The Surprising Lesson You’ll Learn from “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”

Angelina Jolie is Maleficent in Disney’s MALEFICENT:  MISTRESS OF EVIL.

On Monday, my family and I were invited by Disney to an advance press screening of Maleficent 2. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” is a fantasy adventure that picks up several years after “Maleficent,” in which audiences learned of the events that hardened the heart of Disney’s most notorious villain and drove her to curse a baby Princess Aurora. The film continues to explore the complex relationship between the horned fairy and the soon to be Queen as they form new alliances and face new adversaries in their struggle to protect the moors and the magical creatures that reside within. The film is directed by Joachim Rønning from a story by Linda Woolverton and a screenplay by Linda Woolverton and Micah Fitzerman-Blue & Noah Harpster, the film is produced by Joe Roth, Angelina Jolie and Duncan Henderson with Matt Smith, Jeff Kirschenbaum and Michael Vieira serving as executive producers.

While “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” is a sequel to the 2014 “Maleficent”, it is also an origins story. In this movie, you’ll find out a little more about Maleficent and what type of fairy she is. In the first movie, there were many types of fairies that lived in the moors, but only one Maleficent.  You’ll hear the fairies be referenced as “faeries” or “fay”. By the end of the movie I can guarantee you’ll be completely obsessed with faerie culture.

The Hidden Lesson

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This is very much a refugee story. Some of the scenes are scary in the sense that this is how people are actually treated in our present day. You might have to have a pretty heavy conversation with your kids if they don’t understand why one group is treating another group with such hatred. The screening we saw happened to fall on Columbus Day and it was ironic that Maleficent hit so close to home.

Is Maleficent 2 Too Scary for Kids?

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“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” is rated PG so parents can use their parental discretion. I’m pretty liberal about exposing my kids to mature content, so I didn’t have a problem bringing my 4 and 7 year old. LittleGray (7) is the jumpier of the two and there were a couple scenes where she hid behind my hand. There was a lot of violence (referencing the refugee storyline as explained above), but it wasn’t gory or gratuitously horrific. I would say that the movie was “scary” only in the sense that the storyline mirrors things that are currently happening in our world in present day.  Both kids did not have a problem sitting through the entire movie and it held their full attention the entire time.

How Does Maleficent 2 compare to the first Maleficent?

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So I LOVED “Maleficent”. I loved it so much that my husband bid on a larger then life signed poster that now resides in my craft room.  You don’t necessarily have to see the first “Maleficent” in order to enjoy “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”.  I own the first Maleficent movie but I forgot to show it to the kids as a refresher before attending the preview.  The sequel starts off about 5 years after Aurora has been named Queen of the Moors by Maleficent.  The storyline focuses a lot more on Prince Phillip’s family who was not part of the first movie.  “Maleficent: Fortress of Evil” is a great standalone movie without much prior knowledge of the Sleeping Beauty fandom.

Horns

With newfound faerie fandom, you’ll want to get your hands on some horns!  I had made our horns out of felt, stuffing, and a headband, but there are now several options available in stores.  I received the big Maleficent horns at Disney SMC, but we were told that they will be available at Disney Parks and on Shop Disney. At the screening, we were gifted with two different types of horns from Spirit Halloween. One is the hat/turban type “Maleficent Headpiece Deluxe” which is best suited for adults and sits snug on your head. The other were two free hanging horns “Maleficent Horns” attached to an elastic band. These are great for getting a custom fit. My friend Keshia even put hers over a floppy hat which was super cute. Both styles are available at spirit Halloween now.

More information about “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” can be found on Facebook, Instagram @DisneyMaleficent, or the official hashtag #Maleficent.

 

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Rare Characters You can Meet at Knott’s Spooky Farm

spooky farm pig pen costume

Knott’s Spooky Farm (not to be confused with Haunt Knott’s SCARY Farm) is the daytime family friendly Halloween layover in Ghost Town and Camp Snoopy.  You do not need a special ticket for Knott’s Spooky Farm since it is included with your theme park admission.  The activities in Ghost Town are only available on weekends and on October 31 while Halloween activities occur daily in Camp Snoopy.

