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Keane and Jenny's "D23's 2011 Magic and Merriment" Trip Report, Part 5

Day 5, D23's 2011 Magic and Merriment: Day 1, Part 1

Index (M&M is D23's 2011 Magic and Merriment Event)

Magic and Merriment
Disney Legend Kathryn Beaumont and D23 representative Debbie Carlos.
Who: Me, Keane. Disney junkie, scribe of this report.
     BYPT Jenny. Enabler to said junkie.
     BYPT Cathy. Jenny's help this trip.
     Karen. My GPS. (A Garmin nuvi 1390)
     (BYPT. Big Yellow Penske Truck. In case you needed to know.)
What: Christmastime at Disney World. Again. But different.
Where: Walt Disney World, Port Orleans - Riverside.
Why: It's Christmas at Disney World, and D23's Magic & Merriment event.
When: December 4 to 14, 2011

All Disclaimers from Part 1 still apply.
Thank you.

Day 5, Friday, December 9.
D23 - Magic and Merriment, Day 1, Part 1

DHS is closed today. Something about Pop Warner. This will make the other three parks more crowded than normal. My fear is tonight, after Animal Kingdom closes at 6pm. Epcot will probably be *extremely* crowded, since MK closes at 7pm for a hard-ticket MVMCP, but even the Party might be insane due to the weekend night and the lack of the third late-night park.

We should be relatively protected from that, though. Today is Day 1 of Magic and Merriment!

For those that don't remember the fiasco of two years ago, Magic and Merriment (M&M) sold out in seconds, making some guests furious that so many tickets were given to media people, rather than making them available to the guests. Who was the event for anyway?

Last year, D23 apparently expanded the number of guests that could attend, but still sold out rather quickly.

But this year, ticket availability was a matter of days, rather than minutes. There would be two events, the first on December 9 and 10 (Friday and Saturday), the second on December 11 and 12. I also suspect that there are a lot of guests doing the backstage tour "Holiday D-Lights", a subset of what we'll see during M&M, but might relieve some of the demand for these tickets.

Based on the number of people signed up to see the Castle Suite on the first day, we estimated there were about 200 guests for each event. (See the planning section of this trip report for how the tickets were sold.) Now there could have been some guests who didn't sign up to see the castle suite, but... Right.

Even doing the math (gasp!), D23 had the suite for 6 hours, at 36 guests per hour, could only show 216 guests the suite.

The opening sessions (for the most part), would be introductions and histories of some of the things we would see later. The Candlelight Processional, the event planning and decorations around the world, and the history and design of Cinderella's Castle Suite. Our special guest/Disney Legend would be Kathryn Beaumont, voice of Alice (the original one) and Wendy Darling of Peter Pan fame.

The event would also include reserved seating to the Candlelight Processional (CP), tickets to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP) with a reserved viewing area for the Christmas Parade, backstage tours of the Parade Barn, Scenic Services and Holiday Services. Oh, and other little perks like access to the Hospitality suite in Norway, and a tour of the castle suite. It would end with a dinner after hours in Animal Kingdom.

I'd say it's the ultimate Christmas experience at WDW. I guess it could be three days over two weekends and include the Osborne Lights...

Anyway, Jenny knew nothing of it until yesterday, when it became obvious she would have to know about the event to be able to plan for the event. Clothing, what to bring, where we'll be, etc. It was a Christmas present and payback for the help in September/October. It turns out (at least she claims) she didn't even know the event was taking place.

So no, I guess we won't be doing Potter...
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This was our schedule for today: Friday, December 9, 2011

This should be fun!

We get to the bus stop to Epcot about 8:15am. The bus is waiting at the bus stop as we approach, and don't even have to do the fake Russo jog, but get right on.

The crowds are higher than normal because DHS is closed today. It's not really a concern in Epcot today, but I'm worried about MVMCP tonight, when there will be two parks closed. Guests might pay for the party ticket to escape the crowds at Epcot, the only "free" park open tonight. Well, we're supposed to have reserved viewing for the parade tonight.

Our first task of today is to get to East Hall World Showplace. Could you say that again, please?

East Hall World Showplace is/was known as Millennium Village. It seems to be fulfilling its original purpose (post millennium) as special event space. It's been used during the October marathon event, the Pixar weekend when Cars 2 opened, and for the D23 event today for example.

We walk across Epcot with a purpose, the slower we go, the longer the line. Unlike the May D23 event it's not a 3 minute walk from your room. This event covers 3 theme parks, so there was no central, convenient resort to stay at.

