COM0014 – Blog #1: Bring on Disney – Now this is a vacation!

 

Photo courtesy of gify.com

Everyone always talks about how fast your kids grow up.  Take it from an expert. (Mother of 4 girls)  Blink and they’re gone.


This past Oct, I  realized my girls would soon be heading to all corners of the world…well Ontario anyway.  My oldest was in her third year university at Queen’s. (Bragging rights) and the next was ready to head off to University of Ottawa. (Make way for the proud mom).  My younger two were in grades 10/7 respectively and seriously, I blinked and couldn’t figure out where the time went.  So, in my infinite wisdom, I planned one last family trip before my babies scattered to the wind.

Years ago, my husband and I would take the kids every year to Disney.  My older two have fond memories of this time, but the younger two, not so much. So…. Road trip!  Seriously,…we drove to Florida. (24 hrs in a van!)  But the ride was part of the fun and makes the trip much more affordable.  We also picked up a kid.  My oldest’s BF had never been to Disney and when we told him we were going…well the look on his face made me invite him along.  This was actually a good idea since he has a driver’s licence!  Ulterior motive? Maybe.  But he’s actually a good kid and we all like him a lot.  He fits in well with the group.  The son I never had, the big brother they never had.  It all worked out.

 

First up….Hollywood Studios

The thing I learned.  Take lots of snacks.  Disney is expensive!  I thought I packed enough food for the day and only planned to buy dinner.  We were staying from open to close to maximize the park and the limited time we were staying in Florida.  I ran out of food about noon! Luckily, Disney has lots of water fountains and we didn’t need to buy $5 water.  Food total for the day was about $200 American.   Yikes!  Oh and make sure you do the Tower of Terror! Amazing thrill ride.

 

 

Next up…Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom has a new area dedicated to the Movie Avatar.  Hint:  use your Disney fast past for this and book early…I mean like 6 months early not 2 weeks early.  The wait time without it was 2 hrs!  Luckily, I brought lots of snacks. Oh, make sure you do the Dinosaur ride!  It is probably the best ride in the whole Disney Park…I kid you not!

 

What I learned from this trip

Memories are precious. I wish I had of thought of this before now.  However, live and learn. I am already planning my next family vacation with just the two younger ones.  The other two can come of course. (And any add ons J)  But just because they may not be able to come, doesn’t mean I am going to forget making memories for the other two.  One more blink and they will be gone as well.

 

Here are a couple of links to help you plan your trip to Disney. click here, and here. Oh and don’t forget, Disney often offers discounts to Canadian residents at different times of the year.  Make sure you check out their website for dates and offers. I also found this wonderful in depth blog post for the economical Canadian traveller.

So what about you? What is your favorite vacation spot?  Any hints for making each trip memorable?

COM0014 – Blog #1 – Disney World at Christmas Time

IMG_1770It’s been a year and a half since I went on a real vacation that didn’t involve visiting extended family and the stresses included on such trips. I had always wanted to spend the holidays at the most magical place on earth (Walt Disney World, Florida), and decided that is exactly what I would do for Christmas 2015. Late in July 2015, I found out about a promotion for a free meal plan for trips booked during specific dates, needless to say I jumped at the chance and booked my trip at Coronado Springs Resort, a moderate hotel at the park.

I spent weeks researching different events at the park that take place around the holidays, reading countless blogs from people who had made the trip themselves. These were the most useful:

Dreaming of A Disney Christmas… in July

5 Things to Do at Disney World in December

All About the Holiday Season At Disney World

I could tell you about my entire trip, but that would take far too long so I will focus on the experiences that stood out the most throughout my 10 days at the parks.

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is an experience that was in it’s last year in 2015. A large section of Hollywood Studios park is done up in Christmas lights which are in turn choreographed to music. It was an amazing thing to see in person and I couldn’t help but do stand there in awe, staring at the lights dancing before my eyes. I am so thankful that I was able to see it before they closed it down. Click here to watch a video of the show on YouTube. Did you get the change to witness this amazing sight? What were your thoughts?

