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A World of Characters A World of Characters
A World of Characters A World of Characters
A World of Characters A World of Characters
So, here we are in 2022...
DisneyDan  Thursday, March 3, 2022 9:29:33 AM
Hello everyone,

I know it's been a while again since I posted here, but as anyone who follows us on various social media platforms knows, we are still very much active and always having adventures at the parks. I do update the website with new locations and characters when I get chance, but I find social media an easier, more immediate to access platform these days than constantly blogging. The "stories" feature of Instagram and Facebook I use particularly heavily; almost daily in a lot of instances, in fact.
However, I thought I would give a more thoughtful update on life here in Central Florida, some of our more recent trips, and upcoming plans - and also what it has been like to enter into a third year of a global pandemic living close to the magic. I've included a lot of photos in between sections, which I hope you enjoy.

We were reluctant to travel for quite a while, even when things got more back to "normal" (I use that word very lightly - there is nothing "normal" about the ongoing situation in the world. I more refer to how businesses and countries continue to adapt and reopen in the face of either "getting on with it", or closing permanently). So, we didn't travel for basically two entire years. Our last trip out of the US was to Europe to see my family and to go to Disneyland Paris, back in October/November of 2019. Like everyone else, we had plans for 2020, but that all went out the window come March, and in fact one of the last things we did was attend probably the best Moonlight Magic ever held - the Magic Kingdom party that had Atlantis' Milo and Kida, and so far, Onward's Barley and Ian's only WDW appearance. Right after that things shut down.

Magic Kingdom DVC Moonlight Magic 2020

From there we remained in Florida, and watched the slow crawl of reopening across the globe. As things continued to rapidly change, with parks reopening, then closing again (such as DL, HKDL, etc), it was a very uncertain time, and we took no risks. Here in Florida, we had other things to keep us occupied if we couldn't get that travelling fix. Universal Orlando Resort did a phenomenal job of bringing back its entertainment in safe ways, and we found ourselves there more often than previously. We even ventured out and visited Busch Gardens Tampa Bay once, and SeaWorld Orlando once, too. We're not huge fans of either of those, honestly, but they made a refreshing change of pace for a couple of days. Then there is Legoland Florida Resort, which was the last to close and first to reopen, and reopened initially without mask requirements; a controversial decision that didn't go down well, and led to the city of Winter Haven enforcing a mask mandate. With that said, Legoland Florida has continued to pull off some really neat seasonal events and continued to show that it is a good fun, family safe environment that, despite overwhelming odds, made it through a pandemic as a beacon of the Central Florida theme park community.

SeaWorld fun

Universal fun

Fun at Legoland

October last year was the 50th anniversary of WDW, and to say that it has been underwhelming is an understatement (in fact, Legoland did more for their 10th anniversary in October than WDW did for their 50th!). Anyone who was there on the big day for the 50th itself (we were), will tell you it was an epic let down.

50th Anniversary day

With WDW still extremely reluctant to do just about anything at that point, and having visited every other park in Central Florida more often than we ever would have otherwise, late last year we absolutely needed a break. Very last minute we decided it was time to open ourselves up again to the possibility of travelling, and took a trip out to Disneyland in California in late October-early November.

Meeting Miguel

Anyone who saw our social media posts knows that we had such an incredible time that we decided to take the plunge and become Magic Key holders while on the trip! We had previously been DLR AP holders in the past, but as we all know, those got wiped out through the pandemic. Here we were again, passholders at Disneyland! Disneyland, while closed longer than WDW, and certainly had its share of ups and downs, and always the ever cautious, somehow just pulls it off not just better than WDW, but leaves WDW in the dust and then some. We met a bunch of new characters (some new Avengers, Sid, Agatha, movie Cruella, to name a few!), had several new experiences, and generally had the time of our lives. It was just such a relief to feel magic again.



