Category Archives: Travelogues

Movies + Food

So you may have heard that I like to cook and I like to bake, and I often infuse one passion with another. A few years ago I replicated the Golden Globes menu for my own viewing party. One Oscars night I featured cocktails inspired by the best picture nominees. And I often decorate cakes on a movie theme. My favourite among them was probably the Up cake, where the cake itself was the house, and a mess of colourful cupcakes hovered over top like the most fluffy and delicious balloons ever. My sister only sorta kinda got the reference. But her son speaks my language. Last year he had two parties, one for his friends, which featured a Batman cake made by his bakiest aunt, and one for his family, where we ate a Mickey Mouse cake, it being his favourite character in the universe, really, and the celebrity he most looked forward to meeting when we were recently in Disney World.

As if missing a week of school for a dream vacation to Disney isn’t enough for a kid, we were there for Jack’s birthday, and I felt that this kid needed and deserved a Mickey cake like no other. Now, Disney is great at celebrating birthdays. We started the day at Chef Mickey’s, where the mouse himself brought Jack a cupcake with Mickey’s face right on it. Breakfast, mind you. And then we had dinner at the Beauty and the Beast restaurant, Be Our Guest, where the beast also offered up a birthday sweet treat. But the best was yet to come, because earlier Sean and I had snuck away to take a cake decorating class with Disney Spring’s most beloved patisserie, Amorette’s.

Sean was not much of a cook before he met me but I believe he genuinely loves being in the kitchen when I’m cooking, and he’s a pretty good sous-chef. He’s slow and self-doubting, but if my directions are good, so is his follow-through, and we love spending time together, and feeding people, and pouring our love into baked creations we’re happy to present our loved ones. When we were in Paris we took a couple of classes together, one to learn to make macarons, and another to make a 3-course meal that included potatoes that were legit more cream than potato. Anyway, all that to say that I count myself lucky that Sean was willing to lose a few hours at a theme park in order to don an apron and learn about glacage. Was there day drinking involved? Of course there was. We made a beautiful Mickey Mouse cake for our nephew and brought home some new skills and knowledge, which is an awesome kind of souvenir.

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Disney’s Magic Kingdom

Don’t worry. Were you worried? Probably you weren’t even worried, but no, we didn’t go all the way to buttfuck Orlando, Florida and NOT go to Magic Kingdom. We went. Twice. Three times, really, if you count having dinner at Cinderella’s Castle, and there’s no reason in the world you shouldn’t.

Magic Kingdom is the first among the foursome, first among its peers, first in our hearts and minds when it comes to Disney World. Walt had this amazing vision for it, so he built it to be weirdly inaccessible, meaning the nearly 53 THOUSAND people visiting it DAILY have to bottleneck through one teeny tiny, wholly inadequate entrance that can only be reached via ferry or monorail.

Once you’re in, though, you’re golden. Main Street welcomes you with its sparkling stores, its roaming barbershop quartet known as the Dapper Dans, the balloon vendors 20190203_111814and the cotton candy vendors, the random characters milling about (we ran into Abby Mallard from Chicken Little fame, who grabbed my hand and skipped off with me toward the castle like we were the best of friends). Mickey and Minnie are known to hang out in Time Square. The Plaza ice cream parlour sells a sundae called the Kitchen Sink and it’s a LOT of ice cream sold literally in a kitchen sink. There’s a crystal palace where Winnie the Pooh and friends are known to brunch, and a nice green space where Mary Poppins strolls about underneath her parasol. And right in front of the castle is a large roundabout where all the parades do their thing, and man oh man are there parades. If you wanted to, you could park yourself in a shady central location and just be entertained by parades all day long. There’s the Festival of Fantasy parade,  a lovely thing where all your favourite princesses meander by on themed floats and the Move It! Shake It! Dance and Play It! parade where floats are parked for a good half hour and a high energy show is happening on each float – standard characters like Goofy, but also some fresh ones, like Zootopia‘s Judy Hopps. And then there’s Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire which happens 6 times a day right on the steps of the castle. Sir Mickey is joined by friends including Anna, Elsa, and Olaf in a musical spectacular. And those are just the ones we caught.