The line when we get there extends from the door to World Showplace to the big doors that normally closes this area off. Registration starts a few minutes late, but eventually the line starts moving. They eventually close the big doors, because if some guest sees a line, he wants to stand in it. Or at least know what it's for. There's a smaller door a CM guards, and allows access to late attendees.

Morning Skies and World Showplace
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We get up to the pavilion, and the realistic exterior turns out to be a vinyl-like facade. We get inside, and I get out all my credentials (D23 card, Photo ID, registration confirmation), register our arrival, pick up our M&M credentials and schedule. They put a foam/sticker snowflake on everyone's credentials. We will eventually learn that the color border on our credentials puts us in one of two groups, and the color snowflake further subdivides us for the backstage tours tomorrow. So in all, it's to juggle six groups doing backstage tours at three different locations on Saturday. That's roughly 35/group.

Then like anything else at Disney, we go stand in another line. However, this line is to make our appointment to see the Castle Suite. We are in group B (represented by the green border around our credentials), and I ask for the earliest possible. 10:10am. Done!

Registration (East Hall)
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We go and grab a couple of chairs up in front, with an unobstructed view of the stage, put our stuff there and go get some of the goodies at the breakfast tables.

We're offered sort of a standard continental breakfast, but with apple tortes and these white chocolate macadamia muffins that were *excellent*. Oh yeah, there was some sort of fresh fruit. We talk with another couple at the table. They're here on a full dining plan. They booked that vacation before Magic and Merriment, and rather than doing everything separate, booked the event. So they're dining at all the signature restaurants to use 2 dining credits per meal. It's still a lot of food.

At one point I get up to go to the bathroom before the presentations start and to take pictures of the hall. The place swallows all the tables and attendees. We probably take up only half of the hall, and in no way can you say we're crowded. I don't remember millennium village being so big. :-)

World Showplace
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Then, an encounter with SG's. D23 had set up 35-40 tables, each table having six chairs to the back side of the table, so everyone could face the stage without having to turn around. I get back to the table, and a couple of SG's have taken it upon themselves to bring two other chairs from another table further back and sits at our table, and one of them blocks the view of the center of the stage.

Well, I can only be so polite, so long.

I inform said SG that I had specifically chosen this table to get an unobstructed view of the stage, and could she please move over to unblock the view?

Damn, you'd think I just shot her firstborn. I didn't particularly care. If you look around the room, just how many guests did this same sort of thing? None. She's in some of the pictures, if you want to see an SG in action. HAHAhahaha.... (Said SG finally moved completely over to the left, so she could see the stage, which is why Disney arranged the chairs the way they did in the first place, but I digress...)

We would start with "Sense of the Holidays" presentations, an introduction to the event, the things we would see. The main presentations from the Disney Archives would be the history and background of some of the things we would see later in the event.

There was a welcome, introduction and opening remarks from Debbie Carlos, who kicked the event off.

Sense of the Holidays: Event Planning and Decorating Disney

The first major presentation was by was Alex Caruthers, Imagineer; and Lisa Borotkanics, Holiday Decor Manager. Beyond my cynical view that much of this was a big advertisement for Cruise and DVC (specifically Aulani), they did clear up some things.

They can pretty much do a resort/park overnight.

They have groupies, that stay up all night while they transform a resort.

The flagpole in Town Square (MK) *IS* removable. While the Christmas tree is in Town Square, the flag is moved in front of City Hall. The Eagle on the flagpole should face Washington DC. Who knew?

They no longer put the Christmas Tree in the Rose Garden. While the tree has a pretty big impact while on Main Street, it looked too small and unimpressive next to the Castle in the open areas by the hub.

So now they wait until the parade is filmed, and put the tree up overnight. It's put up in sections with a large crane that remains backstage and lifts the pieces over into town square.

The biggest problem with trying to do a park overnight, is you can only get so much equipment working in the same area. I think they said they can get six lifts on Main Street, without interfering with each other.

Useful lifetime of things like the garland across Main Street, is five years. After that, it's replaced.

We would be at Event Planning and one of the Holiday warehouses tomorrow.

Event Planning and Decorating Disney
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Sense of the Holidays: Candlelight Processional

The next section was by Steve Vagnini, with the history of the Candlelight Processional, from its early days in Disneyland, to Magic Kingdom, and finally to Epcot.

Even as early as December 1955, Walt had something called the "Christmas Bowl" in Disneyland, where guest choirs used to come and sing. It was conducted by Dr. Charles Hirt from 1955 to 1971.

