Hey guys!

Well, I didn't expect to be writing this today! It's currently Thursday June 28th and Disneyland Paris have just released the first images of this year's run Disney medals. For those of you who aren't in the know about these things, run Disney is a series of race weekends held across the different Disney parks, they encourage participants of all ages, shapes, sizes and abilities to get involved and get moving, the reward? Incredible Disney medals and character meets along the route to keep you going.

Now if you follow this blog, you'll probably know that I am a huge advocate for run Disney! I love everything the event promotes, I am proud to say that I have participated in and completed every eligible race since the event came to Paris in 2016 (believe me, I'd run the kids race too if they let me) and I'm signed up for all 3 races again this year.

So if you're not up to date, here are the main things you need to know so far. The magical run weekend takes place in Disneyland Paris from September 20th to September 24th inclusive. The weekend includes an Expo which runs in one of the event tents in the Disney village, this is where runners can collect their bibs and t-shirts etc, this is also where run Disney specific merchandise is sold, and the venue is also used to host a number of talks and demos over the weekend starting from Thursday afternoon.

The first race of the weekend is the 5Km which is held on Friday evening at 8pm, this race is entirely in the Studios park and anyone who is aged 5 or older on the day of the race can enter. This year the theme for the 5 KM is Marvel and the medal features Thanos and the infinity stones, this is the 2nd year that the 5 KM medals have been metal, having previously been rubber. I do like this design, I think it was the best choice for the chosen theme, however, my favourite 5 KM medal so far is the Ratatouille one from 2016.

The next race is the 10 KM, this is held on Saturday morning at 7 am, the race takes place across both the Studios and Disneyland Park and is open to runners 14 or older on race day. This is only the second year a 10 KM race has been held and the theme this time is evil sidekicks. I'm actually really really excited for this theme and cannot wait to see which characters are out, the medal features Pain and Panic from Hercules and personally, this is one of my favourite medals out of the lot. I'm really really hoping this is an indication they are going to be out on the course and if they are you can bet I'll be stopping for them! Last years medal was the 3 fairies from sleeping beauty, and right now, I couldn't choose a favourite between the two.

The kid's races are next, these are also held on Saturday, but start a fair bit later at 11am, and are held around Lake Disney. I really love the kids races, they are open to children aged 1-12 on race day, with different distances for each age group, I think it's super cute to see all the little ones in their costumes and I love that Disney is promoting fitness and a healthy lifestyle in kids of such a young age. The medals for the children's races are now the only run Disney medals to still be rubber, and they come in some of the most colourful and fun designs, truth be told I'm slightly jealous of this years and wish I could get one for myself. The medal is the same across all distances, and this is especially nice if you have more than 1 child and your children are running in different age categories, no arguments if they're all the same! This year's design features our favourite blue troublemaker, Stitch!

The final race is the half marathon, which is held on Sunday at 7 am, the route covers both parks as well as some of Val d'Europe and is open to runners aged 18 or over on the day of the race. This year the theme is villains, again a theme I am excited for as I know there are plenty of villains who don't appear over the Halloween season that could well come out to spook runners! The half marathon medal is slightly different in that the main mould stays the same each year, usually having a slight facelift or colour change, this means it does not represent the theme of the race. I know for some this will be a real disappointment, especially if villains are your thing, but actually, I really love the mould, I also have a real soft spot for Mickey's Sorcerer's Apprentice outfit, so this medal gets joint-favourite for me!

Now I'm probably going to confuse matters here because there are still three more medals to show you. You see although there are only 4 different race categories over the weekend, there are actually up to 7 different medals to collect, the other three all represent various challenges. Challenges require participants to take part in a series of pre-defined races in order to bag themselves some extra bling on top of increased bragging rights. Two of these are specific to the Paris events, the 31 and 36 KM challenges are awarded to anyone who completes either the 10 km and half marathon, or the 5 KM, 10 KM and Half marathon respectively. The final challenge is the Castle to Chateau which requires runners to complete a half marathon both in Paris and in Florida (there are currently no races scheduled in California at this time) in the same calendar year.

The Castle to Chateau medal is similar to the half marathon one, in that the design doesn't change much year on year, regardless I personally think owning one is such a huge achievement that I would be honoured to collect one each year even with an unchanged design. The 31 KM challenge is new for this year and the medal features a portrait of Maleficent in her human form, she is probably up there as one of my favourite villains, and I guess with Paris' castle being from Sleeping Beauty it does make sense that she would feature, but personally I was hoping for a more obscure villain in the hope that this would indicate who would be on the course. The 36 KM medal is also Maleficent but this time in her dragon form, I think I prefer this one, but at this point, it's a little bit too much Maleficent for me and I would happily have traded one for another villain to be represented.

So that's a rundown of the 2018 medals for the Magical Run weekend at Disneyland Paris, what do you think and which is your favourite? Drop me a comment below! If you'd like to know more about the events you can check out the Magical Run website, or you can find all my previous run Disney posts in one handy link. Maybe I'll see you at the start line?

Finally, thank you to @Ed92 on twitter for allowing me to use their close up images of the medals! 

Hoodsie xx
Hey guys!

We've had the longest day of the year, the sun is out the mercury is rising and summer is well and truly here! So this is probably a good time to have a spring Disney haul! I would usually do this a trip at a time, but with 3 trips all within a few weeks of each other this year, I just never found the time. So here's one big bumper edition of what I bought in Disneyland Paris this spring, enjoy!

Lets start with whats probably the biggest section, pins. Over the last few trips pins have become probably my biggest guilty pleasure, I don't even really know why, I guess out of all the merch you can buy, they seem like the best compromise between something that will last, doesn't take up too much space, and isn't too expensive. I tend to collect most hotel pins, dated pins, Duffy and friends, toy story and peter pan, but the truth is I'll pretty much find a way to justify anything I think is totally cute.