We rode Haunted Mansion, which the kids declared “not that scary” with some relief. Pirates of the Caribbean where we got a little wet. Dumbo the Flying Elephant, which now has a component under the big top where kids can play in a little circus-themed 20190203_103939playground while you wait. We avoided the spitting camel in front of the The Magic Carpets of Aladdin. We climbed the Swiss Family Treehouse which was stupid given the enormity of my bad ankle. It hasn’t spoken to me since. Barnstormer, a roller coaster friendly enough for even our anxious kiddos. The People Mover, a couple of times, because it oddly became one of Brady’s favourite “rides” and I have no idea why but didn’t object because despite its surprisingly long line, it is a 16 minute sit that my throbbing ankle (I swear it had its own heart beat) was always grateful for. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, which is a lot of good fun, even if my sister thought my steering was rubbish and took over half way through. Jungle Cruise, soon to be a Dwayne Johnson/Emily Blunt movie, a favourite of my brother-in-law who has a special appreciation for corny dad jokes.

And on our last day, when my ankle was a special shade of purple that communicates ENOUGH rather effectively, Sean and I did a secondary tour of the park called sit and eat (and drink). We went to Gaston’s pub and drank Lefou’s Brew. We went to the Cheshire Cat Cafe and had a cat tail pastry and a Wonderland slush, complete with candy-coated straw. That’s where I also enjoyed my favourite ride at Disney World: a clean women’s washroom with no line!

We were lucky enough to snag a reservation at the Beauty and the Beast castle restaurant, Be Our Guest. We ate in “Belle’s favourite room”, code for the paying guest’s least favourite, but it was still pretty cool, the walls crowded with majestic oil paintings featuring recognizable moments from the film, and a life-size music box feature of Belle and her Beast waltzing around. The main dining room is of course the ball room, where you could see it snowing outside despite the actual blistering Florida sun, and the last dining room is the forbidden west wing, very dark and atmospheric, with the enchanted rose under a glass dome and a portrait of the prince that morphs into the beast every 7 minutes. The menu has suitably french fare on hand (though accessible enough for all palates, gauging by my sister and her family who are very plain eaters) but the best part20190207_173826 is dessert, which proudly features the grey stuff (there’s a line in the song – “Try the grey stuff, it’s delicious. Don’t believe us? Ask the dishes!”) No need, you can just ask me, and: yeah, it’s very good. It came in a white chocolate tea cup, betwixt a truffle and a macaron, on edible stained glass. The kids got a white chocolate tea cup too, but they got edible paints and set to work creating their masterpieces, which, honestly looked like trash to me, but they were proud enough to insist that photos be taken. Before we left we got to meet the Beast, though he’d been by to take a bow during our meal (which is quite presumptuous of a host, if you think about it). This restaurant may seem unassuming but for me it was also the biggest thrill ride in the park, because at the end of the meal, when presented with a bill for $400, my card was declined. Or rather, the last $17 of it was declined. I shame-facedly handed over a $20 bill and made eyes at Sean that communicated basic human emotions such as ohmygodwhatdidido and howdidispendallthatmoney and canweevengethomenow? Your heart really seizes when you hear the words visa and declined in the same sentence, so I didn’t stop to think that never in the history of declined, overtaxed credit cards, does the machine ever spit out “well, she’s good for $383 but not that last $17.” That’s not how credit cards work. Luckily, between Sean and my sister, whose hearts were working normally, and the waitress, who was very bad at her job, it was determined that she hadn’t put through my card at all, and the $383 was from another table, and the whole thing was a huge misunderstanding which only shaved about 90 days off my lifespan, probably. Anyway, don’t you worry about that waitress; her 18% tip was worked into the bill already, no hard feelings allowed.

Anyway. We had a super fun time at Magic Kingdom. We had a super fun week at Disney. We spent 6 days between 4 parks and did not see everything. Not even close.

…think we should go back?

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Disney’s Epcot

Epcot is probably the weirdest of the Disney parks. It’s home to the World Showcase – basically, 11 countries have pavilions dotted around a large lake. You can pick a pearl in Japan, drink tequila in Mexico (and seem some wonderful Coco-inspired folk art), ride Frozen Ever After in Norway, and eat poutine in Canada. Belle is seen in France, Snow White in Germany, Mulan in China.

