Friday, November 30, 2012

New Fantasyland at The Magic Kingdom

Wednesday night John and I went out to Disney for some serious picture-taking. I mean, we brought a tripod and everything. ;)

The new Fantasyland area has been open - albeit unofficially - for several weeks now, off and on, and I wanted to get some shots of the new Little Mermaid building and the Be Our Guest restaurant - not to mention Cinderella's castle with all its icy Christmas lights. (SO. PRETTY.)

With my aversion to trams it took us a while to walk in to the TTC - of *course* they parked us at the farthest possible lot - but I did Ok on the ferry. So long as it's not too crowded or hectic, the ferry is open enough that I don't feel penned in.  

(And thanks again to those of you who pointed out I can walk in to the park from the Contemporary - we've done so just once so far, but it's a relief knowing I have a back-up plan if my anxiety flares up in the future!)

Finally - FINALLY - we were in my favorite park, and we had about two hours of daylight left to wander and snap pics sans tripod.

It was gray and overcast, but hey, any day at Disney...

 The Emporium has their animated Christmas Carol windows up:

And the Candy Shop displays never disappoint:
 (I think those springy bits are made with fuzzy pipe cleaners. Possible DIY project? Eh?)

I intended to make a beeline straight for Fantasyland, but the Dapper Dans were out, so cue the Jen fangirl squealing:


Oh, and I realized why I love the Dans so much yesterday, too (you know, besides the awesome music) - their puns!! They rattled off a ton of holiday-themed puns that had everyone groaning, and at least one girl whooping with glee.

"What do you call a wreath made of hundred dollar bills?"
"A wreath a' Franklins!"

Also, their rendition of Christmas in Kilarney is gorgeous. Be sure to request it if you see them before January.

I spent forever looking for the best rose for this shot. Have I mentioned John has the patience of a saint?

Moving on, we finally made it to new Fantasyland. We were there too late in the day to see the restaurant, sadly (lunch ends at 2:30, and you can't go inside during dinner hours unless you have a reservation), but I took some pics outside and on the bridge:

Further along we discovered Gaston out posing for pictures. We ended up stopping to watch for a few minutes, because it turns out Gaston is freaking HILARIOUS. 

Gaston doesn't stand - he leans. He flirted shamelessly with all the women, kissing their hands and telling them how lucky they were to meet him. Then he'd whip into a bunch of rapid-fire Zoolander poses that had everyone rolling. Next time I'll get some video, because you guys really have to see him in action.

John didn't know that the Little Mermaid ride was already open and running, so he was pretty excited when we made it over to the jaw-dropping ride exterior:

The wait was only 40 minutes, so even though I doubted my anxiety would let me ride, we went in to photograph the queue.

See the "E" in the window? Must be Eric's room.

Once you round the corner, you're treated to this stunning view:
John took this one. Don't you love the soft look of the waterfalls? 

Then you weave through that rock work:

Until you end up inside the caves:

Inside the caves it's quite dark - a lot of these details you couldn't see in real life - and with the crowds it felt a little cramped further in. There were so many fun things to look at, though, along with interactive virtual crabs, if you can believe it, spaced throughout the queue:

The crabs are projections, so you can only see the white outline of the little guy in the glass here. They would busily stack items in piles, and you're supposed to point at the item if it doesn't belong, which will make the crab discard it. 

There are a few skylights open to the outside, which makes for some dramatic lighting and shadows.

The next room was the most uncomfortable for me, since it has no view of the outside and is more densely packed with people:

In here the only distraction is an animatronic Scuttle the seagull, who you can see as a bright white blur in the middle. Fortunately this part of the line moved pretty fast, though, and we zipped through the room in about five minutes. (Although not before I mentioned to John that *maybe* they shouldn't have hung those two ball lights in a pair - and made one of them blue. John said I've been writing Cake Wrecks too long. Very true.)

Once you leave that room there's a nifty transition area where you leave the caves behind and enter the castle itself:

We passed this beautiful section of queue not in use:

Just another few steps, and you're in the loading area.

(Sorry for the terrible pics; it's really dark in there!)

There's a lovely mural on the back wall featuring Ariel and Eric's ship, and the ride cars are the same clam shells used on the Finding Nemo ride:

After the last room of the queue I was feeling a little jittery, so when I noticed that the ride kept stopping (I think to load wheelchairs, but I'm not sure) I told John I'd just meet him outside. He rode through and recorded the whole thing on his phone for me, though:

There's nothing too groundbreaking here, but the animatronics are fantastic. Look at Ariel's arm movements around 2:20 - plus she blinks and moves her mouth! It's so natural looking, I almost didn't notice. And I love the rowboat scene. Probably because that's John's and my favorite song from the movie. We like to sing it together, with John doing a great Sebastion impression & me filling in the "Ya YAH Yaaaa!!"s. :D

By the time we emerged it was dark out, so then the real photography fun began. We broke out the tripod and got to work:

I'm dabbling with HDR photos, as some of you can probably tell from this one. It's a struggle for me, and I really have no idea what I'm doing, so I just play with the settings in PhotoMatrix until I like the look.