Pins are sold in most of the shops across the resort and range from €6.99 upwards, most standard pins tend to go up to about €12.99 but limited editions can be more expensive! I also recently started to take more of an interest in pin trading, and in May I traded my first pin at DLP, this is something I am hoping to do more of, and will cover in more detail separately. My go to shops for pins tend to be World of Disney and the Disney store in the village, Studio One store in the studios park, and then in Disneyland Park I like to visit Harringtons and the Emporium on Main Street, Constellations in Discoveryland and Pueblos trading post in Frontierland.

So what pins have I added to my collection? I picked up both the Sequoia Lodge and hotel New York pins to commemorate my first stay in each hotel, these were in the Yellow price band which I believe is €9.99 each. I picked up The new annual pass pin for €6.99, a pin from the new Paris range and then a 2018 booster pack for €18.99 which I split between myself, Sophie, Katie H and Gabi as I preferred these designs over any of the stand alone 2018 pins.

For my Toy Story collection I added the Buzz and Woody, Jessie and Bullseye, Buttercup and Little green alien pins, there were all in the green price band which is €6.99 each. From the same price band I also added to my Neverland collection with new Peter Pan, Captain Hook and Jake pins which were released in March for the festival of pirates and princesses. When I went back in may we visited on a weekend so were able to go to Pueblos trading post where they had a few of the limited edition Jake pirates and princess pins left from earlier in the month, I felt really lucky to get this as there were only 700 of these pins made, it was a little more expensive at €15.99 but I did get my annual pass discount off the cost.

I got 2 attraction pins, Ratatouille, because I love the ride and chef Remy is super cute! And then Hyperspace Mountain, which Sophie actually bought for me in May when I faced my fear and finally rode it for the first time! These were in the orange price band alongside this Aurora and Philip couples pin, so they were all €7.99 each before any discounts. The final three odd pins I picked up for myself were the flowers and princesses Aurora, the new happy Dumbo, and this Hiro and Baymax pin, again these were all in the green price band at €6.99 each.

If all those pins weren't enough I did pick up a few other bits for myself. During my FanDaze trip in June I got two new sets of ears, both released at Paris for the event. The Oswald ears were €12.99 I think, and were just too cute and unique to resist, I initially thought these were exclusive to Paris, but I think you can get them elsewhere, possibly in the Asian parks? Either way I'm still really happy with them and glad I picked them up. The second set are exclusive to Paris as far as I know and are these beautiful blue and gold sequin Minnie ears. What I love about these is that they're not over FanDaze branded, they used the colour scheme, but don't have the name or any other logo on, which means they can be worn with a lot more! The colours also really remind me of princess Jasmine, so would be perfect if you wanted to wear them as part of a Disneybound of her!

I also picked up this really cute Minnie Mouse Stars on Parade top from the shop in the front lot of the studios. Now the top is a ladies, so it does have more of a fitted style than tops I would usually buy or feel most comfortable in, but I really liked the design so I decided to give it a go. Now I am usually a UK 10 in tops, possibly the occasional 12 depending on style and fit, to get this top in a comfortable size where the print wouldn't stretch I had to purchase a large. It's something that I'm learning shouldn't bother me, its just a letter printed on a top, but I just wanted to give an idea as to the running size of these tops, had i not held it up against me to check I would definitely have bought the wrong size! This was €19.99 before discount, which I thought was quite reasonable, it also doesn't appear to have shrunk in the wash at all which other DLP tops have done in the past.

The final thing I wanted to share was my Peter Pan Tsumtsums, now I'm not a huge collector of Tsums, I've always just bought the ones or the set I liked most and that's usually the ones with the cute animals! But Peter Pan is one of my favourite classic Disney characters so when they released a second set of tsums I just couldn't walk away without them. This set has the characters all dressed as Indians like Tiger Lily and the Chief. Sure there are some questions about how appropriate they are in what they represent, but I decided this was something I really wanted for my collection, they were €5.99 each and I'm really happy with them, the set includes Tiger Lily, The Chief, Peter, Wendy, John and Michael.

I did pick up a few other bits over the trips but these were either for Lilo with her money, or pick ups and gifts for others, so I decided not to include them! There was so much more I could have easily bought, but there will always be other trips, so maybe I'll have another haul for you soon. Hope you've enjoyed seeing what I have been buying though, if you have any questions, as always please feel free to drop me a comment!

Hoodsie xx
Hey guys,

So picture this, you're not long home from your latest Disney parks adventure, and the post-Disney blues are setting in hard, (don't laugh, it's a real thing I promise). What's the first thing you do to try and cheer yourself up? For me, and for many like me, going through my photos helps me to relive the moments I'm missing most! Nothing makes me happier than going back through my favourite memories of character meets, shows and parades. Photos help me keep a small part of that moment frozen in time to go back to.

And that brings us to the subject of today's post, I want to share with you everything I've learnt about the PhotoPass+ service on offer at Disneyland Paris, and how you can use it to make and bring home some amazing holiday memories!

What is PhotoPass+?

PhotoPass+ is a service run by Disneyland Paris that allows park guests to pre-purchase all of their meet and greet and ride photos in one bundle. If guests do not wish to pre-purchase all of their photos, pictures can still be taken at meets or on rides and purchased individually. This is just referred to as PhotoPass.

How does it work and what do I get in the box?

PhotoPass+ comes as a boxed package consisting of one credit card sized pass on a lanyard, and 2 smaller key fob sized passes, this is good for larger groups or families, as it means you are able to split up and still get your PhotoPass pictures. On the park map, you will see a number of rides and character meet locations that have a logo next to the description, which indicate that PhotoPass may be available. Please note that sometimes it's not always possible to get PhotoPass pictures at every location listed, due to technical faults and staffing issues!

When you go on a ride which has an on ride picture, there will be a number of screens at the exit which displays the photos a few moments after they were taken. These photos have either a QR barcode or a 5 digit photo ID which starts with a letter. You can either scan the QR code using the app (more on this later) or take your pass to the kiosks nearby with the 5 digit code to have it added to your pass for you. The kiosk CMs can also zoom the picture in/adjust the angle and on some rides they can cover up any guests in the photo that aren't part of your group! The passes are valid for 10 days once activated - to activate simply have your pass scanned at any PhotoPass location.

