Returning back to normal life after a vacation to Walt Disney World is never fun. Everyday life can be a bit of a bore after experiencing days of sunshine, glorious food and thrilling experiences at theme parks. You start to come down with a case of post holiday blues and hanker after another holiday. Yet, we can’t always be on holiday and must eventually rejoin the reality of our normal life. The easiest way to get over these holiday blues is to start planning and counting down to the next one. The DIS is built all around planning your next Disney trip and planning every aspect of your trip can add lots of mini countdowns to your trip making it seem even closer. From the 180 day mark to make advance dining reservations or the 60 day mark for making Fastpass+ selections. However, one of the ways I pass the time between trips is to find some of that Disney magic a bit closer to home. Admittedly, the ideas and suggestions I have are going to be more useful for people living in the UK but you should be able to adapt them for your own country.
Some of the best ways of finding the Disney magic closer to home are produced by the Disney Theatrical Group. Founded in 1993, it is made up of three core divisions: Disney Theatrical Productions, Disney on Ice and Disney Live! They offer up similar, if not in most cases better, shows than found in the Disney parks and cruise ships.
Disney Theatrical Productions have created some of the best critically and financially received shows to hit Broadway and theatres around the world. Starting with Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and Mary Poppins, right up to the more recent adaption of Aladdin, they’ve taken the already great stories and songs from Disney films and expanded upon them with additional songs, impressive sets and stunning costumes. Currently in the UK you can find The Lion King playing in the West End but you should always keep an eye out for any touring productions. The Lion King still plays to a packed theatre despite approaching its 15th birthday, however it would be nice to see a new Disney production come to town. A disappointment is that none of the recent productions have come to the West End or the UK, while Broadway is currently home to three productions: The Lion King, Aladdin and Newsies. Newsies is rumored to make the hop over the pond but after open auditions last year, everything has gone quiet; hopefully they will Seize The Day on UK shores soon. Either way, there is plenty to look forward to with the variety of new properties in development, such as a live version of The Muppet Show and, coming as no surprise to anyone, is a musical adaptation of Frozen. On the other hand, this may break the idea of finding Disney magic closer to home as these could require a little trip to New York.
Disney on Ice and Disney Live! are licensed productions made on the behalf of Disney by Feld Entertainment. These shows are toured all over the world through Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Australia and the Americas. Compared to the stage shows made by Disney Theatrical Productions, the shows tend to appeal primarily to children. In particular, Disney Live! produces shows for younger children based on Disney Junior characters. Their most recent show features Jake and the Never Land Pirates and Sofia the First as part of Disney Junior Live on Tour! Pirate and Princess Adventure. Disney on Ice does what it says on the tin with shows featuring figure skaters on ice dressed as Disney characters. There are up to eight ice shows touring the world at any one time containing a variety of characters from Disney films and properties. They are regularly updated to include the latest characters, making Disney on Ice one of the few other ways to see the characters outside of the Disney Parks. However, character interpretations can often be different to allow the characters to ice skate. Disney on Ice returns to the UK this winter with a celebration of 100 Years of Magic! Featuring 65 characters from 18 different films, you can catch the show at arenas across the country.
Feld Entertainment is also set to launch a new arena show this summer called Marvel Universe: LIVE! This show will bring together all the popular characters from the Marvel cinematic universe in a live action show containing martial arts, aerial stunts, acrobatics, pyrotechnics and newly created special effects. The story is to be centred upon the Avengers, X-men and Spiderman facing off against Loki and the Sinister Six, who are hell-bent on destroying earth. This could be a really cool experience if they manage to make you feel a part of the major action scenes seen in the films. It could also provide a glimpse of what could end up in an attraction or show in the Disney Parks.
Another sidearm of Theatrical Productions is the Disney Concert Library that licenses all manner of Disney music around the world for concerts. They have also created a variety of special Disney concerts such as Fantasia and Pirates of the Caribbean live in concert. I recently enjoyed “Pixar In Concert” at the Royal Albert Hall, which entailed an afternoon of orchestral music from all of Pixar’s feature length films played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with a projection backdrop of scenes from the movies. A highlight of this concert is hearing the music from that incredible opening scene in Up of Carl and Ellie’s story. I don’t think there was dry eye in the hall after those stunning minutes of animation and music of a couple’s life together. I can thoroughly recommend catching one of these special concerts when they come to a city near you.
