Chrismukkah is over at our mixed-marriage residence.  Please ignore those lingering decorations. It’s time to call out just a few of the Santa (and Hanukkah) successes of the 2012 Holiday season.

Disney Apples To Apples

Disney Apples To Apples – Surely, you have played the adult-targeted version of this game at a party or two – possibly under the influence of an adult beverage. “Disney Apples To Apples” down-ages this word association game so the whole family can participate and integrates pictures from almost every Disney property – including Parks, Pixar, Princesses, and tween TV. We have been playing this non-stop since Hanukkah and has become an instant favorite for our 6-year-old.

Star Wars Princess Leia Fashion Set

Star Wars Princess Leia Fashion Set – Most parents of Disney Princess-loving girls have spent much time helping dress  the rubber-dressed, Polly Pocket-esque Disney Princess mini- figures. This Disney Parks “exclusive item,” also available on Amazon, gives Princess Leia the Disney“fashion set” treatment with a slew of clothing and hairstyles from different ‘Star Wars’ films. No matter how hard those rubber clothes are to put on, I will gladly support my 6-year-old’s interest in this property.

Lite Brite LED Flatscreen

Lite Brite LED Flatscreen – Lite Brite lives on! A staple toy of my 80’s, this toy has been downsized to an era-appropriate “LED Flatscreen.” It still comes with the same multicolored pegs we know and love (yet hate to step on) as well as the black slip-in sheets to create designs.

LEGO® DUPLO® Creative Cakes

LEGO® DUPLO® Creative Cakes – My two year old  loves two things: Getting her hands in my older daughter’s LEGO Friends and celebrating birthdays – fake or not. This DUPLO kit keeps her away from her big sister’s creations while letting her have some birthday make-pretend play at the same time.

Melissa & Doug Slice and Bake Cookie Set

Melissa & Doug Slice and Bake Cookie Set – This playset lets kids “bake,” “decorate,” and “serve” cookies. My children have had their eyes on this toy since seeing it at a friends’ house, and I was happy to add a solid wooden toy set to the mix.

MindWare Pattern Play

MindWare Pattern Play – Nothing beats some offline, old-fashioned block play. The Pattern Play set comes with 40 rainbow-colored blocks to assemble. Just choose a pattern card design to replicate and fit it into the wooden tray. While I am sure there is an “app for that,” it is nice to see my daughter disconnecting from the screen for a while.

Cinderella Toddler Doll

Cinderella Toddler Doll – My two-year-old can often be seen swaying through the house warbling her rendition of Cinderella’s “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes” in her sister’s flashing “glass” slippers. So, yeah, she loves her Cinderelly. Instead of a Barbie-style doll, Santa brought her a larger-sized Cinderella Toddler Doll. While it may not exactly align with the story – Cinderella wasn’t exactly wearing her crown and blue dress as a toddler – I don’t think that is going to stop her from carrying it with her everywhere she goes.

LEGO Friends Adventure Camper

LEGO Friends Adventure Camper – The LEGO Friends argument is played out at this point, but my stance is “if it gets my girls into the LEGO brand, I am down.” This was one of the most enjoyably intricate sets we have built, and temporarily left last year’s camper-gift-from-Santa (Barbie Sisters Family Camper) in the dust.

Journey Girls Wheelchair and Crutch Set

Journey Girls Wheelchair and Crutch Set – The rite-of-passage know as American Girl Dolls has fully infiltrated our house. It’s a great to have brands like Journey Girls that offer cheaper 18” doll accessories. This wheelchair and crutch set has been a hit on the block and a central part of our daughter’s American Girl playtime since Medical Orderly Kriss Kringle delivered it December 25th.

Fisher-Price Little People Disney Princess Songs Palace

Fisher-Price Little People Disney Princess Songs Palace – Fisher-Price’s classic Little People brand meets the ubiquitous Disney Princess brand in this musical dollhouse-style toy. My two-year old has already spent hours with this toy, warming up for her eventual full-fledged Disney Princess obsession.

Boo! Halloween season continues at Nugget Island as we present our special YouTube playlist of non-stop Halloween goodness for the kiddos. Tune in via your smart TV, set-top box or old-fashioned laptop for classic clips from Disney, kindie music videos, and much more. Click here to get access to it on YouTube or watch below.

[youlist pid="PLwuiLMyRQKqgCUrObR23WNvKLXmqjLNTU"]

We have just come back from what has been established as an American tradition: the first family trip to Disney World. Unlike a recent “adult trip” we took, where the main objective was to get our FastPasses for the most intense rides possible, this time we had one “necessary” goal: meet all the Disney Princesses. Princess-mania has been in our house for over a year now, and Disney was as much about Mickey and the rides as it was about Cinderella and crew.

My wife, in-laws and aunt made it a mini-game to become Princess “completists,” getting all the signatures and photos of the faux royalty for Maia’s little book.  Be it top-tier princesses like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty or the more recently crowned like Tiana and Mulan, we were going to make it happen.

Maia had the time of her life, in awe of the in-person appearances of her cartoon heroes and barely able to eat at a Princess breakfast in the castle. She seemed not to notice that the actors changed every time she saw them and had no problem standing in line or searching far and wide to seek out hard-to-find characters like Mulan. While some characters were questionable in live-action form, others looked like Enchanted-style princesses, ripped from their cartoon settings to appear in person at Disney World.