Where can I see my photos?

Once you have had your photos taken and your pass scanned, the photos are allocated to your account. You can register for a free online account at https://www.disneyphotopass.eu/ Once you have a username and password, you can log in to view or download your photos. There is also a mobile app called Disneyland Paris PhotoPass which you can get for iOS or Android, which again allows you to view and save copies of your photos. Please note the quality on the website is much better than on the app! Photos can take up to 24 hours to show in the app, so if you want to see them quicker, or want to buy a printed copy you can go to any PhotoPass kiosk across the resort with your card and the CMs will be able to show you all the photos on the pass and will be able to print copies for you! These kiosks are not just in the two parks, they are also in the on-site hotel shops, which is great as a last min purchase before you check out!

One of my photos is missing!

Even with the best system and the most care, occasionally some photos do not appear in your account. If this happens the first tip is to make sure you've waited 24 hours since the photo was taken, especially if the photos were taken on a busy day or at an event like the Halloween Soiree where the volume of photos taken is much higher. If you've waited 24 hours and you still don't have your picture, all is not lost, there are a few things you can try depending on the circumstances.

If you are still at the resort the best and quickest solution is to take your pass to either an onsite hotel's shop or the store in front lot of the Studios Park, or Flora's on Main street in Disneyland Park. Each of these locations has a dedicated PhotoPass Kiosk. Once there, present them with your card and explain your photo or photos are missing and give them as much info as possible about where the photo was taken. Useful information can be date and time of the photo, the location such as Main street, princess pavilion etc, which character you were with and roughly what you were wearing. The CM can then search for the photo by date and by either location or character name. If they locate your photo they can then add it to your card straight away for you.

If you have left the resort it is still possible to get your missing pictures, but you need to be aware that ride photos are only held for that day, and character or location photos are only held for 14 days from the date they were taken. You will need to email disneyphotopass@fujifilm.fr and again, the more information you can give them, the more likely they are to be able to locate your photos, so be sure to include details such as date and time of photo, location, which character you were with and roughly what you were wearing. On top of this, you will need to provide the number on the back of your PhotoPass+ card, this will enable them to link the photos back to your account if they are able to locate them.

From a personal perspective, I have generally been very lucky with the PhotoPass service and have only had to E-mail once or twice about missing photos, which over 17 visits and hundreds of photos, is a success rate I'm very happy with.

Ok, So where can I buy my PhotoPass+ and how much does it cost?

PhotoPass+ is available across most of the bigger shops in the resort, all of the hotel shops should have these near the counter but also places like World of Disney in the village, the Emporium on main street and both the shop in front lot and the shop in studio one in Walt Disney Studios park stock the PhotoPass+. In addition to this, any ride that has a photo point will have them on sale at the counter at the exit of the ride so that you can pick up a pass and get your photo added straight to it. In the resort passes are currently priced at €69.99, however, there are some other options.

If you are booking with Disneyland Paris directly, you can currently add the photo pass to your booking for £61 I checked a couple of other holiday agents and got the same offer there too. If you have a Magic flex or Magic plus annual pass you will be able to buy a photo pass while you're at the resort for a discounted price starting from €55, if you own an infinity annual pass you will get a free PhotoPass+ which you can collect from Floras as well as a few other locations. It is worth noting that unlike the regular PhotoPass+ which can have photos added to it for up to 10 days from when it is first used, the passes purchased with an annual pass are different and are valid to add photos to for 12 months from when they are first used. All photos are visible on the app or PhotoPass website for 12 months from the date the pass expires.

Is the PhotoPass+ worth buying?

Now this one is subjective, there are a lot of different things that you need to consider before deciding if the photo pass is for you. Firstly, what do you do most in the park? If you don't meet characters and only do the smaller rides, you may find that you don't have much use for a pass, if you do the bigger rides like HyperSpace Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain however, you may want to take these photos home with you. For character meets, not all characters have a photographer, so it's worth checking out which ones you want to do that are likely to have one. If you a big Mickey fan, or you want to try and meet the princesses at the pavilion, you're most likely going to have a photographer there, Darth Vader and whichever character is meeting in the Art of Animation building at the time of your trip are also likely to have a photographer. So if you're heading for these meets there's a good chance you'll come home with a decent number of pictures. It's also worth mentioning that currently the only character meal that has a PhotoPass presence is the special Marvel meal in the hotel New York, meals like Inventions and Plaza Gardens don't have a photographer, so if this is where you're planning to do most of your meets you might not find it very useful!

For me in the last 18 months I have got well over 400 photos using my PhotoPass+ so I am really happy with the service and the value for money. Of course going forward I would like to see the PhotoPass offering in the parks improve, I would like to see all of the scheduled character meets have a photographer, and would like to see more around the park in general, on main street and by the castle full time! I think the service has a lot of room to improve, but even still it's a must have for me!

I hope this has helped answer your questions about PhotoPass+, if there is anything I haven't covered, or anything you want to know more about, please drop me a comment and I'll do my best to help!

Hoodsie xx
Hi Guys!

So you may have seen previously that I've written up reviews of on property hotels I've been lucky enough to stay at while I've been at Disneyland Paris, as I'm sure you've guessed by the title, this post is no different!

In may 2018 I had my first visit to the Hotel New York, I was only there for 1 night so sadly couldn't enjoy all of the features on offer, but wanted to try and give my opinion on everything I was able to cram in to my stay.

Before I get started, in the importance of transparency I want to confirm that my stay was complimentary as part of the Insidears event held in the hotel, I did not pay for my stay and I did not pay for my breakfast, I was not asked or encouraged to provide a review of the hotel or facilities in receipt of this, nor was I paid to review the hotel. 

