If you ask any Disney Parks aficionado to list the things he or she loves about the parks, attention to detail and theming will undoubtedly be mentioned. For me, the music loops that play in background of the various lands and ride queues are my favorite part of Disney theming. Nothing can transport me to a particular place in time like music, and playing some music from Disney parks is always a sure fire way to brighten my day. I am lucky enough to have procured many complete Disney music loops over the years. In the age of the Internet, Disney music is always at your fingertips. Many loops have been uploaded to YouTube, and for those of you always on the go, Mouse World Radio has a nice little app for your mobile device that plays both area music and attraction audio.
I obtained most of my collection about 10 years or so ago from websites that no longer exist (though I’m sure more are out there and could be located with some clever googling). The files were only labeled as things like MainSt_BGM (background music) so it took some sleuthing to figure out any songs or artists I was unfamiliar with. I came to rely heavily on Disney Music Loops. The site has not been maintained for over a decade but is still accessible. Over the years I’ve purchased a lot of additional music from many of the artists I first discovered through the listings on Disney Music Loops. Park Tunes is another site that has a decent collection of listings, but some of the song loops are not listed in the proper order, and while they provide links to purchase music through iTunes and Amazon, they do not always link to the correct version of the song used in the loop. (FYI:Disney does update their loops every so often, so some of the versions that I’ll be exploring in this series may be outdated.)
The first music loop I wish to discuss is from the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror queue. I cannot even fathom a guess as to how many times I’ve listened to this loop in its entirety. It is my go-to background music. I put it on when I’m doing household chores. In my college/graduate student days I’d play it while writing my papers. I even burned it to a CD so I could listen to it in my old car. I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly it was that first drew me to this music, because even though I take pride in my eclectic music collection, I was not familiar with a single song in this loop. Maybe it’s my appreciation for a good trumpet solo. Maybe it’s because I love old Hollywood, and thanks to the ride, I now associate this sound with it. I don’t know, but it makes me feel a sense of nostalgia, which is pretty odd considering I was born in the ’80s, thus I clearly did not live through the 1930s and have nothing to actually be nostalgic about. Perhaps I am a reincarnated Hollywood starlet, who knows? What I do know is I love this music! Clocking in at just over an hour, the entire loop includes 20 songs. To keep things interesting and manageable, I’m only focusing on 5 songs at a time. (Side note: I chose to embed most of the videos from a Tower of Terror playlist on YouTube for continuity, and because they seem to all have the “echo” effect on them that you hear in the queue.)
“Can’t Get Started”- Bunny Berigan
This is the song that opens the loop and its memorable trumpet solo makes it a perfect entrée for the ambiance that the music loop intends to set. “I Can’t Get Started” made its debut in the musical revue Ziegfeld Follies of 1936, with lyrics by Ira Gershwin and music by Vernon Duke. Bunny Berigan, a trumpet virtuoso, made it a top 10 hit in 1937. The lyrics are very specific to the time period, but that’s part of what makes it perfect for setting the mood.
“I’ve been consulted by Franklin D.
Greta Garbo has had me to tea
Still I’m broken hearted
Cause I can’t get started with you!”
My obsession with this song is what first led me down the rabbit hole of tracking down artists featured in music loops. Disney Music Loops incorrectly lists the artist as “Benny” Berigan, but through the power of Google (and before the era of YouTube), I was eventually able to find my guy. I purchased “Let’s Do It!” through iTunes. The album is fantastic, and includes “Can’t Get Started.” Needless to say, I highly recommend it.
“Mood Indigo”- Duke Ellington
This was one of the earliest hits for legendary composer and band leader Duke Ellington. The song was built around a clarinet solo. In most musical arrangements, it was typical for the clarinet to handle the highest notes, followed by trumpet and then trombone; however, in “Mood Indigo” the order is reversed and the horns are muted, creating a unique and melodious yet eerie sound—the perfect sound for a haunted hotel. The song was also given lyrics and has had a wide variation of interpretations, but in my opinion, the original instrumental reigns supreme. There are so many different versions of this song that I’ve had trouble locating the exact version they used in the loop for purchase. The version on “Best of Duke Ellington” is pretty good, but it includes different variations than the version in the loop. If anyone knows where to procure the exact version and would care to share, I’d appreciate it!
