Monday, January 14, 2013

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique: An Ageless Experience

I remember when I had our babies anatomy scan done, the first words out of my mouth to my husband weren't "It's a girl" or "Sugar and spice and all things nice...". No, none of that. The first words out of my mouth announcing that we were expecting a baby girl were: "SO MANY princess dresses!" This is ultimately where my priorities lie. Don't you people judge me.

So with all that being said I'm sure fellow Mouseketeers can imagine how I feel about the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. I am quite literally counting down the days until Roo turns 3 and can experience the joy and magic that only the BBB can bring.

At any given time, in any given park, you can see girls from as young as 3 walking around in full princess regalia proudly displaying their pink princess sashes and glittery hair and makeup. 3 years old is the minimum age at which your little princess can receive the royal treatment at either of the two BBB locations (Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, or The World of Disney at Downtown Disney), but what they don't tell you is that there is no maximum age! So being as I'm a free spirit with very little shame, I decided to make myself an appointment for our October 2011 trip.

The BBB at Downtown Disney, from
At first I had planned on and initially made reservations at the Pirates League, because yes I wanted my makeup done and my face painted but I was going to be mature about it, you guys. The Pirates League had a much stronger ring of sophistication to it than the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, so when people asked me where I got my super awesome eye patch and dazzling makeup from I could tell them "Yep, I went to the Pirates League...not the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique..psshhh...that place is for kids." The debate on whether to go to the BBB or the Pirates League went on for about a week (much to the chagrin of my fellow dental school students) before I called back and changed the reservation to a Coach Package at the BBB at Downtown Disney. Originally the plan was to have it done at the Magic Kingdom, but we were only about 90 days out from our trip at this point and all the reservations there were full which was not surprising in the least. If you're familiar with booking popular Disney experiences you'll know that they aren't joking when they say to make reservations 180 days in advance.

So the day finally came and I left my husband at Animal Kingdom and ventured off to Downtown Disney on my own. Buses from the parks generally do not run to Downtown and you will have to hop on a bus to a resort. The best one to catch at any park is the one for Old Key West because of it's close proximity to Downtown Disney. With that being said, even though you can see Downtown Disney from Old Key West it still took about half an hour for the bus to show up and I'm not sure if it was a fluke but I seemed to be amongst the angriest mob of park goers I'd ever seen. There is nothing more off putting to me than to watch people yell at Cast Members who are only doing what they're told and trying to make your experience a good one, and this group of people (about 40 in all) yelled at every bus driver that arrived. Between that and thinking I was going to be late for my appointment, I was a ball of nerves by the time my bus showed up.

I had decided months in advance that I was going to do the Pop Princess hairstyle, which included colorful Disney clips and rainbow hair extensions. I thought long and hard about doing the Disney Diva style that included a big poof and long ponytail that matched my own hair color but I'm no stranger to wearing extensions and this was my one chance to get crazy with the colors!

All done!
The Fairy Godmothers in training were wonderful to me. I told them the occasion was my 26th birthday and they said it wasn't uncommon for whole groups of adult women to come in for birthday and bachelorette parties. This made me feel slightly better about the awkward looks I was getting, but I was still the only adult there. I also told them that we were celebrating being pregnant with our very first baby, and they gave me a special pin to commemorate it. Somewhere at Downtown Disney in Orlando, Florida there is a Fairy Godmother In Training that knew we were having a baby before our closest family and friends did!

I chose the Coach Package for $49.95 (now $54.95) which included shimmering makeup, hair, princess sash, and sticky jewels. Since I was already wearing makeup I told them it was no big deal and they put the unopened color palette in the goodie bag you receive when you leave. (Note: it should be mentioned that the makeup includes lip gloss and eyeshadow.) It took her quite some time to finish my hair. I have a ton of it all the way down my back, but she didn't cut corners or make it quick just because I was an adult. She truly made me feel like I was getting the special experience that every little girl got regardless of my age. When all was said and done I was in love with the hair do and can’t wait to do it again when my sweet little Roo turns 3.In my opinion you get a pretty good experience with the Coach package that I would be happy to pay and may even refer to as a steal, but packages can go all the way up to $239.00 and include princess costumes and imaging packages.

