Guardians of the Galaxy, a spoiler-free review

Guardians

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy came out tonight, and I decided to go see it with my brother.  Part Star Wars, part Firefly, part comedy, part western, this movie had a little bit of everything in it.

Drax Star Lord Gamora Groot Rockey

Starring Chris Pratt as Peter Quill, a ‘ravager’ or scavenger known as Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, a warrior princess, David Bautista as Drax, a revenge driven character, and the voices of Bradley Cooper as Rocket Raccoon and Vin Diesel as Groot, two bounty hunters, Guardians of the Galaxy had a lot of build up in the online community before it came out.  And rightfully so.  The movie not only met my expectations, it surpassed them.  The visuals in this film were incredibly well done, the characters meshed well together in the action scenes as well as the humorous ones, and the music, classic pop hits from the 1970s and 1980s were fantastic.  Plus, a brilliant, sarcastic, talking raccoon with huge weapons?  Great entertainment.

The beginning of the movie opens well, giving just the right amount of background on Peter Quill.  As we watched this, I heard someone in the theater say “10 minutes in.  Already a better love story then Twilight”. It lets you know about each character’s background without drawing it out and boring you, it had a good pace.  And as you’ll already know if you’ve seen the previews, the five characters end up working together to try to save their galaxy from the evil forces of Ronan, a character who is bent on destroying the universe in which most of the characters live.  

Guardians of the Galaxy mixes in action sequences, touching emotional moments, and just the right amount of comedy to keep the mood positive as it delves into issues of abandonment, guilt, love, family bonds, vengeance, and the possible annihilation of billions of people.  Writer and director James Gunn puts it simply “this movie is about family”.

Short, simple, to the point.  Should you go see it?  Yes.  Enjoy it.  And then maybe see it again.  I plan to!

Have you seen it?  What did you think?  Love it or hate it?  Leave a comment below!

The Tusker House

Today marks my first blog post about a restaurant at Walt Disney World.  And to start it off, I picked my favorite buffet, the Tusker House, from Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  My family and I have been to a number of buffets at the Walt Disney World parks and resorts, but this one is probably my favorite.

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The Tusker House, located in Harambe Village, on the left side as you walk in from Discovery Island, just past the Dawa Bar on your way to the new Festival of the Lion King location.  The entrance is actually in the back, which can be a bit hard to find if you’ve never been before.  It is open for breakfast (8:00am-10:55am), lunch (11:00am-3:30pm) and dinner (4:30pm-7:00pm), and is not only a buffet, but also includes character dining, with Mickey, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy.  tusker-house-restaurant-gallery04

 

 

(Yeah, Disney’s picture looks nicer than mine below…)

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The interior of Tusker House is made to look like you are in an open area marketplace, with high ceilings, colorful banners, a general African feel to the building, both inside and out.  I have only eaten there for lunches, so I have not personally tried some of the dinner foods, but I love the offering at lunch.

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(The above four pics come from Disney’s website.  Really, do you think I could take those?)

Appetizers include tabbouleh, hummus and baba ganoush, Tunisian couscous salad, curried rice salad, and ‘normal’ foods, like apple walnut salad, mixed greens, cucumber salad, lunch meats cheeses and fresh fruit.  There is a vegetarian table that, even though I love meat, has some delicious foods: several varieties of couscous, samosas, tandoori and jollaf rice.  For the main dishes: seafood stew, orzo pasta, varved sirloin and pork loin, Cape Malay curry chicken, basmati rice with almonds in it, salmon filet, and root veggies, potato wedges, and mashed potatoes.  As for desserts, they have banana cinnamon bread pudding with vanilla sauce, fruit cobblers, and traditional assorted pastries and cookies.  The price is about $30 dollars a person, and for me (a 6’10” guy with a big appetite) it’s great! My wife doesn’t eat as much as I do, but she loves the atmosphere, the corn dog nuggets from the kids menu, and thinks the characters are fun.  

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Have you been to the Tusker House?  What did you think?  I’ve heard from people that absolutely love it, and some that think the food variety is not so great, and the service is a bit slow.  Leave a comment below!

The cost of staying at Disney for a year

In my quest to figure out a possible budget for spending 365 days at Disney, one of the things my family will need is a place to stay.  While we very early on figured out that staying at an apartment will be the least expensive option, I still wanted to find out what it would cost to stay at various Walt Disney World options for one year.

Now that Disney has posted their prices for the year 2015, I can estimate what a year would cost: January 1st to December 31st.  The least expensive place to stay on property is the Fort Wilderness campsites… but given the fact that my family of four would be there, that is not at all an option.  The next best price: an All Star resort.

So what does an All-Star resort cost for 365 days? For two people, including tax: 50,415.68.

 

 

A DisneyBound Baby

If you are reading this post, you may already know about the idea of “DisneyBound”… people dressing up, not as actual characters from Disney movies, TV, cartoons, but inspired by them.  There are reddit pages, twitter accounts, facebook pages, Pinterest sites, and more where people post pictures of clothes, or of them in clothes, based on Disney characters.

