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July 2012 Archives

July 1, 2012

Happy 15 Years Off Kilter!

July 1st marks 15 years that the band Off Kilter has entertained countless visitors with their trademark high kicks and hijinks on their home stage in the Canada pavilion in Epcot.

While the band has grown in popularity, (in fact, many would argue it is the best entertainment in Epcot), it has not outgrown its original concept. Did you know that founder Jamie Holton began playing bagpipes when he was just 11 years old?!

AllEars Senior Editor Deb Koma interviewed founder Jamie Holton back in 2001!


"My parents come from a Scottish background and loved bagpipes, so I started studying how to play them when I was young," he explains. After winning the first competition he ever entered, he "continued up the competition ladder," searching for the best teachers and playing in a pipe band in Daytona Beach.

In 1990, Jamie, by then an accomplished piper, was able to convert his unusual skill into a full-time position at Walt Disney World, when he became a member of the Caledonian Bagpipe Trio, which performed in World Showcase. The following year he traveled to Tokyo Disneyland, where he originated the Fantasyland Bagpiper, a solo act that combined piping with comedy.

Caledonian Bagpipe Band
Jamie Holton on the left

By 1996, Jamie started to develop an idea he'd had: to blend his love of bagpipes and traditional Celtic music with rock-and-roll to create a band with a "world music" sound. He met Irishman Mark Weldon, a musician (and former All-Ireland motocross champion) with a wealth of Celtic musical knowledge, and the two began talking about the concept. They shared their growing excitement with keyboardist Tony Escapa, recruited lead guitarist Randy Holbrook and drummer Scott Zymowski, who had been working in a band at Disney's Pleasure Island.

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Here's a look back at some of the coverage and photos of Off Kilter that we've shared on AllEars.

Blogger Jack Spence highlighted them when discussing the Canada Pavilion:

In 1997, the Celtic-rock band Off Kilter was formed and became a permanent fixture at Epcot. Besides drums, fiddles, and guitars, bagpipes are a part of the instrumental makeup. The group became so popular that a permanent stage (The Mill Stage) and seating was erected shortly after their arrival. Although they perform a wide range of songs, they generally try to present pieces from Canadian artist and composers.

The Mill Stage

Off Kilter

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And our photobloggers have made Off Kilter their focus on several occasions:

Tony Escapa is the band's keyboardist.

Randy Holbrook, lead guitarist

Off Kilter at Epcot
Copyright © 2007 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50, 18-200VR, 1/160s shutter, f6.3
Founder Jamie Holton

Photo Blogger Scott Thomas created this "postcard" of the band!

Lead by singer and bagpipe player, Jamie Holton (upper right below), Off Kilter's unmistakable sound pulls people in and their fun on stage presence keeps them there. Along with Jamie, (from top left) bass guitarist Mark Weldon, master guitarist Randy Holbrook and keyboardist Tony Escapa. Not pictured is drummer Scott Zymowski. Click the Photo for a Larger Version.

Off Kilter on stage in the Canada pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Off Kilter on stage in the Canada pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase.

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Jamie recalls, "When we approached Disney with the idea, they were very supportive -- they told us they trusted us to do a good job with it." When they finally auditioned, Holton says they were enthusiastically welcomed. "As far as I know, we're the first band here that was ever listened to and hired on the same day," he adds.

Check the Epcot Times Guide to see when Off Kilter is playing!

Off Kilter's website: http://www1.offkilter.net/index.html

Their CDs are sold at the Kiosks in the Canadian Pavilion in Epcot.

Amazon also has some of the music for sale.

Everyone at AllEars® wishes Off Kilter continued success!!!

July 5, 2012

July 4th Celebrations in Epcot

A few years ago I was fortunate to be in Walt Disney World during the 4th of July. At that time, I had the privilege of seeing the special Voices of Liberty Concert. I knew that this year, I wanted to see them again.

Some of my friends wondered why I would go to Epcot on July 4th. Didn't I know it would be packed? Um, yes, I do; as any of the major holidays are. But I don't go for the attractions, I go for the special entertainment and extras. And, if you visit with that in mind, and don't worry about what rides you'll get on or how long the waits are, you can have a truly amazing time.

I wandered over to World Showcase around 10:30am. The park was waking up and folks were coming in. I decided to walk around and eventually make my way to the American Gardens Theater.

As you can see, the day began with blue skies, white puffy clouds and looked to be gorgeous.


At the Land pavilion, the Kidcot station was celebrating the 4th of July with vegetable displays and festive coloring for the kids!



As I made my way towards World Showcase, I saw this brand new topiary of Phineas and Ferb, no doubt to celebrate "Agent P's World Showcase Adventure" game.


The Voices of Liberty!

On to World Showcase. I arrived at the American Adventure about 11:40am and a small line had already gathered for the concert. I gladly took my place in line, in the sun, in the heat, because I just had to see this performance!


In case you don't know who these folk are, let me explain a tiny bit. The Voices of Liberty are an a capella singing group, that perform several times a day in the rotunda of the America Adventure pavilion. They bring "Americana" to life! Throughout the year you can listen to them sing musical numbers from Oh Susanna and Yankee Doodle to Battle Hymn of the Republic and America the Beautiful.

These very talented singers perform in multi-part harmony, and their voices are their instruments. During the holiday season they perform as the Voices of Liberty Dickens Carolers, and sing a variety of Christmas songs as well as some Hanukkah music. To see/hear them best, sit on the floor outside the red circle -- being right under the dome really amplifies their wonderful sound.

On the 4th of July, they move outside to the American Gardens Theater where they perform the absolute best show in their repertoire. Ok, some might argue the Candlelight Processional is their best - but they are just a part of that moving experience. On July 4th it's only the Voices of Liberty. Words really do not do this fine group justice.