Worth it
It should also be noted that during this vacation we were attending more than one Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. I didn’t have a costume or any good ideas so my hair sort of substituted as a cool way of being part of the fun. The hairstyle lasted for three whole days and looked as fresh on the last day as it did on the day I got it done. All I had to do was remove the larger clips so I could sleep at night, and add a little bit of gel to it in the mornings. It survived rain, several showers, and all the roller coasters!

One of the things I ran in to while planning my trip to the BBB were the very negative opinions from some adults that let it be known in no uncertain terms they didn’t think that activity was appropriate for adults. Their reasons ranged from “You’re taking that spot away from a child” to “I think that looks tacky on an adult”. I’m usually a pretty understanding individual that can see several different points of view but even I have to admit that I don’t see where they’re coming from. I can maybe understand the view that I am occupying a spot that a little girl could have used, but the fact remains that the spot was open when I called to reserve it and there were many other openings. Also, I had worked hard that year and felt that I had just as much a right to do something for myself that I thought was fun and that I could afford to do. I believe Walt Disney himself created the parks so that the inner child in all of us could come out and play, and my inner child wanted some rock star hair extensions!

Overall, I loved the experience and I’m so glad that I got to do it. It would be perfect for a Disney girls trip or bachelorette weekend. It didn’t come without its share of funny looks from other guests but those were easy enough to shrug off when I considered that at least a few of them were thinking “I wish I could get away with that.” It’s too unfortunate that someone would be held back from doing something they thought was fun just based on the opinions of a bunch of random strangers in Florida. So I say if you want to do it, just do it, it’s a really awesome experience.

If you're headed to Disney World in the near future remember to consult with Kelly over at Disney Guru and she'll be happy to help you plan your trip and book your very own Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique experience!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Animal Kingdom Lodge: Impala, Okapi, and Zebra's - Oh my!

In October 2011, Dreiz and I had the great privilege of staying at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge (AKL), a beautiful resort located on a 43-acre wildlife preserve featuring some free roaming, well-known favorites from the Kilimanjaro Safari. For us it was a once in a lifetime opportunity that came to fruition as the result of off-season discounts and a handy 40% off pin code that we received in the mail. AKL is one of the priciest resorts on property but if you're looking to splurge just a little, you're going in the off season, and you have a discount code, then it makes for the perfect getaway whether it be for a romantic couples vacation or a Grand Gathering.

I think this hotel actually lends itself perfectly to the Grand Gathering atmosphere. When you walk in you are greeted by several sights that make it a perfect place for families to gather. If you know Disney, you know they leave no sense untouched when it comes to giving you a once in a lifetime magical experience. One distinct sensation that comes to mind is the smell of the lobby. The only way I can describe it is akin to that of a wood burning fire place but without the overwhelming heat or heavy air that usually accompanies having a fireplace indoors. Once those factors are removed you're just left with this smell that makes you want to sit outside on a crisp fall evening, wrapped in a fleece blanket and making s'mores. It immediately makes one want to hang out in large groups, sit in a circle, and tell campfire stories. I have no idea why, you'd have to ask the marketing/psychological geniuses at Disney how that works! Coincidentally there are fire pits located both inside and outside Jambo house, most evenings at the Arusha Rock fire pit there is a featured storyteller so make sure you check the posted schedule.

