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The Quick 7: 7 Changes Coming to Disney World

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A week ago, Disney announced some pretty major changes to its Orlando park. Fantasyland, located at the Magic Kingdom, will be almost completely rehauled "“ and by the time it's all over, it will have nearly doubled in size. Lots of people speculate that this is in direct response to Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter, set to open next year. In case you haven't been obsessively monitoring the news, here's what's happening:

dumbo1. Double Dumbo. Dumbo is one of the most popular rides at the park, but it's kind of a pain. Many a parent has complained about waiting in the hot sun in the unwieldy queue just so their child can ride Dumbo for about 60 seconds. Well, Disney is building a twin Dumbo ride, and both of them will have queues under a three-ring circus. Well, scratch that "“ according to Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Jay Rasulo, there won't be a queue at all. Kids and parents will get to play interactive games and stay entertained while waiting for their turn.

2. Princess Meet-and-Greets. If you've been to Disney World, and especially if you have a princess-obsessed daughter, you know that you can already meet the princesses. They're awkwardly housed in a tent in the Mickey's Toontown Fair area of the park. The new version is a large part of the expansion "“ each of the main princesses will have her own small castle and a place to interact with her tiny guests. Princess Aurora is holding a Sweet 16 Party at her house, because she missed hers while she was cat-napping. Cinderella cleans the house but then transforms into her blue ballgown finery "in front of your very eyes" (a little adult, Disney?). And Belle really gets the royal treatment "“ you meet her in her father's cottage, but then the Enchanted Mirror takes you to the Beast's Castle. Which brings us to"¦

3. The Beast's Castle.

Among the things in it will be a "Be Our Guest" sit-down restaurant (do you think the waiters will have to burst into song every so often like at Texas Roadhouse? Ugh.) and Gaston's Tavern. The tavern will be all tricked out with taxidermy "“ Gaston's trophies, presumably. Now, this prompts the question "“ will Gaston's tavern actually serve alcohol? It's been a pretty hard line for years that alcohol will never be served at the Magic Kingdom (the other parks will give you a coldie, no problem), so will this finally nip that in the bud? I think after running the princess gauntlet, parents might really appreciate an adult beverage afterward. I know my dad would. Not because of the trip through the princesses, but just because he has always good-naturedly complained about the lack of beer there.

ariel4. The Little Mermaid Ride. If you think they left Ariel out of the princess lineup, never fear. The ride will be a trip under the sea and will work sort of like the Haunted Mansion with the constantly-loading seats. I'm sure there will be cameo appearances from Sebastian and Flounder.
5. Pixie Hollow. Of course, there's Tinkerbell. They haven't spent all of that money promoting Pixie Hollow and Tink's new friends for naught! In 2013, Pixie Hollow will be an interactive play area where guests "shrink" down to pixie size and get to frolic amongst enormous blades of grass. Sounds a lot like the Honey I Shrunk the Kids attraction over at Hollywood Studios, but geared more toward little girls.

6. Star Tours II. This is actually at Hollywood Studios, not the Magic Kingdom, but it was announced at the same time. This ride has been loooong overdue for an update, if you ask me. Even my husband, who absolutely adores Star Wars, went on the ride and was terribly disappointed by what an outdated clunker it was. But no fear "“ it looks like a fabulous, high-tech update is coming our way in 2013. Errr"¦ 2011, according to Darth.

7. TTFN, Toontown. With all of these new improvements that will surely take up a lot of real estate, something's gotta give "“ and it's Mickey's Toontown Fair. It was kind of fun walking through Mickey and Minnie's house playing with the oversized props, but overall, I think Toontown Fair is kind of a waste of space. And Disney doesn't seem to know what to do with it either "“ over the years it's been Mickey's Birthday Land and Mickey's Star Land before finally becoming the Toontown Fair in 1996. They're keeping the Barnstormer, a popular rollercoaster, but the word is that it will be re-themed to tie in with Dumbo's three-ring circus.

So those are all of the big changes for now. What do you think? Cool? Over-hyped? Much-needed? I think it's a little of all of the above. Fantasyland was getting slightly dated, but I also think they are really milking that Princess cash cow. Which I suppose is their job to do!
Share your thoughts in the comments "“ and what do you think needs the next re-do? I think the Great Movie Ride could use some updated movies.

Oh, one last thing "“ they also announced the title and release date of the latest Pirates of the Caribbean (On Stranger Tides, summer 2011). Maybe that in and of itself wasn't that thrilling, but the way they did it was pretty sweet. Can you imagine how excited the people who were at the expo must have been? OK, anyway, have a good weekend and enjoy the clip!


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10 Regional Twists on Trick-or-Treating
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Walk around any given American neighborhood on the night of October 31, and you’ll likely hear choruses of "trick-or-treat" chiming through the area. The sing-songy phrase is synonymous with Halloween in some parts of the world, but it's not the only way kids get sweets from their neighbors this time of year. From the Philippines to the American Midwest, here are some regional door-to-door traditions you may not have heard of.


