Day 2 in Rio

[Editor’s note:  Second in a series of posts from my brother Marcus as he visits Rio de Janeiro — Mike]

Greetings from Marcus in Rio!

Tonight is the last major soccer match before the World Cup begins in 3 weeks. We had an opportunity to go to the game at the huge modern soccer stadium here, but only 2 of our 14 chose to go. Most of us arrived this morning after at least 10, and in some cases 20, hours of travel, so we mostly wanted to get finished with the day and get back to our hotel.

Hotel Room

Hotel Room

Besides me, one other participant arrived yesterday, and she called my room this morning to see if I wanted to meet. We walked 3.5 miles along Copacabana beach, stopping half-way to grab a cold beverage and shade. By the time we returned 2 hours had passed and the rest of our group was here.


Views of Copacabana where we stopped for a beverage

Views of Copacabana where we stopped for a beverage



We had lunch at a “kilo” restaurant, part of a popular chain. You go in, grab a plate, and move down a very complete buffet line. At the end, your plate is weighed, and you pay by the kg. Our hosts picked up everyone’s tab, so I don’t know how much my plate cost or weighed, but I left a lot behind. Not recognizing the dishes, and unable to understand the signage, I grabbed a lot of different things, but many of them tasted odd to my palate. Plus, we have a very substantial “Continental plus” breakfast here at the hotel every morning. Also, they are very generous with food here, but very stingy with beverages, and ice is more precious than silver. I was much more thirsty than hungry, and this afternoon I went to the mercado (market) and loaded up on bottled water. I think I may still have been dehydrated after yesterday’s travel and all the walking in the heat. I also bought an ice tray to make ice in the little freezer in my mini-fridge. I think that will be the best $2 I spend all week!

We had our orientation session this afternoon, met our group leaders and went over the week’s agenda. I was very interested to hear a little about Rio’s history – it got it’s start as the largest South American port for the African slave trade in the 18th century. In 1900, a majority of Rio’s population was black African, and the favelas we will visit this week were established by freed slaves. Also, it turns out that much of what we think of as authentic Brazilian culture, samba dancing and bossa nova music, for example, started in the favelas.

A favela seen at nightfall; this one is right by the beach at Ipanema

A favela seen at nightfall; this one is right by the beach at Ipanema

Tonight we went to a churrasco-style restaurant. This food tasted great to me! We had an incredible buffet with every kind of salad, vegetable, seafood, and even sushi. Then, once you are nearly full, they come to your table with at least a dozen different types and cuts of meats (beef, chicken, pork, unknown), and slice your choices onto your plate. This goes on with more trips for side dishes, and more spits of meat, until finally you flip over this marker at your place from green to red to indicate you surrender. Then they come around with the dessert tray. Then the after-dinner drinks. I think if we’d stayed there would have been more courses, but we gave up and left then.

Tomorrow we learn a little Portuguese, we get some history lessons on Brazil and Rio, and then we tour downtown and “little Africa”. We’ll view sunset from the Sugarloaf mountain nearby. Hopefully, I’ll post some great pictures tomorrow.








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Tuesday, Rio de Janeiro

NOTE: I am on a 10-day, university faculty seminar conducted by the Council on International Exchange Education ( I will be joined by about a dozen US-based faculty tomorrow.


I arrived Rio airport (GIG) about 0845 today (Tuesday); immigration, customs very quick, taxi queue very long and slow traffic. I had to find my own way to the hotel as my seminar does not actually start until tomorrow. I got to the Atlantis Copacabana about 11 am. Nice older hotel in the Ipanema area. Despite its name, the hotel is closer to that beach than to the Copa; about ¼ mile to the Ipanema, about ½ mile to the Copa. There is an outcropping of rock that separates the two by a few hundred yards (see photo). Today I walked down most of the Ipanema – it’s about 2 miles from here to the end. Tomorrow I’ll walk the Copa; it is a least twice as big.



Very few English speakers here; I’m working hard day and night to learn passable Portugese. I was able to shop and have lunch today, but sometimes had to ask passers-by for help. The neighborhood I’m in looks sort of poor at first glance, but, every building is surrounded by a steep metal fence, full security, etc. and I noticed the cars coming and going are very $$.  So just a few blocks from the beach, this must be a very expensive place to live. But the trash, traffic, and general run-down nature of the infrastructure would not give that away.

