Saturday, March 17, 2012

Walt Disney World is celebrating Leap Day by staying open for 24 hours for the first time ever.

When Disney announced Orlando's Magic Kingdom andDisneyland would open their gates 24 hours straight for the first time, Andy Bullard and Randi Teague took notice.

The couple sketched out a 5,200-mile odyssey in order to visit not one, but both theme parks Wednesday as the Walt Disney Co. marked leap year with its "One More Disney Day" event.

They were among thousands of Disney enthusiasts who stood shoulder to shoulder early Wednesday, crammed in the courtyard between Magic Kingdom's turnstiles and the train station, waiting for the park's 6 a.m. opening.

After a short welcome ceremony, many stopped to take pictures of the eerily foggy morning. Others headed straight for attractions to take advantage of short waits. 

"We went on Snow White right away," said Cindy Morgan, a Disney passholder from Deltona who came for the day with her husband, John, and daughter Hannah Rose, 7.

Although Hannah was off to an enthusiastic start, Morgan wasn't sure how long her energy would last.

"We may have to take a little nap and come back," she confided.

Bullard and Teague, who honeymooned at Disney Worldin 2002, scheduled time to sleep on their cross-country trek, which took them from their home in Washington, D.C., to Orlando and then on to Los Angeles.

Teague, 36, is the bigger Disney fan. "I blame my mom," she laughs. "She came when she was pregnant with me and must have drunk something in the water."

Bullard's first visit didn't come until he was 17. "I missed the whole park when it was most magical. I was a jaded high-school kid."

But after their honeymoon, the visits increased. Bullard, an attorney, and Teague, a consultant, travel frequently for work; they have annual passes to both Disneyland and Disney World.

Although they will spend more than $1,000 on the trip, frequent-traveler points will subsidize the expense.

Besides, they agree, it's about the challenge, not the cost. To increase the adventure, the couple set themselves the goal of riding every attraction found in both the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland.

By 11 a.m., every one of their must-do attractions, including Space Mountain and Peter Pan's Flight, was checked off Teague's color-coded list: Time for a relaxing lunch at The Wave in Disney's Contemporary Resort and a side trip to Epcot for a beer in the Rose and Crown Pub.

The couple knew they would face increased challenges in California: Disneyland is apt to be more crowded than the Magic Kingdom, meaning longer wait times. In the overnight hours, some attractions were scheduled for required maintenance closures of up to three hours.

But Bullard and Teague said they preferred their journey to that of a group in Florida hoping to land a Guinness world record by riding the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover for the full 24 hours.

"Now, that's insane," said Bullard, 36.

Teague and Bullard posted regular updates on their progress all day Wednesday on a special Facebookpage and the Twitter social network. Internet Disney fan sites also featured live blogging throughout the day.

The social-media activity is one way Disney benefits from attention-getting events such as One More Disney Day, said Jeff Coy, an analyst who tracks the tourism industry for Arizona-based JLC Hospitality Consulting.

"The memories, the special day involved, all of this gets into the branding and image that helps Disney promote its product," Coy said. "If I were at Disneyland, I'd be telling everyone what I was doing."


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