We arrived at the hotel on Friday May 18th and this was the first time I have driven to an onsite hotel for my stay, once we pulled in we were asked to stop at the security barrier, show a confirmation of our stay, I used the E-mail on my phone for this, and were then asked to open up the boot to be checked. This was all very quick and straight forward, and it was nice to see a good level of security when entering the hotel. The car park is a great size and we had no trouble finding somewhere to park. We grabbed our bags and headed for check in and were required to put all of our bags through an airport type scanner on our way in, again giving me a real feeling of being secure!

Lucky for us our room was ready on arrival so we were able to take our bags straight up and drop them off before getting a little park time in before our event that evening, if your room is not ready on your arrival however there is a free luggage storage room where you can drop your things off while you go and enjoy the parks and village. Our room was in the right hand wing as you approach from the car park side, as we quickly learnt it was important to listen to what side your room is on, and check the free map, else you could end up using the wrong elevator and not being able to find your room, whoopsie!

I'm sure from the hotel name you've already guessed the main theme of the hotel, it is of course New York! This is all set to change however as the hotel will soon close for a full refurbishment over an 18 month period and will re open as the "Art of Marvel" hotel in 2020. I like the idea of the current theme, New York is a part of America that has always interested me and it is probably one of the better known locations from films and other media, several Disney films also have links to New York such as Oliver and Company. What's important to remember though is that these hotels were built and furnished in the late 80's and early 90's and such depict a very different view of New York than you might pick if you were furnishing the hotel today.

Hotel New York boasts 568 rooms and 27 suites as well as a conference centre, hotel shop and bar indoor and outdoor pools, Sauna, gym and a spa (the spa is an additional cost). It is a 4 key rated hotel, which brings it level with the Newport Bay Club, and rooms are split into standard, empire state club and then suites, each with varying view options. As this was a complimentary stay I was given a standard room for the night, but this was more than adequate for my needs and personally I am not sure the club level rooms have much additional value for me. Our standard room had 2 double beds, ample cupboard and drawer space, a TV with a selection of channels in English, French and a few other languages. We had tea and coffee making facilities in the room on arrival, an iron and ironing board were in the cupboard opposite the bathroom and there was also a safe in the room for storing valuables. Our room overlooked the car park, but due to the hotels greenery and trees this wasn't actually a bad view at all!

One the whole I liked the rooms at the New York, they were clean, tidy and had ample space, my favourite feature however was the lamp. Now I know what you're thinking, you went all the way to France to a hotel in Disneyland and your favourite thing was the lamp?! Well as you can see from the photo below, it's no ordinary lamp! I just thought the style was really clever and added a really special touch to the room you just don't get in other hotels. If you're a Disney lamp enthusiast, or just appreciate cool features like this, you should also check out the boot lamp in the hotel Cheyenne, and the cone lamp in hotel Santa Fe, I can't say I remember seeing anything like this in the Newport Bay or Sequoia lodge though.

The bathroom was really spacious and came with 2 sinks which ended up being really useful when Sophie and I were both trying to get ready that evening, and again in the morning. It's one of those features I'd never think about asking for or looking for when selecting a room, but when sharing or when in a family it's really useful and saves time in the mornings. The bath was a good size and had a shower over head, unlike some of the other on site hotels I found it really easy to get this one to the right temperature, though that could have been luck! The one thing I wasn't expecting was how big the step down from the bath to the floor was, so please be careful when getting out!

As I mentioned before, the reason for our trip was to attend the first Insidears event for digital ambassadors of Disneyland Paris, and this was actually held in the convention centre attached to the hotel! This was a great location, though it lacks the magic of other areas of the hotel it is a great sized space that provides all the necessary amenities for business meetings and social events. It was so handy to have everything all in one place and to be so close to our room. The night was brilliant and I felt truly very lucky to have been invited, we were given lots of information about the plans for the park over the next 12 months, had a lovely buffet dinner and got to meet some Disney pals!

After the event we went for drinks to end the evening in the hotel bar, the New York City bar was the first hotel bar I've ever used at Disneyland Paris so I don't have much to compare it to, but it was comfortable, nicely decorated, though a little on the dark side, and the staff couldn't have been more accommodating. The one thing I did find, is that the drinks were in some cases a fair bit more expensive than in some of the other hotels on property or the sports bar and billy bobs in the village, for example our glowtini cocktails were €15 each, compared to €11 at Santa Fe! This could be quite off putting especially if you're on a budget so is something to consider!

We only stayed the one night, but to make the most of our stay we had a hotel breakfast the next morning, this is a buffet breakfast which includes both hot and cold options and is held in the onsite restaurant. We went to lunch quite late, probably around 9:30, we weren't required to book a time when we checked in the night before, and when we got to breakfast there were only 1 or 2 families in front of us so we were seated very quickly! The buffet had a good selection, from the hot selection there was bacon, sausages, eggs both scrambled and hard boiled, pancakes and waffles. From the cold/continental selection there was a range of meats, cheese, fruit and yoghurts as well as bread rolls, sliced bread for toast and a selection of cereals. There are also coffee machines and fruit juice dispensers, everything is self service and is unlimited, so it's a great chance to fuel up for a day in the parks! I did enjoy the hotel breakfast, though for me personally I'm not sure I have the appetite to justify adding this on to every stay! I usually make do with snacks I've brought myself or a quick stop at the bake shop on Main Street, but for people with bigger appetites I can see why this appeals!

Sadly we didn't get time to use the hotel pools or gym and spa so I couldn't fairly comment on these, if we had more time it is something I would have liked to have used. We did visit the hotel gift shop, but found it to be very small compared to the other hotels, and sadly the hotel New York pin wasn't in stock at the time, still its nice to have it there for picking up Little bits on the way to your room.