Daily Activities in Camp Snoopy (During the week and weekends)

spooky farm railroad

  • “The Monsters are Coming Charlie Brown” show in Camp Snoopy Theater
  • Meet the Peanuts Gang in their Halloween Costumes (more on that later)
  • Grand Sierra Railroad Halloween Overlay
  • Timber Mountain Log Ride: Halloween Hootenanny (this may be scary for young kids)

Weekend only Activities in Ghost Town (in addition to activities above)

spooky farm ghouls

  • FREE Trick or Treating for kids 11 and under.  Get your complementary purple bag when you first come in through the maingates.  There are 6 Trick or Treat locations located throughout Calico.  Look for the orange barrels.
  • Meet the Ghouls of Ghost Town.  Don’t worry–they’re all friendly ghosts!
  • Ghoulash–about every hour, the ghouls gather in front of the school house to tell jokes
  • Creepy Critters of Calico in the Livery Barn
  • Linus’ Pumpkin Patch and activities in Calico Square
  • “Calling all the Monsters” Costume Contest at Camp Snoopy Theater at 3:15
  • Spooky Story Time show in the Birdcage Theater–comedic retelling of the Tale of the Headless Horseman

Halloween Peanuts Characters in Camp Snoopy

Most of the Peanuts Gang is dressed up in their Halloween costumes for Spooky Farm!  Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Lucy, and JT meet in the gazebo directly following “The Monsters are Coming Charlie Brown” show in Camp Snoopy Theater.  Linus is the only character that is not wearing a Halloween costume since he is waiting for the Great Pumpkin in Calico Square.  The other Peanuts Characters meet on various days all around Camp Snoopy.  If you are looking for a specific character, you can ask an escort in a purple Spooky Farm tee shirt.

  • JT in her 50’s outfit
  • Snoopy as the Masked Beagle
  • Frankenstein Charlie Brown
  • Witch Lucy
  • Skeleton Pig Pen (NEW!)
  • Pumpkin Flower Sally
  • Phantom of the Opera Schroeder
  • Mummy Peppermint Patty
  • Vampire Franklin
  • Pirate Woodstock
  • Linus in the Pumpkin Patch in Calico Square (no costume)

Ghouls in Ghost Town

My favorite part of Knotts Spooky Farm is playing with the friendly ghouls in Calico!  Every ghoul has a unique storyline–ask them how they died!  New ghoul Miss Issippi told me that the reason why she died is because she wore white after labor day.  Nosy Posy is another new ghoul in town that is also known as the town gossip.  Ollie Board is a railroad driver and my daughters love chasing him through Ghost Town.  About every hour, the ghouls will congregate around the School House for “Ghoulash”, a time for jokes and puns.

spooky farm linus pumpkin patch

Knott’s Spooky Farm runs weekends and on October 31.  For more information, visit the Knott’s website here.

Why I Took my Young Daughters to see Miss Saigon

MissSaigon_Tour_2019_Red

A lot of people might wonder why I decided to bring my kids to see Miss Saigon. Miss Saigon is a musical intended for audiences 14+ due to adult content and language. It’s also a musical with an Asian storyline with a primarily Asian cast. An opportunity for my Asian daughters to see themselves represented on the stage is very rare. I wanted them to see other Asian people living their dreams (and also support our own Auntie Keila @cupofkeila who was performing in the ensemble in the cast).  It was more important to me that my daughters were able to see an Asian Broadway production first hand.  I received three complementary tickets from Segerstrom Center for the Arts in exchange for an honest review.  Photos used by permission .

Miss Saigon Step and Repeat

After the show, their Auntie Keila was able to take them backstage to give them a first hand look at a working Broadway tour. LittleGray got to see the Dragon (her favorite part) and LittleSage was up close and personal with the American Dream costumes (her personal favorite and yes she asked me to make one for her). Most importantly, they got to meet Asian performers and were validated by their success. It made their Broadway dreams just one step closer to becoming a reality.


I didn’t think that Miss Saigon was even that inappropriate for my children. Though the dance scenes were racy at times, it helped tell the story of something that really happened as a part of our history. They were more enthralled at the production as a whole (The costumes! The lighting! THE SHEER TALENT of Emily Bautista @em_bautista (Kim) and Red Conception @red_concepcion (The Engineer). My kids are comfortable around language and are accustomed to theater etiquette, so I wouldn’t hesitate to take them again. Both of them thoroughly enjoyed the show through the final curtain call—they even got to wave to Keila directly during bows and when she waved back, my heart burst into a million pieces.  

