TWO BOOKS: Taste + The Storyteller

The end of 2022 is fast approaching, and I’m happy to report that I should achieve my goal of reading about a book per month. I’m about to finish my twelfth book of 2022. Will I be able to make it a baker’s dozen (13)? I’m pretty sure I can squeeze in another book before December ends. I’ve also read about five or six comics/graphic novels this year, so far.

Last year (2021), I waited until the end of the year to post a short write up featuring the ten or so books I had read. I plan to go back over all of the books, but I first wanted to go into the last two books I just finished, since they have both had a big impact on me.

These two books:
(1) Stanley Tucci’s Taste: My Life Through Food, and
(2) Dave Grohl’s The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music

Both are collections of stories, essays, and life lessons revolving around one central theme — Music for Dave and Food for Stanley. There are many similarities and differences between both books, but what ties them together is how they have both sparked my creativity in different ways — food and music.

TASTE – Stanley Tucci

As a kid, I was an extremely picky eater. I didn’t even like hamburgers. I thought of them as a meatloaf sandwich — but maybe my dad was just over-grilling and drying his burgers out.

It wasn’t until I watched the movie Good Burger in theaters, that I asked my mom if I could eat a burger immediately after the movie. She took me to Burger King and that’s when I added burgers to my basic list of food demands: hot dog, chicken nuggets, pizza, and now burgers.

It wasn’t until college where I began trying different types of food. This led to me trying new recipes in the kitchen. My early college diet was basically made up of simple pastas, fast food takeout, and frozen treats. Once I began cooking for myself and trying new things, I wanted to learn how everything was made. I went from, How do I make this myself to How do I make it better?

After college I continued to cook, learning and creating new recipes. I have always enjoyed creating delicious feasts that bring people together. Pre-pandemic I even held a few food parties where friends would send a set amount of money (via Venmo), so I could go out and purchase ingredients for a great big meal. It was a fun idea and made me feel like a contestant on a show like Iron Chef or Chopped.

The pandemic sort of slowed my creativity in the kitchen. I continued to cook for my girlfriend and myself, but it was mostly creating the same types of meals over and over again. I was still enjoying cooking, but not as much as before.

What makes Taste a unique read is that it doesn’t only include stories from Tucci’s life, it also features food and cocktail recipes sprinkled throughout. I’ve already made most of the cocktail recipes in the book (including countless martinis and old-fashioneds). Even though I love my cookbooks with photos, having a full story about a recipe is also enticing.

I’ve always been a fan of Stanley’s on screen work. There’s something calming about seeing him pop up in a movie. Even in The Hunger Games as Caesar Flickerman with that silly hairdo — still very calming. We just watched the new series Inside Man on Netflix this past week, where he portrays a man on death row for the murder of his wife. His performance still puts me at ease.

Stanley just seems like such a charming and sweet fellow. I would love to share a meal with him one day. Actually, I would love to cook an authentic Italian meal with Stanley Tucci.

THE STORYTELLER – Dave Grohl

In Dave’s book he’s mostly focused on music, although he does dive into some food stories — including Champagne and Fried Chicken, a Foo Fighters backstage staple. 

Dave Grohl is one of the most talented musicians of our time. Think about it, he was the drummer for one of the biggest bands and when tragedy hit he didn’t just become some other band’s drummer. He created the first Foo Fighters album on his own, before becoming the frontman and guitarist for one of the greatest (*my opinion) and the biggest bands in the world.

Dave has dealt with a lot of loss in his life. First, with the tragic death of Kurt Cobain, while Nirvana was huge. Later on, he lost his best friend since childhood, Jimmy. And the latest, which is not featured in the book because it just happened this year, Taylor Hawkins (best friend, musical brother, and Foo Fighters drummer).

I’ve read many biographies and memoirs by musicians in the past, but this is by far one of the best written ones. I compared the structure of Dave’s chapters to what a narrative piece in improv should be. He begins with a tidbit to give you a taste of the main story or point. Next, he jumps around into a few other short anecdotes — related ones. Finally, he takes you back to that beginning story for the payoff. By the time you reach the end of the chapter, you think, Damn, I totally forgot about that whole story.

What made Dave’s book so important to me was how music was the great commonality between all of these stories from his life. Even though I have always loved figuring out how recipes are made when it comes to food, for some reason I never felt that way when I picked up the guitar back in college (during my “Quarter Life Crisis”). Instead of learning how a song is made or why it works, I would just learn simple riffs and solos from different songs I enjoyed.

The Storyteller has inspired me to go back and actually learn how the guitar works. When visiting my friend in Minnesota a few weeks ago, I was reading Dave’s book and I came across a guitar book in my friend’s collection, VAIdeology. Once I returned home, I picked up this book by the great guitar god, Steve Vai. I even got to see him live a few weeks ago. I’m still on “Lesson One”: becoming familiar with all of the notes on the fretboard.

Since I wasn’t picking up the notes quick enough, I also added piano lessons at the same time. Since we have my girlfriend’s nice keyboard on display, I figured that could help my musical explorations.

Dave’s book made me realize how I missed playing guitar. There were also many stories of jamming and playing with other musicians. Some of my best music memories have always been playing with others.

*Side Quest:
I always remember a cold day in college, when my friend Scotty
(who sort of unintentionally introduced me to the guitar) brought
his guitar and amp over and we played together on the balcony.
There was another time, back when I had a drum set, where he
came over and we jammed with my fog machine. I also remember,
early on, trying to learn different parts of Metallica songs with my
friend Nick on guitar.

My current goal is to understand both the guitar and piano. This is all so that one day I could meet up with Dave Grohl for a jam session, which will take place after cooking with Stanley Tucci, for the perfect day.

The Books

I could have featured both of these books in separate posts, but as I read the second book (Dave’s The Storyteller) I started to notice many similarities. The main one being the way they made me feel a new creative spark towards two of my passions — food and music.

Both books are extremely well-written, in very different ways. It may also help that I had previously read a very poorly written book full of errors and typos. I’ve seen typos in books, but these were so bad and so many that it actually took me out of the story, in almost every chapter.

The common theme from Taste and The Storyteller, is how there are certain subjects that bring people together. Food, music, even books, and so many others. 

I was also inspired by both authors to explore the past. I would stop myself to write down bands to check out, movies or shows to watch, and search for old, simple Italian recipes.

Stanley and Dave have both had very successful careers, in film and music, respectively. Both have also seen a great deal of tragedy and loss, but have found ways to cope and overcome those moments. I didn’t do a deep dive into the stories and subject matter from the books, because I’m hoping you will go out and read them yourself. Or, if you’re more of a food lover or music fan, you can choose the one that suits you.

Disney’s The Animation Experience (My Favorite Attraction)

Let’s head back in time to my first time learning about the former Disney Animation Academy.