Be Our Guest Restaurant

IMG_1796When I visited Magic Kingdom, the newest section to the park had just opened and this included Be Our Guest, a restaurant themed on the Beauty and the Beast movie. The main dining hall is a real life ball room with pendant chandeliers and large windows over looking the French country side. The atmosphere was something I couldn’t put into words and the IMG_1823food was amazing. As per Lumière’s recommendation I did try the grey stuff and it was delicious.

Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade

I had been to the parks a few times before but always in the spring. Seeing the Christmas parade was a magical experience for me and my family, as we would watch it every year on TV, but seeing the marching toy soldiers and dancing gingerbread men in person – not to mention Mickey dressed up in his Christmas attire -was a unique and one of a kind moment that I wouldn’t pass up for the world.

What are some of your favourite experiences on Christmas vacations? Have you been to Disney World or any of the other Disney parks? Let me know in the comments below.

Drinks with Disney: Racism in Zootopia

After getting home from work Saturday I settled in on my couch with dinner and wine to watch some Netflix. While scrolling through the new releases Zootopia popped up. I love animated movies, they’re always a perfect choice for a pick me up. So I started watching and about a third of the way into the movie and half a bottle of wine deep I had a serious epiphany. It went along the lines of “Holy Hannah this movie is all about racism!!!! Whaaaattt??!! Ahhh! OMG” I grabbed my pen and paper and madly started analyzing and overthinking the littlest details of the movie. Not going to lie… The wine definitely had a lot to do with this…
A heads up for anyone who hasn’t seen Zootopia and would like to watch it there will be spoilers but I will do my best to not give up the whole movie.

Zootopia takes place in a world of animals: predators, and prey. Years ago there was a problem with predators being savage and attacking the prey, but everyone has evolved and now live in harmony. Or do they….? DUN DUN DUN (sorry guys that’s the wine talking)

Judy is the main character, she’s a little rabbit with a big dream to become the first bunny police officer. Her parents discourage her and tell her that bunnies can’t be cops. Judy still tries and she goes to the Police Academy to take the test.

Let’s talk about this test. The Police Fish.jpgAcademy is expecting a small bunny to pass an obstacle course built for rhinos, lions and elephants. Seems pretty ridiculous when you watch the scene but yet we expect kids in school to all be tested the same way even though they are all different with unique skills and abilities. The wine probably made this connection to standardized testing but the scene does make you think.

With lots of hard work Judy gets assigned to the ZPD (Zootopia Police Department). At the train station her parents lecture her on the dangers of predators and even give her fox repellent and a taser. I know that it’s a generalization but a lot of older generations still hold on to prejudices that were instilled when they were younger. A friend of mine in high school once told me a story of how his grandma made inappropriate comments about their German waiter. Of course Judy’s parents are just worried about their daughter but they are not helping to diminish the stigma that all predators are savage. perpetuating-stereotypes

When Judy gets to the ZPD she is greeted by Benjamin, the nicest, sweetest predator ever. You go Benjamin! Take down those stereotypes! (That’s the wine again…) Then this happens….thenwordRemind you of any other word…? This Disney movie exposed such an important truth! They basically replaced the N word with cute! More and more these days you’ll hear white people using the N word and personally it makes me uncomfortable. It is a word that has been reclaimed by the black community and not our word to use. The article “Stop Saying N****a If You’re Not Black” sums it up quite nicely.

Judy goes to her first assignment meeting and sits with giraffes, elephants, wolves, and tigers. Everyone gets assigned a cool case and Judy.. well she doesn’t exactly get what she wanted…

Assignment.png

Because of her small size Judy is not taken seriously and gets parking duty while the other officers get more important cases. This can be adapted to portray minorities roles in the workplace, including women. Another example of inequality in the workplace for women can be seen through assistant mayor Bellweather. Although she is the assistant mayor she is pushed around and overshadowed by her male coworker, the mayor. While the mayor gets a snazzy office, the female assistant mayor has a supply closet as an office and refers to herself as “a glorified secretary”.  In fact, the plot twist at the end of the movie really brings the theme of inequality home. A woman… feeling underappreciated.. If you want to know what I am getting at watch the movie!

Anyways, while on parking duty Judy sees a fox. Instincts that have been drilled into her by her parents kick in and she gets suspicious. Judy follows Nick the fox into an elephant ice cream parlor and this scene plays out.

