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Posts tagged ‘Mickey’

It’s a pilgrimage!

Earlier this year, I discovered that a fantastic Disney resource lives right here in our little college town. Kim is a Disney Vacation Planner, and I wanted to find out what that was like, and she was gracious enough to spend some time and answer some questions for us.

Just Off Main Street can highly recommend Kim’s services in planning your next Disney vacation, find her at kimbowers.offtoneverland.com or on Facebook.

Tell us about yourself:

My name is Kim Bowers, I’m 43, married to my husband Tom for 20 years and have two kids. I grew up in Atlanta, went to school at the University of Georgia and graduated in 1991 with an Early Childhood Education degree.

Tell us about your job:

I provide fee-free booking and planning services for anyone planning a Disney vacation. My clients come to me because they are overwhelmed by the number of decisions that must be made when planning a trip to Walt Disney World, and they have a thousand questions! Which resort to choose? What time of year is best? etc.. I can help you plan your Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise, or any other Disney destination vacation.

It’s true, planning a WDW vacation can be daunting.

I get to know them and what they want, and help them get the very best rates on the package that is just right for them. Then I help them plan out their itinerary. Going to Walt Disney World is not just another vacation – it’s a pilgrimage! People want everything to be magical – and they appreciate the insider guidance. I have several clients who come back to me because they know I stay up to date on everything, and I can fill them in about new attractions and make sure they get the best price. I’ve been doing this for 4 years now.

How did you get started?

After planning several trips for my family and friends, I realized I had a vast (some might say ridiculous) amount of knowledge and a knack for planning. Somehow I had become a walking travel guide! I just knew I could do the job. My background is in teaching preschool, which involves a lot of planning and of course, understanding kids, so I draw on those experiences a lot too.  I loved the idea of having a profession that would keep me connected to Walt Disney World. I turned to the Internet to find out how I could become a travel agent and found Off To Neverland Travel. I applied, interviewed, and was hired as an independent contractor.

So, this isn’t a Disney company?

No. Off To Neverland Travel is an Earmarked agency. That means we are Authorized Disney Travel Planners. That affords us access to the very latest news resources and training. We book directly with Disney, and add our own special services at no extra charge.

Planning Disney vacations for my clients is a lot of fun because I put myself in their shoes and try to anticipate what they will need to know. So in my mind, I go to WDW a lot! And helping people make happy memories is very gratifying. I love to hear from my clients after they travel that my advice and guidance really made their trip run smoothly, or that a character meal I suggested was a highlight of their trip, and so on. It may sound corny but it is an honor to help families make memories that will last a lifetime.

(Ed’s Note: It’s not corny, it’s kind of awesome)

One of my favorite things about my job is a service we provide called reservation monitoring. This is something that won’t happen if you book online or by calling Disney’s reservation line. Once a client books with me, I watch all the discounts that come along. And when one comes up that matches, I apply the savings or offer an upgrade. I can’t ever promise it will happen, but it does quite a bit. It’s not often you get a phone call from someone saying “Guess what you are going to save money!” So, it’s fun to do that!

Do you book other theme park vacations?

Honestly, I will but I prefer not to because other companies do not instill me with the confidence Disney does that my guests will be blown away by an all-round superior experience.

(Ed’s Note: So true)
 

How many times a year do you visit the parks?

I visit 2-3 times a year for vacations or meetings (And no – I don’t get to go for free! )

POP Century resort at WDW

What are your favorite places to visit when at Walt Disney World?

My favorite resorts are Disney’s Pop Century Resort because of the low price and the over-the-top Disney theme and service; and Disney’s Polynesian Resort for the tropical ambiance and location (right on the monorail, and you can see Cinderella Castle from the pool!).

The Polynesian does have some great views.

(Ed’s Note: Allow to me add the Polynesian’s great themeing, and the luau is my second favorite meal at Disney.)

I really like EPCOT, and its relatively relaxed pace. And there are so many neat little nooks and crannies to be found – especially in the World Showcase. I notice something new to me every time I visit. EPCOT is also home to Soarin’, my favorite attraction.

