Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Making Memories with Mom

Rachel, 29, Joplin, MO
My Dream Place ... Disney! 
In 2007, my Mom and I decided to take a trip, just the two of us, to Walt Disney World Resort. It had been a good 10 years since I'd last been there, but it seemed like so much longer. When she confirmed that the trip was booked, I could hardly believe my luck.

We met at the Wilderness Lodge since I was away at school at the time and lived in a different state. The trip seemed to have pixie dust sprinkled all over it. Mom and I had a wonderful room that faced the lobby of the lodge. Landing a prime table at the Rose and Crown was perfect for watching the fireworks at Epcot, but the best was booking lunch at Liberty Tavern. (One of our goals was showing as much appreciation toward the staff as possible – we loved what Disney employees did for us and noticed that some people never acknowledged their extra efforts.)

After chatting with the Liberty Tavern's lovely hostesses, we waited for our table. A few minutes later, they called us over and asked if we'd like to open the tavern for the day. Of course, we were totally surprised, excited, and honored to open the Tavern. It was truly a momenteous trip, a time for Mom and I to bond and make magical Disney memories – hopefully with more to come!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Hidden Mickey

Jennifer, 37, Red Bluff, CA
A Son's Dream Comes True 

One of our favorite things to do at Disneyland is search out Hidden Mickeys. We have a book to point us in the right direction but always aspired to find an 'undiscovered' Hidden Mickey.

While walking through the Sunshine Plaza in Disney California Adventure, my seven-year-old son was in the middle of a sentence when he stopped cold in his tracks. He was silent. He then let out a huge scream ... "I found it ... I found an undiscovered hidden Mickey!!" There it was, in the rays of the plaza fountain.

It was all he could talk about for the rest of the trip – and he told several Cast Members of his discovery. Of course, we found out later that it had been a documented find – but it doesn't matter to my son. To him, that is HIS hidden Mickey. It is one of our first stops every time we visit the Park!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Fantasmic Engagement!

A Fantasmic! Engagement

Ryan, 23 Gold Coast, Australia

As an Aussie kid, I grew up all of the incredibly far off and nearly inconceivable 7297miles from Disneyland.

I first discovered what an incredible, magical place it was when I was 10 years old when my parents took my brother and I on our first international holiday; first stop Disneyland. 

I have great memories of that trip, long lines at a newly opened Indiana Jones ride, old fashioned lemonade, staying up late to watch the fireworks (and consequently sleeping in the next morning, much to my own disappointment, for wasting the morning hours I could have otherwise spent back at Disneyland).
The trip was over all too quick, and as I grew older, It was shelved alongside other childhood memories.  I was amazed at Disney as a kid; but it’s my most recent experiences with them that proved how magical they truly are.

Eleven years later, all grown up, girlfriend in tow, I returned to Disneyland in 2008.  

Now, things had changed (most notably DCA, which on my last visit was still a parking lot), but from the moment my partner Trish and I walked through the turnstiles (I didn’t even have to cross the berm) it all came flooding back – and for 72hours I found myself a spitting image of my former, 10year old self.  Grinning from ear to mouse-hat-ear.  

Fast forward another six months and I find myself reminiscing about the great times magical memories I had of Disneyland.  More importantly I started thinking about what Disneyland meant to myself and to my partner, whom had just had her own incredible first visit.  A few passes of the photo albums and a couple of days consulting Google to confirm just how special a place it was and I found myself planning a trip of a lifetime, back to Disneyland.

 Initially I had some difficulty deciding how to incorporate the Happiest Place on Earth into one of the most important moments of our lives.  Once I had an idea in mind I started planning by going straight to the top.  I contacted Jay Rasulo (the then, CEO of Disney Parks & Resorts) directly. He put me in touch with the Disneyland Resort Operations Manager, who after a few discussions, approved my requests and introduced me to the VIP Guests Services Hosts. Together we planned an awesome surprise trip for Trish.

In July of 2009, I announced to everyone that I had won a competition which included an expenses paid holiday for two to spend New Year’s Eve '09/'10 at the Disneyland Resort, Anaheim.  In actual fact, there was no prize. It was all part of an elaborate plan, mainly to ensure my partner and I were able to get annual leave and travel at a busy time of year. 