Their show is a special tribute to America! They fill the stage with their red and blue costumes and fill the air with melodies that bring you back in time.



Songs like Lee Greenwood's God Bless the USA, Golden Dreams, and an American medley.

There is also a special tribute to the armed forces with a melody of songs from each of the branches.

Even Mickey, Donald and Goofy join them on stage!


And if the show weren't enough to garner a standing ovation, their finale, the Star Spangled Banner - as you've never heard it sung before -- is the ultimate!!! As I listened to them sing, I knew it was so worth standing in line in the heat. Tears welled in my eyes as I watched and listened. Everyone rose to their feet - how could you not?!

Here is a short clip of the grand finale!

And they leave to a thunderous standing ovation!


Immediately following, the Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corp had a special show!


I wandered over to see when Betsy Ross might be performing (as she had in recent years) but was informed she wasn't available this year. Characters were out in the patriotic gear making for great photos.


At the Kidcot station you could pick up an Independence Day pamplet which included a Discover America "Scavenger Hunt". It was fun for kids and adults!

By now it's well after 1pm and I wanted to visit the Tangierine Cafe (Morocco) for lunch.

Unfortunately, the sky had gotten quite dark and it was obvious a storm was moving in. I hurried back to the resort. As I reached the International Gateway boat dock the rain had begun. The Cast Member explained the boats would not run in severe thunder storm weather so we might be there for a while. I put my legs in gear and got back to the Boardwalk just as the skies opened up!

I took advantage of the air conditioning and caught up on some work in the room. Around 6:30pm the storm had cleared and I went back to Epcot to see IllumiNations and the special 4th of July tag.

Nearing International Gateway, I got a text from a friend who was waiting for the Sounds of Summer Concert by Slippery When Wet, a Bon Jovi tribute band. I joined them for the 7:45pm concert.


Afterwards we headed to the front of World Showcase, where other friends were holding space for us to watch IllumiNations. Along the way we were treated to a beautiful sunset.


I stopped by a kiosk near Mexico to purchase water and after waiting in quite a long line, got the last bottle they had (I wanted several).

We are all set now between the two Tower Shops with about 90+ minutes to wait..

Tower Shops

We were on the far side of the photo you see above. The closest area to the lagoon was closed off due to fallout from the fireworks. This was a very smart idea because even where we stood, we were "rained" on a few times. If you stand in this area for IllumiNations and the wind comes your way - be sure to have a hat and/or glasses on. Also, this location is extremely close to the barges so you will definitely feel the heat! It is also a VERY loud area to stand and ear plugs for little ones or yourself may be warrented.

Time passed fairly quickly as folks I knew turned out to be all around where we stood - it was great catching up.

At 9:45pm (15 minutes before the Epcot show) we were treated to a fantastic view of Disney's Hollywood Studios fireworks. All that was missing was the music! In fact at one point at the end, I thought IllumiNations was going to begin before the Studios finished. But, the timing was perfect to go from one to the next.


IllumiNations!!! I was excited as I had not seen this show before. It is the regular IllumiNations with a special holiday tag at the end. It did NOT disappoint!!!!!



Then the holiday "tag" began, highlighting the American Adventure. There were special graphics on the globe and great music to enjoy the fireworks show!


Following this segment, there was a huge barrage of fireworks above and the crowd yelled with approval!

Thus ended a most wonderful, patriotic day in Epcot!

July 26, 2012

Mufasa "Roars" at the Art of Animation Resort August 10, 2012

Deb Wills

The Art of Animation opened to guests on May 31, 2012. The resort is opening in phases with Phase 1 (Nemo Suites and Big Blue Pool) and Phase 2 (Cars Suite and Cozy Cone Pool) already open.

The next phase to open is the Lion King on August 10th. Disney Parks Blog released this photo recently of the Mufasa Sculpture as a sneak peek.

Lion King Art of Animation Resort

The Lion King section will feature the Elephant Graveyard Playground (no pool in this section). An elephant skull will be 16 feet tall and expect to see hyenas coming over the rocks. While it won't be identical to the film, you will certainly notice similaries. The same for the "Hakuna Matata" scene where Timon, Pumbaa, and Young Simba walk across the bridge.

It was previously announced that inside the Lion King Suites you can expect to see ZaZu on the headboards and Pumbaa and TImon on the Shower Curtain!

AllEars has some additional photos to share with you that we've taken from the guest side of the fence to further whet your appetite.

Lion King Art of Animation Resort

Lion King Art of Animation Resort

Lion King Art of Animation Resort

Lion King Art of Animation Resort

Lion King Art of Animation Resort

Lion King Art of Animation Resort

Lion King Art of Animation Resort

Lion King Art of Animation Resort

Lion King Art of Animation Resort

Lion King Art of Animation Resort

Lion King Art of Animation Resort

Lion King Art of Animation Resort

Lion King Art of Animation Resort

AllEars will have full photo and video coverage when the Lion King Suites open in August!

We have videos and stills galore of the already opened sections:

Fact Sheet and Resort Videos http://allears.net/acc/faq_artan.htm

Our Resort Overview: http://allears.net/acc/issue663.htm

Recreation Activities: http://land.allears.net/blogs/kristin-ford/2012/06/disneys_art_of_animation_offer_1.html

Extensive photo blog: http://land.allears.net/blogs/jackspence/2012/06/art_of_animation_resort.html

The Grand Opening Report: http://land.allears.net/blogs/debwills/2012/05/the_art_of_animation_resort_of.html

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About July 2012

This page contains all entries posted to Deb's Digest in July 2012. They are listed from oldest to newest.

June 2012 is the previous archive.

August 2012 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.