A big part of my seminar here is to study and understand the nature of persistent urban poverty, especially the type of poverty that seems to capture generations and leads to deep social divisions, protests and violence. I expect the favelas (ghettos) we will study and visit this week will be eye-opening.

I’m posting all my comments on my brother’s blog: “Epic Mikey”.  Thanks, Mike, for helping out, and thanks to everyone who reads and/or comments on these posts.


soli Jesu gloria,


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Dumbo Double Dare 2013: The Half-Marathon

Back-to-back runs is something new for me, so I wasn’t sure how Saturday’s 10K run was going to affect my run in the half on Sunday.    Even during training, there were no back-to-back runs.   I was following Jeff Galloway’s training plan for the Dumbo, and in that training plan he has you do long walks, rather than runs, on Saturday, and then the long runs on Sunday.    That seemed odd to me, but who am I to question the master?   So that was my training regimen, imperfectly followed to be sure, but long walks on Saturday and long runs on Sunday.

The good news is that I did not feel any ill effects from Saturday’s 10K.  No soreness, aches and pains, or notable fatigue as I was getting ready on Sunday.    And I decided the motto for the day was “no excuses”.   Saturday was done, it was not going to affect my performance on Sunday.    The weather was again unseasonably warm, and while that would undoubtedly affect my speed, it was not going to keep me from finishing and having a great time.   I had three medals waiting for me at the finish line and I would run, walk, or crawl across that finish line to get them.


The corral situation was less confusing today.   As soon as I turned the corner to head to my corral, I saw the “G” balloon clearly — and now that I know where G corral actually is, I’m pretty sure that the marker balloon had not been there on Saturday.    I knew I’d be slow today, and that starting in the last corral gave me no margin to fall behind pace, so I wanted to at least give myself the advantage of being in the front of the corral.    Mission accomplished — I was ready to enter the corral at 4:20 a.m. and was in the front row.   I sat on the pavement and passed the time texting and Facebooking, although I eventually realized I had better make sure I had enough battery power for the race and put the phone away.

We watched corrals A-F start; I think the intervals were 7 or 8 minutes apart.    As F was moving to the start, they began moving our barricade forward, and we edged our way closer to the start.   Once F had gone they moved us into place — so I had a front row view of Mickey, Minnie, and our race announcer as they counted us down to the race start.

IMG_1607 IMG_1608 IMG_1609

First half of the race

And then we were off.    Being at the front of the corral certainly has its advantages — yesterday I had been so hemmed in that I felt like I couldn’t set my own pace at all.   Today with nothing but pavement in front of me, I was able to establish a good pace early, and the first couple of miles established a good faster-than-PR pace that I hoped would carry through.     Very early on I realized that there was some lingering effect from yesterday’s run — although I had felt nothing standing or walking, once I started to run I felt some twinges in the thighs indicating that I wasn’t 100% recovered from the 10K.   But this never became a factor, just something I was aware of without feeling it was affecting my run.

We did not run around by the convention center today, instead turning left on Katella, and then left on Harbor, to enter the park earlier than in the 10K.   Somewhere before mile 2, there was a big cheer coming from behind us, I turned in time to see the eventual race winner loping past us  (Mile 2 and Mile 12 ran parallel for a while behind DCA).   Interestingly enough, I did not see the 2nd place or any other runners, so I have to assume the winner took it by a pretty good margin.

Our course through the parks was different than yesterday.   Instead of coming in through Cars Land, we ran behind Paradise Pier and California Screamin’, and entered the park at the western side of the Pier.   World of Color was again on for us as we ran along the northern side of the lagoon and headed into Cars Land.    From there we ran in front of the Tower of Terror and then headed toward the front of the park, essentially the reverse of yesterday’s course.    As we passed Soarin’ we turned right and exited the park, crossing the Esplanade and then entering Disneyland.