THEN: Disney’s Animation Academy (Hollywood Studios)

Back in 2015 (or 2016), I accidentally discovered one of my favorite Walt Disney World attractions, which was taken away very soon after. A large group of us traveled for a friend’s birthday for Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival. I was the sole Disney Passholder within the group. Knowing that it would take this large group a long time to get ready for the park in the morning, I decided to wake up early and visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios for a couple of hours on my own before meeting the group at Epcot.

Back then there was no Galaxy’s Edge, Toy Story Land, or Mickey’s Runaway Railway. My goal was mainly to ride Star Tours a few times, watch MuppetVision 3D, and see what else I could get into without wasting too much time. After riding Star Tours two or three times I decided to search for new experiences that I may have missed during prior visits to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Back then, before Star Wars Launch Bay, there was a whole Disney Animation area. I remember watching a short film on animation, starring Mushu (Eddie Murphy) from Mulan. Afterwards I found the Disney Animation Academy, a class where a Disney artist teaches a group how to draw a Disney character. I learned how to draw Stitch that day, and continued to draw Stitch using those same techniques for years.

During my next visit to Hollywood Studios, I was excited to share this new favorite attraction with my group, only to be disappointed. The whole Animation pavilion was gone and being worked into Star Wars Launch Bay (which is also a pretty cool place), full of Star Wars props and memorabilia, and the best place to get your picture taken with Chewy. 

Hanging with my favorite Wookie (Star Wars Launch Bay)

NOW: Disney’s The Animation Experience (Animal Kingdom)

I remember asking many Walt Disney World cast members about the former Animation Academy, and getting no information on any plans to reopen or find a new home for it. It wasn’t until a few years ago, when I was describing it to a friend that he mentioned there might be something like that in Animal Kingdom.

From then on, I knew that during my next visit to Animal Kingdom I would definitely find this new Animation Experience, but those plans were halted by the pandemic. In 2020, Disney Parks closed for a couple of months, probably for the first time ever. I finally got to visit in 2021, but not Animal Kingdom.

It wasn’t until July 2022 that I finally made my return to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and I finally found the new Disney Animation Experience.

When comparing the new Disney Animation Experience to the former Disney Animation Academy, there have been a few changes. However, they are overall the same, great experience. Guests are taught how to draw a specific Disney character by a Disney artist.

I’ve always loved animation. I love the artwork, the character design, the stories, the voice talent, and the freedom to do pretty much anything. If I had the patience — and the skills required to be an animator — I would love to work in animation.

The Disney Animation Experience in Animal Kingdom is currently located on Rafiki’s Planet Watch, along with the petting zoo — which gives you something fun to do while you wait for the next class to begin.

Let’s see some of the cute, furry buddies I became friends with while waiting for the next class:

Differences:

Back when I first attended the Animation Academy, artists had the chance to sit at their own animators table, which made the whole thing feel more authentic. Today, everyone is given an animation board to place on their lap while drawing shoulder-to-shoulder with other artists in training. It’s not as immersive, but I still enjoyed the experience enough to attend two classes in a row.

My drawing board with guidelines

The sheets today start off with some guidelines, to save time and help out the beginner artists. In the original academy, artists had to draw their own guidelines. This is how I learned that it’s easier to draw a nice circle using your shoulder, rather than your wrist — and some other valuable lessons.

Something smart on their part is giving artists lottery pencils with no eraser. This is done to keep the class running smoothly. Throughout the class the Disney artist mentioned that we would have the opportunity to go back to our art and make changes at home. Here we learned another valuable lesson: start off with light lines and darken them as you go. Can you imagine if everyone was erasing every mistake, asking the Disney artist to hold up, or go back. We’d be there for hours.

Since the Animation Experience is held in Disney’s Animal Kingdom all of the drawings are animal-themed. I’m fine with that. Disney has tons of great animals for me to learn how to draw.

This time I got to draw both Bambi (Bambi) and Pua (Moana). We were taught how to draw the characters by two great Disney artists, Erin and Heather.


There are three more quick notes I must squeeze into this learning that have to do with the Disney Animation Experience. 

(1) Last week, I learned that the Disney Animation Academy still exists in Disneyland California. I was informed by the Instagram account of the real Jaime Fox (@jamalfox), when she shared her drawing of Buzz Lightyear. So, hopefully one day I will visit Disneyland in California to draw a non-animal Disney character.

(2) There’s a new show on Disney+, Sketchbook, which is sort of like attending these classes, but also getting to know an iconic Disney artist as they teach you to draw a Disney character. It’s like bringing the Disney Animation Academy/Experience into your home.

(3) Watching the intro video to the Disney Animation Experience, I recognized the voice of everyone’s favorite TV big bro, Will Friedle (aka Eric Matthews from Boy Meets World). I just thought that was cool since I’ve been listening to his podcast with Kim Possible herself, Christy Carlson Romano, all the time — I Hear Voices

I’m excited to return to Animal Kingdom, so I can learn how to draw even more Disney animals. 

What Disney animal or character would you love to learn how to draw? Share in the comments, on Twitter, or wherever you feel like reaching out to me.

Machine Gun Kelly (MGK) + Music Appreciation Post

My Intro to Music

Growing up, my first tapes — yes tapes, not CDs — were Green Day Dookie and The Offspring Smash. These were both released in 1994, when I was eight years old. My first radio station of choice was 94.9 ZETA, the local rock station (not the 94.9 of today “Para Hits de Hoy”). I was making my way towards becoming a rock/grunge/goth/punk kid, but then something unexpected happened…

For one weekend, my older cousins (Cuban Cousins*) came and stayed with us. In the car, I put on 94.9 and my older cousin changed the station to Power 96 (96.5) and that changed the course of my music history. From then on, I was mostly a rap kid.

*Side Quest: A Cuban Cousin is someone who you grow up believing is actually related to you, only to find out later on that they were just your parents best friend’s kid,
the child of a family friend, or even a complete stranger.

When I was a kid, you either liked THIS music or THAT music, but not both — (at that time it was mainly RAP or ROCK music). Later on, some bands came along and mixed everything up (bands like Limp Bizkit, Korn and Linkin Park), but I mostly stuck with the raps until late high school/early college.

In college, I decided I wanted to learn to play the guitar during my “Quarter Life Crisis” (which I have gone over before). I started off learning Rage Against the Machine songs (a rock band with a rapper on the mic). After learning that the band Audioslave was just Rage (minus singer/rapper, Zack de la Rocha) with Chris Cornell from Soundgarden (RIP Chris), I started going back to explore music from older rock bands I had heard of, but never really listened to.

My Epiphone SG (aka Francis the Demon Slayer)
with a signed photo of “Guitar God” John Petrucci

The main lesson I learned from playing a musical instrument is that music is music,
so like whatever you like.