Also, we had just got back from a holiday there the year before; I would have had a hard time getting her to go again so soon without proper reason. 

I created a prize winners letter and had it mailed by a friend from onsite at Disneyland, and bounced a few emails back and forth with the staff to have the ‘proof’ of the winnings.  The plan worked perfectly, not only convincing the one and only person it had to, but many of my fellow themepark staff at Movieworld in Australia.  A fellow employee even claimed to have seen the online competition and entry form which I had entered with.

Trish and I had a quick (previously booked) trip to Hong Kong Disneyland to give ourselves another Disney fix in between, but once the cover story was out in the open, the rest of 2009 flew by, and before long it was time.
December 30, 2009
Still believing everything was part of the prize, Trish and I set off, as I worried about keeping an engagement ring hidden whilst travelling through airports and customs.
On our arrival at LAX we were met by a 12-seater stretch limo and transferred to Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel
At the hotel we were met by one of the Resort VIP Coordinators. He welcomed us, streamlined our check in and gave us a welcome package from Mickey and Minnie (all in line with the prize winning cover story)

During the back and forth of planning for the trip, I had been asked if it was alright that the staff through in a few surprises for myself along the way.  I am thankful for the effort Disney went to, to ensure our trip lived up to the elaborate story I had conceived.  Within moments of arriving at the resort, I myself could have believed I was lucky enough to win such treatment.

Our welcome package included photos, merchandise, tickets, dinner reservations, and a specialized itinerary for the duration of our stay.

The Coordinator then told us, he had taken the privilege of upgrading our room to a Pool/Park view suite, overlooking the newly opened expansion of the hotel.

We were also given $500 Disney Dollars to spend during our stay at the resort (I paid for the Disney Dollars in private, but the suggestion was made to purchase these instead of converting currency as we would only be onsite at the resort during our quick trip to America, it helped serve the prize winning ruse). 

We had arrived mid morning, so Trish and I spent the afternoon doing some serious shopping at Downtown Disney.  We also checked out the latest Disney release The Pricness and the Frog (2009) before heading back to the hotel.

During the planning stages, it was the suggestion of many Disney staff members to have dinner at Napa Rose, so our ‘special itinerary’ included dinner reservations for that evening.  We were given a nice park view table and a delicious appetizer and desert on the house.  The food was quite simply, the best I have ever tasted, and filling enough that we both would have been pleased with entrees and mains.  It was a nice surprise to have our waiter follow up with a desert tasting plate, that the ‘chef thought we would like’. 
After such a great evening, Napa Rose will definitely be a repeat stop for anytime we’re near Anaheim in the future.

December 31, 2009

It was an early start on New Years Eve.

We were at the gates by 6:30am. 

The resort coordinator had informed us that as part of our "prize winning status" we had been preselected to officially open Disneyland for the last day of 2009.

Inside with the other Magic Morning guests (most of whom ran straight to the Plaza to secure spots for the midnight fireworks!).

It was great to be back in the park, and to see it still dressed in holiday decorations

Following our itinerary we headed towards Fantasyland, stopping on the way to make use of the Photo Pass photographers.  As a themepark photographer myself, Trish and I would often stop and snap a photo with any photographer we saw. 

All the more on this particular trip, as one of the added bonuses was the inclusion of a complimentary Photo Pass CD, so we could take home all the photos of our holiday.

We continued into Fantasyland, and headed straight to Small World Holiday where we met our first Magical Moment guide.  Our guide had made sure we got a private boat for a tour around the Holiday themed attraction (although it wasn’t too hard; there weren't too many people there at 7am!) .

With a trip to Hong Kong Disneyland fresh in our minds, we found Disneyland's Small World much superior.  It was nice to see the holiday overlay, as during our visit the year before the attraction was closed for the holiday re-fit.

Our next stop was the Character Breakfast at the Plaza Inn. At the staff’s suggestion, this reservation was made to ensure we both got the opportunity to get multiple photos with the characters without waiting in queues on what is their busiest attendance day of the year.

After breakfast, we went back to Fantasyland to reconnect with our guide.  He took us past the barriers into an unopened Toon Town where he had organized a special photo shoot with our celebration hosts Mickey and Minnie.