The giant glass wall (it's certainly too big to just be a window!) is another striking feature this resort is famous for. As you walk in to Jambo House (the guest lobby), you are immediately greeted by a breath-taking floor to ceiling window adorned with vines. Even if you don't stay at AKL, it's worth resort hopping one day just to take in this sight. Here's an interesting factoid: AKL uses the least amount of lighting in all it's rooms and restaurants, as well as it's lobby. Reason being is that at nighttime they need to be able to recreate the animals natural setting as precisely as possible in order to reduce stress. The glass wall lets the natural sunlight stream in and illuminate the lobby perfectly and eliminates the need for the use of excess energy, so it's both beautiful and green! My Pal Mickey Note: due to the decrease in amount of energy used, the rooms at AKL are much less well lit than any other resort. So if you're one of those people that needs a room to be brightly lit all the time you'll be out of luck here. However in my opinion, the stunning view of giraffes and wildebeest right outside my window was well worth the trade-off.

Uzima Pool zero-depth entry. Credit: Loren Javier
When you're not in your room watching the animals from your porch, there are plenty of things to do on the AKL grounds. The Uzima Pool features a water slide, a kids play area, two jacuzzi, and a zero-depth entry section. For those of you who aren't familiar with what zero-depth entry is, it's essentially like being at the beach. Instead of having to use stairs to enter or exit the water there is a slope that runs right in to the pool from the surrounding lounge area. Great for if you just want to get your toes wet, or if you need special assistance getting in to and out of the water. We had the opportunity to experience both the pool and the jacuzzi (although I only got to get knee deep in the jacuzzi due to being pregnant and whatnot) this time around. Up until that point we had only ever perused the pools at the resorts we were staying at but never found the time to take a dip. We're definitely making room for assigned pool time this next vacation!

African Stew and Zebra Domes
As far as dining goes, you can't really go wrong at AKL. They feature everything from a fine dining restaurant to a quick service restaurant, Dreiz and I frequented the latter. We were on the quick-service dining plan and found that a great way to keep from spending extra meals is to share. Every night when we would arrive back at the hotel, and sometimes for dinner, we would go to Mara (quick service) and share a cheese or pepperoni flatbread. I was also pretty adventurous and tried the African Stew. It was a mix of chicken, rice, vegetables, and some kind of curry. It was excellent and I crave it still to this day! For dessert I recommend the Zebra Domes. If you're on the quick service plan you should be able to pick them out as part of your meal and the portion size is gigantic so there are always some to save for later. They are a very distinct coffee and chocolate flavored truffle that can be found in the refrigerator section.

Jiko and Boma are two of the more popular table service restaurants at AKL. Dreiz and I never had a chance to try these but Boma comes highly recommended from our pal Guru Kelly over at Disney Guru! Boma is buffet style dining (if you've ever dined at a buffet at WDW I don't even need to tell you this is a good decision because you already know it is!), which features recipes that were inspired by over 50 countries according to the information on the official site. It also features a wood fire rotisserie, traditional American cuisine, and of course lots of dishes with some African flair. Jiko is a little more upscale and requires you follow a dress code. Nothing too fancy, if you think "business casual" you should be good to go. Just don't stroll in there in your flip-flops and pool attire!

Our room. Notice the subtle lighting.
One advantage of staying at a Disney Deluxe Resort Hotel is that you have child care available on site. AKL offers Simba's Clubhouse, which is open from 4:30-midnight and accepts toilet trained kids ages 3-12. The cost is $11.50 per child with a 2 hour minimum. That sounds like quite the deal to me! Drop Junior off and head over to Jiko for a nice romantic dinner, or over to Victoria & Albert's at the Grand Floridian. In-room childcare as well as child care specialist that will accompany you through the park are also available, just make sure you request them in advance to make sure you get one!

The view from our room on the Arusha Savannah
For those who didn't book a room with savannah view there are plenty of viewing stations along the outside trails. There is also a special night viewing station right outside Jambo House where you can find a Cast Member that will let you use a special night vision scope to get the best view of the nocturnal animals that roam the Arusha Savannah. 

Cast Members at this resort went above and beyond anything we could have expected. The night before we left, we approached the Guest Services counter and asked if we could have Happy Birthday buttons for each member of our family that was celebrating a birthday in the coming year. The particular Cast Member, Kevin, was from France and loaded us up with handfuls of buttons. We told him that we just found out that we were expecting a baby and he gave us a birthday button with "Happy Birthday Baby!" written on it.

