Monday, November 29, 2010

Back from the World...

We just returned from a week-long vacation to Walt Disney World, and it's back to reality today. But the good news (I think) is that I may have some material for a few blog entries coming up over the next week or two. Today's entry, however, is just a quick recap of the trip, hitting the high points, so to speak.

We were in Florida for seven days, Saturday to Saturday. We spent five of those days at Disney parks, and two at Universal's Islands of Adventure. We had five days of perfect weather, and two days when we had to deal with a bit of mid-day rain and slightly cooler conditions. Very nice weather overall.

We had planned on spending one day at Islands of Adventure, and one day at Universal Studios park, but it didn't work out that way. Our first day was spent waiting in lines and getting drenched. It wasn't supposed to rain that day (Monday); I believe they were giving it a 10% chance. But rain it did, and we were caught unprepared.

Our first line was the line to get into Mythos. We had booked what we thought was a reservation for lunch, but we learned that they really don't take "reservations" per se, just priority seating. So our 12:30 time was just a what? An estimate? We did finally get seated right around 1:30 for lunch, blowing over an hour just doing nothing (because there isn't much to do in the Lost Continent, and the girl at the counter said that if we missed it when we were called, we could just tell her when we got back and we'd be moved back to the top of the list) and then another hour eating. Then there was a line to get a ticket to stand in line to wait to get into Hogsmead. Then a wait in that line, then finally a nice long wait in the line to get on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Then a wait to get into Ollivander's, Makers of Fine Wands. I'd guess this one was close to two hours. (I know. You're saying, "Sucker!" That's what I felt like.) You see a quick show where one kid (not either of mine) was chosen to have a wand selected by the proprietor and to work some spells on various objects in the store. Then you buy a wand, whether you intended to or not, because you stood in line for TWO HOURS!!!

I said high points, didn't I? The point was that we didn't get much done that first day because of the rain, which kept us huddled under an umbrella used by the line attendant for the Flight of the Hippogriff ride, and because of all the lines. But the butterbeer made it all worth it!

So we spent our second day at the same park, and hit more rides, including the Forbidden Journey ride again.

The rest of the week was spent on Disney property, one day for each park, with two (the short Saturday of our arrival and the Friday right before we left) at Epcot. We had some really good meals at Chefs De France, Le Cellier, the California Grill, the Brown Derby, the Yak and Yeti, Sanaa, and the 50's Prime Time Cafe. We stayed at Kidani Village at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, but didn't really take the time to enjoy the resort itself - something we will be certain to rectify next time. I'm thinking that perhaps we'll skip the Disney parks altogether.

We hit most of the high points on rides, too. We did NO water rides, just because it felt a little cool to walk around wet all day. But we did most everything else at the parks. Saw a few things we'd not seen before, including the Hall of Presidents and the Festival of the Lion King show. The boys tried a couple of Kim Possible missions in the World Showcase and that was actually pretty fun for them!

So I think I have some more detailed posts coming up over the course of the next few weeks, and even some photos! It's good to be back! I needed to get back to work to get some rest time in!


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Your blogging will resume after Thanksgiving...

Next week will be a busy week, and I likely won't have time to make any entries in this (blog or either of my other blogs.

So if you've been looking in, please don't take this "week to ten day" period of inactivity as an indication that this blog is going dark. Check back with me after Thanksgiving. I may have some things of interest to write about then. (Or not...)

To everyone who ever looks at this blog: Happy Thanksgiving!!!


Monday, November 15, 2010

Disney and Dentistry - Walt's Words

Oddly enough, after posting my last entry, I went to a seminar on comprehensive dentistry, and I opened the binder that was provided with all the handouts and notes from the class. On page 3 of the binder, the instructor gives us this quote:

It seems to me shallow and arrogant for any man in these times to claim he is completely self-made, that he owes all his success to his own unaided efforts. Many hands and hearts and minds generally contribute to anyone's notable achievements.

Walt Disney

The course was using these words to illuminate his views on the value of our dental team, including hygienists, assistants, and clerical staff. When you think about it in terms of Walt himself, he was obviously talking about all the talented individuals who did a lot of the heavy lifting in the process of making Walt Disney Studios the huge success that it became.