Backstage at DCA

Backstage at DCA

Our course through Disneyland again took us down Main Street, but this time we went left rather than right at the hub and entered Frontierland.     We were able to run the Big Thunder Trail — this has been closed the entire month I’ve been here due to Big Thunder Mountain construction, I wonder if it will be closed again after the race.   We came out into Fantasyland, ran through the castle (yay!), and then turned into Tomorrowland.    We wound our way past it’s a small world and through Mickey’s Toontown, this time exiting Toontown through the same backstage entrance that we came into Toontown through in the 10K.    Our backstage run here was more curtailed than yesterday, heading straight out onto Disneyland Drive and then making a right towards Ball Road.    (I was a little unclear on the exact geography here … it seemed like we were running through the same area the corrals had been.   But that can’t be because the early wave runners would have been through here before the late corrals had emptied.   But I’m now curious — if I’d been at the back of the corral rather than the front, and looked behind me, would I have been able to spot the first wave of runners coming out of the park?

The Mile 4 marker was just as we came out of the park.   Now we had a long stretch of road running ahead.    At most of the mile markers,  a couple of sweepers on bikes would tell us how we were doing vs. the required pace — 8 minutes ahead, 8 1/2 minutes ahead, 9 minutes ahead.    I’ve never heard these announcements before, but then I’ve never started in the last corral so I guess I’d never cut it as close.    The good news is the numbers were going up, I was building a little buffer ahead of the sweepers at each mile.

Miles 6 and 7 were all just road running.   Water stops were more frequent than the 10K  (the 10K had been criticized for not having enough).    I was getting water at each stop, but had not adjusted sufficiently for the heat and humidity — I didn’t realize it at the time but I was not hydrating enough, and that was going to bite me very shortly.

Second half of the race

Between Mile 7 and 8 we went by a series of classic cars that lined both sides of the route.   I was amazed at how many there were — I figured there would be 20 or so cars, but then you’d turn the corner, and there was another row,   We entered the parking lot of the Honda Center, and there were still more.   There had to be at least a couple of hundred cars on display.   I was really starting to feel the heat at this point;  I stopped trying to follow my pre-programmed run/walk ratio and decided instead to just run enough to keep my pace ahead of the required 16 min/mile pace.

At mile 9 we came to Anaheim Stadium.    We got a lot of encouragement here … cheerleaders, marching bands,  scout troops — a lot of organizations had turned out to cheer.   (And actually there had been a lot of this along the route prior to this — but this was the main concentration).

IMG_1613 IMG_1614 IMG_1615

It was nice to have the cheerleaders rooting us on, although a lot of them were encouraging us to fight, which seemed a bit strange for a friendly run.    Must be an L.A  thing, maybe our race jerseys looked like gang colors.

About this point, the heat caught up with me.    I walked my way through the stadium, not running at all between miles 9 and 10.    I assured myself I just needed to cool off a bit, get some fluids into me, and then I could pick up the pace for the last three miles.   But the reality was I was done running, for all practical purposes — I’d do a few short 15-20 second runs maybe once a mile or so, and across the finish line, but I just didn’t have anything left in the tank.

Mostly it was the heat that had gotten to me, but I won’t deny that I hadn’t been as consistent with my training as I should have been, and always trained in the coolest part of the day in a more temperate climate — so I just had nothing to prepare me for the heat wave that manages to follow me to every runDisney event.    Also, it’s hard to find that motivation to run when everyone around you is walking … we were definitely the back of the pack at this point, and I think everyone within sight of me was content to just walk it in from this point in the race.    (Also, those helpful sweepers who had been calling out our pace at each mile marker did not appear again after mile 8 … I suspect that due to the heat they may have relaxed the pace requirement.)

Somewhere along mile 11 I realized I wasn’t even walking a straight line, so at the next water stop I took a little extra time to get more fluids in me, and had them refill the water bottles I was carrying  (one was empty, and the other was as warm as bath water).

The finish was uneventful … I remembering walking by the spot at Mile 12 where we had spotted the leader run by 3+ hours ago, and walking around the Paradise Pier hotel and crossing through Downtown Disney, where we were being cheered on by a lot of the early finishers.    Then we rounded a curve and I could see the finish line.    I didn’t think I could run it from there, so I waited until I’d closed about half the distance to the finish line before I broke into a jog.    I made my way to the left side were Goofy and Mickey were awaiting, and got high fives from both just before I crossed the timing mat.