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Thank you, Miss Saigon, for touring with this story that needs to be told and exposing people to POC representation. Keila @cupofkeila, this experience meant so much to us and I am forever grateful. To Segerstrom Center for the Arts, thank you for allowing people of all ages see this special show and letting parents make the best decision for their family. 🥰.

Segerstrom Center for the Arts Ticket Information

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MISS SAIGON tells the story of a young Vietnamese woman named Kim, who is orphaned by war and forced to work in a bar run by a notorious character known as the Engineer. There she meets and falls in love with an American G.I. named Chris, but they are torn apart by the fall of Saigon. For 3 years, Kim goes on an epic journey of survival to find her way back to Chris, who has no idea he’s fathered a son. This new production features stunning spectacle and a sensational cast of 42 performing the soaring score, including Broadway hits like “The Heat is On in Saigon,” “The Movie in My Mind,” “Last Night of the World” and “American Dream.”

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October 1 – 13, 2019
Tuesday – Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday at 2:00 and 7:30 p.m.
Sunday at 1:00 and 6:30 p.m.
Tickets – Start at $26
In Person – The Box Office
600 Town Center Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Open 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily

Online – SCFTA.org
Phone – (714) 556-2787

Open 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily

Group Sales – (714) 755-0236

Open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday-Friday

Advisory – MISS SAIGON contains some scenes and language which may not be suitable for younger audience members, including scenes of a sexual nature. Recommended
for ages 14 and up.  More information about the show can be found on their website.

Oogie Boogie Bash Halloween Party at the Disneyland Resort

 

Oogie Boogie LittleGrayThread

Have you heard the news?  The special ticketed Halloween Party at the Disneyland Resort is ALL NEW and reimagined this year!  “Oogie Boogie Bash — A Halloween Party”, which takes place at Disney California Adventure, as replaced “Mickey’s Halloween Party” that was previously held at Disneyland.  We were able to attend on opening night and I was blown away by all the new villainous immersive treat trails and exclusive live entertainment!

Oogie Boogie Bash Event Details

Villians Disney California Adventure

The following information was taken from the Oogie Boogie Bash website:

  • Oogie Boogie Bash – A Disney Halloween Party at Disney California Adventure Park
  • Select nights September 17 through October 31, 2019
  • Party 6:00 PM to 11:00 PM
  • Park mix-in begins at 2:00 PM on Sundays as well as October 29 and 31, 2019
  • Park mix-in begins at 3:00 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays
  • All tickets are sold out (tickets ranged from $100-$145. All guests age 3 and up need a separate Oogie Boogie Bash ticket even if you have a Disneyland Resort Annual Pass)
  • Your ticket lets you enjoy Disney California Adventure Park for up to 4 hours before Oogie Boogie Bash – A Disney Halloween Party begins. Once the party starts, you’ll be treated to 5 hours of shindig shenanigans—including special Halloween-themed entertainment, attractions, Character Greetings and more.

Immersive Villain Treat Trails

There are 5 character Treat Trails in additional to other Treat Trails that have several candy spots within the same trail.  You definitely are going to want to hit the character treat trails.  The Treat Trails are marked by a huge green glowing Oogie Boogie that has “Treat Trail” written on his belly.  All of the Treat Trail markers look the same, so you can’t tell visually what character is inside (if there is one).  Each trail has multiple candy stops along the way (about 4-5 per trail with each stop handing out a few pieces of candy per stop).  There is also an exclusive Annual Passholder Treat Trail by Goofy’s Sky School where you can pick up your AP Oogie Boogie magnet.  Here is the location to the 5 character Treat Trails:

  • Maleficent:  to the left of Soaring over the World (outdoors)
  • Evil Queen: near the entrance of Grizzly River Rapids (outdoors)
  • Tim Burton’s Mad Hatter: in the Hyperion Theater in Hollywood Land
  • Dr. Facilier: in Stage 17 near Monster’s Inc Mike and Sully to the Rescue
  • Oogie Boogie:  in Animation Academy

All of the villains are on platforms so there is no official line to take a photo with them.  They are mic’ed and will interact with you as you pass by their station.  You are welcome to snap a quick photo, but there are no photopass at this locations.  Since Maleficent and the Evil Queen are both located outdoors, I recommend hitting these treat trails first so it’s not too dark to take photos.