We didn’t have to work as hard as I thought to complete the safari. We left Walt Disney World sweaty, tired but successful in our quest. The autograph tent in Mickey’s Toon Town made some of this easy, as did the breakfast in Cinderella’s castle. The less popular characters took a bit of searching, but we used logic (Pocahontas in the forests of Animal Kingdom, Mulan in Epcot’s China) and all were found on the first try. And, for the most part, the actors did an amazing job capturing the look and feel of the character.

Check out our personal “Princess safari” below and let us know what you think. Does Disney deliver the costumed character goods?

Snow White at Disney
Snow White: The O.G. Princess
Pocahontas, at one with the costumed animals
Sleeping Beauty, wide awake for photo opps
The Little Mermaid
Ariel sans fins
Princess Tiana
The new kids in town: Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen
Cinderella, ready to face those autograph hounds
Aladdin and Jasmine
Aladdin and Jasmine, properly dressed for the heat
Beauty and the Belle
Mulan, the buried treasure of Epcot

Back in November, I reviewed Disney Interactive’s iPhone/iTouch app Disney Puzzle Slider. Essentially a digital version of a plastic scrambled tile puzzle, this app has remained a hit in our household. The key appeal of this app is the ability to collect points to unlock “hidden” images in categories like Villains, Simply Mickey, Disney Stylized, Cuties, Romance, Animal Friends, and Disney Friends. For my little one, it is all about  unlocking the images in hopes that it will reveal a Disney Princess. But for me, it has been about the realization that this app serves as more than a promotional Disney tool. It also serves as a bit of an artist playground.

Throughout the past months I have unlocked some images that are quite stylistic and experimental for the House of Mouse.  A few you would even assume were  fan interpretations if not for the fact they were on an official Disney-licensed app. Disney has really let their artists have fun with their IP, taking classic characters in unique directions. While I do not have a pulse on every piece of Disney merchandise out there, I have yet to see many of these takes floating around the Disney Store. Below, I have shared just a few of  the more interesting interpretations found on Disney Puzzle Slider.

Note: The images were not clearly credited to their original artist in the app. However, a whole category is credited to the  Bloc28 project.

Mickey Mouse Remixed – Mickey Mouse gets multiple, diverse art treatments including reworkings from Bloc28.

Mickey 1 Mickey 2
Mickey 3 Mickey 4
Mickey 5 Mickey 6
Mickey 7 Mickey 8

Tween Princesses – Disney Princesses get a makeover with a look that clearly hits the tween market sweetspot.

Belle Snow White
Jasmine Cinderella

Disney goes Kawaii- Take a Disney character and give it the Japanese touch, and you have these cutesy concepts that would fit nicely on the shelf next to the latest Sanrio creation.


Mini-Makeovers – Various characters maintain their general look, but are re-framed with modern colors, fonts and shapes.

Cruella Snow White
Alice The Queen
Pooh Belle
Sleeping Beauty Evil Queen

What are your thoughts? Enjoy seeing Disney have a little fun with their I.P.? Or would you rather see them leave it alone? Comment below!

All images  Copyright Walt Disney Company

As I have probably hinted at before, my daughter is quite the Disney Princess fan girl. So, when word came out their next major animated effort was the introduction of a post-modern take on Rapunzel (recently renamed Tangled), she was naturally curious about this classic tale.

So, off to my library I went to take a few books out about this long-haired princess in distress. Not surprisingly, there were many options. And, for both fun and review, we ended up taking out half a dozen. Instant favorites included the quirky, modern-day set Rapunzel: A Groovy Fairy Tale by Lynn and David Roberts and the subtly humorous illustrated execution by Dorothee Duntze. Even the more sophisticated and award winning take by Paul O. Zelinsky and the gothic graphic novel by Stephanie Peters and Jeffrey Stewart Timmins were a surprise hit with this toddler.

However, the book that Maia seemed to gravitate to the most was Rachel Isadora’s Rapunzel. Inspired by the author’s ten years of living in Africa, Isadora takes this traditional fairytale and transplants it to an African village. While the story itself remains mostly the same, Rapunzel is no longer the traditional, fair-skinned/blonde haired princess. In Isadora’s tale she is a stunning African maiden with long, beautifully-decorated dreadlocks. When her prince rides in to chant the traditional “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair” line, he comes not by horse, but by zebra. The happy ending remains in tact and the witch is just as terrifying as seen in other interpretations.

The bright, colorful illustrations in this book are also non-traditional, comprised of collages of textured papers and oil paintings. Rachel Isadora, who has won a Caldecott Honor for her previous children’s book Ben’s Trumpet, has also created African interpretations of fairy tales like The Princess and the Pea, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Fisherman and His Wife, and Hansel and Gretel.

So, before Disney’s  traditional, blonde Rapunzel makes it mark on the public conscious as the “Official Rapunzel”, share Rachel Isadora’s striking and unique version with your little ones.

Rapunzel Cover
Rachel Isadora’s Rapunzel
Isadora’s Artwork
Disney’s Rapunzel