In 1956, Disneyland had its 2nd annual Holiday Festival. This time, the choir, complete with band, lined up on the Main Street Train Station for their presentation.

In 1957, Disneyland held its "Christmas in Many Lands", where representatives from different countries marched in a parade. Stories are told of an astronaut from Mission To Mars marching from Tomorrowland to the parade to represent Mars.

Pre-Candlelight Processional, Disneyland
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It wasn't until 1958, that Disneyland had its first "Candlelight Procession, with the singers moving down Main Street to Sleeping Beauty's Castle.

1959 saw the addition of the living Christmas Tree, a tradition still carried on today.

1960 was the first year the Candlelight Procession had a narrator, Dennis Morgan, and he continued the tradition through 1964 and again in 1968.

Candlelight Processional, Disneyland
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The CP made its way to Disney World on December 18 and 19, 1971. 1200 carolers from 27 choirs and choruses (all from Florida) were represented, and it was conducted by Dr. Fredrick Fennell from the University of Miami. It began at 6pm, and the procession moved from Town Square to Cindy's Castle for an hour-long concert of sacred music. The living Christmas Tree, composed of boys choirs from Orlando to St. Petersburg, was the centerpiece. The narrator was Rock Hudson.

At some point (it's not in my notes) the CP was moved from the Castle to the Main Street Train Station, where it remained until 1993.

Candlelight Processional, Magic Kingdom
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In 1994, the CP was moved to Epcot. The main reason, was the American Gardens Theater, which could better handle the choir on stage, and the masses of guests who wanted to see it.

Since then, it's become a fixture at Epcot. It has been expanded to 3 performances per day, over a period from Thanksgiving to the end of December (over 100 shows per season), narrated by a dozen different celebrities. Along with the Living Christmas Tree, the Voices of Liberty lends a hand to it's moving performance. It's become an annual must-do event for some, drawing standing room only crowds every performance.

Candlelight Processional, Epcot
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It should be noted that the CP in Disneyland is still a difficult ticket to get, with only four performances during December on two days.

We have reserved seats for tonight's 5pm performance with Isabella Rossellini.

Sense of the Holidays: Cinderella Castle Suite

Gary Landrum, who did the show documentation of the design and storylines of the Castle Suite with the original project team did the presentation on Cinderella's Castle Suite.

They always intended to have an apartment in the castle. Walt died before it was ready. Roy and Lillian didn't want the apartment, they didn't entertain in the park like Walt did.

It was the "Year of a Million Dreams" promotion that actually got the ball rolling.

The main project team was Katie Roser (set decorator), Cathy Carver (principal interior designer), Stephen Sylvestri (show producer), and Kyle Miller (graphic artist).

Took about a year to do from start to finish. The idea of the suite had been started and stopped so many times, when they started design, they didn't believe it'd happen. So they went full blown and did whatever they wanted, then they found out a week later the suite had actually been announced, and actually had to get to work...

Of course we're talking Imagineering. The experience has to tell a story. Walt based his version of Cinderella on Charles Perrault's 1697 version, who based his Cinderella castle on Chateau d'Usse (though some argue the castle in MK is based on Mad Ludwig's castle). So they were to base the suite on a medieval bedchamber.

Cinderella Castle Suite, Introduction
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There were four design criteria:

How to tell the story? In the castle breezeway, are the murals by Dorothea Redmond (a watercolorist) and executed in mosaic by Hanns Shaerff, which tells a part of the story of Cinderella.

The suite would get it's inspirations from these murals.

Trivia: The two officials putting the glass slipper on Cindy are fellow Imagineers John Hench, a 65-year Disney employee and one of the most influential designer of Disney parks around the world, and Herbie Ryman who did the original sketch of Disneyland that Walt and Roy took to New York to get financing.

Cinderella Castle Suite, Design and Story
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The Plan:
The Suite is right above the vaulted ceilings of Cindy's Royal Table, and takes entire 4th floor, other than some exterior balconies and hidden stairways in the Foyer. The main suite is 650 sq ft. This is generally smaller than a 1 bedroom villa, but there is no kitchen. And like any real estate, I guess, it's all about location. :-)

Story starts at the Concierge Vestibule. The breezeway in Cindy's castle used to be a double arch wide. The Imagineers took moldings of the existing breezeway, and built the room out. Temporary walls line the breezeway now, making the breezeway a single arch wide.

The Concierge room looks just like it was always there. This room is staffed 24 hours for guests. The room contains period correct French reproduction desk, Asian tapestries, carpets, and a clock that's always set to just before midnight. The furnishings aren't necessarily all from France, since the Royal couple would have bought things from around the world. They do have consistent motifs; pumpkin and wildlife are used throughout.