DinerRac.png

Nick tried to buy a lollipop for his son but because he is a small fox the elephant refuses to serve him. Remind you of a particular event that took place in 1960 at a diner? 4 black students sat at the bar in protest of the rule that they had to sit at the back of the diner. They sat for days and were refused service because of the colour of their skin. This event is known as the Greensboro Lunch Counter and whether Disney intentionally made this reference or all the wine did, this scene is one of the best examples of racism within Zootopia.

Ultimately the movie revolves around the fact that predators are “biologically” programmed to be savages and prey perpetuate those stereotypes. Despite the fact that both live in “harmony” Zootopia as a society still has a long way to go to create equality. Very much like our current society.

So as I was making all these connections I thought about all the Disney movies I have ever watched. There is no way Zootopia is the only one that deals with some real life issues. And then brain blast, I am not a kid anymore. I have a reference frame that is way more educated and informed than what I had as a kid. So I messaged my uncle and asked if he could get my little cousins ideas on the movie, what did he think the main take away was?

“I think the lesson is maybe always follow your dreams. Because in the movie Judy is trying to be a cop but she’s not really got at it and people are taking her as this not good bunny and they give her parking duty. So I think the lesson was to follow your dreams and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something”

ADORABLE! My little cousin picks up on the main message of the movie without over analyzing it as I have. Follow your dreams and never give up no matter how many people tell you to quit. Absolutely adorable that he gets to watch this movie in a blissful innocence, and it’s okay because he is young and no one expects him to know much about inequality in the workplace or racism. In fact, when my uncle tried to prompt him by asking if he thought there was a lesson in the predators and the prey the little guy said there wasn’t a lesson and “you know how it goes”. Makes me wish I could be a kid again for a bit!

Well I could go on and on about all the connections I made in this movie but what fun would that be? Watch it yourself and see if you can determine what scenes made me think of the following:

  • Lack of respect for women
  • Media twisting the words of the police
  • Government secrets
  • Don’t judge a book by it’s cover (hint, Mr.Big)
  • Instilling fear to gain power

Have you seen the movie? Watched it with your kids? What are your thoughts or theirs? Should we be talking to kids about these deeper lessons? Let me know in the comments:)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COM0014: Post # 6 Disney – My Favourite Customer Story

Last year we took our first cruise ever on Disney Cruise Lines. Disney was an obvious choice. Yes, it was more expensive than the other options but I knew if anyone could do it right it would be Disney.

And as expected Disney did it right.

Disney Fantasy Castaway Cay

Be Our Guest

Disney treats every guest as an unique and special human being instead of just dollars and numbers. Everyone is greeted with a smile (rare these days) and that’s just the beginning. They’re invested in getting to know you well and are committed to building that authentic relationship with you.

Making Memories

Whether it’s up front intimate experiences with the characters, riding the AquaDuck once or in my son’s case 20 times, a romantic evening for two at Palo or the exclusive fireworks over the Caribbean seas,  Disney knows how to make memories. In Genie’s words “Today’s special moments are tomorrow’s memories”.

Whistle While You Work

Disney works hard to hire and train employees to be helpful, knowledgeable, friendly,  and exhibit an “onstage” persona anytime they are within view of the customers. The cruise ship employees work 7 days a week, cruise after cruise, for the duration of their contract (5-6 months) and still always look happy and are genuinely helpful. It’s pretty remarkable.

When You Wish Upon A Star

All you have to do is ask!

One evening my 3-year-old requested blueberries. Not visible anywhere on that dinner’s Royal Court menu,  a full bowl of blueberries appeared before my son and he devoured them as quickly as they got there.

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Attention To Detail

Attention to the smallest details matter. My husband remarked as we were disembarking the ship at 9:00 am “How are they going to get the ship ready for folks to board at 11:45 am for the next cruise?” I told him that  it was easy because the ship looked as  glorious and pristine  from the moment we stepped on  to the time we got off  and every moment in between.

Main Disney Fantasy

Walt Disney said “Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it they will come back for more”. Disney does it so well that it creates loyal customers, customers who keep coming back for more.  Even at premium dollar that kind of customer service these days is truly a rarity and getting to experience it feels like magic indeed.

A version of this post first appeared on http://www.sociallyengaged.ca