Red specialized in the xylophone, marimba, and vibraphone. This is an instrumental version of a 1925 Irving Berlin song. There are nice vocal versions out there from the great balladeers like Andy Williams and Frank Sinatra, but I really appreciate this instrumental. It isn’t often that the xylophone, vibraphone, and/or marimba are highlighted through solos. The song is available for purchase on iTunes and is part of many different blues/jazz compilations.
Bonus! You can see Red in action backing up Dean Martin on “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” from the Original Ocean’s 11. Dino even gives Red a shout out!
“Uptown Blues”-Jimmie Lunceford
James Melvin “Jimmie” Lunceford was a saxophone player and bandleader who died at the age of 45 under suspicious circumstances. The cause of death was cardiac arrest, but allegations were made that a racist restaurant owner may have poisoned his food. Other band members who ate at the same restaurant also became sick shortly after completing their meals. Jimmie and his band received high praise from many contemporaries, including Benny Goodman, who once said he put on a better show than Duke Ellington. Lunceford’s live shows live on in legend as having been quite a spectacle, and many have said that the band’s soul was never adequately captured on record–the latter of which I’m inclined to agree with. iTunes has a compilation of Lunceford’s music called “Powerhouse Swing,” and while all the songs are pleasant and could fit right in to this music loop, none of them are particularly memorable in my opinion.
“Deep Purple”- Larry Clinton and His Orchestra with Bea Wain
The original song was a piano tune written by Peter DeRose. So far, I’ve been praising instrumental versions of songs over their vocal counterparts, but in the case of “Deep Purple” I really think the lyrics and vocals enhance the piece and are well suited to the eeriness of the queue:
“When the deep purple falls over sleepy garden walls
And the stars begin to flicker in the sky
Through the mist of a memory you wander back to me
Breathing my name with a sigh
In the still of the night once again I hold you tight
Though you’re gone, your love lives on when moonlight beams
And as long as my heart will beat, lover we’ll always meet
Here in my deep purple dreams”
There is some dispute over which version is actually used in the loop. A few sites list Turner Layton, and this is the version included in the YouTube playlist I’ve been linking to; however, this is NOT the version that is in my copy of the loop. I’ve also seen some sites link to the version by Artie Shaw featuring Helen Forrest, but that upbeat interpretation is actually featured on the Jungle Cruise Boathouse Loop, not Tower of Terror’s. After some painstaking research (I’m not kidding, this blog got held up for a few days while I tried to solve this mystery), I’ve identified the version by Larry Clinton and His Orchestra with Bea Wain as the one I’ve been listening to all these years, so I wanted to give them proper credit. Clinton was an accomplished musician and bandleader, and made a name with his arrangements for dance bands. His arrangements were used by the likes of Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Louis Armstrong, and the aforementioned Bunny Berigan. Bea Wain was a popular big band singer who had four #1 hits (of which “Deep Purple” was one).
This is a wonderful song no matter who is performing it. It is very possible that Disney has switched out the version over the years. Next time you are in the queue, maybe you can hang around and listen for me!
Be sure to check back later this week for Part 2 of Disney Music Loops: Tower of Terror.
If you grew up in the Delaware Valley, chances are you took a trip to the Philadelphia Zoo at some point in your life. Whether it was with your school, your summer day camp, or your family, a zoo trip was and still is a veritable rite of passage in this area. So, when was the last time you ventured over to the Philadelphia Zoo? My husband and I enjoy visiting the Philadelphia Zoo in the morning during a weekday, especially in the off-season. There is rarely a crowd, and the Zoo staff, eager for some for conversation, will talk to you for as long as you want. We have found most of the staff at the exhibits to be very friendly and knowledgeable. The Philly Zoo also has scheduled “Meet the Keeper” events throughout the day. Here are a few of our favorite animal shots from our most recent trip in March:
Aside from the animals, the thing I love most about The Philadelphia Zoo is its rich history. The Philly Zoo bills itself as “America’s First Zoo,” which is true on a technicality. The Zoological Society of Philadelphia was chartered on March 21, 1859, though the actual grand opening did not occur until July 1, 1874.