Character Meet and Greets

Kim Possible Ron Stoppable

Rare characters only come out during Oogie Boogie Bash!  The longest line was for sure the Kingdom Hearts characters.  We got to meet Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable.  In the Villains section, guests could meet Shan Yu from Mulan, King George from Robin Hood, Radcliffe from Pocahontas, the Big Bad Wolf, among others.

  • Classic Disney Friends (Carthay Circle Fountain):  Pinocchio/Blue Fairy and Snow White/Dopey
  • Friends from Disney Channel (Pacific Wharf near the restrooms):  Kim Possible/Ron Stoppable and Phineas/Ferb
  • Friends From Disney Afternoon (Grizzly Peak Airfield by Soarin’):  Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers and Don Karnage/Baloo Tale Spin
  • Friends from Kingdom Hearts (Grizzly Falls Waterfall):  Donald and Goofy
  • Minnie and Mickey (Grizzly River Run)
  • Loki (roaming Hollywood Land near Stage 17)
  • Gamora (Guardians of the Galaxy Mission Breakout)
  • Anna and Elsa (Animation Academy)
  • Cars Land Cars (Cozy Cone Motel)
  • Pixar Friends (Pixar Bandshell by Mickey’s Funwheel)
  • Incredibles (Incredicoaster)

DescenDANCE

Inspired by Descendants, this Villain Kids dance party features the Greatest Dance Crew from the Isle of the Lost!  Show times to the DescenDANCE dance crew are listed on the Disneyland App (6:15 pm, 7:30 pm, 8:45 pm, 9:45 pm, and 10:30 pm).  The show lasts about 20 minutes where you’ll learn fun dances from the Isle of the Lost.  At the end the of the show, the dancers come out to the crowd with a huge dragon!

In between Dance Crew sets, the DescenDANCE DJ takes the stage with fun dancing activities!  The kids loved playing freeze dance and dancing along with their favorite songs.

Mickey’s Trick & Treat 

The cutest show in the Disney Junior Dance Party Theater in Hollywood Land!  This all new show features Parker, a friendly mad scientist, who is hosting a Halloween Costume party with Minnie and Mickey!  You’ll also see Donald and Goofy in never before seen Halloween costumes.  Mickey’s Trick & Treat is interactive with bubbles, confetti, and a treat station at the end!  Show times are 6:25 pm, 7:10 pm, 7:55 pm, 9:25 pm and 10:15 pm.

Villains Grove

The most popular new attraction is the Villains Grove walk through at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail.  It is an immersive light show with multi-sensory effects as you follow the Wisps from Brave through the woods.  This walk through does not have Treat Trail candy stations and does not have any characters inside.  Don’t be scared by the long entry line–it does move fast!  Strollers are not allowed in the trail and there are stairs during the trail.  It is possible to go through with a wheelchair or scooter if absolutely necessary.  This experience does not begin until 7:20, so I do not recommend lining up right at 6:00 when the party starts.

Frightfully Fun Parade and the Headless Horseman

Halloween Ballroom

The nightly parade steps off at Pixar Pier at 8:00 with the Headless Horseman and Ichabod Crane.  Frightfully Fun Parade officially starts at 8:10 with characters including Minnie and Mickey, Jack and Sally, the Hitchhiking Ghosts.  New this years the Cheshire Cat who is on the finale Villains float.  My personal favorites are the gravediggers with sparking shovels, haunted ballroom court dancers, and Ursuala!

Villainous! World of Color

World of Color Villainous

There are two showings of Villainous! World of Color:  9:00 and 10:45.  Villainous! follows the story of a little girl named Shelley Marie who is having a hard time picking a Halloween Costume.  After she steps through a magic mirror, she is encountered by different villains to help make her decision.  There have been mixed reviews about this particular World of Color show, but I say if you’ve spent so much on an exclusive Halloween Party Ticket, make the most of it and see all the entertainment!  We ended up seeing the 10:45 show and it was the perfect way to end our Oogie Boogie Bash.