So far all was going to plan, and Trish was pretty excited.
Before saying goodbye, our guide gave us a handful of complimentary Attraction Readmission Passes so that we could ride anything we wanted to, all day, without waiting in lines.  I had not even considered this in planning, but kudos again to Disneyland!  It’s the busiest day of the year, with lines exceeding 4hrs, and we didn’t have to wait. 

We spent the morning using some of the passes as we ride hopped our way from Toon Town to Adventureland.

As we arrived at Rivers of America, we were just in time to catch the first performance of Tiana's Showboat Jubilee (glad we had seen the film, the night before).  It was nice to see the Mark Twain all done up in colors. 

We spent the day doing the things we loved around the park.  We stopped to catch Mickey's A Christmas Fantasy Parade, although we were lucky enough to have seen the floats beforehand at the filming of 2008's ABC Christmas Day Parade. 

After the parade we had a private ride onboard the Lilly Belle scheduled, but unfortunately got crammed in with a bunch of other Disney enthusiasts (so didn’t get any decent photographs to show for it). 

We spent the afternoon using up more of our readmission passes, until; unbeknown to Trish, the moment that all the planning was leading up to was upon us.  We had dinner reservations overlooking the water at Blue Bayou before meeting up with another Magical Moments guide outside.

According to our itinerary we had priority seating to see Fantasmic! Ever since that first late night I spent in the park as a 10 year old boy, Fantasmic! has been my personal highlight of Disneyland. I would happily return to America and Disneyland for the show alone, no questions asked.  Needless to say, when I brought Trish along for her first visit in 2008 and saw just how much she loved the performance as well it was clear what would make the perfect setting for our most memorable Disney moment. 

In 2008, Disneyland was continuing the second year of the ‘Year of a Million Dreams’ promotion during which guests would be selected to spend a night in the Dream Suite above Pirates of the Caribbean.  I knew from my previous visit as a child, that the Dream Suite was also the home to the best view of Fantasmic!

With this in mind, according to our itinerary we had priority seating to see Fantasmic!  Our guide showed us up the stairs to the Disneyland Dream Suite. 

At this point Trish was bouncing with so much excitement she failed to see my nerves starting to kick in.  It was too hard to suppress them, the show began and there we were happily watching from the balcony.

 No Murphy!?! :cry:

So we came all the way from Australia to see the latest addition and she doesnt even show up! I was a bit disappointed that of all nights, the dragon failed to show tonight, but quickly realised that the reason I had planned the whole trip was upon us.

Trish had commented just how incredible it was to be watching the show from our vantage point on the balcony.  During the soundtracks decrescendo as Tinkerbell spreads pixie dust across the opening of the Fantasmic! finale I leaned over and told her there would only be one more thing that could make this moment any more magical.  Ring in hand; I proposed right as the finale kicked off when Steamboat Willie appears atop the Mark Twain.
Her answer was Yes.  I dare say in the shock of the moments that followed we did miss the shows finale.

As the show ended, our guide returned to the balcony, drinks tray in hand.  He gave his congratulations on behalf of the Disneyland Resort and offered us some celebratory refreshments.  He made special reference to the face that there were four flutes instead of just two. 

Unbeknown to Trish, but planned from the outset, my parents (as her’s weren’t able to travel) had been hidden away in another room of the Dream Suite.  I had wanted to ask that some of our family be there to share in the moment as we celebrated our engagement overseas.
We watched the fireworks from the balcony and then returned inside for our own private tour of the suite. 

Dream Suite Tour Part 1http://tinyurl.com/RyanDreamSuit1
Dream Suite Tour Part 2 - http://tinyurl.com/RyanDreamSuit2
Dream Suite Tour Part 3 - http://tinyurl.com/RyanDreamSuit3

 Afterwards, it was back out onto the street to wait alongside 70,000 other guests for New Years.

January 1, 2010

At the stroke of midnight we ushered in the New Year as a newly engaged couple, amongst the first official Disneyland Resort guests of 2010!

We spent New Year’s Day with my parents at Disney California Adventure. It was still pretty crowded, and very busy.