The Disney theme parks wouldn’t have come to be without the success of Disney studios making cartoons and feature films. There are now 53 films considered to be part of Disney Animated Classics collection but can you honestly say you’ve seen them all? Watching one film a week easily gets you through a yearlong countdown and is a great way of building excitement for a trip. If you have a longer countdown or you’ve already seen them all, you can always supplement the list with some of the other hundreds of films produced by Walt Disney Studios over the years.
Theme parks are all about creating thematic areas for an immersive experience. So, what’s better than visiting places that have inspired these thematic areas? I’ve written before in a previous blog about Touring London Disney Style, but the UK is covered in film locations which have in turn inspired the theme parks. Take the up and coming Maleficent film which uses the Ashridge Estate in Hertfordshire for the Forest Kingdom. This estate is made up of 5000 acres of woodland in an area of outstanding natural beauty such as carpets of bluebells during the spring. A lot more to explore and admire compared to the Magic Kingdom, which is just over 100 acres. There’s a great map on deviantArt created by Eowyn Smith that shows Disney film locations around the world.
It’s easy to forget where the Harry Potter films were created with all the excitement building for the opening of Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando. The movies were filmed all over the UK, meaning you don’t have to fly to Orlando to visit the Wizarding World. For example, take Hogwarts Castle, which is made up of many locations across the country such as Alnwick Castle in Northumberland. This castle dates back to the 14th century and has been used for many television shows and films over the years, including the first two Harry Potter films. Warner Brothers have also opened the Harry Potter studios to the public allowing you to tour the sets including the original Diagon Alley. They’ve even ported over the Universal Buttebeer recipe so you can have a mug of that deliciously sweet drink.
A Disney vacation isn’t complete without shopping for some souvenirs. Of course you don’t have to go far to find Disney merchandise but the best place is always your local Disney store. Most have now been redeveloped into imagination stores, which contain a dedicated area with daily activities for children. The stores also often host special events such as a recent celebration of Star Wars on May 4th called Ways of the Force. During this celebration you could learn the skills of the Jedi much like the Jedi Training Academy at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. To find out more about Disney Store events in the UK, you can visit this link.
The UK is occasionally lucky to host special events for the Disney company. A recent example was when Rapunzel’s coronation ceremony to become a Disney Princess was conducted at Kensington Palace. This began with the opportunity for the general public to view a horse-drawn carriage processional of all ten Disney Princesses through Kensington Gardens. These types of events don’t happen very often but are always worth keeping an eye out for.
Dining has become a key component of why people want to visit the Disney Parks. From Dole Whips to Turkey Legs, everyone has a favourite snack or meal they look forward to consuming while at WDW. There is no reason why you can’t recreate some of this food magic at home. Take Dole Whips for example- there are tons of DIY home recipes for a Dole Whip that can be found online. And if money isn’t an obstacle, you could buy a soft serve machine and fill it with the pineapple dole whip mix which can be easily bought online. There are a few of options if you can’t find the recipe online through the many collated online by fans. The first one is to take a look at the various Disney cookbooks that have been published. After that you could take a chance of contacting guest services via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Disney chefs are well known for being open and happy to share their recipes so you should remember to ask for the secrets the next time you enjoy a meal at a Disney restaurant.
One other way to relive the magic and make yourself feel like you are back at WDW is by viewing some of the many videos of the parks found online. Some, such as the park bench videos made by the DIS, can instantly bring you back to a location within the World and take part in one the popular pastimes at WDW- people watching. The location where I most often sit back and relax at WDW has to be Tom Sawyer’s Island at the Magic Kingdom. One of my favourite afternoons at the Magic Kingdom involved sitting back in one those rocking chairs eating a sandwich from Earl of Sandwich while people watching over the Rivers of America. The other option is checking out ride-along videos of your favourite attractions in the parks. You could also use this to brush up on point strategies for rides like Toy Story Mania and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.
Probably the number one way of breaking up trips to WDW for us Brits is by hopping across the English Channel and visiting Disneyland Paris. It would be a disservice to only write a small paragraph about this wonderfully beautiful park, so as such, I hope to cover it in more depth in future blog posts. In fact I’ve taken my own advice and will be visiting DLP for a mini break in September before hopping back over the pond to WDW in November. I can’t wait to experience the spectacular new Ratatouille ride due to open in July at the Walt Disney Studios Park. As a warning, the video below does contain behind-the-scenes shots of the ride that may be considered spoilers for anyone wanting to experience the ride in person for the first time.
How do you find the magic closer to home? Until next time, “Chim chiminy, Chim chiminy, Chim chim cher-ee!” from the UK.