Our very last picture in front of the Castle as just the two of us
 Every now and again Kyle and I will play the "favorite game" which usually consists of  "What's your favorite attraction?", "What's your favorite ride at Hollywood Studios?" etc. If I had to pick a favorite between the two Deluxe Resorts we've stayed at (the Contemporary and AKL) I don't know that I'd be able to choose. It would be like asking me which one of my dogs I love the most. Animal Kingdom Lodge has a great family atmosphere and when I get nostalgic and want to make myself pine and yearn for Disney World, I think of it immediately. The Contemporary holds a special place in my heart too but for completely different reasons. Animal Kingdom Lodge represents such a new era in our household and I'll always look upon it fondly because of that. After all, it's where we were when we found out we would be welcoming our sweet little Ryleigh Noelle that coming June! So to us Animal Kingdom Lodge marks the transition of our family going from something missing to complete, and our stay there marks the last time we'll ever see Disney World as just Dreiz, Punkin, and their Pal Mickey.

I highly recommend it for any family that wants to have a magical vacation they won't ever forget. If you have any questions about our experience at Animal Kingdom Lodge, want to know more about the resort itself, or are interested in booking your own Animal Kingdom Lodge adventure, visit us over at the Mouse Tales and Disney Guru facebook pages!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Disney Film Eras: My favorites and why I like them so darn much

If there is one thing that can be said about the Disney Animation franchise it's that it is progressive. Disney does an excellent job at keeping up with the times and must dedicate a significant amount of money to focus groups because they always manage to be on top of what's in the now. Their partnership with Pixar ultimately revolutionized the way a new generation of children would grow up watching animated movies and TV. But even before Nemo and Mike Wasowski, Disney was cranking out exceptional animated masterpieces frame by frame.

So this week I've decided to share what I consider my favorite flicks from each of the Disney movie eras. Our journey will begin with the Walt Disney era and we will work our way through the completely made up and arbitrarily named Pre-Renaisance era, The First Golden Age, The Second Golden Age, Renaissance, and the CGI era which I will refer to as the Disny/Pixar era even though I realize not all the CGI films were a product of the Disney/Pixar relationship. I look forward to seeing everyone's picks in the comments section of this blog post on our Facebook fan page. I realize that each era has a plethora of amazing movies with epic memorable moments, but for simplicities sake we're going to narrow it down to just a few per decade that I feel are movies that you have to watch before you die! (Of course if you believe in Heaven then surely all the Disney movies are up there, organized alphabetically, in Blu-Ray, with Walt just waiting around to tell you what he was thinking when he created them!)

The Walt Disney Era

You may have also heard this time period referred to as the Golden Age of Animation for the Disney Animation company. It began in 1937 and ran until 1941. During this time Walt Disney was directly responsible for the supervision of each masterpiece created and what came out of the studio during this time period are some of the most memorable and classic movies that the Disney legacy has to offer. Here are the ones Guru Kyle and I chose:

1. Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs: I mean, do I really need to justify this one? Snow White came out 75 years ago and little girls are still tripping over each other to meet her at the parks. Just in case that didn't sink in the first time, 75 YEARS! Not many other films can boast that they feature such a memorable character. For his part in Snow White, Disney received an Academy Award complete with 7 tiny statuettes to represent each of the Dwarfs. An interesting note: critics predicted that Snow White would be a complete failure and inevitably cause the financial ruin of the studio.

2. Pinocchio: It was tough to decide between this one and Bambi (like the toughest decision I made all day, you guys), but in the end this story line is still responsible for oft uttered phrases like "I can see your nose growing!" when little munchkins are caught in a lie. And who doesn't know "When You Wish Upon A Star"? Many little girls remember it fondly not only from this movie, but also from their favorite jewelry box. It has become an unmistakable icon for the Disney Company, and is probably just as recognizable as Mickey Mouse himself. It won the Academy Award in 1940 for Best Original Song and Best Original Score. I still listen to "Give A Little Whistle" at least once a week.

