By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2019, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.

Category — w. Most Recent Stuff

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Disney A to Z

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on


By Jim Korkis

I can’t believe you don’t already have a copy of this valuable reference in your library, but you may perhaps be dragging your feet to purchase the latest edition that is 864 pages long with over 7,000 entries. Editions came out in 1996, 1998, 2006, 2015 (exclusive limited Sam’s Warehouse club edition), and 2016.

I’ve known the author of Disney A to Z, Disney Chief Archivist Emeritus David R. Smith, for decades. I did a lengthy interview with him on March 16, 2005 at Walt Disney World where among other things we talked about this book.

“Well, the first version of the book Disney A to Z came out in 1996 and, at that time, Hyperion, which was publishing the Disney books, said this is a great reference book and we should keep updating it every two years. So two years later, in 1998, we did the updated version of Disney A to Z, so I expected when 2000 came along, they’d be ready for the next edition. Well, they’ve been dragging their feet.

“What I did though in 1998, the minute that I shipped off the manuscript for the updated version to the publisher, I started putting onto my computer all of the new material that would then go into the next edition. You know what’s happening with the company all the time: we’ve got new movies coming out, we’ve got attractions opening at the park, we’ve got attractions closing at the park, we’ve got songs winning Oscars and all that sort of thing.

“All this type of information as it crosses my desk, I just type it into the computer right there! So, I’m up to date as of Friday and it’s Disney Editions now that publishes the Disney books. If they say we’re ready to do your new edition of Disney A to Z, the next morning I will ship off the computer disc and they’ll be all ready to go!

“Well, as you know, so many of the questions you get over and over again so you find that maybe 95% of the questions you can answer without doing any research whatsoever and then the other 5%, some of them take a lot of research to try to find the answers.

“That’s the reason I wrote Disney A-Z: The Official Encyclopedia so that I would have all that information at my fingertips rather than going through different file folders. Primarily, we utilized most frequently three huge file folders. One listed all the films and material about them. Another had a listing of all the theme park attractions and when they opened and closed. The third was a listing of people who had worked at Disney.

“We would keep getting requests that somebody’s great aunt had said they worked at the studio and they wanted to know when or just to check. Things happen quickly at Disney and without warning and one of the challenges I have being based in California is getting accurate opening and closing dates for things at Walt Disney World. Fortunately, cast members have been a huge help in that area.

“There was no money to pay for photos, so I took my own camera out and took pictures for that first edition because since I was on salary, they didn’t have to pay me anything additional.”

The WDW material is not as complete as the Disneyland material, but it is still valuable and authoritative. Even with the publication of this latest volume, Dave continues to constantly update and add entries online here.

*  *  *  *  *

Thanks, Jim! You can see my copy of one of the older editions here:

And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, More Secret Stories of Disneyland, and his Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, all published by Theme Park Press.


Follow on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest!!

September 21, 2018   No Comments

Next Week (September 22 through September 30, 2018) at Walt Disney World


The material below details next week’s Disney World operating hours, Extra Magic Hours, parades, and fireworks.

For more on September at Disney World, see this.


The Magic Kingdom will be open from 9a-11p 9/22, 9a-6p 9/23, 9a-9p 9/24, 9a-6p 9/25, 9a-9p 9/26 and 9/27, 9a-6p 9/28, 8a-12MN 9/29, and 9a-6p 9/30

Epcot will be open from 9a-10p 9/22, 9a-9p 9/23 through 9/27, 9a-10p 9/28 and 9/29, and 9a-9p 9/30

Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be open from 9a-8.30p 9/22 and 9/23, and 9a-8p 9/24 through 9/30

Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be open from 9a-9.30p 9/22, 9a-8p 9/23 through 9/28, 9a-8.30p 9/29, and 9a-8p 9/30


Saturday 9/22 Morning: Animal Kingdom Evening: none

Sunday 9/23  Morning: Hollywood Studios Evening: none

Monday 9/24  Morning: Animal Kingdom Evening: none

Tuesday 9/25 Morning: none Evening: Epcot

Wednesday 9/26 Morning:  none Evening: Magic Kingdom

Thursday 9/27 Morning: Epcot Evening: none

Friday 9/28 Morning:  Magic Kingdom Evening: none

Saturday 9/29 Morning: Animal Kingdom Evening: none

Sunday 9/30 Morning: Hollywood Studios Evening: none


The Magic Kingdom: Afternoon Festival of Fantasy Parade: 2p every day


Happily Every After at Magic Kingdom: 8p 9/22,  9/24, 9/26, 9/27, and 9/29

IllumiNations at Epcot:  10p 9/22; 9p 9/23 through 9/27; 10p 9/28 and 9/29; 9p 9/30

Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 8p every night

Star Wars Show and Fireworks at Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 8.30p every night

Rivers of Light at Disney’s Animal Kingdom: 8.15 and 9.30p 9/22; 8.15p 9/23 through 9/30


See Steve Soares’ site here. Click the park names at its top for show schedules.

Follow on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest!!

September 20, 2018   No Comments

Review: Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party 2018

Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party 2016 from (2)


Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (“MNSSHP”) is a special, separately ticketed party that happens on certain nights every September, October and some years even early November at Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.

At the party you will find un-crowded rides, a special parade (shown twice, at 9.15 and 11.15p), special fireworks at 10.15p, a Hocus Pocus show, trick-or-treating, a dance party…and a ton of guests in costumes!

I had a chance to see it again a couple of times in mid-September 2018, and the scoop follows!

(See this for more on logistics–Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party dates, ticket prices, etc.)


The 2018 party pretty much follows the pattern set in 2015 and continued since. The most important change over the period is that the first parade is later.  This limits a bit the crowds in the hub during the first part of the party. You will still see crowds everywhere–ride waits are low to very low but the paths are mobbed.

For 2018, three rides have been “plussed.”

The Mad Tea Party has gained a different soundtrack, lights, and spooky smoke effects, greatly increasing its popularity–except with me.

Pirates of the Caribbean has gained some live characters…

…around the theme of finding “Gunpowder Pete.” The overall effect has led to some derision, but for some will give a new reason to pay more attention to scenes that perhaps they have come to take for granted, and for others will be a distraction from the dullness of the new redhead tableau.

Finally, the experience of Space Mountain really changes with a near blackout of the ride.

A big part of the fun of Space Mountain has been not being able to see what comes next–and a refurb a few years ago made the ride even darker (though not everyone is a fan). For the party, we have something different–a near black-out.  All lighting effects are turned off, objects formerly lit are now dark, there’s no stars in the sky.  All you can see is a few red dots here and there and some distant “EXIT” signs.

The effect is to make Space Mountain much more scary than before–as testified to by the quite louder screams, mostly of joy, you will hear while riding it.

The best approach to the Party remains the same–see rides until the fireworks, and watch the second parade rather than the first.

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party 2015 from

But because of the crowds remaining after the 9.15 parade, it may be hard to get to the hub to see the fireworks from there. While HalloWishes, like all Magic Kingdom fireworks shows, is best seen from between the Castle and the Main Street railroad station, it does work really well from elsewhere in the park, because of things that happen in the finale that I’m not gonna spoil here.

So do rides until just before ten, find a good nearby fireworks spot, then see the characters and go trick or treating, see the 11.15p parade, and see the midnight Hocus Pocus show. A late night, but one that avoids the congestion around the Castle hub and Main Street.


Costumes are not required, and not everyone wears them. But even after the increased security that began in December 2015, they are still allowed at the party.

Above is the official Disney lingo (click it to enlarge it). Note that these guidelines are solely for the Halloween Party.  “Regular” attendance is subject to different rules, basically ruling out costumes for those 14 and older.

Guest Costumes Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party 2015 from

The most common costumes continue to be princess costumes and pirate costumes, and after that Star Wars costumes.

Guest Costumes Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party 2015 from (2)

And this group in Tomorrowland proved a Disney princess theme was not required!


Besides most rides being open to short (or shorter) waits, MNSSHP has a special set of Halloween-themed activities (see above–click to enlarge it).

Boo to You Parade at Mickey's Not-So-Scary-Halloween Party from (2) (800x525)

For example, the parade–Mickey’s Boo-to-You Parade–is seen only at MNSSHP.

It begins with a surprise–pay attention when the Cast members start to rope off the crosswalks (dampness on the streets may eliminate this first surprise).

Then a bunch of characters stroll by.

It then shifts to ducks and mice…

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) from (8)

…then some pirates…

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) from (7)

…more pirates…

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party from
…but then shortly shifts to my favorite part, Haunted-Mansion themed dancing gravediggers and ghouls.