Mary Blair concept art was used for the design on the elevator, and throughout the suite, even though little of her artwork appeared in the movie. The elevator is actually within a castle turret.

Cinderella Castle Suite, Planning
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They didn't want guests to just step out and see the double beds, so there's a foyer with Cindy motifs, including the glass slipper, crown and scepter. The room is octagonal, to make it feel like you're in a castle turret. Dark paneling, Mary Blair concept artwork lines the walls. Below is a pumpkin carriage mosaic floor. Above are four panels from Charming's carousel to tie the suite into the Fantasyland attraction.

Since the Royal Family would have commissioned an artist to do the artwork for the castle, the Imagineers made Mary Blair the official artist, and her artwork is found throughout the suite as decoration.

Cinderella Castle Suite, Foyer
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Going into the bedroom, the door is angled so you first see the fireplace instead of the beds. The column in the bed chamber is a structural support, so it was cast to look like the columns down in the breezeway. In a real castle, all the walls would be covered with tapestries and drapery to keep the room warm and draft free. Here, it's dialed back here so you can see some of the stonework, so you will always remember you're in the castle...

The screensaver for the HDTV is Cindy's portrait, which has to glow at night, so if you're doing something naughty in bed, Cindy's watching!

Other modern day amenities are hidden, the speakers for the TV are hidden in books and boxes, the clock/radio in an antique box, and the fireplace is fiber optics.

The 17th century secretary desk is authentic, and you open it up for your internet access with electric access, Cindy's personal stationary, etc.

Cinderella Castle Suite, Bed Chamber
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The Parlor is more medieval. It had 6 existing windows, so they rethemed the stained glass windows to tell the story of Cinderella. One wall has a lot of mirror to make the room feel bigger, and the center mirror is a two way affair that hides the second HDTV. The sofa is a sleeper, to hold two more guests for a total of six. Hidden doors hide the DVD player, closet, pillows for the sofa-bed, a safe, etc.

Cinderella Castle Suite, Parlor
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The "Throne" room (aka the royal commode), is situated off the bed chamber. The hot tub has a 30,000 tile mosaic around it, and are done in the style of the Shaerff mosaics in the breezeways. Hidden in it is Walt and Roy's initials, as well as a glass slipper. And who knows how many hidden mickeys. The ceiling above it is a fiber optic star field.

Cinderella Castle Suite, Bath
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There are no plans to open the suite to the general public. It is used by the marketing department, but you can't buy it.

And there you have it. More about the castle suite than you ever wanted to know. I will have my own impressions tomorrow.
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Sense of the Holidays: Kathryn Beaumont

After the Castle Suite presentation, was a 1951 Walt Disney Christmas Show special shown on TV. It starred Walt, Kathryn Beaumont and... the Magic Mirror, voiced by the same guy who did Father Darling and Captain Hook, who are in many stories of Peter Pan, the same character.

It was sponsored by "Johnson and Johnson, makers of Baby Products and Surgical Dressings." Nothing sez Christmas like surgical dressings...

It was pretty...bad. I will also add the disclaimer that the show was 60 years old. I'm not sure why this show was even shown to us, maybe because it had a very young Kathryn Beaumont in it. It was (probably) the earliest Christmas special in the Disney Archives.

Ms. Beaumont was also our Disney Legend guest. I'm not sure why, nether Peter Pan nor Alice in Wonderland had anything to do with Christmas, but it was very nice meeting Wendy Darling.

She would be with us throughout our two-day event, and through the subsequent event after ours.

Kathryn Beaumont
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The "Sense of the Holidays" presentations closed with remarks from Debbie Carlos, where we received several perks and swag for the event.

And we did get swag. An ornament, not sure where it was from, but it's probably a recently retired one. A CD (sound), a D23/M&M scarf (because it was so cold last year, and it's a very nice 6 foot scarf with a D23 logo on one end, and a Magic And Merriment 2011 logo on the other), a cookie (taste), and a 2011 D23 M&M patch.

2011MaM_CD 2011MaM_cookie 2011MaM_Patch Scarf_Ornament
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We are informed how to get to the Norway Reception area, and are reminded that we meet at the American Gardens Theater at 4:15 this afternoon for the Candlelight Processional. As we leave the World Showplace, we handed a ticket for tonight's MVMCP.
Back to Top End December 2011 Trip Report - Part 5.

Jump to: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10

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