The Golden Age

So many classics were produced during this time that it was almost impossible to pick favorites. We've narrowed this era down from 1950-1967. There were so many to choose from that we actually broke it down in to two eras just so we could do them justice!

1. Cinderella: a classic story with a plot that has come to symbolize the dreams of little girls across the globe. Cinderella has been told 1000 different ways through countless varying mediums, but nobody did it like Disney. Cinderella Castle has become the defining icon of not only the company but the number one theme park in the world and a sight that children spend their whole little lives waiting to see. The Academy Awards nominated "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo" for Best Song, and the film received nominations for Best Sound, and Original Music Score. Roo (aka baby in my belly) gets to hear "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes" on a daily basis and if violent and unrelenting kicking is an indication of anything, she's a huge fan.

2. Sleeping Beauty: Much like Cinderella, her castle has become an icon of the Disney franchise and the epicenter of both the original Disneyland in California, and Disneyland Paris. Sleeping Beauty was the last fairy tale that Walt oversaw the production of before his death. Also like Cinderella, the cast of supporting characters are as memorable as Aurora herself. I love the banter between the three good fairies and one of my favorite scenes until this very day is the one where they argue over making Aurora's cake without the aid of magic, and shoot colored lightening bolts from their wands in an effort to win the war over whose dress color is better. An unknown little bit of trivia is that originally Walt had suggested that all three fairies look alike (sort of like the three tavern wenches in Beauty & The Beast), but that opinion was vetoed in favor of the fairies having distinct personalities like that of Huey, Dewey, and Louie. One of my favorite scenes was at the end of the film where Aurora and Prince Philip dance in the clouds and her dress changes color. This was originally an idea to be used in the Cinderella movie, but was scraped and used for Sleeping Beauty instead.

3. The Jungle Book: This was the last film ever produced by Disney himself (Sleeping Beauty was the last fairy tale, just so there's no confusion there), which makes it stand out all on it's own. The soundtrack earns its own merit from songs like "The Bare Necessities" (which you now have stuck in your head), but uses the same themes from Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. Pay close attention to the scene where Mowgli wakes up after escaping King Louie and you'll recognize the Sleeping Beauty theme. This film should be watched at least once because, if nothing else, it's a timeless Disney Classic.

Honorable mentions from this era go to 101 Dalmatians, Lady and The Tramp, and Alice in Wonderland. Each deserve their own write up and in my opinion are all must see movies. These three movies have added to the ambiance of the Disney World/Disneyland park going experience in so many uncountable ways whether it be at Tony's Town Square Restaurant in Magic Kingdom (look closely at the pavement outside and you will see a heartfelt note written in the concrete), or riding The Mad Hatter's Tea Cups which has become a rite of passage for most children at the Happiest Place On Earth.

The Second Golden Age

In our list of completely random and arbitrarily named Disney eras we've chosen the Second Golden Age to represent the years between 1968 and 1979. Like the first Golden Age, this one was a toughie too just because there were so many good choices.

Cuz' I'm a lady.
1. The Aristocats: This was the last project to be approved by Walt Disney himself and featured Eva Gabor as Duchess, mother of the three lovable little munchkins we would come to know throughout the film. This film has definitely shown it's staying power by appealing to audiences stretching far beyond it's initial release date in 1970. Even now Marie makes frequent appearances at the France pavilion in Epcot and is featured on a wide variety of merchandise. Even baby Roo has a new onesie with Marie front and center! The Aristocats was re-released in 1980 and then again in 1987 to good reception, proving it's appeal across generational gaps.

2. The Rescuers: Released in 1977 (The Year of The Dreiz as it's referred to in this house), The Rescuers was the first major success since the Jungle Book in 1967. This film was worked on by the famous "Nine Old Men" (Walt's original group of star animators) and was regarded by themselves as some of their finest work. When re-released in theaters in 1983 the film began with a Mickey Mouse short, and marked the first time Mickey had graced the silver screen after a 30 year absence. Within a week of being released it became Disney's most financially successful film to date, even surpassing the success of Mary Poppins! Orphans, mice, and pirate caves are all included in this Disney masterpiece essentially creating the perfect Disney trifecta.