It also houses Future World, which will test your mettle with rides like Test Track (build a car for the future, and the whip around the track in it!), Soarin’ (actually feel like you’re flying – not for those with a fear of heights), and Mission: Space, which is a NASA shuttle simulator, and which once made me want to die.

But most of our time was spent in the other end of the park, home to Nemo and friends. The Seas with Nemo & Friends gives you a fun, musical recap of the movie and spits you 1615840530-100272980-20190206T153128-689587655-DSC_mediumout in real-life aquarium. Kids who have been kept within strict arm’s reach all week have a bit of room to run and explore as tunnels lead you through the waters of Disney’s many impressive tanks, filled with clown fish like Marlin and Nemo, and blue tangs like Dory, and an awful lot more. Brady loved to spot the turtles, and Jack was more entertained by the human diver who appeared to be doing some caulking. Their dad was happy to see some manatees while the rest of us played spot the shark and count the rays. There’s also Turtle Talk with Crush, which is a fun, interactive show, wherein the cool surfer dude talks directly to the kids in the audience. We had so much fun with the fish, we decided to go for lunch at the Coral Reef. That sounds a bit cruel, doesn’t it? Especially since Sean DID order the mahi mahi. Okay, and I had lobster mac and cheese. The restaurant features an entire glass wall that gives live views of a living coral reef. Each table gets a card (that looks suspiciously like a menu) so you can spot and identify the fish withing. I especially loved the unicorn fish, which are totally a thing!

Anyway, Epcot was fun and all, but we called it a day a bit early because Sean and I were taking the two boys to the Art of Animation hotel for a night, to give their parents a break and to have some extra special fun. The Art of Animation is a Disney hotel on the property that has themed rooms – The Little Mermaid for couples or small families, and suites in the style of The Lion King, Finding Nemo, or Cars. And the boys being Cars super fans, we of course chose that one. The room is extremely well-appointed; the couch looks like the backseat of a car, and it folds out into a bed (odd how much this impressed the kids); a table likewise hides a Murphy bed, and that was also so much fun they decided to sleep in BOTH – and did actually switch beds during the night. There’s a coffee table that looks like a map of Radiator Springs, and a chair made of tire rubber, with treads, and the lamps look like traffic cones, and the kitchenette looks like those heavy duty tool chests you’d normally see in a garage. But the real fun is outside: the property is dotted with friends: Mater, Doc, Sally, Luigi and Guido, Ramone, and of course Lightning McQueen. The pool is styled after the Cozy Cone Motel, and a giant orange pilon was our cabana. But further down, the Finding Nemo pool is even bigger, with a splash pad, and all the fish friends you’d expect to see. And even further are Timon & Pumba, Scar, Simba, and Rafiki, and an elephant graveyard to play in, and lastly, a whole bunch of Ariel’s collection, thingamabobs and dinglehoppers galore, plus Ursula, King Triton, and the Little Mermaid herself, all surrounding yet another pool. We swam, of course, in two of the pools and one of the splash pads. We even watched a bit of Up from the pool, which the boys thought was the bee’s knees.

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Oh and Sean and I went to eat at Cinderella’s Royal Table. You know that big ole castle that’s the iconic backdrop to the Magic Kingdom itself? Yeah, we ate there, no big deal. And we met Cinderella! And her friends: Snow White, Aurora, Ariel, and Jasmine, who asked me if Sean was my “diamond in the rough.” I must have looked skeptical because she then offered “…in the scruff?” and she nailed it because Sean never fails to ‘forget’ his razor when we travel. Not only did we feast on The Clock Strikes Midnight chocolate mousse, and a white chocolate glass slipper, and some Francis Ford Coppola merlot, we had a window seat for Disney’s famous fireworks show. #Spoiled.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios is a Disney park you used to be able to knock out in half a day. If you are a thrill seeker, you might have done the Aerosmith Rock’n’Roller Coaster (soon to be rebranded as something, anything more relevant), and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, the one guaranteed to feed your nightmares about elevators for months. I am not that person.