What's it have to do with Disney today? Probably very little. Probably has more in common with Pixar, where the team effort of all those guys produced the end result we see today every time we watch a Pixar animated release in the theaters. And maybe that's part of the problem at Disney today (assuming there IS a problem at all!), that it's way too huge to innovate anymore, whether it be in animation or in the theme park industry.

When you think of it, the newest part of Disney is probably the Disney Vacation Club, and that IS in fact a different way of packaging the concept of time shares. And their hotels and resorts are very much destinations in and of themselves. A very successful, very profitable business for the Disney Company. Maybe that spirit of innovation, of lots of talented hands, hearts and minds coming together to make something really cool, is alive and well in this branch of their business. A lot of people scoff at DVC, or resent it, but if you've ever stayed at one of their resorts, you'd probably agree that they're great places. With resorts in Hilton Head, Vero Beach and soon, Hawaii, they aren't limited to the theme parks either.

But that's probably a blog entry on its own. I just found it rather coincidental that I came across more references to Disney as it related to dentistry.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Disney and Dentistry

Some people who read this blog might know that in real life I am a dentist. And if it wasn't for dentistry, I may not have come upon my love of Disney, even as late in life as I did, because the reason we decided to first visit WDW with our kids back in 2004 (I think) was because the American Dental Association was having their annual meeting in Orlando that year. It also happened to be a really bad hurricane year, and we got to Orlando about an hour before they closed the airport. Hurricane Jeanne hit the next day and we spent our entire Sunday, our first day at Disney, cowering in our room at the Port Orleans French Quarter resort, munching on cereal and snack foods, waiting for the winds to pass. (It took them all day to do so because after Jeanne passed to the south of Orlando, she took a right turn and headed north. So we got the high winds and storms twice, sort of, with very little let-up in the middle.)

It so happens that the ADA held their annual meeting in Orlando again this year. We didn't go, because it's in the middle of October and our kids are in school. And school's important to us; we don't feel comfortable taking them out for Disney vacations anymore. But it didn't stop the ADA from having their meeting.

So what's the connection to Disney, you might ask? Well, apparently a hugely popular course titled "Disney's Approach to Quality Service" was on the course list, led by facilitator Tom Thomson of the Disney Institute. This course discussed Disney business philosophies and relating them to dentistry, mostly about anticipating and reacting "to patients' needs, wants and emotions." He drew parallels between the emotions people feel before they come in for their dental visit, perhaps their worries, and the emotions and worries that people have before signing up for a Disney vacation. How we deal with these issues might be different, but the need to deal with them is the same.

I found it interesting that even the ADA recognizes that Disney has something good to add to their program!


Film - Disney Trailers

When we went to see MEGAMIND, I noted two trailers for the anticipated upcoming Disney releases, TRON: LEGACY and TANGLED.

Both looked like fun films. I haven't been following the hype for TRON: LEGACY, and just a little of the pre-release information on TANGLED, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that Jeff Bridges is returning in the sequel to TRON. Aside from that, the look of the new film is incredible, if the trailer is any indication. (Or maybe I'm easily impressed.)

TANGLED "looks" like a Pixar film, with the crisp computer animation and detailed backgrounds. But I was unable to get a sense of how the story will play out. From the trailer, it looks like it will have it's share of funny bits. If past history is a guide, I think it will probably be a pretty good film.

TRON: LEGACY opens on December 17th.

TANGLED opens on November 24th.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Film Review: MEGAMIND

I took the boys to watch the only animated film out there right now (and they weren't interested in seeing Secretariat), MEGAMIND from Dreamworks.

For those who might not know, the story of this film is that two "babies" are sent to Earth for some reason, sort of a variation on the "Superman" theme where Clark Kent's real parents put him in some sort of spaceship and send him away from their dying planet. The two babies become Metro Man, protector of Metro City, and Megamind, who ended up as a child in a "prison" for the criminally gifted. Voiced respectively by Brad Pitt and Will Ferrell, these two grow up more or less together, attending a school together where Metro Man is always the beloved one and Megamind, with his giant blue noggin, is the outcast.

