of four prints showing
scenes from Pandora, the bioluminescent world from the movie
Carol took a minute to
return the t-shirt at Mickey's of Glendale then we headed up
the escalators to the Contempo Café. There was a huge
line, so we went back down and joined the line outside the
West Rotunda where a number of barbecues had been set up to
serve our group. It was quite disappointing . . .
without a doubt the worst $10.00 cheeseburgers we've ever
After lunch we sat outside
in the concourse in front of the Contemporary Resort,
enjoying the sunshine, then at 1:30 headed back in to line
up for seats at the afternoon session which began at 2:00
The first session was a
panel of speakers which included Disney Imagineers Tony
Baxter, Jason Grandt and Luc Mayrand.
They talked about the Adventureland areas in all of the
Disney parks around the world, and shared plenty of personal
insights and pictures. Since the Shanghai park had
just recently opened, it turned out to be their principal
ROWING THROUGH ADVENTURE ISLE –– Guests
can explore the wilds of Q’olari River by canoe in Shanghai
Disneyland. Adventure Isle is the newest “adventure land” in
a Disney theme park. Beginning with Disneyland in 1955,
Adventureland has inspired adventures in Disney theme parks
around the world, from the Jungle Cruise to Pirates of the
AHOY FROM TREASURE COVE –– Guests can enter a
town taken over by pirates in Treasure Cove at Shanghai
Disneyland. The adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow, Captain
Barbossa, and the rest of the motley crew have inspired
attractions and entertainment at Disney theme parks around
Next onstage was a panel
comprised of Disney historians, Imagineers and former Jungle
Cruise skippers, Justin Arthur, Alex Grayman,
Kevin Lively, Chris Merritt, Trevor Van
Dahm and Wyatt Winter. They used some
wonderful film clips and photos to take us on a historical
journey through time, starting with the design and
construction of the original Disneyland attraction, then
described how it changed over the years from a solemn and
serious presentation about the major waterways of the world
and became the irreverent, corny joke filled trip we now
They wrapped up by
describing how the Jungle Cruise first changed to the
"Jingle" Cruise for the holiday season four years ago.
After a short coffee break
we returned to review the history of Disney's Polynesian
Village Resort which, along with the Contemporary Resort and
Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, is celebrating it's
45th Anniversary. The cast member who currently
portrays Auntie Kau’I in the luau show at the
Polynesian Resort has been part of that show since it's
inception in 1971. She and two others from the cast
joined Disney artists Casey Jones and Richard
Terpstra, Disney Vacation Club's Ryan March and
D23's Steven Vagnini in the presentation and helped
give everyone in the audience a hula lesson. I'm glad
there was no video of that . . . no one needs to see me
trying to hula!
afternoon wrapped up with a very entertaining presentation
by Jared Bush, the screenwriter for the newest Disney
movie, Moana. He held our attention for a full hour as
he described how the movie concept was developed, showed us
pictures of the original storyboards, walked us through the
casting process as they searched for voice actors, then
showed us clips from the final film, which we were going to
preview that night on a giant screen set up on the beach at
the Polynesian Village Resort. It was a terrific way
to wrap up the first day of the conference!
Afternoon session ended at 5:30 and as we left we were each
given another gift, this time a Pinocchio print.
Carol and I quickly boarded
the monorail and rode to the Polynesian
Resort to meet our friends Al and Jane for dinner at Captain
Cook's. Jane was a bit under the weather but Al was
there to meet us. We had a nice dinner and enjoyed
chatting with Al, catching up on all happenings at Fort
Wilderness since we left a week and a half prior.
Carol headed off to get in line for the movie on the beach
while Al and I wrapped up dinner with some tasty pineapple
was waiting by our chairs when I arrived, aisle seats near
the back with a great view. The only negative factor
was the temperature . . . it was about 50 degrees with a
light breeze. (For you Canadians that's about 10°
Celsius) That's a bit chilly to be sitting out on the
beach for two hours! But the movie was worth it, it
was a very entertaining story.
After it was over we hopped back on the
monorail, rode back to the Contemporary Resort and drove to
home to Riverside. It was nice to get back to our warm
and cozy room at 10:45.
Once again we were up
bright and early and got away from our resort in good time.
Just like Saturday, Carol, who is not a breakfast eater,
lined up to get us seats while I had a leisurely meal at The
Wave. This time she got us aisle seats about 18 rows
back, still very good seats.
The mornings activities kicked off with
Disney historians Kevin Neary and Susan Neary
who were interviewed by Justin Arthur. The
husband and wife team have written a book which charts
the creative artwork and history of Disney park maps over
the past 60 years, from Disneyland in 1955 to today.
It sounds like something I need to add to my Disney library!
The morning's second
session looked at new adventures, focusing on the newest
developments at Walt Disney World. Caitlin Busscher
and Nathaniel Palma, Walt Disney World Ambassadors,
introduced the session then Wyatt Winter took us
behind the scenes as he described the design and
construction of the new Frozen Ever After attraction at
EPCOT's Norway Pavilion.