After the finish, I turned into the post-race area and had the big “D” Disneyland medal hung around my neck.   Then I made my way over to the Dumbo Double Dare tent, where I exchanged my wristband for a Dumbo medal.   And then to the Coast-to-Coast tent, where I again exchanged a wristband for a medal.  (Dumbo is for doing both the 10K and the half this weekend, Coast-to-Coast is for doing a half-marathon or greater at Disneyland and Walt Disney World in the same calendar year)

Disneyland Half medal

Disneyland Half medal

Dumbo Double Dare medal

Dumbo Double Dare medal

Coast-to-Coast medal

Coast-to-Coast medal

Water and Powerade were next — not just cups, as along the race, but full, cold bottles.   I took two Powerades and drained them right on the spot, then a water bottle to carry with me.   Photographers were moving through the crowd taking pictures, I had two or three taken around here so I bypassed the photo lines were you got your picture in front the official backdrop.     I grabbed a food box at the runner refreshment tent and sat down on the pavement to rest a bit — the walk back to the buses was a half mile or more and I needed a minute before I headed out.

I think I sat for 5 to 10 minutes.   I posted something to Facebook saying I’d finished, and then stood up (an amazing accomplishment) to head through Downtown Disney and to the shuttle bus area.     About midway through DTD, I felt I needed to sit down for a minute.   I had gotten a little light-headed.    I still had my water bottle with me, so I sat for probably 15 minutes sipping water.    I spotted a drink cart nearby, and decided another Powerade was in order.    I stood up again, found that the lightheadedness had passed, and walked to the drink cart, and then continued on to the buses.

I took a few hours of rest in my hotel room, and then put on my Half Marathon shirt, hung my medals around my neck, and headed back to Disneyland to get some pictures with my friends the princesses.


Next up:  Wine & Dine half marathon in early November.   Between now and then, I’ll be doing my training runs in Atlanta, where the humidity will be more comparable to Florida.    And I’m hoping to get cool weather for that one … my WDW and DL halves have set the bar pretty low for a PR, so there’s no reason not to clear it easily in my next run.

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Dumbo Double Dare 2013: The 10K

This morning I was up before 4 a.m. to get ready for the first leg of the Dumbo Double Dare, the inaugural Disneyland 10K.    I tend to be a morning person anyway so this didn’t throw me off much — I think I prefer this to night races, at least that’s been my experience so far.

I’ve been watching the weather forecast for a while, and I have to say, if accuracy in forecasting matters I’m not sure how any of these meteorologists stay employed.   Every day for at least a week, the temperature has been significantly above forecast — 99 on a day where 90 was the forecast high, for example.

The forecast for this morning was about 73 degrees, and one of the first things i did when I got up was check the temperature.   81.   Well, it’s not going to be a PR day, that’s for sure; and visions of the Tower of Terror race came back to me.    (Actually, this is my third runDisney race — Tower of Terror 2012, WDW Half 2013, and now Disneyland Half 2013, and all 3 have been “unseasonably warm”.    I hope things balance out and give me 40 degree temps for the Wine & Dine half in November, that would be spectacular.

The bus service was a pleasant surprise — I’d asked drivers a few times over the past few days where the bus stops were going to be, and they were not really sure, which made me a bit nervous.   But when I got downstairs, there was a prominent runDisney sign in the lobby indicating our pick-up was in front of the Embassy Suites (right next door).   So I walked over and joined about 8 people already waiting; we had a full busload of 25+ by the time the bus pulled up 10 to 15 minutes later.

Our dropoff was about half a mile from the starting corrals — a nice stretch and warm up pre-race, but I suspected it would seem far longer after.   (Actually, not too bad today, but the real test comes tomorrow).

The Disneyland 5K ran before our 10K started, so they sent the 5K runners ahead to the corrals while the 10K runners were held in a pre-race staging area, with entertainment, water, backdrops to have photos taken, and tents sent up by various charities and race sponsors.   I stayed near the water tables to get extra fluids in me, the high temp and high humidity combination made me want to make sure I was hydrated, even though that probably meant I’d be making a pit stop along the way.

Pre/Post-race assembly area

Pre/Post-race assembly area

Pre-race entertainment

Pre-race entertainment

Follow Mickey to the starting corrals

Follow Mickey to the starting corrals

The 5Kers took off – I heard they were a bit late starting but I hadn’t memorized the schedule so I didn’t notice the discrepancy.   We then made our way over to the corrals.   I was in corral G and honestly — I never saw it.   I saw balloons for D, E, and F   (A, B, and C were off in a different direction) and started making my way to the back of F where G was supposed to be.   I never saw it, but eventually started seeing G bibs mixed in with the Fs so I just merged my way into the crowd.    By this time the early corrals had already begun running so we started surging forward to get to the start.