The Philly Zoo has had many other “firsts” along the way. Some of their achievements include the addition of the first children’s zoo in the western hemisphere (1938), the first successful birth of an orangutan in a Unites States zoo (1928), and the first successful birth of a chimpanzee in United States zoo (1928). Another interesting tidbit is that Jackie (AKA LEO), the first MGM lion to roar in those famous opening credits, retired to the Philly Zoo in 1931. You can read more about Jackie/Leo’s incredible story at mentalfloss.com and see more of the Zoo’s accomplishments via their timeline.
If you really want a taste of what The Philadelphia Zoo was like during its earliest years, head on over to digitalhistory.com, where they’ve transcribed a fascinating analysis of the Zoo from an 1879 edition of The Harper’s New Monthly Magazine.The article is accompanied by some wonderful sketches.
The Philadelphia Zoo is both bolstered and hindered by its age. Many of the original buildings still stand, much to the delight of any historian or architectural enthusiast. In particular, the Victorian style gatehouses, designed by famed Philadelphia-area architect Frank Furness, are quite charming. The downside of being an old zoo is that the city grew and expanded all around it, leaving little room for the Zoo to expand. At this point, any new exhibit added comes at the cost of getting rid of an old one. So far, the Zoo has aptly met the challenge of keeping pace with changing societal views on zoos—sometimes voluntarily, and sometimes forcibly.
Tragedy struck the Philly Zoo on Christmas Eve, 1995, when the Primate House caught fire. The Zoo suffered the loss of 23 animals, all of which perished from smoke inhalation in their sleep. The casualties included a family of six lowland gorillas (one of which turned out to be pregnant), a family of three orangutans, four white-handed gibbons, and ten lemurs. Many corporations, individuals, and other zoos contributed funds in the wake of the tragedy, which led to the opening of the PECO Primate Reserve in 1999.
2006 saw the opening of the new $20-million exhibit, First Niagara Big Cat Falls. In this expansive area, visitors can view animals, such as lions, tigers, jaguars, and leopards, in exhibits that are more reminiscent of their natural habitats. The old big cat building was preserved as part of the exhibit.
One of the biggest controversies the Philadelphia Zoo has faced in recent years surrounds the elephants. The elephants have long been fan favorites at the Philly Zoo. At the main entrance, after your ticket is scanned, one of the first sights you are greeted with is a large elephant sculpture. For decades, the Philadelphia Zoo had audio storybooks at many of their exhibits, which could only be activated by a Zoo Key, shaped like an elephant. Alas, the storybooks are gone, and so are the elephants. After dealing with years of protests from animal rights groups, the Philadelphia Zoo decided that they could no longer meet the modern standards for keeping elephants in captivity, and sent their elephants onto greener pastures in other zoos across the nation. It was the right decision. Having seen the modern, expansive environments provided to elephants in zoos like The San Diego Zoo and The National Zoo in Washington DC, it is abundantly clear to me that the old Philly Zoo exhibit was severely outdated. Thankfully, they preserved the old elephant house as part of the new KidZooU exhibit which opened last year. The old children’s zoo area is currently vacant, and if you speak to the Zoo staff it is no secret that the Philly Zoo would one day love to have elephants back on their roster; however, they would definitely need to do a major overhaul of multiple areas—the old children’s zoo area will not suffice on its own.
The Zoo continues to make improvements and seek out innovative ways to enrich its visitors’ experiences. The latest improvement is the Zoo360 initiative, which provides enclosed walkways for various animals to explore outside of their exhibits and walk above the heads of the visitors. The Treetop Trail features monkeys and lemurs from the Rare Animal Conservation Center and the Great Ape Trail is connected to the Orangutan enclosure. Big Cat Crossing will be officially opening up May 10, featuring—you guessed it—big cats! We were told the Tigers would likely be the first animals encouraged the check out the crossing. I’ve seen some pictures floating around which show a tiger and a leopard separately enjoying the new pathway. We love this idea in concept; unfortunately, we have not yet had the pleasure of witnessing animals using the trails in person. Bad timing, I guess.