The Renaissance

Finally! We've come to my favorite era in Disney Animation and the one I found it the toughest to choose films from. It's called the renaissance for a reason. During the years between 1989 and 1995 Disney came out with an amazing array of animated blockbusters that still remain some of the highest grossing animated movies of all time. Experiences with characters from these movies are often some of the most sought after at all the parks, and either have rides or other attractions dedicated to them or their featured film. Feature films from this era include: The Little Mermaid, Beauty & The Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, and Pocahontas. These are all fantastic movies, there is no arguing that. I'm serious, there's no arguing that. Ever. You will lose.

Because I know this has been a long blog post (if you've made it this far, thanks for sticking with me!) and we still have another era to go, I will cut it down and only include my two favorites from this era.

Stage show at Hollywood Studios
1. Beauty & The Beast: Released in 1991, B&TB has grossed over $424 million globally! If you've ever been to a Disney park you know what kind of demand Belle is in. You can often catch her and the Beast outside the France pavilion at Epcot, or you can have some amazing pictures taken with her at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway. I've also seen her a time or two at Cinderella's Royal Table wearing her blue storybook outfit. Belle is a heroine to all the brunette bookworms out there. All I wanted for my 26th birthday was a blu-ray copy of this and luckily Kyle managed to deliver! IGN has even rated B&TB as their #1 Animated Film of All Time. It inspired an Tony winning Broadway musical, and a beautiful stage show at Disney's Hollywood Studio. Before we chose baby Roo's (real name Ryleigh) middle name (Noelle) I pushed and pleaded for her to be Ryleigh Belle with moderate success for several months. Eventually losing to my husband and good reason.

2. The Little Mermaid: Now it may seem that I have a bit of a princess bias (which let's face it, I do), but we need to give The Little Mermaid credit where it's due. Prior to TLM Disney Animation cranked out some serious box offices flops, and marked the beginning of a turning point for Disney Animation Studios. Released in 1989, most people have no idea that development for a Little Mermaid movie began back in the 1930's along with Snow White! The film received two Academy Awards, one for Best Song and the other for Best Original Score. They also managed to score a Grammy award for "Under the Sea" which is always a favorite in our house, and the album itself has been certified platinum 6 times!

The CGI (Disney/Pixar) Era

This era ushered in a whole new way of looking at animated films, and basically changed the way that today's kids will view cartoons. So many good things came out of the foray in to CGI animation: Mike Wasowski, Rapunzel, just to name a few, but the potential for 3D animation also grew exponentially. Eventually there will come a time where I'm explaining to Roo that back in my day when you went to see a movie, you didn't need to wear glasses! So here are my picks for favorites of the Disney/Pixar/CGI era:

1. Toy Story: The one that started it all. It was Pixars first feature film as well as the first film to be made entirely from CGI, and began a trilogy that exploded to include massive merchandising endeavors and even the Toy Story Midway Mania ride at Hollywood Studios. I'm not sure there is one critic out there that has something negative to say about this movie and if they do then their membership to humanity should be immediately questioned.

2. Finding Nemo: little known fact is that as of 2006 Finding Nemo was the best selling DVD of all time, with over 40 million copies sold world-wide. It received the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and made everyone fall in love with clown fish. Also, P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney. That's all I have to say about that.

3. Up: I was hiding under your porch because I love you! I was going to leave it at two but I just can't imagine going through this era and not mentioning Up. After all, it received 5 Academy Award nominations and received the Awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score. I remember going to see this and thinking it was going to be a colorful little movie about a cranky old man and some balloons, and good for several laughs. For the most part I was correct, but if you've seen the first ten minutes of this film you can sort of see where I'm going when I say I needed a whole lot of happy to get over all that sad. I can't even think about the dynamic between Carl and Ellie without tearing up. And on that note, I think I may have left some onions out on the kitchen counter.