Costumes!

A huge reason to attend Oogie Boogie Bash is because its one of the few times that adults can wear costumes into the parks!  We went with the Villains theme and the kids wore their Ursula and Queen of Hearts dresses that I made (I bought this hoop skirt for them to wear under which really oomphs up the dress!).  Even though I am super resistant to dressing up, my best friend reminded me that one day my kids won’t want anything to do with me and to take every opportunity to have fun with them while I can.  I went super simple and wore a black tank top and skirt from my closet.  I glue gunned together some Maleficent horns on a headband (purple sparkly paint, too!) and sewed up a simple purple and black cape.  In adherence to Disneyland’s Costume policy, all costume pieces (including capes) can not be dragging on the floor and capes can not tie around the neck.  Luckily, I fashioned the cape to tie around my shoulder straps instead of around my neck.  A complete list of costume guidelines can be found on the Oogie Boogie Bash website.

Is it Worth It?

Mickey Disney California Adventure Halloween

I know it’s hard thinking about dropping another $100+ for everyone in your family, but the Oogie Boogie Bash was 100% worth it!  Everything was NEW this year and only available at the Halloween Party.  Our family loves and prioritizes live entertainment so this was a definite must for us.  We loved the new Mickey Trick & Treat show and the DescenDANCE dance party was reason enough to get tickets.  We also got a ton of candy from the Treat Trails and it was so special seeing the characters in their party exclusive costumes.  If you didn’t get a chance to get tickets this year, don’t delay on getting them before they sell out for next year!

Oogie Boogie Bash Family

For more of our theme park adventures at Disneyland, follow us on Instagram @LittleGrayThread.

How the Gender Neutral Creatable World Dolls are Teaching Kids Inclusion

Creatable World clothes options

I strive to raise my daughters to be open minded and inclusive (read my thoughts on how I’m teaching my kids about Pride).  I audibly gasped when I found out that Mattel created a line of gender neutral dolls as part of their new Createable World line.  Each “doll kit” (MSRP $29.99) comes with a gender neutral doll with short hair, a long hair wig, and 12 assorted clothing pieces including pants, skirts, and accessories.  Currently there are 6 variations of the doll including Asian, African American, and Hispanic ethnicities.  The Creatable World line was designed to keep labels out and invite everyone in, making play more inclusive than ever before.  Mattel sent us three dolls to review for free.

Creatable World Limitless

How to Talk to your Kids about Pronouns

Upon first glance, my daughters weren’t sure if the doll was a boy or a girl.  I told them that Mattel made this doll to be whatever they wanted it to be.  They mused over the beautiful long wig and giggled as they tried it on the doll.  I asked them if they wanted this doll to be a boy or a girl or something else, and they agreed on the pronouns “she/her”.

We opened up another Creatable World doll and again I asked them, “What pronouns do you want to use for this doll?  She?  He?  Them?”  They thought about it for a second and said, “Him!  Him!  This one is a boy.”  As they looked over the clothing pieces that came in the doll kit, they picked out what pieces they wanted him to wear.  My older daughter picked out a striped shirt and camo pants and my younger daughter plucked up the tutu.  Initially, my older daughter chastised, “No, he can’t wear that!” to which my youngest retorted, “But why not?”  She only paused for a second before musing, “Oh, you’re right!  He can wear it ON TOP of the pants!  That’s so cute.”  While their initial reaction was “skirts are for girls”, my daughters were able to correct themselves and remembered that clothes can be for any gender.  They worked together to try on his wig and concluded that it looked very pretty on him.  It was also a reminder to them that wigs and long hair can be worn by anyone, not just girls.