Meeting Iron Man

After that, we felt more like our old selves again, and almost immediately booked our next trip to Disneyland, which will be coming up in a few weeks from now, and as well as that, we took a trip to Disney Aulani, which we went on in January!
We had previously visited Aulani 4 years ago, but only had 3 days on that trip. We had enjoyed it, but I recall being very frustrated with the character situation there. Fast forward to a pandemic and 4 years between trips, and what can I say? We were there for a week, and we just simply didn't want to leave. The character scheduling there is the most infuriating, just as it was 4 years ago, but that place, the people, the characters and cast... it's now absolutely one of my most favourite places in the world. It is stunningly beautiful in every possible way, including the hearts of the people there. We made so many friends for life during our full week there, and we cannot wait to go back. Aulani is one of those places that I always figured was a once every 5 years type of place, but we are absolutely planning a trip back there in 2023. Since our last visit, the character outfits had changed, so it was nice to see them wearing something different. On top of that, Aulani has added some more friends to their line-up, including 'Olu Mel, a friend of Duffy the Disney Bear. 'Olu Mel, what can I say? We fell in love. He is completely freaking adorable, and he rocketed up my favourites list to become my joint number one alongside Stitch (nothing will ever top Stitch!). 'Olu Mel is the ukulele playing turtle who wrote a birthday song for ShellieMay. He was created for Aulani, but now also appears in HKDL and Shanghai.

Fun with 'Olu Mel

Character fun at Aulani

In November of last year, runDisney made a sudden return, and honestly, it showed us what WDW are capable of if they actually put some thought and effort into things. I guess since runDisney were paying them, it allowed them to be more creative, but it shouldn't be that way only. We pay a lot for our passes at WDW. Prices keep going up all the time for literally everything, and everything you want to do these days has a surcharge. WDW has continued to price out families, and Wine and Dine kind of proved that point - if you have money, you can still meet characters and have fun.
I am not unsympathetic to the challenges that a company faces during these difficult times, but there is so much more that other places are doing now that WDW simply refuses to partake in; it is extremely frustrating.

Wine and Dine in November was so close to being back to normal, it felt good. There were a lot of characters, and while distanced still, they were really not that far away in most instances. The only thing that didn't return was characters at the Expo or at the reunion areas (pre and post-race areas).

runDisney Character Fun

After Wine and Dine came Marathon Weekend this past January, and again, there were plenty of characters and fun things to be seen. Again, there were no pre or post-race characters, nor at the Expo, but the courses were full of great pals, some of which had not been seen in a really long time, such as Gus and Jaq, and even Bullseye, who doesn't get out much these days.

runDisney Character Fun

Last weekend was Princess Half Marathon Weekend, and it was similar in setup to the previous two races that just happened, but I feel like the characters were not quite as interesting. There were some good ones for sure, but it wasn't quite as good as Marathon Weekend was. But at this point, I'll take what I can get from WDW.

runDisney Character Fun

With the news today that Disneyland Paris is allowing guests and characters to hug again, it gives me hope. But we also have to be aware that HKDL is still closed, while DLP on the other hand requires vaccines and a special vaccine pass to enter. WDW just recently brought back a lot more characters, and now for the first time since the pandemic started, we can meet characters inside without masks. WDW still maintains that physical barrier, but it is inching back to more normal times. We now also have the castle show back, which really adds something to the atmosphere that has been seriously lacking for the past 2 years. For that, I am very grateful. DVC Moonlight Magic returns in a couple of weeks, and I cannot wait to see how that plays out.

Living in Central Florida during these times has proved challenging as a fan of the characters and parks, but I am glad that we live here and that the magic is still accessible to us. The other parks were all closed for so much longer, and have faced many other challenges with local government regulations. I am very much all for people doing the right thing and wearing a mask, getting their shots, etc, but that doesn't make me any less tired of it. It has been exhausting. As a planet, we need a break.

Here's to 2022, and hoping that that slow crawl I mentioned earlier turns into more of a sprint before too long.

I promise I'll try to update more often this year - but remember that I also post much more on social media. Be sure to find us there.

Adventure is out there!



Character fun at Aulani

Character fun at Aulani

Character fun at Aulani

Fantasyland character fun

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