After Wyatt concluded
Tom Vazzana took over and told us about the new
Jingle Bells, Jingle BAM! projection show he directed during
it's development for Disney's Hollywood Studios. It
was amazing how much vitality Tom had at 9:45 in the
morning, it was a totally upbeat presentation. I'm not
sure what Tom is slipping into his morning coffee, but I
think I need some! He used still pictures and film to
illustrate the new show, stopping now and then to show us a
few of the "peanuts" or hidden Disney tributes in the
After a short break we
resumed with Jason Grandt and Alex Wright who
guided us through 45 years of Walt Disney World adventures.
It was a nostalgic look back at some of the great old
attractions we can no longer enjoy.
Do you see Mr. Smee on that Jet-Ski?
The last session of
the morning was one we had all been waiting for.
Imagineer Joe Rohde, who oversaw the design and
construction of Disney's Animal Kingdom, was joined by movie
producers James Cameron and Jon Landau to tell
us about Pandora The World of Avatar currently being build
at Animal Kingdom. The presentation we had all been
waiting for turned out to be a real yawner! There
was absolutely no new information, nothing that hadn't
already been told or shown at D23 Expo in Anaheim over a
year ago. The only new item was a closely cropped
picture of a small section of the floating mountains.
That picture was mixed with about a half-dozen images from
the original concept art which kept cascading as the three
men spoke. It was an utter waste of time!
Flight of Passage,
the centerpiece of Pandora – The World of AVATAR at Disney’s
Animal Kingdom, will allow guests to soar on a Banshee over
a vast alien world. The spectacular flying experience will
give guests a birds-eye view of the beauty and grandeur of
the world of Pandora on an aerial rite of passage.
Journey through the bioluminescent
rainforest to discover the full beauty of Pandora in Na’vi
River Journey, coming to Pandora – The World of AVATAR when
the new land opens at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park summer
Concept of Pandora – The World of AVATAR,
coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom summer 2017.
We broke for lunch at 11:50
and this time Carol and I made our way directly, and
quickly, to the Contempo Café where we enjoyed some terrific sandwiches.
We decided to sit in the concourse again and soak up some
more rays. On our way there we stopped to look at a
new bus format, the "Sorcerer Class" bus. It plays
Disney music, themed for your destination as bands of lights
inside the bus flash, pulsate and change colour in time with
the music. That's just what you need at the end of a
long and tiring day in the theme parks. Nope, I
don't think I'll ever be riding one of those buses!
We chatted with friends Susan and Allison
out in the sunny concourse before heading in for the final
afternoon of the conference.
At 2:00 p.m. Imagineer Chris Merritt
spent an hour telling the story of Disney Legend Marc
Davis. Davis began his Disney career as an artist
and animator and was part of the group Walt Disney fondly
referred to as his "Nine Old Men". He worked as an
animator on the earliest animated feature films, including
Snow White but Davis was also a talented draftsman. In
later years was actively involved in the design and
construction of many theme park attractions including The
Jungle Cruise, The Enchanted Tiki Room, The Carousel of
Progress, It's a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean
and The Haunted Mansion.
Disney Legend Marc Davis reviews concepts
for the 1967 Disneyland attraction Pirates of the Caribbean.
A Disney Studio animator and member of Walt Disney’s “Nine
Old Men,” Davis also designed memorable
scenarios for many Disney theme park attractions.
Disney Legend Marc Davis creates concepts
for a never-realized attraction inspired by the Snow Queen.
A Disney Studio animator and member of Walt Disney’s “Nine
Old Men,” Davis also designed memorable
scenarios for many Disney theme park attractions, including
the Jungle Cruise, It’s a Small
World, and Pirates of the
second session of the afternoon Disney Legend Tony Baxter
teamed up with Shanghai Disneyland Portfolio Creative
Director Luc Mayrand to give us an in-depth look at
the development of the Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland
and the new Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken
Treasure at Shanghai Disneyland.
Imagineers Claude Coats, Tony Baxter, and
review a model of Big Thunder Mountain
Railroad for Magic
Kingdom park at Walt Disney World. Originally designed for
the Florida resort,
the attraction first opened at
Disneyland park in 1979 and later inspired versions at Tokyo
and Disneyland Paris.
Shanghai Disneyland Portfolio Creative
Executive Luc Mayrand shared details of Shanghai
Disneyland’s Treasure Cove, which is home to Eye of the
Storm: Captain Jack’s Stunt Spectacular and Pirates of the
Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the
is a spectacular indoor boat ride that takes guests on a new
rollicking adventure with Captain Jack Sparrow to steal the
priceless treasure of Davy Jones. The Shanghai Disneyland
attraction is the newest iteration of the classic
attraction, which opened at Disneyland park in 1967.
enjoy listening to Tony Baxter; I think he could read the
phone book and make it interesting!