It is necessary to normalize asking about pronouns if you are striving to normalize people.  I would like my children to treat non-binary, trans, gay, pansexual, gender fluid or straight people with the same amount of respect.  The first step to being comfortable about this is by talking about it in a natural way.  Here are some ways that I am teaching my children to be more inclusive:

  • Ask what pronouns a person prefers.  If you don’t make it weird, it won’t be weird.
  • Remind kids that clothes know no gender.  Anyone is welcome to rock a skirt, pants, hats, or any variation in between.
  • Hair length does not determine gender.  There are many women who have short hair and many men who wear their hair long.  People can choose to style their hair any way they want.
  • Be honest that you don’t know all the answers and that you’d like to learn more about other communities.  None of us have all the answers and it’s okay to be ignorant in areas.  What makes us grow as people is seeking out knowledge.
  • Get to know the LGTBQ+ community.  Learn what makes them different and see how you can celebrate with them.  Raising my Rainbow is a mom who is raising a gender fluid son.  Stephenie describes gender and sexuality as a spectrum and to leave the understanding open for kids to insert their own understanding and ask their own questions.  The more you are connected to people who aren’t like you, the less “foreign” it becomes.
  • Give your children opportunities to see inclusion in action.  Take them to family Pride celebrations, go to Drag Queen Storytime, have playdates with people who are different than them.  In these experiences, your kids will realize we’re not as different as we think and it will normalize humans.

Creatable World and People of Color

creatable world LittleGrayThread

I had the opportunity to visit Mattel Headquarters and talk with toy creators.  I was enlightened to see so many women in every step of the toy creation process as well as a good number of Asian designers.  I asked them when more Asian dolls would grace the shelves and now I see why they couldn’t give me a clear answer.  I am grateful that people of color are being represented and kids can find dolls that look more like them on the shelves.  I can’t even describe the feeling when I heard my daughter exclaim, “She looks like ME!”  The Creatable World Doll Kits come in 6 varieties:

  • Black Braided Hair with dark skin
  • Brunette Wavy Hair with brown skin
  • Copper Straight Hair with fair skin
  • Black Straight Hair with fair skin
  • Blonde Curly Hair with medium skin
  • Blonde Wavy Hair with fair skin

Play without Limits

Limitless Play

These dolls don’t necessarily be walking narrative for LGTBQ+ rights.  The Doll Kits also foster imagination by giving kids a blank canvas for their imagination to run wild.  When my daughters first looked at the doll, they thought of at least five different story possibilities.  “Oh!  She’s going to the barber to get a haircut!  Oh wait, he wants to be a runway model.  Mom look, she’s you in your romper!  It’s grandma with her classes!  No, I want her to be me!  Let me change my outfit.”

Mattel is allowing kids to create without limits by giving them a doll without lables that is gender neutral.  Kids are allowed to create their narrative and the doll can fit an infinite number of roles.  It’s also very cost efficient to buy your child one doll that can be used for so many different scenarios.

Creatable World Mattel

I am beyond excited to see a big company like Mattel give attention to these minority groups.  I hope that these dolls can be be catalyst for change and help start conversations.  You can find out more information about the Creatable World dolls on Mattel’s website or on instagram @CreatableWorld (#AllWelcome).  Please visit us over on our Instagram @LittleGrayThread.

What I Learned from Disney Social Media Celebration “On the Road”

Jenielle LittleGrayThread

I can still feel that excitement when I checked my email and found the invitation to Disney Social Media Celebration “On the Road” (#DisneySMC) at the Disneyland Resort.  In previous years, this conference was known as “Disney Social Media Moms” (#DisneySMMC), but I love how they have opened it up to all content creators, not just specific to “Mommy Bloggers”.  This was my first official Disney conference that I’ve been invited to and I honestly didn’t know what to expect.  I attended the conference free of charge and was provided with complementary tickets to Disneyland for my family.  All opinions are my own.

What is Disney SMC?

 

Disney Social Media Celebration, or “DisneySMC” is a invite-only conference that takes place about every other year at a Disney Resort.  I attended DisneySMC “On the Road” at the Disneyland Resort hosted at the Disneyland Hotel.  There were nine speakers (mediated by Courtnee Collier, Influencer Communications Manager) throughout the day that spoke about different topics how we can improve our Social Media Reach:

  • Bob Hitchcock (Editorial Content Director):  importance of video content and the power of emotion
  • Mallory Wang (Digital Marketing Content for Disney DTCI Programming and Studios):  how social platforms (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook) can all work together
  • Louie Provost (Senior VP of Production at Walt Disney Studios): sneak peek of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil coming to theaters October 18
  • John Breckow (Director of Corporate Citizenship for Disney Parks, Experiences and Products):  Cultural Social Responsibility and how Disney partners with Make-a-Wish (130,000 wishes granted since 1980!), #ShareYourEars campaign, and Disney VoluntEARing
  •  Tom Smith (Editorial Content Director for Disney Parks Blog):  Custom Created Content using your Platform, Ecosystem, and Community
  • Michael Ramirez (Editorial Content Director for Disneyland Resort):  New things coming to Disneyland Resort–Halloweentime (through October 31, The Holidays Begin Here (November 8 – January 6), Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge Rise of the Resistance (January 17, 2020), Magic Happens Parade (Spring 2020), and Avengers Campus (2020)
  • Colleen Nettekoven (Downtown Disney):  new Halloweentime decor and limited time seasonal offerings and live entertainment.  West Beat Sings Scareolers will be performing every Wednesday and Friday night in front of Wonderground
  • Kristin Dewberry (Construction Manager for Logistics):  empowering the next generation of imagineers through free tools from Imagineering in a Box (imagineeringinabox.org)
  • Ashley Eckstein (voice of Star Wars Ashoka Tano and creator of HerUniverse):  Reminding us to wish, believe, do, transform, and trust.

Key Note Speaker Ashley Eckstein

LittleGrayThread Ashley Eckstein

You might recognize Ashley Eckstein‘s name as a Disney Channel actress and voice of Star War Ashoka Tano, but you might have not known that she created women’s clothing line HerUniverse from the ground up.  In her key note address, she reminded us why we’re all doing what we’re doing in the social media world and what to do when we want to give up.

What is Your Story?

We all have a story, and we all have a unique voice.  A group of bloggers can all see the same thing and go to the same event, but our coverage–or the way we tell our story–will all be different.  Ashley reminded us that all of our stories are valid.  We are not in competition with each other because we are here to tell our unique stories.

When I think of my story, I think of the things that make me unique.  I like to tell my story through the eyes of my daughters who love dressing up, characters, and live entertainment.  My unique parenting style focuses on inclusion and I hope that my actions can start conversations or break down walls with other people.  Since I am Chinese, I also act as an advocate for people of color and speak up to amplify voices that are sometimes too small to be heard.  My audience knows to expect these things from me and I appreciate that they want to hear my voice.

Wishes, Goals, and Transformation

OurUniverse book

When Ashley had an idea to start a women’s clothing line, she had big goals in mind.  For bloggers, goals can be anywhere from being invited to events to making enough money to support your family.  Goals can be personal such as having a pinterest worthy clean house or being debt free.  Ashley broke it down on how we can start achieving these goals.

  • WISH.  Every goal needs to start with a wish or an idea.  There is no age limit to wishing.
  • BELIEVE.  Write down one impossible thing and believe you can do it.  Believe in yourself and don’t be consumed by the competition.
  • DO.  YOU have to be the driving force of your own destiny.  Do something every day to get you one step closer to your goal.
  • TRANSFORM.  Use the resources you have.  No one is an overnight success.  Figure out your “WHY?”  Remember why you have this goal and use it to refocus and ground yourself when things get hard.
  • TRUST.  Trust your gut.  Be ready for change because change is a necessary part of growth.

Ashley encouraged us to be Dream Warriors.  Make your dreams come true.  And when they do come true, help someone else’s dream come true.  Let that sink in for a little bit.

How to get Invited to DisneySMC

You’re not going to like this answer.  Nobody knows.  I still don’t know how I got invited  or who to contact to try to get on their radar.  But here are some things that I’ve learned that has helped me feel validated as a blogger.