Despite the fact that the whole "prize winning" cover story had been blown, Disney still came to the party, making sure we continued to have more Magical Moments, more readmission passes, reserved seating for Aladdin, a private talk with Crush and further surprises over the next two days. 


Come nightfall, I found myself again drawing on memories of the past.  The last time I saw Disney’s Electrical Parade was during its first Disneyland Resort run 11 years ago.

As with most things Disney, it’s definitely got the ability to stand the test of time and was great to see it once more. 

Smee picked out my camera all the way down the street. When he got to us, he waited and waited and waited for me, insisting I take a picture – if everything else that had occurred of over the last two days wasn’t enough, this simple moment proved even the small things make Disney magic!

After the parade, family in tow, we rushed back to Disneyland to catch the next performance of Fantasmic! Apparently, according to my fiancé, proposing during the finale negates the remainder of the show! No complaints from me however; After all, I wasn’t content with coming all this way and not seeing the new dragon.

We did some of this on the way...

And still made it to Rivers of America by the end of the fireworks. Just in time for the snow.

Tonight, Murphy decided to show up...

Got some shots of the finale this time too.

January 2, 2010

Back for our final day in the parks, we got a few more photos on our way to meet yet another Magical Moments tour guide.  This time, our itinerary called for a personal tour of Tomorrowland, which started with a special trip on the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.

Next up was a ride in the drivers cabin of the Monorail

...complete with his staff's han

d-made "Just Engaged" signs.  A fantastic personal gift we now have amongst our Disney memories.

After touring Tomorrowland, and getting another handful of readmission passes for the day we were introduced to Grandma Pat.  She is a lovely staff member from Fantasyland (see Youtube).  We spent the rest of the morning with her, as she shared many stories of favorite rides in her magical land, as well as parading us around Fantasyland announcing our recent engagement to everyone in sight.

We cut the day short to head back to the hotel, as I had moved up our flights by a day to meet work commitments back in Australia.

Everyone we met at Disneyland on this particular trip was happy and helpful. It is truly a magical place. I say the same thing every time I visit any Disney park; Disney just know how to do things right. As a guest from halfway around the world, all I did was ask about sharing a magical moment at Disneyland.  They took my request so seriously, they went so far as to have me believing my own cover story that I had indeed won a Disneyland Holiday!

Everyone was friendly and keen to stay in touch whenever we visit again. So needless to say, a West coast stopover will be a necessity on the honeymoon!

YouTube- Disneyland Engagement [http://tinyurl.com/RyanDisneylandEngagement]

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Dave Smith's Final Day of Work

T H I S   D A Y   I N   D I S N E Y   H I S T O R Y

October 15, 2010

Disney Legend Dave Smith, the founder and head of the Disney Archives, puts in his final day of work at the Burbank studio. Smith started the archives after being approached by Walt Disney’s family, including Roy O. Disney four years after Walt’s death in 1966, to preserve the history  of the company.

The Marcio Disney Network has an entire blog  dedicated to him! It's called The Disney Archives and Mysteries: http://tinyurl.com/DisneyArchives

In the video below, Dave Smith, receives the Disney Legends award, 10/10/2007:

Dave Smith (Archives)
Inducted 2007
Walt Disney Archives founder and chief archivist David R. Smith officially joined The Walt Disney Company on June 22, 1970, but his Disney roots are even deeper.

A fan of Disney films throughout his youth, Dave adds, "I grew up in Southern California, and so my appreciation of Disneyland began as a child." In 1967, he had become interested in compiling an extensive bibliography on Walt Disney. With approval from the Disney organization, he spent more than a year researching all Disney publications and productions. 

When the Disney family and Studio management decided to attempt to preserve Walt Disney's papers, awards and memorabilia, it was natural for them to contact Dave to do a study, and make a recommendation which established the guidelines and objectives of the Archives. Dave was selected as archivist, and in the years since the Archives was established, it has come to be recognized as a model among corporate archives in the country?and Dave is regarded as the final authority on matters of Disney history. 

Born on October 13, 1940, and raised in Pasadena, Dave graduated as valedictorian from both Pasadena High School and Pasadena City College. He earned his B.A. in history at the University of California at Berkeley. While in school, Dave worked part-time for six years in the Manuscript Department of the Huntington Library in San Marino. 