Who cares what people say or think about your musical taste. I purchased Justin Bieber’s album (My World 2.0) to play “Baby” over and over in my car and annoy my friends, but I actually started to dig the rest of the songs and much of his music since.

MGK + Taylor

A few days before my birthday this year, the Foo Fighters drummer, Taylor Hawkins, died unexpectedly. I’ve only been able to see Foo Fighters twice in my lifetime (in Atlanta and West Palm Beach), and I was hoping to see them on their next tour, even if I had to travel to a far, far away land.

*Side Quest: Foo Fighters is and has always been one of my top bands. I recently
learned is that I have my list of TOP BANDS OF ALL TIME
(Dream Theater, Foo Fighters, Coheed & Cambria,
Porcupine Tree and Rush). These are my top bands of all time,
because I can listen to any of their albums,
frontto-back, at any point in time.

I also have a long list of BANDS I LOVE RIGHT NOW, that is always changing.
These are mostly bands and artists that I listen to while running, working out,
driving, hitting golf balls, grocery shopping, and more…
Run the Jewels, Olivia Rodrigo, Billie Eilish, Metallica,
Ghost, Lamb of God, Ed Sheeran, The Black Keys,
RHCP, Kid Cudi, Florence and the Machine…

The death of Taylor led to an outpouring of lovely stories and social media posts from all types of musicians. At this time, I was not familiar with Machine Gun Kelly. I had heard that name, but if you showed me pictures of MGK, Post Malone and Action Bronson — I wouldn’t be able to tell you who was who in that line up. I came across Machine Gun Kelly on Howard Stern talking about meeting Taylor a few days before his death.

In the interview, Machine Gun Kelly shared that Dave Grohl (Singer of Foo Fighters, and the Devil in Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny) had invited him and his bandmates to a shindig. They were all on a festival tour through South America together and the previous show had been canceled due to some pretty bad weather. MGK had talked to Dave and Taylor and they both said they had wanted to check out his set, but the weather ruined it.

Before he had a chance to watch MGK perform Taylor died.

*Side Quest: Why am I telling this sad story? Because it helped me realize something important. All musicians are inspired by someone who came before them,
but they can also appreciate those who come after them. It’s also fine
for a musician of a specific genre to listen to and enjoy music
of other styles and genres.

After hearing this story of Taylor wanting to see Machine Gun Kelly and his band play I decided to listen to his music too. I started with an early album, Laces Up, which was a rap album. By the time I made it to his last two albums, Tickets to my Downfall and Mainstream Sellout, he had changed to more of a pop punk sound, with a hint of rap. I was really digging this new sound.

Why I Love MGK

A few weeks after getting into the music of MGK he was a guest on Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert podcast. This is where I learned a lot more about Colson Baker (Machine Gun Kelly’s real name). He also mentioned his upcoming tour, the Mainstream Sellout Tour and how they were going all out with set decoration, lights, pyro and everything else. I knew I had to attend this tour.

I checked and the tour was coming to the home of the Miami Heat, the FTX Arena* (formerly the AAA — American Airlines Arena). I was lucky enough to attend my first Machine Gun Kelly show, just months after becoming a huge fan, and it was one of my favorite shows I’ve been to recently.

Side Quest-ion: How are these crypto people buying up arenas, sports teams and everything else. Also, when they go to purchase a soccer stadium
do they pay in real dollars or their digital coins?

The entire show focused on a central theme of the internet putting Colson/MGK in a box, which is something that happens to many celebrities. Any time I tell someone about my love for MGK they hit me back with something like, “I heard that Megan Fox and him drink each other’s blood.” or “Isn’t that the guy that did [insert some crazy thing here].”

Many of those stories are opinions people formed from clickbait articles, mainly articles that no one reads. These headlines are created to shock you and get you to “click” on them (hence the name “clickbait”). Instead people don’t click on them (unless they are dummies) and just remember the headline, which usually doesn’t even pay off in the full article. It’s the new game of “telephone” where everyone is continuously sharing and spreading a bunch of second hand news. News that’s not even newsworthy most of the time.

Anthony Crispino (SNL) – The King of Second Hand News

The world is basically full of a bunch of Anthony Crispinos.

In the end, with our powers combined, we killed the internet and got to listen to some cool music throughout our journey. Here’s some quick reasons why Machine Gun Kelly has become one of my favorite humans (he’s up there with Paul Rudd and Dave Grohl now).

(1) Rapper/Pop Punk Rocker

As I said before, I first listened to Laces Up (debut rap album) before jumping into his two latest albums Tickets to my Downfall and Mainstream Sellout (pop punk albums). Now, I mostly listen to those two, but still go back to Hotel Diablo (rap album) and some of the other rap albums.

I’ve heard of people criticizing MGK for switching from Rap to Rock, but if you go back to his first song on Laces Up (Save Me) it features two members of the heavy metal band Avenged Sevenfold (M. Shadows & Synyster Gates). He mentioned this on Dax’s podcast.

The coolest part to me about MGK moving from a rapper to pop punk is the mentality shift, and maybe that comes with aging and maturing. Maybe he was just looking for a change. Maybe he just wanted to play his guitar for a while. In most rap music the mentality is I’m the sh*t, while in pop punk the mentality is more I’m a piece of sh*t and here’s all the reasons why.

(2) Beef with Eminem

When I was getting ready to go to the MGK show, I asked my buddy if he’d want to go. His response was, “No way, MGK has beef with Eminem.” The great part about rap beef is that you don’t have to choose a side. You can just listen from the sidelines and enjoy both artist’s attacks on each other.

Side Quest: It’s like watching wrestling. I’m mostly a fan of the good guys (or baby faces) in wrestling. Still, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy watching the bad guys (or heels),
like Seth Freakin’ Rollins, come out and try to burn everything down. I love it
when a heel is on the mic, telling whatever town they’re in why
everyone there sucks.

As a kid, I was a fan of both Biggie and Tupac. I never chose a side, I enjoyed both Hit ‘Em Up and Who Shot Ya? When Jay-Z and Nas had beef I also didn’t choose a side, I just thought they both had valid arguments. Canibus came out with 2nd Round Knockout about the legendary LL Cool J, but it was a great track and had Mike Tyson in it.

Sure, I would prefer a world where everyone can be friends and get along, but if they’re going to use conflict in a creative way who am I to choose a side. It’s part of being a rapper.

*In this section I’ve included links to most of the beef music on YouTube.

(3) Colson vs MGK

To me, Colson Baker and Machine Gun Kelly are two different people. MGK is sort of like a wrestler’s persona in the ring. He gets to be as crazy and wild as he wants to be. Colson is probably a bit wild too, but this dude does so much more than just music. He acts in films. He played Tommy Lee in that Netflix Mötley Crüe movie, The Dirt.

Before the show, he also pulled one of the most baller stunts I’ve ever seen at a concert. I’m surprised that Academy Award winner, Jared Leto, didn’t pull something like this when I went to see Thirty Seconds to Mars a few years ago.