  • NETWORK.  A good portion of social media is the people you know.  Be active in the community, meet people who you look up to, collaborate and make new connections.
  • PRODUCE QUALITY CONTENT.  If you want to be invited to a Disney conference, you need to be writing about Disney!  I’ve been sharing our Disneyland adventures for four years before Disney even knew who I was.  This means staying current about whats new at Disney, paying attention to trends, and making an effort to report things that will serve your audience.
  • BE A STORYTELLER.  Talk about things that make you YOU.  When I looked around the room at DisneySMC, I saw people from every walks of life.  The vast majority of the influencers at the conference do not ONLY post Disney content.  We all write about what makes us unique, the things we’re passionate about, things that we think are important.  Our distinct backgrounds, writing styles, how we share information was all different and that’s what makes people stand out from the crowd.
  • TREAT YOURSELF LIKE A PROFESSIONAL.  If you think of yourself as a member of the working media, you will present yourself with confidence.  Even when I have no idea what I’m doing, I try to give off an air of confidence not only to fool me but to fool everyone else in the room.  This also means that you have to do your due diligence to make sure that you are following FTC guidelines, keeping up with contracts, and acting in a way that would be pleasing to the company and brands.
  • REMEMBER YOUR WHY.  Like Ashley said, remember why you are doing social media to begin with.  Is it to inspire?  Make money? Be helpful?  If you stick to achieving your goals, you are still succeeding every step of the way.

Halloween Mickey and Minnie DisneySMC

I left the conference armed with new tools to help tell my story.  I felt validated and seen.  I’m beyond grateful that Disney is interested in hearing my voice.  Thank you Disney for this incredible opportunity.

NEW Jurassic World Dinosaur Experiences at Universal Studios Hollywood

Dino Play Baby Tango

Over the summer, the newly redesigned Jurassic World water ride opened along with new dinosaur experiences on the lower lot of Universal Studios Hollywood!  My family was invited to check out the new offerings and received complementary Universal Express tickets (more on that later).  Typically, we usually don’t spend too much time on the Lower Lot since my kids are too short to ride the attractions.  However, we literally spent our entire day exploring all the new dinosaurs!  Here’s how we spent our time:

NEW Dinosaur Meet and Greet Encounters

Blue the Raptor has a new permanent meeting location just to the left of the elevators.  You can enter the line where it says “Raptor Encounter”.  The meet and greet takes place during one of her “training sessions” and you can walk up to her for a photo.  If you’re not brave enough to get that close to a dinosaur, you can also observe from a safe distance.  It’s always fun to see how many guests she can sneak up on and scare!

Raptor encounter

Juliet the Triceratops is one of the new dinosaurs that you can meet!  She is walked out with her handler on the path near the Raptor Encounter.  After she slowly makes her way out of the gates, she usually stops near the base of the escalators.  Once she stops, the handlers will welcome you to pet her gently.  You can attempt to take a picture with her, but since there is no official line, the guests rush her all at the same time.

Baby Raptors also come out with their trainer!  There are a couple of different babies, but we met the raptor named Tango.  Again, there are no official lines for these meet and greets, so the best way to meet them is to follow the trainer.  The trainer will usually do a few training activities and allow guests to pet the baby raptor if she’s ready.

Dino Play Area

Right next to the entrance of the Jurassic World ride is a playground!  The entire area is enclosed and is supervised by trainers.  Since there is only one way in and out, you don’t have to worry about your kids running away in different directions.  This area has slides, a climber, a huge walk through obstacle course, and a shaded fossil area.  The best part is that it’s surrounded by misters to overcome the heat.  My favorite part was the musical chimes where you can actually learn how to play the Jurassic Park theme!  Since we took advantage of the child rider switch, we spent a good portion of our time at Dino Play.

The Jurassic World Ride

The main attraction:  the new Jurassic World water ride!  Formally Jurassic Park, this ride has been updated with new special effects (the water dinosaur is awesome!) and animatronics.  The wait times can be extremely long (typically about 2 hours), so I definitely recommend purchasing the Universal Express ticket.  It’s not much more than a daily admission (just about $70), but it allows you a fast lane pass to every ride in the park, including Jurassic World.  Since we only had one day to explore Universal Studios, it was nice not having to spend the majority of our day in lines.  If your kids aren’t able to ride Jurassic World, you can also view some dinosaurs on the world famous Universal Studios Hollywood Tram Ride!

Is it worth visiting if your kids are too short (or scared) to ride

100 percent yes!  If your kids are into dinosaurs, they will LOVE spending the time being amongst them.  The meet and greets alone are worth it to visit and your kids will likely want to close out the Dino Play Area.  The food at the Isla Nu Restaurant is my favorite in the park so definitely plan to be there for a meal!

For more of our theme park adventures, follow us on Instagram @littlegraythread.