World Showcase, with some of the very best food in the parks.

Crystal Palace for breakfast with Winnie the Pooh and friends is my whole family’s favorite place to eat. My husband calls it the epicenter of the happiest place on earth.

Do you have any advice for guests planning their Disney meals?

I can’t eat wheat, so normally it’s difficult for me to eat out. But at Walt Disney World, I have almost as many meal and snack options as everyone else and I don’t have to worry because the Disney chefs come out and speak to me personally and they are very knowledgeable and accommodating.  They make a gluten-free brownie at Pop Century and several other restaurants that is even better than the regular kind. They also stock cookies and other goodies I, and others with wheat allergies, can enjoy while my family is having their treats. To me that is a very big deal!

Do you have a favorite place in the parks off the beaten path?

This won’t be off the beaten path for long because it is very new and people are just discovering it. You could easily spend a day in Magic Kingdom Park and not even know about this. “The Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom” is an interactive game that takes you all over the park on a self guided quest with mysterious maps and magical playing cards to save the park from the Disney villains. My 10-year-old son and I tried it out in May of this year, and he loved it. The technology is very impressive. They have holographic-looking characters popping up in shop windows and such, and you can actually cast spells that make things happen. It’s very cool. (Interesting link about testing the experience)

Sorcerer cards. I’ve heard nothing but good things about this.

What’s your favorite Disney movie?

My favorite classic Disney movie is Cinderella. It was my first theater movie when I was a kid. My mother had to drag me out because I laughed to hard at the mice! They are still my favorite part of the movie!

Tell us something no one knows about Disney from an insider’s perspective:

A Disney vacation can actually be relaxing, and you don’t have to go home exhausted ! There are many places to enjoy peace and quiet at Disney World! A lot of people make the mistake of cramming in so much activity they forget to relax. I try to help people find that balance so they go home refreshed.

You can indeed relax at Walt Disney World

Is there a Disney experience you’ve never done, but want to?

Aulani , the new resort in Hawaii is on my “someday” list!

Tell us about some of your most magical experiences helping plan a Disney vacation:

I’ve had the pleasure of working with several families whose Disney vacation is a celebration of life in the wake of a very difficult time. Hospice patients, cancer survivors, and others have come to me and said, “…life has been really hard this year. And we just need to get away, have a fun time making happy memories together,” or “We just realized that life is too short to put this off any longer.”

I handle all the little details so they can just go down there and enjoy. It really is an honor to help a family have a fun, relaxing, healing experience like that. And I can’t think of a better place for them to do that than Walt Disney World.

Many, many thanks to Kim for sharing. I can’t wait to call her to book our next trip!

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And the award goes to…

or “I’m just happy to be here!”

To start with…

Friends, let me be one of the first to congratulate the winner of the Disney Store’s Design by Me contest, Christy W. This is something other designers look at, smack their heads and say “why didn’t I think of that?” It’s such a simple premise, and yet it says so much. Just as good design should. My hat’s off to you Christy!

The only constant is change

Ok, so until May 4, we all thought the results would be different. But according to Disney, many of the votes, including some of mine, were not legit. No more info was given. In the end, I came in second place, losing about 400 votes, taking me to 1,200 total.

As for Michelle M.’s shirt, her take on Mickey was, I think, exactly what Disney wanted from this experience, a fresh, new look at Mickey Mouse. Yes, it was polarizing. Very polarizing, complete with accusations of cheating and even some generational trash talk about those “Brooklyn hipsters.” But good design, as with good anything, should cause a little stir. As my wife once said to me, one of the reasons she married me was I could make her the most angry. Something that illicits this much emotion has some serious emotion behind it. But more on that later.

For me, this entire adventure, and trust me, it was just that, was one of great highs, the lowest lows and everything in-between. And even though I didn’t win, I can thank all of you who voted, and had your friends vote for me! I even made the front page of the business section of the our local paper’s Sunday edition! How cool is that?!?!?

Proof that I was indeed in the paper. The proof is more for me than you guys, I still can’t believe it.