Back in May, the movie Good Mourning was released (written, directed and starring Colson Baker and Mod Sun — another musician). Before coming out to perform the trailer for the movie played on the big screens to let everyone know what to watch on their TV the next night at home.

Good Mourning • Movie Trailer

Another thing Colson mentioned on Dax’s podcast is that he likes to curate a playlist for the audience to listen to before he comes out for a show. He wants us to get there early, see the opening acts (for the Miami show — Iian Dior and Blackbear), and listen to some good music. The playlist was made up of bands that have influenced him, and it leaned more towards the rock/metal/punk side of things.

Right before (or maybe right after) the trailer for Good Mourning the song Welcome to the Black Parade by My Chemical Romance played in it’s entirety at a higher volume to warm up the crowd. Everyone sang along and then the lights went out and the show started. It was amazing and reminded me of how much I loved that album.

I’m curious if that’s been the song of choice for the entire tour, or if he chooses a different warm up song each night. Either way, I can’t wait to see MGK next time he’s in town, or if I travel and happen to be wherever he is.


I mentioned wrestling a few times in this post, but that’s cool because MGK is a fan of wrestling. In fact, he was a musical guest on Monday Night RAW where this happened.

He also curated the music for the latest WWE 2K22 game, which is why he also came to the game as a playable WWE Superstar. That’s how I was able to create this video of MGK getting his revenge on Kevin Owens (KO).

WWE 2K22 • MGK Gets Revenge on KO

As I finish putting this post together MGK just did his final show of the North American tour dates in his hometown of Cleveland, OH this past music. The mayor even named 8.13 MGK day in Cleveland before the show.


The point of this post is not to get everyone to become as big an MGK fan as I now am. The point is to get people to try new things, whether it’s with music, movies and TV, food, adventures or anything else.

Maybe the point is not to hate on things before giving them a try, but If you have given something a try and you decided you now hate that something — then sure,
you’re free to hate that thing.

Here’s one last MGK video to finish this thing off… ay!

Crystals, Witchcraft & Wizardry

Last month, my girlfriend and I moved into a new apartment. We both agreed that it would be a good idea to “Sage” the new place, since it was something we both had only heard of but never tried.

“Do we just order some sage from Amazon?” she asked me, but I thought that didn’t seem right. I told her we had to find a real witch or visit a Witchcraft & Wizardry shop to pick up some proper sage. Who knows where Amazon sage comes from?*

*Side Quest: I later searched for “Sage” on Amazon and it turns out there are many small businesses (possibly small witchcraft shops) providing it.
Still, nothing beats actually going to a witch store yourself.

After some light googling, I found a couple of options for Witchcraft (aka Metaphysical) shops all over Miami. I decided to visit one on US 1, right next to Grown (Ray Allen’s healthy food restaurant I have yet to visit). I really liked this shop, but I’m also excited to visit other local stores in the future and see what kind of vibes I get.

*Side Quest: Before visiting the witchcraft shop I had talked to a friend who is sort of an amateur witch herself about what exactly we needed to cleanse our new
apartment. She recommended both Sage and Palo Santo, one to reset
and the other to invite positive vibes. It was nice to show up to the
witchcraft shop with a little bit of knowledge.

After figuring out what we needed, I visited the shop. I chose this store due to convenience, after leaving a check up at the doctor (my first ever, but maybe you’ll hear about that in another post), this was on the way home. I spoke to a nice lady and learned a lot about Sage, Palo Santo and some other stuff too.

After figuring out exactly what we needed for the new apartment cleansing, I came across a whole section of crystals and elements. I began asking questions about those, and now I am somewhat of a crystal person. My journey began with purchasing a few crystals for my girlfriend and I to carry around in our backpacks.

The cool thing about becoming a crystal person is that you get to choose what to believe and what not to believe. It’s sort of like being a horoscope person.

*Side Quest: Horoscopes are funny because they just state a bunch of information hoping that you will see something you like and say, “Hey, that’s me!.” They also have
different variants, like sun and moon signs, that give you even more
options to choose from.

Crystals are kind of like horoscopes because each crystal has multiple “uses” or traits (or powers). I chose a few based on particular traits, while ignoring others. I recently talked to a friend about her crystal necklace, and she told me it’s not about believing in the crystals magic powers, but more the idea of it — like a positive thinking thing.

Here’s a character sheet I created for my portfolio
site back when I graduated the Miami Ad School.
Now, with the power of crystals, everything can be modified.

Being a crystal person is sort of like creating your own D&D character, but in real life. Carrying around (and wearing) crystals can add a few points to your daily Dexterity, Charisma, Insight, Wisdom and other character traits. It’s a fun way to edit your life’s character sheet.

*Side Quest: When it comes to religion I always thought it would be way more fun to believe in Greek Mythology. How cool is it to have a different god for each concept.
It’s almost like having different superheroes as your gods. Poseidon is like
Aquaman (DC) or Namor (Marvel). Thor is a god from Norse mythology —
another fun collection of gods and rulers.

Another thing I like about crystals is that I can make up any theory about my crystals and make it a real thing. I can even tell others about it (as long as they are not a certified witch or wizard).

I went back to the store last week and picked up a Lava Stone bracelet, because (1) I want to start wearing my stones to absorb more power, and (2) I’ve always wanted to become more of a bracelet person. Now that Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard is over — and Johnny won — it’s still cool to wear a bunch of bracelets like a pirate, right?

Yesterday, I went for a kayak ride on the open water. I would usually not wear any jewelry, other than my Apple Watch for kayaking, running or working out. I decided to keep my Lava Stone bracelet on to “recharge” it with the ocean water. That’s a thing I possibly made up, but now I feel like my Lava Stones are giving me more powers, so it also worked.


If you are another amateur crystal/stone person who would like to come up with cool facts and ideas about these things let me know. If you aren’t a crystal/stone person, have fun living your boring life.

Epcot International Food & Wine Festival 2022: Vol I • It’s A’Bao Time

The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival has been a part of Walt Disney World for over 25 years (according to some light internet research). In the early years, the festival lasted about a month. Today, it spans from July to November (or five months) — that’s almost half of the year!

Epcot has also held new, seasonal Food & Wine-style festivals — Flower & Garden, Festival of the Arts, Festival of the Holidays — so now there’s pretty much some kind of food and drink event happening at Epcot, year round.


Epcot Events: Learnings & Tips

For the past ten years, I’ve attended these food and drink festivals multiple times each and I’ve learned a few valuable lessons along the way.

[1] Pace Yourself

Don’t attempt to eat and sip all of the food and drink in one day. It’s better to visit a festival more than once — if you’re able to — this way you can focus on a few items each trip. Make sure to take breaks throughout the day. If you plan to be in the park until close, it’s a good strategy to break up your eating into a day and night session. If you enter through the back entrance of the park (near France) you can even visit Spaceship Earth for a mid-voyage nap.