I started my Garmin at 6:37 a.m. so that’s when my section of the mob was crossing the start.   Sunrise has been just a few minutes earlier, the temp had dropped a few degrees (79 now) but was still uncomfortable.


Our first two miles was on surface street.  We started on Disneyland Drive next to the Disneyland Hotel, and proceeded south.   We crossed Katella and turned left to run in front of the convention center, where the D23 Expo banners were still hanging.

I had a run-walk strategy of run 20 seconds, walk 40, which was slower (more walking) than the ratio I’ve used in past races.   But I thought it would give me a better chance of finishing strong.   As it turned out, the race was just too congested for any sort of strategy other than run when there’s pavement in front of you, walk when there are people in front of you.   I tried to avoid doing too much running side-to-side, but occasionally when there was obviously clear space ahead I’d occasionally make a detour to the side to get around a slower group.

We continued down Convention Way to Harbor, and made the left to take us toward the parks.    We entered Disney’s California Adventure through Cars Land.    Mater and Lightning McQueen were out for photos.    Disney employees waved us ahead with checkered flags — I appreciated the well-themed encouragement.    Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree was whirling to add a little fun and background music to the run.   For some reason I missed getting pictures of any of this, but here are a few backstage shots as we headed into DCA.

Coming into DCA

Coming into DCA

The back side of rock

The back side of rock

From there we continued onto Paradise Pier, and made a big loop of the lagoon.   The World of Color show was going … obviously it loses a lot during the daylight, but I loved running to the music and enjoyed glancing over at the fountains.   I saw the first race photographer of the morning along here but I’m not sure if he got me.   Mickey’s Fun Wheel was also going — in both parks, a few rides were operating (riderless) just to add a little kinetic energy to those of us who were losing ours.

A loop around the west side of the park brought us to Mile 3, just in front of Soaring Over California.    We continued across in front of Carthay Circle and headed down toward Tower of Terror, where we exited the park.

Here we descended and ran through a tunnel I didn’t know existed — I’m not sure exactly where it’s located but it seems it must be running under the shuttle bus drop-off area at the East end of the Esplanade.   Coming back up, we were in backstage areas surrounding Disneyland — I saw Cast Scheduling and Cast Costuming buildings, along with others that weren’t as prominently labeled.    We went from backstage to the Esplanade, through an open gate, and then under the train tracks onto Main Street USA.

Head toward the light

Head toward the light

Cast Costuming, Cast Scheduling buildings

Cast Costuming, Cast Scheduling buildings

This is starting to look familiar

This is starting to look familiar

Running down Main Street was obviously a highlight so I stopped for a few pictures, then made the turn into Tomorrowland and continued around to it’s a small world.   From here we went backstage again, and passed a succession of interesting areas — vehicle maintenance, parade floats, seeing the backside of various areas such as ToonTown, etc.    At this point I checked my timing and realized I had enough of a buffer that I didn’t need to fear the sweepers … so I started taking more pictures, talking to those around me more, and just enjoying the morning walk.    I’d still take off at a jog when there was clear space in front of me, but that wasn’t happening all that often.

Main Street USA

Main Street USA

Train Roundhouse and Monorail Barn -- all 4 trains were visible but this photo really only captured one.

Train Roundhouse and Monorail Barn — all 4 trains were visible but this photo really only captured one.

A nice display put on by costuming shop

A nice display put on by costuming shop

Loved seeing vehicles awaiting maintenance.

Loved seeing vehicles awaiting maintenance.

Doom buggies

Doom buggies



More bobsleds

More bobsleds

Parade floats

Parade floats

Makeshift petting zoo

Makeshift petting zoo

Custodial employees lined the backstage route to cheer us on.  Now I want to go back and pick up that water cup I dropped.

Custodial employees lined the backstage route to cheer us on. Now I want to go back and pick up that water cup I dropped.