If you’re a movie buff, Hollywood Studios is Disney’s attempt to compete with Universal’s backlot. Its main street, Sunset Boulevard, is meant to look like a movie set in Hollywood, California. And if it wasn’t for the throngs of tourists and the dozens of balloon vendors, and that pesky elevator that drops you to your death, it would. Fittingly, it has the Muppets (in 3D!) and Indiana Jones (live in person, and fleeing that damn boulder). Other than that, it was a bit of a dud. But no more!

Incredibles (3)About six months ago, they opened a brand new “wing” of Hollywood Studios, called Toy Story Land, and you’re not going to guess what’s there! Okay, you totally guessed, didn’t you? It’s part of the Pixar rebrand. Already there: Pixar Place, where you can dance with the Incredibles in Municiberg, and meet Edna Mode at her gallery, and see Sully and Mike Wazowski on the scare floor. If your little ones are more into Frozen, Elsa and Anna are there to lead a sing-a-long celebration, and Olaf is greeting guests at Echo Lake.

But Toy Story Land is where it’s at for Pixar fans. A giant Woody greets guests as they pass his threshold – literally. Many of the figures speak – Woody, Jessie, Rex, Slinky Dog, and Buzz even goes into Spanish mode occasionally. There are three Toy Story rides in this part of the park, but the whole thing is themed out the wazoo to make it feel like you’ve entered Andy’s backyard. Therefore, the toys are huge, and we humans are tiny. Benches are made out of popsicle sticks. Lightbulbs are hung from pencils. Tinker toys hold bits and bobs together. It’s a riot of primary colours, with Easter eggs galore. I never once tired of being there, crowded as it was, because there’s just so much to do and see. Souvenirs are sold out of a Fisher-Price camper van. Mr. Potato Head entertains youngins who are (im)patiently waiting in line. Green army men go marching by, practicing drills, and occasionally forming a drum line.

Toy Story Mania! was actually there last time, and it was an immediate favourite. You sit in a cart which shoots you around to different screened arcade games. You point and shoot shoot shoot. I am not bad at shooting but terrible at aiming so I am no good at these games but they are still terribly fun and exciting. Sitting beside Sean, I had less than a tenth of his score. Beside Brady, my 7 year old nephew, well, let’s just say I pulled back just enough to make sure that he won. He’s still boasting. Yes I’m proud. The ride’s lineup spits you out in Andy’s bedroom, with his door towering over you, a nearby dresser quite imposing, and even the socket of a plug is impressively large. The imagineers (what Disney calls their ride creators) have done it again: every detail immerses you in something that’s just a little more than a ride.

Alien Swirling Saucers was Jack’s favourite. He was days shy of 5 at Disney World, and he talked this ride up BIG time. Toy Story’s little three-eyed green aliens become chauffeurs in this one; their cart tenuously joined to ours as it whips us around at high speed while The Claw dangles threateningly between us all. Jack squealed in delight as his tiny body smashed around between the hard wall of the ride and the soft wall of his aunt.

Slinky Dog Dash is a roller coaster that talks to you as you ride. It’s a custom thing, meant to look like Andy might have built it himself in his backyard, though with higher safety standards of course. The little guys weren’t keen on riding this one so we let their dad and Sean ride it while we did another round of Mania! and Swirling Saucers (!). Sean is pretty sure we missed out, with theming even more impressive than the Everest roller coaster at Animal Kingdom where the mountain does look like its namesake, and a giant Yeti takes determined swipes at you. In this case, Jessie, Rex, and even Wheezy get in on the action, and some of it is as much fun for those watching on the ground as for those flying by withing the coils of Slink.

Sean and I managed to grab a quick lunch at Woody’s Lunch Box and hustled over to meet the rest of our crew to see the Beauty and the Beast spectacle. The little boys are way too young to know who in the heck Belle and the Beast are, but we were going to eat dinner at the Beast’s castle later in the week, and this was a great way to prepare them for it. It’s a condensed musical, with just the highlights of the story woven in (Belle’s father Maurice gets written out), and the boys sat stock still, enjoying every minute. Afterward, Jack worried that perhaps the Beast would not take kindly on dinner guests. “What if he scares us away?” he asked. “I think he’s a lot nicer now that he’s a married man,” I told him, but having not seen the sequels, I can’t guarantee this is true.