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Very Pin-teresting Tale

Let me preface this by saying there was a time in my life when I looked at tourists, draped in full regalia (backpacks, fanny packs, old school Canon camera with awesomely colored neck strap), and thought “I would die of embarrassment before looking like that in public.” So with that in mind, here is a picture my husband took of me right before boarding Pirates of the Caribbean in March of 2011:

That is what happens when you drink the Disney kool-aid ladies and gentlemen. Behold it in all its nerdy glory.

I blend in well. I'm a blender.
You can’t see my lanyard in this particular picture but I am an absolute Disney pinaholic. When I went to WDW for the first time in October of 2008 I saw people walking around with pin lanyards on but I didn’t understand what they were. They just reminded me of how my mom used to describe the pin trading that would go on when the Olympics were in Canada many years back. It wasn’t until our last few days of vacation that I really took an interest in them. I got a nice pink lanyard thinking it would be a great souvenir to keep my keys on when we returned home, and the person who sold it to me (at the pin stand just outside Tusker House Restaurant in Animal Kingdom) suggested I take a look at the pins they had there. I left that stand with Mickey & Minnie in their wedding clothes, baby Pooh with a honey pot, Mickey dressed as a ghost, and Lady & the Tramp. I was officially hooked after that. We were broke newlyweds and as far as a pin budget went we had just blown it, but as it is with any good addiction it eventually became something that I was willing to invest a whole lot of money I don’t have in to!

Now our pin buying routine consists of me purchasing a lot of about 25-30 pins from a seller on eBay about 4 weeks prior to our departure date. Usually these are hidden Mickey pins (pins given to Cast Members to trade in the parks), and there have been a few occasions where I’ve gotten some that were originally part of a starter set. Nothing fancy, but every now and then you get some interesting ones that you wouldn’t typically find on sale in the parks. I usually keep about 10 of the ones from the lot I receive and use the rest to trade in the parks.

If you are interested in buying lots from eBay I have a couple tips. As with any eBay purchase, make sure you’re buying from a trusted seller. I usually go through the sellers other items and reviews and make sure they’re an experienced pin seller to ensure that I’m getting someone who will be knowledgeable about pin trading if I have to make a return for some reason. Also make sure that they guarantee you won’t be receiving Sedesma pins, and that they explicitly state that all their pins are able to be traded at Disney parks. The latter statement constitutes a guarantee by the seller that they can be used for their intended purpose, so if you have a problem at the park and are unable to trade due to a bad pin, with any luck you can get your money back. You can also make sure that they guarantee there will be no duplicates in the lot. This has never been important to me since I always plan on trading all of my pins, and last time I specifically requested a duplicate lot because it made the shipping time faster. So if you don’t care about duplicates, sometimes those lots can be a little cheaper. I’ve never had a problem with any of the lots I’ve bought from eBay.

After all the trading is done and the ears are put up for the season, Dr. Dreiz and I like to display our pins on a cork board we picked up at Staples. We got the idea from some of the Cast Members that participated in the Disney college program when they told us that they frequently have cork boards in their apartments where they showcase the various pins they’ve been given. Here is our latest cork board: 

Every one of our Disney pins has its’ own special story. I can usually tell you where I was when I bought or traded the pin, and the significance of its purchase. For example, in the bottom right hand corner of the pin board about three rows up you'll see two baby versions of Belle and Tinkerbell. I traded for these when we took our nieces to WDW for the first time. They're twins, and every time I look at those pins I'm reminded of the magical time we had with them. I’ve included a couple of my favorites and a little story about each one, I hope you enjoy reading about them as much as I enjoyed acquiring them!