The truth is, I truly was honored to just be in the final five. I have no idea how many they got, but we can assume it was more than a few. And for about an hour on the first day, I thought I might have a chance, by the Friday after the contest started, I knew there was slim chance of pulling out a victory. And I felt how you say, not so great about it. I decided to try to get 1,000 votes, and I did just that. So thanks to each and every one of you. You made me feel like I created something meaningful.

Who knew?

So, about the contest itself, and the thread on the Disney Store’s Facebook wall about it. Wow, those people are vicious. I mean, just read through them. Yes, I was surprised that some of the designs got so many votes so quickly, and so long after the contest started, but that’s the internet folks. And for those people accusing some of the designers of ‘knowing the right people’ yeah, that’s how it works. It’s “social” media. I told every single person online I could tell about this. Some of you who voted for me may not even have liked my shirt, but voted for me anyway. And that’s cool.

Last year, I sent some Disney attraction posters I did for fun to Boing Boing. I was proud of them, knew that one of the moderators on the blog was a big Disney fan and thought what the hell. Within the hour, I got word via Twitter that he had posted them. Within 24 hours I had over 16,000 hits to this very blog. Even now, I get 2-3 hits a day just from that one post.

I also did some “Keep Calm” Disney posters, based on the English posters used during WWII. I posted them here, on Pinterest and Tumblr. I’ve had over 700 repins on Pintrest and over 7,000 reposts on Tumblr of these three. My point? This is how Social Media works. And though I tried to get my shirt higher in the rankings using these very same sources, it wasn’t in the cards for me.

And some of the things said about my shirt: “…it does not represent the spirit of the Disney brand or of our beloved Walt,” and  “common and uninspired.” Sigh…Such is the life of a designer. Unlike fine artists, who have the leeway to create based on their own emotions and experiences, professional designers and commercial artists design for the marketplace. And we are met with much criticism much of the time. You have to have a thick skin in this business. Don’t get me wrong, it is through this fire we emerge as better  artists, but it can sting at first.

I’ve also done these charity posters recently. I’m including them here because I can. And I think they’re really cool.

But in the end, it was just a t-shirt. Let’s all dial it back a little…

Getting to the point

The one thing I can take from this? Out of all the entries, someone at Disney thought mine was one of the best.

I’ve tried to get Disney’s attention before. I would so love to do this very thing for them and design Disney Park merchandise. I even caught the eye of the Disney Store President on Twitter with my Mickey Ears idea. But this is the first time someone in the organization actively picked me. For that I am eternally grateful and will carry that with me the rest of my life. The masses can say what they will, but I’ll always have that nugget of validation.

Said ears

Why so serious?

If you’re still reading at this point, I’d like to take a minute and talk about the design process, because this is my blog and I can do that if I want ;-).

Why I did I what I did?

Market research…i.e. looking at the Disney Store Online for shirts, and walking outside my office to see what the kids are wearing these days. Working on a college campus give one a unique perspective on fashion and current style. This year? It’s all 80s dude. From off-the-shoulder t-shirts, big belts and gladiator sandals to neon sunglasses and bandanas, what was hot when I was in high school, is hot again. So, it seemed a natural fit.

Angry Birds shirt at WalMart. Totally 80s.

Disney Park merchandise has had a decidedly retro feel to it for the past few years, with the 1970s being in the forefront. I decided to go one step beyond (see what I did there ‘Madness’ fans?) and bring Mickey into the 80s.

Im’a let you finish, but these 80s-style Disney Store shirts are rad

But what 80s style? Well, 8-bit games are a hot design trend now…

so I did a low-res version of the ears. Bright colors. Bold lines.

The “every guy you knew had one” Nagel posters are making a bit of a come back. So I tried one of those.

I know you remember this one

And I did one more

I even tried my Keep Calm idea

It wasn’t until I was somewhere with my daughter and saw my inspiration…shutter shades. Thank you Kanye for bring these back. Ever kid in my daughter’s school has a pair of these.