Rice cakes wrapped in leaves.

The earliest form of trick-or-treating on Halloween can be traced back to Europe in the Middle Ages. Kids would don costumes and go door-to-door offering prayers for dead relatives in exchange for snacks called "soul cakes." When the cake was eaten, tradition held that a soul was ferried from purgatory into heaven. Souling has disappeared from Ireland and the UK, but a version of it lives on halfway across the world in the Philippines. During All Saints Day on November 1, Filipino children taking part in Pangangaluluwa will visit local houses and sing hymns for alms. The songs often relate to souls in purgatory, and carolers will play the part of the souls by asking for prayers. Kids are sometimes given rice cakes called suman, a callback to the soul cakes from centuries past.


Raw dough.

Instead of trick-or-treating, kids in Portugal go door-to-door saying pão-por-deus ("bread for god") in exchange for goodies on All Saints Day. Some homeowners give out money or candy, while others offer actual baked goods.


Kids trick-or-treating.

If they're not calling out "trick-or-treat" on their neighbors’ doorsteps on Halloween night, you may hear children in western Canada saying "Halloween apples!" The phrase is left over from a time when apples were a common Halloween treat and giving out loose items on the holiday wasn't considered taboo.


The Dutch wait several days after Halloween to do their own take on trick-or-treating. On the night of November 11, St. Martin's Day, children in the Netherlands take to the streets with their homemade lanterns in hand. These lanterns were traditionally carved from beets or turnips, but today they’re most commonly made from paper. And the kids who partake don’t get away with shouting a few words at each home they visit—they’re expected to sing songs to receive their sugary rewards.


Guy Fawkes Night celebration.

Peter Trimming, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Guy Fawkes Night is seen by some as the English Protestants’ answer to the Catholic holidays associated with Halloween, so it makes sense that it has its own spin on trick-or-treating. November 5 marks the day of Guy Fawkes’s failed assassination attempt on King James as part of the Gunpowder Plot. To celebrate the occasion, children will tour the neighborhood asking for "a penny for the guy." Sometimes they’ll carry pictures of the would-be-assassin which are burned in the bonfires lit later at night.


Kids knocking on a door in costume.

If kids in the St. Louis area hope to go home with a full bag of candy on Halloween, they must be willing to tickle some funny bones. Saying "tricks-for-treats" followed by a joke replaces the classic trick-or-treat mantra in this Midwestern city. There’s no criteria for the quality or the subject of the joke, but spooky material (What’s a skeleton’s favorite instrument? The trombone!) earns brownie points.


Sugar skulls with decoration.

While Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is completely separate from Halloween, the two holidays share a few things in common. Mexicans celebrate the day by dressing up, eating sweet treats, and in some parts of the country, going house-to-house. Children knocking on doors will say "me da para mi calaverita" or "give me money for my little skull," a reference to the decorated sugar skulls sold in markets at this time of year.


Kids dressed up for Halloween.

Trick-or-treaters like to keep things simple in the Canadian province of Quebec. In place of the alliterative exclamation, they shout “Halloween!” at each home they visit. Adults local to the area might remember saying "la charité s’il-vous-plaît "(French for “charity, please”) when going door-to-door on Halloween, but this saying has largely fallen out of fashion.


Little girl trick-or-treating.

Halloween is only just beginning to gain popularity in Germany. Where it is celebrated, the holiday looks a lot like it does in America, but Germans have managed to inject some local character into their version of trick-or-treat. In exchange for candy, kids sometimes sing out "süß oder saures"—or "sweet and sour" in English.


Kids dressed up for Halloween.
Rubí Flórez, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Kids in Colombia anticipate dressing up and prowling the streets on Halloween just as much as kids do in the States. There are a few significant variations on the annual tradition: Instead of visiting private residencies, they're more likely to ask for candy from store owners and the security guards of apartment buildings. And instead of saying trick-or-treat, they recite this Spanish rhyme:

Triqui triqui Halloween
Quiero dulces para mí
Si no hay dulces para mí
Se le crece la naríz

In short, it means that if the grownups don't give the kids the candy they're asking for, their noses will grow. Tricky, tricky indeed

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Mill Creek Entertainment
Hey, Vern: It's the Ernest P. Worrell Story
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Mill Creek Entertainment

In her review of the 1991 children’s comedy Ernest Scared Stupid, The Washington Post film critic Rita Kempley described the titular character, the dim-witted but well-meaning Ernest P. Worrell, as “the global village idiot.” As portrayed by Kentucky native Jim Varney, Ernest was in the middle of a 10-film franchise that would see him mistakenly incarcerated (Ernest Goes to Jail), enlisting in the military (Ernest in the Army), substituting for an injured Santa (Ernest Saves Christmas), and returning to formal education in order to receive his high school diploma (Ernest Goes to School).