Overall though I liked the hotel New York, I felt it was missing that Disney magic, the hotel feels very dated and the theme feels much more corporate to me than the other hotels. The rooms were spacious, clean and comfortable and of course this is the most important thing. But looking to the future, I'm excited for what this hotel could become. I feel that the change to the Art of Marvel will be a huge step for the hotel and will breathe new life into everything, though it will be sad to say goodbye to something that has been part of the resort since opening I do feel like it's time is well and truly up, and for me the re-theme is the only thing that would encourage me to book a return stay at this particular hotel!

Have you stayed at the hotel New York? What did you think? Drop me a comment below!

Hoodsie xx
Hey guys!

Now that I've covered off the main FanDaze party with you, I wanted to take some time to share what happened at the panel I attended, hope you enjoy!

During the FanDaze party, a number of panels were held with various Disney Imagineers that gave us an opportunity to get even closer to the magic, one of these panels was focused on Duffy and friends, and this was the thing that motivated me to attend the whole party! The panel was held during the party at 8:30 pm in the Art of Animation show building, tickets were sold separately to the main party for this and it was priced at €25 a head, and lasted around an hour.

The panel featured 3 guest Imagineers that all have links to the creation of Duffy and his friends, Daniel Jue, Ethan Reed and Charlie Watanabe, and was hosted by a very charismatic CM called Julian. After a brief introduction and a little warming up the crowd, it was time to get acquainted with the Imagineers.

Daniel Jue was first to speak, Daniel is the Portfolio creative executive for Walt Disney Imagineering, his Disney career, however, started 30 years ago in Disney stores. When he first moved to Imagineering he worked as a show set designer, his credits include Florida's Tower of Terror, Test Track and Indiana Jones at Disneyland Resort in California. Later he had design credits on Pooh's Hunny Hunt, which opened in Tokyo Disneyland in 2000, For Expedition Everest, Daniel was involved in both the track design and layout and the design of the mountain itself, which he says he climbed many times during its construction! Daniel lived and worked in Japan for 4 years before being asked to return to Disneyland Resort where he was then asked to oversee a portfolio which included Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea. In 2019 Soarin is set to open at Disney Sea, and 2020 sees Tokyo Disneyland receive it's biggest expansion to date which includes a new Minnie Mouse meet and greet location, and a Big hero 6 and a Beauty and the Beast attraction.

Next, we met Ethan Reed, brought up in a family of Disney fans Ethan explained how Disney had a huge influence on his life from an early age. He grew up to study character animation at Cal arts and this is where his Disney career began, he has animated shows for the resorts including Great Moments with Mr Lincoln. He also has design credits for Florida's popular attraction Seven Dwarfs mine train, and worked on Mystic Manor on Hong Kong Disneyland, designing both Albert the Monkey and Lord Henry Mystic.

Charlie Watanabe was the last Imagineer on the panel, like Daniel, his Disney career began in the 1980s when he worked with the Disney on ice team in Japan. From here Charlie went on to work on Disney Live and other Japanese stage shows, before becoming a project member for the opening of Tokyo Disney Sea in 2001, more recently, he worked on Nemo & Friends SeaRider which opened in 2017.

Next, it was time to get down to the really good stuff, how did a little bear named Duffy become the success he is today? Well to answer that you need to know where Duffy started life. The original Disney bear from which Dufy's origins can be traced back to began life at Walt Disney World in Florida, the unnamed bear was spotted in 2003 by Tokyo Disneyland who expressed an interest in bringing the bear to their resort. Walt Disney Imagineering believed to do well in Tokyo the bear would need a name and a backstory, and thus development for Duffy began.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Duffy's story it begins with Mickey Mouse and his cruises from Tokyo, Mickey got lonely on long trips away from Minnies o she decided she would make him a teddy bear to keep him company. When Mickey arrived home from his latest trip Minnie handed him a small brown bear in a duffel back, and Mickey named his new friend Duffy. Mickey took Duffy on his next trip and when he was sad and missed Minnie he would cuddle his little bear and it helped him feel less alone. He dreamt about Duffy and all the adventures they could go on together and sent postcards home to Minnie and all their friends! Seeing how much fun Mickey was having with Duffy soon Donald, Daisy and all their friends wanted a Duffy too, and so Minnie with the help of these friends made more Duffy bears so everyone had one to keep them company.

Duffy wasn't instantly popular when he arrived in Tokyo Disney Sea, and in keeping with his story, he was only sold in one shop in Cape Cod, Aunt Peg's. His popularity grew over the next few years and guest began to bring their bears back for return visits to the resorts with them and would dress them up in lots of different outfits. Noticing how popular they were becoming, and that the bears were being dressed in both boys and girls outfits, the team decided it was time Duffy had a friend.

The second friend is the series is, of course, the bear we all love and know as Shellie-May, but upon her original conception, she was named Daphne as this sounded good when paired with Duffy. Shellie-May ended up with her final name after Duffy gave her a shell necklace to wear and decided to call her Shellie. With the introduction of a second bear the popularity of Duffy in Japan went from strength to strength, the bears even became known outside of Japan with Duffy meeting in Epcot at Walt Disney World, and alongside Mickey in Disneyland Paris. The team wanted to expand the collection, but knew they would have to do something different in order to keep all of the friends unique, they noticed that Duffy had a very neutral personality, he didn't have any strong interests or motivations, and this was something they wanted to work on.

As work began deciding what new friends to introduce to the series the animators looked at lots of different animals they could use so that they could introduce new stories and adventures into Duffy's world. The team decided that before any new friend of Duffy would be introduced they needed a specific home and a strong personality trait around which to build their story.

The third character in the Duffy and Friends series is a little Italian Cat who we now know as Gelatoni, but Gelatoni's story could have been much different! He actually started life as a Pirate cat from Mediterranean Harbor, but it was decided this didn't fit in with the Duffy and friends stories already in place, eventually, Gelatoni's story was reworked and he became the painter we know and love today. Based on Ethan's youngest son Noah Gelatoni meets a very sad Duffy bear who is on holiday with Mickey when he drops his Ice cream, Gelatoni uses the ice cream to teach Duffy how to paint and this is how they become friends, his name coming from the Italian Gelato. The team didn't want Gelatoni to look too much like Duffy and Shellie so a few different colours were tried throughout the creative process. We were shown lots of concept art of different colours and slightly different body styles, we were then told that as the inspiration for the character, Noah was the first person to meet the Disney parks version of Gelatoni, what an amazing privileged!