Boo to You Parade at Mickey's Not-So-Scary-Halloween Party from (8) (450x800)

More ghouls.

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) from (6)

The gravedigger dance.

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) from (5)

Soon comes candy…

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) from (4)

…then the parade goes back to scary, ending with Disney villains!

There’s two showings of the parade, at 9.15p and 11.15p, with spectacular Halloween-themed fireworks between at 10.15p.

HalloWishes Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party 2015 from (2)

While the fireworks are best seen from in front of the Castle with the Main Street train station behind you, this will lead you into a wildly crowded section of the park.

Because of their spectacular finale the fireworks can be seen from elsewhere in the park–you’ll miss a little but gain a lot of comfort from avoiding the mobs in front of the Castle.

HalloWishes Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party 2015 from (3)

Dance Party Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party 2015 from (2)

Dance Party Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party 2015 from

The Liberty Square and Cosmic Rays dance parties left three years ago, but there’s still an outdoor Monsters-themed dance party at the thingy between Astro-Orbiter and Space Mountain.

New in 2018 is a Disney Junior dance party in Storybook Circus…

…not much attended, at least during my visit to it.

Something I had not paid enough attention to until recently was fun audience interaction with characters from the Haunted Mansion.

It’s just outside the exit, so see it after your required Halloween visit to the ride.

You’ll also find lots of Halloween-themed merchandise.  Some is specific to the party (and may be sold out–see your brochure for locations) and the rest is generally available–including, somewhat jarringly, in the Christmas shop.

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) from (3)

The Hocus Pocus show is quite popular.  The three sisters from the movie return…

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) from (2)

…and call on hordes of Disney villains to help them stay.

The show includes strong songs and dances, fun characters, and some spectacular effects. Those familiar with the movie need not get close to the stage (thought it can’t hurt), but if you haven’t seen it, the characters of the three sisters are much more apparent if you are closer to the stage.  This is easier at the midnight show, not so easy at the earlier shows.

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) from

Character meet-n-greets are all over the place–with both common and unusual characters.

Some more characters:

There’s also a ton of trick or treat locations, marked by lighted columns.

Get your trick-or-treat bag on the pathway that begins at the left of Town Square…

…and your first handful of candy, too.

But both the characters and trick-or-treating raise an issue.


Wait Times Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party 2015 from

All the major rides are open, and many minor rides as well. Most have very short waits–e.g. 10 minutes for Space Mountain. Typically, only Peter Pan and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train have annoying waits.

Characters Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party 2015 from

The trick-or-treat spots and especially the character greetings, on the other hand, have pretty long lines, and the hub is packed all evening.

So the best approach is to skip the character greetings and trick-or-treats–or delay them until after the fireworks–and spend the first part of the evening on rides.

Do rides until just before the 10.15p fireworks show and watch it.

Now try trick-or-treating or character meets. Then see the second (11.15p) parade and the midnight Hocus Pocus show.

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party from (2)
I struggle with whether or not this party is worth the money for first-time family visitors who may never return.

It’s quite expensive–for a family of four, more than $300, and even over $400 on many dates. And it’s just a five hour show (7p to midnight)–though Disney unofficially lets you in starting at 4p.

Yet the fireworks are among the best Disney World offers, the parade is a hoot, the rides have short lines…and the costumes are fun!

Magic Kingdom 2014 Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party from

My overall take is that for first-timers this time and money is better spent elsewhere, but that’s a really close call, and for sure I’d recommend it to returning visitors!

Follow on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest!!

September 19, 2018   4 Comments

Photo Tour of A Standard Room at the Hilton Buena Vista Palace, Disney Springs Resort Area

The Hilton Buena Vista Palace in the Disney Springs Resort Area has several room types in two principal buildings–one the main tower, with multiple levels, and another a lower and somewhat distant accommodations building called the Island.

Rooms with a king bed and rooms with two queens are available, most with balconies.  When booking, you can select your beds, and also choose your view. The Buena Vista Palace is a significant convention hotel, and as in all such hotels, multiple suite options are also available.


This photo tour is of a tower two queen room.

The entry has the divided bath and closet on the same side.

The  first part of the divided bath has this sink.

Bath toiletries.

On the other side of the space is this good-sized closet, with a mirrored door (not shown, as I am shy).