Behind Mickey's Toontown

Behind Mickey’s Toontown

Mickey's Toontown backdrop

Mickey’s Toontown backdrop

We came back onstage into Mickey’s Toontown and made our way through Fantasyland.  Dumbo was running, appropriately.   Of course, getting a picture running through the castle is one of the great shots everyone hopes to get, but I think after some couple decided to quite literally jump in front of me and mug for the race photographer’s camera  I probably missed that opportunity.

We headed through Frontierland and then were backstage again .. I remember seeing what I assume is an employee commissary and Imagineering, as well as the back side of Indiana Jones.   We then came out into Downtown Disney for our final mile (or so).    A lot of the early finishers had made their way back here to cheer on those of us bringing up the rear, and with that motivation I did a bit more running along this last mile than I’d done for miles 4 and 5.    When I turned the corner past the ESPN Zone, I could see the finish line, and kept my slow jog going until I crossed the timing mat.

From the finish, we were herded through the finisher chutes where we picked up first our medals, then Dumbo wristbands for those racing again tomorrow, then water.   Race photographers were there to take pictures with the medals, the lines were a bit long but I felt it was worth the wait.   Then we picked up our runner refreshment boxes and were turned loose into the wild to reunite with family and friends.    I’m solo on this trip and while I know several other people who were running today, I hadn’t made any plans to meet up with them.  So I decided that heading back to the hotel for a shower and some rest was the way to go … and then see what I felt like after that.

A few hours of rest and I made my way back to Disneyland, wearing my 10K race shirt and finisher’s medal.   I hadn’t checked out the photo ops available in Fantasy Faire before, so I thought this would be the perfect time.    I got pictures with Cinderella, Snow White, and Aurora, took in a few rides, and then decided to head back to the hotel again rather than spending more time on my feet.

10K Finisher's Medal

10K Finisher’s Medal

10K Finisher's Medal and ribbon

10K Finisher’s Medal and ribbon

I’m very happy with today’s result — and more than a little worried about tomorrow’s.   It’s supposed to be cooler, but I have zero faith in the forecasters on that.   We are scheduled for an earlier start and that will also help with the heat and humidity.    I think I will again start by trying to do 20:40 intervals, although in the early going it’s quite likely there won’t be space enough to stick to any predetermined pattern.

Should be an interesting, and challenging, morning.   Looking forward to it!

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Dumbo Double Dare 2013: Race Expo

I started off 2013 by running in the WDW Half-Marathon in January.    I knew that if I completed that (it was my first run of that length), that I would than want to do the Disneyland Half over Labor Day weekend, as completing both of these in the same calendar year earns the Coast to Coast medal.

Injuries prevented me from training for the WDW Half the way I intended, but I did complete the race, and so set my sights on DL.

But wait — there’s more!   runDisney announced that this year, in addition to the half-marathon, there would also be a 10K race added to the weekend lineup.    And, if you chose to run both the 10K and the half-marathon back-to-back (the 10K on Saturday and the half on Sunday), then this earns you the special Dumbo Double Dare medal.

My initial thought was that, with only a single half-marathon under my belt, running a 10K and half back-to-back was something that could wait.    But then a friend pointed out that you only get one chance to run an Inaugural event — and this would be two, the inaugural 10K and the inaugural Dumbo Double Dare.    So when registration opened up, I jumped right on it … which was a good thing, as the Dumbo was sold out in just a few hours after registration opened.

The Expo

Notice how I conveniently skip over all the training and preparation.    Just like I did I real life.     (That’s not entirely true, but my longest long run coming in to the weekend is a little over 10 miles in July.    After that, things got hectic with buying and selling houses, preparing for a cross-country move, attending the D23 Expo, and miscellaneous other things that always seemed to be more compelling than going for a run).

Friday August 30th was Expo day.    The only must-do task for the day is simply to pick up a race bib.    But like many (perhaps most) people on Friday, I wanted to hit the Expo (merchandise area) before the registration — after all, they aren’t going to give my race bib away to someone else, but someone else could grab the last limited-edition runDisney shirt if I didn’t get there early.

Just about everyone I’ve talked to, or seen post online, agrees — the Expo was a disaster.    I’m not sure how, given that runDisney knows exactly how many registrations were sold, they could be so completely unprepared for the crowd that appeared this morning.     Maybe they thought the crowd would spread out over the two-day expo — but by their history of constantly running short of high-demand items, they have guaranteed that everyone who can is going to show up at opening before the merchandise is gone.   And this fustercluck will only reinforce that behavior for the next Expo.