The final of Duffy's current friends is, of course, Stella-Lou, like Shellie-May this wasn't her original name and she was once called Ruby after a Ruby necklace she wore. Even before that Stella-Lou wasn't a girl Bunny at all, but a boy named Broadway Bunny! As the character developed she became the Lilac coloured Ballet dancer called Stella-Lou who taught Duffy how to dream and how to aspire towards a goal, her name Stella is a translation of the word star, as Duffy told her he thought she was already a star! We were shown some videos of the Stella-Lou launch as well as lots more concept art, we were also given this Stella-Lou concept lithograph to keep at the end of the panel!

After being told about the development of each character, Daniel and the team spoke to us about the culture of Duffy and friends and how this has evolved as he has become more popular. We learnt about the concept of "I-ya-shi" a Japanese desire to be cared for, comforted, protected and loved, a desire which for many, is filled by Duffy and his friends. They explained how the demographic of Duffy fans, though primarily females from upper teens to around 40 years of age, actually transcends this and he is now popular all over Japan and China across all demographics. They described Duffy and his friends as not just being friends, but being a lifestyle, with special areas built into the parks to take posed photos of your companions, and with restaurants offering high chairs specifically for Duffy and friends to be able to sit and join the meal as part of the family. They explained how you will often see the bears carried facing forward so as to be able to enjoy the view too, and treated like family and like a travelling companion as Mickey treats Duffy in his original story.

Finally, we were shown some of the Japanese advertising campaigns for Duffy, where he and his friends are shown in their adventures on regular TV to help promote and sell them. All the adverts contained on thing in particular, and that was a slogan " Something good might happen when Duffy is with you", the team explained that Duffy is seen as a symbol of luck and happiness, and this is something I could definitely appreciate when I thought about my own relationship with Duffy and his friends, this was a really sweet way to end the panel.

There was time for a few questions so you can bet my hand went straight up before they could even finish asking if anyone had a question! I asked if there were any plans to reintroduce Duffy and friends to the US and European markets, and although they didn't rule this out, I'm sad to say I didn't get a resounding yes either! When the panel finished, there was a brief opportunity to meet Daniel, Ethan and Charlie, and having spoken to them I can confirm they were all lovely, and so happy to chat with people who clearly loved their creation so much! In particular, I enjoyed talking to Ethan, and as I was bounding as Gelatoni for the event, this was a great conversation starter. I even managed to get my hard ticket for the panel signed by all three Imagineers and to me this was a priceless opportunity and something I will cherish for a long time!

Overall I really enjoyed the panel, I thought it was a good length, contained a lot of content, and was good value for money. I would have loved to have seen them give some information about Duffy's new friend, who will be launching in Hong Kong Disneyland later this year but can understand why this was kept under wraps. I have also heard some people say they were disappointed that there wasn't a lot of new information in the panel, and though I can agree with this to some extent, for me being able to see people speak so passionately about a character I'm also so passionate about, was what I wanted most out of the experience, which didn't disappoint.

My only complaints about the panel were both down to timing, first of all, in hindsight the panel was a huge chunk of time during an evening when there was already too much to do. As I mentioned in my review of the main party, by the time I left the panel most of the first set of character queues were already closed, and this meant I really needed to make the most of the second character set if I was going to see any of the characters on my most wanted list! In an ideal world, I would have liked to see the panels held during the day before the party, possibly at one of the hotel convention rooms, or in the events domes in the village. Secondly, I paid for my panel tickets in January when I first booked the package, then just weeks before the event an additional panel was announced, free of charge for Infinity annual pass holders this would be a special talk by Catherine Powell. Immediately I was excited and wanted to attend this talk and see a woman I admire speak about a park I care so deeply about! So imagine my disappointment when it is then announced this panel would run during the exact same time as the Duffy one! During a 6 hour event, I'm surprised that this needed to be the case and feel like they could have scheduled it better so that the panels didn't overlap and people weren't forced to make the choice between the two. Again, holding these events outside of the main party hours in future may help to stop this happening, hopefully, one day my path will cross with Catherine!

A huge thank you goes to Lydia for letting me use some of her photos from the evening! Please check out her Instagram!

So that was my experience of the Duffy and Friends panel at Fan Daze. Were you there? What did you think of the panel? Did you attend any other panels on the night? As always drop me a comment below!

Hoodsie xx
Hey guys!

I know I still have some stuff from previous trips to write about for you all, I promise I will get to it and they won't be missed, this was just such a good event that I'm too impatient to wait to write about! Thank you for all being so patient with me!

June 2nd 2018 saw Disneyland Paris hold its first ever FanDaze party, this was an exclusive ticketed event held in the Walt Disney studios park from 8pm until 2:30 am! When this was originally announced it was stated that it would be a night to remember and would feature over 80 Disney characters as well as new shows and parades, and even panels with imagineers. The packages went on sale in January, and though there was some discontent with the prices and packages on offer, plenty of us decided to book our stay.

I ended up with a classic package, which I split with 4 friends to bring down the cost. We upgraded from the standard Santa Fe room offer, to a Golden forest room at Sequoia lodge and paid around £1300 in total for the 4 of us. The classic package included one night at a Disney hotel, park tickets for 2 days, the FanDaze party ticket and then a PhotoPass+, lanyard and pin. As an annual pass holder, I could have done without the majority of the stuff included in the package, the PhotoPass+ was of no use to me, as were the park tickets. The lanyard and pin were a nice touch, but neither were nice enough in my opinion for me to have wanted to splash any extra cash on them! If I booked for this event in future, I would probably look to book an on-site room with AP discount and a party ticket separately to this, I probably wouldn't opt for a club level room either, as I didn't use many of the extra benefits!