Hollywood Studios is vastly improved by the addition of Toy Story Land, but wait, there’s more. Coming March 31, 2019, is Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy. The boys love love LOVE Cars. It’s their movie(s). So it’s tragic that we missed this new attraction by a matter of 6 piddly weeks. Disney Land, in California, does a better job of paying tribute to this popular movie, but there are no other traces of it in Florida, alas.

Also coming later this year: Star Wars. Goddammit. We really didn’t time this well, did we? Opening this fall: Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Like Pandora in Animal Kingdom, it’s going to be a whole themed land, modeled on the planet Batuu. We could see some of the construction and it looks vast and really cool. You’ll be able to visit the Black Spire Outpost, pilot the Millennium Falcon, and get thrown into a battle between the First Order and the Resistance. Unlike Cars, though, Disney seems to know that people simply cannot wait, and so there’s just enough to entertain you while leaving you wanting more. Nearly every half hour, there’s a show in the center of the park, either March of the First Order, or a Galactic Spectacular. There’s a Jedi training academy for little kids to wield their light sabers, and a ride called Star Tours: The Adventure Continues that’s a pretty intense jaunt with C3-PO through space, at hyper speed, of course. And then there are characters at the Launch Bay – we saw Chewie, BB-8, and potentially got drafted into the First Order by Kylo Ren, who was quite standoffish in the photos, as you’ll see.

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom

I suppose it’s only fair to say we’ve had an absolute fantastic time in Florida. Except of course for the searing pain in my bad ankle, which was completely done being an ankle within approximately the first 10 minutes of the trip, and then screamed in bloody agony when I refused to sit the rest of the trip out. Eventually it was too swollen for shoes and so painful I couldn’t spell my own name and so stiff it lost the ability to ankle. On that day I waved the white flag – I still went to the park, but enjoyed the sit and drink part rather than the stand in line for hours on an ankle that looks less like a human lady ankle and more like a pregnant elephant’s cankle by the minute. And don’t think the hot Florida sun helped. It did not. It was blistering hot for parts of the trip, and we managed to complain not one single iota since reports from back home included ice rain, cancelled school buses, and a word being tossed around with alarming frequency this winter: snowmaggedon.

Anyway, Disney was fantastic, as you’d expect it to be. Thank you to everyone who read along with our adventures. I spent a lot of time in lines reading your posts, often out loud, which helped to pass the time quite nicely. Disney has changed a lot in the 6 years since I last visited, but the lines are still enormous. It’s possible that the tail of the line from 6 years ago was just getting toward the front this time.

‘Disney World’, as opposed to Disney Land, which is in California, is comprised of 4 parks in 2019: Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot. There were Animal Kingdom (4).jpgtwo notable additions since our last visit. Animal Kingdom has built a Pandora, from the movie Avatar. And even though I quite despise the movie, the park was breath taking. It’s not about the rides, which are excellent, or the food, which is deliciously on theme. It’s the attention to small but measurable detail throughout – every plant, every rock. It looks like the beautiful land of the Na’vi, but tainted by the human touch, but being slowly reclaimed by nature. You could spend several hours just drinking in the visuals, and drinking the Night Blossom from Pongu Pongu (limeade with apple and pear flavors topped with passion fruit boba balls). The rides include the Na’vi River Journey, which is a dark little boat ride featuring glowing, luminescent plant and animal life from Pandora, and Flight of Passage, which is the real doozie. It can have up to a four hour wait. You read that right: four hours! That’s even longer that the dang movie, which clocks in at nearly 3. Luckily, we got the elusive fast pass. Unluckily, it was for the evening of our last day – well past my ankle’s expiry date, as you can imagine. I would have gladly skipped the ride and spent the day by the pool, but Sean was anxious to ride it and had contemplated the 3+ hour wait just to ride it 3 days earlier. So we went. And even with a fast pass, expect to spend nearly 30 minutes before you get on the ride. It’s quite a trek up, up, up – and you’ll see why once you get in there. Then you watch videos from the scientists in the Avatar program, who first have to decontaminate you, and then find your DNA match so you can be matched with your Animal Kingdom (1)own Avatar (it sounds good, but it’s just a bit of busy work). Then you get shuttled into an ante-anteroom where there still more videos to watch. I’m positive that Jake Sully received less training than we do. Then, as you finally gain access to the ride, they warn you: the “banshee” you’re about to ride will dangle in mid-air as the floor drops away once you’re on, and the intense VR experience means that anyone with a fear of falling, or of great heights, or of dying due to either one, should not ride this ride. It would be kinder of them to warn you before your 4 hour wait, but alas, some of us found the description just a little too daunting and made a beeline for the exit, bypassing the ride completely. Luckily, there is a chicken bench meant for chicken shits outside the ride. I was not alone on that bench (okay, fine, it was me and two little girls). Sean, however, chose to ride, and though it rattled him, he declared it the best ride at Disney, period.

