Backlot Express at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 2.07.17 PMDisney’s Hollywood Studios is in the early stages of a major refurbishment, which will result in additional lands in a larger park. Many of the attractions are closed, or have been slated to shut down, and we are still not sure what will remain of the current DHS. Rumor and speculation point to Star Wars Land taking over most of the left side of the park, replacing much, if not all, of the Echo Lake area.

During my last visit to Walt Disney World, The Mature MouseTM had the opportunity to grab a bite at the Backlot Express. This quick-service restaurant may not be around much longer at DHS, so The Mature MouseTM wanted to write a review of his unique experience at this quick and casual restaurant.IMG_7175

The menu at the Backlot Express is the usual American cuisine found in most Disney quick-service resturants: hamburger and cheeseburger, turkey club, hot dog, etc. I had the 8-piece chicken breast nuggets, with French fries. The chicken was moist, and the fries were crisp. The star attraction of the meal was an incredible Olaf cupcake. It was a huge, moist carrot cake, with cream cheese frosting, topped with a white chocolate Olaf.

IMG_7172The restaurant is themed as a functioning studio workshop. There is an organized chaos in the storage of props and equipment, with background music featuring theme songs from old TV shows. The restaurant is very clean, but the Imagineers have included faux dirt, dust, and wear on exposed piping. This restaurant experience is well themed for the current, and previous, iteration of Disney’s Hollywood Studio. Whether it will last the next restructuring of this park is yet to be seen.IMG_7177IMG_7178

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Please use the link to visit The Mature Mouse™ store for logo merchandise. Many of the items would make great additions to your vacation gear and attire.IMG_2098

And, make sure you consult Jennie Nowers about your next Disney vacation. Tell her that The Mature Mouse™ sent you and receive a special gift from Jennie with your next booking.

Welcome to Disney Springs!

Downtown Disney is now officially Disney Springs. Here is an overview from Two Girls and a Mouse Tale. They discuss the changes already in place, and the construction still under way.

Elly and Caroline's Magical Disney Moments

It’s official, Disney held a renaming christening party today for Disney Springs, the shopping and dining district formerly known as Downtown Disney!

9/29/15: Lunchtime crowd gathers at DTD for the name changing ceremony. 9/29/15: Lunchtime crowd gathers at DTD for the name changing ceremony.

New signage has gone up at WDW for Disney Springs. They no longer say Downtown Disney. New signage went up at WDW last week for Disney Springs. They no longer say ‘Downtown Disney’.

Major construction continues at a fast pace from one end of Disney Springs to the other, and on all the roadways in-between!

Some concept art of what Disney Springs will look like in Spring 2016:

Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs. Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs.  Opened today.

Mickey at the grand opening of M 9/29/15: Mickey at the grand opening of Morimoto Asia today.

Disney Springs Town Center (opening in 2016). Disney Springs Town Center (opening in 2016).

Marketplace, West Side Marketplace, West Side

The Landing (formerly Pleasure Island). The Landing (formerly Pleasure Island).

Disney Springs logo Official Disney Springs logo

Video of the backstory of Disney Springs:  Disney Springs 2016  

What DTD will look like in Spring 2016. What DTD will look like as Disney Springs in Spring 2016 (lake view).

We’re less than a…

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Chapter 9: Being a guest of Disney’s Magic Kingdom

As noted in Chapter 4: Our Disney vacation plan, we recognized that we would need a morning to sleep-in midway through our vacation week, so we should plan for an evening at the Magic Kingdom. Our first visit to the Magic Kingdom is scheduled around a 4:30 Be Our Guest ADR.

The new Festival of Fantasy parade is just beginning as we enter Town Square. We climb the stairs to the train station to get a better view. The parade is just making its turn around the hub. We decide to take the train to FantasylandCastle Door in order to avoid the crowd down Main Street and the hub. This would provide an opportunity to stroll through the New Fantasyland on our way to Be Our Guest.

We arrive at the restaurant shortly before 4 p.m. We give our name to the host, who is in a guardhouse at the entrance to the bridge leading to the castle of the Beast. We are given a typical plastic square alert device you receive at most restaurants, and we are allowed to pass onto the bridge. The gates at the end of the bridge are still closed, and there are a few peoIMG_1698ple already waiting. We take this time to enjoy the incredible view of Maurice’s cottage, and the gargoyles on the bridge. The styling is so well done; you have the sense that you are standing awaiting admittance to the Beast’s castle, not a restaurant.