In addition to the classic package I paid £25 to attend the Duffy and friends panel, which was held on the night of the party in the art of animation building. Because there was so much content covered during the panel, I will write up my experience of this and what I learnt separately!

The run up to the event was, in my opinion, not handled particularly well by Disneyland Paris. We went a long time with no concrete information about what we had bought into, though I didn't expect a full programme of time and locations until the week of the event, it would have been nice to have more of an idea what was lined up before the last minute. I personally believe this hindered ticket sales, as people weren't prepared to pay out such a large amount of money for a package or hotel stay without knowing what they were going to be able to experience on the night. Once the program and further details had come out, it was so close to the event that a lot of the hotels were either fully booked, or operating on peak prices, and the same for travel, which meant last minute ticket sales were probably effected too. Finally I feel that the event could have been marketed outside of the core fan base, running a print campaign or a tv slot would have brought additional guests to the event.

Now onto the party itself. We arrived at the studios at around 7 pm, we were travelling with someone who had an easy access pass, so we're invited to queue separately from package holders, unfortunately once the lines were moving and we got to the turnstiles, one of our group was told she couldn't use her paper ticket and was sent elsewhere. This information turned out to be wrong and she was soon sent back with the same paper ticket that had been previously refused. This issue isn't specifically related to this event, but did cost extra time which was frustrating.

Once we got into front lot, the doors for studio one hadn't yet opened, this wasn't an issue as such as none of the meets or anything had started yet, but it just caused a build up of penned in guests with nothing to do. To add to this, there were a number of odd "camera people" I assume they were there for some kind of "streetmosphere" but honestly, they were just annoying and dangerous. They were running at guests and getting really up close and personal, I had a run in with a few myself and couldn't get them to leave me alone. I'm quite an anxious person and it really didn't help that they weren't listening to me telling them to back off. How I didn't see any of them get knocked over in the rush once the doors opened I do not know, but please if anyone from Disney is reading this, they weren't a good idea and just made the situation worse.

Once guests got past front lot, people were running to try and get to their first destination, with 50 scheduled meets, panels, shows, parades and limited edition pins on offer, there was never going to be enough time and people wanted to get their priorities done first. From what I can understand however, guests were being held in the production courtyard area until the welcome show was finished. This caused guest flow issues, people were angry at being penned in again, and just wanted to go and get their spots for their first character. Not only this but the limited edition pins were advertised as being on sale from 8pm, with only 400 of each design there were never going to be enough to satisfy demand and keen pin traders wanted to make sure they got there.

Luckily for me, my priority meet for the evening was of course Duffy and Shellie-May. There were meeting in the Disney junior building and because of this there queue was formed in production courtyard so I was able to get there straight away and was 2nd in the queue before the welcome show even started. The show itself was on the FanDaze stage outside tower of terror, it was very brief with a welcome from Catherine Powell, and our first look at Mickey and Minnie in their event outfits! It was a nice way to officially kick things off, but was nothing overly special and personally I would have been annoyed if I'd been forced to watch it over being able to queue for pins or a character. Once it was over guests were able to roam the full park, but by this time crowds had built up, so the initial surge for lines was quite chaotic.

Once the welcome show was over we were allowed into the Disney Jr show building where both the Mickey and the Duffy & Shellie meets were happening, as you walked in you were directed to one of 2 queues depending on who you wanted to meet. The rules on the nights regarding meets were no autograps, 2 photos on your own device and 1 PhotoPass picture. I found I actually got 2 or 3 shots on each from pretty much all of the meets, but this rough rule meant the queues moved quite quickly at most of the meets. Meeting Duffy and Shellie was, for me, perfect! It was everything I had built it up in my head to be, they loved my bound, and they looked great in their new outfits, I was able to get a few hugs, some great photos, and even had time to give them a little gift each! I was 2nd in the queue, so managed to get out of the meet by 8:15, the queue to meet them at this point was already quite large and outside of the show building!

My next stop was the Duffy and friends panel, which was due to start at 8:30 pm. In hindsight, had I realised the queue for Mickey mouse in the 2nd half of the Disney Jr show building was so short, I probably would have had time to meet him too. But I didn't want to risk missing any of the panel and I wanted a good seat, so I'm not too upset with the way I decided to do things on the night. The panel was held in the art of animation building, in the main show room where the video with Mushu is normally shown, it lasted about 1 hour in total and was really informative, I'm so glad I paid the extra to do this, and will write up my experience and what I learnt in a separate post to this.

After the panel finished it was around 9:30 pm, and this is where I experienced my first real disappointment of the night, the Duffy panel had clashed with the Catherine Powell panel, so I'd already had to make a tough choice about which to miss, as I was worried about getting a good seat I'd also only done 1 character meet so far, when I got out of the panel my plan was to try and get some characters, but a lot of the lines were already closed so I was turned away from meeting a few people I would have liked to have met, including the Incredibles who were meeting with Frozone! I met back up with a few friends and we headed to the front lot where the other VIPs were meeting, we got in the queue for Daisy duck, as Donald's queue was already closed. Again the queue moved quickly and we weren't waiting too long, we all went up separately and after my photo I got straight into the queue for Goofy, as I did this one of the CMs who was looking after Goofy came to close the queue, I politely explained I was part of a group who were still meeting Daisy, and luckily she agree'd they could join me and we could all meet Goofy, we did offer to just have a group photo, but as there was time we still got individual ones!

By this time the first set of character meets were all over so it was time to get ready for the duck tails parade, before this we had time to stop in studio one and pick up some FanDaze Minnie ears which come in a Teal/Blue colour with a gold sparkly bow, they were priced at around €15 which I thought was really good for a limited release! We then went and got our spot for the Duck tails parade, and ended up being roughly opposite the Art of Animation building. I really wasn't sure what to expect from this parade, but I'm happy to report I really enjoyed it, and wouldn't be at all sad to see this return to either park in the future. The highlight for me was getting a hug from Huey during the dance break, meething the nephews has always been something I'd like to do, and this is probably the closest I'll get but I'm more than happy with it.