[2] Weekdays over Weekends

If you can swing it, visit Epcot on a weekday over the weekend. In fact, that should be a general Disney park rule. On most weekends the Food & Wine festival becomes the Food and Line festival. The lines can get long pretty much any day, but you can always save a busy stop for later. It will become less busy later on. If you have to go on a weekend, I find that Sundays to be a little less crowded than a Saturday.

[3] Too Hot to Handle

The Epcot Food & Wine Festival just began in mid-July — or mid-summer. I find the perfect Disney park days (weatherwise) always lie somewhere between October and April — you just have to get lucky and choose the right day. Instead of hitting up the Food & Wine Festival early on, it may be preferable to wait for the final months, or even the following festivals — Festival of the Holidays.

[4] No Sit Down Meals

I’ve attended Epcot Food & Wine with large groups in the past. The biggest mistake I’ve seen is when we spend the whole day eating and drinking, only to make our way to a restaurant for a 9pm reservation. Who wants to go to a restaurant after all of that? Plus, I don’t want to miss Harmonious (Epcot’s new firework and water projection show).

[5] Buddy System

Speaking of big groups, a great way to save some money (and room in your belly) is by developing a buddy system. Find someone with similar taste to share certain items with. If a country has two snacks you want to try, you can each purchase one and share.


It’s A’Bao Time

So, what did I eat during my first visit to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival? This trip, I focused on the Steamed Buns and Baos of Japan, China, and Flavors of Fire. There were some other bonus snacks, but I definitely did not overeat this trip. Let’s talk a’bao(t) the three steamed buns first.

Item #1 – JAPAN Teriyaki Chicken Bun

The first steamed bun I ate was the Teriyaki Chicken Bun from the Japan market. This bun was soft and pillowy, and fully closed as opposed to the open-style, bao buns at my other stops. The bun was filled with a blend of chicken and vegetables in Teriyaki sauce. The filling was thick and saucy, instead of soupy (like a soup dumpling). I would have liked to see a second option for a steamed bun.

ITEM #2 – CHINA Mongolian Beef Bao Bun

The Mongolian Beef at Epcot Food & Wine Festival has been one of my favorite flavors over the years. I remember it being a closed bun at some point, like the Japanese one, but I may be wrong. Either way, I would love to have these delicious flavors inside of a closed steamed bun.

The open bao was also perfectly fluffy and doughy. I could have used some extra veggies or maybe some sort of spicy thin-sliced spicy peppers or crunchy topping. Still, that Mongolian Beef flavor is great with the onions.

ITEM #3 – FLAVORS FROM FIRE Bahn Mi Bao & Smoked Corned Beef with Crispy Potatoes

At this stop, we tried two items, the bao bun and the crispy, cheesy potato chip nachos. Of all three buns, this was the most complicated flavor-wise. The bao featured skirt steak, chicken liver aioli, pickled vegetables, and cilantro. The Asian skirt steak had a fire-roasted quality, which came from the fire grill. In fact, the whole area smelled amazing, like smoke and fire.

My buddy picked up the cheesy corned beef potato chips, which were like a smokey, cheesy potato nacho plate with smoked corned beef, cheese curds, pickled onions, and beer-cheese fondue. Flavors from Fire’s bun may have been my favorite due to the extra toppings and smoked flavor.


Bonus Snacks

BONUS #1 – GERMANY Roasted Bratwurst & Schinkennudeln

The Roasted Bratwurst is a great treat because although it comes in a smaller, slider-sized pretzel bun the bratwurst itself is still the size of a regular hot dog. So, it ends up being a pretty filling snacky. You also get some german mustard for dipping.

There are a bunch of hot cheese treats featured throughout the Food & Wine Festival. These are usually not something you want to eat while walking around in the hot sun. Most of them are delicious and the one that we did try was the Schinkennudeln, which is a cheesy pasta gratin with ham and onions. Other stations have hot cheese soup type snacks (like Canada’s Cheddar and Bacon soup), which would be better suited for the Winter.

BONUS #2 – HOPS & BARLEY Hot Beef Sandwich

I took a break from Food & Wine due to rain, and went over to check out Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge in Hollywood Studios. When I returned to Epcot it was almost time for the 9PM show, Harmonious, which also happens to be when everything closes.

At 8:55 PM I was able to visit my final station in America (Hops & Barley) to grab a Hot Beef Sandwich with horseradish cream, and topped with extra veggies and crunchies. I’m not sure if I got extra, extra crunchies for being the final order of the night or if that’s just how they do it. 

I also picked up my first drink, a small Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel Ale which paired well with the hot beef sandwich. I’m sure each beer option pairs well with that hot beef sandwich, it’s just nice to have any beer with a spicy sandwich.


My Food & Wine Misses

There were two things I did wrong, one that was my fault and the other I blame on the festival. (1) I did not have the chance to visit Brazil for their Feijoda (Black Beans and Crispy Pork Belly) and Pao de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread). This one was my fault. I wasn’t ready for it earlier in the day, and due to the rain and visiting a second park, I returned too late to make it to Brazil before Harmonious began. I do remember that crispy pork belly being my favorite thing when I first tried it.

The second disappointment, and this one is Epcot’s fault, is that the Hawai’i station is not opening until August for some reason. The Kalua Pork Slider has been one of the top favorites at Food & Wine for a couple of years now. I was also excited to finally try the SPAM Musubi Nigiri, which is like a Spicy Tuna Roll with SPAM instead of Tuna. So, I guess I have to go back.

I plan to return to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival some time before it ends in November, but if I don’t make it out there I will definitely return to cover some of the other festivals that follow. 

Do you have a favorite Epcot (or Disney Parks) snack? Share it in the comments, messages, email me, text me or any other way you’d like to tell me about it.

Stay tuned for more Ferdi’s Learnings coming soon.

Back at Florida Supercon 2022

My first time attending Florida Supercon (or any Con) was back in 2013. My friends, Worms and Isis, invited me since we’re into a lot of the same nerdy stuff (mostly things they got me into), so I decided to go and I brought my camera along — we also ran into another buddy who’s into the nerd stuff, Rudy (who made a comeback during Supercon 2022).

Back then, Florida Supercon was a much smaller event. It took place in the Miami Airport Convention Center (MACC). Since then, I’ve seen the show continue to grow to the larger CON that it is today, thanks to ReedPop taking over. In 2014, Florida Supercon moved to the Miami Beach Convention Center, a few years later to Fort Lauderdale (due to construction). For the past few years, (minus a canceled 2020 Supercon) it has taken place in the newly reconstructed Miami Beach Convention Center.

There was a period of time when the whole thing took place over the 4th of July weekend —- which was a terrible time to be on Miami Beach. Luckily, this year it took place the weekend after, which was good enough for me.