The lines were disorganized — ask where the end of the line was, and you’d frequently get people pointing off in opposite directions.   The merchandise line and registration line were jammed together so it was difficult to discern which was which.    Nearly all of the line was outdoors in full sun, and it was quite hot.

I lined up nearly an hour before the Expo opened, so I was in pretty good shape.   After we were admitted to the Expo hall, I made my selections fairly quickly and proceeded to get into the checkout line — which was comically poorly thought out.    After switching back and forth a few times, the line outgrew its designated area, and extended across the show floor.   Now, all the people trying to get into the hall to shop had to cross the checkout line to do so — really poorly planned.   An area was set up for speakers right in the middle of the floor, as if someone tried to locate the most inconvenient place for it and was successful.   The checkout line crossed this area as well, leading to complaints from people trying to see and hear the speakers that the line was noisy and distracting.

Getting in early meant I made it through checkout in about half an hour.   In the early afternoon I heard the line was over two hours, and at some point they actually closed the shopping floor to allow the cashiers to work through the backlog of people trying to check out.

A lot of this stuff could have been put online ahead of time rather than turning the expo into a free-for-all like your worst Black Friday nightmare.   The lines could have been sized appropriately and laid out more intelligently.   Limits could be put on purchases — I saw many, many people heading to the checkout with armloads of shirts.    I mean, they’re really nice shirts and all, but nobody needs 10 of them.     If the shirts, pins, hats, and other merchandise was made available online for purchase, runDisney would probably sell far more of it, and pocket quite a bit more money.   There would then be no reason for the eBay resellers to clog the expo buying up dozens of items for resale, and it would turn into a better experience for everyone.

So, roughly 90 minutes of standing in line (to get into the expo and to make purchases), and I have a few shirts to show for it.   I still haven’t done the only must-do task for today, which is pick up the bib, so I head to that line next.    While I was in the Expo the lines have grown, and the organization of the lines has descended into chaos.   I got into the line I was directed into, only to have it stopped cold while some other line was merged in and went ahead of us.    Someone in front of me was livid, insisting the people in our line had been waiting longer, but having just gotten in the line myself I have no idea if that was true.   (I certainly hadn’t been waiting long at this point).     I didn’t time it, but I’m sure I spent less than an hour in the registration line.   Probably not a lot less, though.

Once the line actually made its way to the actual registration area, things started to hum along more smoothly.   The single registration line fed into dozens of individual lines — first you head in the general direction of your event (5K, 10K, Half, or Dumbo), and then once you’re in the right area, there are different registration lines based on your bib number.    (If you followed instructions and printed out your waiver ahead of time, then you had your bib number … if you didn’t, then you went to the penalty box in the middle where workstations were provided for you to print out and sign your waiver, then head off to the appropriate line).

After this, still not done.   Now the line leads out of the registration area, and back into the Expo hall … this time to pick up race shirts.   Fortunately this area of the hall was nothing at all like the runDisney retail area — it was organized and moving quickly.    Once again you sorted yourself out based by event, and then again by shirt size.   Once I found my line there were only about 10 people ahead of me, after less than 5 minutes I had a bag (that I’ll use at the bag check if I have anything to check at the races) with all 3 of my shirts (10K, Half-Marathon, and Dumbo).


I’m excited for the upcoming runs, but the debacle of the expo is not getting the weekend started off in an appropriately magical way.   I’m glad I went early as it seemed to only go downhill through most of the morning.    Reports indicated that the registration lines weren’t nearly as bad later in the afternoon, but I didn’t hear whether the expo merchandise area ever recovered after their afternoon shutdown.

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D23 Expo 2013: Disney Interactive, Part II (everything that’s not Disney Infinity)

During the Disney Interactive presentation, Disney Infinity (see this post) was the main feature, and was honestly the only reason I was interested in attending the session.   But there was quite a bit more content, and Disney Interactive was successful in getting me interested in more than just the Infinity system.