2011 International Food & Wine Festival : This is the first special event pin we ever purchased. We bought it right outside the American pavilion from a very nice Italian grandma type who insisted we head over to Via Napoli for their pizza. Turns out she was from the same area in Italy that my husbands grandma was from! We told her that we just found out that we were expecting a baby in June and she was even more insistent that I get some pizza in me. She was one of my favorite conversations from the entire trip. When you start pin trading you meet a lot of interesting Cast Members, especially at Epcot. If it's not too busy it's always fun to engage them in conversation, you may learn things about the park that you never knew!

Star Wars Rebel Alliance: This one is my second favorite pin in the collection. I had seen it on several occasions but for some reason always passed over it. Thinking back, I'm not sure why I didn't purchase it when we attended Star Wars Weekends. I finally decided on our last trip that I had to have it. It combines the two things I love the most in this world (that is until my daughter arrives in June): Star Wars, and Disney! They also have a similar pin symbolizing the Empire although I was unable to find it on the last trip. With any luck I will find it on the next one, and if not they are always in good supply on eBay. If you check out the pin board, you'll see that we have an entire Star Wars collection. My husbands favorite is Yoda holding a Mickey ice cream and waiting in line for a ride he is clearly not tall enough to be on!

Mickey's Philharmagic: This pin is definitely not the most spectacular of the bunch. Not even close. But Philharmagic is my favorite attraction and a pin dedicated to it's awesomeness is a rare find. This is my absolute number one favorite pin. We bought this one outside Space Mountain on a rainy night during Extra Magic Hours, along with a Living With The Land pin. I have a Philharmagic shirt with the same duck butt logo on it, and it's my favorite thing to wear! I can't look at that pin without thinking of all the amazing sights and smells that come with seeing Philharmagic. I would argue that this particular attraction is part of the quintessential Disney experience. 
Pirates of the Caribbean cursed treasure: This is definitely in the top three. Nothing fancy, but it's a dead ringer for the ones in the movies, and it's about the same size I would imagine cursed pirate treasure would be. I like it so much because it looks like a legitimate coin and I always imagine Johnny Depp flipping it back and forth between his fingers and taunting Barbosa. There is also a version of this pin that has a Mickey head on it instead of the skull, but I wanted the one that looked like the movie version. 

Haunted Mansion Portrait: This is one of my husbands favorite pins. We purchased this one in Frontierland. It's a fairly large pin and requires two back to stay on the lanyard, one of which we always manage to lose! I love looking at this one and thinking "Is this room actually stretching!?" There were other versions as well that featured the scenes from the various portraits and included characters like Daisy Duck and Minnie Mouse. 

Disney family car decals: these ones are special because they took awhile to find. I was dead set on getting one for each of us, which meant I had to go in search of a man, woman, and two dogs! I found all of these at Epcot, and even received one in the lot I had purchased on eBay. They are hidden Mickey pins, which means they are originally given only to Cast Members and are never for sale, so you can only acquire them through trading or buying them from a second hand source. During this vacation we also bought the matching decals to put on my car when we arrived home. On our last vacation when we found out we (mostly me) were pregnant the hunt was on for the baby decal and my husband even insisted that we get two just in case it was twins! Better safe than sorry I suppose! These mean a great deal to me and I will always make sure to update them as our family grows.

Animal Kingdom Lodge: This one brings back several memories. We first found out we'd be expecting our precious Ryleigh Noelle during a beautiful sunrise in a room overlooking the Arusha savannah. That in itself will stay with me forever, but if you've ever been to AKL you know that when you walk in to Jambo House the intoxicating scent of woodsmoke is something that you won't soon forget. While there we made sure to pick up one of the Happy Birthday buttons and one of the employees was gracious enough to write "Happy Birthday Baby!" on it, so that we would have it for the day when Ryleigh chooses to make her entrance in to the world.

 Well that about sums up my pin trading knowledge and experiences. If you're a fan of Mouse Tales on Facebook I'm always happy to answer questions related to pin trading, and on Thursdays at 9PM EST you can head on over to Disney Guru's Facebook page for a Q&A and I would be more than happy to answer your questions there as well, as would my husband Kyle (or Dr. Dreiz as he's known by his fans now!)