What to do?

There’s a few things I like to do at a CON (I have also attended MegaCon in Orlando once). (1) I bring comics to get signed by artists and writers. I also buy prints and artwork from some of those artists. (2) I like to spend money on nerdy/geeky fan art and other stuff too. This year I bought some posters, stickers, a shirt and my first set of metal dice. (3) I also try to attend some panels. And (4) I like to meet the guests. Guests come from all places: movies, TV, anime, YouTube, Twitch, even Wrestling.

Over the years, I’ve come up with a fun way to meet these guests that makes it exciting and sometimes memorable for both of us. I like to make them drawings of characters they’ve played, usually in animation. This also helps me get back to drawing, which is something I used to do when bored in school.

Super Guests

Guest tables are where you go to meet the “famous” people. At each guest table you may pay for an autograph, photo, sometimes a voice recording or whatever else that guest feels like selling. You can also just meet them. I never pay for any of the extras because I’m just excited to meet and have an interaction with these people.

*Side Quest: I understand why they charge so much for each thing, if they didn’t they’d be signing things, taking photos and not really “meeting” anyone. It also helps keep the lines under control. Sure, certain lines get extra super long, but for the most part you can always come back and find a better time to visit. If a guest table is empty at the moment, you can always ask any of the “guest handlers” when they plan to return. Handlers have access to the full guest schedule, although sometimes they just go out for a snack or bathroom break.

What I’ve learned over the years is that many of the guests are very kind and thankful when you bring them a gift. They especially like homemade gifts. Some may even waive the fee of an autograph or picture as a trade off.

It’s also a good ice breaker to give them a drawing of a character that you’re a fan of. From there they may go into some fun stories about working on that project. When I brought Jason Isaacs (aka Lucius Malfoy) a drawing of his character from Star Wars: Rebels (the Grand Inquisitor) and he said, “Oh wow, I’ve never seen the show. Did I do a good job?”

When I met John DiMaggio he started speaking in his Bender voice and other character voices. He also gifted me a signed picture of King Zog.

This year’s Supercon was full of The Walking Dead actors. I had the chance to meet Cooper Andrews (Jerry), Ross Marquand (Aaron), Seth Gilliam (Gabriel) and to chat with each of them for a bit. I talked to Cooper about acting and creativity, and Ross and Seth both took pictures with me for giving them drawings. Ross also did some of his spot on Michael Caine impression.

When Kate Flannery was at Supercon two years in a row, I brought her a different animated character drawing each year. The second time she said, “I remember you! Let’s take a photo.”

A few years ago, I was excited to meet Bret Iwan (the current  voice of Mickey Mouse). I ended up attending a panel with him and two other voice actors I wasn’t too familiar with, Adam Croasdell (Ignis Scientia from Final Fantasy XV) and Steve J Palmer (Bill from Red Dead Redemption 2). After the panel I went on to their tables just to tell them I really enjoyed the panel. Adam was a super cool dude and we talked for about twenty minutes.

I stopped by Steve’s table on my way out. No one was in line behind me. I told him I just wanted to say hello and that I really enjoyed the panel. We ended up talking for about an hour about his start, acting, improv, food, and so much more. After that I decided I should try to meet as many of the guests as I can, even if I’m not so interested in their main projects.

This year, when I returned on Sunday (after attending on Friday) I ended up meeting a few anime guests that I wasn’t too familiar with. I made them drawings of some of their work, but not the main anime shows people were mainly excited about. I ended up having some really cool conversations with these people too. And since then, I started watching a little more anime to see their work.

Two anime people I met were Todd Haberkorn and Amanda C. Miller (both from Boruto: Naruto Next Generations). I gave them each a non-Boruto drawing, and had good conversations with each of them. Todd was Mr. Knickerbocker on Barney and Amanda was Princess Quasar Caterpillar on Star vs the Forces of Evil.

Fun Times

I have definitely seen a few guests who are only there to make some extra cash off of fans, but for the most part everyone I’ve met has been excited to be there and talk to some people who admire their work. The same can be said for most comic artists and booths. They are mostly there to show off their work and meet people. On a few occasions I did see some of the artists walking the floor, which is cool to see.

Florida Supercon weekend is a super fun and awesome weekend. I do hope to visit some more CONs around the country. I will also be sharing some of my favorite artists, booths and other posts about the event on myVGBC.com. So keep an eye out for those.

For now, here’s some of the cool stuff I picked up while at Florida Supercon:

Also, as promised here is Rudy’s comeback to Florida Supercon 2022:


*I was able to attend Florida Supercon 2022 last weekend with a Press Pass thanks to my other site myVGBC.com, although I do plan to post about it on both of my sites (this one being the other one).

ANIMALS = MACHINES (birds are planes)

You know what’s crazy? Birds can fly. Think of any time you ask another human this question, If you could have one superpower what would it be? Most people say the ability to fly. Creepy people say invisibility so they can be peeping toms and get away with it.

Birds have that ability (Not the peeping tom one). Birds can fly. Birds are basically living, breathing planes. The whole idea for planes was definitely stolen from birds.

The Wright Bros Conversation

(A super long time ago)

Joe Wright: Yo bro, how can we get to North Carolina, but like real fast.

Greg Wright: I don’t know Joe.

(GREG looks up to the sky. Sees birds flying.)

Greg Wright: What if… Naw, never mind. That’s stupid.

Joe Wright: The only stupid thing you can do is not tell me what you just thought, bro.

Greg Wright: Well, what if we could do… that?

(GREG points to the birds)

Joe Wright: Oh my god! What???

Greg Wright: I know I told you it’s stupid.

Joe Wright: Stupid? Greg, you’re a genius.

*And that’s kind of how we got planes. Because of the Wright Brothers and birds and one day thinking about transportation while in an open field.

**No research was done to make sure this is how the Wright Brothers history went down. This is just a hypothesis.

This got me thinking, can humans do anything cool like that? Birds can transform into planes (even though birds came first). 

I guess humans can run, but that’s just like walking — but a little faster. Birds can do both of those things, and FLY!

What we can do is turn into boats, or submarines. Humans can swim. And swimming is pretty cool, because it’s not just moving through the water like walking or running under water. You have to become sort of a machine. You have to propel yourself through the water, using one of a few different techniques.

There’s also many different ways to swim and that’s very groovy too. We have the freestyle, the breaststroke, the backstroke, the froggy one (like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible). 

Birds only really have one, well, maybe two ways of flying — flappy wings or gliding.

How do you think swimming was invented? Who was the first human to swim? Was some human stuck in the middle of open water with nowhere to go and just started trying some different techniques out? Did someone fall in a pool and swim to the edge, and then everyone was like, “Yo, what was that? Are you a machine?”

I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I guess I was just trying to say that “Swimming is Cool!”