One last thing I’d like to note is the resurrection of the 6ABC Zoo Balloon. The Zoo Balloon fell victim to the particularly harsh winter we had this year, and had to be deflated and decommissioned. I took this picture of the old balloon on our last trip. Low and behold, later that very same day the Zoo announced that the balloon would “Soar Once More” and a new balloon was unveiled. I only got to ride in the balloon once, and it was not a particularly nice day; however, I’ve heard that on a clear day you can see all the way to the Jersey Shore. I would like to test the new balloon for myself this spring/summer if I can find a brave soul to go with me (my husband is afraid of heights and spent our one and only zoo balloon experience with his eyes closed, clutching onto the railing for dear life).
The Philadelphia Zoo offers wonderful experiences any time of the year, so a membership is very much worthwhile if you visit more than once a year. Here’s the breakdown: A one-day visit in-season costs $20 per adult and $18 per child. You will also need to pay $15 for parking. For a family of 3, one Zoo visit will set you back $73. A basic family membership, however, only costs $120 and would provide all 3 family members entrance to the park, free parking, and access to members-only areas and benefits. It pays for itself in two visits. Throw in another $40 bucks to get the Family Plus plan and you can bring Grandma and Grandpa along every time you go. You can check out more membership details here: http://www.philadelphiazoo.org/Get-Involved/Membership/Join-The-Zoo.htm
This overview of the Philadelphia Zoo, past and present, has only scratched the surface. In the future I hope to provide more history on the Zoo and explore its animal conservation efforts more thoroughly.
The first thing guests should know about Swan and Dolphin is that despite being located on Walt Disney World property, they are not Walt Disney World hotels. They are Starwood hotels. While guests do get some of the benefits of staying on Disney property, the hotels lack a bit of that Disney “feel.” Guests do have access to WDW transportation to all Disney attractions, free parking at the WDW parks, and access to theme park Extra Magic Hours; however, with the full roll out of the FastPass+/ MyMagic+ campaign, it is important to note that Swan and Dolphin do not participate in the Magic Band program, so guests do not have the ability to book FastPass+ in advance. There are also no charging privileges.
The biggest draw of the resort is its comparative low price for its prime location. For those who tend to spend more time at Epcot or just enjoy the atmosphere of the Epcot resort area, the location is simply spectacular. Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Boardwalk Resort, and Yacht and Beach Club are all within walking distance. For those who prefer a leisurely cruise to a brisk walk, the Friendship Boats will take you to all of those locations.
The Dolphin has several large ballrooms and holds conventions year-round, so it’s no surprise that it is one of the most adult-oriented hotels on property. You have access to excellent dining experiences, high-end shops, and a luxurious spa. My sister-in-law decided to book a last minute pedicure at Mandara Spa during our recent trip, and she had wonderful things to say about her experience. She reports that it was well worth the price, and it was the best pedicure she’s had in years–even better than one she had at a Ritz Carlton Spa. She also appreciated their late hours. They stay open until 9pm, and she was able to book an evening appointment after we spent the day at Wide World of Sports and Downtown Disney.
We have stayed at The Dolphin twice. Our most recent stay was during Marathon Weekend, 2014. We had the pleasure of being upgraded to a King bed suite with a balcony that provided a wonderful view of the Epcot Resort Area. That is where the positives end for this recent stay.
First, let’s take a closer look at the price breakdown. The base rate at Dolphin is attractive. Add to that the fact that they typically offer discounts for teachers, nurses, military, seniors, and more, and the rate looks even better. We had a $179 per night base rate. Where Dolphin really gets you is with all its added fees.
Here is the exact breakdown from our recent invoice:
Room Charge- $179.00
Room Tax- $11.64
Resort Tax- $10.74
Resort Service Package- $17.00
Resort Service Package Tax- $1.11
Resort Tax-Resort Svc. Pkg- $1.02
Total for one night- $220.51
The “Resort Service Package” is not something that you can opt out of. What do you get for this additional $19.13 per night (adding in taxes)? Internet Access, 2 bottles of water daily, and unlimited access to resort health club facilities. You also get unlimited local and domestic calls, but since most people have decent cell phone plans these days, how many people do you think are actually availing themselves of these phone privileges per day?