In a separate space you’ll find the toilet and tub-shower combo.

Deeper in the room, you’ll find the queen beds and a small bench on one side.

The bed side from the back of the room…

…and a closer view of one of the beds.

Between the beds you’ll find this bedside table with an open cubby below.

The other side of the room has a dresser with a mini-fridge inside and a TV above, a desk, and then back in the angled area, a large easy chair.

The dresser is topped by a large TV.

The three medium+ drawers are enough for the four people these rooms will sleep.

Next to these you’ll find the mini-fridge. Note also the safe above it. Because I am a bad person, I forgot to measure it, but my book is 6 inches by 9 inches.

Further on this side you’ll find this multi-part desk thingy, with a coffee service on it. The lower part of the desk thingy is a rolling table that you can move elsewhere in the room and use for games, open heart surgery, and the like. This is a nice touch that you will also find in some of the Disney deluxe resorts.

Beyond, in the angled area of the room, is this large easy chair with a lamp on one side and a table on the other.

A closer view of the chair.

The table top comes off, revealing an ottoman below. The ottoman, along with the bench at the foot of one of the beds, adds to the seating options of the room.

At the end of most rooms is an angled balcony.

The angles of the room add interest to the space, but result in unusable corners in the balcony and a small overall usable balcony area.

My room overlooked Saratoga Springs. Some views are of sister Disney Springs Resort Area hotels, but you can also book pool, Disney Springs, and “Fireworks” views–the fireworks are quite distant, and the small balcony can lead to some crowding if you have four folks on it watching the fireworks.

The Magic Kingdom fireworks from my balcony.

The Epcot fireworks from my balcony.

At around 382 square feet, the overall size of this Hilton Buena Vista Palace room is in the middle of the Disney deluxe resort range.  But because it devotes less of its square footage to the bath/entry/closet area, at around ~274 square feet, the size of its living area is almost comparable to that in the largest Disney deluxes along the monorail.

Overall this Hilton Buena Vista Palace room is bland but spacious, and is well-appointed for both families and couples.

The long-time travel agent partner of this site, Kelly, can book you into the Hilton Buena Vista Palace or any other Disney World accommodations. Contact her using the form below!

Follow on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest!!

September 18, 2018   No Comments

Photo Tour of a Refurbed Room at Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort

For the first page of this review of Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort, click here.

Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort kicked off a room refurb project in early 2018. As of September 2018, rooms in four of Movie’s ten buildings–both Toy Story buildings, and Building 8 in Fantasia and Building 7 in Love Bug–are complete, and Building 6 in Love Bug is being refurbed.

The key positive features of the refurb are the addition of queen beds and coffee makers, which, until a very similar refurb happened first at Pop Century, were unheard of in value resort standard rooms.

Less universally praised is the bright white color scheme–exacerbated by the loss of the colorful bed stripes, which has happened generally across Disney World resorts–and the fact that one of the queens is a fold down bed that disappears the table and chairs while it is down.

I had the chance to stay in one of these newly-refurbed All-Star Movies rooms in mid-September, so here’s a photo tour and my observations.

One side of the room has a thingy with the coffee maker above and the mini-fridge below, the dresser and TV, and a connecting door, if present.

This side of the room from the back.

The coffee thingy has multiple cubbies, a general feature of the value resort refurb program.

The drawer in the thingy contains the coffee and tea supplies, and also drinking and coffee cups.

The mini-fridge, as is common in new Disney World rooms, has a glass front so you can see what’s inside without opening it. I popped a shelf out of its supports with my book, but I fixed it later!

The dresser has drawers on one side and shelving and a safe on the other, is flanked with two sets of power points each of which can charge four devices, and is topped with a 54-inch TV.

The three drawers are 31 inches by 13 inches but only 4.5 inches tall.

There is still much more storage in these new rooms than in the un-refurbed rooms at Movies–their dresser/ mini-fridge combo is shown above.

Back to the refurbed room, next to the drawers are shelves and a safe.

I measured the safe as 19 inches by 15 inches by 6.5 inches tall.

By the connecting door you’ll find this coat rack.

In the back of the room are the sinks, closet, and, in a separate space, the toilet and shower.

Following the details of the Pop Century here as in most other matters, the overall bath and dressing area are now closed off from the rest of the room with a sliding solid door, rather than the fabric curtain you’ll find in un-refurbed value resort rooms (and the Port Orleans moderates).