After a short break Dr. Scott Terrell,
Director, Animal and Science Operations, took the stage to
describe all the new evening activities at Disney's Animal
Kingdom and to share with us how the changes were designed
to have minimal effect on the animals and how the animals
were prepared for the changes. There were gratuitous
appearances by a vulture and an aardvark. Neither
animal had anything to do with Dr. Terrell's message, but it
was fun to see them!
A black vulture from Disney’s Animal Kingdom
joins Dr. Scott Terrell, Director, Animal and Science
Operations, as he shares how his team has prepared animals
for the extended nighttime hours at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Live animals roam the savanna during a new
nighttime excursion on Kilimanjaro Safaris in Disney’s
Animal Kingdom Park.
Then it was time for the last onstage
session, Imagineer Joe Rodhe took the stage, solo
this time, and held our rapt attention for a full hour as he
told about the original development of Animal Kingdom, then
he bridged to the new evening activities and the advent of
Avatarland and Pandora. Joe shared his passion for
Animal Kingdom as he described the original vision for the
park, then he explained how all of the current changes are
remaining true to that original vision. He can be a
mesmerizing speaker and his message this afternoon, when he
wasn't sharing the stage with those movie producers, was
captivating. An excellent note on which to end the
The iconic Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal
Kingdom undergoes an extraordinary “awakening” throughout
each evening as the animal spirits are brought to life by
magical fireflies that reveal colorful stories of wonder and
enchantment. Projections of nature scenes take on a magical
quality as they appear to dramatically emanate from within
Tree of Life.
As we left the hall for the final time we
received our last gift, Marvel comic book #1, The Enchanted
Limited Edition second generation Magic Bands included in
the goodie bags we were give when we registered on Friday
included a one-day admission to the Magic Kingdom and an
open FastPass at The
Jungle Jingle Cruise
so we walked from the Contemporary Resort to the Magic
Kingdom. We arrived just in time to watch Elsa
"freeze" Cinderella Castle in the nightly castle-lighting
We wandered over to Columbia Harbor House
for dinner then wandered across to Adventureland where we
cashed in our FastPasses for a spin around the rivers of the
world on the Jingle Cruise.
Since we were in the area, and even
though it was a cool evening, we picked up a pineapple float
for me and a citrus swirl for Carol. Delicious!
Our last attraction of the trip was in
Tomorrowland. Carol whupped me at Buzz Lightyear's
Space Ranger Spin!
It was getting late, and it was getting
cool, time to go home. As usual Carol browsed through
the Emporium while I waited on a park bench in front of City
Hall. We rode the monorail back to the Contemporary
Resort and were back at Riverside by 10:00 p.m.
I loafed while Carol packed for our trip
I woke up at
the sound of Carol coughing. She was getting a cold .
. . nothing to do with a chilly night on the beach I'm sure!
While Carol did the final bit of packing I drove to Fort Wilderness
Resort and Campground to pick up the Fort Wilderness 45th
Anniversary button that our friends Al and Jane had picked
up for us. These buttons were only given out to cast
members and I don't know how Al and Jane managed to get
them, but we sure are grateful.
It was a cool 48° when we
pulled away from the hotel at 9:15. We checked our
luggage at the Bell Captain's airline check-in then gassed
up on our way to Disney Springs. We enjoyed one more
meal at Earl of Sandwich; even their breakfast sandwiches
Carol browsed through the
Pin Store and a few other shops and at
said goodbye to Mickey and headed to the airport.
By noon we had dropped
off the rental car, cleared security, taken the monorail to
the gate area and were enjoying lunch in the food
Jet Blue Flight #656 to Syracuse
at 1:45 and took off a few minutes before scheduled time of
2:10. It was a smooth and comfortable flight.
snow-packed runway at 4:45 and as we taxied toward the
terminal Carol's cell phone chimed - it was our cell
provider, Bell Canada, with a "welcome to the USA" message.
Only four days late - they're getting better!
love flying out of Syracuse . . . by 5:05, just 20 minutes
after touch-down, we had our luggage in hand, and five
minutes after that we were driving away from the airport.
Road conditions were not very good, there were gusty winds
and lots of "lake-effect" snow was coming down.
Carol needed to stop at the Disney Store
so we took a brief jaunt south to the Destiny Mall.
She was in and out in a jiffy and at 5:45 we began our
northbound trek. The roads were nasty in places,
conditions varied from snow-packed to icy to track-bare and
occasionally the roads were only wet. Wind gusts
were sometimes a real challenge, several times the car was
pushed sideways a foot or more by the wind. We saw lots of cars and even
two big tractor-trailers in the ditch; wind and snow can be
a bad combination.
Conditions improved noticeably as we approached Watertown
and we pulled off at 7:15 for dinner at Cracker Barrel.
From there it was a short hop to the Thousand Island border
crossing; we were back home in Canada at 8:40.
Roads were bare and dry!
We picked up a pair of happy dogs at
Carol's mother's house and got home at 9:30, tired after a