Do you have a car on property? Add another $15 per night for self-parking.
Your total is still cheaper at Dolphin than it would be at it’s Deluxe Epcot Resort Area counterparts, but come across a good discount for Boardwalk or Yacht & Beach Club, and the savings gap substantially narrows.
The hidden fees don’t stop there. Picabu, a “buffeteria” nestled in the back corner of The Dolphin, adds a $2 service charge to all orders. We had some good meals here, but it’s hard not to roll your eyes and groan when you see another fee tacked onto your bill.
The rooms themselves are decent. I have no issues with the décor or the space of the actual room. I do think the bathroom is desperately in need of an update. The vanity/sink area is separate from the toilet and shower area, which is always nice, but we found the toilet/shower area to be a bit cramped and in need of a refurbishment. My sister-in-law had major issues with the temperature in her room-it always seemed stuffy. Ours felt the same when we checked in, but we were able to get it managed.
The worst part of our trip was the noise. During both of our stays at The Dolphin, I have felt that the door and walls are too thin. You can hear every little thing that happens in the hallway. The Walt Disney World Value Resorts tend to get a lot of heat for their noise levels, but we stayed at POP! Century once during a Pop Warner football event and never experienced the level of noise that we had on this recent stay at The Dolphin. The rowdy conventioneers were out in full force, partying into the wee hours of the morning. On our first night, after we finally fell asleep, the fire alarm went off at 1am! And of course that was the morning of the Minnie 10K. The next evening, the people in the room next to us actually propped their door open and had people freely coming and going. We could hear some noise through the wall, but the door being open really made things a lot worse. We reached our breaking point at 11pm and called the front desk. They said they would take care of it, but it took about another 30 minutes. Then we had to endure the loud hallway goodbyes and doors slamming shut. I almost couldn’t believe the words coming out of my mouth when I told my husband, “I can’t wait to check out of The Dolphin so we can hopefully get some peace and quiet at All Star Music.” (That review is for another day.)
I want to note that the pool and beach area that Swan and Dolphin share seem nice, but we were not able to take advantage of these facilities on either of our trips
All in all, there are still many pros for The Dolphin, especially if you are a party of adults willing to forgo some of the Disney “magic” and save a few bucks. I do think the pros still outweigh the cons. Just be sure to crunch the numbers and don’t forget those hidden fees. If you are a family with small children, I would would recommend looking for deals elsewhere.
Our most recent trip to Walt Disney World Resort gave me my new found inspiration to finally get my blog up and going. My first two trips to WDW were with my parents in 1995 and 2002. While on that 2002 trip, I spent many hours laying in a hammock on the beach at the Polynesian, talking to a boy I had just started dating. A boy I would marry 8 years later. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. John and I took our first trip to WDW together (without parental supervision) in 2004. 10 years later we found ourselves on our 9th WDW trip together (not counting one jaunt over to DL), planning to do something we’d never done before: Participate in a runDISNEY event! We’ve visited WDW in December (x2), August, May (x2), June (x2), and October, but we’ve never visited for Marathon Weekend before. Inspired by a meet planned by our very favorite Disney site, INTERCOT.com, our original intention was to run the Family Fun Run 5K with a bunch of fellow INTERCOTees who were all using this as an excuse to get in shape. Boy did it work! So many of us took up the challenge to make better choices in our lifestyles and embrace running. After my husband and I successfully completed some local 5Ks, we decided to go big and jump on the opportunity when Disney Announced its INNAUGUAL Minnie 10K. How much fun would it be to push ourselves even further and participate in a race the very first year it was run?! So, we decided to go BIG and train for the 10K. The following is a little piece I wrote the night before the race:
Training wasn’t a bed of roses, as neither of us is the poster child for a healthy young adult. But we’ve soldiered on through our various conditions and ailments and I am confident we can finish, even if it isn’t pretty. Growing up with exercise induced asthma, I generally just shied away from the activities that would exacerbate my condition (namely, running of any kind). As an adult, I have been diagnosed with full fledged asthma, and exercise still causes flare ups. Nevertheless, the appeal of participating in a runDisney event is quite strong, so I began jogging using the couch to 5k program last January. As my husband saw my determination increase, he joined my efforts to get in shape and before I knew it, he had surpassed me by leaps and bounds, losing 60lbs in the process. There is no secret to his transformation; he simply counted calories, ate healthier foods, and ran his butt off!