Disney Snacks • Magic Kingdom: The Search for my Mickey Cake Pop

A few years ago, while visiting Walt Disney World with my buddy (who lived in Orlando at the time), I learned about my favorite Disney treat — the Mickey Cake Pop. We were visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios and there was a small bakery (or confectionery) inside one of the Sunset Boulevard shops (near Tower of Terror). That was the place to get cake pops and other sweet treats inside of Hollywood Studios — once upon a time.

From that day forward, any time I would visit a Disney Park with my buddy we always picked up some Mickey Cake Pops, except in Epcot. There is no confectionery in Epcot, but that’s fine with me. Epcot has tons of great snacks and treats to eat, and Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie (the French bakery).

Side Quest:
Today, that Sunset Boulevard Bakery no longer exists.
In fact, there is no confectionery inside of Hollywood Studios.
It’s very sad that I can no longer pick up a Mickey Cake Pop
inside of Hollywood Studios*
(*my most visited Disney Park in recent years).

Since the loss of the Sunset Boulevard Bakery, Mickey Cake Pops are now only available in 50% of Walt Disney World Parks — the two Kingdoms, Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. You can also probably find them somewhere in Disney Springs.

During my return to Magic Kingdom last month I had a small scare. I planned on eating some good treats, including something I’ve never had before. However, I also planned on finally having another Mickey Cake Pop — which I hadn’t enjoyed in over a year.

I’ve compiled this short journal of my meals during my last visit to Magic Kingdom in April.
I only ate three things, and they all happened to be sweet treats or desserts.

Treat #1 • Dole Whip Swirl

This first treat had been planned out since the moment I booked my Magic Kingdom reservation. I have always heard great things about the Dole Whip, I just thought it wasn’t really for me, since I love chocolate over fruity sweets. My original idea of this snack was more complicated than it actually is. In my mind it was some sort of pineapple drink float with soft serve on top.

The Dole Whip is basically soft serve ice cream and you get to choose whether you want Vanilla, Pineapple, or the swirl. For my first ever Dole Whip I went with the swirl, and that was the right choice. I think the mix of Pineapple and Vanilla is the perfect combination. The tartness of the Pineapple is toned down by the Vanilla flavor.

I ate this around noon for my breakfast, and it was a great breakfast. The soft serve is not too heavy of a snack. The weather was also perfect for a cool treat like this. The whole day was cool (in the 60s), so I wore my sweater, but the sun was shining so it was a little warm too.

I ate my Dole Whip and proceeded to visit one of my favorite shows in Walt Disney World, the Enchanted Tiki Room.

Treat #2 • Marshmallow Pop

After moving from land to land, I arrived in Fantasyland to visit Big Top Souvenirs, which also houses some baked goods. I came in searching for my favorite treat, but this is where I received some disappointing news.

When I asked for a Mickey Cake Pop, the cast member behind the counter notified me that they no longer existed. I saw a snack that sort of looked like a Mickey Cake Pop, so I asked for one. She told me it was like a rice krispie treat version of the Mickey Cake Pop, so I said, “Sure, why not.”

There was actually zero rice krispie inside of this new pop. Instead it was filled with pure Marshmallow fluff, which was better for me since a Mickey Cake Pop has Marshmallow fluff for the ears. Although it wasn’t the Cake Pop I had wanted, it was still pretty close in shape and satisfied part of my cake pop needs with marshmallow fluff.

Even though the Mickey Marshmallow Pop was not exactly what I came looking for, I would definitely get one again. This was a really tasty snack. I also know they have different shapes and versions of these that I will most likely try out in the future. Some may even feature different flavors.

Treat #3 • Mickey Cake Pop!

At this point I was on my way out of the park. I stopped at a few shops on Mainstreet USA to pick up some goodies on the way out (I have to use my Passholder discount whenever I visit Disney Parks, usually to get a new mug).

I also decided to stop at the Mainstreet Bakery to pick up some Goofy gummies. These are another favorite, but more of a take-home treat. I also got some Disney gummies for my nephews.

When I got to the cash register to pay for these treats, I also decided to take home a giant Mickey cookie since I was feeling a bit defeated about the missing out on my Mickey Cake Pop. At this moment I saw the cake pops, I asked the cashier, “Are those cake pops, or more marshmallow fluffs?” and he assured me that they were the cake pops I was looking for.

I had found them on my way out. I was so excited that I asked for one and I still took that giant cookie home, for all of my troubles. If you’ve ever had a cake pop at Starbucks, it’s sort of like that but there’s way more cake pop to it. Also, there’s the added Marshmallows for ears.
__

Since I hadn’t visited Magic Kingdom for over a year I just wanted to eat some sweet treats. I do plan on doing more food related posts in the future, and definitely some Epcot Food Festival posts as well. So, be on the lookout for those.

Stay tuned for more learnings, and hopefully I’ll be back at Walt Disney World soon to write about more Disney stuff. I still have one or two more posts to go from my April trip.

What are your favorite Magic Kingdom (or Disney) treats? Let me know in the comments, on Twitter, telepathically, or any other way you’d like to reach out and tell me about it.

I Beat Amazon!

For the past several years, anytime someone has asked a friend, “Hey where can I buy one of those?” The answer has been, “I don’t know man, check Amazon.” Everything is cheaper on Amazon, you get FREE super fast shipping (especially since we are all Prime members now), and you don’t have to bother any live humans — you just click a few buttons and your stuff will arrive either later today, tomorrow or the day after (anything longer than that is not worth your time).

The other great thing about Amazon is if you don’t like something you ordered you can easily send it back. And, if they try to make you pay for the return shipping, you can just change your answer to, “it’s your fault, not mine, Amazon!” and now your return shipping is FREE.

Beating Amazon

So, how did I beat Amazon? Well, I have beaten them before in a different way, and I have shared that story, but here’s a quick refresher. I had ordered a Nintendo Wii U (on Cyber Monday), but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep it or not. Next, I received a “lost in transit” message about that order, but it still somehow showed up to my door. So, I canceled my order and got to keep the Wii U for FREE. This is a totally different way of beating Amazon, and I’ve beaten them with “lost in transit” items a couple of times before. That just happened to be the biggest one.

This time I beat them on pricing. I was searching for a Kayak Captain’s hat (or straw hat). My sister has one that she always wear by Avid, so I first looked at those. When I asked her about her hat she told me that it had a tear and she had ordered a new one from a different brand, Hemlock Hat Co.

I was curious, so I checked out both Amazon and each hat makers site (Avid and Hemlock). Amazon has a terrible user interface (UI) when it comes to switching between versions of the same item — It opens a new page for each style/color, instead of simply changing the image. Because of this I stuck with online shopping on the Hemlock site, just to find the right model.