To give you some base of reference, here's a traditional, non-HDR shot:

And this is what the building actually looked like:

Now here's an HDR shot of it:
Pretty psychedelic, right?

I'm on the fence with this HDR thing, since I can't seem to make my shots look good - or at least look good to me. There's so much gorgeous HDR stuff out there, though, that I know I'm just not doing it right. I'll keep trying!

Well, I've been working on this post & pics for over 6 hours now, so I'm going to end here and put the rest of our night shots in a later post. I hope you've all enjoyed your virtual tour so far!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Nutcracker Redo!

While cruising Pinterest last week I found this simple nutcracker makeover by Allison of House of Hepworths:

Pretty cool, right? Very modern chic!

And since Allison mentioned the nutcrackers were from a dollar store, the next time John and I were out we swung by our local Dollar Tree, and...score!
I quickly ripped off their beards and hair and headed out to the garage for some spraying.

After priming them all I painted one each in gold, copper, silver, and gloss white:
I loved the gold and silver, but the copper just didn't look metallic enough for me. But I reeeeally love copper. So, after a little thought, I broke out some sparkly copper glitter:

We got this glitter sample pack from JoAnn's a while back for my Figment mask. That little packet was just enough to coat the entire nutcracker:

Now THAT is more like it.

To apply the glitter I just brushed on a thin layer of white craft glue and sprinkled the glitter over top. Messy as all get-out, of course, but also really fun!

Rather than covering the entire figure, I left the arm and leg bands glitter-free, as well as the base. Then I went back and added copper foil around those areas for extra shine:

 Finished! It's hard to photograph glitter well, but trust me when I say this guy is SUPER sparkly.

Now for the gold and silver guys:

These are the spray paints I used, and I highly recommend both. The silver in particular sprays and pools beautifully. (The secret to a great metallic is to let it pool slightly, but not so much that it will start to drip or sag.) The gold is a thinner paint and a lot more likely to sag with heavy coats, so be extra careful with it.

These nutcrackers are made from terrible quality wood (hey, what do you expect for a buck, right?), so even with a several coats and a little sanding they're a bit rough and grainy in places. Still, from a slight distance, not too shabby!

I wanted these two to have something a bit more, though, so next I added some tiny nail gems and metal accents:

 Muuuch better.

The gold is my favorite - he almost looks like a little brass automaton! - but I think these two make a nice set together.

And as for my final nutcracker, well...


I planned to add multi-colored gems all over him, like I've started to here, but as you can see the wood on this one is a lot worse than the others, and the high-gloss white magnifies every crack and bump. I'm thinking I might dunk him in glitter, too. Unless you guys have any other ideas?

Hope you liked my quick 'cracker re-do! I have a few more ideas I'd like to try, too, so I'm thinking another trip to the Dollar Tree might be in order.  :)

Oh, and here's my attempt at recreating Allison's awesome pin:

And if you're on Pinterest, you can find my own boards here!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

DIY Tree Flocking - One Year Update!

When I made and applied my own DIY tree flocking last year, some people thought it was with the intention of throwing the whole tree away after Christmas. Not so! Instead, John shrink wrapped the whole tree - lights and all -  into a handy fat pole, which we then stored in the back of the garage.

We live in Florida, so obviously this tree has been baked in sweltering, humid heat for an entire year now. My only real concern was that my "flocking" might crack or crumble over time.

Well, last week John brought our shrink-wrapped tree inside, plunked it down, cut off the wrap, and...

[drum roll, please] looks perfect!

Since we wrapped the tree with all my lights and pine cones wired in place, all it took was a few minutes' sprucing (zing!) to fluff the branches up a bit, and this was the end result.

Now the real test: how did the flocking fare?

Not a single crack or crumble. WOOHOO!!

In fact, I'm pretty sure my fake snow looks way more real and fresh than the tree itself:

So for those of you who were on the fence about my flocking tutorial, I hope this helps assure you that it really does stand the test of heat and time.

Also, I am never NOT shrink wrapping this tree again. Putting the lights on is the most tedious and time-consuming part of the whole process, so it was sheer heaven to have the tree ready for ornaments in under five minutes. We had to assemble our second tree as usual, and boy was THAT a pain after this one! See how quickly I get spoiled? :) (Note: It IS a pre-lit tree, but I add four extra strands of twinkle lights on top of that. I like a LOT of lights.)

Here's one final full shot:

We hung our hot air balloon ornaments first, of course. (YAY BALLOONS!) I still have to decorate the rest of the tree, but I'm taking my time. I like to stretch out the full house-decking over a few weeks, for maximum holiday enjoyment. ;)

I hope you guys are having a great week!

* See my original tree flocking tutorial here.