Unlike slapstick contemporaries Yahoo Serious and Pauly Shore, Varney took a far more unusual route to film stardom. With advertising executive John Cherry III, Varney originated the Ernest character in a series of regional television commercials. By one estimate, Ernest appeared in over 6000 spots, hawking everything from ice cream to used cars. They grew so popular that the pitchman had a 20,000-member fan club before his first movie, 1987’s Ernest Goes to Camp, was even released.

Varney and Ernest became synonymous, so much so that the actor would dread going on dates for fear Ernest fans would approach him; he sometimes wore disguises to discourage recognition. Though he could recite Shakespeare on a whim, Varney was rarely afforded the opportunity to expand his resume beyond the denim-jacketed character. It was for this reason that Varney, though grateful for Ernest’s popularity, would sometimes describe his notoriety as a “mixed blessing,” one that would come to a poignant end foreshadowed by one of his earliest commercials.

Born in Lexington, Kentucky in 1949, Varney spent his youth being reprimanded by teachers who thought his interest in theater shouldn’t replace attention paid to math or science. Varney disagreed, leaving high school just two weeks shy of graduation (he returned in the fall for his diploma) to head for New York with $65 in cash and a plan to perform.

The off-Broadway plays Varney appeared in were not lucrative, and he began to bounce back and forth between Kentucky and California, driving a truck when times were lean and appearing in TV shows like Petticoat Junction when his luck improved. During one of his sabbaticals from Hollywood, he met Cherry, who cast him as an aggressive military instructor named Sergeant Glory in an ad for a car dealer in Nashville, Tennessee.

In 1981, Varney was asked back to film a new spot for Cherry, this one for a dilapidated amusement park in Bowling Green, Kentucky, that Cherry considered so unimpressive he didn’t want to show it on camera. Instead, he created the character of Ernest P. Worrell, a fast-talking, often imbecilic local who is constantly harassing his neighbor Vern. (“Know what I mean, Vern?” became Ernest’s catchphrase.)

The spot was a hit, and soon Varney and Cherry were being asked to film spots for Purity Dairies, pizza parlors, convenience stores, and other local businesses. In the spots, Ernest would usually look into the camera—the audience shared Vern’s point of view—and endorse whatever business had enlisted his services, usually stopping only when Vern devised a way to get him out of sight.

Although the Purity commercials initially drew complaints—the wide-angle lens created a looming Ernest that scared some children—his fame grew, and Varney became a rarity in the ad business: a mascot without a permanent corporate home. He and Cherry would film up to 26 spots in a day, all targeted for a specific region of the country. In some areas, people would call television stations asking when the next Ernest spot was due to air. A Fairfax, Virginia Toyota dealership saw a 50 percent spike in sales after Varney began appearing in ads.

Logging thousands of spots in hundreds of markets, Varney once said that if they had all been national, he and Cherry would have been wealthy beyond belief. But local spots had local budgets, and the occasions where Ernest was recruited for a major campaign were sometimes prohibited by exclusivity contracts: He and Cherry had to turn down Chevrolet due to agreements with local, competing car dealers.

Still, Varney made enough to buy a 10-acre home in Kentucky, expressing satisfaction with the reception of the Ernest character and happily agreeing to a four-picture deal with Disney’s Touchstone Pictures for a series of Ernest features. Released on a near-constant basis between 1987 and 1998, the films were modest hits (Ernest Goes to Camp made $28 million) before Cherry—who directed several of them—and Varney decided to strike out on their own, settling into a direct-to-video distribution model.

“It's like Oz, and the Wizard ain't home," Varney told the Sun Sentinel in 1985, anticipating his desire for autonomy. “Hollywood is a place where everything begins but nothing originates. It's this big bunch of egos slamming into each other.”

Varney was sometimes reticent to admit he had ambitions beyond Ernest, believing his love of Shakespeare and desire to perform Hamlet would be perceived as the cliched story of a clown longing to be serious. He appeared in 1994’s The Beverly Hillbillies and as the voice of Slinky Dog in 1995’s Toy Story. But Ernest would continue to be his trademark.

The movies continued through 1998, at which point Varney noticed a nagging cough. It turned out to be lung cancer. As Ernest, Varney had filmed an anti-smoking public service announcement in the 1980s. In his private life, he was a chain smoker. He succumbed to cancer in 2000 at the age of 50, halting a series of planned Ernest projects that included Ernest Goes to Space and Ernest and the Voodoo Curse.

Varney may never have gotten an opportunity to perform in a wider variety of roles, but he did receive some acknowledgment for the one he had mastered. In 1989, Varney took home an Emmy for Outstanding Performer in a children’s series, a CBS Saturday morning show titled Hey, Vern: It’s Ernest!

“It’s a blessing and a curse,” he told the Orlando Sentinel in 1991, “because it's as hard to escape from it as it is to get into it.''


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