From there, the story is predictable, riffing on superhero/supervillain stories, with a love story that is just about what you're probably thinking it is. Tina Fey voices lovely news reporter Roxanne Ritchi, who Megamind is constantly kidnaping. That's played as the cliche it is in many of these sorts of stories, and because it's played that way, it actually works. Metro Man is the too-good-to-be-real superhero who is always foiling Megamind's plots, and if I wasn't seeing things, Ben Stiller was credited as the voice of the boring clerk Bernard, whose identity Megamind usurps in order to try to relate to Roxanne.

This movie didn't hold a candle to Dreamworks' last offering, How To Train Your Dragon, as far as the story goes. The look of the movie, especially the city vistas, is really cool. My kids loved the way the skyscrapers looked in Metro City, and I thought it was a beautifully animated movie. The 3D worked really well on this one, and I'm glad we saw it in that version.

And I don't want to suggest that it isn't a fun movie, because it is. Dreamworks' offerings are always a cut above all of the competition not named Disney or Pixar up until now, and this was no exception. It is one I will probably buy on DVD when it comes out.


Monday, November 1, 2010

What is it about Disney?

I was thinking about this over the weekend as we prepare for our upcoming WDW vacation, wondering what it is about Disney that attracts me?

If you've read any of my old posts, you probably know that I've come sort of late to Disney in my life. Not to a love of Disney movies; I've always loved them from the time I was a little kid and 101 Dalmations captured my fancy, along with many others. But the parks - to them I am a late-comer. I went in high school with my HS band, when only the Magic Kingdom was built, and I just don't remember much of it. I mean, I remember having a blast there, riding Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion and Pirates, and the Skyway, but for some reason it didn't register that Disney was doing something more than other, more local "theme" parks were doing. Right around that time, Marriot's Great America (now a Six Flags park) opened, and in hindsight it is obvious that they were trying to connect to the Disney theming, but on a less intricate, less detailed level. With "lands" like Hometown Square, County Fair, Yukon Territory, Yankee Harbor, and a few other America-themed areas, they were sort of trying to tie into that feeling that you get when you walk down Main Street, USA at a Disney MK type park.

But I'm getting off track here. Since we chose to combine a Disney vacation with a professional meeting held in Orlando in 2004, we've been to WDW 4 times (including that first one) and Disneyland twice. And it was really after the second trip that I fell in love with Disney as a destination...not after the first trip. So what was it?

Well, part of it was that my kids were older at that second trip. Not a lot older, but when you're in preschool, two years is a lot. They definitely enjoyed the trip more the second time. My little one wasn't as afraid of different rides and shows. I mean, Hopper's appearance in It's Tough To Be A Bug was still a little frightening, and there were a few loud noises on Pirates that startled him, but generally he did well on most everything. And my older boy was game for some coasters, like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and he was ready for Splash Mountain.

But the other thing that was different was that we went to Epcot for the first time. We didn't make dining reservations; we just took what we could get, and what we were able to get was dinner at the restaurant in Italy and lunch at the Morocco pavilion. But we were bowled over by the dining choices and by the architecture of those pavilions. And we were knocked out by Soarin'! We loved Epcot!

And when I left there that time, I remember thinking, as I would drive to work, that someone, some entertainment company, could do something like Epcot anywhere. You could go to visit Morocco, or France or Italy, any time of the year! Good weather was only part of the equation when most of the attractions were inside show buildings. And good design should make someone able to draw up a place that would have elements that would work well in winter, as well as elements for summer. It started me on a thought experiment that I'm still messing with - designing a "resort" and "theme park" complex somewhere around where I live.

So that's part of it - the idea that I'm sort of studying Disney to further this thought experiment of mine. But there's more to it than that, certainly. Because there is a sort of "magic" that comes with walking through the gates of the Magic Kingdom, or Disneyland, or Epcot, or any Disney park. There's a magic in staying in their hotels, getting excellent customer service, having good dining experiences regularly, with boarding a bus or a monorail and knowing that your destination is somewhere completely different than anywhere else on earth, at least in *my* experience.

What is it about Disney for you? Is it the connection to the well loved films and TV programs? Is it your kids' reactions to the castle and the characters, to the iconic attractions? Is it the look and feel of the place? Is it the hotels? The restaurants? Is there something about Disney that doesn't have to do with "content" per se?

I'd love to hear what other people think about this.