Disneybound ElsaDisneybound Peter Pan

(these kinds of pictures are all over Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr, etc!)

My wife Kayla and I had an idea.  She absolutely loves making crafts, and especially for babies.  She’s made stroller covers, diaper covers, tag blankets, quilts, wall hangings, pillows, all sorts of things.  And we thought: why not combine crafts with our love of Disney?  Kayla had never heard of DisneyBounding until recently, but thought the idea could be really neat to bring to very young children.  If we gave our 9 month old a blanket covered in Disney characters, it would be cute, yes, but what if we had a blanket for her that was ‘inspired by’ Disney characters?  Friends of ours who love Disney might come over and see an orange and black striped blanket and think Tigger, or a Red and black blanket with yellow trim and think Mickey Mouse, but our ‘normal’ friends might not catch on.

Tag Blanket(Image found on HappinessIsHomemade.com)

So, we don’t have pictures of our own items YET, but Kayla is hard at work making a variety of different things.  To start with, they’ll be for our own kids, but if others like them, who knows, we may start an Etsy site.  In a few weeks, we’ll post a whole bunch of our own pictures for you to see!

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(This dress was made for @disneylizz, inspired by Snow White)

What do you think?  If you are a parent, or have friends with young kids, toddlers or infants, would you consider Disney inspired clothing, blankets, pillows, etc? Leave a comment below!

Disney Dream Jobs

I was listening to the Por Favor Podcast earlier this evening, and the were talking about Disney dream jobs.  As I heard each of their answers, I thought about what my top five dream jobs would be at Walt Disney World.

Pyrotechnician

169    Really, think about it.  The person in charge of the fireworks each night?  How amazing of a job would that be?  Yes, it would be stressful working with explosives, on a program that thousands of people are going to see every night, but it would be worth it.  To be the person that loads and sets up the IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth “inferno barge”… wow.

IllumiNations-_Reflections_of_Earth_Inferno_Barge_-_Daytime(image can be found here)

 

Haunted Mansion cast member

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    I’ve always loved that the cast members are a bit creepy.  They really help to put you in the right mood for the Haunted Mansion before you even step inside.  The deadpan humor is perfect for the attraction that follows, and who wouldn’t love saying things like “please move to the DEAD center of the room” while staring, unblinkingly, at tourists.  I’m also 6’10”, which would just help me seem a little scarier as I slowly pace back and forth, inviting guests into the Mansion.

 

VIP Tour Guide

    This is the one that I can come closest to already.  I don’t work for Disney, and I don’t get paid to give tours, but when I’m at Walt Disney World with my family, my nerdy knowledge can come out.  “Did you know that the carriage posts on Mainstreet USA are painted about 4 times a year?  Or that Pumba, from the Lion King, is the first Disney character to fart”?  (Yes, I tell different stories based on the people that I’m with)  Now if I could just get paid for my strange recollection of Disney stories and knowledge… I’d be pretty happy to get to wear a plaid vest!

 

Face Character

Gaston_at_Disney_parks_in_wintertime

(photo can be found here)

    Okay, so I’ve always wanted to be Belle.  Just kidding.  But the same movie… Gaston.  Yes, he’s a villain, yes, he’s obnoxious, rude, “positively primeval”, but he would be a great character role.  Imagine walking around New Fantasyland posing for pictures with people while sporting a huge grin, giant muscles (I’d maybe have to work on those a little bit), and clomping around in big boots.  I’m tall.  I’m rugged.  I’m handsome.  I could totally be Gaston.  (*okay, at least one of those descriptors is real…)

 

Imagineer

Joe
(please tell me you know who this is…)

    This is definitely the top job I could imagine at Walt Disney World.  To be able to think about, design, create, build, implement, etc. at WDW would be a difficult but incredibly rewarding job.  The variety of jobs Imagineer do is simply amazing, from huge projects: coming up with a new theme park, such as Animal Kingdom, to tiny details: put leaves, footprints, and other marks in the walkway to make it look old and worn.  They plan a park, and the rides inside it, and the ride vehicles, as well as designing the queue for the ride, and even traveling to far off places to buy actual ‘set pieces’ for those rides.  While there are obvious financial and physical constraints (as well as many others, I’m sure), to have a job that lets you use creativity to update or create new theme park attractions, hotels, restaurants, and many other things would be absolutely amazing.

(By the way, that picture is of Joe Rohde, lead Imagineer, and is from his Twitter account)

 

 

What do you think your top Disney dream jobs would be?  Leave a comment below!

Walt Disney World miniature golf part 2 – Fantasia Gardens and Fairways

In this second installment of miniature golf courses at Walt Disney World, I bring to you Fantasia Gardens and Fairways.  This course, like Winter Summerland, features two 18 hole courses.  However, unlike W/S, where the courses are similar but themed differently, at Fantasia Gardens and Fairways, the courses could not be more opposite from each other.