Animal Kingdom is also home to my favourite “ride,” the safari. A huge open-air jeep takes you bumpily along the Harambe Wildlife Reserve, a 110-acre savanna dedicated to the protection of African animals, and home to 34 species of animals, including wildebeest, rhinos, elephants, lions, okapis, giraffes, and zebras.

And it’s also the home base of my all-time favourite movie, Up! You can meet Dug and Russell, you can see their show, UP! A Great Bird Adventure Show. And if that’s not Upenough for you, they’ve got a Wilderness Explorers interactive thing for kids. I’d heard about it prior to going and brushed it off, assuming it was mostly for Florida residents who were maybe getting a bit bored and looking for something extra at the park. I was surprised to find my two nephews, Jack, now aged 5, and Brady, age 7, so into it. You may remember from the movie Up that Russell is a Wilderness Explorer, aiming to get his “helping the elderly” badge. Kids at Animal Kingdom can traverse the park with a little guidebook and earn their own badges. There are dozens of Wilderness troupe leaders identifiable by their authentic uniforms just waiting to be approached. You do a little quest, learn a little something, and receive a sticker to paste in your booklet. The boys learned about Africa, and birds of course, and a surprising bit more. I thought they’d be too shy, and too busy with the flashier attractions, but they loved doing this.

When we visited, Animal Kingdom was celebrating the 25th anniversary (!) of The Lion King. Animal Kingdom is always home to the Tree of Life, an enormous, impressive, Animal Kingdom (3)picturesque 145 feet tall and 50 feet wide sculpted tree featuring 300 meticulously detailed animal carvings throughout its massive trunk, all celebrating the place we all share in the Circle of Life (cue Elton John). Animal Kingdom has a wonderful Lion King show, you can meet Rafiki on Discovery Island and visit his Planet Watch to learn about animal conservation. And right now, there are special photo-ops around the park to celebrate this special anniversary on top of all the usual stuff, so if you love Lion King (and who doesn’t, you heartless bastards?), it’s a great time to go. Oh heck, it’s always a great time to go.


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Animal Kingdom:

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Merida may be a princess, but she’s no lady. After reluctantly performing her royal duties, she’s happiest riding her horse and shooting her bow and arrow – not feminine pursuits, according to her mother, but Merida is a daddy’s girl, and he indulges her. But even the King can’t save her when it’s time for each of Scotland’s clans to send forth a suitor to compete for her hand in marriage. It strikes Merida as almost as barbaric as it does you and I, but Merida’s mother has some very convincing myths to back up the obligation, and anyway, nobody really has any choice – for crown, for country, for glory and all that.

Anyway, Merida’s father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly) is a big beast of a man, whoMV5BMTYxNzE3NzA5MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjQ4MTc3Nw@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,740_AL_ loves to tell the story of how he lost his leg fighting Mor’du the bear at a family picnic, protecting his wife and baby daughter. The Queen, Elinor (Emma Thompson) tolerates his boastful storytelling, and only rolls her eyes a little when Merida (Kelly Macdonald) embellishes right along. But Elinor knows that this betrothal stuff is serious business.