Here’s the sliding door closed.

Note all the crannies and cubbies around the sink.

The cubbies to the left of the sink have the hair dryer and iron.

On the right side of the sink you’ll find this new make-up mirror.

On the side of this space is a solid hanging closet. There’s 19 inches of hanging space inside.

The toilet and tub are enclosed by this two-part sliding door.

The tub is enclosed with sliding doors–a more straightforward arrangement for most than a billowing shower curtain, but an awkwardness for bathing children.

The shower has a rain fall head, but not the hand-held shower head that also comes with the Pop refurb. Other minor differences from the Pop refurb: no luggage rack (at least not in room 9751) and no extension to the clothes rod on the ironing board side of the closet.

The toiletries are in the bottles that we’ve been seeing in recent refurbs across the resort.

Some of the refurbed Pop rooms only have showers, no tubs. I don’t yet know if that’s the case with Movies as well.

Back into the main area, the other side of the room has a table and chairs and a fixed queen bed.

The bed side from the back. Note the seven visible pillows–there’s one more in the closet.

A closer view of the fixed queen…

…and of the art above it.  Just with this, these refurbed All-Stars Movies rooms have more Disney theming than any other value resort rooms except refurbed Pop rooms and the Little Mermaid rooms in Art of Animation…and there’s more to come.

Another feature of this refurbed All-Star Movies room is space under the bed for storing your suitcases.  There’s 14.5 inches of clearance, which will fit most rolly bags. I stuck mine in sideways to show how much clearance there is.

There’s a table with a cubby below and power points above between the bed and bath wall…

…and another between the bed and table.

The distinctive feature of this room is the fold down bed, found behind this table and chairs.

Stack the chairs in the corner…

…pull the two handles, and the table disappears and this bed replaces it.

Nephews also appear.

I measured the fold-down bed as 59 inches by 79 inches–just an inch short on both dimensions of being a queen, but it’s so much larger than a full (which would be 54″ by 74″) that none can quibble at calling it a queen.

The mattress is a full 12 inches deep–as deep as that of the fixed queen. This bed is entirely appropriate for adults, and in fact adults might prefer it, as they can put the kids in the fixed queen and use the table until they themselves are ready for sleep.

There is yet another table and cubby and power point between the fold-down bed and outer wall.

The addition of the queen-sized beds and coffeemaker is a clear win, as is the safe,  the shower head, the sliding solid door to the bath area, and the make-up mirror. The loss of the table when both beds are down is a bit of a pain, but as noted there are a couple of work-arounds–e.g. putting the table users in that bed.

And I know I repeat myself, but queen beds and a coffee maker wildly improve the livability of these rooms.


This review continues here.


Follow on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest!!

September 17, 2018   4 Comments

The 2019 Edition of The Best-Reviewed Disney World Guide Book, Ever

Josh (of  and I have published (on Amazon, through Theme Park Press) the 2019 edition of the best reviewed Walt Disney World guide book, ever, The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2019.

Chock full of great advice for both returning and first-time visitors, the 2019 edition continues our tradition of offering the best, clearest, shortest, and wisest advice for your Disney World trip, ever.

It also continues our model of offering a free Kindle version to those who buy the paperback edition, and of free updates* (as PDFs) over the course of 2018 and 2019 (until we publish our 2020 edition), because Disney World changes faster than any guidebook on solely an annual publishing calendar can respond to.

With Star Wars opening and new ticket pricing models, 2019 will be an interesting year. But you could be in no better hands than me and Josh. Josh is the best in the world on how to tour the parks and on dining at Disney World; I am the best in the world on the Disney World resorts, and between the two of us, we collectively are the best in the world on when to go.

Our Disney World guide book series began in 2014, and since then has received hundreds of reviews on Amazon, 90%+ of them five stars.

No other guide book can make this claim, because no other guide book is as good as The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2019! Click the link to get yours today!

*Our next update will include this correction: for those with 2019 editions shipped before 9/16, replace the FastPass+ in the middle of page 207 with “Use FastPass+ at Spaceship Earth (10:15am – 11:15am), Mission: SPACE (11:15am – 12:15pm), Frozen Ever After (Whenever available, ideally around 1pm).”

Follow on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest!!

September 16, 2018   2 Comments