Upon receiving his Masters Degree in Library Science from the University of California in June 1963, he was selected as one of seven outstanding graduates of library schools throughout the country to participate in an internship program at the Library of Congress in Washington. 

He returned to California where he served for five years as a reference librarian at the UCLA Research Library. While there, Dave authored several articles and had bibliographies published on the Monitor and the Merrimac Civil War warships, and on Jack Benny. 

Of his Disney role, Dave said, "The thing I like best is the tremendous variety in our work. We never know when we come to work in the morning what we'll be doing that day. It keeps the job interesting when you're not doing the same thing day in and day out." 

Dave has written extensively on Disney history, with a regular column in The Disney Channel Magazine, Disney Magazine, Disney Newsreel, and numerous articles in such publications as Starlog, Manuscripts, Millimeter, American Archivist, and California Historical Quarterly. He is the author of the official Disney encyclopedia Disney A to Z (now in its third edition), with Kevin Neary he co-authored four volumes of The Ultimate Disney Trivia Book, with Steven Clark he co-wrote Disney: The First 100 Years, and he edited The Quotable Walt Disney. Dave has written introductions to a number of other Disney books. 

"My greatest reward has been getting to know the many people who have come to use the Archives over the years. I have been especially proud to be a guide and mentor to so many young people who have gone on to exceptional careers in the Disney organization." Dave says humbly. 

"I have had the pleasure and privilege to work with Dave Smith for nearly 35 years," author and animator John Canemaker says, "and, to me, he has always been legendary. For his steady building of the Disney Archives over the years into one of the greatest, most invaluable, world-class resources for studying American animation?and for his kindness and generosity to all researchers." 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Friend in Need

Ryanne Sackville-West, 16, Avondale, AZ
Classic Disney Characters 

When I was nine years old, I went to Disneyland in California. I absolutely adored it there! We celebrated my older sister's birthday at Ariel's Grotto. The food and atmosphere was amazing!

Then, suddenly, a person in a Max costume (from "A Goofy Movie") came out with "floaties" on his arms. He pretended he was about to jump in the water, and we all cheered him on. He then chickened out. Everyone booed him and he went into a corner and pretended to sob. I got up and walked over to him, tapped him on the shoulder, and said, so only he could hear: "Don't worry about them, Max. I still believe you are very brave." The man in his costume turned around and gave me a big hug!

I went home that summer telling everyone in the fifth grade i was hugged by THE Max! Now that I am older, I've learned from this incident that what I say can inspire others, and proceed to make everyone I can smile around me.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Mermaid Finds Her Prince

Mandi, 24, Lake Elsinore, CA

One day after work, my boyfriend said we should go to Disneyland to take pictures of the both of us at Ariel's Grotto (now Pixie Hollow). "The Little Mermaid" is my favorite movie, probably to the point of being an unhealthy obsession. I figured he was up to something, since a.) Mikey's not the photographic type and b.) I had just thrown what could be best classified as a hissy fit earlier that week about where our relationship was going.

It was already dark when we arrived at the Park. We had just enough time to ride the teacups, have his brother take our picture, and grab seats to watch the "Remember ... Dreams Come True" fireworks – my favorite fireworks display of all time. When we got to the roped-off seashell where Ariel greets Guests during the day, we slipped in and he pretended to fix his shoe lace. (His laces didn't even tie!)

While down on one knee, he pulled out a black velvet box. At first I thought he was presenting me with another promise ring, but when I looked at it, it was the exact setting I told him I wanted before our fight! I did what I always do when feeling such strong emotions (elated and feeling like a heel for starting a fight with this wonderful man) – I bawled like a baby while his brother took pictures of the whole thing.

Mikey finally said, "You haven't given me an answer." Through my blubbering I finally managed to blurt out a "Yes!" We took some more pictures and then squeezed into the crowd to watch the fireworks in front of the castle. We've been married about seven months now. Ariel's Grotto and that wonderful seashell are gone, but the fireworks still make me giddy when remembering how I felt that night. And how do I know this mermaid has found her prince? He had already bought the ring before I made a fool of myself by starting that silly fight!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Special Treatment

Jolene, 63, Taylorsville, UT
Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland. 