The non-Infinity content included:

  • Fantasia: Music Evolved.    A game that allows you to “perform and transform” your favorite music.
  • Interactive Web Series, including Blank and it’s a small world
  • The Animated app for iPad

Fantasia: Music Evolved

This new game is coming to the XBox Kinect in 2014.    It has somewhat of a Guitar Hero or Rock Bank style of gameplay, but instead of playing instruments, the player is in the role of the orchestra conductor.    If you’ve ever picked up a pencil and mimed leading the orchestra as your favorite music plays, then you know how to play this game.   On screen cues tell you whether you should be gesturing with one hand or both, and in what direction; as you do better (hit more of the cues), you earn new instruments and unlock additional gameplay possibilities.

The game is set in various fantastic realms — one that was demoed was an underwater oasis called The Shoal.   We saw a demonstration of playing in this environment with Bohemian Rhapsody as the score.

There is something of a mixing board aspect to the game as well, although I did not completely catch on to how that is manipulated by the player.   But there are three different recordings of Bohemian Rhapsody in the game; the Queen version, an all-orchestral version, and another that I didn’t get the details of.   The game player can blend from all three of these to create a unique arrangement.

There is also a Musical Manipulator that comes up occasionally (as it is earned for certain in-game achievements) that allows adding additional effects.

Night on Bald Mountain is another track that was mentioned as being included.

New score for the game’s classical tracks was recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios, accompanied by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields.

At this point, the gameplay demonstration was done, but a live orchestra platform slid onto stage and we were treated to a live performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.    Classy and totally unexpected way to wrap up the segment.

Blank: A Vinylmation Love Story

This is a 12-episode web series coming this fall.   We saw a lengthy bit of this (not sure if it was a full episode, but definitely enough to make me want to catch a bit more).    Even as someone not into the collecting aspect of vinylmation, I found this to be charming and cute — and somewhat amazing, as we have two animated characters that have no faces, and yet are able to convey emotion just from their posture and head tilt.

Trailer available here.

it’s a small world

Another animated series — very little was said about this one, other than there will be new Richard-Sherman composed music for it.

If I was able to find anything about this online I’d link to it, but I did not see anything … it may be too early for teasers to have started appearing.


This iPad app was the sleeper hit of the presentation for me.    It is, in some respects, the complete history of Disney Animation captured in a single app.   Every animated feature from Snow White to Frozen can be accessed and studied.

In the app, you can explore all the different phases of developing an animated feature, including Art in Motion, Story, Visual Development, Character,  Layout & Background, Animation, Visual Effects, Sound Design & Music, and Putting it All together.

There is a very strong learning aspect to the app — including exercises to help you learn how animation is done, and try your hand at it.   Starting with a simple stretch-and-squash exercise with a bouncing ball, and proceeding up through manipulating complex CGI characters much the way animators do today.

So much of the app is animated … if you are reading text on a page, and there is an image of Steamboat Willie in the corner of the page, that isn’t just a static image.   Touch it and it turns into a film clip from the Steamboat Willie cartoon.    I’m not sure how many such clips are in the app, but it seems there must be hours’ worth — every page has images scattered around the border, and each such image links you to interactive content.

A timeline allows you to see all 53 Disney Animated films to date (represented by their movie posters).   But like everything else in the app, it’s not just a string of static images.   Click on any one to drill down and learn move about the film.   Each major character is represented (of course, with a clip).   Links allow you to download music from the film in iTunes.    Background art, concept sketches, trailers — there is just so much to explore.

A unique “color map” feature almost seems to have every frame of the film represented (I’m sure it’s not — but a very generous sampling was used to show the color tones used throughout the feature).      It’s actually kind of mesmerizing to zoom out to the view that shows you all the animated films on one page … pick an interesting patch of color and see what it is.   Click and and see individual frames from the film, along with a selection of music from the film’s score).   Scrub your finger along the movie’s color map and you can watch the movie (in extremely condensed form) in just a few seconds.

There are hours of entertainment here, and it’s a great demonstration of the kind of application where the iPad really excels.   Animated is $13.99 and is available here.    (By the way — the app is 1.78 GB in size, you don’t want to download this over your cellular connection.   And you may have to delete something to make room).

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D23 Expo 2013: The Imagineering Pavilion

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At this year’s D23 Expo, there were no big presentations from the Parks & Resorts division as there had been at previous expos.   The stated reason was that Parks and Resorts was coming off of some major expansions – Cars … Continue reading

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