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(I swear it’s just blacklight, my wife isn’t really a zombie…)

Fantasia Gardens is more like the kind of miniature golf most of us are probably used to: it is necessary to hit around corners, off the sides, around obstacles, through caves, etc.  As Disney states on it’s website, “Putt your way through 5 whimsical scenes featuring tutu-clad hippos, marching broomsticks and pirouetting ostriches.

Perfect for families and beginner golfers, the Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf Course invites you to join the reverie as you aim through twirling obstacles, cross fanciful fountains and discover musical surprises. Beware of the broomsticks, ready to douse golfers who pass below!”  The course is perfect for young fans, who, even if they haven’t seen the movie Fantasia, will love the characters and themes spread throughout the 18 holes.  Each hole has music, characters, bright colors, and is named for a particular aspect of the 1940 film.

disney-s-fantasia-gardens

(picture found on Tripadvisor)

Fantasia Fairways, the more difficult course of the two, is actually one of my favorite miniature golf courses I have ever played on (and I’ve played over 100)!  “Resembling a traditional golf course built on a miniature scale, this course emphasizes skill over chance. Sand traps, bunkers, water hazards and sloping greens make the Fantasia Fairways Miniature Golf Course an exciting challenge, where par-3 and par-5 holes range in length from 63 to 109 feet long.”  

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This course is one for actual golfers, and takes real skill to complete.  While younger kids may enjoy it, it can be frustrating to those who are not able to hit around the sand bunkers, rocks, and water hazards.  Every time I’ve been to Fantasia Gardens and Fairways, I’ve had to wait for the Fairways course, because, like an actual golf course, enough people want to use it that Disney sets up tee times.  

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Of the four Walt Disney World golf courses, Fantasia Fairways is my favorite.  It takes a lot of time to play, which means that, given the cost of each round, you get more for your dollar.  It takes some skill, which (as a former miniature golf course employee) I really enjoy.  It’s fun to play with my daughter, but I like courses that take some time to play, that aren’t simply hitting a ball through a windmill (although those are cool too).

For more information about these courses, as well as pricing, visit the official Walt Disney World site!

Miniature Golf part 1: Winter Summerland

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One of my favorite things to do, whether I’m at Walt Disney World or not, is play miniature golf.  I’ve played countless rounds across the country and even the world, and my wife and I have even worked at a miniature golf course and children’s theater.  She learned about this love of mine when we decided to honeymoon at Myrtle Beach, SC, the “miniature golf capital of the world” and we played about a dozen rounds in the 5 days we were there.

At Disney, there are two miniature golf areas: Fantasia Gardens and Fairways, and Winter Summerland.  This post will focus on Winter Summerland.  The two courses there are nearly identical/symmetrical, making it fun to play both sets of 18 and compare the holes.

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(screenshot from 11-11-11 aerial photo on Google Earth)

Winter Summerland consists of two 18-hole courses, one, themed for the winter, and the other, as you can guess, themed for the summer.  As the Disney website states:

Late one Christmas Eve, as Santa was flying back to the North Pole, he discovered snow in Florida. After surveying the strange sight, he decided to build a vacation destination for his off-duty elves—a Winter Summerland.

Seeing that the only thing Winter Summerland lacked was a golf course, Santa and his elves divided into 2 camps, one that enjoyed the warm Florida sun and another that preferred the snow and cold of the North Pole. The elves then built 2 distinctly different 18–hole golf experiences: a sand course named “Summer” and a snow course named “Winter.”

(description courtesy of the Walt Disney World website)

winter summerland 3(Santa has a sleigh and an airstream)

There are funny little things all over to take pictures of: Santa’s airstream, a sleigh you can sit in, a melted snowman, etc.  The Winter Summerland miniature golf course also has a few surprises in store, which I don’t want to give away.

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(We HAD to golf when we went down for the WDW Marathon!)

Maybe we’re just crazy, but we felt like the winter side had more shade, and felt much cooler than the summer side.  Perhaps it was just wishful thinking?

winter summerland 4
Hot cocoa and mini-golf anyone?

At the end of your round, you get a message from Santa, and when you turn in your clubs, they have a bowl full of candy canes.  The best time to play here? Pick a cool day, if you can, and bring some hot cocoa!

Q4-29 Winter-Summerland June 1999    MRA(Please don’t swing your club like this kid, from a Disney website picture)

winter summerland castle - snowwinter summerland castle - sand

(These photos are from Magical Memories by John, run by vacation planner John Parr)

The only negatives about the experience? One – the computer e-mail message from Santa at the end could use some updating.  The other – getting to this golf course in the winter can be a major pain.  When Blizzard Beach is closed, finding a bus to take you can be a bit problematic, so we opt for a taxi. $10 to save 45-60 minutes on buses is worth it!

For more information, you can also check out Disney-Pal, which has some great photos.

Have you tried these golf courses out?  Which course is your favorite?  If you haven’t tried out Winter Summerland, why not?  Leave your comments below!