While on a recent trip to Disneyland, our grandsons wanted to learn how to become Jedi at the Jedi Training Academy. There we ran into some friends whose eight-year-old son is blind. He was just as excited as all the other children to start his Jedi training.

When he was selected, I was delighted to see one of the Cast Members stay by his side to help him follow the instructions and move around the stage. What a thrill for that little boy and his family! We were all touched by the special attention given to our friend, and knowing how it made his vacation at the Magic Kingdom truly magical! Thanks to all the Jedi Training Cast Members for letting this little guy feel so special!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

I've Come All This Way ...

Nancy, 61, Annapolis, MD
Mickey Mouse 

Disney World has always been one of my "laughing places" since my children were little. The first time we went, our oldest daughter, Tammie, was seven and our middle daughter, Lisa, was four. Of course, we had the big build-up of what we were going to do and who we were going to see and their excitement just grew and grew.

The day finally arrived. We walked into the Magic Kingdom for the very first time. There stood Main Street and Cinderella's Castle right in front of us. Mickey Mouse himself was walking in from a side entrance. My four-year-old let go of my hand and ran straight to him, hugging his legs as far as her little arms could reach, and said, "I've come all this way just to see you!"

This was a moment my husband and I (and probably Mickey himself) will never forget and it was the beginning of many beautiful memories of Disney World to come!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Family Ties to Winnie the Pooh

Peter, 54, Naples, FL
Piglet and Tigger 

My grandmother, Jesse Milne, was a cousin of the author A.A. Milne. She came to the United States from Great Britain early in the last century and settled on the Northern plains. I am proud of this heritage, and glad that the story of Winnie the Pooh continues to bring joy and happiness to countless others. I want to thank the Disney Company for making this iconic character come alive and not fade as so many others have done.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Surprise Ride Saving our Day

Jim, 43, Acton, MA
Fireworks light the sky behind Cinderella's Castle. 
Our story took place in Disney World two years ago when me, my wife, and our two daughters (along with friends and their son) were trying to get to Disney's Hollywood Studios on time to see the late showing of Fantasmic.

Our schedule was very tight, and we arrived at the transportation center just as our bus was leaving. As we stood there fully deflated, one of the employees approached us and asked what was wrong. As we explained our plight, he listened but then walked off, seemingly indifferent. To our amazement, a luxury motor coach pulled up two minutes later and the same employee told us to board the coach and that the driver would take us to the Studio! We were all stunned and grateful for his help. What an awesome Disney representative – we made the show with time to spare!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Making a Mom's Day not so Lonely

BethAline, Daytona Beach, FL
My Dream Place ... Disney! 

I bought my first Disney pass when I turned 40 and my son was still in a stroller. We traveled from Daytona Beach to Walt Disney World at least once a month by ourselves to enjoy a day away from all duties and obligations.

One day I sat down in the Magic Kingdom to relax and enjoy an Itzakadoozy and watch the passing crowds. As my son could not yet talk, I was a little lonely that day. Of course, I dropped my ice cream wrapper and tried to catch it as quickly as possible, but a passing Disney Cast Member stopped and got it for me, making a friendly remark that perked up my day. That helpful contact made me realize that I was not truly alone and I felt a warm fuzzy feeling that I associate with Disney World to this day.

That friendly encounter gave me a reference point. Now I make it a point to wish button-wearing people a "Happy Birthday" and enjoy talking to park Guests about the best parts of Disney – where to eat, great rides, where to make sure you get a Fast Pass, and other important information that makes a Disney day the most magical. Walt Disney World is home to me and my son and we always have "happy hands" when we drive through the entrance! A little kindness has gone a long way.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

First Disneyland Visit

Carol, 53, Ronkonkoma, NY
Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland. 

As a long-time fan and a more than 20-time visitor to Walt Disney World, I finally got to visit the "original" Disneyland last month. My husband and I loved the intimate feeling of the Park.

We took the Walk in Walt's Footsteps Tour. Our tour guide was wonderful and explained so many little-known facts about how Disneyland came to be and Walt's thoughts during the process. The jungle cruise is different but so much fun, and I have a new appreciation for the Tiki Birds as well! California Adventure Park was wonderful too.

I can't wait till the next time I can say, "California Here I Come!"
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