And Pixar knows that to Disney, this princess stuff is serious business. Still, they challenge the notion of what a princess should be, with Merida mucking out a horse’s stall herself, her fiery, unruly hair streaming behind her, big ideas broiling in that red head of hers. When it comes time to compete, Merida competes for her own hand in marriage, ripping the seams of her dress in order to win the day. Does her mother find this an ingenious solution? She does not. Still, Merida is Disney’s first princess without a love interest (but not its last – hello, Elsa!). Anyway, mother and teenage daughter fight, predictably, only Merida has something most teenage daughters luckily do not: access to a witch (Julie Walters). She conjures up a special potion which, when fed to her mother, will “change her fate.” And indeed it does. By turning her mother into a bear.

Pixar, as always, gets a lot right: Merida’s hair is gloriously animated (they had to invent new software to properly render it), the sun dappling is gorgeous, and there’s this moment of goofy pride on the mother bear’s face that just warms the haggis in my heart. If we must life in a world full of princesses, may they be more like Merida – brave enough to stand up for themselves, to stand on their own, to pursue their own ends.

This week Sean and I are at Disney World with my sister and her husband and her two sweetie pie boys, who are probably running through the parks like adorable hooligans, leaving us adults gasping for breath. If we have a spare moment, we might even meet Merida herself. Aside from appearing with other characters from the film in one of Disney’s many parades, she meets and greets wee lads and lassies inside Fairytale Garden, where you can also try your hand at archery, colour your own tapestry, or a picture of her horse, Angus.

b3f42e8969b8336c2c6fcc907310b529Brave came out before either, or in fact any, of my nephews was born, so I’m not sure if we’ll stop to get a picture with her – although the pair are armed with autograph books, so who knows. When a “cast member” of the Disney parks becomes a princess, one of her most important duties is practicing her distinct signature. Merida’s looks appropriately auld. There might be dozens of women who play Merida at Disney World, but they will all sign her name exactly this way. Disney is rather strict about its magic.



A Goofy Movie

I suppose I knew, in the unused corner of my brain where I store things like my first crush’s phone number and Milli Vanilli lyrics, that A Goofy Movie existed. But I didn’t know it, know it, ya know? And I don’t think I’d ever seen it – before now.

It came out in 1995, during Disney’s renaissance period. 1991: Beauty and the Beast. 1992: Aladdin. 1994: The Lion King. 1995: Pocahontas. AND A Goofy Movie. For some, maybe not many, but for some, A Goofy Movie belongs on that list, among those great movies. And that cult following is largely thanks to Millennials, literally the only people on the planet who could be nostalgic for 1995.

file_3a02a72dThe only reason I even remembered that A Goofy Movie was a thing was its (to me) strange inclusion in a line of clutch handbags at the Disney Store. They look like those white puffy VHS cassette covers that Disney was famous for. If you’re as old as I am, your movie collection always looked weird because those cases were so much bigger and bulkier than the cardboard husks the rest of the world’s movies came in. Anyway, VHS is obsolete but we’re keeping 1995 alive with tacky purses.

A Goofy Movie is a spin-off of the TV show Goof Troop, which I also know nothing about. But in it, Goofy is a single dad taking care of his son, Max. In the movie, Max is a teenager, and it’s SO embarrassing having a goofy dad. He finally makes a move on a girl on the last day of school, and it’s looking like a great summer – except Goofy’s got a father-son road trip planned that’s going to monopolize all his time. So he makes up a weird story about performing on stage with the hottest boy band in the Goofy universe, Powerline. At this juncture I should probably mention that this movie is also a musical, wherein a dog-boy named Max Goof (does that make his dad Goofy Goof?) breaks into the Broadway-level singing of straight-to-DVD-level songs while skateboarding around a town populated solely by dog-people. Which is weird, because Goofy is a close personal friend of Mickey, who is a mouse, and Donald, who is a duck. Do they all live in segregated cities and meet on neutral turf?

Anyway, this movie watches like an extended episode of a show you can’t wait to turn off. But I am fascinated by its fandom. They hosted a 20th anniversary event at Comic Con in 2015 and people attended. They wore Powerline tshirts. It’s a pocket of Disney that I’ve never encountered before, and it makes me wonder what else they’ve been hiding in plain sight.