I haven’t been quite as successful in shedding and maintaining the pounds, but I have been fairly dedicated to the training and have noticed some changes in my body along the way. I will never be someone who can “run” a race straight through, and following Jeff Galloway’s method of run/walk/run has been an invaluable confidence booster. At times it can feel like quitting or cheating when you take those walk breaks instead of soldiering through, but they do give you the energy you need to tackle the next interval and the average pace at the end speaks for itself. I’m sure some distance runners roll their eyes at people who have to use a run/walk ratio for 5 and 10ks but there are many more supportive people who recognize that for people like me, this is a huge achievement. As this is the night before the race, I am nervous as heck. However, I know I have it in me and when I cross that finish line and receive my medal I will have tears in my eyes and pride in my heart for BOTH of our achievements. I am so happy to be running this race with such a supportive husband who could easily leave me behind in the dust, but instead will stay by my side the entire time and finish together what we started together a year ago.
That’s me on the left, my husband on the right, and our two pals Mickey and Walt in the middle.
I have always loved to write. Throughout my time as a student of history, I’ve had to write more papers than I can even begin to count. My Masters Thesis was about the history of Catholic education in Philadelphia. Why? Because my major is “History for Educators,” I used to teach in a Catholic school, and I am from Philadelphia. Makes sense? Good.
In June of 2012, the school I was teaching at sadly closed. I decided to concentrate on finishing grad school while working a part time job, but now that I’ve finished my Masters’ degree, I have to admit to feeling a bit lost.
I don’t know when I’ll find something full-time again, or even if I chose the right field to major in, and if I didn’t choose the right field, then what the heck am I going to do?? and, AND, AND …and instead of worrying about things I can’t control (which is pretty much what I do 24/7), my husband suggested I get a hobby. So, I chose writing. This blog will be my “fun” hobby, since I spent so much of my time writing about serious things.
I came up with the idea for this blog a year and a half ago (August 2012), after we returned from our Grand California Adventure. Obviously, since it is now January 2014, I never got around to publishing anything. I had hand-written some reviews on the plane ride home, and then quickly typed them, but never got around to editing them for publishing. Then, in December, my dog jumped up to say hello to me, which caused me to knock a glass of wine onto my brand new MacBook Pro, and, long story short, the files were lost forever. Writing a blog was placed in the background of my mind as I focused on other things. Then, suddenly, the writing bug bit me again. With my new-found enthusiasm, I dusted off my hand-written notes, re-typed the first review, and was oh-so-proud of myself… until I somehow managed to save it to the Twilight Zone, placing me back at square one.
The old me would take all of this as a sign that I’m not supposed to write this stupid blog, but the new me won’t take no for an answer (at least not until it happens again, then I will probably give up).
- I will talk about all the fun (and not so fun things) that my husband, family, friends and I have done in the past at not only Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort, but on other trips we have taken as well.
- I will discuss planning for future trips, visits to zoos, museums, restaurants, and probably my dog.
- I have no children, but I do have a dog. A crazy, anxiety-ridden, allergy-laden, yet oh-so-loveable cockapoo (that’s a cocker spaniel/poodle mix for everyone who’s giggling out there), named Clark.
If you’ve made it this far in reading this boring introductory post, I hope you will join me on my journey to explore not only the World of Disney, but the World* as a whole.
*I’ve only left the U.S. once, to go to England in 2005. My husband is afraid of both flying (although he fights through it), and cruising (but thanks to Carnival, I may never get him on one now). International travel is also quite pricey, so unless we hit the lottery, there probably won’t be any “worldy” posts for a while. But some day there will be. Some day.