Next we met up with Alyssa and Mark and grabbed a spot for Max Live, again this was something where I really wasn't sure what to expect, I've seen Goofy movie before and I like the songs, but I'm not a super fan by any stretch. I actually really enjoyed the show, I'm a big Zootopia fan, so adding Nick and Judy to the show was always going to be a winner for me, but I also loved the Stitch section and was so happy to see Angel again! I left before the end of the show as I heard Lilo was around, sadly I missed her but it meant I was able to go and get in my first character queue ready for 11:30 when the second set of meets started. I got to the queue at about 11 so did have a bit of a wait before Bolt came out, but it was worth it to be about 4th or 5th in the queue. When bolt came out I had a really good meet with him and got some really lovely photos, other than Duffy and Shellie, Bolt and Mittens were my two main goals for the evening, so this was a big tick on the list.

Bolt was in the Backlot area of the studios, he shared a queue with Mittens and they swapped over every 30 mins, as I was so near the front of Bolt's queue, rather than join the mittens line straight away, I decided to see if I could fit in any of the other near by meets. I acually managed to get a lot done and met Lewis from Meet the Robinsons, and then Honey Lemon, Wasabi, Fred and Gogo from Big Hero 6, having met Hiro in the park recently on my April trip finishing off the Big Hero 6 gang was really special to me. I was then able to get a photo with Lightning Mcqueen outside the Stunt show and finally went back to join the Mittens queue, this ended up being perfect timing as they closed her queue 2 people after me! All of the meets on the night were really good, and in general I didn't feel rushed, I got some really nice photos which I'll cherish for a long time to come, as I know I probably won't meet some of those characters again.

I met back up with David and we headed out to front lot to see if we could meet any of the VIPs as the queue for Duffy and Shellie was now closed, unfortunately the Minnie and Donald queues were also closed when we got there, this was a bit surprising as their 30 min sets hadn't started yet and there was only around 20 people in the Donald queue. I do however know there had been issues at other queues throughout the night where they hadn't managed to get through all the people in the queue before the end of the set, so I would guess they were just being a little over cautious to avoid any further upset! Not to be deterred we hung around anyway for Pluto who didn't have a set spot with a backdrop and managed to get a photo with him quite quickly.

This marked the end of character meets for us as most if not all the queues were now closed, we headed into studio one and grabbed something to eat before watching the final Max live show of the evening. Once this was over it was time for the farewell street party, this was reminiscent of the grand celebration on April 12th 2017, but on a much smaller scale. It was a great parade and it was nice to at least see all the other characters who I hadn't been able to meet during the evening, i never actually made it past the Art of Animation building so never saw anything in Toon studios, Toy Story play land or the TOT area, there just was way too much to do!

Overall I really enjoyed my evening at FanDaze, the things I wanted to do most I did manage to get done, I got some meets I wasn't expecting to have time for, and the shows and parades were much more enjoyable than I was expecting given I'm not a huge Goofy or Duck family fan, I was very impressed by the staging, costumes and content across the entertainment. Sadly, this wouldn't be a fair, rounded, or accurate review if I didn't include the not so good bits of the evening. Firstly the roaming characters, it was a nice idea, but in practice it was quite difficult, I saw 3 in the Back lot area and only managed to get a photo with 1, when I tried to get a 2nd I was ignored and walked away from a few times, I know the characters were busy and had to keep moving but it just ended up being too frustrating for me to keep pursuing them, knowing all the time I spent doing this, the fuller the queues for other characters were getting. In the end I prioritized set queues where I knew if I got in the queue I would almost definitely meet the character over the pop up roaming ones, even though some of my favourites that I've wanted to meet for a long time were out (The Aristokittens, Remy and Emile and Bullseye)!

Next is the panels, now don't get me wrong, the Duffy panel was one of my main motivations for ever going to FanDaze, and it didn't disappoint, but it was a huge chunk of time taken up during the night, and hugely impacted how many and which characters I was able to meet. If the event becomes an annual thing, I personally would like to see the panels moved to a different time during the weekend, either the Saturday or Sunday day time, these could be held in the convention centers in the hotels, or the events tents in the village. If the panels remain during the evening party, I would have to seriously consider how badly I wanted to attend them as I missed pretty much the whole first character set of the evening!

Finally I'm aware that in certain areas there were huge guest flow issues, for the most part I was lucky enough to avoid these, but I know of others who got caught up in it, and sadly for many it really effected their night. Honestly I'm not sure what the answer here is, I understand something went hugely wrong in the Heroes and Villains alley, presumably that it was just more popular than expected, but as I didn't personally experience this, it would be wrong of me to claim I know the answer. There were also multiple points during the evening where guests were prevented from getting to things as I mentioned at the start in regards to pins and the initial opening, this caused a build up of guests and then a surge once they are let through, which often causes more issues than just letting them filter through initially. In my opinion, I would happily have seen them sell 2/3 of the amount of tickets and run the event over 2 nights, this may have allowed for better guest control and also for mistakes to be rectified on the 2nd night!

As I said, for me, I had a great FanDaze experience, and should the event become annual, I'm pretty confident I would attend again. Yes I think mistakes were made both in the lead up to the even and on the night, but I'm confident these things are fixable and hopefully Disney will listen to the feedback from the fans who were effected by some of those issues. I would definitely do things a little different, but I'm just so happy I could be there for the first event. I didn't meet the most characters, I didn't meet the rarest characters, I didn't spend the most money, stay in the best hotel or have the top package. But I made the most of everything that was on offer to me that night, I went into it with what I thought was a realistic expectation that things might not run 100% smooth and I might have to change my plans on the fly and I had a fantastic time, when can I book for 2019?

Did you go to FanDaze? What was your experience like? What would you like to see for 2019 if it returns? Drop me a comment!

Hoodsie xx