IMG_1690The gates open and the small crowd moves forward to wait near the door of the castle. Wait staff, in period costume reminiscent of the movie, begin coming out the door to find their guests. We are escorted into the castle and the world of the Beast. There is a beautiful stained glass window by the entrance that depicts the marriage of Belle and the Prince.

Our tableIMG_1695 is against the back wall, which affords us a perfect view of the entire dining room. The familiar sights and sounds of the movie overcome us. Instead of an empty ballroom for dancing, there are tables of various sizes to accommodate the dinner guests. Chandeliers are maIMG_1694ssive and beautiful, and architecture is purely French provincial. At the other end of the room, centered on the wall, are ceiling high windows that, through Disney Imagineering magic, are looking at snow falling on mountain peaks. Amazing.

IMG_1692 There is a red rose, made from a coiled napkin, at each table setting. The food is very good, and the service impeccable. Our waitress notices our anniversary celebration buttons and brings us a serving of The Gray Stuff on a plate that has Happy Anniversary writtIMG_1693en in icing. We hear an exclamation that the master of the house is on his way, and the Beast strolls through the dinning room. As we are leaving our table, our waitress invites us to explore the castle. She also points out that there will be an opportunity to meet the master of the castle, the Beast, on our way out.

We IMG_1691tour the West Wing, where we see the painting of the Prince turn to the Beast each time there is a flash of lightening and a clash of thunder. On a table by thIMG_1689e window, sitting under a glass dome, is the enchanted rose, which is still loosing petals. In the library, we find a giant music box, built by Belle’s father, Maurice.

On our way out of the castle, we do indeed have an opportunity to meet the Beast. He is much friendlier than I had expected.

We head to the Haunted Mansion after dinner. This will be my first time on this ride since I was 14 years old. It is all I remember and more, thanks to various refurbishments over the years. There are a few added scenes, like the stairway to the attic, which was not part of the original ride. And, those ghostly hitchhikers at the end of the ride are capable of more Disney magic than they were 42 years ago.

We end our evening with a viewing of Mickey’s PhilharMagic. This 3D movie is a concert featuring all your favorite Disney characters. Donald Duck is in charge of preparing the orchestra for Mickey, so you know nothing will go as planned and Donald will surely lose his cool.

I started planning my next Disney World Vacation by calling Jennie Nowers. When the Cool Summer Savings were released, Jennie was up early applying these savings to my trip, which saved me 15% on the price of my resort stay. I did not need to do a thing. Tell her that The Mature Mouse™ sent you and receive a special gift from Jennie with your next booking.

Please visit The Mature Mouse™ store for logo merchandise. Many of the items would make outstanding additions to your vacation gear and attire.

i_am_a_mature_mouse_water_bottle baseball_baseball_cap

Dining Plans at Walt Disney World

Chip and Company have put together an overviewing of the various dining plans offered to Walt Disney guests who are staying at a resort on sight. Participating in a Disney Dining Plan is one of the things that makes a Walt Disney World vacation so relaxing for The Mature Mouse. I appreciate an all inclusive vacation so that I can enjoy the Disney experience without worrying about extra costs. I have purchased the Disney Dining Plan for our last visit, which afforded us 1 table-service meal a day. As I stated in a previous posts, for a few of these meals we chose fine-dining Disney resturants. For my next trip I am looking at the Quick Service Plan.

Do you use a meal plan when staying on sight? If so, which plan have you used? Do you think the dining plans are worth the cost, or do you pay out of pocket for your daily meals?

If you are indeed a mature fan of Disney, a mature mouse, please use the link to visit The Mature Mouse™ store for logo merchandise. And, do not forget to consult Jennie Nowers about your next Disney vacation. Tell her that The Mature Mouse™ sent you and receive a special gift from Jennie with your next booking.

Chapter 7: Disney Magic and Romance at the California Grill

Our Walt Disney World vacation was a celebration of our 20th anniversary, and we chose to make an ADR at the California Grill as an elegant and romantic way to commemorate the occasion. It was important to us to fill this experience with as much Disney magic as possible. After all, that is why we came to WDW for our anniversary. To that end, we planned to walk from our resort at Disney’s Beach Club to the front of Epcot, by way of the International Gateway that leads into the World Showcase. From the Epcot monorail station, we could ride to the Ticket and Transportation Center, transfer to the resort loop in order to ride into the Contemporary lobby. It would take us about 90 minutes, but it would be a truly Disney experience.