Of course, I couldn’t find an illustration of these in a vector format I could use, so I made my own:

Which led to this:

Add this totally awesome 80’s font, which happily matched the sunglasses:

Add some 80’s color from a palette I found online:

I remembered how much I loved paint spattered clothes when I was young…

I still remember those shorts, the paint was neon. I wore them all Summer.

Plus, we could only use a black or gray shirt, so I wanted something that would stand out against the black and really be in front. I also was going for a fun, Summertime shirt, and something that evoked those emotions of being with your friends, being outside and enjoying yourself. Back in the day, I spent every Summer from 1983-88 in Southern California, and most of that time was spent at either Disneyland or Universal Studios. I would have worn this shirt to within an inch of its life. So, for me, this turned into a bit of an exercise in experiencing my youth again.

We’re almost done here

The strangest part of all this? Two different Greek media outlets picked up on this and posted links. In the end, it didn’t do much for the votes, but cool none the less.

So, it’s over. A week of surreal experiences. I got new followers, talked to a lot of people and heard nothing but kind words from friends and family. Again, because I can’t say this enough, thank you for your votes, and making this a most memorable task.

If your interested in seeing other items I’ve designed, have a look here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Monday Disney thoughts

I’m starting to feel like this guy…

 

I had no idea this tshirt thing would turn into what it has. From the people ahead of me being accused of cheating and having my shirt called uninspired, to being on the front page of the local paper’s business section, it’s been a learning experience to be sure. I’ll post more about this after the contest is over, but today, I feel like I want to tell everyone it’s just a flesh wound…

Also…

Found this today online, but have no idea if it’s really a Disney Park thing or not. If you know, please share.

Vote for my T-Shirt at the Disney Store

Friends,

I’ve been picked as one of the finalists in the Disney Store Design by Me contest on Facebook. Just click on the design below and you can vote once a day! Thanks very, very much!!

New Mickey Gas Station Play Set

Disney new Gas Station play set looks very familiar, no? I love that Mickey is wearing a tie. Thoughts?

Disney and Pixar Facebook Profile Pictures

There are a handful of  silhouettes of famous characters out there based on the anonymous profile pic you get when you sign up for Facebook, even a Mickey one. I’ve being playing with these in my off hours here and there and wanted to post and see what you thought.

Friday Daily Disney

Hello all. We lead off today with a an announcement: today is my 16th wedding anniversary to my lovely bride Jenny! We met in SoCal, so of course I immediately took her on a date to Disneyland. We waited until our daughter was 3 to go back to Disney World, but we haven’t stopped since. The photo is from our February trip with my favorite, Stitch. Happy Anniversary dear. Love you.

Keith Richards returns to the POTC as Jack’s father, Captain Teague. This has been reported as the first look at Richards, but I’m not sure. He popped up in the first teaser trailer. Image here. Thanks to Stitchkingdom.com for the image. More photos here.

Above is what we’re told is the new Blu-Ray box for Star Wars: The Complete Saga. The set, released on September 16 of this year, will feature all 6 films plus over 40 hours of extras. More here. I’ll just say one thing: this box art is not how you say ‘good.’

These adorable Mickey and Minnie ‘cake pops’ were found on Etsy today. Cute! More here.

A great blog post from Mouse Planet about pet peeves in the Disney Parks. While I tend to turn a blind eye to a lot of these, kids are kids and when you load them up on sugar and throw ’em into an amusement park, they’re bound to be a little hyper, I did agree with a few of them. The enormo-backpacks are a pain, especially in line for Big Thunder Mountain. But mine would be the ‘It Used to be Better’ people. I know ‘Alien Encounter’ was awesome, and I miss the Sky Buckets too, but I love Stitch and my daughter likes ‘Great Escape.’ Fantasyland NEEDS to be expanded, and frankly, ‘Test Track’ is fraking awesome. You changed over the past 20 years, why shouldn’t Disney?

Happy Birthday to the Norway Pavilion at Epcot, opening this day in 1988. I love this Pavilion! A great ride, fantastic food, beer and what I’m told from female friends at work, the cutest guys in Epcot.

And your wicked-awesome Disney tattoo of the day

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