I found one I really liked and it was on sale. That’s when I stuck it in my cart. I went back to Amazon to check the price and the same style was almost fifteen freakin’ dollars more expensive. I thought that the difference may be added in shipping costs. Luckily, shipping was less than fifteen dollars ($9.00). In the end I purchased my hat from Hemlock’s website, and it came in a nice box with lots of cushion.

Some Cool Captain Kayak Photos

What We Learned

Not only did I beat Amazon’s price, or better yet Hemlock did, but I was happy to support the actual store and not give Amazon more money (we all give them enough money). Amazon is great for the consumer, but I don’t think it’s so great for the seller all the time. Sure, it gets their product out all over the world, but I’m pretty sure they take a big cut of sales. Plus, Amazon is always changing prices on everything and I’m sure when the prices go down it’s not great for the seller. 

Either way, whether you’re supporting Amazon or someone else, the world is full of a bunch of evil faceless corporations. So, does it really matter who you support? I guess when you can it feels better to support the smaller faceless business.

Using Disney Genie+

In the beginning of April, I visited Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom for the first time in over two years. This also happened to be my first time in the Magic Kingdom Post-FastPass, during the Pandemic and all by myself. It was sort of a “business trip” to gather some content for upcoming posts here on Ferdi’s Learnings — starting with this one.

I decided to pay the extra $15 to see what Disney Genie+ was all about.
Here’s what I learned:

Fast Pass vs Genie+ | Ride the Lightning

When I first heard of Disney Genie and Genie+ taking over for FastPass it just sounded like WDW was attempting to monetize their FastPasses.

For so many years FastPasses have been free, plus they were a way for Disney employees to make disgruntled guests happy:

Sorry, your Disney Hotel room isn’t ready? Congratulations! You just scored some extra FastPasses for your day at the park tomorrow.

The quality of your meal didn’t meet your expectations? Have a FastPass on us.

It was basically a way for Disney employees to fix any problem without losing any money.

There are two parts to the new Disney Genie service. The first (and FREE) part is more of a personal park concierge that plans out your day at the park, according to traffic and other changing factors.

The second part, Disney Genie+, is the paid version that gives you access to the new FastPass — now known as the Lightning Lane. Genie+ means shorter lines for Lightning Lane guests, but longer Standby lines for everyone else. I walked right onto my three Lightning Lane rides — Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise and Buzz Lightyear. I also noticed that many of the Standby lines (for popular rides) had long waits all day long.

Since I was only in the park for about half a day, 9:00 am to about 4:30 pm, I was only able to book two Lightning Lane reservations for myself — Haunted Mansion and Buzz Lightyear. My third reservation was a gift — from a Magic Kingdom cast member.

SideQuest:
After talking to a Disney Guest Relations representative about renewing my Annual Pass and the Disney Genie+ service I now had a better understanding of the service. His advice was,
“If you want to do the most in one day at a Disney park, it’s best to pay for the Genie+ service and mix it up with waiting in standby lines while also using the lightning lane. It’s all about finding that perfect balance.”

My day was not spent finding that perfect balance. Instead I made my way from Land to Land, visiting some of them multiple times. I knew exactly what I was looking for, I just didn’t plan out my strategy beforehand. I found myself in Tomorrowland at least three separate times that day.

While Lightning Lane reservations only grant you an hour window to get to the attraction, a cast member gift pass lasts all day (single use) — from park open to close. That means I could have jumped onto the Jungle Cruise at any point in my day. I ended up going straight there since it happened to be right by where I had talked to that cast member.

I wouldn’t be surprised if WDW is encouraging cast members to give out these all-day (single use) Lightning Lane gift passes to guests trying out the Genie+ service for the first time. This will encourage us to pay for it over and over again.

How does Genie+ Work?

Back in the day, you were able to book up to three FastPasses per day, up to one month (maybe a little more) in advance. Once completing your three FastPasses, you were eligible to pick up some extra ones, if any were available.

With Genie+, guests are able to book one Lightning Lane pass every two hours. That means if you get into the park at opening (9am), you can pick your first pass and by 11AM you’ll be able to pick the next one. If you claim your first pass before the two hour mark, you may be able to pick your next one a little earlier. This gives the possibility of more opportunities for Lightning Lane as long as you start early and stay on top of it.

From what I saw, I believe that only one member of a party needs to purchase the Genie+ service. So, if I pay for Genie+, I could take a friend with me on my Lightning Lane rides. What I’m not sure of is, “What if two friends purchase Genie+? Can they end up picking up maybe 6-10 separate Lightning Lane rides and sharing them?”

My Genie+ Theory

Here’s how I believe this whole Genie thing got started. Let’s go back to before March 2020. Disney Parks had giant crowds almost every day of the year, up until parks, sports and everything had to shut down (for the first time in forever), right after Tom Hanks got COVID. Once Disney opened back up, they started off with a park reservation system to control crowds and cap the maximum number of park guests (in an attempt to not spread more COVID).

SideQuest 2:
I didn’t visit Disney Parks in the height of the pandemic, but even when I went in February of this year (2022), they were still doing a good job of enforcing the indoor mask mandate. Although when I went this time they were only enforcing mask wearing on the monorail and certain areas, but now that’s over. It’s back to the wild wild west like the rest of Florida.
(Thanks for being a big dumb COVID denier, Gov. Ronald Dion Desantis!)

Back to the reopening. The park reservation system was doing great, not only were they able to control crowds, they also had an idea of how busy or empty each park would on any given day. With all of this new data and info, (in this age of collecting data and info), WDW created this new digital concierge system “Disney Genie,” which could now give park guests recommendations for their big day at a Disney Park.

This also opened up the new possibility of changing up the “FastPass” system and making it a faster, paid system — The Lightning Lane!

Is Genie+ Worth it?

This all depends on your goals. How often do you visit Disney Parks? If you’re trying to do as many rides as you can (especially the most wanted ones), then you should probably pay the extra money for Genie+. You also need to be diligent and stay on top of it. Make sure your phone is charged and bring yourself an extra phone chargy bank.

Where it gets complicated is the “surge” pricing. For a Lightning Lane pass to ride the extremely popular rides, you may have to pay a premium of an extra $5-15 dollars (maybe more than that). The surge pricing is only for a handful of rides (brand new and very popular rides). Most rides are included within the original $15 upgrade.

As an Annual Passholder I don’t think I will purchase the Genie+ service for every visit to Disney Parks. For now, I may just save it for my next visit to Epcot, just so I can ride Remy’s Ratatouille Ride. Maybe I’ll purchase the pass for Rise of the Resistance in Hollywood Studios.

Overall, I think it’s a good service and I’m sure it will continue to evolve. Of course I did enjoy my “FREE” FastPasses from the before times. However, I do think they added some extra value with the concierge system, I just wish it was still FREE, or you could at least pick up a few FastPasses/Lightning Lane rides for FREE.

Now that I’ve renewed my Annual Pass I have to go back as many times as possible this year.