On our way through the World Showcase, we stopped on the bridge that leads to France and had a Disney photographer take our picture with the France pavilion behind us. This certainly added to the romance of the evening. We also stopped at a Disney photographer at the entrance to Future World. He took a picture of us in front of a fountain and Spaceship Earth. It was a little further to the front of the park than we had imagined, and it was a warm afternoon, but we took it slow and enjoyed our first look at Epcot.   Our first ride on the monorail gave us an extensive view of the expanse of Walt Disney World between Epcot and the Seven Seas Lagoon. Luckily, we did not need to wait long for the resort monorail. This ride gave us an opportunity to get a glimpse of the Polynesian and Grand Floridian Resorts, as well as the entrance to the Magic Kingdom Park. There we were, on the monorail, traveling in true Disney style.

We arrived at the Contemporary with some time to kill, so we explored the massive lobby. There are several gift shops, and the beautiful 90-foot-tall mosaic by Mary Blair, which celebrates the Grand Canyon and the American Southwest. I was most fascinated by how smoothly the various monorail trains glide in and out of the foyer.

Our dinner reservation at the California Grill was for 7:30. My wife did not realize that I had left special instructions with our reservation. It was important for us to have a table next to the window to give us the best view of the Magic Kingdom. FL0005_dtI had also placed a special order with the Disney florist for a rhinestone tiara, which comes sitting on a rhinestone-studded pillow, surrounded by roses, on a silver-tone plate. This surprise was to be delivered to the restaurant earlier that day and placed on our table before we were seated. During our check in at the restaurant podium on the 2nd floor of the resort, I tried to convey who we were and the special instructions for our reservations without openly telling the hostess. It was a little awkward for me, and I had no way of knowing if things were going as planned when they finally called our name.

The hostess instructed us to follow a cast member to a private elevator, which took us up to the restaurant on the 15th floor. DSC04639-940x624A wine wall greets you as you exit the elevator. The California Grill has a curved wall of windows with a vista of the lagoon, the Floridian and Polynesian Resorts, and the Magic Kingdom. The entire dining room opens to the bank of windows, IMG_1413but it was the tables nearest and next to the windows that offer the guests the best view. There are linen tablecloths and napkins, as well as a candle centerpiece. The décor has a retro feel, and the rug design echoes the southwest mural in the lobby of the Contemporary.DSC04633-940x624

As we approached our table, I could tell that all my arrangements, along with some Disney magic, had gone as planned. On our table for two, which was next to a window, sat the tiara and roses. The staff at the California Grill had spread Mickey glitter all over the table and left us a note wishing us a happy anniversary. My wife was very surprised and very happy. OuIMG_6456-940x704r meal was delicious and the wait staff was very friendly and accommodating. I ordered the Pork Two Ways, which is a plate of grilled tenderloin, goat cheese polenta, mushrooms, lacquered belly and applesauce. We took our time, and ended our evening with a spectacular view of Wishes. The restaurant turns down the lights and the audio from the Magic Kingdom is piped in to the restaurant.

We were surprised that there were many young children at the restaurant that evening. There was a young couple, with a baby in an infant seat and a toddler, sitting near us. This family had come in shortly after 9 and stayed through Wishes. Most, if not all, Disney restaurants try to accommodate young children with different menu items. However, these parents had to, or decided to, bring infant and toddler food into the restaurant. I can only assume that they chose to come to the California Grill for the view of the fireworks, but their children seemed too tired to enjoy the show. I would not bring young children to this restaurant; they would not be able to appreciate the fine-dining experience.

Have you ever had the opportunity to dine at the California Grill, or one of the other fine dining restaurants on Disney property? What are your go-to restaurants for romantic evenings? How do you prefer to travel around Walt Disney World? Do you make an effort to ride the monorail during your vacation, even if you are not staying at one of the Magic Kingdom resorts?

In the next chapter of The Mature Mouse I will discuss our trip to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, including our lunch at the Sci-Fi Drive-in Theater Restaurant. If you are indeed a mature fan of Disney, a mature mouse, please use the link to visit The Mature Mouse store for logo merchandise. And, do not forget to consult Jennie Nowers about your next Disney vacation. Tell her that The Mature Mouse sent you.